This web page will briefly explain how a felony case is processed. Not every case will go to trial, so not all of the steps will be followed in every case. If you have specific questions, contact the prosecuting attorney's office for more information.
CRIMINAL EVENT You have been victimized by a criminal and, as a result, contact your police department to report the crime so they can investigate.
COMPLAINT REQUEST If the police can develop enough evidence to establish probable cause to believe a person has committed a crime, they may arrest that person or request the evidence be reviewed by the prosecutor for authorization of a criminal complaint.
PROSECUTOR'S DECISION TO ISSUE If the prosecutor finds sufficient legally admissible evidence, he/she then determines if a crime is to be charged and what the crime should be.
ARRAIGNMENT/ DISTRICT COURT Once arrested by the police, the criminal appears in District Court for arraignment. At this court appearance the defendant/criminal is informed of the charges against him/her and advised of their constitutional rights by the judge. The District Judge then determines the conditions and type of bail and sets a date for the preliminary examination.
PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION This is a contested hearing before the District Judge which must be set by law within twelve (12) days of the defendant's arraignment. The prosecutor calls witnesses to testify in an effort to convince the District Judge that a crime was, in fact, committed and there is probable cause to believe the defendant has committed the crime charged. The defendant is represented normally by an attorney appointed for him/her by the Court and that attorney can cross examine the witness and present evidence. If, after the evidence is presented, probable cause is established to the judge's satisfaction, the defendant is sent to the Circuit Court for trial. A defendant may decide at any time to not have a preliminary examination and be sent to the Circuit Court.
ARRAIGNMENT/ CIRCUIT COURT When the case is sent to the Circuit Court, the defendant is again arraigned, and given formal notice of the crimes charged. He/she is once again advised of their constitutional rights and a plea is entered to the charge.
Numerous events can occur prior to the trial; the Court may hear motions to determine whether evidence will be admitted or excluded at trial; whether any prior convictions of the defendant may be used to impeach the defendant; or if there is some legal reason why the defendant should not be tried. Additionally, the defense attorney and prosecutor will often meet to determine if the defendant will plead guilty to the crime charged or some other offense to resolve the case.
TRIAL At trial the defendant determines whether to be tried by the judge or the jury. During the trial, the defendant is not required to testify or present any evidence and is not required to prove his/her innocence. The trial itself is an adversary proceeding in which the prosecutor must present evidence to establish the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor must also call all witnesses to the crime, even though they may be hostile to the people's case. Following the proofs and a series of lengthy instructions on the law, either the judge or jury renders a decision.
If the defendant is found guilty of the crime, a date for sentencing will be set by the Court. Prior to that date, a pre-sentence investigation report must be prepared by the probation officer. The probation officer works with the Court and is an
employee of the State Department of Corrections. The report to the Court contains information about the crime, defendant's background, and a sentence recommendation. You have a right to submit to the pre-sentence officer, in writing or oral form, an input statement of the crime on you and this will, upon your request be placed in the pre-sentence report. The judge compiles all this information, as well as consulting the sentencing guidelines mandated by the Michigan Supreme Court, and will impose a sentence. The judge is the sole determiner of the minimum sentence, and the Court will consider several alternatives such as a fine, probation, community service, a term of incarceration in jail or prison, or any combination of the above. The judge also has the option to order a defendant to make restitution to any victim suffering physical, financial, or emotional harm.
APPEALS A defendant convicted is entitled, by constitutional right, to an appeal of his/her convictors. This appeal, if requested, goes to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Any appeal after this level, if the conviction is affirmed, is by leave.