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FAQ: Next Steps

Were you or a loved one investigated, arrested, charged or convicted for a crime in Minnesota? Learn what to do next. More questions?  Contact the Balmer Law Office today for a free, confidential consultation.

The police called and want to ask me some questions. What should I do?

You have no obligation to talk to the police. And it’s probably in your best interest to remain silent. At a minimum you should consult with a lawyer prior to making any statement to the police. In limited circumstances it may be advisable to provide a brief statement to the police. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can guide you through this process.

I have been told that there is a warrant for my arrest. What should I do?

If there is a warrant for your arrest, you should contact an attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation. There may be options to resolve the warrant without turning yourself in to jail. Contact the Balmer Law Office to discuss your personal circumstances.

What should I do if I am stopped by the police?

If you are driving a vehicle and police try to stop you, pull over in a safe location as quickly as possible. Be polite. Respect the officer’s safety concerns — keep your hands visible and do not make sudden movements. Provide the officer with your driver's license and proof of insurance. Do not consent to a search of your vehicle. Exercise your right to remain silent if the officer seeks an admission of guilt. If the officer prolongs the stop, ask if you are free to leave. After the stop, document the encounter (i.e. when you were stopped, how long you were detained, what the officer asked for).

If you are a passenger or otherwise stopped by police, stay calm and be polite. Under Minnesota law, if asked, you must provide the officer with your name and date of birth. Again, keep the officer’s safety in mind — keep your hands visible and do not make sudden movements. Ask if you are free to leave. If you are not free to leave politely ask why not. Do not consent to a search. If you are searched, do not resist. Invoke your right to remain silent. Request the presence of your attorney. After the stop, document the encounter (i.e. when you were stopped, how long you were detained, what the officer asked for).

Do the police need a warrant to arrest me?

The general answer is no: police do not need a warrant to arrest in Minnesota. In order for the police to lawfully arrest you they must have probable cause that a crime has been committed. Probable cause is more than a mere suspicion that a crime has been committed but it is much less than the evidence required to convict for the suspected crime. The exception to this general rule is if the police seek to arrest someone while in their home. In such cases a judicially approved warrant must be obtained prior to the arrest.

Do I have to consent to a police search?

No you do not have to consent to a police search. And more importantly your refusal to consent to a search cannot be the sole basis for an arrest. Nothing good comes from consenting to a search. Don’t do it.

Do the police have to read me my rights when they arrest me?

Surprisingly the answer is no: police officers do not have to read you your rights when they arrest you. However, if police intend to use your statements against you in court, you must first have received a Miranda warning. A common police tactic is to secure an unwarned confession — that is, get you to confess before reading you your Miranda rights — and then read you your rights. Because they can what you say against you after they've read you your rights, they get you to repeat your confession. Often suspects do not realize that they are under no obligation to repeat their confession after they have been read their rights.

Can the police lie to me during questioning?

Yes: police can lie to you during questioning. And they are trained to do so as a means to get a confession. In nearly every circumstance talking to police will only lead to trouble. Invoke your right to remain silent and invoke your right to have an attorney present during questioning.

I’ve been charged with a crime. What should I do next?

You should remain silent. You shouldn’t talk to the police, or anyone else, regarding the allegations. You should contact a lawyer immediately. A lawyer will help you preserve evidence helpful to your defense (e.g. text messages, witness statements, audio / video recordings). It may be helpful to draft a record of all the events leading up to your arrest. This record should be addressed to your lawyer and should not be shared with other people.

Do I really need an attorney if I have been charged with a criminal offense?

Only you can answer the question whether you need a criminal defense attorney  In part it depends on the type of charges you are facing. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor crime you face a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. In Minnesota, a gross misdemeanor charge can mean up to 365 days in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. And a felony charge can mean years, or even decades of prison. In addition to jail and fines, convictions for many types of offenses result in troubling “collateral consequences.”   Collateral consequences are civil penalties that flow from a criminal conviction. The most common types of collateral consequences are the loss of driving privileges, the loss of the right to possess a firearm, immigration issues — such as potential deportation, and the loss of professional licenses. In most cases the aid of an experienced criminal defense attorney gives you a much better chance of beating the charges or avoiding the harshest consequences that can flow from a conviction.

Even if I intend to plead guilty do I really need an attorney?

If you intend to plead guilty, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help see that you are treated fairly. The penalties for many offenses can be unexpectedly severe. The State is under no obligation to accept your plea and agree to leniency. In some instances you may be able to take responsibility for the offense without suffering the consequences of a permanent conviction on your record.

Will I have to go to court for my ticket?

Maybe. All petty misdemeanors and many misdemeanor offenses can be handled exclusively by your attorney. The more serious misdemeanor offenses (e.g. assault, DWI) will typically require at least one court appearance. Gross misdemeanor and felony offenses require that the defendant be personally present in court.

How do I get my property back from the police?

Frequently police seize property as part of an arrest or investigation. Once the seized property is evaluated it will either be held as evidence, subjected to forfeiture (that is, the State will keep it), or will be eligible for return to its owner. Obviously, illegal drugs or other contraband will not be returned. Sometimes police will hold onto personal property even after it has been evaluated and there is no basis for its continued seizure. This is most common with firearms. In such cases the owner of the property can file a petition with the court demanding the return of the wrongfully seized property.

Will I have to register as a sex offender?

Convictions for certain offenses require predatory offender registration under Minnesota law. The most common offenses requiring registration include the following offenses: certain murder offense, kidnapping, felony criminal sexual conduct, false imprisonment of a minor, felony indecent exposure, soliciting a minor to engage in prostitution, soliciting a minor to engage in sexual conduct, and using a minor in a sexual performance.

