In Minnesota, there are three classifications of criminal offenses: misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, and felonies. Gross misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
The probable length of incarceration is what distinguishes each classification. For example, an offense is a felony if the penalty provides for imprisonment for more than a year. Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are crimes that carry jail terms of 90 days maximum.
What is a gross misdemeanor?
In Minnesota, a gross misdemeanor is any offense that carries a sentence of up to one year in jail and/or a fine of $3,000. Several offenses ordinarily considered misdemeanors can be enhanced to gross misdemeanor status depending on the circumstances, called “aggravating factors”.
Take, for example, Minnesota's DWI statutes. If you are convicted of multiple DWIs in the same ten-year period, the prior convictions are considered aggravating factors, and your sentence can be enhanced to a higher level. A first-time DWI is usually a misdemeanor charge, but a second (or third) DWI can be prosecuted as a gross misdemeanor. Other aggravating factors for DWIs are having an alcohol concentration of 0.16 or more, having a child under age 16 in the vehicle, and refusing to submit to testing.
Another example: while simple assault generally carries a misdemeanor sentence, assault of a school official or assault motivated by bias would be charged as a gross misdemeanor.
Generally, misdemeanor crimes will increase to gross misdemeanors when the offender has multiple prior convictions.
Some examples of gross misdemeanor crimes include:
- Second-degree and third-degree DWIs
- Repeat assaults and violations
- Drug possession
- Interfering with 911 calls
- Theft offenses between $500 and $1,000
- Prostitution in public places
- 5th degree criminal sexual conduct
- Some criminal vehicular operation offenses
What happens if I’m charged with a gross misdemeanor?
Can you go to jail for a gross misdemeanor in Minnesota?
The answer is yes. A gross misdemeanor can result in up to a year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. Additionally, you may be required to perform community service, attend counseling, and, if necessary, make restitution to the victim.
However, you may not receive the maximum sentence for the offense. That’s why it’s important to know the mandatory minimum sentence for the offense so you understand what to expect.
A third-degree DWI, for example, can carry with it a mandatory minimum penalty of 30 days in jail. This minimum varies, however, depending on the aggravating factor that caused the DWI to be elevated to a gross misdemeanor.
Sentencing options for gross misdemeanors
When sentencing gross misdemeanors, judges have a number of options. These include:
- Jail time
- Payment of a fine or restitution (compensation to the victim)
- Work service in a restorative justice program
- Intermediate sanctions, such as electronic monitoring, treatment or counseling, community service, or home detention
- Probation with or without supervision
Other resolution possibilities for gross misdemeanors
A continuance for dismissal (CFD) is a legal arrangement in which the prosecution agrees to dismiss charges provided the defendant successfully complies with certain conditions, such as abstaining from crime, making a program fee payment, or participating in an educational program. If successful, the defendant could avoid a conviction and jail time. However, a CFD is rarely offered by the prosecution and it also requires the defendant to waive several rights, including the right to a trial, the ability to confront and cross-examine witnesses, and the right to object to the evidence.
What are “collateral consequences”?
Collateral consequences are penalties outside the control of the prosecutor which result from a criminal conviction. A conviction for a gross misdemeanor charge can result in certain "collateral consequences" in addition to possible prison time and fines. Some common collateral consequences after a gross misdemeanor can include:
- Loss of a driver's license
- Suspension or revocation of a professional license
- Loss of a permanent legal residence
Defenses for gross misdemeanor
You can claim several defenses to a gross misdemeanor charge. These affirmative defenses are legitimate justifications for the actions that brought about the allegations. These defenses may include:
Successfully raising a defense may result in a lesser punishment or, in some circumstances, a verdict of not-guilty.
How long does a gross misdemeanor stay on your record Minnesota?
A gross misdemeanor conviction will end up on your permanent criminal record unless it is expunged. A gross misdemeanor can negatively affect your credit rating, your ability to find employment, and your ability to rent an apartment.
Expungement of gross misdemeanor
In Minnesota, a person who has been convicted of a gross misdemeanor may request to have their criminal record expunged. To do so, the individual must not commit any crimes for at least four years to be eligible to expunge a gross misdemeanor record. Certain sex offense convictions cannot be expunged, however.
Being charged with a gross misdemeanor has the power to change your life forever. Even if you are not found guilty, spending any time in jail can cause you to lose your employment or even your residence, and it can make it more difficult to get a job, locate housing, apply for a loan, or be approved for a professional license. That’s why we always fight for a complete dismissal of charges.
If you’ve been charged with a gross misdemeanor, you need the best possible defense. The attorneys at Sheridan, Dulas & Hunstad, P.A. will evaluate your case and fight for your rights every step of the way.