Is Sexting a Crime in Minnesota?

    | Read Time: 4 minutes

Sexting, per se, is not a crime in Minnesota. Minnesota has not enacted any legislation specifically prohibiting sexting among minors. However, Minnesota law enforcement investigators and prosecutors rely on Minnesota’s existing laws to prosecute and convict people who engaged in sexting with a child or sexting involving a child. The consequences of a conviction for charges related to sexting and minors are incredibly severe. Not only are long prison sentences a genuine possibility, but the person convicted of these charges may also need to register as a predatory offender. If you find yourself under investigation or charged with crimes involving sexting and minors, or if your child could be in trouble for these crimes, contact Arechigo & Stokka, P.A., immediately. We will put together an aggressive defense strategy designed to eliminate or minimize the disruption sexting charges may have on your life.  Overview of Sexting  The term sexting became part of our vernacular several years ago. Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit or suggestive text messages to another by any electronic means. Sexting is a risky behavior, even if it is just two consenting adults flirting with each other. Electronic messages containing sexually explicit content do not simply go away. They could be used later to embarrass, harass, or annoy one of the participants if the relationship sours. A person could face legal consequences for sexting if the person in possession of a graphic photo or video disseminates it without consent for public display. This is known as revenge porn.  The State of Minnesota recognizes the vulnerability of children. The state restricts access to sexually explicit material to people over 17 in an attempt to protect children. Moreover, a teenager could face criminal charges by sexting with another teenager or an adult, even if the adult consents.  When Is Sexting Child Pornography in Minnesota? It is illegal for children to send nude photos to each other or an adult. Minnesota law prohibits explicitly depicting a child in the nude or while performing a sex act. Also, Minnesota law outlaws possessing or disseminating pornographic materials showing children. Minnesota’s child pornography laws are strict. A teenager who possesses a nude photo, even of their significant other, if one of the participants is a minor, could face child pornography charges in Minnesota.  Sexting and Child Endangerment As a parent or guardian, you could get in trouble for sexting involving your children if you do not immediately stop the behavior. Under Minnesota law, a parent or guardian faces significant imprisonment if their child suffers physically, emotionally, or psychologically and the parent or guardian permitted the sexual abuse. Learning about your child engaging in sexting and failing to stop it could result in criminal charges for child endangerment.  Disseminating Harmful Matter to Juveniles Displaying explicit photos to a child and soliciting children to engage in sexual conduct like sexting are crimes in Minnesota. Using a computer or other electronic device to solicit children to send nude pictures or pornographic videos, including sexualized language, is a felony and can be prosecuted for engaging in electronic solicitation of a minor. Practically speaking, a minor who describes sexual activity to another minor via text commits a felony, even if committing the act itself might not be a crime due to Minnesota’s “Romeo and Juliet” law. Sexting Punishments in Minnesota Punishments for sexting depend on the severity of the offense. For example, possession of child pornography is a felony punishable by incarceration for up to ten years. Dissemination of child pornography is also a felony, and the person so convicted faces up to 15 years of imprisonment. Distributing sexual material to a minor is a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. Disseminating revenge porn is a gross misdemeanor but could be a felony warranting three years in jail if certain aggravating factors apply.  Registering as a Sex Offender for Sexting Minnesota requires people convicted of certain crimes to register with the state’s predatory offender registry. A person convicted of possessing child pornography, soliciting a minor to engage in sexual conduct, or using a minor in a pornographic work may have to register as a predatory offender.  Possible Defenses to Sexting The sexting laws for adults differ from the laws applying to children involved in sexting. Consent is not a defense to sexting unless both parties are adults. Consent might be a defense to distributing private sexual images as well. Minnesota law does not recognize accidental viewing or possession of a pornographic image as a defense. However, a skilled criminal defense lawyer could argue that the person who viewed the image unintentionally should not be convicted of the crime. The First Amendment may also give rise to defenses in certain cases. Entrapment could be a valid defense to crimes like dissemination or creation, but not possession of child pornography.  Law enforcement investigators will examine phones, computers, tablets, and other electronic devices and account information to obtain evidence. The investigators must first obtain a search warrant or the individual’s consent to examine any electronic device suspected of containing contraband. Filing motions to suppress evidence found on electronic devices could be a successful line of defense. If the judge rules the police did not have probable cause to get a search warrant or your consent was ineffective, the judge must exclude all evidence illegally seized from the trial.  Every case is different. Talking with a seasoned Minnesota criminal defense attorney about your specific case is the best way to understand which defenses might apply in your particular situation. Ask Us Any Questions You May Have The Minnesota criminal defense lawyers with Arechigo & Stokka, P.A., are available to discuss your case with you as soon as possible. Waiting to see what happens could be devastating. Call 651-222-6603 today to speak with an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney about whether you could face charges for sexting.

