Minnesota Criminal Law

What Is Minnesota Criminal Law?

Attorney Max Keller, Criminal Lawyer MN
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Attorney Max Keller

Keller Law Offices - Criminal Lawyer Minneapolis, MN Max Keller, Criminal Lawyer MN
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415
Call (952) 913-1421

Keller Law Offices is a criminal defense law firm based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and serving clients throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area and surrounding region. Practice areas encompass DWI, sex crimes, drug charges, traffic violations, weapons charges, assault, theft, burglary and robbery, homicide and manslaughter, domestic violence, white collar crimes such as fraud and embezzlement, professional license defense, appeals as well as probation violations and expungements.
When defendants are charged with the violation of a criminal law in Minnesota, it is important that they understand the nature of the charges against them, the possible penalties and the criminal procedures that may affect them.

Felonies in Minnesota

Felonies are considered more serious crimes. Felonies are punishable by a year or more in jail or prison. The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines contain mandatory minimum prison sentences for many felony crimes. Felony offenses include crimes such as murder, theft, strangulation, terrorist threatening, drug crimes and criminal sexual conduct.

Some crimes are considered felonies due to their serious nature, such as murder or aggravated robbery. However, other crimes are only considered a felony if the defendant has been convicted of similar crimes. For example, the fourth commission of a DUI offense is typically a felony when the defendant has been convicted of three prior DUI offenses in the preceding ten years. The classification of other felony offenses depends on the specifics involved in the crime. For example, theft of property valued at $1,000 or more is considered a felony.

Being convicted of a felony in Minnesota carries with it a number of consequences, including the loss of certain civil rights, such as having the right to vote, serve on a jury or own a firearm. Felony convictions can result in the removal of individuals who are not citizens. Being convicted of a felony can also prevent a person from joining the armed forces and being precluded from certain types of jobs or from pursuing certain types of educational tracks. Often, individuals can be given a long period of probation after any time served. If the individual violates any terms of probation, he or she may face additional circumstances.

Misdemeanors in Minnesota

Misdemeanors in Minnesota are not considered as serious as felony offenses. They typically do not result in serious injury to another individual or involve large amounts of financial damage. If a drug crime, the crime often does not involve a large amount of drugs or the intent to sell drugs.

There are different classifications of misdemeanors, including:

Gross Misdemeanors
Gross misdemeanors are the most serious form of misdemeanor crimes in Minnesota. This classification of crimes includes assault on a peace officer, stalking, third offense DWIs, prostitution offenses and criminal neglect of a vulnerable adult.

Misdemeanors may include first-time DUI offenses, reckless driving, theft, trespass and assault in the fifth degree.

Petty Misdemeanors
Petty misdemeanors are considered the least serious form of misdemeanor crimes in Minnesota. Conviction does not include the possibility of jail time. Typically, the punishment is based on a monetary fine. Some petty misdemeanors include speeding, petty theft, or possession of a small amount of marijuana. Although not as serious as other crimes, these offenses may still appear on a background check.

Statutes of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the amount of time that the prosecutor has to file charges after a crime has been committed. These laws exist to create a deadline by which legal action must occur. If the legal action required by the statute is not taken within the timeline, the party is usually barred from bringing forth the case.

For statutes of limitations based on criminal acts, the purpose behind the laws are to ensure a more efficient criminal justice system in which witnesses' memories are fresher and more reliable and evidence available. At the same time, these laws allow there to be greater certainty around the prosecution of crimes so that a potential defendant does not wait indefinitely for the state to determine to take the case.

In Minnesota, the applicable statute of limitations is different for different types of crimes. Misdemeanors generally have a three-year statute of limitation. Felonies may have between three and nine years, depending on the crime. The crimes of medical assistant fraud, theft and bribery have a six-year statute of limitations. A nine-year statute of limitation applies to familial sexual abuse or criminal sexual conduct. Arson has a five-year statute of limitations. Some crimes have no statute of limitations in Minnesota, such as murder or crimes that involve victims of human trafficking who are under the age of 18.

Time limits can be tolled which serves to increase the amount of time for the prosecution to issue charges in certain circumstances. Under Minnesota law, the statute can be tolled when the suspect is not within the state where the crime was committed.

Capital Punishment

Minnesota law expressly prohibits the use of capital punishment. The state banned the practice of a convicted killer's execution was botched during his hanging in 1906. The rope used for the execution was too long, causing the prisoner to hit the ground after falling through the gallows trap door. Three law enforcement officers held the rope for 14 minutes to complete the execution by strangulation. Those opposed to the practice of capital punishment used the incident to explain the cruelty of the death penalty and were successful in abolishing the death penalty. Although attempts were later made to reverse this law, they were not successful.

Minnesota is one of the first states to ban capital punishment. The most serious penalty in the state is life imprisonment without the possibility of release. This punishment is reserved for heinous crimes, including murder and some sexual assault offenses.

