Legal Question in Criminal Law in Michigan

Felony or misdemeanor? I live in Michigan and recently had an incident at work. I work the door at a local night club. A customer was being escorted out because he was being disruptive. As the person was being thrown out his friend (the guy in question) ran outside. He then threw a glass back inside the club and it struck me in the head. I recieved 7 staples (about a 7 centimeter laceration) right at my hairline. The police was driving by and the man was arrested. I pressed charges and got a call from the prosecutor. Now he's not sure if he can charge the guy with anything because he doesn't know what his intentions were.

His intention was to hurt somebody with the glass. He threw it at eye level and I seen him do it. I don't know if I was the intended target but it was thrown hard. I could've lost my eye if I didn't tilt my head down.

Of course the guy will say it wasn't intentional. What can I do to make sure he gets charged. I want to sue for medical and pain and suffering too. The staples were not fun to have and I have a visible scar on my head which is still healing.

The prosecutor also asked me if I want to charge him with a felony or misdemeanor. I have no idea which one. I just want to make sure I can get my medical paid and that I can sue him for pain and suffering.

Asked on 5/06/10, 12:18 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

William Morrison Action Defense Center

If the incident took place in Oakland County, your assailant would be charged with felonious assault, a 4 year felony (FA) with no plea bargain. The usual treatment in Macomb is to charge him with FA and reduce it to aggravated assault (a one year misdemeanor) in the district court provided that the defendant pays restitution.

BUT, since your injury occurred on the job, Workers Compensation may be your only remedy.

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Answered on 5/11/10, 6:30 pm
Neil O'Brien Eaton County Special Assistant Prosecuting Attorney

Regarding your civil law remedies (what you might be able to sue for), you need to talk to an attorney who handles worker's compensation and personal injury cases so your civil options are fully explored.

Regarding criminal charges, the prosecutor is correct: the defendant's criminal intent ("mens rea") is the critical element to prove. Just because he threw an object that hit you and injured you doesn't mean that hit is a criminal assault. The end result doesn't necessarily prove the initial intent. There must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he threw the bottle intending to scare someone or hit someone with the bottle (essentially). His intent can be proven through circumstantial evidence: what he did, how he did it, what he said, etc.

Personally, I think that the hard line position in one county mentioned in the other attorney's response is unreasonable. Just because an obkect hit a person doesn't turn the case into "Assault With a Dangerous Weapon". A beer bottle CAN be a dangerous weapon, and the fact that you were injured CAN be evidence that the object WAS a dangerous weapon. But it isn't like he smashed off a part of the bottle and threw the jagged remains at you (which anyone could presume would injure someone it hit). This could well be a misdemeanor (aggravated assault or even simple A&B). It could be a felony (AWDW / Felonious Assault). It could be a charging denial.

I'm glad that the prosecutor has kept you in the loop and sought your input. But, ultimately, the charging decision lies with the prosecutor, not the victim.

You control whether a civil action is filed, though. Criminal case restitution will not include "pain & suffering" or other non-economic damages. It will focus on medical bills, etc. There is a chance under the crime victim's rights act for the judge to award up to triple restitution because there was a 'serious visible disfigurement', but it is a discretionary enhanced award by the judge. It is a "may", not a "must". So you may have to resort to civil remedies (including worker's comp) for pain/suffering damages, for disfigurement damages, etc.

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Answered on 5/17/10, 9:56 am

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