Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.04

As amended through October 12, 2023
Rule 26.04 - Post-Verdict Motions

Subd. 1. New Trial On Defendant's Motion.

(1) Grounds. The court may - on written motion of a defendant - grant a new trial on the issue of guilt or the existence of facts to support an aggravated sentence, or both, on any of the following grounds:
1. The interests of justice;
2. Irregularity in the proceedings, or any order or abuse of discretion that deprived the defendant of a fair trial;
3. Prosecutorial or jury misconduct;
4. Accident or surprise that could not have been prevented by ordinary prudence;
5. Newly discovered material evidence, which with reasonable diligence could not have been found and produced at the trial;
6. Errors of law at trial, and objected to at the time unless no objection is required by these rules;
7. A verdict or finding of guilty that is not justified by the evidence, or is contrary to law.
(2) Basis of Motion. A motion for new trial must be based on the record. Pertinent facts that are not in the record may be submitted by affidavit, or statements signed under penalty of perjury pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, section 358.116, except as otherwise provided by these rules. A full or partial transcript or other verbatim recording of the testimony taken at trial may be used during the motion hearing.
(3) Time for Motion. Notice of a motion for a new trial must be served within 15 days after a verdict or finding of guilty. The motion must be heard within 30 days after the verdict or finding of guilty, unless the time for hearing is extended by the court for good cause within the 30-day period.
(4) Time for Serving Supporting Documents. If a motion for a new trial is based on affidavits or signed statements, the documents must be served with the notice of motion. The opposing party will then have 10 days to serve supporting documents. The 10-day period may be extended by the court for good cause. The court may permit reply documents .

Subd. 2. New Trial on Court's Initiative. The court may - on its own initiative and with the consent of the defendant - order a new trial on any of the grounds specified in subdivision 1(1) within 15 days after a verdict or finding of guilty.

Subd. 3. Motion to Vacate Judgment. The court must - on motion of a defendant - vacate judgment, if entered, and dismiss the case if the charging document does not charge an offense, or if the court did not have jurisdiction over the offense charged. The motion must be made within 15 days after a verdict or finding of guilty, after a plea of guilty, or within a time set by the court during the 15-day period. If the motion is granted, the court must make written findings specifying its reasons for vacating the judgment and dismissing the case.

Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.04

Amended April 22, 2015, effective 7/1/2015; amended July 17, 2017, effective 10/1/2017.
Rule 26.01, subd. 1(1) (Right to Jury Trial). In cases of felonies and gross misdemeanors, the defendant has the right to a jury trial under Minn. Const. Art. 1, § 6, which guarantees the right to jury trial in "all criminal prosecutions." The term "criminal prosecution" includes prosecutions for all crimes defined by Minn. Stat. § 609.02. See Peterson v. Peterson, 278 Minn. 275, 281, 153 N.W.2d 825, 830 (1967); State v. Ketterer, 248 Minn. 173, 176, 79 N.W.2d 136, 139 (1956). The defendant's right to jury trial for offenses punishable by more than six months imprisonment is also guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145, 159 (1968); Baldwin v. New York, 399 U.S. 66, 69 (1970).
Since misdemeanors in Minnesota are punishable by no more than 90 days of incarceration or a fine or both, Minn. Stat. § 609.03, subd. 3, no federal constitutional right exists to a jury trial on a misdemeanor. However, a state constitutional right to a jury trial exists in any prosecution for the violation of a misdemeanor statute punishable by incarceration. See Minn. Const. Art. 1, § 6 as interpreted in State v. Hoben, 256 Minn. 436, 444, 98 N.W.2d 813, 819 (1959).
Rule 26.01, subd 1(2)(a) establishes the procedure for waiver of the right to trial by jury on the issue of guilt. A jury waiver must be knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. State v. Ross. 472 NW,2d 651. 653-54 (Minn. 1991). "The focus of [an] inguiry [regarding a jury waiver] is on whether the defendant understands the basic elements of a jury trial." Id. at 654. The Minnesota Supreme Court has recommended the following guidelines: "the defendant should be told that a [felony] jury . .. is composed of 12 members of the community, that the defendant may participate in the selection of the jurors, that the verdict of the jury must be unanimous, and that, if the defendant waives a jury, the judge alone will decide guilt or innocence." Id
Rule 26.01, subd. 1(2)(b) establishes the procedure for waiver of the right to trial by jury on the issue of an aggravated sentence. See generally Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004) and State v. Shattuck, 704 N.W.2d 131 (Minn. 2005) as to the constitutional limitations on imposing aggravated sentences based on findings of fact beyond the elements of the offense and the conviction history. Also, see Rules 1.04(d), 7.03, and 11.04, subd. 2 and the comments to those rules. Whether a defendant has waived or demanded a jury trial on the issue of guilt, that defendant may still have a jury trial on the issue of an aggravated sentence, and a valid waiver under Rule 26.01, subd. 1(2)(b) must be made before an aggravated sentence may be imposed based on findings not made by jury trial. The requirements for a valid jury waiver are discussed in the comment regarding Rule 26.01, subd 1(2)(a).

