How Much Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Cost in Buffalo, MN?

Have you noticed that when you need something, the price usually goes up? For example, when COVID-19 hit, face mask prices increased 500 percent in some areas. That’s the basic law of supply and demand. When demand goes up, so does the price.

Many people assume this law applies to criminal defense attorneys, but they are bound by legal ethics. If you’re wondering how much does a criminal defense lawyer cost, the answer depends on your charges and your income.

Keep reading to learn how to calculate the rough cost of criminal defense in Buffalo, MN. And stick around for a list of qualities to look for in your Buffalo attorney.

How Much Does Buffalo Criminal Defense Representation Cost?

Experts have estimated that Minnesota criminal lawyers charge an average of $245 per hour. An average means that some criminal defense lawyers will charge more than that per hour, and others will charge less.


Compared to other lawyers in Minnesota, this hourly rate falls somewhere in the middle. Minnesota personal injury lawyers generally charge the lowest hourly fee at an average of $163 per hour. Meanwhile, Minnesota attorneys who draft trusts generally charge the highest rate at an average of $339 per hour.


You can also compare the hourly rate of Minnesota criminal attorneys to the national average per hour fee. In 2020, the average attorney charged about $200 per hour. On the low end, lawyers charged an average of $100–$150 and, on the high end, $300–$350 per hour.


As you can see, Minnesota criminal attorneys charge clients at about the average national per hour rate.


Why Criminal Defense Lawyers Must Set Fixed Fees for Certain Services

Many jurisdictions in the US place limitations on how much an attorney can charge per hour or in flat fees. The goal is to prevent outrageous and prohibitive fees. However, many states have very lax definitions of what “outrageous” means.

Fortunately, that’s not the way it works in this area. Legal ethics require attorneys to set fixed fees for certain services. Experience level is usually the biggest factor. So, as an attorney gains experience over the years, the attorney can charge more money. There are some other factors as well, which are outlined below. Admittedly, some of these factors are rather subjective. But one thing is for sure. Lawyers cannot double or triple their fees because you had a brush with the law.

Nevertheless, retaining the services of a good Buffalo criminal lawyer is a significant investment. Before you transmit your credit card information, there are a number of things to consider. Always remember that you have choices in this area. Your criminal case is a very serious matter, but it is not a matter of imminent life and death. People usually have a few days to make a decision.

Free Lawyers in Buffalo, MN

In a significant number of cases, the cost of a Minnesota criminal defense lawyer is nothing, or at least practically nothing. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to counsel in criminal cases. Therefore, Wright County provides attorneys to defendants who qualify for such assistance. Exact procedure varies in different counties, and in different courts in the same county. However, the free lawyer choices are always the same: a public defender or a court-appointed lawyer.

The Public Defender’s Office

The public defender’s office usually assigns one lawyer to a misdemeanor court and two to a felony court. Reinforcements are usually available, especially in a serious felony case, like a complex sex crime prosecution. 

Essentially, the public defender’s office is like a private criminal defense law firm. Since the county pays all the firm’s expenses, the clients pay nothing. Frequently, public defenders are underfunded. The Wright County Commissioners are not made of money, and there is only so much funding to go around. Making matters worse, public defenders are usually at the end of the bread line. Voters usually don’t mind paying money for roads, schools, and other things that benefit many people. Paying for someone’s Buffalo, MN criminal defense lawyer is not a major item on voter wish lists.

As a result, there is some truth to the image of the overworked public defender. According to an American Bar Association study, some public defenders juggled up to 400 cases at once. That’s a bit deceptive, mostly because most criminal cases settle out of court, and settle rather quickly. More on that below. Nevertheless, there is some cause for concern.

Private Attorneys for Those Who Cannot Afford a Lawyer

To bypass this issue, many Wright County judges appoint private attorneys for people who cannot afford lawyers. Sometimes, judges screen the attorneys they appoint. That’s especially true in the aforementioned serious felony cases. Indeed, in a capital case, the state imposes additional requirements. But in many misdemeanors, judges appoint any attorney who can find the courthouse door.

Not everyone qualifies for a court-appointed attorney or a public defender. These qualifications vary in different courts. Some judges simply ask defendants if they can afford legal representation. Others require defendants to submit financial affidavits.

What Is the Incarceration Presumption?

There is also an incarceration presumption. Most judges connect bail money with the money to hire a lawyer. They assume that if the defendant cannot afford bail, the defendant cannot afford an attorney either. That’s usually accurate. However, just because a defendant can scrape up bail money, that doesn’t mean s/he can afford an attorney. Furthermore, if the defendant obtained free pretrial release, the incarceration presumption should still apply. But it usually doesn’t, at least in the minds of many judges.

A Court-Appointed Lawyer Is Permanent

Defendants who go with a free lawyer get what they get and they can’t throw a fit. Once a judge assigns a court-appointed lawyer, that assignment is permanent, unless the defendant hires a private Buffalo, MN criminal defense lawyer. Similarly, if a defendant goes to the public defender’s office, the chief public defender has the exclusive right to assign lawyers to individual cases.

Your Right to Counsel of Your Own Choosing

On a related note, the Supreme Court recently ruled that the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel means defendants have the right to counsel of their own choosing. This issue occasionally comes up in some drug crime matters. Prosecutors cannot seize so much cash during a raid that the defendant cannot afford to hire the lawyer s/he wants to hire.

Representing Yourself in Buffalo, MN

Incidentally, you can represent yourself in a court case, including a criminal case. If you’re asking how much does a criminal defense lawyer cost because you don’t think you can afford it, explore your options before making a decision. As a rule of thumb, if the criminal case includes possible jail time, self-representation is one of the biggest mistakes a person can make.

How Do Attorneys Determine Legal Fees?

This question is really two questions. First, as mentioned, attorneys must use certain factors to determine their fees. Second, different attorneys use different fee structures.

Factors That Determine Legal Fees

Years of experience is usually the biggest factor which determines legal fees. Inexperienced lawyers cannot charge as much as experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyers. That doesn’t mean a less experienced lawyer is not as good. It just means these attorneys cannot charge as much.

Other factors include:

    • Geographic Area: Attorneys in big cities like Minneapolis usually charge more than attorneys in smaller communities like Buffalo. Rent, payroll, and other expenses are higher in big cities.
    • Client’s Ability to Pay: Attorneys can reduce their fees if the client cannot pay full price. That’s especially true if the client is from a historically underserved or neglected ethnic or socioeconomic group.
    • Complexity of the Matter: Some criminal cases are relatively straightforward and others are not. DUI is a good example. If the defendant submitted a blood sample, the case is pretty black and white. But if the defendant refused to provide any chemical sample, the case is much more complex. The state must rely on shaky circumstantial evidence in these matters. Furthermore, most Buffalo criminal lawyers also charge more for felonies than misdemeanors. Felonies are more complex, and there is more at stake.
    • Amount of Time Involved: Attorneys usually charge less for a criminal plea than a criminal trial, simply because there is not as much time involved. Many criminal attorneys charge stairstep fees, such as X for a negotiated settlement, X+Y for a bench trial, and X+Y+Z for a jury trial.
  • Technology Use: Attorneys may increase their fees when they have to use technology. Lawyers typically subscribe to software programs, which are expensive. If your case requires significant use of these expensive systems, your attorney may add the cost to your bill.
  • Practice Area: Some criminal cases are easier to argue than others, and the lawyer’s fee will reflect that. The more time, resources, and knowledge required to defend your case, the higher the rate you’ll ultimately pay.

These factors can start to add up. That’s why many criminal lawyers in Buffalo, MN use two different fee structures. We’re going into detail about the two major ways lawyers charge their clients next.

Fee Structure

Now, let’s talk about fee structure. Buffalo, MN defense attorneys generally use one of two fee structures: a flat fee or an hourly rate.

As mentioned, many criminal defense lawyers charge flat fees. For example, Pam might charge $1,000 for a felony plea, no matter how much time she puts into the case. 

Other lawyers charge hourly fees. Hourly billing is a bit more common in civil cases. 

These two fee structures have pros and cons. For example, flat fees can save clients money if the criminal case goes on for longer than expected, but they will cost you if the reverse happens.

At the same time, flat fees can incentivize lawyers to tie up a case as quickly as possible, though sometimes at the risk of quality. Hourly rates, on the other hand, can incentivize bad criminal lawyers to drag their feet so they can increase their final paycheck.

By now, you may be wondering: what about criminal lawyer contingent fees?

The law prohibits criminal defense attorneys from charging contingent fees. Minnesota Court Rule #5 specifically states that it is illegal for state-licensed lawyers to charge contingencies for criminal cases and domestic disputes. Therefore, defendants usually have to pay at least some money upfront.

How Do I Know I’m Getting a Good Value for the Cost of a Buffalo Lawyer?

If you face criminal charges in Wright County, when it comes to legal representation, you have almost a dizzying array of choices. 

At first blush, pretty much all Buffalo, MN criminal lawyers seem alike. They all went to law school and all passed the bar exam. But upon closer inspection, there are some important differences.

The Experience of Your Buffalo, MN Lawyer Is Invaluable

As mentioned, years of experience is probably the single most important factor in this entire process. Experience is the best teacher. Furthermore, there are a number of techniques that law students do not learn in class. Finally, each county and court has its own written and unwritten procedural rules. You do not know them all unless you have handled cases in that jurisdiction.

Years of experience could be deceptive. As recently as 1990, non-jury or jury trials resolved about a fifth of the criminal cases in Minnesota. Today, that proportion is less than 5 percent. Therefore, many Buffalo, MN criminal lawyers practice for years, or even decades, and only handle a few criminal trials. 

We all fall into ruts if we are not careful. Sometimes, these attorneys fall into a rut of always, or at least usually, taking the state’s first offer. Prosecutors usually don’t make favorable offers to these lawyers. 

So, be sure and ask about the attorney’s trial experience. For example, ask the attorney about his/her most complicated or memorable trial. Lawyers love telling war stories. If the attorney has to think about this answer because s/he has such limited trial experience, that’s a bad sign.

The Expertise of Your Buffalo, MN Criminal Attorney

Studies show that experienced attorneys often have better success rates. For example, a 1999 report analyzed success rates for experienced and inexperienced attorneys arguing cases before the US Court of Appeals.


The study found that judges are more likely to decide a case in an attorney’s favor if that professional is experienced. Inexperienced lawyers who didn’t specialize in a particular field of law, on the other hand, were found to have lower success rates in the US Court of Appeals.


Unfamiliarity with applicable processes and laws is the #1 reason inexperienced lawyers are less successful. Also, the researchers suggested that an inexperienced attorney may overestimate the likelihood of a case’s success.


What does all this mean for you? Make sure your attorney specializes in criminal rather than civil law. Only choose a criminal lawyer who has argued cases like yours in the future. And ask about your attorney’s success rate when it comes to the exact charges you’re facing.


Accessibility from Your Buffalo Criminal Defense Lawyer

The lawyer’s accessibility, or lack thereof, could be another bad sign. It could also be a very good sign.

Legally, as mentioned above, attorneys cannot assess fees based on supply and demand. So, many lawyers use volume to earn more money. Attorneys are rarely as overworked ast the unfortunate public defenders discussed above. But sometimes, they take more cases than they should.

