Crawford County
Grayling, Michigan

Victim Rights Office

Glossary of Criminal Terms

THE LEGAL SYSTEM CAN BE FILLED
with confusing phrases and terms. This list should help you to understand that system a little better.

A

ACQUITTAL
when a criminal defendant is found "not guilty" of the crime. An acquittal is not a declaration of the accused's "innocence"; it is a verdict that a Prosecutor failed to prove the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
ADJOURNMENT
postponing or rescheduling a case or court session until another date or time.
ADVERSARY PROCEEDING
actions contested by opposing parties.
AFFIDAVIT
a written statement of fact that is verified by oath or affirmation before a notary public.
ALIBI
a "lack of presence" defense. Defendant need not prove that he was elsewhere when the crime happened; rather, a Prosecutor must disprove a claimed alibi (i.e., Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was present).
ANSWER
 
a formal written statement by a defendant responding to a civil complaint and setting forth the grounds for defense.
APPEAL
a request to a supervisory court, usually composed of a panel of judges, to overturn the legal ruling of a lower court.
ARRAIGNMENT
a criminal defendant's first appearance before a judge. The primary purpose is to inform the defendant of what charge he is facing.
ASSAULT
[MCL 750.81]
an unlawful act that places another person in reasonable apprehension of receiving an immediate battery. The defendant must have intended to injure the victim or make the victim reasonably fear being struck. An assault is intentional, not an accident.
Note: The victim need not be actually injured for a "Simple Assault", but injuries can be circumstantial proof of higher levels of assaults. The type or severity of injury may also prove the defendant's "intent" (i.e., Assault With Intent to Do Great Bodily Harm Less Than Murder, Assault with Intent to Maim, Assault With Intent to Murder, etc.).
Note: See self defense.

B

BAIL
Bond money paid to a court, by or on behalf of a criminal defendant, as security that, when released from jail, the defendant will appear at future hearings. If another person posts the bail money, then that third party vouches that the defendant will appear at future court dates. Bail can be forfeited if the defendant fails to appear or violates release conditions.
BATTERY
an intentional, unwanted and forceful/violent touching of another person, or something closely connected with that person.
BENCH TRIAL
a trial held before a judge and without a jury.
BIND-OVER
a finding at a preliminary examination that sufficient evidence exists to require a trial at the Circuit Court level on the charges made against the defendant.
BOND
a debt intended to insure the defendant's future appearances in court. The amount of the bond is set by a judge or magistrate. Factors influencing the amount set include the seriousness of the charge, the defendant's criminal history, and the defendant's ties to the community. There are 4 types of bonds:
    purple diamond Personal recognizance bonds (a.k.a. "PR" bonds, or "signature bonds") do not require the defendant or a third party to pay money to the court, unless the defendant later fails to appear.
    purple diamond Percent bonds require the defendant to post a percentage of the full bond (generally as low as 10%) to get out of jail, and the remaining percentage is due only if the defendant later fails to appear.
    purple diamond Cash bonds require the full amount of the bond to be paid in cash before the defendant can be released. If the defendant appears at all future court dates, most of the monies are returned to the person posting the bond.
    purple diamond Surety bonds are posted by a professional bondsman after being paid a non-refundable percentage of the full amount by the defendant.
BREAKING
as in "breaking & entering" ... using some force to enter a building (opening a door, raising a window, taking screen off, etc.); damage need not result.
BRIEF
 
a written statement submitted by the lawyer for each side in a case that explains to the judges why they should decide the case or a particular part of a case in favor of that lawyer's client.
BURDEN OF PROOF
the duty to establish by evidence a requisite degree of belief concerning a fact in the mind of a trier of fact. The duty to establish facts in an adversary proceeding. Different burdens of proof exist in the law:
Prima facie ~~~ evidence which is good and sufficient "on its face" to establish a given fact when unrebutted or not contradicted. Probable cause ~~~ facts and circumstance sufficient to convince a person of reasonable caution that an offense has been committed. Preponderance ~~~ the burden of proof in civil cases. Evidence which, as a whole, shows that the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not. Evidence which is more credible and convincing to the mind. It is generally visualized as that side of the dispute toward which the scales tip when the credible evidence is weighed by the trier of fact. Something more than 50% of the credible evidence. Clear and convincing ~~~ the burden of proof in selected proceedings, such as termination of parental rights. A measure of proof which produces a firm belief as to the allegations. It is difficult to quantify, but is more than a "preponderance" and less than "beyond a reasonable doubt". Beyond a reasonable doubt ~~~ the degree of belief a criminal juror (or the judge in a bench trial) must have regarding all factual elements of a charged crime. No doubt, based on reason and common sense, can exist as to any fact needed to be proved.

 


C

CAPITAL OFFENSE
a crime punishable by death. (Michigan does not have a death penalty.)
 
