Warrant Request and Authorization: The detective/officer assigned to your case will forward a report to the prosecuting attorney’s office. The prosecutor may want to interview you. Because sexual assault is a crime against the citizens of Michigan, the prosecutor represents the people of the State of Michigan and not you specifically. The prosecutor will make the decision about whether or not to prosecute. If you haven’t heard from the prosecutor, you can call the prosecuting attorney’s office and ask to speak with him/her. If the decision to prosecute is made, there will be an arrest warrant issued or a notice to appear in court for the defendant (perpetrator).
Arraignment in District Court: The district court judge will read the charges and the defendant will be given the opportunity to plead. Bond will be set at this time. Bond is an amount of money that needs to be paid to ensure that the perpetrator will show up for court again. Sometimes no bond is set, or a very high bond is set, so that the perpetrator is forced to stay in jail. If the defendant is released the judge may order conditions of bond. The prosecuting attorney may request a condition of bond that orders the defendant not to come near you or contact you. You can talk with the prosecutor and have him/her request this type of bond condition, usually referred to as a “no contact condition.” The victim may submit an affidavit (sworn statement) asserting acts or threats of physical violence or intimidation by the defendant against the victim or the victim’s immediate family. The prosecutor may initiate Bond Revocation proceedings. The local police may arrest the perpetrator if they violate a protective condition of bond. If you are experiencing harassment, intimidation or threats by the perpetrator, contact the local police and notify the prosecutor assigned to the case.
Preliminary Exam: This is a formal hearing in front of the district court judge. The prosecutor will try to prove that a crime took place, that it took place in your county, and that the perpetrator is a likely suspect. The prosecutor must prove that there is reasonable cause that the crime took place and the accused committed it for the case to continue. You will be required to testify. At the beginning of your testimony you will have to look at the perpetrator and identify him/her for the court. The prosecutor and the attorney for the defendant will ask you questions. The case may be dismissed at this point or bound over to circuit court for trial. Sometimes the defendant may waive the right to a preliminary exam and the case will go straight to circuit court.
Arraignment in Circuit Court: The charges will be read to the defendant in circuit court. The defendant will again be given the opportunity to plead. If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, a sentencing date will be set. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial date will be set.
Pretrial Conference and Motions: The court may hear motions to determine what evidence will be admitted. The defense attorney and the prosecutor may discuss a plea bargain.
Trial: The prosecutor will try to prove” beyond reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime. “Beyond reasonable doubt” is the standard of evidence required to find a person guilty in US court and generally the burden of proof will fall on the Prosecuting Attorney to determine this in these cases. The victim has the right to be present throughout the entire trial of the defendant, unless the victim is going to be called as a witness. If the victim is called as a witness the court may, for good cause, order the victim to be sequestered until the victim first testifies. As the accused, the defendant has the right to stay in the courtroom throughout the entire trial. The trial could take several days to complete. If the defendant is convicted, a sentencing date will be set.
Sentencing: If the defendant is convicted or pleads guilty or no contest, the probation department will make a sentencing recommendation to the judge. You have the right to submit or make a written or oral impact statement to the probation officer for use in preparing the presentence investigation report. [MCL 780.824]. Written statements turned in before the sentencing date will become part of the file. This means that the defense attorney will have access to it and may share it with the perpetrator. If you choose, you will have the right to make your oral statement at the time of the sentencing proceedings (even if you do not complete a written statement).
Your Victim Impact Statement may include but is not limited to the following: nature of any physical, psychological or emotional harm suffered, explanation of any economic loss or property damage, opinion of the need for or extent of restitution and a recommendation for the defendant’s sentence. [MCL 780.823].
The victim has the right to make an oral impact statement at the sentencing. If you are physically or emotionally unable to make the oral impact statement, you may designate any other person 18 years or older to make the statement on your behalf. The court shall consider the victim’s statement when imposing sentence on the defendant. [MCL 780.825].
Appeal: The defendant has the right to appeal the decision. Upon request of the victim, the prosecuting attorney shall notify the victim of the following:
- That the defendant filed an appeal of his or her conviction or sentence or the prosecuting attorney filed an appeal;
- Whether the defendant has been released on bail or other recognizance pending the outcome of the appeal within 24 hours of receiving notice;
- Time and place of appellate court proceedings within 24 hours of notification; and
- The result of the appeal.
The prosecuting attorney shall provide the victim with a brief explanation of the appeal process. If the case is returned to trial or a new trial is ordered, the victim has the same rights as previously requested. [MCL 780.828].