Michigan Criminal Law Dictionary

Adjournment – The postponing of a case or session of court until another time.

Affidavit – A written statement of fact that is verified by oath or affirmation.

Amendments to Probation Order – Probation officer petitions the court for changes to the probation order.

Appeal – The Michigan Supreme Court, in People v Pickett, 391 Mich 305; 215 NW2d 695 (1974), established that a probationer has a right to appeal either an order of probation or a probation revocation.

Arraignment – A hearing by the court in which the defendant is informed of the charges against him or her, is appointed counsel if necessary, and is permitted to plead to the charges. The arraignment portion of the probation revocation process is necessary to assure the probationer due process with regard to the charges of probation violation.

Bail Bond – A financial obligation signed by the defendant and those who serve as sureties to guarantee the defendant’s future appearance in court.

Bench Warrant – An order issued by the court (from the bench) for the arrest of a person for violating a court order.

Bind Over – To hold for trial; a finding at a preliminary examination that sufficient evidence exists to require a trial on the charges against the defendant.

Bond Investigations – The bond ensures that the defendant appears in court. The bond investigation gives the judge, who sets the bond, all the available information about the defendant to help determine the type and the money value of the bond needed to ensure the defendant’s court appearance.

CCH – Computerized Criminal History. Maintained by the Michigan State Police and accessible by criminal justice agencies via the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) and by the public via the Internet connection I-CHAT.

CTN – Criminal Tracking Number assigned by the prosecuting attorney.

Circuit Court Misdemeanor – Includes any offense the statute designates as a misdemeanor which is punishable by more than one year imprisonment. It is processed in circuit court like a felony. Also referred to as a “high court” misdemeanor.

Citation – The court copy (original) of the ticket; also serves as the original complaint in the case.

Civil Infraction – An act or omission prohibited by law which is not a crime, for which civil sanctions may be ordered. Many traffic violations are classified as civil infractions.

Client Information Release Authorization – A waiver form for the defendant/probationer to authorize a counselor, social worker, etc., to release information contained in the client’s records to the probation officer. The specific type of information must be disclosed in addition to the purpose and the need for the disclosure.

Cobbs Plea – A defendant who pleads guilty in reliance upon a judge’s preliminary evaluation regarding sentence has an absolute right to withdraw the plea if the judge later determines the sentence must exceed the preliminary evaluation. (People v Cobbs, 443 Mich 276; 505 NW2d 208 [1993])

Complainant – One who makes a complaint; often interchanged with plaintiff and victim.

Confidentiality – Probation records and reports are privileged and confidential according to Michigan statute and case law. (MCL 791.229) (Howe v Detroit Free Press, 440 Mich 203; 487

NW2d 374 [1992]) Access is authorized only for judges, probation officers, the attorney general, auditor general, and law enforcement agencies.

Contempt of Court – An act which hinders or obstructs a court in the administration of justice or lessens its authority or dignity.

Controlled Substances Act – See MCL 333.7401 et seq.

Convict – To find or adjudge guilty of a criminal offense.

Crime Victim’s Rights Act – An act to establish the rights of victims of crime and juvenile offenses; to provide for certain procedures; to establish certain immunities and duties; to limit

convicted criminals from deriving profit under certain circumstances; to prohibit certain conduct of employers or employers’ agents toward victims; and to provide for penalties and remedies.  (MCL 780.751 et seq.)

Defendant – The person against whom a crime is charged.

Deferred Judgment of Guilt – A judge may defer proceedings and impose probation with terms

and conditions without entering a judgment of guilt for certain statutory offenses.

Delayed Sentencing Act – A judge may delay imposition of sentence for up to one year “for the purpose of giving the defendant an opportunity to prove to the court his eligibility for probation or such other leniency as may be compatible with the ends of justice and the rehabilitation of the

defendant.” (MCL 771.1)

Destruction of Records – The act of physically destroying information (including criminal records) in files, computers, or other depositories. Probation files should be destroyed pursuant to the Records Retention and Disposal Schedule for Michigan Trial Courts, Schedule 16.

Disposition – Determination of a case, whether by dismissal, plea and sentence, settlement and dismissal, verdict and judgment.

