Criminal Law Section Newsletter | November 2013
The Criminal Law Section Council met on Wednesday, November 6, 2013. Following are some of the highlights.
1. Mugshot Legislation. Mark Karron, a Supervising Attorney at the University of Minnesota Legal Service, provided information about a website called Mugshots.com. The website posts publicly available arrest information and mugshots. No effort is made to update the website if the arrest does not result in charges. Persons wishing to remove their names and photos from the website must pay to do so unless they can provide documentation that the matter was resolved in their favor. Mr. Karron’s group is planning to propose legislation to address this activity and is seeking the support of the criminal law section. The proposed language will be circulated to the criminal law section for review once it has been provided.
2. McNeely/Brooks – Discussion of Follow Up CLE. The Supreme Court issued a decision in State v. Brooks on October 23, 2013. Several CLE’s were staged soon after to discuss the holding. Rather than put on another similar CLE, the criminal law section decided to defer until January so that we can incorporate the decisions in other related cases pending at the Court of Appeals.
3. CLE Planning. Planning is well underway for a full slate of CLE’s beginning in January 2014. The annual trial school will be held in April or May. Last year we received several requests to expand the trial school to include pretrial issues, so the section will be putting on a program entitled “Everything But the Trial” in January, which will cover things like retainer agreements, pre-trial motions, negotiating, and witness preparation. Work is also underway to develop a program addressing civil landmines in criminal practice – that is, understanding the civil consequences of the decisions defendants will need to make in the context of their criminal case.
Activity at the Legislature
The Legislature has been holding off-session hearings on several issues of interest to Criminal Law section members.
1. Expungement Working Group. The Legislature has established the Expungement Working Group, which is a joint effort of the House and Senate. The working group has held three hearings so far. The first two hearings focused on educating and informing members about the process for expungement as well as any current barriers to obtaining this type of relief, including the recent decision in In re Welfare of M.D.T., 831 N.W.2d 276 (Minn. 2013). You can listen to these hearings online. At the third meeting, the working group received public input. Additional meetings will be held in December to consider possible solutions.
2. Select Committee on Controlled Substances and Synthetic Drugs. The House has established the House Select Committee on Controlled Substances and Synthetic Drugs. The Committee is chaired by Rep. Simonson from Duluth, where the sale of synthetic drugs has been an ongoing controversy. At its first meeting in July, the Committee learned about the extent of the state’s synthetic drug problem, why synthetic drugs are so dangerous, and potential ways to combat the increased use of these substances. You can view a recording of the meeting online (scroll down page to July 9th). At a meeting in October, the committee discussed potential recommendations. A recording of the meeting is available online. The committee plans to meet again in December, and will file a report with recommendations in February. The committee Chair noted at the October meeting that there is no real solution to this problem in its entirety; rather it will require a combination of state, local, and federal efforts.
3. Sex Offender Sentencing/Civil Commitment. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on November 18, 2013 to consider the issue of sex offender sentencing and civil commitment. As offenders serving a prison sentence for criminal sexual conduct offenses near the end of their term, the Department of Corrections evaluates them for risk to reoffend, and refers some for potential civil commitment. The State of Minnesota is currently being sued in federal court because, although nearly 700 individuals are civilly committed today, just one offender has successfully been released from the program in recent times. The lawsuit alleges that the civil commitment program is a punitive confinement measure rather than a treatment program. The federal court ordered the creation of the Sex Offender Civil Commitment Task Force to make legislative recommendations. The report of the task force is expected December 1, 2013. Although the task force is not expected to make recommendations regarding the sentencing side of the equation, it is expected that sentencing will be discussed during the session.