What is Drug Trafficking Definition and Defense in MN?

In the seemingly endless War on Drugs, arrests are basically the only measuring stick of victory. High profile drug trafficking arrests are almost sure to attract attention. Arrests often involve large, multi-agency investigations, especially in certain situations. If you’re wondering what is drug trafficking and definition and defense, the answer can get complicated.

Officers invest a lot in drug trafficking cases, so there’s a great deal of pressure on prosecutors when these cases go to court. No lawyer wants to be the guy who let a “drug dealer” go “free.” Usually, federal and state prosecutors can levy drug trafficking charges when they believe that controlled substances have been sold, imported, or moved around. In most cases, these charges involve drugs such as heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Between 2011 and 2015, heroin trafficking charges increased almost 50 percent.

What is a Drug Trafficking Charge?

A drug trafficking charge can also extend to the unlawful distribution of prescription drugs, such as sleeping pills, painkillers, or products containing hydrocodone, oxycodone, and pharmaceutical opiates. Even if no money changes hands, authorities can press drug trafficking charges. Legally, giving leftover medicine to a friend is as bad as selling it on the street.

Consequences of a Drug Trafficking Charge in Minnesota

Any Minnesota drug crime attorney will tell you that the consequences for drug charges are extremely severe. The state laws here oversee penalties in keeping with the type and quantity of drugs involved, area of distribution, and whether or not children were targeted. Sentences for drug trafficking typically range between three and five years to life imprisonment, but can be considerably higher when large quantities are involved. In extreme cases, where large amounts of drugs are involved, the accused can be charged with a first-degree felony, which can result in a prison sentence of up to 40 years.

An experienced Minnesota drug crime attorney can effectively use one or more defenses to successfully resolve these charges. These charges could hit almost anyone. A drug trafficking charge can be brought against you if you have been accused of manufacturing or distributing an illegal controlled substance, or if you have been found possessing a large quantity of the substance that exceeds the estimated quantity for personal use.

Minnesota Criminal Defense and Jail Release

Prompt jail release is usually the first step toward a successful outcome in a drug trafficking case. That outcome could be a not guilty verdict at trial, a complete dismissal of charges, or a plea to a lesser-included offense, such as drug possession. If jurors learn that the defendant is in jail, most of them assume s/he did something wrong.

The first step of any process is often a very difficult one. Jail release in a drug trafficking case is a good example. Generally, county sheriffs either do not set bail in these cases or set amounts so high that defendants cannot possibly afford them.

At the arraignment, which usually happens about three days after the arrest, a Minnesota drug crime attorney can petition for a bail reduction. Some factors judges consider include:

  • Severity of the offense,
  • Defendant’s criminal record,
  • Amount of evidence against the defendant,
  • Defendant’s links with the community,
  • Any ongoing threat to victims or witnesses, and
  • Defendant’s ability to pay bail.

These factors are much more comprehensive than initial bail determination factors. Usually, county sheriffs only consider the first two bullet points. So, there’s a very good chance that the defendant can get out of jail.

Pretrial release isn’t just important for personal reasons. There are legal reasons as well. Incarceration increases stress hormone levels, and exposure to these hormones causes a brain injury. So, people who are behind bars cannot always think clearly. They are often tempted to accept unfavorable plea bargain agreements so they can “get it over with.”

Possible Defenses in a Drug Trafficking Prosecution

Most criminal cases have both procedural and substantive defenses. Procedural defenses usually involve law enforcement or prosecutor mistakes. Substantive defenses essentially involve a lack of evidence. Drug trafficking cases have both kinds of defenses.

Illegal Search and Seizure

Law enforcement authorities need to have probable cause before searching through your personal property to check for possession of illegal drugs. If they did not have a valid warrant or probable cause, it means they violated your Constitutional rights, in which case, your charges may be reduced or dismissed altogether.

The probable cause in a search warrant almost always involves a Confidential Informant’s testimony. CIs usualyl do not come forward out of the goodness of their hearts. They almost always receive money or leniency. In most cases, the payment is quite high, especially in large drug trafficking investigations.

SInce many people will say virtually anything for love or money, CI testimony is presumptively unreliable, unless the CI has a positive track record or there is some corroborating proof.

WHen these cases go to court, prosecutors cannot argue backwards. They cannot assert that since officers found what they were looking for, the CI’s testimony must have been accurate. Probable cause in a search warrant stands or falls based on the information which was available at the time.

Other drug trafficking arrests involve search warrant exceptions, like consent and plain view. These exceptions are a little more common in possession cases.

Miranda Violation

Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the Miranda rights (you have the right to remain silent, etc.). But many people don’t realize how broad these rights are or how quickly they kick in.

The Fifth Amendment’s right to remain silent doesn’t just give defendants the right to keep their mouths closed. Defendants also have the right to stay still. They need not perform field sobriety tests, pose for pictures, or appear in lineups.

Peace officers are usually desperate to close cases before the defendant lawyers up. So, people who assert their Fifth Amendment rights face consequences. For example, if suspected drug traffickers do not fully cooperate with police, officers almost always arrest them. But if officers bring you to the station, an arrest is pretty much inevitable anyway.