District Court – All criminal cases are commenced in district court. Felony cases may be bound over to circuit court after preliminary examination or waiver. Misdemeanors are tried in district court. Civil cases under $25,000.00 and summary proceedings for possession of real estate constitute most of the civil caseload.

District Court Magistrate – In Michigan, a district court magistrate is a quasi-judicial official given the power to set bail, accept bond, accept guilty pleas, and sentence for traffic and other violations, and to conduct informal hearings on civil infractions.

Docket – See Register of Actions.

Electronic Monitoring/Tether – this form of probationary supervision restricts the probationers freedom during the day, or to go to certain locations.  The probationer is generally allowed to work, attend school, go to treatment, go to AA meetings, unless the probationer is placed on lock down due to violations.  Usually the sentencing Judge determines the conditions placed on the tether.  The tether can be in several forms.

Expunge – To destroy; blot out; obliterate; erase. See Destruction of Records.

FAC – Failure to answer citation. When a person fails to answer a traffic citation (ticket), the court notifies the Department of State, which enters this information into its computer system.

The defendant’s license is suspended until the FAC is set aside after the case is disposed of and a fee is paid.

FCJ – Failure to comply with judgment imposed for violations of civil infractions that are issued on traffic violations; follows the same procedure as FAC.

Felony – A crime punishable by more than one year in the state prison, unless it is specifically stated to be a misdemeanor. Felonies are tried in the circuit court.

GPS Tether – reports the probationers every movement via a real time map.  Hot zones can be created to alert when the probationer goes into locations in which he or she is not allowed (for example, the victim’s neighborhood).  This is more expensive than being monitored by a Transmitter.

Holmes Youthful Trainee Act – A defendant, between the ages of 17 and 20 years, alleged to have committed a criminal offense may be assigned to youthful trainee status. This assignment may be made by the court of record having jurisdiction over the criminal offense, only with consent of the defendant or the guardian. Youthful trainee status is not a conviction and no civil disabilities may attach to this status. (MCL 762.11-.16)

Inactive Case – A pending case over which the court has no effective control; a case that is filed in court, but for some reason cannot be processed by the court, such as defendant absconded or was never arraigned.

Incarceration – Commitment to jail or prison.

Interim Bond – Refers to a bond that is set by a police officer when a person is arrested for a misdemeanor minor offense without a warrant. Any misdemeanor warrant may also have an

interim bond endorsed on it by the issuing judge or district court magistrate. Interim bond allows the individual to be released, but be available for an arraignment.

Jury – A body of men and/or women sworn to consider the evidence presented and to deliver a true verdict or decision in a judicial proceeding. There are six jurors for district court in civil and criminal matters. In circuit court there are six jurors for civil matters and twelve for criminal matters.

Killebrew Agreement – In People v Killebrew, 416 Mich 189 (1982), the court ruled that the role of the trial court in plea negotiations is limited to consideration of bargains between defendants and prosecutors. The trial court may not participate in negotiations, and where it chooses not to accept a proffered bargain or follow the prosecutor’s recommendation, the defendant must be given the opportunity to affirm or withdraw a plea of guilty offered as part of the agreement. See also People v Garvin, 416 Mich 189 (1982).

LEIN – Law Enforcement Information Network. A communications and integrated system providing access to a variety of databases, including wanted persons, criminal history records, driver records, and vehicle records.

Magistrate – Unless prefaced by the words “district court,” the term magistrate used in the Michigan Code of Criminal Procedure refers to a judge of a court with jurisdiction over the

matter discussed.

MADCPO – Michigan Association of District Court Probation Officers.

Mail in probation – usually occurs for misdemeanor convictions where the probationer resides in a location far from the Court which imposed the sentence.  If allowed, the probationer must keep in regular (usually monthly) contact with his or her probation officer through U.S. mail.  The probation agent tries to verify the compliance of the probationer with any ordered conditions.

MCL – An acronym for “Michigan Compiled Laws,” a series of law books.

MCR – An acronym for “Michigan Court Rules.”

Minor – A person under the age of 18 years by civil law; a person under the age of 17 years by criminal and juvenile law.

Minor Offense – A misdemeanor or ordinance violation for which the permissible imprisonment does not exceed 92 days and the maximum permissible fine does not exceed $500.00.