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Is Resisting Arrest a Felony or Misdemeanor in MN?

    | Read Time: 3 minutes

Minnesota had its share of clashes between citizens and law enforcement over the last year. Regrettably, the clashes started when police used excessive force to restrain a person under arrest and that person died. That person’s name is George Floyd. The police claimed George Floyd resisted. From that incident, the country became acutely aware that excessive police use of force is real. Police sometimes claim people resist arrest to justify using excessive force. If you were arrested for resisting arrest or obstructing arrest in Minnesota, you might be wondering: Why was I arrested for resisting arrest? What is resisting arrest? Is resisting arrest a felony or misdemeanor in Minnesota? What is the punishment for resisting arrest? How could I get resisting arrest charges dropped? The Minnesota criminal defense lawyers with Arechigo & Stokka, P.A., will use their decades of experience and knowledge gained by defending hundreds of cases to fight for justice on your behalf. They will explain the charges, consult with you to develop a defense strategy, and tirelessly work to get the best result for you. What Is Resisting Arrest? Resisting arrest in Minnesota is also called obstructing legal process, arrest, or firefighting. A person is guilty of obstructing legal process if they intentionally obstruct, resist, or interfere with a police officer in the performance of legal duties, or obstruct, hinder, or prevent a person’s apprehension on a criminal charge.  The Minnesota legislature intentionally wrote the law in very broad terms. Under the law, resisting arrest means: Refusing to be handcuffed; Refusing to surrender; Struggling with the police; Wrestling or fighting with the police; or Somehow preventing the police from making an arrest. Acts such as running from police, refusing to stop for police, and escape from a detention facility are crimes governed by other Minnesota laws. Penalties for Resisting Arrest in Minnesota The possible sanctions for resisting depend on the severity and dangerousness of the conduct alleged by police. Minnesota law punishes resisting arrest as a felony if: The person knew or should have known the act created a risk of death, substantial bodily harm, or significant damage to property; or The act did cause death, serious bodily injury, or substantial property damage. Felony resisting arrest carries a maximum state prison term of five years, a fine up to $10,000, or both fine and imprisonment. Resisting arrest is a gross misdemeanor punishable by no more than one year in prison, a $3,000 fine, or both if the act or threat was forceful or violent but did not cause death, substantial bodily injury, or substantial property damage. Otherwise, misdemeanor resisting arrest carries a maximum sentence of 90 days, a $1,000 fine, or both. Defenses to Resisting Arrest in Minnesota Even if the police made a mistake, no one should resist law enforcement’s attempts to arrest a person. Minnesota law favors resorting to the court system to resolve disputes and rights violations instead of fighting with police on the street. In reality, individuals will stand up for their rights if they feel that they are being abused. A person charged with resisting arrest could argue self-defense at trial, especially if the police were abusive. They can also argue that the officer exaggerated or fabricated the charges. An accused may also argue the police officer was not performing official legal duties during the incident that led to the alleged resisting arrest. In other words, the defense can fight to establish the police officer had no legal authority for the actions that led to the alleged resisting of arrest. How Could a Lawyer Help? An experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney could explain to you how to get resisting arrest charges dropped. Negotiating with the prosecution for a reduced sentence to lesser charges could help you avoid a harsh prison sentence and avoid a felony conviction. Arguing motions to dismiss for a lack of probable cause could also help you get resisting arrest charges dropped before going to trial. Reach Out If You Need Help Arechigo & Stokka’s Minnesota resisting arrest defense lawyers are ready to use their tremendous experience and vast knowledge to get the best result for you. Contact Arechigo & Stokka, P.A., now by calling 651-222-6603 to learn more about how our firm can help you achieve the best result possible. 

