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

Have you noticed that when you need something, the price usually goes up? For example, 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.

Keep reading to learn how to calculate the rough cost of criminal defense in Buffalo, MN. And stick around for a list of qualities to look for in your Buffalo attorney.

How Much Does Buffalo Criminal Defense Representation Cost?

Experts have estimated that Minnesota criminal lawyers charge an average of $245 per hour. An average means that some criminal defense lawyers will charge more than that per hour, and others will charge less.

 

Compared to other lawyers in Minnesota, this hourly rate falls somewhere in the middle. Minnesota personal injury lawyers generally charge the lowest hourly fee at an average of $163 per hour. Meanwhile, Minnesota attorneys who draft trusts generally charge the highest rate at an average of $339 per hour.

 

You can also compare the hourly rate of Minnesota criminal attorneys to the national average per hour fee. In 2020, the average attorney charged about $200 per hour. On the low end, lawyers charged an average of $100–$150 and, on the high end, $300–$350 per hour.

 

As you can see, Minnesota criminal attorneys charge clients at about the average national per hour rate.

 

Why Criminal Defense Lawyers Must Set Fixed Fees for Certain Services

Many jurisdictions in the US place limitations on how much an attorney can charge per hour or in flat fees. The goal is to prevent outrageous and prohibitive fees. However, many states have very lax definitions of what “outrageous” means.

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.

Factors That Determine Legal Fees

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.
  • Technology Use: Attorneys may increase their fees when they have to use technology. Lawyers typically subscribe to software programs, which are expensive. If your case requires significant use of these expensive systems, your attorney may add the cost to your bill.
  • Practice Area: Some criminal cases are easier to argue than others, and the lawyer’s fee will reflect that. The more time, resources, and knowledge required to defend your case, the higher the rate you’ll ultimately pay.

These factors can start to add up. That’s why many criminal lawyers in Buffalo, MN use two different fee structures. We’re going into detail about the two major ways lawyers charge their clients next.

Fee Structure

Now, let’s talk about fee structure. Buffalo, MN defense attorneys generally use one of two fee structures: a flat fee or an hourly rate.

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. 

These two fee structures have pros and cons. For example, flat fees can save clients money if the criminal case goes on for longer than expected, but they will cost you if the reverse happens.

At the same time, flat fees can incentivize lawyers to tie up a case as quickly as possible, though sometimes at the risk of quality. Hourly rates, on the other hand, can incentivize bad criminal lawyers to drag their feet so they can increase their final paycheck.

By now, you may be wondering: what about criminal lawyer contingent fees?

The law prohibits criminal defense attorneys from charging contingent fees. Minnesota Court Rule #5 specifically states that it is illegal for state-licensed lawyers to charge contingencies for criminal cases and domestic disputes. 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.

The Expertise of Your Buffalo, MN Criminal Attorney

Studies show that experienced attorneys often have better success rates. For example, a 1999 report analyzed success rates for experienced and inexperienced attorneys arguing cases before the US Court of Appeals.

 

The study found that judges are more likely to decide a case in an attorney’s favor if that professional is experienced. Inexperienced lawyers who didn’t specialize in a particular field of law, on the other hand, were found to have lower success rates in the US Court of Appeals.

 

Unfamiliarity with applicable processes and laws is the #1 reason inexperienced lawyers are less successful. Also, the researchers suggested that an inexperienced attorney may overestimate the likelihood of a case’s success.

 

What does all this mean for you? Make sure your attorney specializes in criminal rather than civil law. Only choose a criminal lawyer who has argued cases like yours in the future. And ask about your attorney’s success rate when it comes to the exact charges you’re facing.

 

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.

Aggressive Representation from Your Buffalo Criminal Defense Attorney

If your criminal defense attorney charges an hourly rate, the best thing you can do for your wallet is to choose an aggressive lawyer. Aggressive defense attorneys will never drag their feet and will do anything it takes to get you the best possible outcome.

 

However, it’s important to differentiate between aggressive representation and an aggressive personality. Someone with an aggressive personality could actually lead to the opposite: you’ll end up paying more. Aggressive lawyers may argue every single point the prosecution brings against you, which could be a waste of your time.

 

Aggressive personalities could also mean a poorer outcome for you if he or she antagonizes the judge. But aggressive representation will ensure you get your day in court and a fair one at that. That’s why it’s critical to find a criminal defense lawyer in Buffalo, MN who will relentlessly fight for your rights.

 

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.

A Buffalo, MN Auto Accident Lawyer Looks at Some Common Traffic Tickets

Frequently, emergency responders issue traffic tickets at accident scenes to help insurance companies determine fault. But in many cases, these citations affect liability for damages as well. In fact, because of the negligence per se doctrine, they may conclusively determine liability.

The negligence per se doctrine applies if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated a safety law and that violation substantially caused injury. This doctrine saves time during the evidence collection process. As a result, it’s easier for Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyers to obtain fair compensation for accident victims.

If you were recently involved in a car accident due to one of the following offenses, you need to call a Buffalo car accident lawyer ASAP.

Consequences of Speeding in Buffalo and Minnesota

Excessive velocity is a factor in about a third of the fatal car crashes in Minnesota. That’s because speed affects the risk of a collision and the force in a collision.

Speed multiples stopping distance. At 30mph, most cars travel about six car lengths between the moment a driver sees a hazard and the moment the car safely stops. At 60mph, stopping distance multiplies to about eighteen car lengths. Other factors, such as vehicle weight and environmental conditions, often increase stopping distance.

Velocity also multiplies the force in a collision between two objects. In this context, speed transforms property damage fender-bender crashes into serious injury or fatal collisions.

In Minnesota, the posted speed limits are presumptively reasonable speeds. So, officers could issue speeding tickets even if the driver was not exceeding the posted limit, if the officer felt the driver was going too fast for the conditions. But officers rarely hand out such tickets. So, in these cases, Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyers normally rely on the ordinary negligence doctrine. Essentially, negligence is a lack of reasonable care.

Failure to Signal/Illegal Lane Change in Minnesota

These citations are especially common in serious motorcycle crash claims. Today’s cars are so solid that sideswipe collisions don’t often cause serious collisions, unless victims lose control of their vehicles. But motorcycle riders have no seatbelts, airbags, steel cocoons, or other things to protect them in these cases. They are completely exposed to danger.

Visibility is also a factor in these situations. Frequently, tortfeasors simply do not see motorcycle riders. But that’s no excuse for negligence, and certainly no defense to a negligence per se claim.

Crossing the Median

These citations illustrate the difference between fault at the scene and liability for damages. If a driver is ticketed for crossing the median, that driver is almost always faulted for the crash. But legal responsibility might be different, because of the last clear chance rule.

All drivers have a duty of reasonable care, regardless of what another driver does. This duty includes a responsibility to avoid accidents when possible. So, if Driver A saw Driver B cross the center line and Driver A did nothing to stop the wreck, Driver A might be legally responsible for the crash.

There’s a big difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. Frequently, collisions happen so fast that there is no way to avoid them. Also, if the tortfeasor was driving erratically at the time, it’s very difficult to get out of the way.

Failure to Yield to Pedestrians in Buffalo, MN

Much like motorcyclists, pedestrians have no protection from onrushing cars. The moment they step into the street, they are completely exposed to danger.

Minnesota law is a bit vague when it comes to pedestrian right-of-way. If the pedestrian was in the crosswalk and crossing with the light, the pedestrian clearly had the right-of-way. Other situations, like crossing against the light in the crosswalk, are more uncertain.

In terms of legal liability, the last clear chance rule applies in pedestrian cases. If a driver sees a pedestrian in the road, the driver has a duty to avoid a crash, even if the driver has the right-of-way.

Sudden emergency, a related doctrine, sometimes comes up in pedestrian crashes as well. Frequently, insurance company lawyers argue that a pedestrian victim “darted out into traffic.” This argument sets up the sudden emergency defense. This doctrine excuses negligent conduct if the driver reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency.

But a jaywalking pedestrian is usually not a “sudden emergency.” This label only applies to lightning strikes, tire blowouts, and other completely unexpected situations.

School Bus Stop Arm Violations in MN

These citations are often perfect storm citations. Drivers who ignore school bus stop arms are frequently speeding. Children disembarking from school busses are vulnerable, and since they often cross in front of the stopped bus, they are hard to see.

What’s At Risk With These Common Traffic Tickets?

We’ve already mentioned how Minnesota courts often determine car accident fault based on traffic citations issued on the scene. But being at fault for the accident, injuries to the other driver, and property damage aren’t the only consequences the other driver has to worry about.

When someone receives a traffic ticket in Buffalo, MN, they’ll also have to pay a fine. The exact fines for traffic tickets vary by county and by violation.

