When you are accused of breaking state law, the actions you take can have a tremendous impact on your life going forward. Even a first-time conviction for a minor offense can lead to lasting criminal sanctions, and a single felony conviction may deprive you of numerous civil privileges after serving what is likely to be a lengthy prison term. As such, guidance from a seasoned legal team could be essential to securing your freedom and future.
Understanding how law enforcement authorities define, prosecute, and punish common criminal charges is key to fighting these charges effectively. By working with a capable Duluth criminal defense lawyer, you could proactively enforce your rights and maximize your chances of a positive case resolution.
Like most states, Minnesota classifies criminal offenses as either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors are substantially less severe than felonies and are split into three subclasses, each of which allows for slightly different sanctions upon conviction. These three classes are petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors, and gross misdemeanors.
Petty misdemeanors are typically punishable only by fines—generally of no more than $300—and sometimes minor administrative penalties. Most traffic violations are considered petty misdemeanors since they can usually be resolved completely by paying the fine printed on an associated traffic ticket.
However, certain offenses, like first-time DWI, driving without a license, and simple assault, are considered misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days of jail time plus a maximum $1,000 fine. In some cases, repeat offenders and individuals charged with more severe offenses may be prosecuted for gross misdemeanors, which could allow for maximum penalties of one year in jail and/or a $3,000 maximum fine. An experienced Duluth criminal defense attorney understands the distinctions between classes of misdemeanors and could explain them in greater detail during an initial consultation.
Unlike many other states, Minnesota does not have subcategories for felonies that establish standardized penalties for specific types of crimes. Instead, someone convicted of a felony in Duluth will be sentenced based on a Sentencing Guideline Grid. These guidelines establish sentencing ranges defined by the offense’s severity level and the defendant’s criminal history, respectively ranked from one to 11 and from zero to six or more. Additionally, the presence of specified mitigating or aggravating factors may allow a judge to go below or above the sentencing range recommended by the guidelines.
State law establishes unique sentencing grids for drug offenses and sexual assault crimes, with all other felonies being subject to a universal third grid. Furthermore, as a criminal defense lawyer in the area could explain, judges sometimes have the option to “stay” a prescribed sentence and impose a term of probation on a convicted defendant instead. Most sentences incorporate the possibility of supervised release for the latter third of a prescribed prison term.
The way your criminal case proceeds and the repercussions you could face from a conviction may be wildly different from another person charged with the same offense. Hiring a legal team with experience achieving positive outcomes in diverse circumstances could be essential to getting the best possible resolution for your case.
A conversation with a Duluth criminal defense lawyer could offer much-needed clarity and guidance about what strategy best suits your situation. Call today to schedule your free initial consultation.