Appelman

Burglary Penalties in Minnesota

Thursday, 17. April 2014

BurglaryMany people believe the crime of burglary is defined as breaking into a residence a stealing someone else’s property, but that’s not necessarily the case. In it’s least criminal degree (4th), Minnesota defines the act of burglary as:

Entering a building without consent with intent to commit a misdemeanor other than stealing, or entering a building without consent and committing a misdemeanor other than to stealing while in the building, either directly or as an accomplice.

In layman’s terms, you can be charged with Burglary in the Fourth Degree even if you don’t steal anything. If you break into a residence and intentionally damage property, you can be charged with Burglary.

1st and 2nd Degree

As noted above, Burglary in the Fourth Degree is the least criminal burglary charge, so it stands to reason there are four degrees of burglary. They are Burglary in the First, Second, Third and Fourth Degrees. All four charges are detailed below.

Burglary in the First Degree is the most severe of the burglary classifications. In order for the crime to be considered a First Degree offense, the following factors must be present.

  • With intent to commit a crime, a burglar breaks into a building or residence that is occupied by at least one person at the time of the break-in.
  • The burglar possesses a dangerous weapon or any instrument that the victim believes is a dangerous weapon; or
  • The burglar assaults the victim inside the home or on the building’s property.

A person guilty of Burglary in the First Degree in Minnesota can be sentenced to 20 years in prison and fines up to $35,000.

Burglary in the Second Degree is the “Ocean’s Eleven” of burglaries. In essence, Burglary in the Second Degree occurs when a burglar uses tools to gain access to a bank, pharmacy, or other area of a business where securities or valuable papers are kept. Maximum penalties for this offense are 10 years in prison and/or fines up to $20,000.

3rd and 4th Degree

Burglary in the Third Degree is your basic small scale burglary. This offense occurs when a person enters a building without consent and:

  • Steals, commits a felony or gross misdemeanor; or
  • Intends to steal, commit a felony or gross misdemeanor; or
  • Is an accomplice to a party who steals or commits a felony or gross misdemeanor.

A person convicted of Burglary in the Third Degree in Minnesota can be sentenced to five years in prison and fined up to $10,000.

As mentioned above, Burglary in the Fourth Degree occurs when a person enters a building without consent with the intention of committing a misdemeanor. A person can be sentenced to one year in prison and fines up to $3,000 if they are convicted of Burglary in the Fourth degree.

The Felony Murder Rule: The Ryan Holle Case

Wednesday, 16. April 2014

Ryan HolleFew people have sympathy for convicted murderers, and rightly so, but you may feel differently after hearing the story of Ryan Holle, who was convicted of murder at the age of 21.

What’s unique about Holle’s case is that the prosecution fully admits that the 21-year-old was sleeping, miles away from the incident, when the killing occurred. So why was Holle sentenced to life in prison for murder? Because of an outdated law called the Felony Murder Law.

Holle’s Role

In the early morning hours of March 10, 2003, Holle was hanging with some friends after a night out partying. Holle decided he wanted to call it a night and go to bed, but his buddies had other ideas. William Allen Jr., Holle’s housemate, asked if he could borrow the 21-year-old’s car. Having no need for it since he was about to turn in for the night, Holle handed his housemate the keys.

Allen and three associates drove to the house of a well-known drug dealer a few miles away. They knew the dealer had a safe in her house, and they planned to rob it. The group went inside the house and threatened the woman and her family. During the robbery, one of the men, Charles Miller Jr., bludgeoned the drug dealer’s 18-year-old daughter to death with a shotgun he found inside the house. The group made off with a pound of marijuana and $1,425.

The Felony Murder Rule

Not surprisingly, the men were arrested for the crime shortly thereafter. What was surprising was the fact that authorities also arrested Holle, despite witness reports that he was not at the scene when the crime took place. Police decided to charge Holle with first-degree murder under a legal doctrine known as the Felony Murder Rule, which states:

Anybody who participates in a felony offense is criminally liable for any deaths that occur during or in furtherance of that felony. 

In other words, because Holle lent his car to his friend, which they then used to commit a felony, the prosecution merely needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Holle knew his friends were going to use his car to aid in a felony offense.

Holle gave a statement to police in which he seemed to admit to knowing that his friends were going to go commit a robbery, and as the prosecutor explained during trial, “No car, no murder.”

Holle changed his stance in an interview in 2007, saying he “honestly thought they were going to get food,” adding that he didn’t think they were serious about the robbery plans.

“When they mentioned what as going on, I thought it was a joke,” he said.

