Should Police Be Added to Hate Crime Laws?

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Should Police Be Added to Hate Crime Laws? There has been a renewed push to expand hate crime laws to include crimes of violence against police officers. The national Fraternal Order of Police is leading the charge to add protection under federal legislation.   Locally, three Minnesota cities have passed resolutions to add police officer protection under hate crime laws in a show of support for police. Red Wing, Cambridge, and Austin have all recently passed resolutions calling for expanded protection for police officers. But should an occupation be included within the protections of hate crime laws? Hate Crime Laws Minnesota’s hate crime law, which closely mirrors its federal counterpart, provides for enhanced penalties for crimes motivated by a victim’s race, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or sexual orientation. These are inherent characteristics and traits that people have no real control over; therefore, being singled out as the victim of a crime because of who someone is as a person should be treated differently. Those in support of adding police to the hate crime laws argue that being singled out because of an occupation is equivalent to race or gender. Attacks against a person because of the color of a uniform is argued to be the same as attacking someone because of the color of their skin. Crimes motivated by hatred of a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation are deeply rooted and have occurred for centuries. The recent increased confrontations with police are probably more the result of increased tensions surrounding several high profile cases than random attacks against police.   In fact, crimes against the police had been steadily declining up until the past couple of years. Police confrontations and community tensions certainly seem more prolific now than in recent years. Crimes motivated by hatred of immutable traits, however, have been occurring for much longer. Existing Protections for Police A big reason for the enactment of hate crime laws is to change the way crimes are treated when motivated by bias and to bring attention to hate crimes. Adding police to hate crime laws would not significantly affect the way crimes against police are treated because many states already have laws calling for enhanced penalties for crimes committed against a police officer. In New Hampshire, for example, killing a law enforcement officer is one of a few categories that can be punished by execution. Minnesota law also provides for enhanced penalties for assaulting a police officer. While there certainly have been attacks against the police that have been driven by hatred for the profession, that cannot be said for every case. Being a police officer is a dangerous job. Assaults or attacks are bound to occur. Police carry a position of authority, and some people simply do not like being told what to do or try to get out of trouble by any means necessary.   Attacks or assaults against police that occur in these situations are not the results of the sole motivation to harm a police officer. They happen because people do not want to go to jail or do not agree with being taken into custody. The thought i that most people would not be opposed to a separate law or separate protection for crimes committed against certain occupations, but where would we draw the line?  People would begin arguing that their profession is just as important and worthy of enhanced protection as the next. The Fraternal Order of Police has been pushing for inclusion in hate crime legislation for years, without much success. As of now, police officers – or any chosen occupation – will be added to state or federal hate crime laws anytime soon.

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John Arechigo Named an Attorney of the Year by Minnesota Lawyer

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Minnesota criminal defense lawyer John Arechigo has been named an Attorney of the Year by Minnesota Lawyer.  John’s selection was based off the State v. Turner case, in which he successfully challenged the constitutionality of Minnesota’s former criminal defamation law.Isanti County charged Turner with criminal defamation stemming from an online post about two individuals.  Recognizing that the Minnesota law infringed on First Amendment protected speech, John immediately challenged the constitutionality of the statute.  The trial court judge denied the defense motions, ruling that the Minnesota law did not violate the First Amendment.  Following Turner’s conviction, John appealed the judge’s ruling to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and successfully convinced the Court that the law was indeed unconstitutional.  The Court of Appeals issued a decision finding the former Minnesota criminal defamation law unfairly punished free speech and declared the law unconstitutional. For the 16th year, Attorney of the Year nominees were submitted by judges, bar groups, clients and attorneys, coming from diverse practice groups including criminal law, litigation, public service, intellectual property and in-house counsel. Once nominated, honorees were selected by Minnesota Lawyer’s outside panel of judges based on the following criteria: leadership in the profession, involvement in major cases, newsworthy events, excellence in corporate or transactional services and public service.  Honorees will be profiled in Attorneys of the Year magazine and will be recognized at a dinner and awards program. Following the Turner decision, John was invited to join Rep. John Lesch’s legislative working group.  The working group has undertaken the task of writing a new law to curb the increased behavior of distributing private, intimate media online.  John was asked to join to offer his advice on First Amendment limitations for the new law.

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Police Officer Assaults Man in Wheelchair

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To serve and protect?  Isn’t that the credo most police officers swear to abide by?  Perhaps Duluth police officer Richard Jouppi didn’t get the memo. Or perhaps he failed the ethics portion of police academy training. Granted, we don’t know everything that happened prior to the man’s arrest, he did threaten to throw his jacket at the woman in the office, and he put his hand on Officer Jouppi’s face; however, it’s still tough to imagine that Officer Jouppi’s actions were justified here. The man clearly wasn’t much of a threat to anyone in the office and could have easily been subdued in a much, much less physical manner. Fortunately, police officers aren’t above the law. We fully expect Officer Jouppi to face criminal charges for his actions.

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Federal Revenge Porn Law Announced

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A federal revenge porn law has finally been announced.   This law has been expected for about a year. The delay shows the difficulty in creating criminal laws that potentially intrude on 1st Amendment free speech issues. The full text of the federal revenge porn law, titled the Intimate Privacy Protection Act, can be found here. The federal crime is punishable by up to 5 years in prison. SIGNIFICANCE OF FEDERAL REVENGE PORN LAW At last check, there are approximately 16 states that do not have a state revenge porn law.  The federal law would give victims of revenge porn in those states a chance to address alleged revenge porn activity.  The federal law would also give law enforcement the support of federal authorities to track down revenge porn activity in multiple states and in navigating online sources of revenge porn. FIRST AMENDMENT CONCERNS Unlike most state revenge porn laws, the proposed federal law does not require evidence that the photographs or videos be distributed with any sort of intent to harm or harass the subject of the media.  Rather, the proposed federal revenge porn law would punish theact of distributing the media with disregard for the other person’s consent to the distribution.  This lack of requiring evidence of specific criminal intent may potentially expose the law to a constitutional challenge.  This is the same problem Minnesota’s revenge porn law may face. The ACLU has challenged state revenge porn laws on grounds that they infringe on constitutionally protected free speech, most notably convincing Arizona to re-draft its revenge porn law.  The ACLU points out that the type of language in the proposed federal revenge porn law could lead to overzealous prosecutions.  Requiring evidence of criminal intent eliminates the risk that revenge porn prosecutions would infringe on free speech. Currently, it doesn’t seem that the federal revenge porn law has the support of the Senate. The House author is still seeking a sponsor in the Senate. Several states have active revenge porn laws, including Minnesota.   Contact our lawyers today to discuss an aspect of the Minnesota revenge porn law.

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