Bussa Law

Main Menu

Minnesota Legal Blog

Challenging racial bias in criminal cases

Some Minnesota residents have raised serious concerns about the impact of racial bias on criminal convictions and sentencing. Studies have shown that black defendants face disproportionately longer sentences and may be more likely to remain in pretrial detention. Some researchers have attributed this ongoing issue to implicit racial bias, when jurors or judges do not act consciously to perpetrate racial discrimination but rely on stereotypes about danger and criminality when evaluating a case. Other issues about race may also arise in the course of a case, including the unreliability of cross-racial witness identifications.

Legal researchers believe that criminal defense lawyers may be able to help overcome racial biases by speaking openly about the issue. Because implicit bias is unconscious, raising the issue to the level of consciousness may push judges and juries to consider more closely whether their evaluations of an individual could be related to racial stereotypes. For example, lawyers may ask the judge to explicitly mention the potential of racial bias or stereotype when giving instructions to the jury, while warning against reliance on gut feelings or personal like or dislike of a defendant or witness. They also advise defense lawyers to promote an individual narrative about their client in order to free them from the realm of stereotype.

The DUI crash rate has gone down in most states

According to a study conducted by Siegfried and Jensen, Minnesota has the toughest drunk driving laws in the nation. However, the state ranked 17th in the nation in reducing DUI crashes per 100,000 drivers between 2004 and 2018. In 2004, Minnesota had a DUI crash rate of 5.1, and in 2018, that rate had dropped 39.4% to 3.1 per 100,000 crashes.

The report found that every state except for Connecticut saw a decrease in DUI crashes during the study period. In Connecticut, the DUI crash rate increased by 7.1%. Tennessee led the nation with a 57.1% decline in drunk driving crashes between 2004 and 2018. Individuals are encouraged to use Uber or Lyft to get a ride home when they are drunk or otherwise impaired. If they are not available in a given area, residents are urged to call a friend or family member for a ride home.

Three men arrested during Hibbing drug bust

On Jan. 8, Minnesota authorities arrested three men for allegedly possessing and distributing methamphetamine. The trio was taken into custody in Hibbing.

According to media releases, deputies from the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant at an apartment complex on the 2000 block of 6th Avenue East at approximately 8:40 p.m. A 33-year-old male answered the door, and deputies placed him under arrest. A search of his clothing reportedly revealed that he was carrying over 300 grams of methamphetamine on his person. Two other men inside the apartment, ages 57 and 61, were also found to have cash, several baggies of meth and drug paraphernalia in their possession.

Minnesota DWI charges increased by 4% in 2019

More people were detained in Minnesota in 2019 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI) than in the previous year. A preliminary report that was released from the Department of Public Safety detailed the number of drivers detained on DWI charges as part of a program to decrease the number of drunk drivers on the road.

The report showed that 26,825 individuals were detained on suspicion of DWI in 2018. In 2019, however, these numbers jumped to 27,975, a 4% increase. Programs to reduce the number of DWI charges began in 2015. These programs focused on the counties in Minnesota that had the largest amount of drunk driving incidents. The program included placing 18 officers on full-time DWI patrol in these counties.

Harsh fentanyl laws may hurt poor communities

Minnesota residents may or may not be aware that analogs of fentanyl were classified as Schedule 1 drugs in an emergency order that was issued by the Drug Enforcement Administration. That emergency order, which made it easier for the DEA to seize fentanyl analogs and investigate people trafficking in these drugs, is scheduled to expire on Feb. 6.

While many people are pushing to make the DEA's emergency order permanent, others are saying that harsh penalties for fentanyl analogs disproportionately harm minority and low-income communities. Because drug laws do not distinguish sellers from users, drug users who sell small quantities to their friends could be charged for trafficking a Schedule 1 substance. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission data from 2016, only 16 percent of people who were charged for trafficking illegal fentanyl knew that what they had was fentanyl.

Racial gaps persist in criminal justice system

Criminal justice reform advocates in Minnesota have drawn attention to the racial disparities that persist across the country in imprisonment rates and sentencing. According to a study conducted by the Council on Criminal Justice, these racial gaps have decreased over the past 16 years. The council is a non-partisan organization that includes experts from different perspectives on criminal justice, including reform advocates, government officials and police representatives. At the same time that the study highlights positive outcomes, it also raises concerns about the persistence of serious racial gaps.

