Misdemeanors are often seen as the least serious of all criminal charges. However, in many (if not all) circumstances the penalties can have a long term effect on you and your lifestyle. In the State of Minnesota, Misdemeanors are broken up into two categories: (1) Misdemeanors, whose punishment is generally 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000; and (2) Gross Misdemeanors, whose punishment is up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $3,000. The time line of a typical Misdemeanor offense is similar to that of a Felony – with only some slight variations.  If you are charged with a Minnesota Misdemeanor or Felony, call a Twin Cities Criminal Defense Attorney and/or Minnesota DWI Lawyer – today.

1. Investigation

In a lot of cases, before any arrests are ever made, a police investigation is conducted; sometimes that can take weeks, at other times it can take mere minutes.  No matter the circumstances, if you believe that you are being investigated by the government your best defense is to call a Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer right away. I have seen it time and time again – in the early, critical stages of a case, when you’re not represented by a lawyer,  many well-meaning  individuals provide way too much information to the police and it often can come back to haunt them.

If you learn one thing today, remember this: You are under no obligation to provide the government with any information – except your personal identification. When an officer says that by cooperating you can make things “easier” – ask yourself this: Easier for who?  Easier for you – up against the all powerful government with its unlimited resources? Or easier for them – the one’s out to close an investigation and make an arrest?

You don’t have to do the government’s work for them. Cooperation with the police, providing them with information before you speak to a Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer, is often the quickest way to an arrest and/or conviction. If you are being investigated for a crime, often the smartest decision you can make is to contact a  Twin Cities Criminal Defense Attorney.

2. Arrest

If you’ve watched even one second of “Law & Order” or the nightly news you know what an arrest looks, but do you know what you should do if you’re the one arrested? Whether you’re facing a Minnesota DWI, drug, theft or assault charge, the first critical thing you want to do is to invoke your right to remain silent and request an attorney.  You have no obligation to make the government’s case for them. Don’t give them the evidence they need to convict you – remain silent and contact a Twin Cities Criminal Defense Lawyer. Remember, in the context of a criminal investigation, where the cops are investigating you, they are not on your side.

3. Arraignment & Conditions of Release (Bail)

An arraignment is a hearing where you are formally read the charges against you. If you’re in custody, this often happens rather shortly after you’ve been arrested. If you are cited and let go, then it usually occurs within a couple weeks.  At that first hearing, if you haven’t had a chance to speak with a Twin Cities Criminal Defense Attorney – ask the judge for one. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court may appoint one for you.  At this hearing, you could also be asked to enter a plea – whatever you do – do not, I repeat, DO NOT enter a plea until you have had a chance to speak with an attorney.

At the first hearing, the judge might also set Conditions of Release, like Bail, etc.  Often these conditions are premised on factors such as whether you’ll: come back for future court dates, try to tamper with and/or influence potential witnesses, and/or whether you would be a danger to yourself or others. If you have a Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer, he or she should be ready to argue why you should be released without Bail or conditions and have some evidence to back up that assertion. If you don’t and conditions are set – a Twin Cities Criminal Defense Lawyer could appear at a later hearing to argue that the judge should lower the Bail and/or remove any conditions.

4. Pre-trial Hearing/Settlement Conference

At this stage in the process, the government will be required to demonstrate to the judge that it has sufficient probable cause – that it is more likely than not that you committed the offense for which you were charged – to continue its case against you.  Admittedly, their burden is low – and nearly always met; however, the hearing is important because it is then that you’ll become more aware of exactly what the government’s case is, you’ll hear testimony from their witnesses, you’ll be able to analyze their evidence.

You and your Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney will also get to see all of the information that the government has gathered to use against you.  This includes the police reports, any photographs, statements from witnesses, any videos, any blood, breath or urine analysis – in DWI cases, and any other evidence the prosecution might have. You’ll also be made aware of evidence that can help you. This is also the hearing where you must offer up to the government any evidence that you plan to use at trial. However, you’re almost never required to provide them with evidence that they could use against you.

This is also a good opportunity for plea negotiations to begin – if they are warranted.

5. Pre-trial Motion Hearing

This hearing – even sometimes more so then the trial itself – is often the most important part of any criminal case because it is your Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer’s best chance to exclude any prejudicial, wrongly obtained or irrelevant evidence that the government has gathered to use against you. By limiting what they can offer at trial, your Twin Cities Criminal Defense Lawyer can significantly weaken the government’s case, get the charges against you reduced, and/or even get your case dismissed.

6. Trial

Trials generally follow a fairly standard procedure: (a.) jury selection; (b.) opening statements; (c.) presentation of the government’s case; (d.) presentation of your evidence; (e.) closing arguments; and (f.) the verdict. The government has the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. You have no burden; you don’t have to prove you’re innocent or even testify.

7. Sentencing

If you are found guilty, you will be sentenced. Each sentence usually falls within a certain range.  Generally, the less severe the crime is and the little to no criminal criminal history you might have – the lower the sentence you might receive.  One important role your Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney can play at this hearing is to present evidence, on your behalf, seeking a lesser consequence.

8. Appeal

If you are found guilty of a crime, you will be able to appeal your conviction and you may even receive a new trial. One important factor to consider when going down this road is that there are strict time lines that must be followed when appealing a conviction. Therefore, it is crucial that you and/or your Twin Cities Criminal Defense Attorney quickly determine any and all rights of appeal that you might have as early as possible.