What Is the Criminal Court Process in Minnesota?

What Is the Criminal Court Process in Minnesota?

If you are not familiar with the criminal court process in Minnesota, there are a few things you should know. You could be in need of an attorney or you could have to speak in front of a jury. Maybe a settlement will be involved. 

Understanding your rights in a criminal court proceeding can help ease your worries about the stress of any misdemeanor or felony. At CJB Law, our team is dedicated to making sure you are well versed in everything you need to know to navigate the criminal court process.

Misdemeanor Criminal Court Case In Minnesota: Arraignment

Misdemeanor Criminal Court Case In Minnesota: Arraignment

At the first hearing or arraignment, the judge will determine if the defendant understands their rights. In court you will be asked to fill out a rights form. The form explains your rights when you are charged with a misdemeanor.

Next, there will be a plea. The defendant will decide on a guilty or not guilty plea. If you choose guilty, the judge will ask you what makes you guilty of the misdemeanor offense. If you choose not guilty, the conditions for your release will be decided by a judge.

Pretrial or Settlement

A pretrial conference is where the defense and prosecutor determine if the case is going to trial or not. If a settlement or plea agreement can not be reached, the case goes to trial.

Felony or Gross Misdemeanor Court Case in Minnesota: First Appearance

At a first appearance, a judge will ask you if you understand your rights and you will fill out a rights form. The court will then detail the conditions of your release.

First appearance may also have a Rule 8 hearing. At a Rule 8 hearing, the prosecution will submit their physical file, or discovery. This could include the complaint, reports from the police as well as witness statement transcripts. Any digital evidence is usually submitted later. If the prosecutor is unable to move on to Rule 8 at first appearance, the process is sent by mail.

After the Rule 8 hearing, there will usually be an omnibus hearing. This is when your attorney deals with pretrial legal issues that pertain to you. Some of these issues may be if there is probable cause for the charges, or if there has been a violation of your constitutional rights. For example, a violation of the constitution could be a failure to read you your Miranda Rights before interrogation, or a search of personal property, such as your home or automobile without a warrant.

If there are any situations such as those listed above, your attorney will then file a motion to dismiss or motion to suppress at a motion hearing or contested omnibus hearing. This hearing could also include legal argumentation from attorneys or witness testimony. The judge will take on any issues or concerns and at a later time provide a written ruling.

Pretrial or Settlement Conference

Next, there is the pretrial or settlement conference. This is a hearing to come to an agreement to use a plea to try to resolve the case. If an agreement cannot be reached, the next step is to go to a trial.

Court Trial and Jury Trial

In a court trial, the judge will hear the evidence presented and make a decision on whether or not the burden of proof has been reached.

In a jury trial, it is the jury that decides whether or not it has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. Each juror is required to give the accused a presumption of innocence and this remains until the entire jury agrees that the accused is guilty. A misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor case has six jurors and a felony case has twelve. You can also waive your right to a jury case and proceed to a court trial.

The difference between a court trial and a jury trial is that in a jury trial there are six or twelve people hearing presented evidence and in a court trial there is only the judge. Larger juries can be preferable to defendants who are wondering if they want a judge or a jury since a unanimous decision of guilt must be reached.


Usually, the final stage of a case is referred to as sentencing. In the instance of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor case, sentencing can be light. With a felony, the sentencing process can be more complicated. Commonly, with misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor cases, the sentencing will happen after a plea of guilty or when the jury reaches a verdict.

In Minnesota, the length of probation sentencing for a felony is four years or maximum sentence, whichever is longer. For a gross misdemeanor, the maximum length of probation is two years. For a misdemeanor, the maximum length is one year. For a petty misdemeanor, there is no probation.

Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI)

In the instance of a felony, there will be a pre-sentence Investigation or PSI. The PSI is a summary of your educational, work and criminal history. Also included, will be any chemical dependency or mental health issues you may have. The PSI is provided to the attorneys and the court after they meet with the defendant. Additionally, the PSI will serve as a recommendation about what kind of sentence the court may decide upon. However, the recommendations of the PSI are not binding and the court ultimately has the discretion to hand down a different sentence.

Typically, only after the defendant has been sentenced will they face jail time. The only exception to this is if the defendant cannot afford bail or bond or if they have violated the conditions of their release. Sometimes sentencing hearings will involve discussions about the length of a prison sentence or instead of facing prison time, you may be given probation.

Overall, the duration of the criminal court process in Minnesota can be hard to determine. Often, misdemeanors can be settled during the first appearance and will typically only involve a single hearing. Felonies can last months or even a year to resolve.

Appealing a Conviction

An error in your original case could be grounds for a criminal court case appeal. Some examples of this could include suppressed evidence, a questionable ruling by the judge or a violation of your constitutional rights.

If you wish to appeal your criminal court case, the team at CJB Law can give you the time-tested representation to help your appeal succeed. Contacting CJB Law is free and you can get started on a free case evaluation today. Our team of attorneys can help you decide if you should appeal your conviction. If you feel that you have been wrongfully convicted, we are here to represent you.

In Closing

There are many things to keep in mind when going through the criminal court process in Minnesota. It is important to understand your rights. It is also important to have support in the courtroom and the team at CJB Law is committed to giving you the best defense possible. If you have any questions about the criminal court process in Minnesota, we encourage you to connect with an experienced legal team.

Talk to CJB Law Today

Talk to CJB Law Today

We deal with a large variety of criminal law cases throughout Minnesota and North Dakota. Our legal team is dedicated to representing our clients and appreciates the strain that such a criminal law case can bring. We take care in deeply understanding your case to create a plan for your best possible future. Contact CJB Law today to talk about your case.