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Michigan Criminal Case Process

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Criminal Case Process

Arrest

A police officer will arrest a suspect. This could happen if they believe that there is probable cause that a crime was or is being committed. They could also make the arrest after a warrant has been issued. Once the suspect has been arrested, they will be booked into custody. For some defendants, they could be released after that with a summons to appear, while others may remain in custody.

Contacting an Attorney

The first person that you or your family should contact after an arrest is an attorney. They will be the ones to help you through the criminal justice process. Law enforcement may be trying to talk to you immediately and trying to build a case against you. A lawyer would work to protect the rights that are constitutionally guaranteed to you.

Bail

The suspect could be released from custody if they post bond. Law enforcement could try to deny bail to a defendant if they believe that they are a danger or a flight risk. Then, the defendant would have a bail hearing where the judge could order them released. 

Arraignment

The defendant will appear in front of the judge, and the charges will be read to them. This is where the defendant enters in their plea. At this point of the proceedings, it is almost always “not guilty.”

Preliminary Examination

This is a mini-trial in which the prosecution will try to convince the judge that there is enough evidence to proceed to a trial. Here, they will need to present evidence and witnesses, although there is a lower standard than would be necessary for a conviction. The ultimate result of this hearing is that the judge determines whether there is probable cause to move forward. The prosecution and defense may speak here about possible plea deals and ways to resolve the case without a trial. 

Pre-Trial Motions

Lawyers for both sides may make motions to set the ground rules for the trial. The most common motion made at this stage relates to evidence and witnesses. Whether the judge allows certain evidence to be admitted could make the difference between a conviction or an acquittal. 

Trial

This is where the prosecution will put on its case and try to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Each side will have its chance to both call its own witnesses and cross-examine those that the other side calls. In the end, the defendant’s fate is in the hands of the judge or jury who makes the decision about guilt. If there is a jury trial, the verdict must be unanimous.

Appeal and Sentencing

If convicted, a court will impose a punishment. This could happen without a trial if the defendant pled guilty. The court will consider a number of factors related to both the defendant and the crime. The defendant has the right to appeal a verdict against them. Usually, the appeal would try to argue that there was an error in the case as opposed to asking an appeals court to make a new judgment. 

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