The early stages of a felony case in Washtenaw County

There are many stages to a felony case in Michigan.  Today I will focus on Washtenaw County and the early stages taking place at the District Court level.

What happens when a person is charged with a felony in Michigan?

The first thing that happens when someone is charged with a felony in Michigan is that a warrant is issued for their arrest.  To clear the warrant the defendant will need to appear in front of a District Court Judge or Magistrate at the 14A1 District Court.  There are two ways they get arraigned.  The first is by being arrested by the police and brought to jail to wait until the judge is available.  Another way is for the client to turn themselves in during walk-in hours and be arraigned.  Walk-in hours are usually one day a week for a 2 hour period.  You would need to call the court clerk for walk-in hours information.  Often times an attorney is with you to help handle the arraignment too.

What is an arraignment in Michigan?

An arraignment is when a judge or magistrate read to you the crimes that you were charged with.  They ask you whether you plead guilty, not guilty, or stand mute.  Then bond is discussed.  It is important to have an attorney argue for you at bond because that will determine if you will spend time in jail during the case or whether you can post some money or property to be released.

What happens after the arraignment?

Once the arraignment is held, the next step is a probable cause conference (PCC).  The PCC is where the defense attorney and prosecutor are able to discuss the case.  Sometimes a plea deal can be negotiated.  If there appears to be no viable defense, then the client will have to decide on how they want to move forward.

If a plea deal isn’t negotiated and agreed on at the PCC, the client will then decide if they want to hold a preliminary examination (PE) or waive the PE and bind the case over to circuit court.

What is a preliminary examination in Michigan?

A PE is like a mini trial.  This is where the prosecution has to prove that a crime was committed and that the criminal defendant is the person who more likely than not committed the crime.  Unlike a trial, the burden of proof is much lower at the PE stage.

What happens if you win at the Preliminary Examination in Michigan?

If the PE is held and the prosecution doesn’t meet their burden, then the case is dismissed.  If the prosecution meets its burden, then the case is bound over to circuit court.

Another option is to waive the PE and bind the case to circuit court.  The idea here is that there is a defense that would require motions and/or potentially a trial.

The early stages of a felony case can be confusing.  If you’ve been charged with a felony case in Washtenaw County, then call me so that I can help you understand your options and provide you with a quality defense.