They jury didn’t see it Holle’s way, and he received the same sentence as the four men at the scene of the crime – Life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Is It Justice?

It’s worth noting that the wife/drug dealer was sentenced to three years in prison for marijuana possession, but when you compare her misdeeds to those of Holle, is it really fair?

As the father pointed out during the trial, “It never would have happened unless Ryan Holle had lent the car,” but can’t the same be said about the mother? If she hadn’t been a known drug dealer with a stash of marijuana and cash, the crime would never have occurred. She got three years, but Holle could easily spend over 50 years behind bars.

Where is the justice in that?

Minnesota Man Arrested For DWI on Go-Kart

Tuesday, 15. April 2014

DWI Go KartA Minnesota man was arrested for driving under the influence after authorities say he was operating a child’s go-kart above the legal limit.

Bobby Khaoone, 25, was arrested in the city of Austin during a late-night joyride in the wee hours of Sunday morning. According to the police report, Khaoone was driving the battery-powered go-kart in the street when he was almost struck by a passing squad car. Khaoone was stopped by the officer and eventually booked on charges of gross misdemeanor DWI, driving after license revocation, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Authorities also seized the Razor go-kart under vehicle seizure laws.

Khaoone told officers he was driving the go-kart in the street because he was celebrating the Laotian new year.

Go-Kart DUI

This case is very interesting, especially when you compare it to last year’s ruling about DWIs on a Segway. In that case, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision that a Segway was not to be considered a motorized vehicle in the eyes of a law because it is intended to be used on sidewalks and other pedestrian walkways.

The dissenting judge said the Segway should be classified as a motor vehicle because it is not operated by human power, but the majority cited a 2009 case where a man was acquitted when he was found operating a motorized scooter over the legal limit as evidence that a device is not classified as a vehicle simply because it operates on electrical power.

Interestingly enough, your average Segway has a top speed of 12 miles per hour. According to Razor’s website, their standard go-kart also has a top speed of 12 miles per hour. Khaoone certainly has grounds to challenge the legality of the DWI, but the fact that he was joyriding in the middle of the street (and almost got run over by a cop, no less) won’t help his cause.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Several Students Arrested in Dinkytown Riot

Monday, 14. April 2014

Dinkytown riot19 people, including some University of Minnesota students, were arrested Saturday in Dinkytown after a riot broke out following Minnesota’s loss in the NCAA Frozen Four championship game. 

The chaos erupted just minutes after the Gophers fell to Union College by a score of 7-4, a final tally that few saw coming when you consider Minnesota entered the Frozen Four as the odds on favorite to win the championship. Many people made their way to Dinkytown in hopes of celebrating a championship in the streets, and they didn’t take too kindly to being denied the opportunity.

The crowd began throwing rocks and beer bottles at a gathering of officers who had been dispatched to quell the impending riot. Officers responded by firing pepper spray, rubber pellets and beanbags into the crowd. One recent grad said Dinkytown “felt like a war zone.”

“There shouldn’t be riots right now. We didn’t even win,” said 22-year-old Austin Duket.

James Anderson, who rooms with Duket, said students were looking for a reason to party, and the prospect of rioting – win or lose – was already a forgone conclusion before the game.

“After Thursday, (the riots) were an event. People were like, ‘You guys want to go to the riot on Saturday?’”

Although the full arrest tally is unknown, the police scanner reported that numerous individuals were arrested for “assaultive behavior.” Officers also responded to two reports of arson and several cases of property damage, although it’s uncertain how many arrests were made in connection with those crimes.

Avery Appelman comments

As a huge hockey fan, it pains me that the Gophers fell just short of the ultimate goal, but destructive rioting is the wrong way to handle a loss. I’ve never understood why destroying public or private property in the wake of a sporting event made someone feel better.

These students could face heavy fines, and that’s just the beginning. If they have any priors, if they caused a large amount of damage, or if they were the ones who started the fires, they could face jail time. Thankfully, it doesn’t sound as if any pedestrians or officers were seriously injured during the fracas.

If you need to physically express yourself following a loss, go for a run or hit the punching bag at the gym. If you can’t channel your emotions, you might be looking for a lawyer in the near future.

Related source: Pioneer Press.

Minnesota Passes Stronger Anti-Bullying Law

Thursday, 10. April 2014

Minnesota Anti-Bullying BillGovernor Mark Dayton signed a new anti-bullying measure into law on Wednesday in hopes of better protecting Minnesota students who are exposed to abusive behaviors at school. 

The Safe and Supportive Schools Act will require schools to:

  • Track and investigate cases of bullying; and
  • Offer staff training on bullying-prevention techniques.

