In Minnesota, a petty misdemeanor is not a crime. They are less serious than misdemeanors. There is no possible jail time or probation associated with petty misdemeanors. There is a maximum fine of up to $300 for such an offense. The most common petty misdemeanors are violations of traffic regulations, such as speeding, driving with due care, careless driving, and vehicle equipment violations. Other petty misdemeanors include possession of a small amount of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
In most petty misdemeanor cases, the cops will issue you a citation and release you from the scene. Infrequently, you will receive the citation in the mail at a later date. In either event, petty misdemeanors are almost always payable offenses that do not require an appearance in court. However, by paying a petty misdemeanor citation it almost always results in a conviction for that offense. Depending on the type of misdemeanor, this can result in adverse driver’s license consequences.
Instead of merely paying a petty misdemeanor ticket, you can setup a hearing officer appointment or an appearance in court. At that hearing officer appointment or court appearance, you can see if you can avoid a conviction for the offense by obtaining a continuance for dismissal or stay of adjudication. Sometimes, they will also offer less of a fine. If no outcome is agreeable to you after seeing a hearing officer or at your first court appearance, then you have the right to schedule a court trial.
A court trial, or bench trial, is a trial in front of a judge only. That judge will be the sole decider of your guilt. The burden is on the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at the trial. They will attempt to do that by putting witnesses on the stand to testify and by submitting evidence to the court. You, or your attorney, will have the opportunity to cross examine the prosecutor’s witnesses, call witnesses on your behalf, and submit evidence to the court. You, as the defendant, will also have the chance to testify, if you wish. But you are not forced to testify. You have the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and can remain silent.
You can get a petty misdemeanors expunged from your criminal record. Two years after being discharge of that sentence, if you have not had any new criminal offenses, then you are statutorily eligible to expunge the petty misdemeanor offense. Minnesota modified is expungement laws in 2015, which made it easier for people to expunge their criminal records.
In Minnesota, a misdemeanor offense is a crime that has a maximum penalty of up to ninety days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Misdemeanors are less serious than a gross misdemeanor, but more severe than a petty misdemeanor. Common misdemeanors include Fourth Degree DWI, Domestic Assault, Disorderly Conduct, Fifth Degree Assault, Theft less than $500, Obstructing Legal Process, Driving After Revocation, Careless Driving, Reckless Driving, Possession of Marijuana in a Motor Vehicle, and many more.
In most misdemeanor cases, the cops will issue you a citation. This often results in being booked and released from jail or even simply being released after the initial police contact. In some situations, you may receive a summons in the mail along with a citation or complaint as notice of the charges. Domestic Assault charges, upon the initial arrest, often result in staying in jail until a judge places conditions of release on the individual, which can often lead to a Domestic Abuse No Contact Order (DANCO). Some jurisdictions may require a very minimal amount of bail to be paid for release upon arrest for a misdemeanor offense.
A First Appearance is the first court date in the process in misdemeanor cases. If you hire a private attorney, you can often waive your appearance at that court date. Your attorney can enter a not guilty plea on your behalf and schedule your matter for a Pre-Trial Hearing. A not guilty plea is not uncommon at your First Appearance, even if you are present, especially if the prosecution has yet to provide all the discovery (evidence) they have against you at that point.
At your Pre-Trial Hearing in a misdemeanor case, plea negotiations with the prosecutor often take place. If you do not reach an agreement, you can either request another Pre-Trial Hearing, set the matter for an Evidentiary Hearing to challenge the admissibility of evidence or probable cause, or set the matter for Trial.
In a misdemeanor case, you have the right to a trial by jury or judge. A jury trial in a misdemeanor case will be made up of six jurors. If you choose a trial by judge, often referred to as a bench or court trial, the judge will be the only person deciding your guilt.
Misdemeanors are often enhanceable offenses, which means future offenses can be made more serious if you are convicted of the current offense. Examples of enhanceable offenses include DWI and Domestic Assault. In Fourth Degree DWI cases, they likely revoked your driver’s license. If that happened, there are options to get a restricted driver’s license (limited license / work permit). You also have the ability to challenge your license revocation through the implied consent process. Importanly, you only have sixty days to challenge your license being taken away from the effective date of the revocation.
