About the Guidelines

The Sentencing Guidelines embody the goals of the criminal justice system as determined by the citizens of the state through their elected representatives. This system promotes uniform and proportional sentences for convicted felons and helps to ensure that sentencing decisions are not influenced by factors such as race, gender, or the exercise of constitutional rights by the defendant. The Guidelines serve as a model for the criminal justice system as a whole to aspire to, as well as provide a standard to measure how well the system is working.

How to Read the Grid

The Guidelines are based on a grid structure. The vertical axis of the Grid represents the severity of the offense for which the offender was convicted. The horizontal axis represents a measure of the offender's criminal history. 

The recommended (presumptive) Guidelines Sentence is generally found in the cell of either the Standard Grid or the Sex Offender Grid where the offender’s criminal history score and the Severity Level of the offense intersect.


For cells in the gray shaded area of the grid, the Guidelines generally recommend a stayed sentence. When a sentence is stayed, the court places the offender on probation and may impose up to one year of conditional confinement in a local facility (jail or workhouse). Other conditions such as fines, restitution, community work service, treatment, house arrest, etc. may also be imposed on the offender. When a stay of execution is given, the presumptive sentence length shown in the appropriate cell should be pronounced, but its execution stayed. When a stay of imposition is given, no sentence length is pronounced, and the imposition of the sentence is stayed to some future date. If that sentence is ever imposed, the presumptive sentence length shown in the appropriate cell should be pronounced, and a decision should be made on whether to execute the presumptive sentence length given. 

For cells in the non-shaded area of the Grid, the Guidelines recommend commitment to prison. The number in the cell is the recommended length of the prison sentence in months. Minn. Stat. § 244.09 subd. 5(2) allows the judge to impose a sentence that is 15% lower or 20% higher than the recommended length. That range is shown in italics.

When Sentences Are Departures

The Guidelines are recommendations based on typical circumstances. A case that involves unique circumstances- that is, when something about the offender is out of the ordinary or the manner in which the crime was committed is more or less severe than the manner in which the crime is typically committed- may be reason for departure. A departure is a pronounced sentenced that is different than the sentence recommended in the appropriate cell on the applicable Grid. If the court does depart, the judge must state the reasons for departure and either the prosecution or the defense may appeal the pronounced sentence. 

Regardless of whether the judge follows the Guidelines, the sentence pronounced is fixed and there is no parole board to grant early release from prison. When an offender receives an executed (prison) sentence, the sentence pronounced by the court consists of two parts: a term of imprisonment equal to two-thirds of the total executed sentence and a supervised release term equal to the remaining one-third. The amount of time the offender actually serves in prison may be extended by the Commissioner of Corrections if the offender violates disciplinary rules while in prison or violates conditions of supervised release. This extension period could result in the offender serving the entire executed sentence in prison. 

To submit a Departure Report click here.