Speeding Ticket Fines in Buffalo, MN

The fines for Minnesota speeding tickets vary based on how many miles per hour the driver was going over the speed limit. Fines break down as the following:

  • 1–10 mph over the speed limit: $125 fine
  • 11–14 mph over the speed limit: $135 fine
  • 15–19 mph over the speed limit: $145 fine
  • 20–25 mph over the speed limit: $225 fine
  • 26–30 mph over the speed limit: $285 fine

If a law enforcement officer catches a driver going 31 mph or more over the speed limit, the fine increases to $385.

Failure to Signal/Illegal Lane Change Fines

Failure to signal and illegal lane change (i.e., “improper lane use” in Minnesota) are separate crimes. As such, they can incur two different fines.

Failing to signal while driving can incur a $125 fine. Meanwhile, improper lane use, which might include failure to signal, incurs a higher penalty. Offenders have to pay $135 for this type of traffic violation.

Crossing the Median Fines

The Minnesota Statutes don’t have a specific traffic fine for crossing the median. This violation is typically charged under another type of driving offense. The discretion is largely left up to the charging officer.

For example, an officer could charge someone with inattentive driving, which caused that driver to cross into the median. This type of traffic violation comes with a $125 fine.

Another way to charge drivers with crossing the median is with a “failure to obey traffic control devices” citation. After all, median lines are tools for traffic control. Receiving a charge for this violation typically incurs a $135 fine.

Failure to Yield to Pedestrians Fines in Minnesota

The fines for failure to yield right of way and failure to yield to pedestrians are a world apart. The former incurs a mere $135 fine. But failing to yield to pedestrians is a much more severe crime in Minnesota.

The first time someone fails to yield to pedestrians in Minnesota, he or she will receive a misdemeanor. Conviction penalties include up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $700.

A second or more violation becomes a gross misdemeanor. Traffic violators convicted of subsequent failure to yield to pedestrian citations must pay up to $3000 in fines, spend up to one year in prison, or both.

School Bus Stop Arm Violation Fines

The House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee recently approved HF2172, which intends to change how law enforcement charges school bus stop arm violations in Minnesota.

Currently, drivers who fail to stop behind school busses can incur a misdemeanor. If convicted, the driver faces a $500 fine.

Unfortunately, officers can’t always identify the driver in these situations. When that happens, they will cite the violation to the owner of the vehicle. Today, the fine for vehicle owners is $100.

HF2172 seeks to increase the fine to the vehicle owner. The auto owner would be faced with a misdemeanor and an increased $300 fine.

Minnesota intends to apply the majority of funds received through these fines to equip school busses with cameras. That way, officers can more easily catch and charge the actual school bus stop arm violation offenders.

What Happens If Someone Gets Injured Due to These Common Traffic Violations?

In Minnesota, it is a serious crime to negligently commit one of the above traffic violations, which in turn causes harm to another party. These crimes are known as criminal vehicular operation (CVO) and criminal vehicular homicide.

Vehicular Assault in Minnesota

In Minnesota, vehicular assault is also known as criminal vehicular operation. The penalty for CVO depends on the severity of injury to the other party. In other words, it depends on whether the victim experienced bodily harm, great bodily harm, or substantial bodily harm.

Bodily harm (BH) means causing physical pain, injury, illness, or impairment to another party. Substantial bodily harm (SBH) is any injury that leads to temporary disfigurement, impairment, or fracture. The state defines great bodily harm (GBH) as any injury that confers a high risk of death, permanent disfigurement, or permanent loss or impairment of a body part.

CVO resulting in BH comes with prison time and fines. A conviction means up to one year in prison and/or up to a $3,000 fine.

CVO resulting in SBH is a felony. A conviction for this crime can incur up to three years in prison, $10,000 in fines, or both.

CVO resulting in GBH is also a felony. This crime can earn offenders up to five years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines.

Criminal Vehicular Homicide in Minnesota

In Minnesota, criminal vehicular homicide occurs after a driver causes someone else’s death because he or she was driving in a grossly negligent manner.

A criminal vehicular homicide charge is a serious felony. As such, offenders who receive a conviction can get up to ten years in prison and/or have to pay a $20,000 fine.

If a Minnesota court finds a person guilty of vehicular murder or manslaughter, though, the penalties increase even further.

If you or someone you love were a victim of either of these crimes, it might be time to call a Buffalo car accident attorney.

Do You Need a Buffalo Car Accident Lawyer in Minnesota?

If you were injured in a car accident caused by one of the above traffic violations, you need to call a Buffalo personal injury lawyer ASAP.

Your attorney can help you understand how much to expect from a car accident settlement, whether you want to file suit against your insurance company or the other driver.

Insurance companies love to low-ball their settlement offers. But a seasoned Buffalo car accident attorney knows how to fight for the damages you deserve. Your lawyer can help you negotiate a better settlement or, when that doesn’t work, fight for your rights in court.

In Minnesota, insurance companies are only required to pay up to $20,000 of medical care for a car wreck injury. This is called personal injury protection (PIP). But, if that doesn’t suffice to cover your medical expenses, your attorney can file a lawsuit against the negligent driver and recover damages.

What You Could Win in a Personal Injury Settlement

By now, you may be wondering: what happens if your PIP payout doesn’t cover your medical expenses? A Buffalo auto accident lawyer can help you bring a suit against the at-fault party. And, in Minnesota, the average personal injury case award is $30,000.

With that said, you could stand to win even more. For example, a 2020 personal injury case resulted in a $173,504 payout after a man received a traumatic brain injury from a wreck with a trucker. Only a few days later, a motorcyclist sued a dump truck driver and won a whopping $974,215.

You deserve compensation for your pain and suffering after an auto accident. But only the best car accident lawyer in Buffalo, MN can win you the damages you deserve. 

Qualities to Look for in a Buffalo Auto Accident Lawyer in MN

When you have significant medical bills or pain and suffering on the line, you need the best attorney around. Here are the qualities to search for in the best auto accident lawyer.

Experience and Expertise

The best lawyer holds a license, has a good track record, and is an expert in his or her specialty. Expertise can only come with significant experience. So, make sure to choose an attorney who has a substantial amount of car accident and personal litigation successes.

Aggressiveness

The best auto accident attorneys never drag their feet. They fight aggressively and tirelessly to make sure you get the recompensation you deserve.

However, always be careful of lawyers with aggressive personalities. An aggressive strategy can save you money and ensure a better outcome. An aggressive personality, though, could prolong the lawsuit, costing you money and time.

Personal Comfort

Most importantly, you should feel personally comfortable with your Buffalo, MN accident attorney. After all, personal injury isn’t just about the case at hand. Your lawyer should also offer you the support you need as a victim.

Location

It’s important to choose an attorney that practices in Minnesota. But it’s better to choose a local lawyer who argues cases in Buffalo courts.

Why? A local attorney may know judges and prosecutors in the area. Your car accident lawyer can then leverage those relationships to fight for the settlement you deserve.

Reliability and Dedication

Is your attorney going to work on your case himself? Does your lawyer have the time to dedicate to your case? These two questions are critical to ask during your initial consultation because the way your attorney answers determines whether he or she will be dedicated to your case.

Cost

With attorneys, you get what you pay for. That’s why you should never let cost deter you from the right lawyer.

However, we know cost is a factor, especially if you’re already stressed about accident-related medical expenses. The car accident attorneys at Carlson & Jones offer free consultations and a flat-fee billing option, so you never have to forego good representation because your budget won’t allow for it. 

Reaching Out to Personal Injury Lawyers in Buffalo, Minnesota

Some of the top reasons for Minnesota traffic citations include speeding, failing to signal, crossing the median, failure to yield to pedestrians, and school bus stop arm violations. Receiving one of these tickets incurs fines and, sometimes, jail time, especially if the offense caused a wreck.

Were you recently injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence? Then you need to hire a Buffalo car accident lawyer. Traffic violations make it easier to obtain compensation in car wreck claims.

For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

 

Original article published on October 1, 2021 and updated on November 28, 2021.

How a Divorce Lawyer in Minnetonka Can Be Helpful in Your Case

Those seeking a divorce anywhere in Minnesota, including Minnetonka, may be able to finalize it without hiring a divorce lawyer in Minnetonka.

However, it is recommended to seek representation from an able divorce attorney since the legal process is often convoluted and emotionally-taxing.

An experienced divorce lawyer in Minnetonka can ensure that your rights and interests are protected while providing you with sound legal counsel. If you’re worried about the expenses, know that whether you’re considering Minnetonka divorce lawyer cost or divorce attorney Buffalo cost, it’s going to be worth every penny.

Here are a few ways in which a divorce lawyer in Minnetonka can be helpful in your case.

Minnesota Divorce Statistics

Experts estimate that 50% of US marriages end in divorce. But what is the divorce rate in Minnesota? Here are a few facts you should know:

  • In 2018, Minnesota’s divorce rate was 7.1 per 1,000 women.
  • In 2008, Minnesota’s divorce rate was 9.1 per 1,000 women.
  • Today, an estimated 10% of Minnesota marriages end in divorce.
  • Minnesota’s current divorce rate is lower than the average divorce rate per state, which is 11.42%.

