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Michigan Court Records

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What Do You Do if You Are on Trial for a Crime in Michigan?

Criminal trials in the State of Michigan occur when a resolution cannot be reached regarding the charges filed against a defendant during the pre-trial stage of a criminal trial. Before a case goes to trial, the Michigan Judicial Process requires both the prosecutors and the defendant’s party to deliberate a plea bargain depending on the severity of the charges. If a plea bargain is agreed upon, it may result in a case not going to trial. Where an agreement cannot be reached, the case goes to trial in a Michigan Circuit Court where the prosecutors try to prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the defendant may be guilty of the criminal charges.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases go to Trial in Michigan?

In 2019 Court Caseload Report published by Michigan courts, the state’s circuit courts were recorded to have received a total of 67,171 criminal caseloads with dispositions amounting to 54,596 in that year. According to the report, the courts recorded a clearance rate of 81.3%, with 1,603 cases tried and concluded. Summarily, criminal cases that made it to trial amounted to about 2.4% of the total criminal cases recorded within the year 2019. While 1,217 cases were subject to jury trials, 386 criminal cases were subjected to trial by judges.

When does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?

Pursuant to state laws, all defendants have the right to a trial in court and before a jury. Michigan’s court rules also preserve a defendant’s right to trial as declared in the state laws. Although the right to trial is initially waived in civil cases, defendants may demand it if they want. Defendants may file a demand for trial through a written petition to the court after payment of required fees. Criminal defendants may also decide to demand a trial for only some of the charges put against them. In a criminal case, a pre-trial conference occurs where prosecutors attempt to settle with plea agreements that may reduce the potential punishment of defendants. If the party of the defendant doesn’t take the plea bargain, they may demand a trial.

What are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in Michigan?

The stages of a criminal trial in the state of Michigan include:

  • Opening statements by the prosecutor and defendant parties.
  • Prosecutor’s presentation of evidence and witnesses.
  • Motion for a directed verdict.
  • Defendant’s presentation of evidence and witnesses.
  • Closing arguments by both parties.
  • Jury charge.
  • The jury or bench verdict.
  • Post-trial motion.

How Long Does it Take For a Case to Go to Trial in Michigan?

Before a case goes to trial at a Michigan circuit court, it begins with an arraignment in a district court. For a misdemeanor charge, the defendant is required to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A pre-trial ensues, which is the longest part of the process as it entails settling issues like the validity of evidence, and the prosecutor offers a plea bargain to avoid a trial. If the plea bargain is taken, the case may not go to trial. If there is no resolution at this phase, the case goes to trial.

However, a felony offense is more severe and takes a longer process. After arraignment in which the defendant cannot enter a plea option, a pre-exam conference follows, which involves the prosecutor and defendant parties trying to resolve the case. Another hearing is held within 14 days of the initial arraignment to establish if there is enough evidence against the defendant. A defendant may waive the right to this hearing and have the case transferred to a circuit court. A second arraignment occurs in the circuit court during which the defendant is required to enter a plea option. The pre-trial phase follows, and if the case cannot be resolved at this stage, a trial is mandated.

What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in Michigan?

Typically, a trial begins with both parties’ opening statements, which usually contain case information, relevant evidence, and the facts to be proven or disproven. After the opening statements, the prosecutor must proceed to present their case and cross-examine their witnesses. To convince the court to dismiss the prosecutor’s evidence based on the irrelevance, the defense attorney may move for a directed verdict. Subsequently, the defendant’s attorney must follow up by presenting their evidence and witnesses. The parties may also examine and cross-examine the evidence and witnesses brought forward by one another. Each side will then conclude their presentations with closing arguments to summarize their cases. If the case is presided over by a jury, they will be required to retire to a separate room and deliberate on the case before giving a verdict. In a bench trial, the judge may also take some time before passing a verdict. If a defendant is found guilty by a jury, they may file a Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict motion. This motion aims to convince the judge to set aside the jury’s verdict and rule a new judgment in their favor.

Can you be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in Michigan?

No, persons tried for a crime in Michigan cannot be retried for the same offense. The federal law of Double Jeopardy in the Fifth Amendment protects people from being re-prosecuted for crimes that have previously been tried for. However, some exceptions may apply to the law, such as the Double Sovereignty Doc which occurs when there is a clash of interest between different government units on the definition of a particular crime. For example, an offender that was prosecuted in a state under the state’s laws may be re-indicted for the same crime by the federal judicial system if the state’s verdict doesn’t satisfy the federal regulations. Another exemption may occur following a mistrial. Mistrials may happen when a judge concludes an earlier trial without deciding the facts against a defendant when a jury can’t reach a verdict on a case, or prosecutorial misconduct happens. This may lead to the retrial of the case.

How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in Michigan?

Primarily, interested persons may access information on criminal court cases at the clerk’s office of the court the case occurred. Criminal case information may be obtained in-person at the clerk’s office or through a written request sent via mail. Interested persons may find the contact details of the clerks’ offices in Michigan with the court directory. Requests via mail may be facilitated by filling and submitting the court’s record request form.

Alternatively, criminal court records may be easily retrieved on third-party websites that offer the service of retrieving these records.

How to Access Electronic Court Records in Michigan

Electronic court records may be obtained via the Michigan courts’ online case search feature. The case search feature allows the general public to obtain court records online by searching with the docket number, the name of the party involved, and the attorney’s name. More information on how to utilize the case search feature may be found on the case search tips webpage.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records in Michigan?

Michigan’s Setting Aside Convictions statute provides the procedures for removing public court records after five years for people with a felony or two misdemeanors. The statute also doesn’t allow the sealing of records for traffic crimes, leading to serious bodily injuries or manslaughter. The steps involved in sealing public records in Michigan include, but are not limited to:

  • Petitioning a court to seal records.
  • Getting an application form to set aside conviction notarized.
  • Payment of required fees.
  • Review by a judge to grant a record sealing request, if eligible.
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