But the predatory offender registration law also requires registration for any conviction arising out of the same set of circumstances that justified an initial charge requiring registration. An example: a man is charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct (felony), but resolves his case with a plea to disorderly conduct (misdemeanor). The felony criminal sexual conduct charge requires registration. And because he pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct offense arising out of the same set of circumstances, the disorderly conduct offense also requires registration!

Minnesota’s predatory registration law is complicated. Contact the Balmer Law Office to learn more about registration requirements and what can be done to avoid Minnesota’s harsh predatory offender laws.

I have a loved one in jail. How can I help them?

The first thing you can do if you have a loved one in jail is recognize that all jail phone calls are recorded. So, don’t talk to your loved one about how they ended up in jail! Anything they say can be used against them in court.

Your loved one in jail will almost always be eligible for pre-trial release upon the posting of bail / bond.  The posting of cash bail or bond will secure the release of your loved one while trial is pending. If you’re interested in posting bail / bond for a loved-one awaiting trial, contact the Balmer Law Office to discuss your options and how you can best help your loved one.

Is there a difference between probation and parole?

Yes: there is a difference between probation and parole. Parole is a form of conditional release and supervision following an offender’s release from prison. Probation is supervision for offenders not sentenced to prison. Probation is the alternative to a prison sentence. Probationary sentences can be quite long — up to 20 years in some cases, while parole is usually much shorter because offenders have already served the bulk of their sentence in prison.

What is the difference between a dismissal and an expungement?

A dismissal is when the court stops prosecution of pending charges. When a case is dismissed the court record reflects a dismissal, but the police reports and records that supposedly justified the initial charge are typically still public.

An expungement is the court ordered sealing of records. An expungement can apply to a dismissal or a conviction. Minnesota law permits expungement of court records and police records that resulted in a dismissed case.  In addition, records relating to convictions for certain felony offenses and all misdemeanor offenses are eligible for expungement. Specific rules and waiting periods apply depending on the offense. Contact the Balmer Law Office to get personalized legal advice on whether your case is eligible for expungement.

What is a felony?

A felony is the most serious level of offense in Minnesota. It is defined as any crime that is punishable by more than 1 year in prison. Many felony offenses are subject to mandatory minimum sentences (e.g. certain drug offenses or certain offenses committed with a dangerous weapon). Offenses that are typically categorized as a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor can become felony-level offenses under statutory enhancement provisions. A sentence can be enhanced to a felony-level based on previous convictions for the same or similar offenses. Minnesota DWI laws are a good example of how a misdemeanor-level offense can be enhanced to a felony. Typically a first-time DWI is sentenced as a misdemeanor. However, if a person has three DWI convictions within the past 10 years, the fourth DWI will be charged as a felony.

In addition to incarceration and fines, a conviction for a felony-level offense also brings about certain "collateral consequences." Collateral consequences are legal sanctions that follow a criminal conviction. Typical collateral consequences for felony convictions include the following: loss of the right to vote, loss of the right to possess a firearm, the loss of a professional license. For lawful immigrants, a felony conviction can result in the loss of permanent legal residency.

What is a gross misdemeanor?

A gross misdemeanor is a serious criminal offense in Minnesota. It is defined as any crime that is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. Common gross misdemeanors include the following offenses: a second DWI within 10 years, a first-time DWI with a BAC of 2.0 or greater, DWI test refusal, and theft of property valued between $500 - $1,000.

Certain offenses that are typically categorized as a misdemeanor offenses can become gross misdemeanor offenses under statutory enhancement provisions. Minnesota DWI laws are a good example of how a misdemeanor-level offense can be enhanced to a gross misdemeanor. Typically a first-time DWI is a misdemeanor offense.  However, if a person has one or two DWI convictions within the past 10 years, the second (or third) DWI will be charged as a gross misdemeanor (a fourth within 10 years can be charged as a felony).

In addition to likely jail time and fines, a conviction for a gross misdemeanor offense frequently brings about certain "collateral consequences." Collateral consequences are civil sanctions that follow a criminal conviction. Typical collateral consequences for gross misdemeanor convictions can include the loss of a driver's license, loss or suspension of a professional license or, for lawful immigrants, a gross misdemeanor conviction can result in the loss of permanent legal residency.

What is a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is the lowest level of criminal offense in the state of Minnesota. By statute a misdemeanor is defined as a crime punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Common misdemeanor offenses include the following: first-time DWI (with BAC under .20), first-time domestic assault, fifth degree assault, and disorderly conduct. Although misdemeanors are the lowest level of criminal offense, a person’s freedom, property and rights are still at stake. "Collateral" consequences may follow a conviction for a misdemeanor offense. A misdemeanor conviction can affect your employment prospects since, according to the National Employment Law Project, 92% of employers conduct background checks on applicants at least some of the time. Additionally, a misdemeanor domestic assault conviction will result in a lifetime ban from owning or possessing firearms under federal law.

What is a DANCO or No Contact Order?

In certain circumstances a judge can order that a defendant not have contact (communicate) with certain individuals. Most frequently this condition is ordered on domestic abuse / assault cases. A DANCO (Domestic Abuse No Contact Order) is an order for the defendant to not have contact with the complainant / victim. A violation of a DANCO is a separate criminal offense. Like DWIs, DANCO violations can be enhanced for multiple convictions. A third DANCO violation within a ten-year period will be charged as a felony. DANCO violations are very serious offenses. If you’ve been accused of violating a DANCO order, contact the Balmer Law Office to learn more about your options .

Have more questions about Minnesota criminal law? Contact the Balmer Law Office today for a free, confidential consultation about your case.

David Balmer

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David Balmer established the Balmer Law Office with one overriding goal: provide aggressive, high-caliber criminal and DWI defense for good people facing serious charges throughout the state of Minnesota. Read More

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