Ask the Chief

Civil vs. criminal case

Occasionally people come to the police department asking for help in situations that are not criminal in nature. Often their concerns regard property disputes, landlord tenant issues, child custody issues and other similar struggles.

These situations can be very emotionally charged and frustrating to everyone involved and people just want some help and guidance.

The officers of the Minneota Police Department are certainly willing to listen to your concerns but we are limited in what actions we can take.

The first thing an officer must do is determine if the issue is a civil issue or a criminal issue. The reason why is that law enforcement authority is designed to resolve criminal concerns.

Civil matters are intended to be resolved between individuals, attorneys and Civil Court ... however, the reality is that people come to my office angry, in tears, afraid and worried.

They don't know what to do, who to turn to and often lack the resources to help themselves. In these situations we direct those individuals to other resources such as their own attorney, local, state and federal agencies, private organizations and benevolent groups.

We provide a shoulder to cry on and although we don't give civil legal advice we can help people talk through their issues and make suggestions in how to talk to people and work on problem solving techniques.

For example — in child custody disputes, we encourage people to follow all order issued by family court and to document any concerns they have so they can share those concerns with their attorney and judge.

If a person has a tenant issue or they are a landlord looking to evict someone, we encourage them to talk to their attorney and to research their rights with the Minnesota Attorney General's office.

If two people MUST meet or if someone MUST go to a location to pick up their kids or retrieve property and they are concerned for their safety; Law Enforcement may provide what is called a "Civil Standby".

This is when we will be present for the singular purpose of keeping the peace. We don't decide who gets what property when a relationship ends. We don't make kids go with a parent whom they don't want to go with.

We don't kick people out of homes because they are not getting along. Our job is to keep the peace. These issues are complicated and sometimes a civil matter can escalate to a criminal case based upon the actions of those involved.

My advice is to educate yourself as to your rights in regards to the situation you are in.

When you are in doubt about what you should do, seek advice from an attorney. Always take the "high road" and never do anything that will make you look like the "bad guy".

Document everything as you might need it for court. Most importantly BE NICE.

I know that being nice is difficult when someone has hurt you, but treating them the way they have treated you will not get you want you want.

Have a goal, work toward the goal and you will get through this crisis.

Bill Bolt

Contact Us

The Minneota Mascot
Address: 201 N. Jefferson
Minneota, MN 56264

Phone:(507) 872-6492