Our Criminal Defense specialists:
Michael A. Hettinger
Edwin L. Hettinger
Kalamazoo: 324-2000 Battle Creek: 968-5000
Three Rivers: 273-7800 Sturgis: 659-6161
Coldwater: (517)278-6800 Dowagiac: 782-2500
Fax: 344-3601 Statewide: 800-294-5055
Click to view: Know Your Rights, 9 of the most important criminal cases in American criminal law
"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning." (excerpt from Miranda warnings)
The criminal procedure can be very overwhelming. When you are charged with a crime, or have the potential to be charged, your very liberty is at stake. Your freedom can be taken away, and you need to put up a wall between yourself and the State to protect that freedom. Let the criminal defense attorneys at Hettinger & Hettinger P.C., be that wall for you. Call for a free consultation.
The criminal justice process begins when the State takes steps to investigate a possible crime. If investigating officers believe there's evidence of a crime at a particular location, they may try to get a search warrant allowing them to search the premises. A judge reviews the information submitted by the police and decides whether there is probable cause to support it. Probable cause means that an officer has presented enough facts to support a belief that there is evidence of a crime at the location described in the warrant. A warrant may not be required where there are exigent circumstances. Officers of the State may also question witnesses to attempt to discover the identity of any possible suspects.
If the investigation leads to a suspect, the State may then institute an arrest. The State must have any of these things to make an arrest: probable cause to believe that the suspect did in fact commit the crime; the crime committed in the presence of an officer; reasonable belief that a felony has been committed, in or out of the presence of an officer. An arrest may be made in a public place, with or without a warrant. But if law enforcement officers wish to arrest a person in a private place, they must first obtain an arrest warrant, except in situations where there is a danger of waiting, such as the possibility that the suspect will flee.
The State may, either before or after arrest, file a complaint or information, which may lead to a preliminary hearing to evaluate the validity of the claim. If the Court finds probable cause to make the arrest or believe the suspect has committed the crime, the process moves forward to an arraignment, a formal proceeding where the charges are brought against the defendant. After arraignment, the issue of bond is raised. The defendant may be released, held in custody, or allowed to pay a bond to the court in assurance that he will return for the required appearances in court.
At this point, the plea negotiations may take place. This is where the State offers to reduce the charges to avoid a trial. The defendant is entitled to hear all offers made by the state, and instruct his or her attorney to accept or decline the plea. If no plea agreement is reached, the case goes to trial. At trial, the State will plead its case, bringing all evidence to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is in fact guilty. At the conclusion of the State's case, the defense may make a case as well; calling witnesses or producing evidence to show lack of guilt. After both cases are presented, and all evidence and testimony is finished, the case goes to the jury, or judge in a bench trial. A verdict will be reached, guilty or not guilty. If not guilty, the defendant is acquitted and allowed to go free. If guilty, a sentencing phase begins, which may include jail time.
The defendant has the right to appeal on certain grounds in a higher court. The highest Court in Michigan is the Michigan Supreme Court, whose decisions are only appealable to the United States Supreme Court, the highest Court in the country, and only on their leave.