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Police to Organize Anti-Shoplifting Unit

Thursday, 15. August 2013

CC image Wikipedia.orgLaw enforcement officials in St. Paul have decided to develop a first-of-its-kind anti-shoplifting task force aimed at preventing what the city calls “organized shoplifting”.

St. Paul police decided to form the task force after looking at crime data that revealed organized shoplifting accounted for nearly half of all shoplifting crimes in the city.

Organized shoplifting involves at least two criminals who work together to steal easily concealable, high priced goods. In order to pull off the crime, one party distracts store employees so the other team members can pocket the expensive goods

“These aren’t shoplifters taking a pack of gum. These are professional thieves,” said Brian J. Nadeau, former program manager of the FBI’s Organized Retail Theft Program.

Some easily concealable goods that are often targeted by thieves include:

  • Medication
  • Infant formula
  • DVD’s and cameras
  • Razor blades
  • Batteries

Stopping the Teams

One of the first goals of the new anti-shoplifting task force is to review all of the city’s shoplifting cases to determine if the crime was committed as an act of desperation, on a whim, or as part of an organized effort. Once they have determined which acts were completed in teams, the task force will begin to formulate a plan to target the shoplifters.

The FBI estimates that organized retail shoplifting costs stores about $30 billion a year.

Possible Penalties

A look at the law in Minnesota shows that shoplifters can face serious consequences. A shoplifter in Minnesota can face 10-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 if:

  • The stolen property is valued between $5,000-$35,000; or
  • The stolen item is a firearm or explosive; or
  • The property is Coca Cola’s secret formula (OK, the law actually forbids the theft of trade secrets, but you get the point).

The biggest factor in determining a shoplifter’s punishment is by looking at the value of the stolen item.  Refer to the chart below for more information.

CC image Appelman Law Firm

Related sources: CBS Minnesota, FBI.gov

Minnesota Bus Law Quiz

Friday, 2. August 2013

CC image Wikipedia.orgNot too long ago, we discussed how cameras were being used to catch motorists who violate bus stop-arm laws. Camera technology has yet to be implemented in Minnesota, but we want to do our part to ensure kids are safe when they enter or exit a bus. To help remind people of the local school bus safety regulations, we came up with a 10-question quiz. Test your knowledge by taking the quiz!

1. A motorist must stop at least ___ feet from a bus that has its stop-arm engaged and its red lights flashing?

A) 20 feet

B) 30 feet

C) 50 feet

D) 100 feet

2. A peace officer may arrest a driver for passing a school bus up to ____ hours after the incident if they have probable cause to believe the violation occurred.

A) 2 hours

B) 4 hours

C) 12 hours

D) 24 hours

3. True or False? A person driving a vehicle on a street with separated roadways (roads are separated by a safety aisle or zone) does NOT have to stop for a bus with its stop-arm engaged.

4. A motorist who fails to stop for a bus with its stop-arm engaged can face a fine of up to?

A) $300

B) $500

C) $1,000

D) $2,000

5. A motorist who fails to stop for a bus with its stop-arm engaged is guilty of?

A) A misdemeanor

B) A gross misdemeanor

C) An aggravated misdemeanor

D) A felony

6. A motorist who passes or attempts to pass a bus on the right-hand side of the bus is guilty of?

A) A misdemeanor

B) A gross misdemeanor

C) An aggravated misdemeanor

D) A felony

7. True or False? The vehicle’s owner can face a fine for passing a bus with its safety arm engaged if their car was used in the incident, even if a friend was driving the vehicle.

8. A bus driver is required by law to activate the pre-warning flashing lights at least ____ before stopping when the speed limit is 35 mph or less, and at least ____ in advance when the speed limit is 35 mph or greater.

A) 300 feet, 600 feet

B) 200 feet, 500 feet

C) 100 feet, 500 feet

D) 100 feet, 300 feet

 9. True or False? A bus driver must turn on the pre-warning flashing red lights before crossing a railroad track.

10. Can a school bus driver use a cell phone while the vehicle is in motion?

A) Yes, they driver can use a cell phone without restriction.

B) Yes, the driver can use a cell phone, but only with the aid of a hands-free device.

C) Yes, but only in the event of an emergency or for work-related issues.

D) No, the driver cannot use a cell phone when the vehicle is in motion.

Answers: 1. A 2. B 3. True 4. A 5. A 6. B 7. False 8. D 9. False 10. C

New Minnesota Laws Go Into Effect Today

Thursday, 1. August 2013

CC image Wikipedia.orgWhile the legalization of gay marriage in Minnesota may grab the top headline, there are plenty of other newsworthy laws that go into effect today. There are four main changes that affect criminal penalties, and we’ll detail them all below.

