Small crimes are often referred to as misdemeanors and have three levels. USLS can help students with most misdemeanor offenses.
A petty misdemanor is a lesser legal violation.
In Minnesota a petty misdemeanor is a violation in which the sentence may not exceed a fine of $300. In Minnesota a petty misdemeanor does not constitute a crime. No jail or workhouse time can be imposed as punishment for a petty misdemeanor. It is important for individuals found guilty of only petty misdemeanors to know that they can truthfully state on employment and/or educational applications that they have not been convicted of a crime.
Some of the more common traffic petty misdemeanors are:
- Stop sign violations
- Parking tickets
- Improper turning and lane changes
- Expired driver's license or license plates
- Minor automobile equipment violations
If a driver is charged with a third moving traffic violation within a one-year period, the offense will normally be charged as a misdemeanor rather than a petty misdemeanor. Also, if the officer feels your driving conduct endangered persons or property, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. Most non-traffic offenses are also charged as misdemeanors rather than petty misdemeanors.
A misdemeanor, on the other hand, is a lesser criminal act.
A misdemeanor is a crime which carries a maximum sentence of $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail. This can include things such as:
- Driving without a license
- Simple assault
- First-time DWI
- Theft of property less than $500
- First crime
When charged with a misdemeanor, you have rights.
- Presumption of innocence.
- Requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt by the State before a person can be found guilty.
- Right to compel the attendance of witnesses to testify in behalf of the accused through the subpoena power of the Court.
- Right to testify in own behalf.
- Right to remain silent including not testifying at trial.
- Right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses.
- Right to a court trial (before a Judge). There is no right to a jury trial in petty misdemeanor cases.
- Right to legal counsel (normally at own expense in petty misdemeanors).
- Right to an appeal if found guilty.
If you admit guilt or are found guilty, your fine is usually pre-determined.
Judges have instituted pre-established fine schedules to create uniformity in their sentencing. They are not, however, required to follow these fee schedules and may deviate based on the facts of the case and your previous record. These fines are often printed on the ticket you are given. You can pay these fines instead of making a court appearance, just note paying a fine constitutes a plea of guilty.
Talking to a hearing officer can reduce your fine.
Some counties, including Hennepin and Ramsey, have offices where you can talk with a hearing officer to negotiate your case through informal discussion. If you can show extenuating circumstances to a sympathetic officer they may reduce your fine or remove it all together.
Visit one of the following locations for Violation Bureau offices in the Twin Cities: In Minneapolis, the office is on the first floor of the Government Center. In St. Paul, the office is in Room 126 of the Ramsey County Courthouse. Normally, no appointment is needed to meet with a hearing officer.
Guilt in a petty misdemeanor can cost money even though you have not been convicted of a crime.
If a court finds you guilty of a petty misdemeanor, a $300 surcharge can be imposed to cover the court's cost of prosecution.
Additionally, moving traffic violations can result in increased auto insurance rates. Equipment violations and parking tickets normally do not affect insurance rates. Numerous moving violations can result in a suspension of driving privileges by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
If the court convicts you, they will send a record to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. This department will add it to your driving record.
Aggravated Traffic Violations: General traffic matters, like speeding tickets, often do not need legal help. Simply visit the Violation Bureau offices and see a hearing officer. Significant traffic violations, like failure to stop your car for the police, can result in serious criminal charges. They are not petty misdemeanors and can affect your criminal record. In these more serious cases (if you are an eligible fee paying student), please contact us and set up an appointment to determine if we can help you.