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What are the Different Types of Felony Sentences in Minnesota Including Stay of Imposition?

If you have been charged with a felony offense, you may be wondering what kind of sentence is available. Can you keep a felony offense off your criminal record? Is it possible to plead to a lesser charge, or agree to accept a sentence that would go on your criminal record as a lesser offense? The answers to all three questions is yes – if you have the right attorney.

Typically, felony charges can result in the following sentences:

Executed sentence.

An executed sentence is the worst possible outcome for a felony level offense. With an executed sentence you are:

  • Convicted of a felony, meaning that a felony level offense will be on your criminal record when any employer, housing agent, licensing agency, or anyone else runs a criminal background check on you.

  • Sentenced to prison time. The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines will provide a range for your offense. With an executed sentence, you will typically be sentenced to prison for some period of time in the Guidelines range. A Judge is free to depart downward (i.e., sentence you to less time in prison) or upward (i.e. sentence you to more time in prison) if certain circumstances are present.

  • Because your sentence is “executed," you will not be placed on probation following the completion of your sentence. However, certain offenses, such as felony DWI, sex offenses, child pornography offenses, and others require a period of conditional release following the completion of your sentence. At times, this period of conditional release will last up to 10 years or more. During the period of conditional release, you will still be supervised and have certain conditions. If you violate the conditions, you can be sent back to prison to serve the conditional release period in prison. Essentially, the conditional release functions as a de facto probation.

If at all possible, you would like to avoid an executed prison sentence. You can do so through various means – contesting evidence prior to trial, proceeding to trial and convincing the jury to acquit, or arguing to the Judge for a downward departure from the Sentencing Guidelines. If you are facing an executed prison sentence, the best thing you can do is contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Stay of Execution.

A stay of execution is a better outcome than an executed sentence, but does have some drawbacks. With a stay of execution, you are:

  • Convicted of a felony, meaning that a felony level offense will be on your criminal record when any employer, housing agent, licensing agency, or anyone else runs a criminal background check on you.

  • Execution of your sentence is “stayed." What this typically means is that a Judge will pronounce a prison sentence for you – anywhere from one year and one day to life in prison, depending on the charges and where your conviction falls in the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. Where your conviction falls will depend on the offense you plead guilty to and your past criminal history. However, while the Judge will pronounce a prison sentence, he will “stay" execution of the sentence, meaning that you will not be sent to prison.

  • While execution of your sentence is “stayed," you will be placed on probation and given certain probationary conditions. For example, these conditions may include time in a local jail of up to 365 days, along with monetary fines, restitution, electronic home monitoring, community service, completion of certain treatment programs specific to your offense, and other conditions that the court sees fit.

  • If you violate probation, your “stay of execution" may be revoked. If you violate probation, the Judge may sentence you to the prison term initially pronounced at your sentencing. If you are sentenced to prison, any conditional release period that was initially pronounced by the Judge at your sentencing would apply.

A stay of execution is not the ideal outcome, because you are still convicted of a felony. However, a stay of execution does help you avoid prison. At times, a stay of execution is the best possible outcome, particularly when you are facing serious felony charges, such as a first degree controlled substance crime or a sex offense.

Stay of Imposition

A stay of imposition is a much better outcome than either a stay of execution or an executed sentence. With a stay of imposition:

  • You will plead guilty to a felony level offense. However, if you successfully complete probation, the conviction will be deemed a misdemeanor. What this means is that after you are sentenced and while you are on probation, a criminal records search will indicate that you were convicted of a felony. But once you successful completion of probation, the conviction will be converted to a misdemeanor. If avoiding a felony conviction is your primary objective, and the facts of the case are such that taking the case to trial does not seem like a good risk to you, then a stay of imposition may be the ideal outcome for your case.

  • Unlike a stay of execution or an executed sentence, with a stay of imposition the Judge will not “pronounce" a sentence. What this means is that a Judge will not state at sentencing the amount of prison time that you would be sentenced to if you violate probation. However, if you violate probation and your stay of imposition is revoked, a Judge will then “pronounce" a sentence according to the sentence that would have been given to you when you were initially sentenced based on the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines will determine your sentencing range based on the offense to which you pled guilty and your criminal history score. A motion for a downward or upward departure can not be made at a probation violation hearing, where the Judge would pronounce your sentence once your stay of imposition is revoked.

  • Like a stay of execution, a stay of imposition may include probationary conditions such as local jail time of up to a year, fines, community service, electronic home monitoring, or other conditions. You will also be placed on probation for a term determined by the sentencing Judge. If you are given a stay of imposition on an offense that includes a requirement you register as a sex offender or predatory offender, you will be required to comply with the registration requirement even though you are receiving a stay of imposition.

Conviction deemed a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 609.13

Having your conviction deemed a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor is preferable to an executed sentence, a stay of execution, or a stay of imposition. When your conviction is deemed a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor, your conviction will ALWAYS show up on criminal records searches as a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor. Arrest records may show that you were arrested for a felony, but the arrest records can be dealt with in a separate proceeding.

Having your conviction deemed a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor means:

  • You are sentenced to either 1-90 days in jail (conviction deemed a misdemeanor) or 91-365 days in jail (conviction deemed a gross misdemeanor). Unlike a stay of imposition, your conviction will appear as a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING SENTENCING.

  • Unlike a stay of imposition, the sentence can never be converted to a felony, even if you violate probation. If you violate probation, you could be sentenced to 365 days in jail (if conviction deemed a gross misdemeanor) or 90 days in jail (if conviction deemed a misdemeanor). But you will permanently avoid a felony conviction.

  • Execution of your gross misdemeanor sentence or misdemeanor sentence can be “imposed" (meaning you would be sentenced to 365 days in jail or 90 days in jail) or “stayed." If your sentence is “stayed," you would not do the full sentence in jail unless you violate probation.

  • If your sentence is “stayed," you may be subject to probationary conditions including jail time, fines, community service, or other programs the Court deems appropriate. If your conviction is deemed a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor, but the offense which you were initially charged with includes a requirement you register as a sex offender or predatory offender, you will be required to comply with the registration requirement even though you are receiving gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor sentence.

Stay of Adjudication

A stay of adjudication for a felony offense can entirely avoid a conviction, provided you successfully complete probation. With a stay of adjudication:

  • You plead guilty to a felony level offense. However, the Judge does not “accept" your plea of guilty. What this means is that a conviction for a felony is not entered on your criminal record, provided you successfully complete probation. Once you successfully complete probation, the charges are dismissed, and your criminal record is clear of any convictions. However, arrest records will still show that you were arrested for a felony. In order to get rid of these arrest records, you will need to pursue an expungement of your record.

  • Adjudication of your guilt will be “stayed," meaning that you will not be found guilty. However, you will still be placed on probation. Additionally, the Court may still impose probationary conditions that include local jail time, fines, community service, electronic home monitoring, or any other conditions the Court deems appropriate.

If you are charged with a felony offense, and do not want to take the risk of going to trial, a stay of adjudication is the best way to avoid any conviction at all. Ideally, your criminal defense attorney will aggressively negotiate with the prosecutor in order to get you a stay of adjudication.

With the right criminal defense attorney, you may be able to receive a sentence that will not impact you as severely throughout the rest of your life. If you’ve been charged with a felony offense, contact a criminal defense attorney today to discuss your case and the options available to you.

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