MN Mandatory Sentencing Laws | Minimum Imprisonment Penalties

This information brief describes Minnesota laws mandating judges to impose specified sentences on persons convicted of certain crimes. These mandatory sentences include specified lengths of incarceration in state prison or local jails, minimum fines and other financial penalties, mandatory treatment, and other sentencing measures. All statutory citations are to Minnesota Statutes, as amended through the 2011 Regular Session and First Special Session.

Minimum Imprisonment Penalties

Throughout this section, four important terms are used to describe the type of sentence a court pronounces: executed sentence, stayed sentence, stay of imposition, and stay of execution. Under an “executed sentence,” the convicted offender is required to serve the prison or jail term specified by the sentencing judge. In contrast, under a “stayed sentence,” the prison or jail term is stayed-that is, held in abeyance-on condition that the convicted offender fulfill the conditions of probation ordered by the sentencing judge. If the offender fails to abide by these conditions, the “stay” of sentence may be revoked and the prison or jail sentence may be “executed” -that is, put into effect. There is one complicating factor to add to this scheme: felony offenders whose prison sentences are stayed may, nonetheless, be ordered to serve up to a year in the local jail as a condition of probation. However, this jail-time provision does not change their stayed sentences into executed sentences; indeed, if their probation is revoked, their prison sentences still can executed even if they have already served some time in jail. Minn. Stat. § 609.135.

Furthermore, when a court stays an offender’s sentence, it can do so in two different ways. The more lenient sentence is a “stay of imposition.” Under this approach, the court pronounces a sentence but stops short of imposing it. If the offender successfully serves out his or her conditions of probation, the offense is recorded on his or her criminal record as being no greater than a misdemeanor. A “stay of execution,” however, carries no similar criminal record benefits. Under this approach, the court pronounces and imposes a sentence, then stays its execution, subject to specified conditions of probation. The offender avoids serving prison time and, possibly, jail time but his or her criminal record will reflect the actual offense of which the offender was convicted. Minn. Stat. § 609.13.

Finally, the above distinctionexecuted versus stayeddoes not only apply to incarceration penalties but also may apply to fines.

Controlled Substance Offenders

§§ 152.021-152.025 See also § 152.01 (16a)

If an offender is convicted of a felony-level controlled substance crime within ten years of sentence discharge for a previous felony-level controlled substance crime, the court must sentence the offender to prison for not less than the following time periods:

  • first-degree crime: four years
  • second-degree crime: three years
  • third-degree crime: two years
  • fourth-degree crime: one year
  • fifth-degree crime: six months

A court may waive the mandatory minimum sentence for a fifth-degree controlled substance crime if it finds substantial and compelling reasons to do so.

DWI Offenders

§ 169A.275

The court must impose the following minimum sentences on persons
convicted of a second- or third-degree DWI offense (gross
misdemeanors):

  • second offense within ten years—not less than 30 days in jail, at least 48 hours of which must be served in a local correctional facility, or eight hours of community work service for each day less than 30 that the person is ordered to serve (This mandatory minimum sentence must be served, unless the court departs from it.)
  • third offense within ten years—not less than 90 days incarceration, of which at least 30 days must be served consecutively in a local correctional facility and up to 60 days may be served on home detention or intensive probation

As an alternative to the mandatory minimum incarceration penalties applicable to third offenses, the court may order the person to participate in an intensive probation program of the type described in Minnesota Statutes, section 169A.74, if the program requires the person to serve at least six days consecutively in a local correctional facility.

A judge is not required to impose the mandatory penalties under this section, if the judge requires the person to drive a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device as a condition of probation.

§ 169A.276 See also § 169A.275 (3) & (4)

The court must impose a three-year minimum prison sentence on persons convicted of a felony-level (first-degree) DWI offense. If the court chooses to depart from this minimum sentence under the sentencing guidelines, it may stay execution (but not imposition) of the three-year prison sentence and, instead, sentence the person to one of the following alternative mandatory sentences:

  • fourth offense within ten yearsnot less than 180 days incarceration, of which at least 30 days must be served consecutively in a local correctional facility and up to 150 days may be served on home detention or intensive probation
  • fifth or subsequent offense within ten yearsnot less than one year of incarceration, of which at least 60 days must be served consecutively in a local correctional facility and the remainder may be served on home detention or intensive probation using an electronic monitoring system

The court may order that the jail time be served under a traditional sentencing approach or a staggered sentencing procedure. Under the latter approach, jail time may be served in segments over multiple years.

