Criminal Sexual Conduct Court Process in Michigan

Criminal Sexual Conduct charges in Michigan are some of the most serious criminal charges one can face. Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC for short) is the name for the Michigan laws that cover the entire body of Sex Crimes in Michigan. Every day, Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Defense Attorney Brian J. Prain is defending those accused of CSC. If you or someone you know is being accused of CSC in Michigan, this article is a no-frills guide to each step of the process.  

First, however, you should briefly look at the basic Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct charges (differences between the degrees of CSC in Michigan):

  • Investigation: this is where it all begins. The accuser claims to be the victim of a sexual assault to one of the following: a mandatory reporter (such as a doctor or therapist), a third party (such as a parent or friend), or to police directly. Either way, the allegation makes its way to the police. Evidence (including DNA, Rape Kit, witness statements, and other things) are collected. If the alleged victim is a minor, a forensic interview is normally done at a facility that performs them (like CARE House in Macomb or Oakland County, Kids Talk in Wayne County, and other various Child Advocacy Centers). Your first point of contact is when a Detective or other Officer attempts to contact you and asks you to come in for an interview. No matter what, DO NOT SPEAK TO POLICE!. You may be offered to take a Polygraph (a "lie detecter test"). This could last months or even a year. Get an experienced Michigan CSC Defense Attorney immediately during this process. RELATED: Being Investigated for Criminal Sexual Conduct? Here's 5 Tips to Avoid Jail.
  • Charges and Arrest Warrant: at the conclusion of the initial investigation phase, if the government decides to, they present a Warrant to a Magistrate in the local District Court. The Magistrate listens to the Detective's claims of what their investigation supposedly revealed, and is supposed to make a proper legal determination as to whether "probable cause" exists. If the Magistrate is convinced, he or she signs the Warrant authorizing Criminal Sexual Conduct charges against you. The Warrant is a Court Order for you to be taken into custody.
  • Arrest: once the Warrant is signed and entered into the Lew Enforcement Information Network, police will either: a) come find you at your home, work, or wherever they can find you and take you into custody (sometimes with an entire "fugitive" team); or b) allow you to turn yourself in under some type of pre-arrangment without being arrested. Having a good CSC Defense Lawyer from the start may help you to fall into the second category of people who do not end up having to be arrested.
  • Arraignment: this is your first appearance in the local District Court, where every Criminal Sexual Conduct charge begins. You will either be brought directly to Court after sitting in lockup for a while (under the first scenario, above), or you will appear voluntarily at the Court (under the second scenario, above). The Judge or Magistrate reads the Complaint and Warrant, informing you of exactly what CSC charges you are facing, how many "counts," and what each of the possible Michigan penalties for Criminal Sexual Conduct that you are facing. There are four basic Degrees of Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan. Then, your "Bond" amount is set. Bond is money you have to pay at Arraignment, or else you wait in Jail until it is paid. Some people accused of Criminal Sexual Conduct have a Bond so high that they have to wait in Jail throughout their entire case. Hiring your CSC defense lawyer and getting in touch with a good Bail Bondsman before your Arraignment is definitely the preferred way to go, because they'll know how to effectively argue the 9 Bond factors that the Court will look at to determine the amount of your Bond. While your case is pending, you'll have to comply with many conditions called "conditions of Bond," and may even be required to wear a GPS tether. Click here for our expanded article on this topic: Michigan CSC Charges - What Will My Bond Be?.
  • Probable Cause Conference: after Arraignment and your release on Bond, you'll be back in the District Court within 7-14 days for a Probable Cause Conference (or PCC for short). This is an in-Court conference between your CSC Defense Attorney and the Assistant Prosecuting Attorney assigned to your case, and then the Attorneys report the results of their discussion to the Judge. Not much happens at the Criminal Sexual Conduct PCC hearing. CSC charges are so serious that Prosecutors don't typically offer any resolution of the case this early on, but the PCC is a convenient tool for engaging in discussion with the Prosecution and for discussing and receiving evidence needed for your defense.
  • Preliminary Exam: this hearing, within 5-7 days of the PCC, is perhaps the single most important hearing in your case aside from the actual trial itself. Entire volumes could be written about the Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct Preliminary Exam. Prain Law has written many other articles on this subject. But for short, think of the Preliminary Exam as a "mini-trial before the trial." The Prosecution actually has to call witnesses and produce evidence in order for the CSC charges against you to go forward on each individual count of CSC. However, only a Judge will be there (no jury), and they don't have to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt - they only have to demonstrate "probable cause," a much lower standard. You have the right to Subpoena and call witnesses as well, including Prosecution / police witnesses. Because of the low burden, a majority of Attorneys tell their clients to "waive the Preliminary Exam," or in other words, give it up completely and simply. Check out our article Should I Waive the Preliminary Exam in a CSC Case? In our opinion, except for in limited cases, we do NOT advise our clients to waive the Preliminary Exam. To be blunt, lazy Attorneys waive the Preliminary Exam because it's a real battle that takes real work to prepare for, but in our opinion, there is simply too much to be gained that can turn the tide for your case to give up a gem like this. At the conclusion of the Preliminary Exam, unless each and every felony count is dismissed, your case will be "bound over" (meaning transferred) from the local District Court to the Circuit Court for the County, where it will continue from there on out. It is often said that CSC charges will be dismissed if the alleged victim doesn't show up at the Preliminary Exam, and sometimes this is true.
  • Arraignment on the Information: this is essentially a repeat of the District Court Arraignment, above, except it is in Circuit Court. Known as Arraignment on the Information (AOI for short) or Circuit Court Arraignment, the procedures vary from County to County, but basically, you will waive a formal reading of the (remaining) charges, a plea of Not Guilty will be entered on your behalf, documents and additional evidence (called "discovery") may be exchanged, and plea negotiations or other discussions may occur. Certain documents must be filed at or soon after the time of the AOI in a Michigan CSC case, such as Habitual Offender Notices by the Prosecution or Rape Shield Act Notices / Motions on your behalf by the Defense.
