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What Is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Minnesota Going to Do for Me?

by | Jul 20, 2021 | Criminal Defense, Firm News

DPS’s most recent Uniform Crime Report detailed that Minnesota police made over 150,000 criminal arrests in 2019. If you’re asking what is a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota going to do for me, the answer could be a lot.

If you’ve been charged or convicted of a crime, you need a Minneapolis criminal defense attorney. An experienced lawyer can fight for the best outcome whether you’re accused of a drug crime, an assault, or some other criminal offense.

Why else should you hire a lawyer for your criminal case? We’re telling you everything you need to know about criminal defense attorneys in this guide, so keep reading.

Types of Criminal Defense Attorneys

When you’re charged with a crime, the best criminal lawyer will represent you throughout the phases of your trial. If you’re convicted, a lawyer can also help you get the charge off your record.

Anyone charged with a criminal offense in Minnesota is entitled to legal defense. But the type of defense attorney you work with depends on what you can afford. Here are the three types of criminal defenders you can work with.

Panel Lawyers

Panel lawyers are private attorneys offering representation to defendants who can’t afford private counsel. Courts appoint panel attorneys in states that don’t have a public defender system. Minnesota isn’t one of those states.

Public Defenders

In Minnesota, public defenders are court-appointed lawyers. Like panel attorneys, public defenders represent indigent criminal defendants.

Private Lawyers

Criminal defendants who can afford legal representation hire private defense attorneys. Private lawyers charge clients on a per-hour basis or by a fixed fee. Some lawyers make representation affordable by offering pro-bono representation or payment plans.

Many private attorneys start off as public defenders or prosecutors. That means they, too, have experience as court-appointed attorneys.

The benefit of hiring private attorneys is that they often have more experience because they’ve practiced for longer. Experienced lawyers leverage this experience to negotiate favorable plea deals. Plus, you can choose the private defender who’s best for your unique case.

Still, studies show that outcomes for criminal cases are similar for private lawyers and court-appointed public defendants.

Who Needs a Criminal Defense Attorney?

By now, you may be wondering: do I need a criminal defense lawyer? If a Minnesota court charged you with a crime, you need an attorney. You should also consider legal representation to get a conviction off your record.

Self-Representation in Minnesota Criminal Cases

In Minnesota, pro se representation is legal. That means you can represent yourself in a criminal case. However, we never advise self-representation for criminal defendants.

You have a lot to lose in a criminal defense case. Criminal charges in Minnesota can earn you between $1,000 and $3,000 in fines. Worse, you could end up serving at least 90 days in jail or up to a lifetime in prison.

A Minnesota court may not even accept self-representation if your charges are particularly severe. Your education level and language skills, legal knowledge of the proceedings, and the charge’s seriousness are other factors courts consider before allowing a defendant to represent himself or herself.

Types of Cases Defense Attorneys Handle

A criminal defense attorney doesn’t handle just any case. These legal experts have the experience and skills to defend criminal cases.

But what exactly counts as a criminal case in Minnesota? Here are seven of the most common criminal charges a lawyer can defend you against.


A DWI or DUI charge is one of the most common reasons for hiring a defense lawyer. After all, DUI convictions often come with consequences like forfeiting your license, paying fines, or even prison time. A lawyer can help you avoid the worst of these penalties.

DUI lawyers can also help you get a conviction off your record. This is important because some employers won’t hire applicants with a criminal record. And many car insurance companies force you to purchase a pricier policy because of your DUI.

Drug Crimes

The production, sale, possession, distribution, and trafficking of controlled substances are illegal in Minnesota.

Drug sale convictions can earn you a fine of $10,000 to up to $1 million and prison time of five to thirty years. Possession of drugs can get you up to 158 months in prison, depending on how much you have on you. And trafficking and transport charges can earn you even more significant penalties.

The good news is that a Minneapolis criminal defense attorney can negotiate down your charges, reducing potential penalties. Ensuring you don’t have a drug crime charge is critical, too — drug crime punishments get worse if you have prior convictions on your record.


Minnesota charges assault and battery as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If the assault doesn’t result in injury, the court will likely treat the case as a misdemeanor. For example, Minnesota considers simple assault a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in the county jail and up to a $1000 fine.

