Category Archives: Criminal Defense

Police Body Cameras

Minneapolis Approves Police Body Camera Program 

Minneapolis officials have taken the next step in equipping the city’s police force with body cameras after they approved a $170,000 pilot program to set 36 officers up with the surveillance equipment.

The Minneapolis City Council Committee approved the plan on Monday, and the council is set to finalize the pilot program’s plans by the end of the week. The council plans to evaluate the success of the program at six- and nine-month intervals to determine if the city should continue with the program or make strategic changes.

The city believes the program will be a success, and they have already begun taking measures to budget for additional body cameras. Minneapolis will provide an additional $1.1 million to the program in the fall of 2015.

The city will equip officers with two types of cameras to determine which capture the best picture and are less of a hindrance to the officer. One type of camera will attach to the front of an officer’s uniform, while the other camera will be clipped onto eyeglasses. The city will test out both methods during the pilot program.

Officers in Duluth and Burnsville are already using body cameras, and although statistics aren’t yet available, if it’s going anything like the program in Rialto, California, citizen complaints are likely down.

Avery Appelman comments

This is a step in the right direction for justice. Cameras mean that both officers and citizens will be held accountable for their actions by an unbiased third party. These cameras will clear up any question as to what events transpired.

I have little doubt that the pilot program will be successful in reducing complaints against officers and excessive force suits, as both parties will be on their best behavior. 10 years from now I think police body cameras will be the norm.

Related source: Pioneer Press

 

Adrian Peterson Child Abuse

Adrian Peterson Reinstated After Child Abuse Charges

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is expected to be back on the field Sunday when Minnesota takes on New Orleans after being reinstated by the team. Peterson was held out of this week’s game after he was indicted by a grand jury in Texas on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child.

The decision to reinstate Peterson is making waves among the talking heads at ESPN and other sports media outlets, and the Vikings owners made it clear that they understand the severity of the charges but they also want to let due process run its course.

“Today’s decision was made after significant thought, discussion and consideration. As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday’s game, this is clearly a very important issue,” owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf said in a statement. “To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action.”

Child Abuse Charges

The public first learned of the child abuse charges Friday afternoon, and the Vikings quickly made the decision to deactivate Peterson for the Sunday’s home opener. According to a statement from his attorney Rusty Hardin, the charges stem from an incident where Peterson used “a switch to spank his son.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a switch is basically a small twig or tree branch.

“Parents are entitled to discipline their children as they see fit, except when that discipline exceeds what the community would say is reasonable,” Hardin said about the incident. According to the grand jury, Peterson’s actions exceeded a reasonable standard.

Peterson will make his first appearance on Wednesday, where he is expected to enter a plea. Peterson will appear in court over the next several weeks, but many involved in the case believe it will be a few months before the case goes to trial.

Child Abuse Penalties

Peterson was officially charged with one count of injury to a child and could be sentenced to up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. He could also be placed on probation and be forced to attend counseling.

In addition to penalties levied by the state of Texas, Peterson could face additional discipline from the NFL. The league recently announced a new domestic violence policy that includes any physical harm, so it’s certainly possible that Peterson would be subject to penalties. Under the new policy, a first time offender would receive a six game suspension and a second violation would result in a lifetime ban.

Related source: ESPN

Twin Towers

9/11 – 13 Years Later

For some, September 11th, 2001 seems like decades ago. For others, it still seems like yesterday.

13 years ago our country was rocked by a national tragedy. More than 3,000 Americans lost their lives  in the Trade Center attacks, at the Pentagon, and in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. September 11 also took a toll on our bravest, as it stands as the deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officials in the history of the United States.

In the wake of the tragedy, Americans rallied together to stand as one. We did what we always do – We persevered. Those we lost that day will never be forgotten, and their loss led to sweeping changes in the way the United States protects its citizens from domestic attacks. Airports added advanced security measures, baseball and football stadiums added metal detectors and reduced what could be brought into games, and the US revamped its efforts to prevent and identify terrorist activities before they occurred.

So today, in honor of those we lost and all those affected by the events of September 11, we ask you to take some time out of your day and think back to that day 13 years ago. Think about where you were, how you felt, and what you did in the following days.

The below video will take you back to that day. As you can probably guess, some of the footage may not be suitable for all ages, but we think it’s worth sharing on the anniversary of 9/11.

 

 

Thank you to all those who gave their lives on that day. We will never forget.

2009-05-07_TCF_Bank_Stadium

Vikings Home Opener: Guns at TCF Bank Stadium?

The Minnesota Vikings will make their home debut in the elements at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday, and city officials and law enforcement say they are prepared to handle the large crowd and a few unruly spectators. Uniformed officers have a number of ways to control a drunk or violent guest, as they are permitted to carry lethal and non-lethal weapons into the stadium, but a decision by a Minnesota judge has called into question whether off duty officers should have similar privileges.

