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What Is Assault With Intent To Do Great Bodily Harm Less Than Murder In Michigan?

by | Feb 17, 2020 | Criminal Law |


The crime of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder (often shortened to “AWIGBH”) is a serious criminal offense in Michigan where the perpetrator attacks the victim for the purpose of inflicting serious injuries, but not enough to intend a killing.  Michigan law seriously punishes AWIGBH, and a conviction can result in steep fines and a length incarceration.

An individual is guilty of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, contrary to MCL 750.84(1)(a), if the prosecutor can prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt (See Model Criminal Jury Instruction 17.7):

  • First, that the individual tried to physically injure another person.
  • Second, that at the time of the assault, the defendant had the ability to cause an injury, or at least believed that he or she had the ability.
  • Third, that the defendant intended to cause great bodily harm. Actual injury is not necessary, but if there was an injury, you may consider it as evidence in deciding whether the defendant intended to cause great bodily harm. Great bodily harm means any physical injury that could seriously harm the health or function of the body.

Assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder is a felony conviction punishable by a fine up to $5,000.00 or up to 10 years in prison, or both.  MCL 750.84(1).  In addition, a person convicted of AWIGBH may also be “charged with, convicted of, or punished for any other violation of law arising out of the same conduct as the violation of this [offense]” such as domestic violence or assault with a dangerous weapon.  MCL 750.84(3).

AWIGBH is a specific intent crime that requires the prosecutor to prove a certain mindset beyond a reasonable doubt.  People v Joeseype Johnson, 407 Mich 196, 218-219; 284 NW2d 718 (1979).  Specifically, the evidence must show “(1) an attempt or offer with force or violence, to do corporal hurt to another, (2) coupled with an intent to do great bodily harm less than murder.”  People v Smith, 217 Mich 669, 673; 187 NW 304 (1922).  It does not matter how the individual arrived at that intent.

  • “The only requirement in regard to intent is that a defendant have the intent to do great bodily harm. If a defendant has such intent, the fact that he was provoked or that he acted in the heat of passion is irrelevant to a conviction. An assault is not mitigated to a lesser offense because of the existence of provocation.” People v Mitchell, 149 Mich App 36, 39; 385 NW2d 717 (1986).
  • “It is the intent with which the injury is inflicted that aggravates the assault, and brings it within the statutory definition of an assault with intent to do great bodily harm. It must be an intent to do a serious injury, of an aggravated nature.” People v Howard, 179 Mich 478, 488; 146 NW 315 (1914).

In People v Cunningham, 21 Mich App 381; 175 NW2d 781 (1970), leave to appeal denied 383 Mich 809 (1970), the defendant attempted to appeal his conviction for AWIGBH on the basis that there was no intent to do great bodily harm.  The Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed and found the following facts:

  • “The complaining witness, Johnny Thompson, testified that, together with John Goodin, his father-in-law, he went to defendant’s apartment ij search of his wife. Goodin knocked on the door and, after someone opened it, both Goodin and Thompson walked into defendant’s apartment. After entering, Thompson testified that he stood approximately 10 feet from defendant, that he was unarmed, and that he made no threats. According to his testimony at trial, Thompson heard someone say, “Don’t come another step.” Thompson then started to turn around and, at that point, someone in the room picked up a gun and shot Thompson in both legs. Thompson was seriously wounded and fell to the floor.” Id at 383.
  • “John Goodin testified that, after knocking, he alone entered defendant’s apartment. Thompson remained outside in the hallway. After entering, Goodin testified that he saw defendant sitting on a couch. Defendant was holding the butt of a rifle; the rifle’s barrel was sticking up from under a coffee table in front of the couch. Goodin moved to defendant’s right. At this point, according to Goodin, Thompson entered the apartment and defendant then fired the rifle from underneath the coffee table hitting Thompson.” Id at 383-384.
  • “The defendant testified on his own behalf. According to his testimony, the shooting occurred while he was sitting in bed. The rifle with which Thompson was shot was, before Thompson’s entry, sitting upright on its stock at the side of defendant’s bed. Defendant testified that, when Thompson rushed into the room, he picked up the rifle, it discharged, and Thompson was struck. On cross-examination, defendant admitted shooting Thompson as soon as he entered the apartment. However, he testified that the gun went off accidentally.” Id at 384.
  • “In view of the conflicting claims as to what occurred, the trial court properly submitted the question of defendant’s guilt, including the question of defendant’s intent, to the jury. By his own testimony, defendant admitted shooting the complaining witness. The weapon used was deadly and Thompson was seriously injured. The act itself, as well as the means employed, provided evidence of defendant’s intent to do great bodily harm. Defendant’s conviction was supported by the evidence.  Id at 384.”

A judge and jury cannot obviously read the defendant’s mind, so intent must be inferred from the circumstances of the crime.  Circumstantial evidence for intent to cause great bodily harm can come from what the defendant said or did, the presence of a weapon, and the degree of injuries to the victim.

When facing a charge of AWIGBH, you need a skilled criminal defense in your corner from the very beginning that can explore all possible defenses and hold the prosecutor to proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Since AWIGBH is a specific intent crime, this means that the element of intent can be negated by showing intoxication, insanity or duress.  It is also a complete defense against the crime to show that the defendant was acting in lawful self-defense, provided that the evidence shows that the force used was justified under the circumstances.  Even if the evidence is strong, a defense lawyer can still negotiate for a reduced charge to resolve the case.  A felony conviction can follow you around for the rest of your life, so you need an aggressive defense from the start.

If you or a loved one is charged with any crime and need legal representation, do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.


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