First Degree Murder Defenses

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Being arrested and charged with an allegation of Murder in the First Degree carries the potential to forever change a life.  Personal relationships and individual freedom are very much literally on the line. However, it’s important to understand the paramount rule of the US criminal justice system: an arrest isn’t the same as a conviction, and you’re not guilty unless a prosecutor proves it beyond a reasonable doubt.  There are several defenses to murder, and one or more of them may present a strong strategy for fighting the charges – or reducing them to a lesser crime. Time is of the essence to discuss your circumstances with a Minnesota homicide defense attorney.  You have a greater advantage when you retain legal representation as early as possible in the criminal proceedings. Some important information on your defense options may also help you understand that your situation is possibly not as grim as you think. Attack the Prosecution’s Allegations Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is an extremely heavy burden for the prosecutor, who must establish every essential element of first-degree murder, including: A willful intent to take a human life; and, Premeditated deliberation to kill, which could range from a split-second thought to a long period of planning. In addition, Minnesota’s statute covers a wide range of conduct generally categorizes as the “felony murder” rule.  The State of Minnesota can file a first-degree murder charge if someone is killed during the commission or attempted commission of a separate felony, even if the death wasn’t intended. The first line of attack in fighting murder charges is gathering as much information to refute one or both of the elements that the prosecutor must establish. An inkling of a doubt or question in the minds of the jury could result in an acquittal.  Defenses to Murder Though you may be unsuccessful in disproving the allegations as set forth by the prosecution, you still have ample opportunity when it’s your turn to present your case-in-chief. There are multiple options available as “complete” defenses, which means you’re acquitted if you’re successful. Self-Defense This falls under Minnesota’s statute on Authorized Use of Force, which allows a reasonable amount of force under certain circumstances. You could be able to beat first-degree murder charges if you were trying to protect yourself from the victim.  To claim self-defense in a first-degree murder case, you need to show: That you didn’t engage in any aggression yourself; You believed that you were in imminent danger of being killed or sustaining great bodily harm; Your belief was reasonable under the circumstances; AND, There was no opportunity for you to retreat to a safe location where you could avoid the threat. With respect to #4, you may recognize this element as a “stand your ground” concept, a rule which Minnesota does NOT follow. This is why you have a duty to retreat from the violent encounter before using deadly force. If you’re unable to get away, only then can you engage in deadly force and claim self-defense to fight the charges. The Innocence of the Underlying Felony In a case where you’re charged with felony murder for killing someone in connection with committing a felony, there’s a defense if you’re not guilty of the underlying crime. Insanity This defense is closely associated with the intent element of a first-degree murder charge. You need to prove that you suffer from some medical condition that: Renders you unable to understand what you were doing; Makes you incapable of knowing right from wrong; Leads you to act on uncontrollable impulses; or, A combination of all these issues. In addition, you should keep in mind that there are other defenses that are partial in nature. This means that you don’t completely beat the charges and gain an acquittal. Instead, successful use of the defense means you can have the charges lowered, such as to Murder in the Second or Third Degree.  Schedule a Consultation with a Minnesota Murder Defense Lawyer Right Away For more information on defenses to murder and potential strategies for fighting the charges, please contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Arechigo & Stokka, P.A. to speak with our criminal defense lawyer.  You can set up a free consultation at our St. Paul, MN office by calling 651-222-6603 or visiting our website. Our attorneys fight for the rights of clients throughout Minnesota and North Dakota in both federal and state court, so we’re prepared to take on your defense.

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Understanding Pre-Existing Conditions in a Workers’ Compensation Claim

