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The police officer makes an arrest in Michigan when he or she determines that there is probable cause that a crime has been committed. For petty or minor offenses the police officer may release the individual on theirown personal recognizance with instructions to contact the Court for an arraignment date or that they will be contacted at a later date with a Court date. Sometimes aninterim bond is allowed to be posted with the arresting police agency prior to arraignment. For more serious offenses, or sometimes due to local policies, the person arrested is not given a bond until he or she is arraigned in front of a magistrate or Judge. If the person is taken into custody at the police station or county jail, he or she is booked and fingerprinted. The person accused usually has an opportunity to make a telephone call from the police station or county jail to a family member if he or she is detained. When a family member calls from jail it is important not to discuss the details of the case in as much as the phone call is usually recorded or monitored. The arresting police agency forwards their report to the prosecutor (which is the city attorney, County prosecutor, Attorney General) who decides what charge or charges, if any, are filed or pursued. Federal cases are handled differently, and are not discussed for purposes of this blog. If the Prosecutor decides to go forward with at least one criminal allegation, he or she files a Complaint at the District Court with jurisdiction to hear the matter. The person who is accused of the charge or charges on the Complaint is listed as the "Defendant". If the Prosecutor elects not to go forward on any charges, the person who was arrested is released if he or she is still in custody (provided there are no other holds or detainers on the person). If an interim bond was posted, it is returned. The Prosecutor is not prevented from going forward with charges at a later date, absent due process or Statute of Limitations issues. Sometimes there is a delay in Prosecution because the investigation is still ongoing, or evidence such as blood tests, drug tests, fingerprint analysis, DNA testing, etc. is still being processed. If charges are brought at a later time, the Defendant is either notified to turn him or herself in on the warrant, or arrested on the warrant without being given notice. At anarraignment for either a misdemeanor or felony allegation, each charge and the possible penalty is read to the Defendant in open Court. If the charge is a misdemeanor, the Defendant is asked how he or she pleads: If the Defendant pleads guilty or no contest to a misdemeanor, the Judge decides what the sentence is unless the Defendant is referred to the probation department for its report prior to sentencing. There are some types of cases, such as drunk driving, where the Judge is required by law to have the Defendant screened by the probation department. If the Defendant pleads not guilty and asks for a lawyer, usually the Court will set a pretrial date for the Defendant to return with his or her retained lawyer or to meet with a public defender if indigent. As long as the Defendant is not sentenced, or the offense is not an offense in which bond can be denied, the magistrate or Judge will set a bond amount. If the bond can be posted by the Defendant, a friend or family member, or a bail bondsman, the Defendant is released. Otherwise, the Defendant will remain in custody until either he or she posts the bond, has the bond modified to an amount that can be posted, gains acquittal or dismissal of the charges, or serves the sentence ordered if convicted. The magistrate or Judge is free to place conditions on the bond, such as drug testing, reporting to a probation officer, tether, etc. If the charge is a felony, the Court will enter a not guilty plea on behalf of the Defendant, and will schedule the case for either a preliminary examination or apreliminary examination conference. If the Defendant does not have an attorney at his or her arraignment, he or she will have an opportunity to obtain one for the next Court date by retaining counsel or requesting Court appointed counsel. It is strongly recommended that upon arrest, and certainly before the entering of a guilty or no contest plea, the accused person should consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer for the following reasons: First, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can try to obtain or maintain a reasonable bail or bond on behalf of the Defendant; Second, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can obtain discovery materials and look at the case for weaknesses or flaws which may exist. The lawyer can litigate the case to try to gain a dismissal or reduction in the charge or charges. Third, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can enter into plea bargain negotiations with the prosecutor to potentially reduce charges, receive a favorable sentence, or special statuses in the law (if available) to expunge the conviction. A Defendant who pleads at arraignment is not given the opportunity to negotiate for a better result. A criminal arrest, and especially a criminal conviction, can hurt an individual's freedom, family life, employment, and affect many privileges such as the ability to have a concealed weapons permit, driver's license, etc. Sometimes in life you only have one opportunity to obtain the right result. Hiring the right criminal defense lawyer may be one of the most important decisions you make for yourself and your family. There are many lawyers who claim to do more than what they are able - just as there are many surgeons in the world that are no better than butchers. Do not settle for a legal hack job. Practicing law is a skill that develops over time with experience, commitment, dedication, and God given talent. There are no amateur attorneys at Hilf & Hilf, PLC– only experienced professionals that are guided by the humanity in the individuals we serve, and the drive not to settle for what is easy over what is right.
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