Commonly, overworked attorneys cannot commit the amount of time they should to an individual case. So, they might miss an important detail. Furthermore, many overworked lawyers assign legal work to less-experienced associates or non-lawyer paralegals. That’s not the caliber of defense the client is paying for. 

It’s probably also best to avoid overly-accessible lawyers. If you want to try a new restaurant and there are no customers in the parking lot, that’s usually a bad sign. By the same token, if an attorney has few clients, there’s usually a reason.

Goldilocks looked long and hard to find a bowl of porridge, chair, and bed that was just right. Criminal defendants should also look for a “just right” lawyer in terms of accessibility. However, don’t look too long. The sooner you partner with a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer, the sooner the case will be over.

Dedication from a Lawyer that Lives in Buffalo

Many people have family lawyers, especially in smaller communities like Buffalo. The same attorney handles your divorce, prepares your will, settles your car crash claim, and so on. There’s a level of trust in these relationships that’s usually unavailable elsewhere. Trust is important in a criminal defense situation. But a criminal conviction, even for a misdemeanor, could easily ruin your life. So, you need someone who is dedicated to criminal law.

The late Grant Cooper, who represented Robert Kennedy’s assassin in 1969, is a good example. When Cooper agreed to represent Sirhan Sirhan, Cooper was a highly experienced lawyer. But Cooper wasn’t really a criminal defense lawyer. He handled a wide array of cases. For example, former child star Shirey Temple hired Grant Cooper to handle her divorce from B-movie actor John Agar. 

As a result, Cooper might have missed some weaknesses in the state’s evidence. Maybe that’s why Sirhan remains in a California prison to this day.

Incidentally, one of the latest Kennedy conspiracy theories is that Cooper intentionally threw the Sirhan case so the Los Angeles County District Attorney wouldn’t indict him on some unrelated gambling charges. But that’s just speculation.

Aggressive Representation from Your Buffalo Criminal Defense Attorney

If your criminal defense attorney charges an hourly rate, the best thing you can do for your wallet is to choose an aggressive lawyer. Aggressive defense attorneys will never drag their feet and will do anything it takes to get you the best possible outcome.


However, it’s important to differentiate between aggressive representation and an aggressive personality. Someone with an aggressive personality could actually lead to the opposite: you’ll end up paying more. Aggressive lawyers may argue every single point the prosecution brings against you, which could be a waste of your time.


Aggressive personalities could also mean a poorer outcome for you if he or she antagonizes the judge. But aggressive representation will ensure you get your day in court and a fair one at that. That’s why it’s critical to find a criminal defense lawyer in Buffalo, MN who will relentlessly fight for your rights.


Consult with a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Lawyer in Buffalo, MN

Even if you’re asking how much does a criminal defense lawyer cost, you do not want just any lawyer. You want a dedicated Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer to handle your case. Your family lawyer will understand your decision. Besides, you can still invite him/her to your next dinner party.

The cost of a criminal defense lawyer in Buffalo, MN varies in different situations. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Differences Between Probation and Deferred Adjudication in Buffalo, MN

In all but the most serious offenses, such as murder, almost everyone receives probation, unless they have lengthy criminal records. That’s especially true if there is any hope whatsoever that the defendant might be rehabilitated.

For the most part, incarceration is entirely punitive. That’s not true in all cases. A few inmates are “scared straight,” and a few others have religious experiences or acquire necessary life skills, like a GED. But the prison recidivism rate is over 80 percent. So, there is obviously not much rehabilitation behind bars. On a related note, prison is much more expensive than probation and also more of a hot-button political issue. These facts are not lost on Minnesota lawmakers.

Typically, either regular probation or deferred adjudication may be available. A Buffalo, MN felony lawyer will carefully review the pros and cons of each option. Nothing can substitute for a face-to-face consultation and complete representation, but a brief outline of the similarities and differences is below.

Minnesota Probation and Deferred Adjudication Statistics

The North Star state has one of the lowest incarceration rates in America. In fact, in 2014, Minnesota had the 4th lowest incarceration rate. However, this statistic can be misleading.

In the US, Minnesota actually has one of the highest justice system volumes. In other words, Minnesota has a lot of criminals, but the majority of them aren’t in jail. So, where are these other criminals?

Minnesota places vastly more convicts on probation than in jail or prison. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, there are 123,000 criminals currently in the Minnesota state justice system. 95,000 people, or over 77% of MN criminals, are currently on probation.

Among criminals who are on probation, the majority receive between 50 and 150 months. The low-end probation period is for crimes like assault and property crimes. Courts reserve high-end probation periods for more serious crimes, including sex offenses.

The probation period also depends on location. Research shows that the average probation period for a Minneapolis criminal is a little more than three years. Compare that to the average probation period in St. Cloud, Minnesota: over seven years.

Further, getting probation vs. jail time also differs by race. White criminals are far more likely to not be in jail, with only 216 out of 100,000 white people incarcerated in 2010. Compare that to the highest incarceration rate — that of American Indian people, which was 2,646 per 100,000 American Indians in 2010.

What Are Probation and Deferred Adjudication in Minnesota?

Probation and deferred adjudication are two sentencing options in Buffalo, Minnesota. These outcomes look highly similar at first glance.

We’ll talk about the differences between these two punishments next. But first, let’s discuss what probation and deferred adjudication are, exactly, in Buffalo, MN.


Probation is typically an alternative to jail or prison time in Minnesota. After a court convicts an offender of a crime, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer can request probation instead of jail time. Importantly, probation doesn’t mean the offense gets wiped off the offender’s record.

During probation, the offender will also have to fulfill certain court-ordered conditions of probation. The exact conditions a court will order varies based on the nature and severity of the crime. For example, a drug crime offense might earn someone monthly drug testing and narcotics awareness courses.

Sometimes, an offender might only receive probation to the court. This usually applies to cases where the offender’s only condition is that he or she not commit another crime while on probation.

Offenders with more probation conditions than abiding by the law alone may instead have to answer to a correctional officer. Probational correction officers are also known as probation officers in Minnesota.

The exact length of the probationary period also varies by crime. In general, offenders must be on probation for anywhere from one to six years. After the offender completes probation, the crime will stay on his or her record unless expunged.

Deferred Adjudication in Buffalo, MN

In Minnesota, deferred adjudication is also known as deferred probation or a “stay of adjudication.” Though deferred adjudication requires an affirmative defense (i.e., you must admit a guilty plea), this outcome is highly desirable in criminal cases.

Why? Because deferred adjudication means that the offender doesn’t receive a conviction. Offenders who receive stays of adjudication can get their charges removed from their records.

However, these individuals must first meet the terms of the stay. What are “terms of the stay”? The exact terms of a stay of adjudication vary by crime and individual.

Terms of a stay commonly include statements requiring the offender to stay crime-free for at least a year. Other terms might enforce mandatory community service, fines, and certain courses (e.g., drug and alcohol awareness, self-improvement classes, etc.).

As long as the offender fully completes the stay of adjudication’s terms, the court will expunge the charge from his or her record.

If the offender doesn’t complete the terms of the stay of adjudication, the offense will remain on his or her record until it’s eligible for expungement. It’s also up to the judge whether the offender must also serve jail time and/or pay fines.

Which Crimes Qualify for Probation and Deferred Adjudication?

Were you recently charged with a crime in Buffalo? A Minnesota criminal defense lawyer can help you decide whether probation or deferred adjudication is right for you.

We’ve compiled the top crimes that do and don’t qualify for these sentencing options below to give you a head start.

Which Crimes Can Receive Deferred Adjudication in Buffalo, MN?

Section 152.18 of the Minnesota Statutes mandates deferred adjudication for some first-time drug charges. This includes third-, fourth-, and fifth-degree drug possession crimes. Deferred adjudication is also applicable to:

  • Schedule V drug possession
  • Small amounts of marijuana possession
  • Synthetic cannabinoid possession and/or sale

In order to qualify for deferred adjudication, the crime must be a first offense. The offender must also not have any prior stays of adjudication related to a drug offense.

Which Crimes Can Receive Probation in Buffalo, MN?

Minnesota courts typically prefer probation over jail time. This is because probation costs less than prison. And some studies show that probation may actually reverse mass incarceration rates, cutting costs even further.

As such, offenders can receive probation for almost any crime in Minnesota. This includes misdemeanor crimes, gross misdemeanors, and even felonies. Following is a list of crimes for which probation is a sentencing option:

  • Misdemeanor crimes, including DWIs, Indecent Exposure charges, and Domestic Assault.
  • Gross Misdemeanors, including Criminal Vehicular Operation (CVO) and fifth-degree sex crimes
  • Felonies, including felony-level CVO

Felony offenders can receive a max of four years probation. The only exception is felony-level CVO, which incurs a six-year maximum probation sentence.

Most gross misdemeanor crimes can earn offenders up to two years of probation. However, the gross misdemeanor crimes we listed above incur up to six years maximum probation.

Excepting the misdemeanor crimes we listed above, offenders with misdemeanors can earn up to one year of probation. Petty misdemeanors aren’t eligible for jail time and, thus, ineligible for probation.

Similarities Between Regular and Deferred Probation in Wright County

As far as the defendant is concerned, regular probation and deferred adjudication are exactly the same. After appearing before a judge and pleading guilty or no contest, the defendant meets with a probation officer who reviews the conditions of probation. Some of these conditions include:

  • Commit No Other Offenses: About 75 percent of all motions to revoke probation are based on subsequent offenses. Sometimes, prosecutors jump the gun and file motions to revoke immediately after arrest. A good Buffalo, MN felony lawyer can often at least delay revocation proceedings in these situations.
  • Failure to Report: This offense is probably the second most common infraction. Normally, probationers must report monthly and produce certain documents, such as school transcripts or paystubs, to show they are on the straight and narrow. Typically, prosecutors do not file revocation motions unless the defendant misses multiple meetings without explanation.
  • Monetary Delinquency: Probationers must pay fines and court costs. They must also pay monthly supervision fees. If the motion alleges no other violation, a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer may be able to get the case thrown out on constitutional grounds. Debtors’ prisons are illegal in the United States.
  • Failure to Meet Program Requirements: Probationers must also complete community service requirements, attend self-improvement classes, and fulfill other such requirements. If prosecutors file motions to revoke on these grounds, and it is rare to do so, they usually withdraw them if the defendant complies immediately.

Most probation conditions also include a catch-all provision, such as avoiding disreputable activities and places. This provision gives probation officers an excuse to require random drug tests and force the probationer to submit to warrantless searches.

A motion for early discharge from regular or deferred probation may be an option, in some cases. If the judge grants the motion, defendants are immediately released from all requirements.

Some Key Differences Between Probation and Deferred Adjudication

Regular probation goes on a defendant’s permanent record as a conviction, just as if the defendant received a jail or prison sentence. If the defendant violates probation, any jail or prison sentence is limited to the figure the prosecutor and Buffalo, MN felony lawyer worked out in a plea agreement.

Deferred disposition is different on both these points. If the defendant successfully completes deferred probation, the judge dismisses the case. The arrest record remains, but there is no conviction record. So, if a job or college application requires disclosure of any prior criminal convictions, the applicant can write “none.”

Now for the downside. If the defendant violates probation in any way, including trivial violations, and a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer cannot defeat the motion, the judge may sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum incarceration period under the law.

So, deferred adjudication is a pretty significant risk. But, it’s also a risk worth taking, at least in many cases.

