Criminal Procedure in a Nutshell

What is a criminal matter?

In a criminal matter, the state seeks to punish a person with jail, prison, or other penalties. Criminal matters generally fall under two categories: Felony and Misdemeanor.

Felony

  • Crimes whereby an arrested defendant could be punished with one or more years in jail
  • Felony cases are tried in circuit court but a preliminary hearing is held in district court
  • Can be eligible for representation by court-appointed attorney

Misdemeanor

  • A crime that results in jail time of one year or less
  • Cases are usually tried in district court

What are the procedural steps taken when someone is arrested for breaking a criminal law?

  • Arraignment in district court (charges against the defendant and their constitutional rights will be explained).
  • The defendant will be held until bond is posted.
  • Within 14 days of the arraignment, the district court will schedule a preliminary hearing. If a judge determines that there is sufficient evidence to proceed, the case will be transferred to circuit court for trial.
  • A second arraingment will be scheduled in circuit court, whereby the defendant will have the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or stand mute. A date will then be set for a trial.
  • If the defendant is convicted at the conclusion of the trial, a date will be set for sentencing. If defendant is acquitted, the case is dismissed.
  • Sentencing may include probation, which means that a person may be allowed to live in a community instead of prison as long as they comply with rules established by the court. If rules are violated, a warrant will be issued for the person's arrest, possibly leading to a person's being sentenced to prison.
  • For more information about Michigan's Sentencing Guidelines, click here.

Where can I find information about criminal law and court procedures?

The Kalamazoo Public Law Library's legal collection includes books about criminal statutes, criminal court rules, rules of evidence, and other helpful research tools. For specific information about Michigan's criminal laws and procedures see:

This information is not intended to substitute for legal advice or representation. Talk with an attorney if you have questions about how this information applies to your own situation.