Felony Procedures

When charged with a felony, it is important that you have an attorney represent you and advise you about protecting your rights. The information here is a general guide to what procedures you can expect in your case. It is not a substitute for an attorney's analysis and advice.

Just What Is A Felony?

A felony is a charge that carries with it a maximum jail sentence which exceeds one year. This does not always mean that you will serve more than a year in jail. It only relates to the maximum sentence. Felonies have very direct consequences and some unforeseen consequences. Direct consequences include things like jail, probation, fines and costs. Unforeseen consequences may include things like not being able to vote, inability to purchase a gun or obtain a CCW permit or inability to be bonded by an employer.

What Procedures Should I Expect?

Certain procedures apply in every felony case. Arrest, arraignment, preliminary examination, bind over, Circuit Court arraignment and pretrial, and trial, are all possible in your case. In appropriate cases, motions are filed and evidentiary hearings are conducted. If convicted by plea or after trial, felony sentencing will take place on a subsequent date. These procedures will be clearly explained to you by your attorney. A summary of these procedures are as follows:

Arraignment:

Following an arrest, Arraignment is conducted in District Court to inform you of: (1) the charges against you; (2) the maximum penalty for the charges; and (3) to set an appropriate bond. (Charges and bond can be modified later.)

Preliminary Examination:

Within 14 days of your District Court Arraignment, (or longer if the time period is waived), Preliminary Examination is conducted. This procedure tests whether the Prosecutor can present admissible evidence to show: (1) probable cause that a crime was committed; and (2) whether you committed it. It is a one-sided procedure where the Defendant typically does not testify and only the incriminating evidence is reviewed for sufficiency. If the showing is made, your case is "bound over." Most felony cases are "bound over." The Preliminary Examination reveals the Prosecutor's case theory and helps establish your defense. In appropriate cases, a Plea offer will be discussed at Preliminary Examination. In other cases, you may choose to waive the Preliminary Examination.

Bind Over:

Where the Prosecutor succeeds at Preliminary Examination, (or, where the Exam is waived), the case is "bound over" (e.g., transferred), from District Court to Circuit Court. If improper, a Motion can be filed.

Circuit Court Arraignment/Pretrial:

Following a bind-over, a new Circuit Court Arraignment is scheduled, (or waived), and a Circuit Court Pretrial is typically scheduled. At this Pretrial, any Plea offer will be presented, the Court will schedule any needed hearing dates, and your case will be scheduled for Trial.

Motions And Evidentiary Hearings:

Whether in District or Circuit Court, you and your attorney may consider filing Motions and/or Evidentiary Hearings. These may test the admissibility of evidence, challenge the bind over, modify the bond, or compel production of witnesses or evidence. The facts in your case will determine whether any motions or hearings are scheduled in your case.

Trial:

In the absence of a plea or dismissal, your case will be scheduled for either a Jury or "Bench," (e.g., one decided by the judge and not the jury). At Trial, the Prosecutor will first present its case, and then you and your attorney will have an opportunity to present a defense. Afterwards, there will be a verdict of guilty or not guilty.

Sentencing:

Following Plea or Trial, you will be scheduled for felony Sentencing. Prior to Sentencing, you will meet with the Probation Department. A Pre-Sentence Investigation Report will be prepared which, among other things, will calculate the applicable Sentencing Guidelines for each felony conviction/plea. Michigan felony sentences are "indeterminate." They have a minimum and maximum time in jail. The minimum, (which can be probation), sets the jail time before consideration for parole. Sentencing Guidelines assist the Judge to set the appropriate minimum. The Judge can depart from the minimum Guideline range only for substantial and compelling reasons stated on the record.