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The Initial Stages of Minnesota’s Criminal Justice Process

This article will address a few important questions about the criminal justice process in Minnesota.  Ultimately, we will focus on the early stages of a criminal prosecution.  While Minneapolis criminal defense attorneys at Gerald Miller, P.A. have answered many common questions in our blog, we invite you to contact us to schedule a free consultation to obtain answers about your specific situation.

What are the initial stages in the criminal justice process before the first appearance?

Before the arraignment, a case will follow several initial steps as it progresses through the criminal justice process in Minnesota.

A brief outline of those steps includes:

  1. Arrest – If the officer has probable cause, an arrest can be made, even without an arrest warrant.  When an arrest is made, the officer might issue a citation and release the individual at the scene of the encounter or take the arrestee into custody for transport back to the police station for booking.
  2. Booking – Once an arrestee is taken back to the police station, the “booking” process typically includes taking fingerprints and mug shots.  The officer will also enter information about the individual into the police blotter.
  3. Bringing Formal Charges – If you are in the state system, the officer will prepare a report that is sent to the prosecutor.  The prosecutor will evaluate the report to determine whether the evidence supports filing criminal charges.  If the prosecutor elects to proceed, he will file a criminal complaint with the court.  The federal system proceeds slightly different at this stage of the proceedings.  The federal prosecutor will convene a grand jury to present the State’s evidence and to issue an indictment, the federal version of a complaint.
  4. Pre-Charge Intervention – Many people delay their decision to retain a private criminal defense attorney.  However, retaining legal representation before formal charges are filed is crucial. Early intervention allows for time to analyze the prosecutor’s case and identify weaknesses.  Depending on the facts and circumstances, the prosecutor could be convinced to offer a more favorable outcome, such as charging fewer offenses or for less serious crimes, agree to diversion, or elect not to move forward with a prosecution at all.

What should you expect at your initial appearance?

The initial appearance will deal with several preliminary matters.  The judge verifies how the accused will be represented in the criminal case.  The defendant can request a public defender, retain a private criminal defense attorney, or proceed as his or her own attorney. You can request a continuance for time to retain a private attorney.

At this hearing, the court also confirms the accused receives a copy of the criminal complaint, which is a formal document specifying the charges being asserted against the defendant. Or in some lower level cases, the judge wants to make sure people are informed of the charges against them.

The judge must also inform you of important rights that include:

  • The right to have an attorney present during all court proceedings
  • The right to remain silent during questioning
  • The right to a jury trial
  • The right of the prosecutor to use any statements by the defendant against him in future proceedings
  • The right to communicate with defense counsel

The court also might establish other conditions of release depending on the facts and circumstances, such as prohibiting the defendant from making contact with the complaining witness in a domestic violence case, or setting the defendant up on an alcohol monitoring program in some DWI cases.

Seek Legal Help Immediately

If you are charged with a drug offense, domestic violence, a weapons charge, DWI or any other criminal offense in Minneapolis or the surrounding areas of Minnesota, we invite you to speak to an experienced Minneapolis criminal defense attorney at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible.

The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start protecting your rights.  Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.

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