Minnesota State Patrol to Increase DWI Patrols in December

In conjunction with the nationwide “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, Minnesota State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies will increase their efforts to keep impaired drivers off Minnesota roads.

“We all need to work together to make a strong traffic safety culture in Minnesota,” said Sergeant Curt S. Mowers.  “One way to do that is to make impaired driving socially unacceptable.

Mowers went on to say that holiday parties and local celebrations around the state will be targeted for increased patrols.  He hopes the increased patrols around these holiday events will encourage people to make smart decisions.

Last year there were 136 alcohol-related traffic deaths in Minnesota, which accounted for 37 percent of all traffic deaths.  Historically, males and young adults are more likely to be involved in alcohol-related crashes, and they account for a large portion of fatalities.

Law enforcement asks citizens to plan ahead during the holiday season to ensure that everyone stays safe on Minnesota roads.

“We strongly encourage drivers to plan ahead and not drink and drive,” said State Patrol Lieutenant Jason Hanson.  “We also want everyone to support this project by reporting impaired drivers.”

Penalties for driving drunk can include fines in excess of $1,000 and the possible loss of your license or vehicle.

The patrols are part of the state’s initiative to work Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) on Minnesota roads.  The goal of the TZD program is to instill a safe driving culture among citizens across the state.  The TZD initiative creates awareness through the recognition of the four E’s – education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.

Here are some more tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this holiday season.

Related source: HometownSource.com

Minnesota Shooting Leaves Two Teens Dead

A Minnesota man who fatally shot two teens in his home on Thanksgiving Day said he fired “more shots than he needed to” and acknowledged that neither teen was armed, according to a police report.

Byron David Smith, 64, was charged with two counts of second degree murder after he killed two teens that reportedly broke into his home.

Smith said he was in his basement when he heard what sounded like someone trying to break into his house.  He heard a window break, followed by footsteps around his house.  Smith said the intruder then began to descend the stairs to the basement where he was located.  Once he could see the bottom half of their torso, Smith shot the teen twice with his Mini 14 rifle.

After the teen fell down the stairs, Smith walked over and shot the teen in the face, telling investigators “I want him dead.”  He then dragged the body to his basement workshop.

Several minutes later he again heard footsteps on the main floor of his house.  Again, Smith waited until he could see the torso of the intruder and shot her with the Mini 14 rifle.

The teen, later identified as Haile Kifer, fell down the stairs after being shot.  Smith said he tried to shoot her again but his gun jammed.  Smith said it was at that point that Kifer laughed at him, which made him upset.  He then pulled out his .22 caliber revolver that he was wearing and shot her several times in the chest.  Smith told investigators Kifer was gasping for air when he put the gun under her chin and delivered “a good clean finishing shot”.

Smith left the bodies in his basement overnight before calling a neighbor on Friday morning to ask if the neighbor knew any lawyers.  The neighbor later called authorities to alert them of a possible homicide.  Smith said he didn’t call on Thursday because he “didn’t want to trouble us on a holiday.”

Officers arrived on the scene and were admitted to Smith’s residence without conflict.  He told authorities that he shot two individuals the day before, and their bodies were in the basement.  Upon investigation officers found the bodies of Kifer her cousin Nick Schaeffel.

Avery Appelman, a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney, said the law has room for interpretation when it comes to self-defense on private property.

“Minnesota law permits a homeowner to use ‘reasonable force’ when faced with an assailant attempting to commit a felony in their home, called defense-of-dwelling,” said Appelman.  “This form of self-defense requires no fear as a basis for the defense, and the statute is written purposefully vague to give the judiciary wide discretion in their calculus as to whether the self-defense claim can be used at trial.”

Smith told investigators that he was fearful of the intruders because he has been the victim of several break-ins over the last few years.  Although Smith said there have been numerous incidents, the only reported break-in occurred on October 27.  Smith said thousands of dollars, jewelry, guns and ammunition were taken from him during the previous incident.

John Lang, a longtime friend of Smith, said he doesn’t deserve to be in jail.

“You have a right to defend your home,” Lang said. “He’s been through hell.”

Schaeffel’s sister, Crystal Schaeffel, said Kifer had stolen prescription drugs from her once before, and it’s possible the teens were looking for drugs.

Guidance counselors were on hand at schools in Little Falls on Monday, though classes were not in session.

Related source:  My Fox Twin Cities

Hennepin Ranked Most Dangerous County for DWI Deaths in MN

Police and law enforcement will increase DWI enforcement in the 13 Minnesota counties that ranked highest in drunk driving fatalities and serious alcohol related injuries, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

The extra patrols will be part of a 12-month program to reduce traffic fatalities across the state.

According to data from 2009-2011, Hennepin County is the leading county for drunk driving deaths, with Ramsey, St. Louis, Anoka and Dakota County rounding out the top five.  Olmsted, Washington, Sterns, Wright, Sherburne, Becker, Meeker and Otter Tail make up the top 13, and combined they account for nearly half of the state’s drunk driving fatalities.

Law enforcement in these counties will have heightened patrols on high traffic roads, and they will use electronic signs to alert motorists of their increased presence.  Department of Public Safety Officer Jean Ryan said he believes the program will help curb the trend in drunk driving fatalities.

“These counties account for a great portion of our drunk driving tragedies and investing in DWI enforcement and education can help prevent impaired driving incidents,” said Ryan.

The Department of Public Safety said increased patrols will catch more offenders, but they encourage the public to take steps to prevent drunk driving.  This includes planning a safe ride home with a sober driver and reporting suspected drunk drivers to 911.

“This isn’t surprising, considering that Hennepin County has both the highest population and is one of the most densely populated counties in Minnesota,” says DWI defense lawyer Stacy Kaye. “There has been a strong trend across the state in recent years to increase both enforcement rates and penalties for DWI offenses in an effort to reduce fatalities and injuries, especially around the holidays, when even people who rarely drink are much more likely to be out at events where alcohol is consumed. Given this increased enforcement and the ever-steepening criminal and civil penalties for DWIs, drivers would be well-advised to plan a sober ride if they are planning to drink, especially during the holiday season.”

Police Trackers Under New Scrutiny

For years, police departments across the state have employed the use of squad car-mounted license plate scanners to gather and log data from Minnesota cars. The American Civil Liberties Union has spoken out against this practice, arguing that such technology is a gross invasion of privacy. Under the MN open records law, anyone may request this information and gain access to data recording the locations of any car captured by the scanners.

Now, Melissa Hill, a local Occupy MN activist has responded by doing her own tracking, starting a blog which records the position of law enforcement vehicles caught by these same trackers:   trackthepolice.tumblr.com. Hill wrote to the Star Tribune, “If they want to watch us, we’ll watch them back!” According to Hill’s blog, the reverse tracking is slated to launch today. Hill is asking the general public to participate by submitting their own data to the blog.

The blog will display the license plates and locations of various government-owned vehicles across Minneapolis. All information was provided via the Minneapolis Police Department in accordance with the open records law.  The Minneapolis Police Department retains their records for a year, after which they are deleted. The St. Paul Police Department keeps their records for only 14 days, and the MN State Trooper for only 48 hours.  The data is reportedly used for a number of reasons, including tracking stolen vehicles and capturing images of criminal behavior.

According to MN criminal defense attorney Stacy Kaye:

“I’m glad to see attention being drawn to this issue. While I understand the need for law enforcement to collect this type of data, the fact that it’s available without restriction to the general public is deeply concerning, and it’s especially disturbing to think that this information may be accessible to people who may use it to harass or stalk others. Hopefully the publicity will prompt the Minneapolis Police Department to at least consider reducing the amount of time over which this sensitive information is stored.”