Misdemeanor – A violation of a penal law of the State of Michigan which is not a felony, or a violation of an order, rule, or regulation of a state agency that is punishable by imprisonment or by a fine that is not a civil fine.

MJI – Michigan Judicial Institute; the training department of the State Court Administrative Office.

Motion – An application to the court for the purpose of obtaining a certain order or decision in favor of the applicant.

Municipal Court – A court in which the authority is confined to the city or community where it is established. Municipal court civil jurisdiction is limited to $1,500.00. Civil jurisdiction is

increased to $3,000.00 under certain circumstances. A few cities chose to retain this court rather than change to the district court system.

Nolle Prosequi – Latin for “to be unwilling to pursue.” A formal entry made on the court record by which the prosecutor declares he or she will not further prosecute the case, usually based on some form of agreement. The prosecutor reserves the right to initiate the case again.

Nolo Contendere/No Contest – Latin for “I will not contest it.” It is a plea treated as a guilty plea except that it is not an admission of guilt, but an indication of readiness to accept conviction and sentence rather than go to trial. By pleading nolo contendere, the defendant is not required to tell the court what he or she did. This allows the defendant to avoid incriminating testimony in a pending civil action or one that may later be filed against the defendant.

Non reporting probation – sometimes a Court will allow a probationer to remain totally unsupervised during the period of probation.  However, before the probationer is released from probation a probation officer verifies that the conditions of probation were met (for example, fines were paid, community service was done, etc.), and also does a LEIN check to see if any new criminal activity occurred.

Notice of Hearing – Document notifying the scheduling of matters in court. Pursuant to MCR 2.119, notice of hearing must be served at least nine days before the time set for hearing, if served by mail, or at least seven days before the time set for the hearing, if served by delivery pursuant to MCR 2.107(C)(1) or (2).

Offense – A crime or ordinance violation.

Order – A direction of a court made or entered in writing; one which terminates the action itself, or decides some matter litigated by the parties.

Ordinance – A local law or regulation enacted by a municipal government. It has no effect outside that city or village.

ORI – Originating agency number. See the Law Enforcement Information Network Manual.

PACC Charge Code – A code used by the county prosecutor or attorney general to identify the crimes charged. PACC codes are not assigned to ordinance violations. The number is related to the MCL cite.

Parole – Conditional release from prison before the end of sentence; if the parolee observes the conditions, he or she need not serve the balance of the term.

Peace Officer – Any public officer or official having authority to arrest to enforce the law and preserve peace; generally includes any sheriff, deputy sheriff, any state or municipal officer, and any state conservation officer.

Personal Recognizance – The release that is gained in a criminal case without having to post money or have a surety sign a bond with the court. The court takes the defendant’s word that he or she will appear for a scheduled matter or when advised to appear.

Petition – An application made in writing to the court.

Plaintiff – In criminal cases, the state or municipality is the plaintiff and is represented by the prosecuting official.

Plea – The defendant’s response to a criminal charge, such as not guilty, guilty, or nolo contendere.

Plea Bargaining – An arrangement between the prosecutor and defense counsel where the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a particular offense in return for the prosecuting attorney’s agreement to allow such a plea (usually to a reduced charge) or a promise to dismiss some other offense pending against the defendant.

Plead – To answer the indictment, information, complaint and warrant, citation, appearance ticket, etc.; to answer an allegation.

Preliminary Examination – A hearing in a felony case before a district court judge at which the prosecution presents evidence (the defendant and his or her counsel being present) from which

the district judge decides whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed the crime and to “bind over” or refer the defendant to the circuit court for trial.

Presentence Investigation – Investigation of the relevant background of a convicted offender. Usually conducted by a probation officer employed by a court and designated to act as a sentencing guide for the sentencing judge.

Presentence Report – Written report prepared by the probation department containing the family and personal history of the accused, evaluation of the crime and its ramifications, and recommendations as to sentencing. Required in all felony cases. Presented to the judge as a guide in determining sentence.

Presiding Judge – The judge conducting a hearing or trial. The judge in charge of a case.

Pretrial Conference – Hearing in a criminal or civil case between the judge and the attorneys to discuss any matters that can be resolved prior to trial, to assist in expediting or simplifying the trial. Such hearings are usually informal and without clients participating.

