What Is Going to Happen When We Go to Court?

What is going to happen when we go to court? Will have to say anything? How long will it take? I get these questions all the time. The answers can vary depending on what type of case it is– felony versus misdemeanor, the County, and the Judge. The courtroom procedure can differ from one Judge to the next, even within the same county. Generally speaking, however, the pretrial process is fairly predictable.

Generally, the first appearance is called the arraignment. This is where the Court makes sure the defendant knows what they are charged with and that the defendant has received a copy of the complaint. The arraignment is also where the defendant can apply for a public defender if they are eligible. Finally, at the arraignment, the Court will set conditions of release, i.e., bail, no contact orders, no using drugs or alcohol, etc. Bail is mandatory in certain cases, but not all.

After the arraignment, the next appearance is typically a pretrial or omnibus hearing. For most counties it is called an omnibus and this is where the defendant can file motions to challenge probable cause for the charges and any constitutional issues present in the case. If the matter requires testimony of a police officer the hearing is called a contested omnibus or Rasmussen hearing. The Judge will decide whether the case proceeds to trial following the omnibus hearing.

Typically, there will be a settlement conference a few weeks before a trial setting. At the settlement conference the parties will have another opportunity to discuss settlement as well as to iron out trial issues.

Finally, the defendant will have a trial if the case has not been settled by plea or dismissal. By the way, the case can be resolved at any time along this process by plea or dismissal. For those cases that need a trial (generally less than 5% of all cases), the defendant can choose between a court trial – a trial to a Judge where the Judge is the trier of fact – or a jury trial – where a jury of the defendants peers decides the facts. In Minnesota, there are 12 jurors used for felony cases and 6 for misdemeanor cases. In order to convict, the jury must reach a unanimous verdict.

If the defendant is convicted, the matter is usually scheduled for a sentencing hearing at a later date. If the defendant is acquitted, the case is over and the charges are dismissed.

As a general rule, the whole process typically will take 6-9 months to complete. Of course, every case is different and every County is different. Some cases are done in less than 6 months; some take more than a year to complete.

Will you have to say anything? As you can see, there are so many different types of hearings that it is too difficult to tell when you will have to talk unless you know the specifics of your case. If you need assistance with your criminal case, please call Criminal Defense Attorney Kevin DeVore at 651-312-6519.

Luke Frederick