Judiciary and Public Safety
PASSED AND SIGNED INTO LAW
DWIs and controlled substances – SF 2578
The Legislature added several new drugs to the state schedule of controlled substances and made it a crime for minors to possess or sell kratom, a controversial opioid-like substance that’s sold in health food and herbal medicine stores. In response to an impaired driver who killed three Minnesotans in a head-on collision, lawmakers amended the definition of an “intoxicating substance” in DWI laws to include inhalants such as compressed air. An individual can now be charged with a DWI if he or she “knows or has reason to know” a substance they have been exposed to, either intentionally or passively, can cause impairment.
Service animals – HF 3157
The Legislature made it a crime for knowingly misrepresenting an animal as a service animal or one in training to obtain the rights and privileges available to eligible individuals. The penalty for a first violation is a petty misdemeanor. Second and subsequent violations are a misdemeanor. In addition, business owners are not liable for damage or injury caused by a represented service animal, and damage caused by the animal is not due to negligence on the part of the owner. Liability would be applied to the animal’s owner, not the real property owner.
Skimmers – HF 817
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers addressed a rise in the use of “skimmers” – electronic devices installed on credit card readers on gas pumps, ATMs, and self-checkout lanes at grocery stores by criminals to steal consumers’ identifies and make fraudulent purchases. It is now a felony to access or attempt to access an ATM, gas pump, or similar device without authorization, or place or attempt to place a device that collects payment information. It establishes a gross misdemeanor crime for accessing or attempting to access point-of-sale devices without authorization in a way that creates a risk to public safety. Law enforcement and financial services industry representatives supported the bill.
Sex offender conditional release requirements – SF 3673
In response to the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision to deny an appeal to discharge an individual housed in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, the Legislature clarified conditions under which an offender may be eligible for a partial or full discharge from a civil commitment. Last year, the Minnesota Court of Appeals’ interpretation of current law made it virtually impossible to grant a partial discharge from civil commitment. A provisional discharge allows for continued supervision and treatment while a patient is integrated back into their community. This bill passed with unanimous support.
DWI conformity for snowmobiles, ATVs and boats – SF 3638
In response to the tragic death of a young boy in Chisago County, the Legislature made current DWI offenses applicable to individuals who operate snowmobiles, ATVs, and motorboats. Lawmakers also applied the “not a drop” zero tolerance law for people under age 21. The bill, named “Little Alan’s Law,” passed with near unanimous support.
DID NOT PASS
Common sense gun safety
DFL lawmakers introduced the Senate’s first and only comprehensive plan to address gun violence this year. The core of the plan includes better background checks and “red flag” laws that are intended to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and people who may harm themselves or others. An April 24 Star Tribune poll found near universal support among all demographic groups and geographic areas for both ideas. From 2009 to 2016, roughly 42% of mass shootings produced documentation that the attacker displayed dangerous warning signs before the shooting. Republican Senators refused to hold a single public hearing about gun violence, despite tens of thousands of people who visited the Capitol to demand change.
Fireworks – SF 235
A bill allowing the sale and use of aerial fireworks in Minnesota received a public hearing. Two committees approved it, but the bill stalled out after being moved to the rules committee on a procedural motion.
Female genital mutilation – SF 2525
A bill to define the crime of female genital mutilation in statute and establish penalties for people who knowingly facilitate the procedure received a public hearing. It establishes that a person convicted of knowingly participating or facilitating a procedure is guilty of a felony punishable by not more than one year and one day in prison, a fine of $3,000, or both. Minnesotans of East African ethnicity opposed the bill, which stalled in committee. Minnesota criminalized female genital mutilation in the 1990s, but no one has ever been charged. According to county attorneys who testified in a public hearing, current aiding and abetting laws already accomplish the bill’s intent.
Renter protection – SF 2949
A renter protection bill passed the Senate with unanimous support. It bill requires landlords to list a renter’s unit number and the start and end dates on the front page of the apartment lease. It also requires landlords to give equal length notice of a rent increase as tenants have to terminate a lease. For example, if a renter must give 60 days’ notice before vacating rental housing, the landlord must give 60 days’ notice of an increase in the cost of rent before it takes effect. The House declined to take up the bill.
The budget appropriates $10 million for judiciary and public safety expenditures in the current fiscal year and $10 million for FY 2020-2021, including:
- $6.6 million to provide health care for offenders housed in the Minnesota Department of Corrections. The Minnesota Constitution mandates that offenders receive health care while imprisoned.
- $2.9 million in FY 2019 and $1.871 million in FY 2020-2021 to hire additional staff at the Guardian Ad Litem Board, which provides legal representation to children in certain juvenile justice and child protection proceedings.
- $275,000 to hire two forensic scientists and purchase new drug laboratory equipment for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate a growing number of opioid-related crimes.
- The budget did not appropriate $1 million for the Safe and Secure Courthouse grant program as Governor Dayton requested. The program awards matching dollars to county courthouses for safety improvements.
The budget also contained judiciary and public safety policy provisions, including:
- Increased use of ignition interlocks for DWI convictions.
- Enhanced penalties for child pornography and human trafficking crimes.
- Making information on electronic tracking warrants available to the public.
- Improvements to a program that compensates Minnesotans who are wrongly incarcerated.