When charged with a crime in Bagley, Minnesota, it’s important to understand the principal components of Minnesota criminal law, such as the different levels of criminal offense based on the severity of harm and the process used to address criminal charges. This may help you to avoid criminal misconduct or prepare you for the criminal procedures that follow when facing criminal charges. An arrest and prosecution are very unpleasant and stressful experiences that could have significant negative impacts on various aspects of your life. If you do find yourself facing charges, hiring an expert attorney as early as possible in your case is crucial to help you effectively navigate the criminal justice system. If you are a resident of Bagley in Clearwater County, Minnesota, and facing criminal charges, reach out to us at Ringstrom Law for professional consultation and possible legal representation.

Criminal Law Overview

Criminal misconduct will be handled under Minnesota's criminal code or federal law. Criminal misconduct generally includes misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony charges, depending on the severity of the offense. To better understand how the court will handle criminal charges, we will look first at the different levels of criminal offense and then delve into the criminal procedures used to address criminal charges.

Misdemeanor Offenses

In Minnesota, the various grades of misdemeanors carry sentences of a year or less. There are three classifications of misdemeanor criminal charges in Minnesota: petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors, and gross misdemeanors.

  • Petty Misdemeanors. A petty misdemeanor is a low-level crime that in most cases will not require a court appearance. A petty misdemeanor requires payment of a fine up to $300. For example, many violations of the traffic laws will fall under a petty misdemeanor classification.
  • Misdemeanors. Misdemeanors are mid-level offenses. If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor, may be subject to up to 90 days in jail or required to pay a fine up to $1,000. In some cases, you may face a jail term in addition to paying a fine. Examples of misdemeanors include 5th degree assault, driving without a license, or a first time DWI.
  • Gross Misdemeanors. A gross misdemeanor is the most severe misdemeanor offense, but it is not as severe as a felony charge. Conviction of a gross misdemeanor results in a potential one-year jail term or a payment to the court of a fine up to $3,000. Examples of gross misdemeanors include theft of property worth between $500 and $1,000, a second DWI offense within ten years, or a second domestic assault offense within ten years.

Felony Offenses

Felony offenses include any criminal misconduct that requires more than a one-year sentence as its penalty. Maximum imprisonment penalties range from a year plus one day to life imprisonment. Examples of felony offenses include theft of property worth more than $1,000, murder, manslaughter, and many criminal sexual conduct crimes. Felony offenses are often broken down by degree based on the gravity of the conduct. The lower the degree (e.g., 1st degree assault), the greater the gravity of the charge and the greater the penalty imposed by the court. In other words, in Minnesota “first degree is the worst degree.”

Criminal Prosecution

The city of Bagley prosecutes criminal misconduct through the Clearwater County Attorney's Office for crimes that occur within its city limits. The process involves bringing and addressing charges against a defendant through various court hearings and possibly a trial of the case if no agreement can be made with the state. The county attorney prosecutes misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, and felony offenses. To convict someone of a crime, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime charged within the county.

Juvenile prosecution in Bagley is also handled by the Clearwater county attorney. Juvenile crimes range from minor offenses, such as violation of a curfew, to more serious criminal misconduct. Minor offenders may receive a punishment that doesn’t require going to court because the programs are designed for rehabilitation to reduce repeat offenses. However, in some cases, the Clearwater county attorney may certify that a juvenile be charged as an adult and subject to adult sanctions once attaining age 18. This is often the case if the offender poses a risk to public safety.

Criminal Arrest and Trial Process

Arrest

The criminal court process begins with an arrest, which occurs when someone is believed to have committed criminal misconduct. A lawful arrest typically requires a licensed peace officer to inform you of the reason why you are being arrested and the crime you have committed. You cannot legally be arrested without probable cause. The peace officer must usually also inform you of your right to remain silent, that what you say can be used against you in court, and about your rights to legal representation. Depending on the crime’s severity, you may be apprehended and taken into police custody, or you may simply be issued a citation. Both of these may require you to appear at a hearing and answer to the charge(s) made against you. In the case of an arrest and being held in custody at the police station, you also have the right to make a telephone call. At this time, you may want to call your loved ones and ask for their assistance in seeking out a good attorney, or you may want to call an attorney directly.

Receiving the Charges against You

Next, the prosecutor will file charges against you. You are then informed of the charges, which you should discuss with your lawyer to get legal advice on possible defenses and what actions need to be taken to best address the facts of your case. It is also at this time that you will know whether your charges are misdemeanor or felony-level charges.

Release with Bail Hearing

After contacting your criminal defense attorney, the attorney will help you request a hearing for release on bail. Most people in custody are not able to secure the presence of a crimnal defense attorney before the bail hearing. If release on bail is granted, it should occur within one day after the hearing. Though there are exceptions, indefinite detainment without a trial is almost always an infringement of your rights. However, if you are apprehended on the weekend or right before a state holiday, you will have to wait until at least the next business day to have a hearing. During the hearing, the judge determines the amount of bail you are required to pay for release from custody, which depends on the nature of your criminal charges, whether you were able to secure the presence of a criminal defense lawyer for the hearing, and other factors. You or your family should get a defense lawyer involved before the bail hearing, as this increases the chance of being released early, or at least being released on favorable terms.