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How Much Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Cost in St. Paul, MN?

    | Read Time: 3 minutes

If you have been charged with a crime in Minnesota, one of the first questions on your mind is likely, how much does a criminal lawyer cost?  The amount a defense attorney charges can vary depending on a number of case-specific factors, such as the number and severity of charges filed by the state, the location of your case, the likelihood of a trial, the extent of pre-trial motion hearings, and the overall complexity of the case. An attorney’s level of expertise and experience also factors into a fee for representation. When you meet with potential lawyers, you should ask them questions that will help you determine what your criminal defense attorney will cost. Hiring a good defense lawyer can make a significant difference to the outcome of your case. You need the best possible representation at a reasonable price. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Arechigo & Stokka have decades of experience successfully defending people against criminal charges in St. Paul and throughout Minnesota. What Do Criminal Defense Attorneys Do? Criminal defense attorneys have one responsibility: protect their clients’ constitutional rights.  The legal system in Minnesota is too complicated for a person who lacks the necessary experience to navigate. A St. Paul defense attorney who has represented hundreds of clients successfully in the Minnesota criminal justice system can help you make the right choices by offering sound legal advice. An aggressive St. Paul criminal defense lawyer will devise a sound strategy to align with your desired outcome. The stakes are high in a criminal case. The accused faces possible jail or prison time, the imposition of fines, probation, and the lasting impact of a criminal record, if convicted. Most people do not consider the consequences of a conviction beyond the punishment levied by a judge. Every person facing a criminal charge must also be aware of collateral consequences, such as immigration consequences and the potential to lose a driver’s license or professional license. Criminal charges could mean job loss, loss of educational opportunities, and strained family relationships, depending on the allegations. A dedicated St. Paul, MN criminal defense lawyer will advise you of all of your rights. An experienced criminal defense attorney who is genuinely concerned about you will take the time to explain all of your options and the consequences of the choices, so you and your family can make an informed decision.  How Much Do Lawyers Cost for Criminal Defense? Our clients always ask about our criminal defense attorney fees. We understand that our clients have much to consider when deciding if it makes sense for them to hire a criminal defense lawyer. We base our fee structure on the severity of the charges and the complexity of the case. Some felony cases will require more investigation, motion work, preparation, and trial time. Other cases, such as misdemeanors, are less complicated and could be handled quickly. We can discuss our fee structure during our free consultation. How Do the Fees for a Criminal Lawyer Work? Our mission is to provide people who face criminal charges or are under investigation for a criminal offense in St. Paul, the best representation possible. The average criminal defense attorney fees we charge depend on the particular case. We will work with you and your family to develop a fee structure that ensures you have excellent legal representation throughout your case.  Protecting your rights and preserving your freedom remains our priority.  Is Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer Worth It? Each person brought before the court on a criminal charge with the possibility of facing jail time has the right to be represented by counsel. A person facing criminal charges has three options. They can hire a private lawyer, ask for a public defender, or proceed without a lawyer, which is called “pro se.”    Self-representation in a St. Paul criminal case could be dangerous. A pro se defendant must know all the relevant laws and procedural rules. Pro se defendants do not receive a break because they are not lawyers. A public defender may save you money, but may not get you the best outcome. Well-intentioned but highly overworked lawyers staff the public defender’s office. Your case is one of many a public defender must handle. There are also income limitations to qualify for a public defender. Hiring your own lawyer gives you the best chance of a positive outcome. You will receive the personal attention you deserve when you hire a St. Paul criminal defense lawyer.  Reach Out If You Need Help Contact the experienced and tenacious St. Paul criminal defense attorneys from Arechigo & Stokka today. Fill out our online form or call us at (651) 362-4355 for a free consultation. We can answer additional questions you have about how much does a criminal lawyer cost after we have gathered relevant information about your case. Additionally, we will discuss all your options and a plan to develop a successful defense strategy. You can rely on our extensive criminal defense experience to fight for the most advantageous outcome for you.

