Category Archives: Criminal Conduct

Nurse Assaults

Minnesota Wants To Increase Penalties For Attacks on Nurses

Minnesota legislators are looking to increase the penalties against out-of-control patients in the wake of a growing number of assaults on healthcare practitioners.

Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights wants to see the law re-written to hold assailants accountable to the same level as if they had attacked a peace or police officer.

“There should be the same protections and pen­al­ties for at­tack­ing a nurse as there are for at­tack­ing other public safe­ty of­fi­cials,” Atkins said.

Under the current law, those who assault a nurse or healthcare professional are subject to a two-year jail sentence and fines up to $4,000. Rep. Atkins wants to increase those penalties to match assaults on police officers, which carry potential sentences of three years in jail and a $6,000 fine.

While Atkins wants to increase penalties for those who harm nurses, others fear that those with mental disorders might face stiffer penalties for acting out in a state of confusion. For example, a delusional elderly patient at St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood recently attacked and injured four nurses with a metal bar. The resident died as officers attempted to restrain him, but Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center said he didn’t think increased penalties would have prevented the incident.

“I don’t see how that would be a big de­ter­rent, how that would keep some­one from com­mit­ting a crime like that,” Cornish said.

Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota, agreed with Rep. Cornish.

“I don’t think a blanket change like that is going to be effective,” Abderholden said. “We could end up criminalizing people … who were not really aware of what they were doing.”

Big Spike

Despite Cornish’s indifference, it’s clear that physical assaults on healthcare professionals are a growing concern. An analysis of workers’ compensation and injury logs show that the healthcare industry is becoming a dangerous place for workers. State nurses have already filed 46 claims for injuries suffered while on duty, a pace that’s set to double the claims filed in 2012 and 2013.

Assaults on nurses is a national problem as well. A 2011 study found that more than 400,000 nurses and other healthcare professionals are a victim of workplace violence every year. The survey also revealed that one in every four nurses lists physical assault as a top safety concern.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Little Falls

Little Falls Murderer Must Pay $21,000 To Victims’ Families

Byron David Smith, the 66-year-old Little Falls man who was found guilty on two counts of premeditated murder in the first and second degree after he killed two teenage intruders during a home invasion has been ordered to pay over $21,000 in restitution to the victims’ families.

The Little Falls saga began nearly two years ago when Nicholas Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, broke into Smith’s home on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Smith’s home had been frequently burgled, so when he heard people breaking into his house, he waited in the basement with a shotgun. Brady was the first to enter the basement, and Smith shot him as he descended the stairs. Smith then walked up to an injured Brady mortally wounded him with a shot to the face.

Kifer descended the stairs a short while later. Smith again shot the teen as she was coming down the stairs, but when he went to shoot her again, his gun jammed. Smith then retrieved a handgun, and as he stated during his testimony, delivered “a kill shot.”

The case made national news as pundits discussed how far a homeowner could go to protect his or her dwelling. Ultimately the jury decided that Smith’s actions went above and beyond “reasonable measures” in protecting his home, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Court Costs

After the guilty verdict was read, Brady and Kifer’s families submitted a restitution request. They hoped to to recoup $42,000 in restitution costs for expenses like funeral costs, transportation costs during trial, and loss of wages by the parents.

Ultimately the Morrison County District Court met the families half way, awarding them a total of $21,421 in restitution. Brady’s family was awarded $9,577, while Kifer’s family received $11,844.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Minnesota Sex Offender

Minnesota Sex Offender Reform Report Published

As we mentioned back in August, experts tasked with reviewing Minnesota’s current sex offender program asked to have their report deadline pushed back until mid-November. Today, they published their findings in a comprehensive 108-page report.

In all, the experts issued a list of 44 recommended changes for the program. Some of the most prominent recommendations include:

  • The state’s civil commitment statute should be modified to ensure it only applies to sex offenders and those at the highest risk for recidivism.
  • Expediting the process to move the only female resident to another location.
  • Re-evaluating each resident to see if they truly meet the criteria for commitment.
  • Institute a discharge plan for an offender as they are admitted to the program. The old program left many with ambiguous guidelines and little hope of being released.
  • Both the state and the program should begin preparing communities to meet the needs of future discharged residents.

The report mirrors a state task force finding from 2013 which stated that the current sex offender reform system “captures too many people and keeps too many of them too long.” Officials at the Department of Human Services are currently reviewing the 108-page report to determine the state and the program’s next move.

When you look at the data, it’s hard to suggest the program has been anything but a life sentence for current offenders. Under the program’s 20-year history, of the more the 700 offenders admitted to the program, only two have ever been discharged.

