The criminal court process in Michigan is fairly straightforward but those who do not deal with it every day may not know what to expect. It is true that most criminal cases begin with an arrest, but what happens after that is largely unknown to many people, even those charged with a crime. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, it is important to work with a Grand Rapids criminal defense lawyer that can help you prepare for the process and let you know what to expect.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor offense, such as domestic violence, you will need to attend an arraignment. At the arraignment you will have to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If you plead anything other than not guilty, the judge can sentence you at the arraignment. Although this will not give you a chance to defend yourself, pleading guilty or no contest at this stage will likely result in a less serious sentence. If you plead not guilty, a pre-trial conference will be scheduled.
At the pre-trial conference, your lawyer will meet with the prosecution for the case. A plea bargain may be offered, which consists of you pleading guilty to the offense in exchange for a lighter sentence. If you accept a plea deal, you will have to attend another hearing in which the judge listens to the plea deal and issues a sentence.
If you do not accept a plea bargain, the case will move to the trial phase. Before the actual trial, your defense lawyer will file a number of pre-trial motions and continuances. If your case goes to trial, it may be heard by a jury or a judge alone. Most misdemeanor cases are only heard by a judge.
You will still have to attend an arraignment if you are charged with a felony offense, such as aggravated assault. However, you cannot enter a plea at this stage. The arraignment is only to hear the charges against you and to select a date for the preliminary hearing.
The prosecution must use the preliminary hearing to convince the judge that there is enough evidence against you to move forward with the case. Your defense lawyer can cross-examine important witnesses to refute the arguments of the prosecution, which could result in a dismissal of the case.
If the prosecution is successful during the preliminary hearing, you will have another arraignment, at which you can enter a plea. A pre-trial conference will then be held so the prosecution can offer you a plea bargain deal. If you do not accept a deal, your case will proceed to trial and have all the same pre-trial motions and continuances. During the trial, your case will likely be heard by a jury of your peers.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, our Michigan criminal defense lawyers can help. At Van Den Heuvel Law Office, we know the defense strategies that will work and will use them to give you the best chance of beating your charges. Call us today or contact us online to schedule a consultation and to learn more about how we can help.
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