Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer Costs – Fees & Factors
On average, Minnesota criminal defense lawyers charge between $150 and $450 per hour. The total cost for a defense varies based on the type of case, the amount of preparation needed, and how far into the legal process the case must proceed.
For instance, a simple domestic assault case that results in a dismissal on the first court hearing takes only a few hours of the lawyer’s time. Alternatively, a trial case requires many hours of preparation and substantial court time. Also, if an order of protection defense is needed, this adds to the billable hours.
It’s always a mistake to believe you can handle a domestic assault case without a lawyer. Often, domestic assault suspects feel the police are treating them unfairly and that they are presumed guilty. As a result, they may make the mistake of making statements and answering questions from law enforcement without an attorney present.
Even if you committed no domestic assault, heated arguments can lead to supercharged emotions and misunderstandings. Your partner may misinterpret your behavior as threatening and contact the police.
Sometimes, a suspect’s partner embellishes stories or fabricates them to get back at that person or gain an advantage in a divorce or child custody case.
The emotions surrounding these incidents can incite a suspect’s anger, even when no crime has occurred. A display of emotions can become evidence against you, as can even the most innocent statements.
Therefore, if you face allegations of domestic assault, do everything you can to appear calm and think through what is happening and how you should respond. Politely but firmly insist on an attorney before answering any questions. Then call Gerald Miller, P.A.
The Cost of a Domestic Assault Defense Depends on How Far the Case Proceeds
Some domestic assault cases end very quickly with a dismissal of charges. However, some require intensive litigation, mainly when a couple is in divorce or fighting for child custody. The last thing you want is to plead guilty or be convicted of a violent crime you never committed. This leads to a permanent record, can harm your standing in family court, and can land you behind bars.
Effective representation prevents law enforcement or your partner or former partner from using bogus evidence against you. In addition, your attorney can assert many defenses that destroy the state’s case.
Below, we detail how a domestic assault case proceeds in Minnesota. The sooner you engage an attorney, the more likely that the case ends at an early stage, which results in far lower fees.
Report and Arrest
A domestic assault case starts with a report to the police. This can be done by the alleged victim, a witness, or someone else who believes they know about a crime. The police investigate the report. If they find probable cause to believe that an assault has occurred, they arrest the alleged perpetrator.
Probable cause may give them enough to make an arrest, but it is not substantial enough for a conviction. To win, the state must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, not just show there is reason to think an assault may have happened.
Probable cause can take many forms, including bruises or cuts on the alleged victim, a scrape on the suspect’s knuckles, broken objects at the scene, the victim’s account, and the suspect’s utterances, either to the victim, witnesses, or law enforcement.
Order of Protection Defense
Following an arrest, the alleged victim can apply for an ex-parte protection order. Ex-parte means the subject of the order may not be present to rebut the allegations. Instead, the judge must presume the allegation as true to issue the initial order of protection.
Once served, the subject of the order has to abide by its terms or face immediate incarceration, regardless of whether the allegations have merit.
The order specifies a time for a hearing where the court decides whether to make the order permanent. It is always advisable for the subject to hire an attorney and appear for this hearing. At that time, the subject may rebut the allegations. If the court rules them unfounded, the order is terminated. However, the court may decide to make the order permanent.
Note that the order of protection is issued by the civil court, not the criminal court. As a result, the order of protection can stand even if the criminal case fails.
Initial Court Appearance
After the arrest, the defendant will be brought before a judge for an initial appearance, typically within 36 hours. At this hearing, the court informs the defendant of the charges and advises him of his rights. The judge sets bail or other conditions of release.
The next appearance is the arraignment, where the defendant enters a plea. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will proceed to the pre-trial phase.
Sometimes, a plea bargain is worked out at this stage, and the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. It is always ill-advised to plead guilty without seeking legal advice and only if an agreement with the state is in force.
Pre-Trial Hearings and Negotiations
During the pre-trial phase, the prosecution and defense engage in discovery. The state must reveal all evidence against the defendant and furnish any exculpatory evidence in its possession. Exculpatory evidence works in favor of the defense. In some cases, the defense may need to fight in court to receive exculpatory evidence, even though withholding it violates the law.
