If you have been charged with an offense in Minnesota, you will eventually need to appear in court, either in person or via video conferencing, like zoom. What your first court appearance is called depends on the severity of the charges. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, your first hearing is called an arraignment. For gross misdemeanors and felony cases, the first hearing is called a first appearance. If you have been charged with a crime and have an upcoming court date, you should retain an attorney right away so that they can guide you through the court process, protect your rights, and ensure you do not make any costly mistakes while trying to represent yourself.
At an arraignment you will be informed of the charges against you, your right to apply for the services of the public defender’s office if you cannot afford an attorney, and your other rights in the criminal process. Sometimes your rights are explained on a form and sometimes there is a video played in the courtroom. You will also have the option of entering a guilty or not guilty plea. If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced and the case will be over. If you want to contest the charges you can plead not guilty and a pretrial hearing will be scheduled for a future date.
The judge will also determine whether you will be required to pay any bail or abide by any conditions until your next appearance. Often in misdemeanor cases, no bail is required and only a few basic conditions are set. These conditions commonly include requirements to remain law abiding, attend all future court dates, and keep the court and your attorney informed of your contact information. If the charged offense involved the use of controlled substances or alcohol, there may also be conditions that you do not use non-prescription drugs or alcohol and submit to random chemical testing to ensure your compliance.
In a gross misdemeanor or felony case you will be given a paper copy of the formal charges against you. This document is called a Complaint. As with misdemeanor cases, you will also be informed of your right to apply for the services of the public defender’s office if you cannot afford an attorney, and your other rights in the criminal process. The judge will also determine whether you will be required to pay any bail or abide by any conditions until your next appearance, which is typically a Rule 8 or Omnibus hearing. Sometimes the Rule 8 hearing is combined with the first appearance, so an additional hearing date is not necessary. In gross misdemeanor and felony cases, a plea is typically not entered at the first appearance.
If you want to hire a private attorney or need to because you did not qualify for a public defender, you should start looking for one right away, even if your next court appearance isn’t scheduled for a few weeks or months into the future. Even if you do qualify for the services of a public defender, there may be advantages to hiring a private attorney. The sooner you get your attorney involved, the more they can do to assist with your case.
If you have an upcoming court appearance, contact the BK Law Group today for your free consultation.