Petty Misdemeanor

speeding ticket
speeding ticket

What is a Petty Misdemeanor violation?
A “petty misdemeanor” is a small offense which is prohibited by a statute, but is not a crime, with a maximum sentence of a fine only, of $300 or less.  Minnesota Statutes Section 609.02, subd. 4a; Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure 23.01.  No arrest or jail is authorized by law, before or after “conviction.”


What is a Petty Misdemeanor conviction?
Though not addressed in Minnesota Statutes, the Court’s Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure 23.02 says:  “A conviction is deemed a petty misdemeanor if the sentence imposed is within petty misdemeanor limits.”  The Court will certify a conviction as a Petty Misdemeanor based on the sentence imposed, under this Court Rule.  As a result, for example, a person adjudicated guilty after a plea or verdict on a gross misdemeanor charge would be certified to have a petty misdemeanor level conviction if the Judge imposed a sentence within the petty misdemeanor limits — no jail and a fine of $300 or less.

Are all traffic violations petty misdemeanors?
Speeding and most other traffic, driving, drivers license and motor vehicle related offenses are petty misdemeanors, but many are not.  Some could be either, depending how the prosecutor decides to charge them.  For example, a speeding ticket could be charged as a misdemeanor or a petty misdemeanor.  (The latter is more common.)  Driving-related convictions are normally certified to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety for inclusion on the drivers license record and suspension or other action against the drivers license.

Can a person be arrested for a petty misdemeanor?
The law requires that a person detained by police on suspicion of a petty misdemeanor violation must be released with a citation and released without further arrest.  Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure 6.01, subd. 1 (c).

Can a prosecutor certify a misdemeanor charge as a petty misdemeanor?
The law addresses prosecutors attempting to certify a misdemeanor charge for prosecution as a petty misdemeanor.  See, for example, Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure 23.04.  What does that mean?  On the positive side, a petty misdemeanor conviction is less serious than a misdemeanor conviction.  But on the other hand, it takes away the constitutional right of the accused to a jury trial.  The accused can object and ask the judge to prevent this.  Anytime a prosecutor can unilaterally strip a person of their fundamental rights; is constitutionally suspect.  One problem facing the person charged with a misdemeanor crime “certified as a petty” is that their public criminal record will show the misdemeanor criminal charge, which can have serious consequences.  The prosecutor should not be allowed to strip the accused of his or her right to a jury trial, against their will, and place them under the cloud of a public record of conviction of a misdemeanor charge, even with a petty misdemeanor sentence.

Question?  Call Minneapolis Defense Lawyer Thomas Gallagher at (612) 333-1500.