As an alternative to these mandatory minimum nonprison sentences, the court may order the person to participate in an intensive probation program of the type described in Minnesota Statutes, section 169A.74, if the program requires the person to serve at least six days consecutively in a local correctional facility.

Predatory Offender Registration Act Violations

§ 243.166 (5)

The court must impose a prison sentence on any sex offender or other predatory offender who knowingly violates any provision of the predatory offender registration act or who intentionally provides false information under the registration act to a corrections agent, law enforcement agency, or the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).

The sentence must be at least one year and one day for first-time offenders and at least two years for repeat offenders. The court may waive this mandatory minimum sentence on the prosecutor’s motion or on its own motion, but such a sentence is a departure from the sentencing guidelines and must be supported by mitigating factors.

Unlawful Furnishing of Alcohol to Underage Persons

§ 340A.701 (2)

If an offender is convicted of furnishing alcohol to an underage person and death or great bodily harm results from the offense, the court must impose a 90-day jail sentence on the offender unless the offender is otherwise eligible for a prison sentence under the sentencing guidelines.

Domestic Abuse Order for Protection and No Contact Order Offenders

§§ 518B.01 (14); 629.75

The court must sentence an offender convicted of a misdemeanor-level violation of a domestic abuse order for protection (OFP) to at least three days in jail. The jail sentence may be stayed as a condition of the offender attending treatment; however, it must be executed if the offender fails or refuses to comply with court-ordered treatment.

The court must impose at least a ten-day jail sentence on offenders convicted of a gross misdemeanor-level OFP or no contact order violation (i.e., violating the order within ten years of a previous qualified domestic violence-related offense conviction). The court may not stay this mandatory minimum jail sentence.

The court must impose at least a 30-day probationary jail term on an offender convicted of a felony-level OFP or no contact order violation (i.e., violating the order while possessing a dangerous weapon, or within ten years of the first of two or more previous qualified domestic violence-related offense convictions). The court may not waive this probationary jail term unless the court executes a prison sentence.

First-Degree Murderers

§§ 609.106; 609.185

The court must impose a life imprisonment sentence on a person convicted of first-degree murder. The court must impose a life imprisonment sentence without possibility of parole for:

  • premeditated murder;
  • rape-murder;
  • murder of a peace officer or correctional officer;
  • murder in the course of a kidnapping;
  • murder in the course of a felony crime to further terrorism if death occurred under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life; or
  • first-degree murder by an offender who has one or more previous convictions for a “heinous crime.”1

Second- or Third-Degree Murderers

§ 609.107

The court must sentence an offender convicted of second- or third-degree murder to the statutory maximum sentence if the offender was previously convicted of a “heinous crime” and 15 years have not elapsed since the person’s sentence was discharged.

Repeat Dangerous Offenders

§ 609.1095 (3)

The court must sentence an offender convicted of a third violent felony to prison for at least the presumptive sentence duration applicable under the sentencing guidelines. The court must execute the sentence even if the presumptive disposition is a stayed sentence.

Minimum Sentences for Crimes Committed with a Firearm or Dangerous Weapon

§ 609.11

The court must impose and execute minimum prison sentences for certain specified crimes involving weapon possession and/or use. These minimum prison sentences are:

  • possession of firearm by convicted felon who is prohibited from possessing a firearm for committing a crime of violence: five years;
  • use or possession of firearm in a “designated offense”: three years (five years for repeat offenders);
  • use of dangerous weapon other than a firearm in a “designated offense”: one year and one day (three years for repeat offenders).

Assaults Against Peace Officers, Correctional Employees, or Secure Treatment Facility Personnel

§ 609.221 (2)

The court must sentence an offender to a minimum of ten years in prison if the offender assaults a peace officer or a correctional employee by using or attempting to use deadly force while the officer or employee is performing official duties.

§ 609.2231 (3a)

The court must impose a minimum prison sentence of one year and a day on a person convicted of assaulting a secure treatment facility employee while the employee is engaged in the performance of a duty.

Repeat Domestic Assault Offenders

§ 609.2243 (1)

The court must impose a minimum 20-day jail sentence on a person convicted of repeat (gross misdemeanor) domestic assault, at least 96 hours of which must be served consecutively. The court may waive this minimum sentence on the condition that the offender completes treatment.

