Warrant Quashed Thanks to ALF Legal Team

hennepin countyThis morning the Appelman Law Firm legal team showcased their ability to work quickly and effectively in the face of court issues.

Avery was in Isanti County court this morning helping his client deal with legal matters stemming from some past DWI charges. Upon arriving, Avery was informed that his client had a warrant out for his arrest in Pine County (where he was on probation). The warrant was issued by the client’s probation officer in the hopes of getting the client into rehab as quickly as possible. What the probation officer didn’t know was that the client was already in rehabilitation in Hennepin County.

The ALF paralegal team, Haley and Rosanna, jumped into action, calling the probation officer and Pine County court. Eventually they convinced the judge in Pine County to quash the warrant. If the warrant hadn’t been quashed, the client would’ve been unnecessarily shipped all over the state, wasting taxpayer dollars in the process.

Haley and Rosanna recognized the mess that would’ve resulted and fixed the problem swiftly.

“Rosanna and Haley are the dream team of legal assistants,” says Avery Appelman. “They went to work immediately after we realized the problem and convinced the court admin to help us get this done. Thanks to their excellent work, the warrant was quashed only an hour after we knew about it. This is the kind of service you get when you have Appelman Law Firm on your side.”

Clarence Opheim May Be 1st Sex Offender Successfully Released From Civil Commitment in 19 Years

Convicted sex offender Clarence Opheim will be conditionally discharged from the Minnesota Security Hospital in Saint Peter, MN on March 5th. Opheim, who will be relocated to a Golden Valley halfway house, will be only the second  offender to be released from civil commitment in Minnesota in 19 years.

Clarence Opheim was committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in 1998 after being deemed a “sexually psychopathic personality” in 1993. Opheim openly admitted to using soda and snacks to lure and molest 29 children. In 1988, he was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison after molesting a 11-year old boy. He was placed in MSOP following his release.

The impending release is not a release from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, however. Opheim will wear a GPS locator at all times, be subjected to drug and polygraph testing, and be monitored at all times by a state investigator. Additionally, Opheim will not be allowed access to the internet and will have a constant chaperon whenever he leaves the halfway house.  According to the Program’s executive director Dennis Benson, “We will always have some kind of control over what he does, where he lives, for probably the remainder of his life.”

The Minnesota Sex Offender Program governs the commitment of offender with “sexually psychopathic”  personalities and those considered “sexually dangerous.” Client of the program are moved to a security hospital–either in Moose Lake or Saint Pete–and then committed there for an indefinite period of time. While in the program, offenders undergo extensive behavioral and psychiatric therapy.

The cost of housing an offender in the program is significant– $317/patient/day, versus $85 per regular prison inmate.

Before Clarence Opheim, only one other offender had ever been released. Ray Hubbard was granted conditional discharge in 2000, but that discharge was revoked after Hubbard violated the conditions of his release and was returned to the St. Peter facility in 2003.

According to MN Criminal Defense Attorney Stacy Kaye, Opheim’s impending release can be seen as a sign of progress for a program which is considered by many to be unconstitutional. “Our system is based on the principle that people can be rehabilitated. Civil commitment, until now, has only functioned as a life sentence and a revocation of all civil rights. While it is unquestionable that some offenders should not be granted immediate release after their prison sentence, no other nature of offenders are incarcerated indefinitely, especially after their original sentence has expired.”

Related Sources:

Pioneer Press

Star Tribune

MN Department of Human Services

Golden Valley PD

Synthetic Drug Retail Still Alive: Half-Million Dollar Pennsylvania Bust

Multiple Retail stores selling synthetic drugs counties were raided this week in 3 Pennsylvania counties.

Reading, PA authorities announced today that more than $500,000 worth of synthetic marijuana and bath salts from stores in Centre, Berks, and Schuylkill counties were seized as a result of the investigation. According to Berks County District Attorney John Adams, one of the stores yielded nearly three truckloads of contraband.

