Criminal Defense Law Center
West Michigan

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Attorneys
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Domestic Violence charges sometimes arise out of situations that unexpectedly spiral out of control – such as a passionate argument between a husband and wife, or a misunderstanding with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

These criminal charges are serious and never go away by themselves because prosecutors have a lot of contempt for those who abuse their spousal violence in Grand Rapids, Michigan and all West Michigan courts. 

Anyone being charged with domestic violence has a lot to lose: the respect of your family, friends, child, your job or prospects for future employment, and even your freedom.

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When it comes to being arrested to a domestic violence accusation, Attorney Shawn Haff knows that sometimes the accused is innocent of the charges and didn’t do it! Unfortunately, if an individual gets upset, all they have to do is call the police and say that they were assaulted, battered or threatened by a past or current significant other. If this happens in Grand Rapids, MI, it is very likely that police will show up and arrest supposed perpetrator.

If you or someone you love was arrested by a false claim of spousal abuse from a former partner, who only called the police because they wanted to seek revenge or get you in trouble then you have to get an expert criminal defense attorney by your side right away!

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Michigan Domestic Violence Laws

Under Michigan law, domestic violence is abusive behavior – physical, sexual, etc, used by one person to dominate or control another. Domestic relationships are those between spouses and former spouses, people in dating relationships, couples with children in common, and residents and former residents of the same household.

Examples of behavior that can lead to these charges being filed against you include:

  • Pushing
  • Shoving
  • Slapping
  • Forced sex
  • Misuse of telephone
  • Stalking
  • Battery
  • Threats
  • Punching
  • Acts of intimidation
  • Marital rape
  • Kicking
  • Assault
  • Sexual abuse
  • Biting
  • Choking

We continually hear from our clients about how the victim didn’t want to press charges in their case. This is typical and expected in an abusive relationship. Many victims are pressured into trying to get these charges dropped by their spouse or relative who are usually the defendants in these cases. The victims in these cases can be victims who have been abused so much that they think it is normal to be beaten and abused.

Prosecutors in Grand Rapids, Michigan will typically try to get victims to plead guilty in these kinds of cases knowing that the victim will not show up to court or that a husband or wife won’t testify in court against the defendant. Do not fall victim to this pressure by local West Michigan prosecutors! Our skilled criminal defense lawyers know what tools to use, in order to keep our clients from being bullied by zealous prosecutors and attorneys.

We understand that in many cases our clients are not guilty. We have seen so-called victims make up stories of abuse to get revenge on the defendant. Rest assured, we will not rest if you are innocent until you get your case dismissed or we get you a “not guilty” verdict at trial.

The punishment for a first offense domestic violence charges in all West Michigan courts is 93 days in jail. We have never had a client get 93 days for a first offense conviction.

These charges are aggressively prosecuted in Michigan, all major cities in the state like Grand Rapids and Kentwood, even when the alleged victims withdraw their complaints.

Domestic Violence Second Offense

The penalties for Domestic Violence Second Offense in Michigan are seriously tougher, including up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000.00.   

The Michigan Domestic Violence Second Offense statue reads:

An individual who commits an assault or an assault and battery in violation of subsection (2), and who has previously been convicted of assaulting or assaulting and battering his or her spouse or former spouse, an individual with whom he or she has or has had a dating relationship, an individual with whom he or she has had a child in common, or a resident or former resident of his or her household, under any of the following, may be punished by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both…”    

A person who is charged with Domestic Violence Second Offense cannot receive the deferral deal under MCL 769.4a:

“[t]here shall be only 1 discharge and dismissal under this section with respect to any individual.” In other words, a person can only get 769.4a once in their lifetime.

If you plead to or were found guilty of this charge before but never got MCL 769.4a, then you have been “convicted” of an “assaultive crime” in the past.

It should also be noted that there is no statute of limitations when it comes to using past convictions against someone being charged with a Michigan Domestic Violence Second Offense. We have seen clients charged with a 2nd domestic violence charge based on a prior conviction from 20 years ago.

