In a criminal case, after your arrest but before your conviction or acquittal, you will be on bond. There are several discretionary terms and conditions of pretrial release, and these will be determined during your first court appearance the arraignment. A show cause is what happens when someone does something on bond contrary to what’s been ordered.
The most common allegations of a bond violation that we see at the Barone Defense Firm related to alcohol and drug testing. Often, a client will miss a drug or alcohol test, which is the most common alleged bond violation, followed by a positive drug or alcohol test.
Bond Violations are Considered Contempt of Court
A bond violation is a serious matter because it is considered a contempt of court. After the court receives notice from the monitoring agency that there’s been an alleged violation, the court will issue a show cause order. The purpose of a show cause order is to require you to appear in court to show cause why you should not be held in contempt of court for violating a court order. Because the judge has ordered you to do something (test according to a set schedule), and it is alleged that you violated that order, unless you have a defense to the allegations, you will be found in contempt of court. See, e.g., People v Mysliwiec, 315 Mich App 414, 417 (2016).
Because you could be sentenced to jail, you have certain “due process” rights, including a right to have a hearing. According to the law in Michigan criminal penalties may not be imposed on someone who has not been afforded due process, which said differently means not afforded the protections that the Constitution requires.
Your Due Process Rights
- Protection against being found guilty and/or punished twice for the same act, also called “double jeopardy.”
- Being provided with notice of charges/allegations, meaning a description of how you alleged violated your bond.
- You have a right to the assistance of counsel.
- You have the right to present a defense, and
- You have the privilege against self-incrimination.
See People v Johns, 384 Mich 325, 333 (1971) (holding that a “conviction for criminal contempt can be sustained only upon a record which shows compliance with the procedural safeguards established for the prosecution of any other crime of equal gravity”).
Options at a Bond Violation Show Cause Hearing
Pulling all of this together and looking at the criminal procedure, at the hearing you have two choices. One is to plead guilty to the alleged violation, the second would be to demand a hearing where in the prosecuting attorney would need to prove by a preponderance of evidence that you in fact missed the subject test.
The hearing can, but usually does not, occur on the same date as the show cause hearing. The show cause hearing is for the purpose of either pleading guilty or requesting a hearing. The reason the hearing is not scheduled the same day is due to the availability or unavailability of witnesses and/or whether the court has set aside the necessary time for the hearing. You also must be given the opportunity to prepare a defense. The hearing itself is like a mini-trial and both the prosecutor as well as the defense have the opportunity to call witnesses. Both sides have the opportunity to cross-examine any witnesses that are called, and both sides also have the opportunity to make arguments as to why they should prevail.
If there is a defense, then as indicated, you also have the opportunity to call witnesses on your own behalf. As it relates to a missed test witnesses usually are not necessary. Witnesses could be necessary in the event of an alleged positive test but that is not the case.
Once you’ve been convicted, either by a plea of guilty or after an unsuccessful hearing, then the court moves onto sentencing. Because this is considered a separate violation of contempt there is the possibility of jail time. MCL 600.1715 caps the amount of any fine for contempt at $7,500 and caps any jail term at 93 days. In many instances however the court simply adjusts your bond to make sure that the objectives of bond are more effectively fulfilled and/or holds any jail time in abeyance until sentencing on the underlying criminal matter. However, incarceration as punishment for a bond violation can be imposed.
How a Lawyer Can Help You Avoid Being Found in Contempt of Court
If you have received a “notice to show cause” then be sure and contact a Top Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer at the Barone Defense Firm as soon as possible. Discuss with your lawyer the circumstances that lead up to the alleged violations and if you’re accused of a positive alcohol or drug test, your reasons why this may or may not be true. It is essential that you be scrupulously honest with your lawyer, and if you did test positive, it’s often best to admit that to your lawyer so that he/she can best defend your interests and represent you in court.