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If you’ve been injured in a workplace accident, you’re probably already experiencing the unfortunate effects. Beyond the physical pain, there are financial consequences of being unable to work and earn an income to support your household. Plus, you will also incur medical bills for treatment, including costs related to surgery, physical therapy, pain medications, and others.  When you suffer injuries that make you unable to work in your chosen occupation, you may need to learn new skills. For medical conditions that render you permanently disabled, you may never be able to work again.Fortunately, Minnesota’s workers’ compensation laws provide you with rights as the victim of a workplace accident.  However, the process of filing a workers’ comp claim can be daunting, especially when your employer’s insurance company denies payment on the grounds that you suffer from a pre-existing injury. As such, you may believe you’re not eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits, but the system does cover work injuries that aggravate a nonwork-related medical condition.  A Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney can explain the legal issues and assist with the claims process. You can also read on for some important information regarding your rights. Why Pre-Existing Injuries Matter in a Minnesota Workers’ Comp Claim There are two key requirements you must meet to be eligible for workers’ comp: You must be a covered employee, as opposed to an independent contractor; and, Your injuries must be the result of a work-related accident, or some other workplace conditions in the case of an occupational disease. When you have a pre-existing injury, workers’ compensation rules can be complicated because of factor #2. The line between on-the-job and non-work injuries can be blurry. It’s common for workers’ comp insurers to deny benefits based upon any reason they can find, and a pre-existing medical condition offers a way out of their legal obligation to pay your claim.  Even when there’s scant evidence that you suffered from a condition that was exacerbated by a workplace accident, the insurer will claim that you weren’t hurt in the course of your normal job duties. As it relates to workers’ comp, a pre-existing condition is subject to a legal standard by law in Minnesota. You’re still eligible under the legal system if the work-related accident was a “substantial contributing factor” to your current medical condition.  This means you can still qualify to recover monetary benefits, such as: Your medical bills, covering your current treatment and costs you incur in the future for care; Wage replacement for lost income while you’re out of work; and, Vocational training, if your medical condition – including a pre-existing injury – makes it impossible for you to work in your current position. Your Workers’ Comp Claim and the IME When an insurance company is processing your claim, it may request that you participate in an independent medical exam (IME). However, even though you’re seeing a doctor, the purpose is not treatment of your injuries. Plus, the exam is typically anything BUT independent.  The physicians who conduct these exams are paid by the insurer, so their goal is to please the entity that’s paying them. The IME is an opportunity for the insurance company to discover enough information about your pre-existing condition to justify a denial.Still, an IME is common for other reasons and it’s critical for you to keep the appointment. Failure to participate alone could be grounds for the insurer to reject your claim.  The point of the IME is to determine the nature of a pre-existing injury, and report on whether it’s an aggravation or not related to work. What to Do If You’re Denied Workers’ Comp Benefits for a Pre-Existing Injury As part of their denial of your claim, your employer’s workers’ comp insurer will issue a Notice of Primary Liability stating your pre-existing condition as the reason. At this point, your situation becomes highly complicated because you’ll need to ask the State of Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry to reconsider liability.  Instead of trying to represent yourself in connection with the proceedings, your first order of business should be consulting with a Minnesota workers’ comp lawyer that has experience in pre-existing conditions.  Your attorney will: Assist in gathering medical records that include details on any pre-existing condition; File the appropriate forms for officials to reconsider your claim; Represent you in connection with any hearings regarding your rights under workers’ compensation laws; and, Take the next steps as necessary to protect your interests. Contact a Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Lawyer to Discuss Your Claim If you’ve been denied workers’ comp benefits or are required to participate in an IME, please contact the St. Paul, MN Workers’ Compensation Law Offices of Arechigo & Stokka, P.A. You can call 651-222-6603 or check us out online to set up a no-cost case evaluation. We’re happy to answer your questions about workers’ comp and pre-existing conditions and provide assistance with the claims process.

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Arechigo & Stokka Receive Win in Minnesota Cyberbullying Case

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In June, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a ruling reversing the cyberbullying conviction of a high school student that has been working its way through the court system for the last three years. The student, identified in court documents as A.J.B., was originally charged under Minnesota’s mail-harassment laws. The case, which involved a series of tweets containing insults mocking the target’s autism and sexuality, raised concerns over the law’s potential infringement of the First Amendment. A.J.B. was originally found guilty in juvenile court of multiple charges of stalking and harassment under Minnesota’s mail harassment laws. On appeal, the Court of Appeals allowed the Minnesota cyberbullying case conviction to stand, prompting the further appeal to the state’s supreme court. In its ruling, the Supreme Court disagreed with the lower court ruling, finding that the laws were, in fact, too broad and as a result could provide an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. In its opinion, written by Justice Paul Thissen, the court explained that while First Amendment protections are not limitless, here the line separating speech that could be regulated by the government had not been crossed. Instead, the law was overbroad because it could be used against someone who didn’t know or intend that their communications “frighten, threaten, oppress, persecute, or intimidate” the target. “Obviously, we consider this a pretty big victory three years in the making,” said the attorney for the defendant, John Arechigo. “It’s certainly a win for freedom of speech.”

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Types of Injuries for Work Comp

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MINNESOTA WORK COMP LAWYER  An injured worker can be entitled to Minnesota work comp benefits if an injury is work-related as the result of work duties.  The employee may be injured on the employer’s property, while at another worksite, when traveling on the job, or doing anything that is work-related while “on the clock.”  With the help of an experienced Minnesota workers’ comp attorney, you will receive the help that you need to fill out and file a complete and accurate claim. UNDERSTANDING THE TYPES OF WORKPLACE INJURIES An injury incurred on the job is not considered a valid injury for work comp purposes if it was an injury that occurred due to committing a crime, did not occur while on the clock, was self-inflicted, was due to a pre-existing condition unless worsened by current work, or resulted from the use of alcohol or drugs.  An injury may also not be covered by workers’ comp if it is determined that the injury occurred due to violating company policy. Injuries that are covered under Minnesota work comp typically include physical injuries, including broken bones, head injuries, spinal injuries, amputated limbs, paralysis, eye injuries, burn injuries, repetitive motion injuries (carpal tunnel),  and many others. Illnesses may also be covered if the illness was caused by a hazardous job condition.  For instance, exposure to a toxic substance and exposure to substances that can cause cancer or respiratory illnesses can usually trigger Minnesota work comp benefits. Mental illnesses or traumatic emotional experiences at work are tricky.  These areas have gained some recent momentum under Minnesota work comp.  A person who experiences an event at work that causes emotional trauma resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD could possibly qualify for Minnesota work comp benefits if it is deemed impossible for a person to return to work or a person can only work in a limited capacity because of the traumatic experience. HELPING YOU GET THE COMPENSATION YOU DESERVE When you have experienced any of the aforementioned types of injuries, it is important to notify your employer, your doctor, and your Minnesota workers’ comp attorney.  That way the process toward filing your workers’ comp claim can begin.  Minnesota work comp benefits are designed to help you get through your injury, recover, and return to work. CONTACT A ST. PAUL WORK COMP LAWYER As noted, several types of injuries are excluded from Minnesota work comp benefits. It is not uncommon for an employer or the insurance company to claim a legitimate work comp injury falls under one of the excluded categories and thereby attempt to deny work comp benefits. If you have been injured on the job, our experienced St. Paul workers’ comp attorneys can help you obtain your benefits as soon as possible, as well as remove a great deal of stress from the process. Call us today to schedule your free consultation.  There is no upfront fee if you decide to hire our St. Paul work comp lawyers to help recover your Minnesota work comp benefits.

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Keep Calm and Lawyer Up

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Perhaps the most important thing someone can remember to do when they find him or herself in the middle of a police encounter is to keep calm.   Getting into an argument with the police, no matter how right you may be, is not going to do any good.  The police will most likely describe you as being “uncooperative” or “combative.” Instead, keep calm and lawyer up.  Tell the officers that you would like to have your attorney present for any questioning.  After you have asserted your right to have an attorney present, the police cannot ask you anymore questions and the interrogation must end. Keep calm and lawyer up.

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Injured At Work In Minnesota– What Should I Do?

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If you are injured at work in Minnesota, the first thing that you must do is report the injury to your employer.   Report the injury to your supervisor.  If you do not have a direct supervisor, report the injury to someone in a management capacity.  Report the injury regardless of the severity.  This is important because sometimes what you believe is a minor injury can develop into a serious injury. Failure to report the injury when it occurs can complicate matters.  If you are injured at work, go home, and then the next morning realize that the injury is much more severe than you realized, the employer may not believe you were injured at work.  Even very severe injuries may not seem severe when they occur.  Report any injury. If needed, go to the emergency room.  After reporting the injury at work, any treatment necessary to treat that injury will be compensated.  Do not worry about the expense at this time.  Tell your doctor you were injured at work.  Your employer may attempt to direct you to a doctor.  You do not have to go to the doctor they tell you to go to.  You may choose your doctor.  If needed you should get a restriction from your doctor.  The restriction can be different depending on the nature of the injury.  It can be a time-per-day restriction, a weight restriction, or anything your doctor deems appropriate. After you receive the restriction, if any, give it to your employer.  Ask your employer to complete a First Report of Injury.  If your employer refuses, fill out the document yourself.   Contact the law firm of Arechigo & Stokka, LLP, for a free consultation at 651-222-6603.