CHALLENGES
(Jury Selection)
a method for striking a prospective juror. The Michigan Court Rules allow two types of juror challenges: for cause (unlimited number; when the juror is shown to be biased for or against a party, is related to a trial participant, etc.) and peremptory (limited number depending on the severity of the crime on trial). No reason need be announced for a peremptory challenge, although a purely racially-based challenge is not permitted.
CHILD ABUSE
[MCL 750.136b; MSA 28.331(2)]
conduct toward an unemancipated child under 18 years of age by the parent, guardian or other person who cares for, has custody of or authority over the child. There are four degrees of child abuse:
    purple diamond First Degree (felony --- up to 15 years in prison) occurs when the defendant knowingly or intentionally causes serious physical harm (i.e., substantial physical disfigurement or impairment of a body organ or limb) or serious mental harm to a child.
    purple diamond Second Degree (felony --- up to 4 years in prison) occurs when the defendant willfully abandons the child, fails to provide food, clothing or shelter necessary for the child's welfare, or commits a reckless act which results in serious physical/mental harm.
    purple diamond Third Degree (high court misdemeanor --- up to 2 years in prison) occurs when the defendant knowingly or intentionally causes some physical harm to the child.
    purple diamond Fourth Degree (misdemeanor --- up to 1 year in jail) occurs when the defendant abandons the child, or willfully fails to provide food, clothing or shelter necessary for the child's welfare, or commits a reckless act, which results in some physical harm to the child.
NOTE: A defendant may raise a defense that his/her forceful actions were reasonable "parental discipline".
CHILD SEXUALLY ABUSIVE MATERIAL
 [1998 PA 35; MCL 750.145c]
a developed or undeveloped photograph, film, slide, electronic visual image, computer diskette, or sound recording of a child engaging in a listed sexual act; a book, magazine, or other visual or print medium containing such a photograph, film, slide, electronic visual image, or sound recording; or any reproduction, copy, or print of such a photograph, film, slide, electronic visual image, book, magazine, other visual or print medium, or sound recording.
  • A listed sexual act means sexual intercourse, erotic fondling, sadomasochistic abuse, masturbation, passive sexual involvement, sexual excitement, or erotic nudity.
CIRCUIT COURT
Michigan's highest level trial court, with the broadest range of powers (including hearing appeals from District Court). Circuit Court has three divisions:
    purple diamond Criminal (the trial court for all felony crimes)
    purple diamond Civil (civil law suits over $25,000), and
    purple diamond Family (every aspect of family law, including divorce, child custody, parenting time, paternity, adoption, child & spousal support, domestic violence, PPOs, juvenile delinquency, neglect and abuse, as well as emancipation of minors).
The Friend of the Court office is a division of the Circuit Court.
Michigan has 57 Circuits, covering all 83 counties. Circuit Court judges are elected on a non-partisan ballot to six-year terms.
CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE
indirect evidence that implies something occurred but does not directly prove it. For example, circumstantial evidence of embezzlement includes proof that the defendant-employee made several big-ticket purchases in cash around the time of the alleged embezzlement.   [See also direct evidence.]
CIVIL CASE
a case between private litigants concerning personal wrongs, generally where the losing party must compensate the prevailing party with money or other property. Examples of civil cases include divorces, personal injury, landlord-tenant, small claims and contract or property disputes. A civil plaintiff may be also be asking the court to tell the defendant to stop some behavior or to do a specific thing.
CIVIL INFRACTION
a non-criminal violation of a law prosecuted by the State or a local government unit. A person cannot be sent to jail for a civil infraction. The most common example is a traffic citation, like speeding. The penalty for a civil infraction is payment of fines, costs, and fees. For a traffic civil infraction, points may be added to the driving record. A person can be found responsible for a civil infraction in one of four ways:
  1. by failing to respond to the citation on time; a default judgment will be entered; in most cases, the person's driver's license will be suspended until the fines & costs + a surcharge are paid;
  2. by admitting responsibility for the violation and paying the amount indicated on the ticket;
  3. after an informal hearing;
  4. after a formal hearing.
COMMON LAW
a body of legal principles which derives its authority solely from usages and customs of ancient times, or from the judgments and decrees of courts recognizing, affirming, and enforcing such usages and customs; particularly the ancient unwritten law of England. Common law is to be distinguished from "statutory law", which is enacted by a legislative body such as Congress or a state legislature.
COMPLAINT
the document on which criminal misdemeanors are charged in District Court, as well as the initial charging document for felonies.
CONCURRENT SENTENCE
upon conviction for multiple crimes, a criminal sentence served at the same time as another criminal sentence, rather than one after the other.   [See also consecutive sentence.]
CONSECUTIVE SENTENCE
upon conviction for multiple crimes, criminal sentences that must be served one after the other, rather than at the same time.   [See also concurrent sentence.]
CONSENT, AGE OF
in Michigan, a minor has the legal capacity to consent to sexual activity at age 16. [See Criminal Sexual Conduct.]
CONSPIRACY
[MCL 750.157a; MSA 28.354(1); CJI2d 10.1-10.5]
an agreement, express or implied, between two or more people to do an illegal act or to commit a legal act in an illegal manner.
CONVICTION
a judge or jury's decision that the accused person is guilty of the crime.
COURT
a government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes. Judges sometimes use "court" to refer to themselves in the third person, as in "the court has read the briefs." Courts and judges are part of the Judicial Branch of government.
COURT-APPOINTED ATTORNEY
legal counsel assigned by the court to represent an indigent criminal defendant. A court-appointed attorney is not necessarily a "free" attorney; the court can order that some or all of the attorney's bill be reimbursed. If jail time will not be imposed on a misdemeanor, the judge need not appoint an attorney.
[See also Guardian ad Litem.]
COURT OF APPEALS
an "intermediate" appellate court between the Supreme Court and the Michigan trial courts. Final decisions from a Circuit or Probate court hearing may be appealed to the Court of Appeals. Hearings are held in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Marquette before a panel of three Court of Appeals judges. At least two of the three judges must agree on the ruling. The panels are frequently rotated so that a variety of judicial opinions are considered. The decision of the panel is final, except for those cases which the Supreme Court reviews.
Court of Appeals judges are elected for 6-year terms.
COURT OF CLAIMS
a specialized court that handles only claims over $1,000 filed against the State of Michigan or one of its departments. (Claims for less than $1,000 should be filed with the State Administrative Board.) The Court of Claims is part of the 30th Circuit Court in Ingham County. All trials heard by the Court of Claims are heard by a judge, not a jury.
COURT REPORTER/RECORDER
a person who makes a word-for-word record (either through stenography/short-hand or audio/video recording) of what is said in court, and can produce a transcript of the proceedings upon request. Michigan court reporters or recorders must be trained and certified.
CRIMINAL CASE
a charge filed by a prosecutor against a defendant concerning violation of a criminal law. The act of violating a criminal law is an offense against the community, not a private wrong. Examples of criminal cases include theft, murder and OUIL.
CRIMINAL SEXUAL CONDUCT
purple diamond 1st Degree CSC (MCL 750.520b; MSA 28.788(2) --- Felony --- life or any term of years + AIDS~HIV~STD testing): a sexual act involving penetration (sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, intrusion into any other body part or object in genital or anal openings) and any of the following:
    black diamond victim is under 13 years old

