Felony Criminal Procedure
This briefly explains how a felony case is processed. Not every case will go to trial, so not all of the steps will be followed in every case. If you have specific questions, contact the Alger County Victim Office (906-387-2117) for information.
(1) Warrant Request:
When the police have probable cause to believe a person has committed a crime, the police ask the prosecutor to authorize a warrant for their arrest.
(2) Decision to Prosecute:
The prosecutor determines whether to charge a person with a crime, and what the charge should be.
Once arrested, the suspect appears in district court for arraignment. The defendant is told the charges against him or her, and advised of their constitutional rights. The conditions and amount of bail are determined, and a date is set for a, probable cause hearing and preliminary examination.
(4) Probable Cause:
(5) Preliminary Examination:
This is a contested hearing before the judge. The prosecutor presents witnesses to convince the district court judge that a crime was committed, and there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed that crime. The prosecution does not have to prove that case beyond a reasonable doubt so he/she usually presents only a minimal case.
The defendant is represented and can cross-examine the witnesses and present evidence. If probable cause is established, the defendant is sent to circuit court for trial. A defendant can decide not to have a preliminary examination.
(6) Arraignment/Circuit Court:
In circuit court, the defendant is arraigned and given formal notice of the charges against him or her. He or she is advised of their constitutional rights, and asked to enter a plea to the charge.
(7) Pretrial Proceedings:
Many events can occur prior to trial. The court may hear motions to determine whether evidence can be used at trial, or whether there is some legal reason why the defendant should not be tried. There is always a pretrial conference between the Judge, Prosecutor and Defense attorney. At this conference, witness and exhibits will be disclosed and discussed and a trial date set. The prosecutor and defense attorney will often meet to determine whether the defendant will plead guilty to the crime charged or some other offense.
The trial can be by judge or jury. During the trial, the judge or a jury will determine whether the defendant has committed a crime, and if so, what that crime is. At trial, the prosecution must present evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor must call all the witnesses to the crime. The defendant is not required to prove his or her innocence, or to present any evidence.
If the defendant is found guilty, the judge will set a date for sentencing. A pre-sentence investigation report will be prepared by the probation officer, who works for the state Department of Corrections. It contains information about the crime, defendant's background, and a sentence recommendation. At sentencing, the judge will consider the information in the report. The judge will also consult sentencing guidelines established by the Michigan Supreme Court as a reference for framing an appropriate sentence. Determination of the minimum sentence is the judge's sole responsibility. The judge may consider different alternatives, such as a fine, probation, community service, a sentence to jail or prison, or a combination. The judge may also order the defendant to make restitution to any victims who have suffered physical, financial, or emotional harm.
The defendant may appeal his or her conviction to the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court, or the United States Supreme Court.
Felony Criminal Procedure