Category Archives: Criminal Conduct

Summer Crime rates

Warm Weather Brings Uptick in Violence

Researchers analyzing crime trends in the United States found that violent crimes such as assault, domestic violence and rape occur at a much higher rate when the weather is warm.

In their report titled “Seasonal Patterns in Criminal Victimization Trends,” researchers examined patterns in violent and property crime over the course of 18 years. They found that although the overall rate of crime has decreased since 1993, annual crime tends to spike during the summer months.

“Good weather means people are out and about. It also means there are more opportunities for crimes,” said one police chief. “During cold weather, people tend to stay inside.”

According to the data, winter rates of rape or sexual assault were about nine percent lower than the summer, while crimes rates dipped about 10 percent during the Fall.

Why The Spike?

There are a number of reasons crime spikes in the warm summer months. Avery Appelman explains below.

Temperature – As alluded to above, the warm weather means more people are outside. The days are also longer. When you have more people outside in parks, bars or at the beach, you’re bound to have more interactions, some of which could be physical.

Alcohol – This one goes hand in hand with the temperature. The warm weather lends itself to barbecues, trips to the beach and late nights on a bar’s outdoor patio. Alcohol can escalate a situation and make it harder for a person to think rationally. It’s no surprise as a DUI law firm that our busiest weekends of the year are Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day, as these three-day weekends are often rung in with spirits.

School is Out – I’d be interested in seeing how juvenile crimes fluctuate during the summer, but it makes sense that certain property crimes like vandalism or trespassing would spike in the summer when children aren’t required to be in school. If children aren’t kept busy during the summer, their boredom may lead them to commit risky or criminal activities.

Car Impounded

Minnesota Extends Fourth Amendment Rights to Civil Cases

The Minnesota Supreme Court has expanded search and seizure protections in civil cases after authorities went beyond their legal rights while collecting evidence to create their case.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of the citizen in two separate cases that limit when a cop can legally search seized property. In the first case, Daniel Garcia-Mendoza was stopped for driving 63 mph in a 60 mph zone. The officer asked Garcia-Mendoza for his vehicle registration and found the car was registered to Ricardo Cervantes-Perez, an alias of Garcia-Mendoza. Daniel procured a Mexican ID showing the alias, but he didn’t have a valid license.

The officer decided to have the vehicle towed because he believed it was creating a traffic hazard. Prior to towing the vehicle, the officer searched the vehicle and found a small amount of methamphetamine. Garcia-Mendoza was arrested, and authorities also seized $611 he was carrying with him at the time.

Garcia-Mendoza filed a claim to regain possession of his car and cash. While he was waiting for the court to process his request, he pleaded guilty to a federal crime of distributing a controlled substance from a 2011 charge. As part of that agreement, he agreed to forfeit all property used to commit the crime.

When it came his turn to challenge the seizure of his car and cash from the latest incident, a District Court judge ruled the stop unconstitutional, but said the forfeiture would remain because of his previous agreement from his guilty plea. His attorney challenged the ruling in Appeals Court, citing the exclusionary rule, but the Appeals Court sided with the District Court.

Garcia-Mendoza’s attorney filed one last appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court, arguing because the stop was illegal, police should not have been legally able to seize the property. In a monumental decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court sided with the little guy, ruling that the exclusionary rule – a law that states illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible in a criminal trial – must also extend to civil cases.

Second Case

Another local case extended 4th Amendment protections in regards to searched vehicles that were improperly impounded.

In this case, a Blaine police officer stopped Erica Rohde for a turn signal violation. A subsequent check revealed Rohde was operating the vehicle without a valid license or registration.

When she initially saw the police lights in her rearview mirror, Rohde pulled over to a residential side street.  She stopped along the curb in a valid parking spot, but authorities decided to impound her vehicle anyways. Once at the impound lot, police searched the vehicle and found two small bags of meth and two glass pipes.

Rohde challenged the evidence collection, agreeing that although her stop had been legal, the subsequent search was unconstitutional because authorities were not within their right to impound the car. The Minnesota Supreme Court sided with Rohde, noting that her parked vehicle posed no safety threat to other drivers. They sent the case back to Anoka County District Court with the recommendation the evidence be suppressed.

