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The Probable Cause Conference in a Felony Proceeding

Ryan Fowler Sept. 25, 2023

empty courtroomNavigating the legal system can be confusing and the power of the state is often daunting. If you are charged with a crime, you will need to appear for several important court dates. Trying to decipher the meaning and purpose of various proceedings can seem like interpreting a foreign language. This post breaks down one of the first court dates in all felony prosecutions: the probable cause conference.

After you are arraigned, your next appearance is the probable cause conference. A Defendant is entitled to have the probable cause conference within 14-days after the date of arraignment. However, defendants and counsel frequently agree to adjourn the conference at a later date, or it may be waived altogether by agreement between the prosecutor and defendant.

The purpose of the probable cause conference is for the prosecutor, defendant, and defense attorney to have early discussions regarding plea negotiations, bond conditions and modifications, stipulations regarding the case, or any other administrative or procedural matters relevant to the case. MCL 766.4 (1)(a)-(d).

If you are represented by an attorney, this is one of the first times they advocate on your behalf to court and the prosecutor. [Everyone receives a court-appointed lawyer at their arraignment; often times, the court-appointed lawyers are “retained out”, meaning they step aside in favor of the attorney retained for a fee by the defendant or her family. Generally, the probable cause conference will take place in a private conference room or meeting area, and not on the record or in open court.

Here are three typical outcomes following flowing from the probable cause conference:

  • You or your attorney will work out a plea deal with prosecutor resolving the case at the district court level. You will put that plea on the record before the judge assigned to your case and then get a return court date for sentencing.

  • You will waive the preliminary exam (explored in a separate blog post), and the case will be bound over to circuit court for trial.

  • You will schedule a date to hold the preliminary examination.

Clarkston Legal explores the pros and cons of holding or waiving the preliminary exam in a separate blog post, but at the probable cause conference, if you do not accept an offered plea, you will with either be waiving the preliminary examination, or you will be returning to court at a future date to hold the preliminary examination.

The preliminary examination is conducted at the district court where your case originated. Usually, the prosecutor only calls a few absolutely necessary witnesses designed to present a "bare bones" version of the state's case. More on the PE in a future post.

If you find yourself in the stressful position of being charged with a felony, an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial to achieving a favorable outcome. At Clarkston Legal we alleviate the inherent stress throughout the process by treating all of our client’s with respect, compassion, and care while we zealously advocate on their behalf to achieve the best possible outcome. If you are looking for an experienced criminal defense attorney, contact our law firm to schedule a free consultation.