Category Archives: Uncategorized

Minnesota Lawmakers Eye License Plate Data Change

License plate reading (LPR) technology is a relatively new tool for police to use in their fight against crime. Much like the the electronic system Batman uses in The Dark Knight to find The Joker, in the right hands, the technology can do a lot of good. It can quickly scan the license plate and tell the officer if the driver has a suspended license or an outstanding warrant. But, used poorly, the data the devices collect can compromise the privacy of innocent citizens.

For that reason, Minnesota lawmakers are once again attempting to regulate just how long police can hold onto data collected from these high-tech devices. This will mark the third time since their statewide inception in 2012 that lawmakers try to determine how long data on innocent drivers should be held.

Lawmakers seem to hold one of two views when it comes to storing license plate data collected from drivers who have no reason to be suspected of any wrongdoing. One group of lawmakers believes the data should be deleted immediately, while the other group thinks the data should be stored for 90 days prior to deletion. Neither side could reach a compromise in 2013 or 2014, and no bill was able to reach a final vote before the legislative session closed. Under the current system, law enforcement is holding the data indefinitely until the Legislature comes to a decision, although the data is not classified as public.

Safety Vs. Privacy

Both groups are championing a different cause in hopes that their bill will win favor. For Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, he believes 90-day data collection can provide authorities with more information to track down criminals. Citing the case of Brian Fitch Sr., the man accused of killing Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick, Latz noted that cops were able to close in on Fitch by looking at LPR data to determine where Fitch had been in the past months in order to reason where he might be in the aftermath of the shooting. Police officers at Fitch’s trial said the LPR data is a vital tool that can’t be used to its fullest extent if the data is deleted immediately.

On the other side of the ball, Sen. Branden Peterson, R-Andover, believes his zero-retention bill is best for protecting the privacy of average citizens. He says police already have so much information on innocent civilians that there’s no room for compromise when it comes to LPR data.

“What we know about law enforcement is that they will operate to the fullest extent possible inside of the law, and the more data that they have at their disposal, they’ll use,” Petersen said. “If you couple LPR data with other mechanisms that are used to collect data en masse, you can, without ever establishing probable cause … paint vivid pictures of people’s everyday lives.”

So do you think? Should the data be stored for 90 days, deleted immediately, or is there a better solution out there?

Related source: GovTech


What is Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring?

If you’re convicted of a crime, you’re likely to face a range of punishments, be it jail time, a fine, probation or any other option the court deems fit. If you’re convicted of a crime involving drugs or alcohol, the judge will likely impose restrictions on future substance use. You may be forbidden from consuming alcohol for a set period of time, but how can the court ensure you’re sticking to your probation guidelines? After all, your probation officer isn’t going to follow you 24/7. One such way the courts keep tabs on people is through a device called a Transdermal Alcohol Monitoring Device.

The device has many names, but it’s usually called the TAD or CAD, short for Transdermal/Continuous Alcohol Device. Transdermal, which is a fancy way of saying “through the skin,” suggests that the device measures skin emissions to determine what substances are in a person’s body. Although the device can’t detect what you had for lunch that day, it does test for the presence of alcohol, marijuana or other illegal substances.

Transdermal technology has been around for a long time, as the science behind alcohol emissions through the skin have been studied since the 1920s. The science was thoroughly tested, and in 1985 researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine published dual studies that analyzed how volatile substances moved through the skin and how they were emitted through perspiration.

How it Works

One of the more popular TAD devices, known as the SCRAM bracelet (short for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor), takes a skin emission sample every 30 minutes throughout the day. Typically the devices are attached to a person’s ankle, and every half hour a tiny air pump collects an emission sample and tests its contents.

Unlike a home monitoring device, the SCRAM bracelet does not monitor your exact location, and cops aren’t going to descend on your house the minute alcohol touches your lips. Instead the device has to be synced up with a special wireless router that relays the recordings to the proper authorities. Typically these devices send their data in the early hours of the morning, between 3 am and 5 am, because the user is likely sleeping in his or her home where the router is located.

