Criminal Defense

Facing criminal charges in a Michigan court is terrifying. The state has a vast array of resources that they can use against you, and anyone can become overwhelmed unless they have an advocate on their side. At North Pointe Legal, we are committed to protecting your constitutional and legal rights both in and out of the courtroom. These rights apply to you no matter what prosecutors accuse you of doing. As any good criminal defense attorney will tell you, you are innocent until the state proves that you are guilty. The state must meet a very high burden of proof to do this. It is a criminal defense lawyer’s job to make sure police and prosecutors do not cut corners, and that you are treated fairly.

Know Your Rights in a Michigan Criminal Case

The U.S. and the Michigan Constitutions protect people’s rights when the police are investigating a suspected criminal offense, and when prosecutors are pursuing charges against someone. Criminal defense attorneys work vigorously to ensure that law enforcement respect these rights at all times. These rights include:

  • The right not to answer the police’s questions, and to have an attorney present when talking to police — often known as Miranda rights;
  • The right to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” meaning that police must obtain a warrant in most cases before searching a person or their property;
  • The right to be represented by an attorney in criminal cases;
  • The right to a speedy trial;
  • The right to a trial before a jury;
  • The right to refuse to answer incriminating questions, also known as “pleading the Fifth”;
  • The right to cross-examine witnesses presented by the state;
  • The right to not face the same criminal charge twice, if prosecutors fail to get a conviction the first time, also known as “double jeopardy”;
  • The right to reasonable bail; and
  • The right to not face “cruel and unusual punishment.”

These rights apply to everyone in the country. They apply to every type of criminal proceeding, from relatively minor misdemeanor offenses to the most serious felonies.

What You Need to Know About Criminal Defense

If you think the police might suspect you of something, it is almost never too early to bring in a criminal defense lawyer to advocate for your rights. You have the right to have a lawyer present when police are questioning you. In fact, when you clearly state that you want a lawyer present, the police are supposed to stop asking you any questions until your lawyer arrives.

A criminal defense lawyer can help you understand what is going on. They can help you avoid getting tripped up by police, who might be trying to get you to confess to something. If you have been arrested, they can argue for lower bail, or no bail at all. If the state files charges, your criminal defense lawyer can show you what the charges mean under Michigan law, and what will happen next in your case.

Your lawyer can negotiate with prosecutors to find a plea deal that allows you to avoid a worse penalty if a trial does not go your way. They can review the state’s evidence against you and look for flaws in the prosecution’s case. They can ask a court not to allow certain evidence, such as if police collected evidence in a way that violated your constitutional rights. If necessary, your lawyer can fight for you through the trial process.

Your Rights in a Michigan Juvenile Case

Michigan has a separate system for most juvenile cases, meaning cases involving people who are under the age of 17. It is possible that a court will allow the state to try an especially serious felony offense in the adult criminal justice system, but the majority of cases will be heard in the juvenile court system. Most criminal offenses can be heard in juvenile courts, along with “status offenses” based on a defendant’s age, such as truancy, curfew violations, or being a minor in possession of alcohol or another controlled substance.

The Family Court Division of the Circuit Court hears juvenile cases in Michigan. The goal of juvenile courts is to rehabilitate defendants, rather than punish them. Several alternatives are available to normal prosecution in juvenile cases, giving defendants the opportunity to avoid more serious punishment, or even have the charges dropped entirely.

  • A juvenile court can use alternative sentencing to require a defendant to complete certain services under the court’s supervision, similar to probation;
  • The court can put the case on the consent calendar, a confidential process that results in a service plan for the defendant, and the possibility of the charges being dismissed; or
  • The court can place the defendant in a “juvenile diversion” program, which can also result in dismissal of charges upon successful completion.

A juvenile record, which results from a conviction in juvenile court, can follow a person for the rest of their lives. Because of the juvenile system’s focus on rehabilitation, Michigan allows former juvenile defendants to request that their juvenile records be cleared. This process is known as expungement. If a court grants the request, juvenile cases will not appear on a person’s record or in background checks.

Tracie L McCarn-Dinehart is a Michigan criminal defense attorney who practices with North Pointe Legal in Ludington. She represents clients in Mason, Manistee, Benzie, Oceana, and Lake Counties, and throughout the rest of Micihgan. If you are facing criminal charges in a Michigan court, please contact us online or at (231) 480-1491 to schedule a confidential consultation to learn more about your rights and options.