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Frequently Asked Questions

 

UPDATED: June 6, 2014

 

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We receive many e-mails from visitors to our site, and try to respond whenever possible and appropriate. Here are some of the most Frequently-Asked Questions, and our answers.

If you cannot find an answer to your question here, check out our other topical FAQs on our Victim, Witness, Personal Protection Order and Family Support pages.

 

 

 

Where is Eaton County?

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Eaton County is located in the south-central area of Michigan's lower peninsula (the part that looks like a mitten). Eaton County is bordered to the east by Ingham County (Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, Okemos, etc.), to the north by Clinton County (DeWitt, St. Johns, etc.) and Ionia County, to the west by Barry County (Hastings), and to the south by Calhoun County (Battle Creek) and Jackson County.

Eaton County is easy to get to. Interstate highway I-69 (which runs from Port Huron, MI south through Indiana and beyond) spans Eaton County, from our north-east corner to our south-west. Interstate I-96 (which runs from Detroit to Lake Michigan) travels along our north-east corner and northern border.

Eaton County had 103,655 residents in the 2000 census. The City of Charlotte (pop. 8,389) is the county seat. Our largest concentration of residents is in Delta Township (pop. 29,682), in the County's northeast corner, adjacent to the City of Lansing. Some of the communities in Eaton County are Bellevue, Charlotte, Dimondale, Eaton Rapids, Grand Ledge, Mulliken, Olivet, Potterville, Sunfield and Vermontville.


 

How can I become a Prosecuting Attorney?

Each of Michigan's 83 counties elects a Prosecuting Attorney every four years (during the Presidential election). Depending on staffing needs and budgets, the Prosecuting Attorney may hire Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys. Small counties may not have any APAs, while the largest counties may have several hundred to handle high caseloads and the wide-ranging responsibilities imposed on prosecutors by statute.

Prosecuting Attorneys and APAs are lawyers, licensed to practice in Michigan. As with other, prosecutors generally complete a four-year college degree and then go to law school, which generally takes three more years. After graduation, most states (including Michigan) require lawyers to pass an examination to become licensed to practice law in that state. Michigan's "bar exam" takes two days, but other states' exams take three days.

Job openings in Prosecuting Attorney office occur periodically. If you are interested in working in a particular county, you should contact that Prosecuting Attorney for information on job openings, qualification requirements, etc.


 

I want to work in your office. Do you have any job openings? What is the pay scale?

Our office occasionally has job openings. You should check the main Eaton County web site for current employment postings.

Other Prosecuting Attorney offices may have career opportunities for attorneys, clerical staff, victim services coordinators, investigators, etc. Check out the Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council web site for recent openings. The US Attorney's office and the Department of Justice occasionally post job openings, too.

Nobody becomes a Prosecutor for the pay. The rewards are in making a difference in the community, seeing that justice is done, and speaking for victims of crime. The pay scale for Prosecutors and APAs varies from county to county. In Eaton County, salaries range from around $40,000 to $80,000.


 

Is your job risky or dangerous?

Many of the cases we handle involve facts and people that are emotional. Occasionally, that emotion is directed at the prosecutor, who is representing the community's interests in the case. Prosecutors in Michigan and throughout the country have been threatened, attacked, and tragically killed. But these incidents are rare. The physical risks in our jobs are not significant.


 

I feel that a crime has been committed. How do I press charges? Can I report a crime directly to the Prosecutor's office?

Crimes are investigated by the police, not the Prosecutor. Crimes should be reported to the police department or other law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction where the crime occurred. For example, crimes occurring inside the City of Charlotte should be reported to the Charlotte Police Department. Likewise, crimes occurring within the boundaries of Eaton Rapids, Grand Ledge, Potterville, Olivet and Bellevue should be reported to their municipal police departments. If the crime was committed elsewhere inside Eaton County, or in an area where the Eaton County Sheriff is the contracting law enforcement agency (e.g., Delta Township), the crime should be reported to the Sheriff. You may also contact the Michigan State Police Department.

Once the initial investigation has been completed, the police department's report is filed with the Prosecuting Attorney. The Prosecutor reviewing the warrant request may send the case back to the police for further investigation. Ultimately, the reviewing Prosecutor decides what charge(s), if any, will be issued and when the charges(s) should be issued.


 

How do I press counter-charges against someone?

This request generally arises from assaults. Regardless of whether you have already been charged, if you believe that a crime has been committed against you, go to the appropriate police department to file a complaint and request an investigation. Your case will be reviewed on its own merits.


 

I am the victim. Can I drop the charge?

Many people incorrectly believe that a victim has the power to "press charges" against the abuser, or to later "drop the charges".

