Duties & responsibilities
The Criminal Division of the Rice County Attorney's Office prosecutes all felonies committed within Rice County. It is also responsible for misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor prosecution of offenses that occur outside city limits, but within the county. The office also prosecutes certain statutorily designated misdemeanor and gross misdemeanors regardless of where they occur within the county.
In addition, the office:
- Assists law enforcement agencies in preparing search warrants and administrative subpoenas if requested to do so
- Assists law enforcement by providing training sessions on various topics involved in law enforcement efforts
- Conducts the criminal prosecution for all felonies that occur within the state correctional facility that is located within our county. This is an interesting and challenging part of our work, but also adds a significant burden to the workload of the office
- Represents the state on most appeals to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Minnesota Supreme Court and federal courts taken from criminal files in our office
Services not provided
The County Attorney's Office does not investigate crimes or accept reports of a crime. Investigations are conducted by law enforcement who gather evidence, including witness statements, drug tests, fingerprints or ballistic tests consistent with the Charging Guidelines, and submits the evidence to the County Attorney for review and a charging decision. Anyone needing to report a crime should contact the local Law Enforcement Agency where the crime occurred.
Certain cases may be prosecuted by a City Attorney.
Prosecutors represent the state of Minnesota and cannot provide advice to individuals.
The criminal process
If charged with a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor offense, an initial court appearance is an Arraignment Hearing. At that time, the defendant is advised of their legal rights, they have an opportunity to apply for a public defender and may enter a plea. A misdemeanor flow chart explains the steps in this process.
If charged with a gross misdemeanor or felony, the initial appearance is called a First Appearance, Initial Appearance or Rule 5 Hearing. The defendant is advised of their legal rights as well as the charges they face. The defendant may then apply for a public defender. No plea is taken from the defendant at this appearance. A felony or gross misdemeanor flow chart may be helpful in understanding this process.
The Rice County Attorney has established Plea Negotiation Guidelines for all adult felony prosecutions.
If a defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty by a judge or jury, a sentence is imposed. Petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor sentences are frequently imposed by the judge immediately after a finding of guilt. The sentence is usually based on the seriousness of the crime and the defendant's criminal history. Felony and gross misdemeanor sentences are usually scheduled for a date after the finding of guilt. Prior to sentencing, a Pre-Sentence Investigation is completed by the Rice County Community Corrections Department and recommendations as to sentence are made. Felony sentences are subject to the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines.