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St. Cloud Criminal Defense Law Blog

What is implied consent?

Minnesota readers have probably all heard the term, “implied consent,” perhaps in the context of DUI investigation or criminal defense. Implied consent, which is recognized in other states as well, is the principle that anybody who has a driver’s license and operates a motor vehicle is deemed to have already consented to providing a breath, blood or urine sample for purposes of determining intoxication.

Implied consent is supposed to make it easier for police officers to conduct DUI investigations. Motorists are technically not required to submit to a test unless the investigating officer has probable cause to believe the suspect was driving under the influence and the suspect: has been placed under arrest; was involved in an accident resulting in personal injury, death, or damage to property; registered a blood alcohol concentration or 0.08 or more in a preliminary breath test; or registered an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more in a preliminary breath test. Refusing to submit to a test under these conditions is a crime in Minnesota, and there are consequences for doing so. 

Controversial civil commitment program on trial

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that there are some individuals in our prisons who suffer from serious mental illnesses or other conditions which impact their ability to be law abiding citizens. One of the pathways these individuals can be sent along if they end in the criminal justice system is the mental health civil commitment program.

Those accused of a serious crime in Minnesota may be referred and approved for a civil commitment based on a handful of conditions, including mental illness, developmental disability, chemical dependency, and sexual psychopathic personality. To make sure they understand their rights, those participating in the program are able to choose whether they want to be represented by a pre-selected attorney in the civil commitment process or by their own private attorney. Although commitment in many cases is not allowed to exceed 12 months, there are some cases where commitment may be indefinite, even if subject to periodic review. 

NFL athletes and domestic violence: this time, charges dropped

Domestic violence is well-known to be a problem among professional athletes, especially football players. Given the amount of media attention, it would seem that the problem is an epidemic. As some readers may already know, though, while the rate of domestic violence arrests among football players is not impressive, it has been shown to be only slightly above the national average.

The fact that not all arrests result in charges is another factor to consider as well. Take, for example, the case of Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers, who recently had domestic violence charges thrown out because prosecutors were unable to secure the cooperation of the woman who accused him of assaulting and threatening her.

Scrutinizing bad and insufficient evidence in criminal defense

Evidence is obviously a critical aspect of any criminal investigation and prosecution. Without sufficient evidence, police do not have the legal right to conduct searches and seizures, and prosecutors are not able to support the charges they pursue in court. Lack of evidence can result in a half-baked prosecution, resulting in dismissal of charges or, in cases where the evidence is more substantial but still inadequate, acquittal.

A recent criminal case out of Mankato demonstrates both the importance of evidence in criminal cases and what can happen when officers make mistakes gathering evidence. In November, police reportedly arrested a 31-year-old man after finding a white, powdery substance in his vehicle which tested positive for amphetamine. The man was charged with two counts of drug possession, but those charges were later dropped due to a more accurate test which showed the substance was actually just vitamins. The kicker is that the man spent three months in county jail, waiting for the results of the test, before the charges were dropped. 

MN Court of Appeals: McNeely rule doesn’t apply retroactively

We’ve been speaking a good deal on this blog about DWI charges and the importance of scrutinizing the way police conduct criminal investigations in these cases. As we noted last time, certain legal remedies may be available for defendants who have been subjected to an illegal search or seizure, and these can help strengthen their case.

One relatively recent Supreme Court case that shows the importance of this type of investigation is Missouri v. McNeely. That case, which came out in 2013, held that it is unconstitutional for police officers to require DWI suspects to submit to a blood test without first obtaining a warrant. That case specifically recognized there are situations where officers may not have to obtain a warrant, such as when there are multiple factors which present the risk of losing critical evidence. 

Suppressing evidence stemming from illegal search or seizure

In our last post, we began speaking about a recent Supreme Court case which concluded that police officers do not have to have a completely accurate understanding of the law in order to make valid traffic stops. As we noted, the question of whether a traffic stop, or searches and seizures in general, is properly done is an important one.

Criminal defendants who suspect that they may have been subjected to an illegal search or seizure ought to speak with an experienced criminal defendant attorney to have their case evaluated. One of the reasons for this is that a criminal defendant may be able to have evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search thrown out at trial, thus benefiting their case.  

Supreme Court lets officers off the hook for mistaken understanding of law

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided an interesting case that clarified a question that can come up, even if infrequently, in criminal defense: may police develop reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle based on a mistake of law? Established case law already holds that an officer is able to develop reasonable suspicion, or probable cause for that matter, based on a reasonable mistake of fact. But does the same principle apply to mistakes of law?

The question came up in connection with a North Carolina case in which a driver had been pulled over after an officer noticed he had a burnt out brake light. During the stop, the officer found drugs and the motorist was subsequently charged with drug trafficking. Although state law doesn’t technically require both brake lights to be in working order, the officer had assumed that having only one working light constituted a violation of the traffic code. As it turns out, that mistaken assumption was deemed to be reasonable, and for that reason the court upheld the stop. 

First time DWI: what are the consequences? P.4

This is our fourth installment in a series of post dealing with the consequences of a first-time DWI conviction. In our first couple posts, we provided an overview of the criminal consequences of a first-time DWI conviction, and in our last post we briefly discussed the administrative consequences. The two sets of penalties are related, as we’ve noted, though technically separate.

We’ve taken the opportunity in these posts to discuss the penalties associated with first-time DWI charges because, for those who face such charges, understanding the potential consequences for a first time DWI conviction allows one to understand what one is up against and to avoid surprises. Hopefully, by speaking about the range of penalties involved in a first-time DWI offense, our readers will also begin to see the importance of working with an experienced criminal defense attorney. 

First time DWI: what are the consequences? P.3

In our last couple posts, we’ve been looking at the consequences of a first-time DWI charge. As we’ve pointed out, these consequences are both criminal and administrative in nature. We’ve already discussed the outlines of the criminal penalties, which depend on the first-time offender’s blood alcohol concentration, whether there was a child in the vehicle at the time of arrest, and whether a chemical test was refused.

These same factors impact the administrative sanctions imposed for first-time DWI charges. The administrative penalties for first-time DWI offenders who had a blood alcohol concentration of under 0.16 are actually partially selected by the offender. What is not optional is that driving privileges are modified for a total of 90 days. The choice, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, is between: (a) 15 days completely without driving privileges followed by limited privileges for the rest of the period; or (b) full driving privileges for the whole period, but with the use of an ignition interlock system. 

First time DWI: what are the consequences? P.2

 

In our last post, we began speaking about the potential consequences of a first-time DWI charge in Minnesota. As we began explaining in our last post, the specific consequences of a first-time DWI charge in Minnesota depend not only on the severity of the charge, but also on the specific administrative penalties applied in the case.

 

It is important for readers to understand that state law doesn’t prescribe every possible consequence of a first DWI conviction, but merely gives the outlines. Judges have a certain degree of discretion in sentencing, and this is why it is critical to work with an attorney up through the sentencing phase of the criminal defense process.