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How Does Probation Work in St. Paul, MN?

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If you have been charged with a crime or already sentenced to probation, you may be wondering, how does probation work? Probation can help you avoid jail time, but you need to comply with specific conditions. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand your obligations and avoid the consequences that may result from a probation violation. What Is Probation? Probation is one type of punishment for a criminal offense. Probation is an alternative to jail or prison and is often an option for first-time offenders. The sentencing judge decides the length of probation and the terms the probationer must complete. A violation of the conditions could lead to revocation of probation and incarceration. What Are the Probation Rules in St. Paul, MN? The judge at sentencing sets the terms of probation and establishes probation conditions. Any violation of the probationary conditions could result in a revocation of probation. Customary conditions of probation include: Obey all laws, including local, state, and federal laws; Pay all fines and fees; Attend substance abuse treatment or counseling; Attend mental health counseling, including treatment for anger management and batterer’s programs; Refrain from possessing or using firearms or ammunition, Remain alcohol and drug-free; Submit to chemical testing to ensure compliance with abstinence requirements; Meet with a probation officer regularly; Do not leave the state of Minnesota without permission of the probation officer; Report to probation after release from incarceration;  Provide a sample of your DNA; and Notify probation of any violations, including being charged with a criminal offense. The sentencing judge may impose specific conditions of probation as well. Specific conditions of probation are directly tied to the underlying criminal offense.  Judges often impose specific probation conditions to reform the offender, protect crime victims, and prevent further criminal activity. Specific, or “special” conditions of probation often include: Submit to electronic monitoring by wearing a GPS device; Stay away from as well as have no contact with the victim and witnesses (even if the victim and witnesses are part of the offender’s family); Pay restitution, if necessary; Stay away from and have no unsupervised visitation with children under a certain age; Stay away from specific geographical locations like the victim’s home or place of business; and Submit to home confinement or curfew. The special conditions of probation can be demanding and must not be taken lightly. Any violation could lead to severe legal trouble. Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure 27.04 gives a probationer the right to have the representation of counsel during a probation revocation hearing. Having an aggressive and experienced St. Paul probation violation lawyer represent you is vital to helping you avoid incarceration for a probation violation. What Are the Different Types of Probation? Minnesota recognizes two types of probation. Probation in Minnesota could be either supervised or unsupervised. Unsupervised probation usually requires the probationer to pay fees and to remain out of trouble. Probationers on unsupervised probation do not have a requirement to meet with a probation officer. People on unsupervised probation can be found in violation of probation and receive an incarcerated sentence. Probationers on supervised probation must meet with their probation officer and perform all of the conditions required.  What Happens on Probation in St. Paul, MN? You should expect your assigned probation officer to watch you closely, especially if you are new to probation. What happens on probation largely depends on the charges. You should anticipate meeting with your probation officer regularly. Your probation officer might force you to find employment or pursue an education. Your probation officer should encourage you to ask questions, especially about how does probation work. They can help you understand the probation rules if you are unsure. Minnesota law authorizes a probation officer to ask for a summons or warrant if the officer receives information about a violation of conditions. The probation officer could ask for detention before a revocation hearing upon the probationer’s first appearance in court. The State has to prove the probationer violated a condition of probation. The probationer has due process rights, including a right to counsel, a right to notice of the allegations, a right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, and a right to testify or not.  The judge has several options when ruling on a probation violation. The judge could either dismiss the revocation proceedings for lack of evidence or rule that the probationer violated probation terms. If the judge finds the probationer violated the terms of probation, then the judge can: Reinstate and extend probation, order new conditions, or adjust current conditions; Revoke the probation and order incarceration but stay the execution of the sentence; or Revoke probation and incarcerate the probationer. Your criminal defense attorney can advocate for you at a probation revocation hearing and try to help you avoid having your probation revoked. How Long Is Probation? The answer to the question, How long is probation? is that it depends on several factors. Minnesota Statutes section 609.135, sub. 2 specifies how long probation might last for certain crimes. Probation for a felony charge in Minnesota can last four years or for the duration of the maximum sentence for the crime charged, whichever is the longer term. Probation for convictions of felony criminal vehicular charges could last up to six years.  The maximum term of probation for a gross misdemeanor conviction is two years. However, the maximum term of probation could be up to six years for certain crimes relating to driving while impaired, criminal vehicular operation, and 5th-degree criminal sexual conduct.  Probation for a simple misdemeanor is one year. Exceptions to the one-year maximum include certain crimes for driving while impaired, interfering with privacy, obscene phone calls, indecent exposure, and domestic assault.  Reach Out to Arechigo & Stokka If You Need Help A judge has wide latitude when handling a probation violation in Minnesota. Contact the experienced and savvy St. Paul probation violation defense attorney at Arechigo & Stokka at (651) 222-6603 or online now. We know how to help you avoid going to jail or...

