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Minneapolis Civil Rights Law Blog

National protests show need to address racism in criminal justice

New agencies around the country have been eagerly awaiting the results of a grand jury investigation. As readers probably already know, the focus of that investigation was the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer earlier this year in Ferguson, Missouri.

When it was recently announced that the officer will not face criminal charges, the news almost immediately set off a blaze of anger. Protests have been held in major metro areas around the country, including here in the Twin Cities. Some of the protesters were arrested for violence, vandalism and looting, while police in certain cities turned to crowd-control tactics that included tear gas.

Do you know your defense options for challenging DWI charges?

In our last post, we discussed some of Minnesota’s drunk-driving laws and penalties. Although this topic is relevant at any time of year, it may especially timely this week as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving. Many holidays are associated with a spike in drunk driving rates, and law enforcement agencies across the state will be increasing DWI patrols accordingly.

If you plan on celebrating Thanksgiving (or surrounding days) with alcohol, you should be especially careful when deciding whether or not to get behind the wheel. That being said, there are ways to fight DWI charges if you were unable to avoid them in the first place.

A refresher course on Minnesota's drunk driving laws & penalties

With Thanksgiving coming up later this week, it is a pretty safe bet that there will be a lot more vehicles on Minnesota roads. It is also safe to assume that law enforcement agencies across the state will be increasing patrols to catch drunk drivers. This is standard protocol for most holidays in which drunk driving rates tend to spike.

In today’s post, we’ll remind readers about some aspects of Minnesota’s DWI laws, including penalties and how offenses may charged.

Workplace wellness programs and fears about discrimination

If you work for a company that provides subsidized health insurance, you have probably wondered at least once whether or not your medical information gets shared with the company. For the most part, this is truly nothing to worry about, as patient privacy laws prevent any such data from being shared without patient consent.

But the privacy line gets a little blurry when it comes to corporate “wellness” plans. This is where employers offer incentives to workers to participate in health screenings and to make healthy lifestyle changes. One international corporation with strong ties to Minnesota has been fighting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s attempt to block certain provisions of its wellness program. The EEOC alleges that these provisions violate two employment discrimination laws.

Could criminal behavior someday be predicted by our genes?

Scientific research in the 20th and 21st centuries has continued to struggle with the same basic questions about human behavior. Are we products of nature, nurture or self-volition? In other words, can we attribute our behaviors/strengths/defects to biology, the environment we grew up in or our own efforts?

A growing body of research seems to suggest that we are products of all of these influences and more. But this leads to other questions. If we are shaped by factors beyond our control, can we take credit for our successes? And how culpable are we when we commit crimes?

Minnesota needs to reexamine laws stripping felons of voting rights

Earlier this month, Americans around the country went to their local polling places to cast their vote in the midterm elections. The midterms (and all elections for that matter) tend to see fairly low rates of eligible voter turnout. While this is considered a shame by those who are passionate about politics, there is an even larger shame related to voting that too often goes unnoticed and unaddressed.

Minnesota is among the vast majority of states that take away the voting rights of anyone convicted of a felony. Minnesota specifically denies voting rights to convicted felons while they are incarcerated, on probation or on parole (supervised release). According to the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition, felony disenfranchisement affects more than 60,000 Minnesotans who are on probation or parole, sometimes for decades.

Minnesota man arrested for alleged DUI in front-end loader

Earlier this week, Minnesotans got their first taste of winter. In typical Minnesota fashion, the first snowfall of the season was less of a light blanket and more of a heavy quilt.

Because cold weather makes walking home difficult and because the holiday season is approaching, it is likely that arrest rates for drunk driving will be on the rise in coming weeks. And a news story about a recent DUI arrest is a reminder that drunk driving laws don’t just apply to incidents involving cars and trucks.

ACLU report: Minneapolis arrest rates widely vary by race

In our last post, we wrote about the disturbing racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system. These disparities can even be seen in Minnesota, which is often considered a more racially inclusive state.

According to a recent report by the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Minneapolis arrest data shows that blacks in Minneapolis are far more likely to be arrested for low-level offenses than whites are. As just one example, African Americans are 11.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites despite the fact that both groups use the drug at similar rates.

U.S. attorney general nominee has impressive civil rights record

It is difficult to discuss criminal justice in America without also discussing race. Civil rights leaders note that racism is apparent in the way that certain laws are written, but can also be seen in the selective ways that many laws are enforced.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder understands the role that race plays in the criminal justice system. Among his many achievements, he has been a staunch supporter of changes to drug laws as well as sentencing guidelines for drug crimes. With news in recent months that Holder would be resigning, some wondered if his important work at the Department of Justice would continue. With the announcement of President Obama’s pick to be Holder’s replacement, it seems that it will.

Minneapolis company settles EEOC disability discrimination suit

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt first ran for president, he had already been suffering for years the debilitating after-effects of polio. But while on the campaign trail, FDR was determined to walk with crutches and hidden leg braces even though it meant significantly more work and pain than simply using a wheelchair. To use the now-offensive terminology of the day, FDR was convinced that he could appear “lame,” but that Americans would never elect a “cripple.”

Thankfully, we live in different times. The Americans with Disabilities Act has been in place since the early 1990s, and employers are legally prohibited from discriminating against employees or potential employees based on disability or perceived disability. Unfortunately, not every employer is as enlightened as they should be.

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