Drug Crimes Glossary of Terms
Acquittal - When a defendant is acquitted, he or she is found not guilty. An acquittal means that the prosecutor could not prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and is not a declaration of innocence.
Arraignment - An arraignment hearing is when the defendant appears for the first time before a judge. You will be informed of the charge you face at your arraignment.
Arrest warrant - Police and peace officers may request an arrest warrant in order to arrest a suspect; this requires an order issued by a judge or magistrate.
Bail - Bail is security that if released from jail, you will appear for future court hearings. Third parties may also pay bail, which means that the third party vouches on behalf of the defendant that he/she will appear at future court dates.
Circuit Court - The highest-level trial court in Michigan, also having the broadest range of power. Drug crime cases, that are classified as felony charges are tried in circuit court.
Consecutive sentence - When a defendant is convicted of more than one criminal offense, he/she may be ordered to serve the sentence for each offense consecutively, or one after the other. This means that the sentences for multiple crimes will not be served at the same time. In most cases, there must be specific statutory authority in order for a consecutive sentence to be imposed on a defendant.
Conspiracy - A conspiracy exists when two or more individuals agree, whether express or implied, to commit an illegal act, or a legal act in a manner that is illegal.
Conviction - When an individual is convicted of a criminal offense, it means that the jury or judge has determined that the accused individual is guilty of the crime.
Defendant - You are a defendant if you have been formally charged with committing a criminal offense, or crime.
District court - District court is where criminal cases for individuals 17 and older begin. Misdemeanor cases are tried in district court when punishment does not go beyond one year. The district court is also where initial arraignments are conducted, and bond set/accepted. Preliminary examinations in felony cases are also conducted in district court, of which there are about 100 throughout Michigan.
Drug Lifer Law - This law which was passed in 1978 initially required that all individuals convicted for delivering, possessing, or conspiracy to possess opiate narcotics or cocaine in amounts of 650 or more grams spend life in prison. Since that time, Michigan’s Supreme Court has removed possession from the law. Today, the law has been revised, allowing for individuals convicted to be sentenced to 20 years to life, with eligibility for parole.
Entrapment - When police engage in reprehensible or impermissible conduct in an effort to cause an individual who is law-abiding to commit a crime under circumstances that he or she would normally not commit, it may be considered entrapment by the court.
Felony - When sentencing for a criminal offense or drug crime goes beyond more than one-year potential jail/prison time, it is considered a felony.
Grand jury - While rarely used in Michigan state courts, Federal courts often rely on a group of citizens referred to as the "grand jury" in felony criminal cases to examine prosecutor's evidence and decide whether there is probable cause for the individual to be prosecuted.
Miranda warning - Individuals who are taken into custody must be read their Miranda rights, which informs the individual the he or she is not required to talk to police, that he/she has the right to legal counsel before talking to police, and that his/her silence will not be held against the individual.
Misdemeanor - A criminal offense, including drug crimes, that carry a maximum prison or jail sentence of one year or less.
Parole - An individual who is granted parole may be released from prison prior to the expiration of the sentence for a felony offense. Parolees are under the supervision of a parole officer for the term of the parole, and will only serve the remainder of his/her sentence if the terms of release are violated.
Plea - A plea is an individual who has been charged with a crime's response to that charge; i.e. no contest, guilty, or not guilty.
Plea agreement - Plea agreements must be approved by a judge, and are often used in order to reach a reasonable disposition without going to trial. It is essentially an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor for the defendant to plead no-contest or guilty when specific conditions and terms are met. Defendants who are charged with multiple offenses often plead guilty to only a portion of those offenses in order to avoid more severe penalties.
Preliminary examination - Held in district court, a preliminary examination is often referred to as an evidentiary hearing. This is where the prosecutor, which must amount to a minimum of probable cause for an individual charged with a felony offense, presents evidence. A portion of the evidence is presented, along with witnesses. If it is determined that the burden of proof is met by the prosecutor, the case is then bound over to circuit court for further proceedings including an arraignment hearing and potential trial.
Probable cause - Police must have reasonable grounds for pressing charges against an individual or obtaining a search warrant in order to perform a search for evidence.
Probation - Probation is the release of the defendant from jail/prison while he/she will remain under court supervision, and must conform to good behavior for a specified time period. If the defendant violates terms of probation, the judge may be asked by a prosecutor or probation officer to impose additional penalties.
Search warrant - Police or investigators may request a court order giving permission that a specified location may be searched in order to potentially seize evidence which may be used in court against a defendant.
Sentencing guidelines - Michigan state legislature created the sentencing guidelines, which essentially give judges a range on how an individual convicted of a certain felony offense should be sentenced. Judges may depart from these guidelines either to the low or high side only when compelling or substantial reasons to do so exist.
Verdict - The decision made by a judge or jury on the issues submitted to the court regarding whether the defendant is innocent or guilty.
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