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What Happens If I Miss My Court Date for a Misdemeanor?

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Missing a court date for a misdemeanor is not something to take lightly. Courts take missed court appearances very seriously. Depending on the reason you missed it, the judge could take additional legal action against you. Defendants who have legitimate reasons for missing a court appearance could have their hearing rescheduled, but you want to take immediate action. If you missed a court date for a misdemeanor, please contact a Minnesota criminal defense attorney right away.   What Happens If I Miss My Court Date for a Misdemeanor? Understandably, people want to know what happens if you miss a court date for a misdemeanor. Depending on the charges, you could be required to appear in court several times. Failure to show up to any of the scheduled hearings could result in the judge charging you with contempt of court or marking you as a failure to appear. You could be facing fines, jail time, and more. Possible Consequences of Missing Court Date for a Misdemeanor Consequences for missing a court date for a misdemeanor will vary depending on the circumstances and the judge. The judge will mark you as a failure to appear, and they could also order any of the following: Bench warrant—this is a warrant for your arrest, which means if the police stop you, you could be arrested; Bail revoked—the judge could revoke your bail, which means you would forfeit your original bond and remain in jail until your trial; Harsher sentence—the judge could impose a harsher sentence in your case if you failed to appear at a sentencing hearing and a negotiated plea agreement was contingent on your appearance Driver license suspension—Often used in traffic offenses, the judge could notify the DMV of your bench warrant, which could give you a deadline to resolve your case or they will suspend your license. There’s no way to know what the judge will do until you appear in court again. Please don’t risk your future by missing a court date, even for a misdemeanor, unless it’s an emergency. What Should I Do If I Just Missed My Court Date? If you just missed your court date, act quickly to show the court you are serious about your case. Waiting will only make your situation worse. If you don’t get it resolved, you could be arrested at your job, at home in front of your family, during a routine traffic stop, etc. Courts tend to be more lenient if you can show you are committed to resolving an outstanding bench warrant, rather than just ignoring it. If you do not have a lawyer on your case, you should call the court clerk’s office and ask if your case can be rescheduled to a future court calendar. This is not always possible, though. Your best option may be to hire a criminal defense lawyer to represent you and resolve the outstanding warrant. Can an Attorney Help Me? Contacting an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney is crucial in these situations. At Arechigo & Stokka, we know how best to handle a missed court date. We can immediately contact the court clerk and try to get your case rescheduled. Our goal is to minimize any legal repercussions and get your appearance rescheduled. If you missed a misdemeanor court appearance, contact our office right away. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start working with the court to get a bench warrant dismissed and your hearing rescheduled.

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Public Defender vs Private Attorney | Which Is Better?

