Defamation and Stalking Charges Dismissed

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The Blue Earth County Attorney’s Office recently dismissed charges of Minnesota Criminal Defamation and Stalking against a client.  This case was discussed in an earlier blog post, which you can find here. The charges stemmed from an email sent by the client that commented on an individual’s sexual preferences and activities and also contained a nude photograph of the individual.  While the email probably did not need to be sent, it was still protected speech under the First Amendment.  The Blue Earth County Attorney’s Office had a different interpretation and decided to charge our client with Minnesota Criminal Defamation and Stalking.  Our client maintained his innocence from day one and we proceeded to put together a constitutional challenge to the charges. As mentioned in the earlier post, Judge Johnson denied our motion to dismiss, barely addressing the constitutional shortcomings of the Minnesota criminal defamation statute.  Following the denial of our motion, we proceeded to prepare for trial and to also gather support for an appeal.  As the trial date approached, the State offered what’s known as a Continuance for Dismissal for six months.  Essentially, the charges would have been dismissed if the client remained law abiding for the next six months.  Ordinarily, this would have been a great offer; however, under the facts and circumstances of this case, it was not enough.  Our client rejected the State’s offer and proposed what’s known as a Lothenbach plea, which would have preserved our right to appeal Judge Johnson’s pre-trial ruling.  The client agreed to stipulate to the state’s evidence and ask the judge to review that evidence to determine his guilt or innocence.  Judge Johnson most likely would have convicted our client of the charges, which would have resulted in an appeal to the Court of Appeals.  If the Court of Appeals agreed with our position, the charges then would have been dismissed; if not, the conviction would stand.  Clearly, this procedure is fairly risky for the client but we were confident in our position. The State really does not have much to lose in this situation.  It is essentially getting a conviction, followed by an appeal.  The State would have to defend the appeal and attempt to argue that the Minnesota criminal defamation statute is constitutional.  Rather than standing behind the charges filed and defending the statute on appeal, the State dismissed all charges against our client the day before we were scheduled to return to court. This was a big win for the client.  The catch, however, is that Minnesota’s criminal defamation statute continues to be in force and the State can continue to charge individuals with this crime under an arguably unconstitutional statute.  At least until someone challenges that statute at the Court of Appeals. If you think we can help you or someone you know fight your criminal charges, contact our St. Paul criminal defense attorneys today.

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Another Expungement Granted

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RAMSEY COUNTY EXPUNGEMENT Minnesota criminal defense lawyer John Arechigo recently obtained another expungement for a former client.  The former conviction was only for a misdemeanor theft, so there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about getting a misdemeanor theft expunged.  What was different about this case, however, is that the expungement followed a dismissal after the client successfully completed the Ramsey County diversion program known as Project Remand. DIVERSION PROGRAMS Several Minnesota counties have a diversion program for criminal cases.  A diversion program removes, or diverts, a criminal case from criminal court.  The defendant must complete the conditions of the diversion program and remain law-abiding during the length of the program, usually one year.  The criminal charge is then dismissed upon successful completion of the diversion program.  Diversion programs are a great opportunity for certain first-time offenders to avoid a criminal conviction. The new Minnesota expungement law provides that successful diversion program participants are entitled to have their record expunged.  However, the new expungement law grouped diversion program cases together with individuals who received what’s known as a Stay of Adjudication in their criminal case.  A Stay of Adjudication and a diversion program are sort of the same thing in that they both result in a criminal charge being dismissed after successful completion of certain conditions; however, there is also a significant difference between the two. In a Stay of Adjudication, a criminal defendant stands in front of the judge and admits wrongdoing by pleading guilty to a criminal charge.  The guilty plea is not used against the defendant to convict; instead, the court stays – or suspends – finding the defendant guilty and places the defendant on a period of probation.  The criminal charge is then dismissed upon successful completion of the probationary period.  With a diversion program, the criminal defendant is typically not required to admit any wrongdoing or enter a guilty plea.  The criminal case is simply removed from criminal court without any formal proceedings. EXPUNGEMENTS: STAY OF ADJUDICATION VS. DIVERSION PROGRAM Minnesota’s new expungement law has a specific provision addressing expungement eligibility following a stay of adjudication.  The law requires the individual to wait one additional year after the charge has been dismissed before the case is eligible to be expunged. There’s the one-year probationary period with a stay of adjudication after which the criminal charge is dismissed.  The individual must then wait one more year with no new criminal offenses before their record is eligible to be expunged. The Minnesota expungement law seemingly imposes this same one-year waiting period for diversion program cases.  However, unlike a stay of adjudication, there is no admission of wrongdoing in diversion program cases.  Because there’s no admission, there’s an argument to be made that dismissal following successful completion of a diversion program is essentially the same as an outright dismissal.  Individuals who have had their criminal charge dismissed are immediately eligible for an expungement. This is the argument we made in our recent Ramsey County expungement case.  Most judges have been requiring the additional one-year waiting period following completion of a diversion program before considering a case eligible for expungement.  Minnesota criminal defense and expungement lawyer John Arechigo argued that the court should treat his client’s diversion program dismissal like an outright dismissal and grant the expungement before the one-year waiting period.  The judge agreed and granted the expungement.  John Arechigo was able to obtain the expungement only a couple months after his client’s charge had been dismissed.  The client was extremely happy that the court did not require the one-year waiting period.

