SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives advanced the Public Safety, Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Budget. The legislation increases accountability for law enforcement while also increasing investments in public safety, and includes a variety of actions designed to reduce bias, decriminalize poverty, and ensure that every Minnesotan faces equitable treatment under our justice system. The bill also contains a series of comprehensive reforms authored by Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL – Shoreview), Vice Chair of the House Judiciary & Civil Law Committee, to expand justice for survivors of sexual assault as well as other measures.
“Right now, in far too many instances, our laws don’t provide justice for victims and survivors of sexual assault, and I’m excited about the reforms in this bill to address those shortcomings,” Rep. Moller said. “This outcome has only been possible through the voices of survivors, who are fully aware lawmakers can’t do anything to fix what they had to endure, but can ensure those in the future who experience trauma can receive justice.”
The bill includes a series of updates to Minnesota’s criminal sexual conduct code to address contradictions, loopholes, and other shortcomings which create barriers for survivors to receive justice. One such example closes the “voluntary intoxication” loophole, highlighted by a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision that when prosecuting a sexual assault case, “mentally incapacitated” doesn’t include a person who became intoxicated after voluntarily consuming alcohol. It also prevents sexual extortion and includes a series of measures to protect children, among other changes recommended by a survivor-led working group. Additionally, the bill incorporates Sheyla’s Law, originally introduced by Rep. Moller, to strengthen justice for members of the Minnesota National Guard who experience sexual assault at the hands of another Guard member. The bill transfers investigations of sexual assault where the victim and the accused are both members of the Guard to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
The legislation contains significant new investments in tools for law enforcement, including $10 million for local police to issue body-worn cameras, reform-focused training, and updating policies. While including these important investments, it also builds upon the work of the Minnesota Police Accountability Act, enacted in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd, to further strengthen the police officer misconduct database in building a more effective early warning intervention system to eliminate and correct harmful practices. It also allows local units of government to establish civilian oversight councils and funds community organizations working to prevent crime in their communities while addressing the need for community healing after traumatic events. To prevent white supremacist causes from infiltrating law enforcement, the bill prohibits peace officers from associating with such hateful, intimidating, and often violent groups.
“The guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial doesn’t mean we’ve fully solved our problems around a lack of police accountability,” Rep. Moller said. “The conversation cannot end, and we need to enact additional reforms and invest the resources in law enforcement so they can come to fruition. The legislation we passed last summer following the murder of George Floyd was only the first step, and this bill advances other critical reforms to ensure we can deliver the true public safety Minnesotans are counting on.”
There are provisions that require the courts to consider the potential for financial hardship on Minnesotans before increasing fines or fees, ensuring that low-income Minnesotans aren’t punished disproportionately. Significantly, this bill contains critical legislation that prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their pay history, which is a critical step in closing the gender pay gap.
The bill contains other measures authored by Rep. Moller including one to expand “second chances” by allowing prosecutors to initiate sentencing adjustments when an offender has demonstrated rehabilitation. The provision, supported by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, is aimed at making communities safer and fairer by allowing people who have been rehabilitated to be productive, contributing members of society.
Following a years-long effort, Rep. Moller’s proposed reforms to civil asset forfeiture – representing a compromise between law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and civil liberties advocates – are included in the bill. The measure contains changes to DWI forfeiture, changes to the federal government’s equitable sharing program, as well as changes and additions to reporting requirements, including a study on recidivism. The reforms will deliver fairness and oversight of an area of law that has received scrutiny from courts on constitutional grounds in recent years.
Finally, a provision expands the use of ignition interlock devices for those convicted of drunk driving instead of so-called “whiskey plates.” Ignition interlock decreases repeat drunk driving offenses by two-thirds. Since a 2003 court decision, law enforcement is no longer able to pull a vehicle over simply because of the presence of a “whiskey plate.” Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Minnesotans for Safe Driving, the DWI Task Force support the initiative.