Category Archives: Traffic Offenses

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.

Drugged Driving

Ex-Packer Lyerla Arrested For Drugged Driving

The Green Bay Packers usually avoid signing players with a history of run-ins with the law, but they made an exception when the signed former Oregon Ducks tight end Colt Lyerla as an undrafted free agent this offseason. Lyerla showed flashes of potential while at Oregon, but he left the program midway through the season after being arrested for attempting to flee police officers and possession of cocaine.

The Packers brought him into training camp, but a knee injury made him expendable and he was eventually released before the season began. Although he received a nice little six-figure injury settlement, it appears Lyerla couldn’t stay out of trouble off the field as he was arrested over the weekend for driving under the influence of intoxicants.

Although the full arrest report has yet to be released, The Oregonian reports that Lyerla was high on illegal drugs or medication at the time of his arrest. His first court appearance is scheduled for September 17.

Drugged Driving

Driving under the influence of drugs carries serious consequences. Had Lyerla been arrested in Minnesota, he would have faced misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence, which carries the following penalties:

  • Up to 90 days in jail.
  • Up to $1,000 fine.
  • Up to 180 days of license suspension.

Since Lyerla already has a “fleeing an officer” and drug possession arrest on his record, odds are the judge wouldn’t have felt the need to go easy on the young man. The fine would be of little impact to Lyerla, whose injury settlement paid him just south of $150,000, but jail time or a license suspension would act as a serious burden for a player who, at this point, would be lucky to get another look by an NFL team.

I expect that Lyerla will spend a few days in jail for this arrest, and I believe his NFL career is over. His talent on the field is not nearly good enough to outweigh the headcase that he is off the field. I hope he gets the help he needs to make the transition from BMOC to the real-world.

Related source: The Oregonian, ESPN

Jello Shot DUI

Jello Shot DUI Driver Gets Three Years in Prison

Back in June we wrote a blog post about Cathy Sanchez, a 28-year-old woman who was carrying three Jello shots in her pocket after police stopped her for driving under the influence. Yesterday, her case came to a close with a strict sentence.

Sanchez, now 29, was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of felony driving under the influence. That may seem harsh, but as we noted in the original story, this wasn’t Sanchez’s first arrest for drunk driving. She told the arresting officers she had been booked for DUI on five previous occasions, but a records search revealed she had three DWI convictions on her record.

On the night in question, Gyndon police stopped Sanchez after they noticed her serving on the highway at around 2 a.m. Officers reported that Sanchez smelled of alcohol and eventually asked her to take a field sobriety test, which she promptly failed. While they were searching her prior to her arrest, authorities pulled three Jello shots out of her pockets.

As we noted in the original story, Sanchez faced a minimum of 180 days in jail and a maximum of 10 years in prison. When looking at what she could have served, Sanchez is probably lucky to only be serving three years. Several other charges relating to the traffic stop were dropped in exchange for her guilty plea.

Sanchez, who has been in jail sentence her arrest, will get credit for three months and five days already served.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Car Impounded

Minnesota Extends Fourth Amendment Rights to Civil Cases

The Minnesota Supreme Court has expanded search and seizure protections in civil cases after authorities went beyond their legal rights while collecting evidence to create their case.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of the citizen in two separate cases that limit when a cop can legally search seized property. In the first case, Daniel Garcia-Mendoza was stopped for driving 63 mph in a 60 mph zone. The officer asked Garcia-Mendoza for his vehicle registration and found the car was registered to Ricardo Cervantes-Perez, an alias of Garcia-Mendoza. Daniel procured a Mexican ID showing the alias, but he didn’t have a valid license.

The officer decided to have the vehicle towed because he believed it was creating a traffic hazard. Prior to towing the vehicle, the officer searched the vehicle and found a small amount of methamphetamine. Garcia-Mendoza was arrested, and authorities also seized $611 he was carrying with him at the time.

Garcia-Mendoza filed a claim to regain possession of his car and cash. While he was waiting for the court to process his request, he pleaded guilty to a federal crime of distributing a controlled substance from a 2011 charge. As part of that agreement, he agreed to forfeit all property used to commit the crime.

When it came his turn to challenge the seizure of his car and cash from the latest incident, a District Court judge ruled the stop unconstitutional, but said the forfeiture would remain because of his previous agreement from his guilty plea. His attorney challenged the ruling in Appeals Court, citing the exclusionary rule, but the Appeals Court sided with the District Court.

Garcia-Mendoza’s attorney filed one last appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court, arguing because the stop was illegal, police should not have been legally able to seize the property. In a monumental decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court sided with the little guy, ruling that the exclusionary rule – a law that states illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible in a criminal trial – must also extend to civil cases.

Second Case

Another local case extended 4th Amendment protections in regards to searched vehicles that were improperly impounded.

In this case, a Blaine police officer stopped Erica Rohde for a turn signal violation. A subsequent check revealed Rohde was operating the vehicle without a valid license or registration.

When she initially saw the police lights in her rearview mirror, Rohde pulled over to a residential side street.  She stopped along the curb in a valid parking spot, but authorities decided to impound her vehicle anyways. Once at the impound lot, police searched the vehicle and found two small bags of meth and two glass pipes.

Rohde challenged the evidence collection, agreeing that although her stop had been legal, the subsequent search was unconstitutional because authorities were not within their right to impound the car. The Minnesota Supreme Court sided with Rohde, noting that her parked vehicle posed no safety threat to other drivers. They sent the case back to Anoka County District Court with the recommendation the evidence be suppressed.