All crimes are offenses against the community, not just the individual victim. Criminal complaints are prosecuted on behalf of the State of Michigan, not the individual who called the police or the person who may have been personally harmed by the defendant's conduct. ONLY the Prosecuting Attorney can issue or dismiss charges. This is important because it takes the responsibility for prosecuting the abuser off the victim's shoulders and puts it on the Prosecuting Attorney's, where it legally belongs. It also means that the defendant cannot "pressure" the victim into dropping the charges.

Although the decision whether to prosecute or not prosecute is ultimately up to the Prosecuting Attorney, the victim's opinion is important and the Prosecuting Attorney will take those wishes into account when making decisions about the case. A variety of factors are taken into account when deciding whether to honor a complainant's request not to proceed with a prosecution, including the nature and extent of the defendant's prior criminal history, the severity of the alleged crime, whether the defendant has other pending charges in the criminal justice system, and future danger to the community (including the current victim).


 

Can you tell me if a charge has been issued yet?
Can you tell me if an arrest warrant exists?

No.

The Prosecuting Attorney's office only authorizes a criminal complaint; the court authorizes an arrest warrant, and the police department that investigates the case has the responsibility to find and arrest the defendant. The Prosecuting Attorney's office may not know if an arrest warrant is still outstanding, because that information is known by the police and the court. The defendant (or anyone asking about whether a warrant is still open) must contact the police agency handling the case. That department may be able to answer the question.

If the Prosecuting Attorney's office told a defendant that an arrest warrant was still outstanding, the defendant might flee.


 

How do I get my property back?

If your property was stolen and recovered by the police, it can sometimes be returned to you before the case is done; if the items are important pieces of evidence, in most cases we will need to keep the property secured in police custody. Ultimately, the decision whether evidence is released must be made by one of our office's attorneys.

Download our Request for Return of Property form, or contact Heather Hicks, our Victim-Witness Coordinator at (517) 543-4835, for a copy. Return the completed form to our office so an APA can review it. You may be asked to present pictured identification.


 

Where do I get court forms?

Most court actions require a specific form to be filed with the court. Some forms are "local forms", and were created for use in one court. Other forms are used state-wide. You may be able to get a free copy of a court form that you need by contacting the court clerk.

If you are not sure which forms you need, a book of court forms may be available in the law library nearest you. After you know which court forms you need, you can make copies or write down the form numbers and contact a commercial forms printer for copies. Forms developed by the State Court Administrative Office should be photocopied, because most are not available from a printer.

Most of the SCAO Approved forms are also available as a PDF (portable document format) and can be filled in online and then printed. Go to courts.michigan.gov/scao/courtforms/, or our Downloads page.

REMEMBER: Court forms are only tools to assist in the processing of a court case. The forms do not guide you through the court process. If you do not have an attorney, you will need to understand the laws pertaining to your type of case.


 

I want to get a copy of a police report. How do I get a copy? Is it free?

If you are a defendant in a criminal or juvenile case, and you have an attorney, he or she will obtain a copy of the police report for you from our office; you can get a personal copy from your lawyer.

If you are a defendant and do not have an attorney --- or are just an interested citizen --- you can obtain a copy of a police report after the defendant has been arraigned on the charged offense. You will be charged for a police report and should appear in person at the Prosecuting Attorney's office to pick up the report. You should call ahead to request the copy, so that your copying fee can be determined, and sufficient time can be arranged by our staff to copy the report.


 

I want to get a copy of a person's criminal record. How do I get a copy? Is it free?

Many prosecuting attorney offices have direct access to computer networks with information about people's criminal histories. However, the privilege to access that information is limited. One limitation is that we can only search for criminal histories when they are directly related to a law-enforcement need, such as an on-going criminal prosecution. Another is that we cannot give the public copies of the criminal history information we uncover because doing so would violate LEIN rules.

However, the Michigan State Police operates the Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT), from which anyone can search the official MSP criminal history record database for $10.00 per search, using MasterCard or Visa. (Non-profit, charitable organizations may qualify for free ICHAT searches if criminal history checks are needed on people who work with children or the frail elderly.) For each search, you need the person's full name, sex, race and date of birth.

ICAT's criminal history database covers only Michigan convictions, and is updated daily with felony and misdemeanor conviction information provided by law enforcement, prosecuting attorneys and courts throughout the State. Your search includes only Michigan felony or misdemeanor arrests where a person has been convicted in a court, and where the conviction has been added to that person's criminal history record. It does not include arrests without a conviction, outstanding warrants, federal arrests or arrests from other states.

A search for a criminal record from another state requires you to correspond directly with the criminal record repository of that state.


 

The defendant is not paying court-ordered restitution. Who can help me?

Call the District or Circuit Court's probation department at the Courthouse --- (517) 543-7500 --- and ask for the probation officer who is assigned to the case. The probation officer can help you get your money if restitution was a condition of the defendant's probation and if the defendant is still on probation.

