Understanding the Criminal Justice Process in Minnesota

The criminal justice system in Minnesota can be complex and unfamiliar, leading to confusion and anxiety after being accused or charged of a crime. Minnesota has established a criminal justice system meant to value due process and fairness, and designed to protect the rights of the accused. But once you are accused, many in the public may assume you are guilty.  And being unfamiliar with the system can lead to missteps and mistakes that can significantly impact your case. If you’re currently facing criminal charges in Minnesota, hiring an attorney who understands the ins and outs of the Minnesota criminal process, and your rights within the system, is critical. 

At Knutson + Casey, our attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients navigate Minnesota’s complex criminal justice system.  We have a proven track record of successfully advocating for our clients rights and freedoms, and working hard to minimize jail times, fines, and other consequences. We have over 50 years of combined experience providing top-notch representation to the criminally accused, and are ready to use our extensive knowledge and skills to fight on your behalf. When you hire us or retain our services, you will have peace of mind knowing your case is in the capable hands of a seasoned legal professional, with tremendous trial experience, and many not guilty verdicts for our clients. 

The Four Stages of the Criminal Justice Process in Minnesota

Understanding Minnesota’s criminal justice process can help you protect and fight for your rights if you are accused of a crime. Typically, the judicial process can be broken down into the following four categories:

First Hearing

During the first hearing—typically known as the arraignment—the judge will ensure you understand your rights, including your right to remain silent and your right to counsel as well as the charges you face. You will also be given the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Finally, the court must establish the conditions of your release. Depending on your case’s circumstances and the severity of your charges, the judge may impose bail or bond, travel restrictions, or house arrest.  We work hard to try and get our clients out on release on the day of arraignments, where possible.  

Omnibus Hearing.

An omnibus hearing is an opportunity for our attorneys to attempt to get charges dismissed, ask that certain evidence be excluded or thrown out, and seek our client’s legal remedies under the constitution. During this hearing, the court may decide if there is probable cause to believe you committed the crime. Both sides can present evidence during this hearing, including testimony of the arresting officer, so having an experienced attorney on your side is critical to defend your rights and cross-examine the officer. 

Pre-Trial Hearing

Before a case proceeds to trial, a pre-trial conference will be held.  During the conference, the prosecution and defense will meet to discuss ways to resolve the case before trial. A few possible resolutions include the following:

  • Pleading guilty as charged
  • Pleading guilty to amended charges
  • Dismissing the charges upon completion of a diversion program such as rehab
  • Dismissing the charges without conditions


If a resolution cannot be reached during the pre-trial phase, the case will proceed to trial as soon as possible. Depending on your unique situation, you will have a jury or court trial. During a jury trial, the prosecution must prove your guilt to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt to achieve a conviction. After both sides present their cases, the jury must reach a unanimous decision regarding the verdict. While the proceedings are largely the same during a court trial, the judge will be the only person deciding your case rather than six to twelve jurors. 

During the trial, your defense attorney will present evidence, call witnesses, and deliver arguments to cast a reasonable doubt on whether you could have committed the crime in question. Having an experienced attorney in your corner can significantly impact the outcome of your case. 


Sentencing only occurs if the jury or court reaches a guilty verdict or if the defendant pleads guilty. The judge will consider the state sentencing guidelines, the impact of the crime on victims, and other facts of the case when determining an appropriate sentence. The defense and prosecution will also be allowed to present their positions on an appropriate sentence.  Our attorneys seek the lowest possible sentencing fines, jail and prison time for our clients, where it is necessary.  We have made hundreds of sentencing arguments before the courts with great success for our clients.

Speak to a Top-Notch Criminal Defense Attorney at Knutson + Casey

If you have been charged with a crime in Minnesota, having an experience and trusted criminal defense attorney on your side is absolutely essential, through every stage of the criminal justice process. The aggressive and innovative attorneys at Knutson + Casey have more than five decades of combined experience helping their clients defend their rights and achieve favorable outcomes for their cases. We understand what is at stake and will fight fiercely for justice on your behalf. 

To learn more about Minnesota’s criminal justice process and how a skilled attorney will help you, schedule a free consultation by calling (507) 344-8888 or completing our contact form today.