Initiatives

Learn more about the current top priorities and key projects of the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.

Expand all information

Gun violence prevention

Guns cause more deaths than any other weapon used in violent crimes. Cracking down on the illegal use and possession of guns has to be one of the reasons the county’s murder rate has been declining. However, there are still too many shots fired on the streets of Hennepin County.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, in cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s office, targets convicted felons who illegally possess guns when police stop them. Often, the felons are stopped for minor traffic violations or drug laws. Because felons convicted of violent crimes have lost their right to carry a gun, this is what sends them back to prison. The federal armed career criminal law can send a suspect back to prison for 15 years, just for possessing a gun, if the suspect had more than two previous violent felonies or serious drug convictions.

Gun violence prevention has been a top legislative priority and an area of educational outreach.

Vulnerable adults

Minnesota and Hennepin County have an aging population. Although many seniors remain active, other seniors are dependent on others for care, which makes them vulnerable to financial and physical abuse. Protecting these older Minnesotans is a top priority of the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.

The office partners with senior groups to host presentations about the warning signs of financial exploitation and how to report financial crimes. Staff also train law enforcement on how to investigate financial exploitation cases. There is an attorney assigned to handle all cases involving vulnerable adults, bringing special knowledge to cases that can sometimes be hard to prove.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office was instrumental in passing a felony neglect law in 2012. The law states that a caregiver, whether paid or a family member, can be charged with a felony for intentionally providing poor care to an adult who cannot take care of himself or herself that results in great or substantial bodily harm. Although there are only a few cases that qualify, it is appropriate for willful neglect of a vulnerable adult to be a felony with prison terms of up to 10 years, rather than a misdemeanor with no prison time. A senior attorney is assigned to all of these cases and is in charge of working with law enforcement on elder abuse investigations.

State law related to criminal neglect of a vulnerable adult.

Domestic violence

Approximately 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year in Minnesota, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Each year in Hennepin County an estimated 40,000 women are beaten and some 30,000 kids witness this violence. Both the prevention and prosecution of domestic violence are major priorities for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.

There are attorneys who specialize in domestic abuse cases, which are some of the most difficult to successfully prosecute. These cases are aggressively pursued because it is in the interest of justice, despite the challenges of obtaining a conviction.

Domestic Abuse Service Center

Victims of domestic violence need safe, convenient access to the legal assistance and social services necessary help themselves and their children.

The Domestic Abuse Service Center (DASC) was established in 1995 and is a nationally recognized model. It is a one-stop service center where victims of domestic violence can receive a range of services. These include filing protection orders, finding employment, seeking temporary housing and safety planning for victims and their families. Each month, DASC handles 350 protection orders, helps 250 other clients and about 2200 crisis calls. Learn more about the Domestic Abuse Service Center.

Domestic violence and guns

About 70 percent of domestic murders are committed with guns. Working with the Minneapolis City Attorney and Police Department, Hennepin County Community Corrections and several nonprofit organizations, this office takes guns away from domestic violence suspects. Prosecutors have trained 911 dispatchers on how to ask domestic violence victims who are calling for help if there were guns in the house. We have also advocated for the addition of that felony domestic violence to the list of violent crimes which prevent a person from ever possessing a firearm.

Education

To provide information and access to help for community members being affected by domestic abuse, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office collaborated with ECHO (Emergency, Community, Health, and Outreach) and others to produce an educational video program, “Domestic Abuse and Your Safety.”

The video is available in Somali, Hmong, Lao, Spanish and low-literacy English on domestic violence. During this 20 to 30-minute program, viewers will learn what domestic abuse is, how to stay safe from it, and resources to call for help, such as the Domestic Abuse Service Center. Women who are refugees and immigrants are vulnerable to becoming part of this statistic and at high risk of isolation from help. Language and cultural barriers, pre- and post-migration trauma, separation from support networks, and limited knowledge of the U.S. legal system and available services prevent women from seeking safety.

The video was shown as part of Domestic Violence Prevention Month in 2012 on public television’s Minnesota Channel and is still available online:

Gangs

Gang violence is a problem in Hennepin County, as it is in many American cities. This office has a dedicated Gang Unit that focuses on crimes committed by gang members or for the benefit of a gang. This team of seasoned prosecutors and victim advocates specialize in handling the complexities that arise out of gang conflicts, they handle all adult and certain juvenile violent crimes involving known gang members.

GLBT

Civil lawyers in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office led the way in reviewing the legal implications of the Freedom to Marry Act. Under existing Minnesota law, a couple must wait five days between the time they apply for the marriage license and when they wed. The new law did not change that. There was much confusion over whether same-sex couples could apply before the new law took effect August 1, 2013. We reviewed all of the marriage statutes and determined same-sex couples could apply as early as June 6, 2013. Our interpretation was embraced by many of the other Minnesota counties.

The Adult Services unit wrote the first manual in Minnesota for mental health cases involving transgender clients. The manual included a glossary of transgender terminology, the Minnesota Human Rights Act and how it covers transgender people and state and federal transgender cases.

Legislation

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has a variety of legislative priorities. Over the years, these have included domestic abuse, elder abuse and gun violence prevention.

When the legislature considers bills related to the criminal justice system and public safety, attorneys from the office often give expert testimony. As lawyers and prosecutors, they are in the best position to explain some of the consequences of proposed language.

The legislature also plays a role in the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. The goal of the sentencing guidelines is uniform and proportional sentences – similar offenders who commit similar offenses will receive similar sentences. Judges use the guidelines as a recommendation when considering the sentence recommendations from the prosecution and defense. When changes to the guidelines are proposed the office may testify on the potential impact of those changes.

Diversity and inclusion

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office diversity and inclusion strategy is designed to ensure all the communities we serve receive culturally competent services and that our diversity and inclusion values are incorporated into every aspect of our internal and external day-to-day operations. We want to create a culture in the office where all of our diverse staff have the opportunity to succeed because their skills and creative potential are fully engaged.

The highest priority recommendations from the initial Diversity/Inclusion committees are currently being implemented. These include:

  • Cultural competency expectations for every position
  • Updating the orientation process for new employees
  • A performance management training plan for managers and supervisors to improve skills in key areas such as coaching and developing employees
  • Increased training opportunities, with a specific focus on support staff and an easier-to-use resource library
  • Enhancing our internal communications through an improved intranet
  • A mobile-friendly public website
Collapse all information
Top