criminal defense attorney in Grand Traverse County

Criminal Defense Attorney in TRAVERSE CITY

In the 86th District Court in Traverse City, I have represented over 800 clients, I am an experienced attorney. I have a lot of passion for criminal law, and I take pride in my abilities as a criminal defense attorney.  I fell in love with litigating trials in court. I have been very successful as a criminal defense attorney in Grand Traverse County.  I have achieved not guilty verdicts for my clients at trial. After one not guilty verdict, one of my clients told me, “I want to hug you and kiss you I am so happy.”   My clients know that I am very passionate about criminal defense and I work very hard for them.

Client Reviews

Matthew Benedict, does an amazing job, always answered all my concerns and question, In a timely manner, always goes above and beyond, he will fight for you, and he will get your point across, he will be by your side no matter what! He isn’t scared to take on the tough case like many other lawyers are, I called many and my case was too tough, but not Matthew, He gave me hope when others didn’t, I truly recommend Matthew! You will not regret having him by your side when you need it the most, I’m am truly grateful for all his help and all the hard work and long hours he put in to, help me with my case, to be able to see and be with my son! Thank you so much, Matthew.

Mr. Matthew Benedict represented me for driving with a suspended license. He was with me from the start to finish. Mr. Benedict helped me get my license back with no points or charges. He was able to reduce my charge to a no operator’s license on hand. He went above and beyond to assist me and gather the information I probably would never do. I am very happy that I found him online through some web searches. His website and bio are what caught my attention. Very thorough and upfront – no hidden fees and affordable. I would choose him again, to represent me even if the situation was outside his practice :)I reached out to Matt a few months ago requesting assistance forming an LLC. Admittedly, I am a fast talker and tend to jump around topic-wise, especially when under stress. Also, I have worked in positions where my responsibilities commonly overlapped/required the assistance of attorneys and have not always had the best experiences. Matt took all this in stride. He was able to ease my nerves and went above and beyond to help me.

One Criminal Defense Attorney against the Giant

The game is stacked against criminal defendants. The Prosecutor is supposed to win every case. Why? In criminal law, the People of the State of Michigan have all the resources. First, the police are professional witnesses. All police officers train in both investigation and testifying at trial. Second, the State of Michigan employs attorneys who specialize in criminal law. The typical Prosecutor is a full-time employee of the County; they specialize in criminal trials. Furthermore, the financial might of Michigan is at their disposal; your tax dollars fund criminal prosecutions. And finally, in Michigan, Judges are elected officials. No Judge has ever been elected for being soft on crime. The deck is stacked against criminal defendants, but a good criminal defense attorney can level the game.  I thoroughly examine the facts of each case and seek any opportunity to assert my client’s rights and win cases.

criminal defense attorney in Grand Traverse County

Basic Criminal Defense Procedure in Traverse City

Most criminal cases start with law enforcement. Either someone reports a crime to the police or a police officer observes a crime while on patrol.

The Investigation

The police officer conducts an investigation. There are many different types of investigations. Sometimes an officer conducts a traffic stop after observing suspicious driving. Sometimes an officer will attempt to interview witnesses to corroborate the complaining witnesses’ allegations of a crime. Or an officer will seek a search warrant to gather evidence inside someone’s home. Most of the time, an officer will attempt to interview the suspect. Remember your right to remain silent; you don’t have to answer a police officer’s questions. If you think a law enforcement officer is investigating you, a family member, or a friend for a violation of the law, you should immediately speak to a criminal defense attorney.

The Arrest

In most criminal cases there is an arrest. An officer takes the suspect into custody. The arrest is important because once a suspect is in custody, before an officer may interview the suspect, the officer must read to the suspect his Miranda Rights. Police officers always seek a confession of guilt from the suspect. Why are your Miranda Rights important? Miranda Rights remind a suspect of his or her right to remain silent. In other words, a suspect may refuse to answer questions asked by the police. Miranda Rights also remind suspects that they may ask for an attorney’s help before the police interrogate them. Law enforcement officers are trained in ways to interview suspects without placing the suspect in custody. In other words, law enforcement officers are trained on how to interrogate suspects without reminding the suspect that each of us in this country is born with a right to refuse to answer their incriminating questions.


