Frequently Asked Questions

In the state of Minnesota, a person has several rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, after being arrested. Inform the arresting or interviewing officers you would like to speak to your attorney. It is important to be adamant about your right to remain silent until speaking to your attorney. If you are charged with a crime in Minnesota, you also have the right to qualified representation, and Minnesota law enforcement cannot hold you in jail indefinitely. Additionally, you have the right to a speedy trial.

You should retain legal counsel if you are arrested in Minnesota. As you have the right to qualified legal representation, ask law enforcement for a lawyer and remain silent until you consult with your lawyer. An attorney will counsel you on the legal process and your rights and represent your interests throughout any subsequent proceedings.

As noted in the U.S. Constitution, Miranda rights cover individuals in police custody (i.e., not free to leave) and those intended to be interrogated. The Miranda rights are as follows: 

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.”

Petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, and felonies are various criminal charges you can face in Minnesota. Petty misdemeanors result in up to a $300 fine, and misdemeanors are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Felonies may result in prison sentences of at least one year and a day.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony and are unable to financially retain counsel, you are entitled to a public defender. Financial eligibility is based on gross annual income and household size. The State Board of Public Defense manages the public defender system in Minnesota. 

You must complete a truthfully filled application to qualify before your first court appearance or while in court depending on the jurisdiction, and the court will review the application to verify your eligibility. The application can be completed and filed online through the Minnesota Judicial Brand website. Should you be found eligible, you will be appointed a public defender.

The difference between the two charges is the severity of the offense and potential sentences. Misdemeanors tend to result in jail terms of between 15 days and one year. Felonies carry longer jail times and higher fines. You may also lose certain civil rights, such as the right to vote, seek professional licenses, or own firearms, for felony charges. Additional sentences for misdemeanors may be community services, probation, or rehabilitation. 

The following penalties are generally associated with the different types of offenses in Minnesota:

  • Petty misdemeanor: As a petty misdemeanor is not classified as a crime, the maximum penalty is a fine of $300.
  • Misdemeanor: Misdemeanors are punishable by 90 days in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
  • Gross misdemeanor: The result is a maximum of one year in a local correctional facility and/or a $3,000 fine. A two-year probation is also typical for gross misdemeanors.
  • Felony: Punishments can range from a year in prison to a life sentence, probation terms of three to 25+ years, and substantial fines. Felony convictions also result in losing your right to possess firearms, serve on a jury, vote, and work in many professions.

Costs will vary for hiring a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota, but on average, attorneys charge between $150-$450 per hour. The cost will depend on the complexity and severity of the case, including the amount of work attorneys need to prepare and how far into the legal process the case will proceed. 

Many criminal defense attorneys offer free consultations during which they will confer on rates and free structures while discussing the details of a client’s case. We recommend addressing any questions regarding fees to avoid any future conflicts.

Many defense lawyers charge “flat” fees, which are paid in full in advance of representation and are not adjusted based on the number of hours attorneys work, to counsel clients through trial. These flat fees are also not adjusted even if the case is dismissed or charges are negotiated through plea bargains.

A bench trial and a jury trial differ in who decides a case’s outcome. During a bench trial, a judge examines evidence and imposes a verdict, whereas a jury trial convenes a group of residents to determine a verdict. The impact of a trial can depend on choosing between a jury trial and a bench trial. If a case is contingent on emotional factors or the credibility of a witness, a jury trial may be the ideal choice. A bench trial, which can often be resolved more quickly, is preferable for a case with complex legal issues as judges are trained to understand the minutiae of the law and technical arguments. Determining the choice between a jury and a bench trial should be done with the counsel of an attorney who can advise you based on the specifics of your case.

The legal process often begins with an arrest and subsequent charges. Misdemeanors are typically resolved during the first appearance and may only require one hearing, while felonies tend to take months to upwards of a year or longer. Typical steps include:

  • First appearance: The arrested person will be brought before a judge within 36 hours. In misdemeanor cases, if the person is not brought before a judge within 36 hours, they will be released without citation. 
  • Arraignment: During an arraignment, the person will be informed of their charges and will enter a plea. During this time, a public defender may also be appointed. 
  • Pre-Trial Hearings: These hearings include plea negotiations, motions, and any other matters that occur before trial. 
  • Trial: During a trial, the prosecution presents evidence, and the defense refutes it. A jury will decide a verdict in a jury trial, and a judge will determine a verdict in a bench trial. 
  • Sentencing: For a guilty conviction, a sentencing hearing will determine the penalties.