Minnesota Protesting Laws Attorney
PUBLIC NUISANCE AND OTHER LIMITATIONS ON PROTESTING
Protests have perhaps never been without controversy. Following several high-profile protests across the country, however, Minnesota entered into the new wave of national discourse surrounding limitations on an individual’s right to protest in late2015 and into the summer of 2016. The public conversation in Minnesota was in particular response to protests at the Mall of America, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, and roadways in the Twin Cities and surrounding communities. At the center of the debate were difficult and complex questions: Where and when should protests occur? Should there even be a limitation on a person’s ability to protest?
Minnesota legislators then had the burden and responsibility of determining how to balance an individual’s First Amendment right to protest and express themselves politically with concerns of public safety and one’s ability to travel.
PENALTIES FOR DISORDERLY CONDUCT
Prior to this year's legislative session, there were already laws in place applicable to the controversial protests, leading to publicized arrests of numerous protestors. Protestors at the Mall of America were arrested for trespassing, defined by Minnesota Statute 609.605 as intentionally entering the premises of another without claim of right and refusing to depart from the premises on demand, and unlawful assembly, defined by Minnesota Statute 609.705 as three or more persons joining in a manner as to disturb or threaten the public peace. Both trespass and unlawful assembly are misdemeanor crimes punishable by up to 90 days jail and a $1,000 fine. Protestors on Interstate 94 in St. Paul were arrested for public nuisance, defined by Minnesota Statute 609.74 as interfering with, obstructing, or rendering dangerous for passage any public highway or right-of-way used by the public.Public nuisance is also a misdemeanor offense.
There have also been examples of protestors arrested for misdemeanor disorderly conduct in violation of Minnesota Statute 609.72, but in September 2017 portions of that statute were found by the Minnesota Supreme Court to be unconstitutional as applied to individuals whose conduct is protected by the First Amendment.
The Minnesota legislature has taken steps in 2017 to increase the severity level of public nuisance to a gross misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year of jail and a $3,000 fine. Those in favor of the increased penalties often cite the need for emergency vehicles to freely traverse roadways, as well as inconveniences to public travel caused by the protests. Opponents to the law change believe that the increased penalties would have a chilling effect on fundamental First Amendment rights and deter people from participating in lawful protests. Minnesota’s attempts to increase anti-protest laws are on trend with other Midwestern states, including North Dakota, Iowa, and Michigan.
MINNESOTA FREEDOM OF SPEECH LAWYER
The attorneys at Halberg Criminal Defense are closely following the evolving law surrounding protest limitations to ensure effective representation of individuals who are charged with a crime during participation in a protest. If you are charged with trespass, unlawful assembly, public nuisance, disorderly conduct, or any other offense as a result of participating in a protest or other public gathering, please contact one of our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys to discuss your case.