Rule 26.01, subd. 1(3) (Withdrawal of Jury-Trial Waiver) provides that waiver of jury trial may be withdrawn before commencement of trial. Trial begins when jeopardy attaches.
Rule 26.01, subd. 3 (Trial on Stipulated Facts; Trial on Stipulated Evidence) previously applied only to court trials on stipulated facts. In Dereje v. State. 837 N.W.2d 714 (Minn. 2013), the Minnesota Supreme Court clarified that Rule 26.01, subd 3. does not apply to a court trial on a stipulated body of evidence. Rule 26.01, subd. 3, was amended in 2017 to apply to court trials on stipulated evidence, as well as court trials on stipulated facts. A defendant who agrees to a court trial on stipulated facts, stipulated evidence, or both must acknowledge and personally waive the rights listed in Rule 26.01, subd. 3(b)(1)-(4).

The rules do not permit conditional pleas of guilty by which the defendant reserves the right to appeal the denial of a motion to suppress evidence or other pretrial order. Rule 26.01, subd. 4 implements the procedure authorized by State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854 (Minn. 1980), which allows a defendant to stipulate to the prosecution's case to obtain review of a pretrial ruling.Rule 26.01, subd 4, "replaced Lothenbach as the method for preserving a dispositive pretrial issue for appellate review in a criminal case." State v. Myhre, 875 N.W.2d 799, 802 (Minn. 2016). Rule 26.01, subd. 4, limits appellate review to the dispositive pretrial issue. Rule 26.01, subd. 3 should be used if there is no pretrial ruling dispositive of the case, and if the defendant wishes to have the full scope of appellate review, including a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. See State v. Busse, 644 N.W.2d 79, 89 (Minn. 2002).
The phrase in the first sentence of Rule 26.01, subd. 4(a) - "or that the ruling makes a contested trial unnecessary" - recognizes that a pretrial ruling will not always be dispositive of the entire case, but that a successful appeal of the pretrial issue could nonetheless make a trial unnecessary, such as in a DWI case where the only issue is the validity of one or more qualified prior impaired driving incidents as a charge enhancement. See, e.g., State v. Sandmoen, 390 N.W.2d 419, 423 (Minn. App. 1986). The parties could agree that if the defendant prevailed on appeal, the defendant would still have a conviction for an unenhanced DWI offense. Where a conviction for some offense is supportable regardless of the outcome of the appeal, but a contested trial would serve no purpose, Rule 26.01, subd. 4 could be used.
On a finding under Rule 26.02, subd. 2(2) that there is strong reason to believe dissemination of juror information poses a threat to juror safety or impartiality, the court may enter an order that information regarding identity, including names, telephone numbers, and addresses of prospective jurors be withheld from the public, parties, and counsel. See State v. Bowles, 530 N.W.2d 521, 530-31 (Minn. 1995); State v. McKenzie, 532 N.W.2d 210, 219 (Minn. 1995). The restrictions ordered by the court may extend through trial and beyond as necessary to protect the safety and impartiality interests involved. To protect the identity of jurors and prospective jurors, the court may order that they be identified by number or other method and may prohibit pictures or sketches in the courtroom. The court's decision will be reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard.
The court must recognize that not every trial where there is a threat to jurors' impartiality will require restriction on access to information about jurors. The decision to restrict access to information on jurors must be made in the light of reason, principle, and common sense.
In ensuring that restriction on the parties' access to information about the jurors does not have a prejudicial effect on the defendant, the court must take reasonable precautions to minimize the potential for prejudice. The court must allow voir dire on the effect that restricting access to juror identification may have on the impartiality of the jurors. The court should also instruct the jurors that the jury selection procedures do not in any way suggest the defendant's guilt.
The use of a written jury questionnaire (Rule 26.02, subd. 2(3)) has proved to be a useful tool in obtaining information from prospective jurors in criminal cases. The written questionnaire provided in the Criminal Forms following these rules includes generally non-sensitive questions relevant to jury selection in any criminal case. See Form 50 for the Jury Questionnaire. Additionally the court on its own initiative or on request of counsel may submit to the prospective jurors as part of the questionnaire other questions that might be helpful based on the particular case to be tried.
