In the State of Michigan, misdemeanors involve criminal offenses that are punishable by a fine or imprisonment not to exceed one year. This can involve both state statute or city and township ordinances.
All defendants charged with misdemeanors are entitled to bail pending final disposition of their case.
Typically, a defendant will be charged in the District Court for the county in which the offense is alleged to have occurred. Any defendant who has been arrested or charged with a misdemeanor must be brought before the District Court for an arraignment where the defendant is informed of the charges against him or her and his or her legal rights.
During a defendant’s arraignment, the Court must inform the defendant of the charges against him and ask the defendant how he or she wishes to plead. The defendant charged with the misdemeanor may enter a plea of not guilty, stand mute or plead guilty or no contest. If the defendant enters a plea of not guilty, the matter will be scheduled for a Pretrial and/or Trial by the District Court Judge. The District Court Judge is also required, at that point, to set bail.
The most common examples of misdemeanors are:
1) drinking and driving offenses
2) driving while license suspended
3) non-major controlled substances act violations
4) domestic violence.
After a defendant has been arraigned on misdemeanor charges and has been released on bond, typically the District Court will set a Pretrial. It is at this point that a defendant should consider retaining competent counsel to represent them at their scheduled Pretrial Conference. This is particularly true is the area of drinking and driving offenses where competent counsel can review the police report to see if a defendant has legal or factual defenses to the crime charged. Counsel can inform a defendant as to the availability of these defenses and the probability of their success. It is usually advisable that all defendants who are charged with drinking and driving offenses contact an attorney as soon as possible to review possible defenses to avoid both conviction and license sanctions imposed by the Michigan Secretary of State.
In many cases, the defense attorney may, after reviewing the police report, determine that there are no legal or factual defenses to the charge. In that case, the defense attorney will have to turn their attention to negotiating a plea agreement to reduce the impact of the charge against their client. It is imperative that any attorney minimize both the criminal exposure and reduce the sanctions against their client’s driver’s license.
The second largest area of criminal cases within the District Court involve charges of either domestic violence or assault and battery. In many cases, these situations arise out of simple arguments between the parties that escalate beyond a verbal argument. In these cases, when the police are called, they are under directions to arrest one of the parties. If you are charged with domestic violence, it is almost always advisable that a person charged with domestic violence contact competent criminal defense counsel. Given the high probability of incarceration on these charges, a competent defense attorney should work closely with their client to identify the reason for the tension that led rise to the charge and deal with that as quickly as possible. Often times this means that a defense attorney will suggest to their client either alcohol counseling or anger management. It may also, on occasion, result in a recommendation from defense counsel for marital counseling in an attempt to avoid these charges in the future.
Any defendant charged with domestic violence is entitled to be released on bond and often times, during the pendency of their case, they may not have contact with the victim. It is important that any person charged with domestic violence not violate that Court Order as on many occasions it will immediately result in incarceration with no bond pending resolution of the case.
In domestic violence cases, it is extremely important for the defendant to work closely with their attorney to resolve the underlying issues that give rise to the charge and to present that information to the Court and/or the prosecuting official. It is also extremely important for a competent defense attorney to explore sentencing options so as to protect the client from incarceration, to prevent further convictions and to identify the underlying cause of the violence.