3. How does the Criminal Judicial process work?

Criminal Court Process:

(A) Arraignment:
This is the date set after your arrest. It will usually take place approximately 30 to 60 days after your arrest. Many courts will allow your attorney to “waive” your arraignment, thus eliminating an uneeded appearance in court. Individuals who have not retained an attorney are generally not allowed to “waive” arraignment. An Arraignment is the hearing wherein the judge advises what charges are filed against you and requests a plea to be entered on your behalf. In virtually every case we enter a plea of “not guilty” on your behalf. We will then file for discovery to obtain the complaint, police report and all other prosecution documents regarding your case. We will copy and forward to you all documents for your review. The judge, in concluding the arraignment, will decide whether any conditions should be imposed on you while the case is pending. Usually, in Michigan, first time offenders with no enhancements, accidents and non-lethal blood alcohol levels would not have any conditions other than no drinking and driving. For those more serious cases such as multiple offenders, accident cases, injury cases, the judge could order you to attend alcoholics anonymous meetings, a higher bail, a treatment program, or place an ignition interlock on your car. These are some of the possibilities.

(B) Pre-trial Conference:
We will then schedule a future court appearance known as a pretrial conference. A pretrial conference is a conference prior to trial wherein a number of issues will be resolved such as evidence being requested and provided, negotiation of strengths and weakness of the case, scheduling of future court appearances, etc. Your attorney will discuss your case with the Prosecutor and negotiate the best possible plea bargain. It will usually happen about 4 weeks after arraignment. The date is set by the Court and your attorney. In between the first and second court appearance, we will be making a discovery request on the law enforcement agencies, crime labs and prosecution offices involved in your case. This discovery request is the method attorneys utilize to obtain the evidence pertaining to your case. It is critical that your attorney secures all the significant items of evidence so that we may be able to give an informed opinion regarding the strength of your case. We will be exploring resolution of your case at the pretrial conference. In terms of the number of pretrial conferences, there may be one or more depending on a variety of factors.

(C) Suppression Hearing:
Before trial we may want to file some pretrial motions that may or may not require your attendance to challenge the admissibility of the prosecutors’ evidence. A ruling in your favor can result in evidence being excluded from your trial, including evidence of a blood or breath test, the results of some or all of the field sobriety tests, or adverse statements you may have made. Successful pre-trial motions often compel the prosecutor to make an advantageous plea bargain offer, or can result in the dismissal of the charge based on an unconstitutional stop. The Court may suppress some or all of the evidence against you if your constitutional rights have been violated. Your attorney may file various motions to suppress the evidence against you. It occurs anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months after the pre-trial conference.

(D) Trial:
Michigan law allows a defendant to have either a trial in front of a jury, or, alternatively, only in front of a judge. If a defendant chooses to have a jury trial his matter will be heard in front of six jurors. A case that is heard in front of the judge only (without a jury) is referred to as a “Bench Trial”. In most, but not all, cases the best course of action is to have your matter heard before a jury. Alcohol and driving trials can present a variety of technical and complicated issues. While it is impossible to predict the length of a trial during a cases preliminary stages, in general, a trial typically lasts between one and two days.

(E) Sentencing:
The Court imposes a sentence after a conviction at trial or after a plea bargain is accepted and a plea entered. Sentences may include jail time, in-home detention, public service, alcohol classes and/or fines. First time offenders, while facing a potential 93 days of incarceration, will typically receive a 12 to 24 month probationary term with no additional incarceration. A second time offender (i.e., two alcohol offenses within a seven year period) face a maximum one year period of incarceration, although such a sentence would be rare.