Category Archives: Criminal Defense

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

Facebook Like Crime

Facebook Likes Lead to Felony Charges in Wisconsin

A Wisconsin couple was arrested on theft charges after they “Liked” an incriminating photo on their local police department’s Facebook page.

Lisa J. Schulties, 32, and Jeorge A. Sales, 26, were slapped with felony burglary charges stemming from a June 26 break-in. During that robbery, the homeowners notified police that their credit cards were among the items that were stolen. Police marked the cards as stolen and waited for the suspects to use the cards.

Instead, authorities believe the pair sold or gave the stolen credit cards to another man, who was caught on camera attempting to use the cards at a local store. When the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office posted the picture of the man on their Facebook page in an attempt to get help from the public in identifying the man, Schulties and Sales “Liked” the photo.

Police did some digging and later asked Schulties to come down to the station to answer some questions. During the interrogation she admitted to stealing the credit cards during the break-in. She also told authorities that Sales, her boyfriend, was an accomplice to the break-in.

Although some of the case details weren’t made public, it’s believed that Schulties and Sales transferred the stolen credit cards to the man pictured in the survielance footage, but it’s uncertain if the pair are familiar with the suspect. The unidentified person is not a suspect in the burglary, but police would still like to talk to him about his use of the stolen cards. The suspect is believed to have fled the area after seeing his photo online, and he has not yet been identified by Shulties or Sales.

It’s uncertain what level of felony charges were brought against Schulties and Sales, but even the lowest level – Class I Felony Theft – carries penalties of up to 3.5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000. A Class H Felony Theft charge carries the potential of 6 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000, while a Class G Felony Theft charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

I doubt Schulties and Sales “like” that.

Drunk Parent

Parents, Not Strangers, Account For Majority of Child DUI Deaths

A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that children are more likely to be involved in a fatal alcohol-related car crash when an adult they know is driving under the influence, not when their sober adult is struck by a random drunk driver.

The study shows that parents and relatives are a greater threat to children than an unknown drunk driver. According to the statistics, of the 2,344 children under 15 who were killed in an auto accident involving a drunk driver, two-thirds of the children were riding in the car with the drunk driver themselves. Researchers also found:

  • Texas and California had the most deaths among kids riding with drunken drivers.
  • Nearly two-thirds of children who died while riding with a drunk driver were not wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.
  • More of the adult drunk drivers survived the crashes than the children, suggesting that more children could have survived if they had used a seat belt or child seat.
  • The numbers are very similar to a nearly identical study conducted between 1985-1996.

Researchers concluded their study by saying states should consider increasing the penalties for DUI with a child in the vehicle.

Minnesota DUI with Children in the Car

A typical first-time DUI where the individual blows under a .20 is considered a Fourth Degree DUI, which is a misdemeanor offense, but Minnesota casts stronger penalties on those who choose to drive drunk with children in the car. As the law currently stands, driving drunk with a child in the car is considered an aggravating factor under Minnesota law, as is a previous DUI conviction or blowing over a .20 BAC.

If you have one aggravating factor, your charge will automatically be upgraded to a Third Degree DUI, which is considered a gross misdemeanor.  That means you’re automatically facing a gross misdemeanor offense if you are caught driving under the influence with a child under the age of 16 in your car.

If you are found guilty of a Third Degree DUI in Minnesota you will face up to a year in jail and fines up to $3,000. The mandatory minimum fine is $900, and although there is no mandatory jail sentence, prosecutors routinely ask for some form of incarceration to send a message. Additionally, if you drive drunk and cause an accident that results in great bodily harm or death, you will face felony charges.

Make smart decisions, and never drink and drive, especially if you are responsible for the safety of young children.

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.

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

Minnesota Speeding Ticket

Speed Demons Beware: Minnesota Amps Up Speeding Patrols

Speeders should lay off the gas pedal for the next 10 days as nearly 400 Minnesota law enforcement agencies will be conducting extra speed patrols through July 27 in an effort to reduce the number of traffic accidents, injuries and deaths on Minnesota roads.

Speed is one of the leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes. An average of 78 people die and 222 are seriously injured each year in Minnesota as a result of traveling at unsafe speeds. Alcohol and distracted driving are two other factors that contribute to auto accidents, but speeding is by far the biggest issue. That’s exactly why law enforcement agencies around the state are set to amp up patrols for the next 10 days.

“Far too many motorists ignore speed limits and put all of our lives at risk on the road by speeding,” said Donna Berger, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety Director. “There’s greater potential to lose control, you have less time to avoid a crash, and the chances are higher of being killed or seriously injured.”

The Office of Traffic Safety also notes that, in the long run, speeding doesn’t save much time. A 30-minute commute at 65 mph will only save a person about five minutes compared to traveling at the posted speed limit of 55 mph, and that doesn’t factor in how long a traffic stop with a police officer may take.

Speeding Ticket Fines in Minnesota

The average cost of a speeding ticket in Minnesota is $120 for a person traveling 10 mph over the posted speed limit. That number doubles to roughly $250 if the person is driving at least 20 mph over the posted limit, and anyone ticketed at speeds over 100 mph can have their license revoked for six months.

Avery Appelman said he routinely challenges the legality of traffic stops for his clients, but it can become an uphill battle if the driver was excessively speeding.

“There are many ways to fight a traffic ticket,” said Appelman. “But the easiest way is to avoid them all together. I’m not saying you need to be under the posted speed limit at all times, but go with the flow of traffic, and avoid being ‘that guy’ who bobs and weaves through four lanes of traffic just to save himself a few seconds. When you speed you are endangering everyone on the road, your wallet and your driver’s license.”

