Most Minnesota criminal offenses are handled according to state law and not federal law. Minnesota has statutes that describe all manner of offenses, from the most gruesome to small infractions. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, no matter how serious, you will want to know how the offense is handled under Minnesota law, including the full consequences of a conviction.
The state has stringent penalties for many crimes committed within its jurisdiction. If you’re facing criminal charges, your primary objectives are overcoming the allegations and avoiding penalties that are overly punitive. If you are charged with a crime in Becker County, an experienced Lake Park attorney can help you with your criminal case.
Overview of Minnesota Criminal Laws
As stated earlier, Minnesota has multiple statutes outlining different crimes and the punishments you would face if found guilty. It is critical to understand these laws and what repercussions a conviction would have on your life. In this article, we outline different types of criminal charges under Minnesota state laws.
First-degree murder is the most serious type of homicide crime in Minnesota. (Minn. Stat. § 609.185) There are various circumstances under which this charge may be brought against someone who has caused the death of another:
- With premeditation
- During the commission of or attempt to commit criminal sexual conduct in the first or second degree
- During the commission of or attempt to commit kidnapping, aggravated robbery, burglary, arson in the first or second degree, first-degree witness tampering, a drive-by shooting, escape from custody, or any felony violation of Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 152
- The victim is an officer of the court or correctional guard performing official duties
- While committing child abuse where the offender has a history of such abuse against children and extreme indifference to human life was shown
- While committing domestic abuse where the offender has a history of such abuse against family or household members and extreme indifference to human life was shown
- During the commission of, conspiracy to, or attempt to commit a felony where extreme indifference to human life was shown
Generally, a first-degree murder is found when the perpetrator intends to commit homicide. However, as shown above, a first-degree murder charge may be brought even when the murder was not premeditated but occurred during the commission of another crime. A first-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence without release in most cases. (Minn. Stat. § 609.106)
When charged with first-degree murder, you need a skilled attorney’s help. Previously, Minnesota used to punish those found guilty of this offense with a death sentence, which has since been abolished. Nonetheless, a life sentence is severe enough to warrant having proper representation by a trained attorney.
You may be accused of involuntary manslaughter when you accidentally kill someone else without intent. Criminal vehicular homicide (Minn. Stat. 609.2112) is one example.
Involuntary manslaughter crimes are less severely punished than intentional homicides. However, although less severe, the penalties are still stringent. You need aggressive defense from a Lake Park lawyer with experience in Becker County to avoid the punishment or obtain a more favorable outcome.
Depraved Mind Murder versus Culpable Negligence Manslaughter
As mentioned, various laws have been enacted to address multiple types of homicides. Under third-degree murder (Minn. Stat. § 609.195), an act that is eminently dangerous, showing a depraved mind and no regard for human life, is a homicide, even if there was no intent to kill. For instance, if you walk into a crowd and shoot a gun in the air for no reason, although you never intended to harm anyone, a stray bullet can hit anyone and kill that person. In this event, murder in the third-degree may be charged. The penalty for a conviction on this charge includes up to 25 years of imprisonment.
On the other hand, culpable negligence can result in a second-degree manslaughter charge (Minn. Stat. § 609.205). If you commit acts that create an unreasonable risk of harm to others, consciously aware that death or great bodily harm to another person may result, and such harm does result, then this charge will apply. For instance, you might go rock climbing with your friends, make it a competition among yourselves, and all decide not to use ropes to make it more interesting because you are all experienced rock climbers. But, to deter your friends from passing you, you keep throwing stones at them to disrupt their progress. Although this is a joke, a friend could fall to his death as he tries to dodge the rocks. In this case, your negligent criminal behavior may result in second-degree manslaughter charges. Like similar offenses, this offense is severely punished under Minnesota laws and requires aggressive defense from an experienced attorney. If convicted, the penalties include imprisonment for up to ten years, a fine not exceeding $20,000, or both.
Sexual Assault and Rape Laws
In Minnesota, sex crimes or those involving criminal sexual conduct are prosecuted and punished on five levels or degrees, and the distinctions between these crimes can be difficult to grasp. The statutes describing these offenses are
- First-degree criminal sexual conduct (Minn. Stat. § 609.342)
- Second-degree criminal sexual conduct (Minn. Stat. § 609.343)
- Third-degree criminal sexual conduct (Minn. Stat. § 609.344)
- Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct (Minn. Stat. § 609.345)
- Fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct (Minn. Stat. § 609.3451)
The circumstances of the offense define the level that is charged and penalized upon conviction. The penalties for these offenses are stringent and can alter your life. For instance, if you are charged with a first-degree offense, you face possible prison time of thirty years in addition to a fine of $40,000. The minimum prison sentence under this statute is twelve years.
Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct is still a felony but with a less severe penalty, a possible ten-year prison sentence and a fine of $20,000. If the offense is charged on the fifth level, it is considered a gross misdemeanor punishable with a year of imprisonment and a fine not exceeding $3,000. However, if you have a past conviction of a similar offense, your sentence can increase to seven years and a fine of $14,000.
These steep penalties could possibly be avoided with the help of an experienced Lake Park attorney. Your lawyer will help with investigating the circumstances of the incident and formulating strategic defenses that may result in a more favorable outcome.
Minnesota Laws on Domestic Violence
The law prohibits anyone from inflicting harm or fear intentionally on a household or family member (Minn. Stat. § 609.2242). In Minnesota, such domestic violence is charged criminally as domestic assault. Those that are protected under this law include
- Children and parents
- Other blood relatives
- Current and ex-spouses
- Current and ex-cohabitants
- A person you have a child with
- A person you’re in a significant sexual relationship with
(See Minn. Stat. § 518B.01, subd. 2(b)) With domestic assault allegations, the offense is considered a misdemeanor, but may be a gross misdemeanor when there is a prior conviction within the last ten years, which can result in a year's jail sentence with a fine of $3,000. However, if you have two previous domestic assault convictions within ten years of the current charge, the violation automatically becomes a felony that could earn you five years of prison time with a $10,000 fine.
Even when faced with these allegations, the law allows you to fight against a conviction. An attorney that understands Minnesota criminal law can help you prevail over the allegations in your Becker County case.
Minnesota Laws on Arson
Arson is another severely punished crime in Minnesota. Under the law, various types of arsons exist that attract different penalties. The offense is divided into five levels, with the first level or degree receiving the harshest penalties.
First-degree arson (Minn. Stat. § 609.561) is using fire or explosive devices to intentionally and unlawfully destroy
- Dwellings (irrespective of whether they are inhabited or not) or any building connected to a dwelling
- Other buildings that are not dwellings but where the defendant knows someone is in the building or could be in the building
- Any building beside a dwelling where flammable substances are used to accelerate or start the fire
If you are found guilty of first-degree arson, the punishment can include incarceration for 20 years. A fine of $20,000 can be charged in addition to the prison sentence or instead of it. The fine can be increased to $35,000 if you knew or had a reason to know there was a person in the building.
On the other hand, a fifth-degree arson (Minn. Stat. § 609.5632) is not as severely punished because of the offense’s circumstances and the value of the property affected. This offense is a misdemeanor that can earn you 90 days of incarceration with a fine not exceeding $1,000.
Whether charged with a first, second, third, fourth, or fifth-degree arson, you need a skilled Lake Park attorney on your side to fight the allegations. Experience with the Becker County court system and prosecutors gives your criminal defense lawyer an edge that benefits you.
Other Criminal Laws in Minnesota
Besides the above-discussed laws, Minnesota has many other statutes that describe multiple crimes. Fortunately, whatever the severity of the offense you are charged with, the state and federal constitutions allow you to defend yourself against the allegations. A Lake Park lawyer who is well-versed with Minnesota criminal law can represent you and offer you excellent legal counsel.
Some of the other crimes that our attorneys handle are
- Assault crimes
- Auto theft violations
- Burglary offenses
- Child abuse offenses
- Child pornography allegations
- Drug crimes
- Fraud crimes
- Extortion allegations
- Gun offenses
- Trespass violations
- Prostitution and soliciting crimes
- Money laundering crimes
- Kidnapping crimes
- Vandalism crimes
In general, Minnesota has very strict measures to curb crime and punish perpetrators. However, false allegations can occur and can lead to wrongful convictions. And it is often the case that while a defendant may not be totally blameless, he or she was charged more harshly than circumstances warranted. An experienced attorney can help you fight false allegations or obtain a more favorable and just sentence for a crime you did commit.
Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
When you’re accused of a crime, a lack of proper defense can lead to serving time in jail or prison or paying fines that you would have avoided with an experienced lawyer’s help. If you are charged with a criminal offense, a Lake Park defense attorney from Ringstrom Law can help you fight these allegations. We’ve been successfully defending citizens in Becker County for decades. Call our office at 218-284-0484 to arrange a meeting with us.