This program enables criminal defendants to enter felony pleas at the district court, provided the defendant, defense attorney and prosecutor agree on the record. This eliminates the need for a circuit court arraignment and could reduce the length of stay in jail by two weeks or more.
Why are the courts implementing this pilot program?
The program is an effort to dispose of cases in an expedited fashion. On many low-end felonies, defendants often receive a sentence that includes time served while awaiting disposition. By entering a plea at the district court, the length of stay in jail could be reduced by two weeks or more. This will result in a benefit to the defendant and to the management of the jail inmate population.
Can a plea on a felony be taken in any district court?
Yes, all district courts in Oakland County are participating in this program.
Are there circumstances that would preclude the taking of a plea in the district court?
A plea is voluntary. The defendant, defense attorney and prosecutor must consent, on the record, before a felony plea may be taken in the district court.
Are all circuit civil/criminal division judges participating in the program?
Will the circuit judge assigned to the case be known prior to taking the plea?
What is the procedure for taking a plea in the district court?
Following discussions with the assistant prosecutor, if all parties are in agreement, a "Plea Packet" should be obtained that will contain all forms needed. The assistant prosecutor should be able to direct you to where the packets can be located. The packet will contain a plea form, DNA form, waiver form, probation referral form and the PSI Packet. The defense attorney and client should complete the plea form and the probation referral form just as they would if pleading in Circuit Court. The assistant prosecutor will be able to assist in completing the DNA form. Once the case is bound over to the Circuit Court, the waiver form should be signed and the District Court judge will proceed with the taking of the plea. At the conclusion of the plea the defense attorney should return the plea, DNA and the probation referral forms to the court clerk. A notice with the date and time for sentencing will be printed and distributed to the parties. The PSI Packet should be given defendants that are out on bond at the time of the plea.
Can a plea only be taken if the Preliminary Exam is waived?
A plea may be taken either after the waiver or at the conclusion of the exam.
Will the sentencing guidelines be available prior to the bind over?
For this program, the sentencing guidelines will be prepared by Community Corrections after the authorization of the warrant. Defense attorneys can receive a copy of the preliminary sentencing guidelines by contacting the Office of Community Corrections at 248-452-2155 between 7:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
What if there is a change in the sentencing guidelines and they exceed those provided at the district court?
If there is a change from the preliminary sentencing guidelines or the circuit judge exceeds the guidelines as stated on the waiver form, the defendant can withdraw his/her plea and the case will be set for trial before the Circuit judge.
How will these cases be billed?
Defense attorneys should submit a voucher to the Circuit Administrator's office in the usual fashion. The plea should be noted under the "District Court Action" column of the voucher form and have the same date as the Preliminary Exam (a sample voucher is included in the "Plea Packet"). Although there is one less circuit court appearance, attorneys will continue to be compensated at the same rate they would be if the plea were to take place at circuit court.
Who should I contact if I have questions?
You may contact:
- Amy Bowen-Krane, Chair of the Oakland County Bar Association's Criminal Law Committee, at 248-559-5152
- Lisa Czyz at 248-452-2190 or Sue Bennington at 248-858-4005, both of the Circuit Court Administrator's Office.