Sale of synthetic drugs was outlawed by Minnesota legislators in early July. The ban was the result of the media firestorm surrounding stories of deaths associated with the unregulated, potent street-drug substitutes, such as the death of 22-year-old Alex Winterhalter from Maple Grove.  High on synthetic marijuana, Winterhalter pulled out a gun to play a game of Russian Roulette which ultimately left the young man dead.

Despite the new law, many stores (such as those raided this week in Pennsylvania) continued to sell the synthetic drugs, even after authorities raided the retail venues.

The new legislation in Minnesota makes possessing and selling synthetic drugs a crime which carries the same penalties as their street-drug counterparts. To own or possess synthetic drugs is a serious offense and if you are facing drug charges, you need a MN Criminal Defense Attorney who understands this new brand of drug and legislation.

Related Sources:

ABC News

MSNBC

Saltzstein Argues DWI Case at MN Court of Appeals, Attempts to Change Law

mn dwi courtThis morning, Appelman Law Firm associate Geoff Saltzstein argued a case in the Minnesota court of appeals, seeking justice for his client and trying to improve the MN DWI laws.

The case in question dates back to February 2011. Geoff’s client was arrested for DWI and brought to the police station for BAC testing. The client asked the officer for the opportunity to contact a defense attorney. The officer denied her this right, saying that she’d had plenty of time to contact an attorney already. The client refused to take a BAC test until she spoke with a lawyer. So the officer charged her with test refusal.

This case brings to light a major issue with the MN DWI laws, particularly the Implied Consent law. This law states that, if arrested for drunk driving, you have the right to contact a defense attorney before taking a BAC test within a “reasonable” amount of time. The law is exceptionally vague, leaving it up to the arresting officer to determine what amount of time is “reasonable.”

The law is also outdated. The language deals with telephones and phone books. In this digital age, wherein many people have smart phones, phone books are antique relics. Many younger people have never even used an actual phone book before. So it makes sense that it may take them a considerable amount of time to leaf through one and find a criminal defense attorney.

“The law is antiquated, plain and simple,” says Geoff Saltzstein. “It needs to be amended – updated to account for new, prevalent technology such as smart phones. When was the last time you actually paged through a phone book?”

The court now has 90 days to issue a ruling.

 

Vehicle Forfeiture Series Part 3: Innocent Owner Defense

In the last two parts of the Vehicle Forfeiture Series, we discussed forfeiture in a nutshell and the conditions of vehicle forfeiture. Today, we will focus on a crucial defense when fighting vehicle forfeiture: The Innocent Owner Defense.

This defense is applicable when the vehicle was forfeited as the result of actions by a person other than the owner of the vehicle. For instance, if Robin borrowed the Batmobile and got a DWI, Batman would be considered an Innocent Owner. Therefore, a Vehicle Forfeiture Coordinator would enter an Innocent Owner Defense in order to return the Batmobile to Batman.

In order to better understand this defense, we must first examine how MN State Law defines “owner.”

MN Statute 169A.63 defines “Owner” as a person legally entitled to possession, use, and control of a motor vehicle, including a lessee of a motor vehicle if the lease agreement has a term of 180 days or more.

It is also assumed that the person registered as “Owner” of the motor vehicle, according to the MN Department of Public Safety, is the legal owner. So, the name on the vehicle title is considered the owner. 

If a motor vehicle is owned jointly by two or more people, then each owner’s responsibility extends to the entire vehicle jointly. If two people own a car together, they are each independently responsible for the entire vehicle. 

There are several conditions which must be in place to present an Innocent Owner Defense:

  1. The title owner CANNOT be the offender.
  2. The owner can demonstrate clear and convincing evidence that they did not have actual or constructive knowledge that the vehicle would be used or operated in any way that would violate the law OR…
  3. The owner took reasonable steps to prevent use of the vehicle by the offender.
  4. ALL owners of the vehicle must be innocent.
  5. The owner must demonstrate Constructive Knowledge.
Constructive Knowledge: A family member living in the same household as an offender who has committed 3 prior alcohol related offenses is deemed to be on notice that the offender could offend again. Thus, they must take reasonable steps to ensure that the offender will not take their vehicle, or it can be subject to forfeiture.
In many cases, the prosecutor will seize the vehicle and attempt to forfeit it, regardless of ownership. Innocent owners have very little defense after this administrative forfeiture has already taken place.

