Prosecutor-Initiated Sentence Adjustment

On August 1, 2023, Minnesota became the sixth state in the nation to have a prosecutor-initiated resentencing law. This law provides prosecutors in Minnesota the authority, should they choose to use it, to look back at past cases from their county and ask a court to shorten the sentence. The Court then examines the prosecutor’s recommendation and determines whether a person should be resentenced.  

County Attorney Choi was one of the lead advocates for this law because for some people sentenced to prison in the past, their sentence may no longer serve the interests of justice; may no longer be needed to protect public safety; and may not be a good use of critical correctional and public safety resources.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office convened a Sentence Review Community Advisory Board to develop a process and guidelines for reviewing cases to ensure appropriate use of this new law. Our Advisory Board is made up of a diverse group of community members including those who have been impacted by justice involvement and leaders in crime victim services and advocacy, corrections, law enforcement, legal defense, equity, the faith community, and government. Community Advisory Board Members advise on the process; they do not provide any advice on or in any way influence individual cases.

Together with our community advisory board, we determined our top priority is to review the cases of all people from Ramsey County who are currently incarcerated. As we complete this review, we will prioritize cases to move forward in the first half of 2024 and notify those who may be impacted. While we are not taking requests to review individual sentences at this time, we may open an application process with clear guidelines for consideration in the future. We want to be very careful not to create unrealistic hopes or expectations for people who are currently incarcerated.

Our initial review of cases will focus on the below criteria, which include considerations the judge will be required to make under the new law when deciding if they will grant the request.

  1. What impact, if any, a sentence adjustment would have on public safety, including whether an adjustment would promote the rehabilitation of the person, properly reflect the severity of the underlying offense, or reduce sentencing disparities;
  2. The person's performance on probation or supervision;
  3. The person's disciplinary record during any period of incarceration;
  4. Records of any rehabilitation efforts made by the person since the date of offense and any plan to continue those efforts in the community;
  5. Evidence that remorse, age, diminished physical condition, or any other factor has significantly reduced the likelihood that the person will commit a future offense;
  6. The age of the person at the time of offense;
  7. The wishes of any victims, and their access to restorative justice services;
  8. The amount of time the person has served in custody or under supervision; and
  9. Significant changes in law or sentencing practice since the date of offense.

Our review will consider whether resentencing could impact public safety and it will reflect our understanding that resentencing can be triggering and harmful for victim/survivors. The process outlined above will assist us in balancing all the important factors that come into play in using this justice tool in the most effective and fair manner for all. 

How the Law Works

  • Prosecutors may decide whether to utilize the new law and what process and criteria they want to consider.
  • The process requires a prosecutor’s careful review of the incarcerated person’s history, in-prison behavior and reentry planning. The process also includes victims, ensuring proper notice and an opportunity to participate.
  • If someone’s case is selected for review, the court, not the prosecutor, will decide if there should be a sentence reduction.

The new resentencing law can be found at Article 6 Section 10.

Background Information on the Law

Healing for victims and the rehabilitation and re-entry of the person who is convicted and sentenced is an important part of maintaining justice in our society, and the role of a prosecutor does not end after someone has been sent to prison. This new law provides a direct path for prosecutors who are accountable to their community to ask the court to reconsider the sentence based on current circumstances, including the input of victims. Two of the State’s largest victim/survivor coalitions, Violence Free Minnesota and the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault also supported the legislation.