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What is a Warrant and Summons in Minnesota

Under Minnesota law, there are a few ways that the State can file a criminal charge against a defendant. For minor offenses, you may receive a ticket with few details and a court date. For more severe offenses, you will typically receive a complaint. If a charge, whether for DWI, drugs, theft, assault, or prostitution, is filed by complaint, you can be brought to court in two ways: 1) A Warrant and 2) A Summons. If someone suspects that they will be charged with a crime, they often ask me whether they will be arrested or not. This depends on whether the complaint is issued with a warrant or a summons.


Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 3 states that a Summons is the preferred method to issue a complaint to a defendant. Under most circumstances a defendant will receive a summons in the mail with a court date, for example if it’s a minor theft, drug, or DWI charge. At the first court date, bail and other conditions of release will discussed. Typically, if a defendant comes voluntarily as a result of a summons, bail should be relatively low. However, if the summons does not reach the defendant due to an incorrect or unknown address, or if the defendant fails to appear at the first appearance, a warrant will likely issue.


Minnesota law states that a warrant should issue only if “a substantial likelihood exists that the defendant will fail to respond to a summons, the defendant’s location is not reasonably discoverable, or the defendant’s arrest is necessary to prevent imminent harm to anyone.” Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 3.01. So, for violent or very serious crimes, such as assault and other felonies, situations where the defendant has a history of evading prosecution, or when the defendant cannot be located, a warrant will issue. A warrant authorizes law enforcement to arrest and detain the defendant before the first appearance. After arrest, the defendant will be brought to court for bail and conditions of release to be set. Typically, a defendant is not notified beforehand if a warrant is issued.

Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you receive a summons or are arrested due to a warrant, it is usually a good idea to hire a Minnesota criminal defense attorney to assist with your case. In addition, an attorney hired before a case is charged can usually request a summons and assure the State that the defendant intends to appear for the matter and the attorney can make sure that the State is aware of the defendant’s location to prevent the need for a warrant.

If you are facing a criminal charge, call St. Paul Criminal Defense Lawyer Eric Rice for a free consultation at 651-998-9660.