Sentencing for crimes in Minnesota is more than just adding up maximum sentences to figure out how much time will be served. In addition to the maximum sentences that are set by statute, felonies are also subject to sentencing guidelines that are authorized by the state legislature.
If a judge departs from such sentencing guidelines, that judge must state the “substantial and compelling circumstances” that exist to justify such departure. The policy behind such legislation was to insure that penalties are proportionate to the severity of the alleged offense.
Such sentencing is to be “neutral” concerning race, gender, social or economic status of the individual charged. It is also to take into account past offenses, though judges are granted a great deal of leeway when it comes to such considerations.
The judge also has the discretion to sentence anyone charged with more than just a misdemeanor to probation. This must also include assessments and recommendations to make sure all the conditions of probation are met. There is also such a thing as “good time” credit allowing a shorter sentence for those that abide by the rules of the institution in which they are confined.
What this means for anyone charged for a crime is that the sentence, penalties or time served are not written in stone. Someone charged with a felony should at least consult with an attorney to assure themselves that they will not be charged with a greater offense than can be justified under the circumstances, and that they can take advantage of all opportunities in shortening their sentence as much as possible.
Source: Echo Press, “From the bench: Criminal sentencing isn’t simple,” by Judge Ann Carrott, Nov. 9, 2011