Michigan Criminal Law FAQs

The questions provided below are frequently asked questions regarding Michigan Criminal Laws. If you find that your question is not answered below, please contact us for a consultation.

Q: What is a felony?
A: Felonies are serious crimes, such as rape, robbery, arson and murder. Felonies are punishable by fines or imprisonment for more than one year, or by both imprisonment and fines.

Q: What is a misdemeanor?
A: Misdemeanors are crimes; however, misdemeanors are not as serious as felonies. Most misdemeanors are punishable by either ninety three days or one year imprisonment.

Q: What is assault?
A: When a victim reasonably perceives immediate bodily harm is about to take place by the acts of another person who intends for the victim to sense such harm, an assault occurs. No physical contract or injury is needed. If a person intentionally points an unloaded gun at some other person, and if the victim reasonably thinks that the gun is loaded, the person pointed the gun has committed an assault.

Q: What is battery?
A: A battery occurs when someone’s intentional act results in another person receiving a physical contract without his/her consent. A battery may occur when the victim is punched, shoved, shot, or poisoned.

What is larceny?
A: Larceny is illegal taking and carrying away of property of another person with the intention of depriving the owner of the property. The crime is a misdemeanor if the property has a value of less than amount defined by law. The crime will be a felony if the property has a higher value.

Q: What is Miranda Rights?
A: Miranda rights originated from US Supreme Court decision of Miranda v Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966). Miranda Rights implies the warning which the police give to the accused before interrogation in custody. The accused is advised that he/she does not have to talk to police, and his/her silence will not be held against him/her, and he/she has the right to consult a lawyer of his/her choice before he/she talks to the police.

Q: What will happen if the police do not give me Miranda Rights warning?
A: If police take any statement from an accused without a proper reading of an individual’s Miranda Rights, it may result in such statement being “suppressed” by a judge. The prosecutor may be barred from presenting such statement as evidence at trial.

Q: What does a District Court do?
A: A District Court is the trial court for all misdemeanors for which punishment is imprisonment of less than one year and civil infractions. All criminal cases, in which accused is seventeen years or older, begin in the district court. In felony cases, District Courts administer initial arraignments, sets and accepts bonds and conducts preliminary examinations. All charges issued under a local city ordinance are dealt in District Court.

Q: What is Circuit Court?
A: Circuit is the Michigan’s highest level trial court. It also functions as appeal court. It has three divisions: (a) trial court for criminal cases (felony and high misdemeanor), (b) criminal appellate court against District court rulings, (c) Civil Court for civil lawsuits in which suit value is above $ 25,000, or seeking equitable relief or injunctions, and Family Court for all family law matters, including child protection proceedings, juvenile delinquency, and personal protection orders.

Q: What is a bench warrant?
A: A court order directing the arrest of the defendant and appearance in court if the defendant fails to appear for a hearing or violates a court order. A bench warrant may be issued against the defendant who violates a condition of bond or a probationer who violates a term of probation.

Q: What is arraignment?
A: Initial appearance of the defendants is known as arraignment. In this appearance, the court determines the identity of the defendants and informs the defendant of the nature of the criminal charges and their potential penalties. The court also decides whether the defendant will be released on bond, and the amount of bail for such release. A preliminary examination hearing date is normally fixed at the arraignment.

Q: What is a preliminary examination hearing?
A: At preliminary examination hearing, the prosecutor attorney must present evidence to show that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. In this hearing, the judge decides whether cause for trial exists. If the evidence is insufficient to substantiate the charges, the judge will dismiss the case against the defendant.

Q: What is pretrial conference?
A: Pretrial conference is a court-scheduled meeting between the defendant/defendant’s attorney and the prosecutor to discuss potential plea bargains, schedule motions and/or choose a date for trial.

Q: What is motion hearing?
A: A Motion is an application requesting a judge to issue a ruling on a legal matter. After receiving a motion, a judge can deny or grant the motion based on its contents, or the judge can schedule a hearing. After hearing, the judge decides the motion, and it is called an order. Motions are made before trials to determine preliminary and procedural issues, for example admissibility of evidence, adjournment of a trial date.

Q: What is the difference between a jury trial and a bench trial?
A: In a trial of a criminal case, a jury trial is held when the defense attorney or the prosecutor ask for a jury to listen to the evidence and decide the defendant’s guilt. In a jury trial of a criminal case, the jury is “trier of fact” rather than the judge. On the other hand, in a bench trial of a criminal case, both defense counsel and prosecutor are of the same mind to put aside their relevant rights of a jury trial and have the judge sit as “trier of fact.”

Q: How is sentencing done?
A: Through sentencing, a judge imposes punishment for a crime if the defendant is found guilty or entered a plea of guilty or no contest. In most of the cases, sentencing is done after completion of a Presentence Investigation Report (PSI), performed by the Court’s Probation Department after the Defendant is interviewed by a Probation Officer. The PSI contains relevant information concerning the defendant’s background and the offense committed.

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