What does it mean to plead guilty to a lesser offense?

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2022 | Criminal defense

Being charged with a crime is a serious event, regardless of the nature of the charges. Convictions of a crime could mean jail time, fines, probation or community service.

There are different procedures in Minnesota for handling felony, gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor charges with different consequences across the categories and crimes. It is important to look beyond your own abilities when dealing with any of these charges, as there is the potential for serious offenses to downgrade to a lesser charge with legal help.

Progression of crimes

Petty misdemeanors are the lowest offenses under Minnesota law and are not always regarded as a crime. Possession of a small amount of marijuana might fall under this category, and while you might not see jail time for the offense, a conviction could show up on a background check. The crimes move up until the level of felony, which is the highest offense in the state. Consequences of conviction in these cases typically include both incarceration and probation, while additional restrictions might include the loss of certain rights.

Pleading to lesser charges

Under MN law, defendants are able to plead guilty to an offense of a lesser degree. An attorney may negotiate a felony charge down to a misdemeanor in the hopes that the defendant retains their civil rights or career prospects. Some defendants will plead guilty to a lesser offense in order to avoid a costly trial and reduce the likelihood of significant jail time.

Be sure to fully understand your options against the charges you face. A not guilty verdict is the most desired outcome of a trial, but a plea bargain may present a solution to a difficult situation.