Due Process Rights
Under Michigan law, all people accused of a crime have certain due process rights which arise out of the Michigan and United States Constitutions. This article gives an overview of the felony criminal procedure in Michigan There are two types of due process rights: procedural and substantive.
Procedural Due Process Rights
Michigan law provides that every suspect is entitled to procedural due process, which includes:
- Being informed of the nature of the offense and given notice of the charges;
- Provided a hearing about the charges;
- Given a reasonable opportunity to prepare and present a defense;
- Presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt;
- The right against self-incrimination; and
- Must be given reasonable time to secure counsel.
Substantive Due Process Rights
Substantive due process rights are about the substance of government regulation, which can include:
- Not being able to take someone’s property without just compensation;
- The requirement to follow due process laws; and
- Not being able to intrude on someone’s fundamental rights and liberties (e.g., cannot search someone’s home with a proper search warrant).
Due process includes several steps and hearings that must be available to defendants charged with felony offenses. They include an arraignment, probable cause hearing, preliminary evidence hearings, pre-trial, and trial.
An arraignment is the first time someone charged with a felony will appear in court due to a complaint and issuance of an arrest warrant. The complaint is required to provide the specific criminal charges and laws that the defendant allegedly violated. The complaint must provide evidence that the defendant is the one who actually committed the crime charged.
The warrant is an order requiring the defendant to appear in court. At the arraignment, a bond will be set, or in some severe cases, upon request from the prosecutor, no bond will be set. In most situations, a cash bond will be set. Cash bonds allow defendants to pay the court and be released until their next court appearance. If you have been charged with a crime and fail to appear, the court can keep your bond and issue another arrest warrant.
Probable Cause Conference
The next step following the arraignment is a probable cause conference, which is mandatory in felony cases unless waived by both parties. Under Michigan law, the probable cause conference is intended to encourage settlement of the case before it reaches trial. The conference also helps the court determine if a preliminary examination date must be set.
At the probable cause conference, the parties will discuss the possibility of plea agreements, evidentiary issues, bond modifications, and anything else that may be relevant to the case. This hearing can be scheduled between 7-14 days after the arraignment. However, it can be rescheduled to give the parties more time to complete the discovery process. Depending on the complexity of a case, discovery may take longer than 14 days.
The preliminary examination is a hearing where the prosecution must prove that the crime was committed and that there is probable cause that the defendant committed the crime. Probable cause is enough evidence to support law enforcement’s suspicion of the crime. Unlike much of criminal law, the prosecution is not held to the same legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” At preliminary examinations, the standard for proving probable cause is much lower. However, “beyond a reasonable doubt” means that there is absolutely no doubt that the defendant committed the crime. It also means that a defendant should not be convicted if a reasonable person could question whether the defendant committed the crime.
The preliminary examination hearing can be waived if both parties agree that no testimony is needed to find probable cause. Generally, preliminary examinations benefit the defense because they allow them to cross-examine witnesses that will later testify on behalf of the prosecution. However, there are also some disadvantages because additional charges can be added to the complaint during the preliminary examination. It is essential to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a preliminary examination considering the circumstances of your case with your criminal defense attorney.
Arraignment On Information
Once the case is sent to the circuit court for further proceedings, an arraignment on information will occur. This hearing is similar to the first arraignment hearing. The only difference is that the prosecution cannot change or add additional charges to your complaint as they can during the initial arraignment.
Pretrial And Trial
The next step involving the court after the arraignment on information is a pre-trial conference where both sides can present motions to the judge. A good defense attorney will know how to advocate for a motion to dismiss. Both sides will also argue motions over what evidence can and cannot be allowed in the case. Another common pre-trial motion is a request for specific jury instructions, which either party can file. Once all pre-trial issues have been resolved and if no plea bargain has been negotiated, the case will be set for trial. Once the case goes to trial, a jury or judge will determine if the defendant is guilty or not. If the defendant is found guilty, they will likely be placed in jail until their sentencing hearing occurs.
Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a felony offense, you do not need to experience the criminal justice system alone. The attorneys at George Law will represent your rights and interests throughout the criminal process and will work diligently to ensure that you receive the best outcome possible for your case. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, contact a George Law criminal defense attorney at (248) 470-4300 or online.