A State’s Constitution Can Protect the People’s Rights Better than the United States Constitution.
A state court is has the power to enforce greater protections to a person claiming rights, relying on the state’s constitution, than those guaranteed under the federal constitution. The federal constitution protects the minimum basic freedoms — a floor. State constitutions can assert more legal protections for individuals within that state.
“It is unnecessary to rest our decision on the uncertain meaning of [federal law] when the Minnesota Constitution alone provides an independent and adequate state constitutional basis on which to decide.”
State v. Hershberger, 462 N.W.2d 393, 396-97 (Minn. 1990).
If a Minnesota State Court rules on a case based upon the Minnesota Constitution, then that ruling cannot be successfully appealed to a federal court. Federal court precedent interpreting the United States Constitution is not binding upon Minnesota Courts interpreting the Minnesota Constitution.
Article I is a Minnesota Bill of Rights.
Sec. 3. protects the liberty of the press (forever inviolate), and “all persons may freely speak…”
Sec. 4. declares “The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate...”
Sec. 5. prohibits EXCESSIVE BAIL, UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS.
Sec. 6. provides RIGHTS OF ACCUSED IN CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS: “The accused shall enjoy the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor and to have the assistance of counsel in his defense.”
Sec. 7, includes DUE PROCESS; PROSECUTIONS; DOUBLE JEOPARDY; SELF-INCRIMINATION; BAIL: “No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law, and no person shall be put twice in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense, nor be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. All persons before conviction shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses when the proof is evident or the presumption great.”
Article I, Sec. 10. concerns UNREASONABLE SEARCHES AND SEIZURES PROHIBITED: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized.”
As examples, the Minnesota Supreme Court has decided that roadblocks were unconstitutional under Minnesota law (not federal constitutional law). Ascher v. Commissioner of Public Safety, 519 N.W.2d 183 (Minn. 1994).
Another example is State of Minnesota vs. Francisco Garcia, 683 N.W.2d 294 (2004), where the Minnesota Supreme Court held that Minnesota Statutes § 260B.130, subdivision 5 (2002), violated the equal protection guarantees of the Minnesota Constitution by denying jail credit to extended jurisdiction juveniles for time served in juvenile
The Minnesota Constitution is both a sword and shield to help protect the People of Minnesota from government abuse, when properly used by defense attorneys and courts.