    black diamond victim is 13-15 years old + is a blood affiliation to the defendant, lives in the defendant's household, or the defendant is in an authority position to the victim

    black diamond multiple actors are involved and force/coercion was used to accomplish the sexual penetration or the victim is incapacitated (physically helpless, mentally incapacitated or mentally defective)

    black diamond weapon involved

    black diamond personal injury + force/coercion

    black diamond personal injury + victim incapacitated

    black diamond defendant/actor is in the process of committing another felony
purple diamond 2nd Degree CSC (MCL 750.520c; MSA 28.788(3) --- Felony --- up to 15 years + AIDS~HIV~STD testing): sexual contact with the genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock or breast, AND any of the circumstances listed for 1st Degree CSC.
purple diamond 3rd Degree CSC (MCL 750.520d; MSA 28.788(4) --- Felony --- up to 15 years + AIDS~HIV~STD testing): sexual penetration and any of the following:
    black diamond victim is 13-15 years old

    black diamond force or coercion

    black diamond victim incapacitated
purple diamond 4th Degree CSC (MCL 750.520e; MSA 28.788(5) --- High Court Misdemeanor --- up to 2 years in prison and/or $500.00 fine + AIDS~HIV~STD testing): sexual contact and any of the following:
    black diamond force or coercion

    black diamond victim incapacity

    black diamond defendant works for the Department of Corrections and the victim is an inmate
Note: No need for corroboration of victim's testimony or resistance by victim. Also, a person can be charged and convicted of CSC on a spouse.
CROSS EXAMINATION
the questioning of a witness by a party other than the one who called that witness to the stand.
C.S.C.

See Criminal Sexual Conduct

D

DEFENDANT
a person who has been formally charged with committing a crime.
DELINQUENCY
a crime committed by a minor under the age of 17. Juvenile delinquency offenses are prosecuted in the Family Division of Circuit Court.
DEPOSITION
an oral statement made before an officer authorized by law to administer oaths. Such statements are used in civil cases to examine potential witnesses, to obtain discovery, or to be used later in trial. Depositions are not used in criminal cases.
DIRECT EVIDENCE
evidence that stands on its own to prove an alleged fact, such as testimony by a teller that she saw the defendant pointing a gun at her and heard him demand money during a bank robbery.   [See also circumstantial evidence.]
DIRECT EXAMINATION
the questioning of a witness by the party who first called the witness to the stand.
DISORDERLY CONDUCT   [MCL 750.167]
AKA "disorderly person" ... a compilation of socially offending conduct, including:
  • refusing or neglecting to support one's family
  • common prostitution
  • window peeping
  • public intoxication that is endangering people, or causing a public disturbance
  • indecent or obscene conduct in a public place
  • vagrancy, public begging, loitering in a place of illegal business, including a house of ill fame or prostitution
  • jostling or roughly crowding people unnecessarily in a public place

      Penalty: Misdemeanor --- up to 90 day and/or $100.
DISPOSITION
a Juvenile Court hearing that is the equivalent of a "sentencing" in adult courts.
DISTRICT COURT
all criminal cases, for persons 17 years or older, are started in the district court. It is the trial court for all misdemeanors for which punishment does not exceed one year, civil infractions, civil small claims actions (up to $1,750), civil law suits under $25,000, garnishments, evictions, foreclosures and other proceedings. This Court conducts initial arraignments, sets and accepts bond and conducts preliminary examinations in felony cases. District Court procedures are essentially like those used in Circuit Court with the exceptions that a city/township ordinance may be prosecuted by that city's/township's attorney ... and pre-sentence investigations are not always prepared on misdemeanors.
There are approximately 100 district courts in Michigan. District court judges are elected for 6-year terms on a non-partisan ballot.
DOUBLE JEOPARDY
being tried twice for the same offense. Jeopardy 'attaches' (begins) in a jury trial when the selected jury is sworn, and attaches in a bench trial when the first witness is sworn.
DRUNK DRIVING
See "OUIL"