How a Buffalo, MN Felony Lawyer Arranges for Deferred Adjudication

Wright County prosecutors may offer deferred adjudication in nonviolent misdemeanors, but probably not in other cases. However, that does not mean deferred is unavailable.

Many times, Buffalo, MN felony lawyers leverage defenses during the plea bargaining process, such as lack of a search warrant, to obtain better deals, like deferred adjudication. In other cases, the prosecutor may have proof problems. For example, a key witness may be unavailable. A prosecutor might offer deferred adjudication to avoid the risk of a trial.

If all else fails, an open plea may be an option for a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer. Defendants literally throw themselves on the mercy of the court. During open pleas, the judge may hear from character and other witnesses.

How to Find an Experienced Buffalo Felony Lawyer in MN

Are you seeking probation or deferred adjudication instead of jail time? If so, an experienced felony attorney in Buffalo, MN is your best bet. Here’s how to choose the right lawyer for your case.

Expertise in Legal Matters

The top qualities every attorney on your shortlist should have are a law degree, proof of admittance to the bar, and good standing with the state he or she is licensed in.

Not sure if the felony defense attorney you’ve hired has these qualities? Run a state attorney search to find out for sure. Or ask these questions during your initial consultation:

  • Where did you attend law school?
  • When did you receive your state license?
  • How long have you been practicing?

Experience With the Felony You’re Charged With

Never hire someone who doesn’t specialize in felony defense. You want an attorney who’s familiar with criminal matters. Beyond that, make sure you choose an attorney who specializes in the specific crime you were charged with.

For example, don’t choose a felony assault attorney to represent you in a DUI felony case. Here are some more questions to ask about your attorney’s experience:

  • How often have you worked on cases like mine?
  • What kind of outcome can I expect for my case?
  • Do you have any references?

Experience With Local Courts

When you’re beginning your search for a felony lawyer, make sure to look locally. You want an attorney who practices in Minnesota and, further, an attorney who practices in Buffalo.

Why does choosing a local lawyer matter? Local attorneys know the local court system. That means a local lawyer can potentially get you more favorable outcomes, including probation and deferred adjudication.

The best question to ask your lawyer about his or her local experience is: how long have you been practicing law in Buffalo, MN?

References and Reviews

Once you’ve come up with a shortlist of lawyers, it’s always a good idea to ask for references. A good lawyer should always have a list of former client references he or she can give you access to. You can also check out online reviews.

One bad review should never deter you from a lawyer you think is right for your case. However, multiple bad reviews that are relatively recent may be a red flag. Proceed with caution and use the following questions to determine if you should run the other way:

  • What percentage of your cases have been successful?
  • What percentage of your cases have resulted in probation compared to incarceration?
  • What strategies have you used in previous cases that could also work for my case?


Fighting for probation or deferred adjudication can be a lengthy process. That’s why cost, of course, is a factor. Here’s a hint, though: choosing a felony attorney who charges a flat fee can help you save money.

Flat fees offer you the total cost of representation upfront. That way, you know exactly how much you’ll have to pay from the get-go. Here are three questions to ask about fees during the initial consultation:

  • Do you charge a flat fee or by the hour?
  • If you charge by the hour, can you give me an estimated total cost for my case?
  • If you charge a flat fee, will there be any additional costs?

Personal Preference

Finally, personal preference should always be the deciding factor when it comes to felony attorneys. As we’ve mentioned, seeking alternative sentencing can take time. You want an attorney who will remain dedicated throughout that process, explaining processes you don’t understand along the way.

This is why it’s critical to choose an attorney you’re comfortable with. Here are some questions to help you find out if your prospective attorney is right for you:

  • Can I contact you if I have questions about my case?
  • Will you send me updates regarding the status of my case?
  • What do you need from me?

Contact a Dedicated Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you want to avoid serving jail time in Minnesota, probation is the best sentencing option for you. Better yet, deferred adjudication can result in the expungement of your conviction altogether. Working with a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota can help you learn which of these options is best for your case.

Are you wondering whether probation or deferred adjudication will work for your criminal case? Most defendants have several sentencing options, even if they plead guilty. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN felony lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.


Original article published on October 7, 2021 and updated on November 16, 2021.

Can a Hutchinson, MN Criminal Defense Lawyer Expunge My Record If I Don’t Meet the Statuatory Requirements?

Fifteen years ago, the answer to this question was a resounding “no.” But then, in 2008, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided State v. SLH. This decision introduced the concept of inherent authority expunction. There are basically two big differences between statutory expungement under the Minnesota Statutes and inherent authority expungements.

Statutory expungement is a right. To assert a right, you simply have to ask for it. But inherent authority expungement is a privilege. Unless the defendant gives the judge a good reason for expungement, the judge probably will not do it. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, statutory expungement wipes out all judicial and law enforcement records. Inherent authority expungement only affects judicial records, at least in most cases.

An experienced Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer can expunge your records if it is at all possible, and also maximize that expungement.

What Are the Requirements for Statutory Expungement in Hutchinson, MN?

Not just anyone can have their record expunged in Minnesota. The law puts in place statutory grounds for statutory expungement. In other words, you must meet certain requirements to have your criminal record expunged.

We’re talking about those requirements next.

A Not Guilty Verdict

You qualify for expungement if a court doesn’t convict you of the crime you’re charged with and issues you a not guilty verdict instead. Also, you qualify for expungement if you never submitted a guilty plea. For example, this may have occurred if a court dismissed your case.

If you received a guilty verdict or have submitted a guilty plea, your conviction will not be eligible for statutory expungement.

You Committed a Petty Misdemeanor With No Subsequent Offenses

Petty misdemeanors may not mean jail time, but they do stay on your record. Employers and anyone else who runs a background check on you will see them on your record.

Luckily, you can get a petty misdemeanor conviction expunged from your record in certain cases. The following crimes are petty misdemeanors in Minnesota:

  • Traffic citations
  • Possession of small amounts of marijuana
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia

You can’t have these petty misdemeanors expunged if you receive a subsequent conviction within the next two years.

You Committed a Gross Misdemeanor With No Subsequent Offenses

Gross misdemeanors are more serious than petty misdemeanors in Minnesota. A gross misdemeanor conviction comes with potential jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, or both. Here are some common Hutchinson, MN gross misdemeanor crimes:

  • A DWI with a blood alcohol content of 2.0 or over
  • A second DWI conviction within 10 years of the first
  • Refusing a sobriety test during a pullover
  • Gross misdemeanor theft, which is theft of property worth $500–$1,000

Like petty misdemeanors, you must go a period without a subsequent conviction. In this case, you must go four years without another offense to qualify for statutory expungement. 

You Committed a Qualifying Felony With No Subsequent Convictions

Felonies are the most serious offenses in Minnesota. They come with fines and/or prison time. Sometimes, felonies even come with mandatory minimum prison sentences.

There is good news, though. Some felonies qualify for statutory expungement in Minnesota, including the following:

  • Fifth-degree drug possession and sale felonies
  • Criminal vehicular operation (CVO) that results in great bodily harm to another party
  • Theft of property worth less than $5,000
  • Criminal property damage
  • Forgery
  • Some financial fraud felonies


To get these felonies expunged, you can’t receive a subsequent conviction. You must stay crime-free for at least five years to qualify.

You Received a Qualifying Juvenile Conviction

In some cases, offenders with a juvenile conviction can qualify for statutory expungement. However, this is only the case if you received the conviction as a juvenile and are now facing trial as an adult.

You Completed a Diversion Program

When you receive certain drug possession charges in Minnesota, a court could issue you to complete a diversion program. Completing the diversion program qualifies you for statutory expungement.

You Received Deferred Adjudication

In Minnesota, many people receive deferred adjudication for their crimes. A stay of adjudication is similar to receiving probation for an offense.

The court will issue “terms of the stay,” which, if completed, means you won’t have a conviction on your record. The same is true if you received an adjudicated delinquency as a minor.

Once you complete the terms of the stay, you can qualify for expungement. However, you must first go one year from the date you completed the terms of the stay without committing a second offense.

Have You Exhausted Other Options?

Inherent authority expungement is a last resort. But many people entertain this option before they have gone through all their statutory options. Significantly, very few people try to obtain an executive pardon, even though the process is easier than they think.

You do not need to make a big financial contribution to buy a pardon. Actually, that may be one of the worst things you can do. No governor wants to be accused of favoritism.

Instead, a Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer simply needs to know how to ask. Every situation is different, but here are some general rules:

  • Know Where to Go: A pardon application addressed to the governor will go straight into the trash, and an application addressed to a junior assistant will never see the light of day either. A successful pardon application begins with knocking on the right door, and an experienced Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer knows where to knock.
  • Admit Responsibility: Begin and end your application with a complete and unqualified admission of guilt. Your friends did not entice you and the devil did not make you do it.
  • Explain Extenuating Circumstances: The governor was not there and does not have the trial transcript. If appropriate, the prior obstacles narrative usually works well. For example, perhaps you have overcome a substance abuse problem.
  • Praise the System: If you served time in jail or prison, you had lots of time to think. If you were placed on probation, the court-ordered classes struck a chord with you.
  • Ask For What You Need: Unabashedly ask for a complete pardon. One of the fundamental rules of criminal law is that you never get anything unless you ask.

Pardons are even easier to obtain if you are no longer under court supervision. At that point, a gubernatorial pardon is basically just a rather meaningless gesture. It only has significance if the defendant uses the pardon to obtain statutory expungement.

What Is Inherent Authority?

Since the judge has absolute control over judicial records, it stands to reason that the judge should have the authority to purge these records in certain situations. The S.L.H. court offered practically no guidance in this area. The court simply stated that, under “appropriate circumstances,” judges could use their inherent authority to expunge judicial records.

That lack of guidance is actually a good thing. Appeals courts usually review lower court decisions like these on an abuse-of-discretion basis. With such a broad mandate from the Supreme Court, it is almost impossible for judges to abuse their discretion in these cases.

In other words, the court has almost absolute authority to purge judicial records. A Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer just needs to give the judge a good reason to do so.

Who Can Get an Inherent Authority Expungement in Hutchinson, MN?

If you were convicted of a crime in Minnesota and that crime is on your record, you can qualify for an inherent authority expungement. But if you have statutory expungement as an option, you should seek one. As we’ve discussed, inherent authority expungement should be your Plan B.

Why? Inherent authority expungements aren’t true expungements. In other words, the judge won’t wipe your conviction off your record; inherent authority expungement only seals your records.

Also, keep in mind that just because you seek an inherent authority expungement doesn’t mean a judge will grant you one. Judges take multiple factors into account when making his or her decision.

For example, judges tend to weigh heavily your possibility of re-offense. In other words, if the judge thinks you’re likely to commit another crime, he or she will most likely not grant you an inherent authority expungement.

Why Do You Need Expungement?

In statutory proceedings, this question is relevant but not really controlling. The McLeod County judge just needs to hear a legitimate answer.

But in inherent authority expunction cases, this answer may mean everything. Generally, the defendant must offer a specific reason, such as:

  • Inability to pursue a certain professional occupation that the defendant is otherwise qualified to pursue,
  • Difficulty in finding a place to live (i.e. I tried to obtain a mortgage from this bank or rent from this company but my criminal conviction derailed my application), or
  • Inability to find a job that pays enough to support a family.

