As the new Minnesota Legislature (Minnesota’s 93rd legislature) gets to work, there’s a lot of rumblings of significant changes coming to criminal law in Minnesota. It’s hard to say this early which of these might actually become reality, but there’s talk, at least, of some major moves. Some of these include significant reforms. Some of the bigger changes I’ve heard talked about include:
- Restoring the right for people to vote once they’ve been incarcerated
- Additional funding for mental health crisis response teams
- Bail reform, such as ending cash bail for non-violent offenses
- Changes to Minnesota’s expungement statute to make it easier for people to clear up their old criminal records
- Changes to our driver’s license laws, making it easier for people to get licenses (potentially even undocumented individuals)
- Legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use
Marijuana legalization in particular seems like a change that could have dramatic impacts on criminal law in Minnesota. There will need to be many interesting discussions about how such a change would be implemented, how sales and distribution would be handled, etc. Minnesota law currently permits police to search a stopped motor vehicle if they smell the odor of marijuana coming from it. Many vehicle searches take place under these circumstances, sometimes leading to the discovery of other drugs, weapons, or other contraband. If Minnesota legalizes marijuana possession, it may well have a major impact on law enforcement’s ability to search stopped vehicles.