E

EMANCIPATION
[1968 PA 293; MCL 722.1 et seq; MSA 25.244(1) et seq]
termination of the rights of the parents to the custody, control, services and earnings of a minor.
emancipation occurs by operation of law when the minor (a) is validly married, (b) turns 18 years old, or (c) is on active military duty.
a minor can also petition the family division of circuit court to seek emancipation, but must demonstrate that he can manage his financial and social affairs, and attach affidavits from a physician, psychologist, therapist, nurse, clergy, etc with personal knowledge of the minor's circumstances, and a belief that emancipation is in his best interests.
a Prosecutor has no official role in an emancipation petition hearing.
EMBEZZLEMENT
[MCL 750.174; MSA 28.371]
the core of this crime is a violation of trust: the agent (e.g., employee) was entrusted with the principal's (e.g., employer) property, acquired the principal's property through that relationship of trust, and dishonestly disposed of/took/hid/converted the property to his own use.
on 1/1/1999, Michigan doubled the levels of Embezzlement to:
  • under $200 --- Misdemeanor --- up to 93 days and/or $500, or 3 times amount embezzled, whichever is greater
  • at least $200 but less than $1,000 (or repeat offender of above) --- Misdemeanor --- up to 1 year and/or $2,000, or 3 times amount embezzled, whichever is greater
  • at least $1,000 but less than $20,000 (or repeat offender of above) --- Felony --- up to 5 years and/or $10,000, or 3 times amount embezzled, whichever is greater
  • $20,000 or more (or repeat offender of above) --- Felony --- up to 10 years and/or $15,000, or 3 times amount embezzled, whichever is greater
ETHNIC INTIMIDATION
(MCL 750.147b; MSA 28.344(2))
malicious and intentional intimidation or harassment of another person because of that person's race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. This conduct must also (a) cause physical contact with another person, (b) damage, destroy, or deface real or personal property, or (c) threaten to do an act described in (a) or (b) if there is reasonable cause to believe that such an act will occur.
      Penalty: Felony --- up to 2 years &/or fines up to $5,000.
... Regardless of the existence or outcome of any criminal prosecution, a person who suffers injury to his/her person or damage to his/her property as a result of ethnic intimidation may sue the person who committed the offense to secure an injunction, actual damages, including damages for emotional distress, or other appropriate relief. A plaintiff may recover treble damages or $2,000.00, whichever is greater.
EVIDENCE
information presented in testimony or documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side or the other. [See also direct evidence and circumstantial evidence.]
EX-PARTE
Latin that means "by or for one party." Refers to situations in which only one party (and not the adversary) appears before a judge. Such meetings are often forbidden.
EX-PARTE ORDER
an order entered without giving the party affected by the order an opportunity to be heard in court before the order is issued. An emergency order used when one party could be irreparably harmed by waiting for a hearing date. The orders are generally short-term, and hearings are scheduled soon after the order is entered to give the other party a chance to be heard.
EXPUNGMENT
[ADULTS: MCL 780.621, et. seq.; JUVENILES: MCL 712A.18e]
a process where a conviction may be set aside.

F

FAMILY COURT
beginning January 1, 1998, Michigan Circuit Courts operate a "Family Court" division (in addition to Civil and Criminal divisions). The Family Division will handle divorce, child custody, parenting time, paternity, adoption, child & spousal support, domestic violence (PPOs), juvenile delinquency, neglect and abuse, as well as emancipation of minors, parental consent waivers (abortion), and name changes. The family court will also have ancillary jurisdiction over cases involving guardians and conservators, and mentally ill or developmentally disabled persons (typically when the affected person's family is already subject to the jurisdiction of the family division).

There will be one judge for one family. To the extent possible, all new cases involving a family will be automatically assigned to the judge hearing a previous case involving that family. Judges from both Probate and Circuit courts will staff the Family Division. If two or more pending matters within the Family Court's jurisdiction involve the same family, they will be assigned to the same judge whenever practical.

Within certain broad guidelines, each circuit will decide how its Family Court will operate. There is no mandated number or percentage of the total Circuit and Probate bench that must be assigned to the Family Division; the number of judges assigned "shall reasonably reflect the caseload of that Family Division."

 

FELONY
a crime carrying more than one year possible incarceration.
FELONY FIREARM
[MCL 750.227b; MSA 28.424(2)]
a crime committed when carrying or having in his possession a firearm at the time a felony is committed or attempted to be committed.
Penalty: Felony --- mandatory 2 years (or 5 years for second offense) imprisonment consecutive to served before the term of imprisonment imposed for the felony or attempted felony conviction
FORMAL HEARING
a hearing in which a civil infraction is contested before a District Judge (similar to a bench trial). The defendant may be represented by an attorney. The People are represented by the Prosecuting Attorney or an attorney for the local municipality.   [See also Informal Hearing.]

 


G

GRAND JURY
a group of citizens convened in a criminal case to consider the prosecutor's evidence and determine whether probable cause exists to prosecute a suspect for a felony. Grand juries are rarely used in Michigan state courts, but are used by Federal courts.
GUARDIAN AD LITEM
a person appointed by the court to protect the legal interests of an infant or an incompetent adult, or a missing person who is involved in a court case. The court will appoint a guardian ad litem in cases of juvenile abuse or neglect. The "GAL" may be an attorney.

H

HABEAS CORPUS
a writ (order) to bring a person before a court. In its most common usage, the writ directs a warden or jailer to bring a prisoner or person detained so that the court may determine whether such person is lawfully confined.
HEARSAY
a statement made outside of court (i.e., not from the witness stand at the present proceeding) that is offered into evidence not merely to prove that the statement was made but to prove that it was true. Dozens of long-established exceptions exist to the general rule that hearsay statements are inadmissible in court; the exceptions are based on circumstances where the out-of-court statements carry a likelihood of trustworthiness (e.g., deathbed statements, self-incriminating statements, statements made to doctors about medical conditions, etc.).
H.Y.T.A. (Holmes Youthful Trainee Act)
[MCL 762.11, 762.12, 762.13, 762.14]
discretionary sentence where person who pleads guilty to a crime committed between his/her 17th & 21st birthdays may, with the youth's consent and without entering an adjudication of guilt, be assigned the status of a youthful trainee.
The person may be placed on probation, or committed to jail or prison. Upon successful completion of all terms set by the judge, the court will dismiss the charge.
If the person fails to successfully complete the terms of probation, the judge may terminate YTA status, enter an adjudication of guilt and sentence the defendant.
YTA is not permitted for life, major controlled substance or traffic offenses.
YTA status is not a conviction for a crime.
Unless the court enters a judgment of conviction against the individual for the criminal offense, all proceedings regarding the disposition of the criminal charge and the individual's assignment as youthful trainee are closed to public inspection, but are be open to the courts, the department of corrections, the department of social services, and law enforcement personnel for use only in the performance of their duties.

