Navigating the Criminal Justice System [infographic]

Although there is often variation regarding rules and procedures from one court to the next, criminal cases generally follow the same processes. In all cases, a defendants’ constitutional rights must be honored. All defendants have a right to due process of law with reasonable notice of charges and proceedings and a fair hearing.

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Table of Contents

The Stages of Criminal Cases

Criminal cases develop in stages that begin with an arrest and end either before, during, or after a trial. If a defendant accepts a plea bargain from the prosecution, the criminal case will end. A plea bargain offers a defendant a dismissal of charges or a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea before a trial begins. Criminal cases progress in stages:


When a suspect is arrested by police, he/she may remain in jail or post bail. During the bail hearing, the judge determines whether the defendant is able to post bail and what the bail amount will be. If a suspect is granted bail, he/she may pay the bail amount in exchange for his/her release.


A suspect’s first court appearance will be at the arraignment. During this process, the judge will read the charges against the defendant and the defendant can plead “not guilty,” “guilty,” or “no contest” to the charges. After reviewing the defendant’s bail, the judge will establish dates for future proceedings.

Preliminary Hearings or Grand Jury Proceedings

Preliminary hearings are held before a judge or magistrate in felony cases. At this hearing, the prosecution must show that it has sufficient evidence to support the charges against the defendant. In federal cases, charges must be brought by indictment. Preliminary hearings and grand jury proceedings are held to establish probable cause. If no probable cause is found, the defendant will not have to stand trial.


If there is no plea agreement, the case proceeds to trial. During the trial, the prosecution will introduce evidence and call witnesses to testify. The criminal defense lawyer will have an opportunity to challenge the evidence and cross-examine prosecution witnesses. After closing arguments, the jury will return a verdict.


If the defendant is found guilty, the court will impose a sentence based on the severity of charges, the defendant’s criminal history, and state laws that govern penalties.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

One of the questions people facing a criminal charge ask is: How long does a criminal case take? The timeline of your criminal case in Minnesota will depend on the nature and severity of the alleged crime, the speed of the criminal justice system, the duration of the trial, and whether an appeal will be necessary. Delays at any stage of the criminal justice process may impact how long your criminal case will last. Generally, however, misdemeanor cases may resolve within weeks or months, while felony cases may linger in courts for up to a year.
People accused, arrested, or charged with a crime often ask, “How much does a criminal defense lawyer cost in Minneapolis, MN?” It is difficult to accurately determine how much a criminal defense lawyer will cost. The reason is that numerous factors impact the cost of legal representation in criminal matters. These factors include the type and severity of criminal charges, the lawyer’s experience and reputation, required time and effort, and geographical location.
Social media can have legal implications, particularly when it comes to criminal cases. Since its advent, social media has become a powerful tool for communication and self-expression. As of 2023, an estimated 4.9 billion people worldwide use social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to share thoughts, experiences, and moments from their lives. However, in this digital age, social media activity can be used as evidence in criminal cases in Minneapolis and elsewhere.