Category Archives: Criminal Conduct

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 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.

Minnesota Immunization Laws

New Immunization Laws in Minnesota 

Summer is in full swing, but the next thing you know your kids will be lining up at the bus stop as another school year begins. While books and school supplies may be at the top of your back-to-school shopping list, don’t forget about Minnesota’s new immunization laws that are set to go into effect in September.

If you want to avoid a last minute doctor’s appointment you’ll want to make sure your son or daughter is in compliance with the state’s new guidelines. The changes that go into effect in September include:

  • Requiring Hepatitis A and B vaccinations for all children enrolling in childcare or early-childhood programs in a school setting.
  • Replacing the current 7th grade tetanus-diphtheria vaccine with another that includes the pertussis vaccination.
  • Requiring all students to receive the meningococcal vaccination prior to entering 7th grade.

Health officials say parents can decide not to vaccinate their child, but they must go through the appropriate channels. In order to be eligible for the school year, a child must have their vaccinations or have their guardian apply for a medical or conscientious exemption.

Stay Up To Date

The new law will go into effect beginning September 1, but those aren’t the only vaccinations a child needs to stay in good standing with the school. The Minnesota Department of Health has come out with a handy chart to make it easier for parents to stay in the know when it comes to what shots their children need.

Click here to check out the immunization chart, or visit the Minnesota Department of Health website for more information.

You can also find the updated Student Immunization Form on the MDoH website. This helps you keep track of the dates your child received his or her shots, and it has exemption information if you wish to file an exemption.

Related source: MDoH

Hope Solo

US Soccer Star Solo Arrested for Assault 

U.S. Women’s National Team goalie Hope Solo was arrested for assault over the weekend after witnesses say she struck her sister and nephew at a family gathering.

We’ve been theorizing how red card fouls in the World Cup would translate to assault charges if the aggression occurred off the pitch, but it appears that Solo won’t escape this situation with a simple red card. According to the police report, Solo would not stop “hitting people” or leave the home where the incident occurred.

Officers arrived at the residence and reported that they could hear the disturbance. Once inside, they noted that Solo appeared “intoxicated and upset,” and they determined she was the “primary aggressor and had instigated the assault,” which left her sister and 17-year-old nephew with visible injuries.

Solo was arrested on two counts of fourth-degree domestic violence assault. She will make an appearance this afternoon at Kirkland Municipal Court.

No Stranger to Controversy

This isn’t the first time the soccer star has made headlines for the wrong reasons. Besides making waves for her criticism of some former teammates and coaches, Solo was also involved in a domestic disturbance the night before her wedding.

According to the 2012 report, Solo and her fiancé Jerramy Stevens, a former tight end for the Seattle Seahawks, got into a heated argument a day before their wedding. Stevens was arrested while authorities investigated a possible assault, but he was never charged. The pair got married the following day.

Reached by email to comment on the latest incident, Solo’s attorney Toddy Maybrown said, “”Hope is not guilty of any crime. In fact, our investigation reveals that Hope was assaulted and injured during this unfortunate incident. We look forward to the opportunity to present the true facts in court and to having this matter behind Hope very soon.”

Related source: CNN, ESPN

Alex Song

Alex Song’s Assault Earns Red Card for Cameroon

Yesterday’s post about the World Cup mentioned that Portugal’s Pepe had the most discussed red card in this year’s tournament, but Pepe’s headbutt may have been upstaged by Alex Song’s hybrid punch/People’s Elbow.

The elbow heard round the world occurred just moments after two Cameroon players collided with one another in the attacking end. Croatia gained control of the ball and looked to push for a counterattack. As the players were rushing to get back to the other side of the pitch, Song bumped into Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic. Frustrated that his progress was impeded and that his team was down 1-0, Song threw a running elbow punch into Mandzukic’s back. Check out a video of the play below.

Gif provided by Who Ate All The Pies

The Croatian forward fell like there was a sniper in the building, and the whole incident unfolded in clear view of referee Pedro Proenca. The Portuguese referee wasted little time showing Song a red card, which forced Cameroon to finish the game with 10 men. Croatia went on to score three more goals to eliminate Cameroon from the World Cup by a score of 4-0.

Avery Explains Another Assault

Alex Song’s intentional elbowing of Mario Mandzukic was, by definition, a clear case of assault. There are three key points in Minnesota’s Assault statute that must be met for the crime of assault to have taken place.