Some users note that the device can be tricked by placing a piece of paper or plastic over your skin. That method isn’t recommended though. While your alcohol content will read zero, the device will be able to tell that it did not get a true sample, which means you’ll likely be in violation of your parole for attempting to tamper with the device.

Related source: Scram Systems

The Top States For Black Homicide Victims

Protests and demonstrations calling for an end to police brutality and racial discrepancies have made headlines over the past week, and for good reason. Murders and homicides shake small communities to the core, but oftentimes it’s black communities that are most affected.

According to FBI, in 2012 the national homicide rate was 4.5 homicides per 100,000 people. For whites, that rate fell to 2.65 per 100,000. For African Americans, that rate skyrocketed to 18.03 per 100,000.

Digging further into the statistics, we can see which states have the most black homicide victims per 100,000 people.

The Top 10

The top ten states for black homicide victims are:

1. Missouri – 34.98 per 100,000
2 Nebraska – 34.93
3 Michigan – 34.77
4 Pennsylvania – 31.02
5 Louisiana – 25.75
6 Indiana – 25.48
7 Oklahoma – 25.04
8 Wisconsin – 24.38
9 California – 23.25
10 Tennessee – 22.40

Surprisingly, a slew of Midwestern states fall on that list. Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin all rank in the top 8. As for Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes lands right in the middle of the list at 24, with 15.44 deaths per 100,00 people.

Additionally, six states reported zero black homicide victims in 2012. Those states are Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire and Wyoming.

More Data

Some related data from the findings include:

  • Of the 6,565 black homicide victims, 5,708 (87 percent) were male, and 856 (13 percent) were female.
  • The homicide rate for black male victims was 32.78 per 100,000. In comparison, the overall rate for male homicide victims was 7.27
    per 100,000. For white male homicide victims it was 3.86 per 100,000.
  • The homicide rate for female black victims was 4.51 per 100,000. In comparison, the overall rate for female homicide victims was 1.80 per 100,000. For white female homicide victims it was 1.45 per 100,000.
  • 17 states had a black homicide victimization rate higher than the national per capita rate of 18.03 per

Related source: Violence Policy Center

35 Charged in #BlackLivesMatter Protest at Mall of America

A total of 35 people have been charged in connection with their participation in the Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America on December 20, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

10 organizers face a range of charges, while 25 others face charges stemming from their arrests on the day of the protest, Bloomington Police Chief Rick Hart said in a release. Some of the charges filed include:

  • Unlawful assembly
  • Public nuisance
  • Trespassing

“To ensure the safety and experience of its guests, Mall of America has had a long-standing policy in place that does not allow protests or demonstrations on their site. This policy has been consistently enforced. The Black Lives Matter group was informed that it did not have permission to gather and demonstrate in Mall of America. An alternative location was provided, and rally organizers declined to re-locate the demonstration.”

The demonstration, spurred by the high profile deaths of citizens Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police, sought to decry and bring attention to the problem of police brutality. An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people took part in the demonstration, despite warnings from police. After the event, authorities announced they were conducting an investigation into who helped organize the demonstration.  Details of the event were primarily shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Over 80 stores had to be shut down for two hours out of concerns for public safety. Bloomington officials said lost revenue on one of the busiest days of the year, as well as the extra cost of providing an increased officer presence at the mall led to the decision to pursue charges.

Organizers of the event said they were “saddened” by the city’s decision to use public resources to put an end to the protest.

Related source: Pioneer Press

New Minnesota Laws Coming January 1

Although there aren’t as many new criminal laws going into effect this year as there were last January, there are still a handful of new laws that you’ll have to follow come January 1, 2015. Today, we explain the new laws.

1.  Criminal Reform

This new law will reform Minnesota’s current expungement laws in hopes of helping people with a past criminal conviction find housing or employment.