I

IMPAIRED DRIVING
[MCL 257.625]
a lesser-included offense to OUIL. A person driving a vehicle while visibly affected by alcohol. A driver is considered "impaired" with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08-0.09%.
Penalty: Misdemeanor --- jail up to 90 days (1st offense) or 1 year (2nd offense), fines up to $300 (1st offense) or $1,000 (2nd offense), community service, 4 points assessed on the driver's record, and a mandatory license suspension of at least 3 months (1st offense).
IMPEACHMENT
 
the process of calling something into question, as in "impeaching the testimony of a witness." Impeachment generally challenges a witness' credibility with evidence of bias, prior inconsistent statements, etc.
INDICTMENT
a formal accusation of a felony, issued by a grand jury after considering evidence presented by a prosecutor.
INFORMAL HEARING
a hearing in which a civil infraction is contested before a District Court magistrate. Generally, the police officer and person ticketed testify under oath, each explaining what happened. Attorneys are not allowed at informal hearings, but witnesses may attend and testify, and the defendant may ask questions of the police officer and witnesses. An adverse decision can be appealed by demanding a formal hearing and posting an appeal bond worth at least the amount of fines & costs for the charge.
INFORMATION
the document on which criminal felony charges are filed in Circuit Court after a Preliminary Examination bind-over or waiver.
INJUNCTION
an order of the court prohibiting (or compelling) the performance of a specific act to prevent irreparable damage or injury.

J

JOYRIDING (Unlawful Use of an Automobile)
[MCL 750.414]
taking or using an automobile without authority, without the intent to steal (or being a party to such unauthorized taking or using). Unlike UDAA, Joyriding does not require proof of an intent to steal.
      Penalty: High Court Misdemeanor --- up to 2 years or $1,000.
JUDGE
government official with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts.
JURISDICTION
the power of the court to decide a case before it, which depends on the type of case and how closely connected the parties are to the county where the court is located. [See also venue.]
JURY
persons selected according to law and sworn to inquire into and declare a verdict on matters of fact.
JUVENILE
a youth under the age of 17.
JUVENILE COURT
until January 1, 1998, Juvenile Court was a division of the Probate Court, and was responsible for all juvenile delinquency offenses. After January 1, 1998, these cases are prosecuted in the Family Division of Circuit Court

K

KIDNAPPING (Parental)
occurs when a natural or adoptive parent takes or retains a child for more than 24 hours with intent to detain or conceal the child from the parent who has legal custody or visitation rights at the time, the person who adopted the child, or the person who had lawful charge of the child.
NOTE: The defendant may raise an affirmative defense that he/she took the child to protect the child from an immediate and actual threat of physical or mental harm, abuse or neglect.
Penalty: Felony --- up to 366 days incarceration and/or $2,000 fine

 


L

LARCENY
stealing. The unlawful taking and carrying away of property of another with the intent to keep it from the owner. This is a specific intent crime, and cannot occur accidentally. The crime is completed when the defendant actually or constructively possesses or controls the property, moves or hides it, and specifically intends to permanently deprive the owner of it.
L.E.I.N.
the Law Enforcement Information Network. A computer network accessed by police. L.E.I.N. (pronounced "lean") maintains a database that includes active arrest warrants, active PPOs, felony and high misdemeanor convictions, etc.

 


M

MANSLAUGHTER
can be a lesser-included offense to murder if the defendant acted out of passion or anger brought about by adequate cause and before the defendant had a reasonable time to calm down.
purple diamond Voluntary Manslaughter: (felony --- 15 years and/or $7,500 fine) --- defendant caused a death + intended to kill or knowingly created a very high risk of death or great bodily harm knowing that death or such harm would be the likely result.
purple diamond Involuntary Manslaughter: (felony --- 15 years and/or $7,500 fine) --- defendant caused a death + acted in a grossly negligent manner or intended to injure or commit an assault/battery. "Intent to kill" is not an element.
MARIHUANA / MARIJUANA
a Schedule 4 controlled substance.
  • Possession of Marijuana (Misdemeanor: 1 year and/or $2,000 fine, license sanctions)
  • Use of Marijuana (Misdemeanor: 90 days and/or $100 fine, license sanctions)
MINOR
a youth under a law's age of majority. Procedurally, a youth is considered a minor regarding criminal offenses until his 17th birthday, and are handled in Juvenile Court; offenses committed after his 17th birthday are handled in District Court and Circuit Court. Some crimes have substantive age limits: alcohol offenses have an age of majority of 21, tobacco offenses have an age of majority of 18, etc.
MISDEMEANOR
a crime carrying maximum jail time of one year or less.
Exception: a "high court" misdemeanor (e.g., Resisting/Obstructing a Police Officer) can carry up to 2 years in prison, but is not labeled a "felony". High-court misdemeanors are handled procedurally like a felony.
MOTIVE 
[CJI2d 4.9]
whether the defendant had a reason to commit the alleged crime ... but a reason to commit the crime, by itself, is not enough to find a person guilty of a crime. Motive is not an element of a crime that a prosecutor must prove.
MURDER
In Michigan, all murder is either in the first or second degree.
purple diamond First degree murder: (felony --- mandatory life; no parole) --- "felony murder" (murder committed in the course of another felony), murdering a peace officer in the line of duty, or "premeditated murder". Murder cannot occur accidentally, the defendant must have intended to kill. Premeditation means that the defendant had time to consider the pros and cons of the killing beforehand.
purple diamond Second degree murder: (felony --- life or any term of years) --- causing death + intending to kill or do great bodily harm or knowingly creating a very high risk of death or great bodily harm knowing that death or such harm would be the likely result of his/her actions.
purple diamond Open Murder: --- Michigan law does not require a prosecutor to choose between First Degree or Second Degree Murder when issuing a complaint, or even at trial. A prosecutor may charge "Open Murder", which is a combination of First and Second Degree Murder, and the jury may determine the appropriate degree based on the proofs.