If you’re seeking a divorce in Minnetonka, MN, you clearly aren’t alone. We’re here to lend you a hand in understanding Minnesota divorce laws and how an experienced divorce attorney can help.

What Is Divorce in Minnetonka?

In Minnesota, divorce is also known as dissolution of marriage. As long as you have lived within state lines for six months, you can file for divorce in Minnesota.

Dissolution of marriage is different from separation and annulment.

Couples seek a legal separation when they want to live apart for a time before getting divorced officially. However, legal separation takes care of issues like who will take care of the kids during the separation period.

Annulment essentially wipes away a marriage as if it never existed. If two spouses never consummated the marriage or one partner was under the legal age of consent, a Minnesota will grant an annulment.

Minnesota’s dissolution of marriage law is no-fault. The only thing you need to prove to a court to file for divorce is that you and your partner have experienced an “irretrievable breakdown” of the partnership.

Another implication of Minnesota’s no-fault law is that only one partner has to want a divorce to file. Both parties do not have to agree for a court to grant the dissolution of marriage.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Minnesota?

Divorce isn’t cheap, and getting a dissolution of marriage in Minnesota is no exception. You and your spouse will each have to pay $400 just to file for divorce. Then, you must consider court fees, custody evaluation fees, and more.

You’ll also have to hire a divorce lawyer. Divorce lawyers usually charge by the hour or with a flat fee. The average Minnesota divorce and family lawyer charges $232 per hour, so attorney fees are often the most significant cost when it comes to divorces.

Of course, you have the right to represent yourself during a divorce. However, the court will expect you to know the legal requirements for arguing a case in court. For that reason and the ones we’re talking about next, we don’t recommend representing yourself during your divorce.

When to Hire a Minnetonka Divorce Attorney to Oversee Your Case

As we mentioned, you have the right not to hire a lawyer during your divorce. But there are some cases when self-representation isn’t a good idea.

Your Spouse Lawyered Up

If your spouse has a lawyer, representing yourself means you’ll be going head to head with an expert in legal matters. Even if you do have some knowledge of the law, a good divorce attorney will have years of experience specifically dealing with divorce.

You don’t want to end up arguing against someone who’s way out of your league when it comes to the law. So, hire your own divorce attorney to fight for your rights.

You Have Marital Assets

Do you and your spouse have joint retirement funds? Do you own a home together? If so, these assets are significant enough to make your divorce proceedings more complex.

Plus, if your spouse doesn’t want to compromise with you, you risk losing out on your shared property. Instead of taking the risk, it’s better to contact a Minnetonka divorce lawyer ASAP.

You Have Marital Debts

Just like you don’t want to end up losing ownership of your assets, you don’t want to end up with more than your fair share of marital debt. Marital debt refers to the debts you and/or your spouse incurred during the marriage.

It can be difficult to prove who accumulated what during the marriage. A good divorce attorney can help ensure you pay for your debts and your spouse pays for his or her debt.

You Have Children

Child custody agreements are often the most critical part of a Minnesota divorce. There’s a lot at stake but, if you and your partner can compromise on the terms, you can keep your custody battle out of court.

If you and your partner can compromise on the terms of the custody agreement, you may not need a divorce attorney. But if your child custody battle goes to court, calling a local divorce lawyer is in your and your child’s best interest.

You Are Seeking Alimony in Minnetonka

Does your partner make more money than you? Do you bring in more income than your spouse? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, your divorce will likely also involve an agreement about alimony (also called spousal maintenance in Minnesota).

Whether you have a prenuptial agreement or not, a divorce attorney who also specializes in alimony can help you secure the support you and your children need.

1. They Will Leverage Their Knowledge of Divorce Law

A reputed attorney will have sound working knowledge of your state’s family laws as well as the amendments made to them. Accordingly, they will be well-positioned to help you with your legal proceedings.

Because family law varies from state to state, it is important to hire a local lawyer who is aware of the differences. This knowledge will help them keep your case on track.

An attorney is also proficient with court processes and proceedings and will know exactly how to steer your case to make it as stress-free for you as possible.

2. You Need Not Fear Your Violent Spouse

If your case involves a history of domestic abuse and violence, and you fear that your spouse will abuse you or your children or retaliate towards the divorce filing in any way, you should definitely work with a seasoned divorce lawyer in Minnetonka. Your lawyer will not only protect your best interests but also acts as a buffer zone between you and your violent spouse.

Your divorce attorney can also help by obtaining an order of protection for you and your children, if necessary.

3. They Will Ensure Proper Division of Assets

One of the most critical and complex aspects of a divorce case is the division of property, assets, and estate, and so on. The fact is, different states have different laws for dealing with these matters. In Minnesota, for instance, all marital property is divided equally between both spouses, whereas the non-marital property may not be divided with the spouse.

Accordingly, your divorce lawyer in Minnetonka will ensure that you get the best deal from the divorce. They may also help you take advantage of legal loopholes that might enable you to receive the bigger share of the property/assets if you deserve it. Further, they will help turn the negotiations into binding legal agreements.

4. They Will Help You with Objective Decision-Making

Divorces involve several factors, such as division of assets, child custody, and support, among others. Further, if you’re going through a contested divorce, things can be even more stressful and complex. It may be hard for you to make objective decisions in an emotionally-charged atmosphere. Your divorce lawyer in Minnetonka can be extremely helpful here.

More often than not, emotionally-charged disputes drag on for years, which makes things worse as both spouses continue to develop bitterness towards each other. Amidst all the emotional upheaval, your divorce lawyer in Minnetonka will help maintain the focus on the main points of the divorce. They will enable you and your spouse to decide on matters related to your children and property in a rational and peaceful manner.

5. You Will Understand Your Options Better

More often than not, a divorce is hard on both spouses and this may make it difficult for them to finalize the separation in a civil manner. As a result, the case may go to court, which can be a time-consuming, expensive, and sometimes embarrassing, ordeal.

However, your experienced divorce lawyer in Minnetonka may be able to navigate you through another route to finalize your divorce. This alternate method may allow you and your spouse to skip the exhausting courtroom trials. Instead, you both can negotiate calmly outside the courtroom with the help of your attorney.

6. They Will Act as Mediator

Taking a cue from the above point, many couples tend to harbor negative feelings for each other throughout the divorce proceedings. With the help of a divorce lawyer in Minnetonka, you may be able to find a more harmonious way out, i.e. through mediation. Your lawyer will be able to channel your emotions by acting as a mediator and facilitate peaceful negotiations between you and your spouse.

7. They Will Manage the Complex Paperwork

Like most legal processes, divorce cases involve a lot of documentation. From the marriage certificate to property papers, everything needs to be filed properly and in time. On top of that, there are legal documents to be dealt with. It is easy for an inexperienced person to get lost in this maze of paperwork.

Your divorce lawyer in Minnetonka will help by taking care of all the legal documentation, and interpreting jargon, when necessary. You will be able to understand the process better and, therefore, go through your divorce proceedings with ease.

Conclusion

Enduring the divorce process without the help of a skilled lawyer can be challenging. Your divorce lawyer in Minnetonka will be able to provide you with not just timely legal help, but also a strong shoulder to lean on. They will know the divorce laws applicable to your case, as well as your entitlements. Depending on your case facts, they will put up a formidable fight to protect your interests and win you a positive outcome. By hiring a reliable divorce lawyer in Minnetonka, you can ensure that your side of the story is heard by the law, and your rights are strongly protected.

Consult Our Accomplished Divorce Lawyer in Minnetonka

The team of divorce lawyers at Carlson & Jones, P.A. are experienced in representing clients in legal separations. Whether it is a contested or an uncontested divorce, or even an annulment, we can help. Leveraging our expertise will enable you to receive fair settlements and support. Call us at (855) 976-2444 or contact us through our online form to schedule a free consultation.

Original article published on February 22, 2021 and updated on November 18, 2021 .

Differences Between Probation and Deferred Adjudication in Buffalo, MN

In all but the most serious offenses, such as murder, almost everyone receives probation, unless they have lengthy criminal records. That’s especially true if there is any hope whatsoever that the defendant might be rehabilitated.

For the most part, incarceration is entirely punitive. That’s not true in all cases. A few inmates are “scared straight,” and a few others have religious experiences or acquire necessary life skills, like a GED. But the prison recidivism rate is over 80 percent. So, there is obviously not much rehabilitation behind bars. On a related note, prison is much more expensive than probation and also more of a hot-button political issue. These facts are not lost on Minnesota lawmakers.

Typically, either regular probation or deferred adjudication may be available. A Buffalo, MN felony lawyer will carefully review the pros and cons of each option. Nothing can substitute for a face-to-face consultation and complete representation, but a brief outline of the similarities and differences is below.

