Tag Archives: domestic abuse

Court Upholds DWI Conviction for Woman Fleeing Abusive Husband

CC image Wikipedia.orgAn appellate court in Minnesota has upheld a DWI conviction for a woman who was charged with the crime after she drove away from a domestic abuse incident involving her husband.

Jennifer Marie Axelberg, 39, appealed her DWI conviction on the grounds that she feared for her life and needed to get as far away from her husband as possible after an argument turned physical. Jennifer asked the jury to overturn the previous ruling on the grounds of affirmative defense of necessity, which states that a defendant concedes they committed the act, but only because they had a justifiable reason to break the law. Unfortunately for Jennifer, the judges did not rule in her favor.

The Night in Question

The whole ordeal began on May 30, 2011, when Jennifer and her husband, Jason, decided to take a trip to their family cabin in Mora, Minnesota. The couple went for drinks at Fish Lake Resort, which is located less than a mile away from their cabin. Near the end of their time at the resort, the couple got into an argument.

The feuding couple returned to their cabin around 1:30 a.m., but the arguing didn’t stop there. After a short while the argument escalated, and court documents allege Jason:

  • Pushed his wife;
  • Struck her in the head twice; and
  • Confiscated her cell phone.

Fearing for her safety, Jennifer retreated to the couple’s car and locked the doors. An enraged Jason punched the car’s windshield, causing it to crack. Not knowing what would happen if her husband got inside, Jennifer started the car and drove back to the resort as her husband chased after her. A witness called police, and they arrived on scene shortly thereafter.

The responding officer said that Jennifer did not appear to have any physical injuries, and he noted her calm demeanor while her husband was being booked on charges of domestic assault and disorderly conduct. Jennifer was later arrested on suspicion of driving while impaired.

Jennifer’s Appeal

Jennifer’s appeal centered on the necessity defense, which allows for a criminal act to be committed in a situation where there are no other options. In order to be successful when claiming the necessity defense, the defendant must prove three things:

  • The defendant acted in such a manner to avoid a significant risk of harm; and
  • No reasonable lawful means could have been used to escape the harm; and
  • The harm avoided was greater than that caused by breaking the law.

The appeals court couldn’t draw from any similar cases during their deliberation, as the case was very unique. Judge Randolph Peterson issued the majority opinion, penning that although Jennifer was threatened with physical injury, she created an additional risk of injury to the general public by driving while impaired. Judge Peterson also stated that even if the court found the necessity defense did apply, the law limits what issues can be argued under its current state, and this case did not fall within that scope.

In addition, although it was not explicitly referenced by the majority opinion, the necessity defense is not applicable if the reason for citing the defense arose from the defendant’s own negligence or recklessness. It’s possible that the court viewed Jennifer’s decision to consume a good amount of alcohol – enough to be over the legal driving limit – as at least partially responsible for the escalating ordeal.

Others Disagree

Even though the majority opinion shot down Jennifer’s appeal, it was not a unanimous decision. Judge Margaret H. Chutich wrote the dissenting opinion, which stated that although there was not a precedent for overturning such a case, she does not believe that should “foreclose[d] its availability.” She added that the Minnesota Supreme Court had previously granted the necessity defense when a specific statute did not exist for its application.

“I believe that the defense is available in cases where extraordinary circumstances exist,” penned Chutich.

Chutich also noted that Jason Axelberg later pleaded guilty to both the domestic assault and disorderly conduct charges, so there was little doubt that a physical altercation had taken place. She said she would have reversed the lower court’s decision.

Even though Jennifer’s appeal failed, there is still some ambiguity to the application of the necessity clause. It seems likely that legislation will be put forth in hopes of expanding the areas to which the clause can be applied.

Related sources: MyFoxTwinCities, Legal-Dictionary

Minnesotans Urge for Funding to Curb Domestic Violence against Women

Although domestic violence deaths were at a 20-year low in 2012, the troubling start to the new year has prompted women’s rights advocates to petition state legislatures to allocate more funds to combat domestic abuse.

In 2012 there were 19 reported cases of homicide connected with domestic abuse, but there have already been eight such cases in less than three months in 2013.

To voice their opinions, domestic violence victims’ advocates gathered at the State Capital on Tuesday to ask for $3 million in funding over the next two years to help put a stop to domestic violence.

“[Domestic violence] won’t go away unless we collectively work on this issue,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger.

State officials were encouraged when the 2012 Femicide Report showed that the 19 deaths in 2012 represented a 20-year low, but the state is on pace for 41 domestic violence deaths in 2013.  That’s 41 too many.