Avery Appelman comments

These are both great rulings for citizens and for our Fourth Amendment protections. In the end, the Minnesota Supreme Court is basically saying, “The ends do not always justify the means.” Even though the officers found drugs in the vehicle, they did not follow individual protections guaranteed by our forefathers in the constitution.

Everyone else has to follow rules at their job. Cops must do the same. In the end, this ruling will make officers better at their job, which everyone will benefit from. I applaud the Minnesota Supreme Court for upholding citizen protections.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Minnesota State Fair

Crime at the Minnesota State Fair

The state fair opens today, and although the weather isn’t the greatest you can bet thousands of Minnesotans will head off to the Great Minnesota Get-Together after work. A state fair isn’t typically a place for criminal activity, but incidents certainly do occur.

Two years ago, two men were stabbed during a fight that broke out at the Minnesota State Fair, and there have been plenty of incidents at the Wisconsin State Fair over the past few years. Below, we share some ways to have fun and stay safe at the state fair.

Alcohol Intake – There are hundreds of different beers to choose from at the state fair this year, including Mini-Donut Beer, but you’ll want to avoid overindulging. Even if you have a safe ride home, being drunk and surrounded by thousands of people can be a recipe for disaster. Alcohol can turn a misunderstanding into a fistfight, so drink responsibly.

Safe Ride Home – If you sample enough brews to elevate your BAC above the legal limit, you’ll want to make sure you give your keys to a friend. Plan ahead so you know you have a sober driver before you get to the fair. Between cabs and free shuttles, there’s no reason why anyone should get a DUI after the state fair.

Eat Some Cookies – Simply put, it should be a crime to visit the state fair and not have at least one cookie from Sweet Martha’s Cookies. Grab a bucket and head over to the All You Can Drink Milk Stand to experience true bliss.

Lock Your Car Doors – To most people, locking their car doors is second nature, but make sure your doors are locked and windows rolled up before heading into the fair. If you traveled from outside the metro area and used a GPS to get there, store the unit in your glove box while you’re at the fair. The vast majority of the time nothing would happen if you left your doors unlocked, but a lot of thefts happen because of opportunity, not out of necessity. Maybe the thief has no real use for a GPS, but if you left it on your dashboard with the windows rolled halfway down to cool off your car, you’re basically inviting him to take it.

Avoid Certain Carnival Games – You know the game where you have to lob a softball into a tilted plastic bucket and keep it from falling out? This one? It’s rigged. Don’t play it. (Just kidding. We may just be bitter about our inability to win at this one.)

Most importantly, have fun at the Great Minnesota Get-Together this year!

Ice Bucket Challenge

Geoff Saltzstein Takes on the Ice Bucket Challenge

Over the weekend, partner Geoff Saltzstein was challenged to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, the Ice Bucket Challenge involves dumping a bucket of ice cold water over your head in an effort to raise awareness and donations for the neurological disease ALS.

Although their is no specific correlation between the disease and a bucket of ice cold water, the social movement has taken the world by storm. After a person is challenged by someone else, they are told to partake in the challenge within 24 hours or donate $100 to ALS research. If they accept the challenge, they are also asked to make a smaller contribution to ALS research before nominating three friends of their choosing to participate in the challenge.

Donations to ALS research are up over 700% so far this year, and more than $15 million has been raised for research and support. To learn more about how the movement gained traction, check out this inspiring and emotional video about Pete Frates, a star athlete who continues to battle the debilitating disease. I wouldn’t watch it in the office if I was wearing mascara, as his story pulls on your heart.

 

 

Geoff was more than ready to go to bat for ALS when he got nominated by his friend Maggie. He used his video editing skills to produce the video seen below, and he made a contribution to the ALS society after he dried off.

 

 

Word on the street is that Avery Appelman may be next in line for the Ice Bucket Challenge. We’ll post his video if and when he gets nominated. Click here to make a donation to ALS research.

UPDATE -

“Avery, recognizing that last weekend was your anniversary, I thought it best to hold off on your nomination. The holding off has gone on long enough. I hereby nominate you, Avery Appelman, and since I would hate for Branson to feel left out, Branson Appelman you too are nominated to take the ALS ice bucket challenge. Good luck boys.”

