What to Expect in Misdemeanor Charges – The Legal Process.
The first court appearance in a misdemeanor criminal charge is called an arraignment, but it is often described more generally as a “first appearance”. The formal purpose of an arraignment is for the court to make sure you understand the charges and your constitutional rights to the presumption of innocence and a trial. The court will also decide if you will be required to post bail, but posting bail is not very common in misdemeanor cases. The court also needs to determine whether you have an attorney or intend to represent yourself. If you cannot afford an attorney, a public defender may be appointed by the court to represent you. Minnesota courts usually rely upon the federal poverty guidelines to evaluate eligibility for appointment of a public defender. It is sometimes appropriate to resolve a misdemeanor case at your first appearance, but usually the court will schedule pre-trial and trial dates, so you have time to work with your lawyer to review the evidence and prepare your defense.
The next step in the misdemeanor process is a pretrial conference. The pretrial is often the first good opportunity to discuss with the prosecutor how to resolve the case. But if the case cannot be resolved, a judge decides if there is probable cause for the case to proceed to trial. If you can arrange a favorable plea agreement with the prosecutor at the pretrial and enter a guilty plea to something, misdemeanor cases often proceed directly to sentencing so the case is done. But some cases such as domestic assault require the court to order a pre-sentence investigation and sentencing is scheduled for a later date. If you plead not guilty, the case proceeds to trial.
At the trial, the prosecutor has the legal burden to prove every element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The case will be decided by a jury of 6 people, or you can waive the jury and have a judge decide the case. You have the right to present evidence at trial, but you are not obligated to present any evidence or witnesses at trial. If you are acquitted, the case is over and you are free to go. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, the case will proceed to sentencing.
If you plead guilty or are found guilty following a trial, a judge may proceed directly to sentencing or schedule a separate sentencing hearing at a later date. A pre-sentence investigation (PSI) may be required by law or requested by you or the prosecutor.
This is the standard process for misdemeanor cases, but each case is unique so there may be important strategy reasons to take a different approach and additional hearings may be scheduled at the request of either party.
If you would like to discuss how to handle a pending misdemeanor charge, I welcome you to contact me. Remember, when you make the decision to work with me, the prosecutor and the judge have to go through me to get to you, and I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. Let me know how I can help.
Facing Criminal Charges?
If you or someone you know needs advice about how to handle a charge in Minnesota, please contact me to get you the help you need. I understand the seriousness of criminal charges, and how they can affect your life. I can help. If you make the decision to work with me I will take good care of you and be with you every step of the way.
As an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney, Bill Sherry understands that legal problems don’t always happen during ordinary office hours. If you are facing a legal problem and need to talk with a lawyer right now, call Bill Sherry at 952-423-8423 for a free consultation.