If you can articulate this reason for the judge, the judge is quite likely to approve your application, especially if the conviction is at least ten or fifteen years old.

Can a Hutchinson, MN Criminal Defense Lawyer Expand Inherent Authority?

In principle, inherent authority expunctions are limited to judicial records. However, the Supreme Court has yet to directly rule on this issue. Therefore, in a few cases, there may be a workaround.

For example, a dismissal may expand inherent authority to executive records, even if the offense is on the prohibited list. If the court dismisses the case, most defendants reasonably believe that they will suffer no ill effects from the criminal proceedings.

Certain juvenile cases may fall into this area as well. Additionally, if the defendant was discharged at least fifteen years ago and the defendant has taken a number of self-improvement steps, expansion may be available.

Reach Out to Dedicated Attorneys at Carlson & Carlson

A Minnesota criminal attorney can help you get a statutory expungement if you meet qualifying conditions. If you don’t meet these conditions, your lawyer may still be able to seek an inherent authority expungement. Though inherent authority expungement will not eliminate your conviction, it will seal your conviction from public record.

An attorney’s job does not end when the judge’s gavel falls, because there may still be remedies available. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

Original article published on May 23, 2019 and updated on November 4, 2021.

Drugged Driving Charges and Criminal Lawyers in Brainerd, MN

In many parts of Minnesota, impairing drugs are easier to obtain than alcohol. Two neighboring states, Michigan and Illinois, have legalized recreational marijuana, including marijuana edibles. Prescription drug use is widespread, and behaviors like pill sharing and abuse are all too common. Furthermore, many of the drugs available at corner pharmacies, such as NyQuil and Sominex, could impair drivers and are therefore illegal in this context.

DUI convictions have significant consequences. The state often relies on flimsy circumstantial proof in drugged driving cases. Our Brainerd, MN criminal lawyers know how to challenge this proof. direct and collateral consequences. Even for a first offense, defendants face extended court supervision and drivers’ license suspension, along with other penalties. Indirect consequences include sky-high auto insurance rates, adverse effects on family court parenting time disputes, and possible employment consequences.

Since the consequences are so severe and it’s so easy to fall into the drugged driving pit, aggressive representation from a criminal lawyer in Brainerd, MN is essential. By attacking the state’s evidence, which is usually circumstantial, an attorney can reduce or eliminate these aforementioned consequences.

What Is Drugged Driving in Brainerd, MN?

Drugged driving is similar to DUI/DWI charges in Brainerd, Minnesota. If you’re pulled over while impaired by illegal or prescription drugs, an enforcement officer may charge you with drugged driving.


Driving while under the influence of drugs is illegal because it puts yourself and others at risk. Injuring someone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be a felony, and a court can revoke your driving privileges. And if drunk or drugged driving results in a fatality, you could receive a maximum of 15 years in prison.


Here’s what else you need to know about Minnesota’s drunk and drugged driving laws.

Drugged Driving Definitions


Minnesota law classifies drugged driving as “driving under the influence.” What does that mean? Any time you drive while under the influence of a controlled substance, a hazardous substance, or any amount of a Schedule I or II substance means you’re under the influence.


Controlled substances are any drugs or compounds listed in Minnesota’s Controlled Substances Act. For example, opioids and hallucinogens are controlled substances in Minnesota.


The term “hazardous substances” usually applies to legal products people inhale to get high. For example, nitrous oxide is a legal product that some people use to get high. If you drive while under the influence of nitrous oxide, an officer could issue you a DUI/DWI.


Finally, Schedule I and II drugs include the following:


  • Hallucinogens (Heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy)
  • Opiates (Methadone, Oxycodone, Morphine, Codeine, and Meth)
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana


Minnesota’s Zero Tolerance law (which we’ll talk more about next) does make an exception for driving while under the influence of marijuana.

What Does the Law Say?

The Gopher State’s drugged driving law is rather complex. Largely because there are so many drugs which could seriously impair drivers, there are basically two ways for the state to bring DUI-drug charges:

  • Under the Influence: Almost all DUI-drug prosecutions involve this part of the law. It’s illegal to drive under the influence of an intoxicating substance. That could be almost anything in your medicine cabinet, and many of the things in your kitchen pantry. However, the defendant must know that the substance is potentially impairing. That provision, along with the circumstantial nature of the proof, gives criminal lawyers in Brainerd, MN an opening.
  • Zero Tolerance: It’s also illegal to drive with even a trace amount of a Schedule I or Schedule II substance in one’s body. Most street drugs, like heroin and LSD, are Schedule I drugs. Most prescription drugs, like Vicodin and Oxycontin, are Schedule II drugs. Marijuana is also a Schedule I drug, but it’s specifically exempted from this part of the law. Peace officers rarely order urine or blood tests in drugged driving cases. That’s the only way to establish specific drug use beyond a reasonable doubt.

Minnesota also has a refusal-to-submit law. If officers demand a blood or urine sample and the defendant refuses to provide one, the defendant could be charged with a separate criminal offense. That’s on top of any administrative drivers’ license suspension.

Under Birchfield v. North Dakota, peace officers must obtain search warrants before they extract blood or urine samples. Officers rarely bother with such warrants, except on no-refusal weekends and other heightened enforcement periods.

Drugged Driving Conviction Consequences

Minnesota enforces hefty fines and even jail time for drugged driving offenders. However, the exact penalty depends on whether you’ve received a previous drugged driving conviction and how many.

  • 1st Offense: First-time drugged driving offenders may receive up to 90 days in jail, pay up to $1,000 in fines, or both.
  • 2nd Offense: A second drugged driving conviction can earn you up to a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail.
  • 3rd Offense: If you get a third drugged driving conviction, the court will slap you with penalties of up to 1 year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. 
  • 4th Offense: Four DUI/DWIs within 10 years is a felony in Minnesota. A  felony drugged driving conviction can incur up to 7 years in prison, up to a $14,000 fine, or both.
  • 5th Offense or More: A fifth or subsequent drugged driving conviction comes with minimum sentencing. That means a conviction will automatically earn you a minimum of 1 year in jail, lengthy probation sentences, or both.
  • 2nd Felony Offense: If you receive a drugged driving felony and have a criminal vehicular homicide or injury felony on your record, you will receive up to 7 years in prison and/or pay up to $14,000 in fines.

Keep in mind that refusing to take a sobriety test can increase your drugged driving penalties in Minnesota. For example, refusing a sobriety test for your 1st or 2nd drugged driving offense will increase your fine to up to $3,000 and jail time to up to 1 year.

Further, if you refuse to undergo a sobriety test, a court could revoke your driving privileges. This may include having to forfeit your driver’s license, license plates, and even your vehicle.

How Do Brainerd, MN Criminal Lawyers Challenge Drugged Driving Evidence?

You don’t want to pay the price of a drugged driving charge in Brainerd, MN. That’s why you need to find the best criminal lawyers ASAP. A good drugged driving defense attorney will help you understand what you’re up again and fight for the best outcome.

But how exactly will your lawyer challenge your drugged driving charge? We’re talking about three strategies DUI/DWI defense attorneys use next.

Challenging the Initial Pull Over in Brainerd, MN

If you received a drugged driving charge after getting pulled over, your lawyer could challenge the grounds for that initial pullover. In Minnesota, a law officer must collect a minimum standard of evidence before he or she can pull someone over.

An experienced Brainerd criminal lawyer knows the requirements enforcement officers must meet before pulling someone over. Often, officers fail to follow police procedure. Your attorney can then ask for any evidence collected during the initial pullover to be thrown out from your case.

This defense won’t apply if you received a DUI after going through a roadblock or sobriety checkpoint.

Challenging Driving or Physical Control of the Vehicle

You’ve probably heard of cases where someone receives a DUI even though they weren’t driving. Whether the person was asleep behind the wheel or in the passenger seat while in possession of their car keys, officers have the right to issue a drugged driving charge if they’re under the influence and “in control” of the vehicle.

In this case, all your Brainerd criminal lawyer needs to do is prove you weren’t in control of the car at the time of your arrest. He or she may acquire witness testimony to challenge the ruling that you were in control of the vehicle while under the influence of drugs.


Challenging Field Sobriety Test Results

Circumstantial evidence of drug intoxication almost always means the three approved Field Sobriety Tests. Most FSTs are divided attention tests which measure physical dexterity and mental acuity. Scientists claim that intoxicated individuals cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. The three approved FSTs, and some ways to challenge them in court, are:

  • Heel to Toe Walk: Generally, officers force defendants to walk an imaginary line in the dark while wearing something other than athletic shoes. It’s almost impossible for anyone, whether they are intoxicated or not, to successfully complete this test under these conditions.
  • One-Leg Stand: It’s very difficult for anyone with any mobility impairment at all to lift one leg and stand as still as a statute for more than two or three seconds.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: The DUI eye test is the only FST that’s not a divided attention test. Many people have nystagmus, a condition also known as lazy eye. But they do not know they have it, since the symptoms are so mild. So, they will fail this test whether or not they are intoxicated.

Under the Fifth Amendment, defendants have a right to refuse to perform the FSTs. And, their refusal usually cannot be used against them in court.

Can I Expunge a Drugged Driving Conviction?

Partially. Misdemeanor DUI is usually expugnable. There is usually a two or four-year waiting period. And, the defendant must not catch any new charges during the waiting period. Even after expungement, which is really record sealing in Minnesota, the conviction still appears in judicial records and is still on the person’s driving record.

Expungement is not automatic. Some factors in the decision include the nature of the offense, amount of time that has passed, defendant’s rehabilitation efforts, the probation officer’s recommendation, and the defendant’s criminal history.

Rely on an Experienced Attorney

DUI-drug cases are almost as common as DUI-alcohol cases, and the law is very harsh. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal lawyer in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. The sooner you call, the sooner we start fighting for you.


Original article published on May 4, 202 and updated on November 2. 2021.

A Hutchinson Criminal Lawyer Explains the 5 Types of Assault Cases in MN

Most assault cases occur when the temperature is between 80 and about 90 degrees. That sounds like a Minnesota summer to me. Heat increases testosterone production, which increases aggression. When the temperature gets much higher than 90, people stay inside, so the assault rate goes down.

In all these cases, the prosecutor must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Lack of evidence is usually one of the best defenses a Hutchinson criminal lawyer can use. However, sometimes it’s better to settle these cases out of court. Trails are very risky affairs, even if the prosecutor’s evidence is not very good.

Below, we’ll talk more about the defense strategies a Hutchison assault attorney can employ in your case. But first, let’s discuss the five most common types of assault charges.

1. Child Abuse in Hutchinson and MN

Pretty much all child abuse and neglect issues are very subjective. For example, assume Cindy’s dad consistently lets her stay up late. So, she often falls asleep in school. In some contexts, especially a family law proceeding, Dad’s actions could be considered child endangerment.

That subjectivity extends to Minnesota Statute Section 609.377, which is the state’s main child abuse law. It applies if a parent, guardian, or legal caretaker:

  • Uses cruel discipline or unreasonable force
  • Which is excessive given all the circumstances.

That subjective definition could include just about anything. Corporal punishment is a good example, and as a Hutchinson criminal lawyer as well as a parent, I address this issue a lot. Some parents consider paddling or spanking cruel and excessive; other parents have no problem with it at all.

