Penalties in weapon-free school zones

Some areas in Michigan are designated as weapon-free school zones. In order to fully understand these laws, the term "school" as used in this phrase must be defined. Under state law, a school is considered any school that offers grades 1-12, kindergarten or developmental kindergarten that is either public or private and may be parochial or denominational. For the purposes of this law, school zones include vehicles used to bring children to these schools as well as any property where school-sponsored events occur.

In addition to defining the word "school," Section 750.82 of the Michigan Penal Code also lists the penalties associated with felonious assault in a weapon-free zone. Felonious assault involves a person who uses a gun, knife, brass knuckles, an iron bar or a similar dangerous weapon without the intent to murder or seriously injure someone.

The maximum penalty for felonious assault is imprisonment for four years and a fine of $2,000. In a weapon-free school zone, the fine may rise to $6,000 and there may also be up to 150 hours of community service.

Based on the definitions, this means that a person who commits an assault on a school bus or at a school function would be prosecuted under the laws for a weapon-free school zone. However, a person facing weapons charges or assault charges still has options. For example, in some cases, the person might be able to plea bargain to lesser or fewer charges. This involves skipping a trial and making a deal with the prosecution that usually results in lesser penalties. In other cases, it might be worth going to trial. An attorney may be able to successfully demonstrate that the defendant was acting in self-defense.