In Breckenridge and the other communities of Wilkin County, officers of the court and others in the criminal justice system take criminal offenses seriously. Though severe penalties are not an outcome for every single case, both criminal penalties and collateral consequences can significantly affect the lives of those charged with crimes and their families. You or your loved one will need the representation of an attorney who is well-versed with Minnesota laws for your charges’ reduction or dismissal, or victory at trial if that is the trajectory of the case. At Ringstrom Law, we will guide you with diligence and compassion through every step of your case.
Among the many types of criminal cases we take are the following:
Breckenridge has its share of theft crimes, as theft encompasses a broad range of acts from simple shoplifting to complex fraud (Minn. Stat. 609.52). Theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances alleged, and accordingly will carry different penalties.
Stealing property or services worth less than $500 is a misdemeanor charge. (Note, however, that stealing a firearm of any value is a much more serious offense.) The penalty for this level of theft is serving up to 90 days in jail, paying a fine of $1,000, or both.
Gross Misdemeanor Offenses
A gross misdemeanor is defined as stealing goods or services worth at least $500 and up to $1,000. Serving a one-year jail term, paying a fine of up to $3,000, or both are the potential penalties.
The felony level of theft is stealing property worth more than $1,000. Within this level, the maximum punishment is 20 years imprisonment, a $100,000 fine, or both.
Like theft, assault in Wilkin County and throughout Minnesota covers a fairly wide range of acts. Throwing a punch at someone but missing is still an assault, as is the infliction of grave injuries to bodily organs, albeit at different levels. The crime is defined as inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily injury or any other act intended to cause fear of imminent harm or death. In other words, a person who hits a victim and one who attempts to hit someone have both committed assault. Battery, a similar term used around the U.S. and colloquially in Minnesota, is covered by Minnesota’s assault statutes.
Assault is divided into five different degrees, or levels. Fifth-degree assault is the least serious and first-degree is the most serious. Fifth-degree assault is a misdemeanor unless the defendant has a prior conviction related to domestic violence within a certain lookback period, in which case it becomes a gross misdemeanor. Fourth-degree assault can be either a gross misdemeanor or felony. Third, second, and first-degree assault are all felonies.
Some acts that would only be a fifth-degree assault against a civilian are categorized as fourth-degree assault when committed against certain types of people like police officers and sheriff deputies, DNR employees, prison or jail guards, and U.S. Post Office employees. Generally, this enhancement only applies when the alleged victim is performing duties in his or her official capacity.
Arson is the intentional act of setting a person’s property on fire. The crime is charged on the misdemeanor/gross misdemeanor/felony spectrum depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense, namely the type of property damaged (buildings are worse than other types of property; dwellings are worse than other types of buildings).
In Wilkin County, first-degree arson (Minn. Stat. 609.561) is the intentional act of setting fire to or using explosives to destroy a dwelling, regardless of the presence of any inhabitants. If the building is not a dwelling, the act may still be charged as first-degree arson under some scenarios, such as an innocent party being present in the building or the use of an accelerant to agitate the fire. The offense can be punished by up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $20,000, or both.
Prosecuting arson crimes can be difficult since it is hard to prove the fire source in many arson crimes. The firefighters' testimony is often crucial during an arson trial to convince the jury or judge of the fire source. Some long-held maxims about arson investigations are coming to be regarded as junk science, so it is very important that the defense attorney handling an arson case be aware of the latest developments in this field of forensic science and investigation.
In Minnesota, drug crimes are governed by statute chapter 152, which divides these crimes into different categories such as controlled substance (first through fifth degree, as well as other crimes) and drug paraphernalia.
Drug defendants are treated differently depending on the type and quantity of substance they possess and other factors. For instance, alleged crimes related to methamphetamine are typically charged, prosecuted, and penalized more severely than marijuana-related offenses. Another example is that possessing drugs near a park or school is more serious than possessing them in a private residence, other things being equal.
A first-degree controlled substance conviction (Minn. Stat. 152.021) can produce a sentence of up to 30 years in prison with a fine of up to $1,000,000. The maximum penalty for fifth-degree controlled substance (Minn. Stat. 152.025) is five years in prison with a fine of $10,000.
