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Criminal Defense FAQs

What happens after a trial?

A defendant who is found guilty in a federal criminal trial has a right to appeal their case to the U.S. court of appeals. The grounds for appeal usually allege that the district judge made an error either in interpreting the law or in procedure, for example by admitting improper evidence. The losing party may not appeal if there was no trial - that is, if the defendant decided to plead guilty. However, a defendant who pleads guilty may have the right to appeal his or her sentence. The prosecution may also sometimes appeal a sentence. The prosecuting authorities may not appeal if a defendant in a criminal case is found to be innocent. The double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution provides that no person shall "be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb" for the same offense.

What happens at a trial?

After litigating any pretrial motions, lawyers select a jury to hear the case. Through a process known as voir dire, the judge and the lawyers question potential jurors about their ability to be fair and impartial in your particular case. Jurors who do not meet that standard are excused. The lawyers may also excuse a certain number of jurors for no reason at all. After a jury is selected, the lawyers make opening statements designed to preview the evidence the jury will hear during the trial. The prosecutor makes an opening statement first. The defense attorney can then do one of three things: Make an opening statement; reserve the right to make an opening statement until after the prosecution rests its case in chief; or waive the right to make any opening statement at all. The prosecution then presents its case in chief by calling its witnesses and asking them questions on direct examination. When the prosecutor finishes asking a prosecution witness questions, the defense attorney is then allowed to cross-examine the witness to ask their own questions. When the defense attorney finishes, the prosecutor can ask the witness follow-up questions, after which the defense attorney can ask additional follow-up questions. This process continues until there are no further follow-up questions to be asked. After the prosecution presents all of its evidence in its case in chief, it rests. The defense then has an opportunity to call defense witnesses, and the questioning process reverses. The defense asks the witness questions first, and then the prosecution asks. The defense will ask its follow up questions, and then the prosecution will follow, repeating until there are no further questions. Then the defense rests its case in chief. It is important to remember that the defendant has no obligation to testify or to call any witnesses on his or her behalf. The defendant is presumed innocent and the prosecution has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous jury. After the defense rests its case in chief, the prosecution may present a case in rebuttal by calling rebuttal witnesses. After the prosecution rests its case in rebuttal, the defense may present a case in rebuttal by calling its own rebuttal witnesses. After both sides finally rest, the prosecution makes a closing argument to the jury. The defense attorney then makes a closing argument after which the prosecution may make a rebuttal argument. The judge then instructs the jury on the law and the jury retires for deliberations and, if possible, renders a verdict.

What happens at a pretrial conference?

A pretrial or settlement conference affords your attorney an opportunity to meet with the prosecutor in your case and attempt to resolve your matter without a trial. Though a lawyer facilitates the opportunity to resolve a case thorough plea negotiations, it is ultimately the client who determines whether to accept the offer or allow the case to proceed to trial.

What happens at an omnibus hearing?

According to the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, at an omnibus hearing the court determines: (1) the constitutional admissibility of evidence derived from searches, seizures, interrogations and identification procedures; (2) whether probable cause to proceed to trial exists (whether it is probable that the defendant committed the crimes charged in the complaint); and (3) other constitutional, evidentiary, or procedural issues capable of disposition prior to trial. Due to the size of their caseloads, however, several Twin Cities metropolitan counties have modified omnibus hearings into simple probable cause determinations with all other issues reserved for determination immediately before trial.

What happens at an arraignment?

An arraignment is the first appearance on misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor cases in Minnesota state courts. At the arraignment, a defendant will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Usually, if a defendant pleads guilty at an arraignment, the court will proceed to sentencing. If the defendant pleads not guilty in a misdemeanor case, a pretrial conference is scheduled. If a defendant pleads not guilty in a petty misdemeanor case, a court trial is scheduled. Because incarceration is not a possible sentence, there is no right to a jury trial in petty misdemeanor cases. In misdemeanor cases, a financially eligible defendant can request a public defender. Because incarceration is not a possible sentence in petty misdemeanor cases, public defenders are not appointed but defendants can hire their own lawyers in such cases. If you are charged with a misdemeanor by a ticket, citation, or tab charge, you can request a formal complaint at your arraignment. If you are in custody, the prosecution has 48 hours from the time of your demand to file a complaint. If you are not in custody, the prosecution has 30 days from the date of your demand to file a complaint. If no complaint is filed within these timeframes, the charges against you are dismissed.

What happens at an initial appearance?

While some differences exist from county to county in Minnesota, there are four basic things that happen at an initial appearance in felony and gross misdemeanor cases. First, the court ensures that you have received a copy of the complaint and fully understand the charges against you. Second, the court determines whether you have retained a private attorney, want a public defender to be appointed, or intend to represent yourself. Public defenders are appointed to represent only those defendants who are financially eligible. A defendant is entitled to at least one continuance of an initial appearance for purposes of hiring a lawyer. Third, the court determines whether the defendant wants an omnibus hearing scheduled and, if so, whether the defendant wants a "speedy" omnibus hearing (one scheduled within 28 days of the initial appearance). Finally, the court sets conditions of release, which may or may not include bail.