Minnesota Probation and Deferred Adjudication Statistics

The North Star state has one of the lowest incarceration rates in America. In fact, in 2014, Minnesota had the 4th lowest incarceration rate. However, this statistic can be misleading.

In the US, Minnesota actually has one of the highest justice system volumes. In other words, Minnesota has a lot of criminals, but the majority of them aren’t in jail. So, where are these other criminals?

Minnesota places vastly more convicts on probation than in jail or prison. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, there are 123,000 criminals currently in the Minnesota state justice system. 95,000 people, or over 77% of MN criminals, are currently on probation.

Among criminals who are on probation, the majority receive between 50 and 150 months. The low-end probation period is for crimes like assault and property crimes. Courts reserve high-end probation periods for more serious crimes, including sex offenses.

The probation period also depends on location. Research shows that the average probation period for a Minneapolis criminal is a little more than three years. Compare that to the average probation period in St. Cloud, Minnesota: over seven years.

Further, getting probation vs. jail time also differs by race. White criminals are far more likely to not be in jail, with only 216 out of 100,000 white people incarcerated in 2010. Compare that to the highest incarceration rate — that of American Indian people, which was 2,646 per 100,000 American Indians in 2010.

What Are Probation and Deferred Adjudication in Minnesota?

Probation and deferred adjudication are two sentencing options in Buffalo, Minnesota. These outcomes look highly similar at first glance.

We’ll talk about the differences between these two punishments next. But first, let’s discuss what probation and deferred adjudication are, exactly, in Buffalo, MN.

Probation

Probation is typically an alternative to jail or prison time in Minnesota. After a court convicts an offender of a crime, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer can request probation instead of jail time. Importantly, probation doesn’t mean the offense gets wiped off the offender’s record.

During probation, the offender will also have to fulfill certain court-ordered conditions of probation. The exact conditions a court will order varies based on the nature and severity of the crime. For example, a drug crime offense might earn someone monthly drug testing and narcotics awareness courses.

Sometimes, an offender might only receive probation to the court. This usually applies to cases where the offender’s only condition is that he or she not commit another crime while on probation.

Offenders with more probation conditions than abiding by the law alone may instead have to answer to a correctional officer. Probational correction officers are also known as probation officers in Minnesota.

The exact length of the probationary period also varies by crime. In general, offenders must be on probation for anywhere from one to six years. After the offender completes probation, the crime will stay on his or her record unless expunged.

Deferred Adjudication in Buffalo, MN

In Minnesota, deferred adjudication is also known as deferred probation or a “stay of adjudication.” Though deferred adjudication requires an affirmative defense (i.e., you must admit a guilty plea), this outcome is highly desirable in criminal cases.

Why? Because deferred adjudication means that the offender doesn’t receive a conviction. Offenders who receive stays of adjudication can get their charges removed from their records.

However, these individuals must first meet the terms of the stay. What are “terms of the stay”? The exact terms of a stay of adjudication vary by crime and individual.

Terms of a stay commonly include statements requiring the offender to stay crime-free for at least a year. Other terms might enforce mandatory community service, fines, and certain courses (e.g., drug and alcohol awareness, self-improvement classes, etc.).

As long as the offender fully completes the stay of adjudication’s terms, the court will expunge the charge from his or her record.

If the offender doesn’t complete the terms of the stay of adjudication, the offense will remain on his or her record until it’s eligible for expungement. It’s also up to the judge whether the offender must also serve jail time and/or pay fines.

Which Crimes Qualify for Probation and Deferred Adjudication?

Were you recently charged with a crime in Buffalo? A Minnesota criminal defense lawyer can help you decide whether probation or deferred adjudication is right for you.

We’ve compiled the top crimes that do and don’t qualify for these sentencing options below to give you a head start.

Which Crimes Can Receive Deferred Adjudication in Buffalo, MN?

Section 152.18 of the Minnesota Statutes mandates deferred adjudication for some first-time drug charges. This includes third-, fourth-, and fifth-degree drug possession crimes. Deferred adjudication is also applicable to:

  • Schedule V drug possession
  • Small amounts of marijuana possession
  • Synthetic cannabinoid possession and/or sale

In order to qualify for deferred adjudication, the crime must be a first offense. The offender must also not have any prior stays of adjudication related to a drug offense.

Which Crimes Can Receive Probation in Buffalo, MN?

Minnesota courts typically prefer probation over jail time. This is because probation costs less than prison. And some studies show that probation may actually reverse mass incarceration rates, cutting costs even further.

As such, offenders can receive probation for almost any crime in Minnesota. This includes misdemeanor crimes, gross misdemeanors, and even felonies. Following is a list of crimes for which probation is a sentencing option:

  • Misdemeanor crimes, including DWIs, Indecent Exposure charges, and Domestic Assault.
  • Gross Misdemeanors, including Criminal Vehicular Operation (CVO) and fifth-degree sex crimes
  • Felonies, including felony-level CVO

Felony offenders can receive a max of four years probation. The only exception is felony-level CVO, which incurs a six-year maximum probation sentence.

Most gross misdemeanor crimes can earn offenders up to two years of probation. However, the gross misdemeanor crimes we listed above incur up to six years maximum probation.

Excepting the misdemeanor crimes we listed above, offenders with misdemeanors can earn up to one year of probation. Petty misdemeanors aren’t eligible for jail time and, thus, ineligible for probation.

Similarities Between Regular and Deferred Probation in Wright County

As far as the defendant is concerned, regular probation and deferred adjudication are exactly the same. After appearing before a judge and pleading guilty or no contest, the defendant meets with a probation officer who reviews the conditions of probation. Some of these conditions include:

  • Commit No Other Offenses: About 75 percent of all motions to revoke probation are based on subsequent offenses. Sometimes, prosecutors jump the gun and file motions to revoke immediately after arrest. A good Buffalo, MN felony lawyer can often at least delay revocation proceedings in these situations.
  • Failure to Report: This offense is probably the second most common infraction. Normally, probationers must report monthly and produce certain documents, such as school transcripts or paystubs, to show they are on the straight and narrow. Typically, prosecutors do not file revocation motions unless the defendant misses multiple meetings without explanation.
  • Monetary Delinquency: Probationers must pay fines and court costs. They must also pay monthly supervision fees. If the motion alleges no other violation, a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer may be able to get the case thrown out on constitutional grounds. Debtors’ prisons are illegal in the United States.
  • Failure to Meet Program Requirements: Probationers must also complete community service requirements, attend self-improvement classes, and fulfill other such requirements. If prosecutors file motions to revoke on these grounds, and it is rare to do so, they usually withdraw them if the defendant complies immediately.

Most probation conditions also include a catch-all provision, such as avoiding disreputable activities and places. This provision gives probation officers an excuse to require random drug tests and force the probationer to submit to warrantless searches.

A motion for early discharge from regular or deferred probation may be an option, in some cases. If the judge grants the motion, defendants are immediately released from all requirements.

Some Key Differences Between Probation and Deferred Adjudication

Regular probation goes on a defendant’s permanent record as a conviction, just as if the defendant received a jail or prison sentence. If the defendant violates probation, any jail or prison sentence is limited to the figure the prosecutor and Buffalo, MN felony lawyer worked out in a plea agreement.

Deferred disposition is different on both these points. If the defendant successfully completes deferred probation, the judge dismisses the case. The arrest record remains, but there is no conviction record. So, if a job or college application requires disclosure of any prior criminal convictions, the applicant can write “none.”

Now for the downside. If the defendant violates probation in any way, including trivial violations, and a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer cannot defeat the motion, the judge may sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum incarceration period under the law.

So, deferred adjudication is a pretty significant risk. But, it’s also a risk worth taking, at least in many cases.

How a Buffalo, MN Felony Lawyer Arranges for Deferred Adjudication

Wright County prosecutors may offer deferred adjudication in nonviolent misdemeanors, but probably not in other cases. However, that does not mean deferred is unavailable.

Many times, Buffalo, MN felony lawyers leverage defenses during the plea bargaining process, such as lack of a search warrant, to obtain better deals, like deferred adjudication. In other cases, the prosecutor may have proof problems. For example, a key witness may be unavailable. A prosecutor might offer deferred adjudication to avoid the risk of a trial.

If all else fails, an open plea may be an option for a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer. Defendants literally throw themselves on the mercy of the court. During open pleas, the judge may hear from character and other witnesses.

How to Find an Experienced Buffalo Felony Lawyer in MN

Are you seeking probation or deferred adjudication instead of jail time? If so, an experienced felony attorney in Buffalo, MN is your best bet. Here’s how to choose the right lawyer for your case.

Expertise in Legal Matters

The top qualities every attorney on your shortlist should have are a law degree, proof of admittance to the bar, and good standing with the state he or she is licensed in.

Not sure if the felony defense attorney you’ve hired has these qualities? Run a state attorney search to find out for sure. Or ask these questions during your initial consultation:

  • Where did you attend law school?
  • When did you receive your state license?
  • How long have you been practicing?

