Whether you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges, there's nothing more overwhelming than the unknown. I am Minnesota criminal defense attorney Howard Bass.
For 30 years, I have aggressively defended clients facing potentially life-altering charges. I understand the fears you may have. You deserve to know how the criminal justice system works and how I will take every measure possible to defend your rights. Below is a criminal defense FAQ focused on addressing the questions you may have so you are not left with any surprises.
- Should I talk to the police?
You are under no obligation to speak to law enforcement authorities. However, if you choose to speak to them, you are obligated to speak truthfully. If it can later be shown that you provided false information to law enforcement authorities, you could be charged with making false statements to them or aiding an offender to escape arrest or prosecution. Your wisest course of action is to tell the officers that you'd like to consult with an attorney first. You can call me 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 952-466-6718 for a free initial consultation.
- What is the difference between felonies, gross misdemeanors, misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors?
Under Minnesota law, felonies are punishable by more than one year in prison. Gross misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $3,000. Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Petty misdemeanors are deemed noncriminal violations and are punishable by a fine up to $300.
- What's the difference between a DUI and a DWI?
DUI means driving under the influence. DWI means driving while intoxicated. These are two different ways to violate Minnesota's prohibition against impaired driving. A person is guilty of driving under the influence (DUI) if his or her consumption of alcohol impaired his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle. A person is guilty of driving while intoxicated (DWI) if his or her alcohol concentration is measured at .08 or more, as disclosed by a breath, blood or urine test, within two hours of driving, operating, or physically controlling a motor vehicle.
- What should I do if I am arrested for a crime?
First, do not resist the arrest. Under Minnesota law, you do not have the right to resist an arrest — even an illegal one. Second, do not make any statements to the police. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. The safest thing to say is that you want to speak to a lawyer. If the officer persists in efforts to question you, simply repeat these four magic words: "I want a lawyer." Then, as soon as a telephone is made available to you, contact me online or call 952-466-6718. I am available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- What should I do if I am charged with a crime?
Call me immediately at 952-466-6718 to schedule a free initial consultation. You should not try to represent yourself on criminal charges, even if you are a lawyer. As the old saying goes, a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.
- What is precharge representation?
Precharge representation is aimed at trying to prevent you from being charged with a crime. Typically, people do not seek representation in criminal cases until they are charged. Sometimes, however, if you are aware that you are a suspect in a pending criminal investigation, a lawyer can keep you from being charged with a crime or prevent you from being charged with a more serious offense.
If you are ultimately charged, the lawyer may be able to arrange for a voluntary surrender so you avoid being arrested and having to post bail to secure your release pending trial. In a precharge situation, a lawyer functions as a buffer between his or her client and the investigating and prosecuting authorities. If you have reason to believe that you are a suspect in a pending criminal investigation and would like to discuss precharge representation, call me at 952-466-6718.
- How is bail typically posted?
In Minnesota, there are two common ways to post bail. The first is known as "cash" bail. It requires you to post the bail amount in cash. If you fail to appear in court as ordered or otherwise violate the conditions of your release, your bail can be forfeited and you lose the entire amount of cash bail posted. If you make all your court appearances and do not otherwise violate the conditions of your release, at the conclusion of your case you are entitled to a refund of your entire cash bail, less any fines, fees and/or restitution ordered by the court.
The other way to make bail is through a "bail bond," posted by a bail bondsman. Typically the way this works is you pay the bail bondsman 10 percent of the bail amount and sign an agreement to pay the remaining 90 percent only if your bail is forfeited for failing to appear in court as ordered or otherwise violating the conditions of your release. At the conclusion of your case, if your bail has not been forfeited, you do not have to pay the remaining 90 percent of your bail amount but you do not receive a refund of the 10 percent you paid.
How long will it take for my case to go through the court system?
The length of time depends on several factors including:
- Whether you are charged in federal or state court
- What county you are charged in
- Whether you are charged with a felony, gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor
- Whether your case is dismissed, resolved through plea negotiations, or proceeds to trial.
It may require only a single court appearance or a series of appearances. Most cases are disposed of within two to three months. Final disposition of more serious or complicated cases may take more than one year.
What happens at an initial appearance?
While some differences exist between metro and greater Minnesota counties, basically four things happen at an initial appearance in felony and gross misdemeanor cases.
- First, the court ensures that the defendant has received a copy of the complaint (a formal written document setting forth what the defendant is charged with) and understands what he or she is charged with.
- Second, the court determines whether the defendant has retained a private attorney, wants a public defender to be appointed, or intends to represent himself or herself. Public defenders are appointed to represent only those defendants who are financially eligible (unable to hire a lawyer). A defendant is entitled to at least one continuance of an initial appearance for purposes of hiring a lawyer.
- Third, the court determines whether the defendant wants an omnibus hearing scheduled and, if so, whether the defendant wants a "speedy" omnibus hearing (one scheduled within 28 days of the initial appearance).
- Finally, the court sets conditions of release which can include bail.
What happens at an omnibus hearing?
According to the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, at an omnibus hearing the court determines:
- The constitutional admissibility of evidence derived from searches, seizures, interrogations and identification procedures;
- Whether it is probable that the defendant committed the crimes charged in the complaint; and
- Reviews other constitutional, evidentiary, or procedural issues capable of disposition prior to trial. Due to the size of their caseloads, however, various Twin Cities metropolitan counties have modified omnibus hearings into simply probable cause determinations with all other issues reserved for determination immediately before trial.
- What happens at a pretrial conference?
A pretrial or settlement conference affords your attorney an opportunity to meet with the prosecutor in your case and attempt to resolve your matter without a trial. Ultimately, it is the client — not the lawyer — who determines whether a case proceeds to trial or is resolved thorough plea negotiations.
Contact a Skilled Burnsville Criminal Defense Attorney
When your freedom is on the line, do not underestimate the value of having an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your corner. I am Howard Bass, a criminal defense lawyer with 30 years of experience defending clients throughout the Twin Cities. I know how local prosecutors think and how to help level the odds in your favor. Contact my Burnsville law firm for the defense you deserve.