Colder Temperatures Mean More Indoors Crime

As the temperatures continue to plummet here in the Twin Cities, University of Minnesota police say criminals aren’t venturing outside to commit crimes as frequently. Instead, they are opting for indoors crimes.

“With the cool-down over the last couple of weeks, activity seems to be decreasing,” said University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner. “Even criminals don’t like the cold.”

Miner added that crimes like vandalism and assaults give way to thefts, trespassers and burglaries. He noted that the holidays and extended breaks are especially opportune times for thieves who know many homeowners and residents are gone for long periods. Miner said campus police have begun making more indoors patrols now that temperatures have dropped.

Another crime that seems to spike in the winter is underage drinking. Miner said campus police patrol residence halls in plain clothes throughout the winter in an effort to cut down on dangerous underage drinking practices.

“They do some surveillance and foot patrols in plain clothes,” Miner said. “Sometimes they are able to discover things that a uniformed police officer might not be able to discover.”

Event Influx

University Police have also been busy on the weekends in recent months. Typically police have extra officers staffed for home Gopher games, but since the Vikings are playing at TCF Bank Stadium as well, Sundays are also a time when many fans descend to the campus area. Many football fans like to usher in the game with some beer, and that can lead to trouble if police aren’t prepared.

Because cold football fans and homeless individuals may be looking for a spot to warm up, Brian Swanson, assistant vice president of University Services, said campus buildings will be locked after hours on the weekend, and residents are encouraged to carry their U cards in order to gain access to certain areas after normal hours.

“If you’re here after regular business hours and you’re trying to get in a building and go through the building as a way to stay warm,” Swanson said, “your U Card will get you into more buildings than in the old days when you needed to have a key.”

Avery Appelman, a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis, said he also sees an uptick in drunk driving arrests in the cold winter months. He said the run of holidays – from Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year’s – mean more people are celebrating the holidays with sprits, and they might not want to walk home if the temps are particularly cold.

“While residency halls may be dealing with a spike in students staying indoors to drink, those who would typically walk or bike to their neighborhood watering hole are now driving to avoid subzero temperatures,” said Appelman. “This can lead to problems if they are over-served and still decide to drive.”

“Make good decisions this winter,” Appelman concluded.

Man Stabbed After Eating Thanksgiving Meal Too Soon

A Pennsylvania man was stabbed by his girlfriend after he started eating Thanksgiving dinner while she was sleeping off a hangover.

47-year old Jacklyn Blake began drinking early on Thanksgiving and decided she’d take a nap prior to dinner. While she slept off her bender, Blake’s boyfriend helped himself to a heaping helping of turkey and mashed potatoes. Blake became enraged when she woke up and discovered her beau had started eating without her. According to the police report, Blake grabbed a knife and stabbed her boyfriend in the chest. She then threw the knife at his face, which resulted in a cut below his left eye.

When police arrived Blake’s boyfriend was holding a towel over his chest. He was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

As for Blake, instead of a warm meal she’s been served with charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, simple assault, reckless endangerment and making terroristic threats. It was unclear if she had retained an attorney since her arrest.

Possible Penalties

We won’t speak for Pennsylvania, but had this crime taken place in Minnesota, Blake could face the following possible penalties:

  • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon carries potential penalties of 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
  • Simple assault in Minnesota is usually termed as Assault in the Fifth Degree. It is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Instead of Reckless Endangerment, Blake likely would have received a charge of disorderly conduct in Minnesota, which is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.

Needless to say, Blake will certainly want to seek legal counsel to assist with the pending charges.

Related source:

Minnesota Counties With The Most DUIs

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

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

Minnesota DUIS

The Most Dangerous Minnesota Counties

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

1. Hennepin County – 169

2. Anoka County – 58

3. Ramsey County – 52

4. St. Louis County – 51

5. Dakota County – 40

6. Stearns County – 36

7. Otter Tail County – 32

8. Olmsted County – 30

9. Itasca County – 25

10. Scott County – 25

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

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

Related source: Minnesota Department of Safety

Stay Safe on Blackout Wednesday, Thanksgiving Weekend

Statistics show that the following stretch of days, from blackout Wednesday through the Sunday night, are the most dangerous days on Minnesota roads.

According to statistics from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety, drivers are more likely to end up in a ditch or in a fender bender in this five-day stretch than any other period of the year.

As we mentioned in a previous post, distracted driving and drunk driving are two big reasons for the spike in crashes. Distracted driving caused 564 crashes between 1,436 cars during the five-day stretch last year. Thankfully, since people are generally traveling at slower speeds during the winter, there are less fatalities per accident than in the summer.

“There may be more ‘fender benders’ in colder, winter weather, but there are also less traffic fatalities,” said David Boxum, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.