How long does it take a case to go through the court system?

The length of time it will take for your case to go through the court system depends on several factors to include: Whether you are charged in federal or state court, what county you are charged in, whether you are charged with a felony, gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor, and whether your case is dismissed, resolved through plea negotiations, or proceeds to trial. Your case may require a single court appearance or a series of appearances. Most cases are resolved within two to three months. Final outcomes of more serious or complicated cases may take more than one year.

How do I post bail?

There are two common ways to post bail in Minnesota. The first, is known as "cash" bail, requires you to post the bail amount in cash. If you fail to appear in court as ordered or otherwise violate the conditions of your release, the entire amount of your bail money can be forfeited to the authorities. If you make all your court appearances and do not otherwise violate the conditions of your release, at the conclusion of your case you are entitled to a refund of your entire cash bail, less any fines, fees and/or restitution ordered by the court. The second way to make bail is through a "bail bond," which is posted by a bail bondsman. How bail bonds work is you pay the bail bondsman 10% of the amount and sign an agreement to pay the remaining 90% only if your bail is forfeited for failing to appear in court or otherwise violating the conditions of your release. When your case ends, if your bail has not been forfeited, you do not have to pay the remaining 90% of the bail amount, but you also do not receive a refund of the 10% you paid.

What is pre-charge representation?

The goal of pre-charge representation is to try to prevent you from being charged with a crime. In general, people do not seek legal counsel in criminal cases until they are charged. In a situation that requires pre-charge representation, a lawyer acts as a buffer between you and the authorities. If you are aware that you are a suspect in a pending criminal investigation, a criminal defense attorney can keep you from being charged with a crime or prevent you from being charged with a more serious offense. If you are ultimately charged, a lawyer may be able to arrange for a voluntary surrender so you can avoid being arrested and having to post bail. If you believe that you are a suspect in a pending criminal investigation, contact Paul Edlund immediately to discuss precharge representation.

How much does legal representation cost?

Because every case is different, no established attorney will set a fee without first conducting an initial consultation. During the consultation, the lawyer will learn all the facts and circumstances involved in your particular case. Most reputable criminal defense lawyers charge a "flat" fee, which ensures representation throughout the trial, regardless of the number of hours the lawyer works on the case or whether the case is dismissed or resolved through plea negotiations. Flat fees for representation through trial usually do not include representation on appeal, however. The more serious or complicated the case, the higher the cost will be to defend. Representation in serious crimes, which may result in a prison sentence, cost more. For lower level crimes, where probation or fines are likely, the price is less. Likewise, the cost of representation for federal cases is often higher than fees for representation in state court cases. Like in all industries, when it comes to legal representation you pay for what you get. High quality representation for a criminal case will cost thousands of dollars. Though it might seem like a bargain to hire a lawyer who charges less, it's worth it to invest more money into protecting your freedom and future. To the extent financially possible, you should hire an attorney with whom you feel comfortable and in whom you have confidence.

What should I do if I am charged with a crime?

If you have been charged with a crime and you have not yet called a lawyer, now is the time. Paul Edlund is a criminal defense attorney serving clients throughout Minnesota. He can assist you in understanding your rights and managing your legal issues.

What obligations do I have to talk to law enforcement authorities?

You are under no obligation to speak to law enforcement authorities. However, if you choose to speak to them, you are obligated to speak truthfully. If it can later be shown that you provided false information to police, you could be charged with making false statements or aiding an offender to escape arrest or prosecution. Your best course of action is to say only that you'd like to consult with an attorney and then call one immediately.

What should I do if I am arrested for a crime?

First and foremost, do not resist the arrest. Minnesota law does not allow the right to resist an arrest, even if you believe it to be an illegal one. Additionally, do not make any statements to the police as anything you say can and will be used against you in court. Your actions if arrested should be simply to say: “I would like to speak with my attorney”. That is your legal right and the only thing you should say.

What should I do if a loved one has been arrested for a crime?

Gather as much information as possible about the person’s arrest and write it down. Some useful questions could be: What is the person’s name; birth date; and social security number? With what crime has he or she been charged? What law enforcement agency performed the arrest? Where is the arrested person being held? Has bail been set? If so, what is the amount?

What is the difference between a felony, gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor?

Under Minnesota law, felonies are crimes punishable by more than one year in prison. Gross misdemeanors are crimes punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $3,000. Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Petty misdemeanors are deemed non-criminal violations of the law punishable by a fine of up to $300.