Criminal Sexual Conduct Court Process - Michigan CSC Lawyer

Criminal Sexual Conduct Court ProcessFacing a Criminal Sexual Conduct charge (called CSC for short) is a scary and life-altering experience for the accused and their loved ones. The main sex crimes/sexual assault crimes under Michigan law are broken down into four basic "degrees" of seriousness (click to visit our main page on each): The purpose of this page is to explain the Court process; what is the nature of each Court hearing in a CSC case? What will happen at each hearing? Will you go to Jail? These questions will be answered below.
If you or someone you know is facing an accusation of Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan, don't speak to Police! Call a top-ranked Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney right now at (248) 731-4543, or visit us online here.
  • Arraignment: After you have been charged with and arrested for Criminal Sexual Conduct (and your DNA taken as required by law), your first Court hearing will occur within approximately 24-48 hours at the local District Court. This is called an Arraignment, and it may be conducted by two-way video conferencing. The purpose of the Arraignment is twofold: 1) to inform you of the CSC charge and afford you an opportunity to either enter a plea (NOT GUILTY, of course), or to stand mute; and 2) to set the terms and conditions of your Bond while the case is pending, including the amount of money bail that someone must post in order to get you out of Jail. Money bail in a serious CSC case can be in the neighborhood of $250,000.00, and may require you to hire a Bail Bondsman and to put up property. A good CSC defense lawyer can help the Bond be as low as possible by arguing the factors of Michigan Court Rule 6.106(F). If you are charged with 1st Degree CSC, you are not entitled to Bond, but it may still be granted.
  • Probable Cause Conference: This is a new hearing in all felony cases under a law that changed in January, 2015. The Court must set a Probable Cause Conference within 7-14 days of Arraignment unless the Prosecution and Defense waive it or unless the Court finds good cause to set it for a later date. A Probable Cause Conference is an in-Court meeting between the Prosecutor and your Defense attorney to discuss the case, especially the following things: whether the Prosecution is offering a plea deal and whether you want to accept it, whether your Bond amount and conditions should be changed, whether the Prosecution has given the Defense all of the "discovery" or evidence in its possession, so that you know what the case is against you and why you are being charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct, the facts the Prosecution and Defense agree on and the procedure of the case, and anything else in the case. If the CSC case is not resolved by plea at the Probable Cause Conference, the Prosecutor can request that the Preliminary Exam (see below) start immediately, right then and there. This is generally not a good thing, and at Prain Law, PLLC, we make efforts to waive the Probable Cause Conference pursuant to Section 2 of the new law, MCL 766.4 (but not the Preliminary Exam).
  • Preliminary Examination: the Preliminary Exam is by far the most important hearing in a Criminal Sexual Conduct case besides the actual Trial (if there is a Trial). A Preliminary Exam is like a "mini-trial," where witnesses, including the accuser, are called to the stand by the Prosecuting Attorney to testify with the intention of proving that you committed the alleged sex crime(s). However, there is no Jury present, and they don't have to prove you guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt" like at a Trial; they have to show "probable case," which means trustworthy facts or knowledge that would lead a person of ordinary caution to believe that a CSC has been committed by you. It is a low burden of proof, and up until this point, your CSC case is still in District Court (the smaller Court). If the Prosecution meets its burden of proof, the case is "bound over" to the County Circuit Court (the bigger Court) for further proceedings. If the Prosecution fails to meet its burden of proof, then the Criminal Sexual Conduct charge(s) are either reduced or outright dismissed. While most cases are indeed "bound over," the Preliminary Exam is still the most important hearing because it is the Defense's only opportunity to cross-examine the Prosecution witnesses and "lock their testimony in" so that they can't change it later. This allows proper preparation for Trial. In-fact, the Preliminary Exam is so important, and can prove so beneficial to your defense, that the Prosecution will often threaten to add additional CSC charges (or "counts") to your case if you don't "waive the Exam." Unfortunately, many lawyers tell their clients to waive when they shouldn't, giving up valuable opportunities that cannot be recovered later. However, new testimony can cause the Prosecutor to ask to increase your Bond. At bind over on a CSC charge, you will be required to undergo testing for HIV or other STDs.
  • Arraignment on the Information ("AOI"): the Arraignment on the Information (also called AOI for short) is the first hearing in the County Circuit Court in a CSC case after it is "bound over" following the Preliminary Exam. Following generally the same procedure as the first Arraignment in District Court, you will be informed of any new Criminal Sexual Conduct charges or other charges added at the Preliminary Exam stage, including their maximum possible penalty. Your lawyer will be presented with a copy of a document called an "Information" which lists all of the charges or "counts" you are facing, the penalties, and what implications those charges carry if you are convicted in terms of being on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry (under the Michigan Sex Offender Registration Act, or "SORA") and electronic GPS monitoring. Generally, the Defense will "waive a formal reading of the charges" and "stand the Defendant mute." The Court will automatically enter a plea of NOT GUILTY of CSC. In many Michigan Counties, such as Wayne County and Oakland County, the AOI will be the date that the Prosecution will present its first plea offer if they are offering one in your particular case (either a reduction of the charges and/or an agreement for a particular sentence). Note that if you have previously been convicted of a felony, if the Prosecution hasn't done so already, they have 21 days from the AOI to file a Notice of their intent to seek Habitual Offender status if you are found guilty and sentenced. Usually after AOI, the case is set for some form of Pretrial Conference.