Under the old law, judges were able to expunge court records, but not records collected by state agencies, meaning some expunged transgressions still appeared on certain background and housing checks. The new law provides more protections for people with an expunged record so long as they meet the following conditions:

  • The individual has successfully completed the terms of a diversion program or stay of adjudication and has not been charged with a new crime for at least one year since completion.
  • The individual was convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor and has not been convicted of a new crime for at least two years since discharge.
  • The individual was convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a gross misdemeanor and has not been convicted of a new crime for at least four years since discharge .
  • The individual was convicted of or received a stayed sentence for one of more than 50 listed felony violations and has not been convicted of a new crime for at least five years since discharge.
  • The individual must show convincing evidence that their record is holding them back, that they’ve shown evidence of progress in their life and that the expungement would outweigh the burden on public safety.

2. Lifeguard Law

Not all public beaches are required to provide lifeguards during swimming hours, but a new change is in the works for those that do. Under the new law known as “Tony’s Law,” public beaches who provide lifeguards must ensure their lifeguards are certified through the American Red Cross and they must be trained in CPR for adults and children.

3. Teen Driving

Teen drivers will need to spend more time behind the wheel before they can take their road test beginning January 1. The new law requires that teens have at least 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training prior to their road test. The old law only required 30 hours of practice prior to their driver’s test. Additionally, 15 of the 50 hours must come at night, up from 10 hours under the old law.

But there’s another wrinkle. If the parent or guardian takes a 90-minute class aimed at making the parent a better driving teacher, the number of required behind-the-wheel hours drops to 40 hours.

4. New Boat Law

Although the Aquatic Invasive Species Training Law was passed in 2011, it’s finally going into effect on January 1.

The law requires anyone who transports a boat or water-related equipment with a trailer to pass a test to get a decal that must be displayed on their trailers. The decal must be posted by July 1, 2015. Boat owners can access the 10-question test online, and officials say it should take about 20 minutes to complete. If a person is found to be operating their boat after July 1 without the decal, they will not be allowed to operate their boat until they pass the test.

As of now, there is no set penalty for a continued violation of this law.

Related source: MPR News

Drunk Driving Arrests Down in Minnesota

Fewer Minnesotans are getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, according to a report from the Minnesota State Patrol.

The decline in DUI arrests has been rather stark as there have been 21 percent fewer arrests in 2014 than there was at this time last year. Police credit the drop in DUI arrests to more social awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving as well as the announcement of extra DUI patrols throughout the year. Police believe fewer people are taking the risk to drive drunk because they know more cops are out looking for offenders.

Despite the drop in arrests, DUI arrests are still happening far too often in Minnesota. 25,719 people were arrested for drunk driving in Minnesota in 2013, and we’re still expected to top 20,000 arrests by the end of the year. Police say this time of year is especially dangerous on the roads, as the holidays provide people with more opportunities to drive drunk.

Law enforcement said they arrested 578 individuals for driving drunk over the last two weekends. Similar numbers are expected through the end of the year as the State Patrol plan to continue adding extra DUI patrols as part of the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign.

An App For That

App developers are also helping cut down on drinking and driving. A law enforcement agency in Maryland created the END DUI app, which allows a user to enter their height, weight, number of drinks and the time it took to consumer those drinks in order to estimate their blood-alcohol content.

The app is loaded with other features, including two mini games that test the user’s reaction time and cognitive ability. It also use GPS and Bluetooth technology to provide local phone numbers to cabs and other transportation options.

The app is available in the App Store and is free of charge.

Related source: Bring Me The News, WCCO

Man Charged With DUI Attempts To Eat Breath Test Results

A Connecticut man faces a slew of charges after driving drunk and attempting to eat his DUI test results.

40-year-old Kenneth Desormes was stopped by New York police this weekend after they caught him speeding on Interstate 95. After speaking with Desormes during the traffic stop, troopers determined he was under the influence of alcohol. He was placed under arrest and brought back to the station.

