Judge's ruling puts Minnesota's deadly force law on hold

A Minnesota law that raised the bar on what justifies use of deadly force is now on hold following a ruling from a Ramsey County District Court judge.

The police reform bill that raised the threshold was passed in a special session in 2020 in response to the murder of George Floyd and went into effect in March. The old law required peace officers show an apparent fear for their own safety or the safety of another person in order to justify deadly force. The new law passed in 2020 took out the word "apparent" and required law enforcement to articulate the specifics of the threat. 

That nuance prompted a lawsuit by Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, Law Enforcement Labor Services, and Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association. The law enforcement groups argued the new law could mean peace officers would end up testifying against themselves in a criminal proceeding, which they believe is unconstitutional.

Late Monday afternoon, a judge granted a temporary injunction and agreed to suspend the law to take a look at its constitutionality.

In a statement Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association Executive Director Jeff Potts applauded the decision, calling the ruling "an important step in obtaining clarity in the use of deadly force statute for our officers across Minnesota."

The defendants in this case, Governor Tim Walz and the State of Minnesota, tried to block the lawsuit, saying this should be argued by legislators, not the courts. 

"I think the judge is right in terms of we need some clarification," Gov. Walz said Tuesday. "We want to make sure that the use of force is not excessive in any way…we want to make sure that our partners - whether they be from out of state or other in state jurisdictions - feel comfortable providing that aid."

State Senator Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), who is chair of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee shared his support for the ruling.

"I'm grateful for the court's wisdom in this decision today," said Limmer in a statement. "The new law also raised serious concern from border cities and neighboring states, which put our communities at risk."

While it's on hold, the law will revert back to what it was before March.

Spokespersons for top legislative Republicans and Democrats said they were in a holding pattern, waiting for the judge's final decision before knowing whether the law would need updates. Judge Leonardo Castro said he expects to hold a hearing in the case within 60 days.