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.