If the probation has expired and your restitution has not been paid in full, see a private lawyer. A criminal case restitution order is a court order that expires only when the restitution has been paid in full. If the court-ordered restitution covers all of your claims, then you do not have to separately sue the defendant. You can enforce the criminal case's restitution order like any civil judgment (e.g., garnishment of wages, attachment of property, etc.).


 

I was the victim of a violent crime. Will the Prosecuting Attorney pay for my hospital bill and my lost wages, help me collect for pain and suffering, etc?

No. However, the Michigan Crime Victim's Compensation Fund may be able to help you with un-reimbursed medical expenses and lost income. With regard to compensation for pain and suffering, you may need to contact a private attorney.


 

I have been cheated by a contractor, shopkeeper or other person who provides labor or services. Can the Prosecuting Attorney help me?

The Michigan Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division --- toll-free at (877) 765-8388, or locally at (517) 373-1140 --- may be able to help. They may also be able to refer you to an agency that can help you.


 

Can you tell me a defendant's next court date?

Did you check our Key Cases Calendar page? Our most asked-about cases are listed there.

Our office can provide you with information about upcoming court schedules if we filed charges against the defendant. Call us at (517) 543-4801 for assistance. You can also call the court handling the defendant's case.


 

I want a divorce. I also need help getting child support. Can the Prosecutor's office help me?

The Prosecutor's office cannot provide legal advice or take legal action in your divorce. You should consult with a private lawyer. We can help you obtain a child support order, but the Friend of the Court is responsible for enforcing the order. For more information, see our Family Support web page, or contact Carrie McConnell or Lisa Kozitzki, our Child Support SpecialistsCarrie (517) 543-4897 or Lisa 543-4890.


 

I want a restraining order to keep someone away from me. Will the Prosecuting Attorney do this for me?

Yes. Please see our Personal Protection Order (PPO) web page.


 

I have been subpoenaed to appear as a witness in a criminal case. Can I get witness fees? What if I can't attend on the date stated in the subpoena?

Whether a witness receives any witness fee is within the discretion of the court. A court can order that you receive witness fees ($6 per morning or afternoon court session that you are ordered to attend), plus mileage ($0.10 per mile, round trip). If you have a date conflict you should contact our Witness Coordinator, Heather Hicks, immediately to discuss your conflict.


 

Can I talk to Mr. Sauter? I think he's the person who is working on my case since his name appears on my court documents.

Mr. Sauter is the elected Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney, so his name appears on most criminal court documents, and our office correspondence. However, he may not be personally handling the case in court. Please call our office to talk with the Prosecutor handling your case, or to arrange a meeting. If you still have questions or concerns, you may request an appointment with Mr. Sauter.


 

How do I get a court-appointed attorney?

The Prosecutor plays no role in whether you get a court-appointed attorney. You must ask the judge handling your case (generally at your arraignment). The judge will decide whether you are "indigent" (i.e., cannot afford to hire a lawyer) based on your income, assets and financial obligations, as well as the seriousness of the charge. For many misdemeanor cases, the judge will let you conduct a pre-trial conference on your own; if the case is not resolved to your liking at that meeting, you can apply for a court appointed attorney. A court appointed attorney is not necessarily a "free" lawyer. The judge may still order you to repay the County for your attorney's bill.


 

I am a defendant and I don't like the attorney who is representing me. Can I talk to Mr. Sauter or one of the Assistant Prosecutors about my case?

No. All attorneys are governed by a State Bar of Michigan's Rules of Professional Conduct, which prevent them from speaking directly to anyone who is already represented by an attorney on the same matter. As long as you are represented by an attorney, we may speak only to your attorney. Any questions that you have about your case should be answered by your attorney. If you continue to be dissatisfied with your court-appointed attorney, you will have to contact the judge assigned to your case.


 

Why are some cases plea bargained?

There are not enough prosecutors, judges, courtrooms, or trial days on the calendar to put all the thousands of cases every year in Eaton County before a jury. For those defendants taken to trial, or for those who plead guilty before a trial, there are not enough jail cells in the state to hold them. These practical demands, plus the defendant's speedy trial rights, the seriousness of the cases, the strengths or weaknesses of cases, the victim's wishes, public safety, punishment, rehabilitation, and deterrence are all interests that are considered by the Prosecutor when deciding how to proceed. A plea agreement is always designed to balance these competing interests. Most cases are resolved in a relatively short time by the defendant's plea --- many times a plea to the charged offense.


 

What if I have a question which is not answered in your FAQs?

Call or visit our office. Each work day, an attorney is assigned to answer such questions. However, the Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is not a "free legal clinic". We cannot give legal advice on private legal issues.

 


 

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