You can get a misdemeanors expunged from your criminal record. Two years after being discharged from probation, if you have not had any new criminal offenses, then you are statutorily eligible for an expungement. Minnesota modified is expungement laws in 2015 making it easier for people to expunge criminal records for employment and housing purposes.
In Minnesota, a gross misdemeanor offense is a crime in which no more than one year in jail and a $3,000 may be imposed. Gross misdemeanors are more severe than a misdemeanor, but less serious than a felony. Common gross misdemeanors include Second and Third Degree DWI, Driving After Cancellation Inimical to Public Safety, Violating an Order for Protection within ten years of a prior offense, Theft over $500 but less than $1,000, and Criminal Vehicular Operation Bodily Harm, among others.
In gross misdemeanor cases, you have the right to a trial by jury or judge. Jury trials for gross misdemeanors consist of six jurors. At trial, the presumption of innocence applies and the burden of proof for the prosecution to find you guilty is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In a judge trial, or bench trial, the judge will be the sole decider on guilt, even though the same presumption of innocence and burden of proof applies.
Gross misdemeanors are often enhanceable offenses, which means future offenses can be made more serious if you are convicted of the current offense. Examples of enhanceable offenses include DWI, Violating an Order for Protection, and Domestic Assault. DWIs can become a gross misdemeanor, even on a first-time offense. If your alcohol concentration is .16 or more, you refuse to take the evidentiary breath test, or if you have a child under the age of 16 in your car at the time of the DWI, the charge will be either a Second or Third Degree DWI. In Second Degree DWI cases, the vehicle you were driving may be subject to forfeiture. In that event, you have sixty days to file a challenge against your vehicle being taken away or else you lose that ability. In Second and Third Degree DWI cases, your driver’s license is often revoked. If that happens, there are options to get a restricted driver’s license; and importantly, you have the ability to challenge your license being taken away through the implied consent process. Similar to vehicle forfeitures, you have sixty days to challenge your license being taken away from the effective date of the revocation.
If you are looking to get a gross misdemeanor cleared, or expunged, from your record, then you are statutorily eligible for an expungement four years being discharged from probation if you have not had any new criminal offenses. Minnesota’s widely acclaimed second chance law revised the expungement framework in 2015 making it easier for people to get their records cleared for employment and housing purposes.
In Minnesota, a felony offense is a crime in which more than one year of imprisonment may be imposed. When you receive a sentence of more than a year of incarceration it means you are going to a state prison facility and not a local county jail. How much prison time you may receive is governed by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines.
The sentencing guidelines are based on a person’s criminal history score and the severity level of the offense. The more serious the crime, and the higher a person’s criminal history score, the more likely they will go to prison. For example, a person who commits a felony theft of $1,000 and has no prior criminal history, will not go to prison if convicted according to the sentencing guidelines. They will fall into the presumptive stayed prison sentence (i.e. the judge will stay potential prison time for the period of the person’s probation). On the other hand, if someone commits criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, then they fit into the presumptive commit to prison portion of the sentencing guidelines.
Even if someone is facing a presumptive commit to prison sentence, a judge may decide to keep them out of prison if they grant a motion for a downward dispositional departure. They may also reduce the amount of time in prison by granting a motion for a downward durational departure. However, if prosecutors seek an aggravated departure and the judge grants it, a person may get more prison time than what is called for in the guidelines.
A felony conviction has a significant impact on a person’s civil rights. They cannot vote until their civil rights have been restored, which is often not until a person completes probation. They often cannot possess a firearm or ammunition. They often must provide a DNA sample. And, they often can never get their felony conviction cleared from their record, unless it is one of the fifty felonies eligible for expungement.
Thankfully, felonies allow a person to have a jury trial in front of a jury of twelve people. Unlike misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors, which only allow a jury of six people. That means in a felony case, all twelve jurors must unanimously find the person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for a felony conviction to occur.
