Category Archives: Traffic Offenses

Fish Fry DUI

Wisconsin Man Blames DUI on Beer Battered Fish

A Wisconsin man is blaming his latest DUI on a heaping helping of beer battered fish.

John Przybyla, 75, of Friendship earned his 10th DUI on October 12 when officers spotted his truck cross the center line on State Highway 13.

Officers noted that Przybyla smelled of alcohol, so they asked him to step out of the vehicle and preform a field sobriety test. Pryzbyla promptly failed the field sobriety test, but he denied drinking any alcohol that night. Instead, he said his elevated blood alcohol content must have been a result of his recent meal of beer battered fish.

Pryzbyla submitted to a breathalyzer which found that he was operating the vehicle with a BAC of .062. That’s under the standard legal limit, but as you may have guessed, someone who has nine previous DUIs is no longer expected to adhere to regular standards. A condition from a previous conviction said he was not to operate a vehicle with a BAC above .04.

In addition to the charge of driving under the influence, Pryzbyla was hit with a third-offense charge of operating while revoked, and he was cited for having open intoxicants in the vehicle and operating left of the center line.

Fish Fry DUI

For the sake of arguing let’s test Pryzbyla’s theory using some ballpark estimates. For example, let’s say a standard beer batter requires half a can of beer for a batter that covers eight pieces of cod. Let’s also say we’re using a Surly Furious with a 6% ABV.

Now, most of the alcohol would be burned off if the fish were cooked in the oven, but let’s say they are flash fried in oil, and for the sake of arguing, only half of the alcohol burns off, leaving the batter at 3% potency.

The BAC calculator shows that a 200-pound male would need to drink six, three-percent beers in rapid succession to have a .062 blood alcohol content. So lets do the math.

Half a beer = one eight piece cod fry.

One whole beer = Enough batter for 16 pieces.

Six beers worth of fish = 6×16 = 96 pieces of cod in rapid succession, assuming not a drop of the batter goes unconsumed.

Something tells us Pryzbyla came in a few pieces short of 96.

Related source: Channel 3000

Seat Belt Law

Primary Violation Seat Belt Law Saving Lives In Minnesota

Five years ago the Minnesota Legislature made a change to the state’s seat belt law, changing the violation to a primary offense. The change meant that drivers could now be pulled over if an officer spotted someone driving without using a seat belt, even if that was the only traffic law they were breaking. Previously, when it was classified as a secondary offense, an officer could only stop a seat belt-less driver if they committed another driving offense, like speeding or failing to use their turn signal.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety, that law change has saved the lives of over 130 Minnesotans.

Researchers analyzed Minnesota crash records before and after the primary seat belt law went into effect. After comparing the data, researchers believe the law has resulted in:

  • 132 fewer deaths.
  • 434 fewer severe injuries.
  • 1,270 fewer moderate injuries.

In addition to the saved lives and reduced number of injuries, researchers say the law has kept money in Minnesotans’ wallets. They believe the reduced crashes saved people at least $67 million in hospital fees, including $16 million or more of state tax dollars that would have been billed to government insurers.

State officials say more Minnesotans are becoming accepting of the seat belt law becoming a primary violation as well. 62 percent of Minnesotans supported the change when it was passed in 2009, and that number has been climbing ever since. Now, 70 percent of Minnesotans say they support the primary law change.

Not surprisingly, seat belt use is also up in Minnesota. Only 86.7 percent of Minnesotans said they always wore their seat belt in the car in 2008, but that number is up to 94.8 percent as of the most recent survey.

Minnesotans would be wise to buckle up during their holiday travels, and not just because roads may be icy. Over 8,000 Minnesotans were ticketed during October’s annual “Click it or Ticket” campaign, and there’s little reason to believe an officer will let you off with a warning. Don’t let your holiday spending money turn into a costly ticket because you didn’t buckle up this season.

