Minnesota To Crackdown on Texting While Driving April 11-20

Thursday, 3. April 2014

Texting While DrivingThe Minnesota State Patrol will be adding extra patrols April 11-20 in an effort to cut down on the number of distracted drivers across the state.

Current traffic data suggests that one in four automobile accidents is caused by a distracted driver, but authorities believe that number is actually much higher as it’s often difficult to prove that a driver was texting, eating or looking away from the road at the time of the crash. Traffic data shows that 350 Minnesotans are seriously injured and 70 lose their lives on the road each year because of careless driving.

Regional Public Information Officer Sgt. Curt Mowers said the added patrols will last for 10 days in an effort to curb dangerous driving habits.

“We have to continue working together to create a traffic safety culture in Minnesota, and one way to do that is to get everyone to take personal responsibility for their own actions behind the wheel,” said Mowers.

Emphasis on Texting

This month’s distracted driving patrol will place an extra emphasis on stopping drivers who are texting while driving. Texting behind the wheel is a problem for drivers of all ages, and state law currently prohibits the behavior.

If you are caught texting behind the wheel, you will likely be issued a Careless Driving citation. A Careless Driving ticket is a misdemeanor in the state of Minnesota, and is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $1,000. According to the Minnesota Judicial website, a first time offender can expect a ticket for $178, but that number is flexible.

Related source: Brainerd Disptach

The March Madness DUI Bracket

Thursday, 20. March 2014

March Madness tips off later today, and millions of people around the world are scrambling to fill out their brackets. What’s great about filling out a bracket is that everyone has their own unique way of making picks. Some people put hours of research into each matchup, while others simply choose the team with the coolest mascot.

Since there’s no wrong way to fill out a bracket, we thought it would be interesting to see how the bracket would look if we made our picks based on a unique set of rules that pertained to our industry – Criminal Law. Since a lot of our cases involve DUI charges, and because DWI statistics are relatively easy to obtain, we decided to fill out a bracket by picking the team that resides in the state with the higher number of DUIs per capita.

**Note** In the event the schools play in the same state, the school that was ranked higher on the 2010 Most Dangerous Colleges list advanced.

Behold, the March Madness DUI Bracket:

Appelman Law Firm DUI Bracket

Fun Facts About the Bracket

  • Although a #1 seed has never beaten a #16 seed in the actual tournament, Cal Poly knocked of Wichita State in this bracket.
  • In a matchup of DUI per capita powerhouses, the University of Nebraska met Creighton (also located in Nebraska) in Round 2, but Creighton snuck by on account that they are ranked as the #286 most dangerous campus. The University of Nebraska came in at #340.
  • Nebraska had 0.74 DUI arrests per capita, which is the fifth highest in the nation. If Creighton had faced any teams from Wyoming (1.26), Alaska (0.77), Idaho (0.75), or South Dakota (0.75), they would have lost, but no teams from those four states made the field of 64.

Related source:

Extra DUI Patrols Planned For St. Patrick’s Day Weekend in Twin Cities

Friday, 14. March 2014

St. Patrick's Day DUI PatrolsThe Minnesota State Patrol announced that are adding extra DUI patrols in the Twin Cities to combat drunk driving during the long St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

Donna Berger, director of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (DPS/OTS), said the extra enforcement is necessary, especially during a four-day holiday celebration.

“Long-weekend holiday celebrations can make for a potentially dangerous situation on our roads,” said Berger. “Be smart, keep safe and plan ahead for a sober ride if you plan on drinking.”

St. Patty’s Day DUIs

The Minnesota State Patrol hopes the public heeds their warning about added DUI patrols. Although they’ve made similar announcements in the past, the number of Minnesota motorists arrested for DWI on St. Patrick’s Day has risen every year since 2009.

  • 2009 – 218 arrests
  • 2010 – 225 arrests
  • 2011 – 289 arrests
  • 2012 – 346 arrests
  • 2013 – 375 arrests

When you add it all up, 1,453 Minnesotans have been arrested for driving under the influence on St. Patrick’s Day over the last five years, and that doesn’t even factor in the arrests that occur during the holiday weekend. The State Patrol believes the increase in arrests over the last two years were influenced by the fact that St. Patty’s Day fell on a Saturday and Sunday, but that’s still no excuse for drinking and driving.

Plan Ahead

We’ve mentioned this in the past, but we’ll just give the abbreviated version here. Planning a safe ride home is the best way to avoid a DUI. Here are some safe ways to get home after a night on the town.

1. Take the bus or light rail

2. Hail a 10-10 taxi

3. Walk home if you live close enough

4. Have a designated driver

If the worse case scenario occurs and you end up getting arrested for driving under the influence, invoke your right to an attorney. They will be able to provide the best advice based on your situation.