Despite the intense pressure officers put on defendants to talk, and despite the “promises” officers make, it’s usually best to assert your Fifth Amendment rights in these situations. The state has more than enough ways to obtain a guilty verdict. Prosecutor’s don’t need your help.

Now, let’s talk about timing. Legally, officers must administer the Miranda warnings when custodial interrogation begins. “Custody” means the suspect does not feel free to leave. Most people don’t feel free to leave as soon as they see flashing lights behind them. “Interrogation” means more than asking questions related to the drug trafficking investigation. Clever officers know how to extract damaging information from suspects in very subtle ways.

If officers Mirandize the defendant too late, any evidence they obtain is fruit from a poisonous tree and therefore inadmissible in court.

Witness Identification Issues

As mentioned, CIs often claim that Jerry is a drug dealer. Also as mentioned, CIs have a motivation to lie. So, prosecutors often look for corroborating proof in the form of an eyewitness who saw something. Simply seeing Jerry in the neighborhood at the time of the alleged drug transaction could be enough.

Eyewitness testimony is very persuasive. Something almost mystical occurs when a witness takes the stand, points to the defendant, and says “That’s the man.” 

Eyewitness testimony is also scientifically unreliable. Memory does not fade slowly and evenly over time. Most people almost immediately forget pretty much everything they see and hear. Cross racial identification is often an issue as well. If a white person sees then black men in a lineup who are all about the same age, weight, and height, the people in the lineup will all look alike. That’s not racial prejudice. That’s biology.

Sometimes, the witness is a camera instead of a person. Cameras usually don’t have memory or other issues. But there could be authentication issues. 

Today’s cameras record very sharp images, and they also need a lot of maintenance. These maintenance records are often unavailable. Very few people keep repair receipts and other such documents. Additionally, a camera operator or other such person must appear in court and authenticate the recording. Such witnesses are often unavailable, especially since the trial might be a year or more after the incident.

The Lack of Intent

Admittedly, this defense doesn’t come up very often. Legally, prosecutors can use evidence to establish intent. Furthermore, “intentional” usually means “non-accidental.” People accidentally possess drugs rather frequently, mostly because of a lack of knowledge, which is examined below. But pretty much no one “accidentally” trafficks controlled substances.

Occasionally, however, prosecutors use shaky circumstantial evidence to upgrade possession charges to distribution charges. Such evidence includes:

  • Firearms,
  • Cash,
  • Packing supplies,
  • Scales, and
  • Quantity of drugs.

In the post-arrest press conference, all this evidence is laid out for the cameras as if officers found it in the same place. But in the real world, a wad of bills in the living room might have little or nothing to do with drugs in the garage.

The Lack of Knowledge

Possession includes a knowledge element. Assume Sarah is in the passenger seat when officers find drugs in the glovebox. These charges might not hold up in court, unless prosecutors can prove that Sarah knew the drugs were there. Mere proximity isn’t enough. 

Things get complicated if Sarah smelled something fishy. Let’s look at a few scenarios. First, assume the glove box was locked. Sarah might think that was a bit suspicious, especially if she’s the paranoid type. But prosecutors probably couldn’t establish knowledge. 

Now, assume the driver told Sarah not to look in the glove compartment. If that happened, Sarah cannot play dumb. She should have known that there was something illegal in the glovebox.

The same analysis applies in drug mule cases. If Sarah carries a gift-wrapped package which contains drugs, trafficking charges probably wouldn’t hold up in court. But no one “accidentally” swallows tiny balloons filled with illegal drugs.

Challenging Proof of Substance in Minnesota

This defense frequently applies in marijuana trafficking cases. Hemp is legal in Minnesota, and marijuana is illegal, except for limited medicinal purposes. These two substances have the same physical properties. They look alike and smell alike. Only a THC chemical content test can distinguish them.

Such tests are unavailable in many smaller Minnesota counties. Furthermore, even if the test is available, it’s quite expensive. Many prosecutors decide that it’s too costly.

Without this test, it’s usually impossible to prove drug trafficking charges, at least beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s especially true if the defendant only had a few pounds of marijuana/hemp. A higher amount is harder for a Minnesota drug crime lawyer to explain.

On a related note, officers always use “field tests” which always “confirm” that the substance is illegal. But these unscientific test results don’t always hold up in court. In 2019, an officer arrested Georgia State’s quarterback for trafficking cocaine. Later tests confirmed that the substance was bird poop. Not surprisingly, the officer resigned shortly thereafter.

Usually, a Minnesota drug crime attorney partners with an independent lab that conducts independent tests.

Police Misconduct Minnesota

The Saluda County Sheriff’s deputy who made that arrest had a rather checkered past. For example, two years previously, he left another department after being accused of misconduct with a woman who was involved in a domestic dispute. We probably don’t want to know the details about that situation. 

This scenario is hardly unique. We all have skeletons in the closet. If a Minnesota drug crime lawyer can successfully undermine the officer’s credibility, the state’s case could suffer mightily. Respect for police officers reached an all-time low in 2020. Many jurors are ready to believe the worst about police officers, and ready to believe that law enforcement railroaded the defendant.

