A breakdown of the various steps in Minnesota Criminal Procedure of how a Minnesota criminal case proceeds
First Appearance in Minnesota Criminal Case
In a Minnesota Misdemeanor, the First Appearance is called an arraignment and the defendant enters a plea of not guilty or guilty. Often times the defendant can waive his first appearance and his attorney can file on a not guilty plea on his behalf. In a Minnesota Felony or Gross Misdemeanor, the first appearance is called a Rule 5 Hearing, often combined with a rule 8 hearing. At the first appearance in a Minnesota gross misdemeanor of felony, the defendant does NOT have to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty
Second Appearance: Omnibus/Pre-Trial Conference
The second court appearance in a Minnesota misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor/felony is called a pre-trial conference (in the case of a Misdemeanor) or a Pre-Trial or Omnibus Hearing (in a Gross Misd. or Felony). The purpose of a Pre-Trial Conference in a Misdemeanor or Gross Misdemeanor is for the attorneys to meet and discuss the case in court, with or without the judge's input, and to attempt to settle the case. Many misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases are settled at the pre-trial/omnibus hearing. In a felony/gross misdemeanor, if the case is not settled at the pre-trial/omnibus AND there are contested pre-trial issues, then the case will be set for a contested Rasmussen hearing (Misdemeanor) or a contested omnibus hearing (gross misd. or Felony). Many Minnesota Felony cases are settled at this first omnibus hearing before a contested omnibus is ever requested.
Third Criminal Appearance: Contested Omnibus/Rasmussen/Pre-Trial Hearing
The purpose of a contested Omnibus Hearing , which is the next step in the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, is for the Court to take testimony on contested pre-trial issues. In a Misdemeanor or Minnesota gross misdemeanor case, this hearing may be called a contested Rasmussen or a contested pre-trial hearing. Usually the pre-trial issues are whether the police did anything illegal and/or Unconstitutional while gathering evidence against the Defendant. In other, did the police make an illegal traffic stop, an illegal arrest, violate the person's right to counsel, make an illegal search, take an illegal statement, etc. This is often referred to as "asking the Judge to throw out the evidence." If a judge agrees that the police did something illegal such as an illegal search, then some or all of the evidence may be suppressed or thrown out. As a result, the case may be dismissed and/or some charges may dismissed or lowered.
Fourth Criminal Appearance
If a contested omnibus , or pre-trial hearing is held, the next step is either another pre-trial for the attorneys to meet to discuss settlement, (in some counties) (also called a settlement conference) or the next appearance is a trial. If a contested pre-trial or omnibus hearing was NOT held, then the next hearing after a first omnibus or pre-trial conference (the second appearance) is again, a Trial.
Fifth Minnesota Criminal Hearing
The last step in the process, if the case has not or cannot be settled, is a trial. A trial can be a court trial, which means a trial to the judge. OR a trial can be a jury trial. In Minnesota 6 jurors are used for a Misdemeanor or Gross Misdemeanor Jury trial, while 12 jurors are used for a felony trial. The State then must attempt to prove the Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. All jurors must agree that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If they do not all agree, then there may be a hung jury. A hung jury may or may not result in the Defendant being re-tried on some or all of the original charges. If the defendant is found NOT guilty of all charges, the case is over. If the Defendant is found guilty of ANY of the charges, then a sentencing hearing must be held. Depending on the case, sometimes sentencing occur immediately after the jury has announced the verdict, or on an other day weeks or months later.
What Should a Minnesota Criminal Defendant do to Protect His or Her Rights Throughout the Steps of a Minnesota Criminal case
If you are a Defendant in a Minnesota Criminal Case, hire a skilled, aggressive, experienced attorney ASAP. Tell your attorney all the facts of the case as you know them. Help your attorney gather more facts. Do not discuss the case with anyone other than your attorney.
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