If you are arrested for a criminal offense, you cannot be held in jail forever without seeing a judge. The 36 and 48-hour rules protect against such inhumane scenarios. If someone you know has recently been arrested, understanding these time limitation rules and how each county applies them, will help you understand when that person may see a judge or be released.
36-Hour Rule: Appearance Before a Judge
Within 36 hours of arrest, a person must be brought in front of a judge without unnecessary delay. Importantly, the 36 hours does not include the day of arrest, Sundays, or legal holidays. For example, if you are arrested at 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, your thirty-six hours will start running at midnight on Wednesday and expire Thursday at noon. If you are arrested on Saturday at 11:30 p.m., the 36 hours will start running at midnight on Monday and expire Tuesday at noon.
What happens if a person is held in jail in violation of the 36-hour rule and you have not seen a judge yet? In felony, gross misdemeanor, and misdemeanor cases (DWI), the person arrested must be released if the 36-hour rule is violated. The court may order an extension of time “for cause” in some cases (See Rule 34.02).
48-Hour Rule: Probable Cause Determination
Within 48-hours of arrest, a judge must make a probable cause determination without unnecessary delay. Unlike the 36-hour rule, the 48 hours starts immediately upon arrest and includes the day of the arrest, Sundays, and legal holidays. If charges are filed within 48 hours, or probable cause for the charge is found during that time period, then the person will remain in custody. However, the 36-hour rule will still apply in that scenario.
In practice, probable cause for continued detention is often found within 48 hours of arrest (also known a PC hold). In that event, the 36-hour rule will then take over. In serious felony cases, prosecutors may request a time extension for cause if they are unable to get charges filed within the applicable time period. Sometimes within 36 or 48 hours of arrest, bail is set either by a judge, the jail, or with help from the defendant’s lawyer.
If you are trying to figure out when will bail get set for someone, the quickest way to find out is to either call a criminal defense lawyer or call the sheriff’s office where the offense occurred. Most criminal defense attorneys worth their salt will have an idea of when bail may get set or at least be able to find out without too much difficulty. Most sheriff’s offices can also be helpful in giving you information about when bail may be set for someone.
The other variables in determining when bail may get set for someone depend on the level of the offense and the jurisdiction where the offense occurred. The vast majority of misdemeanor level offenses, such as 4th Degree DWI, Disorderly Conduct, and Criminal Damage to Property do not require bail in most counties. For those crimes, most officers will give someone a citation and release them after a brief period of time.
A majority of Gross Misdemeanor level offenses will require bail, conditions of release, or both. Examples of Gross Misdemeanors are 2nd and 3rd Degree DWI and aggravated Domestic Assault crimes. In some counties, bail will automatically be set for offenses such as these. In other counties, an on-call judge may be available to request bail being set. Another possibility is that a reviewing judge will examine all the recent in-custody cases and determine on their own whether they should set bail. In a fair number of counties, a judge will not set bail unless and until the person appears in court. Importantly, a person recently arrested cannot be held in jail indefinitely without seeing a judge. The 36- and 48-hour rules require that a person be charged, released, or seen by a judge within a certain period of time.
In the vast majority of felony cases, people will be held until they see a judge at a Bail Hearing to determine whether bail should be imposed. However, the same 36- and 48-hour rules also apply in felony cases. Some jurisdictions will not get a person charged within the required time period. In those situations, the person may still be charged later and may be required to pay bail or abide by conditions of release at their First Appearance.
In Minnesota, a person has a constitutional right to unconditional bail in a criminal case (State v. Pett). This means that if the maximum amount of bail imposed by the court is paid, then the person will just need to appear at all future court appearances and potentially abide by a no contact order – if the case warrants one.
For most misdemeanor offenses, the person arrested will often be released from custody after a few hours. This includes Fourth Degree Misdemeanor DWI, Misdemeanor Theft, Misdemeanor Drug Possession, Disorderly Conduct, and minor traffic offenses. If you are trying to figure out how to get someone out of jail that was arrested for one of these offenses, then you can call the jail, sheriff’s office, or police department where the incident took place (often county jail, county sheriff’s office, or city police department). If you are lucky enough to have someone answer the phone, you can simply ask when they expect the person you are calling about to be released.