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Injured at Work Going Up or Down Stairs

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STAIR INJURY AT WORK If you were injured at work going up or down stairs, you deserve Minnesota work comp benefits.  The issue is whether this is compensable under the workers’ compensation law.  Generally, an employee who was injured at work going up or down stairs are work injures that are regarded as compensable injuries.   In one case, a delivery driver’s knee went out while descending three flights of stairs.  The doctor’s report indicated the delivery driver was injured at work going up or down stairs because that activity put more stress on the knee than would have occurred on a flat surface.  Consequently, this work injury was held to be compensable under Minnesota workers’ compensation law. In another workers’ compensation case, a woman with preexisting knee problems ran up a set of stairs and her knee buckled.  Despite the preexisting injuries in her knee, the court held that the work activities accelerated or aggravated the preexisting injury and, therefore, it was held to be compensable under the workers’ compensation law. IF YOU WERE INJURED AT WORK GOING UP OR DOWN STAIRS, AT A MINIMUM, SOME LEVEL OF WORK CONNECTION MUST BE ESTABLISHED IN ORDER FOR THE INJURY TO BE COMPENSABLE UNDER MINNESOTA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAW. Whether it is going up and/or down a large number of stairs, work boots that cause a fall and resulting work injury, or going up and down steep stairs at work that is above and beyond what someone may encounter at home, something about the stairs must be tied to work duties. HIRE WEST ST. PAUL’S BEST WORKERS COMP LAWYERS Because more and more employees are injured at work going up or down stairs, workmans comp cases involving resulting injuries from stairs are becoming more common.   If you have a stair injury from work, you need an experienced West St. Paul workers’ compensation lawyer to help prove your case.   If you have any questions, please contact our attorneys for a free consultation.

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How Long Can the Police Detain You?

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MOST PEOPLE WONDER HOW LONG CAN POLICE DETAIN YOU OR YOUR VEHICLE DURING A TRAFFIC STOP. The duration of the vehicle stop depends on the initial reason for the traffic stop and any other criminal suspicion that develops after the stop.   The Minnesota Supreme Court states that the duration of the vehicle stop must be temporary and cannot last any longer than is necessary to investigate the initial reason for the traffic stop.  However, there is no concrete time limit for a lawful length of a traffic stop. The police need to suspect other criminal activity separate from the reason for the initial traffic stop before they can continue to lawfully detain the vehicle beyond the time it would have taken to write a traffic citation.   Examples for Determining How Long Minnesota Police Can Detain You In determining how long can police detain you for failing to use a blinker while turning, the officer cannot approach the vehicle and ask the driver if there are drugs in the car.  That would be an unlawful expansion of the reason for the traffic stop.  The officer stopped the vehicle for not using a blinker, not because he suspected there were drugs in the car.  Before the officer can expand the duration of the traffic stop, he would need reason to believe there were drugs in the car.   If the officer thought he smelled marijuana in the vehicle then he could question the driver about having drugs.  In this situation, the officer could detain the driver as long as the officer acted to confirm his suspicions of drugs in the car.  How long police can detain you or your vehicle increases with each additional suspicion of criminal activity. THERE IS NO HARD-AND-FAST TIME LIMIT FOR A LAWFUL TRAFFIC STOP. The duration of the traffic stop will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding each individual traffic stop situation.  In one case, the Minnesota Supreme Court held a 61 minute traffic stop to be lawful under the circumstances. If you find yourself in the middle of a traffic stop, it is important to remember that you DO NOT have to answer any of the officer’s questions.  You have the absolute right to remain silent.  In most cases, it is in your best interests not to answer any questions.  Instead, simply tell the officer that you are not going to answer any questions without your Minnesota criminal defense lawyer present.   After that, call the St. Paul criminal defense lawyers at Arechigo & Stokka.  Our Minnesota criminal defense lawyers will advise you how to handle the situation and tell you what to say, if anything.  If you find yourself arrested or facing criminal charges following your traffic stop, our St. Paul criminal defense lawyers will investigate the reasons behind the initial traffic stop and the officer’s reasons for expanding the length of the stop.  If the officer unlawfully expanded the duration of your traffic stop, our St. Paul criminal defense lawyers will fight to have the evidence suppressed. Contact our Minnesota criminal defense lawyers today if you or someone you know recently faced an expanded traffic stop.

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How Can Facebook Affect My Employee Benefits?