Duress in Minnesota

Pretty much all actions, whether they are good or bad, involve at least a little duress. Parents pressure their kids into eating their vegetables and drug dealers pressure individuals into becoming drug traffickers.

At some point, a line is crossed. If the defendant can prove that someone made a specific, credible threat which induced him/her into the conduct, the duress defense might hold water.

Duress is an affirmative defense. Defendants must admit they trafficked drugs and successfully argue that their behavior was not illegal. So, duress is also an all-or-nothing defense, at least in many cases. If defendants admit they broke the law, it’s very difficult to otherwise resolve the charges successfully.

Entrapment in Minnesota

Here’s another affirmative defense. Like duress, entrapment is difficult to prove. The defendant must establish that:

  • The officer induced her/him to commit the crime, and 
  • S/he had no predisposition toward this kind of criminal activity.

Online sex trafficking sting operations are a good example of how this defense works. Officer Smith poses as an underage girl and, armed with some lurid photos, enters a chat room. The officer strikes up a conversation with a defendant and offers to meet. During the course of this conversation, Officer Smith says “don’t you love me” or something like that in order to seal the deal. Our potential pervert shows up at the designated place, and that’s that.

Clearly, Officer Smith induced the defendant to commit the crime. But if the defendant was in a sex chat room, the defendant clearly had some propensity to commit the crime. His reluctance to meet, if any, isn’t relevant. Prosecutors only need to show a tiny bit of predisposition. The outcome might be different if the “girl” was in a Facebook or other relatively benign chat room.

In the drug trafficking context, users often become dealers after a boss promises them money or other benefits. Even if the trafficking was the boss’s idea, the user had some predisposition toward drug trafficking.

Lack of Evidence in Minnesota

The burden of proof in a criminal case is beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the highest burden of proof in American law. Therefore, many people are morally guilty but not legally guilty. They did it, but the state cannot prove they did it.

This defense combines procedural and substantive elements. If a Minnesota drug crime lawyer can exclude evidence, it’s harder for the state to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Alternatively, if an attorney undermines the state’s evidence, perhaps by attacking the credibility of a witness or pointing out a gap in the chain of custody, jurors might not be thoroughly convinced that the defendant is guilty.

Consult Our Drug Crime Lawyer in Minnesota for a Positive Outcome

Call us for a free consultation at (855) 976-2444 today or contact us online. At Carlson & Jones, P.A., wel help you explore every legal option available and applicable to your case, preserve your rights, and get you the just outcome you deserve.

I Got Hit By a Car in Buffalo, MN. What Now?

Medical bills are usually the largest component of a personal injury settlement. In a serious injury case, like a head injury, the total medical bills, from the first day of emergency care to the last day of physical therapy, usually exceed $50,000. In a catastrophic injury claim, like a spine injury, the lifetime medical bills could be over $5 million. Not that many people can say, “I was it by a car,” but if you were, you have rights.

Accident or Negligence in Buffalo, MN?

Vehicle collisions usually involve monetary settlements, because driver error causes over 90 percent of these incidents. In a few cases, this driver error is truly accidental. Sarah might turn her head at exactly the wrong moment or Tom might not see a patch of black ice in the shadows. But in most cases, these errors are negligent.

Some people think that a negligence claim “blames” the other party for a crash. But we all make mistakes. And, we must all accept responsibility for the mistakes we make. In this context, that responsibility includes paying compensation for damages. Victims need this compensation to pay medical bills, replace lost property, and otherwise put their lives back together. THis money should not have to come from their own pockets.

If negligence was involved, a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer can usually obtain substantial compensation. The amount usually depends on how well an attorney adheres to the proper plan, as outlined below. Compensation might be available in other cases as well, such as crashes that involve bad tires or other defective products.

Evaluating a Claim

Just like a house is built on a solid foundation, a car accident settlement is built on a solid investigation. That investigation includes both the facts and the law.

Factual Investigation

For Buffalo, MN accident lawyers, the factual investigation normally begins with the police accident report, witness statements, and medical bills. These three types of evidence are very insightful and often sufficient, by themselves, to ensure fair compensation. 

Frequently, this evidence is sufficient to obtain maximum compensation. Medical records are a good illustration. All medical bills contain diagnosis and cost information. Many of these records also contain treatment notes which show the victim’s physical pain level and state of mind. Such information humanizes these medical bills and is very useful in terms of noneconomic damages.

Sometimes, however, this evidence is not enough. For example, if the victim was killed, the police accident report probably does not reflect both sides of the story.

Additional Evidence

Additional evidence includes things like a car’s Event Data Recorder. A commercial jet’s black box flight recorder measures and records mechanical and operational data. Likewise, a vehicle’s EDR tracks things like:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle,
  • Engine RPM, and
  • Brake application.

THis electronic evidence often resonates well with tech-savvy Wright County jurors. Furthermore, assuming the gadget was working properly, EDR information is essentially bulletproof in court.

This critical evidence is unavailable unless a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer acts quickly and has the right tools.

Don’t Lose Physical Evidence of Being Hit by a Car

Most insurance companies destroy wrecked vehicles within a few days. If that happens, any physical evidence the vehicle contains, including the EDR, is lost. Early in the process, attorneys usually send spoliation letters to insurance companies. These letters create a legal duty to preserve evidence and prevent its “accidental” destruction.

