Depending on local court procedure, this would be a general explanation of the criminal process:

Arraignment. The judge or magistrate advises you of the charges, the penalties, your constitutional rights to include the right to counsel, and sets further scheduling in your case. If you are in jail, then bond may also be addressed.

Arraignment is normally the first hearing with a judge or magistrate assigned to you case.  The purpose of the arraignment is to advise you of 1) the charges against you, 2) the possible maximum penalties for those charges, 3) your constitutional rights, and 4) your right to counsel and qualification for court-appointed counsel.

In some counties, (e.g., Grayling District Court Crawford County, MI, Gaylord District Court in Otsego County, MI, Kalkaska District Court in Kalkaska County, MI, West Branch District Court Ogemaw County, MI), you may not need to appear at an arraignment if you have retained an attorney and you sign certain forms. In other counties, (e.g. Roscommon District Court in Roscommon County, MI, Saginaw District Court in Saginaw County, MI) you are required to appear normally, even if you have retained counsel. Each district court is different, so it is important that you consult with your attorney about the procedure used in the district court where you are charged.

I give a brief explanation of the arraignment below:

Pre-trial. This is a meeting with the prosecutor and the defendant (or defense attorney) where the prosecutor makes a plea offer, if any; and the defense argues dismissal or reduction. Much more about Pre-trial Release can be found here.

Suppression Hearing. A separate hearing where the defense seeks to suppress evidence or dismiss a case because of unconstitutional police conduct; more common than you may think. If you don’t enforce your rights, then who will?

Status or Jury Status Conference. This is where the judge wants to know: plea deal or no plea deal. If there is a deal, then the judge would take the plea. If not, then the judge would normally set the matter for trial.

Preliminary Examination. In a felony case in Michigan, a defendant has two statutory (not constitutional) rights. First, the defendant has a right to a hearing where the prosecutor must show (by putting on witnesses) that there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and probable cause that the defendant committed that crime. If the prosecutor is successful, then the case is “bound over” to circuit court for further proceedings and trial. Second, a defendant has a right to that preliminary examination within 14 days of the arraignment. Never, ever, waive your right to a preliminary examination until you consult with your trial attorney. An initial criminal consultation at Nye & Associates, PLLC is free. Call today.

Plea.  If the prosecution and the defendant agree on a plea, then the plea agreement is stated before the judge and the defendant states facts to support the crime(s) for the plea.  Normally, the plea is “guilty”, but there are other types of pleas, to include a “no contest” plea where the defendant agrees to accept the punishment for the crime, but no admit responsibility.  A plea must be knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.  All conditions and terms of the plea agreement must be stated at the plea.  There are no “side” deals with the prosecution which can be enforced — the judge must be told of any plea terms, conditions, or agreements.  Additionally, the defendant may obtain a “Cobbs” agreement, where the defendant and the judge agree on a possible sentence, subject to the judge’s further review of the case before sentencing.  Both the judge and the defendant can withdraw the “Cobbs’s” agreement if the judge decides not to follow his or her original statements as to a possible sentence.  There are also various laws where a defendant can plead “guilty” and if he or she is a first-time offender, the criminal conviction may be dismissed after the successful completion of probation.

Trial.  All persons charged with crimes are entitled to a trial.   A trial can be before the judge only (bench trial) or before a jury (jury trial.)  Prior to trial, the prosecution and defense typically bring various motions before the court to limit or expand the amount and types of evidence that may be used at trial.


Criminal Defense attorneys serving Roscommon, Crawford, Saginaw, and the surrounding area.