Twin Towers

9/11 – 13 Years Later

For some, September 11th, 2001 seems like decades ago. For others, it still seems like yesterday.

13 years ago our country was rocked by a national tragedy. More than 3,000 Americans lost their lives  in the Trade Center attacks, at the Pentagon, and in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. September 11 also took a toll on our bravest, as it stands as the deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officials in the history of the United States.

In the wake of the tragedy, Americans rallied together to stand as one. We did what we always do – We persevered. Those we lost that day will never be forgotten, and their loss led to sweeping changes in the way the United States protects its citizens from domestic attacks. Airports added advanced security measures, baseball and football stadiums added metal detectors and reduced what could be brought into games, and the US revamped its efforts to prevent and identify terrorist activities before they occurred.

So today, in honor of those we lost and all those affected by the events of September 11, we ask you to take some time out of your day and think back to that day 13 years ago. Think about where you were, how you felt, and what you did in the following days.

The below video will take you back to that day. As you can probably guess, some of the footage may not be suitable for all ages, but we think it’s worth sharing on the anniversary of 9/11.

 

 

Thank you to all those who gave their lives on that day. We will never forget.

2009-05-07_TCF_Bank_Stadium

Vikings Home Opener: Guns at TCF Bank Stadium?

The Minnesota Vikings will make their home debut in the elements at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday, and city officials and law enforcement say they are prepared to handle the large crowd and a few unruly spectators. Uniformed officers have a number of ways to control a drunk or violent guest, as they are permitted to carry lethal and non-lethal weapons into the stadium, but a decision by a Minnesota judge has called into question whether off duty officers should have similar privileges.

As it currently stands, the National Football League bans off-duty police officers from carrying handguns into games, but that policy may soon change. Last week, Hennepin County Judge Ivy Bernhardson ruled that state-law trumps the NFL rule. Under Minnesota law, off-duty licensed peace officers are allowed to carry weapons including firearms into private establishments, even if the business bans guns.

The ruling only further muddles the legal battle. Despite making the ruling, Judge Bernhardson didn’t determine how and when the law would be enforced. While the dust is settling, the University of Minnesota plans to combat the ruling. They are expected to argue that they have autonomy under the state Constitution to ban guns from Vikings games in their stadium, which will host games until the completion of the new stadium.

In spite of the ruling, off-duty officers cannot bring firearms into TCF Bank Stadium until further court action. Judge Bernhardson stopped stop of demanding that off-duty officers be allowed to bring their weapon to the game, saying that those individuals have other ways of keeping up with the Vikings if the want to do so with a holster on their hip. She said the TV, Internet or radio will have to suffice in the meantime.

Avery Appelman comments

It goes to show that state-law still trumps private businesses, even those as large as the NFL. With all the new precautions NFL stadiums are adding to prevent individuals from bringing weapons into the game, I don’t necessarily see the need for off-duty officers to bring their weapon into the game, but I certainly understand their right to do so.

It will be interesting to watch this legal battle unfold in the coming months. Go Vikings!

Ray Rice Elevator

Ray Rice Cut By Ravens, Suspended by NFL For Domestic Violence

The NFL and the Baltimore Ravens took action against Ray Rice after new video evidence emerged showing the runningback punching his now-wife in a casino elevator.

The video, which can be seen below, shows Rice and his fiancé Janay Parker embroiled in an argument in a casino elevator. Parker moves towards Rice, and he throws a hard punch with his left hand. Parker strikes her head on the handrail as she falls, and she remains unconscious for a few minutes.

 

 

Rice was originally charged with felony assault, but Parker refused to testify and the charges were later dropped on the condition Rice seek court-supervised counseling. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games for the incident, which led to stark criticism from public. Feeling that he made a mistake in only suspending Rice for two games, Goodell created new suspension guidelines for anyone found guilty of domestic or physical assault. Still, the general public felt that both the NFL and the Ravens, who didn’t administer any further punishment, had dropped the ball in regards to Rice’s situation.

That is until yesterday, when “new” video surfaced that showed the punch in its entirety. Sensing that they could salvage their public image, the Ravens released Rice and Goodell suspended him “indefinitely.”

“It changed the course of things,” Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh said of the video.

Cut the Crap

While some will argue that in the end, the team and the league made the right move to cut and suspend Rice, as attorneys, we don’t just look at the end result; we examine the whole process.

The biggest issue I have is that it’s impossible for me to believe that the NFL and the Ravens did not know this video existed prior to yesterday. For starters, the incident happened in a casino elevator. Everyone knows that there are cameras everywhere in a casino. Why would the elevator be any different? At the absolute least, the NFL should have inquired about the existence of a video recording inside the elevator. The casino surely knew they had video, so why did it take six months for the video to surface?

TMZ was the first to release the video to the public, and they took a strong stance against the NFL’s claims that they had no idea the video existed. TMZ’s Harvey Levin said the NFL knew of the video, and he claims to have proof of their knowledge.

“Prosecutors had this, police had it, I know people had this video, too,” Levin said. “The NFL, it almost feels like they didn’t want to know.”

