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.