Category Archives: Juvenile Justice

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

Scholarship Entry 2

ALF Scholarship Essay #2 – David Stoddard

We’re currently in the process of narrowing down finalists for the $1,000 Appelman Law Firm Scholarship, and we thought it would be a great idea to share some of the best essay submissions we’ve received on our blog. As part of the application process, entrants were asked if they would allow their story to be shared on our blog, and if so, how they would like to be attributed. Today’s essay comes from David Stoddard.


In high school, my friends and I would occasionally drive 30 minutes south to a pond in Salem, Utah to go swimming. This pond has a large bridge that spans one of its widest points. We would climb on the rail of the bridge and jump 40 feet into the cold waters below. Being mischievous teenage boys, we loved the rush that we felt on two separate levels. First, we loved the feeling of crisp waters quickly engulfing our bodies. Second, we knew this activity was not allowed, as there were signs posted stating “No Trespassing,” thus adding to the excitement of the act.

Due to the imminent risk of being caught, each time we drove to Salem we would only do a few jumps before returning to our vehicles to quickly exit the premises. One warm summer night, we decided we would go around midnight and do as many jumps as we could, in order to get the most thrilling return on our investment of driving time. This time, we planned it well and invited as many of our friends as would like to participate. One of our friends invited his female cousin who subsequently invited a couple of her friends as well. Needless to say, the group ended up being much larger than we had initially anticipated.

The night came, and three cars full of teenagers ventured sneakily down to Salem Pond. We tiptoed over to the bridge and began our plunges into the dark waters below. As one may imagine, a large group of teenagers comprising both genders plunging into brisk waters in the shadows of moonlight is not a quiet activity. Within about fifteen minutes, flashing lights of red and blue came racing around the nearest bend. What is the one thing a bunch of seventeen and eighteen year olds are thinking when they know they are about to be caught? Run! And that is exactly what we did, scattering in every possible direction. The next hour was comprised of hiding in bushes and lurking in shadows as we watched officers hunt each nook and crevice with their flashlights. After about an hour, we were all caught.

With the kindness and compassion of the officers, we were only officially charged with one offence. Having ran for so long and trespassed, we know that our punishments could have been much worse. Because some members of our group were seventeen years old, those of us who were eighteen received Class B misdemeanors for ‘Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.’ On September 21, 2006, those of us who were eighteen appeared before Judge Howard Maetani for our arraignment. We did a plea in abeyance. We each paid a one hundred dollar fine and had six months of probation. At the completion of six months, the charge was dismissed.

Since this run-in with the law, I have stayed out of any other sort of trouble. This experience, although unfortunate to have happened, has helped me gain a frontline view of the legal system coming to life in a way that I never would have been able to see otherwise. I have always been fascinated by law and the criminal defense system. Had I not gone through this short-lived trial, I would not be able to appreciate what criminal defense is all about. The counsel that we were assigned was very helpful to explain the ramifications of our plea and the punishment to follow.

Furthermore, as I am now approaching law school, I want to be sure I have a clean record going forward. To facilitate this venture, in February I began the process of expunging this offense on my own. I contemplated hiring an attorney to help me through the paperwork and filing technicalities but ultimately decided to pursue it independently. This was the best decision I could have made! I love learning by doing. Going through the appropriate channels of getting my certificate of eligibility, followed by serving the prosecutor, and the petition to expunge has taught me a great deal about how the legal system works. I am now in the ninety-day waiting period before the judge issues the order to expunge. This whole experience has taught me a great deal and has further solidified my excitement to start law school in August.

As an attorney, I would love to help those who have walked through my same footsteps. I know everyone makes mistakes, and it would be my honor and privilege to help others feel comfortable through the sometimes confusing legal system. Having been here before and known the overwhelming feeling that can come with a criminal charge, I know how great it feels to be given quality counsel. I want to pay it forward and be the one to give that counsel. It is my hope and prayer that obtaining my legal education will help facilitate that ambition.

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

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

Minnesota Gun Laws

Minneapolis Police Outline Summer Crackdown on Gun Crime

Minneapolis police have outlined a plan to cut down on gun violence this summer on the city’s north side.

