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If You are Charged with a Felony Crime and How the Circuit Court Works

If you have been charged with a Felony, an Arraignment will be scheduled. The Arraignment is conducted at the District Court. At the Arraignment the charges will be read to you in open Court and the next hearing will be scheduled. In addition, Bond will be set. Depending on the severity of the crime, you may be allowed to come into Court on your own or if the crime is serious and you are in a local jail, the police will transport you to the arraignment or it could be done on video.

Bond or Bail

Michigan Law requires that every person is entitled to post a bond or something of security, to insure that person will return to Court. The Judge is allowed by law to consider two factors when deciding the amount the Defendant must post with the Court to get out of jail before the case is settled:

(1) Is the person a risk of flight? Does he have a job, family, other ties to the community? What is the likelihood that the accused will come back to court when ordered. Has the accused ever missed a Court date in the past or ignored a Court order?

(2) Does the person pose a risk of danger? If the person is released from jail might they do the same thing? And who might get hurt? Does the accused pose a danger even if it is just to himself or herself?

If you are charged with a misdemeanor offense, the next hearing will be a Misdemeanor Pretrial. If you are charged with a felony, a Probable Cause Conference and Probable Cause Exam will be scheduled.

Probable Cause Hearing or Prelimianry Exam at the District Court

If you are charged with a Felony, you are entitled, under Michigan Law to a Probable Cause Hearing or Preliminary exam) within 21 days of being arrested and charged with that Felony. Prior to the exam, a Probable Conference is held to determine if the PC Hearing will be held, usually the following week. This hearing is held at the District Court. At the PC Hearing, the Prosecution must prove to the Judge that there is Probable Cause to believe:

(1) That a crime was committed. The prosecutor must prove by "probable cause" that there was a crime in the first place. This is a Judge decides issue as a matter of law regardless of who committed the crime. For instance, if someone resisted the police but the accused had the right to resist under law, then the Judge could dismiss the charges because no law had been broken. Or the accused was cited for fleeing and eluding but a reflection in the hood of the police showed the officer did not turn on his flashing lights until after the accused had pulled over.

(2) That you may have committed that crime. You might say it couldn't be me or it wasn't me. But if there is any question about it, it will move to the Circuit Court where a jury will decide whether it was you who committed the crime. Generally, unless there is some question of law, if there is any question of fact, it will go to the Circuit Court where you will have the choice to go to trial or come up with some sort of deal that all the parties can live with.

Generally, the Defendant does not call any of its own witness or offer any evidence, but the Prosecutor will present enough of its own witnesses to prove to the Judge by Probable Cause, that you committed the crime you are accused of. This does not mean you are convicted but rather, that there is enough evidence to send the case to the Circuit Court where the case will ultimately be decided.

If the Judge does not find that there is enough evidence against you, the charges against you will be dismissed. If the Judge does find that there is enough evidence to send this to trial, the case will be “Bound” over to Circuit Court for further proceedings and a new arraignment will be scheduled at Circuit Court.

While Michigan gives every person the right to a PC Hearing, the Defendant, with the approval of the Prosecution, may waive the hearing and the case, without this hearing, will be “Bound” over to Circuit Court. The decision to have the Preliminary Exam or waive it, depends on many factors and should be discussed with your attorney.

Circuit Court Arraignment

After being “Bound Over” to Circuit Court, an Arraignment is scheduled at Circuit Court. Similar to the Arraignment at District Court, the Circuit Court Judge will read the charges against you and schedule a Circuit Court Pretrial. The Judge may also remind you of any bond conditions that were imposed or even change the Bond conditions depending on the circumstances. After the Arraignment, a Circuit Court Pretrial is then scheduled where you, your and Attorney will have an opportunity to discuss your case with the Prosecutor. Your attorney may also have discussions with the Prosecutor about resolving the case without going to trial. Regardless, the decision about to proceed belongs to the accused.