    | Read Time: 2 minutes

Being arrested and charged with a crime can be a terrifying experience. You may be thinking about legal representation and wondering what the differences are with a public defender vs private attorney. There are pros and cons to each, which is why it’s imperative to weigh your options carefully. In most cases, hiring a private attorney is better, especially if you are facing serious charges. To learn more, contact a Minnesota criminal defense attorney today. What You Get with a Public Defender One of the most common things people ask at their initial consultation is, Is it better to have a public defender or a private lawyer? With a public defender, you are represented by someone who is paid by the government. You cannot choose who your public defender is. The upside with a public defender versus private attorney is you are not paying out of pocket for legal fees. Public defenders also work with the same prosecutors regularly, so they may be well-positioned to negotiate favorable plea agreements. Unfortunately, public defenders are almost always overworked and underpaid. With a heavy caseload, you aren’t likely to get a lot of time with your attorney. You may find yourself feeling like you have not had enough time to discuss your case with your lawyer. And not everyone is eligible for a public defender. You must fill out an application asking for a public defender to represent you. A judge will review your personal financial circumstances and determine whether you qualify for a public defender. What You Get with a Private Attorney When you hire a private attorney, you can choose your own lawyer. That means you can interview multiple attorneys and find the one you connect with most. You can also choose someone with experience defending clients with charges similar to yours. With a public defender, you have no idea what types of cases they’ve handled in the past. A private attorney may have a lower caseload, and they can devote the time necessary to get a favorable outcome in your case. Usually, you will have an easier time contacting a private attorney than a public defender. The only real downside with a private attorney is the cost. You will be paying for legal fees and expenses, whereas a public defender is assigned to those who can’t afford to hire their own counsel. Why a Private Criminal Defense Attorney May Be Your Best Choice In almost every criminal matter, hiring a Minnesota criminal defense attorney is the better option. You have the benefit of an attorney who has the necessary skills and experience, and they aren’t struggling with unmanageable caseloads like most public defenders are. Your private attorney should have more time to investigate your case. Most public defenders are rushing from case to case, and may not have the time to carefully consult with each client. Serious criminal offenses require serious choices to be made during the course of the case. It’s important that you have time to talk through options with your lawyer before making impactful decisions. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Minnesota, contact Arechigo & Stokka today to schedule an initial consultation. We have over a decade of experience helping clients just like you. Let us put our knowledge and expertise to work for you and build the best defense possible.

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Sexual Assault Vs Sexual Battery in Minnesota

    | Read Time: 3 minutes

Anyone accused of a sex crime will face a great deal of uncertainty and will likely have a lot of questions. The laws in this area vary from state to state, and there is a lot of misleading information on the topic.  We have tried to provide answers to some of the common questions that arise. However, because a conviction carries serious consequences, a person accused or charged with a sex crime should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Assault Vs Battery Generally In general, assault and battery are two separate crimes. Typically, assault involves a threat of any violence that causes fear of physical harm. On the other hand, battery is the physical act itself. For example, a threat to punch someone is assault, while the punch is the battery.  Minnesota criminal law does not divide the two into separate crimes. In Minnesota, you can face a relatively similar criminal charge for physically attacking someone as you would if you threatened to assault someone. On the other hand, threatening violence with the intent to terrorize a person is a separate crime. There are subtle differences in the law between a threat and a physical act that can drastically change the type of criminal charge you may face. Sexual Battery Vs Sexual Assault Some states also use assault and battery to define sex crimes.  When this is the case, sexual assault typically involves less severe behavior, such as non-consensual sexual touching. Sexual battery, on the other hand, generally refers to more serious criminal behavior, up to or including rape. Minnesota Sexual Assault Laws In Minnesota, crimes of sexual assault, sexual battery, and rape are all classified as criminal sexual conduct. Criminal sexual conduct can be in the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth degree. First-degree criminal sexual conduct consists of the most serious criminal behavior, such as rape and child sexual abuse. Consent Consent is a critical determining factor in assessing whether a sexual conduct crime has been committed. It is also a common defense against such accusations.  Because of this, consent (or lack of) is often a hotly debated and confusing element in a sex crime case. In Minnesota, consent is agreeing, in words or actions, to any sexual act. A prior relationship—sexual, romantic, or otherwise—by itself is not consent to any sexual act. However, the existence of a prior romantic relationship may help form the foundation for the explanation of consent as a defense to an accusation of sexual assault. Additionally, consent cannot be freely given if an individual is incapacitated or impaired in some way. For example, someone cannot always freely give consent if they have a developmental disability or mental illness. A person also cannot freely give consent when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, whether or not they chose to use them. Defenses Defenses against an accusation of criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota include innocence, insanity or mental incapacitation, mistaken age (in very limited circumstances), and, most commonly, consent.  Contact Our Team Today An accusation or conviction of a criminal sex offense is a serious matter. These crimes are aggressively prosecuted in Minnesota. They should not be taken lightly. Charges can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, and a conviction can carry a sentence of up to thirty years imprisonment.  If you or a loved one has been accused of committing a criminal sex offense, you need an attorney with experience in the area. The attorney must be detail-oriented, accessible, and thorough. Arechigo & Stokka has successfully defended hundreds of clients in criminal cases. Many successful defenses have involved accusations of sex crimes, including high-profile cases in this area.  We are dedicated to being there for you every step of the way and pride ourselves on the access we give our clients. Read testimonials from prior clients, check out our Youtube channel, Facebook profile, or Twitter account to get to know us, and contact our firm today.

