The Michigan Felony Process
A felony in Michigan is considered a more serious crime than a misdemeanor. Usually, a felony will entail a minimum prison sentence of a year and possibly a large fine. If you are charged with a felony, you should try to develop at least a basic understanding of the Michigan felony process, so you know what to expect.
The Purpose of the Michigan Felony Process
The purpose of the Michigan felony process is to investigate whether you have committed a crime.
The process has multiple phases, including the search, the arrest, the arraignment and the trial. There are certain procedural rules that must be adhered to by authorities throughout the process. For example, police officers and investigators must have a search warrant in most circumstances to search you or your property for evidence that you have committed a crime.
The process is not always perfect. However, during the trial period of the Michigan felony process, you and your Michigan criminal attorney will be able to raise any objections you may have. In some instances, errors on the part of investigators may result in the charges being dropped.
The Search & Arrest
The search is the first stage of the Michigan felony process. Although a warrant is usually necessary to search you or your property, this is not always the case. Some examples of when a warrant is not necessary include:
- You were arrested in a vehicle, and the officer wants to search your vehicle
- You are placed under arrest, and the officer wants to search your person
- You left something incriminating out in the open, and the officer sees it
- You grant the officer permission to conduct a search
Once the officer has probable cause that you committed the crime, you may be placed under arrest. Probable cause means the officer has a reasonable reason to believe you have committed the crime in question.
Once under arrest, you will have the right to remain silent, so as to not incriminate yourself. You will also have the right to an attorney to be there during police questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, you will be appointed a public defender.
The Arraignment & Bail
After your arrest, you may have the opportunity to enter into a plea agreement with the prosecution (the party in charge of proving your guilt). A plea agreement is when you agree to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for a lighter sentence. Your Michigan criminal lawyer can help broker this agreement for you.
Within three days of your arrest, you will be arraigned. This is when the charges against you are read aloud in court, and you then have the opportunity to enter your plea. Your plea options include:
- Guilty: This means that you admit that you committed the crime/
- Not guilty: This means that you claim you did not commit the crime/
- No contest: This means that although you do not admit guilt, you also do not contest the charges filed against you. This plea is often entered if you anticipate a corresponding civil trial.
- Mute: This means you do not enter a plea and that you are not in agreement with the proceedings up to that point. The court will enter a not guilty plea, and you will have the ability to challenge the Michigan felony proceedings.
Once you enter your plea, granted it is not a guilty plea, the court may agree to set bail. Bail is an amount of money you must pay in order to be released from custody while awaiting trial.
The Trial & Appeals
Under Michigan felony laws, you will have a trial within 180 days after your arrest. At trial, the prosecution will present evidence to try to prove your guilt. Meanwhile, your attorney will attempt to defend you. Your attorney may do this by trying to createt doubt in the mind of the jury, who must convict you beyond a reasonable doubt, or your attorney may present an affirmative defense, such as self defense or consent.
If you are found guilty, you will have 42 days after the judgment to file an appeal.