A bond is a money deposit held by the court to ensure a defendant’s appearance at trial. After an arrest, a defendant, bail bondsmen, friend, or family member will post a bond, and the defendant will be released from jail. Most bonds also include conditions to ensure public safety. Some examples of common bond conditions include the defendant submitting to daily drug and alcohol screening or a condition that the defendant has no communication or contact with the alleged victim of his or her crime. Initially, a magistrate determines the amount of money required for a bond and other bond conditions. Pretrial release is always desired because a defendant is free to help their attorney prepare their case for trial, and the defendant may continue to work while on bond. Bonds may be amended or changed via a motion before the court.


The arraignment is the formal reading of the criminal charges to the defendant. A Judge will read the criminal charges contained in the complaint. After reading the charges, the judge will ask the defendant how he would like to plead. There are two choices, guilty or not guilty. If a defendant pleads guilty to a misdemeanor, the judge may sentence the defendant on the spot. Ordinarily sentencing at arraignments does not occur. In felonies and most misdemeanors, a future hearing will be scheduled for the sentencing hearing. Every defendant at arraignment should plead not guilty. Also recommended is the defendant’s silence at the arraignment, the defendant should not say anything about the facts of the case. All too often, foolish people want to talk to the judge about their case. Speaking about the case is a mistake because the defendant’s statements in court may be repeated at the defendant’s trial.

Preliminary hearing

In felony cases, the District Court in Michigan holds a preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to Circuit Court. The purpose of this hearing is to establish facts that show the defendant committed the crime charged. Whether someone is guilty is not what the Judge is trying to determine. In the District Court, the prosecutor will call witnesses to testify in court to establish enough facts to convince the Judge that it is proper to charge a Defendant with a felony. Ordinarily, the defendant waives the preliminary hearing, and the Court proceeds with Circuit Court Arraignment.

Pretrial conference

At the pretrial conference, the defendant and the prosecutor meet informally to discuss a possible plea agreement, a/k/a plea bargain, or settlement. If the defendant has not retained a lawyer, then the defendant will speak to the prosecutor. The pretrial is a highly important step in the criminal process. At pretrial, the Prosecutor and the defendant try to resolve the case without a trial. There are many different strategies employed to persuade or force the Prosecutor into a favorable plea bargain for your client. Probably the best strategy is to point out flaws or problems in the people’s case against the defendant. This strategy requires a working knowledge of the evidence law. Ordinary citizens do not have experience in evidence law, which is one reason why every criminal defendant should employ a lawyer for their defense.

Pretrial motions

There are several pretrial motions that a criminal defense attorney may file to gain a favorable position before a trial. These motions range from compelling the police and the Prosecutor to share the evidence they have against the defendant to excluding evidence gather by Law Enforcement because the method employed violates the defendant’s constitutional rights. Motions involve complicated legal theories and arguments. Once again, a good criminal defense attorney is essential. Without an attorney, a defendant will lose the opportunity to gain a favorable position before trial.


At trial, each side presents its case to a jury or judge. A jury consists of ordinary citizens from everyday life. At the end of the trial, the jury or judge renders a verdict or decision. In criminal cases, the verdict normally is either guilty or not guilty. If the verdict is not guilty, the defendant is released. If the verdict is guilty, the Court will either sentence the defendant on the spot or set a date in the future for sentencing.


At a sentencing hearing for a defendant, the Judge reviews a presentence report prepared by either a probation officer or parole officer. This report has recommendations for the judge to follow in sentencing the defendant. At every sentencing, the defendant has an opportunity to speak to the judge before judgment. The defendant only has minutes to impress the judge. The advice of a good criminal defense attorney is valuable at every stage of the above-mentioned criminal procedure.

Common Misdemeanors/ Felonies in Northern Michigan

For adult defendants, in Michigan, the criminal laws are classified into two groups: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are defined as crimes that have a maximum possible jail sentence of one year or less. Felonies have a maximum possible jail sentence of over a year.

