Arrested teenager taking a mugshot in a police station. Minnesota public safety bill brings changes to juvenile justice.

Minnesota Public Safety Bill Brings Changes to Juvenile Justice

Minnesota recently passed a public safety bill that brings sweeping changes to the state’s juvenile justice system. While minors sometimes run afoul of the law, the juvenile justice system seeks to account for the differences between children and adults. Therefore, while the penalties for adults convicted of crimes focus on punishment, those for juveniles are aimed at diversion and restorative practices.

Arrested teenager taking a mugshot in a police station. Minnesota public safety bill brings changes to juvenile justice.

If your child has been accused of a crime, the time to seek legal counsel is now. Our juvenile criminal defense attorneys will advocate on behalf of your child, and work to obtain an outcome in his or her best interest.

The Minnesota Juvenile Legal Process

The Minnesota juvenile justice system handles cases involving those under the age of 18-years-old who are accused of committing criminal acts. When minors are charged with crimes, their case often goes to the juvenile court system. Unlike adult criminal court, which emphasizes punishment, juvenile criminal court focuses on rehabilitation.

The court process for juveniles in Minnesota begins with intake, where the juvenile’s case is evaluated to determine the appropriate course of action. In some cases, the juvenile may be diverted from formal court proceedings and referred to a diversion program or other community-based intervention.

If the case proceeds to court, a hearing is held to determine whether the juvenile is delinquent. If the court finds the juvenile delinquent, a disposition hearing is held to determine the appropriate consequences. The court may order counseling, community service, probation, or placement in a residential facility, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Throughout the process, the juvenile’s rights are protected, and efforts are made to involve the family in the rehabilitation process. The goal is to address the underlying issues that contributed to the delinquent behavior and help the juvenile develop the skills needed to lead a law-abiding life.

Juveniles Tried as Adults

Juveniles who commit serious offenses, such as murder or aggravated assault, may be subject to transfer to adult court, where they will be tried and sentenced as adults. In such cases, they may work with a felony lawyer.

The decision to transfer a juvenile to adult court is typically made by a judge, who considers factors such as the seriousness of the offense, the juvenile’s prior record, and the juvenile’s age and maturity level. Once transferred to adult court, the juvenile loses the protections and benefits of the juvenile justice system and is subject to the same legal procedures and penalties as adult offenders.

With recent reforms to the system, Minnesota has taken substantial steps toward reducing the number of minors tried as adults, and to help prevent juveniles from entering the criminal justice system in the first place.

Key Changes in the Juvenile Justice System

In following with recent Supreme Court decisions and other states, Minnesota’s public safety bill brings major changes to the juvenile justice system. Through changes to the age of jurisdiction, juvenile rights updates, restorative justice practices, diversion programs, and expungement opportunities, the bill aims to provide more appropriate and effective interventions for underage offenders.

Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction

One of the changes introduced by the bill is the expansion of the age of juvenile jurisdiction. Previously, minors aged 16- and 17-years-old were automatically tried as adults for certain offenses. The new law raises the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18-years-old. As such, it adjusts the age of adulthood for criminal justice purposes, and changes when you need a juvenile defense attorney.

Parole for Life Sentences

Another significant change introduced by the bill relates to life sentences for juveniles. Under the new law, juveniles who are sentenced to life in prison must be eligible for parole after serving a specified number of years. The change aligns Minnesota with the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, which held that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles are unconstitutional.

A man convicted of murdering a woman and her child in Minneapolis when he was 17-years-old could be eligible for parole under the new law. Imprisoned since 2008, he has already served 15 years, which makes his case eligible for consideration. 

The state’s supervised release board, established through the bill, will review juvenile cases such as this to make determinations regarding whether the case should be sent back for re-sentencing or considered for parole. Therefore, alternative to getting released on parole, the case could be re-sentenced to concurrent terms. As such, the man would be eligible for parole after 30 years.

Juvenile Rights While Incarcerated

Previously allowed as a matter of routine, the bill prohibits strip searches of juveniles in custody, except in cases when there is reasonable suspicion that the juvenile is concealing contraband or a weapon. The change aims to allow the necessary security measures, while also protecting the dignity and privacy of underage offenders.

Restorative Justice Practices

The bill also promotes the use of restorative justice practices in juvenile cases. Restorative justice focuses on repairing the harm caused by the offender’s actions and promoting healing for all involved parties. By emphasizing accountability, empathy, and the restoration of relationships, restorative justice practices can lead to more meaningful outcomes for juvenile offenders and their communities.

Diversion Programs

The bill emphasizes the use of diversion programs for juvenile offenders. Such programs aim to divert young offenders away from the traditional court process and into community-based programs that address the underlying causes of their behavior. By providing alternatives to formal court proceedings, diversion programs can help reduce recidivism and promote positive outcomes for young offenders.

Expungement of Juvenile Records

Another change introduced by the bill is the new expungement process for juvenile records. Under the previous law, juvenile records were not automatically expunged, meaning individuals could be burdened by their past offenses well into adulthood. The new law allows for the expungement of juvenile records under certain conditions, providing a fresh start for young offenders who have successfully rehabilitated.

Reception for the Reforms

The bill has sparked both positive and negative reactions. Advocates of the changes applaud the emphasis on rehabilitation and diversion programs. However, critics express concerns about the implementation of the changes, as well as the potential impact on public safety and victims’ rights.

Support for the Public Safety Bill

The recent public safety bill has been largely celebrated for its efforts to reform the juvenile justice system. Many advocates for juvenile justice reform have praised the bill for its increased focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment. By expanding diversion programs, promoting restorative justice practices, and limiting harsh sentencing practices, the bill is seen as a positive step towards helping young offenders turn their lives around.

The bill’s provisions regarding life sentences for juveniles and strip searches in custody align with recent Supreme Court rulings, which have emphasized the need for a more individualized and rehabilitative approach to juvenile justice.

By providing more opportunities for diversion and rehabilitation, the bill has the potential to reduce recidivism rates among juvenile offenders. By addressing the underlying causes of delinquent behavior and providing support services, the bill aims to help juveniles reintegrate into society successfully.

Critiques of the Public Safety Bill

Despite the foreseen benefits, critics of the Minnesota public safety bill express concerns about its implementation and effects. Some critics of the bill have expressed concerns about its impact on public safety. They argue that by reducing the use of incarceration and limiting harsh sentencing practices, the bill may fail to adequately address the risks posed by serious juvenile offenders.

Further, there are concerns that the emphasis on rehabilitation and diversion programs may overlook the needs of victims of juvenile crime. Critics argue that the bill should place more emphasis on holding juvenile offenders accountable for their actions and providing restitution to victims.

Others have raised concerns about the practical challenges of implementing the bill’s provisions. They argue that the bill’s focus on rehabilitation and diversion may require resources and infrastructure that may not be readily available.

Proponents for the bill, and those against it, can agree that the changes warrant attention. Those on both sides will watch to see how the changes brought by the reforms affect the community.  

The effects of a criminal conviction can be serious, and effect juveniles well into adulthood. If your child has been charged with a crime, don’t wait. Contact our team at Max Keller Criminal Defense Attorneys to discuss the options and best path forward.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.
If a county medical examiner’s work is called into question in one case, it can affect all those they were a part of. An independent review is underway of murder cases involving the testimony of the long-time medical examiner in Ramsey County, Minnesota. The review comes in response to a wrongful murder conviction that was recently vacated on the basis that the medical examiner gave flawed medical testimony.