Additionally, EDRs are sophisticated and sensitive devices. That’s especially true of large truck EDRs. Attorneys need the right tools and training to access and download this information. A lawyer needs a lot more than a screwdriver, a laptop, and a plunky attitude.

Legal Analysis

The legal investigation is important as well. There are several basic theories in negligence cases, and both of them have pros and cons. For example, if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated a safety law and caused a crash, the tortfeasor might be liable for damages as a matter of law. Negligence per se claims are relatively easy to prove. However, monetary damages are often lower in negligence per se matters, because some jurors are more likely to say that the victim was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sometimes, however, the opposite is true. Many jurors believe that drivers who get behind the wheel if they are drunk, stoned, or otherwise impaired are intentionally disregarding a known risk. As a result, they often award higher compensation in such claims. That fact could drive up a claim’s settlement value, as outlined below.

Possible insurance company defenses come into play as well. To see how they might affect the settlement value, a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer must think like an insurance company lawyer.

Motorcycle wrecks are a good example. Frequently, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) tells the reporting officer something like “She came out of nowhere” or “I never saw her coming.” Sometimes, these statements are just excuses, They could also indicate that the motorcyclist was operating recklessly. The aforementioned investigation usually reveals the truth.

Situations like this one usually involve the comparative fault defense. If both operators were partially responsible for the crash, jurors must apportion fault between them. Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, if the victim was no more than 49 percent responsible for the wreck, the victim is entitled to a proportionate amount of damages.

In both investigatory phases, experience matters more than anything. Buffalo, MN accident lawyer must know how to collect compelling evidence. And, they must use the right legal theory to put this evidence together.

Determining the Settlement Value

When you buy a car from a dealer, the sticker price serves as a starting point for price negotiations. But what if the vehicle had no sticker price? A buyer would have to make an initial offer based on the cost of the vehicle and some other factors, mosty supply and demand. This determination requires research, which we discussed above. It also requires accounting for intangible factors, which we’ll discuss below.

Economic Losses

Economic losses are the total of lost wages, medical bills, and other tangible losses. Minnesota has a very complex collateral source rule. Sometimes, expenses paid by Medicaid or a private insurance company are included in this total, and sometimes they are not. 

On a related note, attorneys usually negotiate with medical providers and convince them to lower their fees. If Paul’s medical bills are $50,000, his lawyer might be able to reduce them to $30,000.

Once again, Minnesota’s collateral source rule is rather complex. Sometimes, Paul might be able to keep an extra $20,000, because the court awards him 50k and he only pays 30k. Sometimes, however, that’s not the case, and the court would only award him 30k.

To ascertain noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, most Buffalo, MN accident lawyers multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four. The multiplier largely depends on the facts of the case, the applicable law, and some intangible factors, such as the legal venue.

The Car Injury Settlement Process in Buffalo, MN

Most car wreck claims settle out of court. These resolutions almost always benefit victims. They end the case sooner and give the parties more control over the outcome. The settlement process might take only a few weeks, but more often it could take several months.

Demand Letter in Buffalo, MN

Once medical treatment is at least substantially complete, attorneys usually send demand letters to insurance companies. The initial demand amount often greatly affects the amount of money in the final car accident settlement. 

It’s important to wait until this point before beginning settlement negotiations in earnest. Otherwise, the settlement amount might not account for all future medical expenses. The aforementioned spine injuries are a good example. These permanent injuries require continual surgical care. Furthermore, when physically disabled victims move into new living spaces, these spaces require expensive structural modifications. These costs could easily be tens of thousands of dollars, or even more.

Many of us are not very good financial planners. We overestimate or underestimate future needs. But a Buffalo, MN accident layer has your back in these situations. When necessary, attorneys partner with accountants, financial advisors, and other monetary professionals.

The figure in a demand letter is the starting point for settlement talks. At that point, a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer’s negotiating skills take center stage. An attorney must know when to give ground and when to stand firm. Otherwise, the settlement amount might be too low, or there might not be a settlement at all. Fortunately, most attorneys are better negotiators than Patrick

The Question of Liability in Buffalo, MN

If liability is not an issue, most insurance companies have a legal duty to settle the case in a few weeks. However, there is almost always at least some question as to liability. The aforementioned contributory negligence defense is a good example. These defenses can delay settlement and affect the amount of money the victim receives.

So, a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer must often file legal paperwork to preserve the victim’s rights. The statute of limitations in most negligence cases is two years from the date of the accident. Additionally, undue delay usually hurts victim/plaintiffs, because they have the burden of proof.

Legal advocacy skills are important. Most legal actions have basically two parts. First, there are pretrial motions which focus on the applicable law. Then, there is the trial itself, which focuses on the facts. If a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer is highly skilled in both these areas, the final settlement amount could be significantly higher.

Endgame When Negotiating a Settlement in Buffalo, MN

Frequently, after initial procedural moves are finished, insurance companies get down to business, and they negotiate a settlement.

These procedural moves usually involve a motion to dismiss the action and/or a motion for summary judgement. Essentially, these motions claim that there is no way the victim/plaintiff could possibly win, so the judge should put a stop to the lawsuit. 

