Processing a felony case: a brief guide for the citizen
This page is intended to briefly explain the procedures involved in processing a felony case as required by the Crime Victim's Rights Act. Not every case will go to trial, so not all of the steps will be followed in every case. If you have specific questions about the process, contact the prosecuting attorney's office for more information.

(1) Warrant Request

When a police officer has probable cause to believe a person has committed a crime, the police request the prosecutor to authorize an arrest warrant.

(2) Decision to Prosecute

The Prosecutor determines whether a person should be charged with a crime, and if so, what the crime should be.

(3) Arraignment

Once arrested and charged with a felony, the suspect appears in district court for arraignment. At arraignment, the defendant is given notice of 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 the preliminary examination.

(4) Preliminary Examination

This is a contested hearing before the judge. The prosecutor presents witnesses to convince the district court judge that a crime was in fact committed and there is probable cause to believe the defendant has committed that crime. 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.

(5) Arraignment/Circuit Court

After the case is sent to circuit court, the defendant is again arraigned and given formal notice of the charges against him or her. He or she is again advised of their constitutional rights, and asked to enter a plea to the charge.

(6) Pretrial Proceedings

Many events can occur prior to trial. The court may hear motions to determine whether evidence will be admitted or suppressed at the defendant's trial, or whether there is some legal reason why the defendant should not be tried. In addition, the prosecutor and defense attorney will often meet to determine whether the defendant will plead guilty to the crime charged or some other offense.

(7) Trial

The defendant has a right to determine whether to be tried by the judge or the 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. A trial is an adversary proceeding whereby the prosecution must establish 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.

(8) Sentencing

If the defendant is found guilty of a crime, the judge will set a date for sentencing. The time between conviction and sentencing is used to prepare a presentence investigation report. This report is 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 the time of sentencing, the judge will consider the information in the report before determining the sentence. The judge will also consult the 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.