A criminal defense attorney should be the first person you call when you or a loved one are facing a criminal charge or a criminal investigation. An attorney will represent your interests both in and out of the courtroom and work to get you a favorable outcome. Facing a prosecutor on your own is a significant challenge because he or she has little incentive to help you favorably resolve your case. If you are looking for a local Park Rapids criminal defense attorney, contact us at Ringstrom Law immediately. We will evaluate your case and help advise you on the best course of action.

Common Criminal Offenses in Minnesota

Most criminal offenses in Minnesota are handled under Minnesota’s criminal code. However, federal laws also apply in some cases. You should always seek the assistance of an attorney, even for seemingly minor criminal charges. If there is any way for you to fight a charge, an attorney will have the knowledge and skills to identify what can be done.

Below are some of the most common criminal charges that you can face.

Murder                                   

A murder charge may be brought under many different sets of circumstances, and the penalty for the crime will vary depending on the degree and presence of aggravating factors. Penalties increase in severity not only due to the gravity of the alleged criminal misconduct leading to the charges, but also with the number of aggravating factors identified by the court in an examination of the facts of the case. For example, aggravating factors will be found if the alleged victim is a child or a spouse previously subjected to domestic violence or abuse by the same alleged perpetrator. Harsher penalties may also apply if the victim is a judge or other state employee killed while carrying out an official duty. First-degree murder (Minn. Stat. § 609.185) is the most serious type of homicide under Minnesota law. 

The State of Minnesota abolished the death penalty in 1911. However, if the court finds you guilty of first-degree murder, you could be subjected to life imprisonment. No matter what degree of murder charge you may be facing, your Park Rapids criminal defense attorney can help you mount a defense to fight the charge and address any aggravating factors. 

Manslaughter

You could face manslaughter charges through either intentional or negligent conduct causing another person's death. In a manslaughter case, the court (or a jury: the factfinder is different depending on whether you waive a jury trial and demand a court trial) will examine the extent to which your actions show an unreasonable disregard of the risk of death to others present. In Minnesota, manslaughter may be in either the first degree (Minn. Stat. § 609.20) or the second degree (Minn. Stat. § 609.205).

Closely related to the crime of manslaughter is criminal vehicular homicide (Minn. Stat. § 2112). Criminal vehicular homicide applies when a homicide is the result of the grossly negligent operation of a motor vehicle, or the negligent operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicating substance. The charge may include the death of a person or an unborn fetus.

Despite not requiring any intent to cause death, a manslaughter charge carries with it a prison sentence, and in the event of a conviction your life and future will almost certainly be significantly impacted. There may be steep monetary penalties as well, up to $30,000. The consequences are such that you absolutely need a competent Park Rapids criminal defense attorney to help you fight the charges.

Rape and Sexual Assault

The general term for rape and sexual assault in Minnesota is criminal sexual conduct. Under Minnesota law, there are five degrees of criminal sexual conduct. The degree of the offense will vary depending on the victim's age and the specific unlawful sexual conduct. First-degree criminal sexual conduct (Minn. Stat. § 609.342) involves sexual penetration without the victim's consent. Sexual penetration may be vaginal, anal, or oral, however slight. It may be accomplished by any body part or an object.

First-degree criminal sexual conduct charges also apply if there is sexual contact with a person below 13 years of age by someone who is more than 36 months older. Sexual contact involves the touching of a person’s bare genitals or anus by another person’s bare genitals or anus with sexual or aggressive intent. The charges will also apply in other circumstances, depending on the victim’s age and the number of months the actor is older than the victim. As with the first-degree crime, the other degrees of criminal sexual conduct are determined by the type of sexual contact and the ages of the victim and perpetrator.

Criminal sexual conduct convictions are freighted with hefty penalties irrespective of the degree of the offense. Therefore, you should contact a Park Rapids criminal defense attorney immediately after charges of a sex offense have been made. In the event you or a loved one is under investigation for alleged criminal sexual conduct, you would be wise to conduct a criminal defense lawyer then as well.

Domestic Violence Laws

It's a crime to intentionally inflict physical harm on a household or family member, or even to inflict the fear of physical harm or death. Various kinds of people qualify as household or family members under the law, including children, parents, blood relatives, current or former spouses, current or former co-habitants, people with whom you have a child together, and people with whom you're engaged in a sexual or romantic relationship.