Related Source:

The Star Tribune

Track the Police blog

Minnesota Shooting Raises Questions of Use of Deadly Force

A St. Paul police officer used deadly force to subdue an unruly suspect, and the conflicting stories paint a different picture of the events that took place.

Officer Joseph Higgins responded to a domestic disturbance call to find another officer, Ramar Davis, with his gun drawn.  Davis was commanding Kevin Carroll, 47, to drop his duffel bag and get on the ground.  Higgins later described the scene.

“He had this frantic look on his face, his eyes, I haven’t seen anyone in a long time with that look in their eyes,” Higgins said of Carroll. “He was saying, ‘(expletive) you, kill me, shoot me, I’ve got a gun’ or something about a gun. Then his hand either went under the duffel bag or inside it, I am not sure where it was at.”

It was at that point that Higgins, fearing for his safety and the safety of Officer Davis, fired three shots at Carroll.

Carroll was stuck in the chest, calf and thigh.  He recovered, but needed multiple surgeries following the incident.

Carroll said the events of that night took place differently than described in the police report.  He said he never mentioned having a gun, and refused to cooperate because he didn’t want to lie on the wet ground.  He admits to holding the duffel bag, but said both his hands were clearly visible.

“I’m still questioning why,” Carroll said of the shooting. “I really just didn’t believe that I deserved to be shot.”

Police were originally called to the house because Carroll’s wife, Shantell Hutchinson, said she feared for her safety.  Carroll and Hutchinson had an argument earlier in the day, and Carroll agreed to stay at a hotel that night.  Carroll said he was wet from the rain, and stopped home to get a jacket, only to find the screen door locked.  He broke the screen door, and then used his key to get inside.  Carroll grabbed his jacket without seeing or speaking to Hutchinson, but she called the police when she heard the screen door break.

The 911 dispatcher who spoke to Hutchinson asked her about the circumstances of her call.  When asked if her husband had a weapon, Hutchinson said he did not.

Officer Davis, who was first on the scene, said Carroll stated otherwise.  According to the police report, Carroll yelled “I got a gun, I got a gun,” at Davis.

Hutchinson said she also heard her husband yell that he wasn’t afraid to die.  It was at that point that Higgins fired his weapon.

Despite the differing views on the events of the night, no charges were filed against Carroll or the officers.  An internal affairs investigation found that the actions of Davis and Higgins were justified, and they had no previous record of excessive force.

Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney Avery Appelman comments

This situation clearly captures the life and death decisions police officers make every day.  When confronted with someone on the street who refuses to obey commands, police officers’ aggressiveness and fear heightens.  Police are trained to deal with these escalated situations by use of force, and each agency has a policy on the use of force and when deadly force can be employed.

In a situation like this, it can be argued that the police were justified in shooting a suspect who claimed to have a weapon, but I don’t believe an internal investigation by their own department is as convincing as an outside agency’s investigation.

Normally, when citizens refuse to obey law orders from a police officer they are charged with Obstruction of Justice, which is failure to comply with a lawful order from a police officer which prevents the officer from conducting their duties.  I’m surprised the suspect was not charged with Obstruction of Justice.

Related source:  Pioneer Press

Correlations between Adolescent Brain Development and Risky Behavior

Laurence Steinberg, who teaches psychology at Temple University, recently gave a lecture at the University of Minnesota on brain development and its impact on adolescent behavior.

His lecture, titled “Should the Science of Adolescent Brain Development Inform Legal Policy?” focused on the factors that influence adolescents in their decision making.

Steinberg compared an adolescent brain to an automobile, saying that impulses for reward often push the “gas pedal” down.  He also stated that consequence evaluation is our internal “braking system”, and both systems are still developing in our 20’s.

In his lecture, Steinberg noted that researchers put adolescents through a simulated driving game to determine what influenced their decisions.  He said the results show an interesting trend.

“When adolescents are playing the game without their friends watching them, they don’t play it any differently than adults do,” Steinberg said.

Those results varied when friends were brought into the room.