Related source: MNDOT

Cespedes

Violence Mars Home Run Derby 2014

All eyes were on Minneapolis on last night as some of baseball’s biggest stars took center stage at the 2014 Home Run Derby. Fans expected to see a show, but they were instead treated to a crime spree that would make Bonnie and Clyde blush.

After the event unfolded police charged Home Run Derby Champion Yoenis Cespedes with 30 counts of assault with a deadly weapon after he violently smashed 30 baseballs towards spectators who had unwisely chosen to sit in the left field bleachers. Cespedes could face punishments of up to 20 years in jail and fines up to $20,000 If he is found guilty of Assault in the First Degree.

Cespedes wasn’t the only All-Star who faced charges at the end of the night. Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton was booked on a Weapons Charge for carrying his Louisville Slugger bat in a crowded area. Authorities decided to move forward with charges after witnessing Stanton hit a baseball that was projected to travel 511 feet.

And last but not least, Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig was taken into custody on a Breach of Contract violation. Puig entered the Home Run Derby with much fanfare, but he failed to hit a single ball over the fence. Authorities felt that his inability to hit a single home run during a home run exhibition was enough of an injustice to charge the young slugger with Breach of Contract.

Despite their alleged crimes, all three players are expected to participate in the 2014 All-Star game, which gets underway at 7 p.m. tonight.

Josh Gordon

Browns Wide Receiver Gordon Arrested For DUI

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was arrested for driving under the influence over the Fourth of July weekend after he was pulled over at 3 a.m. for driving 50 mph in a 35 mph zone.

The drunk driving arrest is just the latest incident in what has been a tumultuous offseason for the troubled wide receiver. Earlier this summer Gordon’s league-administered drug test turned up positive for a substance banned under the NFL’s drug policy. First time offenders face a four game suspension for violating the policy, but this wasn’t the first time Gordon failed a test. He tested positive last season, and although he had his suspension reduced from four games to two, the league likely isn’t going to take a second violation lightly.

A second positive test means that a player is subject to a one-year suspension, so Gordon was already facing the possibility of missing an entire season prior to his latest arrest. It’s a sad fall for a player who appeared to be on a meteoric rise, as he led the league in receiving yards in 2013 despite missing the first two games due to his suspension.

Drunk Driving Arrest

According to the police report, Gordon was driving PJ Hairston’s car when police stopped him. Hairston, the 26th overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, is no stranger to controversy. Authorities asked Gordon to take a breathalyzer test that revealed he was operating the vehicle with a 0.09 blood alcohol content, just barely over the 0.08 legal limit.

Adding to his troubles, the DUI arrest wasn’t the first time he’s ran into problems this offseason while driving a car. Back in May, Gordon was issued a speeding ticket in Ohio. Not that big of a deal, until you consider that one of Gordon’s co-pilots was found to be in possession of marijuana.

So between Gordon’s troubles at Baylor, his two failed drug tests, his DUI and his known association with drug users, it’s safe to say the receiver isn’t going to get much leniency from the league or a judge. Geoff Saltzstein, criminal defense attorney and avid Cleveland Browns fan, had this to say about Gordon’s arrest.

“Between Gordon driving drunk and Johnny Manziel rolling $20’s in the bathroom it’s safe to say that it hasn’t been the ideal offseason for my beloved Browns. Johnny Football aside, Gordon needs to get his act together. The one thing he has going for him is that all these incidents occurred in a rather short time period.

What’s most likely going to happen is that Gordon will, at the recommendation of his family, friends and attorney, voluntarily check himself into rehab. Self-admittance to a rehabilitation center shows the league and the court that he wants to get help. He already faced a 16-game suspension from the NFL, so the DUI bust will probably only strengthen the NFL’s case, but it’s possible he could have missed the entire season even without the latest incident. As for the DUI, he was barley over the legal limit, and if he does indeed check himself into rehab I doubt the judge will lay down the hammer. I’m guessing a fine and some community service.

So while I don’t think we’ll see Gordon in the league this season because of his second failed drug test, I don’t believe he’ll go to jail over the DUI arrest.”

Related source: USA Today

Duluth body cameras

Duluth Police Begin Wearing Body Cameras 

Just last week we suggested that Minnesota could reduce officer-involved incidents and complaints if they would simply outfit police officers with body cameras. One department has implemented that suggestion, and we believe both the authorities and the public will benefit from the move.

All Duluth police officers have been outfitted with body cameras to record interactions with the public in hopes that the video evidence will cut down on investigation times and provide a third-party account to corroborate incident reports.

The Duluth PD said the video is uploaded at the end of each shift, but the department will not be conducting random viewing of the tapes unless it is necessary for an investigation. They also noted that they have trained their officers to hit record prior to any interaction with a civilian, as the camera does not record 24/7.

All things considered, outfitting the entire force with cameras did not break the bank. The department said the devices cost about $300 a pop, and with 97 uninformed officers on staff, the total bill came in south of $30,000. That’s a small price to pay considering recent evidence suggests that cameras reduce complaints and lawsuits against the department, which can result if 6- and 7-figure payouts.

If the program is successful in Duluth, look for Minneapolis to follow suit. The Minneapolis Police Department has already stated that they have begun buying cameras for their officers, but they plan to roll out the program on a much smaller scale on a trial basis, assuming there are no hiccups.

Avery Appelman Comments

As a purveyor of justice I am glad to hear the Duluth Police Department has outfit all of their officers with body cameras. Far too often in the court of law you run into a case where it’s a client’s word versus the word of the cop. The wrong judge may be predisposed to take the word of the officer over the word of the citizen. If an officer knows he can get away with something because his word will be held in higher esteem, they can bend and break the law as they please.

The cameras will provide an objective, third-party account of any interaction between an officer and a citizen. If there is a question as to who escalated the incident or if the suspect was resisting, all the court will need to do is review the tape.