Minnesota’s courts are failing to hold criminals accountable

As we have noted repeatedly, Minnesota’s crime rate (Part 1 crimes) has surpassed the national average for the first time in our history in 2020. Minnesota is a high crime state.

One way for our state to battle back is to demand our court system find its backbone.

In Minnesota, departures from the sentencing guidelines can happen when a judge determines that the facts of the case support it.

The court has sentencing discretion. While following the guidelines is
expected, they are recommendations based on typical circumstances. A case
that is not typical is reason for departure. If the court does depart, the judge
must state the reasons for departure and either the prosecution or the defense
may appeal the pronounced sentence.


When departing downward (lighter sentence), the court must find mitigating factors. When departing upward (heavier sentence), the court must find aggravating factors.

As the latest report on judicial departures shows, Minnesota Judges are woefully inadequate in finding aggravating factors in a case and departing upward from the sentencing guidelines in criminal sentences.

The chart below is taken directly from the 2020 Sentencing Practices report published in June 2022. Find it here. It shows Minnesota judges departed downward 1,763 times (43.2%), and departed upward just 8 times (0.1 %) in 2020.

It just isn’t plausible to believe cases where mitigating factors exist, so absurdly outnumber cases where aggravating factors exist.

Note: The 43.2% downward departure rate is a new historic high. The previous two highest record years for downward departures occurred in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Things need to change.

Refer to the chart below to evaluate how the judges in your district fared.