Domestic abuse has been in the news recently, as a St. Paul husband has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder of his wife, Kira Trevino.  Trevino has been missing since February 24, and there is dwindling hope that she’ll be found alive.

Victim Services

Many advocates point to the lack of funding for domestic abuse services.  Seven counties and four reservation communities had state funding for domestic abuse services taken away, and three domestic violence programs in Fillmore, Carlton and St. Louis counties have had to close due to lack of funds.

“It’s very alarming,” said Bree Adams Bill, who works as program manager for the St. Paul Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.

63,267 domestic abuse victims sought services from abuse programs in 2012, but officials feel that number greatly under-represents the actual number of victims.  According to their reports, only one in five abuse victims seek professional services.

Lack of state funding isn’t the only reason domestic violence programs have had to close their doors in recent years.  Advocates say donations and foundation funding as decreased roughly 10-20% over the past two years.

“Violence against women is preventable, but to be successful, we need continued funding and support from policymakers, business leaders and the wide range of communities that make Minnesota great,” said Dr. Oliver Williams, who works with the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of domestic violence, please speak up.  Contact the police and an attorney to make sure you and your loved ones stay safe.

Related source:  Star-Tribune

How to Job Hunt with a Criminal Record

In 2010, 73 percent of human resources professionals said their company conducted a criminal background check during the hiring process, and that number has likely increased over the past few years as more information is becoming digitized.  Most people don’t have anything interesting on their record, but job seekers who have a criminal record may feel that past convictions will start them off on the wrong foot.  Because background checks are becoming more common, we’ll explore some ways to best present yourself to an employer if you have a criminal record.

  • Consider getting your criminal record sealed – Depending on what crime you committed, you may be able to get your record sealed.  Sealing or expunging your record doesn’t erase any information, but it does limit who can access it.  You can talk with an attorney or legal professional to determine if sealing your record is an option, or you can visit your state government’s website.
  • Volunteer opportunities can speak volumes – Exploring volunteering options can provide many benefits for job seekers.  First, it can show a company that you are focusing on the future, not dwelling in the past. Also, volunteer opportunities give you a chance to develop solid references that can put in a good word if your prospective employer calls for a reference.
  • Be knowledgeable about your conviction – It’s important to know exactly what you’ve been convicted of, as inaccurate information can be harmful in the interview process.  If you show an interviewer that you understand the charges and accepted the penalties, it can put you in a better light than those who don’t acknowledge or show remorse for their crimes.
  • Participate in re-entry programs – There are plenty of programs that help job seekers with a criminal record re-enter the professional world.  In Minnesota, there are certain groups like the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition and 180 Degrees who work to get people with a criminal record a job by focusing on education, training and support.  These programs can be listed on a resume and discussed in an interview to show that you are committed to developing professional skills and have a desire to learn.
  • Consider where you apply – During the application process, you’ll likely be asked if you have been convicted of a crime.  Read the section carefully, as some employers only ask for a certain time period (i.e. last five years) or for certain levels of crime (only list felonies).  If you’re applying at a larger company, you might have a tough time explaining your past convictions to a hiring manager.  Oftentimes at larger companies, human resources professionals without “hiring power” conduct an initial interview.  Second and third interviews with hiring and on-site managers are then conducted, and it can be difficult to explain your conviction to a person in charge if you have to go through multiple interviews.  By applying at a smaller company, you increase the likelihood that your initial interview will be with someone with greater hiring power and will give you a first-hand chance to explain any convictions.


  • Honesty is the best policy – It’s always best to disclose any past criminal convictions, as neglecting to do so can be cause for termination, even months after you get the job.  With that said, don’t start the interview by jumping into your past legal troubles.  Prepare what you plan to say before your interview in case it comes up.  Also, consider discussing the prior conviction after the company had expressed interest in you.  When discussing your conviction, it’s important to walk the line between accepting responsibility for your actions and explaining yourself.  For example, I knew a colleague back in college whose house got busted for having a party.  He took the fall for his roommate who purchased the keg because the roommate was a criminal justice major, and a ticket for “supplying to minors” would result in his expulsion from the program.  The roommate paid my colleague for the ticket, but now he has to explain the supplying to minors ticket during interviews.  He said he often has to tiptoe the line between explaining his side of the story and accepting the consequences for making a rash decision to support a friend.  He is prepared for the question, and tries to turn his answer into a positive outlook on his character.  He admits that it doesn’t always work, but being prepared and answering honestly help explain a conviction that looks bad on paper.


