Many traffic violations do not rise to the level of a serious crime. Generally, they fall into the category of a petty misdemeanor. But if a Minnesota court charges your traffic violation as just a misdemeanor, you may have cause for concern.
A petty misdemeanor and a misdemeanor are not the same. According to the state of Minnesota, you must deal with a misdemeanor charge differently than a petty misdemeanor. Also, you may end up with a harsher penalty if convicted.
Characteristics of a petty misdemeanor
If a police officer writes you a ticket, chances are your offense is only a petty misdemeanor. This is the lowest level of offense in Minnesota, so low that the law does not consider it a crime. You do not risk a jail sentence with a petty misdemeanor. You only have to worry about paying a fine, which may run up to $300. You may even pay the fine without having to appear in court.
Characteristics of a misdemeanor
If you end up with a misdemeanor-level traffic offense, things can become more complicated. You might still pay a fine without appearing in court, but in many cases a misdemeanor charge compels you to attend a court proceeding. Also, a misdemeanor conviction could land you in jail. The upper limit for a misdemeanor sentence is 90 days. You may also have to pay a fine as high as $1,000 in addition to serving time.
Although it is not common, there is also an even higher misdemeanor level that a traffic offense may reach. If your charge is a gross misdemeanor, your fine may go up to $3,000 and your potential imprisonment may last up to a full year. Given the consequences of these misdemeanor levels, knowing your legal options can be critical to preserving your freedom.