Processing a misdemeanor case: a brief guide for the citizen
This page briefly explains how a misdemeanor case is processed. Not every case will go to trial, so not all of the steps will be followed in every case. If you have specific questions, contact the prosecuting attorney's office for more information.

(1) Charges Filed

A misdemeanor case can start from a - police ticket, citation, or from an arrest warrant. A warrant must be authorized by the prosecutor. These documents are filed with the district court.

(2) Arraignment

Once arrested, the suspect appears in district court for arraignment .The defendant is told the charges against him or her, and advised of their constitutional rights. The conditions and amount of bail are determined. If the defendant pleads guilty, the court will schedule the case for sentencing. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will be set for trial.

(3) Pretrial Proceedings

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

(4) Trial

The trial can be by judge or 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. At trial, the prosecution must present evidence to prove 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.

(5) Sentencing

If the defendant is found guilty, the judge will set a date for sentencing. A pre sentence investigation report may be prepared by the probation office. It contains information about the crime, defendant's background, and sentence recommendation. At sentencing, the judge will consider the information in the report. Determination of the 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 a combination. The judge may also order the defendant to make restitution to any victims who have suffered physical, or financial harm.

(6) Appeals

The defendant may appeal his or her conviction to the Circuit Court. It is also possible that he or she may appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court, or the United States Supreme Court.