So, as long as Buffalo, MN accident lawyers do their homework during the investigative phase, these motions usually fail. If an attorney takes shortcuts to try and settle the case early, the victim/plaintiff could be in real trouble. That’s especially true since, by this time, the statute of limitations has probably expired.

Attorney Fee Arrangements in Buffalo

Attorney fee arrangements come into play here as well. Accident lawyers work on a contingency basis, and insurance company lawyers work on an hourly basis. Frequently, these fees are over $1,500 an hour. So, the insurance company has a financial incentive to resolve the case quickly.

Nevertheless, for various reasons, insurance companies often dig in their heels. Most don’t want to set what they see as a bad precedent. A handful of companies genuinely care about their policyholders and vigorously defend them in court. But to almost all insurance companies, people who pay premiums are just line items on spreadsheets.

If You Are Referred to Mediation by a Judge in Buffalo

So, if the case remains unresolved as the trial date nears, a judge usually refers it to mediation. This alternative dispute resolution process usually lasts a full day. The parties meet in an office building or other somewhat informal setting.

The day begins with brief opening statements. But instead of a judge or jury, the audience is a third-party mediator, who is usually an unaffiliated Buffalo, MN accident lawyer. Afterwards, the parties retire to separate areas, or more commonly separate rooms. Then, the mediator conveys settlement offers back and forth, along with legal arguments and counterarguments.

If both sides negotiate in good faith, mediation is usually successful. In this context, “good faith” usually means two things. First, each side must be genuinely committed to resolving the case. Mediation is not just a showpiece. Second, each side must be willing to make some compromises. That’s the way financial negotiations work. There’s always some give and take.

Connect with an Experienced Wright County Attorney

Most negligence claims settle out of court, and due to the nature of this process, it’s hard to tell how much your case is worth at the outset. If you can say, “I was hit by a car”, then you should contact a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer. Contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home, virtual, and hospital visits are available.

How Much Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Cost in Buffalo, MN?

Have you noticed that when you need something, the price usually goes up? When COVID-19 hit, face mask prices increased 500 percent in some areas. That’s the basic law of supply and demand. When demand goes up, so does the price. Many people assume this law applies to criminal defense attorneys, but they are bound by legal ethics. If you’re wondering how much does a criminal defense lawyer cost, the answer depends on your charges and your income.

Why Criminal Defense Lawyers Must Set Fixed Feed for Certain Services

Fortunately, that’s not the way it works in this area. Legal ethics require attorneys to set fixed fees for certain services. Experience level is usually the biggest factor. So, as an attorney gains experience over the years, the attorney can charge more money. There are some other factors as well, which are outlined below. Admittedly, some of these factors are rather subjective. But one thing is for sure. Lawyers cannot double or triple their fees because you had a brush with the law.

Nevertheless, retaining the services of a good Buffalo criminal lawyer is a significant investment. Before you transmit your credit card information, there are a number of things to consider. Always remember that you have choices in this area. Your criminal case is a very serious matter, but it is not a matter of imminent life and death. People usually have a few days to make a decision.

Free Lawyers in Buffalo, MN

In a significant number of cases, the cost of a Minnesota criminal defense lawyer is nothing, or at least practically nothing. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to counsel in criminal cases. Therefore, Wright County provides attorneys to defendants who qualify for such assistance. Exact procedure varies in different counties, and in different courts in the same county. However, the free lawyer choices are always the same: a public defender or a court-appointed lawyer.

The Public Defender’s Office

The public defender’s office usually assigns one lawyer to a misdemeanor court and two to a felony court. Reinforcements are usually available, especially in a serious felony case, like a complex sex crime prosecution. 

Essentially, the public defender’s office is like a private criminal defense law firm. Since the county pays all the firm’s expenses, the clients pay nothing. Frequently, public defenders are underfunded. The Wright County Commissioners are not made of money, and there is only so much funding to go around. Making matters worse, public defenders are usually at the end of the bread line. Voters usually don’t mind paying money for roads, schools, and other things that benefit many people. Paying for someone’s Buffalo, MN criminal defense lawyer is not a major item on voter wish lists.

As a result, there is some truth to the image of the overworked public defender. According to an American Bar Association study, some public defenders juggled up to 400 cases at once. That’s a bit deceptive, mostly because most criminal cases settle out of court, and settle rather quickly. More on that below. Nevertheless, there is some cause for concern.

Private Attorneys for Those Who Cannot Afford a Lawyer

To bypass this issue, many Wright County judges appoint private attorneys for people who cannot afford lawyers. Sometimes, judges screen the attorneys they appoint. That’s especially true in the aforementioned serious felony cases. Indeed, in a capital case, the state imposes additional requirements. But in many misdemeanors, judges appoint any attorney who can find the courthouse door.

Not everyone qualifies for a court-appointed attorney or a public defender. These qualifications vary in different courts. Some judges simply ask defendants if they can afford legal representation. Others require defendants to submit financial affidavits.

What Is the Incarceration Presumption?