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Workers Compensation Notice of Injury

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WORKERS COMP – NOTICE OF INJURY In two of our recent Minnesota workers’ compensation cases, we successfully argued that although no written or verbal workers compensation notice of injury was given to the employer by the injured employee the employer still nonetheless had actual notice of the injury.  An employer has actual notice of an employee’s work injury if a supervisor or managerial employee witnessed the injury, or may otherwise be aware of the injury.  By showing the employer had actual notice of our injured clients’ work injury, we were able to obtain wage loss and medical benefits for our clients as well as significant settlements for each of them. The text of the workers’ compensation notice requirement statute reads: 176.141 NOTICE OF INJURY. Unless the employer has actual knowledge of the occurrence of the injury or unless the injured worker, or a dependent or someone in behalf of either, gives written notice thereof to the employer within 14 days after the occurrence of the injury, then no compensation shall be due until the notice is given or knowledge obtained. If the notice is given or the knowledge obtained within 30 days from the occurrence of the injury, no want, failure, or inaccuracy of a notice shall be a bar to obtaining compensation unless the employer shows prejudice by such want, defect, or inaccuracy, and then only to the extent of the prejudice. If the notice is given or the knowledge obtained within 180 days, and if the employee or other beneficiary shows that failure to give prior notice was due to the employee’s or beneficiary’s mistake, inadvertence, ignorance of fact or law, or inability, or to the fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit of the employer or agent, then compensation may be allowed, unless the employer shows prejudice by failure to receive the notice, in which case the amount of compensation shall be reduced by a sum which fairly represents the prejudice shown. Unless knowledge is obtained or written notice given within 180 days after the occurrence of the injury no compensation shall be allowed, except that an employee who is unable, because of mental or physical incapacity, to give notice to the employer within 180 days from the injury shall give the prescribed notice within 180 days from the time the incapacity ceases. THE STATUTE CREATES THREE DIFFERENT TIME PERIODS FOR WHEN WORKERS COMPENSATION NOTICE OF INJURY MUST BE GIVEN:  14 DAYS, 30 DAYS, AND 180 DAYS. Under the 14 day workers compensation notice requirement, if the employee delays providing notice for up to 14 days after an injury, the employer has no responsibility to pay compensation until notice is received. If the injured employee waits more than 14 days but provides workers compensation notice of injury within 30 days of the work injury, the late notice may impact the amount of compensation.  The statute does not specify what the penalty could be; it merely says “may affect the amount of compensation.” THERE IS A HARSHER PENALTY IF AN EMPLOYEE FAILS TO PROVIDE PROPER WORKERS COMPENSATION NOTICE WITHIN 180 DAYS. If notice of injury is given after 180 days, no compensation shall be allowed except in those situations where the employee is unable, due to mental or physical incapacity, to give notice, or where the employer has engaged in fraud, misrepresentation or deceit. In our recent cases, the employers argued that the workers compensation notice of injury was not given within the 180 days of the date of the work injury.  After engaging in lengthy discovery and depositions with the clients’ employers, Minnesota work comp attorney Josh Stokka was able to show that our clients’ employers had actual notice of our clients’ work injuries even if no written or verbal workers compensation notice of injury was given by the client. If you have been injured at work, it is important to give formal workers compensation notice of injury right away to avoid some of the above-mentioned penalties. However, sometimes employers will pressure employees into not filing a claim and try to claim they never received workers compensation notice of injury after the notice period runs.  In these types of situations, it is important to obtain evidence to present to a judge. HIRE LAKEVILLE’S BEST WORK COMP LAYWERS Contact our Lakeville work comp attorneys today if you or someone you know has suffered a recent work injury.  Our St. Paul work comp lawyers will review the facts of your case and determine the best course of action.