 


N

NEGLIGENCE
slight negligence: doing something that isn't dangerous, that only an extremely careful person would have thought could cause injury.
ordinary negligence: carelessness ... not taking reasonable care under circumstances as they were at the time ... something that a sensible person would know could hurt someone.
gross negligence: more than carelessness ... failure to use even the slightest amount of care in a way that shows recklessness or willful disregard for the safety of others due to an act or failure to act ... defendant must have known of the danger to another (i.e., knew of a situation requiring ordinary care to avoid injuring another) and could have avoided injury by using ordinary care and failed to use ordinary care to prevent injuring another when a reasonable person would have seen that serious injury would likely result.
NO CONTEST PLEA
also known as a nolo contendere plea ... A plea in which the facts supporting the crime's elements come from a source other than the defendant's own words in court (generally, from police investigation reports, witnesses statements, photographs, etc.). A "nolo" plea is used when the defendant cannot recall his criminal actions (sometimes due to intoxication), or his verbal plea from a traditional guilty plea would be used in a potential civil law suit. Regardless, the defendant is treated by a sentencing judge the same as if he was convicted via a guilty plea or trial verdict.
NOLLE PROSEQUI
a form filed by a prosecutor to dismiss the prosecution of a particular defendant. A "nol pros" usually means the end of the matter, but can be filed "without prejudice" so that the prosecutor may reopen the case against the defendant at a later date. This device may not be used to deny the defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial.

 


O

ORDER
a decision of a court made in writing.

 

OUIL (Operating Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor)   [MCL 257.625]
commonly called "drunk driving". A person driving a vehicle while significantly or substantially affected by alcohol.
Penalty: Misdemeanor (1st & 2nd offenses --- up to 90 days jail (1st offense) or 1 year (2nd offense); fines; community service; 6 points assessed on driving record; mandatory license suspension of at least 6 months (1st offense) or 1 year revocation (2nd offense).
Penalty: Felony (3rd conviction for OUIL or UBAL in last 10 years) --- 1-5 years prison; fines; license revocation.
ORDINANCE
a legislative enactment by the governing body of a municipality or county, such as the county's Board of Commissioners.

 


P

P.A.A.M.
the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. PAAM is a voluntary association of Michigan's 83 elected prosecutors and their staffs, comprising over 700 prosecutors throughout Michigan. PAAM's mission is to provide services to the state's prosecuting attorneys in order to make local law enforcement of state laws more uniform and efficient statewide. PAAM works with the legislature to enact, revise and improve criminal laws and criminal procedure --- including such issues as truth-in-sentencing, juvenile justice, domestic violence, child protection, and victim's rights.
PAROLE
the conditional release from prison of a convict before the expiration of a felony sentence. The parolee (the released person) need not serve the remainder of his sentence, unless he violates terms of his release. The parolee is under the supervision of a state parole officer during the parole period.
PATERNITY
establishing legal "fatherhood".
PERJURY
knowingly making a material false statement while under oath to tell the truth.
PERSONAL PROTECTION ORDER (P.P.O.)
an injunctive order to prevent reoccurrences of acts or threats of assault and harassment.
PLAINTIFF
the person who originally filed a court action.
PLEA
the defendant's response to a criminal charge (guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere).
PLEA AGREEMENT / BARGAIN
an agreement between the Prosecutor and the defendant for the defendant to plead guilty or no-contest under certain terms and conditions. The agreement could include the defendant pleading to all pending charges with a sentence agreement, or pleading to less than all of his pending charges, or pleading to a less serious charge, or pleading guilty to one or more pending charges in exchange for dismissal of other unrelated charges. All plea agreements must be approved by the judge. Plea agreements are a means of arriving at a reasonable disposition without the necessity of a trial.
P.P.O.
See Personal Protection Order.

 

PRECEDENT
a court decision in an earlier case with facts and law similar to a dispute currently before a court. Precedent will ordinarily govern the decision of a later similar case, unless a party can show that it was wrongly decided or that it differed in some significant way.
PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION
a District Court evidentiary hearing for felonies where the Prosecutor must present evidence amounting to at least probable cause that the charged felony crime(s) in fact occurred and that the defendant committed it (them). Generally, the Prosecutor presents just a fraction of his total evidence and witnesses. The defendant (or his attorney) can cross-examine the People's witnesses, and present his own proofs to refute the People's evidence. If the Prosecutor meets his burden of proof, the case is "bound over" to Circuit Court for arraignment on an information, and possible trial.
PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCE
a scheduled meeting between the Prosecutor and defendant (or defendant's attorney), generally weeks before the trial date, to discuss plea bargains, trial issues, etc. The judge does not actively participate in misdemeanor pretrial conferences in district court, unless the meeting results in a plea. A circuit court judge may participate in a felony pretrial conference.
PROBABLE CAUSE
facts and circumstance sufficient to convince a person of reasonable caution that an offense has been committed; mere suspicion or belief, unsupported by facts or circumstances, is insufficient. A search warrant may be authorized, or a warrant-less arrest may be made, upon probable cause.
PROBATE COURT
has primary jurisdiction for cases involving wills, guardians and conservators, and mentally ill or developmentally disabled persons. After January 1, 1998, Probate Court judges may also be assigned to handle other cases assigned to the Family Division of Circuit Court, such as juvenile delinquency offenses, parental abuse/neglect actions, termination of parental rights, adoptions and name changes.
There are 79 probate courts in Michigan; probate judges are elected for 6-year terms.
PROBATION
a discretionary sentencing option for most misdemeanor and felony convictions where the defendant avoids some/all incarceration, and is released back into the community under the supervision of a probation officer for a specific time period, with many rules to follow. Some rules are standard (i.e., to not violate any more laws), while others are specific to the defendant or crime (i.e., alcohol counseling when convicted of OUIL). If the defendant violates any term of probation, the assigned probation officer (or the Prosecutor) can ask the sentencing judge to impose additional penalties.
PRO PER / PRO SE
a person who represents himself/herself in court without an attorney. The term comes from the Latin phrase in propria persona.
PROSECUTOR
an elected or appointed official vested with authority by a constitution, statute or ordinance to represent the public interest and take legal action against persons violating state or local criminal laws. Michigan's prosecutors are known as "Prosecuting Attorneys". In other states they are called District Attorneys, State's Attorneys, County Attorneys, Commonwealth's Attorneys, or other titles.

