Category Archives: DWI

Thanksgiving DUI

Stay Safe on Blackout Wednesday, Thanksgiving Weekend

Statistics show that the following stretch of days, from blackout Wednesday through the Sunday night, are the most dangerous days on Minnesota roads.

According to statistics from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety, drivers are more likely to end up in a ditch or in a fender bender in this five-day stretch than any other period of the year.

As we mentioned in a previous post, distracted driving and drunk driving are two big reasons for the spike in crashes. Distracted driving caused 564 crashes between 1,436 cars during the five-day stretch last year. Thankfully, since people are generally traveling at slower speeds during the winter, there are less fatalities per accident than in the summer.

“There may be more ‘fender benders’ in colder, winter weather, but there are also less traffic fatalities,” said David Boxum, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.

If you’re traveling tonight, take it nice and slow. It’s expected to snow until 3pm in the Twin Cities metro area, meaning the roads are going to be rough no matter if you try to drive through the snow to beat traffic, or you wait out the snow and hit rush hour.

Blackout Wednesday

If you’re on Twitter tonight, don’t be surprised if you see #BlackoutWednesday or #BadDecisionWednesday trending in your area. Thanksgiving Eve is commonly a day when friends and family are back in their hometown for holiday festivities, and many reconnect with one another over a few beverages.

Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Erik Roeske said he wants people to have a good time, but it’s important they make good decisions to get back from the bar safely.

“While we want people to enjoy that time with their friends and loved ones, we want them to make smart decisions for a safe and sober ride home,” said Roeske.

It should come as no surprise that the Minnesota police are adding extra DUI patrols tonight and through the weekend. Last year drunk drivers caused 32 accidents over the Thanksgiving weekend, and over 1,600 Minnesotans were arrested for driving under the influence during the holiday over the last three years. That means one person is arrested for drunk driving every 13 minutes over the 5-day Thanksgiving stretch. Be safe, and have a great holiday!

Related source: Star-Tribune

DUI offenses in Minnesota

Minnesota Courts Helping Prevent Repeat DUI Offenses

A study by a national research firm uncovered that in Minnesota DWI courts, deterrent programs and treatment regimens are helping prevent repeat DUI offenses, saving the taxpayers about $700,000 a year.

The study examined the DWI court system in nine counties who attempted to lessen the number of repeat DUI offenders by combining drug and alcohol treatment with other punishments like jail, fines and loss of driving privileges. Researchers found that in eight of nine counties, offenders who completed their court-mandated treatment programs were much less likely to reoffend than those who didn’t complete the program. The study also revealed that most counties with DWI courts spent less money on law enforcement and jail costs.

“If people are getting arrested — even a little less often — and if they’re getting re-arrested for less-serious crimes, then they’re spending a lot less time in jail,” said Shannon Carey, executive vice president and research associate at Portland, Oregon-based NPC Research.

The research also uncovered some shortcomings in the Hennepin County DWI courts. According to the findings, the county lost nearly $800,000 on DUI court participants since its inception in 2005. Offenders in Hennepin County DUI courts are more likely to be sent to jail than in other counties, which tacks on to total costs.

The other eight counties that participated in the DUI court study were Beltrami, Cass, Crow Wing, Lake of the Woods, Otter Tail, Ramsey, Roseau-Kittson and St Louis county.

Three Traits

The study also examined the most common demographic factors for DUI offenders in Minnesota. The three most salient traits for DUI offenders were:

  • Caucasian
  • Male
  • Employed

Avery Appelman comments

This is a great study because it showcases what we as defense attorneys already know. Jail and fines are less effective than rehab and treatment. Jail time and monetary penalties are punishments, and while nobody is arguing that offenders should go unpunished, it needs to be paired with treatment, otherwise the cycle will continue.

Oftentimes we tell our clients to check into a treatment program prior to going to court. Sure, it looks good to the judge that the accused has voluntarily sought treatment, but we know that treatment is the first step in correcting the behavior and preventing recidivism.

I hope plenty of judges and juries heed these findings.

Related source: Pioneer Press, NHTSA

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.

Cake Boss

Cake Boss Star Arrested For DUI

He works with frosting, but it was the sauce that got him in trouble early Thursday morning.

Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro, star of the TLC reality TV show Cake Boss was arrested early this morning on charges of driving under the influence. According to the police report, officers spotted a yellow corvette swerving erratically through traffic between 20th and 32nd street in Lower Manhattan around 1 a.m.

Officers stopped Valastro and observed that he had blood shot, watery eyes and he smelled of alcohol. Valastro was then asked to step out of the vehicle to preform a field sobriety test. The police report notes that Valastro appeared unsteady on his feet prior to failing the roadside test. He also failed a subsequent Breathalyzer test.