On few of those misdemeanor offenses described above, the jail requires a very small amount of bail to be paid before they allow the person to be released. This often has to be paid in an exact amount of cash or certified funds.
Some misdemeanor offenses, such as assault and domestic assault, will most frequently result in a longer custody stay. In those cases, the person arrested will wait to see the judge on the next scheduled court day, or the day after. At that court appearance, the judge will often impose conditions of release on the person arrested, such as a no contact order with the alleged victim among other conditions. Bail is also a possibility in that scenario.
In many Gross Misdemeanor cases, the person arrested will also have to wait and see the judge for conditions and possibly bail to be set. In some Gross Misdemeanor DWI cases, such as 2nd Degree DWI and 3rd Degree DWI, an attorney may be able to get bail set over the weekend or during a non-court day. Depending on the county and its procedures, the attorney may be able to contact a judge to get bail set during those times. In some other counties, a judge will come in and review cases of people who have been recently arrested and determine on their own whether bail will be set. Furthermore, in some counties a conditional release officer will come by and ask the person whether they want to accept conditions of release, such as no-use of alcohol or non-prescribed drugs to get out of jail.
In the overwhelming majority of Felony cases, the person arrested will have to wait to see a judge to find out whether bail will be required or if they will be allowed to be released on their own recognizance and promise to appear at future court hearings. The more serious the felony, the more likely bail will be set along with conditions of release while the court process plays out.
A Morrissey Hearing is another name for a contested probation violation hearing. When a person is placed on probation and allegedly violates the conditions of their probation, they are entitled to have a hearing where the prosecution has to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the conditions of probation were violated.
Before you get to a Morrissey Hearing, there is an initial probation violation hearing often referred to as an admit-deny hearing where you can either admit or deny the allegations. If you admit the allegations, a disposition (or sentence) may be imposed at the same hearing or at a later time. If you deny the allegations, then the court will schedule the Morrissey Hearing. At the Morrissey Hearing, you have the right to present evidence, call witnesses on your behalf, testify, challenge the prosecution’s evidence, and cross examine the prosecution’s witnesses. The Minnesota Rules of Evidence also apply at the hearing.
Because probation violations often have profound consequences, the need to challenge and argue against such violations can be incredibly important. Sometimes, the prosecution will seek to revoke stays of adjudication, stays of imposition, request significant jail time and even prison in some circumstances. Before a violation hearing takes place, there is generally a probation violation report filed with the court. The report will include the allegations of what probationary conditions were violated and a recommendation for the sanction. The prosecution will often support probation’s recommendation, but they are not required to. You, or your attorney, can talk to the prosecution and see if you can negotiate a recommended sentence to the court. Even in that scenario, however, the judge can sentence as they see fit on a probation violation. But the judge is more willing to sentence according to an agreement by both sides.
The term Morrissey Hearing stems from the United Supreme Court case: Morrissey v. Brewer. In that case, the United States Supreme Court decided that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that the State afford an individual some opportunity to be heard prior to revoking their parole. The Court reasoned that “liberty is valuable and must be seen as within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment. Its termination calls for some orderly process, however informal.” The United States Supreme Court decided Morrissey in 1972 and has provided individuals with constitutional protections ever since.
In Misdemeanor cases, the Pre-Trial Hearing generally takes place after the arraignment (sometimes referred to as the first appearance). At this hearing, the prosecution usually makes a plea offer for you to consider resolving your case. This plea negotiation can sometimes happen on the day of the Pre-Trial Hearing and sometimes it is made in advance of the Pre-Trial Hearing for your consideration before the hearing even takes place. In either event it is important to consider your options carefully about whether to accept a plea offer or take another course of action, such as challenging your case.
