Practice Areas / Criminal Defense / Misdemeanors and Felonies
Unlike a civil infraction matter, the judge in a misdemeanor or felony case has the power to sentence you to jail time or prison, if convicted.
First Stage of a Misdemeanor Case
A misdemeanor case begins when a police officer issues a Uniform Law Citation, commonly referred to as “a ticket,” alleging that a person, the defendant, has violated Michigan state law or a local ordinance. The maximum penalty that can be imposed by a judge or magistrate for a misdemeanor conviction are 93 days jail, probation, fines, costs and fees. Some of the most common misdemeanor cases include:
- Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI), 1st or 2nd offense
- Operating While Under the Influence of Drugs (OUID), 1st or 2nd offense
- Operating With the Presence of Drugs (OWPD), 1st or 2nd offense
- Driving While License Suspended (DWLS)
- Reckless Driving
- Minor in Possession (MIP)
- Possession of Marijuana and/or Paraphernalia
- Domestic Violence and/or Assault and Battery
- Larceny, Retail Fraud and/or Shoplifting
- Disorderly Conduct
The defendant generally has 14 days to appear in court for the first stage of the criminal misdemeanor process, the “arraignment.” The district court judge will inform the defendant of the charges he or she is facing, tell the defendant the possible maximum penalties if convicted and advise the defendant of his or her constitutional right to an attorney. The defendant, may enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty,” or may stand mute. You should almost always plead not guilty or stand mute at an arraignment proceeding. After this, the judge will discuss the issue of bond to secure the defendant’s return to court for the next hearing date, a pretrial.
First Stage of a Felony Case
A felony case begins when a police officer files a formal complaint with the local district court alleging that a person, the defendant, has violated Michigan state law and committed a serious crime. If a defendant is not already in police custody at the time the complaint is filed, the district court judge will issue a warrant for his or her arrest. Although all felonies begin at the local district court level, a felony case will ultimately be transferred to the circuit court if the district court judge determines that there is “probable cause” that defendant committed the charged crime. Depending on the conviction, the maximum penalties that can be imposed by a circuit court for a felony conviction is jail or prison (from 93 days up to a life sentence), probation, parole, fines, costs and fees.
The district court judge in a felony case will also inform the Defendant at the arraignment of their right to hold a preliminary examination within 14 days. The defendant, may enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty,” or may stand mute. You should almost always plead not guilty or stand mute at an arraignment proceeding. After this, the judge will discuss the issue of bond to secure the defendant’s return to court for the next hearing date, a preliminary exam. The preliminary exam is the date and time where the prosecutor must prove by probable cause that the Defendant committed the charged crime. If the district court judge determines there is enough evidence, the defendant will be “bound over” to circuit court. After the defendant is again arraigned in circuit court and a plea of not guilty is entered, a pretrial at the circuit court will be set.
Final Stages of a Misdemeanor Case and a Felony Case
After the arraignment in a misdemeanor case and a preliminary exam in a felony case, the next step in the court process is the pretrial. The pretrial is the date and time where the defendant, the defendant’s attorney and the prosecutor meet to discuss the merits of the case and possibly resolving the case. In a misdemeanor case, the pretrial will remain at the district court, while in a felony case, the pretrial will take place at the circuit court. Generally, if the prosecutor is going to offer a plea bargain, it will be at the pretrial stage of the case. If the parties do not agree to resolve the case, then the matter will be set for either a bench trial or jury trial at a later date. At trial, the prosecutor must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the Defendant committed the charged crime. In both a misdemeanor and felony matter, if the parties do not agree to resolve the case by a plea bargain or dismissal of the charges, then the matter will be set for either a bench trial or jury trial at a later date.
In the event the defendant pleads guilty at the pretrial stage or is found guilty after trial, a separate date and time will be set by the court for sentencing. A defendant often will meet with probation prior to the sentencing date to be interviewed so that a presentence investigation (PSI) can be performed. The sentencing judge will review the PSI prior to sentencing the defendant.