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If you have been charged with a misdemeanor offense, you will probably need to appear for an arraignment on the charge. There are a few traffic misdemeanor charges that can be handled without appearing in court.
What is Arraignment?
This is the first court appearance when the charges against you are read and you are informed of your rights. You may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, no contest or stand mute. If you plead guilty or no contest, the judge or magistrate may impose a sentence at that time, or your case may be referred to the Probation Department for a pre-sentence investigation. If you plead not guilty or stand mute the case will be set for a pretrial conference. The judge or magistrate will also set your bond at the arraignment if you are required to return for another court date.
When do I appear for Arraignment?
Arraignments are held from 8:00 am to 11:30 am and 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday. If you posted a bond, your date and time to appear will be listed on the bond/bail sheet you received when you were released from custody. If you were issued a citation, you must respond within 3-14 calendar days from the date you received the citation by either appearing in person or contacting the court by phone to determine if a personal appearance is required.
The court will accept a written Waiver of Arraignment on most misdemeanor charges. The waiver must state the maximum possible penalty for the offense, the defendant's rights and be signed by the defendant. The court will not accept waiver of arraignments on any assault related crimes, for an outstanding warrant on a contempt issue such as failing to appear, failing to pay fines and costs, failing to complete a court ordered program or for a probation violation.
What is a Pretrial Conference?
If you have entered a plea of not guilty or stood mute at your arraignment, your case will be set for a pretrial conference. At the pretrial conference you and/or your attorney will meet with the Assistant Ingham County Prosecutor or Assistant City Attorney to attempt to resolve your case. If an agreement is reached, you may appear before a judge that same day to enter a plea and be sentenced. If an agreement is not reached, your case will either be set for a bench trial or jury trial.
What is a Bench Trial?
A bench trial is a trial in which there is no jury and the judge decides the case. A person must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and has the right to call witnesses in their own defense, to cross examine witnesses called against them and to present evidence in their own defense. Both the prosecutor and the defendant must agree to a bench trial.
What is a Jury Trial?
A jury trial is a trial before a panel of six jurors. Jurors are selected by the prosecutor and the defendant or the defendant's attorney. The burder of proof is the same as a bench trial: a person must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury may return a verdict of not guilty, or may find the defendant guilty of a lesser charge, depending on the evidence presented at trial. All jurors must agree on the verdict, whether it is guilty or not guilty.
Court Appointed Attorney
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor you have the right to have an attorney. You may hire an attorney at your own expense, or if you are unable to afford an attorney the court may appoint one on your behalf if the court determines that it might sentence you to jail.
The court may deny an application for a court appointed attorney if jail time is not likely, a person is determined to be not indigent (can afford to hire their own attorney), or the violation is a traffic or municipal civil infraction.
If you want to apply for a court appointed attorney you must fill out an application with the judge's court officer. Court appointed attorney requests should be made at the arraignment. If a person is in custody, the court officer will complete the application at the city jail with the defendant following arraignment. To request a court appointed attorney after arraignment, check in at the 6th floor traffic counter and they will refer you to the judge's office.
Bonds / Bail
Bonds posted with the court must be paid in cash, with a credit card or posted by a bondsperson or bonding agency. If a credit card is used, the cardholder must be present to sign the transaction slip.
Bonds posted at the Ingham County Jail through the use of Government Payment Services (G.P.S.) become the property of the person the monies are posted for and will not be returned to a third party depositor. Fines and costs paid through G.P.S. to secure the release of an inmate at the Ingham County Jail will be applied to that inmate's court costs and are non-refundable.