Pretrial Conference

What is the purpose of the Pretrial Conference?

What is a pretrial conference in a Minnesota criminal case?  Though we use various terms, the second court appearance in the criminal court process (the one following the Arraignment) provides an opportunity for the defense attorney to meet with the prosecutor personally to discuss outcome, and explore settlement possibilities.  Some courts term this appearance a preliminary hearing, settlement conference, or a Rule 8 hearing.

Other purposes of a preliminary hearing

Criminal Attorney Thomas Gallagher explains the pretrial conference, Rule 8 hearing, and preliminary hearing
Criminal Attorney Thomas Gallagher explains the pretrial conference, Rule 8 hearing, and preliminary hearing

The defense attorney and prosecuting attorney also discuss discovery and evidence.  And we discuss any defense pretrial motions and contested pretrial hearings relating to probable cause for trial, suppression of evidence, and trial issues.  The defense and prosecution lawyers may discuss these issues with the judge as well at the preliminary hearing.

Sometimes this type of court appearance is called an “Uncontested Omnibus Hearing” (as opposed to the “Contested Omnibus Hearing” that may follow on a later date).  Some courts will schedule a “Pretrial Conference” a week or so before the jury trial date.

What is a Rule 8 hearing in a Minnesota criminal case?

Rule 8 of the Minnesota Court Rules of Criminal Procedure:  The stated purpose of the second court appearance in Rule 8, or pretrial conference, is:

“Rule 8.01.  Purpose of Second Appearance
(a) The purpose of this hearing is to again advise defendants of their rights, to allow defendants to plead guilty, or if the defendant does not plead guilty, to request or waive an Omnibus Hearing under Rule 11.

(b) At this hearing, the court must again inform the defendant of the:

(1) charge(s);

(2) defendant’s rights, including the right to counsel, and to have counsel appointed under Rule 5.04 if eligible; and

(3) opportunity to enter a guilty plea as permitted by Rule 8.02.

(c) The court must ensure the defendant has a copy of the complaint or indictment.

(d) The court may continue or modify the defendant’s bail or other conditions of release previously ordered.”

Rule 8 goes on to say that at the pretrial conference, the defendant can plead guilty, or no plea shall be entered.  Of course, the defendant should not plead guilty unless under a favorable plea agreement.  A not-guilty plea is unnecessary because of the presumption of innocence for all accused.

The goes on to talk about the defense demand, at the pretrial conference, for a Contested Omnibus Hearing and the 28 day time limit for it.  In most cases, defendants waive the 28 day time limit.  We prefer to have more time to prepare to win.  If the prosecution has not given complete discovery to the defense, then the court may schedule a continued Rule 8 hearing – a repeat.

Rule 8 applies to felony and gross misdemeanor cases.  Criminal procedure in misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor cases is less formal, but similar.

Can the court dismiss a case at a pretrial conference?

Some cases include multiples charges in the same Complaint.  When the court dismisses charges at a pretrial conference, this is normally part of a plea agreement with the prosecutor.  But the court rarely dismisses all charges in the Complaint at a pretrial conference.  When the the court does dismiss the entire case, that happens at a later appearance in the court process.

Can you go to jail at a pretrial conference?

Not likely.  A defendant almost never goes to jail at a preliminary hearing, unless he or she is already being held in jail in pretrial detention.  For cases where defendant pleads guilty under a plea agreement, they rarely go to jail that day, if ever.

Do you need to say anything at a pretrial conference?

You need a defense attorney to represent you in any criminal case.  Your attorney protects you by speaking for you.  You don’t need to say anything.  The exceptions to that rule are guilty pleas, sentencing hearings, and jury trials.  On those occasions the defendant speaks directly to the judge or to the jury.

What happens after the pretrial conference court appearance?

Gallagher Defense logo grAfter the pretrial conference, there could be one of more continued Rule 8 hearing, Contested Omnibus Hearing, and Jury Trial dates.

Question about the pretrial conference or the criminal court process?  Call Minneapolis Criminal Lawyer Thomas Gallagher at 612 333-1500.