How to Job Hunt with a Criminal Record

In 2010, 73 percent of human resources professionals said their company conducted a criminal background check during the hiring process, and that number has likely increased over the past few years as more information is becoming digitized.  Most people don’t have anything interesting on their record, but job seekers who have a criminal record may feel that past convictions will start them off on the wrong foot.  Because background checks are becoming more common, we’ll explore some ways to best present yourself to an employer if you have a criminal record.

  • Consider getting your criminal record sealed – Depending on what crime you committed, you may be able to get your record sealed.  Sealing or expunging your record doesn’t erase any information, but it does limit who can access it.  You can talk with an attorney or legal professional to determine if sealing your record is an option, or you can visit your state government’s website.
  • Volunteer opportunities can speak volumes – Exploring volunteering options can provide many benefits for job seekers.  First, it can show a company that you are focusing on the future, not dwelling in the past. Also, volunteer opportunities give you a chance to develop solid references that can put in a good word if your prospective employer calls for a reference.
  • Be knowledgeable about your conviction – It’s important to know exactly what you’ve been convicted of, as inaccurate information can be harmful in the interview process.  If you show an interviewer that you understand the charges and accepted the penalties, it can put you in a better light than those who don’t acknowledge or show remorse for their crimes.
  • Participate in re-entry programs – There are plenty of programs that help job seekers with a criminal record re-enter the professional world.  In Minnesota, there are certain groups like the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition and 180 Degrees who work to get people with a criminal record a job by focusing on education, training and support.  These programs can be listed on a resume and discussed in an interview to show that you are committed to developing professional skills and have a desire to learn.
  • Consider where you apply – During the application process, you’ll likely be asked if you have been convicted of a crime.  Read the section carefully, as some employers only ask for a certain time period (i.e. last five years) or for certain levels of crime (only list felonies).  If you’re applying at a larger company, you might have a tough time explaining your past convictions to a hiring manager.  Oftentimes at larger companies, human resources professionals without “hiring power” conduct an initial interview.  Second and third interviews with hiring and on-site managers are then conducted, and it can be difficult to explain your conviction to a person in charge if you have to go through multiple interviews.  By applying at a smaller company, you increase the likelihood that your initial interview will be with someone with greater hiring power and will give you a first-hand chance to explain any convictions.


  • Honesty is the best policy – It’s always best to disclose any past criminal convictions, as neglecting to do so can be cause for termination, even months after you get the job.  With that said, don’t start the interview by jumping into your past legal troubles.  Prepare what you plan to say before your interview in case it comes up.  Also, consider discussing the prior conviction after the company had expressed interest in you.  When discussing your conviction, it’s important to walk the line between accepting responsibility for your actions and explaining yourself.  For example, I knew a colleague back in college whose house got busted for having a party.  He took the fall for his roommate who purchased the keg because the roommate was a criminal justice major, and a ticket for “supplying to minors” would result in his expulsion from the program.  The roommate paid my colleague for the ticket, but now he has to explain the supplying to minors ticket during interviews.  He said he often has to tiptoe the line between explaining his side of the story and accepting the consequences for making a rash decision to support a friend.  He is prepared for the question, and tries to turn his answer into a positive outlook on his character.  He admits that it doesn’t always work, but being prepared and answering honestly help explain a conviction that looks bad on paper.


Lamborghini Joy Ride Leaves Minneapolis Man Behind Bars

juntunenA Minneapolis businessman is in jail on charges of insurance fraud and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle after crashing his client’s Lamborghini last March.

39 year-old David Norman Juntunen runs Top Gear Autoworks in Minneapolis–a service and repair facility for high end, luxury imported cars. According to police documents, Juntunen took the liberty of taking one of his clients’ cars out for a joyride over a weekend last March. Juntunen subsequently drove the Lamborghini into three trees and knocked over a light pole, causing more than $84,000 in damage to the $200,000 sports car.

According to the complaint, the client hired Juntunen to service and store two of his cars last winter, including the Lamborghini. Because the cars were not being driven, the client suspended the collision insurance coverage.