Meanwhile, assault and battery cases involving weapons almost always incur felonies. And an assault felony can automatically earn you over a year in prison.

Hiring an assault lawyer will ensure you get the lowest penalty possible. The police may have already made a report, but your lawyer will gather facts to get the complete picture. The more evidence you have on your side, the greater your chances of lessening your fines and/or jail sentence.

Domestic Violence

There’s a difference between assault and domestic violence cases. Domestic violence charges apply to cases of stalking, abuse, rape, and kidnapping perpetrated by someone the victim is closely related to. This includes spouses, a parent and child, dating partners, or cohabitants.

In Minnesota, courts treat domestic violence charges extremely seriously. Violators could receive a felony charge even it’s a first-time offense. And if you’re charged with three domestic violence misdemeanors within 10 years, it’s almost automatically a felony.

Luckily, an experienced domestic violence lawyer can help. Prosecutors love to seek heftier penalties for domestic violence cases compared to regular assault. Your lawyer can get you the best possible outcome in this kind of situation.


Theft charges range from small robberies to grand larceny. Many first-time offense theft cases only incur misdemeanors. But penalties grow more serious the more theft charges on your record, when you use a weapon during the robbery, and as the total value of the stolen goods increases.

And theft cases don’t only incur criminal penalties (e.g., jail time and fines). They also lead to civil penalties. For example, many courts force defendants to compensate plaintiffs for the items stolen.

An attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor or the judge to reduce your charges. If it’s a minor, first-time offense, you could potentially get the case dismissed altogether. A defense attorney can also help you expunge prior theft convictions from your record.

Weapons Crimes

Possessing a firearm without a license is illegal in Minnesota. It’s also illegal to own and/or operate an unregistered firearm. And there are dozens of additional weapons-related laws you must adhere to or else risk a criminal charge.

Punishments for weapons crimes in Minnesota vary depending on the exact charge. As an example, merely possessing a firearm without a license could earn you a gross misdemeanor charge. And gross misdemeanors are punishable by up to $1000 fines and 90 days in jail.

Having a prior record can increase the punishment for weapons charges even further. Choosing the best criminal defense attorney in Minnesota can reduce your charges and wipe away prior convictions from your record.

Sex Crimes

The state of Minnesota classifies five levels of sex crimes. The most severe convictions can bring about up to 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine. But repeat or particularly violent offenders are eligible for lifetime sentences in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sex crime convictions also mean you’ll have to register as a sex offender and notify your community about your sex offender status. Again, an experienced attorney is your best bet for avoiding these embarrassing consequences and getting the lowest conviction level possible.

The Benefits of Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Hiring a private defender isn’t cheap. But the benefits far outweigh the cost of criminal defense attorneys. We’ve already mentioned how a lawyer can reduce your fines and sentence times or get prior criminal convictions wiped off your record. What you may not know are all the other things an attorney can do for your criminal case.

Negotiate Deals

Attorneys are expert negotiators. They can help fight for lower bail amounts, reduced charges, and fewer days in jail.

Experienced defense lawyers can also negotiate plea deals, which are becoming increasingly common in criminal cases. At the same time, having an attorney who already knows the details of your charge would be an invaluable asset should your case go to trial.

Offer Advice

Attorneys have the skills to understand the prosecutor’s case and know the evidence against you. This means you’ll have a clearer picture of the potential sentencing options and what outcome you can most likely expect.

Your lawyer can further advise you about plea deals and their consequences. If there’s no way out of a conviction, a legal expert can also help you understand how it will impact your criminal record.

Provide Support

The legal system is complicated, time-consuming, and challenging to navigate. And the odds are even more stacked against you when you receive a criminal charge. That’s why you need a legal expert to fight for your rights.

A criminal defense lawyer knows all the stages you’ll have to go through and can give you a reality check about what to expect.

Call the Best Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney

A Minneapolis criminal defense attorney works with people like you who’ve been charged or convicted of crimes. Your attorney can help negotiate a deal to prevent your case from going to trial, offer you advice about which deals to take, and so much more.

Were you charged with or convicted of a criminal offense in Minnesota and need legal representation? Call Carlson and Jones today to schedule a consultation with our expert criminal lawyer.