Criminal & Civil Suit Processes

Filing a Police Report

  • Filing a Police Report Expand dropdown
    • With accurate information about the law and support from friends and family, many sexual assault survivors choose to report the crime and participate in a criminal case against the perpetrator. It is not an easy process for the survivor, but some have found it to be helpful in their journey to healing. If you decide to speak to the police, you can have a friend or an advocate present to support you. You may want to write down everything you can remember about the assault and the perpetrator prior to filing a report. This will help you when you meet with a police officer. The police will interview you about what happened. Some questions might seem personal or embarrassing, but it is important for the police to get as much information as possible.
    • After the police report is made, a detective will be assigned to investigate the crime and submit the case to the prosecutor or city attorney’s office. The decision to prosecute belongs to the prosecutor or city attorney. This decision is based on the evidence that is available to the prosecutor. Sometimes cases are not prosecuted. This is usually because it is believed that there is not enough evidence to prove to a jury or judge that the defendant is guilty, not because the prosecutor does not believe you.
  • The Court System Expand dropdown
    • There are two basic types of cases that go to court: criminal and civil. A criminal case is one in which the state of Michigan is seeking to punish a person who has committed a crime. A crime is an act committed in violation of the law and is punishable by imprisonment or fines. In a criminal court case the prosecuting attorney, acting on behalf of “the people,” brings charges against the individual accused of perpetrating the crime, known as the defendant. The survivor of a sexual assault is considered a witness to the crime, not a party in the criminal case.
    • Criminal sexual conduct or rape is a criminal offense. Information about the criminal justice process is included in this handbook.
    • The civil justice system involves any case that is not a criminal prosecution. Civil cases involve one person, the plaintiff, bringing a legal action against another person, the defendant. Divorce, custody, personal protection orders and torts are examples of civil matters. Survivors of sexual assault have successfully sued perpetrators for emotional distress, physical injury costs and other monetary damages. Information about the civil justice process is included in this handbook.
  • Your Role in the Criminal Justice Process Expand dropdown
    You are a witness in the state’s case against the perpetrator. You will be subpoenaed to testify during the criminal process. The prosecuting attorney or city attorney will present the case on behalf of the “people of the State of Michigan” and does not represent you specifically. However, as the victim of a crime, you do have certain rights. You can contact the prosecuting attorney or city attorney’s office to find out which prosecutor is working on the case. You can contact that attorney with any questions you have about the criminal case. An advocate, from SafeHouse in Ann Arbor can help you with this and any other aspect of the criminal justice system and your case.
  • Stages in the Criminal Process Expand dropdown

    Warrant Request and Authorization: The detective/officer assigned to your case will forward a report to the prosecuting attorney’s office. The prosecutor may want to interview you. Because sexual assault is a crime against the citizens of Michigan, the prosecutor represents the people of the State of Michigan and not you specifically. The prosecutor will make the decision about whether or not to prosecute. If you haven’t heard from the prosecutor, you can call the prosecuting attorney’s office and ask to speak with him/her. If the decision to prosecute is made, there will be an arrest warrant issued or a notice to appear in court for the defendant (perpetrator). Arraignment in District Court: The district court judge will read the charges and the defendant will be given the opportunity to plead. Bond will be set at this time. Bond is an amount of money that needs to be paid to ensure that the perpetrator will show up for court again. Sometimes no bond is set, other times a very high bond is set, so that the perpetrator is forced to stay in jail. If the defendant is released the judge may order conditions of bond. The prosecuting attorney may request a condition of bond that orders the defendant not to come near you or contact you. You can talk with the prosecutor and have him/her request this type of bond condition, usually referred to as a “no contact condition.” The victim may submit an affidavit (sworn statement) asserting acts or threats of physical violence or intimidation by the defendant against the victim or the victim’s immediate family. The prosecutor may initiate Bond Revocation proceedings. The
    local police may arrest the perpetrator if they violate a protective condition of bond. If you are experiencing harassment, intimidation, or threats by the perpetrator, contact the local police and notify the prosecutor assigned to the case.

