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.