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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Brian Johnson (R)

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

News Release 


ST. PAUL, MN—The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission voted today on an amended proposal placing a presumptive cap on probation for most felony crimes at five years.  Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, Republican Lead on the House Public Safety Division, issued the following statement regarding the vote.

"Despite changing the proposal to a presumptive cap, today’s vote is a major overreach by the Sentencing Guidelines Commission, which does not have authority to make such dramatic changes to probation sentences. It is the role of the legislature and judiciary—not an unelected group of 11 people—to determine appropriate probation terms for heinous crimes, including sex trafficking, domestic assault, and aggravated robbery. I plan to introduce legislation to reverse this administrative decision and ensure that the entire legislature can weigh in and determine whether this policy is one the courts should follow."

Today's vote is the final step in a process that began late last year when the Sentencing Guidelines Commission likely violated the state open meeting law by proceeding with action on the recommendation which had been marked as a discussion item on the meeting's agenda. The proposal had not been posted online, and there had been no public notice that the commission would take action on the agenda item.

In addition, there were major questions raised at the meeting on whether the commission even has authority to mandate caps on probation lengths. There is no previous precedent for the commission making these changes, and by imposing a hard probation cap the courts must follow, it violates the commission’s authority under state law. The Attorney General’s office recognized this overreach of authority and the revised proposal makes the cap presumptive. There are still legal issues with the revised language, which the judicial members of the commission pointed out during debate.

The revised presumptive probation cap voted on today will go into effect later this year unless action is taken by the legislature to explicitly reverse or amend the action taken by the Sentencing Guidelines Commission.