Minnesota law is full of legal terms whose definitions are not clear or are ambiguous or misleading. Minnesota criminal law is no different. This blog will examine some of the common terms in Minnesota criminal law and provide examples. This blog is not a substitute for the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you or a loved one are facing charges, contact us today for a free consultation.
Felonies are any crime where someone convicted could be sentenced to more than one year of imprisonment and more than $3,000 in fines. Common examples are murder, criminal sexual conduct, and most drug offenses.
Gross misdemeanors are crimes punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $3,000 in fines. Many DWI offenses and some drug offenses are gross misdemeanors.
Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. Many crimes such as 5th degree assault, disorderly conduct, and careless driving are misdemeanors.
Petty misdemeanors are non-criminal infractions punishable by up to $300 in fines. You cannot be sent to jail for a petty misdemeanor. Speeding tickets are the most common example.
Bodily harm is generally used to refer to pain. Bodily harm is a low standard and someone saying they are in pain will generally satisfy the standard.
Substantial bodily harm often refers to broken bones or other serious but temporary injuries.
Great bodily harm refers to an injury that has a high probability of causing death or causes permanent disfigurement. For example, losing a body part would be great bodily harm.
Assault can either be something that is done to cause someone to fear that they are going to suffer bodily harm or death, or the intentional infliction of bodily harm on someone. This means that an assault can be committed both by approaching someone with an arm raised as though you plan to slap them, but also by actually slapping someone.
Probation is a court ordered supervision process. Each county has their own probation department that supervises people. However, probation can also be unsupervised, or “to the court” which means that a person is not supervised by the probation department. Probation is an alternative to a jail or prison sentence.
Parole and probation are often terms that are used interchangeably as though they mean the seam thing. They are similar but different concepts. Parole occurs after someone has been released from prison. Parole often involves much more intensive supervision than probation.
Restitution is a monetary payment that is paid to make the victim whole. For example, if someone is injured and incurs medical expenses because they were the victim of a crime, the person who committed the crime can, if convicted, be required to pay those expenses in the form of restitution.
A presentence investigation (PSI) is a report than is often ordered by the court following a guilty plea or conviction at trial but before the defendant is sentenced. The PSI is like a book report on the defendant and is designed to allow the court, prosecutor, probation department, and defense counsel additional information to use in making their arguments for a particular sentence.
An attempt occurs when someone intends to commit a crime, commits a substantial step towards completing that crime, but ultimately does not complete the intended crime. For example, someone who decides to break into a building, purchases burglary tools to assist them, and goes to the building but ultimately is unable to break in, could be charged with an attempted crime.
Conspiracy to commit a crime occurs where two or more people agree to commit a crime and at least one of the parties to the agreement takes a step in furtherance of the agreement to commit the crime. For example, if two people agree to break into a building and one of them goes out to purchase burglary tools to assist in the break in, both people could be charged with a conspiracy crime.