Sentencing in Minnesota Criminal Cases

Minnesota law does not categorize felony crimes into different classes. However, the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines provide a presumptive amount of time and other consequences for the conviction of certain crimes. The guidelines also take into account any prior criminal history of the defendant. The guidelines consider the severity level of an offense and the defendant's prior criminal history. This information is calculated to get a criminal history score. These numbers appear on a grid, and the presumptive sentence is where the severity level and the defendant's criminal history line up. However, the court can consider aggravating and mitigating circumstances to adjust the punishment up or down.

Felony crimes are punishable by more than a year in prison and a fine. The most serious felonies such as murder can result in life in prison. Criminal sexual conduct can result in 30 years in prison and a fine up to $40,000. Criminal vehicular homicide or simple robbery can result in a sentence of ten years and a fine up to $20,000. Repeat domestic assault can result in up to 5 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. Controlled substance crimes can also result in a 5-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

Gross misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $3,000. Probation may be between three and six years. Misdemeanor crimes are punishable by up to 90 days in jail, probation between one and two years and a fine up to $1,000. Petty misdemeanor crimes are punishable by a fine up to $300.

Criminal Procedure in Minnesota

Minnesota requires a law enforcement officer to have probable cause that the defendant committed a specific crime before he or she can be charged for the crime. When a defendant is arrested, he or she may be ticketed and immediately released, or he or she may be taken into custody and taken to the station. If the latter, the defendant is processed and booked.

Filing of a Complaint
The next step is for the prosecutor to prepare a Summons and Complaint. This information is mailed to the defendant and informs him or her of the nature of the charges against him or her. This document states whether the crime is considered a petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony offense.

Bail Hearing
If the person was not immediately released, a bail hearing will occur. Minnesota law requires that a defendant be given a bail hearing within 36 hours from the arrest. However, if the arrest occurs over the weekend, the time does not start until Monday morning. This process involves taking the defendant in front of a judge to determine if he or she can be released and which conditions should be imposed on him or her if a release is ordered. The judge determines whether bail should be granted. He or she considers whether the defendant is a danger to society or a flight risk. If bail is ordered, the judge may set a bail amount or may release the defendant on his or her own recognizance.

The next step of the criminal process is the arraignment. This is the defendant's initial appearance in which the complaint is reviewed by the judge. The judge may explain that the defendant has a right to have a lawyer represent him or her and the right to a jury trial. In some situations, bail matters may be determined at the arraignment. The judge usually sets a future court date unless the defendant immediately pleads guilty. The second appearance is typically anywhere between four to six weeks from the initial appearance.

The next stage is very important for a criminal defendant's rights. This is the discovery process in which the defendant's lawyer formally requests information related to the defendant's case. The prosecution is required to hand over information to the defendant's counsel that may be used against him or her, such as police reports, transcripts, recorded statements, videos, recordings made at the time of arrest and other such information. This is when the defendant first learns about the weight of the evidence that is available against him or her.

Settlements and Plea Bargains
The next stage opens up the possibility of resolving the case without going through a full-blown trial. The defendant may attend different types of hearings depending on the circumstances of the case. A pre-trial hearing gives lawyers the opportunity to discuss facts that are involved in the case and to see about potential ways to resolve the case before there is a trial. An omnibus hearing is an attempt to settle the case or litigate legal motions or other issues. A defense lawyer may request a hearing of this nature if he or she believes that law enforcement violated the defendant's rights. In some cases, evidence may not be admissible if it was obtained in an illegal or improper way. A criminal defense lawyer may try to negotiate a plea bargain on behalf of the defendant during this stage.

If a plea bargain is not achieved, the criminal process continues toward a trial. Minnesota law provides for a six-person jury trial in cases involving misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors. Felony cases involve twelve-person juries. A defendant may waive his or her right to a jury trial and have a judge determine the case. However, he or she must knowingly waive this right on the record.

During a trial, the case begins with an opening statement, beginning with the prosecution's version of events. The defense counsel then provides his or her own opening statement. The prosecution continues by presenting evidence and witnesses. The defense counsel cross-examines these witnesses and may then put on his or her own witnesses. After closing arguments, the jury deliberates and delivers a verdict.

If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty after the trial, the next step is sentencing. There is a separate hearing to determine the amount of time or other consequences to impose on the defendant. In some cases, there is a pre-sentence investigation completed by the probation office. Sentences can include time in jail or prison, home monitoring, community service, the imposition of fines, restitution, probation or service work for the county. Additional conditions may be imposed such as ordering the defendant to attend alcohol or drug dependency treatment, to attend anger management classes, to take part in counseling, to be randomly drug tested or to follow other rules or conditions imposed by the judge.

Legal Assistance

Due to the importance of the criminal justice system and the potential consequences that can befall them, criminal defendants often hire a criminal defense lawyer. He or she can advise the defendant as to his or her rights, explain the strengths and weaknesses of the case against the defendant and negotiate favorable plea bargains.

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