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Minnesota Criminal Defamation Statute Declared Unconstitutional

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THE MINNESOTA COURT OF APPEALS HAS DECLARED THE MINNESOTA CRIMINAL DEFAMATION STATUTE UNCONSTITUTIONAL The Court released a published opinion today holding the statute unconstitutionally overbroad.  For those familiar with our criminal defamation appeal, it appears as though the fight is over. The Court agreed with our argument in several areas. Our primary argument all along had been that the Minnesota criminal defamation statute punishes true statements. True statements are absolutely protected. This is not up for debate. The Court of Appeals agreed and was clear in its opinion when it stated the statute’s “requirement that the truth be communicated with good motives and justifiable ends violates First Amendment protections,” “because it penalizes protected speech — true statements — in addition to unprotected speech — false statements.” The other major shortcoming of the Minnesota criminal defamation statute was that it punished statements on matters of public concern without requiring a showing that the speaker knew the statement was false.  KNOWLEDGE OF FALSITY (OR RECKLESS DISREGARD OF THE LIKELIHOOD OF FALSITY) IS A REQUIRED ELEMENT OF A CIVIL DEFAMATION CLAIM. A civil plaintiff must make this showing in order to collect punitive damages.  The Minnesota criminal defamation statute failed to contain this required element.  This argument was excellently addressed by Eugene Volokh.  The Court agreed with Volokh’s argument that it is not “permissible to jail people under a lesser showing than that required to collect punitive damages from them.” Our final argument convinced the Court that the statute would have to be re-written in order to be constitutional.  In some very limited circumstances, a court can declare a statute unconstitutional but can save it from ultimately holding the statute unconstitutional by narrowly applying it to reach only a very specific action.  However, if a court would be required to essentially rewrite the statute or strike language from a statute, then the court must declare the statute unconstitutional.  The Court disagreed with the State’s argument that the criminal defamation statute could be narrowly tailored to survive our challenge.  The Court noted doing so “would require a rewrite” of the statute, which is the job of the legislature. THE FACT THAT THE COURT ISSUED A PUBLISHED OPINION IN THIS CASE IS ENCOURAGING. Opinions from the Court of Appeals are either unpublished or published.  The majority of opinions are unpublished.  Unpublished opinions are not binding on the lower courts, meaning district court judges are not bound to follow an unpublished opinion from the Court of Appeals.  Published opinions, however, are binding.  District court judges throughout Minnesota are bound to follow a published opinion from the Court of Appeals.  Our win effectively means that all pending criminal defamation charges in Minnesota must be dismissed. At this point, the Minnesota criminal defamation statute is dead.

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What to Expect at a Free Consultation

