Criminal Procedure in Federal & Minnesota Trial Courts
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Criminal procedural rules (also called court rules) prescribe what to do and how to do it when a crime occurs and someone is arrested, charged and brought before a court. These rules establish a uniform process to ensure that justice is administered fairly throughout federal, state, and local court systems. Separate sets of criminal procedural rules exist for each jurisdiction.
The rules of criminal procedure regulate the inquiry into whether a violation of the substantive criminal law has occurred and whether the person accused of the crime has actually committed it. Procedural rules are mandatory; both prosecution and defense must understand and abide by the relevant rules of criminal procedure. There are many tools to help attorneys comply with the procedural requirements for the fair administration of criminal justice.
This guide focuses on the rules of criminal procedure which govern in the United States District Court and in the Minnesota District Court, the trial courts for each jurisdiction.
Access to some of the electronic resources included in this research guide is restricted to University of Minnesota students; some electronic tiles are restricted to law students.
The origin of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure can be traced to 1940 when the Congress, through the Rules Enabling Act of 1940 (ch. 445, 54 Stat. 688 (1940), subsequently 18 U.S.C. §3771), delegated power to the U.S. Supreme Court to prescribe rules of “pleading, practice, and procedure with respect to proceedings in criminal cases prior to and including verdict, or finding or plea of guilty.” The Court appointed an Advisory Committee on Rules of Criminal Procedure and it prepared a Preliminary Draft and a Second Preliminary Draft in May 1943 and February 1944 respectively. The Rules of Criminal Procedure for the District Courts were adopted by order of the Supreme Court on December 26, 1944, transmitted to the Congress by the Attorney General on January 3, 1945, and became effective March 21, 1946.
Under a 1949 amendment to 18 U.S.C. §3771, the Chief Justice of the United States, instead of the Attorney General, reported the rules to Congress. In 1950, section 3771 was further amended so that amendments to the rules could be reported to Congress not later than May 1 each year and become effective 90 days after being reported. Effective December 1, 1988, section 3771 was repealed and supplanted by new sections 2072 and 2074 of Title 28, United States Code, as enacted by Title IV “Rules Enabling Act” of Pub. L. 100-802 (approved November 19, 1988, 102 Stat. 4648), effective December 1, 1988. The Criminal Rules have been amended several times since their initial adoption. The rules and any amendments to them are printed by the Congress as House Documents.
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are organized along a time line, beginning with the filing of the complaint and proceeding through arrest, indictment, arraignment, trial, and post-conviction procedures. A subject index is included at the end of the rules.
The Advisory Committee on Rules of Criminal Procedure prepares a brief note for every rule or amendment when it is proposed. It is important always to read the Committee note at the end of each rule because the note provides an official explanation of the rule’s intent. Most publications of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure include the Advisory Committee note following each rule (e.g. United States Code, United States Code Annotated, United States Code Service discussed below). A few works provide a separate appendix with the text of all the committee notes (e.g. Wright and Miller’s Federal Practice and Procedure, v. 3C, Appendix C). Recent proposals to amend the rules and their notes can be found in Federal Rules Decisions discussed below.
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are widely available in unannotated form. This form is a useful easy reference to check rule requirements or to verify citations to rules, but it does not provide helpful explanations or interpretations of the rules. “Deskbooks,” softbound volumes typically including all procedural rules related to practice in one jurisdiction, are heavily used by practitioners. Unannotated Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure also appear with statutory compilations or as supplements to treatises on criminal procedure.
Recent rule changes appear in supplementation to United States Code Service (PRIMARY KF62.1972.L38), United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (PRIMARY KF48.W45), and United States Supreme Court Reports (L.Ed.) (REPORTERS KF101.A313).
When an in-depth explanation of a rule is needed, it is useful to consult annotated versions of the rules. Annotations often provide detailed explanations for each rule. In some works, however, they consist only of brief citations to other sources containing explanations and judicial interpretations of the rules. The following treatises and encyclopedias on criminal procedure provide substantive annotations for the rules:
The following works do not themselves provide commentary but they do offer numerous references to commentary and to judicial interpretation of the rules.