There is also an incarceration presumption. Most judges connect bail money with the money to hire a lawyer. They assume that if the defendant cannot afford bail, the defendant cannot afford an attorney either. That’s usually accurate. However, just because a defendant can scrape up bail money, that doesn’t mean s/he can afford an attorney. Furthermore, if the defendant obtained free pretrial release, the incarceration presumption should still apply. But it usually doesn’t, at least in the minds of many judges.

A Court-Appointed Lawyer Is Permanent

Defendants who go with a free lawyer get what they get and they can’t throw a fit. Once a judge assigns a court-appointed lawyer, that assignment is permanent, unless the defendant hires a private Buffalo, MN criminal defense lawyer. Similarly, if a defendant goes to the public defender’s office, the chief public defender has the exclusive right to assign lawyers to individual cases.

Your Right to Counsel of Your Own Choosing

On a related note, the Supreme Court recently ruled that the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel means defendants have the right to counsel of their own choosing. This issue occasionally comes up in some drug crime matters. Prosecutors cannot seize so much cash during a raid that the defendant cannot afford to hire the lawyer s/he wants to hire.

Representing Yourself in Buffalo, MN

Incidentally, you can represent yourself in a court case, including a criminal case. If you’re asking how much does a criminal defense lawyer cost because you don’t think you can afford it, explore your options before making a decision. As a rule of thumb, if the criminal case includes possible jail time, self-representation is one of the biggest mistakes a person can make.

How Do Attorneys Determine Legal Fees?

This question is really two questions. First, as mentioned, attorneys must use certain factors to determine their fees. Second, different attorneys use different fee structures.

Years of experience is usually the biggest factor which determines legal fees. Inexperienced lawyers cannot charge as much as experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyers. That doesn’t mean a less experienced lawyer is not as good. It just means these attorneys cannot charge as much. Other factors include:

  • Geographic Area: Attorneys in big cities like Minneapolis usually charge more than attorneys in smaller communities like Buffalo. Rent, payroll, and other expenses are higher in big cities.
  • Client’s Ability to Pay: Attorneys can reduce their fees if the client cannot pay full price. That’s especially true if the client is from a historically underserved or neglected ethnic or socioeconomic group.
  • Complexity of the Matter: Some criminal cases are relatively straightforward and others are not. DUI is a good example. If the defendant submitted a blood sample, the case is pretty black and white. But if the defendant refused to provide any chemical sample, the case is much more complex. The state must rely on shaky circumstantial evidence in these matters. Furthermore, most Buffalo criminal lawyers also charge more for felonies than misdemeanors. Felonies are more complex, and there is more at stake.
  • Amount of Time Involved: Attorneys usually charge less for a criminal plea than a criminal trial, simply because there is not as much time involved. Many criminal attorneys charge stairstep fees, such as X for a negotiated settlement, X+Y for a bench trial, and X+Y+Z for a jury trial. 

Now, let’s talk about fee structure. As mentioned, many criminal defense lawyers charge flat fees. For example, Pam might charge $1,000 for a felony plea, no matter how much time she puts into the case. Other lawyers charge hourly fees. Hourly billing is a bit more common in civil cases.

The law prohibits criminal defense attorneys from charging contingent fees. Therefore, defendants usually have to pay at least some money upfront.

How Do I Know I’m Getting a Good Value for the Cost of a Buffalo Lawyer?

If you face criminal charges in Wright County, when it comes to legal representation, you have almost a dizzying array of choices. 

At first blush, pretty much all Buffalo, MN criminal lawyers seem alike. They all went to law school and all passed the bar exam. But upon closer inspection, there are some important differences.

The Experience of Your Buffalo, MN Lawyer Is Invaluable

As mentioned, years of experience is probably the single most important factor in this entire process. Experience is the best teacher. Furthermore, there are a number of techniques that law students do not learn in class. Finally, each county and court has its own written and unwritten procedural rules. You do not know them all unless you have handled cases in that jurisdiction.

Years of experience could be deceptive. As recently as 1990, non-jury or jury trials resolved about a fifth of the criminal cases in Minnesota. Today, that proportion is less than 5 percent. Therefore, many Buffalo, MN criminal lawyers practice for years, or even decades, and only handle a few criminal trials. 

We all fall into ruts if we are not careful. Sometimes, these attorneys fall into a rut of always, or at least usually, taking the state’s first offer. Prosecutors usually don’t make favorable offers to these lawyers. 

So, be sure and ask about the attorney’s trial experience. For example, ask the attorney about his/her most complicated or memorable trial. Lawyers love telling war stories. If the attorney has to think about this answer because s/he has such limited trial experience, that’s a bad sign.

Accessibility from Your Buffalo Criminal Defense Lawyer

The lawyer’s accessibility, or lack thereof, could be another bad sign. It could also be a very good sign.

Legally, as mentioned above, attorneys cannot assess fees based on supply and demand. So, many lawyers use volume to earn more money. Attorneys are rarely as overworked ast the unfortunate public defenders discussed above. But sometimes, they take more cases than they should.

Commonly, overworked attorneys cannot commit the amount of time they should to an individual case. So, they might miss an important detail. Furthermore, many overworked lawyers assign legal work to less-experienced associates or non-lawyer paralegals. That’s not the caliber of defense the client is paying for. 

