The Criminal Case Process in Huron County
(Discussed in the order of occurrence.)
ARREST – Based on the police department’s initial investigation, suspects 17 or older are arrested and taken to the Huron County jail.
BOOKING & QUESTIONING – Suspects are booked into jail, fingerprinted and photographed. Police officers may continue their investigation.
COMPLAINT & WARRANT – The complaint is a written accusation that a person committed a specified criminal offense. It sets forth the specific charge(s) against the defendant. The arrest warrant is the Court’s order to arrest the defendant and bring him before the Court to answer the outstanding charges.
The Huron County Prosecutor’s Office determines what charges to bring and prepares the complaint and warrant. It may charge the defendant with a felony, a misdemeanor or a combination of both. The warrant is signed by the Huron County District Court Judge or Magistrate.
DISTRICT COURT ARRAIGNMENT – The defendant is advised of the charges against him, the potential penalties and his rights. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, one may be appointed by the Judge to represent him. A defendant charged with a misdemeanor may plead either guilty, not guilty, no contest or stand mute. A defendant cannot plead guilty to a felony in District Court. Felony guilty pleas may only be taken in Circuit Court.
BOND – During arraignment, the Huron County District Court must order that pending trial the defendant be:
- held in custody if he is charged with certain serious felonies;
- released on personal recognizance or an unsecured appearance bond; or
- released conditionally, with or without money bail (ten percent, cash or surety).
Bond must be set for all persons charged with misdemeanors. Bond is designed to protect the public and ensure that the defendant appears at all scheduled court proceedings. In setting bond, the Judge considers several factors, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, record of appearing in past court proceedings, the seriousness of the charge(s), the presence of abuse or threats, and the defendant’s ties to the local community.
PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION – (Felony cases only) The preliminary examination is held in the Huron County District Court and must be scheduled within 14 days of the arraignment. At the preliminary examination, the Prosecutor is required to establish that there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed each of the felonies listed in the complaint. This is done through witnesses, exhibits and other relevant evidence. If the Prosecutor meets this probable cause standard of proof, the defendant is bound over to stand trial in the Huron County Circuit Court. If the prosecution fails to meet this standard of proof, the charges may be dismissed or the defendant may proceed to trial in the Huron County District Court on any remaining misdemeanor charges. The 14 day requirement and the preliminary examination are the defendant’s rights which he may choose to waive.
CIRCUIT COURT ARRAIGNMENT – (Felony cases only) The defendant is arraigned in the Huron County Circuit Court on those charges which were bound over at the preliminary examination. The defendant may plead guilty, not guilty, no contest or stand mute. The court schedules a trial if the defendant pleads not guilty or stands mute.
PRETRIAL HEARINGS – (Both misdemeanor and felony cases) Between the time of arraignment and trial, it is procedurally required that all associated issues in the case be resolved through the use of motion hearings. The motions are generally brought by the defendant and seek to review the sufficiency of the charges, or to determine whether evidence n as seized illegally, or to determine whether the police had probable cause to stop a vehicle.
TRIAL OR PLEA – The defendant may plead guilty or proceed to trial before a Judge or Jury. The Prosecutor is required to prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defendant is convicted, he is referred to the local Michigan Department of Corrections Office (felony cases) or to the Huron County District Court Probation Department (misdemeanor cases) for a Presentence Investigation Report prior to sentencing. A sentencing recommendation is then made to the Judge, however the Judge is not obligated to follow, the recommendation.
SENTENCING – A hearing is conducted at which time the Judge imposes the sentence. A sentence may include probation, fines, costs, restitution, community service and jail or prison time.