If you are an innocent owner facing possible vehicle forfeiture in Minnesota, contact a MN Criminal Defense Vehicle Forfeiture Coordinator right away.

The Politics of Medical Marijuana

medical marijuanaSince the mid-1990s, the U.S. has had numerous opportunities to discuss marijuana’s value as a medicine. In 1996, California and Arizona passed voter initiatives authorizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Around the same time, Barry McCaffrey, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, stated his agency’s position that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the voters in California and Arizona were “duped” into voting for the medicinal use initiatives. The issue is that our country is blinded by political concern about the increase in Marijuana use among the nation’s youth as well as our long-standing “war on drugs,” which we are, by the way, losing.

Marijuana has been shown to have medical benefits. Studies have shown that marijuana has had significant impact on patients who suffer from spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis. These people suffer from painful muscle spasms and tremors, and existing treatments and medication only provide partial relief with severe side effects. Marijuana has also been found to relieve interocular pressure associated with the eye disease glaucoma, which happens to be the leading cause of blindness in America.

Many patients are already using marijuana, expecting it to make their cancer or AIDS more tolerable. These patients risk being arrested and prosecuted when they purchase their medicinal cure on a street corner. To those patients who find relief in marijuana use, the risk of arrest is outweighed by the alleviation of suffering brought on by marijuana’s use.

Physicians are caught in a catch-22. Experimental data suggest that marijuana possess medical usefulness. The government however, has prohibited the distribution of marijuana. Congress has scheduled marijuana as a Schedule III narcotic. Being scheduled as such assumes that the drug has no known medicinal value. As a result, physicians may not distribute marijuana, even though the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine concluded that “marijuana could be useful not only to stimulate appetite in AIDS patients and prevent nausea that’s caused by cancer treatments, but also to relieve chronic pain.”  However, doctors will not risk their livelihood to alleviate the ailments of a few patients. The government is playing politics, as usual.

The government has had a strong position on drugs since the Reagan Administration, which portrayed drugs as vermin that must be extinguished to save the youth of the nation. The government has allocated billions of dollars on training law enforcement, investigations of drug crimes, assisting drug producing nations in detecting and deterring drug activity, as well as offering financial assistance to nations who join the war as our allies.  Politics have a way of interfering with what is fair. Continuing to justify a governmental policy in the face of valid medical research is a ludicrous position.

 

Forfeiture Series Part 2: Initial Process and Negotiations

In Part 2 of our forfeiture blog series, we will explain what the Appelman Law Firm legal process following a vehicle seizure.

As soon as a client retains Appelman Law Firm for a forfeiture defense, we immediately begin working towards the the goals of that particular client. This means setting realistic expectations for what the client may expect during the forfeiture process.

Vehicle forfeiture is a time-sensitive process. The longer you wait to hire an attorney, the less can be done to help your case. It is imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney or forfeiture coordinator as soon as your vehicle has been seized.

Upon commencing with your case, Appelman Law Firm will need all of the pertinent information regarding vehicle ownership and the forfeiture. This includes…

1. Notice of forfeiture. This is typically served while the defendant is in custody and is given to the operator and people known to have ownership, possessory, or security interest in the vehicle.

2. Vehicle Title

3. Purchase Agreement

4. Insurance Card

5. Lien Information

After receiving this information, the criminal defense attorney are able to make a more complete assessment of the situation and construct the best course of action to obtain the most favorable results for the client. The first thing that ALF can do for their clients is afford them access to obtain personal property from the vehicle. You have the right to retrieve belongings such as work equipment, computers, briefcases, etc.

Regardless of the facts of the case, Appelman Law Firm always attempts to negotiate the release of the vehicle from police custody. This puts the client back in their car sooner and ultimately saves hundreds in civil fees.

