Felony Prosecution, Part I: Arraignment & the Probable Cause Conference

Arraignment and the Probable Cause Conference

If you have been charged with a felony in Michigan and the prosecution plans on pursuing the charge, the law requires that certain steps be taken to protect the defendant’s rights and ensure that caseloads at circuit courts are reserved for legitimate felony proceedings. The Arraignment and Probable Cause Conference are the initial felony hearings that take place in a city, township, or municipal district court.

The Court System and Felony Charges

In Michigan, all state felony charges begin at the district court level. Each county has only one circuit court, the venue where the most serious cases are handled. Each county also has at least one district court, though more populated counties have many. For example, the building that houses the Lapeer County Circuit Court in Lapeer, MI also contains the sole district court in the county. Conversely, Oakland County has a circuit court in Pontiac with 14 district courts in places like Troy, Novi, Bloomfield Hills, Rochester Hills, and Royal Oak.

If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor, your case will begin and end at the district court level. If you are charged with a felony, your case will begin at a district court but it could be sent to the county circuit court if the district judge finds probable cause to believe a felony was committed and you are the person that committed the crime.

First Step – The Arraignment

When a felony warrant is issued, the defendant must go before a district court judge or magistrate for arraignment. The felony arraignment has two primary purposes. First, a defendant has to be told the actual charges against him or her and any possible jail or prison sentence that may be imposed if there is a conviction. Second, the court needs to make a determination on bond. Bond is an assurance that the defendant will return to court and not be a danger in the community.  A bond may require the posting of money or can just require a promise by the defendant to follow the orders of the court and return for court hearings. The amount of money that must be posted for the bond is up to the judge or magistrate and depends on a multitude of factors. It is important that you have an experienced attorney at this stage because an argument should be made at arraignment that either personal bond (where you do not have to put down any money) or a low cash bond is warranted in your case. Failure here can lead to a person, who retains the presumption of innocence, being stuck in jail for months waiting for various court proceedings. Once arraignment is complete, the court moves to the probable cause conference.

Next Step – The Probable Cause Conference (PCC)

What is a probable cause conference (PCC)? The PCC is part of the beginning of a felony prosecution and is filled with potential pitfalls and opportunities for a defendant to better his chances of getting a favorable outcome. The PCC is the first formal opportunity for the prosecutor and defense attorney to meet and discuss the case. In order to guarantee the best possible outcome, it’s crucial that you begin on the right foot with a seasoned and successful criminal defense lawyer. The district court judge will want an answer at the conclusion of this conference as to whether or not a preliminary examination is going to be held or if the exam is being waived. Decisions regarding whether motions need to be filed, whether evidence should be suppressed, and what evidence must be collected or preserved may need to be made at this very important hearing.

The hearing after a PCC is a preliminary examination and will are explained in Felony Prosecution, Part II: The Preliminary Exam (click the link).

When to Call an Attorney?

The decision to hold or waive the exam it is an important one and should be made in consultation with an attorney who knows the law, the prosecutor, and the court. The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have decades of experience handling felonies in Oakland County, Macomb County, Wayne County, and throughout Michigan. They know when the prosecution should be compelled to hold an exam, when it is not beneficial to the client, and all the details that must be taken into consideration throughout a felony prosecution.

If you have been charged with a felony, call (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and one of the attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. will consult with you on your case. The best way to handle a felony charge is to begin the process with an experienced legal team in your corner, protecting your rights, and guiding you through the complicated process that begins with the arraignment and probable cause conference.