Are you feeling overwhelmed after being charged with a felony?
Facing a felony charge is an overwhelming experience. It is especially overwhelming if you are not familiar with the legal process, and this is your first charge.
Of course, nothing can replace one-on-one counsel with an experienced criminal attorney. If you are facing a felony charge, contact my office today.
However, it does help to know an overview about the legal process. The following is the step by step process to help you understand what you are up against.
9 Steps of a Felony Criminal Case
Step 1: The Complaint is Filed
The process starts with the prosecuting attorney filing a complaint against the accused. If the accused or the defendant has not already been arrested, a warrant for arrest will go out at this time.
A felony case will start in the district court, but it will end up being transferred to the circuit court.
Step 2. Being Arrested
At this point, if you have been accused of breaking a criminal law, you will be arrested. Upon arrest, you will be taken to the district court for arraignment.
The police will hold you until the arraignment takes place, and/or the bond is set. The police will also know when and where your arraignment is.
Step 3. The Arraignment
The arraignment is held in front of a magistrate or a district court judge. He or she will explain your constitutional rights, your charges, and the possible consequences if you are convicted of the crime.
During this time, the court will determine the possibility of being released on bond and, if so, will set the bail amount.
Lastly, the date for the preliminary examination will be set, which will be within 14 days of the arrangement. Interestingly, you do not enter a plea here as that will come later.
Step 4. A Note About Bail and Bonds
What it means to post a bond and to be out on bail, is that the defendant has made a promise to appear in court and not engage in any activity that the magistrate or judge orders. According to Michigan Courts, there are four types of bonds:
- Personal Recognizance Bond: This is when the defendant is released without having to pay any money after making a promise to return to the court.
- A Cash Bond: The amount has been set and must be paid in full before the defendant is released from jail.
- A Ten Percent Bond: The court has agreed to accept ten percent of the full bond amount guaranteeing the defendant will return to court.
- Surety bond: This is a guarantee made to a bondsman that the defendant will return to court. The bondsman must be approved and prove that he has enough money to pay the full bond amount.
Step 5. The Preliminary Examination
The next step is the preliminary examination. During this step, the prosecution does not have to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
He or she only needs to prove that there is enough evidence for probable cause to send the case the trial.
The judge may choose to “bind” your case for trial, reduce the charges, or even dismiss the charges altogether.
Step 6. The Second Arrangement
If the judge decides that there is enough evidence for probable cause, he will bind your case over for trial. Your case will then be transferred to the circuit court, where you will have another arraignment.
At the second arraignment, the judge will read you your constitutional rights, what you are being charged with, and the possible consequences if you are convicted of the crime.
This time, however, you will be able to enter your plea here at the circuit court. The vast majority of cases will be settled outside of a trial.
Step 7. Pre-Trial
Most prosecutors would prefer to have the case resolved before going to trial. To accomplish this, there will be a pre-trial conference or conferences. At this time, the prosecution is hoping for a plea agreement.
The next pre-trial steps include hearings, motions, and continuances. All of this is in preparation for the trial, and you can expect that there will be no crucial details left out.
Step 8. The Right to a Jury Trial
You have the right to a jury trial when facing a possibility of more than six months in prison. You also have the right to waive the jury trial for a bench trial, which is a trial in which only the judge presides. However, the judge and the prosecution must agree to the waiver.
Step 9. The Trial
No matter what charges you face, your trial will follow the same pattern as every other trial. Depending on the amount of evidence, the number of witnesses and expert testimony, the amount of time the jury takes to deliberate, and any number of other factors, a trial can take hours or weeks to complete.
It is important to remember the whole reason for the trial: the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you have committed the crime for which the state has arrested and charged you. If it seems like the prosecution is “running the show,” that’s because it is.
However, it doesn’t mean you and your attorney don’t get a chance to tell your side or disprove the prosecution’s theory.
- Opening Statements: When the prosecution starts, they will typically introduce the jury to the trial and inform the jury what will be proven or disproven.
- Presenting the Evidence: This is where the prosecution has to prove that you committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Witnesses will be brought in and questioned. This part of the trial is usually the longest.
- The Closing Arguments: Here is when the lawyer gives it their best effort to sway the jury to their side. This is also the last opportunity to address the jury and the judge.
- The Judge and the Jury: Next, the judge will educate the jury of their legal responsibilities. After that, the jury will deliberate in private chambers.
- The Verdict: The judge will read the verdict. If found guilty, the judge will either sentence you that day or set another date of sentencing.
Michigan Felony Defense Attorney
This is a very simple breakdown of how this part of our legal process works. Every case is different, and there are many details your lawyer will go over with you as you get to each step in the process.
If you are or a loved one is facing a felony charge in Michigan, please call my office today for a free consultation.
Let’s get started!