In addition to strengthening prevention and awareness techniques, the bill also clearly defines bullying as any action that causes physical harm, the fear of physical harm, or “constitutes intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

The previous law only stated that school districts needed to have some sort of anti-bullying procedure in place. Governor Dayton believes the new bill will help keep students safer.

“Minnesota’s schools should be safe and supportive places for everyone,” said Dayton. “This anti-bullying legislation will make it very clear that bullying is not to be allowed in our schools.

Not All in Favor

While most want to find a solution to the bullying problem that appears to be more prevalent in today’s digital age, some legislators believe this bill isn’t the answer. The bill made it through both the House and the Senate by a narrow margin, passing by votes of 69-63 and 36-31 respectively, and some legislators vocalized their concerns, calling the bill too costly, restrictive to free speech, and a move “more about a social agenda than preventing bullying,” said Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester.

A portion of the bill that caused major contention was a clause that specifically protected students from being teased about their gender identity or sexual orientation. Some opponents felt that it created a special protection for some, while others felt like it could force districts to teach students about sexual identity at too young an age.

Avery Appelman comments

The biggest issue with bullying these days is that, because of the rise of the Internet, it now becomes a 24/7 “game” for some of the bullies. Back in the day, you only had to worry about a bully in the hallway or in 5th period; Nowadays, a bully or a group of teens can harass someone all hours of the day through social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Ask.FM, etc.

I think it would be very helpful to teach children about the dangers and problems of electronic communication at a young age, and reinforce those issues throughout their primary education. We need to teach children that there is always an electronic trial, be it a snide comment telling a student to hurt himself or a risqué photo sent through text.

We’ll never eradicate bullying, but I think attacking the problem at the source – the kids – is a better place to start.

Related source: Star-Tribune, Bring Me The News

9-Month-Old Baby Accused of Attempted Murder

Wednesday, 9. April 2014

Baby Accused of MurderWhile most 9-month-olds are still working on saying their first word, a Pakistani toddler has been charged with attempted murder in a case that points out a number of shortcomings in the country’s legal system. 

Mohammed Musa, not even a year old, has been charged with attempted murder along with his father and other family members for his role in throwing rocks at gas company officials.

Musa wept during a court appearance last week, although the crying was most likely caused by teething, not because he could comprehend the severity of the charges levied against him. He also drank from a bottle while in court.

“Everyone in the court was saying, ‘How can such a small child be implicated in any case?’ What kind of police do we have?” said grandfather Muhammad Yasin.

Direct Contradiction

The charges are extremely questionable when you consider that Pakistan recently increased the minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven years to 12 in 2013.

The grandfather believes the charges are all part of an elaborate move to get the accused evicted from their property.

“The police and gas company officials came without any notice and started removing gas meters from houses,” said Yasin. “Residents started protesting and blocked the road but ended the protest when senior police officers arrived in the area and assured them that no injustice would be done. But later we found out that cases have been filed against us.”

Judge Shows Some Sense

Judge Rafaqat Ali Qamar ordered the criminal inspector to be suspended and granted the child bail, but he added that the child will have to appear at a scheduled hearing on April 12.

“The court should have simply referred the minor’s case to the High Court to drop the charges against the innocent child and acquit him from the case,” said Chaudhry Irfan Sadiq, who is representing the family in the criminal matter. “This case also exposes the incompetence of our police force and the way they are operating.”

Shoaib Suddle, a retired police chief, noted that the current legal system gives the benefit of the doubt to the accuser, in contrast to the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ motto adopted by other nations.

“The moment they are able to file a complaint, accusers expect that without any evidence people should be locked up and the investigation should follow, whereas the world over it is the other way around.”

Mel Welch comments

The age of criminal responsibility doesn’t have a defined age in the United States. Instead, the majority of states rely on what is known as common law, which holds that from age 7 to 14, children cannot be presumed to bear responsibility for the actions, but they can be held responsible. 13 states, Minnesota not included, have their own laws on the age of criminal responsibility, which ranges anywhere from 6 years to 12 years of age.

The notion of holding a 9-month-old responsible for his actions is ludicrous. The child cannot formulate intent at such a young age, nor can he comprehend his actions. Really, at that age, the only thing he knows how to do is cry when he’s hungry and sleep when he’s tired. The real crime here is the infantile actions of the criminal inspector.

Related source: Yahoo.com

Two Students Handcuffed in Underwear For Leaving Door Open

Tuesday, 8. April 2014

Open Door ArrestTwo students at the University of Utah were handcuffed wearing only their pajamas last month after police entered their residence because their front door was open.