The alleged infraction, child’s age, and amount of force often control the outcome. There’s a difference between spanking Ben because he ran out into the street and spanking him because he forgot to wash behind his ears. Ben’s age makes a difference as well. A ten-year-old is usually held to a higher standard than a four-year-old. Finally, the number of force matters. Did Ben’s dad leave a red mark or cause a deep bruise?

If all three of these areas favor the defendant, it’s nearly impossible to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In borderline cases, Hutchinson criminal lawyers often try to plead these cases down to reckless conduct or another lesser-included offense.

2. Simple Assault in Hutchinson and Minnesota

Fifth-degree assault is the most commonly-charged assault case in McLeod County. First time assault is a misdemeanor, subsequent assault is usually a gross misdemeanor, and subsequent assault against the same alleged victim is usually a felony. The elements are:

  • Committing an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or
  • Intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon another.

Note that injury, no matter how slight, is not an element of this offense. Note also that physical contact, no matter how slight, is not an element either. Hutchinson criminal lawyers have an easier time defending non-injury and/or non-contact cases. But prosecutors can and do still obtain convictions in these instances.

Assault and a few other cases, like theft, require lay witness testimony from an alleged victim. Unlike police officers, assault victims are not professional witnesses. Also unlike police officers, alleged victims are not always cooperative. In other cases, alleged victims relocate beyond the court’s jurisdiction, and prosecutors cannot subpoena or locate them.

Some states have lesser assault statutes which are essentially like traffic tickets. Minnesota really has no such law, so a Hutchinson criminal lawyer’s plea bargaining options are a little more limited. However, the aforementioned reckless conduct charge may be available if the prosecutor’s evidence is quite weak.

3. Domestic Assault in MN

Facially, this charge is pretty much the same as fifth-degree assault. However, domestic violence assault has a number of collateral consequences. For example, persons with domestic assault convictions have a very hard time getting a fair shake in family court, even if the incident occurred years ago and involved a different family. Additionally, many domestic violence victims obtain restraining orders, and these proceedings are quite complex.

An alleged victim cannot “drop” the charges under any circumstances. A person can say s/he does not want to pursue charges, but the prosecutor has the final call. If the prosecutor wants to go forward, the judge could issue a subpoena and force the victim to testify.

The domestic assault law only applies in certain situations, and some of them are very difficult to prove. The protected categories are:

  • Persons related by blood or marriage,
  • Current or former roommates, and
  • People who are involved in a significant romantic relationship.

Common-law marriage usually does not count. Furthermore, a single one night stand does not mean that two people are roommates or involved in a significant romantic relationship.

Especially if the victim is uncooperative, prosecutors are often willing to reduce charges to simple assault. That conviction does not have nearly as many collateral consequences. However, many prosecutors do not reduce charges under any circumstances. They’d rather die with their boots on.

4. Aggravated Assault in MN

In Minnesota, aggravated assault is an assault that causes temporary or permanent injuries. As the name suggests, aggravated assaults also include one or more aggravating factors.

An example of an aggravating factor is using a weapon during the assault. Aggravated assaults can be first-, second-, or third-degree assaults.

Third-degree aggravated assault typically applies to bodily harm inflicted against minors and children. However, assaults leading to “substantial bodily harm” (SBH) may also count as third-degree aggravated assault.

Second-degree assault is also known as assault with a weapon or assault with a deadly weapon. The elements are:

  • Dangerous Weapon: Under Minnesota law, pretty much anything other than a hand is a dangerous weapon. Increasingly, Hutchinson criminal lawyers see cases in which the hand is a dangerous weapon. That’s true in some really bad medical malpractice cases.
  • Substantial Bodily Harm: Essentially, SBH means that you put someone in the hospital and keep them there for at least a day.

First-degree aggravated assault occurs when one of two factors are present: great bodily harm (GBH) or aggravated assault against a police officer. Great bodily harm includes any injury conferring the likelihood of death, serious or permanent injury, and/or permanent impairment of a body part.

607.222 is not quite as serious if only one of the aggravating factors (dangerous weapon or SBH) is present. Again, some prosecutors will plead down aggravated assault cases to simple assault.

5. Vehicular Assault in Hutchinson and Minnesota

Prosecutors can press these charges if the defendant was grossly negligent and caused SBH, or if the defendant was negligent while under the influence of alcohol or another substance and caused SBH.

Minnesota Statute 609.2113 divides vehicular assault cases into three categories. These are vehicular assaults causing bodily harm (BH), substantial bodily harm (SBH), and great bodily harm (GBH).

Each category carries different penalties if convicted. BH brings about the least significant consequences, and GBH results in the most severe sentences.

If you’re convicted of vehicular assault causing BH, you may have to spend a year in jail and/or pay $3,000 in fines. Vehicular assaults causing SBH can earn offenders up to three years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. GBH carries the greatest penalty of up to five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.

These cases are sometimes difficult to prove. A witness must place the defendant behind the wheel at the time of the crash. By the time emergency responders arrive, the defendant has usually exited the vehicle. But all bets are off if the defendant admitted driving the car. These statements are usually admissible.

This is why it’s critical to find an experienced assault defense attorney in Minnesota to defend your case.

What Are the Defenses a Hutchison Assault Attorney Can Use?

If you’ve received an assault charge, you need the best assault lawyer at your side. Yet, not just any defense attorney will do. You need a defense attorney who specializes in assaults and has the experience to show for it.

Why? An experienced attorney knows the defenses to use in your case, including how to beat a sexual assault charge. That way, you can potentially avoid the negative consequences that come with an assault conviction in Hutchinson, MN.

The False Allegation Defense

Studies show that over 2.5% of child abuse allegations are false. And the majority of these allegations come from parents making false claims about the abuse.

Though rare, false statements about child abuse clearly happen. In fact, child abuse accusations are surprisingly common during divorce and/or custody proceedings. So, many lawyers can use this defense to reduce or even eliminate child abuse charges against their clients.

This defense also applies to the other five assault cases we’ve discussed here. For example, if someone falsely accuses you of simple assault, your Hutchinson defense attorney can show that the allegations are false. If your lawyer can do that, you may be able to keep the case out of court and decide it during settlement.

The Self-Defense Defense in Hutchinson and Minnesota

Self-defense is the best affirmative defense in the book. Affirmative defenses admit that the offender did, in fact, commit the crime. However, a good defense attorney will argue that the assault was committed in self-defense.

For a court to believe the assailant was defending his or herself, the assault must have been necessary to avoid physical harm or injury. Defense of Others is also a viable defense in some assault cases. Ask your Hutchison criminal attorney if either of these defenses are available to you.

The Lack of Evidence Defense in MN

Lack of evidence is yet another common strategy Hutchison defense lawyers use against assault allegations. This defense relies on the fact that Minnesota courts have the burden of proof — not you and your Hutchison assault attorney.

In any assault case, the prosecutor must have evidence to prove your guilt. And this proof must show that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So, the best assault lawyer will poke holes in the evidence to make the judge or jury doubt your guilt.

This defense is especially useful in cases where your lawyer can’t exactly prove your innocence. Instead, he or she will focus on showing that the opposition’s case is inadequate.

The Consent Defense in Hutchinson and Minnesota

According to Minnesota Statute 609.341, consent is a written or verbal agreement between two parties. The consent defense is arguably the most effective assault defense out there. It alleges that violence between two parties isn’t legal assault if both parties agree or consent to the use of physical force.

The consent defense works against almost any assault allegation. However, children cannot consent to violence until they are of the “age of consent” or, in general, 16 years of age. That means the consent defense isn’t applicable to cases of child abuse.

Work With Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers in Minnesota

All five types of assault are serious crimes in Hutchinson, Minnesota. A conviction could earn you jail or even prison time, and that’s not even to mention the hefty fines you’ll have to pay. However, working with a Hutchison assault attorney can help you avoid these consequences.

Were you recently charged with assault? All five types of assault cases have some valid defenses. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.

Originally published on February 18, 2019 and updated on October 26, 2021.

When Can You Be Charged with Public Intoxication in Minnesota?

Public intoxication is a crime that you can be penalized for, but only if there are certain elements present in your case. That’s good, because if you can prove that any element is missing from the case, you may be able to have the charges dismissed.

What many people don’t know is that public intoxication isn’t an actual charge in Minnesota. Minnesota Statute 340A.902 says that no person can receive a criminal charge for being drunk or drunk in public.

Yet, a law enforcement officer can charge you for being drunk in public under other crimes, including disorderly conduct.

If you’re charged with disorderly conduct for misbehaving while drunk in public, working with a Minnesota disorderly conduct lawyer can help reduce or even eliminate your charges.

What Exactly Is a Public Intoxication Charge in Minnesota?

340A.902 effectively eliminates the ability for a court to convict you of public intoxication. However, if someone is drunk in public and behaves disruptively, he or she might receive a disorderly conduct charge.

This crime, also called being “drunk and disorderly,” asserts that you’re visibly drunk or being influenced by drugs in a public place and you’re participating in one of the following behaviors:

  • Being offensive, noisy or abusive
  • Using offensive language
  • Fighting
  • Disturbing meetings

Being a public nuisance is also closely related to disorderly conduct. A public nuisance is someone who annoys, hurts, or endangers others. This definition also includes obstructing public highways and disobeying local legislation.

If you do any of these things while drunk, you could also receive a public nuisance charge.

Is Disorderly Conduct a Misdemeanor?

Normally this is a misdemeanor charge, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to have the penalties lowered or the case dismissed. After all, the penalties for a disorderly conduct misdemeanor conviction include jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.

Other Types of Charges Related to Drunkenness in Minnesota

An officer can arrest you, and you can be charged with public intoxication if you seem to be intoxicated or drunk and are in public at the time. But this is only true if you’re also caught committing one of the following crimes:

  • DUI / DWI
  • Assault
  • Property damage

If you’re drunk in public while underage, you could also receive an Underage Drinking charge. For example, a Minor in Possession (MIP) is an underage drinking charge in Minnesota.

Anyone under the age of 21 can receive a MIP for possessing, purchasing, or attempting to purchase alcohol. The only exception is when a parent or legal guardian is present, and the underage person is in their private dwelling.

Disorderly Conduct Conviction Penalties

Disorderly conduct, including being a public nuisance, is a misdemeanor in Minnesota. If convicted, you could receive up to 90 days in the local jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

Fines and jail time increase if the disorderly conduct is targeted toward a vulnerable adult. However, this is only the case if the perpetrator of the disorderly conduct crime is that vulnerable adult’s caregiver. Then, a conviction results in up to one year in prison and/or a $3,000 fine.

Even if you don’t get jail time for one of these crimes, a court may order a probationary period. During probation, you may have to complete community service hours, see a counselor, or attend alcohol awareness courses.

Finally, misdemeanor convictions stay on your record forever unless you get your record sealed. Employers will then have access to your criminal record, and your conviction could impact your ability to get hired. Plus, having a prior misdemeanor can increase penalties for future criminal convictions.

A Minnesota defense attorney can help expunge your record if you have a prior conviction.

Disorderly Conduct Charge Defenses in Minnesota

You don’t want to suffer the consequences of disorderly conduct or public nuisance charge in Minnesota. What kind of defense could help you?

