Court Process for Victims
Prior to court, the Mille Lacs County Attorney’s Office files criminal charges against a defendant if a crime has occurred. A victim does not “press charges” or “drop charges." However, you are encouraged to contact the Victim Witness Coordinator to provide input for consideration by the charging attorney.
The court process is often lengthy and confusing. There may be, and often are, postponements and continuances of court proceedings for legal and other reasons; the process often takes much longer than expected.
The following is a general outline of adult criminal prosecution and procedures, although individual cases may vary.
First Appearance or Arraignment
At this hearing, a defendant arrested with or without a warrant, or served with a summons or citation, appears before a judge and is advised of the nature of the charges, receives a copy of the complaint, is informed of their rights, and is appointed a public defender if applicable. The judge may set bail and advise a defendant of conditions for potential release.
If the defendant does not plead guilty, the court will hear and determine all motions made by the defense or the prosecution. The court will then determine if any other constitutional, evidentiary, or procedural issues shall be heard or disposed of before the trial. The goal of the hearing is to promote a fair and expeditious trial.
Pre-Trial or Settlement Conference
At this hearing, plea agreements are negotiated with input from victims. Victim presence is not required, but is requested. If the defendant pleads guilty, sentencing is sometimes on the same day. If the defendant does not plead guilty, a trial date is set.
Plea offers or plea agreements are used frequently in the criminal justice system; however, each case is different. Please contact the Victim Witness Coordinator if you would like more information on any plea offers or agreements related to your case.
Criminal trials include a jury, unless the defendant waives the right to a jury trial and chooses to have a trial before a judge. Witnesses are called to testify about the facts of the case. The victim is required to testify if subpoenaed.
If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty following a trial, the judge will then impose a punishment which may include:
- Community service
- Jail or prison
- Restitution to the victim
- Terms of probation, counseling or treatment programs
Victims are encouraged to attend and to provide a Victim Impact Statement.
Victim Attendance at Court Hearings
You are not required to attend any court proceeding unless you receive a subpoena. Read more about being subpoenaed.
If you want to attend a hearing, please call Court Administration or the Victim Witness Coordinator in advance to make sure the hearing has not been rescheduled. If you cannot appear for a scheduled hearing and would like to be present, please notify the Victim Witness Coordinator immediately.