Being charged with a crime in Michigan can be a confusing process. Understanding that process is critical because a successful defense starts at the very beginning.
Being Arrested in Michigan: What Should I Do?
Getting arrested is stressful and humiliating. You may even get handcuffed and put in a police car in front of your family. With sufficient legal cause, the police can arrest anyone they like. Being arrested doesn’t mean you’re guilty of a crime – you’re still innocent until proven guilty.
You might feel angry, but never interfere or resist. Even if you’re innocent, always cooperate with the arresting officer and hire an experienced attorney to defend your innocence.
You still have rights after you’re arrested. If the police want to question you about what happened, they must inform you of your rights (the “Miranda warning”). You have the right to remain silent. You don’t have to answer questions, and you can request a lawyer at any time, although you must provide information regarding your identity
What is Being Charged with a Crime?
After your arrest, the police will give a report to the prosecuting attorney. The prosecuting attorney will decide what crime to charge you with. When you’re charged, the prosecution formally accuses you of committing a crime.
The prosecuting attorney could decide to charge you with little or no evidence, but it’s unlikely. They’ll want to have a strong case before they proceed.
You don’t have to be arrested to be charged with a crime. Instead, the police can issue you a citation that requires you to promise to appear in court. This might happen for something like a minor traffic offense where the police decide you’re not dangerous. The prosecution can also charge you and give you an opportunity to turn yourself in, all without arresting you.
After Being Charged: Bail and Arraignment
What happens now depends on whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
A misdemeanor is a lesser crime with a smaller penalty. A felony is a more serious crime with a stricter penalty. For example, a first or second drunk driving offense in Michigan is a misdemeanor with a first offense carrying a penalty of up to 93 days in jail and a second offense carries up to 1 year in jail. A third DUI offense is a felony. Felony DUI carries a longer punishment – potential jail time of 1 to 5 years.
If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor, the police may release you if you promise to appear in court at a later date. (And make sure you do appear in court – if you don’t, you’ll be charged with the crime of failing to appear.) You may also be required to post a sum of money with the police as an “interim bond” to ensure your future appearance in court
If you’ve been charged with a felony, you’ll have to appear before a judge to pay bail before you can go. The exact amount will depend on what you’re charged with and the circumstances of your arrest. Bail is a complicated subject, but Grewal Law will help you through the bail process.
Your first court appearance after you’re released is called an arraignment. This is an appearance before a judge who will tell you the exact charges, potential penalties and set bond. It isn’t a trial. If the police released you on bail, the judge will usually continue the same bond, but there is no guarantee
At your arraignment, you’ll also enter your plea of guilty or not guilty. This is a very important part of your defense. Discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney before you decide how to plea. If you can’t speak to an attorney, it is almost always advisable to enter a not guilty plea at arraignment so you have an opportunity to consult an attorney and possibly negotiate a better deal. if a plea is entered at arraignment there is no opportunity to go to trial or negotiate – the case is over except for sentencing,
Plea Bargaining at the Pre-Trial Stage
A few things can happen after your arraignment. If you’ve been charged with a felony, you’ll have a probable cause conference to be held not less than 7 days or more than 14 days after the date of the arraignment, and a preliminary examination in not less than 5 days or more than 7 days after the date of the probable cause conference. At this point, the prosecution must convince the judge that there’s probable cause that you’ve committed the crime. You can also decide to waive this step.
Your attorney can negotiate with the prosecution to get your charges reduced – in which you agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge to get a reduced sentence – or even dismissed. This compromise is called “plea bargaining.”
The defense and prosecution will meet at a pre-trial conference. You can enter the plea agreement here if you’ve agreed to one, or an experienced attorney can convince the judge to dismiss your charges.
If you don’t agree to a plea bargain, your case will go to trial. A trial is risky because the outcome is unpredictable – for both the defense and prosecution. Most criminal cases end with a plea bargain.
The Trial, Verdict, and Sentencing
If you haven’t entered a plea or the charges were dismissed you’ll go to trial. At the trial, the prosecution will have to convince a judge or jury that you’re guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
If you receive a guilty verdict (or you’ve pled guilty in a plea bargain), you’ll be sentenced. Sentencing is where the court decides on your punishment. The court will take into consideration recommendation from a pre-sentencing investigation and in felony cases will follow sentencing guidelines.
Your punishment is less severe if you’re convicted of a misdemeanor. In that case, you can be sentenced to probation or up to a year in jail depending on the charge. If you’re convicted of a felony, your punishment will be more severe and can include anything from probation to a prison sentence of longer than a year.
If you’re found not guilty or your case is dismissed, you’re free to go.
You have a constitutional right against double jeopardy. This means that you can’t be charged twice for the same crime from the same evidence. Double jeopardy applies to both misdemeanors and felonies.
Get Help When You’re Charged with a Crime in Michigan
There’s a lot to keep track of when you’re arrested and charged with a crime. Having an experienced lawyer on your side can make the difference between freedom and imprisonment. Grewal Law has well over 15 years of experience helping people who have been charged with Felonies and Misdemeanors.
Are you unsure what to do in your criminal case?
Contact Us for your free case evaluation by calling (888) 211-5798.