This type of negotiation is called a buy back agreement. It is a negotiated agreement between the vehicle’s owner and the police which allows the owner to regain possession of the vehicle. This tactic is especially beneficial to the innocent owner who was not operating their vehicle at the time of offense.  However, not all prosecutors are willing to accept buy back agreements. This is why it is especially important to retain a MN criminal defense team with experience in vehicle forfeiture.

Because of Appelman Law Firm’s experience and diligence, we are able to stay two steps ahead of the forfeiture process and thus, save the client time, money, and return their vehicle much sooner.

Probation Violation Leads Police to $1million Pot Growing Operation

Nine people were arrested this weekend in Los Angeles County after a routine traffic stop led to the discovery of a nearly $1 million marijuana-growing operation.

When police made the traffic stop at 2am on Thursday, the discovered that the driver of the car, Harry Kaladijan, was currently on probation and driving with a suspended license. Police went to Kaladijan’s home, where they quickly discovered 800 marijuana plants spread between several high-tech grow rooms, as well as a “hash oil” processing system. According to the L.A. Sheriff’s Office, they only made the discovery because of the probation violation.

According to MN criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman, when someone is on probation, they relinquish many rights. Probation is a sentencing alternative to incarceration. While on probation, there is a rigid structure and a strict set of guidelines by which the person must abide. As seen in this story from California, violating probation allows for law enforcement intervention in ways the general population is protected against. If you find yourself facing drug or probation charges, contact an experienced MN criminal defense attorney right away.

Related Sources:

CBS

MSNBC

AV Daily News

 

 

92-Year-Old Woman Found Guilty After Crash That Severely Injured Two Workers

Mabel Esther Schleif, a 92-year-old St. Paul woman, was convicted of careless driving and inattentive driving this Thursday. The charges from an accident last April in which Schleif severely injured two public works employees picking up trash alongside the road and severing the hand of Craig Johnson Sr.

Following Mabel Schleif’s claim that she had very little recollection of the accident, her criminal defense attorney argued that just before the collision, the 92-year-old suffered from a “silent heart attack” and lost consciousness at the wheel. However, the Assistant City Attorney called a witness who testified that just before impact, Ms. Schleif was alert and sitting upright and that, because of this, she couldn’t have been suffering from a heart attack.

The jury took only three hours to find Schleif guilty of careless and inattentive driving, both misdemeanors. Schleif’s criminal defense lawyer says that it is very unlikely she will serve any time in jail. Sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Careless driving in Minnesota is an offense that can carry hefty fines and even jail time. However, the laws which define careless driving are very broad and it can be difficult to ascertain when the law has even been broken. Additionally, careless driving is a highly subjective crime, which leaves it easier to defend than other traffic offenses.

Blaine Man Tortured Two Girls, Forced Them Into Prostitution

A Blaine man is being held in the Hennein County Jail for prostituting two teenage girls. According to the girls, Akmal Karon would beat, rape, and torture the two girls while forcing them to work as prostitutes in hotels throughout the metro area.

One of the victims, a 17-year-old girl, told police that Karon continuously tortured her, and that she was beaten when she did not bring home enough money. All of the money the girls earned turning tricks went to Karon, which he used to pay for an apartment, an expensive new car, and advertising the girls’ services online. The police investigation began two years ago with the discovery of escort ads on the classifieds site Backpage.com

According to MN Criminal Defense Lawyer Avery Appelman,

“Promotion of prostitution is a crime constituting a broad range of acts. The purpose behind the law is to detect and prosecute the “pimps,” individuals who make money off of the sexual encounters of others. Typically, law enforcement is unable to track the pimp through the stereotypical “pimp on the street” actions: walking the street, setting up dates for their harem of women. These individuals have become significantly more sophisticated as the law is designed to deal with them. They utilize websites such as Backpage to advertise their services. This mean that they can reach a much wider audience, but it also gives law enforcement an advantage.  Promoting prostitution is a serious offense in Minnesota and it’s made much more severe because the victims’ are under 18. The defendant now faces mandatory minimum sentences and will be required to register as a sex offender for the next 10 years, if convicted.”

Related Sources:

Star Tribune