  • Pretrial Conferences: the Pretrial Conferences (also called "Settlement Conferences," "Status Conferences," or "Docket Conferences" and "Calendar Conferences" at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice / Wayne County Circuit Court), these are your garden-variety Court appearance after your case has been bound-over to Circuit Court and after the AOI. There may be a number of Pretrial Conferences over the course of months as your CSC case moves either in the direction of a plea resolution or toward a trial. If you think of your Criminal Sexual Conduct case as a physical ailment, and the Judge as the "doctor," then Pretrial Conferences are like the routine "check-ups" where each side checks-in with the Judge to update him or her on the status of the case. Before meeting with the Judge, your CSC Attorney and the Prosecutor will conference in private and discuss whether a plea deal is being offered, what its terms are, or whether the case is likely to go to trial instead. Even if you don't want any deal and are dead-set on going to trial to, your Attorney is legally required to inform you of any plea deals being offered and how it would affect you. Sometimes, the Judge becomes involved in these conversations. For example, if the Prosecution offers a reduction in the charge, but you want to know what the Judge would sentence you to if you agreed to that reduction, some Judges will allow your Attorney to approach them for a preliminary evaluation of sentence, also known as a Cobbs evaluation in Michigan. This way, you know what your sentence would be in advance of deciding to take any deal.
  • Motion Hearings: a Motion is a written request filed by either side asking the Judge to order something to happen in the case, most often to order that certain evidence be either included ("admitted") or excluded ("suppressed") at the trial, if there is a trial. For example, if your accuser has accused others of Criminal Sexual Conduct in the past, a good CSC Defense Attorney may file a Motion to admit this as required by law. Or if the Prosecution claims you made a "confession," your Attorney may file a Motion to Suppress it on the grounds that it was illegally obtained. Either side can file a Motion, which is the part of the process that is on paper. The other half is the Motion hearing, where you appear in Court and the Attorneys argue to the Judge as to how they should decide on the Motion. Sometimes, in order for the Judge to decide the Motion, the Judge needs to hear witnesses testify to certain things. This is called an "Evidentiary Hearing." Because the Motions affect what evidence the jury will and will not hear if there is a trial, Motions can make a significant change in the bargaining power each side has in the case. Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct cases typically involve more Motions than other types of criminal cases.
  • Final Settlement Conference: after several months of Pretrial Conferences and Motion Hearings, eventually, the Circuit Court Judge will order you to appear for a Final Settlement Conference (or "Final Pretrial Conference," etc.). Basically, at this hearing, the Judge is saying "Prosecutor, keeping in mind everything that has happened in this case and knowing your bargaining position, put your final and best offer on the table," and "Defendant, you decide whether you want to either accept this offer and avoid a trial, or reject this offer and continue to trial by Judge or jury." Your Attorney announces your final decision in open Court.
  • Trial and Verdict: we all know what a trial is. This is what it all comes down to. If you reject the Prosecution's final and best plea offer, your case goes to trial. A Michigan Criminal Sexual Conduct jury trial has the following essential parts: jury selection, opening statements, cross-examination of the Prosecution witnesses (including your accuser) by your Attorney, direct examination of any witnesses called in your defense (including yourself if you choose to testify, as well as an expert witness for the Defense), closing arguments, final jury instructions, jury deliberations, and verdict (either Not Guilty or Guilty on each individual count of Criminal Sexual Conduct). At Prain Law, PLLC, we are a trial firm, meaning that our practice revolves around actually going to trial, not seeking to push our clients into taking a plea deal. The truth is, many Attorneys have never or will hardly ever go to trial - to go in-front of a jury against charges like these, put all the pieces together, stand and deliver, swing the pendulum the complete opposite way, and actually win the entire jury over and save someone's life is just too much to bear for many Attorneys. But at Prain Law, PLLC, we spend hundreds and thousands of hours preparing for trial and perfecting every little detail of the presentation. Our record of success and our client testimonials speak for themselves. When you hear the words "Not Guilty," you'll know that this difficult chapter of your life is finally over.
  • Pleas: if you do choose to accept a plea deal, you should only do so if it protects all of your needs in terms of: whether you'll have a criminal record or not (felony or misdemeanor), whether it can be expunged, whether you'll receive incarceration versus Probation only, whether you'll have to register publicly or privately under the Michigan Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA), and for how long, and how each of these things will affect your individual health, career, relationships and future. There are two basic types of pleas: Guilty and No Contest, but they both generally result in a conviction. In a Guilty plea, you must state under oath what you supposedly "did" that makes you guilty of whatever you are pleading to. In a No Contest plea, you do not state that, and the Judge looks to other sources like Police Reports or the Preliminary Exam Transcript for this information. A plea can be given at any of the above hearings in Circuit Court.
  • Sentencing: if you are receiving a sentence for Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan, hopefully it is because you have taken a plea where you already have some knowledge of what that sentence will be and decided that it is best for you (and NOT because you've hired the wrong CSC Attorney and been convicted at trial). Before sentencing, the MDOC will compile a Presentence Investigation Report (PSI), which tells the Judge information about you and about the case for use at the sentencing hearing. At the sentencing hearing, any corrections to the PSI and your "Sentencing Guidelines" are made, and the Prosecuting Attorney, your Attorney, your alleged victim, and you (if you wish) are allowed the opportunity to speak. After this, the Judge officially announces what their final sentence is, and the case concludes. There is much to be said about typical sentences for CSC in Michigan, but as we always say, the best Criminal Sexual Conduct cases (and this should be your number one goal) are those where there is never any sentence at all because you are found NOT GUILTY of CRIMINAL SEXUAL CONDUCT.