Have a safe and fun holiday!

What Are My Rights After A Police Pat Down?

Friday, 21. February 2014

3259606_xlEarlier this week, I shared a story about the unconstitutional strip searches being conducted by law enforcement officials in Georgia. The story led one reader to pose the following question:

Can a person refuse to be searched further if the initial pat down reveals nothing? – Dave F.

I’ll answer the question to the best of my abilities, but be advised that each situation is unique and should be treated as such.

Police Conduct

The best answer I can give you is that ultimately the police conduct will be reviewed (either by a criminal court, if the cops find something; or by a civil court, if the arrestee sues the police for violating their constitutional rights). A person does not have the right to resist law enforcement carrying out their duties, and there are crimes you may be charged with if you were to physically refuse (i.e., Obstruction of Legal Process under Minn. Stat. sect. 609.50).

Now, what the State [and I'll admit - formerly, I as a prosecutor] is remiss in remembering upon occasion, whether due to overconfidence or inexperience, is that when they charge a crime they must prove that crime occurred by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That proof must be made to a jury of the accused’s peers. It is not the defendant which is on trial – he/she doesn’t have to prove a damn thing, he has the ”presumption of innocence” – it is the State which is on trial and which must prove everything alleged.

When you have law enforcement who have been deficient and cavalier in discharging their duty, enforced at the end of a barrel of a gun, there emerges a problem with the officer’s perspective, their comprehension of their duties, and ultimately with their credibility. Juries can and are unforgiving for poorly executed obligations by law enforcement – especially when the entirety of the charge (e.g., Obstructing Legal Process) relies upon the credibility of the officer.

Police must be able to objectively articulate the basis for their seizure and search, and failing that – a citizen could have a legal claim against that officer, or at least a professional complaint to be directed to the Office of Police Conduct Review Minneapolis -; St. Paul – Depending on the egregiousness of the conduct, an arrestee could have a civil suit against the officer for violation of a civil right.

Free of Unreasonable Searches

A person has the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures in their “persons, houses, papers, and effects.” A search of these areas requires a Warrant (i.e., a specific person/place/effect which law enforcement has a substantial belief is or contains evidence of a crime; this document is then reviewed and authorized by a neutral magistrate [judge]), or an exception to the Warrant requirement.

The Supreme Court’s test for determining these places of privacy - which can expect Warrant protection – include any area such that:

A person manifests a subjective expectation of privacy, which society is prepared to recognize as reasonable.

This includes a person’s home and their body - but both of those are also subject to the measure of ”reasonableness” (i.e., “unreasonable search and seizure”).


There are several exceptions to the Warrant requirement, such as: search incident to arrest; hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect; consent to the search; motor vehicle exception (i.e., the police only need probable cause to search a vehicle and don’t have to get a warrant); inventory exception; medical emergency exception; exigency exception (i.e., evidence may be destroyed during time to get a Warrant); plain-view exception; and a few others I won’t list. If evidence is seized without a Warrant, and no exception exists to justify the seizure, that evidence must be suppressed.

I won’t go further, but that last sentence - ”evidence must be suppressed” – has been the subject of other commentary I’ve made about the importance of a judiciary which upholds the law and doesn’t further its erosion through systemic disenchantment, acquiescence, and contrary convictions.

McGruff the Crime Dog to Serve 16 Years for Pot, Weapons Charges

Tuesday, 18. February 2014

McGruff the Crime DogeJohn R. Morales, better known for his portrayal of McGruff the Crime Dog, was sentenced to 16 years in prison earlier this month after authorities seized 1,000 marijuana plants, 9,000 rounds of ammunition, 26 weapons and a grenade launcher from his Texas residence. 

The “ruff” ordeal began when Morales was picked up for speeding back in 2011. During the traffic stop, authorities found diagrams for two grow houses and marijuana seeds in the trunk of his car. Shortly after he was arrested, law enforcement officials raided his home, which uncovered the stash of plants, weapons and ammunition. Also discovered during the raid was a fully functioning grenade launcher. He pled guilty to charges during a February 3 court appearance and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Ironically, Morales spent a good portion of his life advocating against crime as McGruff the Crime Dog, a costumed mascot that visited schools to spread awareness about crime. McGruff’s tagline “Take a bite out of crime,” became a popular slogan during the anti-crime campaign that began in the early 1980’s.

Mel Welch comments

This is quite the ironic twist. A man who championed the anti-crime cause goes to jail with quite the stockpile of illegal substances at his residence. The weapons and marijuana didn’t help his cause, and certainly the high court looked down upon the discovery of a grenade launcher. It doesn’t appear that authorities found any explosive devices while searching his residence, which only would have lengthened his already extended sentence.

Morales could have benefited from the old adage, “practice what you preach.”