Probation – Allowing a person convicted of an offense to remain in the community instead of going to jail or prison as long as the offender fulfills the conditions of the probation. The

offender’s probation is usually supervised by a probation officer. If a person violates probation, the probation can be revoked and the defendant resentenced.

Probation – Regular supervision – generally involves face to face contact between the probationer and his or her assigned probation agent once a month.  At this meeting, the progress of the probationer is discussed.  The probationer has the opportunity to provide any proof of compliance with the terms of probation that he or she has (for example, AA sheets, PBT logs, community service hours, etc.).  Copies of any proofs are maintained in the case records.
Probation – Intensive supervision – this is for probationers that are deemed to be at high risk of committing new offenses.  This form of probation requires multiple weekly contacts with the probation agent in order to monitor and provide support to the probationer.  The regular contacts may include the probationer’s employer, family, school, community service location, etc.
Probation – Intermediate supervision – usually the result of an amendment to the probationary order due to a violation of probation.  It subjects the probationer to a slightly increased level of supervision that does not rise to the level of intensive probation.  It may result in increases in drug testing, alcohol testing, etc. for a period of time.

Pro Per or Pro Se – A person who represents himself or herself in court without an attorney.

Prosecuting Attorney – A public officer whose duty is to institute and conduct criminal proceedings on behalf of the people.

PSI – Presentence investigation.

Public Defender – An attorney paid by the county to defend a person who is indigent.

Quash – To nullify a conviction or order.

Record – The word for word (verbatim) account by the official court reporter/recorder of all proceedings at the trial.

Register of Actions – A written list of all important acts performed in court in an individual case from beginning to end. The register of actions (for acts done), the case file (for documents filed), and any transcript of proceedings together form the “record.”

Remand – To send a case back to the court from which it came for further proceedings. To send a case back to the lower court from which it was appealed, with instructions as to what further proceedings should take place.

Restraining Order – An order of the court which is intended to restrain a person’s action and preserve the status quo until a hearing can be held to determine if a temporary injunction should be issued.

SCAO – State Court Administrative Office.

SCRAM Tether – a device that can monitor the probationers blood alcohol level through their skin.  The device is supposed to be tamper resistent and water proof, and allows the probationer to attend to his or her daily activities.

Screening and Assessment – A procedural method in which the sentencing judge shall order and receive the facts pertaining to the defendant’s alcohol/drug-related history, prior offenses, and driving record; blood-alcohol concentration results; screening and assessment testing procedures and results; current alcohol/drug dependency; prior alcohol/drug education or treatment; and any assessment recommendations for proposed rehabilitation services.

Sentence – Punishment imposed upon a defendant following conviction in a criminal proceeding.

Show-Cause Order – An order to appear as directed and present to the court reasons and considerations why certain circumstances should be continued, permitted, or prohibited.

SID – State Identification number. A number provided by the Department of State Police based on positive fingerprint identification. It is generated when the law enforcement agency reports an arrest through the prosecutor to the Department of State Police.

State Case – Refers to a violation of state law. The term is most often used in district courts and municipal courts to distinguish between local ordinance violations and violations of state statute.

Statutes – Laws in the State of Michigan enacted by the state Legislature.

Stay – The suspension of a judicial proceeding by court order.

Subpoena – A writ or order to compel attendance in a court with a penalty for failure to do so.

Transmitter Tether – verifies the probationers location through a radio frequency and/or telephone lines.  The probationer is usually limited to more than a 150 foot radius from home, unless authorized to leave.

Verdict – The jury’s decision or finding on the issues submitted to it for determination.

Visual Telephone – the probationer must send an image of themselves through a computer program to verify their presence in the home when directed.  The Visual Telephone can also incorporate a breathelyzer for the probationer to blow into to provide a blood alcohol level at the random time that probation directs the probationer to comply.

Warrant Recall – A procedure for removing outstanding warrants from LEIN in order to avoid repeated or mistaken arrests.

With Prejudice – A claim dismissed “with prejudice” means the prosecution in a criminal case is forever barred from bringing criminal proceedings on the same claim.

Without Prejudice – A claim dismissed “without prejudice” may be the subject of a new criminal proceeding.

Writ – A court order giving the authority to require the performance of a specific act

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