Circuit Court Pretrial and "Cobb" Agreement

At the Circuit Court Pretrial, the accused will again have three choices, (1) Demand a trial, (2) Ask for another Pretrial to get more information, have further discussions with the Prosecution, or file any motions to argue any legal issues that may affect your case, or (3) You plead Guilty to the original or reduced charge and ask the Judge for a “Cobb Agreement” which is an agreement about what sentence will be imposed if the Court accepts your plea.

Pre-Sentence Interview

If you go trial and are found guilty or you plead guilty, a Pre-Sentence Interview will be scheduled before you are sentenced. This interview will take place with a Michigan Department of Corrections, (MDOC) probation agent who will prepare a report for the Judge. This report will look at your history, other contacts with the law, any drug use, and other information to help the Judge make a decision about a proper sentence and whether or not, the original Cobb Agreement should be adopted. If the Judge decides at sentencing that he will not follow his original agreement with you, you may withdraw your guilty plea and take the case to trial or possibly resolve the case with another agreement with the Judge.

Circuit Court Sentencing

If you are sentenced to jail, an officer in the courtroom will approach behind you, secure you in handcuffs, and take you to the County Jail. If the time to be served is less than a year, that time will be spent in County. If you are sentenced to more than a year, you will be sent to a MDOC prison with the first stop at Jackson for “Classification”. From Jackson, and depending on the nature of the offense, you will be sent to one of 31 different prison facilities throughout the state.

If you are sentenced to probation, you will report to the Probation Office and start the probationary process. You may have certain probation conditions like random drug or alcohol testing, community service, paying off your fines, and meetings with a probation officer. If you fail to meet these conditions, you will be violated and brought before the Court. Sometimes a Judge will let you get away with one probation violation, but if you have violated before, probation may be revoked and you could be sent to jail to serve out the remainder of any jail time or prison time.

Difference between Jail and Prison

County Jails are paid for by the County and house prisoners who are sentenced to one year or less. If you receive a sentence of more than a year, you will be sent to one of the 31 Michigan Department of Corrections facilities throughout the State.

Whether jail or prison, each have certain benefits or disadvantages depending on the individual Defendant. If you are sentenced to jail, you get an extra 5 days credit for every 30 days you are behind bars. So, if you are sentenced to a year in County, you will only serve 10 months. In addition, County jails are located in the county you are convicted. So for many it is easier for family to visit, albeit, usually a video visit.

Prisons on the other hand are generally better funded, cleaner, and visitation is often face-to-face rather than video. Plus, because these visits are done in a large room with several other inmates and their families, children are not prohibited and are even encouraged to visit to help the prisoner maintain the contacts and support they will need when they are released. Medical and dental care is also better. In fact, one client hoped for prison because she needed to get her teeth fixed, (an alcoholic- she kept passing out and had knocked out most of her teeth.) The downside, if you are sentenced to Prison, you will serve the minimum time imposed by the Judge. There is no automatic credit like county or “goodtime” reductions. Under Michigan's Truth in Sentencing Laws, you will serve the minimum prison time imposed.

Having an Experienced and Aggressive Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Make A Difference

Knowing how the Court works, having relationships with the Prosecutor and Judges, and having had experience in similar cases, it is important to have an Attorney by your side. You need someone who is committed to making sure you get the justice you deserve and someone who knows what they are doing. While an attorney can’t guarantee a certain result, that depends on the evidence and facts, you will increase your chances of a favorable outcome, less time in jail, and less impact on the rest of your life and your future.

We know the impact a criminal conviction will have on the lives of our clients and their future

Contact Schmierlaw for Aggressive and Experienced Criminal Defense. We have defended nearly every type of misdemeanor and felony criminal offense. We know the impact a criminal conviction will have on the lives of our clients, their families, and their future. This is not the time to go it alone. Get all the Professional and Experienced help you can get. Call (248)705-3742 for an initial, No-Cost Consultation to talk about your case and how we can help.

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Law Office of James G. Schmier, PLLC
2222 Attard Street, Birmingham, Michigan 48009
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