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Minnesota criminal procedure and criminal lawyers

Criminal Procedure is the process that is followed through the Court system as a criminal case is processed and moves toward trial. The procedures are designed to provide persons accused of crimes with "Due Process" protections as set out in the State and Federal constitution and Bill of Rights.

      1. Arrest: A law enforcement officer may arrest a person when he/she has probable cause to believe that a suspect has committed a specific crime. The probable cause cannot be a mere vague suspicion. When probable cause is present, an officer may make an arrest with or without a warrant. When an arrest is made, the person accused may be ticketed and released or taken into custody and transported to the police station where they are finger printed and booked.

      2. Booking: At the police station, the person arrested goes through "booking." This may include entering information about the person into a police blotter as well as taking photographs and fingerprints.

      3. Filing complaint: In the State system, the law enforcement officer prepares a report that is then transmitted to the prosecutor. In Minnesota, the prosecutor may be a U.S. attorney for federal crimes or a County attorney, a member of the Attorney General's office or a city prosecutor for state crimes. Once a prosecutor is provided a report, they must decide decide whether there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges. If charges are appropriate, the prosecutor prepares a "tab charge" or a "complaint."

      4. Filing of indictment or information- Federal System: In the federal system, the first step is too convene a grand jury to hear the prosecutorís evidence and to issue an indictment. The indictment is a form of Complaint.

      5. Bail Hearing. If the person charged has been taken into custody and remains in jail, the must be brought before the court to determine conditions of release. At this hearing, the Judge weighs arguments relative to whether the suspect presents a risk of harm to others or is a flight risk unlikely to return to Court for his/her next appearance. Generally the Court will weigh factors related to family and business ties to the community, the nature of the crime charged, and stability of the suspect.

      6. First appearance (Arraignment) - State System: After the complaint has been filed, it is served on the person charged by mail or by the suspect is brought before a Judge. This is called the "first appearance" or "arraignment." At the first appearance, the court is crowded with other defendants. As a result, this is likely to be a lengthy proceeding and it may not be possible to discuss your case with the prosecutor prior to having the matter called before the Judge. Each person in the Court room is informed of his or her rights and given an opportunity to apply for representation from a public defender if they qualify financially. When Court convenes, each person charged with a crime is brought before the Judge where they are notified of their rights and the charges against them. If the person elects to enter a plea of "not guilty" , the matter is set on for a second appearance. If a defendant does not appear as scheduled, the Court will issue a warrant for the individual's arrest.

      7. Rasmussen Hearing, Omnibus or Pretrial: If the case is a misdemeanor, the second appearance may be called a pretrial or a "Rasmussen" hearing. If the case involves a felony (where incarceration may exceed on year), an "Omnibus" hearing is held. At this second appearance, the person accused may challenge the probable cause in the case and request that the Judge dismiss the charges. This may involve submitting the issues to the court "on the record" which means that the Court makes its decision without live testimony based on the existing police reports. The person accused may also require live witnesses to testify where they can be cross examined. If the case is not dismissed, it is scheduled for a trial date.

      8. Pre-trial motions: Prior to the trial, the prosecutor or Defense counsel now make any pre-trial motions, including any motions to exclude evidence or limit testimony.

      9. Trial: After any pretrial motions have been heard and ruled upon by the Court, the case proceeds to trial. If the charge is a felony, or a misdemeanor punishable by more than six months in prison, all states give the defendant the right to have the case tried before a jury.

      10. Sentencing: If at any time prior to trial the Defendant pleads guilty, or if the defendant is found guilty after a trial of the issues, a hearing is held to determine sentencing. Sentences may entail jail time, restitution and fines. Often, the sentencing may occur at the end of a trial or when a plea is entered and is not always heard as a separate hearing. In cases that involve felonies, repeat DWI's or crimes of violence, the Court may require the defendant to meet with probation to discuss the charges, the circumstances surrounding the charges and past criminal history. This is called a Pre-sentence Investigation. The probation will compile the information into a summary for the Judge to review. That summary will often recommend a sentence. Ultimately, however, it is the Judge who makes the sentencing decision. In many cases, Minnesota Statutes set forth minimum sentences or presumptive sentences. These are guidelines for the Court to follow when determining punishment.

      11. Appeals: A convicted defendant is then entitled to appeal (e.g., on the grounds that the evidence admitted against him at trial was the result of an unconstitutional search).

      12. Post-conviction remedies: Both state and federal prisoners, even after direct appeal, may challenge their convictions through federal-court habeas corpus procedures. Generally, to challenge a conviction the convicted party must prove that three was ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct or newly acquired evidence which, if known, would likely have lead to a different result.


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