What to Expect: Court Process

Often times the most stressful aspect of a criminal case is not knowing what to expect. I believe that knowledge is power, and the more information you “arm” yourself with, the more prepared, and more confident, you will be in fighting your criminal charges. This page will provide an overview of how the process works, broken down step by step. As you read, it may feel intimidating. That’s where I come in. As soon as you hire me, we will sit down and break down every step of the process and any questions or concerns you may have. Call me today at (248) 295-9499 for a free consultation.


The criminal case begins with an investigation, wherein evidence is gathered in order to charge the suspect with the crime. The investigation may begin when a police officer observes criminal activity or someone reports it. The police officer(s) will then conduct several activities to (a) determine whether a crime has been committed; and (b) gather evidence to prove the crime was committed. An investigation usually includes the following:

  • Conducting searches
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Taking photographs
  • Gathering physical evidence
  • Identifying/questioning suspects

The two most important aspects of the investigation from a suspect standpoint are the searches and questioning – both of which are extremely sensitive to your 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police consider you a suspect, they may attempt to search you, your vehicle, your home, etc. Often times, people feel they must consent to either a search or answer questions. It is important to note that you do not have to agree to a search or answer questions that may incriminate you.

Given the sensitive nature of the investigation, it is critical to have an attorney like Justin Zayid by your side when the police are narrowing in on you as a suspect. With ZAYID LAW by your side, you can rest assured that your rights are not violated.


Once the police gather enough evidence to believe a crime has been committed, they will make an arrest. An arrest may occur quickly into an investigation, or it may come after days, weeks, or months into the investigation. If the police observe the criminal activity, or quickly respond to the crime scene, they may have enough evidence to make an arrest.

However, if the investigation requires the gathering of evidence over a period of time, the arrest may come weeks or months later. This methodical approach usually comes with an arrest warrant since there are no exigent or emergency circumstances to the arrest.


Once the police complete their investigation and make an arrest, they will then turn over all evidence they gathered to the prosecuting attorney. It is the prosecutor’s responsibility, not the police, to file the formal charges against you. The prosecutor may only file charges if there is probable cause you committed the crime. Put simply, whether there is enough evidence to prove you committed the crime. This standard is much easier to meet than the standard to convict you (i.e. “beyond a reasonable doubt”).

If the prosecutor determine there is probable cause, he or she will prepare and file the charging document, which will initiate the criminal court process.

Criminal Court Process

In Michigan, criminal charges are distinguished by misdemeanors and felonies – depending on the severity of the alleged crime. The court process for these charges are also different, and it is important to contact Justin Zayid to learn the nature of the charges brought against you.



District Court Arraignment — This is your first court appearance after your arrest. The charges against you are read out loud and you enter a plea. The plea options in Michigan include guilty, not guilty, or no contest. No contest means that you don’t admit to guilt, but acknowledge enough evidence exists that you could be convicted. A no contest plea is treated more or less like a guilty plea. You also may stay silent, which a Michigan court treats like a not guilty plea. If you plead not guilty, a judge will consider setting a bail or bond amount in your case.

District Court Arraignment — A district court arraignment works differently in a felony case. The charge against you is read and you are advised of your rights, but you don’t enter a plea at this stage.

Probable Cause Conference — This is similar to a pretrial conference in a misdemeanor case, and typically involves the prosecutor and your defense lawyer discussing whether the case can be resolved without further proceedings.

Felony Preliminary Examination — This is a hearing held within 14 days after your district court arraignment. This also may be known as a “probable cause” hearing. Basically, this hearing is about establishing that there’s enough evidence to suspect you of a crime. If the district court decides there’s enough evidence for your case to proceed, your charge moves to the county circuit court. You can waive this hearing and have your case sent directly to a circuit court if you choose.

Circuit Court Arraignment — Once your felony case goes to circuit court, you have your more formal arraignment. The charges are read again, and this time you enter a plea.

Pretrial — Pretrial proceedings are where a lot of the work is done in criminal cases. Part of the goal is to determine if the case can be resolved without going to trial, and to settle some types of issues before trial. Issues to be settled may include questions about the validity of evidence, or whether evidence should be excluded when it was obtained through improper or illegal means, such as a warrantless search.

Pretrial — During the pretrial phase, the prosecutor and your defense lawyer may try to resolve the case without taking it to trial. This also is a time when issues related to evidence are handled, including any efforts by your lawyer to suppress evidence that was obtained through improper or illegal means.

Trial — If the case isn’t resolved during the pretrial phase, it goes to trial. At your trial, the prosecutor has to prove his or her case and your defense lawyer gets a chance to rebut the prosecutor’s case.

Trial — If your case isn’t resolved by a guilty plea at your arraignment, or during the pretrial phase, then it goes to trial. Both sides present evidence and witness testimony, and a judge or jury decides whether the prosecutor has proven your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Verdict — At the end of a trial, a judge or jury renders a decision finding you guilty or not guilty. If you chose to have a jury trial, all jurors must agree to the verdict unanimously or you may have to get a new trial.

Verdict — At the end of a trial, the jury or judge renders a verdict of guilty or not guilty. If your trial was in front of a jury, all jurors must agree to the verdict unanimously.

Sentencing — If you plead guilty or are found guilty, your case proceeds to sentencing. This usually happens at a later date than your guilty plea or verdict. Typically, the judge receives a pre-sentencing report from the probation department that includes information about you and a sentencing recommendation. The prosecutor and your lawyer also may weigh in on appropriate sentencing and any factors that should be considered before the court decides your sentence.

Sentencing — If you plead guilty or are found guilty, then a court determines your sentence. The probation department prepares a pre-sentencing report about your and your offense, and makes a sentencing recommendation. Your lawyer and the prosecutor also may make arguments about what sentence is appropriate in your case. Ultimately, a judge decides what your sentence will be.

Appeal — Appeals in misdemeanor cases that originate in Michigan district courts are heard in circuit courts. Appeals involve deciding whether legal errors were committed during your case that affected the outcome, such as a jury getting an inappropriate instruction from a judge. Appeals do not typically involve reconsideration of the evidence in your case or consideration of new evidence.

Appeal — An appeal involving a felony case tried in a circuit court is sent to the Court of Appeals for consideration. An appeal is based on allegations that legal errors were made during your trial that affected the outcome. No new evidence is heard, and the Court of Appeals does not reconsider evidence introduced at your trial. The Court of Appeals only decides if legal errors were made.