It’s probably also best to avoid overly-accessible lawyers. If you want to try a new restaurant and there are no customers in the parking lot, that’s usually a bad sign. By the same token, if an attorney has few clients, there’s usually a reason.

Goldilocks looked long and hard to find a bowl of porridge, chair, and bed that was just right. Criminal defendants should also look for a “just right” lawyer in terms of accessibility. However, don’t look too long. The sooner you partner with a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer, the sooner the case will be over.

Dedication from a Lawyer that Lives in Buffalo

Many people have family lawyers, especially in smaller communities like Buffalo. The same attorney handles your divorce, prepares your will, settles your car crash claim, and so on. There’s a level of trust in these relationships that’s usually unavailable elsewhere. Trust is important in a criminal defense situation. But a criminal conviction, even for a misdemeanor, could easily ruin your life. So, you need someone who is dedicated to criminal law.

The late Grant Cooper, who represented Robert Kennedy’s assassin in 1969, is a good example. When Cooper agreed to represent Sirhan Sirhan, Cooper was a highly experienced lawyer. But Cooper wasn’t really a criminal defense lawyer. He handled a wide array of cases. For example, former child star Shirey Temple hired Grant Cooper to handle her divorce from B-movie actor John Agar. 

As a result, Cooper might have missed some weaknesses in the state’s evidence. Maybe that’s why Sirhan remains in a California prison to this day.

Incidentally, one of the latest Kennedy conspiracy theories is that Cooper intentionally threw the Sirhan case so the Los Angeles County District Attorney wouldn’t indict him on some unrelated gambling charges. But that’s just speculation.

Consult with a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Lawyer in Buffalo, MN

Even if you’re asking how much does a criminal defense lawyer cost, you do not want just any lawyer. You want a dedicated Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer to handle your case. Your family lawyer will understand your decision. Besides, you can still invite him/her to your next dinner party.

The cost of a criminal defense lawyer in Buffalo, MN varies in different situations. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

What to Do After a Car Crash in Buffalo, MN

Although today’s cars are much safer than the ones which prowled Wright County roads two decades ago, vehicle collisions still kill or seriously injure millions of Americans every year. Car crash survivors would attest that few things turn life upside-down more quickly than a car accident. Unfortunately, victims may not know what to do after a car crash in Buffalo. In the heat of the moment, victims may do things that might hurt their claims later. They may also fail to do some important things to protect their rights.

No attorney can obtain fair compensation without a partner, and that partner is the victim. In the minutes and hours immediately following a car crash, victims can do a lot to help, or hurt, their causes. Regardless of how the items on this list play out, fair compensation is still a possibility. But unless you observe these tips, your Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer must play from behind.

DO Go to the Doctor in Buffalo, MN

If there’s one important thing to impart about what to do after a car crash, it is to go to the doctor. Many car crash victims do not “feel” injured. Adrenaline is a natural and fast-acting painkiller. Furthermore, the brain often conceals its own injuries. But there is trouble brewing.

Whiplash is a good example. In vehicle collisions, victims’ heads move violently forward and backward, like the cracking of a whip. This sudden motion affects the muscles and nerves in the neck. Because of adrenaline and the concealed-injury effect, many whiplash victims feel nothing more than soreness. However, if the neck muscles and nerves are damaged, pain soon intensifies and radiates to the hands. If not properly diagnosed and treated, whiplash can eventually cause paralysis.

So, it’s always important to go to the doctor after a crash, but not just any doctor. A Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer can connect victims with a car crash injury physician. These professionals know how to diagnose whiplash and other soft tissue injuries which do not show up on X-rays. Moreover, these doctors know how to treat whiplash. Soft tissue injuries heal much differently from other physical injuries, like broken bones.

Prompt medical attention is also important for legal reasons. If victims delay treatment, even if they have a good reason for doing so, insurance company lawyers often later argue that the victim’s injuries must not have been very severe. That argument could significantly reduce the noneconomic damages portion of a car crash settlement.

The bottom line is that seeing a doctor might be the most important thing to do after a car wreck. Victims usually need not worry about medical bills at this point. A Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer can usually connect victims with top physicians who charge nothing upfront.

DON’T Fake Your Injuries in Buffalo, MN

Many victims do not go to the doctor, so their hidden injuries get worse. A few victims do the opposite. They exaggerate their injuries, erroneously believing that such overstatements help their cases. But that’s simply not true. Faking an injury is never what to do after a car crash.

In social circles, this approach may work for a while, but it eventually backfires. Some people may remember that Ted Kennedy wore a neck brace to Mary Jo Kopechne’s funeral in 1969, even though the Massachusetts senator was clearly not hurt very badly.

In court, this approach could hurt even more. Credibility is a very fragile thing. If insurance company lawyers can find any inconsistencies in the victim’s story, they will exploit it to the max and destroy the victim’s credibility before the jury. That makes it much harder for a Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer to obtain fair compensation.

However, don’t go to the other extreme. Do not sugar-coat your injuries, especially to your doctor or attorney. The same thing applies if you testify in court. Judges and jurors understand that people feel pain differently.

