What Is the Court Process for Felonies in Minnesota?

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At Brockton D. Hunter P.A., we recognize that a lot of times when people are charged with felonies in Minneapolis, they are facing an unknown criminal justice system. They are often filled with anxiety because they don't know what to expect or have distorted views of the system due to depictions in movies and TV.

Our team's goal is to reduce the stresses our clients are feeling and help alleviate some of their worries. We know that we cannot completely ease their fears (after all, a lot is at stake in a criminal case). But our hope is that by being a source of clear information concerning the court process for felonies in Minnesota, we can help those accused of crimes understand what's involved and their legal options throughout their cases. As such, we have outlined the stages of a felony case.

We must note that, while we provide an overview of the felony court process, the information here is not a substitute for a discussion with an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Every case is unique, and not all will proceed through the phases covered below.

Please allow the information to serve as a primer, and contact our team at (612) 979-1112">(612) 979-1112 to discuss the particulars of your case.

The First Appearance

After you have been arrested, booked, and formally charged with a crime, you will be scheduled for your first appearance. As the name suggests, this hearing is the first time you will appear in court.

The first appearance has several purposes. It allows you, the defendant, to learn about your charges and rights.

The judge will inform you that, among other things, you have the right to:

  • Remain silent (anything you say can be used against you in future proceedings)
  • Defense counsel for all proceedings
  • Consult with counsel
  • A jury trial

The first appearance also allows you to enter a plea. For a felony case, the only plea you can enter during this proceeding is 'guilty.' You must wait until your Omnibus Hearing, which we'll discuss in more detail later, to enter any other plea.

Lastly, at the first appearance, the judge may decide on conditions for pretrial release. We'll explore that more in the next section.

Pretrial Release

Pretrial release refers to your being let out of police custody while you're awaiting trial. Judges must impose the least restrictive measures to assure a defendant's appearance in court.

Depending on your situation, the judge may decide to release you on your own recognizance. That means you would not have to pay bail to get out of jail. Instead, you would make a promise to appear in court for all required hearings.

The judge may also impose certain conditions on you as part of pretrial release. They will do this if they believe measures are necessary to ensure you show up for court or other legal proceedings and the safety of the alleged victim, other people, or the community.

Examples of pretrial release conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Release under supervision of an individual or an organization
  • Restrictions on travel or place of residence
  • Cash deposit or appearance bond

When deciding on what conditions to impose, the judge may order a pretrial investigation, the purpose of which is to get a clearer picture of your background.

A few of the factors examined in a pretrial investigation include, but are not limited to:

  • The nature and circumstances of the offense
  • The weight of the evidence against you
  • Your character and mental condition
  • Your criminal history
  • Your family and community ties

If you are released from jail before your trial, you must ensure that you adhere to all conditions the judge orders. Failing to do so can have serious consequences. A summons or warrant may be issued, and you will be scheduled for a hearing to determine whether you violated pretrial release conditions. A finding against you can result in more restrictions being imposed or revocation of your release, meaning you would be sent back to jail.

Rule 8 Appearance

The Rule 8 appearance is your second appearance in court and must be held before your trial can begin. Typically, this hearing occurs within 14 days of your first appearance.

The scope of the Rule 8 appearance is similar to that of the first appearance. A judge advises you of your charges and rights. You may also be asked if you would like to enter a plea. At the Rule 8 appearance, you can either enter a guilty plea or choose not to plead at this time. Again, you cannot enter a plea other than guilty until your Omnibus Hearing.


Discovery is one of the most important steps in a criminal case and happens before the Omnibus Hearing. During the discovery phase, you and your defense attorney can request to inspect, review, and copy any information the prosecutor has concerning your case.

Types of materials you can have access to include, but are not limited to:

  • Witnesses' names and addresses
  • Written or recorded statements or summaries of statements
  • Documents and tangible objects
  • Examination and test results
  • Criminal records of defendants and witnesses
  • Evidence that negates or reduces guilt

Being able to review the items in the prosecutor's possession can help develop a strategic defense. It also facilitates fairness because the prosecutor will not be able to spring any surprise evidence at trial that you have not had time to prepare for.

Note that during discovery, it's not just you who has access to the other side's evidence. The prosecutor can also request to review any material you and your criminal defense attorney have in your possession and control.


Another major part in a criminal case is the filing of motions. These are written requests you and your defense attorney send to the court to have the judge review and consider remedy for any objections or issues.

One of the most common motions filed is the motion to suppress. This request asks the court to consider excluding illegally obtained evidence from your case. For instance, if your defense attorney discovers that police officers made an unlawful search of your property, they could argue that officials violated your constitutional rights. As such, anything they collected should not be allowed.

Motions must be made within 3 days before the Omnibus Hearing.

Omnibus Hearing

Typically, the Omnibus Hearing is held within 28 days after your second appearance. However, the timeframe can be adjusted on a showing of good cause. During this proceeding, the court will hear motions concerning probable cause and issues with evidence.

You and your defense attorney, as well as the prosecutor, can present evidence at the Omnibus Hearing to support your arguments. The judge will decide whether probable cause exists to believe a crime was committed and you were the one who committed it.

Also at the Omnibus Hearing, the judge will ask you to enter a plea. It is at this time that you can enter either:

  • Not guilty,
  • Guilty, or
  • Not guilty because of mental illness or cognitive impairment.

If you enter a guilty plea, the judge must ensure that you understand what that entails and what crime you are pleading guilty to. For instance, they must ask whether you know that pleading guilty means you give up your right to a trial and that, if you are a non-citizen, you may be deported, deemed inadmissible to the U.S., or denied U.S. citizenship. The judge will also make sure that you discussed your decision with your lawyer and had all your questions answered.


If you plead not guilty to the charges, your case will be scheduled for trial. Like other offenses, felony cases are heard in the district court where the alleged crime happened. In Minneapolis, felony trials can occur in either of the two Hennepin County district courts in downtown: Hennepin County Government Center or Hennepin County Public Safety Facility.

A felony trial can involve several steps, including:

  • Opening statements
  • Presentation of evidence
  • Rulings
  • Closing arguments
  • Deliberations

Because felonies are punishable by incarceration, you have the right to a trial by jury. The jurors will serve as the triers of fact and will base their decision on the evidence presented in court.


A plea, finding, or verdict of guilt will cause your case to move into the sentencing phase. This proceeding is where the judge determines what sanctions to impose. Although your crime has statutorily set maximum terms of imprisonment and fines, you won't necessarily receive the most severe penalties.

The judge may order a presentence investigation and completion of a sentencing guideline to determine how you should be punished. Your attorney can also request a sentencing hearing, where they can argue for more lenient sentences.


If you are found guilty of a felony, your case may not necessarily be over. Depending on what happened at trial, you can appeal the decision or the sentence received.

Grounds for an appeal include, but are not limited to:

  • Abuse of discretion
  • Prosecutorial or juror misconduct
  • Errors of law
  • Insufficient evidence

Essentially, an appeal is a request to have a higher court review the trial court's judgment. Appellate justices review the original court record and do not consider new evidence.

Based on their findings, the justices can affirm the trial court's decision or reverse it and order a new trial or modifications to the judgment.

Schedule a Free Consultation Today

Minnesota felony cases are complex. Fortunately, you do not have to handle yours alone. As we mentioned earlier, you have the right to have an attorney represent you at every stage. Exercise this right and reach out to Brockton D. Hunter P.A. We are ready to deliver the counsel you need.

To speak with a member of our Minneapolis team, please call (612) 979-1112">(612) 979-1112 or submit an online contact form today.