The 2023 legislative session was a busy one for Minnesota’s elected officials. The DFL-controlled House and Senate passed many bills tweaking old laws and adding brand new ones. Here are some of the most important things to know about the new criminal bills passed by the legislature:
This year Minnesota became the 23rd state to legalize recreational marijuana possession and use. Beginning August 1, 2023, adults in Minnesota age 21 and older can legally possess marijuana both in public and in their private residence. In public, a person can possess up to 2 ounces. In their private residence, they can possess up to 2 pounds. Additionally, someone can cultivate up to 8 cannabis plants at home, including 4 mature plants.
Individuals who have previous arrests, charges, or convictions relating to marijuana may also have their records expunged depending on the level of offense.
Minnesota has become the first state to fully legalize the possession of drug paraphernalia. While it is still illegal to manufacture drug paraphernalia for delivery, it is no longer a crime for an individual in Minnesota to possess drug paraphernalia. This includes hypodermic syringes and needles. This applies even to paraphernalia that has residual amounts of one or more controlled substances in it.
Two notable actions that Minnesota criminalized this legislative session are carjacking and organized retail theft. Carjacking is now defined as taking a motor vehicle from a person while knowing they are not entitled to the motor vehicle and using o threatening force against any person to overcome the person’s resistance to the taking of the motor vehicle. Depending on the force used, carjacking can be charged in the first, second, or third degree. A person can be charged with Organized Retail Theft if the person is employed by or associated with a retail theft enterprise and the person has previously engaged in a pattern of retail theft and intentionally commits an act or directs another member of the retail theft enterprise to commit an act involving retail merchandise. Under this law, “retail theft enterprise” is defined as a group of two or more individuals with a shared goal involving the unauthorized removal of retail merchandise from a retailer.
Some Minnesotans may now be eligible for automatic expungement of their records. A person may be eligible for automatic expungement if all charges against them were dismissed, or all pending actions or proceedings were resolved in their favor. Additionally, a person may be eligible for automatic expungement if they have successfully completed the terms of a diversion program or stay of adjudication for a qualifying offense that is not a felony and have not been petitioned or charged with a new offense. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension shall identify any records
that qualify for automatic expungement within 30 days of the end of the applicable waiting period for the offense that is sought to be expunged. These provisions, initially a part of the Clean Slate Act, were absorbed by the Public Safety Bill.
Limitation on “No-Knock” Warrants
A “no-knock” warrant is a search warrant that allows police to enter certain premises without first loudly and understandably announcing their presence or purpose and giving the occupant time to comply prior to entering the premises. In Minnesota, police will no longer be able to request a “no-knock” warrant unless they can show a court that the search cannot be executed while the premises is unoccupied and the occupants in the premises present a threat of death or great bodily harm to the officers executing the warrant.
Criminal Offense Level Changes
In Minnesota, gross misdemeanors no longer carry the threat of imprisonment of up to a year. Assuming there is no fixed punishment already attached to the offense, if you are charged with a gross misdemeanor, the maximum time for imprisonment that you may receive is 364 days. This means that if you receive a sentence of 365 days, or more, of imprisonment, the offense would be classified as a felony.
Assault motivated by bias is when a person commits assault against another person because they fall under a protected class. The most recognized protected classes include race, color, religion, and sex. Minnesota, however, has expanded the protected classes to now include, among other things, gender identity and gender expression. This means a person who assaults someone because of their gender identity or gender expression could be charged with assault motivated by bias. This offense would be classified as a gross misdemeanor instead of a misdemeanor.
Aiding & Abetting
Minnesota no longer holds someone criminally liable for a death caused by another person unless they intentionally aided or conspired with the other person. Additionally, someone is no longer criminally liable for the death caused by another person unless they were a major participant in the felony and acted with an extreme indifference to human life. This change to the law limits the reaches of aiding and abetting under Minnesota’s felony murder rule. Any person who was convicted under Minnesota’s aiding and abetting felony murder rule who does not fit the new definition of aiding and abetting is entitled to petition to have their conviction vacated.
If you are charged with any of these offenses, or any of them apply to you, our team of attorneys are here to help! Give our office a call at (763) 421-6366.