If you have been charged with a state or local crime, whether a misdemeanor or felony, a traffic violation or drunk driving offense, Bennett & Demopoulos can assist you with the defense of your rights and liberties. Our attorneys have over 100 years’ experience handling criminal cases. We know the law and the process and can achieve the best result for you.
*Bennett & Demopoulos does not accept criminal defense cases in the City or Townships of Canton, Plymouth, Northville, or Garden City. We accept cases in all other jurisdictions.
Thanks for tuning in. I’m Greg Demopoulos, partner at Bennett & Demopoulos PLLC in Plymouth, Michigan. At our firm, we have over 100 years’ experience as attorneys. All our attorneys at our office are excellent trial attorneys. Every year, we try dozens of jury trials and bench trials. We know how to get the job done and we get the best results possible for our clients. This video is going to talk about the nuts and bolts of criminal defense.
Two types of criminal cases
In Michigan, there’s two types of criminal cases: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are punishable by one year or less in a county jail; felonies are punishable by one year or more in prison. That’s the major difference. Felonies obviously have more significant penalties, but misdemeanors can be very bad as well. A misdemeanor drug case can suspend your driver’s license, a drunk driving can suspend your driver’s license. There’s a lot of sanctions that apply to both misdemeanors and felonies. It’s important for you if you’re accused of a crime to have a vigorous defense to get the best result possible.
So that starts off with getting all the discovery, knowing exactly what the prosecutor knows, and independent investigation as well. Maybe there’s other witnesses out there who saw something or know something.
I’m going to talk about the nuts and bolts of criminal defense (of) misdemeanors. Start off with an arraignment. That’s when the judge reads the charge to you and tells you what the maximum penalty is. You either plead guilty, not guilty or stand mute. Stand mute means you’re not really responding to the charge, and requires the judge to enter a plea of not guilty. If you plead guilty at an arraignment for a misdemeanor, that’s probably a big mistake because you’re opening yourself up to the full brunt of the charge. Even if you are guilty, oftentimes a prosecutor will offer a reduction that’s better for you.
After the arraignment is a pretrial. That’s an opportunity to try and resolve the case without going to trial. Sometimes, there are pretrial motions that need to be filed that can be set to be heard at the pretrial. Maybe some evidence should be excluded, maybe there was an involuntary confession, maybe there was a violation of an administrative rule that affects the admissibility of evidence. Once you get past the pretrial and motions, then the case will then proceed to trial, if a plea bargain cannot be worked out to the client’s satisfaction. Trials can be by judge or jury in misdemeanor cases. There are six jurors that can judge guilt or innocence – or they could be hung and not make a decision at all.
Felony cases, on the other hand, take a different track. The first hearing is an arraignment, which is very similar to a misdemeanor arraignment, except a judge cannot accept a plea of guilty at a felony arraignment. Then the case will be set for a pre-probable cause hearing conference, which is basically a pretrial. That’s where your pretrial issues like motions or access to discovery, videos, police reports, witness statements – where those things get resolved. The next hearing after that will be a probable cause conference or preliminary exam. The preliminary exam can be held or it can be waived. Depending on trial strategy with the client, it may make sense to waive an exam. It may also make sense to hold an exam. The prosecutor has a very low burden in an exam. The prosecutor has to show that there’s probable cause that the accused committed the crime, and probable cause that a crime was committed. Probable cause isn’t close at all to guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s why it’s really an abbreviated trial – the prosecutor’s just putting some witnesses out there to meet the burden of probable cause.
After the preliminary exam, there’s another arraignment on information that goes to the Circuit Court. The first arraignment and the preliminary exam, that occurs at the District Court. At the Circuit Court, you would be assigned a judge and at the AOI, you can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. That’s when many prosecutors will start offering pleas on cases. If you want to try and plea, but aren’t satisfied with what the prosecutor’s offering at that point, there are other avenues to consider: deviation letters, meet with more senior prosecutors, explain your situation, get you heard, get your side of the story heard.
If that doesn’t work and you would like to proceed to trial, that case would proceed to trial. There would be a pretrial conference, and then there would be a jury trial or a bench trail if you so choose. In a felony case, there are 12 jurors that would decide guilt or innocence or they would have a hung verdict.
Those are the nuts and bolts of these cases. It is very important in a criminal case that you get qualified legal counsel in early on it to make sure that your rights are being protected. One disclaimer on this, because my office does represent a few municipalities, we do not take cases that come from Canton Township, Plymouth Township, Northville Township, or Garden City. Other than that, we take criminal defense cases from all over Southeast Michigan. Thank you for watching, if you have any questions give us a call for a free consultation. 734-453-7877.