  • Pretrial Conferences: I use the term "Pretrial Conference" to describe what is actually a group of different kinds of hearings. Depending on what County the Criminal Sexual Conduct charges are brought in and the stage of the case, these hearings can fall under many different names, such as Pretrial Hearing, Docket Conference (Wayne County), Calendar Conference (Wayne County), Settlement Conference, Final Settlement Conference, Final Pretrial, Trial Management Conference, Special Pretrial, and a host of others. But what they are (and what they all have in common is simple: these are nothing more than opportunities for the Prosecution and Defense to sit down in Court and discuss the case again. They are just like the Probable Cause Conference in that respect: the discussions will include plea negotiations, Bond, discovery, Sentencing Guidelines, other pending cases/charges, and the like. But as the case gets nearer to Trial, such as a "Final Pretrial Conference," the discussions tend to center less around plea deals, and more around what discovery the Defense still needs to receive, and what evidence should be admitted a Trial. If your Criminal Sexual Conduct case is not resolved by plea or dismissal by the time of the last Pretrial Conference, then it will go to Trial.
  • Motions: Motions are requests by either the Defense or Prosecution, at sometime before Trial (or during, in more complex cases), for the Court to order someone to do something or stop doing something regarding the case. When either the Prosecution or Defense files a Motion, there are two parts to it: 1) the written component, with a legal brief attached, explaining to the Judge what is being asked for and why the law supports that request, and 2) the oral argument in Court, sometimes accompanied by testimony of witnesses like at the Preliminary Exam. As the CSC Trial approaches, the most common type of Motions are called Motions In Limine, which deal with what evidence should be allowed or excluded in front of the Jury. Some of these require testimony of witnesses in order for the Judge to decide which way to rule. Some common Motions in Limine are: a Motion to Suppress Evidence, Motion to Suppress the Defendant's Statement (the Evidentiary Hearing for this is called a Walker Hearing), and a Motion to Admit Evidence (usually by the Prosecution).
  • Trial: When facing a serious criminal charge such as Criminal Sexual Conduct, as with all criminal charges, the most fundamental right of the accused is to have a Trial, either by Judge or Jury, whichever you choose. If you reject all plea offers and maintain your innocence, the case goes to Trial, where you are either found guilty or NOT GUILTY of each of the individual Criminal Sexual Conduct charges filed against you. If you are to be found guilty, the Prosecution must prove its case "beyond a reasonable doubt" the toughest burden to meet in the entire legal system. They must prove each and every element of the CSC charge beyond a reasonable doubt, or you are entitled to a verdict of NOT GUILTY of Criminal Sexual Conduct. Because CSC cases are so serious, even most plea deals include Jail or Prison time, and the Trial may be your only opportunity to leave the case completely free. Obviously, the dynamics of a Trial could occupy volumes on their own, but here, we will discuss the basic procedure of a Trial. The Criminal Sexual Conduct Trial begins with voir dire, or Jury Selection. This is when the lawyers on each side ask questions of potential Jurors and exercise "challenges" to exclude Jurors in an effort to find a panel of 12 (plus alternates) that can decide the case fairly and without bias. After the Jury is selected, the Judge tells the Jury what CSC charges you are accused of, and reads the initial Jury Instructions, explaining the Trial process and rules to the Jury. Next, the Prosecution gives an opening statement, telling what he or she believes the evidence will show. Following openings, the Prosecution calls its witnesses for its case in chief, and your CSC Defense lawyer will cross-examine them (followed by re-direct and re-cross examination). Then, the Defense may call witnesses, followed by the Prosecution's opportunity to call "rebuttal witnesses" to rebut the direct testimony of the Defense witnesses. Every person accused of Criminal Sexual Conduct must decide whether or not to testify in their own defense or "take the Fifth," Finally, each side gives a Closing Argument summarizing and arguing how the evidence and principles of justice support the verdict they wish for. The Prosecution is given the last word - a "rebuttal" argument. After the Judge reads the final Jury Instructions, the Jury deliberates and reaches its verdict on each count of CSC - guilty or NOT GUILTY.
  • Sentencing: for those who elect to plead guilty of Criminal Sexual Conduct or are found guilty of CSC at Trial, the last hearing is Sentencing, when the Prison, Jail, or Probation terms are finally imposed. Once a sentence is given by the Judge, it begins right then and there. Prior to Sentencing, a Presentence Investigation Report is issued, and the accused is offered an opportunity to say anything he or she wishes. The alleged victim(s) may give "victim impact statements" in an effort to influence a harsh sentence. The Defense attorney must ensure, among other things, that the Sentencing Guidelines are properly calculated. Most people convicted of Criminal Sexual Conduct sex crimes in Michigan end up in Jail or Prison. Remember, though, that the entire point of getting the best CSC Defense Lawyer is to be found NOT GUILTY and avoid Sentencing at all.

RELATED: Sentence for Criminal Sexual Conduct in the First Degree - Will I Go to Jail or Prison for CSC 1?

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About the author: Brian J. Prain, a top-ranked Metro Detroit Criminal Defense Attorney, has been nationally ranked as a Top 10 Criminal Defense Lawyer Under 40 by NACDA, has received both of the two exclusive and prestigious awards from The National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer and Top 40 Trial Lawyer Under 40 - Michigan), was one of 55 lawyers nationwide in 2013 to attend Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming, and has been featured in publications such as Super Lawyers Magazine and Hour Detroit Magazine. Visit The Law Office of Brian J. Prain, PLLC (Prain Law, PLLC) online at: www.michiganassaultandbatteryattorney.com.

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