In Minnesota, charges will be filed against the accused after a DWI arrest. Depending on the charges, the DWI court process may vary from case to case. The heavier the charge, such as in the case of felony over misdemeanor, the more court hearings are usually required.
Below is an overview of the stages of a typical Minnesota DWI court process.
If you’re arrested for a gross misdemeanor or felony level DWI in Minnesota, you generally will be held in custody following your arrest. Within 48 hours of the arrest a judge determines if there’s probable cause to continue your detention. Not including the day of the arrest, legal holidays and weekends, the prosecutor has 36 hours to charge you with a crime and take you before the judge for an initial appearance. Prior to the trial, the judge then sets conditions of your release.
Release from custody
Depending on your DWI case and the aggravating factors involved, you may be released with a promise to appear in court or you may need to post a bail bond before your release. If you can’t post a bail bond when required, you’ll be held in custody until the arraignment.
Arraignment is your first court appearance 30 to 60 days following the DWI arrest. If you have a Minnesota DWI attorney and your charge is a misdemeanor, your appearance may not be required at this hearing. In misdemeanor level cases, you will be asked to enter a plea. When you enter a “guilty” plea, a sentence is imposed. When a “not guilty” plea is entered, your case is then set for a pre-trial conference.
This hearing is your next appearance in court after the arraignment, and a chance to update the judge of the progress of your DWI case. In this hearing, scheduling and discovery issues may be discussed and resolved. An offer of plea agreement (aka a plea bargain) may be proposed by the prosecutor. If you accept the plea agreement offer, the judge formally makes a record of your plea. If you have hired a Minnesota DWI lawyer, he/she discusses the case with the prosecutor and negotiates the best possible plea bargain. The case proceeds to trial if there’s no plea agreement reached.
In this hearing, the filed defense motions are discussed. Your DWI attorney may file a motion to suppress some evidence against you before the court, such as your test results or any violation of your constitutional rights. If the court grants the motion, the suppressed evidence can’t be used against you at the trial of your DWI case. The prosecutor may also offer a plea agreement after a successful motion hearing.
Most DWI cases are usually resolved before the trial. If the case proceeds to trial, you may be tried before a judge, or before a six-member jury in a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor case, or before twelve jurors for a felony case. During the trial, the prosecutor and the defense will render opening arguments. The burden of proving your guilt beyond reasonable doubt lies on the prosecutor by presenting evidence and calling witnesses against you, that your attorney can cross-examine. Both the prosecutor and the defense will give closing arguments. The judge will instruct the jury to get into the jury room for deliberation. If the verdict is not guilty, the charges against you are dismissed. If a guilty verdict is reached, sentencing will follow.
Your appearance during the sentencing is required. A sentence is imposed by the court after a DWI conviction or after a plea bargain is accepted and entered. Sentencing may include fines, jail time and other conditions of probation. An experienced DWI attorney can negotiate an alternative to jail time such as house arrest, electronic home monitoring, alcohol classes or community work services.
In Minnesota, you can file an appeal when you’re found guilty for a DWI charge. A timely filing of the appeal is crucial, because failure to file an appeal in due time is considered by the court as a waiver of the right to appeal.
When charged with DWI in Minnesota
You may be required to have many possible court appearances when you’re charged with DWI in Minnesota, and having a good defense of your case is essential. Your case has more chances of achieving a favorable resolution if you have an experienced Minnesota DWI attorney on your side right from the start.