As it currently stands, the National Football League bans off-duty police officers from carrying handguns into games, but that policy may soon change. Last week, Hennepin County Judge Ivy Bernhardson ruled that state-law trumps the NFL rule. Under Minnesota law, off-duty licensed peace officers are allowed to carry weapons including firearms into private establishments, even if the business bans guns.

The ruling only further muddles the legal battle. Despite making the ruling, Judge Bernhardson didn’t determine how and when the law would be enforced. While the dust is settling, the University of Minnesota plans to combat the ruling. They are expected to argue that they have autonomy under the state Constitution to ban guns from Vikings games in their stadium, which will host games until the completion of the new stadium.

In spite of the ruling, off-duty officers cannot bring firearms into TCF Bank Stadium until further court action. Judge Bernhardson stopped stop of demanding that off-duty officers be allowed to bring their weapon to the game, saying that those individuals have other ways of keeping up with the Vikings if the want to do so with a holster on their hip. She said the TV, Internet or radio will have to suffice in the meantime.

Avery Appelman comments

It goes to show that state-law still trumps private businesses, even those as large as the NFL. With all the new precautions NFL stadiums are adding to prevent individuals from bringing weapons into the game, I don’t necessarily see the need for off-duty officers to bring their weapon into the game, but I certainly understand their right to do so.

It will be interesting to watch this legal battle unfold in the coming months. Go Vikings!

Body cameras for police

Police Chief: Only Bad Officers Fear Body Cameras 

The tragedy in Ferguson has once again revived the debate over whether or not police officers should be required to wear body cameras. While some departments have sought out the technology to protect themselves against frivolous lawsuits, other agencies aren’t so keen on the idea.

One city that wants to get the ball rolling on body cameras is Denver, Colorado. Although it is expected to cost about $1.5 million to equip all 800 officers on the force, police chief Robert White said the cameras would help restore the community’s faith in the police.

“Citizens should know that officers are being held accountable,” said White. “The body camera will help clear up those moments of conflict.”

In a pitch to Denver’s city council, White informed officials how the cameras will record audio and video of police and civilian interactions, and all the footage would be stored, “in the cloud.”

White added that the cameras would be beneficial for police, as it could protect them from false allegations of excessive force. He said there is no reason why a cop should be hesitant to wear a body camera.

“The only officers who would have a problem with body cameras are bad officers.”

Funding Biggest Issue

The biggest issue facing the Denver police department and many agencies across the country is a lack of funding. Equipping the officers with the cameras is only half the battle. Video logging and storage, cloud technology and expert analysis of footage all adds to the cost of body cameras.

In some cases the cameras would pay for themselves by preventing lawsuits against the department, but it’s tough for some agencies to find money in the city budget to get the program off the ground.

“I’m hoping financially we can afford them,” White said. “Technology is such that they are affordable. It’s achievable.”

The Denver city council is currently reviewing the department’s proposal.

Related source: Denver Post

Ice Bucket Challenge

Avery Appelman Does The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Never one to step down from a challenge, Avery Appelman decided to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge after being nominated by fellow attorney Geoff Saltzstein.

Check out Avery’s Ice Bucket Challenge Video below, and be sure to check out Geoff’s video for Avery’s nomination. Our previous blog post featuring Geoff’s Ice Bucket Challenge video goes more in depth about what ALS is and why it is so important we help find ways to prevent this terrible disease.

We had some issues getting the sound to transfer correctly, so the video below just shows Avery dumping the bucket on his head. For the full video with audio, click here.

 

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.

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!

Minnesota Sex Offender

Experts Seek Delay in Sex-Offender Program Review

It doesn’t appear that four experts tasked with evaluating the current state of Minnesota’s sex offender program are going to meet the requested deadline to issue their report.

The experts originally told the court they would issue a comprehensive report on the current state of the program by the end of August, but it appears they bit off more than they could chew. They are now asking for an extension into mid- or late November, which can’t sit well with U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, who just last week announced that he wanted to expedite the review.

“We are aware that the stakes are high and that the Court and parties wish to expedite the process; however, the complexity of the issues at hand and our respective responsibilities and schedules … interfere with our ability to complete a detailed report before the end of August in the professional manner required,” the experts told the court.

Frank said the involved parties “will be discussing this and its implications” during a status conference on Thursday.

Moving Along Slowly

The experts are tasked with reviewing the current Minnesota Sex Offender Reform Program that requires some sex offenders to report to high security facilities after they’ve completed their prison sentence. Residents filed the class action lawsuit in 2011, claiming treatment is inadequate and indefinite.

As we mentioned in a previous post, of the more than 700 residents deemed sexually dangerous or psychopathic, only one resident has ever been released in the last 20 years.

In their letter to the court, the experts announced that they have reviewed more than half of the residents and have met with program leaders and staff, but added they still wanted to review a random sample of program residents and examine re-integration plans prior to releasing their findings.

Related source: Pioneer Press

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.”