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IS A FREE CONSULTATION REALLY FREE? Yes, at our firm it is.  The reason we offer a free consultation is so we can have an opportunity to meet you and learn about you and your case.  In our opinion, an attorney is only really in a position to evaluate a case and discuss fees after a face-to-face consultation.  First and foremost, a consultation gives us a chance to learn about you as our potential client.  Learning about you personally is important not only to us, but to how we approach your case.  Different personal situations and circumstances can influence how we approach a case.  Personal employment, educational, marital, and parental circumstances can affect the very initial plan for your case.  This is always our starting point for any potential case. YOUR CASE A free consultation also gives our lawyers a chance to learn about your case.  Whether you’re here to discuss a criminal defense need or a work-related injury, it’s important for us to hear the backstory from you.  We obviously weren’t there when the incident occurred.  You were.  While we may learn a great deal about your case from our future investigation, we need to begin by hearing from you.  Your story helps us tailor our investigation.  It’s important that you bring any paperwork you have to our consultation.  We’ll scan in copies and let you keep your paperwork. YOUR GOALS A free consultation also allows us to learn about your goals.  If we’re discussing a criminal defense matter, are you hoping to have the charges completed dismissed? Keep everything off your record? Stay out of jail? All of the above?  And if we’re discussing a work injury, is it important for you to get back to work as quickly as possible?  Receive fair compensation for your injury?  Line up rehabilitation training?  Find different work? ACHIEVING YOUR GOALS Learning about your personal situation and discussing your case goals will allow us to explain how we can help you achieve those goals.  Different approaches to a case are required to give us the best chance to accomplish your goals.  We’ll know whether we need to bring our investigator on board immediately, or whether our lawyers can handle most of the leg work.  We’ll explain how we’ll handle and what to expect at upcoming court appearances based on your goals.  We’ll discuss with you anything we need you to do to help your own case, such as tracking down certain records, giving us names of people we can talk to that will potentially help your case, lining up meetings with different types of counselors or attending certain types of classes.  This is a vital part of giving yourself the best chances to achieve your case goals. HOW WE OPERATE We’ll also be able to explain how we operate and interact with clients.  We’ll explain our practice of handling a criminal defense case or work comp case.  Our lawyers strive to stay in as much contact with our clients as we can.  We will get you copies of all the records we receive as we work on your case.  Email is usually the best option.  We can also set up a time for you to come to our office and review your file in the privacy of one of our extra offices.  We get together periodically to provide you with status updates.  We’ll explain whether your goals are still within reach or whether we need to reevaluate. NO PRESSURE We’re not going to try to scare you into hiring us.  Some lawyers try to scare you into convincing you to hire them.  You’ll hear that you need that lawyer in order to stay out of jail or to keep your job.  They’ll make you promises like keeping you out of jail, keeping everything off your record, or landing you a windfall for your work injury.  LIke anything else, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  We take a straight, honest approach to your case to set realistic expectations.  It doesn’t us or you any good to make foolish promises at the beginning of your case and then have an awkward conversation about how our promises aren’t going to happen a few months later.  We’ll be honest and upfront from the very beginning.  That approach won’t change as we work your case. WHAT’S NEXT? First of all, you won’t owe us a dime after the consultation. You’re also not required to make a decision whether to hire us on the spot. Take some time to discuss with your spouse and family members, and let us know. If you feel like we’d be a good fit for your case, we can talk about representation. At the end of consultation on a criminal matter, we’ll be able to quote reasonable fee for representation and explain the potential and likelihood of any other case-related costs. If you’re here for a consultation on a work injury, we’ll explain that it doesn’t cost you anything out-of-pocket to hire us. There are no upfront fees on a work comp case. Give us a call if you’d like to schedule your free consultation.

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The Four Types of Work Comp Wage Loss Benefits