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What Constitutes Probable Cause to Search a Vehicle in Minnesota

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In Order to Lawfully Search a Vehicle, Minnesota Police Officers Must First Obtain a Search Warrant. In order for a police officer to lawfully search a vehicle, they must first obtain a search warrant. All warrantless vehicle searches in Minnesota are presumed to be unconstitutional.   If the police want to conduct warrantless vehicle searches, the justification of the search must fall under one of seven exceptions to the warrant requirement. These search warrant exceptions will be discussed individually in future posts, but for now, the exceptions are: Search Incident to Arrest Plain View Seizure of Evidence Probable Cause to Search for Evidence Inventory Search Protective Weapons Search Consent Search Medical Emergency Search The following is a brief description of each exception.  Check back for future posts on each individual search warrant exception. Search Incident to Arrest In the context of motor vehicles, this search warrant exception allows Minnesota police officers to lawfully search an occupant of a vehicle and the passenger area of the vehicle IF: At the time of arrest the arrested person could easily access the passenger area of the vehicle and any containers in the vehicle; or If there is a reasonable belief that evidence of the crime for which the person was arrested might be found in the vehicle.  This search warrant exception first requires a lawful arrest.   If the police did not have a right to place the person under arrest, evidence found during any subsequent search will not be admissible. However, if these factors are met, the police may lawfully search the passenger area of the vehicle, including any containers, bags, purses, luggage and clothing. It makes no difference whether it was the driver who was arrested or a passenger. Plain View Seizure of Evidence This search warrant exception allows Minnesota police officers to seize evidence of criminal activity that is in plain view. In other words, if, after a lawful traffic stop, the officer approaches the vehicle and sees a bag of marijuana on the passenger seat, the officer can lawfully seize that evidence without getting a search warrant. It is not a search to see something in plain sight. It must be immediately apparent to the officer what he is seeing is evidence of criminal activity before he can seize it without a search warrant. A police officer could not, for example, grab a pack of cigarettes to open it and see whether there is a bag of marijuana in it. Cigarettes are not illegal. The officer must immediately know what he is seeing is evidence of illegal behavior.  As long as the officer meets these conditions, the officer does not need a search warrant. Probable Cause to Search for Evidence This search warrant exception is somewhat unique to motor vehicles.  Generally, a Minnesota police officer needs probable cause and a search warrant to lawfully search for evidence. However, due to the mobile nature of motor vehicles, courts have held that as long as the police officer has probable cause to believe evidence of a crime is concealed somewhere in the vehicle, the officer may stop and search the vehicle without a search warrant.   This includes the right to search all packages, bags, and containers that may reasonably hide or contain the evidence. As long as the police officer has enough information to where he could get a search warrant, the mobile nature of motor vehicles does not require the officer actually get the search warrant. But, the officer still needs a probable cause belief of criminal activity first. Inventory Search If the police are going to tow your vehicle following a lawful traffic stop and/or lawful arrest, they can conduct an inventory search of the vehicle without a search warrant.  Most police departments have policies authorizing an inventory search of an impounded vehicle; however, the policy must make clear that the inventory search if part of routine procedure in cases that involved the tow.   The police cannot conduct a search for purposes of finding evidence. The search must be conducted pursuant to department policy to inventory the contents that the police are taking into custody. If the police do happen to find drugs in the vehicle, or any other evidence of criminal activity, that evidence will be admissible and will be used against you. Protective Weapons Search Following a lawful traffic stop, the police officer may conduct a limited pat-down search of a person’s clothing if the officer has a reason to believe the person may be armed with a dangerous weapon. The officer must be able to specifically describe why he thought the person was armed with a dangerous weapon if the evidence is challenged in court.   This limited right to conduct a weapons search can extend to the passenger area of the vehicle, including any containers or bags in the vehicle. This is the most restrictive search warrant exception. There are several conditions to be met before a police officer can frisk a driver or passenger and before the officer can expand the search into the vehicle. Consent Search As some may know, the police do not have to get a search warrant if the person consents to search. The same is true for searching motor vehicles, with one catch. The police officer must have a reason to suspect criminal activity before he can ask the owner or driver of the vehicle for permission to search. If the officer legitimately suspects criminal activity and the owner or driver gives the officer permission to search, the officer can search the vehicle without a search warrant. If the owner or driver of the vehicle specifically limits the areas or things they agree an officer can search, the officer must limit the scope of the search to only that area.   For example, if the officer asks the driver if he can search the vehicle and the driver says you can only search the backseat, then the officer cannot search the trunk without further evidence of criminal activity.  Evidence found during a lawful consent search will be...

