As a former prosecutor, I always viewed cases within categories in terms of hot button and cool button topics. While all crimes are considered serious enough to prosecute, there is a difference between driving with a suspended license and assaulting someone. The deciding factor in determining hot vs cool button issue was “was someone hurt or almost hurt” by this offense.
If another person was a victim, the prosecutor must consider their feelings and opinion and can’t quite make quick deals in a vacuum to resolve cases. If that person was injured emotionally or physically then you’re dealing with potential medical issues, restitution etc. An assault case in Michigan falls under this hot button issue for a prosecutor. Easy, quick deals can’t be made when others are involved in the case. Victims can hold up deals and apply pressure on the prosecution to push the case to trial if necessary with no offers other than a plea as charged.
When I represent a client charged with assault, it’s important to understand the identity of the alleged victim; do they know my client? Is there a history between the parties? Next, are there any witnesses, video or evidence other than the statements of the client and the victim. This outside evidence could sway a case one way or another, no matter the statements of the parties involved.
Next, although my client is charged, I need to determine if there is an argument for self-defense or mutual combatant where both parties should either be charged or not charged. Is it really fair to just pick one person to call the defense and one person to call the defendant? It happens a lot in Michigan. Assault cases are not easy cases for a prosecutor if held to the proper burden of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, especially with a he/she vs he/she conflicting stories. The tie goes to not guilty if a jury can’t decide who to believe. If we can find enough of an argument during the pretrial phase, we can sway the prosecution to view the case as “well both parties are at fault here”, and reasonable minds can resolve the case.
Along with exploring the strengths and weaknesses in the case itself, my client is creating leverage outside of the courtroom. If alcohol was involved, we’re focusing on substance abuse treatment and or awareness along with voluntary daily alcohol testing. We may be engaged in counseling and community service among other proactive steps, because we’re doing what’s within our power to help the case every single day. Will we need these steps if the case is dismissed, or we win at trial? No, but what if the case isn’t heading the way we expected, and we need a back up plan? What if the jury or judge despite the truth, find my client guilty, there’s no do overs.
My clients acknowledge the perception of their audience and say, no matter the outcome of this case, I find myself in this vulnerable position; I can’t go back in time and change the evidence, but I can control the present perception of who I am and determine my own future. Common goals for assault cases are to avoid jail, avoid a criminal conviction, receive a manageable outcome that allows for travel, continuation of career, and to live a healthy, productive and hopefully a more fulfilling and informed lifestyle.