Stages Of A Criminal Case
If you have been recently arrested or suspect that you may be arrested, you want to know what procedural steps the case against you will follow. As a criminal defendant you have a right to a speedy trial guaranteed by the U.S. and Michigan state constitutions. Generally a defendant in Michigan charged with a felony crime has a right to trial within six months of the date of arrest, and a defendant charged with a misdemeanor crime has a right to trial within 28 days of arrest.
Investigation: When investigating a crime, the police talk to witnesses, gather evidence, and build a case against the suspect. When the police have probable cause to believe that a suspect has committed the crime, the police will apply to the court for an arrest warrant.
Arrest: A police officer can arrest an individual in a number of circumstances. This includes when an arrest warrant for the individual has been issued, when the police officer sees the individual commit a crime, and when the police officer has probable cause to believe that the individual has committed a crime. Following arrest the defendant is booked and incarcerated, except in the case of minor crimes which result in the issuing of a citation.
Bail: A bail hearing is held before a judge shortly after arrest. Paying bail allows the defendant to get out of jail until trial, and the money is meant to ensure that the defendant does not leave the court’s jurisdiction. If the defendant does flee, the bail money goes to the state and an arrest warrant is issued for the defendant. In many misdemeanor cases bail is set at a predetermined amount. In more serious cases, the amount of bail is in the discretion of the judge, and depends upon a number of factors, including the severity of the crime, whether the defendant is a flight risk, the criminal history of the defendant, and the strength of the prosecution’s case. A defendant may be released on his own recognizance, which means that no money is required by the defendant must promise to appear at all future hearings. If bail is denied, trial must generally be held within 90 days from the denial of bail.
Arraignment: Arraignment is the first appearance of the defendant before a judge, usually 24 to 48 hours after arrest. The judge informs the defendant of the charges against him, asks the defendant whether he has an attorney or wants a court-appointed attorney, and asks the defendant how he pleads to the charges. The court may also modify the initial bail amount, and schedules other upcoming steps in the case.
Preliminary hearing: In felony cases, the prosecution must show the court that there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to the next step in a preliminary hearing before a judge. The prosecution’s witnesses must testify and are cross-examined by the defendant’s attorney.
Pre-trial motions: Before trial, both the prosecution and the defense file various motions to determine the admissibility of evidence and other issues.
Trial: Both the prosecution and defense make opening statements, put on evidence and examine witnesses, and make closing statements. The jury is then given instructions by the judge and deliberates to come up with a verdict. In most cases the defendant has the right to trial by jury. The jury must find that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sentencing: If the defendant is found guilty, he is sentenced by the court. In some cases this will happen right away. In more serious cases sentencing is conducted in a separate hearing, where the prosecution and defense put on evidence of such factors as the defendant’s criminal history, the defendant’s remorse for his actions, and the severity of the crime. Each crime carries a range of time that may be served as punishment. The court will weigh the evidence, and may also hear from the defendant directly, to determine the length of the sentence.
Throughout the criminal process, it is important to have an attorney you trust working on your behalf. An experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney can make a major difference at each step along the way. At Grabel & Associates, we have provided aggressive, ethical representation of criminal defendants for over 13 years. Call us today for a free confidential consultation at (800) 342-7896.