DWI Charges Dropped Against Client Fleeing Her Attacker

Yesterday, Avery Appelman found justice for a client in one of Appelman Law Firm’s most notable cases to date.  A Dakota county judge rescinded the revocation of client X’s license and reinstated her driving privileges after the court found X to have driven while intoxicated out of necessity.

St. Paul police discovered X asleep behind the wheel of her car, in a snow bank, on New Year’s Eve of 2010. She was arrested on suspicion of DWI and transported to the station. There, she cooperated fully with police officers and provided a blood test. Her BAC level was higher than the legal limit.

However, prior to her arrest, X had been at the home of her male employer. While there, she believes she was drugged and sexually assaulted. This employer had a history of sexual misconduct allegations against him. In court, we argued that X only drove her vehicle out of sheer necessity–the need to flee from an attacker.

The prosecution did not contest that X was sexually assaulted, and on May 24th, 2012, the court ruled that client X made a reasonable decision to drive away from the attack.

The case of Client X is one which absolutely needed to be handled by an experienced criminal defense attorney. Many times, the defendants are, in fact, the victims.

Brian Banks Exonerated After Serving His Sentence for Rape and Kidnapping

Yesterday, Brian Banks was exonerated on a 10-year-old rape conviction after already serving his 6-year sentence.  A California judge made the decision to clear Banks after his accuser admitted that her story was completely fabricated.

At the time of his conviction, Banks was a promising high school football player, granted a full scholarship to USC, and an NFL prospect. Those dreams were derailed in 2002 after Wanetta Gibson accused Banks of kidnapping and raping her, while Banks maintained that the sex was consensual.

Banks’ attorney advised him that, being a large black man, he stood no chance against the jury, despite there being no DNA evidence or a full investigation. Facing 41 years, Banks agreed to plead no contest was served 6 years in prison. Upon his release, he remained on probation, wore a home monitoring bracelet, and was registered as a sex offender.

After Banks was released from prison, Wanetta Gibson sent him a message on Facebook, saying she’d like to “let bygones be bygones.” She admitted to Banks that she had lied and said she wanted to help him clear his record. However, she later refused to recant her story to prosecutors for fear she would be made to pay back a $1.5 million settlement from a civil suit brought against the school district. Gibson told Banks: “I will go through with helping you but it’s like at the same time all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don’t want to have to pay it back.”

Gibson did recant her story to a private investigator, and the meeting was videotaped.

According to Banks’ attorney with the Innocence Project, the court hearing on Thursday was “the shortest, greatest proceeding I’ve ever been part of.”

MN criminal defense attorney Stacy Kaye finds serious fault in how Banks’ original attorney handled his case one decade ago. While it’s true that often, juries can’t remain objective, the lack of evidence in the case should have prompted any experienced attorney to fight for justice.

Related Sources:


DWI in the Twin Cities: Court

DWI gavelGuest blog by an anonymous former client

For me, going to court for my DWI charge was very nerve wracking.  It brought back feelings of guilt and remorse about the poor choice I had made.  While my attorney Avery Appelman and I had talked about the likely outcome of my case, I was still fearful about what “could” happen if the judge didn’t accept my plea.

If you are charged with a DWI in Minnesota you will be required to appear in court several times.  Your first appearance in court is called an Arraignment or a First Appearance depending on the degree of the DWI.  You will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty on the charges against you.  If you plead guilty the judge will impose a sentence which may include jail time and/or fines, if you plead not guilty another hearing date will be scheduled.

Your second appearance will be a Pre-Trial or Omnibus hearing where the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial. Your third appearance will be either a court trial or jury trial.  The prosecutor will present evidence regarding the charges against you.  After your testimony has been heard by a judge, the judge will make a ruling regarding your innocence or guilt.  At a jury trial a panel of six jurors will decide your innocence or guilt.

My biggest concern regarding the outcome of my case was serving jail time.  I had spent a night there after my arrest and I did not want to see the inside of a jail cell EVER again. Thankfully, there are other options such as Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM) and Sentence to Service (STS).

Electronic home monitoring is an alternative to jail time.  A transmitter is installed on your ankle and the receiver is attached to your home phone line so the receiver can report when you leave the house and when you return.  If you are eligible for work release the court will contact your employer to find out your work hours each week.  Sentence to service is another alternative to jail time and/or paying a fine where you complete community improvement and restoration projects.