Related source: Minnesota DPS

Grand Theft Auto

Car Thefts Increasing in the Twin Cities

While national car thefts are decreasing, the Twin Cities are bucking the trend as they’ve seen an increase in cases of Grand Theft Auto.

According to police documents there were 841 reported cases of car thefts in St. Paul between August and November of this year, meaning about 210 cars were stolen each month or seven cars a day.

St. Paul police spokesman Paul Paulos said thieves are no longer interested in the allure of a bike. He says they’d rather steal a vehicle.

“The numbers fit the times,” he said. “Why take a bike when you can break into a car, take it, drive it a couple blocks and dump it?”

Crimes of Opportunity

Despite what Hollywood shows us on the big screen, thieves don’t usually McGyver their way into the car and speed away by hotwiring the engine. Instead, most thieves strike because the victim left their doors unlocked and their keys in their car, or worse, they left their car running while making a quick pit stop.

“I was just running in,” said Chase Berndt, whose car was stolen last week. “I didn’t think I need to lock it since I was going to be right back.”

Police told Berndt that older models like the Toyota he was driving are usually sold for parts, and they are rarely recovered intact.

Mark Kulda, vice president of public affairs for the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, said thieves are targeting older vehicles with less theft-protection technologies.

“People think you’re going to steal the really hot-looking car, and that’s not true,” Kulda said. “It’s going to be (the) kinds of cars (that) need parts.”

Apparently thieves really needed parts to Honda Accords, as the 1996 model was the most stolen car in Minnesota in 2012. Kulda also noted that stealing newer cars is no easy task, as many come with a smart key or a fob that need to be in the vehicle for it to start.

Top Cities for Car Thefts

Although Grand Theft Auto crimes have risen in St. Paul, the Twin Cities are still well below the top cities for car thefts. You’re much more likely to have your ride jacked in California, as the state boasts nine of the top 10 cities with the highest auto theft rates.

1. Bakersfield, CA.

2. Fresno, CA.

3. Modesto, CA.

4. San Francisco, CA.

5. Stockton-Lodi, CA.

6. Redding, CA.

7. Spokane, WA.

8. Vellejo-Fairfield, CA.

9. San Jose, CA.

10. Yuba City, CA.

Minneapolis-St. Paul comes is a 131st on the list, with 184 auto thefts per 100,000 people. The Twin Cities reported 6,364 auto thefts in 2013.

Related source: Pioneer Press

wrongful imprisonment

St. Paul Man To Be Compensated for Wrongful Imprisonment

A St. Paul man will become the first to be compensated under a new Minnesota law that pays individuals who are freed after being wrongfully imprisoned.

Koua Fong Lee will become the first person compensated under the state’s new Imprisonment and Exoneration Remedies Act. The law, which went into effect July 1, calls for compensation in the range of $50,000 to $100,000 for each year the person was wrongfully imprisoned. Individuals can also recoup court costs and related expenses.

A three-member panel of attorneys and judges will examine all the necessary factors before determining how much compensation Lee will receive.

Lee served more than two years in prison on charges of criminal vehicular homicide. According to court records, Lee was driving a 1996 Toyota Camry when he rear-ended a car stopped at a red light at an intersection off an Interstate 94 exit ramp. Three people died in the crash, and Lee was sentenced to eight years in prison, despite the court hearing testimony that Lee yelled, “The brakes aren’t working!” prior to the crash.

Toyota Recall

After sentencing, friends, family and the Minnesota Innocence Project set out to prove that Lee was telling the truth. While they were researching his case, Toyota released information about a defect in some of its models that caused “sudden unintended acceleration.” This defect caused some accelerator pedals to become stuck.

Toyota issued a recall of more than 4 million vehicles to correct the issue in 2009. The 1996 Camry was one of the vehicles covered in the recall.

The new information provided reasonable doubt that Lee was not at fault for the accident, and his conviction was overturned. He’ll likely receive a six-figure compensation for his time spent behind bars.

