Criminal Justice Information Center-Criminal Procedure

The Criminal Justice Process: What to Expect

Arraignment
If you are arrested and charged with a crime, the first step is the arraignment. At the arraignment, either a Judge or Magistrate will read the charges against you and enter a plea. Usually a defendant will stand mute and a plea of not guilty is entered. After this first appearance in court, a case number will be assigned, a judge will be selected to hear your case. and, depending on whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor, a pretrial or pre exam will be scheduled. In addition, bond will be set in your case. When determining bond, the Judge or Magistrate will consider numerous factors including the nature of the crime, your ties to the community, whether you work, whether you have ever failed to show up before in a criminal matter, and the danger to the community if he lets you out of jail. In setting bond, the judge can set a personal bond where an amount is set but you don’t actually have to put money up. He can set a bond amount but only require 10% to be paid on it, or he can set a bond amount cash surety where the entire amount is required, whether from you or a bondsman. In all case, if you fail to show up, you will forfeit the entire bond amount that was set.

No matter how bond is set there will be additional bond conditions. These usually include no use of alcohol or if the offense is Domestic Violence there will be a no contact order. You may also be required to wear a tether if you are able to post bond. Regardless, if you break the bond conditions and are caught, be assured that the Judge or Magistrate will think you are challenging their authority and revoke your bond. You will then find yourself waiting in jail until your case is scheduled to be heard.

Depending on the crime you are charged with, determines what happens next. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, a pretrial will be scheduled. If you are charged with a felony, a pre-exam will be scheduled

If You are Charged with a Felony: Pre Exam and Preliminary Exam
As noted, if you are charged with a felony a pre-exam will be scheduled. At the pre-exam you decide if you want a preliminary exam, required under Michigan law, or you wish to waive it. At the preliminary exam, the court will determine whether there is probable cause that a crime was committed and you committed the crime. Unless the prosecutor demands it, a defendant at the pre-exam may waive this right and the case will be bound over. Often times, defendants will waive the preliminary exam, but depending on the circumstances, you, on your attorney’s advice may demand this exam be held. The prosecutor may also demand this exam in order to preserve evidence.

Sometimes, after holding a preliminary exam, the court may find that there is no probable cause and the case against you is dismissed. More often than not, however,because the burden on the prosecutor is so low to prove that a crime was committed and maybe you committed it, probable cause is found and the case is bound over to circuit court which tries felony cases or high misdemeanors where the punishment is more than one year in jail.

After the case is bound over to Circuit Court, you will have another arraignment and then a pretrial will be scheduled. The same procedure followed in the District Court will happen. You can either make a deal at the pretrial or demand a trial.

If You are Charged with a Misdemeanor: Pretrial
If you are charged with a misdemeanor you will not have a preliminary exam, but a pretrial will be scheduled after your arraignment. This normally will occur within a couple weeks. At the pretrial, your attorney and the prosecutor will meet. If your attorney already has the police report and has already spoken with the prosecutor about your case, the prosecutor might offer you a deal where if you plead guilty, he will make certain recommendations to the judge. If your attorney does not have information about your case or wants to do further investigation, he might ask for another pretrial to be held at a later date. Your attorney can also address bond conditions and request that the judge reduce the bond amount if you are in jail.

If you decide to plead guilty at the pretrial, the judge may give you what’s known as a Cobb’s evaluation, named after a particular case. In a Cobb’s agreement, the judge will give you an idea of what your sentence will be. If after hearing what he will do, you still decide to plead guilty, you will required to submit to a pre-sentence investigation and a sentencing date will be set. The pre-sentence investigation report will be conducted by the probation department who also is informed of the Cobb’s agreement and will recommend to the judge of whether to go along with the Cobb’s agreement or whether there is something in your criminal history was unknown at the time he agreed. If the judge does not sentence you according to the agreement, you can withdraw your plea and the case will proceed to trial.

The Law Office of James G. Schmier, PLLC is a Criminal Defense, Drunk Driving DUI and Family Law and Divorce law firm and provides legal representation in Wayne County, Oakland County, Macomb County and throughout Michigan including these Michigan cities:

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