Court Process

Court Process

Steps in Criminal Court Procedure

Steps in the court process
Steps in the court process

Criminal procedure:  Understanding the stages in the criminal court process will help a person regain control after the initial shock.  This is the criminal procedure for all Minnesota criminal offense levels.

Police investigation

In the beginning of the criminal process, the target becomes aware of a police investigation.  And sometimes it’s been going awhile.  But, what countermeasures can the target take?

First, check your emotional state.  If you’re human; you’re upset.  But that’s ok.  And in fact, it’s good to notice.  Because strong emotions lead to poor choices. 

And by acknowledging your emotions, you’ll be able to set them aside for problem-solving.

Next, bring in a professional like Attorney Thomas C. Gallagher for pre-charge counsel.  So we can work together to:

  • identify known relevant facts,
  • spotlight legal issues,
  • formulate the best defense strategies, and then,
  • implement them.

The goal is, first, to reduce the chances of a criminal charge.  And second, if the government does make a criminal charge, we want to do everything possible to avoid helping them.  So this means:

  • avoid answering questions or talking to police without your lawyer present, and
  • never consent to a search in any way.

If police are investigating you, shut up and lawyer up.

Criminal cases often begin with police investigating.  And many steps in the process may follow.  But not all cases will make it to the next step in the funnel.  So for more on police investigations, see our page:

Police Investigation

When do I need a defense lawyer in the court process?

You should get a criminal defense lawyer’s help at the point in the court process when you can benefit.

Defense Attorney Thomas Gallagher explains the court process & Minnesota criminal procedure
Defense Attorney Thomas Gallagher explains the court process & Minnesota criminal procedure

Before or during a police investigation; you may benefit from the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney, like Thomas Gallagher.

And what you are seeing for the first time, he has seen over and over again, for decades.

So Attorney Thomas Gallagher can guide you away from trouble, towards safety.

And for more about pre-charge legal representation, see our pages:

Pre-charge lawyer retainer

Victim representation

The Charging Document

After police complete their investigation, they forward it to the prosecuting attorney.  And then the prosecuting attorney decides whether or not to charge a person with a crime. 

But what is a criminal charge? 

A charge is nothing more than a prosecutor’s unproven claim, based on second-hand information.

Prosecutors charge crimes based on their view that the evidence shows probable cause to believe guilt.  But we can read the headlines. Prosecutors frequently charge innocent people with crimes.

The charging document alleges facts, which if true; the prosecutor thinks will amount to “probable cause” (suspicion) that the crime did happen.  And when the prosecutor files it with the court, this begins the court’s part of the criminal process.

The problem contains the solution

So if a prosecutor claims a criminal act, you need help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer like Thomas Gallagher.  So he can help you:

  • understand the possible consequences,
  • the defense goal for outcome, and
  • strategies to avoid those consequences, and to achieve that outcome.

Attorney Thomas Gallagher will review the penalties with you.  These include the presumptive sentence under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines, and any mandatory minimum sentencing laws.  He will check the statutes in the Complaint against the claimed facts, for mistakes.  Where appropriate, he’ll file a motion to dismiss charges.

The prosecutor’s filing of a Complaint with the court is a milestone event in the court process.  So then, you need a defense attorney as soon as possible after a criminal charge.  And for more about the charging document stage, see our page:

Complaint or Indictment (Charging document)

Pre-trial Release Hearing

After the prosecutor files the Complaint with the court, he may request the defendant’s arrest on a warrant.  Or, the prosecutor asks the court to send the defendant a Summons to appear in court.

After an arrest on a warrant, the defendant appears before a judge for a pre-trial release hearing (or bail hearing).  And at the hearing the judge will set conditions of pre-trial release, which may include bail.

This step in the court process determines whether the court will hold the defendant in jail pending trial; and how onerous the conditions of pre-trial release will be.

So for more on what to expect, see our pages:

First Court Appearance

The First Appearance in court, after any bail hearing, is the first substantive step in the court process.  And for what to expect at a “Criminal Procedure Rule 5,” First Appearance in court, see our page:

Arraignment or First Appearance

Pre-trial Settlement Conference

We often have more than one court appearance between the First Appearance and the Jury Trial date.  And these serve several purposes in the court process.  One is to explore settlement possibilities with the opposing attorney and the court.  But another is to manage the case with defense motions and planning.  So for a discussion of what more to expect, see our page:

Pre-trial Conference

Contested Omnibus Hearing

The contested omnibus hearing can result in dismissal of charges, or suppression of evidence.  And if the defense attorney identifies defense issues and files pre-trial motions, the court will hold a Contested Omnibus Hearing.  So for our discussion of this step in the court process and what to expect, see our page:

Pre-trial Contested Omnibus Hearing

The Trial

The fact-finder at trial is either the jury or a judge without a jury.  So the accused can waive her right to a jury. 

The trial should be a fair procedure to decide past events; and whether enough proof exists to prove a crime by the defendant.  The defense lawyer can raise legal defenses at trial. And we provide a deeper look at the trial on our page:

Jury Trial or Court Trial

Sentencing Hearing

In the court process, the defense attorney may persuade the prosecutor, or the judge, to dismiss the charges.  Or, the defense attorney may help the jury bring a not-guilty verdict. And in either case, the accused won. So there would be no sentencing.

But if convicted, either after a plea agreement or a trial, the court will hold a sentencing hearing.  And for a guide to better outcomes at a sentencing hearing, see our page:

Sentencing

Appellate Courts

Appeals are relatively unusual in the court process.  But we must preserve our legal issues for appeal, just in case.

If the accused wins the case, no defense appeal may be necessary.  But if the prosecution convicts, the defendant may want to appeal legal errors. And the prosecutor can sometimes appeal a defense win.

So defense issues preserved for appeal in the Contested Omnibus Hearing, the Trial, and Sentencing may be more successful on appeal.

Pardon and Expungement

Collateral consequences of convictions can ruin families, push people into a criminal lifestyle, and undermine the legal economy. So they are long-lasting.

So the best time to avoid conviction is while a charge is still pending. And with the best criminal attorney you can afford.

This is our 12 page guide to the court process & criminal procedure
This is our 12 page guide to the court process & criminal procedure

But what about the past, after it’s too late for that?

A person with a conviction record can eventually apply for a Pardon from the Minnesota Pardons Board.

And for some convictions, the defendant can eventually Petition a Judge for an Expungement Order.

Some or all civil rights maybe restored if successful. Find out more about:

Minnesota Criminal Expungement & Pardon

Your Guide through Minnesota Criminal Procedure & the Court Process

Successfully Navigating — Step-by-Step Through the Court Process

The court process developed to serve many, sometimes conflicting, goals.  And the Court’s Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure attempt to balance these.

Go here for a look at the Federal Court Process.

Most people have seen legal dramas in television or films.  And some have been to court on a traffic ticket.  But when a person goes to court on a criminal charge, it becomes vital to understand criminal procedure.

And we are already helping you, now, with the detailed information here, on this site.

So your criminal defense lawyer should be able to both educate you and guide you through the court process.  And you should feel in control.  Because together, we can fight to win.

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Question about the criminal court process in Minnesota State or Federal Court?

You can call Minneapolis Criminal Lawyer Thomas Gallagher for answers at 612 333-1500.