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TEMPORARY TOTAL DISABILITY (TTD) The first potential work comp wage loss benefit is Temporary Total Disability.  This is explained under Minnesota Statute section 176.101, subd. 1.  Basically, an employee is entitled to this benefit if their doctor has indicated that they are unable to work because of the work injury, or, although they are capable of working with some physical restrictions, their employer is not willing to accommodate those restrictions (if this is the case, the employee must conduct a diligent job search).   If one of these conditions exists, and the employee has not reached 90 days post MMI, the Employee will be entitled to 2/3 of his average weekly wagesubject to a maximum cited in the statute above.  This is a basic summary of the benefit. There are many other defenses an insurer can make to deny an employee this benefit.  The maximum number of weeks an employee can receive this benefit is 130 (104 for injuries prior to Oct 2013). PARTIAL DISABILITY BENEFITS The second type of work comp wage loss benefit is called temporary partial disability benefits.  This benefit is formalized in subd 2 of the same statute.  An employee is entitled to this benefit if an employee is earning less than their average weekly wage, and has physical restrictions on his or her ability to work because of the work related injury.  The maximum number of weeks an employee can receive this benefit is 225.  Again, this is generally how this benefit works.  The case law regarding all these benefits is extensive. PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY (PPD) The third type of work comp wage loss benefit is permanent partial disability.  This is cited in subd. 3 of Minnesota Statute 176.101.  This benefit provides a percentage for a specific injury to a body part.  These percentages are provided here.  I have previously detailed how this benefit is calculated. PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY (PTD) Permanent total disability benefits (PTD) is the fourth type of work comp wage loss benefit.  Like TTD benefits, entitlement to PTD benefits is determined by the Minnesota workers’ compensation law in effect on the date of injury.  Prior to October 1, 1992 permanent total disability was defined as:  “The total and permanent loss of the sight of both eyes, the loss of both arms at the shoulder, the loss of both legs so close to the hips that no effective artificial members can be used, complete and permanent paralysis, total and permanent loss of mental faculties, or any other injury which totally incapacitates the employee from working in an occupation which brings the employee an income constitutes total disability.” In 1992 the law was amended to state:  “totally and permanently incapacitated means that the employee’s physical disability, in combination with the employee’s age, education, training and experience, causes the employee to be unable to secure anything more than sporadic employment resulting in an insubstantial income.” In 1995 the law was amended again to include certain thresholds for the medical/vocational test.  In order to be entitled to PPD work comp benefits for medical/vocational test, an injured employee must meet one of the following thresholds: Employee has at least a 17 permanent partial disability rating; or The employee has a permanent partial disability rating of the whole body of at least 15 percent and the employee is at least 50 years old at the time of injury; or The employee has a permanent partial disability rating of the whole body of at least 13 percent and the employee is at least 55 years old at the time of the injury, and has not completed grade 12 or obtained a GED certificate. FREE CONSULTATIONS This is generally how these work comp wage loss benefits operate.  However, as stated before, the case law in these areas is extensive.  If you believe that you are entitled to one of the benefits, and are not receiving it, contact our Minnesota work comp lawyer today for a free consultation at 651-222-6603.

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Felony Minnesota Expungement Granted

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MINNESOTA EXPUNGEMENT As some of you may know, a new Minnesota expungement law took effect January 1, 2015.  This new Minnesota expungement law, commonly referred to as the “second chance law,” has made obtaining an expungement much more realistic to many more people.  Prior to the new law, courts were limited in the type of expungement relief they could grant. Our lawyer recently obtained a full expungement for a client with an old Felony conviction.  This conviction had prevented our client from obtaining an IT position, which he was more than qualified.  Because the old conviction prevented him from working in his preferred field, he was forced to move to western North Dakota to manage a Wal-Mart to make ends meet. AN EXPUNGEMENT PETITION WAS FILED AND A HEARING WAS HELD IN EARLY JANUARY. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office had filed an objection to the expungement request.  Their objection was based on the old expungement law.  The county attorney appearing at the hearing withdrew the objection after arguments from our lawyer.  Judge Trachy granted full expungement relief and ordered all records related to the client’s felony conviction be sealed.  The Judge’s Order applied to every state agency that had records of the client’s conviction, including the police department, court records, probation records, and law enforcement records held by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).  A redacted copy of the Order is below. If you or someone you know would like to discuss a Minnesota expungement, please contact our lawyers today.  The experienced lawyers at Arechigo & Stokka will gladly review the facts and circumstances of your case for free.  We’ll take the time to explain how the new Minnesota expungement law may apply to your case.  If grounds exists, our attorneys will file an expungement petition on your behalf and argue to have your record sealed.  Call us today. BRYNGELSON ORDER REDACTED