“Just knowing that your friends are watching you doubles the number of risks teenagers take,” he said. “If we look at adults, it has no impact on their behavior whatsoever.”

The study also proved that adolescents had more satisfaction when they were being watched by their peers, but this phenomenon was not present when tested on adults.

“It leads us to think that something is going on when teenagers are with their peers that makes them especially sensitive to reward.”

Steinberg said he would like the justice system reexamine how it penalizes youth behavior, because cognitive processes are still developing well into the mid-20’s.

“It is not that unusual for our justice system to criminalize what I think most of us would consider to be, you know, stupid adolescent behavior,” he said.  We need to go back to an earlier point in our history where we had a separate juvenile justice system that didn’t have such a porous border with the adult system.”

Steinberg also noted that although adolescent mischief is fairly common, adult guidance can help prevent the behavior from escalating.

“If we’re talking about a child who is at a stage of development where his own self-control is still immature and still developing, one thing that can help him is to have self-control imposed on him by other people,” he said. “That’s a role parents play that helps protect their youngsters from engaging in risky and reckless behavior.”

Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney Avery Appelman comments

It should not be shocking that adolescents are influenced by their peers. Parents do not promote adolescent drinking or drug use and are not encouraging their young children to have sex. These behaviors are explored with teenage friends and most often are a result of peer pressure. These risky behaviors are also criminal acts, which the adolescent routinely forgets or believes are “no big deal.”

If adolescents routinely cave into peer pressure, it can lead to encounters with law enforcement and juvenile prosecutions.

Related source:  Minnesota Public Radio

Two MN Men Charged After Sex-Trafficking Sting

Two Minnesota men have been arrested on various charges related to a recent underage sex trafficking sting. Bernard Elvet Morris was the alleged ringleader of the operation and has been accused of arranging the sexual transactions in his Minneapolis home. He has been charged with two counts of solicitation, inducement, and promotion of prostitution and one count of prostitution.

Thanh Huu Bui was charged with solicitation of a minor to engage in prostitution and prostitution, both felony charges.

According to the young teenaged runaway, Morris picked her up on September 25th and later began hiring her out to other men from his home. Morris made a full admission to police and cooperated with investigators by setting up sting operations with some of his clients.

Both men were arrested on October 25th when police monitored a phone call between Bui and Morris in which Morris arranged for Bui to come to his South Minneapolis to have sex with the 15 or 16 year-old girl. According to the girl, Morris had made such transactions on “numerous occasions” and would often pay her for sex himself.

Bernard Morris faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $40,000 fine. Thanh Bui faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Related Sources:



MN Ignition Interlock: Installation

In Minnesota, Ignition Interlock is mandatory device system which allows alcohol offenders to regain their driving privileges. As of 2011, it became a required mandate for all DWI offenders with a BAC of 0.16 and above. The Interlock Ignition device requires the driver to give a breath test for alcohol before starting the car. It also requires drivers to perform rolling retests at various intervals while driving.

Installation of the Interlock Ignition device varies, as there are multiple participating vendors offering such systems in Minnesota:

1. LifeSafer Interlock, Inc.

2. 1A Smart Start

3. B.E.S.T. Labs, Inc.

4. Draeger Safety Diagnostics

5. Consumer Safety Technology, Inc.

6. Guardian Interlock.

Prices vary by company, and the offending driver is responsible for contracting their own company to install and manage the device. According to one vendor, the device costs between $60 and $125 per month and some vendors may charge additional fees for installation and removal of the device.

All vendors have been certified by the Minnesota DPS as offering devices that meet federal guidelines for ignition interlock devices. Participants are allowed to switch vendors at any time during the program.

The device is equipped with a camera which is monitored by the ignition interlock company, so as to prevent driver and breath-test fraud.

Before a driver is allowed to drive once their vehicle is equipped with an ignition interlock system, they must first have been granted a limited or restricted license by the DMV.