Both sides may file motions to suppress evidence or dismiss charges. The prosecution and defense may also engage in plea negotiations to resolve the case without going to trial. Most plea-bargain cases conclude at some point between the arraignment and trial date.
When no agreement is forged between the prosecution and defense, the case is on the trial track. However, the defense may convince the court to dismiss the charges before trial. The court may do this because of insufficient evidence or because it suppressed key proofs due to law enforcement obtaining it illegally or shoddy police work.
Trials require many hours of preparation and at least one day in court. As a result, they drive up the cost of the defense substantially.
During the trial, the prosecution and defense present their cases, including evidence and witness testimony. The prosecution bears the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant has the right to a jury trial but can choose to have a bench trial, where the judge alone determines guilt or innocence.
In terms of cost, jury trials tend to be more expensive than bench trials. The amount of preparation and court time is generally higher.
However, defendants should never decide on a bench versus jury trial based on the cost. They should always take the option that best serves their legal interest. In many cases, a bench trial advantages the defendant. For instance, if the judge is more likely to be swayed by the state’s weak evidence than a jury, who may sympathize with the alleged victim.
After hearing all the evidence and closing arguments, the jury (or judge in a bench trial) will deliberate and render a verdict. If the defendant is found guilty, the case will proceed to sentencing.
In a domestic assault case, the judge will determine the appropriate sentence based on the severity of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and other factors. Sentencing for domestic assault in Minnesota can range from probation to imprisonment, depending on the specific circumstances.
After a conviction, the defendant has the right to appeal. The appeals process can be lengthy and complex, so it’s crucial to consult with an attorney experienced in handling appeals.
It’s important to understand that appeals are not a re-trial. Instead, they must have a basis in the trial court having erred. For instance, the defense may argue that the judge ruled incorrectly in refusing to suppress a key piece of evidence.
If the appellate panel agrees, it suppresses the evidence. It can then order a new trial with that evidence excluded. Alternatively, the appellate court can dismiss the case if it believes the suppression of the evidence makes a conviction impossible.
Domestic Assault Defenses
Many domestic assault cases fail. Often, this is because of a lack of evidence, poor investigative techniques, or the impeachment of prosecution witnesses.
Some domestic assault cases include the following:
The case fails when the defendant can show that he used reasonable force to protect himself or another person from imminent bodily harm. To prove self-defense, the defendant must establish that he had a reasonable belief in the danger, that the force used was proportionate to the threat, and that he did not provoke the altercation.
Defense of Others
Like self-defense, the defense of others’ argument is effective if the defendant can show that they used reasonable force to protect another person from imminent harm. The same elements apply to a self-defense claim.
Lack of Intent
No intent, no crime. To be convicted of domestic assault, the prosecution must prove that the defendant intentionally inflicted or attempted to inflict bodily harm upon the victim. If the defense can demonstrate that the defendant’s actions were unintentional or accidental, this may serve as a valid defense.
The defendant may argue that he has been falsely accused of domestic assault. This defense may succeed if the defense can provide evidence to cast doubt on the alleged victim’s credibility or a motive for making a false accusation, such as to gain leverage in a divorce.
In many cases, we can show, through cross-examination, that the alleged victim’s account cannot be accurate.
If the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the defense may argue that insufficient evidence supports a conviction. This could involve challenging the credibility of witnesses, disputing the accuracy of statements made by the alleged victim, or providing an alibi for the defendant.
Domestic assault charges have drastic consequences. In addition to a criminal record and possible jail time, those convicted may be subject to civil court penalties, including adverse divorce and child custody rulings.
Hiring the best defense team possible is crucial with so much on the line. Gerald Miller, P.A., specializes in domestic assault defense. We challenge the evidence and create the reasonable doubt you need to avoid conviction for this stigmatizing crime. Many defenses exist; these cases often fail because of a vigorous defense.
Contact Gerald Miller, P.A., about your domestic assault case now.
Related Content: What You Need to Know When facing a DWI in Minneapolis