That’s where the case took a turn for the weird. Law enforcement officials gave Desormes a Breathalyzer test which revealed the man had a blood alcohol content of 0.13 percent, more than 1.5 times the legal limit. Officers say when they attempted to print off his Breathalyzer results, Desormes lunged for the paper and attempted to dispose of the evidence by eating it. Despite his best efforts, officers were able to salvage the test results.

Desormes’ actions at the police station earned him a few additional charges. When it was all said and done he faced charges of:

  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Obstructing governmental administration
  • Criminal tempering.

Desormes is expected to appear in court later this month.

Related source: Fox New York

Are Hockey Fights Actually Cases of Criminal Assault?

The Minnesota Wild are set to open their 2014-15 season against the Colorado Avalanche tonight, and while many have high expectations for the team, anybody who watched other games around the league on Opening Night was reminded just how physical and violent the sport can be.

Two fights occurred last night, one in the Bruins-Flyers game, and the other in the Kings-Sharks game. Although none of the individuals involved in the fights were injured, every year a handful of players miss time because they break a bone of suffer a concussion during a fight. In all, there were 469 fights recorded in the 2013-14 season.

The fallout from hockey fights rarely leaves the rink, but it does happen. Just this year Todd Bertuzzi and the Vancouver Canucks settled out of court with Steve Moore for an undisclosed amount. Moore suffered three fractured neck vertebrae, facial lacerations and a concussion during his rookie season when he was suckerpunched from behind by Bertuzzi. Moore, a rookie at the time, never played another NHL game. Bertuzzi was eventually charged with criminal assault causing bodily harm, but only received a year of probation and 80 hours of community service.

While the majority of Bertuzzi’s punishment came in the form of the undisclosed civil suit, if you were to suckerpunch a person on the street, break their neck and render them incapable of doing their job, you’re likely going to spend a few months, if not years in prison. So why is hockey any different?

The “Code”

Every sport has their “code” or their set of “unwritten rules.” Don’t bunt to break up a no hitter. Don’t bullrush the kneel-down formation. Don’t shoot if you’re up by double digits with just a few seconds left and the defense isn’t fouling anymore. Kick the soccer ball out of bounds if a player gets injured, and give the ball back to the other team if they kick it out when your teammate goes down. These are all unwritten rules in other sports, and hockey is no different.

There exists a fight code in hockey that’s akin to the old adage, “an eye for an eye.” If you hurt the other team’s best player, your best player better keep his head on a swivel. But there’s more to it than that. There’s a whole underlying science to hockey fights, including pairing your best players up with more physical players to do any “enforcing” that may be needed, and picking on someone your own size/skill level. It’s not that Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin wouldn’t drop their gloves, they are just too important to their team, and their teammates know that, so a third line defenseman will square off against an opposing defenseman as a way of settling the score, and more often than not, clearing some of the bad blood between the teams.

The problem is, largely due to other sports, the microscope these players are under is growing bigger and bigger, and their on-field and off-field actions are being watched more closely than ever. The NFL recently changed it’s personal conduct policy after a rash of ugly incidents, and the NHL might be the next league to adopt some rules changes. Hockey purists will tell you fights are “part of the game,” and many fans love seeing an impromptu fight between two players, but is it really something we want to be exposing our children too? Fighting is outlawed in youth, high school and college hockey, but children aren’t walking around wearing Edina hockey jerseys and tuning into every high school game. They’re watching the pros, who they literally see taking matters into their own hands.

I do think hockey will change its fighting policy in the future, but I don’t think you’ll completely be able to eliminate it from the game. As a season ticket holder I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy seeing two guys drop their gloves in the middle of the game. It’s the same principle that led me to be a lawyer. Take two sides, let them have it out, be it with words or with fists, and see who comes out on top. I don’t have a perfect solution to address hockey fights, but I do know I never want to see another Steve Moore incident. It’s just interesting to see how assault is treated so differently when it occurs on a rink.

Farmington Police Unveil Body Cameras

Add the Farmington Police Department to the growing list of law enforcement agencies in Minnesota who have adopted police body cameras.