In addition to the changes proposed in the report, the program faces another obstacle in the form of a class action lawsuit. A group of sex offenders has sued the state claiming the old process was a violation of their due-process rights. Their case is expected to presented to a judge in February.

Related source: Star-Tribune, Pioneer Press

 

Deer DUI

Deer Season: DUIs and Distracted Driving

Deer season is currently underway in Minnesota, and with gun season opening up in Wisconsin this weekend, odds are you’ll see plenty of blaze orange out and about in the coming weeks. As hunters head to deer camp in hopes of finding that thirty point buck, there’s two things you should be mindful of this time of year: DUIs and Distracted Driving.

Deer Camp DUI

The last weeks of November are prime times for DUIs. Many hunters like to drink after a day of hunting, but getting behind the wheel after you’ve had a few too many is a real problem. If you’re going to celebrate your buck with a few beers, make sure you give your keys to a friend.

The end of November is also a time when we see extra DUI patrols because of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Some reports suggest that the night before Thanksgiving is actually the day with the most drunk drivers. Oftentimes college students or recent graduates are back in their hometown to attend a family Thanksgiving the following day, and they want to catch up with pals at the local watering hole the night before the holiday.

Minnesota police conducted extra DUI patrols from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through the holiday weekend in 2013, and you can expect similar patrols this year. If you plan on drinking, make sure you have a sober ride home, because cops will be on the lookout.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is another issue this time of year. Even though Minnesota received snow a little earlier than expected, drivers are still getting used to the slick conditions. You may have been able to take your eyes off the road for a few seconds to change the radio station in the summer, but that could lead to an accident if you’re not careful in the winter. Always stay alert while behind the wheel, especially in less than ideal conditions.

Deer are another reason to keep your eyes on the road. Deer are more active during gun season as they can be spooked easily by an approaching hunter or a gunshot. On average, roughly 2,300 Minnesotans will hit a deer with their car this season. 68 individuals have been injured when their car struck a deer and 18 have died as a result of a crash since 2011, so not only should you be monitoring the road, but also keep an eye on roadside ditches. In the event a deer crosses your path, try to slow down quickly and safely. Avoid swerving, as that can cause the car to roll.

In the event you end up with a drunk driving ticket or a distracted driving violation, give us a call. We’ve helped numerous hunters in the past, and we can help you too.

Wisconsin DUI

Wisconsin Judges Lenient on Chronic Drunk Drivers

A review of drunk driving cases by a Wisconsin media company found that many chronic offenders throughout the state receive lenient sentences.

Moreover, in at least a dozen cases, judges imposed sentences below the mandatory minimum. Sometimes this was done by negotiating around vaguely worded statutes, while other times judges blatantly disregarded mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

Ben Kempinen, a Law School professor at the University of Wisconsin, said it’s strange that judges who are tasked with upholding a law are blatantly overlooking current statutes.

“If (legislators) say you have to give the guy at least a year and (judges) are not doing it, then they’re not complying with the limits on their power,” Kempinen said.

More From The Review

The analysis of over 900 DUI cases across the state uncovered:

  • Some judges failed to institute probation upon an offender’s release from jail, while others let offenders serve some sentences simultaneously.
  • A Green Bay man convicted of seven drunk driving offenses should have been sentenced to three years in jail based on mandatory minimum laws, but he received a two-year sentence and ultimately only served nine months in jail.
  • The same judge handed down a similar sentence in another case. When the mandatory minimum called for three years, he sentenced the offender to two.

Avery Appelman comments

On the surface level the report might seem concerning that judges aren’t following the law to the letter, but there’s more to it than that. For example, the judge in the case above said he only went below the mandatory guidelines based on recommendations of prosecutors. He also said it’s his job to interpret the law and apply it on a case-by-case basis.

“I think the Legislature has a right to express their opinion that these are mandatory, in their opinion this is the sentence that should be imposed, but I don’t think I’m a computer. I don’t think I’m a robot. I try to listen to what everybody has to tell me,” said Judge Donald Zuidmulder. “I do respect that and probably follow it 99 percent of the time or 98 percent of the time.”

I think Judge Zuidmulder’s take is a good one. No two cases are the same, so a one-size-fits-all law isn’t going to be perfect 100 percent of the time. I’d much rather have a judge like Zuidmulder than one who doesn’t consider all the factors in the case and rules, as the judge referenced, as a robot.

