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What makes a crime a felony offense in Minnesota?

What makes a crime a felony offense in Minnesota?

A Minnesota man took his motorcycle out for a ride one day and wound up with a felony. According to WTAQ, the man told law enforcement that his speedometer was not working, which is why he was driving 146 miles per hour. He was also passing vehicles by using the lane with oncoming traffic. Law enforcement charged the man with a felony offense of reckless endangerment.

There are a number of contributing factors that can be used to classify a criminal charge as a felony. Therefore, it is important to understand how Minnesota defines a felony as well as what the consequences may be upon conviction.

Defining a felony 

In Minnesota, a felony is any crime that carries with it a sentence of more than one year in prison. Some crimes are inherently felonies, such as aggravated robbery, murder, kidnapping, possession or dissemination of child pornography and domestic assault by strangulation.

However, there are times when a crime can be elevated to a felony. For example, a DUI charge is typically a misdemeanor unless the driver has already accumulated three such convictions. In Minnesota, having four DUI convictions during a 10-year period is considered a felony. This is also true for someone charged with a third domestic assault offense.

The severity of a crime can also bump it from a misdemeanor to a felony offense. This is especially true with theft. People can be charged with a felony if the value of the property or services is more than $1,000. 

The consequences of a felony

In the 1980s, Minnesota developed sentencing guidelines that are still in use today. The Minnesota Judicial Branch estimates that sentences in more than 95 percent of cases that involve a felony criminal act utilize the guidelines. In addition to jail time, a felony may carry with it other penalties, such as the following:

  • Losing the right to vote
  • Losing the right to own a firearm
  • Hefty fines
  • Probation periods following a jail sentence

While some sentences may be set, there are other aspects of a felony that may be discretionary. For example, a judge is permitted to set bail at any level for such a crime, as there is no maximum limit. Beyond the court-mandated consequences, people with a felony on their record may find it difficult to secure employment or even a decent place to live. Additionally, having one such conviction could affect the way someone is sentenced for an ensuing crime.

People who are facing felony charges should seek the help of a defense attorney in order to minimize the odds of a conviction and harsh consequences.

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