Farmington is following in the footsteps of Burnsville and will likely be watched closely by Minneapolis, who just recently approved a pilot program to outfit a few officers with the video recording equipment. Unlike the Minneapolis project that has a rather extensive budget, Farmington had to make due with much less, purchasing 17 mountable cameras and a year of video storage for $13,000. Despite to bill, Sgt. Gary Rutherford expects the cameras to pay for themselves by showing judges and juries exactly what happened and what pressure situations his officers were faced with.

“The judge and jury will get to see that genuine terror that we see, as opposed to just reading our own words on paper,” he said. “It’s just such a great evidence tool.”

Farmington Police Sgt. Jim Constantineau added that the recordings will keep officers and citizens on their best behavior.

“We’re all professionals,” Constantineau said. “These are going to protect all of us — law enforcement officers and citizens — and make it more efficient for us to do our jobs.”

How They Work

As we’ve documented in the past, the body-mounted cameras clip onto an officer’s cap, collar or a set of clear glasses and record every detail of a citizen encounter. The department began exploring the idea of body cameras after deciding that dash camera footage simply couldn’t provide the necessary evidence that a moveable camera could.

“These days, society is video-driven,” Rutherford said. “This technology is small enough and affordable enough, there was no reason not to go with it now. And it’s such a great evidence collection tool.”

The cameras are expected to help sort out he said-she said affairs and protect the officers against unwarranted claims of misconduct or excessive force, but police also believe the cameras will be especially helpful in cases of domestic abuse. Oftentimes a victim will recant their statement out of fear of retribution, but the cameras will help record the initial interaction that can better portray scenes of abuse or domestic violence. With video evidence, judges and juries will hear honest testimony and see firsthand accounts of what transpired, which should help keep victims from being manipulated by their abuser.

Farmington police have been using the cameras for three weeks, and by all accounts the initial adoption has been a success.

“I can’t imagine life without one now that I have it,” said Rutherford.

Related source: Pioneer Press

The World Cup: Red Cards, Pepe, and Assault

The World Cup is under way as 32 nations vie for the chance to call themselves champions of the world. With tension levels at an all-time high, it’s no surprise that players are sometimes left seeing red, literally and figuratively.

The first documented red card was handed out to none other than Peru’s Placido Galindo in 1930, and since then 161 more red cards have been handed out. Three red cards have been shown in the 2014 World Cup so far, which puts referees on pace to dish out 11 red cards this tournament, down from 17 in 2010. Before we get into why a criminal law firm is writing about soccer and red cards, here are some quick facts about red cards in World Cup history.

  • The Brazilians have received the most red cards in tournament history (11), followed by Argentina (10) and Uruguay (9).
  • Australia leads all countries in red cards on a per contest basis. One of their players receives a red card in 40 percent of their World Cup matches. Cameroon is a close second at 35 percent.
  • Spain has only received one red card in 56 World Cup matches.
  • Mexican referees have handed out the most red cards, with half of those cards shown to South American teams.

Punishing Pepe

After he was whistled for a foul on what he believed was world class acting by opponent Thomas Muller, Pepe decided to give the German a piece of his mind. Literally. He gave Mueller his forehead.

Despite the fact that Pepe’s forehead appeared to have miraculous healing powers,  (Did you see how quickly Mueller went from being injured to back on his feet after their heads touched?), you simply cannot headbutt an opponent on the pitch. While it wasn’t a violent headbutt like the one dished out by Zinedine Zidane back in 2006, Pepe’s headbutt still crossed the line.

We bring this up because had this incident occurred in the stands or in the workplace, the headbutter could find himself in legal trouble. According to Minnesota Statute 609.224 Assault in the Fifth Degree, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor offense if they:

  • Commit an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or
  • Intentionally inflict or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another.

A misdemeanor offense is punishable by upon to 90 days in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Luckily for Pepe his only punishment is missing the remainder of the game against Germany and the following game against the United States.

Keep checking our blog for more criminal analysis of the World Cup as the tournament unfolds.

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