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Gross Misdemeanor Crimes

1. The process usually begins when a law enforcement agency sends the prosecutor its reports together with a request that the defendant be charged with a crime or crimes.  The prosecutor will review the reports and decide if they contain enough information to believe that there is a substantial likelihood of convicting the accused if the matter goes to trial.

2.  If the prosecutor believes there is sufficient evidence, a complaint will be issued charging the accused with a crime.  If the prosecutor does not believe there is enough evidence, the prosecutor will either inform the agency of what additional evidence is needed to charge, or that charges will not be issued.

3. The complaint is signed by a law enforcement officer and a judge, then filed with the Court Administrator’s Office.  Court Administration sets a court date called a First Appearance, also known as a Rule 5 appearance.

4. At the first appearance, or Rule 5 appearance, the judge advises the defendant of his or her legal rights.  The defendant may apply for a Public Defender.  If the defendant has hired a private attorney, the attorney should be present.  Failure of the defendant to appear may result in an arrest warrant being issued at the first appearance.  The defense attorney receives a copy of the complaint and police investigation.  Generally, no plea is entered at the first appearance. 

5. At a Rule 8 hearing, the defendant may enter a plea of guilty if a resolution has been reached.  If a plea of guilty is not entered, an omnibus hearing is scheduled.

6. At an omnibus hearing, legal issues and motions can be brought before the Judge.  These motions may be heard at a separate hearing set at a later date.  If no motions are brought before the Court, a plea of guilty or not guilty is entered.  If a plea of guilty is entered, the Judge will order a PSI (Pre-Sentence Investigation –it’s a report to the court about the defendant’s background) and schedule a sentencing hearing.  If a plea of not guilty is entered, the case continues to a pre-trial settlement conference.

7. At the pre-trial conference, the prosecutor and the defense attorney attempt to resolve the case and address any additional legal issues.  If a plea of guilty is not entered, the case continues to a jury trial.

8. At a jury trial, the prosecutor and the defense attorney select a jury.  The State (the prosecutor / Douglas County Attorney) has the burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt and presents evidence.  The defendant is presumed innocent and has no obligation to testify or present evidence.  The defendant may present evidence and/or testify.  If a defendant is found guilty, the Judge will order a PSI and schedule a sentencing hearing.  If a defendant is found not guilty, the case is over.  The prosecutor has no right to appeal from a not guilty verdict.

9. At sentencing, the Judge determines what punishment the defendant will receive.  In most cases, the sentence will be based upon the PSI conducted by the probation department.  Felony sentences are based upon the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines, which consider the seriousness of the offense and the criminal history of the defendant.  A victim of a crime has the right to present a victim impact statement at sentencing.