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Felony Charges Dropped

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A CLIENT’S FELONY CHARGES WERE DROPPED BY THE RAMSEY COUNTY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE TODAY. The client was facing felony animal cruelty charges.  The charges stemmed from a falling out the client had with a former roommate.  The ex-roommate left behind a bunch of personal belongings, including a pet python snake. After my client and his wife asked the ex-roommates to leave their house, the ex-roommate began threatening to kill my client and his family.  The ex-roommate’s threats were serious enough to compel my client to obtain a Harassment Restraining Order and Order for Protection against the former roommate.  My client and his wife also called St. Paul Police to make arrangements for the ex-roommates to pick up their belongings. Arrangements were made for a specific date and time, but the former roommates came several hours after the agreed-upon time.  My client had placed the snake in its cage outside covered with a blanket.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your view of snakes) the snake died before its owners came to pick it up.  The former roommates called the police to report the death of the snake.  As a result, my client ended up facing felony animal cruelty charges. THE STATE ORIGINALLY OFFERED TO REDUCE THE CHARGE TO A MISDEMEANOR IF MY CLIENT PLED GUILTY. We declined the offer and continued to challenge the charge.  After additional information was brought to the prosecutor’s attention, it was clear that my client never acted with intent to harm that snake.  In fact, given the circumstances, my client probably went above and beyond what most people would have done in his situation.  The felony charges were dropped at today’s court appearance. THIS CHARGE PROBABLY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN FILED AGAINST MY CLIENT IN THE FIRST PLACE. After being retained, we started to gather all the information that led to the death of the snake.  Once this information was presented to the prosecutor, the felony charges were dropped. HIRE ONE OF ST. PAUL’S BEST ATTORNEYS TODAY If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, call our St. Paul criminal defense lawyers today.  Our Minnesota criminal defense lawyers provide a free consultation.  If retained, our St. Paul criminal defense attorneys will prepare an aggressive defense.  Call today.

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Do I Have to Let the Police In My House?

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DO I HAVE TO LET THE POLICE IN MY HOUSE? In a word, no.  The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches, which includes the entry of a home by police without a warrant.  Courts have historically given homes the highest level of protection under the Fourth Amendment.  Homes have such a strong privacy protection that the Supreme Court has said, “The physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed.” WHAT IF THE POLICE HAVE AN ARREST WARRANT? Whether police can enter a home with an arrest warrant to search for a suspect depends on whose home the police want to enter.  An arrest warrant can authorize police entry of a home if the police have an arrest warrant for a suspect, know where the suspect lives, and want to enter the suspect’s home to locate the suspect.  For example, the police have an arrest warrant for John Doe for an alleged crime of terrorist threats and they know John Doe lives at 123 Main Street in Minnesota.  The arrest warrant would authorize the police to enter 123 Main Street to look for John Doe. However, police do not have the same authority to enter a home with a search warrant if they are looking for a suspect at a residence other than the suspect’s.  Say the police show up at 456 Main Street in Minnesota and tell the homeowner they have an arrest warrant for John Doe and want to come in and look for Mr. Doe.  The homeowner does not have to let the police into the home.  The one catch here is if police are able to prove that they had a reasonable belief that the suspect resided at 456 Main Street and also had a reasonable belief that the suspect was at the home at the time the police demanded entry.  This combination of circumstances can justify police entry of a home with an arrest warrant. An arrest warrant does not authorize police to search contents of a home.  If police are justified in entering a home with an arrest warrant, they are limited to looking for the individual.  This would not include opening drawers, for example, because there is no possibility of a suspect hiding in a drawer. WHAT IF THE POLICE HAVE A SEARCH WARRANT? A homeowner does not have the same protections against police entry if the police have a search warrant.  A search warrant must be signed by a judge.  This means the police have submitted an application and affidavit to a judge stating why they think evidence of criminal activity will be found in a particular residence.  A judge reviewed the search warrant application and officer’s affidavit and determined that the police were likely to find the evidence they are looking for a particular residence.  Once signed by a judge, the search warrant gives the police authority to enter the home against the consent of the homeowner. The scope of authority, in other words, exactly where the police can search, will depend on the nature of the evidence the police are seeking.  If the police have a search warrant authorizing the search of a home for a stolen TV, for example, they would not be allowed to open drawers because there’s no reasonable likelihood of finding a TV in a drawer. ARE THERE OTHER REASONS THE POLICE CAN ENTER A HOME WITHOUT A WARRANT? Minnesota law allows the police to enter a home without an arrest warrant or search warrant in a handful of limited and unique circumstances. First, and maybe not so unique, is if the homeowner consents and freely and voluntarily allows the police to enter the home. The police may also be allowed to enter a home without a warrant or consent if they are in hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect. The police must have observed the suspect enter the residence they want to enter. The police may also enter a residence without a warrant if they are concerned for the safety of human life or to prevent the destruction or loss of evidence. FREE CONSULTATIONS Our Minneapolis-St. Paul criminal defense lawyers have successfully fought back against the illegal entry of a home.  Our Minnesota defense attorneys have had evidence suppressed and charges dismissed based on unlawful searches of a home.  Call us today if you’d like a free consultation.