Prostitution Consequences

Soliciting or engaging in prostitution can lead to a fine and/or jail time, but anyone caught in the act after August 1 may feel a larger dent in their wallet.

The new law allows authorities to confiscate any cash that was used or intended to be used for the solicitation of sex. This law applies to patrons, prostitutes, and pimps.

The seized funds will be split among local and state law enforcement agencies. A portion of the confiscated cash will be set aside to help sexually abused victims.

Cracking Down on Prank 911 Calls

Any person who intentionally dials 911 without a real emergency will be subject to harsher penalties under the new Minnesota law.

The law was put in place to penalize those who report a fake emergency in order to draw authorities to or away from a certain area. A caller will be charged with a misdemeanor for their first offense, and a gross misdemeanor for subsequent offenses. If a person is hurt because authorities are rushing to location, or a person with a real emergency cannot receive the help they need because of the prank call, the caller could face felony charges.

The goal of the law is to reduce a trend known as “swatting”, where an individual phones in a bogus report in order to have authorities, sometimes even the SWAT team, arrive at a certain location.

Arsonists Will Feel the Burn

Individuals who intentionally set wildfires in Minnesota after August 1 will be hit with tougher penalties.

A person will face a felony charge if they start a fire that:

  • Does damage to five or more buildings; or
  • Poses a threat to five or more buildings; or
  • Burns 500 acres of land; or
  • Does “significant” crop damage.

The felony charge carries possible penalties of up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000.

The potential penalties will be more severe if the damage escalates to involve over 100 buildings or residences, or if someone is hurt by the blaze. Restitution costs will also increase under the new statute.

Transit Driver Assault Penalties Increase

Assaulting a bus or light rail driver will carry heavier consequences under the new statute. The penalties were increased because these types of crimes can put passengers in danger, in the event that the assault causes the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Any person that assaults or spits on/at a transit driver will be hit with a gross misdemeanor.

Legislators made the change after hearing numerous stories from drivers about their encounters with harassment on a bus or light rail.

Related source: KSTP

Traffic Fatalities Continue to Rise in Minnesota

Wednesday, 31. July 2013

CC image Wikipedia.orgTraffic fatalities in Minnesota are on pace to rise for the second straight year, according to figures from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

So far there have been 204 deaths on Minnesota roads, and with some historically dangerous months ahead of us, state officials say we are on pace to easily surpass the 395 deaths that occurred in 2012.

Although there has been a spike in motorcycle related fatalities, Lt. Col Matt Langer of the State Patrol said there is no one reason why the state is seeing an uptick in traffic deaths.

“It would be easier if there was a smoking gun to point to and then target it,” said Matt Langer. “We don’t see any smoking gun.”

Instead, Langer said a variety of factors have contributed to the spike in traffic deaths. Some of the most common factors include:

  • Drunk driving
  • Speeding
  • Inattentive driving
  • Failing to wear a seat belt

Authorities have attempted to curb traffic deaths by adding extra patrols to spot certain violations. State agencies recently participated in a speed-enforcement campaign during July, and earlier this year law enforcement officials partook in the nationwide “Click it or Ticket” campaign. Another program – Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over – is set to begin in August.

Looking at the numbers

Compared to numbers from years past, the total number of traffic deaths has significantly decreased, but any increase from the previous year should be a cause for concern. In 2011, there were 368 traffic fatalities, which represented the fewest deaths since 1944. The number jumped to 395 in 2012, still low compared to recent years, but that number appears set to jump again in 2013. A closer look at the data shows that the metro areas may be to blame.

  • In 2013, three of the seven counties (Carver, Hennepin and Scott) in the metro area have already exceeded the number of traffic deaths they reported in 2012.
  • The remaining four counties (Anoka, Dakota, Ramsey and Washington) are all on pace to surpass their totals from 2012.

While the numbers are eye-opening, it’s worth noting that the total number of traffic deaths has significantly decreased from 10 years ago, when the state reported 655 fatalities. Even that number is much less than the record high, which occurred in 1968, when 1,060 people died on Minnesota roads.

To combat the spike, authorities have become ever vigilant in stopping dangerous driving habits. So far this year, police have issued over 1,100 tickets for texting while driving to both teens and adults. In addition, some counties are beginning multi-million dollar construction projects to address some of the more notorious spots for traffic collisions.

Related source: Star-Tribune

Underage Drinking “Immunity” Bill Goes into Effect Monday

Monday, 1. July 2013

CC image Wikipedia.orgUnderage drinkers who are attempting to seek aid for a friend that has consumed too much alcohol will now be able to avoid a minor consumption ticket.