Related source: CBS Houston

Failing To Clean Car Windshield Can Result in a Traffic Ticket

Wednesday, 12. February 2014

Example of a Peephole DriverArea high school students have teamed up with local law enforcement to spread awareness of an issue that has been plaguing high school parking lots and busy streets – Driving without cleaning off the snow from all car windows. 

Students at Prior Lake High School are working with the Prior Lake Police to inform the public that it’s illegal to drive with obstructed windows. Students say they often see classmates who only clean off their front windshield or just enough to see, but that can be problematic if they can only see what’s ahead of them.

“Driving in the parking lot, you see a lot of cars that still have the snow and ice on the vehicle,” said Prior Lake Senior Emily Gulstad. “In such a busy area, it’s really dangerous to have all that snow.”

It makes sense that “peephole driving” is on the rise this winter, as the temperatures have been unreasonably cold. When the temperature drops, people want to get back in their idling car as quick as possible to warm up. Failing to fully clear all your windows can be costly, though. Not only are you more likely to get in an accident if your side and rearview windows are laced with snow, but you run the risk of being pulled over for driving with obscured vision, a citation that carries a monetary penalty of $130.

Lt. Randy Hofstad is working with the high school students to spread awareness as his department has seen an uptick in winter driving accidents.

“We are seeing a lot more incidents where cars are traveling without cleaning off their windshields and front windows prior to hitting the road.”

Hofstad added that pedestrian vehicle was involved in an accident with a police car last month because the civilian failed to clean their windows properly.

“I don’t know if they necessarily don’t know or if they’re just in a hurry to get going,” Holstad said of the accident.

Attorney Geoff Saltzstein echoed Holstad’s sentiments.

“People often think they can save a few minutes or a few pennies by getting in their car quickly, as they don’t want to take the time to fully clean their windows or let their car idol too long,” said Saltzstein. “But trying to save two minutes or 25 cents can backfire if you end up sideswiping the vehicle next to you because you couldn’t see them.”

Related source: CBS Minnesota

Driving Without A License Is A Huge Problem In Minnesota

Thursday, 6. February 2014

Suspended LicenseIt probably shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider that one in seven Minnesotans has a DUI on their record, but new traffic data from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety reveals that one in eight Minnesota drivers does not have a valid driver’s license. 

Citations and traffic violations involving individuals without a valid license are becoming more common across the state and in the Twin Cities metro area. You probably remember hearing about Marion Guerrido, the woman in St. Louis Park who crashed her car into a pond last November, killing two of the five children in her car. Guerrido did not have a valid driver’s license, and although authorities are still investigating the cause of the accident, she yet to be charged with a crime.

Police are obviously concerned with determining what caused Guerrido to plunge her vehicle into the lake, but it’s clear she never should have been driving in the first place. But if you think Guerrido is one of just a handful of individuals who get behind the wheel without a valid driver’s license, you’re mistaken. State police records show that since 2008, nearly 310,000 people have been convicted for violations related to driving without a license. These violations include:

  • Driving while suspended
  • Driving with a revoked, cancelled or disqualified license
  • Driving without a license
  • Learner’s permit violations

The number or citations for driving without a valid license are staggering. A closer look at the numbers reveal that roughly 50,000 Minnesotans are cited every year for invalid license violations – which equates to one citation every 10 minutes.

With that many invalid drivers on the road, Minnesota State Trooper Jarod Moris said people need to be cognizant of everything that’s going on around them while they are driving.

“It means that there’s a small percentage of people out there who are disregarding the safety of everyone else who’s doing the right thing and for the people who are doing the right thing, I would recommend paying attention to whatever everyone else is doing as much as you’re paying attention to what you’re doing,” said Moris.

Possible Penalties

Driving without a valid license is a costly ticket that also makes it harder to obtain a driver’s license. If you’re caught driving with a suspended or revoked license, you may have to wait an additional six months to a year before you can apply to have it reinstated. As you might have guessed, there are fees associated with applying to have your license reinstated, not to mention the money you’ll forfeit for the initial citation.

Below, you can see the expected fine amount for a first offense of common invalid license offenses:

Driving with no valid license – $178

Driving while suspended, revoked, or cancelled – $278

Learner’s permit violation – $178

These fines only increase with multiple offenses, so don’t compound the problem by continuing to drive with an invalid license.

Related source: KARE 11

Car Theft Victim Sees Vehicle Drive By While Talking To Police

Friday, 20. December 2013

Car TheftA St. Paul man was describing his stolen vehicle to a pair of police officers when he noticed a strikingly similar car drive by.

“That’s my car right there,” the victim said, while pointing at the passing vehicle.

The officers quickly hopped in their vehicle and sped after the suspect. After giving chase for a few blocks, authorities were able to get the driver to pull over.

