Michigan Common Criminal Law Questions
The following Common Criminal law QUESTIONS and ANSWERS will provide you with an insight into some of the most common criminal terms and procedures used within the Michigan Criminal Justice System. Knowing the law and the answers to these common criminal law questions can and will help protect your rights when or if you are criminally charged or involved with law enforcement.
Q: What is a criminal felony?
A: Felonies are crimes that have a punishment consisting of imprisonment for more than one year while also attaching fines and court costs with a variety of other terms if placed on probation or parole. The punishments for these crimes are controlled by Statute. Examples of such crimes include, but are not limited too: Felonious Assault, Murder, Criminal Sexual Conduct, Home Invasion, Delivery or Manufacturing a Controlled Substance or Marihuana.
Q: What is a criminal misdemeanor?
A: Misdemeanors are crimes that have been categorized as less serious offenses as compared to felonies. Most misdemeanors range in punishment from by ninety days to one-year imprisonment plus any fines and costs ordered. Some Misdemeanors (known as High-Court Misdemeanors) can have punishment that exceeds a one-year maximum jail term. These crimes are also controlled by Statute or they will be controlled and prosecuted at the local level through Municipal Ordinances. Examples of these crimes are: Use of Marihuana, Possession of Marihuana, Disorderly Persons, Minor in Possession (aka MIP), Drunk Driving.
Q: What are Miranda Rights?
A: Miranda rights originated in United States Supreme Court case of Miranda v Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966). The Miranda Rights is a warning of stated rights by law enforcement, which must provide to the accused (or questioned) prior to a custodial interrogation taking place. The right outlines that he or she does not have to speak to the police, that he or she has the right to remain silent (which must be explicitly responded to), and that he or she has the right to the assistance of counsel.
Q: What will happen if the police do not give or read me my Miranda Rights?
A: If police take any statement from the accused without informing the individual of his or her Miranda Rights then the statement(s) made to the officers may be “suppressed.” This means the prosecutor may be barred from using the statement against the individual. However, this area of the law is very complex (and factually driven) and should always be handled by and discussed with an Attorney.
Q: What is a Michigan District Court?
A: The District Court is the court that oversees and handled all criminal misdemeanors. All adult criminal cases will begin in the district court, and when the matters involved only misdemeanors the District Court will dispose of those matters as well. In felony cases, the District Courts handle the initial arraignments, setting bond, and will conduct felony preliminary examinations.
Q: What is Michigan Circuit Court?
A: A Circuit Court handles all felony charges and any misdemeanors attached or charged along with the felonies. A felony charge (or case) will only make it to Circuit Court if the District Court has found probable cause that a felony was committed and that the individual charged committed that crime. This process is called “bind-over” and is determined at the preliminary hearing held in the District Court.
Q: What is a bench warrant?
A: A court order requiring the arrest of a defendant. Generally, these are issued when a defendant has failed to appear at court when directed or has violated a court order, term of probation or a condition of bond.
Q: What is criminal arraignment?
A: The initial court appearance by the defendant after being charged with a crime. This hearing is generally limited to identifying the defendant as the defendant, making sure the defendant understands the charges pending against him or her, and setting bond.
Q: What is a preliminary examination hearing?
A: This is the probable cause hearing (as mentioned above), which will usually occur within 14-days of the arraignment date. This type of hearing only occurs in felony matters. The purpose of the hearing is for the prosecutor to establish, by probable cause, that a crime was committed and the defendant committed the crime.
Q: What is pretrial conference?
A: This is a court-scheduled meeting between the defendant (or his or her attorney) and the prosecutor—these may be called scheduling conferences. Generally, potential plea bargains, the scheduling of motions, and/or choosing a date for trial will be performed.
Q: How is sentencing in Michigan performed?
A: The Sentencing will occur after a defendant has been found guilty or pleads guilty to a crime. This is where the judge will impose his or her punishment onto the defendant pursuant to statute and some discretion. Generally, for felonies and some misdemeanors, prior to sentencing a Pre-Sentence Investigation Report (aka PSI) will be scribed, which is performed by the Court’s Probation Department. The PSI will contain information regarding the defendant’s background, the offense committed, other relevant information, and a sentencing recommendation written by the Probation Department. The judge when determining the appropriate sentence for the individual defendant uses the PSI.