Pipeline Protestors’ Case Sets New Defense Precedent

Several of the people arrested as a result of a pipeline protest that took place in October of last year are facing felony charges including criminal damage to critical public service facilities, among other charges. Four of these protesters have their cases being heard in Minnesota Court.

The judge presiding over these cases has ruled that the defendants can use the “necessity defense”. What this means is that the defendants can claim that they had no other choice (via legal channels) and were forced to break the law to prevent great harm to the public. This is the first time a Minnesota Court has allowed this type of defense for a case involving climate change.

The defense attorneys and their clients will have their work cut out for them. They must prove to the Court that any harm or damage that they may have caused was significantly less than the harm that would have been caused if they permitted the action, in this case, the pipeline function) to continue unimpeded.

The protestors claim that recent events in nature, including hurricanes and wildfires, have increased in intensity due to climate change and the tar sands crude production is promoting part of those changes.

A protestor from Seattle who was tried on similar charges for blocking a pipeline in North Dakota was not permitted to use that defense. He is facing more than 20 years in prison if convicted.

Attorneys aware of the history of these types of cases say that they are only aware of one other time that protestors were permitted to use the defense. In that case, however, the judge told the jury after the fact to ignore the information presented.

Our firm is well-versed and experienced in all types of criminal defense for both misdemeanor and felony charges. If you find yourself facing any type of criminal charges, please reach out to us to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.