When facing criminal charges, one of the first and most important questions from a defense perspective is whether you’re being charged with a felony or a misdemeanor.
Why so important?
Because here in Minnesota, felony-level convictions are far more likely to carry a jail sentence, and a felony on your rap sheet has much longer-lasting consequences.
In this post, we provide a brief of common criminal offenses, how they are typically charged, and the consequences generally associated with each conviction in this state.
Some Minnesota Offenses Are Always a Felony
Felonies are the most serious of the three criminal classes (felony, misdemeanor, and infraction), and certain crimes are always considered as such.
- Homicide and attempted murder
- Most sex crimes
- Human trafficking
- Money laundering
- Auto theft
If you are convicted of any charge above, you will be known as a felon. Repeat felons face enhancements, and habitual felons (those who commit three-plus felonies) are subject to Minnesota’s “three strikes” law.
Felony Thresholds for Common Offenses in Minnesota
There are a number of common offenses which may be considered a felony or misdemeanor depending on the presence of certain factors — the severity of the crime, your prior criminal history, and other aggravating or mitigating circumstances.
Drug crimes are prosecuted by the type and amount of the substance in question, and whether the defendant was in the process of or intended to manufacture or distribute the substance.
In most cases, simple possession is considered is a misdemeanor-level offense. That said, when caught with more than an amount for personal use, or the possessor has multiple priors, a felony charge is more likely.
Charges of manufacturing, sale or delivery of a controlled substance are also generally prosecuted as a felony-level offense.
Shoplifting is always charged based on the aggregate value of merchandise allegedly shoplifted, and prior criminal history.
Items with a total value of under a thousand dollars usually escape felony charges — this is true only when a defendant has no priors, though.
- Under $500 value is always considered a misdemeanor.
- Between $500 and $1,000 can land a gross misdemeanor charge.
- Tack on prior shoplifting convictions and face a felony enhancement.
- $1,000+ garners a felony charge, too.
Non-Retail Theft Crimes
Theft crimes not considered shoplifting are also charged based on the value of the allegedly stolen property and prior criminal history, and are classified just the same.
Certain circumstances can elevate your theft charges, as well. Taking property directly from the owner, and certain types of property theft are good examples of drivers from misdemeanor- to felony-level charges.
Driving While Intoxicated or Under the Influence
Most DWIs and DUIs are charged as misdemeanors in Minnesota. However, the following circumstances make the charges a felony-level offense:
- Three-plus DWIs in the past ten years
- Prior felony DWI conviction
- Involvement in an accident
Unlike some other states, test refusal, a child passenger, very high blood alcohol content — none are felonies alone. They are, however, aggravating factors that will increase the severity of these charges.
Felony vs. Misdemeanor Consequences in MN
The exact consequences of a felony or misdemeanor conviction always depend on the degree of the offense and are left to the discretion of the judge. A general rule of thumb, a felony conviction without jail time is a rarity. Additionally, most misdemeanors carry probation or another community supervision program terms.
Importantly, a felony conviction will leave you facing long-lasting restrictions on your freedoms, including gun possession and voting. You are also more likely to face employment and housing consequences.
If you are currently facing Minnesota criminal charges, your best next step is to reach out to an experienced Minneapolis defense attorney so that you can fight your charges and minimize the impact they could have on your life. It could mean the difference between spending months (or years) behind bars and checking in with a probation officer periodically.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).