A Settlement Conference is an in-court hearing used to see if the prosecution and defense can reach a settlement prior to a trial taking place. By this point, the court has already conducted your first appearance, pre-trial hearing, and possibly contested hearings challenging the admissibility of evidence in your case. The Settlement Conference is often one of the last stages in your case. It generally occurs within a week of a scheduled trial date; and in some situations, a few weeks in advance of trial. The judge will often want to know whether settlement negotiations have been taking place, what those are, and if the case is likely to settle.
As the defendant in the case, you have the right to know what settlement offers are being made in your case. Your MN criminal attorney should be talking to you about what those are and what options you have, because you alone have the power to resolve your case. It is your decision to make whether to take a plea offer from the prosecution. Your lawyer is there to give you advice and assist you in the decision-making process.
By the time you get to your Settlement Conference there has probably already been a plea offer made in your case. Or, at a minimum, an expectation of what the prosecutor is requesting for an outcome. However, plea offers can change at the Settlement Conference and thereafter. Thus, it is important for you to know what those offers are and whether you desire to accept or reject them. If you ultimately turn down an offer from the prosecution to resolve your case at your Settlement Conference, then your case will proceed to trial.
In adult criminal cases, you have the constitutional right to a jury trial in misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, and felony cases. It is a jury of six people in misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors, and a jury of twelve people in felony matters. You also have the right to waive your right to a jury trial and have a court trial, or bench trial, where the judge is the sole decision maker in your case. In petty misdemeanor cases, you do not have the right to a jury trial, but you may elect to have a court trial. Regardless of what avenue you choose in your case, make sure your rights are protected and proper procedures are being followed.