Related source: Gannett News Media, Pioneer Press

Daylight Savings Crime

Daylight Savings Crime

November has brought plenty of changes here in Minnesota. We turned the clocks back to get an extra hour of light in the morning, and Mother Nature dropped a few inches of snow on our heads. So while you may be better able to see the snow on your car windshield when you scrap your car off in the morning before heading to work, today we want to focus on how daylight savings time impacts crime rates.

A study out of the University of Virginia found that daylight savings time has a large impact on the number and types of crimes committed. As you might guess, the earlier it gets dark, the more crimes occur. This happens for three main reasons:

  • It gets dark earlier.
  • It stays dark longer.
  • Less witnesses are outside due to decreasing temperatures.

The cover of darkness and the fact that their are less potential witnesses outside to observe crime are prime reasons why criminal activity increases in the late fall and winter.

What Crimes Increase?

Not all crimes increase in the cold months. For example, disorderly conduct and DUIs tend to drop as people aren’t typically outside as much in the cold winter months. The crime that increases the most is robbery.

Jennifer Doleac, co-author of the study, said robberies increase 7 percent overall, and 27 percent during the sunset hour. She says the cover of darkness provides thieves and other criminals with the discretion they need, and discussed the drop in crime when we turn the clocks forward in the spring.

“We find an increase in light during the hour of sunset impacts a number of socially damaging crimes, including robbery, murder, and rape, with a total estimate social cost avoidance of over $550 million per year,” Doleac wrote. “We also find suggestive evidence that much of the avoided crime comes through criminal deterrence, which means not only fewer victims but also a lesser need for the expensive and potentially damaging incarceration process.”

Nicholas Sanders, an economics professor at the University of Virginia who co-authored the study with Doleac, added that the increase in crime in the fall is most noticeable during the hour of sunset.

“The majority of those effects are really concentrated in the hour of sunset which is to say 6,  7 o’clock in most areas, the hour that sees the biggest change in the amount of light that’s present is the hour that sees the largest change in crime,” said Sanders.

However, he says the morning hours are a different story.

“In the morning the criminals still haven’t had their coffee, they haven’t gotten up and gotten their day started.”

This blog isn’t meant to keep you indoors every night after 5pm, but it should serve as a warning to stay alert to suspicious activity. Always lock your car doors if parking on the street, and make sure other areas, like garages and storage sheds are also secured once night falls.

Related source: Stanford.edu

minneapolis police

Minneapolis Police Launch Body Camera Program

If you’re stopped by a Minneapolis police officer in the near future, you’ll want to smile, because you might be on camera.

The Minneapolis Police Department has equipped 36 officers with body cameras as part of a pilot program aimed at preventing police brutality and citizen complaints. The officers will wear the cameras for six to nine months in order for the city to fully evaluate their effectiveness. If the pilot program is successful, the city hopes to outfit all of its officers by late 2015.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said the cameras have the potential to pay for themselves by preventing claims against officers.

“This technology will protect our officers from false and frivolous claims, saving time and money in the process,” Harteau said.

Mayor Betsy Hodges added that the cameras will also help keep officers accountable for their actions.

“It brings increased accountability and transparency for both the police officers and for the public moving forward, which is a benefit to everybody, and a benefit to public safety,” Hodges said at a press conference.

Minneapolis is the latest Minnesota city to adopt police body cameras. Departments in Burnsville, Farmington and Duluth have already equipped their officers with body cameras, and early reports suggest they have been successful.

The only real issue that some people have with the cameras is that they don’t record all the time. The recorder can be turned on and off at the officer’s discretion, which has led to some concerns about hiding the true nature of encounter. Harteau said they are training their officers to turn their cameras on during every public encounter. They believe this process will make it easier to review the tapes.

Related source: Star-Tribune, Kare 11

U of M Police

U of M Students Standing Up To Police Brutality

Inspired by a Twin Cities-based Communities United Against Police Brutality meeting, students at the University of Minnesota are speaking up about police brutality and misconduct.

If you drove over the Washington Avenue Bridge last month, you may have noticed the group’s handywork. Rows and rows of shoes lined the bridge, each pair a representation of a life lost since 2000 to police brutality.

Eric Schiltz founded the student group after attending the community meeting, and he said many students have been directly or indirectly affected by police brutality.

“I was really moved by a lot of the stories I heard regarding police misconduct, and it was an education for me as someone who had never experienced police brutality,” he said. “I felt like it would be a good outlet for students to have a campus chapter.”

In addition to raising awareness about police brutality, the student group is also monitoring complaints against the U of M police department and any instances of misconduct. The group hopes to use the information to identify any possible demographic trends.

