Common Court Proceedings in Adult Criminal Court
Rule 5 Hearing (aka Arraignment Hearing)
The defendant is formally notified of the charges filed, advised of his or her rights, and bail and other release conditions are set. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, a public defendant may be appointed by the court to represent the defendant. Sometimes this hearing is combined with the Rule 8 Hearing. In a Misdemeanor case, if the defendant pleads not guilty, a Pre-trial Hearing is scheduled. If the defendant pleads guilty, he or she may proceed to immediate sentencing.
Rule 8 Hearing
Typically scheduled within two weeks of the Rule 5 Hearing. Similar to the Rule 5 Hearing, the court informs the defendant of the chares against them, their rights, and makes sure they have a copy of the criminal complaint. The case is then set for an Omnibus Hearing. If a defendant pleads guilty, the Judge may schedule a Sentencing Hearing or proceed to immediate sentencing.
The defendant can challenge whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial or may raise questions regarding legal issues in the case. The Judge may hear oral testimony and receive documents, such as police reports, as evidence. If no legal or evidentiary issues are raised, a plea is entered and the case may proceed to a Pre-trial Hearing.
The prosecutor and the defense attorney may discuss a plea agreement or any issues that may arise if the case proceeds to trial. If the defendant pleads guilty, the Judge will usually schedule a separate Sentencing Hearing. If it is a misdemeanor offense, the Judge may proceed to immediate sentencing. If the case is not resolved at this hearing, the Judge will schedule a date for trial.
At a trial, both the prosecutor and the defense attorney present their case to the Judge or jury. Both sides may call witnesses to testify. At the end of a criminal case the jury (or Judge in a court trial) must decide if the prosecutor proved the defendant's guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty following a trial, the Judge may order a Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI), typically for felony and gross misdemeanor cases. The PSI will include the defendant's criminal history and personal background. The individual conducting the PSI, usually a probation officer, may contact the victim of the crime to determine how they have been impacted by the defendant's actions. The PSI enables the Judge to learn more about the defendant to order an appropriate sentence.
After a PSI has been completed, the defendant comes before the Judge for sentencing. The victim may attend the Sentencing Hearing and will be given an opportunity to present a Victim Impact Statement and comment on the sentence he or she feels would be appropriate. The victim may also request that the court order the defendant to pay restitution for any monetary loss caused by the defendant's crime. If the victims chooses not to attend the sentencing, at their request, his or her input may be presented to the Judge in writing or read to the court by the prosecutor.
The Judge can only impose a sentence that falls within the boundaries of the state law, following the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. Keeping those guidelines in mind and weighing all the facts of the case, the Judge then sentences the defendant.
*This is a standard process. Additional or combined hearings may be scheduled at the request of either party.