FAQ About the Criminal Justice Process
What does the Hennepin County Attorney Do?
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office Has Five Primary Functions:
How do I report a crime?
If you wish to report a crime that is a non-emergency, contact the city police department
of the location of the crime at the non-emergency phone number.
The police will conduct an initial investigation of the matter. If the officers believe that a felony-level offense or juvenile offense has occurred, the police department will forward their investigation to the County Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution. If a misdemeanor has occurred, the police department will forward their investigation to the city attorney’s office.
How do I request that a crime be investigated?
The primary investigative agency for a crime is the local police department. Crimes should be reported to the police department in the area where the crime occurred.
For example, crimes committed in Minneapolis should be reported to the Minneapolis Police Department. If there is no city police department in your area of Hennepin County, the crime should be reported to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office
. Once the police department completes the initial investigation, the police department will make a determination whether to forward the report to the appropriate prosecuting agency. The reviewing prosecutor decides what charge(s), if any, will be issued.
There was a crime in my neighborhood, why is it not listed on the Hennepin County Attorney’s website?
Once a crime has been reported, the local police department will conduct an investigation and file a report to the correct prosecuting agency. Hennepin County Attorney’s Office only prosecutes adult felonies and all juvenile crimes. The City Attorney from the city in which the crime took place is responsible for prosecuting petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors, and gross misdemeanors committed by adults.
There may be several reasons why the particular crime is not listed on our website.
Review current cases, as well as information on how to access public court records.
- The crime may not be a felony charge, in which case it would prosecuted by the city attorney for city in which the crime occurred.
- The local police department may have determined that there was an insufficient basis to open an investigation in the case.
- The investigation may still be on-going with the local law enforcement, meaning our office has yet to review the case.
- There may have been insufficient evidence to prosecute the case against a particular individual. In a criminal case, to obtain a conviction there must be evidence proving an individual’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
To access police reports or crime statistics, please contact your local law enforcement agency
Why are the Juvenile Court Cases not listed on your website?
Under Minn. Stat. 260B.171, subdivision 4
, with only a few exceptions, none of the records of the juvenile court and none of the records relating to an appeal from a nonpublic juvenile court proceeding, except the written appellate opinion, shall be open to the public, or their contents disclosed.
For more information about juvenile cases, please visit the Juvenile Prosecution division
Why is the office not prosecuting the person who was arrested for or suspected of committing a crime?
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office prosecutes felony adult criminal cases and all cases involving juvenile offenders (persons under 18 years of age) that occur in Hennepin County.
All misdemeanors, petty misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors are prosecuted by the city attorney’s office in the location the crime took place.
In a criminal case, to obtain a conviction there must be evidence proving an individual’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is insufficient evidence, the office may decline to prosecute a case against a particular individual.
Why are some defendants not in jail after they have been arrested and charged?
Under United States and Minnesota law, a defendant charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty and has the right to a reasonable bail. Bail is a deposit of money held by the court which can be forfeited if the defendant fails to appear in court, breaks the law, or violates the conditions of release. If the court determines that the defendant is unlikely to appear at future court dates or is a threat to the public, bail or special conditions of release, such as no contact with victims or witnesses, may be imposed. The court may also order that a defendant be released on his promise to appear at future court appearances.
What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
There are three levels of misdemeanor offenses - petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. City attorneys prosecute misdemeanors committed by adults. Felonies and juvenile offenses are handled by county attorneys. Below are typical offenses and sentences for each category.
- Petty misdemeanor offenses include most traffic violations and are punishable by fine up to $300. Petty misdemeanors are not considered crimes because imprisonment is not an allowable punishment.
- Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 90 days in jail or up to a fine of $1,000. Typical misdemeanor offenses include, but are not limited to the following: simple assault – domestic or non-domestic, driver’s license or insurance violations, driving under the influence of alcohol, or theft or damage to property where the value of the stolen or damaged property is less than $500. Some misdemeanor offenses, including domestic assaults and driving under the influence, can be enhanced to higher level crimes with subsequent violations.
- Gross misdemeanors are punishable by one year in jail and/or up to a $3,000 fine. Typical gross misdemeanors include, but are not limited to the following: second DWI in ten years, second assault in ten years against the same victim, and property theft worth between $500 and $1,000.
- Felonies are punishable by over one year of imprisonment or a maximum fine specified in the law. Felony offenses include, but are not limited to the following: homicide, robbery, burglary, assault with a dangerous weapon, criminal sexual conduct, possession and sale of controlled substances, motor vehicle theft, theft or damage to property where the value stolen or damaged is over $1000.
Why is the sentence shorter than the punishment listed in the statute?
The legislature provides for a maximum sentence for each crime. However, Minnesota has Sentencing Guidelines that determine what the presumptive sentence should be in each case. The presumptive sentence is determined using a grid
that is based on the severity of the current offense as well as the offender’s past criminal history. Usually, the presumptive sentence under the Sentencing Guidelines is notably shorter than the maximum sentence set by the legislature. The court only has the ability to depart - give a shorter or longer sentence - from the Sentencing Guidelines if there are identifiable, substantial and compelling reasons particular to the case.
For more information on sentencing, please consult the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission
Where can I find booking photos?
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office does not provide access to booking photos. Please contact the arresting agency
for information on how to obtain such records.
Can you provide me with legal advice?
No, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is prevented by law from answering legal questions or offering legal advice to private citizens.
If you feel like you need a private attorney one resource is the Hennepin County Bar Association lawyer referral line at (612) 752-6666. In addition, if your personal income falls near or below the poverty level, Minnesota Legal Aid
offers low-cost legal advice and representation. In Hennepin County, the Legal Aid intake numbers are 612-334-5970 or 612-332-4668 (TDD/TTY).
You can also consult the Minnesota Judicial Branch Self Help Center and LawHelpMN
websites for legal information and resources.
I am a victim of a crime. How do I drop the charges?
Many people incorrectly believe a victim has the power to “press charges” or “drop the charges.” All crimes are considered offenses against the State, not solely against the victim. The Hennepin County Attorney's Office prosecutes criminal complaints on behalf of the State of Minnesota.
Only the attorney prosecuting the case can decide to file or dismiss charges, though the victim’s opinion is important in that decision. Many factors are taken into account when deciding whether to honor a victim’s request not to proceed with prosecuting, including: the nature and extent of the defendant’s criminal history, the severity of the alleged crime, whether the defendant has other pending charges in the criminal justice system, and future danger to the community.
How do I get a copy of a police report?
Contact the police agency that created the report to obtain a copy.
How do I report consumer fraud?
You can contact the Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson at 651-296-3353 or through the website