Category Archives: The Criminal Process

The Criminal Process: What Happens After My Felony is “Bound-Over” to Circuit Court?

A felony case is transferred to Circuit Court after a Preliminary Examination bind-over or waiver.  Once the felony case is bound-over (transferred) to Circuit Court, Defendant is Arraigned, meaning that he/she is given formal notice of the charge(s) against him or her.  An Arraignment can usually be waived if Defendant has an attorney.  At the Arraignment, Defendant is provided a copy of the charging document, called an Information, advised of his/her constitutional rights, and given the opportunity to enter a plea to the charge(s) (plead guilty, not guilty, or stand mute).

If Defendant pleads guilty at the Arraignment, a Sentencing date is scheduled, usually within six (6) weeks.  If Defendant pleads not guilty or stands mute at the Arraignment, a Pre-Trial Conference is scheduled, usually within two (2) weeks.  A Pre-Trial Conference in Circuit Court is similar to a Pre-Trial Conference in District Court.  It is a meeting between an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and Defendant (or his/her attorney) to discuss whether the case will be resolved prior to trial.  As in District Court, if a Plea Bargain is reached during the Circuit Court Pre-Trial Conference, Defendant will take a plea, usually that day, and then be sentenced, usually at a later date.  Also, at a Circuit Court Pre-Trial Conference, the case can be adjourned, set for a Motion Hearing to, for example, resolve evidentiary issues, or set for a Trial, either by a Jury, or a Judge.

If you have any questions about a legal charge pending against you please contact Aida at (248) 624-5500

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The Criminal Process: Preliminary Examination

A defendant has a right to a Preliminary Examination within 14 days of the Arraignment of a felony.  This 14-day-rule can be waived by Defendant so that Defendant may have his/her Preliminary Examination beyond the 14 days of the Arraignment.

A Preliminary Examination is a contested hearing, sometimes called a “probable cause hearing.”  At this hearing, Prosecutor must present witnesses to prove that there is probable cause to believe that the charged crime(s) was (were) committed and that Defendant committed the crime(s).  Due to this low burden of proof, Prosecutor generally does not call all witnesses to testify at the Preliminary Examination that he/she would call at a trial.  He/She calls just enough to satisfy this lower burden.  At the Preliminary Examination, Defendant, through his attorney, may cross-examine Prosecutor’s witnesses and present his/her own evidence (including witnesses).

If probable cause is established, Defendant is “bound over” (transferred) to Circuit Court on the charged crime(s) for further proceedings.  If probable cause is not established that Defendant committed the charged crime(s), Judge can bind the case over on different charges, can reduce the charges to misdemeanors for trial in District Court, or can dismiss the charges altogether.

Defendant always maintains the right to “waive” his/her right to a Preliminary Examination.  This is different than waiving one’s 14-day-rule.  If Defendant does waive his/her right to a Preliminary Examination, he/she would automatically be “bound over” to Circuit Court without any probable cause hearing.

Some of the other important purposes of a Preliminary Examination include setting the amount of bond Defendant will have to post if held for trial, the receipt of valuable evidence and information regarding the witnesses’ credibility, and the preservation of testimony in the event a witness disappears or dies prior to trial.

If you have been charged with a crime please contact Aida Spahic at  (248) 624- 5500 or at aida@ambroselawgroup.com.

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The Criminal Process: Pre-Exam Conference (For A Felony)

After Arraignment, felony cases are generally scheduled for a Pre-Exam Conference, several days prior to the Preliminary Examination.  Defendant has a right to a Preliminary Examination within 14 days of the Arraignment of a felony.  A Pre-Exam Conference is very similar to a misdemeanor Pre-Trial Conference.  It is a meeting between an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and Defendant (or his/her attorney) to discuss whether the case will be resolved prior to the Preliminary Examination.  If an agreement is reached, in other words, if a Plea Bargain is reached, Defendant will take a plea, usually that day, and then be sentenced, usually at a later date, in either District Court or Circuit Court, depending on the circumstances.

To see a definition of a Plea Bargain and what it involves, please take a look at my previous post,“The Criminal Process:  Pre-Trial Conference (for a Misdemeanor)”

If you have any questions about the criminal process or your Pre-Exam Conference contact Aida at (248)- 624-5500 or email her at Aida@ambroselawgroup.com

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The Criminal Process: Pre-Trial Conference (For A Misdemeanor)

After Arraignment, all misdemeanor cases are scheduled for a Pre-Trial Conference.  A Pre-Trial Conference is a meeting between an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and Defendant (or his/her attorney) to discuss whether the case will be resolved prior to trial.  This is an opportunity for both sides to reach an agreement, short of trial.  If an agreement is reached, in other words, if a Plea Bargain is reached, Defendant will take a plea, usually that day, and then be sentenced, usually at a later date.  A Plea Bargain involves Defendant pleading guilty or no-contest under certain terms and conditions.  Defendant may, for example, plead guilty or no-contest to a lesser charge than the original or plead guilty or no-contest to one count while other counts are dismissed.    A Plea Bargain can also involve Defendant pleading guilty or no-contest to a specific charge with a recommendation of a lighter sentence.  All plea agreements must be approved by the Judge.

A Plea Bargain does not have to be sought out at a Pre-Trial Conference.  Both the Prosecutor and Defendant (or his/her attorney) can agree to adjourn the case at the Pre-Trial Conference and come back to discuss it later.  This can be done for various reasons.  One of the reasons to adjourn the case is for discovery.  Defendant or his/her attorney may need additional time to get discovery in the case and examine all discovery materials prior to sitting down and discussing a Plea Bargain with the Prosecutor. Other than taking a plea or adjourning the case at Pre-Trial Conference, Defendant (or his/her attorney) may decide to set the case down for a Motion Hearing to, for example, ask the Court to make decisions on things such as admissible evidence, or may decide to set the case down for a Trial, either by a Jury, or a Judge.

If you have any questions or comments please contact Aida Spahic at aida@ambroselawgroup.com

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The Criminal Process: Bond

Bond is considered to be the amount of money that is necessary to “bail” the defendant out of jail.  Its purpose is to assure the defendant’s future appearance in court.  Bond can be set by a predetermined amount based on the charged offense or by a Judge or Magistrate at the defendant’s Arraignment.

The MCR 6.106(f) outlines the factors a Judge or Magistrate considers in determining bond.

The factors are as follows:

  • defendant’s prior criminal record, including juvenile offenses
  • defendant’s record of appearance or nonappearance at court proceedings or flight to avoid prosecution
  • defendant’s history of substance abuse or addiction
  • defendant’s mental condition, including character and reputation for dangerousness
  • The seriousness of the offense charged, the presence or absence of threats, and the probability of conviction and likely sentence
  • defendant’s employment status and history and financial insofar as these factors relate to the ability to post money bail
  • The availability of responsible members of the community who would vouch for or monitor the defendant
  • Facts indicated the defendant’s ties to the community, including family ties and relationships, and length of residence, and
  • Any other facts bearing on the risk of nonappearance or danger to the public

There are four (4) types of bonds commonly used in courts.

  • Personal Recognizance Bond:
    • This is known as the PR Bond.
    • It does not require the defendant or a third party to pay the amount set by the Judge or Magistrate, unless the defendant later fails to appear to court.  It only requires the defendant to sign papers with the court.
    • The defendant must appear as required, not leave the state without permission of the court, and must not commit any crime while released.
  • Ten Percent (10%) Cash Bond:
    • The defendant is required to post 10% of the full bond to get out of jail.
    • The remaining percentage is due only if the defendant later fails to appear to court.
      • Cash Bond:
    • Full amount of the bond must be paid in cash before the defendant can get out of jail.
    • If the defendant appears at all future court dates, most of the bond amount is returned to the person posting the bond, minus court costs and fines.
    • Surety Bond:
    • A professional bondsman posts the bond after being paid a non-refundable percentage of the full amount by the defendant.

Once Bail is set, it can be posted at the jail if the defendant is still there or at the court having jurisdiction.

If you have any questions related to your bond please give Aida a call at 248-624-5500 or email her at Aida@ambroselawgroup.com

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The Criminal Process: Arraignment

The first step, after an arrest, in any Michigan criminal case is an arraignment. During an arraignment you will stand before a district court judge or magistrate and they will read the charges that are being brought against you. They will then ask how you would like to plead to those charges. Here are your options:

Guilty

By pleading guilty, you are accepting responsibility for the alleged crime, and any punishment the judge chooses to give you. The judge will ask you why you think you are guilty, and ask you to state the facts that meet the elements of the crime you are pleading to. If you plead guilty at your arraignment you will not have the option to try to work out a deal with the prosecutor. Be very careful not to enter a guilty plea unless you are fully informed of the consequences for doing so.

Not Guilty

A plea of not guilty implies that you believe you are innocent of the charges. You will be entitled to a trial where the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a crime committed and that you were the one who committed it.

No Contest

A no contest plea carries the same weight as a guilty plea. You are accepting responsibility for the crime, but are not admitting that you actually did the crime. A plea of no contest is often used to avoid civil liability. Frequently, when someone is hurt they wish to sue the person that hurt them for their damages. Because criminal cases have a much higher burden of proof, a guilty plea or a conviction carries a lot of weight in civil court. A plea of no contests allows someone to take the punishment, but never actually have to admit to doing the crime. Another reason to plead no contest is if you simply cannot remember the events that lead up to your being charged with a crime. If you are intoxicated, or otherwise unable to remember what happened, but still want to take responsibility for the crime, this is the way to go.

Stand Mute

If you stand mute, most courts will enter a plea of not guilty and set your case for a pretrial date.

Our best advice is to stand mute if you are arraigned on any charges and ask for an attorney or time to retain one. A not guilty plea will be entered and you will then have time to consult an attorney to determine what will be best for your case.

If you have any questions please email or call Jill at 248-624-5500 or jill@ambroselawgroup.com

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