Criminal Law Blog
Three Rivers - Criminal Defense Law Blog

Warrants and Criminal Charges

Posted December 2, 2018

A defendant has a constitutional right to be informed of the nature of the charges pending against him or her. A criminal complaint must be sufficiently specific to apprise the accused of the nature of the charges. A complaint is a written accusation that a named or described person has committed a specified criminal offense, and it must include the substance of the accusation against the accused and the name and statutory citation of the offense.

A criminal complaint must also “adequately inform of the substance of the accusations,” and its factual allegations must “provide the basis from which commission of the legal elements of the charge can be inferred.

Criminal prosecutions may be initiated in the court having jurisdiction over the charge upon the filing of an information. The basis of an information is a signed warrant and complaint. The complaint must state the substance of the alleged crime and reasonable cause to believe that the person named in the complaint is the person who committed the crime. The complaint must be signed and sworn to before a judicial officer or court clerk. A complaint may not be filed without a prosecutor’s written approval or unless security for costs is filed with the court.

A court must issue an arrest warrant, or a summons if presented with a proper complaint and if the court finds probable cause to believe that the accused committed the alleged offense. The probable cause determination “may be based on hearsay evidence and rely on factual allegations in the complaint, affidavits from the complainant or others, the testimony of a sworn witness adequately preserved to permit review, or any combination of these sources.” MCR 6.102(B).

The court may issue a summons instead of an arrest warrant if requested by the prosecutor. MCR 6.103(A). The court rule provides for the form of the summons, as well as its service and return. MCR 6.103(B)–MCR 6.103(C). The procedures for arraignment on the warrant or complaint are governed by MCR 6.104.2 A person in custody “must be taken without unnecessary delay before a court.” MCR 6.104(A). At a defendant’s arraignment, the court must address issues of pretrial release, possible appointment of counsel, and scheduling the defendant’s preliminary examination. Before an information is filed, the person accused has a right to a preliminary examination to determine whether a crime has been committed and whether there is probable cause to believe that the person accused committed it.. If the case is bound over to circuit court after arraignment in district court, an information must be filed on or before the date set for arraignment in circuit court.

Absent a timely objection and a showing of prejudice, a court may not dismiss an information or reverse a conviction because of an untimely filing or because of an incorrectly cited statute or a variance between the information and proof regarding time, place, the manner in which the offense was committed, or other factual detail relating to the alleged offense.

Michigan Constitution 1963, art 1, § 20

People v Higuera, 244 Mich App 429, 442443 (2001).


Suppressing Evidence:

Posted November 23, 2018

The federal and state constitutions prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures. US Const, Am IV; Const 1963, art 1, § 11; People v Kazmierczak, 461 Mich 411, 417 (2000). The reasonableness of a search or seizure is determined by balancing the governmental interest that justifies the intrusion against an individual’s right to be free of arbitrary police interference. Terry (John) v Ohio, 392 US 1, 2021 (1968).

The Fourth Amendment does not require a police officer who lacks the precise level of information necessary for probable cause to arrest to simply shrug his or her shoulders and allow a crime to occur or a criminal to escape. People v Nelson, 443 Mich 626, 638 (1993), quoting Adams (Frederick) v Williams (Robert), 407 US 143, 145 (1972).

The protections against unreasonable searches and seizures provided in the United States and Michigan constitutions apply to three categories of encounters between the police and citizens:

  • Arrests, for which the Fourth Amendment requires that the police have probable cause to believe that a person has committed or is committing a crime, People v Shabaz, 424 Mich 42, 59 (1985);
  • Investigatory stops (Terry1 stops), which are limited to brief, nonintrusive detentions. In order to justify an investigatory stop, the police must have specific and articulable facts sufficient to give rise to a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed or is committing a crime, Shabaz, 424 Mich at 57; and
  • Situations in which there is no restraint upon the citizen’s liberty and the officer is seeking the citizen’s voluntary cooperation through noncoercive questioning, Shabaz, 424 Mich at 5657.

Courts frequently entertain motions to suppress evidence that is based on a violation of the Fourth Amendment. This section briefly addresses the two most common types of motions related to this issue. When addressing a challenged search or seizure, several preliminary questions may be appropriate:

  • Was there a search or seizure?
  • Does the defendant have standing to challenge the search?
  • Where did the search take place?
  • Was a warrant required?
  • Was there probable cause?
  • Is exclusion the remedy if a violation is found?


Evidence of Other Crimes, Wrongs, or Acts:

Posted October 9, 2018

Michigan Rules of Evidence (MRE) 404(b), MCL 768.27, MCL 768.27a, and MCL 768.27b provide rules for the admission of evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts. MRE 404(b) applies to the admissibility of evidence of other acts of any person, such as a defendant, a plaintiff, or a witness.

A ruling on whether to admit MRE 404(b) evidence does not require an evidentiary hearing if no motion in limine was filed. MCL 768.27a governs the admissibility of evidence of sexual offenses against minors. MCL 768.27a permits the admission of evidence that MRE 404(b) precludes. MCL 768.27b governs the admissibility of evidence of acts of domestic violence. Priorbadacts evidence of domestic violence can be admitted at trial because ‘a full and complete picture of a defendant’s history . . . tends to shed light on the likelihood that a given crime was committed.

People v Watkins (Watkins II), 491 Mich 450, 470, (2012).