On March 8th,  Juntunen took the Lamborghini on a high-speed ride down University Avenue, ultimately damaging to car to a great extent. Juntunen then had the car privately towed back to Top Gear without notifying police and filed a claim with his business’ insurer who estimated the damage to be $84,480. On his claim, Juntunen told the insurance company that he was transporting the car between Top Gear facilities, and then later said that in fact, the car was being driven by one of his employees at the time of the crash. The insurance company didn’t buy it, and refused to pay the claim.

Juntunen later told the owner of the crash. When the owner asked why he wouldn’t insist that the insurance company pay for the damage, Juntunen replied “If I ask them to pay based on the statements I gave, I’m going to prison. It’s insurance fraud.” The maximum penalty for insurance fraud is 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

However, Juntunen didn’t have a clean record behind him. He has prior convictions for criminal sexual conduct, two DWIs, reckless driving, and fleeing a police officer. The second criminal charge against Juntunen is unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. This carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and a $20,000 fine.

Related Sources:

Pioneer Press

Woman Accused of Murdering Boyfriend with Breasts

Authorities are recommending second-degree murder charges be brought against a 50-year-old Washington woman who allegedly murdered her boyfriend by smothering him with her breasts.

Donna Lange was arrested after authorities were called to a mobile home after her boyfriend was found unresponsive.  Witnesses claim that Lange and her boyfriend had fought throughout the night, and they found Lange with her chest in the man’s face.

Medics performed CPR on the man, but their attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.  One witness said the victim may have had a heart condition.

In addition to the victim, a man and three women were in the mobile home at the time of the incident.  The witnesses said they saw Lange throw her boyfriend down during an argument, and they heard the victim tell Lange to get off him.  All parties were heavily intoxicated during the incident.

“She smothered him to death,” a witness said in an official statement.

Deputies investigating the incident photographed what appeared to be Lange’s hair in the victim’s hand, and they noticed that the man had recently suffered injuries to his face and hands.  Lange also appeared to have suffered an injury to her face.

When interviewed about the incident, an intoxicated Lange denied having any knowledge of how her boyfriend died.  Authorities said the victims were almost the same height, but Lange outweighed the victim by nearly 20 pounds.

This isn’t the first time breasts have been used in a deadly manner.  Last November, a German lawyer claimed his girlfriend attempted to suffocate him with her 38DD breasts.  When asked about the incident, his girlfriend said she wanted his death “to be as pleasurable as possible”.  She was accused of attempted manslaughter with a weapon.

A similar case occurred in the UK in 2010, when a woman mistook her boyfriend’s failing arms as a sign of pleasure, not suffocation.  Luckily, the man only lost consciousness and was not seriously injured.

Although it is a tragic incident, it certainly gives new meaning to the term “conceal and carry”.

Related source:  Huffington Post

No DUI for Drunken Segway Riders

segwayAttention Minnesota Segway enthusiasts: There  is no legal recourse for enjoying your two-wheeled, self-balancing machine while intoxicated!

This is the result of a ruling made this Tuesday by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Last February, 48 year-old Mark Greenman was stopped by police while wheeling around on his Segway in Medina with a BAC of 0.19–more than twice the legal limit for operating a motorized vehicle. Greenman was charged with a DUI, which was then dismissed in court. The State of Minnesota chose to challenge this dismissal, thrusting the matter into the hands of the Court of Appeals. Interestingly, this is Greenman’s third appellate victory for drunken Segway fun.

According to the Court of Appeals, the Segway should be classified and considered under pedestrian regulations. Its maximum speed is about 12 mph and it is intended to be primarily used on sidewalks and other pedestrian walkways. Thus, it is not a motor vehicle and riders are not subject to laws governing the use of motorized vehicles.

The Court of Appeals ruling was made 2-1, with the dissenting vote being cast by Judge Klaphake, who argued that the classification of a device that falls under DWI/DUI law includes anything not solely operated by manual human power. According to Klaphake, the battery-operated Segway PT falls under these restrictions and thus, riders should be subject to chemical restrictions while using the device. However, the majority ruled otherwise and cited a 2009 case in which a man was acquitted a DUI charges for riding a motorized push scooter on the sidewalk while intoxicated.