Once the panel of prospective jurors for a particular case has been determined, the judge or court personnel will instruct the panel on the use of the questionnaire. The preamble at the beginning of the Jury Questionnaire (Form 50) provides the basic information to the prospective jurors including their right to ask the court to permit them to answer any sensitive question orally or privately. On completion of the questionnaire, the court must make the questionnaire available to counsel for use in the jury selection process. The questionnaire may be sworn to either when signed or when the prospective juror appears in court at the time of the voir dire examination. Because of the information contained in the questionnaire, counsel will not need to expend court time on this information, but can move directly to follow-up questions on particular information already available in the questionnaire. However, the written questionnaire is intended only to supplement and not to substitute for the oral voir dire examination provided for by Rule 26.02, subd. 4.
The use and retention of jury questionnaires have been subject to a variety of practices. This rule provides that the questionnaire is a part of the jury selection process and part of the record for appeal and reflects current law. As such, the questionnaires should be preserved as part of the court record of the case. See Rule 814 of the General Rules of Practice for the District Courts as to the length of time such records must be retained. Additionally, see Rule 26.02, subd. 2(2) as to restricting public access to the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and other identifying information concerning jurors and prospective jurors when the court determines that an anonymous jury is necessary.
It is recognized that the idea of the privacy of the questionnaire adds to the candor and honesty of the responses of the prospective jurors. However, in light of other applicable laws and the fact that the questionnaire is part of the record in the case, prospective jurors cannot be told that the questionnaire is confidential or will be destroyed at the conclusion of the case. Rather, the jurors can be told, as reflected in the preamble to the Jury Questionnaire (Form 50), that they can ask the court to permit them to answer sensitive questions orally and privately under Rule 26.02, subd. 4(4). This procedure should minimize the sensitive or embarrassing information in the written questionnaires and consequently the need for sealing or destroying them.
Jury selection is a part of the criminal trial record, which is presumed to be open to the public. Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court of California (Press-Enterprise I), 464 U.S. 501, 505 (1984). The use of a jury questionnaire as part of jury selection is also a part of the open proceeding and therefore the public and the media have a right of access to that information in the usual case. See, e.g., Lesher Commc'ns, Inc. v. Superior Court of Contra Costa County, 224 Cal. App. 3d 774, 779 (1990).
The provision of Rule 26.02, subd. 4(1) governing the purpose for which voir dire examination must be conducted and the provision for initiation of the examination by the judge is taken from ABA Standards, Trial by Jury, 2.4. The court has the right and the duty to assure that the inquiries by the parties during the voir dire examination are "reasonable". The court may therefore restrict or prohibit questions that are repetitious, irrelevant, or otherwise improper. See State v. Greer, 635 N.W.2d 82, 87 (Minn. 2001) (holding no error in district court's restrictions on voir dire); State v. Bauer, 189 Minn. 280, 282, 249 N.W. 40, 41 (1933). However, the Minnesota Supreme Court's Task Force on Racial Bias in the Judicial System recommends in its Final Report, dated May 1993, that during voir dire lawyers should be given ample opportunity to inquire of jurors as to racial bias.
The purpose of Rule 26.02, subd. 4(3) is to achieve uniformity in the order of drawing, examination, and challenge of jurors, and also to provide a limited number of alternatives that may be followed, in the court's discretion. Hence, a uniform rule (26.02, subd. 4(3)(b)) is prescribed, which is to be followed unless the court orders the alternative. Rule 26.02, subd. 4(3)(c). An exception is that in cases of first degree murder, Rule 26.02, subd. 4(3)(d) is to be preferred unless otherwise ordered by the court.