The whole ordeal began around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, at the Union Meadows apartment complex on campus. A concerned resident called police to report that their neighbor’s door was wide open at an odd hour. Three officers arrived on scene and entered the apartment after they heard no response when they announced their presence.

“They made several loud announcements, saying it was the police; they got no response,” said Lt. Justin Hoyal of the Unified Police Department.

Ramiro Aguirre, who lives at the apartment, said he never heard the officers announce their presence or enter the apartment because he was, like so many at that hour, sleeping.

“If they did announce themselves, I was dead asleep,” said Aguirre.

Questionable Tactics

The officers began to secure the apartment, and not surprisingly, they found Aguirre and roommate Ben Mertlich asleep in their respective rooms. That’s when the roommates say the officers used some questionable tactics.

“When I came to it, someone’s pulling me out of bed and to the floor,” said Aguirre.

“I just wake up to an officer with a flashlight and Taser,” added Mertlich. “As soon as you see the situation, a guy in his underwear in bed, it’s pretty obvious he’s not a burglar.”

The roommates were handcuffed because the police described their demeanor as “belligerent,” but Aguirre said it was all a misunderstanding.

According to Hoyer, when “the officer was asking the individual in bed to show his hands were he could see him; he brought it out and flipped the officer off.”

“Well I’m asleep in my own house at 3 in the morning, I didn’t know it was a cop, I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke,” Aguirre added.

The two were later questioned as to why the door was left open, and they explained that the latch was broken. The officers eventually freed the residents from their handcuffs, but the roommates said the ordeal was unsettling.

“It’s pretty vulnerable to be in that position. You have nothing, you have no defense,” Mertlich said.

The roommates are deciding if they want to press charges, but since they were released and nothing was damaged during the search, it seems unlikely that a case will proceed.

Related source: Fox 13 Now

Man Awarded $1.1 Million After Dashcam Reveals Arresting Cop Lied

Monday, 7. April 2014

Ronald Jones ArrestA Dallas man was awarded $1.1 million after dashcam video revealed inconsistencies with the arresting officer’s claims.

Ronald Jones, 62, was arrested back in 2009 on felony charges of aggravated assault of a public servant and cocaine possession. According to the police report, Officer Matthew Antikowiak was responding to a call about a fight between two white males when he spotted Jones, who is African American, walking on the sidewalk. Antikowiak claimed that Jones threw a beer can at his squad car, so he stopped his vehicle and approached the suspect. During a search, Antikowiak reported that Jones turned around and began kicking and choking the officer.

The pair engaged in a tussle as backup arrived on scene. The additional officers hit and kicked Jones while they placed him under arrest. Jones spent the next 15 months in prison thanks in large part to Antikowiak’s testimony, but dashcam footage later contradicted the officer’s account.

Cop Caught Lying

Jones’ attorney was eventually able to secure dashcam footage of the arrest, and what he saw was completely different than what was written in Antikowiak’s report. You can see the video and the list of discrepancies below.

 

 

  • Antikowiak said Jones threw a beer can at his car, but it is never seen on the dashcam.
  • Antikowiak claimed Jones began to choke him and kick him in the groin, but dashcam video shows that it was Antikowiak who choked Jones, and there is no footage of Jones striking the officer.
  • Officers claimed Jones was reaching for a knife, but the footage and arrest log shows that he was unarmed.
  • An accompanying officer is seen kicking a subdued Jones.
  • An assisting officer was told to turn off his dash camera. The camera was turned back on only after authorities claimed to uncover a crack pipe.

Charges against Jones were dismissed in March 2011 after the dashcam video surfaced, but Jones had already been held for 15 months. He sued the city and was awarded $1.1 million for his troubles.

Don Tittle, who represented Jones in his suit against the city, said his client was unjustly imprisoned and could have easily spent more years in jail based on Antikowiak’s false testimony.

“Had the videos not surfaced, it’s likely that Mr. Jones would have been convicted of this and served a very long prison sentence,” said Tittle. “He spent 15 months in jail for something he clearly didn’t do.

Antikowiak retired during an internal affairs investigation in 2012.

Avery Appelman comments

This is just a disgusting example of an officer abusing the law he has sworn to uphold. There are so many things wrong here.

The officer begins by profiling the African American man. Then he appears to lie about the reason for the initial stop (where was the beer can?), and later tells other officers to turn off the dashcam. It certainly seems suspicious that the crack pipe was only found once the cameras were off.