    • Preliminary Exam: This is a formal hearing in front of the district court judge. The prosecutor will try to prove that a crime took place, that it took place in your county, and that the perpetrator is a likely suspect. The prosecutor must prove that there is reasonable cause that the crime took place and the accused committed it for the case to continue. You will be required to testify. At the beginning of your testimony you will have to look at the perpetrator and identify him/her for the court. The prosecutor and the attorney for the defendant will ask you questions. The case may be dismissed at this point or bound over to circuit court for trial. Sometimes the defendant may waive the right to a preliminary exam and the case will go straight to circuit court. Arraignment in Circuit Court: The charges will be read to the defendant in circuit court. The defendant will again be given the opportunity to plead. If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, a sentencing date will be set. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial date will be set. Pretrial Conference and Motions: The court may hear motions to determine what evidence will be admitted. The defense attorney and the prosecutor may discuss a plea bargain.
    • Trial: The prosecutor will try to prove” beyond reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime. “Beyond reasonable doubt” is the standard of evidence required to find a person guilty in US court and generally the burden of proof will fall on the Prosecuting Attorney to determine this in these cases. The victim has the right to be present throughout the entire trial of the defendant, unless the victim is going to be called as a witness. If the victim is called as a witness the court may, for good cause, order the victim to be sequestered until the victim first testifies. As the accused, the defendant has the right to stay in the courtroom throughout the entire trial. The trial could take several days to complete. If the defendant is convicted, a sentencing date will be set.
    • Sentencing: If the defendant is convicted or pleads guilty or no contest, the probation department will make a sentencing recommendation to the judge. You have the right to submit or make a written or oral impact statement to the probation officer for use in preparing the presentence investigation report. [MCL 780.824]. Written statements turned in before the
      sentencing date will become part of the file. This means that the defense attorney will have access to it and may share it with the perpetrator. If you choose, you will have the right to make your oral statement at the time of the sentencing proceedings (even if you do not complete a written statement).
      Your “Victim Impact Statement” may include, but is not limited to, the following: nature of any physical, psychological or emotional harm suffered, explanation of any economic loss or property damage, opinion of the need for or extent of restitution and a recommendation for the defendant’s sentence. [MCL 780.823].
      The victim has the right to make an oral impact statement at the sentencing. If you are physically or emotionally unable to make the oral impact statement, you may designate any other person 18 years or older to make the statement on your behalf. The court shall consider the victim’s statement when imposing sentence on the defendant. [MCL 780.825].
    • Appeal: The defendant has the right to appeal the decision. Upon request of the victim, the prosecuting attorney shall notify the victim of the following:
      • That the defendant filed an appeal of his or her conviction or sentence or the prosecuting attorney filed an appeal;
      • Whether the defendant has been released on bail or other recognizance pending the
      • outcome of the appeal within 24 hours of receiving notice;
      • Time and place of appellate court proceedings within 24 hours of notification; and
      • The result of the appeal.
        The prosecuting attorney shall provide the victim with a brief explanation of the appeal
        process. If the case is returned to trial or a new trial is ordered, the victim has the same
        rights as previously requested. [MCL 780.828].

Crime Victims Compensation & Civil Suits

  • Crime Victims Compensation Expand dropdown
    • As a victim of a crime, you may be eligible for monetary assistance. Assistance may include: compensation for medical expenses, counseling, rehabilitation, and loss of earnings resulting from an injury that is the direct result of a crime. Claims should be filed within one year; however, there are exceptions for child victims of sexual abuse and upon petition for good cause. You can get a claim form from Crime Victim Services Commission, the local Prosecuting Attorney, any State Police post, or from SafeHouse Center.
    • Below are the law enforcement considerations that must be met to receive victim’s compensation: the crime must be reported to a law enforcement agency within 48 hours unless there was a good cause for the delay. This provision is waived for child victims. The victim must be willing to cooperate with law enforcement agencies, the prosecutor, and the Commission.
    • The SAFE Response program, which is administered by the Crime Victims Compensation board, will also pay for your medical forensic exams. The following link contains additional information about the Crime Victim’s Compensation Board and a downloadable SAFE Response Claim form:,1607.7-132-2940_3184-209187--,0.html. See Chapter Three for more details about the SAFE Response program.
    • If you have difficulties completing the paperwork, SafeHouse Center may be able to assist you
  • Civil Suit Expand dropdown