 


Q

QUASH
to nullify, void or declare invalid.

 


R

RAPE
See Criminal Sexual Conduct.

 

REASONABLE DOUBT
a fair, honest doubt based on the evidence produced at trial (or missing from the proofs). A reasonable doubt must be based on reason and common sense, not on conjecture, speculation, possibilities or imaginary scenarios.
REMAND
when an appellate court sends a case back to a lower court for further proceedings.
RESISTING / OBSTRUCTING A POLICE OFFICER
knowingly and intentionally obstructing, resisting, opposing, assaulting, beating or wounding a law enforcement officer who is engaged in his lawful acts or attempting to maintain the peace. The defendant's acts must have actually interfered with the officer in carrying out those duties.
Penalty: "High court" misdemeanor punishable by up to 2 years incarceration or a $1,000 fine.
RESTITUTION
payments ordered by the judge to repay victims for economic losses incurred as the result of the crime (property loss or injuries). Does not include compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress or other non-economic damages that can result in compensation through a civil law suit.
RETAIL FRAUD
[MCL 750.356c & .356d]
stealing merchandise (items offered for sale to the public) from a store while the store is open for business. Retail Fraud also occurs when a defendant "price switches" or tries to get a fraudulent refund. Retail fraud is a theft crime requiring proof that the item was taken intentionally (not accidentally), with the intent to steal. There are currently two "degrees" of Retail Fraud: First Degree (when more than $100 in goods is stolen, or for repeat offenders) and Second Degree (when less than $100 in goods is stolen).
on 1/1/1999, Michigan added another category to include three degrees of retail fraud:
  • 3rd Degree (under $200 stolen): --- Misdemeanor --- up to 93 days and/or $500 fine (or 3x merchandise's value)
  • 2nd Degree ($200 - under $1,000 stolen; or 3rd Degree with prior conviction): --- Misdemeanor --- up to 1 year and/or $2,000 fine (or 3x merchandise's value)
  • 1st Degree ($1,000 or more stolen; or 2nd Degree with prior conviction): --- Felony --- up to 5 years and/or $10,000 fine (or 3x merchandise's value)

 


S

SEARCH WARRANT
a court order that a specific location may be searched for items which, if found, can be seized by the government for possible use in court as evidence.
SELF DEFENSE
a legally-justified use of force to protect one's self, another person, or property against some injury attempted by another person ... the right to repel force with force ... the defendant (i) must have honestly and reasonably believed that he had to use force for protection, (ii) may use only the type and degree of force that seems necessary for protection at the time based on the circumstances known to him, (iii) must not have acted wrongfully and brought on the assault (i.e., provoked the attack) ... In Michigan, a Prosecutor has the burden of disproving a defendant's self-defense claim beyond a reasonable doubt.
SENTENCE
the punishment ordered by a court for a defendant convicted of a crime.
SENTENCING GUIDELINES
criteria adopted by the Legislature that determine an appropriate range a judge may impose for the minimum sentence on felonies and high court misdemeanors (i.e., the "60" in a "60 to 120 month" sentence). "Prior Record Variables" (PRVs) and "Offense Variables" (OVs) are calculated and applied to a Sentencing Range Grid. A judge may "depart" from the sentening guideline range (on either the high- or low-side) only where there are "substantial and compelling" reasons to do so.

     The Sentencing Guidelines can be seen at www.sado.org/guidelines.htm
SEQUESTER/SEQUESTRATION
a procedure to shelter a trial participant from outside influences. The term most frequently applies to witnesses, and prevents them from watching court proceedings and testimony (or talking outside the courtroom to other witnesses) before they actually testify. In very rare cases, a jury can be sequestered during part or all of a trial.
SEX OFFENDER
a person convicted as an adult or adjudicated as a juvenile of CSC, Indecent Exposure, Gross Indecency, or other similar enumerated crimes. The person must register with the Michigan State Police (and verify their home address quarterly) for a minimum of 25 years. Michigan's searchable database of adult sex offender registrants is maintained by the Michigan State Police. Many other states also have on-line sex offender registries (inspired by New Jersey's original "Megan's Law").

