Michigan Misdemeanor Case Stages and Court Procedure

Under Michigan law, misdemeanors are criminal offenses that can be charged under either state statute or local ordinance.  State charges are prosecuted by the county prosecutor, and local ordinance charges are handled by the city attorney.  Misdemeanors are prosecuted in the District Court where the crime allegedly occurred. A misdemeanor conviction is a criminal conviction, and could lead to a jail sentence, a criminal record, and a period of probation. The penalties for any crime will also vary depending on whether it is your first, second or third offense. If you are facing misdemeanor charges, you want an attorney fighting for your rights.

The misdemeanor court process starts when you are charged with a criminal act. This can occur several ways including an arrest, warrant, ticket or citation.

The arraignment is your first appearance in court. If you have been arrested and are in custody, you will typically be arraigned within a day or two. If you learn that there is an open warrant for your arrest, you may turn yourself in, and will be subsequently arraigned.  If you have received a ticket or citation you will have either been given a specific court date, or a certain amount of time to appear before the court.  Check the ticket very carefully; you do not want to miss this date!

During arraignment the judge or magistrate will read the formal charges that have been brought against you.  You will also be asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or stand mute.  It is very important to plead “not guilty” at this stage.  If you plead guilty, you are giving up your Constitutional right to fight the charges brought against you.  

The court will also set bond. Bond is typically a cash amount held by the court, allowing a defendant to remain free during the criminal proceedings, in exchange for the defendant’s promise to return to court on all scheduled court proceedings.  If the defendant fails to appear on a scheduled court date, they may be subject to immediate arrest, and any bond may be forfeited.

Bond amounts may be determined by the seriousness of the offense, the defendant's criminal record, the defendant’s potential for endangering the community, and the defendant’s ties to the community, including family and employment.   While most bonds are cash bonds, personal recognizance bonds are also used in some cases, allowing a defendant to remain free without posting any money.

In addition to setting bond, the judge may require drug and/or alcohol testing, which will continue throughout the course of the case.  In some courts, alcohol or drug testing may begin on the day of arraignment.

It is very important to have an attorney representing you at the arraignment stage.  It is your first appearance in court, and any slip-up could cost you big.  Additionally, in certain cases you can waive arraignment by hiring an attorney.  This is a big advantage in many cases because this will likely push out your first court date by several weeks.  This means a longer amount of time before a judge can set bond conditions, including any mandatory drug or alcohol testing.  If you are unable to waive arraignment, it is critical to hire an attorney who will be fighting for the lowest possible bond conditions.  If a high bond is set and you are unable to pay it, you will be forced to remain in custody pending the outcome of your case.  You also don’t want any bond conditions imposed that you will be unable to comply with.  If you are facing criminal charges, call the Law Offices of Rachel M. Loebl today to set up a no-fee consultation.

In many cases, a pre-trial conference is the first opportunity to speak with the prosecuting attorney.  That means that if you have not hired an attorney, you will be talking directly with the prosecutors, a very bad position to be in.  Remember, the prosecuting attorney is NOT your attorney, and is NOT fighting for your best interest.  Anything you say to the Prosecutor could hurt your case, and cannot be taken back, even if you chose to hire an attorney later on in your case.

If you hire an attorney, they will speak to the Prosecutor on your behalf.  At the Law Offices of Rachel M. Loebl, we diligently prepare for all pre-trial conferences so that we are in the best position to address discovery issues, discuss pre-trial motions, and negotiate possible plea deals.  Depending on the outcome of the pre-trial conference, the case may be set for an additional pre-trial conference, a motion hearing date, a trial date, or it may be disposed of that day if a favorable plea deal is reached.  

If your case has not been resolved in the pre-trial stage, you have the right to take your case to trial.  The trial may be in front of a judge, or in front of a jury.  At trial, the prosecutor has the burden of proof, and they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the alleged crime.  

The court process can be very overwhelming and confusing.  If you have been charged with a crime, you want an attorney in your corner.  Call the Law Offices of Rachel M. Loebl today to talk to an experienced attorney.