What is an arraignment?
An arraignment is the first court proceeding involving a defendant. Defendants are entitled by law to an arraignment. The purpose of the arraignment is to inform the defendant about each charge the defendant is facing, i.e. to make sure the defendant understands what he/she is being charged with, as well as the possible penalties that may be imposed. The arraignment also serves as the court's first opportunity to set a bond. Unless the defendant is already represented by an attorney, (and our office generally encourages defendants to appear for arraignments with an attorney, particularly if there are issues related to the amount of bond, as well as scheduling), the court will ask the defendant whether or not he/she can afford an attorney and then determine whether or not the court will appoint one. If the particular charge cannot result in jail time, for example, Minor in Possession of Alcohol, no attorney will be appointed for the defendant. The arraignment also serves as an opportunity to schedule court dates, such as pre-trial conferences or, in felony matters, probable cause conferences and preliminary examinations. The scheduling of these dates can be critical, particularly if time is needed for a defendant to obtain an attorney and/or for the attorney to investigate the case, commence proactive measures and, potentially, engage in negotiations with a prosecuting official before the next scheduled date.
What is bond?
A bond is an assurance that a criminal defendant will appear at all scheduled court hearings. The nature and/or amount of bond will often depend on how serious the charge is, the defendant's prior record, ties to the community and, in short, whether the defendant is likely to appear for the next scheduled court date or whether the defendant poses a danger to any individual or the community if released. Bonds can require that no money be paid to the court (a personal recognizance bond), or that 10% of the face amount is paid to the court. That amount will be refunded if the case is dismissed or applied to fines and costs if it is not. Cash or surety bonds require the entire face amount of the bond to be paid to the court, or in lieu thereof, that bond company posts a bond on behalf of the defendant. Bond companies typically charge a premium of 10% of the face value of the bond. This is non-refundable, and therefore, cannot be applied toward any fines and costs if the defendant is ultimately convicted. In some cases, such as in certain homicides, the court has discretion to not allow bond, i.e., the defendant remains in jail while the case is pending.
Do I have to take the preliminary breath test (PBT)?
In drinking and driving cases, assuming there is reasonable suspicion that a person may have been drinking or may be impaired due to drinking, a defendant is required to take a PBT. However, punishment for failure to do so is only a civil infraction and carries no points, unless the defendant is a minor. We generally advise our clients to refuse the PBT. Note that the breathalyzer, which is administered at the jail, is something we generally encourage our clients to take. Failure to take the breathalyzer at the jail carries serious sanctions, including a one year suspension of driving privileges, without any restrictions available, and six points on one's driving record. In cases of Minor in Possession of Alcohol, state law requires minors suspected of drinking to take a PBT. However, a federal court in Michigan has ruled that the Michigan law is unconstitutional and that search warrants are required. Therefore, minors are not required to take a PBT. Failure to do so will not result in any particular sanction. However, the police often arrest minors who refuse breath tests under the theory that the minor may need to be observed for safety issues, depending on the level of his/her intoxication.
How much will a DUI cost?
The cost of a DUI can vary, starting at $1,500 and up to $10,000, or more. Average costs run from approximately $2,000 to $2,500. Our office generally requires a minimum retainer of $1,500. On certain occasions, when a client is able to have a substance abuse assessment completed before a pre-trial conference date, and if the court does not believe that probation is required to interview the client and weigh in on sentencing, the court might accept a plea to a reduced charge and proceed to immediate sentencing. On these occasions, the minimum above-referenced may apply.
What is diversion?
Diversion simply means that a defendant is diverted from the criminal justice system. Although there is a court supervised diversion program in connection with Minor in Possession of Alcohol charges whereby a defendant ultimately does not have a criminal record, most diversion programs are administered by prosecutors and/or township and/or city attorneys' offices. In many of these cases, a decision is made by the prosecuting official before a matter is filed in court to handle the matter internally in the prosecuting official's office. On some occasions, after defendants are charged, and formal proceedings have begun, the case may be dismissed and the matter diverted back to the prosecuting official's office. Once in the prosecuting official's office, diversion is essentially an informal type of probation. Most prosecutors require the payment of a processing fee, and when there are victims involved, letters of apology. Generally, diversion includes community service and, depending on the nature of the offense, educational programming or other forms of intervention. Diversion programs generally last from 3 to 6 months. If successfully completed, the defendant will have no criminal record and, if the matter was never filed formally, no court will ever have a record of any official charge. Similarly, the Secretary of State and State Police will likely have no record as well. If an individual fails to comply with all of the requirements of the diversion program, they are generally formally charged and thus will be facing a criminal conviction/record.
