The Court Process in Michigan Felony Criminal Cases

This post will cover the process that one will go through if they are arrested and charged with a felony in Michigan. How does a defendant’s criminal case begin? It can begin in one of two ways, but both always start with law enforcement. On one hand, the person can be arrested on the spot and taken to jail. If this happens, the police agency will then seek the complaint and warrant authorization from the prosecutor’s office. Once the arrest warrant and complaint are completed, these documents are forwarded to the District Court, at which time the court will arrange to have the defendant arraigned on the charges. The second way the case begins is if law enforcement does not arrest the person on the spot, but rather, seeks the warrant from the prosecutor’s office first. In this scenario, if the charges are authorized, an arrest warrant is generated and police may go locate and arrest the person.

Arraignment is the defendant’s first appearance. At this hearing, the judge or magistrate will read the complaint and maximum possible penalty to the defendant. The defendant will then enter a plea (we recommend not guilty LOL) and bond will be set (unless the law allows bond to be denied, i.e murder, CSC 1st, etc). Bond is to be determined by the judge based on a number of factors, including the defendant’s ties to the community, prior criminal record, and the nature and severity of the charge(s).After arraignment, the defendant is given two hearing dates; one is the probable cause conference and the other is the preliminary examination. At the probable cause conference, the prosecutor and the defendant or their attorney meet to discuss any evidence issues, discovery, scheduling etc and typically if there is going to be a plea bargain offered, it will take place at the conference. The preliminary examination is a hearing where the prosecutor must demonstrate to the District Court judge that there is enough evidence to support probable cause that the charged crime was committed and that the defendant is the person that committed it. There are many nuances to preliminary examinations, which I will cover in depth in a future post.

After either bind-over after the preliminary examination or the waiver of the exam, the case proceeds to Circuit Court to be set for trial. There may or may not be a Circuit Court arraignment depending on the local court rule. After the Circuit Court accepts the Felony Information (the charging document in CC) for filing, the defendant will be set for a series of hearings prior to trial called pretrials or settlement conferences. These settlement conferences can sometimes result in a plea agreement. If an agreement is reached, the defendant is set for a plea hearing. Once the plea hearing is complete, the sentencing date will be set out approximately 4-6 weeks from the plea. This gives the probation department time to generate a presentence report, which is used during the sentencing hearing for all felonies. If an agreement is not reached, the case proceeds to trial before a jury of 12 members, where the prosecutor must prove each and every element of the charged crime(s) beyond reasonable doubt in order to attain a guilty verdict. The verdict must be unanimous.

 If you or someone you know are facing a criminal charge, contact Terry Nolan or Andy Lapres at Nolan Law Offices, PLLC by calling 231-769-2600.