Court Process for Victims
The court process is often lengthy and confusing. There are often continuances or delays in the court proceedings for both legal and other reasons, making the process take longer than is often expected. Below are general descriptions of adult criminal prosecution/procedure, although cases often vary based on individual circumstance and level of charges.
Law enforcement submits reports to the Mille Lacs County Attorney's Office. Once received, a file is opened and reviewed by an attorney. The Mille Lacs County Attorney’s Office files a criminal complaint against a defendant if a prosecuting attorney believes a crime has occurred based on the review of police reports and Minnesota law. A victim does not “press charges” or “drop charges." However, a victim of a crime is always encouraged to contact the Victim Assistance Coordinator to provide input regarding a charging decision, plea offer, case outcomes, or additional thoughts about a criminal case.
This is the first hearing in a criminal case. If a defendant was arrested because of a warrant or an incident that occurred, they will appear before a judge and be advised of the nature of the charges, receive a copy of the complaint, be informed of their rights, and apply for a public defender if applicable. The judge will set bail and conditions for release. If the defendant is served with a summons or citation, they will receive notice by mail of their first appearance/arraignment hearing and will be summoned to appear before a judge and advised of the nature of the charges, receive a copy of the complaint, be informed of their rights, and apply for a public defender if applicable. The judge may still set bail and advise a defendant of conditions of release.
Omnibus Hearing (Pre-Trial)
In every felony or gross misdemeanor case, there is an Omnibus hearing. "Omnibus" is latin meaning "for all," and the hearing is to resolve any issues necessary before trial. If the defendant does not plead guilty at this hearing, the court will hear and determine all motions made by the defense or the prosecution. The court will then determine if any other constitutional, evidentiary, or procedural issues shall be heard or disposed of before the trial. The goal of the hearing is to promote a fair and expeditious trial. In misdemeanor cases, these issues may be addressed at a pre-trial hearing.
Settlement Conference (Pre-Trial)
When the Court or the parties believe one may be helpful, a settlement conference may be set in felony or gross misdemeanor cases. At this hearing, plea agreements may be negotiated. We encourage and seek out input from victims regarding settlement of cases. Victim presence is allowed, but not required. If the defendant pleads guilty on a felony charge, sentencing typically takes place on a later date. For many misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor charges, sentencing can occur on the same day. If the defendant does not plead guilty, the case is either set for trial or another settlement conference as necessary. In misdemeanor cases, these issues may be addressed at a pre-trial hearing.
Plea offers or plea agreements are frequently used in the criminal justice system; however, each case is different. Please contact the Victim Assistance Coordinator at (320) 983-8305 if you would like more information on any plea offers or agreements related to your case.
Criminal trials include a jury, unless the defendant waives the right to a jury trial and chooses to have a trial before a judge. Witnesses are called to testify about the facts of the case. The victim is required to testify if subpoenaed.
- For more tips on testifying, view the printable "Tips on Testifying" Brochure.
If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty following a trial, the judge will then impose a punishment which may include:
- Jail or prison
- Terms and conditions of probation supervision
- Treatment or counseling programs
- Abstention from alcohol and controlled substances
- Testing to monitor abstinence from alcohol and controlled substances
- No contact orders
- Restitution to the victim
- Community service
Victims are encouraged to attend and provide a Victim Impact Statement.
Victim Attendance at Court Hearings
You are not required to attend any court proceeding unless you receive a subpoena. Read more about being subpoenaed.
If you want to attend a hearing, please contact the Victim Assistance Coordinator in advance at (320) 983-8305 to make sure the hearing has not been rescheduled. The Victim Assistance Coordinator can also attend court with you, answer questions regarding the hearing, arrange safety precautions, or attend on your behalf.