Written by attorney Jonathan Andrew Paul

Malicious Destruction of Property Attorney - MDOP Washtenaw County Felony Charges

Michael - 25 Years - Malicious Destruction of Property

Our client Michael was recently arrested for smashing his friend’s car with a baseball bat. The alleged incident happened in the City of Saline, and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office was the arresting agency. The police arrive on scene to see Michael actively smashing the car and yelling at his friend to “come outside and settle this like men”.

The police quickly apprehend Michael, arrest him, and bring him the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office on Hogback Road for processing. The police will attempt to interview the owner of the car, learn more about what lead to this incident, and attempt to interview Michael about what happened. Michael at this point should be given his Miranda Rights and should probably not make any statements until his speaks with an attorney.

In our case, the police determine that the damage exceeds $1,000, and this appears to be a felony Malicious Destruction of Property, because the value is above $1,000; if the value was below that level, this would likely be a misdemeanor. Because of the day of the week and the time, the police tell Michael that he can’t be released until he sees a judge. The police gather their information and submit a warrant for Malicious Destruction of Property over $1,000, but below $20,000, and Michael spends the night in jail. The prosecutor in this case will be the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office, because it is a felony.

At this time Michael will likely try to reach out to family and friends, and tell them to contact an attorney to appear at his arraignment, or he may have to be arraigned without an attorney. Michael will not likely see a “judge” but rather a magistrate; this arraignment will happen at the 14A-1 District Court.

The magistrate will review the current charges, any prior criminal history and other bond factors, such as ties to the community and determine what if any bond needs to be posted to assure the safety of the community, and to make sure that Michael returns to the court.

In our case, Michael’s family retains an attorney and that attorney is able to appear at the arraignment the next day. The attorney argues that Michael is a first offender, works in Saline, and has the support of his mother, father and brother in the courtroom. The attorney also argues that Michael and his family have invested in the case by hiring an attorney, and look forward to learning more about the case and Michael’s options to resolve it. At this point, the attorney knows very little about the case other than the charge, and may just have have met Michael for the first time. If a judge is leaning toward setting a high bond, the attorney may suggest alternative options such as a tether or if drugs and alcohol are a concern, for Michael to test with Community Corrections.

A good attorney in Washtenaw County will anticipate what the judge, or in this case, the magistrate may have concerns about, and address them immediately. Because the attorney in this case learns that consumption of high levels of alcohol were involved in this case, Michael’s attorney suggest that he be released on a personal bond, but submit to random alcohol or drug testing or if the court sees fit daily testing. Fortunately for Michael, the magistrate grants a personal bond with the condition of daily alcohol testing.

As for all felony cases in Washtenaw County, the magistrate sets two court dates at this time: Preliminary Examination Conference and the Preliminary Examination.

Michael, his family and the attorney are now done with court. Michael will be processed out of the jail, and will see his family in a few hours. From here, the attorney will get to work on the information gathering process of obtaining all available evidence on this case to get the entire picture of all possible defenses for his client. Michael and his attorney will meet prior to the next court date to review these materials and discuss how to put Michael in the best position during his case. I will discuss this part in detail in my “Winning - A Proactive Approach” section of this book.

Let’s keep forward to the next court date, which is called the Preliminary Examination Conference, which is now mandatory in Michigan. This is an opportunity for Michael’s attorney and the prosecutor to discuss the case and possible resolutions. At this point the case can go a number of ways:

Option #1 - The client executes a waiver of the 14-day rule, which does not waive the right to preliminary examination (more on this later), but simply waives the right to hold it within 14-days. This allows more time for gathering discovery and negotiation with the prosecutor. If Michael were still in jail due to a very high bond or other holds, it is less likely that this would be waived. Since Michael is out on bond, it would be common to execute this waiver to simply take more time to learn more about the case, and create more options.

Option #2 - The client as stated above is still in jail, and no waiver is executed. This likely means that in a week, a preliminary examination would be held at the courthouse where the case would either be dismissed or bound over to the 22nd Circuit Court.

Option #3 - Michael’s attorney and the prosecutor have a fruitful conversation and a plea agreement can be worked out on the spot. A possible resolution could be a dismissal of the felony with an agreement to a misdemeanor offense. Michael and his attorney at this point have already discussed this option, and have a plan in place for this outcome.

At this point depending upon, which path is selected, the case will either come back to the same courthouse under Option #1 for another Preliminary Examination Conference, but with additional time to sort things, Option #2, which testimony will be elicited by the prosecutor at the Preliminary Examination and the case will either be dismissed or proceed to the 22nd Circuit Court or Option #3, a plea will be taken, and the case will go back to the district court level, which in this case would be the 14A-4 District Court in Saline.

If we’re proceeding with Option #3, the case never goes to the Circuit Court. Option #1 could turn into an Option #3 plea agreement or could end up being like Option #2 with a preliminary examination to decide the fate of the charges.

Another option not mentioned is the waiver of the Preliminary Examination altogether, not only the 14-day rule, but both sides agreeing not to hold an Examination. Both sides must agree on this, and the most common reason is the matter is better handled at the 22nd Circuit Court for resolution.

Michael and his attorney would discuss the pro and cons of all of these options. The case would end up at the 22nd Circuit Court if the Examination is held and the case is bound over by the judge, or if both sides waive the Examination, the case will proceed to the Circuit Court.

Fortunately for Michael, his attorney put him on a proactive program from day one, and was able to negotiate a dismissal agreement with the prosecutor. The prosecutor agreed to dismiss the felony Malicious Destruction of Property and agreed to a misdemeanor, which resulted in the case being sent back to the 14-A4 District Court with Judge Simpson for sentencing.

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