Appearing in court was a daunting experience, but having my attorney there with me to explain the court process really put me at ease.  I trusted Avery and knew he was going to make sure I got the best outcome possible.  I highly recommend retaining an attorney to protect your rights and negotiate the outcome of your sentence.  I hate to think what might have happened to me if I didn’t have Minnesota criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman by my side.

Woman Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison Over Mandatory Minimum Law

marissa alexanderIn August 2010, Marissa Alexander, a single mother, with no criminal records, shot a bullet into a wall of her Florida home to frighten her estranged ex-husband when she felt her life was in danger. Although no one was hurt, this month a Florida judge sentenced her to 20 years in prison.

At the time of the incident, Marissa Alexander, a professional with a master’s degree working for a Florida software company was separated from her husband Rico Gray.  What’s more, she had a restraining order against him, despite the fact they recently had a child together.  Thinking Gray was not home, she went to retrieve the rest of her clothes from their house.  An argument took place, and Alexander feared for her life. She fled into the garage to retrieve a gun out of her vehicle, but the garage door was stuck so she was unable to leave the home. She came back inside and fired a shot into the wall.  Because her two children were with Gray when she fired the shot, she was charged with 3 counts of aggravated assault.  Her husband testified that he saw Alexander point the gun at him and look away before she fired the shot.

Alexander’s attorneys claimed self defense and cited Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law which affords people the right to use deadly force when they feel their life is in danger. The “stand your ground” law is the anticipated defense of George Zimmerman, the volunteer neighborhood watchman, charged with killing Treyvon Martin.

A judge ruled that Alexander was not able to raise the  “stand your ground” defense saying she could have run out of the house to escape from her husband rather than grabbing the gun and going back inside.  Alexander rejected a plea deal that would have resulted in a 3 year prison sentence and chose, instead to go to trial.  A jury deliberated for 12 minutes and convicted Alexander of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Because she fired a gun while committing a felony, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison under the mandatory-minimum gun law.

Florida has a 10-20-life law that went into effect in 1999 and is considered to be responsible for lowering the violent guns crime rate by 30%. The law requires a minimum 10 year prison term for felonies, or attempted felonies where the offender possesses a gun or destructive device, 20 years in prison if the gun is fired, and 25 years to life is someone is injured or killed.

Minnesota criminal defense attorney, Avery Appelman examined this case. He states that “the mandatory minimum jail sentences spring from legislative reactions to single isolated incidents. These laws are motivated by politics and used to support a political party’s “get tough on crime” propaganda. Everyone agrees that guns and their use in connection with serious violent crimes deserve significant sanctions. However, when the legislature enacts laws that bind judges’ hands and compel them to sentence an offender, such laws seriously undermine judge’s abilities to execute their constitutional duties: to sentence offenders based upon their individual circumstances and not grouped together with other dissimilar offenders. Ms. Alexander committed a crime, yes, but the court was unable to look at who she is, her character, her employment and family history nor could the court examine her lack of any previous record. The court was forced to impose an unjust sentence simply because of the nature of the offense and the use of a firearm. Not to be cliché, but this is a travesty, Ms. Alexander would serve the community better not in prison, but as a tax paying citizen. Now her life and her children’s lives are destroyed as a result of a law unintended for her case. ”

Related Sources

ABC News

New Jersey is the Latest State to Decriminalize Marijuana

Today, the state of New Jersey moved one step closer to decriminalizing marijuana possession. The Assembly Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in favor of a bill that would replace criminal charges with fines for possession of marijuana quantities smaller than 15 grams.

New Jersey is following the suit of a handful of other states which have decriminalized petty possession and sales, including Minnesota. In 1976, Minnesota passed a bill which made possession and sale of 42.5 grams and fewer of marijuana a petty misdemeanor.  Under this condition, first-time offenders would not face jail time, but would instead be issued a citation of up to $200.

Decriminalization is not legalization: it simply reclassifies an infraction as a civil offense, rather than a criminal offense. A first time offender will be issued a citation and the drugs will be confiscated, but they will not have the threat of incarceration. Depending on the case, certain offenders may also be required to enter a drug education program.