  • Intent
  • An act
  • Harm

For a person to commit assault, they must partake in an act, with the intention of causing harm or the threat of harm.

As you watch the replay, it’s clear that Song committed the act with the intent of harming Mandzukic. Any city attorney worth a lick would prosecute that offense.

Pool Raft sex

Man Again Arrested For Sexual Relations With Pool Toy

While some people look for brains, beauty or humor in a potential partner, an Ohio man appears to have a different turn on after being arrested for having intimate relations with a pool floatie.

Edwin Tobergta, 35, was arrested for felony public indecency after a witness observed him in the nude having simulated relations with a pink life raft. What makes this story even weirder, though, is that it wasn’t the first time Tobergta has been caught getting it on with a pool toy.

According to his arrest report, Tobergta has been booked on eight different occasions, including arrests in:

  • June 2013 – For stepping out his back door sans clothing and having “sexual relations with a rubber pool float.”
  • August 2011 – A neighbor enjoying his new pool observed Tobergta engaging in sexual conduct with a pink inflatable pool toy.
  • Summer 2008 – Tobergta was caught naked in a neighbor’s yard engaging in a sexual activity.

Tobergta was sentenced to five years of community control following the 2008 arrest, and he received five years of probation after being released from prison following his latest arrest.

It seems unlikely that a judge will go easy on him, especially considering Tobergta promised to quit his odd habit following his 2013 arrest.

“I do want to apologize for my actions,” Tobergta said. “I’m sorry. I do deal with mental issues, and if court would give me this chance for this program, sir, I would give it 100 percent. I’m ready to get my life together and quit all this nonsense.”

Mel Welch comments

This is certainly an odd case, and it’s clear that Tobergta is not getting the necessary mental help that he needs. Sending him to prison isn’t going to magically solve the problem. Tobergta needs professional help.

I understand that he needs to be punished for his repeated actions, but the cycle needs to be broken. Hopefully the presiding judge views this as a mental sickness instead of intentional criminal sexual conduct.

Related source: AJC

Hood disease

Youth Crime: Accepting Affuenza and Punishing PTSD

Back in February we heard the story of Ethan Couch, a 16-year-old boy who drove drunk and killed four people on a Texas highway. Couch’s attorneys argued at trial that the child’s parents were partly to blame because they gave their son everything he wanted and failed to set limits or discipline him. His attorneys painted the child as a victim of “affluenza” – the result of a wealthy and privileged life.

Many who followed the case cried foul when the teen was sentenced to 10 years of probation. Prosecutors had asked for a 20-year jail sentence, but the judge ultimately decided probation was the better route. If Couch has one misstep in the next 10 years, he faces the possibility of 10 years in jail.

PTSD in the Inner City

Another mental disorder is plaguing youth of a different breed – Inner city youth exposed to crime and violence on a regular basis. According to research presented by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention, one in three urban youth have mild to severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Youth living in inner cities show a higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder than soldiers,” said Dr. Howard Spivak, director of the Violence Prevention Program.

Another expert, Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade of San Francisco State University, said important aspects of a teen’s life fall by the wayside when crime and violence are interjected into their life.

“You could take anyone who is experiencing symptoms of PTSD, and the things we are currently emphasizing in school will fall off their radar,” said Duncan-Andrade. “Because frankly it does not matter in our biology if we don’t survive the walk home.”

Unlike “affluenza,” PTSD in inner city youth doesn’t get such a glamorous moniker. The slang nickname for the mental issue is “hood disease,” and rarely do judges give the benefit of the doubt to inner city minorities who commit much less heinous crimes than Ethan Couch.

Olis Simmons, CEO of Youth Uprising, said people don’t want to help those with “hood disease.” They’d rather just pretend it doesn’t exist.

“Terms like ‘hood disease’ mean it’s someone else’s problem, but it’s not. That’s a lie. It’s a collective problem, and the question is what are we prepared to do about it?”

Mel Welch comments

These conditions are reflective of our jurisprudence of rehabilitation rather than retribution. When that is the motivating consideration, naturally a person’s life and potential wayward influences will be closely examined. Much criticism is leveled at this approach, but it is really a redux of the retribution-rehabilitation debate.