Avery Appelman comments

These are both great rulings for citizens and for our Fourth Amendment protections. In the end, the Minnesota Supreme Court is basically saying, “The ends do not always justify the means.” Even though the officers found drugs in the vehicle, they did not follow individual protections guaranteed by our forefathers in the constitution.

Everyone else has to follow rules at their job. Cops must do the same. In the end, this ruling will make officers better at their job, which everyone will benefit from. I applaud the Minnesota Supreme Court for upholding citizen protections.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Minnesota School Bus

Minnesota Truck Driver Charged For Failing to Yield to Bus

An Apple Valley truck driver who sped by a stopped school bus on a two-lane highway is lucky to only be facing two misdemeanor charges considering his actions nearly took the life of a sixth grade student.

Allen H. Morris, 48, was charged with failure to obey the bus’ flashing lights and a “stop arm” violation in connection with the May 30 incident.

On that day, Morris was driving his truck behind a school bus on a two-lane section of Hwy 23 between New London and Paynesville. That stretch of road has a speed limit of 55 mph, and Morris may not have been expecting the school bus to stop in an area with such a high speed limit. Regardless of whether he wasn’t paying attention, following to closely or thought the move was legal, Morris blew by the bus on the right shoulder of the road.

As you can see in the video below, sixth-grader Alexis Schwartz was mere inches away from being struck by the truck, which was traveling between 45 and 50 miles per hour as it passed.

 

 

“It just kept coming and didn’t stop, and it didn’t even stop when it passed me,” Schwartz said after the accident. “My heart was pounding awfully fast and my hands were shaking, because I was so scared to have it come up that close.”

The Minnesota State Patrol posted the dashcam video on social media platforms in hopes of identifying the driver. Although he didn’t showcase the best decision making back in May, Morris made the conscience decision to turn himself in to authorities after learning that they were looking for him.

Morris is scheduled to appear in court on September 10. The two misdemeanor charges each carry potential sentences of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, but Morris has a rather clean driving record. He only has one past driving citation on his record, which occurred back in 2007. His relatively clean record and the fact that he turned himself in will work to his advantage. I expect that he’ll have to pay a fine and complete community service or take a driving class.

In the end, I’m glad nobody was injured. School is about to start up again, so parents and drivers should start mentally preparing to see school buses back on the road. Now may be a good time to refresh your knowledge of the law by taking out Minnesota School Bus Law Quiz!

Related source: Star Tribune

Mike Vanwagner

Coon Rapids Driver Who Killed Teen Had 0.29 BAC

The Coon Rapids driver who hit and killed a Brooklyn Center teen was operating his vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of nearly four times the legal limit, prosecutors said during their opening statements Tuesday.

The case has drawn national media attention, but not because of Michael VanWagner’s abnormally high blood-alcohol or because he was driving without a valid license or insurance. Instead, people from all over the country are chiming in on the nonchalant attitude Vanwagner expressed on social media the days after the accident.

In Facebook posts that have since been taken down, VanWagner posted a photo of his totaled car with the text, “That’s the front end after I got done with her lol :)” In the comments on the photo, a friend asked what happened, and VanWagner replied, “Going into a turn lane and weird ass speed bump flew my left front driver front into a poll then flip and smashed the other side….. 252 and 83rd.” He later added, “I’m all good slept a day in the hospital then came home and did yard work lol.”

Mike VanWagner

The problem is the “weird ass speed bump” VanWagner hit was actually the rear end of a car driven by 16-year-old Jason McCarthy. According to an accident reconstruction team, VanWagner was traveling at roughly 60 mph when his car struck McCarthy’s car. Both cars were thrown into the air, and as fate would have it, McCarthy died in the accident while VanWagner walked away relatively unharmed.

Social Outrage

Although VanWagner wasn’t aware that he killed someone until a few days after the accident, he continued to share some questionable pictures in light of the events that transpired. He shared three captioned photos five days after the accident that depicted:

  • An officer asking a driver “Any drugs or alcohol?” The driver is shown saying, “No thanks, I’ve got everything.”
  • A picture of a woman driver captioned, “You call it ‘road rage,’ I call it ‘aggressively maneuvering around assholes that don’t know how to fucking drive.”
  • Two cars on the road with the caption, “If you tailgate me, I drive slower to piss you off…”

VanWagner has since made his Facebook profile private, but that hasn’t stopped folks from weighing in on other social media platforms. Some top comments from a Reddit post detailing the accident include:

  • “This is a total stranger that killed another total stranger, so this shouldn’t affect me too much. Yet, seeing the screenshot of his Facebook status and the utter disregard towards the fact that he hit and killed a teenager while driving drunk, fills me with a ridiculous amount of rage. I can’t even imagine the level of burning fury the parents must feel after hearing about this.” – Boo-Wendy-Boooo.
  • “Why would you ever brag about drunk driving? That’s like being proud of getting an STD from a one night stand. – gasstationclerk4life
  • “His Facebook isn’t going to do him any favors when he goes to trial for killing a kid.” – IamOfficial

VanWagner was officially charged with two counts Criminal Vehicular Homicide which each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and/or a $20,000 fine, and one count of Failure to Stop for Accident to Property, which carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. He is currently being held without bail.

Related sources: Reddit, Star Tribune, CityPages