An individual who is convicted is still guilty of a misdemeanor, but the maximum possible Jail time increases FOUR TIMES to 1 year in Jail. The fine is up to $1,000.00.

It is true, you can get locked-up in Jail for an entire year for this offense. You could also be ordered to participate in “Work Release,” where you are allowed to go to work or school, but must spend the nights and weekends in the County Jail. Rarely do people get the maximum jail time possible when it comes to this charge. However, jail time is a distinct possibility when someone is convicted for a Michigan Domestic Violence Second Offense.

Felony Domestic Violence

Michigan Felony Domestic Violence charges are serious crimes that require you to get an attorney on your side ASAP!  It should be noted that this charge is also commonly called a Domestic Assault charge, as well as a DV charge – they all refer to the same Michigan Assault crime contained in MCL 750.81(2).  

  • If, at your Arraignment, if you were told that the offense was punishable by up to 93 days in Jail and/or a fine of up to $500.00, you’re facing a Domestic Violence Misdemeanor.
  • If at your Arraignment, the Magistrate or Judge told you that the offense was punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.00, you’re facing either Domestic Violence 2nd Offense or Aggravated Domestic Violence.
  • If you’ve never been arrested for or faced a Domestic Violence charge before, you’re facing a Domestic Violence Misdemeanor.
  • If you were previously convicted of Domestic Violence or an Assault on a spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, or housemate 2 or more times in the past (whether or not you got a deferral under MCL 769.4a), you’re probably a Michigan Felony Domestic Violence charge and now facing up to 5 years in prison.

Aggravated Domestic Violence

A person may face a charge of aggravated domestic violence when the victim is seriously injured. The injury would require medical attention. If a person used a weapon while engaging in a domestic assault, the charge could be raised to a felonious assault.

An aggravated domestic assault first offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. A second aggravated domestic assault offense is a felony, punishable by 2 years in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.

Domestic Violence impacts the lives of victims, perpetrators, and children

What You Must Know About Domestic Violence Charges

The justice system in Michigan is aggressive in arresting and prosecuting people accused of domestic assault.

Here are some examples from Michigan law that show how aggressive Michigan is in prosecuting people on these charges:

  • Typically, the police must get an arrest warrant that is authorized by a judge or magistrate.  However,  when it comes to this type of charge, the police can arrest a person immediately.  A police officer only needs to have reasonable cause to believe an assault happened against a spouse to make a legal arrest.
  • In cases of domestic assaults, a prior conviction is more freely admissible in court. The general rule of thumb under the rules of evidence is that prior convictions are not allowed into evidence to prove guilt. However, there is an exception for domestic violence convictions.
  • For Assault and Battery charges, the normal penalty is 93 days in jail. It doesn’t matter how many prior convictions the defendant has for assault and battery. However, in domestic violence cases, the penalties increase based on how many prior convictions a defendant has.

False Domestic Violence Charges

If you or a loved have a domestic altercation, you should seek out expert criminal defense representation right away! While the state of Michigan does not have a mandatory arrest law, the police can still arrest you later on.

In fact, We have had numerous clients get arrested at their house, right after the police arrive to investigate an incident.

We’ve also have had numerous clients deal with false accusations. We have noticed that many of these claims rise up after a person has experienced a divorce, a breakup or been accused of infidelity.  In many of these cases, an accusation of domestic violence is simply a tool to be used to help someone get custody of the kids or better results in a divorce. Once you retain me to fight for your freedom and your rights, I will immediately begin doing the following:

  • I will verify all the details of your case.
  • I will contact witnesses in your case to see if their version of what happened matches what is in the police report.
  • I will give you a free case evaluation

Successful Domestic Violence Defense Strategies In Grand Rapids, Michigan

The next step is building the best defense possible. There are several defenses a domestic violence defense attorney can use for you.

  • You just didn’t commit the crime. The harm caused on the victim was done by someone else. We will look to see if you can use an alibi defense to prove you weren’t there and couldn’t have been done by you.