In a few United States municipalities however, the Segway is banned from use on pedestrian sidewalks. However, most states allow their use on sidewalks as well as in bike lanes or roads with lower speed limits. In fact, Segway Inc. has been involved in many legal battles contesting restrictions placed on its Segway PT devices. Nationwide, there is still considerable contention about the classification of Segway devices.

Greenman’s charge was not elicited while driving on the sidewalk. According to the original criminal complaint, police made the arrest after Greenman swerved into the road and over the median, apparently causing an oncoming vehicle to stop to avoid hitting him. Nonetheless. the charge was dismissed and the Court of Appeals ultimately ruled that the Segway PT does not fall under the legal definition of a motor vehicle.

While you are not at risk of DUI charges while on a Segway, there are several other surprising machines that DO fall under motor vehicle classification:

There have been multiple cases of people operating riding lawn mowers being charged with driving while intoxicated. In Australia, a man was convicted of a DUI while operating a motorized, riding beer cooler. Another man down under was charged with a DUI while using his motorized power mobility scooter in the road while heavily intoxicated. ATVs and snowmobiles also fall under motor vehicle restrictions.

We are sure that people will continue to find new ways to test the limits of motor vehicle classification under DUI law. However, the legal battles for Greenman were quite lengthy. Rule of thumb: if you’re not sure if you can get a DUI while driving it, just don’t take the chance. If you are stopped next time you’re out riding some new piece of transportation technology, call an experienced MN criminal defense attorney right away.

Related Sources:

Star Tribune

MN Court of Appeals





6 Ways to Avoid a Traffic Ticket

In today’s fast paced world, it’s not surprising that more people speed while driving than those who follow the posted limits.  Many people have gotten pulled over at one time or another, and their actions and interaction with the pursuing officer can go a long way in determining if they’ll receive a ticket.  Below we discuss what you should do if you see Johnny Law in your rearview mirror.

1.        Your car makes the first impression

The way your car looks says a lot about you.  You may be passionately Republic or very anti-firearm, but sometimes bumper stickers can start you off on the wrong foot if the officer has opposing views.  Consider what stickers and symbols you put on your car.  Also, officers almost always glance into your car’s interior before speaking to you.  A clean, well kept car offers a more professional appearance.

2.        Wave at the officer

Let’s say you come over a hill a little too fast and spot a cop radaring along a turnaround.  Give the officer a friendly wave as you drive by, because it can help you in two ways.  First, the officer may believe you are a friend or colleague of his and neglect to pursue.  Also, the wave can show that you acknowledge your mistake and you are aware that you should be driving slower.

3.         Pull over quickly and safely

If you notice a police officer in your rearview mirror, acknowledge his presence by slowing down and putting on your blinker.  If you are on a multi-lane highway, merge into the far right lane as quickly and safely as possible.  Safe, cautious lane movements show respect for the officer as well as other people on the road.  If you are on a busy road, find a safe shoulder or side street to stop on so the officer isn’t in danger when he exits the vehicle to talk to you.

4.        Be Polite and Aware

Once you’re on the side of the road, keep your hands on the steering wheel where the cop can see them.  Don’t fumble with your glove box or under the seat at this time.  If it’s dark out, reach up and turn on your dome light, roll down your window and wait for the officer to approach your car.

Once the officer reaches your door, wait for him or her to speak.  Starting out with an excuse or a joke only digs you a deeper hole.  Instead, listen to the officer’s instructions.  If they ask for any information that you keep in your glove box or under your seat, inform the officer of its location and ask for permission to grab it.

5.        Choose your words carefully

There are a lot of routes one can take in hopes of getting out of a ticket, but there are some things you’ll definitely want to avoid.  Refrain from giving the cop attitude, and never admit that you were speeding.  We’ll throw out three samples and explain why one is better than the others.

“I’m sorry officer, I’m running late for work and was just trying to get there a little quicker.” – In this case, you just admitted that you were knowingly speeding.  Although you apologized to the officer, he can write you a ticket with a clear conscience because he knows that you knew you were committing a traffic violation.

“I was aware of my speed and I wasn’t speeding.  I want to see your radar.” – Although it is within your rights to request to see the radar, this isn’t the best way to go about it.  You start out by calling the officer a liar, and end by making demands.  Not a good combination.

