The Pretrial Hearing is a Critical Step in a Criminal Case

A pretrial is an opportunity for the parties to discuss important issues in the case and explore the possibility of a settlement before trial.

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Pretrial Conference in a Criminal Case

A pretrial conference typically occurs in all felony and misdemeanor prosecutions. In a misdemeanor, the pretrial follows the arraignment. In a felony, the district court judge sends the case to the Circuit Court if they find probable cause to believe the defendant committed a felony. Once the case gets to Circuit Court, a pretrial is scheduled right after the felony arraignment. A pretrial in a criminal case can be used by a defense lawyer to advocate for their client, negotiate a resolution, seek dismissal, discuss discovery issues, and much more.

A pretrial conference in a criminal case is an opportunity for the defense lawyer to talk with the prosecutor about the case and the charges. Generally, the lawyers meet during or before a pretrial conference. The defendant does not participate or attend the meeting, although they must be at the court for the hearing. In most cases, the parties appear before the judge following the meeting to advise them on the case status. There can be one pretrial in a criminal case or several depending on many factors, including the complexity of the case, the potential sentence and any sentencing options, other related cases pending in different courts, the need to expedite or delay litigation, and much more.

Felony and Misdemeanor Plea Negotiations

In many cases, plea negotiation discussions occur at the pretrial conference. Although there are many cases where plea negotiations occur outside the courthouse, the defense lawyer does some of their most important work at this critically important meeting. An experienced, successful attorney intensely prepares before the pretrial conference to ensure they are in the best position to negotiate and persuade the prosecutor to resolve a case favorably. The lawyers with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. take the time to discuss the case with the prosecution and provide documentation to the prosecutor before the pretrial in a criminal case, when possible, to make the hearing as productive as possible. Where a less experienced attorney, a court-appointed lawyer, or a bargain attorney may plan to show up and “wing it,” our team takes great care to prepare for the pretrial conference before the hearing by working together to formulate the most persuasive arguments possible.

“Can a case be dismissed at a pre-trial conference?”

Many clients ask, “Can my case be dismissed at the pretrial conference?” The answer is “Yes!” It is possible for a criminal case to be dismissed at a pretrial conference in Michigan. This could happen for various reasons, including:

  • Insufficient Evidence: If the prosecution’s evidence is weak or has been compromised, they may choose to dismiss the case rather than proceed to trial.
  • Failure of a Witness to Appear: In some cases, the prosecutor will subpoena a witness to appear at a pretrial conference. In these rare circumstances, the judge or the prosecutor might dismiss the case if the witness fails to appear in court.
  • Successful Pretrial Motions: Your defense attorney might file motions to suppress evidence or dismiss the case based on legal grounds. If these motions are granted, the case could be dismissed.
  • Plea Bargain: Sometimes, a plea bargain is reached at a pretrial conference, where you agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge or in exchange for a reduced sentence. In some cases, this could lead to the original charges being dismissed.

However, it’s important to note that dismissal at the pretrial conference is not guaranteed. The decision rests with the prosecutor and the judge, and it depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your case.

Trial Negotiations at the Pretrial in a Criminal Case

There are also cases where the client may have no interest in entering a plea and accept nothing less than dismissal or trial. When this is the plan, we will talk with the prosecutor about the trial process to determine how we can get our client the greatest possible advantage. Important trial decisions are often based on information obtained during the pretrial in a criminal case. For example, the defense lawyer will need to determine whether the trial should be bench or jury, whether to stipulate to evidence, whether the qualifications of an expert are satisfactory, and much more.

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Discovery in a Criminal Case

The discovery in a case can be anything from simple to extraordinarily complex and voluminous. Cases we handle include misdemeanors and felonies with police reports with only a few pages, complex RICO prosecutions in Federal Court with hundreds of thousands of pages of discovery, and everything in between. There are also cases with no physical exhibits and others with evidence that must be analyzed or physically examined. We will discuss issues of missing discovery, delivery of reports and discovery materials, and scientific evidence at the pretrial to determine how to access all of the prosecutor’s evidence. At the pretrial in a criminal case, the lawyers will also try to resolve or clarify disputes regarding what items qualify as discovery, the timing of the production of reports and evidence, and more.

The Parties Will Negotiate Motions to Suppress Evidence, Scheduling, Trial Issues, and More at the Pretrial in a Criminal Case

In many criminal cases, motions must be filed regarding disputed issues in both state and federal courts. The range of motions available in a criminal case is seemingly never-ending. The areas that frequently result in contested motions include the admissibility of evidence, undue delay in the proceedings, deprivation of due process, violations of the constitution, the admissibility of evidence, and bond conditions. Although an experienced criminal defense lawyer will make every effort to persuade the prosecutor to stipulate (agree) to any desired relief, some issues cannot be resolved without a fight.

Prosecutors know well that many defense lawyers in Michigan are too fearful or inexperienced to put up a legitimate, credible fight on a contested issue. The criminal defense specialists with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. are widely known by prosecutors and judges to be fighters and take motions filed by our firm very seriously because we are a credible threat. Our attorneys use pretrial discussions to determine what motions are necessary and what issues can be amicably resolved. In cases where a motion is unavoidable, discussions with the prosecution at a pretrial in a criminal case can help pare down complex issues so that the motion can focus on the most critical points.

Evidentiary Issues

The prosecution and defense may or may not agree on what constitutes evidence in a case. Whether the parties discuss the possibility of a motion or a trial, a judge may use the pretrial conference to review the evidence each party intends to introduce or oppose. By examining the evidence before a motion, evidentiary hearing, or trial, areas of agreement and disagreement can be explored and determined.

The Court Hearing – Appearing in Front of the Judge

After the pretrial discussion, the parties often appear before the judge to advise the court on the case’s status. If the government agrees to dismiss, the prosecution will generally request dismissal at the pretrial conference. If there is a plea or sentence bargain, the prosecution and defense will advise the court of the resolution, and the plea is then “placed on the record.” “Placed on the record” means the terms of the agreement are stated in open court for everyone to hear. In some cases, the defendant is sworn under oath and asked to tell the court the factual basis of the plea. If the case is going to trial or a motion hearing, the parties will advise the court regarding the case’s direction, and the court will set dates for future hearings. Finally, in many cases, more than one pretrial conference is needed to determine the necessary course of action. In these cases, the parties will generally ask for an adjournment or another pretrial so that there is additional time to work out complex issues.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Not already a client with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C.? People experience tremendous stress and anxiety when charged with a criminal offense. We take the time to help the client understand the criminal process. Our clients have reduced stress and worry about the various court hearings and a better understanding of the process. One of the many things that separate LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. from other criminal defense attorneys and court-appointed lawyers is that we take the time to prepare in advance of the pretrial so that we are in a position to get the highest tactical advantage for our clients. The advantage of having a team of criminal defense attorneys is that we have the collective experience of many successful defense lawyers to work together to determine the strategy with the highest chance of success.

If you are charged with a criminal offense, and you need someone to fearlessly, tenaciously, and vigorously fight for your rights, give us a call for a free consultation. We will take the time to speak to you, answer your questions, and address your concerns. We will find a way to help you.

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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