DSC_0108While you were enjoying the previous weekend, several new Minnesota laws became effective on August 1. In addition, new updates to the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines quietly took effect as well, which apply to felony crimes committed on or after August 1, 2015. Recent additions to the 2015 Guidelines run the gamut from wrongful employment at a child care center under Minn. Stat. § 609.816, to the new gross misdemeanor reckless driving offense under Minn. Stat. §169.13, subd. 1(a). All the new changes to the Sentencing Guidelines are described here.

The purpose of the Guidelines “is to establish rational and consistent sentencing standards that reduce sentencing disparity and ensure that the sanctions imposed for felony convictions are proportional to the severity of the conviction offense and the offender’s criminal history.” In 1978 the Minnesota Legislature first established the Sentencing Guidelines Commission to bring about these standards to actual sentencing practices.  Three years later, Minnesota became the first state to implement a sentencing guidelines structure.

Despite the Guidelines’ primary goal of sentencing consistency, no two offenses are alike and sentences have to be customized for the situation. This is why the Guidelines allow judges to apply many different durational departure factors (and not others), both upward and downward. (A good analysis of these factors can be found in West’s Minnesota Practice: Criminal Law and Procedure.) At 137 pages, the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines are rather long and cumbersome, and contain some potentially confusing components.  Instructions for calculating sentences is available at the website, but maybe your department could benefit from additional training for interpreting the Guidelines.  The Commission offers webinars and in-person trainings on subject areas including sentencing worksheets, sentence modifiers, or consecutive sentencing. Have you got a question about the Guidelines that you need a quick answer to?  Call or email the Commission and get the answer!

 

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