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How Long Can the Police Detain You?

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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 a 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. How Long Should a Traffic Stop Last? 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 St. Paul, MN criminal defense lawyer present.   After that, call the St. Paul criminal defense lawyers at Arechigo & Stokka.   Our Minnesota criminal defense lawyers will advise you on 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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St. Paul, Minnesota Terroristic Threats Statute

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The Minnesota Terroristic Threats statute punishes anyone who “threatens, directly or indirectly, to commit any crime of violence with purpose to terrorize another or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror.” The offense is a felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison.   In order to convict someone under the Minnesota Terroristic Threats statute, the state must prove that the defendant: Threatened to commit a crime of violence; and Made that threat with either Specific intent to cause extreme fear in another, or Reckless disregard of the risk that it would have that effect. THE MOST COMMONLY SEEN THREAT THAT LEADS TO A CHARGE OF TERRORISTIC THREATS IS A THREAT TO KILL SOMEONE. During an argument – domestic or otherwise – if a person tells someone, “I’m going to kill you,” or “You make me so mad, I could kill you sometimes,” or any type of similar threat to commit a crime of violence, the speaker will almost certainly face a charge of Terroristic Threats under the Minnesota Terroristic Threats statute. Speaker’s Intent and Defense Charges of Terroristic Threats The speakers’ intent and the context in which the threat was made both be a defense to a charge of terroristic threats. As noted above, the state has to prove that the speaker made the threat with either a specific intent to cause extreme fear in another or with reckless disregard of the risk of causing extreme fear in another. The context in which the threat was made is a factor in determining the speaker’s intent. In State v. Balster, the Minnesota Court of Appeals noted that the context in which it is uttered determines whether the speaker intends the literal meaning or a harmless expression of anger, frustration, or annoyance. This is sometimes referred to as “transitory anger.” “TRANSITORY ANGER” IS NOT FOUND IN THE MINNESOTA TERRORISTIC THREATS STATUTE, BUT IT IS A PART OF THE HISTORY OF THE CRIME OF TERRORISTIC THREATS IN MINNESOTA. Prior cases have concluded that the Minnesota Terroristic Threats statute is designed to punish threats that are “more serious than would be covered by petty offenses like disorderly conduct or breach of the peace.” The statute is not intended to apply to “the kind of verbal threat which expresses transitory anger rather than [the] settled purpose to carry out the threat or to terrorize the other person.” Most Terroristic Threats charges will turn on whether the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant made the threat with the required intent to make the subject of the threat extremely fearful.   The defendant, through his or her lawyer, would most certainly urge the jury that the speaker’s threat was a harmless expression of anger, frustration, or annoyance. CONTACT US Contact our Minneapolis criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation if you or someone you know if facing a charge under the Minnesota Terroristic Threats statute.   We’ve had terroristic threats charges dismissed for clients. We know how to defend against this charge.

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