The decision to amp up patrols along the city’s north side was made after crime data revealed a surge in gun related incidents. There were 1,442 gun incidents in Minneapolis in 2013, up eight percent from 2012 and the highest figure since 2008.

 Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said the goal is to strengthen the relationship between police officers and community members in the city’s north side.

“It’s about commitment and synergy; this is just the beginning,” Harteau said.

Patrol, Patrol, Patrol

In hopes of cutting down on gun crime, law enforcement officials have created a three-pronged patrol approach. It involves:

  • Joint Enforcement Team patrols with other law enforcement agencies
  • Increased foot and bike patrols
  • Civilian Patrols

The JET patrols are designed to help more officers get acquainted with the neighborhood, while officials hope the civilian patrols foster the idea that everyone in the community is responsible for eliminating gun violence.

V.J. Smith, president of MAD DADS, said the first civilian patrol was a success.

“We took a group of young men out with us that were formerly in gangs,” Smith said. “What we want to do is not to only patrol but to show them what it’s like to give back.”

Authorities also noted that they plan to aggressively prosecute gun crimes in federal court, meaning it’s even more important for individuals to retain counsel in the event they are charged with a crime.

Gun Crime Penalties in Minneapolis

Gun crime penalties in Minnesota carry stiff penalties, and a person can face a mandatory minimum sentence if they commit a crime while in possession of a gun. Even possessing a gun is illegal if the carrier doesn’t have a permit for the weapon.

A person may apply for a permit to carry a weapon unless:

  • They have a prior conviction that makes gun possession illegal.
  • They have a juvenile delinquency adjudication for violation of a criminal statute.
  • They have a history of mental illness or chemical dependency.

A person who is found guilty of possessing a gun without a permit in Minnesota has committed a gross misdemeanor and can be sentenced to up to a year in jail and/or a fine up to $3,000. Any additional crimes committed while in possession of the gun can aggravate the charge, meaning you could spend years in prison for your actions.

Related source: Albert Lea Tribune

Law internship

Concluding My Internship at Appelman Law Firm

The following piece was written by David Hoffman, a local high school student who has been shadowing Avery Appelman to get a better understanding of the daily trails and tribulations of a criminal defense attorney. Today he wraps up his experience in a farewell blog post.

You are repeatedly asked one question throughout your childhood and into your years as high school student, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a question that resonates with you until you find a calling.

For me, I always wanted to play in the NBA, but like most with dreams of becoming a professional athlete, it doesn’t appear that it’s going to work out. There’s not much room for a 5’6” guard on an NBA roster.

Upon the realization that I won’t have my own shoe deal by the time I turn 21, I’ve turned my attention to more realistic goals. I’ve always had an interest in helping others, so naturally I’ve developed a passion for law and medicine. At this point in my life I’ve decided that I want to become a doctor or an attorney, and I know the road will be long and hard.

Real World Experience

Teachers do their best to prepare their students for life in the “real world,” but nothing compares to hands-on experience. While my Human Anatomy class has given my a closer look at the rigors of surgery (Thanks dissection lab!), it couldn’t compare to the internship I took at Appelman Law Firm in terms of giving me a glimpse into the life of a professional.

Interning at the Appelman Law Firm has given me a better understanding of what it would take, not only to become, but to succeed, as a professional in the legal community. The life of an attorney isn’t your typical 9-5, 40-hour a week job. Attorneys are on call 24-7, 365, because people don’t just get arrested during normal business hours. Attorneys are ready to help someone at a moment’s notice.

Also, I’ve seen a lot of the behind  the scenes work that goes on day to day. From calls to clients to trips down to the Hennepin County Courthouse, I’ve learned that the life of a lawyer is more than just yelling “objection” at an overzealous prosecutor.

I could see myself one day defending people in our community at a law firm like this one. I have come to realize what my strengths are and what my weaknesses are by having the opportunity to intern at Appelman Law Firm.  Avery, Geoff, and Mel have challenged me to strive for success and have taught me more about being a lawyer than I could ever learn in a book. I want to thank them for allowing me to have this opportunity to watch them at their craft, and I’d also like to thank Jenny and Rosanna, who helped prove that it takes a team of legal experts to get the best result.


David Hoffman

Cold Water Challenge

Cold Water Challenge Ends In Police Citation

A 19-year-old from Coon Rapids has been hit with a misdemeanor charge for jumping off a bridge while participating in the Cold Water Challenge.

Joseph Mark Sanislo faces one count of disorderly conduct for jumping of the Minnesota 610 bridge in Brooklyn Park late last week. Hennepin County Sheriff Rick Stanek said the teen’s plunge wasted valuable emergency services.

“This individual engaged in risky behavior that put both his life and the lives of first responders in jeopardy. I strongly advise against participating in attention seeking stunts that waste valuable resources,” Stanek said.

 Under Minnesota law, a person can be charged with disorderly conduct for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Disturbing the peace
  • Loitering
  • Obstructing traffic
  • Unreasonable loud noise

It’s reasonable to assume that authorities wanted to send a message to other teens thinking about taking the polar plunge. Parents and school administrators have been cautioning students about participating in the challenge after a Carver County teen died while doing the jump by himself.

Criminal defense attorney Avery Appelman said he believes the Hennepin County sheriff’s office was simply trying to send a message, but the disorderly conduct charge seems unnecessary.

“It makes sense that authorities want to protect children who may partake in the Cold Water Challenge in an unsafe manner, but unless this kid did the jump in his birthday suit, I doubt he caused much of a disturbance,” said Appelman.

For those who are unfamiliar with the fad, the Cold Water Challenge began as a way to raise money for charity. Participants nominate three friends to jump in a cold body of water within 24-48 hours. If the nominees don’t want to jump in the water, they are supposed to donate money to the charity of their choice. If they decide to jump in the lake, they then get to nominate three friends of their own. The fad’s original message was designed to show that people would rather jump in a cold lake than donate to charity, in hopes that this realization would help spur donations to charities in need, but it has evolved into a game where friends attempt to one-up each other by jumping into colder lakes or from higher heights.

It’s uncertain is Sanislo plans to contest the charge.

Related source: MyFoxTwinCities

Phillip Nelson

Former Gophers Quarterback Nelson Charged With Assault

Former Minnesota Gophers quarterback Phillip Nelson has been charged with one count of first-degree assault and one count of third-degree assault following an altercation outside a Mankato bar.

Police allege that Nelson, who transferred to Rutgers University this offseason,  kicked 24-year-old Isaac Kolstad in the head while he was lying on the ground after being knocked down by an unidentified individual. Kolstad, a former Minnesota State-Mankato linebacker, was hospitalized in critical condition after the altercation. His father said Issac continues to fight for his life Tuesday.

“He is currently in critical condition and fighting for his life,” Blaine Kolstad wrote on “He is young and strong, but the battle he has in front of him is enormous. … We do know that his brain did sustain permanent damage. We do not yet know to what extent and won’t for many days. He is very sick. Please pray for Isaac and all of those involved.”

Nelson’s Role

Police are still trying to collect statements from potential witnesses, but there seems to be some disagreement about Nelson’s role in the fight. A police sergeant who watched video surveillance of the incident said Kolstad started the fight by punching Nelson in the back. Kolstad was later suckerpunched by an unidentified individual, and that’s when police allege that Nelson took things too far.

“Nelson pushes past others, approaches I.K. and delivers at least one kick to the left side of I.K.’s head,” the police complaint reads. “Sergeant Knutson noted that the video clearly shows that I.K. was defenseless as Nelson delivers the kick or kicks to the head.”

Despite the video evidence, Nelson’s attorney said it was the unidentified individual who threw the devastating blow that caused Kolstad’s injuries, and his client only acted after being hit.

Nelson “was not an aggressor in this situation,” said attorney Jim Fleming.

Court Appearance

Nelson appeared in court Monday for his initial appearance in an orange jumpsuit with handcuffs on his wrists and chains on his ankles. He posted bail and was released from the Blue Earth County Jail on Monday night.

If found guilty, Nelson could face up to 20 years in prison and $20,000 in fines on the first-degree assault charge. Nelson could face even stiffer punishments if Kolstad succumbs to his injuries

Police are seeking the public’s health in identifying the person in the white shirt seen running across the street in the video below. Contact a local police department if you have any information about the suspect or the incident.

Related source: ESPN