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If you have been arrested or charged with a crime it is imperative that you learn about your rights immediately. You should never plead guilty to a crime without talking to a criminal defense attorney first, even if you believe that you will be found guilty in court. You may feel that your case is hopeless, but in most cases the charges can be reduced, if not dismissed entirely.
Minnesota criminal law offenses are broken into four basic levels of seriousness:
- Petty misdemeanor
- Gross misdemeanor
The Petty Misdemeanor Trap
Technically speaking, a petty misdemeanor is not a crime in Minnesota, it is a non-criminal violation of the law. A conviction carries no jail time and a fine of no more than $300. But, because there is no potential jail time, you have fewer rights when charged with a petty misdemeanor, making it harder to beat the charge.
It may not seem like a big deal, but you could lose your job, future jobs, and your ability to rent a home. The consequences of having a petty misdemeanor on your record can be very severe, yet you do not have the right to a jury trial or a public defender, and a default judgment can be entered against you if you fail to appear in court, even if it is by no fault of your own.
Bias-motivated crimes, commonly referred to as “hate crimes” are crimes which are committed because of the victim’s actual or perceived:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
Minnesota bias crime laws are not intended to create a special class of victims or to protect only minorities. A crime committed against a person because they are white or heterosexual is still considered a bias-motivated crime. Anytime a police officer or victim believes that a crime was bias-motivated, the officer is required to report it as such. Minnesota bias crime laws allow enhanced sentencing for the following offenses:
- Criminal damage to property
Anyone who is under 18 years old and charged with a crime is considered a juvenile and tried in a different court to adults. However, the prosecutor can ask that a child who is 14 or older be certified as an adult if certain conditions apply. A child who is certified as an adult is tried in adult court.
Juveniles can be charged with the same crimes as adults, and many more. There is not a state-wide curfew, but some jurisdictions have curfews for minors. Minnesota has a law which prohibits minors from buying “restricted” video games, but in 2006 the federal district court that the law cannot be enforced because it violates the First and Fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution.