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CNN Arrest: Minnesota’s Emergency Statutes Permit Officials to Enlist Assistance; No Carve-Out for News Media

Whether you agree with Minnesota’s laws or not: It appears there is a Minnesota emergency management law that permits state officials to enlist assistance from “any person.” Minn. Stat. Ann. § 12.34. Assistance is broadly defined. The law also permits officials to commandeer property in an emergency. Most importantly to this situation, there is NO carve-out for the news media. 

12.34 ASSISTANCE REQUIRED; COMPENSATION FOR PROPERTY TAKEN; PENALTY.

§Subdivision
1.Emergency powers. When necessary to save life, property, or the environment during a national security emergency or during a peacetime emergency, the governor, the state director, or a member of a class of members of a state or local emergency management organization designated by the governor, may:

(1) require any person, except members of the federal or state military forces and officers of the state or a political subdivision, to perform services for emergency management purposes as directed by any of the persons described above; and

(2) commandeer, for emergency management purposes as directed by any of the persons described above, any motor vehicles, tools, appliances, medical supplies, or other personal property and any facilities.

Section 12.34

Police told CNN the crew was arrested because they were told to move but didn’t. Video shows that Mr. Jimenez continues to report at the scene, despite being told to move.

The request by police to relocate could be interpreted as ‘assistance,’ or ‘service’ required to save life, property, or environment. An arrest made for failure to comply with such a request assumes a very broad interpretation of the statute.

If this statute is the basis for arresting CNN’s Omar Jimenez, the penalty is as follows:

Subd.
3. Penalty. An able-bodied person required to perform services for emergency management who refuses, neglects, or otherwise fails to perform the services required under subdivision 1 is guilty of a misdemeanor and must be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than ten days or more than 90 days.

Section 12.34

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