Experience With the Felony You’re Charged With

Never hire someone who doesn’t specialize in felony defense. You want an attorney who’s familiar with criminal matters. Beyond that, make sure you choose an attorney who specializes in the specific crime you were charged with.

For example, don’t choose a felony assault attorney to represent you in a DUI felony case. Here are some more questions to ask about your attorney’s experience:

  • How often have you worked on cases like mine?
  • What kind of outcome can I expect for my case?
  • Do you have any references?

Experience With Local Courts

When you’re beginning your search for a felony lawyer, make sure to look locally. You want an attorney who practices in Minnesota and, further, an attorney who practices in Buffalo.

Why does choosing a local lawyer matter? Local attorneys know the local court system. That means a local lawyer can potentially get you more favorable outcomes, including probation and deferred adjudication.

The best question to ask your lawyer about his or her local experience is: how long have you been practicing law in Buffalo, MN?

References and Reviews

Once you’ve come up with a shortlist of lawyers, it’s always a good idea to ask for references. A good lawyer should always have a list of former client references he or she can give you access to. You can also check out online reviews.

One bad review should never deter you from a lawyer you think is right for your case. However, multiple bad reviews that are relatively recent may be a red flag. Proceed with caution and use the following questions to determine if you should run the other way:

  • What percentage of your cases have been successful?
  • What percentage of your cases have resulted in probation compared to incarceration?
  • What strategies have you used in previous cases that could also work for my case?

Fees

Fighting for probation or deferred adjudication can be a lengthy process. That’s why cost, of course, is a factor. Here’s a hint, though: choosing a felony attorney who charges a flat fee can help you save money.

Flat fees offer you the total cost of representation upfront. That way, you know exactly how much you’ll have to pay from the get-go. Here are three questions to ask about fees during the initial consultation:

  • Do you charge a flat fee or by the hour?
  • If you charge by the hour, can you give me an estimated total cost for my case?
  • If you charge a flat fee, will there be any additional costs?

Personal Preference

Finally, personal preference should always be the deciding factor when it comes to felony attorneys. As we’ve mentioned, seeking alternative sentencing can take time. You want an attorney who will remain dedicated throughout that process, explaining processes you don’t understand along the way.

This is why it’s critical to choose an attorney you’re comfortable with. Here are some questions to help you find out if your prospective attorney is right for you:

  • Can I contact you if I have questions about my case?
  • Will you send me updates regarding the status of my case?
  • What do you need from me?

Contact a Dedicated Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you want to avoid serving jail time in Minnesota, probation is the best sentencing option for you. Better yet, deferred adjudication can result in the expungement of your conviction altogether. Working with a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota can help you learn which of these options is best for your case.

Are you wondering whether probation or deferred adjudication will work for your criminal case? Most defendants have several sentencing options, even if they plead guilty. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN felony lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

 

Original article published on October 7, 2021 and updated on November 16, 2021.

A Hutchinson, MN Lawyer Talks About Family Law Mediation

In many family law cases, the parties agree on broad, general issues. Parenting time disputes are a good illustration. Most parents agree that these orders should be in the best interests of the children. But most parents disagree as to what constitutes “best interests” in a given situation.

Quite often, a good family law mediator can bridge the gap between an agreement in principle and a specific, enforceable agreed order. In fact, assuming both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation may succeed in as many as 90 percent of cases.

In a nutshell, “good faith” means that both parties are willing to make reasonable concessions to get a deal done. Good faith also means that, especially in property division and other financial matters, both parties place all their cards on the table.

Because of the success rate, and the other benefits of mediation outlined below, Hutchinson, MN lawyers often use mediation to resolve even high-conflict divorce and family law matters.

What Exactly Is a Mediator in Hutchinson, MN?

As mentioned, not all divorces must go to court. Sometimes, when two spouses can work together and compromise, they can go through mediation instead.

In fact, Minnesota typically requires divorcing couples to go through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) before taking a divorce to court. Mediation is one of the types of ADR.

Mediators can be attorneys. Or they can be other types of mediation professionals. Whatever type of mediator you hire, he or she will have one goal: to get you and your spouse to compromise on the terms of the divorce.

One of the key benefits of mediation is that the spouses get full control of the divorce agreement. This is often favorable because most divorcing couples don’t want to give up control over their assets, debts, and children to a judge.

What Do Mediators Do?

As we mentioned, mediators help spouses draft the terms of their divorce. For example, a mediator might help you and your spouse determine one or more of the following divorce terms:

    • Alimony: also known as spousal maintenance in Minnesota), the lesser-earning spouse can earn alimony from the greater-earning spouse in some circumstances.
    • Child Support: one spouse may have to agree to pay child support depending on the number of children produced from the marriage and the income of each divorcing spouse.
  • Child Custody: during divorce, parents must decide who will have primary custody of any children produced from the marriage or whether both parents will share custody.
  • Asset Division: Minnesota is an equitable division state, meaning you and your spouse must divide all marital assets equitably.
  • Debt Division: With the exception of non-marital debts, Minnesota divorce laws also mandate that divorcing spouses equitably divide their liabilities after separation.

 

Divorcing spouses typically set up mediation sessions once every two weeks. Each session lasts an average of 2–3 hours. The majority of spouses come to an agreement and reach a settlement after 2–3 sessions of mediation.

Mediators vs. Regular Divorce Attorneys

Many mediators are lawyers. However, it’s important to understand that some mediators are not educated in legal processes. The state of Minnesota doesn’t regulate the mediator profession, meaning anyone can technically market their services as mediation.

At the same time, not all divorce attorneys also specialize in mediation. Divorce attorneys are experts in the law. Legal expertise can help in mediation, but the more significant factor is how well the divorce attorney can help you and your spouse come to mutually agreeable terms.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of mediation.

How Much Does Mediation Cost?

The cost for mediation varies by region. In general, though, you can expect to pay your mediator by the hour. Some mediators will charge more than a divorce attorney; other mediators will charge a similar per-hour rate as a divorce attorney.

The average family attorney charges $232 per hour in Minnesota. So, you can expect to pay more, but probably not less, for mediation services in Hutchinson, MN.

When Should a Minnesota Mediator Intervene?

In some cases, early mediation is the best way to solve problems and bring the matter to a speedy conclusion. In other situations, however, it is better to wait until the litigation process is at least partially complete.

Pre-filing mediation, the earliest time a mediator may intervene, is often successful in parenting plan modification disputes. Many times, these disputes center around the residential parent’s relocation. If the non-residential parent wants to block the move out of spite, early mediation may be a waste of time. But if the non-residential parent has some legitimate concerns about the loss of parenting time, pre-filing mediation often works.

Assume Mother gets a teaching offer from the University of Wisconsin, and she wants to move to Madison with the children. Madison is not on the other side of the world, but it is far enough away to end weekly visitation. If Father objects, a mediator might convince Mother to offer some concessions, like a longer summer visitation period, to offset the loss.

If pre-filing mediation is successful, the parties can present an agreed order to a McLeod County judge. Since most judges approve agreed orders without a hearing, the process moves much more quickly.

Sometimes, a family law case, especially a divorce, is a complete surprise. Additionally, since no case has ever been filed, a court does not yet have jurisdiction over the parties. Therefore, pre-filing mediation is probably not an option. However, early mediation may still be a good alternative for most Hutchinson, MN lawyers.

Early mediation, perhaps shortly after the judge issues temporary orders, is often effective in these cases. Early mediation maximizes the benefits of mediation. That’s assuming there are no major issues to resolve.

In other situations, the litigation process may need to go further. As mentioned, in financial matters, some spouses try to conceal their assets. Before mediation is effective, the discovery process must go forward in these cases. Quite often, a McLeod County judge must rule on a motion to compel discovery or a similar subject.

When Is Divorce Mediation Not an Option in Hutchison, MN?

Almost all divorcing spouses can work with a mediator. However, here are some cases where mediation may not be ideal in Hutchinson, MN:

  • You and your partner have a history of domestic violence
  • You and your partner aren’t willing to compromise on the terms of the divorce

In all other cases, mediation should always be your first option. Even if you have significant assets on the line, children, or are seeking alimony, mediation can work for you.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Mediation Procedure

Emotional courtroom showdowns make great theater in movies and TV shows. But for Minnesota families with children, such emotional shootouts are usually not a good idea. After a divorce, the parties must be good co-parents. The more hard feelings there are, the more difficult co-parenting becomes.

So, family law mediation is extremely low key. These sessions usually occur in office suites instead of courthouses. Moreover, the parties spend most of their time in separate rooms.

After the Hutchinson, MN lawyers give brief opening statements, the family law mediator usually conducts shuttle diplomacy. The mediator conveys settlement offers and counter-offers back and forth until an agreement is reached. Typically, family law mediation sessions last a full day. Sometimes, they last a half day.

