Minnesota State Supreme Court Upholds Use of Sentencing Circles
- stay of adjudication;
- credit counseling;
- community service;
- attendance in follow-up circles; and
- appearance in court for sentencing.
The purpose behind the stay of adjudication was to avoid a felony record for the offender. The circle felt that since the offender was not a risk to public safety, this path would least impact her future employment. Although the state objected to the stay of adjudication, the district court accepted the recommendations.
In the court of Appeals, the court sided with the State ruling that a "restorative justice program does not have the authority to assign a sanction that would be improper if imposed by the district court." The ruling was founded on the criteria set out for a court to stay adjudication.
In overturning the appeals court, the Minnesota State Supreme Court held that restorative justice programs are given the authority to assign appropriate sanctions. This included a stay of adjudication when both sides agree beforehand as in a plea agreement. When the two sides agreed to the sentencing circle, there were no limits placed on the possible sentence recommendations. The court stated
"The work of a circle is often arduous, emotional and time-consuming. Necessarily, then, any limitation on the agreement to send a case to a restorative justice program, if allowable at all, must be made up front, before the laborious process of reconciliation and resolution takes place. To allow an after-the-fact objection to the authority of the sentencing circle would eviscerate the purposes of the restorative justice program."