The exact defense a Minnesota criminal attorney uses will vary depending on the crime. For example, getting a DUI or DWI charge is a form of public intoxication. To get out of a conviction, you’ll want to show that you weren’t intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

If you can’t do that, then show that the location wasn’t public property. Since there is no single definition of what constitutes public property, your attorney can help you argue that you weren’t on governmental land or in a public space. And a Minnesota court can’t convict you of disorderly conduct if you’re in the privacy of your own home.

The only exception here is if you commit assault or damage someone else’s property while drunk in the privacy of your own home. Even so, a disorderly conduct defense lawyer could still get you out of a conviction. This is especially true if the assault or property damage occurred as a result of self-defense.

Your attorney can also help you fight the case by showing that you weren’t intoxicated or acting as if you were. For instance, maybe you were talking loudly because you were rehearsing for a play in which you are to play someone who is intoxicated.

Minnesota’s statutes further make exceptions for people behaving disorderly who have neurological conditions, epilepsy, or are insane.

Free Speech Defenses

By now, you may be wondering: how can I receive a charge for being offensive or using offensive language while publicly intoxicated in Minnesota? Isn’t that practicing free speech?

According to the Minnesota Statutes, a court can only convict someone of disorderly conduct for offensive speech if the language arouses alarm or anger.

So, if you’re using offensive language while drunk in a public space and no one seems alarmed or angered, a Minnesota disorderly conduct attorney can get your conviction overturned.

Call a Minnesota Disorderly Conduct Lawyer

When you’re charged with disorderly conduct while publicly intoxicated, the onus is on you and your Minnesota criminal defense lawyer to prove otherwise.

There could be dozens of reasons for an officer to misinterpret your behaviors, and it’s your right to correct his or her misconception of your actions. Your attorney can help you try to turn around this situation, so you face fewer or no penalties.

Looking for a Minnesota disorderly conduct lawyer? Carlson & Jones has the experience and expertise you need to get out of a charge related to public intoxication. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and find out how we can help defend your case!


Originally posted on February 19, 2018 and updated on October 19 2021.

Criminal Vehicular Operation CVO Charges in Buffalo, Wright County, MN

In most states, criminal authorities consider car wrecks to be civil matters between insurance companies. Peace officers rarely file criminal charges in these situations, even if the collision is fatal.

But most states do not have a law like Section 609.2113 of the Minnesota Statutes. The Criminal Vehicular Operation law is a felony. These penalties apply if the defendant causes substantial bodily harm while driving in a particular way.

This statute is quite complex, and there are lots of moving parts. So, if you face CVO charges in Wright County, only a highly experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer should represent you in court. Otherwise, you may be looking at extended prison time for something that was essentially a mistake.

CVO’s Basic Elements

To receive a Criminal Vehicular Operation charge in Buffalo, Minnesota, a person must cause an injury (not death) while driving “in a grossly negligent manner.” In general, negligence means someone acts without care for other people’s safety.

Usually, gross negligence applies to driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. But that’s not always the case. Here are two other situations that fall under gross negligence:

  1. After causing an accident (due to negligence or not), the driver flees the scene.
  2. A driver who has received a ticket for vehicle defects doesn’t fix the problem and, knowing the risk, drives anyway, ultimately causing an accident.

Much like the DUI law, the CVO law contains no mental state. It is a crime to drive under the influence of a substance. It does not matter if the defendant unintentionally, or even unknowingly, drove in this condition. The different kinds of CVO may involve a mental state, as outlined below. But in general, Wright County prosecutors must simply prove the basic elements.

The only time mental state does matter is if someone used a substance they did not know and had no reason to believe was intoxicating.

Criminal Vehicular Operation is always a felony. But the exact range of punishment depends on the amount of harm the defendant caused, as follows:

  • Great Bodily Harm: GBH CVO is a five-year felony. Typically, great bodily harm means that the car crash victim received injury treatment at a hospital and stayed at least one night. Additionally, there must be no evidence of intent to harm the alleged victim. Different statutes cover vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter. A GBH CVO is an automatic felony.
  • Serious Bodily Harm: SBH CVO, which is a three-year felony, is usually a treated-and-released offense. SBH, which may be the most common type of Criminal Vehicular Operation, usually includes things like broken bones. This crime is a felony.
  • Bodily Harm: If the vehicle collision victim received some treatment at the scene, such as a bandage or perhaps some field stitches, the maximum punishment is one year in prison. This is the only CVO charge that’s a misdemeanor.

The different levels often create proof problems. Assume Frank hits Jesse in an intersection and Jesse goes to a nearby emergency room. After waiting for about an hour, he leaves without receiving treatment. If prosecutors file GBH or even SBH charges, a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer may be able to get the case thrown out due to lack of evidence. There may be no medical bills to support the charges.

CVO vs. Vehicular Homicide in Minnesota

Vehicular homicide is a charge related to CVO in Minnesota. Courts use this charge instead of CVO if the accident results in death rather than just injury.

Vehicular homicide is an extremely serious crime in Buffalo and a felony. A conviction could result in $20,000 in fines, up to 10 years in prison, or both. Further, vehicular homicide offenders risk forfeiting their driver’s licenses, vehicles, and gun rights.

It’s important to note that vehicular homicide cases can become even more serious if the accident results in the death of a pregnant person. Fatally injuring an unborn child is an additional felony charge in Minnesota.

Even if a court convicts you of injuring an unborn child, it’s a felony. You’ll risk paying up to $20,000 in fines and/or spending up to five years in prison. The prison sentence increases to up to 10 years in the case of vehicular homicide.

Minnesota Criminal Vehicular Operation Penalties

Has a Minnesota court recently charged you with CVO? You need to hire a Buffalo, MN criminal defense lawyer ASAP. If you choose instead to represent yourself, you risk the following penalties of a CVO conviction.

Jail / Prison Time

All CVO convictions come with the potential of jail time. But exactly how long do you go to jail for vehicular assault? Here are the facts:

Even though CVOs that cause bodily harm (BH) are only a misdemeanors, you could still spend a maximum of one year in jail. The sentence only increases as the injuries to the other party get more severe.

As we’ve mentioned, a Substantial Bodily Harm (SBH) CVO conviction is a felony. As such, a conviction means prison, not jail time. SBH CVO felons must serve up to three years in prison.

Great Bodily Harm (GBH) CVOs are also felony convictions that bring on lengthy prison sentences of up to five years in prison.

Fines in MN

Jail and/or prison time aren’t the only penalties CVO offenders have to worry about. BH CVOs come with fines of up to $3,000. Offenders must pay these fines on top of court and attorney fees and bail.

SBH and GBH CVOs have even higher fines. Both SBH and GBH CVO convictions come with a fine of up to $10,000.

Background Checks in MN

Did you know that felonies must remain on your criminal record in Minnesota for at least five years? You can’t even begin the expungement process until this period is up.

The same thing is true of misdemeanors, though you only have to wait two years before you can hire a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer to expunge it.

If you apply for a job before the waiting period is up, potential employers will see your conviction. Felony convictions, in particular, may hamper your ability to find work and look like someone an employer wants to hire.

Additionally, felonies found during background checks can also affect your ability to get a loan. The lender may worry that felons may commit future crimes, face jail time, or get slapped with hefty fines, all of which can prevent the borrower from making good on his or her loan.

Other Consequences

In Minnesota, a felony conviction can affect other aspects of your life, too. For example, a court could revoke your gun and/or voting rights if you have a CVO felony.

Felonies also affect the ability to find housing. Many landlords won’t accept applications from convicted felons, leaving these offenders with limited housing options.

You don’t want to face the consequences of a CVO conviction in Minnesota. That’s why you need a CVO criminal defense attorney to fight for your rights.

If you already have a CVO conviction on your record, a CVO lawyer can also help you navigate the expungement process in Buffalo, MN.

How Buffalo, MN Criminal Lawyers Approach the Major Kinds of CVO

Negligent operation while under the influence of a substance may be the most common type of CVO charge. These key terms deserve some close attention.

Negligence is a civil law term that denotes a lack of care or, more likely, a violation of a safety statute, like speeding or making an illegal lane change. But negligence alone is not enough. The defendant must also cause a crash while negligent. And, that crash must cause at least bodily harm.

Since negligence is a civil term, civil car crash defenses, such as contributory negligence, may be available. In criminal court, a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer need not “prove” the defense. Creating a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt is enough.

The illicit substance could be alcohol and/or a controlled substance. 609.2113 states that the defendant is guilty if s/he was “under the influence” of a substance. That’s a lower standard than intoxicated. Essentially, if the defendant had one drink or one pill, the defendant was probably under the influence of the substance.

This subdivision has some variations. It is a felony to negligently cause a serious crash if the defendant’s BAC alcohol level was at least .08 within two hours of the collision. This provision gives law enforcement some added leeway. And, it is also a felony to negligently cause a serious crash while under the influence of any Schedule I or Schedule II drug. If the defendant had a valid prescription, the defendant may be not guilty as a matter of law.

Section 609.2113 also applies to gross negligence serious crashes. The statute does not define gross negligence, but generally, this term is synonymous with reckless driving. If the defendant committed two or more traffic violations and caused a crash (e.g. speeding while traveling on the wrong side of the road), the defendant was probably grossly negligent.

Leaving the scene of a serious crash is probably the third major type of CVO. This subdivision is not like some other hit-and-run laws. This prohibition only applies if the defendant caused the crash and left the scene. Additionally, “cause” is a civil law term which may be subject to contributory negligence and some other car crash defenses.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Criminal Defense Lawyer in Wright County, MN

Criminal Vehicular Operation (CVO) occurs in Minnesota when a grossly negligent driver gets into a wreck and injures the other party. There are three types of CVO charges, two of which are felonies. Regardless of which CVO charge you receive, a conviction may result in jail or prison time, fines, and more.

Criminal Vehicular Operation is a serious felony which may be difficult to prove in court. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Originally published on October 24, 2019 and updated October 12, 2021.

A Hutchinson Criminal Lawyer Looks at the Consent Defense

Of all the defenses in a sex crimes prosecution, such as lack of evidence and entrapment, consent may be the most potent and most dangerous one.

Consent is a potent defense because, if established, it completely unravels most sex crimes cases. If a McLeod County jury accepts the consent defense, it will return a not-guilty verdict. During pretrial negotiations, if it looks like the consent defense may be viable, prosecutors may offer a fire sale-type plea deal.

Consent is also a dangerous defense. During the trial, the defendant must typically testify. So, the prosecutor has a chance to cross-examine the defendant. And, pretty much anything goes in these exchanges. Moreover, if the defense does not resonate with the jury, some jurors may react very harshly against the defendant.

There is a wildcard here. On a 66-0 vote, the Minnesota State Senate recently joined the House and closed the marital exception loophole in the sexual assault law. The change must now go to a conference committee to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions. And, no one is sure what the final version will look like.

So, now more than ever, if the consent defense may be an option in your case, you need a highly-skilled Hutchinson criminal lawyer to break things down for the jury.

What Consent Is

According to Section 609.341, consent is “words or overt actions by a person indicating a freely given present agreement to perform a particular sexual act with the actor.” To many McLeod County jurors, and many Hutchinson criminal lawyers, this definition is a bit out-of-step with modern human relations. Most people do not sign waivers before participating in sexual activities. So, “consent” is very rarely black and white.

