How is torture defined under Michigan law?

How is torture defined under Michigan law?

The word “torture” brings up all kinds of associations in our minds. People may jokingly use the word to describe mere inconveniences, like a boring meeting or a long commute, but we all know that torture is one of the most serious of crimes. Generally defined as the infliction of extreme pain for the purposes of punishment, coercion or obtaining information, torture is considered a war crime and a crime against humanity under international law and is prohibited by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which was signed by 145 nations.

Torture is also illegal under Michigan law, which defines it somewhat differently.

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Michigan definition

As codified under Michigan Penal Code Section 750.85, Michigan law provides that “A person who, with the intent to cause cruel or extreme physical or mental pain and suffering, inflicts great bodily injury or severe mental pain or suffering upon another person within his or her custody or physical control commits torture.” Torture is treated as a felony, and anyone convicted of torture can be sentenced to life in prison.

The Michigan Penal Code further clarifies that “cruel” means “brutal, inhuman, sadistic, or that which torments.” The language about “custody or physical control” refers to the restriction of another person’s movement without their consent and without legal authority.

Interestingly, the Michigan law specifies that severe mental pain can include the threat of imminent death to the victim or another person. It can also mean the threat of sustained administration of mind-altering substances.


While torture is considered one of the most reprehensible of crimes, it’s important to remember that, under our criminal justice system, every person who is accused of a crime — no matter how heinous — is entitled to a defense. They must be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Defending against any crime is important, and when the consequences of a possible conviction are extreme, it’s especially urgent for the accused to seek out an experienced criminal defense attorney.