Criminal Sexual Conduct - What is the Probable Cause Conference?

Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan is broken-down into "Degrees," three of which are Felonies, and one of which is a Misdemeanor. First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC 1) is the most serious, which can carry a life sentence. Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC 2) and Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC 3) are similar in severity, but CSC 2 involves "sexual contact" while CSC 3 involves "sexual penetration." Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC 4) is called a "Misdemeanor," but because of it's seriousness, it is treated as a Felony and is subject to the regular Felony CSC court process. There are also a host of other Michigan Sex Crimes which are similar and have similar consequences.

But no matter what Michigan CSC Crime you are charged with, after your Arraignment and (hopefully) release on Bond, the next court hearing you'll attend is called a Probable Cause Conference, or "PCC" for short. The Probable Cause Conference occurs in the District Court, which is the court where your Criminal Sexual Conduct case will begin before it is "bound-over" to the Circuit Court after Preliminary Exam, if, in-fact, that happens (i.e. if some or all of the CSC charges are not dismissed).

Prior to 2014, there was no PCC; a CSC case would go directly from Arraignment to Preliminary Exam within 14 days (some courts would have a Pre-Exam Conference). But in 2014, the Michigan Legislature amended MCL 766.4 and introduced the Probable Cause Conference as a new hearing, which must occur "not less than 7 days or more than 14 days after the date of the Arraignment." The Preliminary Exam (a more important hearing) must occur "not less than 5 days or more than 7 days after the date of the Probable Cause Conference." These timelines can be extended for various reasons.

Under the new law, at the Probable Cause Conference, your Criminal Sexual Conduct Attorney and the Prosecuting Attorney are expected to discuss the following things:

  1. Discussions as to a possible plea agreement among the Prosecuting Attorney, the Defendant, and the Attorney for the Defendant.
  2. Discussions regarding bail and the opportunity for the Defendant to petition the magistrate for a Bond modification.
  3. Discussions regarding stipulations and procedural aspects of the case.
  4. Discussions regarding any other matters relevant to the case as agreed upon by both parties.

Basically, the Probable Cause Conference is a meeting at the very early stages of the case between your Defense Attorney and the Prosecuting Attorney to discuss various matters about the case, and the results of that discussion are usually reported to the Judge in open court at a short hearing. Although the law talks about plea agreements being made and the District Court Judge accepting a plea agreement at this early stage, as a practical matter, that almost NEVER happens in a Criminal Sexual Conduct case because the charges are so serious.

In a way, the PCC can appear somewhat pointless, but our philosophy at Prain Law, PLLC, is to use the Probable Cause Conference as an opportunity to speak with the Prosecutor and make sure we have all of the Police Reports, DNA evidence and other Rape Kit / scientific evidence, and audio, video, or written records of any child forensic interviews, such as Kids Talk in Wayne County or CARE House in Macomb County and Oakland County. In any Criminal Sexual Conduct case, it is important to have all of these materials before the upcoming Preliminary Exam. It is also a good opportunity to address the Bond amount and conditions, and we have even filed and scheduled Motions to be heard at the Probable Cause Conference in our CSC cases.

RELATED: Click Here for Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Questions.

Finally, if you read the Michigan Probable Cause Conference law, you'll see that it makes reference to your accuser and possibly others being called to testify at the Probable Cause Conference. Specifically, it says:

"Upon the request of the prosecuting attorney, however, the preliminary examination shall commence immediately for the sole purpose of taking and preserving the testimony of a victim if the victim is present. For purposes of this subdivision, "victim" means an individual who suffers direct or threatened physical, financial, or emotional harm as a result of the commission of a crime. If that testimony is insufficient to establish probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the charged crime or crimes, the magistrate shall adjourn the preliminary examination to the date set at arraignment. A victim who testifies under this subdivision shall not be called again to testify at the adjourned preliminary examination absent a showing of good cause."

Because of this language, when PCCs were new in 2014, there was a lot of talk and speculation about how the Defense could be prepared to cross-examine the accuser or others - essentially being ready to conduct the whole Preliminary Exam - so early on in the case, possibly without even having any of the above-mentioned evidence. This was especially worrisome in charges as serious as Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan. But as a practical matter, this simply does not happen. Sometimes, there is the law as it is written on paper, and then there is the law as it is applied in reality. And the reality is that is is very unlikely that the PCC will turn into a mini-trial like this. That's for the Preliminary Exam. However, it could happen, and that is one reason that it is extremely important to hire your Defense Attorney for CSC in Michigan as soon as possible after you find out you're being charged with a CSC crime, or even investigated.

Prain Law, PLLCis not your typical Criminal Defense firm. Most Criminal Lawyers in Michigan defend all types of crimes, and there are tons of them out there. But the world of criminal charges is no place to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Prain Law, PLLC concentrates exclusively on defending those accused of assaultive crimes in Michigan, mainly Criminal Sexual Conduct. This means we know all the ins-and-outs - every day, we're defending a Michigan CSC charge just like yours. Would you take your Chevy to a Ford mechanic? Don't make that same mistake with your life.
Attorney Brian J. Prain, founder of Prain Law, PLLC, has been named one of the 21 Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Detroit by Expertise.com, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Michigan by the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys, and one of the Top 100 Criminal Defense Trial Attorneys by The National Trial Lawyers. If you or someone you know is facing Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct charges, call Prain Law, PLLC immediately at (248) 731-4543 and begin the process of turning your fear into fight.
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