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It’s important to make sure you report to the correct courthouse for your first appearance in Minnesota criminal court.  

Where your crime was alleged to have been committed will determine which courthouse you must report to.  You can check the Minnesota state court website here for a list of courthouse locations.

The severity level of the crime you have been charged with determines what happens when you make your first appearance in a Minnesota criminal court.  If you have been charged with a Misdemeanor, your first court appearance is called an Arraignment.  

Most common Misdemeanors include:

  • First-time DUI offenses,
  • Lower level Theft offenses,
  • Disorderly Conduct,
  • Some first-time Assault and Domestic Assault offenses, and
  • Common driving offenses, such as driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license or no insurance.

What happens in the courtroom?

When you appear in court for your Arraignment, the judge will want to accomplish two things. Appearing in court reassures the judge that you know you have been charged with a crime that you must come to court for. The judge will want to know if you have an attorney to represent you, whether you want to apply for a public defender, or if you plan to represent yourself.  

You will also have a chance to discuss your charges with the prosecuting city attorney. However, your Arraignment is typically not your best chance to explain your side of the story because the prosecutor will be busy with other cases that day.  The prosecutor may give you an offer to resolve your case during your Arraignment appearance, but it is unlikely that the offer will be an attractive one.  If you decide to resolve your case at your Arraignment appearance, make sure you understand the consequences of doing so.  There are different resolutions for criminal cases; many result in a conviction of some sort which then results in a criminal record.

If you don’t want to accept the prosecutor’s offer at your Arraignment, enter a not guilty plea. The court will give you another court date called your pre-trial for which you must return to Minnesota criminal court.  You will typically get more attention from the prosecutor at your pre-trial court appearance.  If there are any police reports or witness statements stemming from your case, you can get copies of those from the prosecutor after your Arraignment and before your Pre-trial.

Gross Misdemeanors and Felonies Under Minnesota Law

If you have been charged with a Gross Misdemeanor or Felony, your initial appearance in a Minnesota criminal court is called a First Appearance.  Gross Misdemeanors and Felonies can include repeat DUI offenses, repeat Domestic Assault charges, and many violent crimes and drug offenses.  

The judge will also review your case to determine whether the allegations of your case warrant holding you in jail while your case is pending or, if the judge decides to release you from custody, whether any conditions of your release are necessary.  If you have been charged with any sort of Domestic Assault or Assault and are released from custody, the judge will issue a No Contact Order prohibiting you from having any contact with the alleged victim(s).

At a First Appearance, you will typically not have an opportunity to talk to the prosecutor to try to resolve your case.  This is because many other issues and consequences are involved when a person has been charged with a Gross Misdemeanor or Felony.  After your First Appearance, the court will give you a return court date for what is called an Omnibus Hearing.  You do not have to enter a plea of any sort at your First Appearance.

Hire a Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer

It is in your best interests to have an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney with you at your Arraignment or your First Appearance in a Minnesota criminal court.  Going to court can be an intimidating experience for many people.  The judge is not your legal representative and cannot give you legal advice.  

The same is especially true for the prosecuting attorney.  The prosecutor represents the City or County that has filed charges against you and will not have your best interests in mind.

Find an Attorney You Can Trust

The St. Paul criminal defense attorneys at Arechigo and Stokka will appear with you at every Minnesota criminal court appearance and aggressively represent your best interests.  

Contact our Minnesota criminal defense lawyers today for a free consultation.

Author Photo John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.

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