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St. Cloud Criminal Defense Law Blog

What's the right response to sexting?

Politicians can find themselves shamed out of office for sexting. Teens can find themselves shamed out of school and their closest social circles if they do it. And if the images escape onto the broader online world -- well.

In the latter situation, the practice of sexting, even if it involves consenting individuals, can lead to felony sex crime charges that raise the specter of being labeled a sex offender. It's an issue of growing concern across the United States, including in Minnesota.

MN 'tough-on-crime' laws have led to tight prison quarters

If you were paying attention to the headlines in recent weeks, you might have noticed some proclaiming the release of some 6,000 federal inmates. This wasn't due to some recognition of the biblical principle of the Jubilee year in which slaves and prisoners would be freed and debts forgiven. Rather, it reflected changes in federal sentencing guidelines.

All of these individuals have served time in the federal prison system for drug offense convictions. According to Justice Department information, the offenses usually involved drug trafficking. In some instances, weapons may have been involved. The move to grant release is said to be part of a broad reexamination of the effects of tough-on-crime laws passed in recent years.

Countdown to end unlawful sex offender confinements continues

The state of Minnesota remains under pressure to the unconstitutional confinement of hundreds of sex offenders. In the most recent action, a federal judge in St. Paul ruled that the state has just over two years to complete risk assessments on all 720 people now held as part of the Minnesota Sex Offenders Program.

As we have noted previously in this blog, the MSOP is the target of a class action suit brought by some individuals under indefinite hold in the program. According to the claim, these are people who have completed prison terms for sex crime convictions but who remain civilly committed in secure facilities in the state.

How about prison reform for justice's sake

Conservative columnist George Will recently offered the perspective that the Republican Party has a great opportunity to swing the electoral vote in the upcoming elections in the GOP's favor. He says the key is for the party to get serious about drafting an agenda for reforming the criminal justice system.

His argument seems to go this way. The criminal justice system is skewed against defendants and African Americans tend to end up in the system in ways that are, in his words, "dismayingly frequent and frequently dismaying." So, Will says, to attract African American votes, Republicans would do well to focus rhetoric on reform.

Presume innocence amid domestic violence arrest sweeps

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Not surprisingly, headlines in newspapers and on news websites across the country have noted how police in various jurisdictions in Minnesota and the rest of the country have opted to time enforcement action related to cases of alleged domestic violence to focus attention on the issue.

Locally, KSTP TV reported that officials in Ramsey County mounted a similar operation. And WCCO TV reports that Hennepin County undertook this kind of action back in June in a concerted effort involving 15 other enforcement agencies. Out in Washington, D.C., The Washington Post reported on action last week that resulted in more than 100 arrests. 

What are motives to consider a plea bargain?

Every person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. That is the standing rule whether one happens to be facing Minnesota state charges or allegations in a federal court. And yet, it is widely understood that 90 percent of all criminal convictions are the result of a plea agreement, rather than a determination by a jury of one's peers.

Considering that there are really three main players in any given case, it might do well to examine what the incentives are that make plea deals so apparently attractive that they are so obviously common. We hope to do that with this post.

Is it possible for drug suppliers to face murder charges?

The short answer to the question posed above is, yes. A lot depends on the specifics circumstances of the case, but there are cases on record here in Minnesota and in other states in which tough charges have been leveled.

It hasn't always been the case, but in recent years, prosecutors have started to bring murder charges in cases where someone has died of an overdose. The defendants might be the dealers who sell the drugs, but even friends and possible loved ones who may be suspected in the purchase or distribution of drugs could find themselves facing dire criminal charges and serious penalties if they're convicted.

Sex exploitation suit spotlights Minnesota Hmong community

Minnesota has a reputation for being largely Caucasian-based in terms of its demographics. But over the past 50 years, a lot has changed.

With the end of wars in Vietnam, disturbances in other parts of the world, and the lure of a higher standard of living, there has been a significant influx of people from all over the world. The level of diversity in the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Duluth and communities in the southern part of the state has mushroomed with people from Laos, Latin and Central America, Africa and Asia.

28-year sentence in tainted peanut case warrants attention

The toughest sentence ever issued in a criminal food tainting case is now a matter of record. A federal court sentenced Stewart Parnell, the former head of the former Peanut Corp. of America, to 28 years in prison last month for shipping salmonella-tainted peanuts in 2009 that wound up killing nine people and sickening hundreds more. A large number of those victims were from Minnesota.

The sentence is seen as a virtual life term for Parnell. He is 61 years old and is expected to serve most of the time handed down unless he mounts a successful appeal. And he is not the only company official in such straits. One other former executive received a 20-year sentence in the case, while a former quality assurance manager received five years.

Universality of computers means broad range of possible crimes

The pervasiveness of personal computing in daily life is something few anticipated back when computers were being developed. The likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had other ideas and now their dreams are not just virtual reality. They are the reality. You would be hard pressed to find an individual who is so far off the grid that they don't show up in some computer database somewhere.

Convenience is perhaps the biggest reason computers are so ubiquitous. Whether it sits on a desktop or in your lap; if it is encapsulated in a tablet, smartphone or perhaps even in a wristwatch; computers are everywhere and access to the Internet means we are all potentially connected.