If you’re traveling tonight, take it nice and slow. It’s expected to snow until 3pm in the Twin Cities metro area, meaning the roads are going to be rough no matter if you try to drive through the snow to beat traffic, or you wait out the snow and hit rush hour.

Blackout Wednesday

If you’re on Twitter tonight, don’t be surprised if you see #BlackoutWednesday or #BadDecisionWednesday trending in your area. Thanksgiving Eve is commonly a day when friends and family are back in their hometown for holiday festivities, and many reconnect with one another over a few beverages.

Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Erik Roeske said he wants people to have a good time, but it’s important they make good decisions to get back from the bar safely.

“While we want people to enjoy that time with their friends and loved ones, we want them to make smart decisions for a safe and sober ride home,” said Roeske.

It should come as no surprise that the Minnesota police are adding extra DUI patrols tonight and through the weekend. Last year drunk drivers caused 32 accidents over the Thanksgiving weekend, and over 1,600 Minnesotans were arrested for driving under the influence during the holiday over the last three years. That means one person is arrested for drunk driving every 13 minutes over the 5-day Thanksgiving stretch. Be safe, and have a great holiday!

Related source: Star-Tribune

Ferguson: Grand Jury Decides Not To Indict Darren Wilson

A St. Louis County grand jury ruled that there was not enough evidence to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson with a crime in the wake of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The decision, read late Monday night, means that the jury of 12 did not find enough evidence to bring charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter or armed criminal action against Wilson. A 75 percent ruling is necessary in Missouri to proceed with criminal charges, meaning nine out of 12 jury members needed to believe their was enough evidence to proceed with charges. In all, the jury met 25 times, heard from 60 witnesses, three medical examiners and listened to 70 hours of testimony.

As expected, the decision was met with some furor. Riots broke out in Ferguson as President Barack Obama urged citizens to express their opinions peacefully. The video is truly a sight to see.


The rioting lasted through the night, and reports indicate that at least 12 businesses were set ablaze. 61 people were arrested, and thankfully, nobody was seriously injured.

Examining the Evidence

Without a doubt, the events in Ferguson are going to stick with Americans for a long time. Tensions are running high, and we’re not going to get up on a soapbox and preach one way or another. Instead, just like in the court of law, we want to facilitate the spread of information and evidence so citizens can stay informed about what just happened.

Here is a comprehensive list of the information presented to the grand jury. Included in this list is the grand jury testimony, witness statements, forensic reports, police interviews and much much more. Seek out coverage of the aftermath from news sites and learn why some feel justice was served while others feel like the truth has remained hidden. If you want to peacefully demonstrate your disagreement with the decision, gatherings have been planned in the Twin Cities throughout the day.

We will continue with our Ferguson coverage if any new developments take place.

Minnesota Wants To Increase Penalties For Attacks on Nurses

Minnesota legislators are looking to increase the penalties against out-of-control patients in the wake of a growing number of assaults on healthcare practitioners.

Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights wants to see the law re-written to hold assailants accountable to the same level as if they had attacked a peace or police officer.

“There should be the same protections and pen­al­ties for at­tack­ing a nurse as there are for at­tack­ing other public safe­ty of­fi­cials,” Atkins said.

Under the current law, those who assault a nurse or healthcare professional are subject to a two-year jail sentence and fines up to $4,000. Rep. Atkins wants to increase those penalties to match assaults on police officers, which carry potential sentences of three years in jail and a $6,000 fine.

While Atkins wants to increase penalties for those who harm nurses, others fear that those with mental disorders might face stiffer penalties for acting out in a state of confusion. For example, a delusional elderly patient at St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood recently attacked and injured four nurses with a metal bar. The resident died as officers attempted to restrain him, but Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center said he didn’t think increased penalties would have prevented the incident.

“I don’t see how that would be a big de­ter­rent, how that would keep some­one from com­mit­ting a crime like that,” Cornish said.

Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota, agreed with Rep. Cornish.

“I don’t think a blanket change like that is going to be effective,” Abderholden said. “We could end up criminalizing people … who were not really aware of what they were doing.”

Big Spike

Despite Cornish’s indifference, it’s clear that physical assaults on healthcare professionals are a growing concern. An analysis of workers’ compensation and injury logs show that the healthcare industry is becoming a dangerous place for workers. State nurses have already filed 46 claims for injuries suffered while on duty, a pace that’s set to double the claims filed in 2012 and 2013.

Assaults on nurses is a national problem as well. A 2011 study found that more than 400,000 nurses and other healthcare professionals are a victim of workplace violence every year. The survey also revealed that one in every four nurses lists physical assault as a top safety concern.

Related source: Star-Tribune

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

Little Falls Murderer Must Pay $21,000 To Victims’ Families

Byron David Smith, the 66-year-old Little Falls man who was found guilty on two counts of premeditated murder in the first and second degree after he killed two teenage intruders during a home invasion has been ordered to pay over $21,000 in restitution to the victims’ families.