I’m sorry officer, I wasn’t aware that I was going that fast.” – This is the best route to go because you show empathy without admitting that you knowingly broke the law.  If the officer tries to get you to admit that you were speeding, simply respond with non-committal answers like “I was not aware” or “I see”.  Although some may argue that saying you were unaware of your speed may give the officer reason to write you a ticket for inattentive driving, it is better to go this route than to admit guilt.  Try to get through the traffic stop as quickly and as non-memorably as possible.

6.        Consider hiring an attorney

Let’s say all those steps failed, and you ended up getting a ticket.  Having an attorney on your side can help you go over your options and determine the best route to challenge the ticket.  If your stop was non-memorable, the attorney may challenge the officer’s recollection of the stop, as he needs to provide unaided testimony to support his reason for pulling you over.  An attorney can also help negotiate deals that can save points on your record or keep you from losing your license.

Related sources:  Readers Digest,

Martin Luther King Jr’s Legal Impact

Many people are aware of what Martin Luther King Jr. did for civil rights in this country, and today we celebrate his bold defiance in the face of oppression.  Numerous times he risked being arrested, and more than once he found himself in handcuffs because of his beliefs in non-violent civil disobedience.  Much is known about the general points in MLK’s life, but today we reflect on how his first arrest began the movement to end segregation.

Montgomery Bus Boycotts

Dr. King’s involvement in ending racial segregation began well before Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man, but his involvement in the Montgomery bus boycotts landed him in the national spotlight.

Rosa Parks was arrested on a Thursday, leading African Americans to take a stand against the discriminatory bus laws.  They asked all African Americans to find a different way to get to school or work on the following Monday, but people began to boycott buses as soon as they heard of the planned boycott.  City buses were already feeling the impact by Saturday.

Dr. King was a young minister in Montgomery at the time, and city officials felt that they needed a figure to lead the bus boycott.  King was elected the leader of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), the official name of the bus boycott.  The following is a list of events that took place surrounding the boycott.

  • Following a successful Saturday protest, African American leaders urged blacks to continue the protest.
  • The city buses felt a serious economic impact, as roughly ¾’s of their regular riders were African Americans.
  • African Americans formed carpools, volunteered rides, and took taxi’s to get to school and work.
  • African American taxi drivers lowered their fares to 10 cents to match the fare charged by the buses.  Less than a week later city officials passed a law that made it a violation to charge less than 45 cents for a cab fare, but many taxi drivers worked around the law.
  • Dr. King was later indicted for “conspiracy to interfere with a business”, an ordinance dating back 1921.  Instead of waiting to be arrested, King and other leaders turned themselves in.

“I was proud of my crime. It was the crime of joining my people in a nonviolent protest against injustice,” King said following his arrest.

King was faced with a $500 fine or 386 days in jail.  He elected to serve his time, but spent only two weeks in jail as Montgomery caved under intense national pressure.

With the national spotlight on Montgomery, local lawyers wanted to challenge the constitutionality of the discriminatory bus laws.  Citing four African American plaintiffs who had been arrested for refusing to give up their seats, they took their case to U.S. District Court.  On February 1, 1956, the court case of Browder v. Gale was filed to district court.  Aureila Browder had been arrested under the law, and W.A. Gayle was the Mayor of Montgomery.  The prosecution ordered that the bus laws violated equal rights protection as guaranteed in the Constitution.

In June of 1956, the court ruled that “the enforced segregation of black and white passengers on motor buses operating in the City of Montgomery violates the Constitution and laws of the United States,” because the conditions deprived people of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Dr. King’s involvement in the Montgomery bus boycott laid the groundwork for national protests to abolish Jim Crow laws across the country.  King’s belief in equal treatment for everyone led to his passionate “I Have a Dream Speech” in Washington in 1963.  His speech highlighted the importance of civil rights, and a year later Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed major forms of discrimination.

New Bill Aims to Make it Harder for Convicted Felons to Own Weapons

Convicted felons may soon find it harder to regain their right to possess a firearm after a new gun control bill was proposed to Minnesota legislators.

The bill would require anyone convicted of a violent crime to appear before the state Board of Pardons to request to have their right to possess a firearm reinstated.