Class Action Lawsuit

Judge Expedites Sex Offender Class-Action Lawsuit 

Despite denying an offender’s petition for immediate release, U.S. District Judge Donavan Frank noted that he planned to expedite a class-action challenge of the current sex offender program’s constitutionality.

Frank has been a staunch critic of Minnesota’s current sex offender program for some time. Back in March he issued a 75-page ruling chastising the current system and calling for reform. In his ruling, Frank said the current program had “grave deficiencies” and inmates were left in a purgatory-style state with “no sex-offender-specific treatment whatsoever is provided in Phase I,” which is concerning because “64 percent of Minnesota Sex Offender patients were in Phase I.”

Frank’s opinion of the system hasn’t changed much over the last five months. The class-action suit by the inmates alleges that they are locked up indefinitely with no realistic hope for release, and the statistics show that they may have a point. Of the nearly 700 people who have finished their prison terms and have been transferred to high security sex offender facilities, only one inmate has been given conditional release from the program since 1994.

Frank told attorneys for both sides to come to next Thursday’s pretrial conference with trial dates in mind.

Release Denied

Although Frank said he would expedite the class action lawsuit, he stopped short of granting an inmate’s petition for immediate release. However, that doesn’t mean Frank believes the system has treated the inmate justly.

According to court documents, the inmate, identified as E.T., has been in the program for over a decade for crimes he committed between the ages of 10 and 14. E.T. is now 24 years old, and he said he feels lost in the current system. An expert testified that the inmate never should have been placed in the program, he doesn’t need sex offender treatment, and he doesn’t pose a risk to the public. Frank stopped short of granting immediate release, but upon hearing the testimony he noted that, if not for the class-action lawsuit, E.T. “would likely have languished for years in the prison-like environment of (the state sex offender program at Moose Lake) without any realistic hope of gaining his freedom.”

Prosecutors of the class-action suit expect the trial to begin in September or early October.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Failure to Yield Minnesota

Pedestrian Awareness Week Comes to St. Paul

In an effort to combat crosswalk collisions, the city of St. Paul has declared this week Pedestrian Awareness Week.

According to city statistics, 302 people have been hit struck by vehicles at intersections in St. Paul over the last two years. That’s far too many, said St. Paul police department spokesman Sgt. Paul Paulos.

“Today people have so many distractions, talking on cellphones or just having a bad day, and they don’t take time to notice that there is a pedestrian,” said Paulos. “They are unfocused. It’s clear and evident that drivers don’t follow the pedestrian laws, and for those who violate there is a high probability they will be cited.”

As part of Pedestrian Awareness Week, St. Paul police will camp out at some areas of high foot-traffic to keep an eye out for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians, said Paulos. He noted that Minnesota law states that drivers must yield to pedestrians at marked crosswalks and at intersections with or without marked crosswalks.

In addition to the added patrols, the city used a $1,000 donation from the Grand Avenue Business Association to add bright orange flags on corners of some busy St. Paul intersections. Pedestrians can pick up one of the bright flags from a tube on one side of the street and deposit it in a similar tube once they safely cross the street.

Madison, Wisconsin instituted 50 such flag sites a few years ago, and city officials say the program has been a rousing success. Local and national studies say drivers stop about 70 percent of the time when a person appears ready to cross the street with the flag in their hand, compared to just 20 percent when they aren’t equipped with the orange flag.

Possible Penalties

As we mentioned in a previous blog, failing to yield to pedestrian fines can rack up quickly. Make sure you stay aware of your surroundings this week and whenever you’re driving in areas of heavy foot-traffic. Some penalties St. Paul police will be looking for this week include:

  • Failure to obey a stop sign or traffic control device – $128 fine.
  • Failure to yield right of way – $128 fine.
  • Failure to yield to a pedestrian – $178 fine.
  • Improper or prohibited turn – $128 fine.

