FELONY CASE PROCEEDINGS
A felony is a crime that is punishable by more than one-year incarceration. The following summary explains the general case flow of felony criminal cases in Cheboygan County.
Crime Committed / Police Notified and Investigate. Investigation may include interviewing the victim(s), witnesses and suspect(s), collecting physical evidence, photographing and measuring the crime scene, obtaining records, and so forth.
Police Make an Arrest (or Request a Warrant). When the investigating officer has probable cause to believe a crime was committed, the officer has the authority to make an arrest on the spot (as with drunk driving).. The officer then submits a charging/warrant request to the Prosecuting Attorney.
Warrant/Charging Request Reviewed by Prosecuting Attorney. This is generally the first time that the Prosecuting Attorney's office is involved in a case. The Prosecutor reviews the investigative reports and determines whether to file criminal charges and, if so, what the crime should be. If criminal charges are filed, a warrant is issued. The suspect is arrested (if not already in custody).
District Court Arraignment. This is the first court appearance for a felony. The defendant is told what the charge(s) is/are and their maximum penalty and advised of his/her Constitutional rights. The Judge sets a bond amount (for pretrial release) along with any conditions imposed upon the defendant during his/her pretrial release.
District Court Pretrial Conference. Felony cases have a scheduled meeting between a Prosecuting Attorney and the defendant (or his or her attorney) to determine whether (1) the case will precede to a preliminary exam, (2) be waived to Circuit Court (3) or a plea agreement is reached. The Judge and witnesses are not directly involved in the pre-trial conference.
Preliminary Examination [District Court]. The Preliminary Examination is a District Court hearing held within 14 days after arraignment - unless the defendant waives that right. The Prosecutor presents witnesses to show at least probable cause that the Defendant committed the charged crime(s). If probable cause is established, the defendant is "bound over" to Circuit Court. If there is not probable cause the case may be (1) “bound over” on different charges, (2) reduced to a misdemeanors for trial in District Court or (3) dismissed. A defendant can also waive the right to a Preliminary Examination, and most felonies arrive in Circuit Court via such a "waiver."
Circuit Court Arraignment. After the case is sent to Circuit Court, the defendant is again arraigned (given formal notice of the charges against him or her). The charging document is called an Information. He or she is again advised of his or her Constitutional rights, and enters a plea to the charge (guilty, not guilty or “stand mute”).
Circuit Court Docket Call. A scheduled court date in Circuit Court where the Prosecuting Attorney and the defense attorney determine whether the case will be resolved by a plea agreement or go to trial.
Trial (Jury or Bench/Judge). If there is no plea agreement, a trial will be conducted. A trial is a proceeding in which the Prosecutor must present evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is not required to prove his or her innocence or to present any evidence, but may challenge the accuracy of the Prosecutor's evidence. Both the defendant and the Prosecutor have the right to a trial by a jury. In a jury trial, however, the jury is the "trier of fact" and decides the case. After the evidence is presented, the judge or a jury will determine whether the evidence proved that the defendant committed the crime.
Pre-Sentence Investigation and Report. After a plea or conviction, the Circuit Court's probation department prepares a report for the judge summarizing the crime, and the defendant's personal and criminal backgrounds. Generally, the victim is contacted for a recommendation of sentence and to determine the amount of restitution that is owed. The probation officer concludes the report with a recommended sentence.Sentencing. The judge will consider the information in the pre-sentence report (subject to factual corrections by the parties), additional evidence offered by the parties, comments by the crime victim, and other information relevant to the judge's sentencing decision. The judge may consider different alternatives, such as a fine, probation, community service, a sentence to jail/prison, or a combination. The judge must also order the defendant to make restitution to any victims who have suffered financial harm.