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Just the other day, a St. Paul work comp client came into my office to discuss his case. I asked him how the church volunteering project went. He looked at me with surprise.  I showed him the pictures, sent to me by the insurance company. They showed him clearing brush, moving rocks, and working around the grounds of the church.   This employee had restrictions that restricted his ability to work AT ALL.  At the time he received full employee benefits allowed under the Minnesota workers’ compensation system while recovering from surgery. My client explained that he really had not worked.  He walked around the grounds while his wife helped the group, visiting with the other parishioners.   Unfortunately, he posted pictures of the day on Facebook.  The insurance company had been monitoring his social media.  If you examined the pictures more carefully it was clear that he was not “working” in any of them.  He was standing in front of the camera in most and doing nothing.  In one he was holding a piece of brush. THE INSURANCE COMPANY USED THIS AS AN EXCUSE TO DENY HIM EMPLOYEE BENEFITS. Although the work comp case eventually settled for a significant amount, the pictures the employee posted on Facebook made it much more difficult to obtain employee benefits.  I now tell all my work comp clients to stay off social media pending resolution of their case.   Innocuous pictures can be used to suggest that an employee is lying about the nature and extent of their injury, which may give the insurance company support to deny Minnesota work comp employee benefits. HIRE SOUTH ST. PAUL’S BEST WORKMAN’S COMP ATTORNEYS If an insurance company is using your social media to deny you work comp employee benefits, your case is not over.   Despite what the insurance company may tell you, our St. Paul work comp employee benefits lawyer will make sure we secure the employee benefits you are entitled to.   Our South St. Paul work comp employee benefits lawyer will explain to a judge, at trial if needed, the truth behind the seemingly damaging pictures.   If you need to speak with a Minnesota work comp attorney about obtaining your Minnesota workers compensation employee benefits, please contact our St. Paul work comp employee benefits lawyer at 651-222-6603, for a free consultation.

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Can Police Force You to Unlock Your Phone?

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Can Police Make You Use Your Fingerprint to Unlock Your Phone? Many newer smartphones allow owners to unlock their phone with the touch of their fingerprint. Smartphone manufacturers market the fingerprint lock as an advancement in security.  I would probably bet that a good number of people do not set a passcode lock on their phone because it’s annoying to have to enter a passcode to check your phone every ten minutes.  But, many more people probably would – and do – set up the fingerprint lock feature on their phone.  So, what’s the difference between a fingerprint and a passcode?  Well, when it comes to compelled police searches of your phone, the difference is enormous. Police Can Force You to Use Your Fingerprint to Unlock Your Phone Police can force iPhone – or any other smartphone equipped with fingerprint technology – users to unlock their iPhone if the iPhone is only secured by fingerprint security.  As long as the police have obtained a valid search warrant, they can command an iPhone owner to put her finger on the button and unlock the phone. Police Cannot Force You to Divulge Your Passcode to Unlock Your Phone If your iPhone is protected by a passcode, then the police cannot compel you to disclose the passcode for purposes of forcing you to unlock your phone.  It does not matter if they have secured a search warrant.  A search warrant cannot compel an iPhone owner to disclose the phone’s passcode.  The Fifth Amendment protects us from being forced by the government to provide evidence against ourselves.  This is the right against self-incrimination. Why the Legal Distinction Between A Fingerprint And A Passcode? Courts have drawn a legal line separating a fingerprint from a passcode.  Fingerprints are viewed as who we are rather than what we know.  A passcode is data stored in the brain, something we know.  Fingerprints, on the other hand (sorry, couldn’t resist), are much more accessible and make up our “biometric data.” This is a key distinction for purposes of compelled police searches.  Providing a passcode requires giving an oral statement to the police that potentially incriminates an individual.  Courts refer to this as a “testimonial statement.”  The Fifth Amendment gives us the right to remain silent and prevents the government from compelling a testimonial statement. Fingerprints are classified with DNA samples or voice samples.  This is not viewed as evidence you know; so, forcing you to put your finger on your iPhone is not the same as compelling a testimonial statement.  You’re not being forced to say something you know that potentially incriminates yourself. Moral of the story?  If you know you’re keeping potentially incriminating or unlawful information on your iPhone, best to lock it up with a passcode instead of a fingerprint. Schedule a Consultation With a Criminal Defense Lawyer Contact our criminal defense lawyers today for a free consultation.   Our criminal defense lawyers are licensed in Minnesota, North Dakota, and United States District Court.   If the police have unlawfully recovered evidence against you by illegally searching your iPhone, our criminal defense lawyers will fight to have the evidence suppressed.

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