Under Minnesota law, a driver only needs to wait for a pedestrian to cross their lane of traffic before continuing. Most of the time that takes less than 5 seconds. Give pedestrians those extra seconds and say yourself a $178 fine.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Violent Video Game Study

Study Claims Violent Video Games Increase Teen Crime Risk

A new US study suggests that teenagers who play violent video games are more likely to engage in criminal and risky behavior than those who avoid mature video games.

The study conducted by researchers at Dartmouth College tracked the video game and social habits of 5,000 randomly chosen teenagers over a four-year period. The three video games researchers specifically asked teens about were:

  • Manhunt
  • Spiderman

Researchers found that teens who admitted to playing certain violent videogames exhibited more unsafe tendencies, including smoking marijuana, consuming alcohol and committing crimes. The study also found that teens who played these games were more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior and drive recklessly,

“[The study] is important because it is the first to suggest that possible effects of violence videogames go well beyond violence to apply to substance use, risky driving and risk-taking sexual behavior,” said study co-author James Sargent.

Researchers say the uptick in risky activities may be due to the fact that the violent games are being played at an age where teens’ behaviors are very prone to influence.

“This [behavioral change] is due in part, to changes in the user’s personality, attitudes and values, specifically making them more rebellious and thrill-seeking,” the authors concluded.

Lacks Causation

While this study may serve as a reminder to parents to make good decisions when it comes to buying mature video games for their children, it falls short of proving that video games CAUSE children to become more criminal. It only states that they are more likely to engage in such activity.

For example, a 13-year-old who receives Grand Theft Auto V from their parents for Christmas may not be subjected to the same values as a child whose parents decide not to let them play the mature game. If one child can play a mature game and the other cannot, it stands to reason the same child may be able to stay out later than the other child. Again, although there is a lack of causation, I’m sure if we did a study of two groups of teens, one who had a 9:00pm curfew and the other had a midnight curfew, we’d find that the group who stays out later would engage in more risky behavior, mainly because there is ample opportunity to do so.

It’s very similar to the video game study. If parents are OK with their children playing mature video games, they may also be less concerned with their child’s after school habits or may be less aware of who their children are associating with. Again, this is not saying that all children who play mature video games have bad or uninvolved parents, it just stands to reason that if a child is allowed to regularly view this sort of behavior, they may feel that the risk of engaging in such behavior is less severe than teens who are not allowed to play such video games.

This study opens some interesting avenues for discussion, but it falls short of narrowing down causation. Until then, any number of factors could be cited for this increase in the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors.

Related source: 3 News

Kid Park walk

Mom Arrested For Letting Child Go To Park…Wait What?

A Florida mom was arrested and charged with felony child neglect for letting her son go to the park by himself.

“I’m totally dumbfounded by this whole situation,” said Nicole Gainey, the mother at the center of the case.

The whole incident unfolded last Saturday when Gainey’s 7-year-old son Dominic asked if he could go to the park by himself. Gainey told him he could walk to the park on his own, adding that she “was letting him go play,” and “didn’t think she was doing anything wrong.”

The park in question is about a half mile from their home, and Dominic said it usually takes him about 10 minutes to get there. During the walk Dominic passed by a public pool, and a concerned adult asked him where his parents were. Flustered by the continued questions, Dominic ran off to the park. The adult who stopped Dominic by the pool phoned authorities, and they picked Dominic up and gave him a ride back to his house.

Police could have just dropped Dominic off, but they decided to put his mom in handcuffs for child neglect. Gainey was shocked and appalled by the arrest.

“My own bondsman said my parents would have been in jail every day,” said Gainey, who paid nearly $4,000 in bond fees to secure her release.

Gainey said the arresting officer repeatedly lectured her on the number of sex offenders in the area.

“He just basically kept going over that there’s pedophiles and this and that and basically the park wasn’t safe and he shouldn’t be there alone,” said Gainey.

Gainey believes that the half mile walk is safe enough for her son during the day, adding that he has a cell phone and they check in with one another regularly.

Gainey plans to fight the charge, but she added that she won’t let Dominic go to the park alone anymore out of fear that she’ll be arrested again.

