STUDENT LEGAL SERVICES
|The Court Process|
Entering a Plea
Rights as a Defendant
There are several steps in the judicial process. The first step after being arrested is the arraignment. You will be asked to appear in court for the first time within 48 hours of the arrest. The primary function of the arraignment is to enter a plea. This is not the time to tell the judge your story.
The following information is provided to give you information about the arraignment process.
When: The time and date for your arraignment will be listed on the citation. The actual time appearing before the judge will be 5-10 minutes. Be sure to allow at least 1 hour for the whole process. *
Where : The courthouse is located at 711 Dunbridge Rd. That is just south of the Meijer store. Both courtrooms are located on the second floor. *
What Happens : When you first arrive you will need to present your citation to the municipal clerk's office. They will file the citation and present you with a copy before you enter the court room. Then you will be asked to wait in the court room until the judge calls your name. When your name is called, approach the court standing on the left side. The judge will ask you if you understand the charges. The judge will then read the charges and ask you to enter a plea. At this point, one of two things can happen: 1) Not Guilty- A later court date is set or 2) Guilty, No Contest- Judge gives sentence.
|Entering A Plea|
By Pleading Not Guilty you have time to explore your options and seek council. IF YOU ARE NOT SURE OR DON'T KNOW, PLEAD NOT GUILTY. The judge will set a later court date for you to appear. This provides time for you to seek council or ask for a public defender, if you meet certain financial requirements. Student Legal Services is available to answer any questions you might have. This also provides time to deal with individual circumstances and finding possible defenses.
By pleading guilty or no contest, your options are limited. The judge will ask the police officer to read the report and any additional comments. Then you will have the opportunity to make a statement before the court. Once the judge has heard both sides, he will render his sentence. Remember that you are pleading guilty and he can impose the maximum sentence.
A not guilty plea means that you not want to give up any of your constitiutional rights at this time and the trial will be scheduled for a later date. At this trial, the prosecution will have to prove you are guilty as to each and every element of the offense charged against you beyond a reasonable doubt. You will be able to subpoena witness in your defense at the trial.
A no contest plea does not admit your guilt, but does admit the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint against you. Both you and the prosecutor will be permitted to make statements and then you will be found either guilty or not guilty depending on the evidence. If the facts which you do not dispute meet all the elements of the offense which you are charged with, the judge will find you guilty and you will be sentenced. A no contest plea cannot be used against you in a later civil or criminal case.
A guilty plea is a complete admission of your guilt as to the charge(s) against you. You will be permitted to make a statement explaining any justification before the judge imposes the sentence.
There are several levels of misdemeanor offenses and each carries with it a different maximum fine and possible jail time. The misdemeanor that is committed will correspond with one of the following categories. (See Chart) If found guilty, the Judge can give the maximum sentence. The Judge also has the right to suspend or add any condition to the sentence; such as community service or being a law abiding citizen for one or more years.
In determining your sentence, the court will consider the following: your prior criminal record, the risk that you will commit another offense, the nature and circumstances of the current offense, (i.e., violence vs no violence) and statements made by any victim. You can "work off" any fine through community service, but not court costs. Consider mediation to resolve disputes. Make out an alternating weekly chore list. Live with people you know well and get along with. Respect others possessions.
|Rights as a Defendant|
As a defendant in a criminal or traffic case you have several rights in court.
1. The right to an attorney and a reasonable continuance to obtain the services of an attorney. If you are unemployed and/ or cannot afford an attorney, the court may appoint an attorney for you if the offense carries any jail time.
2. The right to know the nature of the charge(s) against you, identity of the complaint(s), and the right to read the complaint.
3. The right to remain silent to the charge(s) against you. You also have the right to testify for yourself or tell the court of any fact or circumstances that the court should know about. However, anything you do say regarding the charges may be used against you.
4. The right to a jury trial of eight people on any charge where jail time is possible.
5. The right to a speedy trial.
6. The right to a cross-examine any witness who is called to testify against you.
If you are convincted of a minor misdeamor, it doesn't give you a record and you do not have to expunge it. If the minor misdemeanor was for pot possession, you may want to expunge it because it would make you not eligible for federally subsidized student loans. If you are convicted of any other misdemeanor, you must wait at least one year from your final discharge to apply for an expungement order. You will need to do something to make this happen. Expungements do not happen automatically. You can only expunge your first offense! Check out our expungement section.