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Court Hearings - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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Court Hearings

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

Arraignment

This stage of the criminal process involves the entry of a plea of: a) guilty; b) not guilty; c) not guilty by reason of mental illness or mental deficiency; d) double jeopardy or that prosecution is barred by Minn. 609.035, infra.

The arraignment usually occurs at a defendant's first court appearance on a misdemeanor. M. R. Cr. P. 5.04, 14.01. A defendant is not arraigned at his first appearance on a gross misdemeanor unless he exercises his right to plead guilty pursuant to M. R. Cr. P. 8.02.

Pre-Trial Release (Bail)

When a defendant enters a plea of not guilty, demands a complaint, obtains a continuance in order to obtain an attorney, or is given a future date on any pending charge, he or she must be released pending that future court appearance. The release can be with or without bail (See M. R. Cr. P. 6.).

a. Basically, the presumption in the criminal rules is that all persons charged with a misdemeanor should be released without bail pending any future court appearance subject to one of the following conditions:
  1. The person gives his or her recognizance (promise) to reappear;
  2. The person is ordered to reappear;
  3. The person executes an unsecured appearance bond in a specified amount, (a promissory note to pay the court a certain amount should the person fail to appear).
b. If a judge determines that the above type of release would be inimical to public safety or would not reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant, the following conditions of release should be considered by the court:
  1. Place the person in the care and supervision of a designated person or organization agreeing to supervise him or her;
  2. Place restrictions on the travel, association or place of abode of defendant during the period of release;
  3. Require the execution of an appearance bond in an amount set by the court with sufficient solvent sureties, or the deposit of cash or other sufficient security in lieu thereof; or
  4. Impose any other condition deemed reasonably necessary to assure appearance as required, including a condition requiring that the person return to custody after specified hours. In any event, the court shall also fix the amount of money bail without other conditions, other than making all future court appearances and remaining law abiding, upon which the defendant may obtain release.

The defendant's release shall be conditioned on his or her appearing at all future court appearance including a trial or any hearing, Omnibus Hearing, evidentiary hearing and the pretrial conference prescribed by these rules, or at the taking of any deposition that may be ordered by the court.

In determining which conditions of release will reasonably assure such appearance, the judge, judicial officer, or court shall on the basis of available information, take into account the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, the weight of the evidence against the defendant, the defendant’s family ties, employment, financial resources, character and mental condition, the length of the defendant’s residence in the community, his or her record of convictions, his or her record of appearance at court proceedings or flight to avoid prosecution, and the safety of any other person or of the community. M. R. Cr. P. 6.02.

A person released without posting bail but required to comply with certain conditions (for example, stay away from victim, attend AA) is on a conditional release. Defense attorneys should always request a conditional release as an alternative to their client's being required to post cash bail. Prosecutors should always request a conditional release in Domestic Assault regular assault and DWI cases. In Domestic assault cases, one of the conditions is always to stay away from the victim.

An individual arrested on a misdemeanor and released by the arresting officer after the issuance of a citation who makes the first court appearance has a strong argument that he or she has proven reliability to make future court appearances solely on his or her promise to appear. Prosecutors should always consider the prior bench warrant history of a defendant who is requesting release without bail.

A person arrested on a misdemeanor in Hennepin or Ramsey County and retained in custody is usually screened in jail immediately after he or she arrives, where the above factors in M. R. Cr. P. 6.02 are considered. Often, after this screening and verification of factors related to community stability, the person is released from jail solely on his or her promise to make their first court appearance.

Again, if the person makes the first court appearance after such a release, the person has a strong argument that he or she has proven reliability in regard to making future court appearances based solely on his or her promise to appear. If the person, arrested on a misdemeanor, remains in jail until the first court appearance because he or she does not meet the criteria for immediate release without bail, many judges will require some cash bail for release pending future court appearances. Judges vary in their bail policy and as a defense attorney you should always request that your client be released without bail.

Domestic Abuse & No Contact Orders

MSA 629.75. A domestic abuse no contact order may be issued as a pretrial order before final disposition of the underlying criminal case or as a post-conviction probationary order. A domestic abuse no contact order is independent of any condition of pretrial release or probation imposed on the defendant. A domestic abuse no contact order may be issued in addition to a similar restriction imposed as a condition of pretrial release or probation. In the context of a post-conviction probationary order, a domestic abuse no contact order may be issued for an offense listed in paragraph (a) of MSA 629.75 or for a conviction for any offense arising out of the same set of circumstances as an offense listed in paragraph (a). (c) A no contact order under this section shall be issued in a proceeding that is separate from but held immediately following a proceeding in which any pretrial release or sentencing issues are decided.