DON’T Say “I’m Sorry”

This tip is another example of the difference between social circles and legal cases, especially in the car crash context. We often apologize for things that are not our fault. It’s an expression of sympathy. If my wife had a bad day at work, I often say “I’m sorry,” even though I had nothing to do with her job-related misfortune. At least, I generally had nothing to do with her bad day.

But things are different in court. An apology is a statement against interest and could also be construed as an admission of liability. Therefore, the apology is both admissible in court and extremely damaging to the victim/plaintiff’s case.

On a related note, use caution when you speak to emergency responders about the accident. They could interpret your words incorrectly. If those interpretations make it into the official report, they could be admissible evidence in court. Furthermore, if emergency responders believe you are trying to set up a large recovery, perhaps by complaining loudly about being hurt, they could take the other driver’s side.

So, instead of saying “I’m sorry,” say something like “I’m sorry this happened to you” or “What can I do to help you?” Even better, do not say anything at all. The other driver does not want or need your sympathy.

DON’T Talk to the Other Insurance Company

On the subject of not saying anything, do not say anything to the other insurance company either. When we say things in the stress of the moment, we often say things we do not mean. In social circles, we can take these things back and apologize. But the insurance company carefully records every word victims say, and there are no second chances.

Additionally, insurance company adjusters know how to extract damaging information from victims without them knowing it.

In most cases, you have no legal obligation to say anything to the other driver’s insurance company. So, let your Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer handle this call. The adjusters can wait a couple of days to hear your side of the story. Chances are, they will ignore it anyway.

After an accident, most people have a duty to provide prompt oral notification to their own insurance companies. The other driver’s insurance company normally has access to these conversations. So, be careful what you say. For this reason, most people keep the initial notification very brief. Then, they supplement the report later, after the shock from the accident has worn off and they are thinking more clearly.

DO Collect Evidence from the Scene of Your Collison

Emergency responders usually arrive at crash scenes very quickly. Their immediate priorities include securing the scene and tending to injured victims. Collecting evidence for a future negligence claim is not even on their radar. In fact, many emergency responders view such matters as civil disputes between insurance companies that do not involve law enforcement.

The bottom line is that you cannot rely on police officers or other first responders to gather evidence for you. That’s not their job.

Victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. So, collecting evidence is important. Get the names and contact information of any witnesses and take lots of pictures. That includes pictures of the accident scene and the damaged vehicles. Take note of any security or red-light cameras which may have caught part of the crash.

If you are unable to do these things for any reason, just call a Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney will assume these duties.

DO File a Voluntary Report in Buffalo, MN

Voluntary accident rules vary in different locations. Some law enforcement agencies require people to file reports in certain claims. Pretty much all agencies at least give people the option to file their own reports. So, most people can file voluntary reports, and all car crash victims should do so if possible.

A voluntary report is a useful tool later in the case. Most victims must give depositions or testify in court several months after the incident. Memories fade over time. Perhaps more importantly, the ability to vividly convey what happened fades as well. Therefore, your testimony might not be nearly as compelling, unless you have a written document to jog your memory.

As mentioned above, the brain is a very complex organ. Most people never forget anything. They just cannot access old memories without some outside assistance. The official report might not be very helpful. Many reports only contain a brief narrative section. Furthermore, especially if the victim did not give a statement at the time, that narrative is often one-sided.

Speaking of the official report, a voluntary report is your chance to challenge the official report’s findings. A Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer can help you write an effective personal report.

Finally, there are some emotional reasons. Expressing your feelings in writing often helps bring some closure to the incident. Just like some people feel better after a good cry, some people feel better after they put their feelings down on paper. 

DON’T Say Too Much on Social Media

Expressing your feelings, including your frustrations, in an official report is much better than expressing them on Twitter or Facebook. These platforms encourage unfiltered responses. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. But unfiltered responses often cause considerable trouble, especially in a court case.

Many people hit “send” without fully thinking things through and then delete the post. From a legal perspective, that’s even worse than leaving it out there. The post still exists somewhere. Insurance companies have the resources, and the patience, to hire forensic analysts who have no problem pulling up deleted posts. To make matters worse, jurors often believe that people who delete unfavorable posts are tampering with evidence.

However, there is no reason to stay off social media altogether. Faraway friends and family will want to know you were in an accident. They also want to know your general medical status. Such generic posts are okay, as long as they contain no reference to fault or blame. Furthermore, the tone should be detached. Don’t add emojis or anything like that.

The insurance company always pulls up your social media accounts during discovery. Your Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer does the same thing. These efforts often strike gold. Most insurance companies hire insurance defense lawyers instead of personal injury lawyers. Insurance defense attorneys often focus on the legal aspects of a case and ignore the human element. That failure could be critical in court.

Reach Out to an Experienced Buffalo, MN Auto Accident Lawyer

A professional Buffalo MN auto accident lawyer have the resources and determination to obtain fair compensation in these cases. Additionally, a lawyer gives victims additional peace of mind. Since they know a Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer is working hard for them, they just concentrate on getting better. If you, or a loved one, were injured in a vehicle collision, contact Carlson & Jones, PA. Home and hospital visits are available.

 

Originally published on June 6, 2019. Updated May 03, 2021.


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