“I don’t plan on giving an inch on anything except making it harder for bad guys to get guns,” said Rep Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center.

The current law states that “the court may grant [the right to possess firearms] if the person shows good cause to do so and the person has been released from physical confinement,” but Senator Barbara Goodwin believes that isn’t tough enough.

“All they have to do is find a friendly judge, and they could have their right to get the weapons restored,” Goodwin said.

The proposed bill is just one of what could be several proposals focused on keeping guns out of the wrong hands.

“I think there’s a sea of change occurring,” said Representative Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul.

Many people feel that it is too easy for convicted felons to have certain rights restored.  For example, a Minnesota felon can appeal to have his 2nd amendment rights reinstated before he regains the right to vote.  A person may appeal for the right to own a weapon as long as they show cause and are out of jail, but all aspects of parole or probation must be complete before a felon can restore their voting rights.  Senator Goodwin said she would like to reevaluate both policies.

Is there a problem?

While the majority of people may agree that keeping firearms out of the hands of convicted felons would be beneficial, there aren’t a lot of felons petitioning to have their rights restored under the current process.

In 2011, the New York Times published an article that examined how many convicted felons in Minnesota sought judicial approval to have their 2nd amendment rights restored.  The article found that at least 70 violent criminals appealed for judicial permission over a seven-year period, or less than one felon a month.

The numbers might not be completely accurate, as pundits say violent offenders can find other channels to obtain illegal firearms.  Others claim the numbers show that many felons are not interested in regaining their right to bear arms because they would face stiff penalties for weapons possession.

Greg Kryzer, an assistant attorney in Wright County, said he’s seen five petitions from violent offenders requesting permission to possess a firearm.  Kryzer said he supports any initiative that would make the process more thorough.

“I would say it is very easy for felons to get their firearms rights restored,” Kryzer said.

Other measures that may soon come before Minnesota legislators included a ban on high-capacity assault weapons, increased penalties for armed criminals, and increased security presence in schools.

What to do if Your Child has Been Arrested

Many parents fear waking up in the middle of the night to hear the telephone ringing, and fear can turn to panic if they are answered by a police officer or a jail recording on the other end.  Thousands of parents receive calls like this every year, and oftentimes they are left with a bunch of questions after they’ve been informed that their child is under arrest.  Sometimes parents want to get their child out as quickly as possible, while others want them to sit in a holding cell and think about their decisions.  Below we walk through some steps parents should consider if they find out their child has been arrested.

#1  Stay calm

Resist the urge to panic.  Although your child is in jail, remember that they are alive and in most cases uninjured.  Take a moment to collect your thoughts and determine your course of action.

#2  Ask questions on the phone if possible

Although you may initially speak to a recording, you’ll likely be connected to your child or a law enforcement official.  If you speak to your child, inform them that they should exercise their right to remain silent.  Now is not the time for reprimand or anger.  Next, ask to speak to a clerk or officer.  Ask the officer what your child has been charged with, whether a bond has been set, and what the bond amount is.  Write this information down.

#3  Retain legal counsel

Once you’re off the phone with the police department, call a criminal defense attorney.  An attorney will listen to the information you collected and suggest a course of action.  Attorneys can help get your child out of jail faster, and they’ll put them in the best position to beat the alleged charges.  A specialized criminal defense attorney will have faced similar cases, and can devote more time and knowledge to your child’s case than a public defender.

# 4  Bail your child out

Although you may be steaming mad at your child, it is important to bail them out and consider punishment when you get home.  You want them to learn from mistakes, but you could be jeopardizing much more if you leave them in jail for a few days.  They can fall behind in school, miss tests or exams, or get fired from work for not showing up.  Any resulting tickets would be a lot harder to pay off if your son or daughter loses their job in the process.

#5  Support your child during the criminal process

You may be reluctant to provide monetary support, and rightfully so, but be sure to provide emotional support for your child during the criminal proceedings.  Nobody is perfect, and it’s important for your child to understand that everyone makes mistakes.  One arrest doesn’t make them a bad person, but encourage them to learn from their mistake so they can make the right decisions down the road.

