Category Archives: Traffic Offenses

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

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

Michael Phelps DUI

Michael Phelps Arrested For Second DUI

Michael Phelps was arrested early Tuesday morning for driving under the influence, according to a report by TMZ.

Although details are minimal and an investigation is underway, TMZ has reported that the swimming star was stopped in his Land Rover at approximately 1:40 a.m. this morning. Authorities recently issued a report saying Phelps was initially stopped for driving 84 mph in a 45 mile per hour zone. Phelps’ mannerisms during the traffic stop led authorities to believe he was under the influence.

No official report has surfaced, but TMZ is citing an anonymous source claiming that Phelps failed a subsequent field sobriety test. They also claim that Phelps blew nearly double the legal limit on a Breathalyzer test.

Phelps was eventually charged with driving under the influence and driving at an excessive speed. He was released after being booked.

Second DUI

This wasn’t the first time the Olympic champion got behind the wheel after a night on the town. Phelps was arrested back in 2004 when he was 19 for driving under the influence.

In that case, Phelps struck a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid jail time. He was sentenced to 18 months of probation for his initial DUI, but there’s certainly a possibility he’ll head to the slammer for a second DUI.

Luckily for Phelps, his second DUI arrest comes 10 years after his first arrest. Under Maryland law, for a DUI to be considered a second offense, it must come within five years of the first violation. That said, the judge is unlikely to take it easy on Phelps since he’s already been booked for a DUI. Under Maryland law, Phelps faces the possibility of:

  • Up to one year in jail.
  • A fine of up to $1,000.
  • A six-month license suspension.
  • Extended probation.

We’ll keep tabs on the developing situation as more details emerge.

Related source: TMZ, ESPN

DUI Football players

DUI is the Most Common Crime Committed by NFL Players

A comprehensive look at the crimes committed by NFL players since 2000 reveals that drunk driving is the most commonly committed crime.

Last week we touched on the fact that your very own Minnesota Vikings have been the most arrested team since 2004, but now we’re taking a look at which crimes are most commonly committed. According to USA Today, more than a quarter of all NFL player arrests are for driving under the influence. 202 of the 713 reported arrests since 2000 have been for drunk driving.

Here are some more statistics from the USA Today database:

  • The second most common crime is assault and battery. 88 of the 713 arrests – 12.3 percent – have been for assault or battery.
  • Domestic violence crimes are the third most popular crime. 85 of the 713 arrests – 11.9 percent – were for situations of domestic violence.
  • Despite recent events, on average, only 1 in 40 players are arrested in a given year.
  • The arrest rate for NFL players is far lower than the national arrest rate for 25-29-year-old males.
  • 38 players have been arrested so far this year. 57 players were arrested in 2013.
  • 67 players were arrested in 2006, the most in a given year.

Vikings players hold the dubious distinction of being arrested the most since 2004. 44 players have been arrested since then, which is double the league average of 22 arrests since 2000.

Related source: NY Daily News, USA Today

Texting and Driving

New Police Technology Can Identify Texting Drivers

Inattentive driving is cited as the cause in 1 in 4 auto accidents, but those who track the data suggest that distracted drivers likely cause more than 25 percent of accidents. One of the biggest distractions is the driver’s cell phone, and some states have passed legislation that prevents their use while driving, but that doesn’t stop motorists from eyeing their phone every time they receive a text.

Combating texting and driving is difficult, as it’s tough for a cop to prove a driver was looking at his phone, especially if the driver knows his rights. But that may soon change, as engineers are creating a new sensor-type gun that can detect if a driver if texting while driving.

How It Works

The sensor guns are still in development, but they work by searching for voice, text and data frequencies that are emitted by cell phones while in use. That means if a police officer points the gun at your vehicle and picks up a text message frequency, you might soon see the cherries in your rearview mirrow.

Those fearing that the guns would be an invasion of privacy should note that the guns would not be able to intercept the text message, only register that a text frequency is being emitted.

Also, the guns won’t be able to determine exactly who sent the text, so an officer might pick up a frequency if you’re shuttling a bunch of texting teenagers. The officer won’t be able to cite you for texting and driving unless you admit to the crime, unless of course you are the only person in the vehicle. At that point, you’re kind of up a creek without a paddle.

Going Forward

The devices will certainly help keep drivers safe by ticketing those who choose to text and drive, but the technology still has a few hurdles to climb. The sensor needs to be supported by state and federal legislators, and by police agencies. Also, you can bet that an experienced Minnesota traffic ticket attorney will challenge the ticket in a court of law.

Texting and driving is a serious concern, but does that give police the right to radar for phone use? What do you think?

Jerome Simpson

Vikings Cut Simpson After Marijuana Arrest

The Minnesota Vikings parted ways with troubled wide receiver Jerome Simpson on Friday after it was revealed he was arrested for marijuana possession this offseason.

Simpson would have rejoined the team today after being suspended for the first three games of the season for a DUI arrest, but the team decided to cut the problemed receiver before he could be reinstated.

Already embroiled in the controversy surrounding suspended star running back Adrian Peterson, head coach Mike Zimmer issued a statement saying the team wants to find players who are committed to being examples on and off the field.

“We’re going to look for high-quality guys. We’re going to keep guys who care about football, guys who are passionate about playing the game. We’re going to continue to get those guys and keep working. There’s really nothing I can do about what everybody else says. All I can do is what I think is best at the time,” Zimmer said.

Latest Incident

Simpson’s most recent run-in with the law occurred on July 7 when he was stopped in Bloomington, Minnesota. According to the arrest report, Simpson was charged with possession of marijuana, driving with an open intoxicant, and violating driving restrictions.

Instead of being open about the arrest, Simpson decided to keep the incident under wraps. Head coach Mike Zimmer was informed of the incident on Thursday, and unlike other NFL executives, he decided to take swift action and release Simpson from his contract the following day.

This is the second time Simpson has been found to be in possession of marijuana. In 2012, authorities intercepted a 2.5-pound package of marijuana en route to the wide receiver’s home. He received a three-game suspension from the NFL for that incident as well. Simpson again faces the possibility of a suspension for his latest arrest.

Simpson is set to make an initial appearance in Hennepin County on November 3.