The device is installed under the dash and the hood of the car, connected to the wiring. It will not damage the vehicle and after completion of the program, the car’s wiring will be restored to its original condition. The device may only be used for the vehicle in which it is installed and driving privileges do not extend to other cars that the driver may operate.

The process of acquiring an ignition interlock system is fairly simple, but many offending drivers find that consulting with their MN criminal defense attorney helps to simplify and speed up the process.

You can read more about the fundamentals of the ignition interlock program here, on the Minnesota DPS website.

Minnesota Man Faces Charges After Trying to Hide on Roof

PoliceA Burnsville man who tried to hide from police on the roof of a garage after being pulled over for erratic driving faces charges of drunk driving and attempting to flee.

22-year old Elliot Alexander Williams was charged with DWI and fleeing a police officer after he allegedly tried to hide on the garage of a set of nearby townhouses after driving home following a night of drinking.

According to the police report, officers saw Williams drive out of a parking lot at an excessive speed without signaling.  When they tried to pull him over, he parked his car and took off on foot.  The pursuing officers eventually caught Williams on the roof of a townhouse garage.  A breath test confirmed that Williams’ blood alcohol level was above Minnesota’s legal limit.

When asked why he fled, Williams said he knew that he would be in big trouble if he was caught because he was currently awaiting trial for another first-degree DUI charge.  He also stated that that he was operating his car without an ignition interlock device, which prevents the car from starting if the driver is over a certain blood alcohol level.

The arrest was Williams’ fifth DUI incident since 2008.  He faces fines in excess of $15,000 and could serve more than seven years in prison.

Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney Adam Goldfine said that Williams faces stiff punishments.

“Williams will be facing felony level charges because he has over four DWI incidents in the last ten years, which carry a mandatory minimum sentence and fine,” said Goldfine.  “He could also end up losing his vehicle.”

Goldfine also noted that although Williams will serve some time if found guilty, he believes some form of alcohol treatment is necessary.

“Based on his history, he’s probably already been ordered by the court to seek alcohol treatment.  I think it’s important that he receives treatment and completes the court-ordered programs to help get his life back on track.”

Related source:  CBS Minnesota

Charges Dropped Against Vikings’ Adrian Peterson

Adrian PetersonThe misdemeanor resisting arrest charge against Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been dismissed by a Houston grand jury.

Peterson was involved in a confrontation with nightclub workers and police officers following an incident at a Houston nightclub.

Rusty Hardin, one of Peterson’s high-profile attorneys, said the grand jury dismissed the case on Tuesday after hearing testimony from those involved in the incident.

“The grand jury had no problem at all endorsing Adrian’s innocence,” said Hardin.

Peterson was initially arrested after he allegedly pushed an off-duty officer who was working security at the Houston nightclub.  The security officer told Peterson and his party to leave the club because it was closed, but Peterson refused and a scuffle ensued. 

Hardin believed the whole incident was a misunderstanding, and Peterson was only waiting to leave the club because he wanted to avoid creating a scene.

“Part of the issue was — and people don’t understand — that when a lot of these ballplayers go to a club like that, and the place is closed, they wait until it’s mostly cleared out so they’re not hassled,” Hardin said.

Peterson told his side of the story to the grand jury on Tuesday, and after listening to other witness accounts they dropped the charges.  Had they not dismissed the case, Peterson would have been due in court on Thursday. 

Hardin was happy with the dismissal, and believes the jury rendered the right decision.

“The people of Minnesota know what Adrian’s like,” Hardin said. “He got a fair hearing. We’re tremendously delighted.”

Stacy Kaye, a Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney at Appelman Law, said the lack of evidence led to the dismissal.

“It’s fair to assume that at least some of the witnesses offered testimony that caused the grand jurors to believe there was not enough evidence to support charges,” said Kaye.  “The generally favorable press coverage of this incident also helped his cause.

Kaye added that Peterson’s positive reputation and lack of a criminal history probably played a role in the grand jury’s decision as well.

 Related Source:  Twin Cities Pioneer Press