$1.1 million is a small payment considering Jones’ rights were so blatantly abused by these Dallas police officers. Thankfully the dashcam video was able to aid Jones, as far too often cases come down to he said-she said arguments where judges are inclined to believe the officer’s testimony over the average citizen’s word.

Related source. Dallas Morning News

Minnesota To Crackdown on Texting While Driving April 11-20

Thursday, 3. April 2014

Texting While DrivingThe Minnesota State Patrol will be adding extra patrols April 11-20 in an effort to cut down on the number of distracted drivers across the state.

Current traffic data suggests that one in four automobile accidents is caused by a distracted driver, but authorities believe that number is actually much higher as it’s often difficult to prove that a driver was texting, eating or looking away from the road at the time of the crash. Traffic data shows that 350 Minnesotans are seriously injured and 70 lose their lives on the road each year because of careless driving.

Regional Public Information Officer Sgt. Curt Mowers said the added patrols will last for 10 days in an effort to curb dangerous driving habits.

“We have to continue working together to create a traffic safety culture in Minnesota, and one way to do that is to get everyone to take personal responsibility for their own actions behind the wheel,” said Mowers.

Emphasis on Texting

This month’s distracted driving patrol will place an extra emphasis on stopping drivers who are texting while driving. Texting behind the wheel is a problem for drivers of all ages, and state law currently prohibits the behavior.

If you are caught texting behind the wheel, you will likely be issued a Careless Driving citation. A Careless Driving ticket is a misdemeanor in the state of Minnesota, and is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $1,000. According to the Minnesota Judicial website, a first time offender can expect a ticket for $178, but that number is flexible.

Related source: Brainerd Disptach

Trooper Unlawfully Stops Colorado Driver Assuming He Has Marijuana

Wednesday, 2. April 2014

Colorado License Plate WeedA 70-year-old was recently arrested and had his vehicle searched by an Idaho State Trooper all because he had a Colorado license plate on his car, a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. 

According to a lawsuit against the police department, Darien Roseen was traveling between Colorado and Washington in January when Idaho State Trooper Justin Klitch pulled out of the median and “rapidly accelerated” to catch up to Roseen’s vehicle. Like any reasonable person when a cop pulls up behind them without putting their flashers on, Roseen began to feel uncomfortable and exited the highway at a rest station. The trooper followed Roseen off the exit and turned on his flashers.

Roseen parked at the rest station and Klitch approached the vehicle. During their interaction, Klitch said he stopped Roseen for failing to use his turn signal when pulling off the highway, but the conversation quickly turned accusatory. Klitch asked him why he stopped at the rest station, but wasn’t satisfied with the 70-year-old’s response that had to use the bathroom, telling him, “You didn’t have to go to the bathroom before you saw me…. I’m telling you, you pulled in here to avoid me.”

Carrying Cannabis?

Instead of going through the routine procedure of asking for a license, registration or proof of insurance, Klitch asked Roseen why his eyes “appeared glossy” and if he had “something in his vehicle that he should not have.” Roseen told Klitch he was legally carrying some medications, but that didn’t suit the trooper.

“After Mr. Roseen identified his possession of valid prescription medications, Trooper Klitch asked him, ‘When is the last time you used any marijuana?’ thereby assuming that Mr. Roseen had, in fact, used marijuana and inferring that he had used it recently,” the complaint read.

Klitch then threatened to bring in a drug-sniffing dog, and told Roseen his behavior was  “consistent with a person who was hiding something illegal.” It only went downhill from there. According to Klitch, his fatal flaw was allowing the officer to search parts of his vehicle in an effort to get “back on the road faster.” The complaint alleges: 

  • Klitch searched Roseen’s truck, and despite gusty winds, claimed to smell marijuana.
  • The trooper detained Roseen, put him in the back of his squad car, called for backup, and searched the entire vehicle.
  • The second officer drove Roseen’s vehicle to the Payette County Sheriff’s Office without permission or taking inventory the vehicle’s contents.
  • A subsequent search found no marijuana, but Roseen was cited for “inattentive/careless” driving.

Roseen retained council and is seeking federal punitive damages for what he calls an abuse of power and “license plate profiling.”

Mel Welch, a criminal defense attorney with Appelman Law Firm, said the trooper clearly abused his power.

“What struck me was the abuse of authority and the system this officer did by hiding behind accusations verifiable only through his testimony (“I smelled marijuana”), and covering up his abuse by issuing a ticket for inattentive/careless driving,” said Welch. “That kind of ticket is cover for the police to issue bologna citations, thereby calling the abused person’s credibility into question because they have something at stake.”

Related source: CBS Seattle


 

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