Criminal Proceedings

Posted By: Attorney,

Our attorneys represent the state in prosecuting designated misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes and all felonies alleged to have been committed in Otter Tail County. Felony crimes are the most serious crimes, including severe assaults, rape, robbery and murder, which are punishable by a year or more in prison.


Arraignment; Rule 5 Hearing; First Appearance; or Initial Juvenile Hearing

An Arraignment Hearing is held when the defendant has been charged with a misdemeanor crime. A Rule 5 Hearing or First Appearance is held when the defendant has been charged with either a gross misdemeanor or felony crime. An Initial Juvenile Hearing is a hearing where the defendant makes their or her first appearance before the judge. The defendant will be advised of their or her rights, the charge is read, and conditions of release are reviewed.

Rule 8 Hearing

The Rule 8 Hearings are held within 14 days of the Rule 5 Hearing. The defendant will be furnished with copies of the evidence, (police reports, statements, etc.) and will have the opportunity to object to the introduction of evidence or statements. If the defendant has an objection, an Omnibus Hearing will be scheduled to review the issue. If the defendant does not object to the evidence, he or she will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The Rule 8 Hearing can be combined with the Rule 5 Hearing

Omnibus Hearing & Pre-Trial Conference

An Omnibus Hearing is held within 28 days of the Rule 8 Hearing to determine matters that need to be resolved prior to the trial, such as the admissibility of evidence and statements. Once the judge rules on the matters, the defendant will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The purpose of the pre-trial conference is to discuss the material issues of the trial, identify witnesses and discuss possible resolution of the case prior to trial.

Contested Hearing

A contested hearing may be heard prior to the trial to resolve issues that may be raised by either the State or the defendant.


At trial, the actual determination of the guilt of the defendant is decided. At a court trial, a judge decides the defendant guilt, whereas at a jury trial, a jury decides the defendant’s guilt.


If the defendant is convicted or pleads guilty, the court will impose a sentence. Sentencing may occur immediately after the defendant is found guilty, after he or she plead guilty, or sentencing can be scheduled at a later time. However, if the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty to a felony charge, the court will order a pre-sentence investigation prior to sentencing. A pre-sentence includes social and criminal history of the defendant, victim impact information, restitution information and any recommendations to the court by the pre-sentence investigator regarding sentencing. The prosecutor and defense attorney may also make recommendations to the judge regarding sentencing. The sentencing judge must apply the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines, which give a presumptive sentence that a defendant should receive based upon the seriousness of the crime and the defendant’s criminal record. When a probationary sentence is called for by the guidelines, a judge may impose county jail time, fines, treatment, restitution, community service or other requirements as conditions of probation.

Order to Show Cause

This hearing is to review the defendant’s performance on probation.

Contested Restitution Hearing

This hearing is held to determine the amount of restitution the defendant is ordered to pay the victim.

Probation Revocation Hearing

This hearing is held to determine if a defendant has violated their probation, and, if so, should have their probation revoked.

Legal Definitions


A jury verdict that a criminal defendant is not guilty or the finding of a judge that the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction.


A term used to describe evidence that may be considered by a jury or judge in civil and criminal cases.


A written or printed statement made under oath.


A proceeding in which a criminal defendant is brought into court, told of the charges in an indictment, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.


The release, prior to trial, of a person accused of a crime, under specified conditions designed to assure that person’s appearance in court when required. Bail can also can refer to the amount of bond money posted as a financial condition of pretrial release.


Written evidence of debt issued by a company with the terms of payment spelled out. It is pre-determined and provides a final pay-off date.

Community Service

A special condition the court imposes that requires an individual to work—without pay—for a civic or nonprofit organization.


A written statement that begins a civil lawsuit, in which the plaintiff details the claims against the defendant.

Consecutive Sentence

Prison terms for two or more offenses to be served one after


A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.


An allegation in an indictment charging a defendant with a crime. An indictment or information may contain allegations that the defendant committed more than one crime. Each allegation is referred to as a count.


Money that a defendant pays a plaintiff in a civil case if the plaintiff has won. Damages may be compensatory (for loss or injury) or punitive (to punish and deter future misconduct).


An individual or business against whom a lawsuit is filed.

Defense Attorney

The attorney who represents the defendant in a lawsuit or criminal prosecution.


Evidence presented by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question, but rather heard about it from someone else. It is not admissible as evidence at trial.


A court order preventing one or more named parties from taking some action. A preliminary injunction is often issued to allow fact-finding, so a judge can determine whether a permanent injunction is justified.


The disputed point between parties in a lawsuit. JURISDICTION The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a certain type of case.


The group of persons selected to hear the evidence in a trial and render a verdict on matters of fact.

Jury Instructions

A judge’s directions to the jury before it begins deliberations regarding the factual questions it must answer and the legal rules that it must apply.