The law, which went into effect July 1, is designed to provide underage drinkers with a responsible solution if someone they know has had too much to drink. Both the person who seeks help and the person requiring medical attention would have immunity from an underage consumption ticket, although other fees like hospital or detox fees may still apply.

The bill is known as HF946, and it provides immunity to an underage drinker under the following conditions:

  • The person voluntarily seeks aid by bringing their friend into a health facility or detoxification center; or
  • The person initiates contact with a police officer, peace officer, emergency services member, 911 operator, or any other health or legal services provider. They also must be the first person to make the report.

Representative Tina Liebling, who sponsored the bill, said the law is designed to ensure teens receive treatment in the event of a medical emergency.

“This is about making sure that when people are underage and they are drinking or they are doing something they shouldn’t be doing and have a health emergency, that the illegal behavior doesn’t keep them from getting the health care they need,” Liebling said. “This will tell students in Minnesota that above everything, we care about their health and their lives.”

Curbing Other Crimes

The bill received plenty of support from students at the University of Minnesota. When lobbying for the bill, some students told stories about coming across an extremely intoxicated person at a house or in the dorm. Taylor Williams, the university’s student body president, said this bill could prevent other crimes from occurring.

“Whether it is a student who is attending a party and drinking for the first time that becomes ill and needs medical attention or a young woman who is sexually assaulted and needs help, current state law discourages that individual from seeking assistance,” said Williams.

According to statistics provided by Butler University, roughly 75% of sexual assaults that occur on a college campus involve alcohol. Proponents of this bill hope severely intoxicated individuals will end up in hospital beds as opposed to a stranger’s bed.

“We need to do what we can to avoid a tragedy,” said Elizabeth Huebsch, who spoke about a time she encountered an intoxicated 19-year-old on her dorm’s bathroom floor.

Slippery Slope

Few will argue against a bill that can reduce sexual assaults, but opponents of HF946 question some of the logistics behind the bill. Their main concerns were:

  • How many times an individual can use the so-called “free pass.”
  • If their should be an age restriction on the immunity clause (i.e. only people 18-20 years old should be eligible).
  • Opening a “slippery slope” by not ticketing illegal behavior.

Liebling said she was most concerned about protecting others than arguing over slippery slopes.

“We can always talk about slippery slopes,” Liebling said. “Everything we do around here is a slippery slope, but I think the members of this committee know that we need to do something about this problem.”

Related source: Minnesota House of Representatives, Butler University

Minnesota Pair Accused of Selling $5,000 Worth of Stolen Gopher Feet

Thursday, 20. June 2013

CC image Wikipedia.orgMinnesota is known as the home of the Golden Gophers, but a mother-son duo in Preston took that idea to the next level as they allegedly tried to turn a profit by selling stolen gopher feet.

In a story that makes you say “only in Minnesota”, authorities have charged 37-year old Tina Marie Garrison and her 18-year-old son with four counts of receiving stolen property and theft, and gross misdemeanor receiving stolen property and theft for their involvement in the crime.

Goph-igure

According to the police report, a gopher trapper called the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department to inform them that someone had stolen bags of gopher feet from his freezer. After contacting the authorities, the trapper put his own detective skills to work. He contacted townships in the area to determine if any places were offering rewards for gopher parts. The trapper got a hit when he phoned an official in Harmony Township.

The trapper was informed that Harmony Township was offering $3 for a set of gopher feet as a reward for hunters helping to combat the gopher problem in the area. Rewards for gopher parts are not uncommon, but the trapper soon learned that one person had turned in over $1,000 worth of gopher feet in a short period of time. That person turned out to be Junior Lee Dillon, the son of Tina Garrison. Even more of a red flag was the fact that Garrison had turned in roughly $3,700 worth of gopher feet in one sale.

When the Harmony township clerk contact Garrison to ask where she had obtained the gopher feet, she said she received them from her oldest son who got them from a friend. She also stated that she had been storing the feet for the last three years. Garrison said she recently decided to sell them because her son had a job and didn’t have time to sell them himself.

Authorities got a much different answer when they contacted Dillon. He claimed that he had never sold gopher feet in Harmony, and someone must have used his name in order to avoid detection. Although he claimed ignorance about the sale of the feet, Dillon admitted he knew the trapper had reported the feet missing because he was frequently inside the trapper’s house. It’s uncertain what business Dillon had on the trapper’s property.

After an investigation, authorities determined they had enough evidence to charge Garrison and Dillon with a crime. Law enforcement officials did not pursue charges against Garrison’s eldest son, who denied any involvement in the scandal.