Rule 26.02, subd. 4(3)(b) is the rule to be followed unless the court orders otherwise and substantially adopts the method used in civil cases, so that in a criminal case 20 members of the jury panel are first drawn for a 12-person jury. See Minn. Stat. § 546.10; Minn. R. Civ. P. 48. After each party has exercised challenges for cause, commencing with the defendant, they exercise their peremptory challenges alternately, commencing with the defendant. If all peremptory challenges are not exercised, the jury must be selected from the remaining prospective jurors in the order in which they were called.
For the definition of a felony conviction that would disqualify a person from service on the jury under Rule 26.02, subd. 5(1), see Minn. Stat. § 609.13. The term "related offense" in the rule is intended to be more comprehensive than the conduct or behavioral incident covered by Minn. Stat. § 609.035.
Rule 26.02, subd. 7 (Objections to Peremptory Challenges) adopts and implements the equal protection prohibition against purposeful racial and gender discrimination in the exercise of peremptory challenges established in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986) and subsequent cases, including J.E.B. v. Alabama ex rel. T.B., 511 U.S. 127 (1994) (extending the rule to gender-based discrimination). In applying this rule, the bench and bar should thoroughly familiarize themselves with the case law that has developed, particularly with respect to meanings of the terms "prima facie showing," "race-neutral explanation," "pretextual reasons," and "purposeful discrimination" used in the rule. See also State v. Davis, 504 N.W.2d 767 (Minn. 1993) (declining to extend the rule to religion), cert. denied sub. nom Davis v. Minnesota, 511 U.S. 1115 (1994).
The interpreter requirement in Rule 26.03, subd. 1(1) derives from Rule 8 of the General Rules of Practice for the District Courts and Minn. Stat. §§ 611.30- 611.34.
A defendant's refusal to wear non-jail attire waives the provision in Rule 26.03, subd. 2 (Custody and Restraint of Defendants and Witnesses) and is not grounds for delaying the trial. A list of factors relevant to the decision to employ restraints is found in State v. Shoen, 578 N.W.2d 708, 713 (Minn. 1998).
Rule 26.03, subd. 5(3) requires the consent of the defendant and prosecutor when ordering jurors to separate overnight during deliberation. In State v. Green, 719 N.W.2d 664, 672-73 (Minn. 2006), the Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that a district court did not commit error in releasing jurors for the night when no hotel accommodations could be found within a reasonable distance of the courthouse despite an exhaustive effort, neither party could propose a means of accomplishing sequestration, and the trial court instructed jurors to have no discussions about the case and to not read newspapers, watch television, or listen to the radio.
Rule 26.03, subd. 6 (Exclusion of Public From Hearings or Arguments Outside the Presence of the Jury) reflects Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company v. Kammeyer, 341 N.W.2d 550, 559-60 (Minn. 1983), which established similar procedures for excluding the public from pretrial hearings. See the comment to Rule 25.01 concerning those procedures.
Rule 26.03, subd. 12 (Order of Jury Trial) substantially continues the order of trial under existing practice. See Minn. Stat. § 546.11. The order of closing argument, under sections "h," "i," "j," and "k" of this rule reflects a change. The prosecution argues first, then the defense. The prosecution is then automatically entitled to rebuttal argument. However, this argument must be true rebuttal and is limited to directly responding to matters raised in the defendant's closing argument. Allowance of the rebuttal argument to the prosecution should result in a more efficient and less confusing presentation to the jury. The prosecution will need to address only those defenses actually raised by the defendant rather than guessing, perhaps wrongly, about those defenses. In the event that the prosecution engages in improper rebuttal, paragraph "k" of the rule provides, upon motion, for a limited right of rebuttal to the defendant to address misstatements of law or fact and any inflammatory or prejudicial statements. The court has the inherent power and duty to assure that any rebuttal or surrebuttal arguments stay within the limits of the rule and do not simply repeat matters from the earlier arguments or address matters not raised in earlier arguments. It is the responsibility of the court to ensure that final argument to the jury is kept within proper bounds. ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Prosecution Function and Defense Function, standards 3-5.8 & 4-7.7 (3d ed. 1993). If the argument is sufficiently improper, the trial judge should intervene, even without objection from opposing counsel. See State v. Salitros, 499 N.W.2d 815, 817 (Minn. 1993); State v. White, 295 Minn. 217, 223, 203 N.W.2d 852, 857 (1973).
