As part of an ongoing series of “Short Version” Blog articles which summarize the essential points from previous, full-coverage versions of the same subject, we’ll turn to the subject of Pre-Trials in Misdemeanor Cases. In the full-version Blog posts on this subject, we broke the subject into 2 parts: Part 1 dealt with the various technical terms involved in a Misdemeanor Pre-Trial, and Part 2 dealt with what happens when the Prosecutor and the Defense Lawyer discuss how to resolve a Criminal Case.
In my Practice as Criminal Defense Attorney, I almost exclusively handle cases in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne Counties. On occasion, I’ll handle a matter in St. Clair, Lapeer, or Livingston County. My point is that what I write about in this Blog really arises from my day-to-day experience in the Metropolitan Detroit area.
The term “Pre-Trial” is both descriptive and helpful in understanding the nature and purpose of the proceeding. A Pre-Trial is, at the heart of the matter, a meeting between the Defense Lawyer and the Prosecutor to discuss the issues involved in any particular case, and how they can be worked out. In practice, the Pre-Trial is a meeting pre, or prior to, an actual Trial, to see if the whole Trial thing can be avoided.
The vast, vast majority of Criminal Cases are resolved through a Plea, or Plea Bargain. Only a relatively small percentage of cases actually go to Trial and result in a verdict of either “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.” Most Plea Bargains are worked out at the Pre-Trial stage. Therefore, the Pre-Trial is very important in the Criminal process.
When we talk about a “Plea Deal” or a “Plea Bargain,” we’re talking about everything from a way to keep the whole case off of someone’s record, to reducing the charge, or just working out a deal to keep someone out of Jail.
Sometimes, a Pre-Trial results in the scheduling of another Pre-Trial, as both sides work toward a resolution. Sometimes, a matter will be scheduled for a Trial, with the hope that some deal can be worked out to avoid the expense and hassle involved in actually trying a case. This is not to say that Trials are not necessary; people are sometimes charged with crimes of which they are not guilty. Those cases, while more the exception rather than the rule, should be decided after a full airing of the facts.
It is during the Pre-Trial that both the Prosecutor and the Defense Lawyer learn what the other side has by way of evidence, witnesses, and the like. Sometimes one Party or the other discovers that their side of the case is much stronger than they thought, or, on the flip side, that their side of the case isn’t nearly as good as they thought. Whatever the facts, the Pre-Trial really represents the first, solid opportunity for each Party to get a clear picture of both the strengths and weaknesses of both sides of a Criminal Case.
In the end, most Pre-Trials result in a Plea Bargain that puts the case to rest. As an example, the majority of Drivers charged with a First Offense Drunk Driving are able, through the negotiations of their Lawyer, to avoid the penalties associated with that Offense and instead work out a Plea Bargain to the less serious charge of Impaired Driving.
Whether a case is strong, or weak, and whether a Plea deal or Plea Bargain can, or even should be worked out, are all part of what make the Pre-Trial so important. It is the first and best opportunity for the 2 sides to get together and take and honest, hard look at the case and work toward its final resolution.