    You have the option of filing a civil lawsuit. By doing this, you could possibly be awarded monetary damages. Here are some key points to keep in mind about this option:

    • You will need to hire an attorney.
    • You do not have to pursue criminal charges in order to file a civil lawsuit.
    • You will be the Plaintiff and the perpetrator will be the Defendant.
    • The process can take 2-5 years to complete.
    • If the defendant is found guilty in the criminal trial, the only issue in the civil trial is over the type and amount of damages you should receive.
    • If the defendant was found not guilty in a criminal proceeding, or if there was no criminal
      proceeding, then the plaintiff only needs to prove that the defendant committed wrong by a “preponderance of the evidence”, rather than beyond a “reasonable doubt”. “Preponderance of evidence” assumes that something has more likely than not happened, or that something is over 50% likely to have happened, whereas “reasonable doubt” assumes that there is no plausible reason to believe otherwise.” Therefore, it is generally easier to prove a “preponderance of evidence” compared to “reasonable doubt.
    • Your sexual history may be brought into the trial. The goal of a civil suit is to compensate the survivor for injury caused by the action of the defendant. If the defendant is found responsible in the civil action, an award of damages may be compensatory, punitive, or both. The goal of compensatory damages is to pay for the losses suffered by the victim. The primary purpose of punitive damages is to punish and deter criminals or third parties.


If you were assaulted by someone that you know, you may be at risk of being stalked or harassed by the perpetrator or by friends or family of the perpetrator. If the person who assaulted you was a stranger, the chances of being stalked by him/her are less, but still possible.

  • Michigan’s Anti-Stalking Laws Expand dropdown
    • Stalking: This is a crime defined as a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested, and that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested. This crime is a misdemeanor punishable up to one year in prison or up to a $1,000 fine or both. If the victim is a minor and the perpetrator is 5 or more years older than the victim, this crime is a felony punishable up to 5 years in prison or up to a $10,000 fine or both. [MCL 750.411h].
    • Aggravated Stalking: This is a crime that includes the factors listed above plus one of the following aggravating factors: making credible threat of injury, violating a Personal Protection Order (PPO), violating a bond condition, or having a previous conviction for stalking. This crime is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison or up to a $10,000 fine. If the victim is a minor and the perpetrator is 5 or more years older than the victim, this crime is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine. [MCL 750.411i].
  • What To Do If You Are Being Stalked Expand dropdown
    • Report harassing/uninvited contact to your local police department. Even if the police cannot take any action at first, reporting the incident will begin to document the history of stalking.
    • Plan for your safety. Tell your co-workers and neighbors what is going on. Get a cellular phone if you can. Teach your children how to call 911. Consult The Women’s Resource Center or SafeHouse Center for safety planning that is specific to your situation.
    • Keep a log of all the harassing incidents. Include the time, place, and description of the incident, as well as any witnesses to the incident.
    • Get a Personal Protection Order (PPO). You can fill the paperwork out on your own, have someone at SafeHouse Center assist you, or retain an attorney.
  • A Personal Protection Order (PPO) Expand dropdown
    • A PPO is an order from the court to the stalker that prohibits certain activity. If the stalker violated the order they could be sentenced up to 93 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
    • A PPO Can Prohibit the Stalker From Any or All of the Following: Entering the property where you live or work, appearing within your sight, following you, assaulting you, threatening you, calling you, possessing or buying a gun, or any other conduct that interferes with your personal liberty.
    • Who Can Get a PPO? If you currently have, or have had in the past, one or more of theb following relationships to the perpetrator: spouse, dating, have a child in common, or reside in the same household OR if the stalker is a stranger and has committed any of the prohibited behaviors listed in the above paragraph.
    • Filing for a PPO: The paperwork is available at the county clerk’s office. You can fill it out on your own, have someone at SafeHouse Center help you, or retain an attorney. You can request that the PPO be signed by the judge without having to go to trial. However, the judge may order a trial in order to show good cause for why the PPO should be issued. The PPO goes into effect immediately when the judge signs it. If there was no trial and the PPO was signed by the judge, the stalker will have 14 days after they are served to request a trial. If the judge does not sign the PPO, they are required to give a written reason for why they did not sign it.

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