Release On Pending Traffic Offenses

Minn. Stat. § 171.01, subd. 13 defines conviction as "a final conviction either after trial or upon a plea of guilty; also a forfeiture of cash or collateral deposited to guarantee a defendant's appearance in court, which forfeiture has not been vacated, or breach of a condition of release without bail, including violation of a written promise to appear, is equivalent to a conviction."

If an individual is released without bail pending a future court appearance on a traffic offense and that individual fails to make that court appearance, his or her failure to appear is deemed to be a conviction for driver's license record purposes pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 171.01, subd. 13.

Traffic convictions on driver's license records affect and increase driver's insurance rates and if of a serious nature (DWI, DAR, DAS, OB, CD, RD) may result in revocation or suspension of a person's driver's license.

No one wants their insurance rates to increase or their driver's license to be revoked or suspended.

Therefore, an individual charged with a serious traffic offense who is challenging that offense is not likely to let the alleged offense become a conviction through his or her failure to appear and subsequent operation of Minn. Stat. § 171.01 subd. 13.

Some judges, appear to have a policy of requiring cash bail whenever an individual who has voluntarily appeared (released after arrest or appeared on a citation) demands a written complaint or pleads not guilty and demands a jury trial. .

If the charge is a non-traffic misdemeanor, a record should be made of the arguments supporting a release without bail and the prosecutor should be requested to join in a motion for release without bail.

Bail

Bail is the payment or depositing with the court, where a person in custody is being charged, to obtain the release of the person. If bail is required, the maximum amount that may be required for a person charged with a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor is double the highest fine that may be imposed for that offense. Minn. Stat. § 629.471.

However, for the misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offenses of Hit and Run, Minn. Stat. § 199.09, DWI, Minn. Stat. § 169.121, on Fire Fighters and Emergency Medical Personnel, Minn. Stat. § 690.2231, fleeing a Police Officer, Minn. Stat. § 609.487, and Bringing Stolen Goods Into the State, Minn. Stat. § 609.525, the maximum cash bail that may be required is quadruple the highest cash fine that may be imposed. For misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor assault, Minn. Stat. 609.224 the maximum cash bail is 6 times the maximum fine for that offense level, ,For misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor domestic abuse, Minn. Stat. 518B.01 the maximum cash bail that may be required is ten times the cash fine that may be imposed for those offenses. Minn. Stat. § 629.471.

The maximum fine for a misdemeanor is one thousand dollars ($1,000.00). If the individual is charged with multiple offenses arising out of the same behavioral incident the sentencing merger concepts in Minn. Stat. § 609.035, infra, should apply to an argument for no more than $2000 cash bail ( $4000 or $6,000 in the above enumerated charges that allow for increased multiples of maximum bail).

Minn. Stat. § 609.035 allows only one sentence to imposed and or executed if an individual is charged with a number of offenses all arising out of the same behavioral incident. While there are exceptions and limitations to this concept, it is applicable to most misdemeanor prosecutions.


Bail Bonds

A bail bond is a secured promise to pay the court the total amount of the bail should the defendant fail to make court appearances.

If bail has been set for a person charged with a misdemeanor and the person does not have or cannot acquire the necessary cash bail, he or she can use the service of a bail bond company.

These companies, on payment to them of a certain percentage of the total bail required (usually about ten (10) percent), and the execution by the defendant and possibly others of a promise to pay the total amount of the bail set should the defendant fail to make future court appearances, will file a bond with the court where the bail has been set. If the defendant does make all future court appearances on the charge for which the bond has been filed, the bond is discharged and the bail bond company retains the percentage paid to it by the defendant. If the defendant fails to make court appearances, the bail bond company pays all of the bail required to the court and then proceeds to attempt to collect that amount from the defendant or the defendant's co signers. Bail bond companies are listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book. It is unethical for an attorney to recommend any particular bail bond company to a defendant.

Misdemeanor defendants who demand a trial and are unable to post bail are entitled to have the trial within ten (10) days of the demand for trial. M. R. Cr. P. 6.06.