GPS Tracking Seeks to Deter Domestic Violence in Minnesota

GPSRamsey County and other criminal justice departments will begin using GPS monitoring to track alleged domestic violence offenders before their trial to ensure compliance with court orders.

The GPS will monitor the location of the defendant in order to protect the victim and prevent violations of pre-trial stipulations.  Participation in the GPS tracking program must be agreed upon by both parties involved.  Ramsey County Attorney John Choi believes the technology can offer another sense of protection to victims.

“This program will apply the power of technology and creative thinking to intervene in this all-too-familiar cycle of violence,” said Choi. “Most importantly, it gives victims of domestic violence another layer of protection at a critical point in their lives.”

Although use of the technology does not guarantee a victim’s safety, the benefits to both parties seem to outweigh the drawbacks.

From a victim’s state of view, the GPS technology can offer peace of mind knowing that police can see when an alleged abuser is nearing the victim’s home or place of employment.  This assurance gives victims a chance to focus on their daily routine as opposed to fearing that they may receive an unwelcomed visit from the defendant.

There are also drawbacks for the victims in a GPS monitoring program.  Researchers fear that victims may curtail their schedules to only stay in “victim zones”, or they may develop a false sense of security.  Also, they may receive less financial support from the defendant if the abuser is unable to find employment or faces work restrictions due to the presence of a GPS monitor.

The program also has benefits for defendants.  Defendants may receive lower bail amounts if they agree to the GPS program, and they would have peace of mind knowing that GPS tracking would prevent false accusations about harassment attempts.  Also, successful completion of the program would show the court that the defendant is willing to comply with court orders.

Minnesota Defense Lawyer Adam Goldfine believes most of the benefits favor the alleged victim.

“There are not too many benefits for the defendant,” said Goldfine.  “It’s also pretty presumptive to place a GPS device on an alleged abuser before trial.”

Goldfine also mentioned that although the defendant may receive a lower bail amount, they would likely have to cover some of the expenses associated with the GPS program.  That being said, Goldfine believes it will be a good program and he is curious to see the results.

“It won’t be a complete deterrent, but it will be a good measure.”

Related source:  My Fox Twin Cities

Rapper/Actor Tone Loc Arrested for Felony Domestic Violence

Tone LocAnthony Smith, better known by his stage name, Tone Loc, faces a felony domestic violence charge after a fight with the mother of his child in Burbank, California.

Tone Loc was arrested at about 2:45 p.m. and spent less than three hours behind bars before posting a $50,000 bail bond Saturday, June 18th, according to Burbank Police Sgt. Tracy Sanchez.

Further details about the physical altercation with the mother of his child are unknown at this time and Tone has yet to comment publicly on this weekend’s arrest.

Smith is best known for the 1989 hip-hop hits “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Medina” from his debut album, Loc-ed After Dark. The 45-year old rapper’s deep, raspy voice has been used in recent years for television acting and voice work.

“Domestic assault charges are difficult cases to prosecute and defend,” says Defense Attorney, Avery Appelman. “Evidence normally is testimonial in nature with participants describing the circumstances surrounding the assault and the injuries sustained. In cases like this, the alleged victim’s credibility would be examined. Is there a motivation for her not to be truthful (think money)? Obviously these incidents rarely happen in a vacuum and if there is any chance of reconciliation, a recommendation for clients to explore personal and couples counseling is always beneficial toward resolving the case.”

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Anoka County Implements New Plan to Halt Domestic Violence

Anoka Domestic ViolenceAnoka County is implementing a plan of action to reduce domestic abuse. This “immediate risk assessment program” is aimed at providing quicker help to those involved in domestic abuse cases. The program is backed by a $40,000 federal grant to help pay for training and additional personnel. Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth already have similar programs.

Anoka has a staggering amount of domestic abuse cases. Last year, the county attorney’s office prosecuted 160 felony domestic assault cases. Additionally, 75% of the county’s last homicides were a direct result of domestic disputes.

The program aims to bring immediate physical aid to victims, and also hopes to bring cases to trial more expediently, because a victim is more likely to rescind testimony if their case is postponed for weeks or months.

On average, 1,500 people die from domestic violence per year in the U.S. 50 percent of these people had contact with police, but only 4 percent sought services. That is why this initiative favors referring victims of severe domestic abuse to services like the Alexandra House in Blaine.

“It’s better for the victim if they can empower themselves,” says Paul Young, head of the violent crime unit of the Anoka County attorney’s office. “We always operated under the model that putting offenders in jail provides the best safety to the victim. But studies show real long-term safety comes when the victims get services.”

Similar programs in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth have already been hugely successful.

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