At the next quantity level, however, the penalties for selling marijuana become much more severe in Minnesota. The sale of less than 5 kilograms is a felony and punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and fines up to $10,000. Additionally, sale of any amount to a minor or in a school zone is also a felony offense in Minnesota.

The general consensus among the New Jersey committee members was that the move to decriminalize small marijuana possession will be a great relief for an overburdened judicial system. According to member Michael Patrick Carroll, “Some acts harm society and they warrant the intervention of police, prosecutors and perhaps even incarceration,” however, “Other acts warrant at best, a spanking, and these seems to be one of these situations.”

While the New Jersey committee supported the bill across the board, there are voices of opposition across the state. Some health and youth professionals fear that the decriminalization of marijuana is sending mixed messages to adolescents who might come to see marijuana use as harmless and without repercussion.

Despite the decriminalized status of small amounts of marijuana in Minnesota, possession and sale under 42.5 grams does still carry penalties. If you are caught in possession of or selling any amount of marijuana, contact an experienced MN criminal defense attorney right away.

Related Sources:

NJ Statehouse Bureau


Repeat DWI Offender Receives Maximum Sentence

When facing any criminal charges, it is absolutely crucial that the accused retain an experienced criminal defense attorney; the case of Eugene Rivetts is testimony to this.

In 2009, Rivetts  crossed the median and crashed his Hummer into the Corolla of 19-year-old Ryan DeZurik in central Minnesota. Dezurik was killed, and Rivetts’ passenger Timothy Rausch was originally charged with criminal vehicular homicide after Rivetts claimed that Rausch was driving. According to Assistant County Attorney Will Brost, it was DNA evidence which revealed that Rivetts was, in fact, the driver in the fatal crash.

Because Rausch was initially identified as the driver, Rivetts was never given a blood-alcohol-content test. However, using analysis of blood from the scene of the crash and bartender testimony, prosecutors were able to obtain a conviction for DWI vehicular homicide and on Wednesday, Rivetts received the state maximum 10-year prison sentence.

According to Stearns County Judge Mary Mahler, the sentence was justified due to a number of aggravating factors:

-Rivetts’ BAC level was estimated to be 0.26

-a history of DWI

-a previous criminal vehicular homicide conviction in 1989

While very few DWI offenders are handed the maximum sentence, such an outcome is always a very real possibility. It is absolutely crucial to retain a mn criminal defense attorney who is experienced in DWI cases.


DWI in the Twin Cities: Treatment

doctorGuest blog by anonymous former client

After getting a DWI you will likely be asked to get a chemical health assessment.  During that assessment you will be asked a lot of questions about your chemical use such as:

  • When you drink
  • Where you drink (bars, at home, etc.)
  • How much and how often you drink
  • What reasons you drink (when you’re under stress, to have fun, to relax, etc.)

The assessment is done to determine if you are chemically dependent or at risk of becoming chemically dependent.  It is extremely helpful to your legal case to get an assessment done before you go to court as it shows that you take your case seriously.

The average cost of an assessment is $250.00.  One thing to keep in mind is that many places do not accept health insurance for assessments.  The benefit of this is that your health insurance company will not have access to these records and it also keeps this information off of your permanent medical record.  Once you have completed an assessment you will need to follow the recommendations.

First time DWI offenders are placed in a level 1 or level 2 DWI class.  Level 1 is an 8 hour class while level 2 is 12-16 hours. These classes are designed for individuals who can benefit by more education about alcohol and drug use.

For second or third time offenders, outpatient or inpatient treatment is usually recommended.  An outpatient program typically runs about 6-8 weeks and is for individuals that have been diagnosed as chemically dependent or abusive.  Inpatient treatment is for individuals with severe chemical dependency issues.  The typical stay is 28-30 days.

These programs are designed to help you learn about yourself and your relationship with drugs and alcohol.  You will be asked to share information about yourself, and while it is not always comfortable to share personal information with complete strangers, you might be surprised at how much you will relate to other people.  You might even find it therapeutic.

I was enrolled in an outpatient program earlier this year and this particular scenario was very hard for me.  I am a very private person and sharing what was going on in my life with complete strangers was very difficult and uncomfortable.  There were parts of the program that worked for me and parts that didn’t.  I got more out of listening to other people’s situations and trying to gain wisdom through their experiences than I did by sharing my own.  When I completed the program I felt a huge sense of accomplishment because I had made it through something that was really hard for me.