A Look at the Law

A review of Minnesota law reveals that if the stolen property is valued between $1,000 and $5,000, a person found guilty of theft can face penalties of:

  • Up to five years in prison; and/or
  • Fines of up to $10,000

A charge of gross misdemeanor theft is less serious, but it still carries some heavy penalties. A person found guilty of misdemeanor theft can be sentenced to:

  • Up to one year in jail; and/or
  • Fines of up to $3,000

Related source:  Minnesota Public Radio

Indians’ Closer Charged with Marijuana Possession

Monday, 10. June 2013

CC image Wikipedia.orgCleveland Indians closer Chris Perez was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession after authorities executed a search warrant at his home last week.

Acting on a tip from the postal service, investigators arranged for suspicious packages to be delivered to Perez’s home. Perez was not home when the packages were delivered, but his wife Melanie signed for two packages addressed to the couple’s dog Brody. The last name on the package was Baum, Melanie’s maiden name.

Believing that similar packages previously delivered to the house contained drug paraphernalia, authorities obtained a search warrant and entered the house when the couple was out to lunch. When Perez returned home, authorities asked him if he had any drugs on the premises. He directed agents to two mason jars in his basement, saying the jars contained his “personal use” marijuana.

“He pointed out a number of items of along with two separate ‘mason’ jars containing a green vegetable matter suspected of being marijuana,” authorities noted in the police report.

Both Perez and his wife were charged with misdemeanor drug possession in connection with the one-third pound shipment of marijuana that was mailed to their residence. Although misdemeanor drug possession convictions usually only result in a fine, the family’s attorney said the pair would plead not guilty.

Because marijuana is banned by Major League Baseball as part of their drug policy, Perez could be subjected to addition penalties if found guilty. Since marijuana isn’t viewed as a performance enhancer like steroids or Human Growth Hormone, the league usually doesn’t suspend players for first time violations. Instead, many players are required to complete a league approved drug-counseling program.

The Indians issued a statement upon hearing of the incident.

“Clearly we take these matters seriously and are disappointed whenever there is any negative attention brought to the Indians organization or one of our players,” said Indians general manager Chris Antonetti. “We understand and respect that there is an ongoing legal process that we will allow to evolve.”

Perez has been on the disabled list since May 27 with a right shoulder injury, but he is eligible to be activated Tuesday. Although he may soon return to the mound, Perez’s days in Cleveland may be numbered. He’s already made waves for lashing out at the front office and at fans for different reasons, and he recently deactivated his Twitter account after receiving some criticism following a few rough outings.  We’ll track the case as it plays out over the coming weeks.

Related source:  ESPN

Supreme Court Rules DNA Collection Constitutional

Thursday, 6. June 2013

CC image Cheek swabbing by Canadian Blood Services on FlickrIn a sharply divided 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that police can legally acquire a DNA swab from any person arrested for a serious crime, mirroring a practice that has already been adopted by 28 states and the federal government.

The ruling was issued in connection with the court case Maryland v. King.  According to court records, Alonzo King was arrested in 2009 on charges of assault after he reportedly pointed a shotgun at some individuals.  Because Maryland allows police to collect DNA evidence for anyone charged with a serious crime, authorities took a swab of Mr. King’s cheek.  When the sample was ran through the cold case database, King was identified as a suspect in a 2003 rape case.  He was later found guilty of the rape, but he challenged the legality of the DNA collection.

The decision may be felt across Minnesota because the state has previously ruled such collections are unconstitutional.  Authorities in Minnesota only collect DNA evidence when a person has been charged with a violent crime like rape or murder, and even then the order for collection needs to be approved by a judge.

Strong Opinions on Both Sides

Both sides strongly defended their position in their written opinion.  Supporters of the measure said DNA collection would help solve cold cases and future crimes, while dissenters viewed the process as an infringement of personal rights.

“Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the opinion for the five-justice majority.  “The use of DNA for identification is no different than matching an arrestee’s face to a wanted poster of a previously unidentified suspect, or matching tattoos to known gang symbols to reveal a criminal affiliation, or matching the arrestee’s fingerprints to those recovered from a crime scene. DNA is another metric of identification used to connect the arrestee with his or her public persona, as reflected in records of his or her actions that are available to police.”

While the ruling may make it easier to identify suspected criminals, Justice Antonin Scalia said the decision opens a dangerous door.

“Make no mistake about it: Because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” Scalia said in his dissent. “This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA when you fly on an airplane — surely the TSA must know the ‘identity’ of the flying public. For that matter, so would taking your children’s DNA when they start public school.”

