No two cases are exactly alike, but there are some typical steps that each criminal case will go through. Understanding the basic court process can help you know what to expect. For a detailed review of your specific case, contact our office today.
Before an individual is formally charged, law enforcement agencies usually conduct investigations. Depending on the severity and nature of the crime, this might necessitate obtaining a warrant. It is crucial to note that a statute of limitations exists – a time limit within which law enforcement can charge an individual for a suspected crime. For instance, in Michigan, this period is six years for most misdemeanors and felonies.
The issuance of a warrant allows for police to make an arrest, in which the suspect is taken into police custody. In certain scenarios, such as when a police officer witnesses a crime or when there’s substantial evidence of a crime, an arrest can be made without a warrant.
Post-arrest, the individual makes their first court appearance during the arraignment. Here, a judge or magistrate will detail the charges, the potential penalties if convicted, and the constitutional rights of the defendant. For felony charges, the defendant does not enter a plea at this stage but is informed about their right to a preliminary examination within 14 days.
At this stage, both the prosecution and the defense continue to collect evidence through discovery and build their cases. This phase also allows for the possibility of negotiation of a plea bargain between the defendant’s attorney and the prosecutor, potentially resolving the case before it proceeds to trial.
If a plea bargain cannot be agreed upon, the case goes to trial. In Michigan, both parties can request a trial by jury or agree to a bench trial where the judge alone determines the outcome. The trial includes opening statements, witness testimonies, cross-examinations, and closing arguments, after which the judge or jury decides whether the defendant is guilty.
If a defendant is convicted, the next phase will be sentencing, when penalties for their crime are determined. The penalties vary greatly depending on the crime committed, the pre-sentence report, and any prior convictions. Penalties can range from fines, probation, and community service to jail or prison time.
A conviction does not necessarily signify the end of the case. In many situations, the defendant can appeal the court’s decision or sentence.
At every step of this process, a skilled criminal defense attorney can provide invaluable assistance. From explaining your rights, negotiating plea bargains, and representing you in court to navigating the appeals process, having an experienced attorney by your side can make a significant difference.
At Fraiberg & Pernie, PLLC, our seasoned attorneys leverage their unique backgrounds, one being a former police officer and the other a city prosecutor, to provide robust legal representation. Our commitment to open communication, personalized guidance, and legal excellence helps us deliver the best possible outcomes for our clients.
Start your defense today. Contact us for a free consultation. Let us fight for your freedom and rights.