Before you even get to your Pre-Trial Hearing, the discovery in your case should be complete. This means that all the evidence the prosecutor has in your case, such as police reports, audio and video recordings, should be turned over to you or your lawyer. Having this evidence should help you determine whether you should file any motions in your case, such as probable cause challenges, search and seizure issues, or the admissibility of statements.
If you decide to challenge a pre-trial issue, you can ask the court at your pre-trial hearing to schedule a motion hearing. Some courts may call this Motion Hearing an Evidentiary Hearing or a Rasmussen Hearing. If you decide not to challenge a pre-trial issue in your case, then you can either plead guilty based on your plea negotiations with the prosecutor or plead guilty to the judge and allow them to pronounce your sentence. If you neither want to challenge a pre-trial issue, nor do you wish to plead guilty, then you can schedule the next phase of your case, which is usually a trial date. Some courts will schedule a Settlement Conference prior to your trial date.
In some Gross Misdemeanor and Felony cases, depending on your jurisdiction, the court may schedule your Pre-Trial Hearing after your Omnibus Hearing and before your trial date. If the court schedules your case in this manner, then it is usually to give the parties another opportunity to reach a settlement. It also gives the parties another opportunity to hash out any remaining issues in the case leading up to trial, such as scheduling for the trial, potential witnesses, exhibit lists, and any remaining motions. If you have your Pre-Trial Hearing shortly before your trial date in a Felony or Gross Misdemeanor case, then it is incredibly important to know whether you are headed towards settlement or trial, because the opportunities to settle your case are starting to run out. If you know you are set on having a trial, then it is a good idea to know how that trial is going to occur, logistically, and whether you have a preparation plan for it.
A jury trial is the last stage to determine guilt or innocence in a criminal case at the district court level. If all other avenues have been exhausted, such as plea bargaining, pre-trial contested motions, possible pleas to the court, and the defense and prosecution cannot come to an agreement, then you have the right to a trial by jury.
Any charge punishable by possible imprisonment gives you a right to jury trial. Therefore, in misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, and felony level offenses, you can decide to have a trial by jury. In petty misdemeanor cases, which do not have possible jail time, you only have the right to a Court Trial. That trial is a trial in front of a judge only who will determine your guilt or innocence.
In misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases, a jury of six will hear the trial. In felony matters, a jury of twelve will decide the outcome. At the outset of the trial is voir dire, or jury selection. This is a process where the judge, defense attorney, and prosecutor will ask questions of the jury to determine whether any possible jurors have possible biases that would prevent them from trying a case fairly. At the conclusion of voir dire, the defense attorney and the prosecutor will each strike possible jurors from the panel. The defense attorney gets five strikes and the prosecutor gets three. The parties may also challenge a possible juror for cause to get them removed from the panel, which will not count against their strikes.
Once the jury is selected and sworn in to hear the case, the prosecutor will likely make an opening statement followed by the defense. Then, the prosecutor will present its case to the jury with witnesses and evidence to try and persuade the jury that the defendant is guilty of the crime(s) charged beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense attorney may also cross examine each prosecution witness. The rules of evidence will also apply during the trial.
At the conclusion of the prosecution’s case, the defense attorney may call witnesses and present evidence in support of their arguments. Importantly, they do not have to call any witnesses at all. The defendant has the right to remain silent during the entire trial and is not forced to testify on their behalf.
At the conclusion of the defense’s case, the process generally proceeds to closing arguments. This is the time for each side to argue to the jury why they believe you should rule in their favor. The prosecutor will start with its closing argument followed by the defense. At the conclusion of the defense’s closing argument, the prosecutor may make a rebuttal closing argument. At that time, the judge will give the jury any final instructions before they are sent off to deliberate the outcome of the case.
Most importantly, the jury must unanimously find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for the defendant to be convicted of the crime(s) charged. If the jury unanimously determines the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, then the defendant is found not guilty. If they jury cannot agree unanimously on either outcome, then the jury is hung, and the judge may determine a mistrial or encourage the jurors to keep deliberating. If a mistrial ultimately is the end result, then the prosecution may decide to re-try the case.