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Minnesota Constitutional Defenses

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A State Constitution Can Protect the People’s Rights Better than the U. S. Constitution.

In criminal law, we have Minnesota constitutional defenses.

A state court has greater power to enforce your rights under the state constitution; than under the federal constitution.  So the federal constitution protects the minimum basic freedoms — a floor.  But state constitutions can assert more legal protections for individuals within that state.

1857 Minnesota constitutional defenses

“It is unnecessary to rest our decision on the uncertain meaning of [federal law] when the Minnesota Constitution alone provides an independent and adequate state constitutional basis on which to decide.”
State v. Hershberger, 462 N.W.2d 393, 396-97 (Minn. 1990).

And if a Minnesota Court rules based upon the Minnesota Constitution; a party may not reverse that ruling on appeal to a federal court.  So federal court precedent interpreting the United States Constitution is not binding upon Minnesota Courts interpreting the Minnesota Constitution.

Article I is Minnesota’s Bill of Rights.

Like the U.S. Constitution, our Minnesota Constitution features a Bill of Rights, in Article 1. And similarly, the Courts will enforce these rights. So in criminal cases, these Minnesota constitutional defenses can make the difference.

Let’s mention some of our Minnesota constitutional rights, below.

Free Speech

Sec. 3. protects the liberty of the press (forever inviolate), and “all persons may freely speak…”

Jury Trial

Sec. 4. declares “The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate...”

No Excessive Bail; Punishment fits the crime

Sec. 5. prohibits EXCESSIVE BAIL, UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS.

Notice of accusation; Right to Confront Witnesses; Subpoena Power; Right to Legal Counsel

Sec. 6. provides RIGHTS OF ACCUSED IN CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS: “The accused shall enjoy the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusationto be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor and to have the assistance of counsel in his defense.”

Due process; Right Against Self-Incrimination; No Double Jeopardy; Right to Pretrial Release

Sec. 7, includes DUE PROCESS; PROSECUTIONS; DOUBLE JEOPARDY; SELF-INCRIMINATION; BAIL: “No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law, and no person shall be put twice in jeopardy of punishment for the same offensenor be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. All persons before conviction shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses when the proof is evident or the presumption great.”

And for more on pretrial release, see our blog: Get Out of Jail After Arrest – Tips for Getting Your Loved One Out

Right to be free of searches; Limited Search Warrants & requirements

Article I, Sec. 10. concerns UNREASONABLE SEARCHES AND SEIZURES PROHIBITED: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized.”

Cases applying Minnesota constitutional defenses

In an example of Minnesota constitutional defenses, a Minnesota Supreme Court decision says that roadblocks were unconstitutional seizures under Minnesota law. But they were not federal constitutional law.  Ascher v. Commissioner of Public Safety, 519 N.W.2d 183 (Minn. 1994).

Another example is State of Minnesota vs. Francisco Garcia, 683 N.W.2d 294 (2004). The Minnesota Supreme Court held Minnesota Statutes § 260B.130, subdivision 5 (2002), in violation of the the Minnesota Constitution‘s equal protection guarantees. It did so by denying jail credit to extended jurisdiction juveniles for time served in juvenile facility custody.

Liberty for all

Minnesota Defense Attorney Thomas Gallagher
Minnesota Defense Attorney Thomas Gallagher

The Minnesota Constitution is both a sword and shield to help protect the People of Minnesota from government abuse.

So defense attorneys, courts, and juries can use Minnesota constitutional defenses to define and protect the Liberty interests of us all.