  • The other party is not telling the truth.  There are a lot of individuals who are in an unhealthy relationship. In these type of relationships, lying maybe very common. Shawn will examine injuries to see if they back your side of the story. Shawn will also examine the statement of the witness to see if there are inconsistencies that can be used to prove your innocence.

  • The harm was done on accident. In a lot of cases the defendant can not deny they were there. They also are not able to say they didn’t cause the harm. If you didn’t intend to cause the harm, you may have a valid defense. For example, say you are mad about the outcome of a football game and storm out of the family room. While doing so, you knock someone done on accident causing them harm. Another example might be where you are doing work on the house. A tool you are using gets dropped and does harm to your partner on accident. They may take it as malicious but proving it was an accident will help you beat your domestic violence charge.

  • You were defending yourself. We have represented numerous people who had to use force against their partner to keep them from getting injured. We have had clients who had to use force to keep their partner from punching or slapping them. If your partner has a history of violence or prior convictions for violence we will be sure to skillfully use that information to get you the best results possible.

  • The claims cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt. If the prosecution does not have evidence that can prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, you can beat a domestic violence charge against you in court! 

Can You Keep This Charge Off My Criminal Record?

Yes, if we can work out a deal where the prosecutor agrees to sentence someone under a deferral, this charge will be kept off the defendant’s record assuming he completes probation successfully. Once the defendant completes probation, their record will not show any conviction for this violent charge. There are multiple diversion programs out there we can get our clients. After you retain Shawn or one of his talented lawyers, we will go over the details with you and let you know what diversion program works the best for you and your situation. 

The Criminal Defense Law Center of West Michigan is a powerhouse firm that won’t rest until you get the best results possible on your charges. 

Diversion Program For First Time Offenders In Grand Rapids, MI

If you are a fist time offender for a domestic violence charge, we can get a plea deal that will have the case dismissed after you complete probation. This plea bargain deal that we can get for our clients is under MCL 769.4a. 

Remember, this is only an option for first time offenders. 

This plea requires the prosecution and the victim to consent to the diversion program. You will not be allowed to plea no-contest, you will have to admit guilt in court.  Once you admit guilt, your plea will be withheld and there will be no proceedings during your period of probation. That period of probation will be determined by the court. We know the steps that can be taken to get you the least amount of probation possible. The requirements of probation will be determined by the judge of your case. 

These requirements may include anger management and counseling. You will most certainly be asked to test negative for drugs and alcohol. This usually includes marijuana in a lot of local courts here in West Michigan. We tell our clients when the probation officer says “Jump!” to reply with “How High?” Always maintain a good relationship with your probation officer. That will be a key factor to getting you off as quickly and successfully. 

The Consequences Of A Domestic Violence Charge

The impact of a conviction related to domestic violence can be detrimental. A conviction can ruin your reputation, your personal health can be affected. You will be facing large fines, management classes dealing with anger, terms of incarceration and you maybe ordered to pay restitution.  You could also have the following problems to deal with:

  • You may no longer be able to possess firearms
  • You could be fired from your job
  • If you are in the military or a police officer, you could face separate consequences that include losing your job. 

Information Regarding Personal Protection Orders

Anyone seeking to get a personal protection order over a domestic violence dispute may file a petition with the family division of the circuit court. In Kent County the circuit court is located in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. In Ottawa County, the circuit court is located in Grand Haven, Michigan. The court may be asked to grant a personal protection order against a former or current spouse, a person whom the petitioner shares a child in common and a person who they were currently or formerly dating.

Ex Parte Personal Protection Order

In certain situations, a person may request an ex parte personal protection order. This means the person who is asking for the pro is requesting the court grant them a personal protection order without giving notice to the other party.

A judge will only grant this order if the affidavit filed by the petitioner makes a clear case that immediate and irreparable loss, damage or injury will likely happen by delaying the petition. Once this order is granted, then the respondent party is given notice of the petition and then a future date can be set.

Here are somethings that can be prohibited on a ppo order:

  • entering a building or house
  • attacking or beating the petitioner
  • threatening to kill or injure the petitioner
  • purchasing or possessing a firearm
  • Coming within a certain distance of the petition’s house or school or workplace.
  • Committing conduct that is considered stalking or aggravated stalking, and

Can CPS Take My Kids If I Am Accused Of Domestic Violence?

An investigation by Child Protective Services is one of the most stressful things in life. The goal and purposes of CPS are valid and noble, but the process can be a problem and it doesn’t mean that the parents who have been targeted have done anything wrong.

If you call Shawn about your CPS investigation, he can help you understand your rights and figure out the best way to handle your case. Consulting with Shawn does not mean you have done anything wrong or are guilty of anything. Let a legal professional allow you to make an informed decision.

There are numerous reasons why CPS starts an investigation. Many investigations by CPS result in no wrongdoing by parents being found. CPS many times gets anonymous tips that claim a child may be in danger of being physically abused. Teaches are required to report potential child abuse. If a child has a hematological disorder, this teacher is required by mandatory reporting statues to alert the proper authority.

After CPS has completed an investigation into the child’s medical condition and family home life, it can then close the case and not be required to take further action. Most CPS investigations resolve without removing a child from its family home.

A CPS investigation will require them to conduct interviews with family members that share your household. The investigation may include a physical and/or psychological examination of your child.  If the CPS investigation reveals concerns, a service plan will be created. This plan will give parents things such as access to counseling and various other forms of parental support. Dire situations may result in the child being temporarily removed from the house and that parents care. 

5 Different Types of Domestic Violence

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse does not leave a mark on a person’s face or body, but it is an extremely dangerous problem that people face when they are stuck in an abusive relationship. In a lot of domestic violence cases, victims are only able to get away from their abusers after they have saved enough money to do so in secret. This is very difficult to do because financial abusers keep such tight control over finances. A person is a victim of this abuse if they are not given money for food and clothing or medical expenses. These types of abusers often do not want their victims getting a job. 

Sexual Abuse

Examples of sexual abuse are rape, touching, harassment a person’s private parts without consent and other sexually degrading actions. Sexual abuse also takes place when a victim is forced to get an abortion. Being forced to have unprotected sex is another example of sexual abuse. 

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is one of the types of domestic assault that is fairly easy to prove in court. A person who is being hit, punched, kicked, slapped or bitten have been physically assaulted.  The physical abuse does not have to result in a person going to the hospital or doctor’s office. The physical abuse does not require a person to show a mark of bruise.  All that it takes is offensive contact such as a shove by the victim’s spouse. 

Verbal Abuse

This type of abuse will rarely result in criminal charges being filed. Abusers will often say things that are designed to destroy their victims’ self- esteem. This type of abuse often goes hand in hand with other types of abuse in this list.  In many cases, the victim of domestic violence have kept the recordings of their abusers.  

Emotional Abuse

This type of abuse also rarely results in criminal charges being filed. This type of abuse also goes hand in hand with the other types of abuse in this list. Emotional abusers are tying to find a way to control and manipulate the behavior of their victims. The victim of emotional abuse who often deal with belligerence, massive mood swings and threats of suicide. 

If you are facing a domestic violence charge, call me today at 616-438-6719. I can help you get the best results possible when you are facing this serious misdemeanor charge. Do not wait, call me now!

Example of Shawn's Amazing Results On Domestic Violence Charges


Our client was charged with Domestic Violence in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. We were able to get our client a diversion program. 


Our client was arrested for abusing his spouse in Hudsonville, Michigan. We were able to get the charges dropped. 


A client of ours was charged with domestic violence at the 63rd district Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Again, Shawn was able to get the charges dropped. 


Charges of assault and battery against our client’s wife were dismissed.

Can you risk going with an attorney who can’t get the results Shawn can? If you are facing criminal charges in Grand Rapids, Michigan or any other court in West Michigan, call Shawn today at 616-438-6719. The call is free. Will you be?  

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  • 2675 44th Street SW
    Suite 303
    Wyoming, MI 49519
  • 616-438-6719
Criminal Defense Law Center West Michigan

Attorney Shawn Haff
We are available by phone 24/7