They also noted that they aren’t anti-police, they just want to make sure everyone is held accountable.

“We want to make it very clear who our group is and that we are not against police or anti-police,” said group President Eric Bauer. “And that quite frankly, UMPD, while there may be some concerns, is almost certainly much better than other police forces.”

Another aspect of the group is student education. Similar to what we preach at Appelman Law Firm, educating yourself about your rights is critical to avoiding police misconduct. Natalie Goodwin, a University freshman who joined the group earlier this year, said she’s been surprised about how much she’s learned about her rights and how prevalent police brutality is across the US.

“I learned how deep and widespread the issues are, but also how invisible they had been to me,” Goodwin said. “I realized I couldn’t continue to be blissfully unaware as I had been, and I had to help any way I could.”

Related source: MN Daily

Adrian Peterson

Peterson Could Reach Plea Deal in Child Abuse Case

Adrian Peterson and his representatives are in talks with prosecutors to reach a plea deal in his child abuse case that could reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.

Peterson currently faces one felony count of reckless or negligent injury to a child after it was revealed he struck his 4-year-old son with a small stick as a form of punishment for misbehaving. According to a source close to the situation, Peterson is open to pleading in the case so long as the charge is reduced to a misdemeanor.

Not only would a misdemeanor charge greatly reduce Peterson’s potential jail sentence (Odds are he wouldn’t spend any time in jail under a plea deal), but it would also likely reduce any punishment handed down by the National Football League. Peterson is currently on the commissioner’s exempt list, meaning he must be reinstated before he can return to the Vikings.

The plea deal could be reached as early as tomorrow, as both sides are scheduled to appear before the judge at 1:30 CT. Another issue that will be discussed at Tuesday’s hearing is Peterson’s admission that he smoked marijuana while out on bail. If he did in fact smoke pot, Peterson would be in violation of the terms set forth in his bond agreement. In the event that a deal isn’t reached, the marijuana admission could put Peterson behind bars until his case goes to trial.

Possible Outcome

As we mentioned above, it seems unlikely that Peterson will spend any time in jail assuming the two sides are able to strike a deal. Probation, community service and public speaking engagements are all much more likely outcomes.

As for the NFL side of all this, the league adopted a new personal conducted policy in wake of a few disturbing off-field incidents. The proposal calls for a six-game ban for anyone involved in a physical or domestic violence related altercation. Peterson could also face additional discipline for his marijuana admission, and of course, he still needs to be reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell.

If we had to guess, although we’d venture to bet that Peterson won’t spend any time in jail, it’s still a longshot that he’ll return to the Vikings this season. Two potential suspensions loom, and there is still the negative stigma associated with his actions. Even if he’s reinstated, the Vikings may opt to keep him on the sidelines. We’d be surprised if #28 was back on the field for the Vikings this season.

Related source: ProFootball Talk, ESPN

Police Gun

New Police Weapon Technology on the Horizon

In an effort to quell concerns about policy brutality and use of deadly force, a Silicon Valley company has developed a new technology that will allow law enforcement to track when a gun is pulled from its holster, as well as when a weapon is fired.

Not only that, but the technology will allow law enforcement agencies to track the trajectory of the shot and the location of the weapon at the time it was fired. Jim Schaff, who works for Yardarm Technologies, the company developing the equipment, said the technology works through Bluetooth connectivity and real-time location sensing.

“It’s the same kind of sensor your iPhone uses to change the screen from vertical to horizontal when you turn your phone to the side,” said Schaff. “But ours is way more powerful.”

Schaff also noted that the connectivity is not linked up to the trigger mechanism, so there is no possibility that the gun could be fired remotely. It will simply track when the gun is drawn and record any discharge data.

Proponents of the technology believe it can help clarify exactly what occurred during a particularly tense or ambiguous encounter. The data could also help forensic scientists determine who fired a fatal shot, or if an officer exercised unnecessary force by drawing his weapon on a suspect.

The tracking technology also has one big benefit for police officers; Instant notification of a gun being drawn. If an officer needs to draw his weapon, odds are he’s facing a dangerous or potentially life-threatening situation. If the station gets a notification that an officer has drawn his or her weapon, they can immediately dispatch backup without the responding officer needing to divert attention from the situation to radio in a call. In hostile situations, those extra few seconds can be the difference between life and death.

“That’s the worst nightmare for any police officer in the field,” said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak in regards to an officer’s inability to radio for backup.

Schaff concluded by saying he hopes the technology is implemented nationwide by the end of next year.

Related source: RT.com