But note that the statute includes “overt actions.” That could be something like going to the defendant’s room. In this instance, if another person saw the alleged victim and defendant leave together, the defendant may not have to testify. That’s usually a big plus for Hutchinson criminal lawyers. Of course, the alleged victim could always say that s/he changed her mind later and withdrew consent. But many jurors may have a hard time buying that story.

The consent can be limited. That’s why public flirting very rarely constitutes consent to perform a sexual act. These are two very different things.

What Consent Is Not

As the Legislature just made even more clear, a prior sexual relationship does not mean that the alleged victim consented this time. Consent is not an automatic payment arrangement. Just because you give consent once, you do not agree to future encounters.

Significantly, the statute only says that a prior sexual relationship is inconclusive. It does not say it’s irrelevant. If the alleged victim frequently and recently consented to sexual contact, that history puts circumstantial evidence of consent into a new light. A Hutchinson criminal lawyer may even be able to delve into past consent issues in the alleged victim’s background. This approach may be a way to bypass Minnesota’s rape shield law, at least in part.

The Rape Shield Law means criminal attorneys can’t submit the victim’s prior sexual conduct to the court. The only exception to this law is if a judge deems the victim’s prior record as substantial evidence in the case (i.e., that it has probative value).

Also according to the statute, consent is more than failure to resist. That’s assent and not consent. These are two different things. But once again, assent may be relevant. If the alleged victim assented and there is other circumstantial evidence, like intense flirting, a Hutchinson criminal lawyer may be able to employ a consent defense.

Alcohol and Consent

Many, if not most, of these incidents involve alcohol. Under the law, if the alleged victim was “incapacitated” or “helpless,” consent is impossible as a matter of law.

Words like “incapacitated” imply a very high BAC level of perhaps .22 or higher. As a very rough rule of thumb, .08 is legally drunk, .16 is stumbling drunk, .22 is passed-out drunk, and .28 is comatose, or perhaps even dead, due to alcohol poisoning.

So, if the alleged victim had two or three drinks, consent is still very possible. After four or five drinks, it’s a little harder to establish. Certain drugs may have a similar effect, especially something like Zolpidem (Ambien), Rohypnol (Ruffies), and other date rape drugs.

On a related note, physical restraint or natural unconsciousness (asleep) also makes consent impossible. Certain people cannot consent as a matter of law. This list includes children and people in certain professional relationships (e.g.psychiatrists and patients).

When Can a Criminal Lawyer Use the Consent Defense in Minnesota?

Hutchinson criminal lawyers typically use the consent defense in criminal sexual conduct crimes. In Minnesota, sex crimes fall into one of the following categories:

  • Fifth-degree sex crimes, which include sexual contact and crude conduct
  • Fought-degree sex crimes, which include sexual contact and statutory rape against victims of certain ages
  • Third-degree sex crimes, which include penetration crimes and statutory rape against victims of certain ages
  • Second-degree sex crimes, which include sexual contact crimes and aggravated statutory rape
  • First-degree sex crimes, which include penetration crimes and sex crimes committed against a person aged 13 or younger

In all but a few cases, a sex crimes defense attorney can apply the consent defense. We’ll talk about which cases are exceptions to this rule later. But, first, we’re discussing why you don’t want to receive a sex crime conviction in Minnesota. 

Sex Crime Penalties in Hutchison, MN

Being convicted of one or more of sex crimes in Minnesota comes with serious penalties.

A fifth-degree sex crime can earn offenders a gross misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail, and/or a $3,000 fine. Sentencing increases to five years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine for repeat fifth-degree sex crimes.

Fourth-degree sex crimes generally earn offenders up to 10 years in prison, up to a $20,000 fine, or both. Third-degree sex crimes incur up to 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine.

In Minnesota, second- and first-degree criminal sexual conduct convictions come with minimum sentencing guidelines.

For a second-degree conviction, the offender must serve at least 90 months or up to 25 years in prison and/or pay up to a $35,000 fine. First-degree convictions come with 144-month minimum sentences. But offenders could spend up to 30 years in prison, pay a $40,000 fine, or both.

In addition to these punishments, Minnesota sex criminals must submit their DNA to the court. Predatory Offender Registration (POR) and Community Notification of sex offender status are also requirements that apply in some cases.

You don’t want to be convicted of a sex crime in Minnesota. That’s why you need an experienced Hutchison criminal lawyer to help you understand whether the consent defense applies to your case.

When Can’t a Hutchison Criminal Lawyer Use the Consent Defense?

Consent is a defense in all but a few criminal sexual conduct cases. In which cases is the consent defense not allowed? We’re talking about four of them next.

Sex Crimes Against Minors

The consent defense is not allowed in cases where an offender committed a sex crime against a minor. This includes some instances of statutory rape as long as the offender is a certain number of months older than the victim.

The age of consent in Minnesota is 16. Any sex crime committed against a person aged younger than 16 cannot use the consent defense in court.

Note that the “mistaken age” defense also isn’t available for sex crimes against minors. The only exception to this rule is in some circumstances of statutory rape, especially when the offender and the minor are close in age.

Position of Authority Sex Crimes

Regardless of the age of the victim, if a person in a position of authority commits a sex crime against someone younger than him or herself, consent is not a defense. However, there must be a certain number of years separating the age of the offender and the victim.

People in positions of authority typically include parents, teachers, and coaches.

Significant Relationship Sex Crimes

Consent isn’t a defense when a person who holds a significant relationship with a minor commits a sex offense against that minor. This includes sexual criminal conduct perpetrated by parents or guardians, relatives, and other adults who cohabitate with the minor.

There used to be an exception here if the offender was married to the minor and committed a sex crime. However, since Minnesota closed the marital rape loophole, the consent defense isn’t available in these cases anymore.

Employment Sex Crimes

Regardless of the victim’s age, professionals employed in certain roles cannot use the consent defense against criminal sexual conduct charges. These employees include:

  • Psychotherapists
  • Clergy members
  • Correctional officers
  • Masseuses

Any sex crime offenders partaking in the above roles cannot use the consent defense when a court brings charges against them.

Rely on a Diligent Attorney

Sex crimes are no joke in Minnesota. You could risk one to 30 years in jails and thousands of dollars in fines. Luckily, a sex crimes defense attorney can help reduce or even eliminate your charges using the consent defense.

Have you recently received a sex crime charge in Minnesota and think the consent defense applies to your case? Consent is a very high risk/reward defense in sexual assault prosecutions. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

Originally published on May 18, 2019 and updated on October 5, 2021.

Pandering: A Sex Crime That Leads to Heavy Penalties in MN

There are many crimes you can be charged for, but pandering is one that is frowned upon in society. While it’s not prostitution, it’s part of the process and seen negatively.

In Minnesota, pandering is a sex crime. It means hiring or agreeing to hire someone for the purpose of prostitution. This crime can be a misdemeanor or a gross misdemeanor. Penalties increase further if the prostitute was younger than 18 years old. 

There is good news, though. A Minnesota sex crimes defense attorney can help you get the best outcome and lowest sentencing possible. The best thing to do if you’re accused of this crime is to protect your rights and reputation. Your attorney can help you build a strong case for your defense.

What Is Pandering in Minnesota?

Pandering is the act of procuring a person for prostitution. To be convicted of pandering, actual prostitution does not have to take place and the procurement doesn’t have to take place. The attempt to find someone to become a prostitute or to entice someone into the sex trade is enough to result in a conviction.

Pandering is also when a person encourages, facilitates or promotes prostitution. For instance, if you run a spa and know that certain members of the staff provide sexual services, you could be convicted of pandering.

It’s important to note that pandering targets prostitution intermediaries. Prostitutes can’t receive pandering charges in Minnesota, and neither can a person who solicits a prostitute’s services.

If law enforcement charges you with pandering in Minnesota, a conviction could mean community service. Worse, you may have to pay thousands of dollars in fines and spend up to 25 years in prison. This is why hiring the best sex crimes defense attorney is so critical.

What Kinds of Penalties Do You Face for Pandering in MN?

Depending on where it takes place and which state or states are involved, the penalties vary. For example, you might face time in prison for several years just for encouraging prostitution.

Pandering convictions in Minnesota incur fines, community service, and/or prison time. The exact sentence varies depending on whether the crime occurred in a public place and the age of the person procured. 

First Degree Penalties

In general, Minnesota charges pandering as a first degree sex crime if the person was under 18 years old. 

If the person was 18 years or older, the procurer must pay at least $500 in fines or perform court-ordered community service. A second offense committed within two years of the original crime is a gross misdemeanor. Violators can earn up to a $1500 fine and/or 20 hours of community service.

The penalties for pandering increase if the hiring or attempt to hire takes place in a public location. If the prostitute is 18 years or older, the minimum fine is $1500. Panderers also have to complete community service hours for committing the crime in a public place. 

If the public place is a park or a school zone, a court can add 3 years to the maximum prison sentence.

Second Degree Penalties

Second degree sex charges apply to pandering offenses committed against adults aged 18 years or older.

Pandering crimes committed against minors incur even heftier penalties, whether the crime takes place in a public place or not. If the prostitute is between 16 and 18 years of age, the panderer can get up to five years in prison, up to a $10,000 fine, or both. Pandering minors aged 13 to 16 years old can incur up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. 

Hiring or attempting to hire a minor under the age of 13 can get you slapped with 20 years in prison, up to a $40,000 fine, or both. You’ll also have to register as a sex offender in the state of Minnesota. Registering as a sex offender means you can only live in certain places, and your sex offender status will be publicly available to whoever wants to see it.

The penalty for pandering can increase to a maximum of 25 years in prison and/or up-to a $60,000 fine if:

  • It’s the second first degree sex charge within 10 years
  • The person hired suffered physical harm during the crime
  • The person hired was kept in debt bondage or forced labor conditions for more than 180 days

If you find yourself charged with one of these pandering offenses, there is good news. A Minnesota sex crime criminal defense attorney can reduce or even eliminate your charges.

Can You Defend Yourself Against Pandering Charges?

Yes. To charge you with pandering, a Minnesota court usually must prove that you directly received compensation for the prostitute’s services. However, it’s not pandering if your received compensation for a prostitute’s services but didn’t know that income was earned through prostitution.

For example, in the situation where the spa has sex workers, if the owner did not know that employees were taking it upon themselves to prostitute themselves, the owner would not be guilty of pandering. Not knowing that it is happening or being unaware that money is being made because of prostitution is a defense. To receive a pandering charge, the owner must have specifically hired the sex workers with the intent that they offer sex for money.

A court may use the fact that you accepted money from a prostitute as evidence of pandering. Minors and adults over the age of 55 are exempt from pandering charges in cases like these. Minnesota allows this defense to protect the children and elderly relatives of prostitutes who may rely on the prostitute’s income. 

You may also use several other defenses, like insanity, entrapment or involuntary intoxication, depending on your situation. Your attorney can help you decide the best option for your situation.

Which Pandering Defenses Can Minnesota Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys Not Use?

Before you hire an attorney, it’s important to know which defenses don’t work in pandering cases. 

It’s not a defense that the person hired or attempted to be hired didn’t end up engaging in the act of prostitution. This is so that courts can enforce charges against panderers who hire undercover police officers, and the officer doesn’t actually engage in the act of prostitution.

