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.