Accommodations are available. For example, if there are verified allegations of domestic abuse, a more secure environment makes everyone more relaxed.

Some Mediation Benefits in McLeod County

Still not convinced that mediation is right for your divorce? Then check out the following benefits of choosing mediation.

Mediation Will Save You Money on Legal Fees

A dissolution of marriage isn’t cheap in Minnesota. Each divorcing spouse must pay $400 just to file the petition for dissolution of marriage. That’s not even to mention filing fees for additional motions and, most expensive of all, court attorney fees.

Reduced cost is probably the most frequently-cited mediation benefit. Hutchinson, MN lawyers may spend several weeks getting ready for trial, but only several hours getting ready for mediation. Additionally, mediation ends the case early, and time is money.

Mediators Can Help Salvage the Relationship

As mentioned, civility is important as well. If the parties are to be good co-parents, there needs to be a solid foundation. Many times, mediation provides that foundation. The parties often believe that, if they solved their problems without going to court once, they can do so again.

Mediated Divorces Allow More Spousal Control

On a related note, mediation increases control over the outcome. A detached McLeod County judge does not dictate orders from the bench. Rather, the parties essentially draft their own orders. This arrangement often increases voluntary compliance, which is good news for everyone.

Mediation Takes Less Time

The average mediated divorce takes about 6–8 hours. You and your spouse can choose to divide up these hours across multiple mediation sessions. Compare this timeline to a divorce that goes to trial, which can take anywhere from six months to more than two years.

The more complicated your divorce gets, the more time you’ll spend in court. This is why it’s always a good idea to try mediation first. Even if it doesn’t work for you and your spouse, you will have saved yourself countless hours on the issues you can compromise on.

Contact a Dedicated Family Mediation Attorney in Minnesota

Mediation is the best option for anyone going through a divorce. It’s significantly less expensive, less time-consuming, and more civil than a court divorce. Plus, you and your spouse will have far more control over the terms of your dissolution of marriage.

If done properly, family law mediation usually works. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

 

Original article published on November 12, 2019 and updated on November 11, 2021 .

Ask a Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyer: How Much Will I Get for Pain and Suffering from a Car Accident Settlement?

After a car crash, the economic losses are normally staggering. Emergency care alone might cost $100,000 or even more. This figure does not include physical therapy and other costs. This figure also does not include other economic losses, such as property damage and lost wages.

Generally, car crash victims are eligible for noneconomic damages as well. Minnesota has a limited no-fault law. If the victim’s medical bills exceeded $4,000, additional compensation for things like pain and suffering is available. Many hospitals charge that much to walk in the door.

No amount of money can fully compensate for things like loss of enjoyment in life, emotional distress, and loss of consortium (companionship). But since money damages are the only available remedy, Brainerd, MN injury lawyerswork hard to help victims get money for pain and suffering in a car accident settlement.

Determining a Fair Amount of Compensation

Most personal injury claims settle out of court. Brainerd, MN injury lawyers usually send demand letters to initiate settlement negotiations. These demand letters must include an amount for both economic and noneconomic losses.

The economic damage calculation is rather straightforward, but there are some curves. Property loss is a good example. Many times, the family car has an emotional value which exceeds its financial value. Victims deserve compensation for both kinds of losses.

Additionally, many victims return to work before they are 100 percent better. If they are self-employed, they are less productive. Alternatively, they might come in late or leave early. Lost wages compensation must account for these things.

Calculating noneconomic losses, however, is a different matter. To determine a fair amount, most Brainerd, MN injury lawyers use one of the following formulas:

  • Some lawyers use the days of missed work as a basis for pain and suffering. For example, if Ralph missed 100 days of work after a crash, including both emergency and followup treatment, and Ralph makes $200 per day, his pain and suffering is approximately $20,000.
  • Other lawyers multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four (usually three), largely depending on the factors listed below. If Jill’s medical bills and other economic losses were $10,000, her pain and suffering calculation might be $30,000.

These hypothetical figures are initial offers. To resolve the case, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers typically have a legal duty to negotiate in good faith. They must make sacrifices to complete a deal. The extent of these sacrifices varies greatly, depending on a number of items.

Minnesota Personal Injury Settlement Statistics

To understand how much compensation you could receive for your personal injury case, it’s important to know the average settlement amounts. That way, you can temper your expectations.

The national median for personal injury awards is $38,179. In Minnesota, the median personal injury case settlement is $30,000. So, Minnesota judges tend to award personal injury plaintiffs about 21% less than the national median.

At the same time, research shows that the national average for the chance of winning a personal injury settlement is 53%. Compare that to Minnesota’s average settlement probability of 67%, which is 14% greater than the national average.

In summary, Minnesota judges award smaller settlement sums than the national median award size. But Minnesota judges award settlements of any size more often than the national average. That means your Brainerd personal injury lawyer has a pretty good chance of winning settlement funds for you.

What Happens When the Defendant Doesn’t Want to Settle?

Settlements are the ideal outcome of personal injury cases. And personal injury cases do settle about 95%–96% of the time. However, there is a small chance that your personal injury suit could go to trial.

Here are a few reasons why this could happen to you:

  • The defendant refuses to offer a settlement
  • The defendant offers a settlement amount, but you and your lawyer determine the amount isn’t sufficient for your damages
  • You and your attorney offer a settlement that the defendant perceives as unreasonable
  • You want the opportunity to seek punitive damages, which are only awarded by a trial judge’s discretion

If any of these four things happen, you will have to the forfeit settlement. You and your attorney will then have to prepare for trial.

Brained, MN Injury Lawyers and Car Crash Evidence

The victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof in a negligence case. So, the possibility of success increases if the victim/plaintiff has substantial evidence. As a result, the claim’s settlement value increases.

Evidence in a car crash claim often includes physical evidence, such as medical bills. Generally, these documents provide more than diagnosis, treatment, and financial data. They also include notes which describe the patient’s physical and emotional state on certain days. Brainerd, MN injury lawyers can normally introduce these records at trial.

Nonphysical evidence, such as witness testimony, is also admissible. Many witnesses can connect with jurors in ways that paper documents cannot.

Insurance Company Defenses in Minnesota

Strong, evidence-based claims help Brainerd, MN injury lawyers negotiate settlements from a position of strength. But the amount of evidence is not the only consideration in settlement negotiations.

Defenses, such as comparative fault, often come into play. This legal doctrine shifts blame from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim. For example, in a freeway collision, one driver might have changed lanes without signaling and the other driver might have been speeding. In these cases, a Crow Wing County jury must divide fault on a percentage basis. Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, even if the victim was 49 percent responsible for the crash, the tortfeasor is still liable for a proportionate amount of damages.

Other insurance company defenses include sudden emergency, which often comes up in pedestrian accidents, and last clear chance, a frequent defense in rear-end or head-on crashes.

Much like strong evidence bolsters a victim/plaintiff’s claim, a strong defense supports the insurance company’s efforts to reduce or deny compensation.

How to Find an Aggressive Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyer

As we’ve mentioned, a strong defense is critical if you want fair compensation for your medical bills and/or pain and suffering. That’s why you need aggressive representation from a highly experienced attorney.

Here’s how to find the best personal injury lawyer in Brainerd, MN.

Consider Expertise

The first step to finding the best personal injury attorney is to look for lawyers who have experience and a successful track record with personal injury cases.

Here’s something else to consider: if you’re suing your insurance company, avoid attorneys who have worked with insurers. You don’t want to end up with a legal professional who has a soft spot for insurers. You want an attorney who will fight aggressively for the compensation you deserve.

Ask for Referrals

Once you have a long list of personal injury lawyers, ask around for referrals. Do you have friends or family who have been in your situation before? A referral to a lawyer who helped someone else win a settlement can go a long way.

However, don’t choose an attorney solely based on recommendation. You want to make sure the lawyer fits with your unique needs and specific case, so make sure you schedule a consultation. More on that later.

Search for Local Brainerd Personal Injury Attorneys

Anytime you’re looking for lawyers, you should always search in your state. Laws differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A Minnesota attorney will know those laws and be prepared to use them in your case.

Further, consider an attorney near you. A local attorney has the added advantage of being familiar with the court system. That can be a major advantage, especially if your case ultimately goes to trial.

Read Online Reviews

To narrow down your list of attorneys, it’s always a good idea to check out online reviews. You should be able to access client reviews on the attorney website and via third-party platforms like Yelp.

Better yet, check out reviews from other lawyers. Websites like Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers have peer reviews for selected lawyers.

Schedule a Consultation

By now, you should have whittled your long list down to 2–3 personal injury attorneys in Brainerd. Now, it’s time to schedule that initial consultation we talked about earlier. Reputable lawyers typically offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose.

Here are some questions to ask during your consultation:

  • Do you have the resources and time to take on my case?
  • If my case doesn’t settle, are you prepared to go to trial?
  • How often do you succeed with cases like mine?

