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If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor crime in Minneapolis, a common question that probably pops into your mind is: “Could I actually go to jail for this?”

It’s a fair question. After all, misdemeanors are considered less serious offenses than felonies. It seems reasonable to think you’d just get slapped with a fine or probation and move on with your life, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

While it’s less likely, the short answer is yes – you definitely could serve jail time for a misdemeanor conviction, depending on the circumstances. I know that’s probably not what you want to hear.

But don’t panic yet! In my experience as a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis, there are steps we can take to help keep you out of jail.

Misdemeanors Aren’t All Equal Under the Law

The first thing to understand is that under Minnesota law, misdemeanors are classified into three different levels of severity: gross misdemeanors, regular misdemeanors, and petty misdemeanors.

The type of misdemeanor you’re charged with makes a huge difference in the possible punishments and whether jail time is on the table.

Gross misdemeanors are the most serious and can land you behind bars for up to a year. Common examples are DWI and domestic assault charges. Even for a first offense, these charges often result in at least some jail sentence.

On the other end of the spectrum, petty misdemeanors generally only incur fines and no jail time. Things like loitering, petty theft, and disorderly conduct fall into this category.

Regular misdemeanors – like vandalism, simple assault, and trespassing – fall somewhere in the middle. Jail sentences are discretionary for these offenses, ranging from 0 to 90 days.

Your Criminal History Will Be Scrutinized

Another major factor judges consider when determining sentences for misdemeanor convictions is the defendant’s criminal record or lack thereof. The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines recommend escalating punishments for offenders with prior convictions.

So, if this is your first time in trouble with the law, you have a strong argument on your side that you deserve leniency versus someone with a detailed rap sheet riddled with priors. First-time offenders are significantly less likely to be sentenced to jail for a misdemeanor, in my experience.

That said, any previous criminal history will still be scrutinized and could impact the outcome. Even old charges that were dismissed, pardoned offenses from your youth, or convictions in other states may come back to haunt you. Nothing gets fully erased.

The Specific Jurisdiction Matters, Too

Where you’re charged also makes a difference in how misdemeanors are prosecuted and punished. Minneapolis proper takes a much harsher stance on offenses like drug possession, DWI, and domestic violence compared to many suburban cities in Hennepin County.

The prosecutors and judges within each municipality have their own way of doing things.

It’s important to understand those jurisdictional differences, as the same misdemeanor charge can produce widely varying sentences across city and county lines. Knowing your judge and their track record on sentencing can be invaluable.

An Experienced Lawyer Can Navigate the System on Your Behalf

While you can’t change the facts of your misdemeanor charge, an accomplished Minneapolis criminal defense attorney has tools at their disposal to construct the strongest case for keeping you out of jail.

For example:

  • Negotiating plea bargains for reduced charges/penalties
  • Securing acceptance into pretrial diversion programs
  • Persuasively arguing for probation, fines, or time served during sentencing

In my career, I’ve successfully kept many clients charged with misdemeanors from serving time through careful case strategy. While I can’t make outright promises, an experienced lawyer maximizes your chances of avoiding jail.

Don’t Leave Your Fate to Chance – Protect Your Future

I hope this gives you a better understanding of how Minnesota laws and courts treat misdemeanors when it comes to potential jail sentences. My goal isn’t to scare you but to emphasize that you should take these situations seriously rather than hoping for the best.

Be smart and proactive. Educate yourself on the process and local laws. Seek experienced legal counsel to aggressively defend your rights. Your future is too important to leave to chance.

If you or a loved one are facing misdemeanor charges in Minneapolis, I encourage you to contact my team for a consultation. My firm, Martine Law, has successfully represented clients facing all types of misdemeanor charges over the years. We know how to build a strong defense. Don’t go it alone against the justice system. Contact us today – let’s sit down and start mapping out a strategy.