The report noted that gaps in incarceration rates between black and white Americans have declined between 2000 and 2016 in state and local jails and prisons as well as in the parole and probation systems. While the results showed similar trends over all major categories of crime, the largest decrease in racial disparity was found in terms of drug offenses. Drug crime sentencing has drawn widespread attention due to its massive impact on communities of color for largely nonviolent crimes. The legalization of cannabis and the opioid epidemic have also led to changes in the policing of drug crimes. While black people were 15 times as likely as white people to be imprisoned for drug crimes in 2000, that multiple dropped to five times by 2016.

Duluth cops seize record amount of fentanyl

On Nov. 21, Minnesota authorities arrested two men for allegedly distributing fentanyl in the Duluth area. The undercover operation led to the seizure of 80 grams of pure fentanyl powder, which is the largest amount ever confiscated in the state.

According to local media outlets, the defendants, a 29-year-old resident of Duluth and a 35-year-old resident of Chicago, were in possession of enough fentanyl to kill 26,000 people. As a result, they will likely be charged with felony drug crimes in St. Louis County District Court.

Judges might not realize how unconscious biases drive decisions

People assume that judges strive to act in an objective and deliberative manner when presiding over courts in Minnesota. However, neuroscience and trends in judicial decisions suggest otherwise. Unconscious biases held by judges could make them issue unfair rulings even when they believe that they are acting fairly.

Neuroscience researchers have found that brain activity does not consistently correspond with people's consciously held beliefs. Their internal unconscious biases tend to color how they view other people's behaviors or circumstances. In the court room, biases influencing judges have the potential to inflict serious consequences on other people.

Minnesota judge rules drug search unconstitutional

A Minnesota judge ruled on Oct. 8 that police did not have sufficient probable cause to search a camper in March. The ruling led to the release of two Montana men who were taken into custody when police discovered more than 900 pounds of marijuana in the camper. The men were facing up to 30 years in prison on drug possession charges.

The Minnesota State Patrol trooper who made the traffic stop on Interstate 94 said that he pulled the camper over because it was being driven erratically and had a cracked windshield. He also claimed that seeing campers at that time of the year was rare. However, footage recorded by his cruiser's dashboard camera revealed that the camper was being driven safely, and several other campers were on the road at the time.

Almost 77,000 THC vaping cartridges seized in Minnesota

On Sept. 23, Minnesota authorities confiscated nearly 77,000 illicit THC vaping cartridges from a residence in Coon Rapids. The bust is thought to be the one of the largest drug busts in state history.

According to media reports, the Northwest Metro Drug Task Force raided a home and uncovered the cartridges, which have an estimated street value of $3.8 million. Investigators believe they were brought in from another state so they could be distributed locally. However, they are uncertain if they are legal products from other states or black market products that were shipped in. In addition to the cartridges, investigators found other THC and marijuana products and $23,380 in counterfeit cash in the home. A man in the residence was taken into custody, but the charges against him were not disclosed.

  • What Should You Do If You Get Stopped By A Cop?

    You should not be hostile. Simply stop and allow the cop to do the cop’s job. If you are ticketed or arrested, immediately...

  • What Should You Say If You Get Stopped By A Cop?

    You have constitutional rights that you can invoke. This means that you do not have to say anything to cops, which is...

  • Can A Cop Search Your Person And/Or Your Stuff?

    A cop can search you and/or your car if a cop has probable cause to believe you pose a violent threat to the cop and/or that you...

  • What Is The Standard To Arrest You?

    A cop must have probable cause to arrest you for a crime. A cop can use the cop’s training and experience as well as his...

  • What Should You Do If You Get Served With A Search Warrant?

    The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution mandates that a cop present...

  • If Arrested, How Long Can You Be Held In Jail?

    No matter what crime you are charged with, you have 36 hours to have a bail hearing if you are in jail. This time requirement...

  • If Arrested, How Long Do You Have To Wait To Be Formally Charged?

    If you are in custody, the prosecution has 48 hours from the time of your demand to file...

  • Are All Of Your Privacy Rights Protected?

    No, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution only protects your person, your home, your papers, and your...

  • What Are The Differences Between The United States And The Minnesota Constitutions?

  • After You Are Charged, What Does The Process Entail?

    Vigorously defending your rights demands a marathon, not a sprint, mentality. Every stone must be overturned.

Learn More About Your Rights Call For A Free Consultation 218-303-5497

Free Consultations

Client Reviews

More Reviews