Common Misdemeanors in Grand Traverse County Michigan and Northern Lower Michigan include the following:

(1) Simple assault and battery, MCL 750.81, 93-day maximum jail term;
(2) Domestic Violence, MCL 750.81(2), 93-day maximum jail term;
(3) Domestic Violence 2nd offense, MCL 750.81(3), 1-year maximum jail term;
(4) Operating while intoxicated, drunk driving, MCL 257.625(1), a 93-day maximum jail term with a driver’s license suspension;
(5) Operating while intoxicated, 2nd offense, 5-day minimum, 1-year maximum jail term, revocation of driving privileges;
(6) Leaving the scene of an accident, MCL 257.618 90 days maximum jail term;
(7) Driving while license is suspended, MCL 257.904, 93-day maximum jail term, additional license suspension;
(8) Embezzlement less than $200.00, MCL 750.174, 93-day maximum jail term, fine up to three times the value stolen;
(9) Larceny less than $200 MCL 750.356, 93-day maximum jail term, fine of up to three times the value stolen;
(10) Malicious destruction of property, less than $200.00, MCL 750.750.377a, 93-day maximum jail term, fine up to three times the value destroyed;
(11) Super Drunk Driving, MCL 257.257(1)(c), 180-day maximum jail term;
(12) Use of Marijuana, MCL 333.7404, 90-day maximum sentence, driver’s license sanction.

Common felonies in Grand Traverse County Michigan include the following:

(1) Operating while intoxicated, 3rd or subsequent offense, 257.625(9)(c), 5-year maximum jail sentence;
(2) Operating while intoxicated, causing death, 257.625(4), 15-year maximum sentence;
(3) Criminal Sexual Conduct, MCL 750.520, depending on the degree of offense, 2-years to life;
(4) Assault with a dangerous weapon, MCL 750.82, 4-year maximum sentence;
(5) Delivery or manufacture of a controlled substance: MCL 333.7402, depending on the controlled substance, and the amount, maximum sentence 2-years to life;
(6) Possession of a controlled substance, MCL 333.7403, depending on the controlled substance, and the amount, maximum sentence 2-years to life;
(7) Home Invasion, MCL 750.110a, depending on the perpetrator’s intent, perpetrator’s use of a weapon, and occupants in the home, 5-years to 20-years; and
(8) Maintaining a drug house, 333.7405(d), 5-year maximum sentence.

Do I still need a lawyer even if I did the crime and will plead guilty?

Yes, you do! A criminal attorney has two jobs: make the prosecutor prove their case and prepare the client for sentencing. Once a criminal defendant pleads guilty, the next stage of the process is sentencing. Leniency is not a right; it is something a defendant must earn. I work hard to present my clients as best as possible in front of the sentencing Judge. Remember this; a criminal defendant only has minutes to leave a good impression on a Judge. I have heard hundreds of people talk to a Judge, how many times have you been in the hot seat? Speaking to Judge at sentencing is a difficult task, it is a skill that most people can perform with the aid of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Affordable Criminal Defense Attorney in Traverse City

There are affordable criminal defense attorneys in Traverse City. My criminal defense contract for misdemeanor cases is very affordable. My typical contract includes a base fee of around $1300.00. This includes a comprehensive review of the arrest for search and seizure violations, negotiations for a reduction in the charges, and appearing in court with the client. If I find a violation of my client’s rights, I will recommend a motion to suppress the evidence. This motion and brief will require an additional flat fee, typically $1400.00. In short, the client pays for chunks of a lawsuit as needed. However, if the client accepts a plea offer or decides to plead as charged, there is no additional money required. The benefit of this blended flat-fee contract is the client knows exactly how much money they will spend in their defense. Unlike an hourly contract, there is little chance of an attorney “milking” the file for chargeable hours. Most people don’t realize that “court-appointed” attorneys are not necessarily “free” attorneys. In fact, the vast majority of people that request and receive court-appointed counsel end up paying a reduced rate for legal services, and if they fail to pay their legal fees, the court will initiate contempt of court proceedings against them.

Felony representation requires much more work due to the seriousness of the charges. As a result, I can not offer good deals on felony representation beyond my affordable hourly rate.

Grand Traverse County Criminal Courts

Grand Traverse County is home to the 86th District Court.  The 86th District Court has jurisdiction over misdemeanor offenses.  The 86th District Court is a modern court that maintains online records.  The online records are convenient for both attorneys and clients, click on the links below to look up a criminal case history and the court’s schedule:

86th District Court Case History

86th District Court Calendar

13th Circuit Court Criminal Case Records