Avery Appelman comments

Like most states, felony child neglect is subjective and determined on a case-by-case basis. For example, on a cool August day, how old does a child have to be before a father can leave him unsupervised in the car while he runs into the gas station to pick up a gallon of milk? 5 years old? 10 years old? How long will the child be in the car? These are all factors that help authorities decide if charges should be filed.

This crime occurred in St. Lucie, Florida. There is no law that specifies that a child needs to be a certain age before they can go somewhere unsupervised, so again, it’s up to the cops to look at all the factors in the case.

Ultimately I don’t believe these charges will stick. Whether or not you believe Gainey was in the right or wrong, simply bringing the child home, talking to the mother about the sex offenders in the area, and mentioning that another violation could lead to child neglect charges probably would have resulted in the same outcome. Gainey would have got the message. Instead, she now has to spend money on an attorney to fight felony charges because a cop decided this was the best way to look out for the safety of a child.

Related source: Fox 6 News

Kid Arrest

Locking Up Kids Leads to Adult Criminals

A report by Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. suggests that locking up youths for juvenile crimes leads to an increased likelihood that they’ll return to prison as an adult offender.

Instead of pushing for jail time, the advocacy group said prosecutors and judges should focus on making sure the juvenile offenders get the help they need – something they say it unavailable when the youth gets deeper into the juvenile justice system.

“Institutions provide virtually none of the supports the community can,” the YAP said in a statement. “Youth need to learn how to function and make good decisions within the community, and having the support of caring, competent adults and access to safe and positive people, places and activities is what leads to good long-term outcomes. Kids can’t access these supports in isolation.”

The Department of Juvenile Justice said as the number of beds in one state’s juvenile facilities declined, so too did youth arrests, felony juvenile arrests, and transfers to adult courts. The YAP believes more children are being rehabilitated through probationary programs and mental health counseling than by spending their time behind bars.

“Risk factors that make you vulnerable to incarceration cannot be eliminated through incarceration,” the YAP cited in their report. “In fact, many of the environmental and social factors that contribute to youth incarceration get worse, not better, with incarceration.”

In their report, the YAP cites a program at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research and Evaluation Center to back up their assertions. The Center put 3,523 high-risk youth through an intensive community-based program and found that nearly 90 percent remained arrest-free during their tenure, which is much higher than the average youth recidivism rate.

Related source: The News Service of Florida

Fatal DUI

St. Paul in Top 10 for Fewest Fatal DUIs Per Capita

A new study examining fatal alcohol-related car crashes in large metropolitan areas found that St. Paul, Minnesota, is in the Top 10 for fewest alcohol-related driving deaths per capita. Additionally, no Minnesota cities were named in the Top 25 cities with the most alcohol-related fatal car crashes.

The study published by NerdWallet.com examined car crash data from cities across the US from 2010-2012. To analyze how citizens in one state dealt with a DUI compared to those in another state, researchers also tracked:

  • Average car insurance premium
  • Average car insurance premium after a DUI
  • Total number of fatal alcohol-related car crashes
  • City population
  • Fatal alcohol-related crashes per capita

The Best and the Worst

California led the way in cities with the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths per capita, as two California cities cracked the Top 5 and four made their way into the Top 10. See the chart below for the cities with the highest rate of fatal alcohol-related car accidents per capita.

1. San Bernadino, CA

2. Mobile, AL

3. Riverside, CA

4. Tulsa, OK

5. Lubbock, TX

While California may hold the dubious distinction of having four cities in the Top 10 of the above list, they also claimed the top three spots on the list of cities with the fewest fatal alcohol-related car crashes. The five major cities with the fewest deaths are:

1. Moreno Valley, CA

2. Glendale, CA

3. Santa Rosa, CA

4. Arlington, VA

5. Aurora, IL

Although it didn’t crack the Top 5, St. Paul finished as the ninth best city for fewest fatal alcohol-related crashes.  Only 0.0140 residents per 1,000 perished in such an accident between 2010-2012.

Also, car insurance premiums in St. Paul didn’t spike very much compared to other states. Research shows that the average St. Paulian can expect their insurance to rise about 30 percent after a DUI. Conversely, residents in Durham, North Carolina, can expect their insurance to increase an average of 157 percent after a DUI.

For more information about the study, head on over to NerdWallet.