- Arraignments are ‘first appearances’ where you enter a plea (Guilty or Not Guilty) and can ask for a public defender if you qualify for one.
- A plea bargain is when you are offered a deal to plead guilty to lesser charges or lesser fines than the ones that you are initially facing.
- The longer you hold out, the better the plea bargain you may be offered.
- Never take a deal that you do not understand
- It is very difficult to retract a Guilty plea once you have given it and you will not have the chance to be offered better plea bargains in the future once you plead guilty.
- Omnibus hearings are to hear the prosecutor’s evidence for felony cases and are more than just a ‘first appearance’.
- Misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases have the right to ask for a “Formally Written Complaint” at their first appearances. This causes the prosecutor to have to work more to put it together and they have 30 days to write the formal written complaint and give it to you. It can work to your advantage if they are unable to follow through on this.
- Be proactive about finding out your initial court date. Don’t miss ANY court dates. Call the number on your ticket or summons once a week to follow up. You can also check the court calendar online at www.mncourts.gov/default.aspx?page=1927
- Your arraignment court date may not be assigned until ten days after your arrest. Call 651-266-8180 you can find out when your court date is.
- You can ask for a speedy trial. However this mostly applies for people who choose to remain in jail and even then it does not do that much. However, do ask, can’t hurt.
- If you have questions you are highly encouraged to call Ramsey County and ask them. If you aren’t content with their answers call again.
WAIVER OF APPEARANCE:
- If you have a lawyer that can represent you and enter a plea for you, you can waive appearing at your first appearance/arraignment. You can’t do this with a public defender because they will not have been assigned to you yet.
- This may be a good option for you if you live out of town, have been charged with a misdemeanor, and coming back will be difficult for you.
EXPLANATION OF CHARGES:
- Petty Misdemeanor — Not actually a crime, seen as an ‘offense’, like a traffic ticket. Not many people involved in the RNC are facing these types of charges at this point. You have no right to a public defender for these kind of cases. There is no possibility of a jury trial, only going before a judge. Being convicted does not affect your record. Fines are less that $300.
- Misdemeanor — Could be charged with up to 90 days in jail/on probation and/or up to $1000 in fines. This will go on your record if convicted. You have a right to a public defender if you qualify as well as a jury trial. Can affect your ability to get some jobs.
- Gross Misdemeanor — Could be charged with up to 1 year in jail/on probation and/or up to $3000 in fines. This will go on your record if convicted. You have a right to a public defender if you qualify as well as a jury trial. Can affect your ability to get some jobs.
- Felony — Often used as a scare tactic to get people to plead to lesser charges. Mandatory sentence of 1 year in jail/on probation and/or a minimum of $3000 in fines. This will go on your record if convicted. You have a right to a public defender if you qualify as well as a jury trial. Can affect your ability to get some jobs. Felonies on your record also affect your rights such as your ability to vote.
- Public Defenders — Are state-appointed attorneys that are appointed at your first appearance. They are a good option and they are your allies. Using them takes up state resources. Public Defenders are recommended as part of the court solidarity proposal if you qualify for one. You cannot change from one public defender to another. They are representing you and you can take up as much of their time as you need, though you shouldn’t piss them off.
- NLG and allied attorneys — There are a limited number of NLG attorneys and they are compiling a list of sliding-scale attorneys that will be available to represent people.
- Pro Se — Representing Yourself. Historically more likely to result in a conviction. Can be done by groups of people under the advice of a hired lawyer. Coldsnap intends to hold workshops to help people do this. Contact coldsnap(a)riseup.net for more information if you are interested in going pro se.
Please note lawyers are ethically bound to advise you to do what they think is best for you. However, what is best for you individually may not be the same as what is best for you as part of a solidarity strategy. What you do is ultimately up to you.
If you don’t qualify for a public defender but you can’t afford a private attorney there are two organizations that may be able to help: Neighborhood Justice Center (St. Paul), Legal Rights Center (Minneapolis)
Make sure to complete your criminal processes before going ahead with civil suits. However, you can and probably should get some work around a civil suit done ahead of time. Contact an attorney if you are interested in a civil suit and they can advise you.
PLEASE NOTE that if you plead guilty to any charge it greatly diminishes your chances of winning a civil suit.