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Minnesota Police Misconduct Laws and Claims

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

The police have a difficult job of investigating crimes and arresting wrongdoers. They can lawfully use force and other tactics when conducting police business. However, they must not exceed their authority and cross the line into unacceptable behavior. So, where is the line? What is police misconduct? How do you know when the police can be held accountable for their behavior?

Both state and federal laws address certain conduct by police officers that may be considered actionable. Federal law addresses violations of civil rights. Under federal law, a law enforcement officer may be charged with misconduct for using excessive force, sexual assault, intentional false arrests, theft, or intentional fabrication of evidence.

Minnesota also has its own statutes covering misconduct. Minnesota's police misconduct laws are broader than the federal laws in that misconduct can occur when an officer fails or refuses to perform mandatory duties or exceeds their lawful authority. Criminal charges may apply to police misconduct, but you may also be able to file a civil lawsuit to recover damages for injuries to yourself or your property.

At a Glance: Minnesota Police Misconduct Laws

Statutes and laws can be difficult to read and understand. To help you sort through the legalese, below is a chart of the Minnesota and Federal laws that relate to police misconduct.

State and Federal Police Misconduct Statutes

Minnesota Statutes

Federal Law, Title 18, U.S. Code:

Types of Police Misconduct

Situations Where Misconduct Can Occur:

Anytime there is interaction between an officer and a member of the public, police misconduct can occur. The most common interactions occur during:

  • Traffic stops;
  • Arrests;
  • Detentions; and
  • Interrogations.

Examples of Police Misconduct:

  • Discrimination because of race or religion
  • Failure to follow proper police procedure
  • Excessive force
  • False arrest
  • Planting evidence

What to Do if You Suspect Police Misconduct

If you suspect police misconduct, you will need detailed information to prepare a formal complaint or file a civil lawsuit. This detailed information can include:

  • The names and badge numbers of the officers involved;
  • Identifying markings on the police car;
  • The location where it occurred;
  • The date and time of the event; and
  • The contact information of any witnesses.

You can file a police misconduct complaint with the police department of the officer responsible. There may also be independent city or state agencies that handle such complaints. The police department where the officer works will be able to tell you where to file such a complaint.

Police misconduct complaints sometimes are time sensitive. You should file your complaint as soon as possible.

Note: If you believe you are a victim of police misconduct and you have charges pending, contact an attorney before filing a complaint with a city Police Department. You may waive certain rights by filing a police misconduct complaint.

Criminal Penalties / Damages for Police Misconduct Complaints

Minnesota Criminal Penalties

Minnesota has limited criminal penalties for officers who have been found guilty of police misconduct. An officer who has violated other criminal statutes, for instance murder or assault, would face additional criminal penalties.

  • Violations of Section 609.43 (police officer misconduct): 1-year imprisonment and/or a $3,000 fine
  • Restitution Section 611A.04: Victims of crimes have a right to receive restitution

Falsely Reporting Police Misconduct

Minnesota has a specific statute to make it a crime to falsely report police misconduct.

  • Violations of Section 609.505, falsely reporting police misconduct, are misdemeanors and subject to one year or less imprisonment and/or a fine. Any restitution award may not exceed $3,000.

Federal Criminal Penalties

Violations of federal laws for police misconduct are punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. Only the Department of Justice may file charges for violations of police misconduct, but you can contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate police misconduct.

Civil Remedies

Minnesota Civil Remedies

Civil suits can be filed for specific wrongdoing of the police officer such as false arrest, assault, and battery.

Federal Civil Remedies

Under 42 USC Sec. 1983, you can file a civil suit to recover damages for the deprivation of rights, privileges, or immunities.

Statute of Limitations

Filing Criminal Charges

  • Minnesota - You have 3 years from the date of the incident to file charges (section 628.26).
  • Federal - The 3-year state statute of limitations applies.

Civil Lawsuit Statute of Limitations

  • Personal injury or intentional tort: You have 2 years to file your claim.
  • Injury to personal property: You have 6 years to file your claim.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Police Misconduct Laws in Minnesota: Related Resources

Talk to an Attorney About Police Misconduct Laws in Minnesota

If you believe you have been a victim of police misconduct, seek out the help of a Minnesota civil rights attorney near you. They will be able to review your case and let you know what rights and remedies may be available to you.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.