Lawmaker seeks to define carjacking as a crime in Minnesota, set minimum prison time

After a record-breaking year for carjackings in the Twin Cities, state lawmakers are considering a proposal that would establish carjacking as a distinct crime, and set mandatory prison sentences for violators. 

Across Minnesota, carjackings are typically classified and charged as robberies or other crimes. Many law enforcement agencies only recently began tracking carjackings separately. 

On Monday, lawmakers discussed S.F. 2573 in a meeting of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. The bill is sponsored by Republican Paul Gazelka.

"This crime is at a crisis level in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Many believe it is a lack of action that has led things to get worse," Gazelka said. 

The bill would establish the crime of carjacking as a specific type of crime and would set a mandatory minimum sentence of at least two years in prison, depending on the nature of the crime. Robberies do not currently have a mandatory minimum sentence.

The sponsor of the bill, Paul Gazelka has also announced his plans to run for governor of Minnesota. 

"This is like the Wild West and if we don’t take control of this and have consequences that make a difference, I think the problem will only continue to grow," Gazelka said. 

The bill would also increase the maximum penalties by an additional five years imprisonment. 

"I think the bigger issue is probably the solve rate," said Sen. Ron Latz (DFL), citing a FOX 9 Investigators analysis that found 90 percent of carjackings in Minneapolis in 2021 remain unsolved. "This bill will do absolutely nothing to increase the rate of solving those crimes."

"It’s easy for us to say everybody who does this act ought to do two years in the slammer without knowing anything about that individual person – and I just have a problem with that," Latz said.

The committee did not take action on the measure Monday.