With “hood disease,” as in the case of “Affluenza,” the question is whether these youths, who have been so influenced by the norms in their environs, can develop the “evil intent” (mens rea), which is what is prohibited by law. A person can accidentally do a forbidden act (e.g., cause a death through a series of unforeseen and unforeseeable incidents) and the law doesn’t (or shouldn’t) punish that.

Do these youths have the wrongful intent when they commit the crime, or have they been so affected by their social constructs that they can’t reasonably discern the consequences of their actions? I’d love to see more research done on the subject, as far too often teens are shipped off to prison instead of getting the mental treatment they so desperately need.

Related source: CBS San Francisco

Arrest Warrant

Minneapolis Warrant Crackdown Coming Tuesday 

Do you have an outstanding warrant in Hennepin County and want to avoid an awkward scene at your home or place of work? You should strongly consider turning yourself in today.

That’s because the Hennepin County sheriff’s office will be conducting a warrant sweep on Tuesday in hopes of clearing some active warrants out of the system.

“Do not become a fugitive of the law by ignoring a warrant,” said Sheriff Rich Stanek. “It’s not going to go away on its own. You need to make the right decision and turn yourself in before officers come knocking at the door because we will make sure you are held accountable.”

Stanek said the warrant sweep will focus predominantly on offenders facing drug-related charges as Minneapolis has seen a spike in drug-related deaths over the last few years. 17 deaths were attributed to heroin in Hennepin County in April alone, putting the city on pace to set a record number for heroin-related deaths in 2014. Last year set the previous record with 56 heroin-related deaths.

The Hennepin County sweep will begin on Tuesday and continue throughout the end of the month. Stanek noted that his office would be looking for roughly 160 people with active felony warrants, many of whom have multiple active warrants.

More details about the sweep can be found at the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office website, including where to go to turn yourself in and what to bring so you can post bail if necessary.

We handle cases in Hennepin County and are more than willing to assist you throughout this process. If you have questions about the process or your charges before surrendering to police, please give us a call at (952) 224-2277 or contact us through our website. You don’t have to go through this alone, and being proactive about your warrant will put you in good graces with the court. Let us help you get your warrant cleared up.

Related source: CBS Minnesota

Car Search

Judge Throws Out Drug Charge Over False Police Testimony

Prosecutors in Florida dropped drug trafficking charges against a 26-year-old after a judge threw out an officer’s incredibly inaccurate statement that he called “discredited, controverted, and contradictory.”

The case is a great example of due process and proper application of the Fourth Amendment by the presiding judge. According to case details, Emanuel Bell was stopped for rolling a stop sign after authorities observed him leave a “known drug house.” An officer ordered Bell out of the vehicle after he observed him moving his hands near the center console. The officer decided to search the console, even though Bell expressly told the officer he did not consent to the search.

The quick search of the vehicle did not turn up any suspicious items, but the officer was not satisfied. While the officer went to his squad car to write Bell a ticket, Officer Brandon Bill approached the vehicle and claimed to smell a faint odor of marijuana. This gave him all the probable cause he needed to conduct a full search of the vehicle, which led to the discovery of a small amount of cocaine in the car. The officers placed Bell under arrest on charges of drug trafficking.

Judge Notices Discrepancies

Upon a review of the evidence, Circuit Judge Michael Andrews noticed some concerning findings. He learned that:

  • No other officers reported smelling marijuana.
  • No marijuana was found in the car.
  • Bell was detained for 25 minutes, much longer than need be for a routine traffic stop.
  • An officer threatened to use drug dogs to get the necessary probable cause to search the vehicle.
  • One officer referred to Bell, who is black, as “boy,” while another accused him of being a criminal informant.
  • Police did not allow the suspect to call his attorney.

After reviewing all the facts, Judge Andrews issued an unusual statement.

“It stretches the limits of credulity for this court to believe that the search of the defendant’s vehicle was based upon the odor of marijuana,” Andrews wrote. “Here, Officer Bill’s testimony is ‘discredited, controverted and contradictory within itself,’ and as such is incredible.”

Not surprisingly, prosecutors dropped the charges shortly thereafter.

Mel Welch comments

Essentially, a male leaving a “known drug house” was stopped by police for failing to make a complete stop and was held until officers created an excuse to search his vehicle. Police did not receive consent to search the vehicle and the officer alleged the basis for the search was – “he smelled the odor of marijuana.” Sound familiar? The officer left out details in his report which came to light through the contested hearing (officer stated stop was only minutes – actually lasted over 25 minutes; police would not allow the suspect to call his attorney and took his phone; police accused the suspect of being a narc).

