Decisions not to prosecute the person arrested for or suspected of a crime
In a criminal case, to obtain a conviction there must be evidence proving an individual’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is insufficient evidence, the office may decline to prosecute a case against a particular individual.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office prosecutes felony adult criminal cases and all cases involving juvenile offenders (people under 18), for offenses that occur in Hennepin County.
All misdemeanors, petty misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors are prosecuted by the city attorney’s office in the location where the crime took place.
Defendants who are not in jail after they're arrested and charged
Under U.S. and Minnesota law, a defendant charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty and has the right to reasonable bail. Bail is a deposit of money held by the court which can be forfeited if the defendant fails to appear in court, breaks the law, or violates the conditions of release. If the court determines that the defendant is unlikely to appear at future court dates or is a threat to the public, bail or special conditions of release—such as no contact with victims or witnesses—may be imposed. The court may also order that a defendant be released on the promise to appear at future court appearances.
Difference between misdemeanor and felony
There are three levels of misdemeanor offenses: petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. City attorneys prosecute misdemeanors committed by adults. Felonies and juvenile offenses are handled by county attorneys.
Petty misdemeanor offenses include most traffic violations and are punishable by fine up to $300. Petty misdemeanors are not considered crimes because they don't involve imprisonment.
Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 90 days in jail or up to a fine of $1,000. Typical misdemeanor offenses can include simple assault (domestic or non-domestic), driver’s license or insurance violations, driving under the influence of alcohol, and theft or damage of property valued at less than $500. Some misdemeanors, including domestic assaults and driving under the influence, can be enhanced to higher level crimes with additional violations.
Gross misdemeanors are punishable by one year in jail and/or up to a $3,000 fine. Typical gross misdemeanors can include a second DWI in ten years, second assault in ten years against the same victim, and theft of property valued at between $500 and $1,000.
Felonies are punishable by over one year of imprisonment or a maximum fine allowed by law. Felonies can include homicide, robbery, burglary, assault with a dangerous weapon, criminal sexual conduct, possession and sale of controlled substances, motor vehicle theft, theft or damage to property valued at over $1000.
A shorter sentence than what is listed in the statute
The legislature establishes a maximum sentence for each crime. However, Minnesota has sentencing guidelines that determine what the sentence should be in each case. That sentence is determined based on the severity of the offense and the offender’s criminal history. Usually, the sentence set under the sentencing guidelines is shorter than the maximum sentence set by the legislature. The court only has the ability to give a shorter or longer sentence from the sentencing guidelines if there are compelling reasons to do so.
More information on sentencing
Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission