West Virginia Man Blames DUI on Christmas Shopping

The night before Christmas Eve is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, but one thing that wasn’t bought that day was Mark Jenkins’ alibi.

According to the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, officers responded to a call about a driver passed out behind the wheel at a gas station. When the arrived, they knocked on the vehicle’s windows in an attempt to rouse the driver. Jenkins woke up after several minutes of knocking, and eventually he stepped out of the vehicle to talk with the officers.

The police suspected Jenkins had been drinking, but he told the officers that he only fell asleep behind the wheel because he was exhausted from a long day of Christmas shopping. Not the most outrageous story in the book, but officers smelled alcohol on Jenkins’ breath, so they asked him to submit to a Breathalyzer. Not surprisingly, Jenkins admitted that he had “a couple” of alcoholic beverages earlier in the day, but they must have been 96oz jars of eggnog if Jenkins was telling the truth, because he blew a 0.258, more than three times the legal driving limit.

Jenkins was arrested and charged with one count of misdemeanor DUI.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen criminal acts before the holidays. Last month we shared the story of a woman who stabbed her boyfriend for eating Thanksgiving dinner while she was sleeping off a hangover, and back in October we shared the tale of a zombie who earned two DUIs in three hours while celebrating Halloween!

So please, with New Year’s Eve right around the corner, please make good decisions so we don’t end up reading your story in the Pioneer Press!

Related source: Herald Mail Media

Charges Expected After Mall of America Protest

Although nobody was hurt or arrested during the “peaceful” protest at the Mall of America this weekend, criminal charges may be filed against the organizers. There was no property damage either, but store owners are saying the protest cost them big where it hurts – their wallets.

Thousands of protestors in the group “Black Lives Matter” filled the Mall of America rotunda on Saturday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The group, which hopes to raise awareness and ignite change in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, certainly caused a stir. According to police reports, the waves of protestors made it nearly impossible for shoppers to traverse the mall. The mall eventually went into a partial shutdown for about two hours during the protest.

Illegal to Protest?

You may be thinking, “how can peaceful protestors get in trouble when nobody was arrested, hurt, and no property was damaged?” Well, the Mall of America is technically private property, and their presence caused about 80 businesses to go into lockdown on Saturday.

Nate Bush, who works in one of the stores that had to be shut down, described the chaotic scene.

“You had people yelling and screaming inside the mall that wanted out and you had people yelling and screaming outside the mall that wanted in,” he said. “I would say the mall was less than half as busy as it should have been considering what day it was.”

Bloomington city attorney Sandra Johnson said the amount of money the demonstration cost storeowners is “staggering.” Johnson and other officials are currently looking on Facebook and social media sites to determine who helped organize the protest.

“This was a powder keg just waiting for a match,” said Johnson. “The main perpetrators are those who continued on their Facebook site to invite people illegally to the Mall of America.”

Another concern was the organized march around the mall. Johnson said they are trying to identify who led the large lap.

“Who led that march through the Mall of America?” said Johnson. “If we can identify those people who were inciting others to continue with this illegal activity, we can consider charges against them too.”

Lena K. Gardner, a member of the “Black Lives Matter” group, said several different leaders took part in organizing the protest, and the mall’s loss in revenue is not their fault.

“We came to sing carols and raise awareness,” she said, “and the Bloomington police are the ones who shut down the mall, not us.”

Related source: WCCO

New Minnesota Laws Coming January 1

Although there aren’t as many new criminal laws going into effect this year as there were last January, there are still a handful of new laws that you’ll have to follow come January 1, 2015. Today, we explain the new laws.

1.  Criminal Reform

This new law will reform Minnesota’s current expungement laws in hopes of helping people with a past criminal conviction find housing or employment.

Under the old law, judges were able to expunge court records, but not records collected by state agencies, meaning some expunged transgressions still appeared on certain background and housing checks. Th new law provides more protections for people with an expunged record so long as they meet the following conditions:

  • The individual has successfully completed the terms of a diversion program or stay of adjudication and has not been charged with a new crime for at least one year since completion.
  • The individual was convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor and has not been convicted of a new crime for at least two years since discharge.
  • The individual was convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a gross misdemeanor and has not been convicted of a new crime for at least four years since discharge .
  • The individual was convicted of or received a stayed sentence for one of more than 50 listed felony violations and has not been convicted of a new crime for at least five years since discharge.
  • The individual must show convincing evidence that their record is holding them back, that they’ve shown evidence of progress in their life and that the expungement would outweigh the burden on public safety.

2. Lifeguard Law

Not all public beaches are required to provide lifeguards during swimming hours, but a new change is in the works for those that do. Under the new law known as “Tony’s Law,” public beaches who provide lifeguards must ensure their lifeguards are certified through the American Red Cross and they must be trained in CPR for adults and children.

3. Teen Driving

Teen drivers will need to spend more time behind the wheel before they can take their road test beginning January 1. The new law requires that teens have at least 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training prior to their road test. The old law only required 30 hours of practice prior to their driver’s test. Additionally, 15 of the 50 hours must come at night, up from 10 hours under the old law.

But there’s another wrinkle. If the parent or guardian takes a 90-minute class aimed at making the parent a better driving teacher, the number of required behind-the-wheel hours drops to 40 hours.

4. New Boat Law

Although the Aquatic Invasive Species Training Law was passed in 2011, it’s finally going into effect on January 1.

The law requires anyone who transports a boat or water-related equipment with a trailer to pass a test to get a decal that must be displayed on their trailers. The decal must be posted by July 1, 2015. Boat owners can access the 10-question test online, and officials say it should take about 20 minutes to complete. If a person is found to be operating their boat after July 1 without the decal, they will not be allowed to operate their boat until they pass the test.

As of now, there is no set penalty for a continued violation of this law.

Related source: MPR News

Montana Case Echoes Little Falls Killings

A Montana man will face a similar sentence to that of Byron David Smith, the man convicted of killing two unarmed teenagers who had broken into his home in Little Falls, Minnesota, back in 2012.

Just like Smith, Markus Kaarma’s “castle doctrine” defense – that a homeowner can use deadly force to protect his dwelling so long as the force is deemed reasonable – failed because the jury decided he went beyond what could be considered “reasonable.”

Case in Question

According to court documents, fed up by what he felt was a lack of action by police, Kaarma decided to take matters into his own hands. Kaarma testified that teenagers had been stealing from unlocked vehicles and open garages in his neighborhood, including once from his home.

Kaarma decided to bait the thieves into stealing from his home, so he left a purse on the floor of his garage and left the door halfway open. He knew it was only a matter of time before the teens returned to the area, and he even told his hairstylist, ‘I’ve been up three nights with a shotgun waiting to kill some kids. I’m not kidding, you’re seriously going to see this on the news.”

Sure enough, a few days later on April 27 Kaarma was alerted to movement in his garage via motion capture sensors. Kaarma opened the garage door and immediately fired four shotgun blasts at the intruder. Diren Dede, an unarmed 17-year-old intruder was hit by two of the shotgun blasts, including a fatal strike to the head.

Because he baited the intruder and went above what the jury decided was a reasonable use of force, Kaarma was found guilty of deliberate homicide, whereas Smith was found guilty of two counts of premeditated murder.

Kaarma is due back in court February 11 for sentencing. He faces a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison.

“What the jury’s saying here is, you have a right to defend yourself, but this isn’t reasonable,” said University of Montana law professor Andrew King-Ries said. “Lots of people have guns here, and lots of people feel very strongly that comes with a responsibility to handle your weapon appropriately.”

Related source: Star-Tribune

Crime Spikes During Home NFL Games

There will be no more home football games for the Vikings or Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium this year, and that could lead to lower crime rates, according to a new study.

Researchers tracked the crime rates in eight cities home to an NFL franchise to determine how home games affect crime rates. Analysts tracked crime rates for Baltimore, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, Newark, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Washington for a two-year period. After comparing the data, researchers found:

  • On days that cities hosted a home game there was a 3 percent increase in total crime.
  • Larceny rates jumped 4 percent on game days, while car thefts rose 7 percent.
  • Noon games are most closely connected to higher crime rates than afternoon or evening kickoffs, as there was a 4 percent increase in total crime and economic crime during midday starts.

“NFL home games are correlated with a higher incidence of crime compared to non-game days or days when the team is playing an away game in another city,” the researchers wrote.

Researchers say the results aren’t surprising, as it’s easier for criminals to strike in large crowds where opportunities are more plentiful. They noted that the increase in car thefts has a lot to do with a large gathering of cars in one area, most of which are left unattended for a few hours. This gives a thief plenty of time to find the ideal opening to strike.

“If stadium, restaurant, bar, and other parking lots are full of cars, it will be easier for thieves to find suitable cars to steal,” the researchers wrote.

Although there is a greater police presence around the stadium on game day than on any other day, oftentimes they are overwhelmed with other tasks, like crowd control or alcohol-related instances. This can provide the perfect cover for thieves.

“A large gathering of people on game day increases the number of potential targets and may also reduce the likelihood of criminal apprehension, as criminals can blend more easily into larger crowds,” the authors wrote.

Researchers concluded that the uptick in crime is costly. They estimated that a 3 percent increase in crime amounts to $85,000 per game day, or about $700,000 per city, per year.

Avery Appelman Comments

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an uptick in certain crimes during NFL games. Not long ago we published another study that claimed domestic violence and assaults increased during football games, especially if the team that lost was expected to win.

I’m not surprised crime rates spike during home football games because we seem to get a few more calls on Sunday night and Monday morning the day after a Vikings game than we do on an average Monday.

The study didn’t look into DUI arrests, but I’d be interested in seeing how DUI rates on football Sundays compare to Sundays without football. I think there would certainly be a spike in the hours after a home game or a particularly important win.

Related source: Herald Net

Drunk Driving Arrests Down in Minnesota

Fewer Minnesotans are getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, according to a report from the Minnesota State Patrol.

The decline in DUI arrests has been rather stark as there have been 21 percent fewer arrests in 2014 than there was at this time last year. Police credit the drop in DUI arrests to more social awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving as well as the announcement of extra DUI patrols throughout the year. Police believe fewer people are taking the risk to drive drunk because they know more cops are out looking for offenders.

Despite the drop in arrests, DUI arrests are still happening far too often in Minnesota. 25,719 people were arrested for drunk driving in Minnesota in 2013, and we’re still expected to top 20,000 arrests by the end of the year. Police say this time of year is especially dangerous on the roads, as the holidays provide people with more opportunities to drive drunk.

Law enforcement said they arrested 578 individuals for driving drunk over the last two weekends. Similar numbers are expected through the end of the year as the State Patrol plan to continue adding extra DUI patrols as part of the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign.

An App For That

App developers are also helping cut down on drinking and driving. A law enforcement agency in Maryland created the END DUI app, which allows a user to enter their height, weight, number of drinks and the time it took to consumer those drinks in order to estimate their blood-alcohol content.

The app is loaded with other features, including two mini games that test the user’s reaction time and cognitive ability. It also use GPS and Bluetooth technology to provide local phone numbers to cabs and other transportation options.

The app is available in the App Store and is free of charge.

Related source: Bring Me The News, WCCO

Our Hearts To Your Soles

Last month Appelman Law Firm participated in the wonderful event, Our Hearts to Your Soles. The event provides shoes, foot exams and legal advice to homeless and financially burdened individuals in the Twin Cities.

We have participated in the program for a few years now, but we can honestly say this year’s event was one of the most memorable. All of the shoes and socks were handed out, which is especially important considering the cold winter months we have ahead of us, and a good deal of attendees sought out legal advice from our Ask an Attorney booth. We didn’t keep track throughout the night, but we’d guess we provided about 50 individuals with a free legal consultation.

One of the best parts of this event is the fact that the attendees are so appreciative of the information they receive. People were genuinely appreciative to get a better understanding of their legal situation, whether it was a child custody ordeal or how to best apply for jobs with a criminal record.

The event left a mark on us. So much so that we decided we couldn’t wait another year to participate. That’s why we’ve decided to provide free legal help at the Catholic Charities Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul on a more regular basis. We’re still working to get a concrete schedule, but we plan to make ourselves available at the center once every three months so we can give back to a community that has given us so much. Keep your eyes on our blog for more information about the next time we’ll be available at the center.

Thanks to all the wonderful people who attended and helped make the event a huge success. For more information about the night, swing on over to my colleague Dr. Lance Silverman’s website. He provides foot exams and helps hand out shoes at the event, and he provided a recap on his blog.


Avery Appelman

(Photo courtesy Catholic Charities of the Twin Cities)

Diversionary Programs Beneficial to Minnesota Juveniles

Minnesota officials are crediting diversion programs and community-based alternatives as the main reasons why the state spends so much less than the national average when it comes to housing, feeding and guarding juvenile inmates each year.

Findings from the Justice Policy Institute revealed that Minnesota spent $104,839 per juvenile inmate in 2013, and while that may seem high, it’s over $40,000 less than the national average, which comes in at $148, 767. New York spends the most on juvenile incarceration, as their bill comes in at $353,000 per juvenile, per year.

While many states are looking for ways to reduce juvenile incarceration costs, some are looking to Minnesota as an example. Although the state spends more than double than Louisiana, the state that spends the least on per-juvenile incarceration, Minnesota has been praised for its diversionary programs. One small but effective program is the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, which helps juveniles prepare for court and reminds them of important dates with phone calls to ensure they follow through with appointments.

“I think we’ve also realized that incarcerating juveniles, short of serious crimes, is not a good idea,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

Freeman added that these resources keep juveniles charged with minor crimes like curfew or truancy from ending up in jail because of a skipped court date. Other programs like community-based alternatives have also been found to save on incarceration costs and reduce recidivism.

Arrests Down, But Inequality Lingers

Fewer Minnesota juveniles are being arrested than in years past. Between 1998 and 2011 the number of juveniles arrested each year fell from 79,584 to 36,192. Minneapolis saw a similar drop, as juvenile arrest rates fell 65 percent between 2000 and 2013. State officials credit the drop to:

  • Initiatives aimed at young offenders.
  • Mental health screenings.
  • Risk-assessment tools.
  • Transition plans to help reintegrate juveniles back into the community after serving time.

Despite the encouraging findings, the report also highlights some inequalities when it comes to demographic arrest information. According to the findings, black youths are arrested at a five times higher rate than whites for similar offenses, and Latinos are about twice as likely to be arrested. Minnesota has some of the highest rates of racial disparity in its correction system.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Wisconsin Man Blames DUI on Beer Battered Fish

A Wisconsin man is blaming his latest DUI on a heaping helping of beer battered fish.

John Przybyla, 75, of Friendship earned his 10th DUI on October 12 when officers spotted his truck cross the center line on State Highway 13.

Officers noted that Przybyla smelled of alcohol, so they asked him to step out of the vehicle and preform a field sobriety test. Pryzbyla promptly failed the field sobriety test, but he denied drinking any alcohol that night. Instead, he said his elevated blood alcohol content must have been a result of his recent meal of beer battered fish.

Pryzbyla submitted to a breathalyzer which found that he was operating the vehicle with a BAC of .062. That’s under the standard legal limit, but as you may have guessed, someone who has nine previous DUIs is no longer expected to adhere to regular standards. A condition from a previous conviction said he was not to operate a vehicle with a BAC above .04.

In addition to the charge of driving under the influence, Pryzbyla was hit with a third-offense charge of operating while revoked, and he was cited for having open intoxicants in the vehicle and operating left of the center line.

Fish Fry DUI

For the sake of arguing let’s test Pryzbyla’s theory using some ballpark estimates. For example, let’s say a standard beer batter requires half a can of beer for a batter that covers eight pieces of cod. Let’s also say we’re using a Surly Furious with a 6% ABV.

Now, most of the alcohol would be burned off if the fish were cooked in the oven, but let’s say they are flash fried in oil, and for the sake of arguing, only half of the alcohol burns off, leaving the batter at 3% potency.

The BAC calculator shows that a 200-pound male would need to drink six, three-percent beers in rapid succession to have a .062 blood alcohol content. So lets do the math.

Half a beer = one eight piece cod fry.

One whole beer = Enough batter for 16 pieces.

Six beers worth of fish = 6×16 = 96 pieces of cod in rapid succession, assuming not a drop of the batter goes unconsumed.

Something tells us Pryzbyla came in a few pieces short of 96.

Related source: Channel 3000

Primary Violation Seat Belt Law Saving Lives In Minnesota

Five years ago the Minnesota Legislature made a change to the state’s seat belt law, changing the violation to a primary offense. The change meant that drivers could now be pulled over if an officer spotted someone driving without using a seat belt, even if that was the only traffic law they were breaking. Previously, when it was classified as a secondary offense, an officer could only stop a seat belt-less driver if they committed another driving offense, like speeding or failing to use their turn signal.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety, that law change has saved the lives of over 130 Minnesotans.

Researchers analyzed Minnesota crash records before and after the primary seat belt law went into effect. After comparing the data, researchers believe the law has resulted in:

  • 132 fewer deaths.
  • 434 fewer severe injuries.
  • 1,270 fewer moderate injuries.

In addition to the saved lives and reduced number of injuries, researchers say the law has kept money in Minnesotans’ wallets. They believe the reduced crashes saved people at least $67 million in hospital fees, including $16 million or more of state tax dollars that would have been billed to government insurers.

State officials say more Minnesotans are becoming accepting of the seat belt law becoming a primary violation as well. 62 percent of Minnesotans supported the change when it was passed in 2009, and that number has been climbing ever since. Now, 70 percent of Minnesotans say they support the primary law change.

Not surprisingly, seat belt use is also up in Minnesota. Only 86.7 percent of Minnesotans said they always wore their seat belt in the car in 2008, but that number is up to 94.8 percent as of the most recent survey.

Minnesotans would be wise to buckle up during their holiday travels, and not just because roads may be icy. Over 8,000 Minnesotans were ticketed during October’s annual “Click it or Ticket” campaign, and there’s little reason to believe an officer will let you off with a warning. Don’t let your holiday spending money turn into a costly ticket because you didn’t buckle up this season.

Related source: Minnesota DPS

by Appelman Law Firm