In Minnesota, police may stop a vehicle for any traffic infraction (like here – a rolling stop), and likewise they are only supposed to hold a person for as long as it takes to resolve the basis of seizure, and police may not expand the scope of a seizure unless they develop independent bases of suspicion. Here, the officer had to find independent bases of suspicion beyond the traffic violation. The odor of marijuana is always a good go-to for police because: (1) it pits the cops credibility against the suspect’s credibility (because you cannot record smells for independent verification; the suspect has something at stake to challenge the veracity of his testimony; and the officer is supposedly free of any bias in his investigation), and (2) the odor of marijuana has been upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court to justify a search of an entire vehicle.

Thankfully the judge here gave the report a second look. There was no marijuana found in the vehicle, and the police reports were inconsistent with the objective facts. The judge took his role seriously: as an arbiter of credibility and truth rather than a facilitator of the criminal process. Kudos.

Related source: Tampa Bay Times

Facebook Friend

Robber Arrested After “Friending” Victim on Facebook

A 28-year-old Washington man may soon be making some new friends in a state prison after stupidly “friending” a woman on Facebook he had robbed one day earlier.

We’ve discussed how social media has been a criminal’s fatal flaw in the past, but this story might take the cake. According to the criminal complaint, authorities said that a woman was sitting on the Bremerton ferry terminal last week with her headphones in when she was hit in the back of the head by an assailant.

The robber grabbed the woman’s iPod and purse while the victim was incapacitated.  As the individual ran off, the victim noticed that the suspect had a distinct triangle tattoo on his neck.

Fatal Friend Request

The thief may have gotten away with the crime it is wasn’t for his affinity for Facebook friend requests. A day after the robbery, the victim received a friend request on the popular social media site from a man named Riley Allen Mullens. While she was clicking through his photos to see if he was a long lost friend from middle school, she noticed one distinguishing feature – A triangle tattoo on his neck.

Thinking that the robber couldn’t possibly be that stupid, she informed police about the odd friend request. Acting on the tip, authorities decided to pay Mullins a visit. After talking to Mullens for a little while, police decided that they had enough evidence to place him under arrest.

Mullins was charged with second-degree robbery in Kitsap District Court on Friday. Under Washington law, second-degree robbery is a Class B felony that carries some stiff penalties. If convicted, Mullins could face a fine up to $20,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

Maybe Mullins can send a request to the judge for a lenient sentence.

Criminal Records MN

New Minnesota Bill Gives Reformed Criminals Second Chance

A new bill signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Mark Dayton will reward reformed criminals for making positive changes in their lives.

The new deal wouldn’t specifically give the offenders anything, instead, it’s what’s being taken away that’s beneficial – access to certain criminal offenses.

“People can’t turn their lives around and become law-abiding citizens if they have no hope of finding a decent job or a place to live,” Dayton said. “This law provides a chance for them to put their pasts behind them and live better lives.”

The Law

The new law lays out specific conditions a convict must follow after their release from prison if they want to be eligible to have their records sealed or expunged. To be eligible, a person must:

  • Complete a diversion program after their release.
  • Go at least two years without being charged with a crime.
  • Show that his or her criminal record is hindering their ability to find housing or a job.

Representative Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, said she supported the bill to remove some of the ambiguity regarding expungement laws.

“We know these laws have been unclear for a number of years now,” said Melin.”With some recent state Supreme Court decisions it became even more unclear, and the Supreme Court basically kicked it back to the Legislature and said we need to do something to address the expungement issue and when it comes to collateral consequences associated with criminal records.”

Melin added that representatives wanted to make sure reformed individuals weren’t continuously denied opportunities because of a decades-old mistake.

Senator Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, agreed with Melin, noting that one in five Minnesotans has a criminal record, and the current online record search doesn’t tell the whole story of a conviction.

“Unfortunately, online records are often inaccurate, incomplete or misinterpreted,” Champion said.

As we’ve mentioned on the blog before, oftentimes it can be difficult for individuals with a criminal record to get a job or find a way into college. In addition to providing some tips for both, Appelman Law Firm has created a scholarship for aspiring law students who have had a criminal conviction in the past. If you or someone you know fits the bill, be sure to apply for our Criminal Law Scholarship. Entries are due by the end of the month, so don’t delay!

Related source: Pioneer Press