As they approached the vehicle, the officers noticed the license plate matched the description provided to them by the victim just minutes ago.

The officers asked Matthew Thao, 30, why he was driving a vehicle that had been reported stolen. He said he “got the car from a friend of his brother-in-law, who got the car from down the street.”

Thao conveniently added that he did not know the friend’s name, and wasn’t aware that:

  • The car had been punched; It had been started forcefully using an object other than a key to trigger the ignition; and
  • A broken anti-theft device sat in the passenger’s seat.

Not surprisingly, authorities didn’t buy Thao’s story, and he was quickly arrested. He was released from jail two days later after he was formally charged in Ramsey County District Court.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Buddy The Elf Arrested For Driving Drunk

Tuesday, 17. December 2013

Buddy the ElfIt looks like Buddy the Elf may soon be joining Walter Hobbs on the naughty list this Christmas.

Over the weekend, a Louisiana man dressed as Buddy the Elf from the Will Ferrell comedy Elf was arrested for driving under the influence.

According to the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, Brandon Touchet, 34, was pulled over by an officer around 3 a.m. Sunday morning. Along with noticing his bright green jumpsuit, the officer reported that Touchet smelled of alcohol and had trouble standing and speaking.

Touchet submitted to a chemical test that revealed he was operating the vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of .124, one-and-a-half times the legal limit of 0.08.

Touchet was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and driving at an excessive speed. He was freed on $1,500 bond.

It’s uncertain if Touchet plans to fight the charges, but it’s possible that he could argue that he confused alcohol for maple syrup. It sure confused Buddy the Elf.

Speaking of naughty behavior during the holidays, check out our previous post on the top Santa arrest videos of all-time!

Related sources: Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, New York Daily News

Three Common Arrests That Occur On Halloween

Wednesday, 30. October 2013

Halloween arrestHalloween is tomorrow, which means in roughly 24 hours the streets and sidewalks will be filled with ghosts, goblins, and the occasional twerking Miley Cyrus. We always take on a few extra clients around Halloween, so we thought we’d talk about three common calls we receive each year on or around Halloween.

Traffic Violations

Once in a while the cops will give you the benefit of the doubt for speeding or rolling a stop sign, but don’t expect that courtesy on Halloween. Hundreds of kids will be roaming your neighborhood in search of sugary snacks, and they don’t always stick to the sidewalk. If you’re speeding or simply not paying attention, you could hit a child that decided he wanted to quickly get to the big house across the street. Obey the posted speed limit, pay attention to the road and the surroundings, and make sure people are out of the crosswalk before you make a turn.

For parents who will be Trick or Treating with their child, hopefully you’ve convinced them to wear a bright costume. If not, consider attaching some reflective tape to the backside of their costume to help drivers spot your child from a distance. Flashlights also help make your presence known.


Legend says spirits can roam the night on Halloween, and that sentiment also holds true for mischievous teens. Whether it’s toilet-papering a neighbor’s tree or smashing some porch step pumpkins, we always get a handful of calls from parents who have questions about their son or daughter’s vandalism citation. Depending on the severity of the act, vandals can face up to five years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines.

If your teen wants to go out on Halloween dressed in all black, talk to them about the potential consequences of their actions. They might see it as a harmless joke, but the victim is never left laughing.


Ghosts aren’t the only spirits that are popular on Halloween. If you’re planning on going to an adult Halloween party, make sure you have a plan to get home safe. Talk to your group about who will be the designated driver, or make plans to get around using public transportation. Cops were out in full force last weekend looking for impaired drivers, and you can bet that they’ll be on the lookout on October 31.

If your teen is planning on going to a friend’s house for a Halloween party, talk to them about the consequences of underage drinking. We know how hard it can be to say “no” in the face of peer pressure, so be honest with them about your expectations. Remind them that absolute sobriety means that they cannot drive a vehicle if they’ve consumed any alcohol. Let them know that if they make a poor decision, it’s better to call their parents than to compound the problem by trying to hide it and drive home. Don’t let a bad decision haunt them for the rest of their life.

If you experience any trouble on Halloween, don’t be afraid to give us a call at (952) 224-2277.


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The attorneys of Appelman Law Firm, LLC provide criminal defense representation for their clients involved in DUI / DWI, Drug, Assault, Sex Crime, Juvenile, Misdemeanor, and Felony cases in the following Minnesota cities and counties: the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Bloomington, Richfield, Brooklyn Park, Maple Grove, Anoka, Coon Rapids, Fridley, Blaine, Roseville, Maplewood, Woodbury, Eagan, Burnsville, Savage, Prior Lake, Chaska, Chanhassen, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, St. Louis Park, Edina, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Anoka County, Dakota County, Washington County, Carver County, and Scott County. Attorney Advertising. This web site is designed for general information only.