Valastro was officially charged with driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while ability impaired (DWAI). According to New York law, a DUI is considered a misdemeanor offense that carries the potential of moderate jail time while DWAI is only considered a traffic violation. A closer look at the law reveals that  in New York:

A First Conviction DWAI is punishable by:

  • A fine between $300-$500.
  • Up to 15 days in jail.
  • A mandatory 90-day driver’s license suspension.

A First Conviction DUI is punishable by:

  • A fine between $500-$1,000.
  • Up to 1 year in jail.
  • A mandatory driver’s license suspension of at least six months.

One of the biggest factors in DUI cases is a person’s blood alcohol content. A person can be charged with DWAI even if their blood alcohol content is below the 0.08 legal limit (between 0.05 and 0.08). In addition, a person can be charged with both DWAI and DUI stemming from a single instance.

Buddy’s blood-alcohol content wasn’t released, but it seems likely that it was above 0.08. It stand to reason that if he was below 0.08, he would have only faced a DWAI charge, but we’ll know more once police release more details about the case.

Related source: E Online, Ithaca DUI

 

Minnesota 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

Zombie DUI

Zombie Earns Two DUIs in Three Hours

You may be fond of your Halloween costume, but odds are you don’t want it immortalized forever as a standout DUI mugshot.

That luxury likely won’t be afforded to 26-year-old Catherine Butler, whose mugshot has gone viral after receiving two DUIs in a span of three hours after a night of Halloween debauchery.

Butler and friends decided to celebrate the Halloween holiday last Saturday, but she made a poor decision at the end of the night by deciding to drive home. An officer noticed that Butler was driving without her headlights on, and he quickly pulled her over. When asked to submit to a Breathalyzer, Butler blew a 0.11, nearly 1.5 times the legal driving limit.

As you can see from the above mugshot, she was still rocking her zombie costume at the time of her DUI arrest. Unfortunately for Butler, her troubles didn’t end there. A friend stopped by the station and picked up her zombie buddy, but just three hours later Butler was back on the road. An officer noticed a car driving erratically around 5 a.m. and conducted a traffic stop. Sensing that Butler was still affected by the alcohol in her system, the officer asked her to again submit to a Breathalyzer test. This time she blew a 0.09, just barely over the 0.08 legal limit.

Butler was again arrested for driving under the influence, but as you can see in the photo on the right, in the short time between arrests she decided to ditch the zombie costume.

The two arrests marked the third and fourth instances where Butler was arrested for drunk diving. Gates Police Chief James Vanbrederode said the message clearly hasn’t gotten through to this young woman.

“Two prior driving while impaired convictions and 26 years old and she’s still out driving drunk. It’s just hard to understand why people continue to do that and the consequences of continuing to do that,” Vanbrederode said.

Butler is due to appear in court next month.

Related source: Huffington Post, WHEC.com, 13Wham.com

Halloween DUI Minnesota

Extra DUI Patrols Likely on Halloween Weekend in Minnesota

Although there has yet to be an official announcement from the Sheriff’s Office or the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety, it’s well speculated that Minnesota troopers will once again be conducting extra DUI patrols throughout the holiday weekend.

This year’s Halloween celebration is unique in that the holiday falls on a Friday, meaning more adults will take part in the festivities on the holiday night. More adults are likely to celebrate Halloween with cocktails on the actual holiday since many won’t have to work the next day, but you can see how partying adults and hordes of Trick or Treaters can be a recipe for disaster.

As you’re probably well aware, alcohol slows your reaction time behind the wheel. That extra half second of recognition could be the difference between life and death if a child decides to run across the street at the wrong moment. Even if the child “came out of nowhere” or “dashed right in front of you,” you’re still going to spend time in jail if you’re over the legal limit.

Although many adults won’t hit the town until the vast majority of Trick or Treaters are back from their spooky excursion, there’s simply no reason to drink and drive on Halloween. Even without the presence of drunk drivers, more children are killed by vehicles on Halloween than any other day of the year.

So while MNDoT and authorities have yet to announce an official statement regarding extra DUI patrols on Halloween, you can bet they’ll be out there, especially since they added similar patrols in 2013. Over the last six years authorities have arrested roughly 3,000 drunk drivers during the Halloween weekend.

As always when we discuss heightened patrols during holiday weekends, here are some ways to get to and from the party with a sober driver.

  • Uber has a special deal for Twin Cities travelers this Halloween. All you have to do is visit their site and request a personalized party code. Uber will email you a code within 24 hours that gives you a free ride, and you can share that code with friends and they’ll get the same deal. If you go with a friend to a Halloween bash, you can get there and back for free by simply each requesting a code!
  • Bus/Taxi.
  • Have a designated driver.
  • Crash at a friend’s house and drive home in the morning.
  • Walk home with friends.

If you do end up in trouble this weekend, be it DUI or other violation, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (952) 224-2277.

5 Interesting and Informative Criminal Law Infographics

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so instead of writing a bunch of sentences, today we’re going to let some infographics do the talking. Check out these five cool and informative inforgraphics below!