While I personally did not enjoy treatment, not everyone has the same experience.  My advice is to try to make treatment work for you by finding something you can take away from it. It will be worth it in the end.

NY Prosecutors Use New Sex Trafficking Law to Crack Down on Local Pimps

NY prosecutors have begun using a recent sex-trafficking law to bypass the criminality of prostitutes and, instead, focus their attention on the patrons and pimps. Under the statute, those who promote the prostitution of others can be slapped with sex trafficking charges, even if the prostitutes don’t identify themselves as victims of trafficking.

In late April, a father-and-son pair of pimps were arrested and indicted on sex trafficking charges. The prostitutes employed by the two men were all over 18 and none considered themselves victims of coercion or trafficking. However, the Manhattan district attorney’s office listened to recorded phone conversation and, under the new law, determined that then men had coerced the women into working for them.

The prostitutes in this case have been afforded victim status and as victims of sex trafficking, they will not be prosecuted. The district is now offering various resources to these women for the purpose of rebuilding their lives.

While the prostitutes in this case have been afforded immunity of sorts, the pimps are facing the much tougher penalties which come with sex trafficking charges. Under the traditional law, promoting prostitution of an adult carried a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison; johns who solicited the services of an adult prostitute faced up to 90 days in jail. The new sex trafficking statute increases the maximum penalties for both pimps and patrons; promotion of prostitution now carries a 25-year maximum penalties and solicitation of prostitution can lead to one year in jail.

Under the federal law passed in 2000, sex trafficking was defined as the transport of a prostitute across state lines. However, the NY statute reconsidered what constitutes sex trafficking and the law was broadened to include  direct or indirect methods used to control a prostitute. Threats of physical harm, tarnishing a reputation, or in any way attempting to interfere with a person’s health, safety, or immigration status are now included within the scope of NY sex trafficking law.

According to MN criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman, the laws governing promotion of prostitution are quite broad and can be applied to a wide range of actions. If a person answers the phone for a prostitution transaction, pays for a prostitution-related advertisement, or provides transportation for an act of prostitution, a determined prosecutor could  charge that person with promotion of prostitution.  Law enforcement employs a great number of tactics meant to target those involved in the sex work industry.  If you are facing charges relating to prostitution, you need to contact an attorney  experienced with prostitution cases right away.

Related Sources:

NY Times


New Jersey Bans Texting While Walking

The internet has been abuzz with reports that the town of Fort Lee, N.J has banned texting while walking. The law has seldom been enforced, however the department recently enacted a public education campaign meant to address the danger of distracted walking. After a period of handing out educational text to pedestrians, police have begun cracking down.

Pedestrians who are caught texting will receive a citation of $54 or $85, according to conflicting reports. However, Ripoli has reassured the public that this citation would only be issued if the texter is currently jaywalking.

This new policy is  Fort Lee’s attempt to combat a recent increase in pedestrian fatalities.

While the new policy may seem sensible, there are many issues which may be encountered while enforcing this law:

The statute only identifies texting as the punishable offense. A citizen could contest a citation by arguing that they were not, in fact, text-messaging at the time of the offense.

Additionally, the new law in New Jersey exemplifies a recent tendency to legislate and criminalize personal irresponsibility. While distracted walking may indeed present a danger, is it a serious enough infraction to warrant the resources of the court system?

According to Chief Ripoli, over 100 citations have already been issued. After a lengthy period of not enforcing the statute, police began cracking down on this new branch of offenders–“Even kids,” said Ripoli, “we just hope their parents would make them pay the fine. After all, this is for the safety of the public.”

The story from New Jersey is reminiscent of Minnesota’s recent ban of texting while driving. In 2008, former governor Tim Pawlenty instituted a new law stating “no person may operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device to compose, read, or send an electronic message, when the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic.”

In fact, Minnesota police have found that this law tends to be difficult to enforce. According to MN criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman, proving that an offender was texting is an enormous burden on law enforcement. “To prove that text messages were sent, police would have to seize the phone–which they cannot do without a warrant.”

In Minnesota, the penalty for a first time offense of texting while driving is $300.  This law is rife with loopholes; an experienced MN criminal defense is a crucial resource for finding a favorable outcome.

Related Sources:

ABC News

The North Jersey Record