Myths and Truths about Passing a Breathalyzer Test

Everyone has heard a story from a friend or a co-worker about someone who was able to pass a breathalyzer test by doing something crazy like sucking on a penny or by eating food right before the test.  There are plenty of urban legends when it comes to beating a breathalyzer test, but which techniques can lower blood alcohol readings?  Below we separate the facts from the myths.

Claim:  Sucking on a penny before taking a breathalyzer test will throw off your BAC.

Fact or Myth:  Myth.  Breathalyzers measure BAC by passing an infrared light wave through your mouth and measuring the drop in intensity of the light.  Sounds complicated, but it’s a system that prevents other residues, like copper and zinc in a penny, from throwing off the reading.

Claim:  Eating food or drinking coffee will lower your BAC.

Fact or Myth:  Myth.  Much like the penny theory, eating food or drinking a coffee before driving home will not change your blood alcohol content.  Eating a sandwich may prevent you from making an extra stop at Taco Bell on your drive home, but nutrient absorption in the stomach has no effect on your BAC.

Claim:  Drinking mouthwash will help me pass a breathalyzer.

Fact of Myth:  Myth.  This urban legend has been circulating the Internet for years, but it’s one of the dumber ways to try to pass a breathalyzer.  Mouthwash can mask the odor of alcohol, but it does nothing to lower a person’s BAC.  In fact, because mouthwash often contains traces of alcohol, a person may actually increase the breathalyzer reading by gulping mouthwash before they blow.

Claim:  Burping will throw of the breathalyzer.

Fact or Myth:  Myth.  A study by the University of Wisconsin found that there were no variances between breathalyzer readings when a subject burped while blowing into the machine.

Claim:  Varying your breathing patterns can affect a breathalyzer test.

Fact or Myth:  Fact.

A recent study found that varying your breathing patterns immediately before taking a breathalyzer impacted BAC readings.  The study had participations try a variety of techniques, from keeping their mouth closed to adjusting their breathing techniques.  Every technique resulted in a higher BAC reading than normal, except one.  Below are the findings.

  • Participants who held their breath for 30 seconds before taking the test saw a 15.7 % increase in their BAC.
  • Keeping the mouth closed for five minutes and breathing through one’s nose resulted in a 7.3% increase in BAC.
  • A slow, 20-second inhalation technique resulted in a 2% increase in BAC.
  • Hyperventilating for 20 seconds immediately before taking a breathalyzer resulted in a 10.6% decrease in BAC readings.

Researchers found that less alcohol content is located in the first part of a breath than in the last part, and quick, short breaths have been found to slightly lower your BAC.  With that said, an officer may ask you to breath normal if he catches you hyperventilating, and it would really only be effective if your reading was right around 0.8.

Claim:  Intense exercise can lower your BAC.

Fact or Myth:  Inconclusive.

Two studies reportedly saw a decrease in BAC after participants exercised, while other studies claimed they saw no changes in BAC.  In one test, participants were tested before they ran up a flight of stairs, and then tested immediately after reaching the top.  The findings showed an 11-14% drop in BAC in participants who ran up one flight of stairs, and a 22-25% drop in those who ran up two flights of stairs.  Although it sounds interesting, good luck finding a flight of stairs after you’ve been pulled over for drunk driving.  Also, running from the police will only make matters worse.

Related source:  Yahoo News

Troubled Crime Lab Seeking New Direction

crimelabEarlier, we wrote about the issues plaguing the St. Paul crime lab. Testing was suspended after an investigation revealed sloppy drug-testing procedures within the lab. Now, the city is seeking to reopen the facility, but under a very different brand of management.

Formerly, the lab was run by police sergeants. Now, however, the city is opening up the management position to someone with a scientific background. Candidates must hold a degree in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, or a related field.

The validity of many drug crime evidence samples tested at the lab is still being determined. A judge will decide if the samples are admissible in court. If it is determined otherwise, hundreds of drug cases processed by the crime lab could stand to be overturned.

This is a fascinating story to follow from a criminal defense perspective. The implications of the crime lab fallout could be enormous. Beyond the potential reversal of convictions, crime labs across the country are also likely to be subjected to further scrutiny.

Related Sources:

Pioneer Press

Star Tribune