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Client Avoids Prison After 3rd Degree Murder Charge

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OUR MINNESOTA CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS KEEP CLIENT OUT OF PRISON A recent client from Minneapolis, B.H., was facing a lengthy prison sentence after she was charged with contributing to the death of a young man who overdosed on drugs he bought from our client.  B.H. was charged Great Bodily Harm Caused by the Distribution of Drugs, 3rd Degree Murder, and Second Degree Manslaughter after it was discovered she had a role in J.C.’s death.  The charges were all serious felony offenses and carried several years in prison. J.C. OVERDOSED ON FENTANYL The evidence of this case showed the J.C. had known B.H. from prior mutual contacts.  In October of 2014, J.C. traveled to B.H.’s home in Minneapolis.  J.C. knew that B.H.’s partner was sick with cancer and had a prescription for Fentanyl to help with the pain.  J.C. offered to purchase some of the unused Fentanyl patches from B.H.  B.H. agreed, mostly because she and her partner needed the extra money.  B.H. did not know that J.C. had serious addiction problems and a history of previous suicidal overdose attempts.  J.C. purchased the Fentanyl in Minneapolis and returned to his home in rural Minnesota.  He was found dead a couple days later.  J.C. overdosed on the fentanyl he obtained from our client. PLEA NEGOTIATIONS A prominent Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer asked us to co-counsel B.H.’s case.  We have experience arguing the types of motions that are needed to help keep a client facing prison from spending several years behind bars.  After internal discussions with co-counsel, we agreed that the best course of action would be to approach the prosecuting attorney with an early proposed resolution.  We hoped that the time and work the prosecutor might avoid with an early resolution would help us get a favorable starting point for our client.  It worked. The prosecutor ultimately agreed to dismiss the 3rd Degree Murder charge and the 2nd Degree Manslaughter charge.  Part of the reason behind the dismissals was the early proposed resolution, but we also hinted at our defense – and we think the prosecutor recognized the legitimacy of the defense. To convicted B.H. of the 3rd Degree Murder charge, the prosecutor would have to prove that her actions of selling the Fentanyl to J.C. was the proximate cause of J.C.’s death.  Proximate cause is a legal term that essentially means the primary cause of the resulting harm or injury.  It was our position that B.H. did not have any knowledge that J.C. was going to use the Fentanyl in the manner he did.  J.C. smoked several of the patches and was found with additional patches inside his mouth.  With his history of suicide attempts, it was clear that J.C. was battling his own very serious personal demons.  If the case proceeded to trial, we intended to argue that J.C.’s own actions were as much a part of the result as B.H.’s.  I think the prosecutor recognized it might have been tough to prove that B.H.’s actions were the primary cause of death.  As a result, we struck a deal that called for B.H. to plead guilty to Great Bodily Harm Caused by the Distribution of Drugs. B.H. FACED SEVERAL YEARS IN PRISON A conviction of Great Bodily Harm Caused by the Distribution of Drugs carries a sentence of several years in prison.  The offense is known as a “presumptive commit.”  A criminal offense that is a presumptive commit is one where it is presumed that the offender will go to prison if convicted.  The only way to avoid prison is to convince the judge that your client does not deserve to go to prison (for a number of different reasons and/or circumstances) and the goals of sentencing will be better served by placing the person on probation. The other Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer and filed several motions to keep our client out of prison.  After a lengthy and emotional sentencing hearing, the judge granted our motions.  He agreed that the circumstances of the case, as well as B.H.’s clean criminal record and her ability to succeed on probation, warranted placing her on probation instead of sending her to prison.  B.H. was sentenced to 10 years of probation, ordered to serve 120 days in the county jail, and pay a $50 fine. While some people may take issue what they might perceive to be the lenient sentence, it really was the right outcome.  B.H. is not a drug dealer by any stretch of the definition.  She did not need to go to prison to appreciate her mistake or to be punished for her actions. Minnesota criminal offenses carrying a presumptive commit to prison require the knowledge and creativity of an experienced Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer.  Our defense attorneys have successfully helped a number of deserving clients avoid prison and atone for their mistakes on probation.  Call us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Minneapolis criminal defense attorney.

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