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What Is a Pretrial Conference in a Criminal Case? Criminal Defense

What Is a Pretrial Conference in a Criminal Case?

3 weeks ago by Brian
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From divorces to lawsuits to criminal trials, every effort is made by the court system to avoid litigating in court. A “pretrial conference” is part of that philosophy. Minnesota court rules specify a number of different types of pretrial conferences. In this article, you’ll learn the ins and outs of each type.

Pretrial Conference Basics

A settlement conference, despite its casual name, is held in court. Because of the less formal nature of this court proceeding, Minnesota court rules do not identify a specific procedure for them. The purpose of this meeting is to attempt to resolve the felony or misdemeanor charge via plea bargain before a trial starts. The judge will inquire as to whether both sides have been communicating and corroborating on a plea bargain or other method of resolution (i.e., being given immunity for turning in another criminal). The settlement conference occurs after the arraignment, entering your plea, and any other pretrial formalities—it is typically the last court proceeding before going to trial. It is often scheduled the week before the set trial date. 

Plea Bargain Offers

Remember your Woodbury criminal defense attorney is required by law to tell you about any and all settlement offers received. You have the right to know what is happening in plea bargain negotiations. Your attorney should advise you on what his or her negotiation strategy is, but ultimately, the decision to accept a plea bargain is 100% yours

Understand as well that it’s not unheard of for a judge to tell the lawyers involved to go back to the drawing board and try harder to reach a resolution or to instruct the defendant to think more about accepting the plea bargain deal on the table. Likewise, the judge has final approval of the plea bargain, and if they don’t feel it’s reasonable, they can reject it.

Pretrial Chambers Conferences

“Chambers” is what the judge’s office is called. When any sort of meeting with the lawyers occurs “in chambers,” this means that it is happening behind closed doors and not in open court. There is not going to be a court reporter documenting what is said at a meeting in the judge’s chambers. At an informal pretrial conference in the judge’s chambers:

  • The judge, again, may ask if a plea bargain has been reached
  • Get details about various aspects of the upcoming case (questions about what witness testimony or physical evidence to expect, for example)
  • To ascertain if any of the charges can or should be dropped
  • Confirm that the necessary paperwork has been filed
  • To see if one side might concede certain parts of the case

The judge is going to try to get an overall understanding of what to expect will happen at trial. If, for example, the “smoking gun” was lost by police or could not be located at all, the judge may not allow a trial to be held if there is not enough other evidence to merit it.

Need a Woodbury Criminal Defense Attorney?

JS Defense is a reliable, trustworthy Woodbury criminal defense attorney service with a proven track record of success. We are eager to review your case for free and discuss how we might assist you. Schedule your free legal consultation with us now.


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