It’s also important to ask about fees. You should never let cost determine which personal injury attorney you choose. After all, you get what you pay for when it comes to legal representation.

However, we understand that cost is always a factor in choosing the right lawyer. Make sure to understand your attorney’s fee structure, whether it’s by the hour, a flat fee, or a contingent fee. If it’s not a flat fee or a contingent fee, it may help to ask how long the case could take to get an idea of the total cost for representation.

Reach Out to an Aggressive Car Accident Attorney

The amount for pain and suffering from a car accident settlement depends on many factors. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.

 

Original article published on January 26, 2020 and updated on November 9, 2021.

Can a Hutchinson, MN Criminal Defense Lawyer Expunge My Record If I Don’t Meet the Statuatory Requirements?

Fifteen years ago, the answer to this question was a resounding “no.” But then, in 2008, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided State v. SLH. This decision introduced the concept of inherent authority expunction. There are basically two big differences between statutory expungement under the Minnesota Statutes and inherent authority expungements.

Statutory expungement is a right. To assert a right, you simply have to ask for it. But inherent authority expungement is a privilege. Unless the defendant gives the judge a good reason for expungement, the judge probably will not do it. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, statutory expungement wipes out all judicial and law enforcement records. Inherent authority expungement only affects judicial records, at least in most cases.

An experienced Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer can expunge your records if it is at all possible, and also maximize that expungement.

What Are the Requirements for Statutory Expungement in Hutchinson, MN?

Not just anyone can have their record expunged in Minnesota. The law puts in place statutory grounds for statutory expungement. In other words, you must meet certain requirements to have your criminal record expunged.

We’re talking about those requirements next.

A Not Guilty Verdict

You qualify for expungement if a court doesn’t convict you of the crime you’re charged with and issues you a not guilty verdict instead. Also, you qualify for expungement if you never submitted a guilty plea. For example, this may have occurred if a court dismissed your case.

If you received a guilty verdict or have submitted a guilty plea, your conviction will not be eligible for statutory expungement.

You Committed a Petty Misdemeanor With No Subsequent Offenses

Petty misdemeanors may not mean jail time, but they do stay on your record. Employers and anyone else who runs a background check on you will see them on your record.

Luckily, you can get a petty misdemeanor conviction expunged from your record in certain cases. The following crimes are petty misdemeanors in Minnesota:

  • Traffic citations
  • Possession of small amounts of marijuana
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia

You can’t have these petty misdemeanors expunged if you receive a subsequent conviction within the next two years.

You Committed a Gross Misdemeanor With No Subsequent Offenses

Gross misdemeanors are more serious than petty misdemeanors in Minnesota. A gross misdemeanor conviction comes with potential jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, or both. Here are some common Hutchinson, MN gross misdemeanor crimes:

  • A DWI with a blood alcohol content of 2.0 or over
  • A second DWI conviction within 10 years of the first
  • Refusing a sobriety test during a pullover
  • Gross misdemeanor theft, which is theft of property worth $500–$1,000

Like petty misdemeanors, you must go a period without a subsequent conviction. In this case, you must go four years without another offense to qualify for statutory expungement. 

You Committed a Qualifying Felony With No Subsequent Convictions

Felonies are the most serious offenses in Minnesota. They come with fines and/or prison time. Sometimes, felonies even come with mandatory minimum prison sentences.

There is good news, though. Some felonies qualify for statutory expungement in Minnesota, including the following:

  • Fifth-degree drug possession and sale felonies
  • Criminal vehicular operation (CVO) that results in great bodily harm to another party
  • Theft of property worth less than $5,000
  • Criminal property damage
  • Forgery
  • Some financial fraud felonies

 

To get these felonies expunged, you can’t receive a subsequent conviction. You must stay crime-free for at least five years to qualify.

You Received a Qualifying Juvenile Conviction

In some cases, offenders with a juvenile conviction can qualify for statutory expungement. However, this is only the case if you received the conviction as a juvenile and are now facing trial as an adult.

You Completed a Diversion Program

When you receive certain drug possession charges in Minnesota, a court could issue you to complete a diversion program. Completing the diversion program qualifies you for statutory expungement.

You Received Deferred Adjudication

In Minnesota, many people receive deferred adjudication for their crimes. A stay of adjudication is similar to receiving probation for an offense.

The court will issue “terms of the stay,” which, if completed, means you won’t have a conviction on your record. The same is true if you received an adjudicated delinquency as a minor.

Once you complete the terms of the stay, you can qualify for expungement. However, you must first go one year from the date you completed the terms of the stay without committing a second offense.

Have You Exhausted Other Options?

Inherent authority expungement is a last resort. But many people entertain this option before they have gone through all their statutory options. Significantly, very few people try to obtain an executive pardon, even though the process is easier than they think.

You do not need to make a big financial contribution to buy a pardon. Actually, that may be one of the worst things you can do. No governor wants to be accused of favoritism.

Instead, a Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer simply needs to know how to ask. Every situation is different, but here are some general rules:

  • Know Where to Go: A pardon application addressed to the governor will go straight into the trash, and an application addressed to a junior assistant will never see the light of day either. A successful pardon application begins with knocking on the right door, and an experienced Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer knows where to knock.
  • Admit Responsibility: Begin and end your application with a complete and unqualified admission of guilt. Your friends did not entice you and the devil did not make you do it.
  • Explain Extenuating Circumstances: The governor was not there and does not have the trial transcript. If appropriate, the prior obstacles narrative usually works well. For example, perhaps you have overcome a substance abuse problem.
  • Praise the System: If you served time in jail or prison, you had lots of time to think. If you were placed on probation, the court-ordered classes struck a chord with you.
  • Ask For What You Need: Unabashedly ask for a complete pardon. One of the fundamental rules of criminal law is that you never get anything unless you ask.

Pardons are even easier to obtain if you are no longer under court supervision. At that point, a gubernatorial pardon is basically just a rather meaningless gesture. It only has significance if the defendant uses the pardon to obtain statutory expungement.

What Is Inherent Authority?

Since the judge has absolute control over judicial records, it stands to reason that the judge should have the authority to purge these records in certain situations. The S.L.H. court offered practically no guidance in this area. The court simply stated that, under “appropriate circumstances,” judges could use their inherent authority to expunge judicial records.

That lack of guidance is actually a good thing. Appeals courts usually review lower court decisions like these on an abuse-of-discretion basis. With such a broad mandate from the Supreme Court, it is almost impossible for judges to abuse their discretion in these cases.

In other words, the court has almost absolute authority to purge judicial records. A Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer just needs to give the judge a good reason to do so.

Who Can Get an Inherent Authority Expungement in Hutchinson, MN?

If you were convicted of a crime in Minnesota and that crime is on your record, you can qualify for an inherent authority expungement. But if you have statutory expungement as an option, you should seek one. As we’ve discussed, inherent authority expungement should be your Plan B.

Why? Inherent authority expungements aren’t true expungements. In other words, the judge won’t wipe your conviction off your record; inherent authority expungement only seals your records.

Also, keep in mind that just because you seek an inherent authority expungement doesn’t mean a judge will grant you one. Judges take multiple factors into account when making his or her decision.

For example, judges tend to weigh heavily your possibility of re-offense. In other words, if the judge thinks you’re likely to commit another crime, he or she will most likely not grant you an inherent authority expungement.

Why Do You Need Expungement?

In statutory proceedings, this question is relevant but not really controlling. The McLeod County judge just needs to hear a legitimate answer.

But in inherent authority expunction cases, this answer may mean everything. Generally, the defendant must offer a specific reason, such as:

  • Inability to pursue a certain professional occupation that the defendant is otherwise qualified to pursue,
  • Difficulty in finding a place to live (i.e. I tried to obtain a mortgage from this bank or rent from this company but my criminal conviction derailed my application), or
  • Inability to find a job that pays enough to support a family.

If you can articulate this reason for the judge, the judge is quite likely to approve your application, especially if the conviction is at least ten or fifteen years old.

Can a Hutchinson, MN Criminal Defense Lawyer Expand Inherent Authority?

In principle, inherent authority expunctions are limited to judicial records. However, the Supreme Court has yet to directly rule on this issue. Therefore, in a few cases, there may be a workaround.

For example, a dismissal may expand inherent authority to executive records, even if the offense is on the prohibited list. If the court dismisses the case, most defendants reasonably believe that they will suffer no ill effects from the criminal proceedings.

Certain juvenile cases may fall into this area as well. Additionally, if the defendant was discharged at least fifteen years ago and the defendant has taken a number of self-improvement steps, expansion may be available.

Reach Out to Dedicated Attorneys at Carlson & Carlson

A Minnesota criminal attorney can help you get a statutory expungement if you meet qualifying conditions. If you don’t meet these conditions, your lawyer may still be able to seek an inherent authority expungement. Though inherent authority expungement will not eliminate your conviction, it will seal your conviction from public record.