§ 609.2243 (2)

The court must impose a minimum 45-day probationary jail sentence on a person convicted of a repeat (felony) domestic assault, at least 15 days of which must be served consecutively.

Crimes for Benefit of Criminal Gang

§ 609.229 (4)

The court must impose a minimum prison sentence of one year and one day on a person convicted of committing a felony-level crime for the benefit of a criminal gang.

First-Degree Sex Offenders

§ 609.342 (2)

When a person is convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, the court must presume that a prison sentence of 144 months should be imposed and executed, unless a longer mandatory minimum sentence is otherwise required by law or the sentencing guidelines presume that a longer sentence is appropriate. If the court imposes a less severe sentence, it is a departure from the sentencing guidelines and must be supported by mitigating factors.

Second-Degree Sex Offenders

§ 609.343 (2)

When a person is convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving force or violence, the court must presume that a prison sentence of 90 months should be imposed and executed, unless a longer mandatory minimum sentence is otherwise required by law or the sentencing guidelines presume that a longer sentence is appropriate. If the court imposes a less severe sentence, it is a departure from the sentencing guidelines and must be supported by mitigating factors.

Dangerous Sex Offenders

§ 609.3455 (2)

The court must impose a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of release for an offender convicted of first- or second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving force or violence if:

  • the fact finder (i.e., the judge or a jury) determines that two or more heinous elements exists; or
  • the offender has a previous sex-offense conviction for first-, second-, or third-degree criminal sexual conduct and the fact finder determines that one heinous element exists for the present offense.

§ 609.3455 (3)

The court must impose a life sentence with the possibility of release for an offender convicted of first- or second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving force or violence if a heinous element exists.

A court imposing a indeterminate life sentence must sentence the offender to (1) a minimum term of imprisonment and (2) a mandatory life sentence. The minimum term of imprisonment is equal to the sentence called for by the sentencing guidelines or any applicable mandatory minimum sentence. An offender becomes eligible for release after serving the minimum sentence. If released, the offender must be placed on conditional release for life.

§ 609.3455 (3a)

The court must commit a person to imprisonment for a period of time that is not less than double the presumptive sentence under the sentencing guidelines and not more than the statutory maximum sentence if:

  • the court is imposing an executed sentence for first- through fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct or criminal sexual predatory conduct;
  • the fact finder determines that the offender is a danger to public safety; and
  • the fact finder determines that the offender’s criminal sexual behavior is so engrained that the risk of re-offending is great without long-term treatment or supervision.

§ 609.3455 (4)

A court must impose an indeterminate life sentence (see subdivision 3 for sentencing provisions) for certain repeat offenders who commit first-, second-, third-, or fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct or criminal sexual predatory conduct if:

  • the offender has two previous sex offense convictions; or
  • the offender has a previous sex offense conviction and
  • the present offense involved an aggravating factor that would provide grounds for an upward durational departure;
  • the offender received an upward durational departure for the previous sex offense conviction; or
  • the offender was sentenced under this section or the patterned and predatory sex offender sentencing law for the previous sex offense conviction; or
  • the offender has two prior sex offense convictions and the prior convictions and present offense involved at least three separate victims and
  • the present offense involved an aggravating factor that would provide grounds for an upward durational departure;
  • the offender received an upward durational departure for one of the prior sex offense convictions; or
  • the offender was sentenced under this section or the patterned and predatory sex offender sentencing law for one of the prior sex offense convictions.

A court may not impose a life sentence if the present and prior or previous convictions are for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Burglary Offenders

§ 609.582 (1a)

The court must sentence a person convicted of burglary of an occupied dwelling to serve at least six months in a state or local correctional facility.

§ 609.583

If an offender is convicted for the first time of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, the court must impose a 90-day jail sentence on the offender unless the offender is otherwise eligible for a prison sentence under the sentencing guidelines. The court may waive this jail term if the defendant provides restitution or community work service.

MN Mandatory Sentencing Laws | Minimum Fines and Other Fees

MN Mandatory Sentencing Laws | Mandatory Treatment and Assessment

MN Mandatory Sentencing Laws | Other Provisions and Appendix

This and any related posts have been adopted from the Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department’s Information Brief, Mandatory Sentencing Laws.

1 A “heinous crime” is defined as murder or attempted murder in the first or second degree, murder in the third degree, assault in the first degree, or criminal sexual conduct in the first, second, or third degree if committed with force or violence.

2 This includes persons who enter into a diversion or similar program for traffic violations.

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