Criminal Defense Process

Karkela, Hunt & Cheshire, PLLP has extensive experience in assisting clients that face criminal charges. Our attorneys have unique expertise in working on criminal cases including misdemeanor cases and multiple felony counts. The Firm has a history of working with many city and county prosecutors throughout the region so we understand each area’s unique approach to handling various types of cases. Call us as soon as possible to preserve your defenses. Our skilled and aggressive trial attorneys would be happy to talk with you about any pending criminal charges. Karkela, Hunt & Cheshire- solving problems and creating opportunities for more than a century.

What am I facing now that I am charged?

The four levels of offenses in Minnesota are:

Petty Misdemeanor
(maximum penalty $300 fine)
Examples are minor traffic offenses such as speeding, stop sign violations and parking tickets. You cannot go to jail for this type of offense.

(maximum penalty 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine)
Misdemeanor cases include first time DWI offenders (with test results under .20), small theft cases, assaults, disorderly conducts, and more serious traffic offenses (reckless driving, careless driving, open bottle, no insurance, etc.). The probation does not exceed two (2) years.

Gross Misdemeanor
(maximum penalty one (1) year in jail and $3,000 fine)
Gross misdemeanor offenses include repeat DWI offenders, first-time DWI offenders with tests over .20, forgery, intent to escape tax, fifth degree criminal sexual conduct and mid-level theft cases. Probation does not exceed four (4) years.

(a sentence in excess of one (1) year in jail and fines that vary based upon the case)
Felony cases are your most serious offenses and include offenses such as murder, burglary, robbery, aggravated assault, four-time DWI offenders (within ten (10) years), drug offenses and most sexual assault cases.

A “crime” in Minnesota is defined as an offense you can go to jail for. As such, a petty misdemeanor is not a “crime” because you cannot go to jail. The other three levels of offenses are crimes.

How many times will I go to court?

It depends upon the type of offense you are charged with. Petty misdemeanors involve a 2-step process, an arraignment and a court trial. You do not have the right to a jury trial. Your attorney may be able to file a waiver for you at the arraignment so that you do not have to appear.

The other three levels of offenses (misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors and felonies) basically involve a 3-step process:

Arraignment/First Appearance

This is typically the first time you go to court. For misdemeanor offenses, your attorney may be able to file a waiver so you do not have to appear. If, however, you are charged with a gross misdemeanor or felony, you will have to appear for this first stage. Conditions of release are reviewed, you are sworn under oath to give your name and address, and future court dates are set. As a general proposition, conditions of release may include bail which is typically ordered to secure the defendant’s continued appearance at further proceedings.  Other conditions may be imposed at the time of your arraignment.

Pretrial/Omnibus Hearing

This is the settlement phase of your case. You may go to court more than once for a hearing during this stage. Issues involving discovery (receiving police reports, witness lists, etc.), motions, scheduling issues and settlement discussions are held at this point. Many cases are settled at the pretrial/omnibus hearing stage.


Misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses allow a defendant the right to have a 6-person jury or a court trial. Felony cases require a 12-person jury or a court trial. The defendant is allowed to choose having a judge or a jury trial.

Are there other factors to consider in my case in addition to the potential of going to jail and paying fines?

There are many other factors that you should discuss with us that may be relevant to your case. For example, a conviction on a domestic assault case prohibits you from ever possessing a firearm – a major consequence for people that are hunters. The length and type of probation you might be on can have daily impact on your life. You may be required to go to alcohol treatment, anger management counseling, drug awareness classes, driver improvement clinics and other rehabilitative programs. We need to consider any driver’s license, motor vehicle insurance and professional license consequences. How your case is handled might also affect a separate additional civil lawsuit that any alleged victim could bring against you as well.

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