Court Process

Steps in Criminal Court Procedure

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

Criminal cases often begin with police investigating.  Many steps in the process may follow.  But not all cases will make it to the next step in the funnel.  For a discussion of police investigations, see our page:

Police Investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gallagher can guide you away from trouble, towards safety.

For more about pre-charge legal representation, see our page:

Pre-charge lawyer retainer

The Charging Document

After police complete their investigation, they forward it to the prosecuting attorney.  Then the prosecuting attorney’s office decides whether or not to charge a person with a crime.  A charge is an unproven claim.

Prosecutors charge crimes based on their view that the evidence shows probable cause to believe guilt.  Yet, prosecutors frequently charge innocent people with crimes.

The prosecutor’s filing of a Complaint with the court is a milestone event in the court process.  Then, you need a defense attorney as soon as possible after a criminal charge.  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 or she may request that the defendant be arrested 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).  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 may be.

For more on what to expect, see our page:

Bail Hearing

First Court Appearance

The First Appearance in court, apart from any bail hearing, is the first substantive step in the court process.  For a discussion about 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.  These serve several purposes in the court process.  One is to explore settlement possibilities with the opposing attorney and the court.  Another is to manage the case with defense motions and planning.  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.  If the defense attorney identifies defense issues and files pre-trial motions, the court will hold a Contested Omnibus Hearing.  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.  The accused can waive his or her right to a jury.  The trial should be a fair criminal procedure to decide past events, and if enough proof exists to prove a crime by the defendant.  We provide a deeper look at the trial on our page:

Jury Trial or Court Trial

Sentencing Hearing

At some point in the court process, the defense attorney may succeed in getting the prosecutor or the judge to dismiss the charges.  Or, the defense attorney may have helped the jury bring a not-guilty verdict. In either case, the accused won.

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


Appellate Courts

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

If the accused wins the case, no defense appeal may be necessary.  If the prosecution wins and convicts the accused, the defendant may want to appeal any legal errors or other grounds for appeal.

Defense issues preserved from the Contested Omnibus Hearing and the Trial for appeal may be successful on appeal, in some cases.

Your Guide through Minnesota Criminal Procedure

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

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

Your criminal defense lawyer should be able to both educate you and guide you through the court process.  You should feel in control.  Together, we can fight to win.

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.