How will a criminal record affect me?
Depending on the nature of a criminal record, a record may affect one's employment, ability into enter into military service, the availability of certain scholarships for purposes of higher education, and, where applicable, whether a defendant is required to register as a sex offender. Criminal records can affect admissions into colleges, universities, and often have a significant impact on one's ability to enter certain graduate programs, such as medicine or law. Additionally, criminal convictions may affect one's ability to obtain a license in any profession that requires one, and certainly could affect one's driving privileges if the conviction is related to utilization of a motor vehicle.
I violated my bond - - what happens next?
If you violate a condition of your bond, you will either be directed to appear in court on a specific date, or a bench warrant may issue for your arrest. When you appear in court, the court will be required to hold a hearing on whether or not you violated your bond. If the court concludes that a bond condition as been violated, the court could revoke your bond altogether and remand you to the county jail, pending the conclusion of your case; could continue the bond without any modification, or could modify the conditions of the bond.
What is probation? What is parole?
Probation is a privilege and not a right. Persons placed on probation will be supervised by a probation officer who reports directly to the sentencing judge. There is never probation if an individual is sentenced to prison. Probation in felony cases is in lieu of a prison sentence, but may include time in a county jail as a condition of probation. Generally, probation gives an individual an opportunity to be rehabilitated by participating in a number of interventions, including counseling, education, community service, drug and alcohol testing, etc., designed to assist the defendant in avoiding future criminal behaviors. At times, judges believe it is necessary for an individual to serve part of their probation in jail in an attempt to get the individual's attention, and sometimes to assist them in attaining sobriety for an extended period, and therefore, make any further rehabilitative programming more likely to be successful.
Parole is a program administered by the Department of Corrections. Unlike probation, parole is not supervised by the sentencing judge. Parole is supervised by a parole officer and only occurs after a person is discharged from a prison sentence. While on parole, an individual reports to their parole officer. A violation of parole could lead to a return to prison, where a person may have to serve out the remainder of their prison term. Note that in cases of probation, if probation is violated, probation can either be modified or revoked. If it is revoked, and if the matter is a felony, an individual could then be sentenced to prison and, at some point, be paroled through the Department of Corrections.
Police want to interview me - - what do I do?
Although most persons are inclined to cooperate with police officers who wish to interview them, it is rarely a good idea for a person being investigated to do so, even if they are entirely innocent of the offense for which they may be questioned. In rare instances, after consultation with an attorney, and with an attorney present, such an interview can be facilitated. Our general rule of thumb is that you should never agree to a police interview without first consulting with an attorney.
Police want me to take a lie detector test - - what do I do?
Generally, we advise our clients to not take a lie detector test administered at the request of a police department. Police lie detector tests generally include a lengthy interview before the lie detector and serve as an opportunity for the police and its agents to obtain potentially incriminating information from the defendant. Note that a defense lawyer is not allowed to be present in the same room with the defendant during the questioning phase or the actual administration of a polygraph at police headquarters. Our office believes in the utilization of polygraphs. However, we prefer to have our clients have polygraphs administered at our office, and sometimes in the jail, by qualified and credible polygraphers. The polygraphers we choose have long histories as polygraph operators for the Michigan State Police, and are frequently utilized by the police and various prosecuting agencies as well. Our in-office polygraph procedures allow the attorney, the defendant and the polygrapher to work together so that appropriate questions can be asked that are pertinent to the investigation. If the client passes a polygraph, then the results are generally shared with the prosecuting officials and police.
I have been charged with domestic violence - - when can I go back home?
People arrested and arraigned (usually the next day) for domestic violence are released on bond subject to a no contact provision, which prohibits defendants from going to their home or having any form of contact, either directly or through other persons, with the alleged victim. In rare cases, the alleged victim leaves the home and stays elsewhere. Defendants are often required to post a bond, pay an attorney and often pay to rent a different residence while the case is pending. Generally speaking, it is possible to set aside the no contact order, which ordinarily requires the consent of the victim. This can occur at the time of a pre-trial conference, typically 1 to 2 weeks after arrest. The courts are generally reluctant to do so however, unless interventions such as counseling/educational programs, etc., are already put into place. Many courts specializing in domestic violence will wait until an individual is sentenced before the defendant is allowed to return home. This could be upwards of six weeks from the time of arrest.