Every case is important and will be handled by trained professionals. The criminal process can be confusing and take a very long time. Members of the multi-disciplinary team (MDT) will be available to assist and guide you throughout the process. Not all cases will move forward to prosecution. This is meant to give you a basic understanding of the process for felony cases, if your case is prosecuted. Most cases coming through the CAC are felony cases (punishable by more than one year in prison). If you are required to appear at a hearing, you will receive a subpoena. Always call the “hotline” the night before to verify you are needed. The subpoena will tell you the location of the court.
Investigation, Warrant and Arrest: After Law Enforcement completes the investigation a warrant request may be submitted.
The case will be reviewed by a specialized prosecutor within the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victim’s Unit. If a warrant is authorized, law enforcement will swear to the warrant. If the defendant is not already in custody, law enforcement will affect the arrest or the defendant will present themselves before a the court for arraignment.
Arraignment This is the formal reading of a criminal charging document in the presence of the defendant to inform the defendant of the charges against him or her. The matter of custody will be determined and bond set. The defendant may request an attorney and enter a plea. The Judge may often set orders; such as no contact with the victim and the victim’s family. The only persons required to be present are the Judge and Defendant. This is typically done over closed circuit television if the defendant is in jail. Arraignment is done at the district court.
Pre-trial Conferences: Judges use pre-trial conferences with lawyers for many purposes. The first pre-trial conference will be held prior to the preliminary examination to determine if the preliminary examination will be held or waived. This is a meeting between the prosecuting attorney and defense attorney to discuss the case. Victim’s and witnesses are not required to be present unless otherwise instructed.
Preliminary Examination: This examination is held within 14 days of arraignment. This is a proceeding is when the Judge must decide whether a crime was committed, whether the crime occurred within the territorial jurisdiction of the court, and whether there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crime. The victim and witnesses may be required to appear and testify. After the preliminary exam, if the case is moved forward, it will go to Circuit Court. The case will be assigned to a Judge and the defendant will be arraigned in Circuit Court. Then another pre-trial conference will be held. Plea negotiations may be discussed at that time. If no negotiation is met, trial is set.
Trial: In a criminal trial, a jury examines the evidence to decide whether, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the defendant committed the crime in question. A trial is the government’s opportunity to argue its case, in the hope of obtaining a “guilty” verdict and a conviction of the defendant. A trial also represents the defense’s chance to refute the government’s evidence, and to offer its own in some cases. After both sides have presented their arguments, the jury considers as a group whether to find the defendant guilty or not guilty of the crime(s) charged.
Sentencing: If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial, he or she will be sentenced. The victim has a right to appear and speak.
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