Criminal Law Blog
Battle Creek - Criminal Defense Law Blog

Understanding Your Rights When Entering a Plea:

Posted December 2, 2018

A guilty plea cannot be “understandingly” made unless the defendant has knowledge of the consequences of his or plea. Automatic reversal is mandated where the record does not affirmatively show that before pleading guilty, a defendant was advised that his or her guilty plea waived a trio of constitutional rights known as the BoykinJaworski rights. Boykin v Alabama, 395 US 238, 279280 (1969) The three constitutional rights waived by a defendant’s guilty plea are:

  • the right to a trial by jury,
  • the right to confront one’s accusers, and
  • the privilege against selfincrimination.

MCR 6.610(E)(3)(b) requires a court to advise a defendant of the trial rights that are waived by a guilty or no contest plea. MCR 6.610(E)(3) states: The court shall advise the defendant of the following: that if the plea is accepted the defendant will not have a trial of any kind and that the defendant gives up the following rights that the defendant would have at trial:

  • the right to have witnesses called for the defendant’s defense at trial,
  • the right to crossexamine all witnesses called against the defendant,
  • the right to testify or to remain silent without an inference being drawn from said silence,
  • the presumption of innocence and the requirement that the defendant’s guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Michigan Supreme Court specifically approved of a trial court’s “grouping” of a defendant’s rights in the court’s recital of rights to a defendant. Provided that the record at a plea proceeding reflects that none of the three BoykinJaworski rights was omitted, reversal is not necessarily required where each right is not explained separately or is imprecisely recited.

Boykin v Alabama, 395 US 238, 279280 (1969).


Speedy Trial and the 180 Day Rule:

Posted November 11, 2018

A defendant must be released on personal recognizance if he or she has been incarcerated for a period of 28 days or more (misdemeanor cases) or 180 days or more (felony cases) to answer for the same crime or a crime based on the same conduct or arising from the same criminal episode . . . unless the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is likely either to fail to appear for future proceedings or to present a danger to any other person or the community. MCR 6.004(C).

The 28day and 180day periods do not include:

  • periods of delay resulting from other proceedings concerning the defendant, including but not limited to competency and criminal responsibility proceedings, pretrial motions, interlocutory appeals, and the trial of other charges,
  • the period of delay during which the defendant is not competent to stand trial,
  • the period of delay resulting from an adjournment requested or consented to by the defendant’s lawyer,
  • the period of delay resulting from an adjournment requested by the prosecutor, but only if the prosecutor demonstrates on the record either
  • the unavailability, despite the exercise of due diligence, of material evidence that the prosecutor has reasonable cause to believe will be available at a later date; or
  • exceptional circumstances justifying the need for more time to prepare the state’s case,a reasonable period of delay when the defendant is joined for trial with a codefendant as to whom the time for trial has not run, but only if good cause exists for not granting the defendant a severance so as to enable trial within the time limits applicable, and
  • any other periods of delay that in the court’s judgment are justified by good cause, but not including delay caused by docket congestion.

MCR 6.004(C)(1)(6).

Plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity:

Posted October 3, 2018

Before accepting a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, the court must comply with the requirements of MCR 6.302, except that MCR 6.304(C) (rather than MCR 6.302(D)) governs the manner of determining the accuracy of the plea. MCR 6.304(A). Before accepting a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, the court must examine the psychiatric reports prepared and hold a hearing that establishes support for findings that:

  • the defendant committed the acts charged, and
  • that, by a preponderance of the evidence, the defendant was legally insane at the time of the offense.” MCR 6.304(C).

Legal insanity means that, as a result of mental illness . . . or as a result of having an intellectual disability, a person lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his or her conduct or to conform his or her conduct to the requirements of the law. MCL 768.21a(1).

However, mental illness or having an intellectual disability does not otherwise constitute a defense of legal insanity. Mental illness “means a substantial disorder of thought or mood that significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life.” MCL 330.1400(g); MCL 768.21a(1). After complying with the applicable requirements of MCR 6.302, the court must advise the defendant, and determine whether the defendant understands that the plea will result in the defendant’s commitment for diagnostic examination at the center for forensic psychiatry for up to 60 days, and that after the examination, the probate court may order the defendant to be committed for an indefinite period of time. MCR 6.304(B).

After accepting the defendant’s plea, the trial court must immediately commit the defendant to the custody of the center for forensic psychiatry for a period not to exceed 60 days. MCL 330.2050(1). The court must forward to the center for forensic psychiatry a full report, in the form of a settled record, of the facts concerning the crime to which the defendant pleaded and the defendant’s mental state at the time of the crime. MCR 6.304(D); MCL 330.2050(1).

The defendant may secure an independent psychiatric evaluation by a clinician of his or her choice on the issue of his or her insanity at the time the alleged offense was committed. MCL 768.20a(3). If the defendant is indigent and makes a showing of good cause, the trial court may order the county to pay for an independent psychiatric evaluation.