Michigan Criminal Law
If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, you undoubtedly have a number of questions and concerns about your legal rights and options. The following are some frequently asked questions about criminal law cases.
What are my rights if I have been accused of a crime in Michigan?
Those accused of crimes in Michigan have a number of rights guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Michigan Constitution. These rights include: the right to remain silent in order to avoid self-incrimination, the right to competent legal representation, the right to reasonable bail, right to a fair and public trial, right to be informed of the charges against you, the right to be confronted with the witnesses against you and to gather witnesses of your own, and a number of other rights.
A criminal defendant is also presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means the prosecutor has the burden of proving (beyond a reasonable doubt) you committed the criminal act(s) in question. This also means a defendant does not have to do anything or say anything to prove s/he is innocent.
There are also laws regarding search and seizure which require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before they are allowed to search a specific place, at a specific time, for specific persons, evidence, contraband, and/or other items. It is important to keep in mind there are some circumstance where police do not need a warrant to search and/or arrest you.
What should I do if I have been arrested?
If you have been arrested in Michigan, answer all questions about your identification-- such as name, address, and birth date-- truthfully. While you have the right to refrain from answering self-incriminating questions, lying is never a good idea. Giving officers a hard time during the arrest process is also not very beneficial. It usually just makes things tougher on you.
What should I do if I get a call that a loved one has been arrested?
Try to gather as much information as possible about the arrest and write it down. The following questions may be useful: What is the name, birth date, and social security number of the arrested person? What has s/he been charged with? What law enforcement agency made the arrest? Where is the arrested person being held? Has bail been set and, if so, what is the amount? Has the person been arraigned by video or in person? Has a Court date been set?
How do I get out of jail after an arrest?
If bail has been set, the only way to get the person out of jail is to pay the bond for his/her release. A bail bond is like insurance; it means that the defendant agrees to appear at all subsequent legal proceedings. Failure to do so can result in forfeiture of the bond, the issuance of an arrest warrant, and the loss of subsequent bail privileges. In certain criminal cases bail may be denied. If the judge believes there is a high risk, the defendant will flee, or if s/he has been charged with a serious crime like murder, bail may be denied. In Michigan, defendants can request a personal bond, which is a promise that the person will show up to subsequent court dates or owe the court a certain sum of money. This can be requested at the arraignment or "first court appearance."
Why should I hire a criminal defense attorney?
The importance of competent legal representation is so great that the Constitution guarantees every criminal defendant the right to an attorney. A criminal attorney is your best asset after being charged with a crime. This expert knows the laws and court's customs relevant to your case, and can apply this knowledge to protect and maximize your legal interests. No matter what your legal situation, a criminal attorney will help you more than you could help yourself by going it alone. In fact, many judges look very closely to consider a plea bargain from a defendant without legal representation. A local criminal defense attorney is always best. They will not be treated as an "outsider" by the court staff, prosecutor, judge or jury. In Southeastern lower Michigan, Attorney Timothy J. Klisz has been practicing in local district and circuit court for nearly two decades with great results. Call him toll-free at (866)770-7782 or locally at (313)402-0853 to confidentially discuss your criminal case in detail. Phone consultations are always free, or you can use the secure "contact the firm" form with the best way to reach you.
What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
Most crimes are divided into two categories, based on the severity of the crime: misdemeanor and felony. State law governs which crimes are considered more serious than others. Generally speaking, in Michigan, a misdemeanor crime is one where the maximum penalty is 93 days in County Jail. High misdemeanors carry up to one year in County Jail.
A felony crime is a more serious crime that can result in jail or prison time for more than one year. Felony charges also bring a number of other legal repercussions if the defendant is convicted. A qualified attorney can maximize your chance that your crime is charged as a lesser offense.
When a fine is the punishment for a legal violation, the action is considered a Civil Infraction rather than a criminal offense. For example, a parking ticket is an infraction rather than a criminal charge. In some cases, however, a crime may only receive a fine and it will still be counted as a misdemeanor. For example, in Michigan, driving without a license on person is a misdemeanor crime, but the usual conviction only carries a fine, not probation.
What types of punishment do I face if convicted of a crime?
Sentencing can vary depending on the location of the case, the crime, the judge, and other specifics of the criminal case. In some cases a punishment for a particular crime is governed by the federal sentencing guidelines, and the judge does not have a big impact on determining the punishment. In other cases, the sentence is up to the judge's discretion, who will take a variety of factors into account when determining a convicted offender's punishment.
The most common punishments for a criminal conviction include: incarceration (in jail, prison, or another detention facility), punitive fines, restitution (compensation to the victim), probation, and community service or work detail. There are a variety of other penalties that may be more specific to the criminal case. For example, if you are convicted of an OWI or DWI you may be required to attend an OWI school or a drug/alcohol treatment program, have a Breathalyzer installed in your vehicle, face driving sanctions, and more. It is best to discuss the specifics of your case with a qualified attorney. In Southeastern Michigan, call attorney Tim Klisz at (866)770-7782 or locally at (313)402-0853. You can also Contact the Firm using the secure form.