 

SHOPLIFTING
See Retail Fraud.
SHOW CAUSE HEARING
a court hearing held so a person can explain why (s)he should not be considered in violation of a specific court order.
SIDEBAR
a conference between the judge and lawyers held out of earshot of the jury and spectators.
SMALL CLAIMS COURT
a division of the District Court in which civil lawsuits seeking a maximum $1,750 damages is heard. Like television's The People's Court, the parties represent themselves without attorneys. Jury trials are not allowed. The judge's or magistrate's decision cannot be appealed. If either party objects to these conditions, the case will be transferred to the Civil Division of the District Court.
SPECIFIC INTENT
acting with intent to cause a particular result
a special mental element that must be proven for some crimes. For example, larceny requires proof that the defendant specifically intended to steal the victim's property (i.e., to permanently deprive the owner of the property); if the defendant unknowingly possessed the victim's property or was truly borrowing it temporarily, no theft/larceny occurred.
specific intent may be proved by what the defendant says, does, how he does it, etc.
STALKING
[MCL 750.411h & i]
Stalking is (a) two or more willful acts of (b) continuing harassment or un-consented contact (c) that would cause a reasonable individual to suffer emotional distress, (d) that actually cause the victim to suffer emotional distress, (e) that would also cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested, and (f) that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested. Note: ALL of these elements must be present for "stalking" to be proven.
     Penalty: Misdemeanor --- 1 year and/or $1,000 fine, up to 5 years probation
Aggravated Stalking is (i) violation of a restraining order of which the suspect has actual notice; or (ii) in violation of a condition of bond, probation or parole; or (iii) credible threats against the victim, a member of the victim's family or household; or (iv) by a person previously convicted of Stalking.
     Penalty: Felony --- 5 years and/or $10,000 fine; probation of at least five years.
Definitions of key terms:
purple diamond Continuing harassment means repeated instances of un-consented conduct that would cause a reasonable person emotional distress, and that actually causes emotional distress.
purple diamond Emotional distress means significant suffering or distress that may result in, but does not necessarily require, medical or other professional treatment or counseling.
purple diamond Un-consented contact means contact that you do not want or contact that you expressed that you wanted to avoid. This includes, but is not limited to, someone following you, confronting you at your workplace, phoning you, sending you mail, or placing objects on your property.
NOTE: Stalking a minor is now a 5-year felony. Aggravated stalking of a minor is now a 10-year felony (eff. April 1, 1998).
STANDING
a party's right to make a legal claim, or to seek judicial enforcement of a right or duty.
STARE DECISIS
the doctrine that once a principle of law has been determined to be applicable to certain facts, that principle will be followed in future cases involving substantially identical facts. This body of "case law" --- along with Common Law and statutes --- becomes the Laws of the Land.

 

STATUTE
a law passed by a legislature.
 
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
deadlines set by statute for filing criminal charges or civil lawsuits within a certain time after events occur that are the source of the charge or claim. The time limit on the right to seek relief in court.
 
SUBPOENA
a court order requiring a person to appear in court and give testimony as a witness, and/or to produce documents. An employer cannot act upon or threaten to discharge or discipline a witness for missing work to testify in court when subpoenaed.
SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM
a court order to produce documents. (Pronounced DOO-suhz TEE-kum.)
SUPREME COURT
the highest appeals court in Michigan. An appellant files an application for "leave to appeal" in the Supreme Court, which the Court can grant (accept) or deny (reject) at its discretion. If an application is granted, the Supreme Court will hear the case; if denied, the decision made by the lower court remains unchanged. The Supreme Court usually selects cases involving important constitutional issues and questions of public policy. The Supreme Court also has administrative duties --- general administrative supervision of all courts in the state, establishing rules for practice and procedure in all Michigan courts, etc.
The Supreme Court consists of seven justices: the chief justice and six associate justices. The justices are elected to serve 8-year terms. Every two years the justices vote to elect the chief justice.

T

TESTIMONY
evidence presented orally and under oath by witnesses during trials or other court proceedings.
TRANSCRIPT
the official record of the testimony adduced in a trial or hearing.
TRUTH IN SENTENCING
legislation requiring offenders to serve their entire minimum sentence without reduction for good behavior. These prisoners may also have their minimum sentence extended for "bad behavior" while in prison. These prisoners are not eligible for placement in a corrections center or on electronic monitoring ("tether"). The law went into effect 12/15/1998.

U

UBAL (Operating with an Unlawful Blood Alcohol Level)   [MCL 257.625]
commonly called per se drunk driving. A person must be operating a vehicle with at least a 0.10% blood-alcohol concentration. Unlike OUIL, it is irrelevant whether or not the driver is affected by the alcohol.
Penalty: Identical to a conviction for OUIL.

 

UDAA (Unlawfully Driving Away an Automobile)
[MCL 750.413]
car theft. Wilfully and without authority, taking possession of and driving or taking away (or assisting in or being a party to such taking possession, driving or taking away) of any motor vehicle belonging to another. Unlike Joyriding, U.D.A.A. requires proof of theft.
      Penalty: Felony --- up to 5 years.

V

VENUE
the geographic location (e.g., city or county) where an event occurred. A "change of venue" happens when a case is moved to a court in another county or to a court having other jurisdictional powers ... generally because the case should have been filed there originally, or for the convenience of the parties/witnesses, or because a fair trial cannot be had in the original court's location.
VICTIM
 
a person or entity who suffers direct or threatened physical, financial, or emotional harm as a result of the commission of a crime.
VOIR DIRE
 
the process of jury selection, generally involving the judge and attorneys asking potential jurors about their experiences and beliefs. The purpose is to determine if the jurors are appropriate for sitting on the case at hand. This French term (pronounced "vwa dear") means "to speak the truth".
 

W

WARRANT
a court order authorizing an arrest.
WITNESS
person who comes to court (sometimes by subpoena) and swears under oath to give truthful evidence.
WORK RELEASE
a probation program where the defendant is permitted to maintain employment while residing in jail. The defendant leaves jail on work days only for his work hours, plus limited travel time.

Y

Y.T.A.
see Holmes Youthful Trainee Act.


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