It will be interesting to see how the situation unfolds if TMZ can back up their claims. At this point though, I must agree with Keith Olbermann, who blasted those who turned a blind eye to this domestic violence, including the league, the NFL, and the county prosecutors.

 

 

Related source: NY Times

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

Heroin Minnesota

Minneapolis Holds Summit on Heroin Prevention

Some of Minnesota’s top influencers including prosecutors, law enforcement officials, medical experts and drug treatment specialists were in Minneapolis on Thursday in an effort to devise strategies to combat a growing heroin issue.

Although the rise in heroin use isn’t isolated to Minnesota, the state is one of the first to hold a statewide meeting to discuss its implications and attempt to prevent its spread. Contrary to other drugs like marijuana or cocaine where police spend months looking for the big suppliers, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger suggests police should focus their attention on smaller heroin dealers, the ones who sell to users who eventually overdose. He also added that dealers charged in overdose deaths should be handed over to federal prosecutors, as a federal conviction would guarantee a longer sentence. Luger believes police focus on these dealers and the threat of serious jail time could cripple the heroin market.

“We want to make Minnesota an inhospitable place to do business,” Luger said. “Many parts of the country have missed the boat on how to deal with heroin.”

Concerning Trend

Overdose deaths due to heroin use and other opiates are on the rise in Minnesota. Hennepin County is already on pace to surpass last year’s record high of 56 heroin overdose deaths, and the county reported 132 opioid-related deaths in 2013.

One way the city is attempting to prevent overdose deaths is by distributing Narcan, a drug that can temporarily reverse the potentially lethal effects of heroin, to EMTs and first responders. Dr. Marc Conterato, an emergency physician at North Memorial Medical Center, said ambulances are now always stocked with Narcan.

“Narcan has been given to people as young as 14 and as old as 72,” said Conterato. “Ten years ago, Narcan wouldn’t have been one of the medicines stocked in an ambulance.”

Another debate near the end of the summit revolved around whether or not someone who witnesses a heroin overdose should be immune to prosecution if they call 911. Currently, a law called Steve’s Law, which also allows first responders to use Narcan on an overdose victim, provides callers with limited immunity. Hennepin County Sheriff Rick Stanek said there’s pros and cons of either argument, but at the end of the day, a person shouldn’t lose their life because a friend feared jail time for calling 911.

“Bottom line is that we are in the business to save lives,” he said. “It’s a public policy issue.”

Related source: Star-Tribune

Minnesota DUI

Minnesota DUIs At Lowest Levels in 20 Years

The number of DUI arrests across the state of Minnesota fell to its lowest level since 20 years, and authorities say improved enforcement and shifting public perception of drinking and driving are the biggest reasons for the decline.

Minnesota police arrested 25,719 individuals for driving under the influence in 2013, and while that number still represents about 70 DUI arrests a day, that’s a huge improvement from just a few years ago when there were 41,951 such arrests in 2006. 19,036 Minnesotans received a criminal conviction, which also represents a 20-year low. Despite the downward trend, Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said drunk driving is still a huge issue.

“It’s obviously a problem,” said Roeske. “Some don’t care about the consequences. Some struggle with chemical dependency and that contributes to the poor choice of getting behind the wheel when impaired.”

Crash data seems to confirm Roeske’s sentiments. 40 percent of Minnesotans involved in a fatal crash this year had previously been convicted of DUI, and 2,300 others were injured in alcohol-related crashes. See more statistics from the report below:

  • Minnesota experienced a two percent decline in drunken driving deaths in 2013.
  • Not surprisingly, drivers between the ages of 20-34 accounted for the majority of DUI arrests. That age group represented 55 percent of the total drunk driving arrests.
  • 4,034, or about one in six motorists arrested for DUI last year, had a BAC over 0.20.
  • 22 percent of residents in Mahnomen County have a DUI conviction, the highest rate in the state, while Stevens County boasts the lowest rate at 7.7 percent.

Why the Decline?

As we alluded to in the beginning of the post, improved enforcement and shifting public perception are two main reasons why DUI arrests have fallen over the past two decades, but Nancy Johnson, legislative liaison for Minnesotans for Safe Driving, said there are more factors at play.

“There’s been so much press and lots of enforcement just for impaired driving. I mean people really got the message. Less people are driving drunk,” said Johnson. “The cars are safer. [Emergency medical services] are faster. So some people who might have died in a crash 10 years ago might not now because they’ll be able to get to the hospital sooner.”

Legislators also credited the harsher penalties to repeat or serious offenders as a sign that some people are learning from their mistakes.

Here’s hoping 2014 is another record breaking year, but if something happens and you need to speak to an attorney, don’t hesitate to call Appelman Law Firm. We’re here to help.

Related source: Star Tribune

Roger Goodell

NFL Implements New Domestic Violence Protocol

The National Football League has decided to implement stronger penalties for domestic violence offenders in the wake of public outcry over the two-game suspension handed down to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

In a memo to all 32 teams, commissioner Roger Goodell stated that he “didn’t get it right” in reference to the decision to suspend Ray Rice for a mere two games. Anyone who saw the video of Rice dragging his wife’s unconscious body out of the casino elevator probably feels the same way.

