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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jamie Long (DFL)

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Minnesota House passes bill to prevent unnecessary interactions with law enforcement

Thursday, May 6, 2021

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed legislation authored by Rep. Jamie Long (DFL - Minneapolis) and Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL - Brooklyn Center) that would prevent dangerous interactions between Minnesotans and police officers. The bill, which was introduced in response to the killing of Daunte Wright, aims to reduce encounters where police arrest people who have missed court appearances for certain low-level offenses.

“Reducing the number of occasions where police take people into custody will make Minnesotans safer,” said Rep. Long. “Our goal is to lower the temperature in police interactions whenever possible. Providing a court date to someone who never got the notice is a simple step but could have a big impact in promoting safety for both officers and the public.”

"This is a common sense change we can make to policing to ensure that individuals who interact with police officers can get home safely," said Rep. Vang. "These are the kinds of changes we must make so that officers can focus more on emergency situations and Minnesotans of color can feel safe in their communities. Our goal is to prevent another traumatic event while allowing our justice system to function appropriately."

Minnesotans who are charged with a crime receive a mailed summons to appear in court at a certain date and time. If they don’t appear, the court typically issues a bench warrant that authorizes law enforcement to arrest the individual. This bill allows courts to issue sign and release warrants instead of arrest warrants for people charged with certain misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses. Police officers who come into contact with people who are subject to sign and release warrants would inform them of the missed appearance and provide written notice of a new court date instead of arresting them. 

The bill provides judges with an alternative to bench warrants, so detention can be restricted to those who pose a significant threat to public safety. It would reduce unnecessary arrests and allow law enforcement to dedicate their time and resources to more serious issues. 

Several jurisdictions, including Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, already use sign and release warrants for misdemeanors. These procedures are effective; in Hennepin County, 66 percent of people who are given a new date appear in court. The bill would expand the practice statewide and extend it to certain gross misdemeanors. 

A video of today’s floor session will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel