Minnesota Sentencing Lawyer - Durational Departure

As previously discussed in our blog about dispositional departures, sentencing often can be the most critical part of the criminal case. When the State simply has the facts to convict you, the case then turns to how to obtain the best possible sentence. There are two ways a defendant convicted of a felony can dramatically improve their sentence: a durational departure and/or a dispositional departure.

Our past blog highlighted dispositional departures, where a court looks at offender-specific factors when deciding whether to impose a sentence less than that called for by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. Typically, this means a probationary type sentence compared to a sentence executing a significant prison term. This blog will discuss the other option – a durational departure.

A durational departure asks the Court to impose a sentence with less time to serve, which often means asking the court to convert the felony sentence to a gross misdemeanor or even a misdemeanor sentence by ordering the maximum time to serve at less than one-year. Achieving this – a non-felony conviction – is huge for any defendant and can be the difference in a defendant’s ability to successfully move forward with their life following the conviction.

To obtain a durational departure, the defendant must prove to the court that the facts of the case were significantly less serious or onerous than the facts of a typical case involving the same crime. Essentially, there were mitigating factors that make this a less serious offense. For example, in an assault case, the facts very well establish a felony-level crime, but the defendant can argue that the presence of an imperfect self-defense claim make it less serious.

Seasoned Minnesota sentencing lawyers understand the importance of making strong departure arguments. And it often necessitates diligently exploring the possibility of it via discussions with judges – who cannot commit to anything, but can share their experiences and what they’d be looking for in such arguments. The right Minnesota sentencing lawyer knows how to navigate the criminal justice system and what arguments to make in order to achieve a durational departure come sentencing. And this can be the difference between a felony or non-felony outcome.



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