An attorney’s job does not end when the judge’s gavel falls, because there may still be remedies available. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

Original article published on May 23, 2019 and updated on November 4, 2021.

Drugged Driving Charges and Criminal Lawyers in Brainerd, MN

In many parts of Minnesota, impairing drugs are easier to obtain than alcohol. Two neighboring states, Michigan and Illinois, have legalized recreational marijuana, including marijuana edibles. Prescription drug use is widespread, and behaviors like pill sharing and abuse are all too common. Furthermore, many of the drugs available at corner pharmacies, such as NyQuil and Sominex, could impair drivers and are therefore illegal in this context.

DUI convictions have significant consequences. The state often relies on flimsy circumstantial proof in drugged driving cases. Our Brainerd, MN criminal lawyers know how to challenge this proof. direct and collateral consequences. Even for a first offense, defendants face extended court supervision and drivers’ license suspension, along with other penalties. Indirect consequences include sky-high auto insurance rates, adverse effects on family court parenting time disputes, and possible employment consequences.

Since the consequences are so severe and it’s so easy to fall into the drugged driving pit, aggressive representation from a criminal lawyer in Brainerd, MN is essential. By attacking the state’s evidence, which is usually circumstantial, an attorney can reduce or eliminate these aforementioned consequences.

What Is Drugged Driving in Brainerd, MN?

Drugged driving is similar to DUI/DWI charges in Brainerd, Minnesota. If you’re pulled over while impaired by illegal or prescription drugs, an enforcement officer may charge you with drugged driving.

 

Driving while under the influence of drugs is illegal because it puts yourself and others at risk. Injuring someone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be a felony, and a court can revoke your driving privileges. And if drunk or drugged driving results in a fatality, you could receive a maximum of 15 years in prison.

 

Here’s what else you need to know about Minnesota’s drunk and drugged driving laws.

Drugged Driving Definitions

 

Minnesota law classifies drugged driving as “driving under the influence.” What does that mean? Any time you drive while under the influence of a controlled substance, a hazardous substance, or any amount of a Schedule I or II substance means you’re under the influence.

 

Controlled substances are any drugs or compounds listed in Minnesota’s Controlled Substances Act. For example, opioids and hallucinogens are controlled substances in Minnesota.

 

The term “hazardous substances” usually applies to legal products people inhale to get high. For example, nitrous oxide is a legal product that some people use to get high. If you drive while under the influence of nitrous oxide, an officer could issue you a DUI/DWI.

 

Finally, Schedule I and II drugs include the following:

 

  • Hallucinogens (Heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy)
  • Opiates (Methadone, Oxycodone, Morphine, Codeine, and Meth)
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana

 

Minnesota’s Zero Tolerance law (which we’ll talk more about next) does make an exception for driving while under the influence of marijuana.

What Does the Law Say?

The Gopher State’s drugged driving law is rather complex. Largely because there are so many drugs which could seriously impair drivers, there are basically two ways for the state to bring DUI-drug charges:

  • Under the Influence: Almost all DUI-drug prosecutions involve this part of the law. It’s illegal to drive under the influence of an intoxicating substance. That could be almost anything in your medicine cabinet, and many of the things in your kitchen pantry. However, the defendant must know that the substance is potentially impairing. That provision, along with the circumstantial nature of the proof, gives criminal lawyers in Brainerd, MN an opening.
  • Zero Tolerance: It’s also illegal to drive with even a trace amount of a Schedule I or Schedule II substance in one’s body. Most street drugs, like heroin and LSD, are Schedule I drugs. Most prescription drugs, like Vicodin and Oxycontin, are Schedule II drugs. Marijuana is also a Schedule I drug, but it’s specifically exempted from this part of the law. Peace officers rarely order urine or blood tests in drugged driving cases. That’s the only way to establish specific drug use beyond a reasonable doubt.

Minnesota also has a refusal-to-submit law. If officers demand a blood or urine sample and the defendant refuses to provide one, the defendant could be charged with a separate criminal offense. That’s on top of any administrative drivers’ license suspension.

Under Birchfield v. North Dakota, peace officers must obtain search warrants before they extract blood or urine samples. Officers rarely bother with such warrants, except on no-refusal weekends and other heightened enforcement periods.

Drugged Driving Conviction Consequences

Minnesota enforces hefty fines and even jail time for drugged driving offenders. However, the exact penalty depends on whether you’ve received a previous drugged driving conviction and how many.

  • 1st Offense: First-time drugged driving offenders may receive up to 90 days in jail, pay up to $1,000 in fines, or both.
  • 2nd Offense: A second drugged driving conviction can earn you up to a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail.
  • 3rd Offense: If you get a third drugged driving conviction, the court will slap you with penalties of up to 1 year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. 
  • 4th Offense: Four DUI/DWIs within 10 years is a felony in Minnesota. A  felony drugged driving conviction can incur up to 7 years in prison, up to a $14,000 fine, or both.
  • 5th Offense or More: A fifth or subsequent drugged driving conviction comes with minimum sentencing. That means a conviction will automatically earn you a minimum of 1 year in jail, lengthy probation sentences, or both.
  • 2nd Felony Offense: If you receive a drugged driving felony and have a criminal vehicular homicide or injury felony on your record, you will receive up to 7 years in prison and/or pay up to $14,000 in fines.

Keep in mind that refusing to take a sobriety test can increase your drugged driving penalties in Minnesota. For example, refusing a sobriety test for your 1st or 2nd drugged driving offense will increase your fine to up to $3,000 and jail time to up to 1 year.

Further, if you refuse to undergo a sobriety test, a court could revoke your driving privileges. This may include having to forfeit your driver’s license, license plates, and even your vehicle.

How Do Brainerd, MN Criminal Lawyers Challenge Drugged Driving Evidence?

You don’t want to pay the price of a drugged driving charge in Brainerd, MN. That’s why you need to find the best criminal lawyers ASAP. A good drugged driving defense attorney will help you understand what you’re up again and fight for the best outcome.

But how exactly will your lawyer challenge your drugged driving charge? We’re talking about three strategies DUI/DWI defense attorneys use next.

Challenging the Initial Pull Over in Brainerd, MN

If you received a drugged driving charge after getting pulled over, your lawyer could challenge the grounds for that initial pullover. In Minnesota, a law officer must collect a minimum standard of evidence before he or she can pull someone over.

An experienced Brainerd criminal lawyer knows the requirements enforcement officers must meet before pulling someone over. Often, officers fail to follow police procedure. Your attorney can then ask for any evidence collected during the initial pullover to be thrown out from your case.

This defense won’t apply if you received a DUI after going through a roadblock or sobriety checkpoint.

Challenging Driving or Physical Control of the Vehicle

You’ve probably heard of cases where someone receives a DUI even though they weren’t driving. Whether the person was asleep behind the wheel or in the passenger seat while in possession of their car keys, officers have the right to issue a drugged driving charge if they’re under the influence and “in control” of the vehicle.

In this case, all your Brainerd criminal lawyer needs to do is prove you weren’t in control of the car at the time of your arrest. He or she may acquire witness testimony to challenge the ruling that you were in control of the vehicle while under the influence of drugs.

 

Challenging Field Sobriety Test Results

Circumstantial evidence of drug intoxication almost always means the three approved Field Sobriety Tests. Most FSTs are divided attention tests which measure physical dexterity and mental acuity. Scientists claim that intoxicated individuals cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. The three approved FSTs, and some ways to challenge them in court, are:

  • Heel to Toe Walk: Generally, officers force defendants to walk an imaginary line in the dark while wearing something other than athletic shoes. It’s almost impossible for anyone, whether they are intoxicated or not, to successfully complete this test under these conditions.
  • One-Leg Stand: It’s very difficult for anyone with any mobility impairment at all to lift one leg and stand as still as a statute for more than two or three seconds.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: The DUI eye test is the only FST that’s not a divided attention test. Many people have nystagmus, a condition also known as lazy eye. But they do not know they have it, since the symptoms are so mild. So, they will fail this test whether or not they are intoxicated.

Under the Fifth Amendment, defendants have a right to refuse to perform the FSTs. And, their refusal usually cannot be used against them in court.

Can I Expunge a Drugged Driving Conviction?

Partially. Misdemeanor DUI is usually expugnable. There is usually a two or four-year waiting period. And, the defendant must not catch any new charges during the waiting period. Even after expungement, which is really record sealing in Minnesota, the conviction still appears in judicial records and is still on the person’s driving record.

Expungement is not automatic. Some factors in the decision include the nature of the offense, amount of time that has passed, defendant’s rehabilitation efforts, the probation officer’s recommendation, and the defendant’s criminal history.

Rely on an Experienced Attorney

DUI-drug cases are almost as common as DUI-alcohol cases, and the law is very harsh. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal lawyer in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. The sooner you call, the sooner we start fighting for you.

 

Original article published on May 4, 202 and updated on November 2. 2021.

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