Arraignment in Court

After a successful release on bail, as well as in cases where bail isn’t posted, a date is set for a court hearing where the judge reviews the nature of your case for the first time and may inform you of your rights. This hearing is in preparation for the discovery process and the preliminary hearing, where evidence is presented to show probable cause. Frequently in Clearwater County the bail hearing is combined with the first appearance. If you plead guilty to the crime(s) charged against you at the arraignment, the judge proceeds immediately to ordering a sentence on the charge(s).

Discovery Stage and Preliminary Hearing

After evidence is gathered and shared through the discovery process, the prosecutor may  present the evidence to the court in a preliminary hearing (called a probable cause hearing in Minnesota). The prosecutor has the burden of showing there is probable cause that you committed any crimes with which you have been charged. You and your attorney, having analyzed the evidence shared in the discovery process prior to the hearing, can dispute the evidence or raise procedural concerns about the extent to which that evidence will be admissable in court. It is essential to have a qualified lawyer by your side during all court proceedings, because the attorney is more experienced in identifying the legal issues that may affect your case, either favorably or unfavorably, and in handling these issues in the court of law. 

The Plea Process and Settlements

If probable cause is shown and trial is set, you and your lawyer will continue to dispute and raise procedural concerns about the prosecutor's evidence. You may continue to work with the prosecutor, through your attorney, in negotiating a plea deal. In some instances, the judge will analyze the concerns raised by your attorney, and, if they are found to be valid, some of the evidence presented against you may be suppressed, meaning that it will not be admissible to be used against you in court. If certain evidence is supressed, the judge will decide whether the claims against you are still strong enough for trial. There may be various discussions with your attorney to decide whether to settle the case or proceed to trial.

Trial process

If the judge concludes that the claims filed against you are still valid and the remaining evidence provides probable cause, the case proceeds to trial. The trial process may be avoided if a plea bargain is reached between you, with the assistance of your attorney, and the prosecutor.

If the case does proceed to trial, depending on the nature of the charges, a trial may run anywhere from a single day to many weeks or months. The duration of trial will depend on the availability of necessary evidentiary exhibits or witnesses, and on the judge overseeing the case. A Clearwater County jury will be drawn from the citizens of Bagley and other citizens that live in Clearwater County. An exception would be when the court grants a change of venue because of adverse pretrial publicity. In that case, your trial would be held in a different county.

The prosecutor will try to use evidence and witnesses to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime(s) for which you are charged. Your attorney, however, will question the witnesses to refute the reliability of the evidence used against you and may also call witnesses and present evidence to the court in your defense. A skilled and experienced criminal defense trial lawyer has the knowledge and skills needed to point out to the judge and jury the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s arguments and where witnesses may lack credibility, which makes it more difficult for the prosecutor to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sentencing and Fines

If you are found not guilty of all charges, your release conditions will be discharged and you will walk out of the courthouse free. If you are found guilty at trial, a sentencing hearing is set where the judge will determine the type and length of sentence most fitting to the offense for which you were convicted. The judge may take into consideration certain factors that allow him or her to be more or less lenient in the sentencing decision. Your criminal defense attorney will argue the mitigating factors in your case to bargain for a less severe sentence on your behalf.

Importance of Having a Criminal Defense Attorney

Having a criminal defense attorney by your side in the face of criminal charges has many important advantages. A criminal defense attorney works to ensure that your best interests are preserved throughout the arrest, investigation process, and court proceedings. Some of the roles of an attorney are listed here:

  • From the very beginning, the attorney will guide you through police interrogations and interviews.
  • The attorney will ensure that you are well informed of your rights and help you execute the necessary filings and negotiations in a manner most advantageous to your defense.
  • The attorney will guide you through all court proceedings and argue on your behalf.
  • The attorney will help you decide whether to plead guilty or to accept a plea deal, considering the weight of the evidence against you. Ultimately, however, it is always your decision whether or not you want to take the case to trial.
  • At trial, the attorney will cross-examine all witnesses to pinpoint weaknesses in their testimony. The attorney will also work to call into question the reliability of the evidence presented against you. As well, the attorney may present witnesses and evidence as part of your defense.
  • If you have to face a sentence, the attorney will argue all mitigating factors to ensure you get a fair sentence that is not overly punitive.

Find a Bagley Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

At Ringstrom Law, we pride ourselves in providing consistent client satisfaction through critical analyses of cases and evidence to help build strong defenses for our Bagley clients. No matter the criminal offense, our attorneys will work diligently to dismiss or reduce the charges. If you or someone close to you is facing prosecution in Bagley, we would be more than happy to meet with you and discuss the possibility of defending you in court.

The competency of criminal defense lawyers varies widely. Trial experience, technical legal knowledge, negotiation skills, and sheer persistence are some of the factors that you should weigh when determining who to retain to defend you or a family member.

Contact Ringstrom Law, based in Moorhead and Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, right away for more information and a case analysis. Don’t hesitate to call us today at 218-284-0484 to schedule a comprehensive consultation.