Even if these situations do apply to you, experienced Minnesota criminal defense lawyers know the tricks to lessen your charges.

Need a Sex Crime Criminal Defense Attorney in Minnesota?

Pandering is a sex crimes and a major criminal offense in Minnesota. If you’ve been charged with pandering, you need an experienced defense lawyer to argue your case. Call Carlson & Jones today for a free consultation with the best criminal defense attorney in Minnesota.


Originally published on February 19th, 2018 and updated on September 14, 2021

How Your Jail Release in Minnesota Helps and Impacts Your Case

After more than fifty years, it appears that public support for America’s war on drugs is faltering. A growing number of Wright County jurors see illicit drugs as a health and safety issue, as opposed to a criminal law issue. So, outcomes for a Buffalo MN drug crime lawyer in these cases are changing, particularly in simple possession matters.

Court and Government Response to Drug Crimes in the U.S.

Nevertheless, prosecutors are still very aggressive in this area, especially regarding possession cases. In the 1980s, when the War on Drugs was just heating up, drug arrests were evenly split between possession and distribution matters. Today, simple possession cases make up over 80 percent of all drug arrests. 

Apropos of nothing, the law enforcement climate changed in the early 80s mostly because of Len Bias’ death. According to many, this basketball phenom was as good as Michael Jordan, or maybe better. If you see this kid’s highlight reel, it’s hard to disagree with either assertion. A few hours after the Boston Celtics chose Bias in the first round, he did a line of cocaine at a party, laid down, and died. 

In response, Congress passed a number of laws which, in retrospect, were overly strict. These laws included the controversial mandatory minimum sentencing requirement. A trace amount of cocaine meant a long prison sentence, regardless of the facts. Several decades later, President Barack Obama issued over 1,700 pardons, most of them for harsh drug crime sentences from the late 20th century.

The aforementioned environmental changes (public health v. public safety) give Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyers an even better opportunity to successfully resolve drug possession cases in Wright County. While every matter is different, most follow the same general outline.

Get Out of Jail (Almost) Free in Buffalo MN

A new day is also dawning in terms of jail release, which is always the first priority in a criminal case. The changed political and social climate is a good sign, but pretrial detention creates multiple serious problems for Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyers and their clients. 

Economic Impact of Drug Charges in Buffalo MN

Even a few days behind bars could have an unbelievable economic impact on a Minnesota family. Most people lose their jobs and/or businesses in these situations. Without any way to provide for their families, these individuals often become increasingly desperate. 

The strain on emotional relationships could be even worse than the strain on professional relationships. 

Emotion Impact of Drug Charges in Buffalo MN

Furthermore, incarceration can cause brain injury, which is colloquially known as the “jailhouse blues.” Incarceration triggers the fight-or-flight instinct. People who are behind bars have neither option. So, their stress hormone levels go through the roof. Continued exposure to such hormones alters brain chemistry. Many people know someone who was not the same person when s/he got out of jail as s/he was before. That’s because, from a brain biology standpoint, the person is different.

Perhaps most importantly, many jurors assume if the defendant is in jail, the defendant must have done something wrong. At that point, the drug possession case becomes a criminal law violation which merits punishment, as far as the jury is concerned. In other words, especially in these cases, pretrial detention transforms the presumption of innocence into a presumption of guilt.

Release on Your Own Recognizance in Buffalo MN

OR (Own Recognizance) release is often an option in nonviolent cases, such as drug possession. Essentially, the defendant promises to appear at trial, and the sheriff releases the defendant. This form of pretrial release has gained significant traction in recent years, as critics have harped on the cash bail system. These critics note that most inmates in county jails are unsentenced. They are simply waiting for trial because they cannot afford bail.

That commonly-cited statistic might be misleading. Many of the incarcerated people have already made bail and are just waiting on their paperwork to clear. Indeed, a number of these individuals probably voluntarily surrendered and are booking in and booking out. They might never make it past the waiting room. Furthermore, a pure OR release program gives judges no discretion in this area. Semi-violent offenders, like stalkers, are right back out on the street, regardless of the facts.

So, complete bail reform, which several states have tried, is pretty much a bust. In New York, the pure OR system lasted less than a year.

Nevertheless, OR is a good option in many cases. The procedure varies slightly in different jurisdictions. Generally, a review board considers the charged offense and the defendant’s criminal record, then gives a thumbs up or thumbs down.

Although there is no formal hearing, a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer can usually advocate for defendants before review boards, at least informally. This advocacy could be the difference between OR release and a money-based release option.

Traditional Jail Release Options

Cash bail, or a bail bond, is still available in Wright County. Typically, and forgive us if we sound like a broken record, the sheriff sets a presumptive bail amount based on the defendant’s criminal history, if any, and the severity of the offense. The presumptive amount is usually around $700 for most misdemeanors and $1,500 for most felonies. The exact amount varies significantly, mostly according to the facts of the case.

Bail Per Charge in Buffalo MN

Also, bail is usually per charge as opposed to per arrest. So, if Dexter faces three felony charges, his bail will probably be a minimum of $4,500. Due to the facts of the case, it will probably be a lot higher than that. Indeed, the sheriff might not even set a presumptive amount in such cases. More on that below.

Cash Bail in Buffalo MN

Financially, cash bail is like a rental property security deposit. If the defendant fulfills all bail conditions, the county refunds most of the cash bail money. In addition to appearing at trial, some other common pretrial release conditions include reporting to a bail bond agent, remaining in the county, and avoiding any further legal trouble.

The cash bail system has been around for thousands of years. Most people value their money above all else. The prospect of losing it is usually sufficient to convince people to toe the line, at least temporarily. The obvious problem with this system is that, for many people, $4,500 might as well be $45 million.

Bail “Bond” in Buffalo MN

So, a bail bond is usually available. Essentially, a bond is an insurance policy. If your car is damaged, your auto insurance company assumes the financial risk. Similarly, if a defendant fails to meet all bond conditions and the judge revokes it, the bail bond company assumes the financial risk. Most bail bonds companies charge about a 15 percent premium to issue these insurance policies.

Bail Revocation in Buffalo MN

Speaking of bail revocation, if the judge revokes your bond, a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer can help you turn yourself in, as outlined above. Usually, a lawyer has all the ducks in a row, including a new bond. This alternative is much better than having a warrant pop up during a random traffic stop.

In serious cases, such as drug trafficking or felony drug possession cases, cash bail or a bail bond might not be an immediate option. Either the sheriff doesn’t set an amount or the amount is so high that the defendant cannot possibly pay it. A Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer can set or reduce bail at the arraignment, which usually happens about three days after the arrest.

Initial determinations are usually limited to criminal record and nature of the offense. At the arraignment, the judge considers a number of other factors, such as the defendant’s:

  • Links to the community,
  • Ability to skip bail,
  • Threat to individual witnesses or victims,
  • Ability to pay, and
  • Willingness to abide by conditions.

Attorneys usually settle these matters out of court. For example, the prosecutor might agree to reduce the bail amount if the defendant agrees to electronic monitoring.

Procedural Defenses for Drug Crimes in Buffalo MN

Jail release gives a defense attorney a head start. Pretrial release does more than eliminate the presumption of guilt. Release also allows defendants and Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyers to work together as partners. However, there is still a long race to run.

To seal the deal, the case must usually involve a legal defense. A defense gives the jury the legal opportunity to acquit a defendant. So, the better the defense, the riskier trial becomes. That risk increases a Wright County prosecutor’s willingness to deal.

What the 4th Amendment Means

Many drug possession cases involve a procedural defense. Under the Fourth Amendment, officers either need a search warrant or probable cause before they can seize evidence of a crime, including contraband substances. If a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer excludes the evidence, the state’s case normally collapses like a house of cards. An officer’s testimony that the defendant had drugs is insufficient.

Search Warrants in Buffalo MN

Most drug trafficking cases involve search warrants. Typically, several agencies work together on these arrests, which culminate with a search warrant. Frequently, officers depend, at least in large part, on a confidential informant’s testimony. CIs receive money or leniency in exchange for such testimony. Therefore, a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer can often successfully challenge drug trafficking search warrants. Many people will say nearly anything for love or money.

Probable Cause Exception

But most drug possession cases don’t involve search warrants. Events happen too quickly. Therefore, the prosecutor must rely on the probable cause exception. Over the years, courts have created a few specific doctrines, such as:

  • Consent: Owners may allow officers to search their property, such as a house or a wallet. Consent is an affirmative, voluntary act. There’s a big difference between assent and consent. Furthermore, if officers threatened to get a warrant if the defendant didn’t agree to the search, that consent is arguably involuntary.
  • Plain View: This exception frequently comes up in vehicle possession cases. If officers see contraband in plain view, like a bottle of prescription painkillers, they may seize it without a warrant. This right is only available if the officer was lawfully in that place at that time. So, reasonable suspicion for the stop, or lack thereof, could be an issue.
  • Stop and Frisk: The reasonable suspicion rule also applies in these stops. Reasonable suspicion means specific, articulable facts which point to criminal activity. In this case, that criminal activity must be illegal weapon possession. During this pat-down, officers can seize any other contraband they see, or rather feel, in plain view, or rather plain touch.

Other Constitutional rights sometimes come into play. Cell phones are a good example. The Supreme Court has ruled that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in all content past the home screen. If officers want to read your text messages or take other such actions, they must either get a warrant or obtain owner consent.

Stingray Devices in Buffalo MN

Incidentally, some Minnesota law enforcement agencies have Stingray devices. These sophisticated gadgets, which are also known as IMSI catchers or cell site simulators, send false signals which trick cell phones into connecting with a fake tower, allowing police to track the owner’s movements. Some Stingrays can read your text messages, call records, Internet search history, and even tap into your phone calls.

Needless to say, these devices are quite controversial, so law enforcement agencies keep their mouths shut about the specifics of the gadgets they own.

Substantive Drug Possession Defenses

The legal definition of possession offers a defense in many cases. Proximity to the drugs, by itself, is not enough. The state must also prove the following elements:

  • Control: Theoretical possession is not enough. Prosecutors must establish that the defendant exercised control over the drugs. The drugs must not have been in a locked container, like a glove compartment, and must not have been in someone else’s possession, such as a joint passed around at a party.
  • Knowledge: This element must be more than theoretical as well. A defendant must know more than “something illegal” is in a bag. As a matter of fact, the defendant can literally be sitting on a stash of drugs, and not possess the stash for legal purposes.

At trial, the prosecutor must establish all elements of possession, and all the other elements of the offense, beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the highest standard of proof in Minnesota law.

What is Deferred Disposition in Buffalo MN?

Normally, a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer files a pretrial motion in disputed possession matters. If the judge rules favorably, the judge will throw the prosecution out of court.

If the defense is strong enough, many prosecutors offer good deals before that hearing. They do not want to risk losing everything because of an adverse judicial ruling. Deferred disposition is usually available in drug possession cases.

Prosecutorial deferred disposition is like pretrial diversion. If the defendant successfully completes program requirements, the prosecutor dismisses the case. Judicial deferred disposition is like probation. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the case.

Both these outcomes have significant advantages, but there are significant risks as well. So, before you accept one, review the situation thoroughly with an experienced Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer.

Connect with a Buffalo MN Drug Crime Lawyer

Most drug possession cases have a relatively happy ending. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.



This original article was published July 17, 2019 and updated June 3, 2021.

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