Julie Jonas, an attorney with the Minnesota Innocence Project, said the new law can help people put their life back together after a wrongful conviction.

“I think it’s a way of giving people something for the years that they lost in prison,” said Jonas. “Money can’t fix everything, but it’s a starting point, and it can help.”

Lee and the survivors of the crash are also taking Toyota to court. A tentative trial date has been set for January 7 in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

Related source: Pioneer Press, Bring Me The News

Minnesota DUI

Minnesota Counties With The Most DUIs

As you may have seen on your Thanksgiving travels, police officers are out in full force to catch drunk drivers. This five-day stretch is the most dangerous time on Minnesota roads, so make good decisions when it comes to getting around this holiday.

That point can’t be stressed enough if you’re living or traveling through one of these 25 Minnesota counties with the most drunk drivers. Check out the most dangerous Minnesota counties for DUIs in this infographic from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Minnesota DUIS

The Most Dangerous Minnesota Counties

As you can see, counties in the Twin Cities metro area make up most of the most dangerous counties. The list below shows the 10 counties with the most drunk driving deaths and injuries between 2011 and 2013

1. Hennepin County – 169

2. Anoka County – 58

3. Ramsey County – 52

4. St. Louis County – 51

5. Dakota County – 40

6. Stearns County – 36

7. Otter Tail County – 32

8. Olmsted County – 30

9. Itasca County – 25

10. Scott County – 25

For more information on the list, including the economic impact of drunk driving on each county, click here.

Not surprisingly all 25 counties in the infographic will add extra DUI patrols through the holiday weekend and into December. Please, don’t drink and drive. If you do end up in a sticky situation, we can help get you out of jail on the same night. Give us a call at (952) 224-2277.

Related source: Minnesota Department of Safety

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

 

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

Green Line

So Far, So Good: Green Line Hasn’t Increased Crime

Despite concerns the new Green Line light rail may bring more crime to the area, University officials and Metro police say that hasn’t been the case in the five months since the transit system opened.

Metro Transit police Capt. Jim Franklin said crime rates have remained steady on campus and in the area along the Green Line.

“I don’t see an uptick in crime on the University campus that directly correlates with the light rail,” said Franklin.

Franklin noted that while many along the Green Line were excited about its mid-June opening, some feared the rail would attract a few seedy characters. A study conducted by the University of Minnesota did little to quell their concern, as a survey of community members near the Blue Line found that they too associated the light rail with an uptick in crime, even if the data doesn’t support their sentiment.

University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner did note a particular instance in late August in which two suspects used the light rail to flee after a robbery, but surveillance equipment near the station and on the rail helped identify the perpetrators. They were identified and arrested shortly thereafter.

Campus Opinion

Ross Allanson, director of the University’s Parking and Transportation Services said the overall sentiment among students hasn’t changed much with the opening of the Green Line.

“My feeling is that there’s been not a net negative or a net positive regarding crime on campus,” said Allanson.

Franklin added that transit use numbers around the campus area show that students are comfortable riding the light rail, offering a speedy option without the need to walk alone at night.

“I think what you’re finding is that students are embracing the light rail rather than fearing it,” Franklin said, “and we’re seeing that in our ridership numbers.”

Avery Appelman comments

The Green Line appears to be off to a great start in its first five months, and I haven’t heard any major stories about riders being victimized or assaulted. It seems like drivers or pedestrians crossing the light rail have had the most to fear since its inception.

The one thing I will caution riders about – and this goes for anyone in a downtown metropolis or on public transportation – is to mind your belongings, particularly your phone and purse. They can be easy targets for a thief who wants to grab and dash.

That’s not saying you shouldn’t check your phone or pound out a few Candy Crush levels while you’re waiting for your stop, but be cognizant of your surroundings. If someone is hovering a little too close to your personal space, secure your belongings and move to another location if possible. Stay near other passengers and if transit police board your car, it doesn’t hurt to mention the suspicious behavior.

Related source: MN Daily