Domestic assault (Minn. Stat. § 609.2242) may range from a misdemeanor-level offense to a felony, depending on whether the charged person has been convicted of other domestic assault or fifth-degree assault offenses within the previous ten years. A gross misdemeanor domestic assault charge applies when there is one prior assault conviction within ten years. It requires a minimum sentence of 20 days, but it is punishable by jail time of up to one year, a fine of up to $3,000, or both. Felony charges will apply if there are two or more prior convictions of domestic assault. This felony offense carries with it a minimum sentence of 45 days, with possible imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both imprisonment and a fine.

Your Park Rapids criminal defense attorney can also represent you in other types of domestic violence charges, such as domestic assault by strangulation. A prosecutor may charge this offense if the family member victim reports that his or her normal breathing or circulation were “intentionally impeded” by blocking off the nose or mouth, or by applying pressure to the throat or neck.

After an assault conviction, the court may require the forfeiture of any firearms for a period that may range from three years up to the remainder of the convicted person’s life. If the convicted person did not use the gun in carrying out an assault, that person might be prohibited from owning a firearm for three years. However, if the convicted person used a firearm in an assault, the court may prohibit that person from owning a gun for the rest of his or her life.

To best prevent any extreme penalties, you should contact an attorney immediately after a charge has been filed. However, Bruce Ringstrom Jr. has also been retained before domestic assault charges were brought by the state; in one instance, his client’s quick decision to hire Bruce Jr. ended in not-guilty verdicts on all three domestic assault charges at trial. Bruce’s client walked out of the courthouse a free man.

Theft Crimes

Minnesota law defines theft (Minn. Stat. § 609.52) as taking another person's property to either temporarily or permanently deprive them of the property, depending on the full set of circumstances. You could face theft charges even if you intend to take an item for a short period, such as if you take a person's vehicle for a few hours without the person's consent. In most theft crimes, the charges and penalties depend on the value of the item stolen.

Other Criminal Offenses 

Other alleged criminal activity that we can help you handle includes

  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Child abuse
  • Computer crimes
  • Fraud
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Criminal trespass
  • Fish and game violations
  • Drug crimes
  • Driving while impaired (DWI/DUI)

The Criminal Process

If it’s your first time facing a criminal charge, you may be confused and uncertain about what to expect. A criminal defense attorney can guide you through Minnesota’s criminal process and through the necessary legal procedures. The criminal procedures in Minnesota include the following, which apply in Park Rapids and Hubbard County as they do in all of Minnesota:

  • Arrest
  • Filing of complaint
  • Bail hearing
  • Arraignment
  • Discovery
  • Plea bargains and settlements
  • Trial
  • Sentencing
  • Probation violation hearings or parole violation hearings

An arrest is the first step in the criminal procedure. Law enforcement officers must have probable cause to arrest you for an offense. After an arrest, you may get a ticket followed by release, or you may proceed to custody.

After your arrest, the prosecutor prepares a summons and complaint and presents it to you, informing you of the charges against you. The document presented to you will outline whether the crime is a misdemeanor (petty or gross) or a felony.

If the police place you in custody after an arrest, you will attend a bail hearing. The law requires that defendants receive a bail hearing within 36 hours after an arrest, not counting the day of arrest, legal holidays, or Sundays. Thus, you may stay longer in custody before attending a bail hearing if your arrest occurs during the weekend or at the time of a state-recognized holiday. At the bail hearing, the judge decides whether to release the defendant on bail and sets the bail conditions.

Your case does not have to proceed to trial. The strategies that you and your attorney employ during the discovery process and in plea negotiations help determine if the case will proceed to trial. If the prosecutor and your attorney do not achieve a plea agreement, the case proceeds to trial unless the prosecutor dismisses it. Your attorney will represent and defend you during the trial. Based on the evidence presented by the prosecutor and the defense presented by your attorney, a judge or jury will make the final ruling. If guilt is found, a judge will then impose sentencing.

Why You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney

You should never underestimate an attorney’s importance while undergoing a criminal investigation or when facing criminal charges. Some of the crucial roles played by an attorney include

  • Guiding you through the intricate legal system
  • Investigating the prosecutor’s evidence to identify weaknesses
  • Helping you craft a strong defense
  • Negotiating with the prosecutor and advocating in front of the judge on your behalf
  • Representing you in court
  • Trying your case in front of a jury

Find an Experienced Park Rapids Criminal Defense Attorney Near You

You may find yourself on the wrong side of the law at some point in your life. Instead of panicking, procrastinating, or attempting to negotiate with the prosecutor yourself, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Ringstrom Law provides exceptional, reliable criminal defense services in the Hubbard County area. Contact us at 218-284-0484 and speak to one of our attorneys.