Law & Order in Minnesota Courts
"Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is one of my favorite shows. The drama, the courtroom antics, for a while I wanted to go to law school, because of that show. First off, it's fiction, even if the writers are inspired by actual events. Second, those great "Law & Order" moments where they get someone to confess on the stand, that just doesn't happen, at least not the way they portray it. Minnesota is also an open discovery state, everything is shared between prosecutors and defense attorneys, so there just aren't those exciting moments as "seen on TV."
In the State of Minnesota, a prosecutor initiates a criminal charge, except in the case of a Grand Jury. There is no individual pressing charges in criminal court.
"In Minnesota, charges that carry the state's harshest sentence — life imprisonment; there's no death penalty in the state — always go to a grand jury. Included among those charges are first-degree murder and certain sex offenses. For other suspected crimes, it is up to a prosecutor's discretion whether to convene a grand jury."
The County Attorney's office will decide whether or not there is enough evidence to bring charges, after the initial investigation. While the prosecutors are not detectives, they can help out with an investigation by consulting with the investigators about strategies, drafting warrants and other documentation, and interviewing witnesses. The County Attorney's Office works in a partnership with the various Law Enforcement Agencies.
The County Attorney's Office, especially in Steele County, does more than just prosecute the crimes we hear about, they are also working with diversionary programs, Child Support and Child Protection issues, Juvenile Courts, Drug Court, and working with the schools dealing with truancy issues.
The attorneys are kept very busy with all of the different areas they are involved in. I have served on jury duty more than once here in Steele County, and it is NOTHING like watching a movie or TV show. That being said, it is still very interesting to be a part of the judicial system, and to see how things work out here in the real world.