Criminal Law Section


The purpose of the MSBA Criminal Law Section is to promote the exchange of ideas between defense lawyers and prosecutors through educational programs and meetings. 

Section Benefits and Activities

MSBA Criminal Law Section members benefit from:

The timely dissemination of information regarding case law, legislative issues, district court decisions, and methods of practice via email and on the section's website;

Low-cost, high-quality CLE seminars, including past programs which have explored subjects such as: source code, Padilla v. Kentucky, DNA, gambling, and the international criminal law;

Advocacy for criminal law attorneys including recommendations regarding legislative and procedural matters;

Opportunities to serve the community through initiatives like the Meth Video Project; and

Opportunities to network with both prosecutors and defenders as well as members of other MSBA Sections.

Section members, visit the Criminal Law Community at

Public Service and Pro Bono Opportunities

The MSBA Criminal Law Section suggests the following Public Service and Pro Bono Opportunities:

Mitchell Hamline Pro Se Clinic: Mitchell Hamline School of Law students, alumni, and reference librarians who volunteer to help individuals represent themselves in court. The clinic provides assistance with completing a self-help form for the various legal issues including Criminal Expungement.

MN Teen Challenge Legal Clinic: In the legal community, we advocate on behalf of our clients, working with probation officers and partnering with government, political and law enforcement officials. Many officials participate in forums – raising community awareness. In jails and prisons, we strive to help those struggling with addiction find the best recovery solution whether at MnTC or elsewhere. Contact Landon Ascheman.

Legal Rights Center of Minneapolis: Volunteer attorneys have traditionally used their time with the Legal Rights Center to gain experience in criminal defense and juvenile delinquency cases. Volunteers work on every aspect of our caseload, and are mentored by an experienced staff attorney. Our most successful volunteer attorneys don’t just handle cases, but complement our defense work. For example, they may primarily practice in immigration law, but benefit by handling a small number of criminal matters through our office. Contact Andrew Gordon.

Neighborhood Justice Center: NJC is legal service corporation that has been providing comprehensive criminal defense services to low-income and indigent people in the East Metro area with a focus on communities of color since 1973.

SMRLS: SMRLS is co-sponsoring a Ramsey County Housing Court Clinic, running every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 8:00 am during the Housing Court first appearance calendar. Clients receive free legal advice from a volunteer attorney before heading into the courtroom. SMRLS needs volunteer attorneys to help us staff the clinic. We are looking for volunteers to come in once or twice a month, or more. You do not need to have experience with landlord/tenant law. Another great opportunity is their Eviction Expungement Clinics. Email Carol Bros

Legislative Initiatives

October 15, 2019

The Criminal Law Section Council is requesting your comments regarding its proposed position to support legislation imposing a cap on the length of felony probation by Monday, October 21, 2019.  The position of the Council is explained below, and instructions for submitting your comments are located at the end of this email.

Click HERE to read the proposal.

During the 2019 legislative session, Rep. Long authored a bill to impose a cap on the length of felony probation, and the bill was incorporated into the House Public Safety Omnibus bill.  The legislation did not pass during the 2019 session, but Rep. Long has indicated that he will pursue it again in the 2020 session. The purpose of this bill is to make felony probation sentences more uniform and proportional across the state.

The proposed language would do the following:

  1. Impose a 5-year cap on the length of probation for felony offenses except murder in the second or third degree, first-degree manslaughter, murder or manslaughter of an unborn child, or criminal sexual conduct offenses.
  2. Adjust the cap for gross misdemeanor probation to five years (it is currently six).
  3. Permit the court to extend probation for nonpayment of restitution for up to three years after a hearing on the matter, and up to an additional two years after a second hearing on the matter.
  4. Permit the court to extend probation for failure to complete court-ordered treatment for up to three years after an initial hearing on the matter, and up to an additional two years after a second hearing on the matter.
  5. Permit the court to extend probation for a person convicted of a violent crime for up to three years if after a hearing the court determines the person remains a threat to public safety, and up to an additional two years after a second hearing on the matter.
  6. Discharge individuals from probation five years after enactment of the bill for anyone serving a term that would have extended beyond that five-year period unless the court extended the term for failure to pay restitution, failure to complete treatment, or upon a finding that the person presents a public safety risk (referred to as the retroactivity provision).

At its October 2nd meeting, the Criminal Law Section Council voted to support the attached legislation except that the Council would prefer to see the cap at 5 years for felony offenses that would be presumptive probation under the sentencing guidelines and 8 years for felony offenses that would be presumptive prison under the sentencing guidelines (in other words, impose a longer term for cases in which there is a downward dispositional departure).

It should be noted that the Minnesota County Attorneys Association supports the attached version of the bill with the exception of the retroactivity provision at lines 163.17 to 163.27.

The Criminal Law Section Council is requesting your comments regarding its proposed position on or before 12:00 PM on October 21, 2019.  Please send comments to Kayla Erbach at