The biggest problem dissenters have with the ruling is the vagueness surrounding what is considered a “serious” crime.  It’s very possible that state governments will interpret the ruling differently, which could eventually lead to DNA collection in petty crimes like shoplifting or disorderly conduct.

ACLU Chimes In

The American Civil Liberties Union weighed-in on the ruling, siding with Scalia and the dissenting opinion.  Similar to our recent posts on the Missouri v. McNeely ruling, the issue at hand is the government’s power to commit searches and seizures on its citizens.

“The Fourth Amendment has long been understood to mean that the police cannot search for evidence of a crime — and all nine justices agreed that DNA testing is a search — without individualized suspicion,” said Steven R. Shapiro, legal director for the ACLU. “Today’s decision eliminates that crucial safeguard. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that other state laws on DNA testing are even broader than Maryland’s and may present issues that were not resolved by today’s ruling.”

In a future post, our attorneys will break down the legal impacts of Monday’s ruling.  If you have any questions about the ruling, please submit a question to our team.

 

Chicken Wing Sauce Leads to Arrest in St. Paul

Tuesday, 4. June 2013

CC image Mars Bar Buffalo Wings by rick on FlickrAlthough your standard buffalo sauce usually has more of an orange tint, it’s safe to say two St. Paul teens were caught red-handed after they were reportedly implicated in a robbery when authorities caught them with chicken wing sauce on their hands.

According to the police report, the whole incident began last Friday night when a delivery driver for Checkerboard Pizza took a delivery to the 800 block of East Geranium.  Upon arrival, the driver was approached by two teens that were sitting near the intended address.

The teens asked the driver if he was from Checkerboard Pizza.  When the driver said yes, one of the teens revealed a silver handgun.  The other teen robbed the driver of his cash, wallet, and the box of chicken wings he had brought for the delivery.

After the robbery, the teens fled in one direction while the driver returned to his car.  The driver flagged down a nearby police officer to assist shortly after the incident.

Unbeknownst to the criminals, Checkerboard Pizza was easily able to retrieve the phone number from which the original call was placed.  The police tracked the phone number to an apartment complex on Rose Avenue.  The officers knocked on the door, and within seconds authorities believed they had found the perpetrators.

“Officers patted [name redacted] down and noted his hands were slimy and sticky, and he smelled of hot sauce commonly used by restaurants on chicken wings,” the official report says.

Further strengthening their case, authorities found a silver handgun and chicken bones after searching the apartment.

Clearly not realizing they were foiled by technology, the pair further incriminated themselves when speaking in the back of the squad car.  The 16-year-old was heard saying he “should have washed his hands.”

The 16-year-old later admitted to the robbery, saying he and his cousin were hungry but they couldn’t afford to pay for the chicken wings.  The 19-year-old was charged with first-degree robbery, while the case against the juvenile is being reviewed by the Ramsey County attorney’s office.

Related source:  Pioneer Press

Memorial Day Weekend Leads to Traffic Accidents, DUIs in Minnesota

Wednesday, 29. May 2013

At least four people were killed and roughly 360 individuals were arrested for DWI over the Memorial Day holiday in Minnesota, according to preliminary data provided by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety.

CC image Wikipedia.org

The total number of traffic fatalities matched the four fatalities over the same weekend a year ago.  Minnesota has seen a wide range of traffic deaths over Memorial Day weekend dating back to 2008.  There were no deaths on the roads during the holiday weekend in 2011, while there were 13 reported causalities in 2009.  Of the 28 traffic related deaths during Memorial Day weekend since 2008, 14 have been drunk driving related.

The four fatal crashes took place in Douglas County, LeSueur County, Hennepin County, and Morrison County.  The victims ranged in age from 19 to 81.

DUI’s Down From St. Patrick’s Day

Although more than 350 people were arrested for driving under the influence during the holiday weekend, the total is less than the 400 reported arrests over St. Patrick’s Day weekend this year.

It may not be surprising that more people decided to celebrate the Irish holiday by getting behind the wheel after having a few too many drinks, but there was plenty of law enforcement on the roads this weekend, as Memorial Day fell during the annual Click it or Ticket campaign.

The campaign, which began on May 20 and runs through June 2, has already netted 4,316 seat belt violations.  Law enforcement officials have increased their daily patrols, and they are keeping a closer eye on drivers and their passengers to ensure everyone is buckled up.

We talked about the importance of wearing your seatbelt when you’re in a car during a blog post last week, but it’s extremely important considering the Office of Traffic Safety has released updated fatal crash statistics for 2013.  So far, 112 people have been killed on Minnesota roads this year.  That is 13 more than last year, when 99 traffic fatalities were reported after the Memorial Day weekend.

Related sources: Minnesota DPS, HometownSource.com


 

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