The Little Falls saga began nearly two years ago when Nicholas Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, broke into Smith’s home on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Smith’s home had been frequently burgled, so when he heard people breaking into his house, he waited in the basement with a shotgun. Brady was the first to enter the basement, and Smith shot him as he descended the stairs. Smith then walked up to an injured Brady mortally wounded him with a shot to the face.

Kifer descended the stairs a short while later. Smith again shot the teen as she was coming down the stairs, but when he went to shoot her again, his gun jammed. Smith then retrieved a handgun, and as he stated during his testimony, delivered “a kill shot.”

The case made national news as pundits discussed how far a homeowner could go to protect his or her dwelling. Ultimately the jury decided that Smith’s actions went above and beyond “reasonable measures” in protecting his home, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Court Costs

After the guilty verdict was read, Brady and Kifer’s families submitted a restitution request. They hoped to to recoup $42,000 in restitution costs for expenses like funeral costs, transportation costs during trial, and loss of wages by the parents.

Ultimately the Morrison County District Court met the families half way, awarding them a total of $21,421 in restitution. Brady’s family was awarded $9,577, while Kifer’s family received $11,844.

Related source: Pioneer Press

Minnesota Sex Offender Reform Report Published

As we mentioned back in August, experts tasked with reviewing Minnesota’s current sex offender program asked to have their report deadline pushed back until mid-November. Today, they published their findings in a comprehensive 108-page report.

In all, the experts issued a list of 44 recommended changes for the program. Some of the most prominent recommendations include:

  • The state’s civil commitment statute should be modified to ensure it only applies to sex offenders and those at the highest risk for recidivism.
  • Expediting the process to move the only female resident to another location.
  • Re-evaluating each resident to see if they truly meet the criteria for commitment.
  • Institute a discharge plan for an offender as they are admitted to the program. The old program left many with ambiguous guidelines and little hope of being released.
  • Both the state and the program should begin preparing communities to meet the needs of future discharged residents.

The report mirrors a state task force finding from 2013 which stated that the current sex offender reform system “captures too many people and keeps too many of them too long.” Officials at the Department of Human Services are currently reviewing the 108-page report to determine the state and the program’s next move.

When you look at the data, it’s hard to suggest the program has been anything but a life sentence for current offenders. Under the program’s 20-year history, of the more the 700 offenders admitted to the program, only two have ever been discharged.

In addition to the changes proposed in the report, the program faces another obstacle in the form of a class action lawsuit. A group of sex offenders has sued the state claiming the old process was a violation of their due-process rights. Their case is expected to presented to a judge in February.

Related source: Star-Tribune, Pioneer Press


Wisconsin Judges Lenient on Chronic Drunk Drivers

A review of drunk driving cases by a Wisconsin media company found that many chronic offenders throughout the state receive lenient sentences.

Moreover, in at least a dozen cases, judges imposed sentences below the mandatory minimum. Sometimes this was done by negotiating around vaguely worded statutes, while other times judges blatantly disregarded mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

Ben Kempinen, a Law School professor at the University of Wisconsin, said it’s strange that judges who are tasked with upholding a law are blatantly overlooking current statutes.

“If (legislators) say you have to give the guy at least a year and (judges) are not doing it, then they’re not complying with the limits on their power,” Kempinen said.

More From The Review

The analysis of over 900 DUI cases across the state uncovered:

  • Some judges failed to institute probation upon an offender’s release from jail, while others let offenders serve some sentences simultaneously.
  • A Green Bay man convicted of seven drunk driving offenses should have been sentenced to three years in jail based on mandatory minimum laws, but he received a two-year sentence and ultimately only served nine months in jail.
  • The same judge handed down a similar sentence in another case. When the mandatory minimum called for three years, he sentenced the offender to two.

Avery Appelman comments

On the surface level the report might seem concerning that judges aren’t following the law to the letter, but there’s more to it than that. For example, the judge in the case above said he only went below the mandatory guidelines based on recommendations of prosecutors. He also said it’s his job to interpret the law and apply it on a case-by-case basis.

“I think the Legislature has a right to express their opinion that these are mandatory, in their opinion this is the sentence that should be imposed, but I don’t think I’m a computer. I don’t think I’m a robot. I try to listen to what everybody has to tell me,” said Judge Donald Zuidmulder. “I do respect that and probably follow it 99 percent of the time or 98 percent of the time.”

I think Judge Zuidmulder’s take is a good one. No two cases are the same, so a one-size-fits-all law isn’t going to be perfect 100 percent of the time. I’d much rather have a judge like Zuidmulder than one who doesn’t consider all the factors in the case and rules, as the judge referenced, as a robot.

Related source: Gannett News Media, Pioneer Press

by Appelman Law Firm