1. DUI and Field Sobriety Tests

The above infographic explains what will happen to you if you get pulled over and are suspected of driving drunk. It also lets you know what the officer is looking for during the test so you can avoid a costly mistake.

2. The Tragedy of Wrongful Convictions

This infographic provides a harsh look at the times that the criminal justice system got it wrong.

3. Defense Attorneys Vs. Prosecutors

You probably know the basic differences between a defense attorney and a prosecuting attorney, but there’s a lot more to it than trying to prove guilt and innocence.  This infographic breaks it all down.

4. From Playground to Prison – A Closer Look At Juvenile Justice in America

As the title foreshadows, this infographic examines the juvenile justice system, specifically when youth offenders are tried and sentenced as adults. Did you know about 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced or incarcerated as an adult each year in the US? Click on for more sobering facts.

5. DUI Penalties in Minnesota

We’re proud to call this infographic our own! We put this infographic together a few years ago, and it explains what happens if you are stopped for driving under the influence in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The most important piece of advice is located in the bottom righthand corner.

Minnesota DWI

Underage Drinking

Police Cracking Down on Underage Drinking at U of M

Minneapolis police are partnering up with campus police at the University of Minnesota to combat underage drinking, which officers say is a contributing factor in many incidents.

UMPD Chief Greg Hestness said intoxicated individuals, especially those who are underage, are easy marks for would-be criminals.

“A lot of victims were under the influence of alcohol, which made them easy targets for crimes,” said Hestness in reference to a string of robberies that hit the UM campus last fall. “Not in all cases, but it’s a factor.”

The university has long since trumpeted its “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to underage drinking, but punishing the crime and taking active steps to prevent it are two different matters. Under added pressure from student and parent groups, campus police sent three plainclothes officers to popular drinking destinations during the first weekend of September. They issued 89 underage drinking citations in Dinkytown and the other two undisclosed locations, and they say they plan to continue sending undercover officers to the areas in an effort to prevent intoxicated students from becoming victims.

Minneapolis police inspector Kathy Waite said not only are intoxicated students easy targets for thieves, but they’re often too inebriated to assist in the investigation.

“Most of our victims are heavily under the influence of alcohol,” said Waite. “They don’t even necessarily recall where they were. It makes it extremely difficult to move forward on those investigations.”

Hestness added that he might be seen as “blaming the victim,” but he noted that being intoxicated and walking alone certainly “increase your risk” of being targeted by criminals.

Going Forward

Although the Zombie Pub Crawl is in the rear view mirror, Halloween is a few weeks away and partiers should take some steps to help ensure their safety, including:

• Avoid becoming extremely intoxicated.

• Avoid wandering off by yourself – Stay with your group.

• Keep your guard up for any suspicious individuals.

• Report any suspicious activity.

• Utilize public transportation, like cabs, buses or Uber to get home quickly and safely.

We always tend to see an uptick in calls on Halloween, and with the holiday falling on a Friday this year, we wouldn’t be surprised if there was a noticeable uptick in crime. This doesn’t mean there will be more cases of assault of theft, but certain juvenile crimes like disturbing the peace (ding dong ditching) and vandalism (teepeeing) are commonplace on All Hallows Eve. We don’t condone the activity, but if you find yourself in a pair of handcuffs after a Halloween prank goes awry, call us. We’ll be on call through the night and can get you out of jail quickly.

Related source: Star Tribune

DUI Lawnmower

North Dakota Man Gets DUI on Lawnmower

A North Dakota man was arrested for driving under the influence on Sunday after authorities spotted him driving erratically on a lawnmower.

According to police documents, Earl Lee Jahner was operating the gas-powered lawn mower with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.27, more than three times the legal limit.

But Jahner’s troubles don’t stop there. According to authorities, Jahner was giving children a ride on the lawnmower with a six-pack of beer in tow when he was arrested. Police allege that Jahner damaged a corner of a building during his drunken joyride, and he was found to be in possession of marijuana. He was eventually charged with:

  • Felony driving under the influence
  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Possession of marijuana.

Not surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time Jahner had been booked for driving under the influence. A quick criminal history search reveals that he’s been convicted of DUI on nine previous occasions.

Minnesota Lawnmower Laws

Jahner would likely face a similar charge if the incident occurred in Minnesota. We’ve all heard stories of people getting DUIs on a John Deere because they needed to get somewhere and thought they could avoid a DUI as long as they didn’t drive a car, but DUI isn’t specific to cars. It can apply to any motor vehicle.

That said, the law is still open to interpretation. Not too long ago a Minnesota man had a DUI charge thrown out after he was arrested for being drunk while on a Segway. The court ruled that since the device was battery-powered and its primary use is on pedestrian paths or sidewalks that it could not be classified as a vehicle subject to DUI laws. One can argue that a lawnmower isn’t primarily used on the road, but many arrested for DUIs on lawnmowers are driving on or near a road, and the device has as engine, so your appeal will likely fall on deaf ears.

Related source: Pioneer Press