Wilkin County is among the counties in the state that offer drug court, a special type of court program with a treatment and rehabilitation focus, to some but not all offenders. In drug court, a judge and court staff supervise the recovery progress of participating offenders as they serve their sentences. Our attorneys at Ringstrom Law work with clients to determine whether the court might consider them suitable candidates for drug court, and advocate for this outcome as appropriate. We also understand that not every client wishes to participate in this type of program, and we are more than willing to reject options like drug court in favor of taking a case to trial. The act of getting a client into drug court requires skills that not all lawyers have. The attorneys at Ringstrom Law have a successful record of getting clients into drug court when those clients really desire that option.
Minnesota uses the term “criminal sexual conduct” for various sex-related crimes. A conviction for this type of crime usually has serious consequences, which are often later followed by stigma from the community. Sexual conduct refers to behavior that includes penetration or touching of any private part of another person.
Criminal sexual conduct is classified and penalized depending on the severity of the offense. Fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct (Minn. Stat. 609.3451) can be either a gross misdemeanor or a felony, and the other four degrees are felonies. For first-degree criminal sexual conduct (Minn. Stat. 609.342), the greatest possible penalty is a prison term of 30 years and a fine $40,000.
Most convictions for criminal sexual conduct require registration as a “predatory offender,” Minnesota’s term for sex offender registrants. Registration is also required for these types of offenses:
- Soliciting a minor
- Possession or distribution of child pornography
- False imprisonment
Once you have been registered as a predatory offender, anyone is able to find your name in Minnesota’s online registry, including potential employers. Our attorneys appreciate the importance of remaining off the registry whenever possible, and the best ways to accomplish that goal. Bruce Ringstrom Sr. and Jr. have gotten trial acquittals for many criminal sexual conduct cases.
No matter what type of crime you or a loved one is charged with, you may wonder about the steps involved in the criminal process. Hiring an attorney who specializes in criminal defense is the best way to be guided through the entire process, but this overview of the major steps involved will give you some idea of what to expect.
An Arrest or a Notice to Appear in Court
An arrest occurs when a law enforcement officer has witnessed you committing an offense or when there is enough evidence pointing to you as a suspect. A judge can issue an arrest warrant, though in many situations a police officer or sheriff’s deputy can make an arrest without one. You will then be taken to court within 36 hours from the moment of the arrest (exclusive of the day of arrest, Sundays and legal holidays). It is your right to be brought before a judge within this time frame.
Alternatively, you may receive a summons (that is, a notice) by mail to appear in court to answer a specific complaint. The summons contains the date and the time of your scheduled court appearance. If you fail to appear in court as summoned, the judge will almost certainly issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
Rule 5 of the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure states that the court must inform you of your rights once you appear in court. The judge will read all your charges, advise you to be represented by an attorney, and determine your bail and release conditions. However, the judge can deny bail if he or she determines that you pose a danger to the community or a risk of fleeing the jurisdiction. Later, at another pre-trial hearing, you’ll be asked by the judge whether you’re pleading guilty or not guilty.
Omnibus or Pretrial Hearing
An omnibus hearing is conducted in felony and gross misdemeanor cases to determine whether the prosecution's evidence is admissible in a trial. The equivalent hearing for a misdemeanor case is a “pretrial hearing.” Only the judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, and perhaps a few witnesses are present during this stage. The defense team may cross-examine any prosecution witness and vice versa. The point of this is to challenge the prosecutor's evidence—to argue, for example, that the evidence found during a government search should be suppressed because the search was conducted illegally. Other issues that might be argued at this stage of the case are
- Whether the government had probable cause to charge the defendant with the crime (in other words, was the case overcharged?)
- Whether the defendant’s statement or confession should be suppressed
- Change of venue (whether the current venue is overly prejudicial to either side)
At the end of an omnibus hearing, the judge will set a date for trial, which can be either a jury trial or a bench trial (a trial in which the judge renders the verdict instead of a jury). The steps involved in a jury trial include
- Selection of jurors
- Opening statements
- Evidence presentation
- Closing arguments
- Instructions to the jury
- The verdict
- Sentencing (if there are any guilty verdicts)
Find a Breckenridge Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you have been charged with a crime in Breckenridge, Minnesota, it is important to seek an experienced attorney’s help. Though Breckenridge may be a relatively small community, it of course is governed by Minnesota criminal laws, which can be very strict. At Ringstrom Law, we are determined to defend you vigorously. Our Wilkin County attorneys have the right skills to help you with your case and to relieve some of the anxiety and uncertainty you may be feeling. You can reach us at 218-284-0484.