Frequently Asked Questions
Click on the toggle for each question below to see the answer displayed.
What is a search warrant?
If a cop knocks on my door, do I have to let him/her in?
What if I consent to the search?
When is it okay for an officer to search me?
What happens if I am arrested?
What if a bail is set and I can’t afford to pay it all up front?
What happens once I post bond?
What are the levels of crimes with which I can be charged?
What is a petty misdemeanor?
A petty misdemeanor is any violation of law or city ordinance that is punishable by up to a $300 fine. Petty misdemeanors are not technically crimes. They are more like minor violations. You cannot be sentenced to any jail time for a petty misdemeanor. Sometimes misdemeanor crimes can be reduced to petty misdemeanors.
Examples of petty misdemeanors:
- Speeding tickets
- Public nuisance
What is a misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by up to 90 days in county jail, or a $1,000 fine or both. Misdemeanors are generally less serious crimes, such as careless driving or shoplifting. You may be charged with a misdemeanor by a ticket, or by complaint. Many times someone charged with a misdemeanor will not be arrested, but instead given a court date on their ticket. The penalties for misdemeanors are generally less severe than for gross misdemeanors or felonies, but can include some jail time, sentence to service, fines, or probation. Because your rights can be violated even in a misdemeanor case, it is essential for you to be represented even if you are charged with a misdemeanor.
Misdemeanor offenses include:
- Careless or reckless driving
- Fourth Degree (first time) DUI/DWI
- Theft under $500
- Minor consumption
- First time Violation of a Harassment/Restraining Order or Order for Protection
- Driving after Withdrawal, Cancellation or Revocation
- Fifth Degree Assault
- Disorderly Conduct
What is a Gross Misdemeanor?
A gross misdemeanor is a crime punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a $3,000 fine or both. Gross misdemeanors are not as serious as felonies, but more serious than misdemeanors. Often gross misdemeanors are misdemeanors that have been enhanced. For example, you may be charged with gross Misdemeanor domestic assault if you have already been convicted of a prior misdemeanor domestic assault offense within the prior five years. Some crimes become gross misdemeanors by virtue of a monetary amount. For example, theft of property or services worth between $500 and $1,000 is charged as a gross misdemeanor. Many gross misdemeanor sentences include local jail time and probation. It is critical that you be represented in your gross misdemeanor case to ensure that you are treated fairly and your rights are not violated.
Gross misdemeanor offenses include:
- Issuance of a forged check
- Third degree DUI/DWI
- False information to a police officer
- Assault in the Fourth Degree
What is a Felony?
A Felony is the most serious level of crime. A felony is defined as any crime punishable by at least a year in prison. Many felonies have mandatory minimum prison sentences outlined in the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines (http://www.msgc.state.mn.us/guidelines/grids/grid_2008.pdf). Felony convictions can have consequences in addition to prison time. Many felony convictions result in a loss of rights to vote and own a firearm. A non-citizen can be deported upon a felony conviction. Likewise, an enlistee may be barred from joining the armed forces. Some crimes are very serious and require no previous criminal record to be classified as a felony, like murder or aggravated robbery. Other crimes become felonies when the person charged has a history of similar convictions. For example, when a person has been convicted of three previous qualifying DUI/DWI convictions within the previous 10 years, the next, or fourth, DUI/DWI they commit is charged as a felony. Some crimes become felonies based on a monetary amount. For example, theft of property or services worth more than $1,000 is charged as a felony. Felonies are very serious offenses that often have long lasting deleterious effects on a person’s life. Often a person will be denied employment, housing and some services because of a felony conviction. A person representing themselves—pro se—is at a disadvantage when facing felony charges. Because the stakes are so high in a felony case, legal representation is required to ensure that your rights are not violated, that the case has been handled and charged appropriately, and that the proposed sentence is appropriate, or that the trial is fair. Felonies are complicated cases, and require a lawyer’s expertise.
Examples of Felonies include:
- Criminal Sexual Conduct
- Drug Crimes
- Theft above $1,000
- Terroristic Threats
What is an enhanceable offense?
This is a crime that gets worse with each charge. The first time you commit the crime, it is a misdemeanor. The second time you commit the crime within a certain time period, it is charged as a gross misdemeanor. If you commit the crime multiple times within a certain time period, it may be charged as a felony.
For example, if you are charged with domestic assault, the first time you are convicted, it will be a misdemeanor. If you commit domestic assault again within five years of your first conviction, the second offense will be charged and sentenced as a gross misdemeanor. Get charged with domestic assault a third time within five years, and you’re looking at a felony sentence.
Other examples of enhanceable offenses:
- Violation of Order for Protection
What is an Arraignment?
Sometimes, in traffic court, cases can be resolved at the First Appearance. But for most misdemeanors and all gross misdemeanors and felonies, the case will be move onto another hearing.
When you get to the courthouse and find the right courtroom, most likely you will be advised of some of your Constitutional rights by the presiding judge, or by a judge in a prerecorded video played before the presiding judge takes the bench.
When your case is called, the judge will ask you if you understand what you have been charged with, and whether you understand your rights in the criminal legal process. You have a right to have the charges and the rights read out loud in open court at the time of your arraignment, but most people ask the Court to waive a reading of the charges and rights for privacy and convenience.
The judge will then set any release conditions. If you are walking into court on your own, having received a summons, then your conditions during the process of the case will likely be very simple. Courts usually order people to remain law abiding and make all future court appearances while their cases are pending.