In addition to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, prosecution and defense must observe local procedural rules for individual federal courts. The focus of the following sources is civil rules, but they do also include local federal criminal rules:
Court rules deskbooks for individual states (e.g. Iowa Rules of Court—Federal) also contain any local criminal rules for the U.S. District Courts within that state.
Local federal criminal court rules are also available on LexisNexis (Legal > U.S. > Find Statutes, Administrative Materials & Court Rules > Court Rules > Federal Local Trial Court Rules Combined). On Westlaw the various state rule databases contain local federal district court rules for each state. On the internet, links to local federal rules are available within the individual state jurisdictions at http://www.llrx.com/courtrules.
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and the equitable administration of criminal justice have been objects of considerable interpretation by the federal courts. It is possible to locate cases interpreting the rules through the West’s Federal Digest and the Supreme Court Digest (under the topic “criminal law”). There are also a few titles that focus specifically on the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
To find other works containing the text of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, commentary about the rules or individual rules, or references to cases that interpret the rules, search MNCAT. The title search—federal rules of criminal procedure—is useful. Or, subject keyword searches for the aspect of the criminal rules you are researching will retrieve specialty treatises on that subject or rule. For example, grand jury will retrieve Federal Grand Jury: A Guide to Law and Practice, 2nd ed. (KF9642.B73 2006); habeas corpus will retrieve Federal Habeas Corpus Practice and Procedure, 5th ed. (KF9011.L54 2005); prosecution will retrieve Prosecutorial Misconduct, 2nd ed. (KF9640.G46). These focused treatises also include tables of criminal procedure rules with references to citations within the text.
Beginning in 1964 the American Bar Association created and implemented its Criminal Justice Standards Project. Addressing the full course of the administration of criminal justice including pretrial release, defense, prosecution, trial, pleas, sentencing, and appeals, the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice are now well into their third edition. The text of the standards is available at www.abanet.org/crimjust/standards/home.html. The Law Library owns print versions with commentary; to locate them search MNCAT under title: ABA Standards for Criminal Justice.
An excellent site containing links to nearly all court rules available on the internet is www.llrx.com/courtrules.
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are also available at Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.
Following the lead of Congress, the Minnesota Legislature delegated power to the Minnesota Supreme Court to promulgate rules of criminal procedure for Minnesota courts. The Supreme Court appointed an advisory committee to prepare the rules which were first approved by the Court in 1975; the rules have been amended several times since then. The Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure govern the procedure in prosecutions for felonies, gross misdemeanors, misdemeanors, and petty misdemeanors in the district courts in the State of Minnesota. Individual courts may also promulgate local criminal rules which are not in conflict with these rules or with the General Rules of Practice for the District Courts.
Few publications document the development of the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure. Information about current rule revisions is discussed in Minnesota Lawyer (PERIODICALS .M593), Bench & Bar of Minnesota (PERIODICALS .B45), and in the advance sheets for West’s Northwestern Reporter, 2d (REPORTERS KF135.N71 2d).
Digests, Court Reports and Citators
The standard research tools used to find and update Minnesota case law can be used to find cases which interpret the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure.
To find additional works containing the text of or discussing the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, search MNCAT under the subject heading criminal procedure—minnesota.
ADDITIONAL GENERAL SOURCES
Looseleaf Services, Texts, Periodicals
To obtain background information to help apply the criminal procedure rules, consult an in-depth treatise or a journal article. The MNCAT subject search, criminal procedure, followed by the geographic jurisdiction you are researching, will provide access to many texts. The results of this subject search include cross references to more specific topics and texts. Helpful general texts include:
Periodical articles often provide useful information on recent rule changes. LegalTrac or Index to Legal Periodicals & Books can be used to find such articles by keyword, subject, author, article title, popular names of statutes or cases, citations of case, rules and statutes. It is also possible to key in a specific procedural rule to find articles on that rule; use “rule” and the number of the rule in a keyword search. Periodicals particularly relevant to criminal procedure include: