Court Proceedings in a North Dakota Criminal Case - Sand Law North Dakota
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Court Proceedings in a North Dakota Criminal Case

15th August 2020

Court Proceedings in a North Dakota Criminal Case - Sand Law PLLC - North Dakota Criminal Defense Attorneys

What to expect in a North Dakota criminal case?

How a Criminal Case Differs From a Civil Case


In a civil case, a civilian will often file a lawsuit against another person or business. These types of cases can occur because of car accidents, personal injuries because of slips and falls or other injuries caused by someone else’s negligence, or even medical malpractice. In these types of cases, it’s the decision of the plaintiff to sue for damages because of their accident. These cases can also occur when there’s a dispute between two parties, usually involving money.

In a criminal case, the government files a case against someone to punish them for breaking the law. If the defendant is found guilty of the crime the government is attempting to prosecute them for, they may face jail, prison, or fines.

Proving a Case

Civil cases also require a “burden of proof” which requires the plaintiff to show all the facts necessary to win their case. They must show this by a “preponderance of evidence,” meaning that they must be able to prove that the other person is in the wrong, or was acting with negligence, depending on the case.

However, with criminal cases the government must be able to prove that the defendant is guilty “beyond reasonable doubt”. This can include showing evidence in a similar way that it would in a civil case. However, criminal case decisions are made differently. In a criminal case, a public defender will also be appointed to you if you cannot afford one. In civil lawsuits, parties are not privileged to a public defender.

Events in a North Dakota Criminal Proceeding

According to NewsDakota, In North Dakota there are approximately 10,000 crimes against persons each year, as well as about 24,000 crimes against property and 7,000 crimes against society. Of the 10,000 crimes against persons each year, there are approximately 26 homicides, 10 of which were a result of domestic violence and 10 of which involved the usage of guns.

With all of these cases each year, approximately 41,000, how do these court proceedings go down? If you’ve been arrested for a crime, it’s important to know the steps of the process so you are ready for how things will work themselves out. Your criminal defense lawyer will also help you get acquainted with how the system works.


All cases will start with a complaint. The complaint is a document that is prepared by the prosecutor for your case. It will specify what offenses you have committed and will be sent to the judge for review. If there’s enough evidence, the judge will sign it and issue a summons that will require you to appear for a preliminary hearing.


Investigation allows for the court, government, and judge to further investigate your case. This may include pulling information and interviewing witnesses, as well as speaking to the arresting officer of your case. These tasks will normally be completed by the district attorney, or another lawyer appointed to defending the side of the government in court. This investigation differs from discovery as it’s not as in depth.


Arraignment, or preliminary hearing occurs shortly after the complaint and investigation of your case. This allows the judge to formally notify you of whatever charges are being brought against you. In misdemeanor cases, the judge may accept a guilty plea. In felony cases, or more serious misdemeanors, a judge may not accept this type of plea. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to you at this time.


Discovery is an important part of the criminal case timeline, as discovery gives both sides the chance to investigate the case further. They may speak to witnesses, go over any evidence that was found, look for more evidence, or even speak to the defendant during this time. Whether you have a private lawyer or a public defender, your lawyer will do the same.


A hearing occurs before the trial. It’s when the defendant will have a final opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. A plea bargain may occur at this time to prevent the case from going to trial. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial will be scheduled.

Jury Trial

During your trial, both sides will explain their cases. The side of the government, led by a district attorney, will present their evidence showing why you, the defendant, is guilty. Your attorney will then have the chance to go over the evidence on your side. They may call witnesses, including you, or the district attorney, to the stand for interrogation. The jury will listen to both sides of the case and make a decision based on the evidence that is shown.


The verdict will be announced. This is when the jury decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. The judge will determine the sentencing if the jury has decided the defendant is guilty.

Contact a North Dakota Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve been arrested and are facing an upcoming trial, you may want to hire an experienced attorney to help with your case. The lawyers at Sand Law in North Dakota have years of experience defending criminal cases and can help you defend yourself in these tough situations. For more information, or a free case evaluation, please contact us online or at 701-609-1510.

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