A legal action started by a plaintiff against a defendant based on a complaint that the defendant failed to perform a legal duty which resulted in harm to the plaintiff.


A case, controversy, or lawsuit. Participants (plaintiffs and defendants) in lawsuits are called litigants.


An invalid trial caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again with the selection of a new jury.


A request by a litigant to a judge for a decision on an issue relating to the case.

Motion in Limine

A pretrial motion requesting the court to prohibit the other side from presenting, or even referring to, evidence on matters said to be so highly prejudicial that no steps taken by the judge can prevent the jury from being unduly influenced.


The release of a prison inmate after the inmate has completed part of their or her sentence in a federal prison.


In a criminal case, the defendant’s statement pleading “guilty” or “not guilty” in answer to the charges.


Sentencing option in the federal courts. Instead of sending an individual to prison, the court releases the person to the community and orders him or her to complete a period of supervision monitored by a U.S. probation officer and to abide by certain conditions.


A lawyer who conducts the case against a defendant in a criminal court.

Public Defender

A lawyer who is employed at public expense in a criminal trial to represent a defendant who is unable to afford legal assistance.


The punishment ordered by a court for a defendant convicted of a crime.

Sentencing Guidelines

A set of rules and principles established by the United States Sentencing Commission that trial judges use to determine the sentence for a convicted defendant.


Parties to a lawsuit resolve their dispute without having a trial.

Standard of Proof

Degree of proof required. In criminal cases, prosecutors must prove a defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” while in civil lawsuits it must be “by a preponderance of the evidence” (50 percent or more).


A law passed by a legislature.

Statute of Limitations

The time within which a lawsuit must be filed, or a criminal prosecution begun.


A command, issued under a court’s authority, to a witness to appear and give testimony.


A civil wrong, such as a negligent or intentional injury against a person or property.


The decision of a trial jury or judge that determines the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant, or that determines the final outcome of a civil case.


Court authorization, most often for law enforcement officers, to conduct a search or make an arrest.

FAQ’s – Criminal

How does a complaint become a criminal case?

Local law enforcement officers investigate a case and, if they feel there is sufficient evidence, a request is made of the County Attorney’s Office to review for possible issue of a criminal complaint. If the prosecutor feels that a person should be charged with a crime, a complaint and a summons or arrest warrant are prepared. The complaint is the formal charge.

What is an omnibus hearing?

An omnibus hearing is a pretrial hearing on evidentiary issues in felony and gross misdemeanor cases. At a contested omnibus hearing, there is usually testimony from law enforcement officers about the facts being relied upon for probable cause, statements taken from the defendant, and evidence seized from the defendant. Based on this testimony, the district court judge is asked to make a decision whether there is sufficient probable cause for the defendant to stand trial, as well as whether statements and other evidence obtained from the defendant by law enforcement officers are admissible at trial.

What if the judge decides there is not sufficient evidence at the omnibus hearing?

The court will dismiss the case. This means that all legal action has come to an end and the defendant is released.

Do cases always go to trial if they are not dismissed?

Most cases are resolved without the necessity of a trial. Often there is no real question of guilt, and the only question to be resolved is the amount and degree of punishment, which are usually resolved by a plea agreement.

What is a plea agreement?

It is an agreement in which both the state and the defense agree on a suitable resolution. Upon agreement, the case is settled in the most efficient manner.

What happens in a trial?

The attorney from the Otter Tail County Attorney’s Office presents the case for the state and has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did commit the alleged crime. The defendant may present evidence, although he has no obligation to do so. Furthermore, the defendant may not be compelled to testify. He/she must, however, be present throughout the proceeding. The trial may be either before a judge, or before a jury.

How and when is sentencing determined in felony cases?

The judge presiding over the cases sentences a defendant who has been found guilty or has pleaded guilty. Using state guidelines, the judge sentences the defendant in a manner that is appropriate to the crime and other circumstances related to the case. The defendant may be sentenced to jail, placed on probation, ordered to make restitution, ordered to pay court costs, or ordered to pay a fine. Before making the decision, the judge will usually review a pre-sentence report, which is an evaluation of the defendant prepared for the sentencing judge by the probation department. The victim will also have the chance to present either a written or oral victim impact statement at sentencing.

What’s the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

The statutes of Minnesota prescribe what acts are crimes, and also determine the severity level of all offenses. The levels of severity are, from lowest to highest:

  • Petty Misdemeanor (fine up to $300) – Most traffic offenses are petty misdemeanors. These are not considered “crimes” in Minnesota because they do not entail a jail sentence.
  • Misdemeanor (fine up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail)
  • Gross Misdemeanor (Fine of up to $3,000 and up to 1 year in jail)
  • Felony (Any offense for which the maximum penalty is more than one year in prison)




Phone: 218-998-8400
Mailing: 121 West Junius Avenue, Fergus Falls, MN, USA

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