On May 14, 2022, 18-year old Payton S. Gendron allegedly arrived at the Tops supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York while wearing body armor, a military helmet with a mounted camera, and carrying a modified Bushmaster XM-15 rifle. He opened fire and killed ten people while injuring another three people. At some point, an armed security guard named Aaron Salter Jr. shot at the shooter, but his body armor prevented him from being stopped. The shooter returned fire and shot Salter dead. Eventually, law enforcement talked him into dropping his gun and he was arrested.
The shooter’s body armor prevented him others from stopping him before more people were hurt and killed. The body armor plates that protected him were purchased legally on the internet from RMA Armament in Iowa, a company in the business of selling products to law-abiding citizens. Besides the obvious gun control issues, this mass shooting has brought into question whether body armor should be available to citizens. Several states have statutes which limit or restrict the possession or use of body armor within its borders.
Michigan is no exception and has law restricting the use and possession of body armor by certain persons.
BODY ARMOR PROHIBITED TO PERSONS CONVICTED OF VIOLENT FELONIES
Generally, “a person who has been convicted of a violent felony shall not purchase, own, possess, or use body armor.” MCL 750.227g(1). “Body armor” is defined as “clothing or a device designed or intended to protect an individual’s body or a portion of an individual’s body from injury caused by a firearm.” MCL 750.227f(3)(a). “Violent felony” means a conviction for any of the following:
- Assault with a dangerous weapon. MCL 750.82.
- Assault with intent to commit murder. MCL 750.83.
- Assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder or by strangulation. MCL 750.84.
- Assault with intent to maim. MCL 750.86.
- Assault with intent to commit felony. MCL 750.87.
- Assault with intent to rob and steal while unarmed. MCL 750.88.
- Assault with intent to rob and steal while armed. MCL 750.89.
- First degree murder. MCL 750.316.
- Second degree murder. MCL 750.317.
- Manslaughter. MCL 750.321.
- Kidnapping. MCL 750.349.
- Prisoner taking a hostage. MCL 750.349a.
- Leading, taking, carrying away or enticing away a child under 14. MCL 750.350.
- Mayhem. MCL 750.397.
- Criminal Sexual Conduct – First Degree. MCL 750.520b.
- Criminal Sexual Conduct – Second Degree. MCL 750.520c.
- Criminal Sexual Conduct – Third Degree. MCL 750.520d.
- Criminal Sexual Conduct – Fourth Degree. MCL 750.520e.
- Assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct. MCL 750.520g.
- Armed robbery. MCL 750.529.
- Carjacking. MCL 750.529a.
- Unarmed robbery. MCL 750.530.
A person convicted of a violent felony who purchases, owns, possesses, or uses body armor contrary to law is is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both. MCL 750.227g(9)(a).
However, there is a legal process available where a prohibited person can regain the right to purchase, own, possess or use body armor. “A person who has been convicted of a violent felony whose employment, livelihood, or safety is dependent on his or her ability to purchase, own, possess, or use body armor may petition the chief of police of the local unit of government in which he or she resides or, if he or she does not reside in a local unit of government that has a police department, the county sheriff, for written permission to purchase, own, possess, or use body armor..”. MCL 750.227g(2). “The chief of police of a local unit of government or the county sheriff may grant a person who properly petitions that chief of police or county sheriff… written permission to purchase, own, possess, or use body armor… if the chief of police or county sheriff determines that BOTH of the following circumstances exist:”
- “The petitioner is likely to use body armor in a safe and lawful manner.” MCL 750.227g(3)(a).
- “The petitioner has reasonable need for the protection provided by body armor.” MCL 750.227g(3)(b).
In marking the determination whether to grant written permission, the chief of police or county sheriff shall consider ALL of the following:
- “The petitioner’s continued employment.” MCL 750.227g(4)(a).
- “The interests of justice.” MCL 750.227g(4)(b).
- “Other circumstances justifying issuance of written permission to purchase, own, possess, or use body armor.” MCL 750.227g(4)(c).
“The chief of police or county sheriff may restrict written permission issued to a petitioner… in any manner determined appropriate by that chief of police or county sheriff.” MCL 750.227g(5). “If permission is restricted, the chief of police or county sheriff shall state the restrictions in the permission document.” Id. The legislature grants broad discretion to police chiefs and county sheriffs to determine who gets written permission for body armor, but there is no requirement to issue to a particular person and written permission does not excuse anyone from criminal liability that could be imposed. MCL 750.227g(6).
“A person who receives written permission from a chief of police or county sheriff to purchase, own, possess, or use body armor shall have that written permission in his or her possession when he or she is purchasing, owning, possessing, or using body armor.” MCL 750.227g(7). Any person who fails to have this written permission in their possession when required is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail, or a fine up to $100.00, or both. MCL 750.227g(9)(b).
PENALTIES FOR USING BODY ARMOR WHILE COMMITTING OR ATTEMPTING TO COMMIT VIOLENT CRIME
“[A]n individual who commits or attempts to commit a crime that involves a violent act or a threat of a violent act against another person while wearing body armor is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years, or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.” MCL 750.227f(1).
“A term of imprisonment imposed [for violating MCL 750.227f] may be served consecutively to any term of imprisonment imposed for the crime committed or attempted.” Id. This means that, for example, a person who is sentenced to 4 years in prison for assault with a dangerous weapon and 4 years in person for wearing body armor while committing assault with a dangerous weapon could be ordered to serve the sentences one after another for a total of 8 years.
These rules don’t apply to any of the following:
- “A peace officer of this state or another state, or of a local unit of government of this state or another state, or of the United States, performing his or her duties as a peace officer while on or off a scheduled work shift as a peace officer.” MCL 750.227f(2)(a).
- “A security officer performing his or her duties as a security officer while on a scheduled work shift as a security officer.” MCL 750.227f(2)(b). “Security officer” means “an individual lawfully employed to physically protect another individual or to physically protect the property of another person.” MCL 750.227f(3)(b).
BODY ARMOR VIOLATIONS ARE SERIOUS CRIMINAL OFFENSES AND YOU NEED A SKILLED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER IN YOUR CORNER
If the prosecutor files criminal charges against you for body armor violations, then you need a criminal defense lawyer to help fight your case. A good lawyer will hold the prosecutor to their burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if the evidence against you is strong, a good lawyer may be able to negotiate a favorable resolution for you that can help avoid jail or prison. There is too much at stake to not get the best legal counsel possible from the very beginning.
If you are charged with any crime and need legal representation, then do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak PLC for assistance today.