Criminal Offense Levels in Minnesota

The lowest level offense in Minnesota is a petty misdemeanor. A petty misdemeanor is not considered a crime.  The maximum possible sentence for a petty misdemeanor is a fine of up to $300.00. A person convicted of a petty misdemeanor cannot be given any jail sentence. Ordinary speeding tickets, parking tickets and possession of a small amount of marijuana are examples of some petty misdemeanor offenses.

When plea-bargaining higher-level charges, it is sometimes possible to get a charge reduced to a petty misdemeanor. And although a petty misdemeanor is technically not a crime, there will still be a court file so it may still show up on a background check. For example, a petty misdemeanor theft may not be a crime, but any record of a theft offense may be harmful in a job application where an employer completes a background check. For some petty misdemeanors, it may still be worth the effort to do everything possible to avoid a conviction.

The next level up from petty misdemeanor is a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is considered a crime, but it is the lowest level criminal offense in Minnesota. The maximum possible sentence for a misdemeanor is up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. But it is unusual for a person to get the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor conviction. Most first offense DWIs, fifth degree assaults, low-level theft offenses, driving after suspension, disorderly conduct and the like are misdemeanors. It is fairly common to resolve misdemeanor charges without a jail sentence, but it is also common for misdemeanor convictions to result in one or sometimes two years probation.

The next level up is gross misdemeanor, which is between the misdemeanor and felony levels. The maximum possible sentence for a gross misdemeanor is up to 1 year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.  Examples of gross misdemeanor offenses include second or third time DWIs, second offense domestic assaults, malicious punishment of a child, driving after cancellation – inimical to public safety, moderate level theft offenses and some prostitution offenses. Resolution of gross misdemeanor charges often involves discussion of jail time, or jail alternatives like electronic home monitoring or sentence to service. Gross misdemeanors normally involve two years probation, but can go as high as 6 years probation.

A felony is the highest Minnesota level offense in Minnesota. Felonies involve a wide range of punishment, ranging from just over a year in prison all the way up to a life sentence. Felonies also involve very substantial maximum fines. A person convicted of a felony can be sent to prison, or placed on probation. Felony probation terms normally range from three years up to 25 years or more. Felony convictions also result in other serious consequences, such as losing the right to possess firearms, vote, serve on a jury, or work in many professions. There are many kinds of felony offenses in Minnesota, with a wide array of possible sentences. Felony sentences are determined by the Minnesota sentencing guidelines, available here

Due to the wide spectrum of severity and consequences in felony offenses, there is often a lot that an experienced criminal defense lawyer can do to help defeat or reduce the penalties of a felony charge or otherwise avoid a conviction.


Facing Criminal Charges?

Bill Sherry, Criminal Defense AttorneyIf you or someone you know needs advice about how to handle a charge in Minnesota, please contact me to get you the help you need. I understand the seriousness of criminal charges, and how they can affect your life. I can help. If you make the decision to work with me I will take good care of you and be with you every step of the way.

As an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney, Bill Sherry understands that legal problems don’t always happen during ordinary office hours. If you are facing a legal problem and need to talk with a lawyer right now, call Bill Sherry at 952-423-8423 for a free consultation.