Michigan’s Pepper Spray Laws: An Overview

Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states, but nonetheless each state has its own laws that govern its ownership, carry and use.

flag of michigan

The way it is still one of the easiest weapons to obtain and carry and permitted almost everywhere, you’ll still need to fully understand the letter of the law in any state that you are visiting or residing in.

When it comes to pepper spray, Michigan is definitely a mixed bag. Michigan law specifies a set of standards by which one can choose a defensive spray to carry, and only sprays meeting that set of criteria may be carried.

A formulation that is too strong, carrying too much, or carrying a blend of certain ingredients might mean that your spray is illegal under Michigan law.

Luckily, it is not too terribly confusing, but it is definitely not anything goes when it comes to pepper sprays in Michigan. Keep reading to learn more.

Your Michigan Pepper Spray Passport

The following regulations are the most important out of all of Michigan’s statutes concerning the use and carry of pepper spray. Pay particular attention to the ones governing the size and type of spray that a civilian might carry:

  • Michigan law defines a legal “self-defense spray or foam device” as one and only one of the following:
    • 35 grams of CS tear gas and inert ingredients only
    • A solution of not more than 18% oleoresin capsicum
    • A solution of not more than 18% oleoresin capsicum with an additional ultraviolet dye.
  • Any similar chemical dispenser, even if it is a widely marketed self-defense spray, that falls outside of the above guidelines is illegal in the state of Michigan.
  • Note that only actual pepper sprays, OC, are mentioned specifically under the self-defense exemptions in Michigan law, not tear gases.
  • Pepper spray may not be sold to anyone under 18 years of age, but it may be legally carried by those under 18 years of age.

Can You Legally Carry Pepper Spray in Michigan?

Yes. It is completely legal to carry pepper spray or tear gas spray in the state of Michigan so long as it meets the state’s requirements for a legal device or other dispensers.

You may carry your self-defense spray openly or concealed, and you do not need the benefit of a concealed weapons permit or any other special permission to do so.

Also, note that you can keep your spray inside your vehicle if you choose at your convenience.

How Much Pepper Spray Can You Carry in Michigan?

The issue of capacity is a tricky one when it comes to Michigan law, especially compared to other states that either have no capacity restriction whatsoever or have a straightforward limitation.

In short, if you choose to carry a tear gas formula, it may only be CS tear gas, and you are limited to a capacity of not more than 35 grams, or about 1.2 ounces, and that includes any inert ingredients in the solution. For clarity: if carrying tear gas, only 35 grams and not a gram more.

However, if you choose to carry a pepper spray solution there is no specific capacity restriction, so long as the solution is a concentration of no more than 18% OC only or 18% OC plus a marking ultraviolet dye.

Make sure you read Michigan State statute 750.224d carefully since this contains specific restrictions both on formulation and on capacity.

750.224d Self-defense spray or foam device.

(1) As used in this section and section 224, “self-defense spray or foam device” means a device to which all of the following apply:

(a) The device is capable of carrying, and ejects, releases, or emits 1 of the following:

(i) Not more than 35 grams of any combination of orthochlorobenzalmalononitrile and inert ingredients.

(ii) A solution containing not more than 18% oleoresin capsicum.

(iii) A solution containing an ultraviolet dye and not more than 18% oleoresin capsicum.

(b) The device does not eject, release, or emit any gas or substance that will temporarily or permanently disable, incapacitate, injure, or harm a person with whom the gas or substance comes in contact, other than the substance described in subdivision (a)(i), (ii), or (iii).

What Pepper Spray Formulas are Legal in Michigan?

Pure OC and CS tear gas, nothing else. Notably, blends of these ingredients are illegal in Michigan.

You’re only allowed to carry a small quantity of tear gas or a larger quantity of a pure OC or OC with a marking dye as detailed above. No other formulations of defensive spray, of any kind, are legal in the state.

A stronger blend of OC, that is greater than 18%, is illegal as is any sort of tear gas-pepper spray blend.

When Can You Legally Use Pepper Spray in Michigan?

You can use pepper spray to defend yourself or someone else from the imminent use of unlawful force so long as your use of pepper spray is proportional to the threat.

For instance, if someone is threatening to beat you up or is threatening an even greater amount of harm, you’re almost certainly justified in pepper spraying them as long as it looks like they’re about to follow through with that threat immediately.

However, it is imperative that you read the exact letter of the law carefully. Section 750.224d is included below; notice how it states that only olio resin capsicum, pepper spray, is protected under the self-defense exemption?

Sure, you might assume that that includes all self-defense sprays, specifically tear gas that is conspicuously missing, but that assumption might get you hurt in court.

For this reason, and until such time as Michigan amends or updates the law, I would recommend carrying only genuine pepper spray while in the state.

In all other cases, you’ll notice that the included section of the law details that the misuse or criminal use of any self-defense spray, pepper spray, or tear gas, is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to two years in jail, a fine of up to $2,000 or both.

You never, ever want to play around with any self-defense spray as a joke, and you cannot spray someone to settle an argument or just because they are insulting you. You have been warned!

750.224d Self-defense spray or foam device.

2) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who uses a self-defense spray or foam device to eject, release, or emit orthochlorobenzalmalononitrile or oleoresin capsicum at another person is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.

(5) Subsection (2) does not prohibit either of the following:

(b) The reasonable use of either of the following by a person in the protection of a person or property under circumstances that would justify the person’s use of physical force:

(i) A self-defense spray or foam device containing not more than 18% oleoresin capsicum.

(ii) A self-defense spray or foam device containing an ultraviolet dye and not more than 18% oleoresin capsicum.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the strongest pepper spray you can carry in Michigan?

The strength of the spray you can carry in Michigan is dependent upon its type. If you’re carrying pepper spray, you may carry a solution with no more than 18% OC in it. Tear gases are limited by overall capacity, but not by potency.

Will you go to jail if you pepper spray someone?

It is likely, yes. It is a pretty rare thing after a genuine self-defense encounter to be cleared by the police at the scene.

It is more likely instead that you will certainly be detained and likely be arrested, so expect a trip to jail. Whether this is a long and scary stay or a quick and relatively benign stay depends on the totality of the circumstances.

However, if you use your defensive spray and appropriately or wantonly misuse it you might be facing genuine prison time.

Is pepper spray considered a deadly weapon?

No. However, the requirements for self-defense sprays in Michigan are quite a bit more stringent than in most other states, as detailed in this article.

Your best bet, to make sure you are indeed carrying a legal dispenser, is to purchase your spray in Michigan from a known and trusted retailer that can advise you on such things.

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