Under Rule 26.03, subd. 14, a party is not foreclosed from later serving and filing a notice to remove a judge who simply presided at an appearance under Rule 5 or Rule 8 in the case. Also under that rule, a judge should disqualify himself or herself "whenever the judge has any doubt as to his or her ability to preside impartially or whenever his or her impartiality reasonably might be questioned." ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Special Functions of the Trial Judge, standard 6-1.9 (3d ed. 2000).
Rule 26.03, subd. 16 (Evidence) leaves to the Minnesota Rules of Evidence the issues of the admissibility of evidence and the competency of witnesses except as otherwise provided in these rules. As to the use of a deposition at a criminal trial, Rule 21.06 controls rather than the Minnesota Rules of Evidence if there is any conflict between them. See Rule 802 and the comments to Rule 804 in the Minnesota Rules of Evidence. The prohibition in Rule 26.03, subd. 16 against jurors submitting questions to witnesses is taken from State v. Costello, 646 N.W.2d 204, 214 (Minn. 2002).
Rule 26.03, subd. 16 provides that any party offering a videotape or audiotape exhibit may also provide to the court a transcript of the tape. This rule does not govern whether any such transcript is admissible as evidence. That issue is governed by Article 10 of the Minnesota Rules of Evidence. However, upon an appeal of the proceedings, the transcript of the exhibit will be part of the record if the other party stipulates to the accuracy of the tape transcript as provided in Rule 28.02, subd. 9.
The provision in Rule 26.03, subd. 17 (Interpreters) allowing qualified interpreters for any juror with a sensory disability to be present in the jury room during deliberations and voting was added to the rule to conform with Minn. Stat. § 593.32 and Rule 809 of the Jury Management Rules in the General Rules of Practice for District Courts, which prohibit exclusion from jury service for certain reasons including sensory disability. Further, this provision allows the court to make reasonable accommodation for such jurors under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. Caselaw holding that the presence of an alternate juror during deliberations is considered to be presumptively prejudicial - e.g., State v. Crandall, 452 N.W.2d 708, 711 (Minn. App. 1990) - would not apply to such qualified interpreters present during deliberations. As to an interpreter's duties of confidentiality and to refrain from public comment, see respectively Canons 5 and 6 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Interpreters in the Minnesota State Court System.
A defendant is entitled to a jury determination of any facts beyond the elements of the offense or conviction history that might be used to aggravate the sentence. Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296, 301 (2004); State v. Shattuck, 704 N.W.2d 131, 135 (Minn. 2005). If such a trial is held, Rule 26.03, subd. 18 provides that the defendant may challenge the sufficiency of the evidence presented.
Rule 26.03, subd. 19(7) (Verdict Forms) requires that where aggravated sentence issues are presented to a jury, the court shall submit the issues to the jury by special interrogatory. For a sample form for that purpose see CRIMJIG 8.01 of the Minnesota Criminal Jury Instruction Guide. When that is done, Rule 26.03, subd. 20(5) permits any of the parties to request that the jury be polled as to their answers.
Under Rule 26.03, subd. 20(4) (Deadlocked Jury), the kind of instruction that may be given to a deadlocked jury is left to judicial decision. In State v Buggs, 581 N.W.2d 329, 338 (Minn. 1998), the Supreme Court suggested the risk of error in jury instructions can be significantly reduced if the trial court uses CRIMJIG 3.04 when the jury asks for further instruction.
Rule 26.03, subd. 20(6) (Verdict Impeachment) adopts the procedure outlined in Schwartz v. Minneapolis Suburban Bus Company, 258 Minn. 325, 328, 104 N.W.2d 301, 303 (1960).
Acceptance of a partial verdict under Rule 26.03, subd. 20(7) (Partial Verdicts) may bar further prosecution of any counts over which the jury has deadlocked. See Minn. Stat. § 609.035, subd. 1.