However, if you are coming to court for an arraignment for a crime involving another person, property, or business, such as an assault or theft, the judge may also order additional conditions, such as staying away from a location or person. For example, if you are accused of stealing from a gas station, the Court will order that you stay away from that gas station. Likewise, if you are accused of harming or scaring another person, the Court will order you to have no contact with them. A person accused of domestic assault, for example, may be served with a Domestic Abuse No Contact Order (DANCO), which not only prohibits contact with the alleged victim, but makes it a separate crime if the order is violated.
Other conditions of release may include abstinence from alcohol, staying within the State of Minnesota, or taking proscribed mental health medication.
Once the judge is satisfied that you have received a copy of the charging document, you know what you’re charged with, and you’ve been advised of your rights, you will be assigned a new court date. Once you get notice of the new date, you can leave the courthouse.
If you have received a summons for an arraignment, call Catherine for a criminal defense consultation today.
What is an Omnibus Hearing?
An omnibus hearing is a hearing that happens after the arraignment but before trial. The omnibus hearing is the first time that your case will be discussed substantively by you, your counsel, and the prosecutor. This term is exclusively used in state court. Federal court has its own set of hearings.
The State has the obligation to provide the defendant or defense counsel with copies of the police reports, lab results, bodycam video, witness statements, and/or any other evidence that it is using as the basis of its charges against you. This is called discovery. Generally it is produced for you to your lawyer before the omnibus hearing. That gives you an opportunity to review and talk about it before you go back to court. How you decide to handle your case going forward is dependent on what the State’s evidence is.
Here are some of the possible outcomes of your omnibus hearing:
- If you decide that you want to challenge evidence in your case, the court will schedule another date for you to come back and argue your legal issue. You or your lawyer will have to file necessary notices and motions to advise the court and prosecutor what evidence you are challenging, and why. At the later evidentiary hearing, witnesses may be called to testify. For example, if you challenge the legality of the stop of your vehicle, the prosecutor will bring in the officer that pulled you over to testify about why he stopped your car. The judge will ultimately decide the legal question that is raised.
- If you decide that you want to take your case to trial and exercise your constitutional right to have your case heard by a judge or jury, the court will schedule a jury trial date. When that date is scheduled depends on the court’s calendar, but you have a right to demand a speedy trial. If you exercise this right, your trial will be scheduled within 60 days of that demand. If you do not want a trial so fast, you can forgo a speedy demand and have the court set a date that works for you, your lawyer, the court, and the prosecutor.
- If you decide that you want to plead guilty to one or more charges, you can have your plea heard by the sitting judge. Most criminal matters resolve with a negotiated plea or agreement. Sometimes this means that the prosecutor agrees to drop one charge in exchange for a guilty plea to another. Sometimes the agreement is to reduce or remove jail time as a penalty. Sometimes it’s an agreement to keep a charge off your record for a period of probation and following certain conditions. What kind of negotiated agreement you may enter into with the state depends on your individual circumstances. Sometimes you can’t make an agreement and instead just plead directly to the judge and see what happens.
What occurs at your omnibus hearing depends on your review of the state’s evidence, your potential defenses-both legal and factual, your potential prior record, the potential consequences of getting a conviction, and more. You have the ultimate decision as to how you want to proceed with your case. It’s important to get good legal advice from someone with experience in both trying cases, and negotiating settlement agreements before you make any decisions. Catherine has the experience and knowledge to advise you about your options and potential defenses so you can make good decisions about your case.
What is a Pre-Trial hearing?
What is a Settlement Conference?
What is a Trial?
A trial is a formal proceeding during which the prosecutor (the state or federal prosecutor) tries to prove the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt. They do this by bringing in witnesses and evidence against you. This testimony and evidence is heard by either a jury or a lone district court judge. You are presumed innocent during the proceeding unless or until the jury or judge find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest standard of evidence in the judicial system.
In Minnesota, there are 6 jurors that hear misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases. All felonies are heard by 12 jurors. ALL jurors must find you guilty in order to convict you. Likewise, ALL jurors must find you not guilty in order to acquit you.
- You have the right to cross examine the state’s witnesses and challenge its evidence. Sometimes that challenge is before the trial even starts. Sometimes you challenge or confront the reliability of sufficiency of the evidence in the trial.
- You have the right to bring in witnesses in your defense, using the court’s power of subpoena if necessary.
- You have the right to testify in your own defense (which may or may not be a good idea depending on the circumstances), but nobody can force you to testify. Not even the judge.
- You have an absolute right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment of our state and federal constitutions. You do not have to say anything in your trial. It is the State’s burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
A trial is complicated and requires a keen knowledge of the Rules of Evidence. It is not a good idea to try a case without the knowledge and experience of a veteran trial lawyer. Catherine Turner is just that lawyer.
What is a DANCO?
If you are someone who has been listed as a protected party on a DANCO, and you want to have contact with the defendant listed in the order, be advised that the defendant CANNOT and SHOULD NOT have any contact with you. If you want the order dropped you should contact court administration in the county where it originated. Do not contact the defendant, it will only get them in more trouble!
Contact of course means in-person, direct contact. But it also means indirect contact of any kind, including electronic. No contact means NO: facebook, twitter, email, phone calls, text messages, what’s app, snapchat, Instagram, youtube, parler, myspace, Friendster, AOL, outlook, zoom, game console, or any other chat or communication app or function. Seriously. Don’t violate the order. It will be bad for you.
If you get charged with a DANCO violation, Catherine knows what to do.