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Hennepin County will eliminate bail system for certain non-violent crimes

The reform is backed by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Hennepin County announced Wednesday it will no longer request bail for certain crimes in an attempt to address an inequality in the criminal justice system.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said his office has identified 19 felony crimes in which prosecutors will no longer request bail beginning in 2021. Crimes include property damage, theft under $35,000, narcotics possession and identity theft.

“These crimes are low-level, non-dangerous offenses,” Freeman said at a press conference. “What that means to the defendant is that he or she will promise to make all court appearances and follow any other conditions set by the judge. With that, they remain free until their next court hearing.”

Freeman was joined by Washington County Attorney Peter Orput, who said his office is working on a similar plan. Orput said when two individuals commit the same crime, like domestic abuse, one may be able to post bail and one may not. Victims and society are not kept safer in that system, he said.

“Cash bail and public safety have nothing to do with each other,” Orput said at the press conference.

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State Attorney General Keith Ellison also backed the reforms. Ellison said being held in jail can cause someone to lose their job or housing, even if they are eventually acquitted or given a probationary sentence.

“We are not lawyers who are just zealous advocates,” Ellison said at the press conference. “We want a just result. The goal is to protect public safety and ensure court appearances. It is not to punish people.”

At the state level, Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis, has also pushed to eliminate cash bail for certain misdemeanors. The bill went through various committees in 2019, though it was never passed. 

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