“At times…despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals,” Goodell wrote in the memo. “We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. … My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values.”

New Policy

The new personal conduct policy on domestic violence reads as follows:

  • The policy applies to all incidents of physical force, not just domestic violence.
  • A player would be subject to a six-game suspension for a first offense, and that suspension could be longer according to the circumstances.
  • A player would receive a lifetime ban for a second incident, although they could apply for reinstatement after one year.
  • The policy applies to all NFL personnel, not just players.
  • The policy is not retroactive. Everyone comes in with a clean slate.
  • Counseling is available for all parties, and the NFL will seek out “at-risk” individuals to offer pre-incident counseling. The player can refuse, but his refusal could affect future discipline.

The league also made it clear that the policy only applies after a court decision, not simply by arrest. Should a player be found guilty or enter a plea agreement, the NFL would make a decision as to whether or not the person violated the new policy.

Roger Goodell also noted that although individuals will enter the NFL with a proverbial “clean slate,” if they had a previous incident in high school or college, they could be subjected to harsher first-offense penalties should they have another incident. He said he wants this to be a top-down change in behavior.

“We will expand the educational components in our college, high school and youth football programs that address domestic violence and sexual assault,” Goodell concluded.

Related source: ESPN

Body cameras for police

Police Chief: Only Bad Officers Fear Body Cameras 

The tragedy in Ferguson has once again revived the debate over whether or not police officers should be required to wear body cameras. While some departments have sought out the technology to protect themselves against frivolous lawsuits, other agencies aren’t so keen on the idea.

One city that wants to get the ball rolling on body cameras is Denver, Colorado. Although it is expected to cost about $1.5 million to equip all 800 officers on the force, police chief Robert White said the cameras would help restore the community’s faith in the police.

“Citizens should know that officers are being held accountable,” said White. “The body camera will help clear up those moments of conflict.”

In a pitch to Denver’s city council, White informed officials how the cameras will record audio and video of police and civilian interactions, and all the footage would be stored, “in the cloud.”

White added that the cameras would be beneficial for police, as it could protect them from false allegations of excessive force. He said there is no reason why a cop should be hesitant to wear a body camera.

“The only officers who would have a problem with body cameras are bad officers.”

Funding Biggest Issue

The biggest issue facing the Denver police department and many agencies across the country is a lack of funding. Equipping the officers with the cameras is only half the battle. Video logging and storage, cloud technology and expert analysis of footage all adds to the cost of body cameras.

In some cases the cameras would pay for themselves by preventing lawsuits against the department, but it’s tough for some agencies to find money in the city budget to get the program off the ground.

“I’m hoping financially we can afford them,” White said. “Technology is such that they are affordable. It’s achievable.”

The Denver city council is currently reviewing the department’s proposal.

Related source: Denver Post

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 State Fair

Crime at the Minnesota State Fair

The state fair opens today, and although the weather isn’t the greatest you can bet thousands of Minnesotans will head off to the Great Minnesota Get-Together after work. A state fair isn’t typically a place for criminal activity, but incidents certainly do occur.

Two years ago, two men were stabbed during a fight that broke out at the Minnesota State Fair, and there have been plenty of incidents at the Wisconsin State Fair over the past few years. Below, we share some ways to have fun and stay safe at the state fair.

Alcohol Intake – There are hundreds of different beers to choose from at the state fair this year, including Mini-Donut Beer, but you’ll want to avoid overindulging. Even if you have a safe ride home, being drunk and surrounded by thousands of people can be a recipe for disaster. Alcohol can turn a misunderstanding into a fistfight, so drink responsibly.

Safe Ride Home – If you sample enough brews to elevate your BAC above the legal limit, you’ll want to make sure you give your keys to a friend. Plan ahead so you know you have a sober driver before you get to the fair. Between cabs and free shuttles, there’s no reason why anyone should get a DUI after the state fair.

Eat Some Cookies – Simply put, it should be a crime to visit the state fair and not have at least one cookie from Sweet Martha’s Cookies. Grab a bucket and head over to the All You Can Drink Milk Stand to experience true bliss.

Lock Your Car Doors – To most people, locking their car doors is second nature, but make sure your doors are locked and windows rolled up before heading into the fair. If you traveled from outside the metro area and used a GPS to get there, store the unit in your glove box while you’re at the fair. The vast majority of the time nothing would happen if you left your doors unlocked, but a lot of thefts happen because of opportunity, not out of necessity. Maybe the thief has no real use for a GPS, but if you left it on your dashboard with the windows rolled halfway down to cool off your car, you’re basically inviting him to take it.

Avoid Certain Carnival Games – You know the game where you have to lob a softball into a tilted plastic bucket and keep it from falling out? This one? It’s rigged. Don’t play it. (Just kidding. We may just be bitter about our inability to win at this one.)

Most importantly, have fun at the Great Minnesota Get-Together this year!

by Appelman Law Firm