What is an enhanceable offense? Under Minnesota Law, an offense is enhanceable if a conviction or a plea of guilty triggers a look-back period, which most commonly, lasts for ten years to punish someone for repeat conduct. During the ten years immediately following a conviction, if you are charged with the same offense, the severity of the charge can be increased or enhanced based on the previous conviction. This leads to greater consequences
In Minnesota, enhanceable offenses include, but are not limited to, the following: domestic assault, violation of a harassment restraining order, violation of a domestic assault no contact order, DWI offenses, driving without insurance, prostitution, 5th degree assault, indecent exposure, interference with privacy, and, in some instances, trespass.
Absent other aggravating factors, in Minnesota a first time DWI is generally treated as a misdemeanor. This means that the maximum possible penalty for the crime is 90 days in jail, a fine of $1,000, or both. A second DWI that occurs within the period of ten years immediately following the first DWI conviction would be treated as a gross misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a gross misdemeanor DWI is 365 days in jail, a fine in the amount of $3,000, or both. A third DWI, within that same ten-year period, would also be charged as a gross misdemeanor, but would likely result in additional executed jail time. Finally, a fourth DWI in the same period of ten years would be charged as a felony and could result in prison time.
Other enhanceable offense function in much the same way. For example, a first time domestic assault is typically treated as a misdemeanor offense with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail or a fine in the amount of $1,000, or both. However, a second domestic assault, or domestic violence related, conviction within the ten year look-back period, is typically treated as gross misdemeanor offense. During that same ten year period, by virtue of the first two convictions a third domestic assault related offense in ten years will be charged as a felony.
Why does it matter? It is common for police officers, or even prosecutors, to charge a crime based on their belief that it is a subsequent violation made more serious, or enhanced, by virtue of a previous conviction. Remembering that, under Minnesota law, a subsequent charge can only be enhanced by virtue of any conviction(s), there are many cases in which an original charge, later dismissed or reduced as part of a plea agreement, should not be used as the basis for an enhanced subsequent charge. Additionally, under Minnesota statute, if an offense is resolved as a petty misdemeanor, it cannot be used for enhancement purposes.
If you are charged with a subsequent violation of an enhanceable offense, it is important to verify the conviction being used. Knowing the level of the charges against you and understanding the exact resolution of any past criminal matters can be a vital part of your legal defense. It is also important to keep enhanceability in mind when considering whether to accept a potential plea agreement; a plea to an enhanceable offense will result not only in a conviction now, but can lead to a more serious charge in the future. Enhanceable offense require a skilled defense attorney to help avoid the more severe consequences, including the risk of jail time. Wilson Law Group is ready to defend you aggressively to keep you at home with your family instead of in custody.