If you or someone you care about has been accused or charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct in Michigan, call Prain Law, PLLC, your Michigan CSC Defense Lawyer at (248) 731-4543.

AT PRAIN LAW, PLLC, WE SPECIFICALLY CONCENTRATE ON DEFENDING THOSE ACCUSED OF CRIMES INVOLVING ASSAULT, INCLUDING SEXUAL ASSAULT AND CSC CRIMES. THESE ARE SOME OF THE MOST SERIOUS CRIMINAL CHARGES A PERSON CAN FACE, AND A CONVICTION ALMOST ALWAYS MEANS PRISON TIME. CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY BRIAN J. PRAIN, WAS RECENTLY NAMED ONE OF THE TOP 20 CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS IN DETROIT FOR 2016. BRIAN HAS ALSO BEEN NAMED TOP 10 CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER UNDER 40 BY BOTH THE NACDA AND AIOCLA, TOP 10 TRIAL LAWYER UNDER 40 BY THE NATIONAL TRIAL LAWYERS, AND TOP 100 CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS BY THE NATIONAL TRIAL LAWYERS, PREMIER 100 BY THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF JURISPRUDENCE, AND ONE OF THE NATION'S TOP 1% BY THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DISTINGUISHED COUNSEL. BRIAN CAN BE FOUND IN SUPER LAWYERS MAGAZINEAND HOUR DETROIT MAGAZINE. BRIAN'S FIRM, PRAIN LAW, PLLC HAS BEEN NAMED BY THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF CRIMINAL LAW ATTORNEYS AS ONE OF THE "TEN BEST LAW FIRMS" FOR CLIENT SATISFACTION.
Categories:

Contact Prain Law, PLLC

Schedule a Free & Confidential Consultation
  • Please enter your name.
  • This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.