The Attorney's Office is responsible for prosecuting adults charged with felony crimes, as well as some gross misdemeanors and misdemeanors. A crime is considered a wrong against the State. Therefore, prosecutors represent the State of Minnesota and not individuals or law enforcement. A prosecutor's role involves:
- Providing legal advice and training to law enforcement
- Filing criminal complaints
- Preparing witnesses for trials
The County Attorney also plays an important role in seeking new laws to strengthen law enforcement, criminal justice, child protection, victim's rights, and other areas. The County Attorney also participates in efforts to prevent or reduce crime in the local communities and statewide.
Levels of Criminal Offenses
The laws of Minnesota establish four levels of criminal offenses:
- Petty misdemeanors punishable by up to a $300 fine
- Misdemeanors punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail
- Gross misdemeanors punishable by up to a $3,000 fine and 1 year in jail
- Felonies punishable by more than 1 year and 1 day in prison
City & County Jurisdictions
The county attorney prosecutes all felonies that occur within Nicollet County, gross misdemeanors and misdemeanors that occur outside the cities of St. Peter and North Mankato, and certain gross misdemeanors that occur within those cities. Misdemeanors and certain gross misdemeanors occurring within the City of North Mankato and the City of St. Peter are prosecuted by the city attorneys for those jurisdictions.
County attorneys are not investigators and do not investigate crimes. All complaints of criminal activity need to be reported to law enforcement officers where the crime occurred. Law enforcement will then determine whether to initiate an investigation, gather evidence and, when appropriate, submit the case to the prosecutor for review and a charging decision.
Rights of a Defendant
Prosecutors do not represent defendants and cannot provide legal advice to a defendant. If a defendant does not believe that he or she can afford an attorney, the defendant may apply for the services of a Public Defender at their first court appearance.