What Is Joint Custody in Minnesota?

Deciding who should have custody of the children can be one of the most difficult aspects of the divorce process. It’s essential that as a parent, you ask the question, What is joint custody in Minnesota? The most qualified persons to tell you are a  Minnesota family law attorney, but we’re also offering some tips and advice.

The nature of custody arrangements when a divorce is finalized can vary significantly on a case-by-case basis. A judge will consider many factors when making decisions about how a child is to be raised after their parents get a divorce.

Sometimes, a judge will determine that joint custody is ideal. This overview will cover what joint custody is in Minnesota and when it might be granted, helping you better understand how this arrangement may impact you, your spouse, and most importantly, your child.

Types of Child Custody in Minnesota

Before learning about joint custody in Minnesota, it’s necessary to be familiar with the two types of custody a court may grant. They are:

  • Physical custody, which involves the right to make key decisions about a child’s routine, daily activities, and where they live.
  • Legal custody, which applies to decisions about how to raise a child. For example, a parent granted legal custody over a child has the right to make decisions about their health and religious education or training.

There are instances when a court will grant sole physical custody, legal custody, or both to one parent. However, it’s not uncommon for courts to grant joint custody.

What Joint Custody in Minnesota Involves

Joint custody in Minnesota also comes in two forms:

  • Joint physical custody, in which both parents are involved in making decisions about a child’s routine and care.
  • Joint legal custody, which allows both parents to make decisions regarding how a child may be raised.

It’s worth noting that parents granted joint custody in any form don’t necessarily have equal custody. For example, a court may grant both parents joint physical custody of a child. This doesn’t mean the child has to spend an equal amount of time living with both parents. Although that can happen, it’s somewhat uncommon, particularly when parents don’t end up living close enough to one another to allow a child to split their time equally between their homes while still attending one school, maintaining the same general routine, etc.

Joint physical custody may be more likely to involve the court deciding that a child must spend a certain amount of time with one parent. For example, a child may spend every other weekend with one parent. This allows them to maintain a degree of routine and stability while also ensuring that a parent still has the right to see their child on a somewhat regular basis.

Factors Influencing Joint Custody Decisions in Minnesota

Courts will account for a variety of factors when determining whether to grant joint custody in Minnesota. They include the following:

The Child’s Wishes

Sometimes, a court will make custody decisions based on the wishes of the child. However, they only do so when it’s determined that a child is mature enough to express a “reasonable preference.”

For instance, a teenager might be deemed mature enough to make this type of decision, while a very young child might not be. A mature child’s preference might also apply to whether joint custody is granted if a child expresses a desire to split their time between two parents who also agree to this type of resolution.

Abuse

Naturally, if abuse has occurred, even if the children haven’t been the direct targets of it, the judge will typically favor the parent who didn’t commit abuse. A court is unlikely to grant joint custody when abuse is involved.

Current Roles

Often, one parent has been more involved in the overall care and upbringing of a child than another, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, divorcing spouses have nevertheless both been involved in caring for a child to a significant degree. Joint custody may be an option in these cases.

Adjustment issues

Forcing a child to adjust to a new home or school can substantially disrupt their life. Forcing them to split their time between two parents who live somewhat far from each other can have a similar effect. However, if granting joint custody won’t have a major disruptive impact, a court may do so.

Ability

A judge will typically account for the ability of the parents to provide their child with care, support, education, and guidance when making custody decisions. They might be more inclined to grant joint custody if it appears both parents have the capacity to reasonably provide for a child.

Cooperation

Joint custody naturally involves both parents working together to make decisions about a child’s upbringing, daily routine, or both, depending on the type of joint custody that’s granted. Parents must therefore be able to communicate and coordinate to a reasonable degree. A judge will consider whether they appear able to do so when deciding whether to grant joint custody.

Dispute resolution methods

Along with considering whether both parents are generally able to cooperate, a judge will also typically account for the methods they use to resolve disputes about a child’s life, and whether they seem willing and able to apply those methods in a productive and healthy manner.

Detriment

There are some instances when, for various reasons, it may appear that allowing one parent to have sole custody of a child will be detrimental to said child in some way. If this is the case, joint custody might be granted.

The Parents’ Wishes

Not all divorces involve lengthy and painful disputes. Sometimes, both parents can agree to joint custody. This is often easier to achieve when skilled family lawyers are involved.

A court may of course be more likely to grant joint custody when two parents agree it’s what’s best for a child. However, a judge will also account for the degree to which both parents seem genuinely willing to allow the other to be involved in a child’s life. If there is strong reason to believe one parent won’t actually honor the terms of a joint custody agreement, a judge might feel granting sole custody to the other parent is the better option. That said, a judge is unlikely to overrule the mutual decision of two parents except in very rare circumstances.

Reasons a Court May Grant Joint Custody in Minnesota

Along with the reasons mentioned above, such as a child’s preferences, other reasons a court may grant joint custody in Minnesota include the following:

Relieving Burdens

Raising a child on one’s own can be very difficult. Even if a parent is relatively suited to care for a child, a court may decide they can’t do so on their own. Or, a court may decide that requiring one parent to raise a child without help is unreasonable. This is one of the most common reasons courts grant joint custody.

Promoting Cooperation

Even when one parent is granted sole custody, another parent will often have the right to see their child and be involved in their life to some degree. That parent may then try to be involved in raising the child. This can cause disputes that are not in the child’s best interests.

However, when parents are granted joint custody, a child provides a “common ground.” Both parents must learn to cooperate when making decisions about a child’s upbringing, education, and more. This can be difficult at first, but in the long run, being required to cooperate can help parents learn to work together without friction, resulting in a more desirable outcome for a child.

Optimizing a Child’s Upbringing

A court may determine that both parents have strengths and resources that would benefit a child as they grow up. Depriving a child of those advantages by granting sole custody to one parent might seem to be the wrong decision. In order for a child to receive the maximum benefits, a court may grant joint custody.

Reasons a Court Might Not Grant Joint Custody in Minnesota

Again, abuse and other factors may contribute to a decision not to grant joint custody. Other reasons a court may decide sole custody is the preferred arrangement include:

Stress of Moving

A judge may decide that, based on various factors (such as the distances between the homes of two parents or significant differences in the home environments), frequently moving back and forth between two homes isn’t best for a child. If so, joint custody could be unlikely.

Disputes

Joint custody can promote greater cooperation for some couples. However, there are instances when two parents simply can’t cooperate, and a joint custody arrangement will result in disputes and conflict that are harmful to a child.

Essentially, developing a parenting plan for a child when you’re going through a divorce can be a complex process that requires accounting for numerous factors, being honest with your spouse about your plans, and perhaps even making concessions, all in the effort to ensure the resolution is in your child’s best interests.

What is Joint Custody? Ask a Family Law Lawyer in Minnesota

This isn’t meant to discourage you. While this process can be difficult, it doesn’t necessarily need to be as challenging as you imagine. A Minnesota divorce lawyer can help you reach an outcome that’s ideal for all parties involved. They’ll also protect your rights if your spouse is demanding sole custody unreasonably.

What Is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Minnesota Going to Do for Me?

DPS’s most recent Uniform Crime Report detailed that Minnesota police made over 150,000 criminal arrests in 2019. If you’re asking what is a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota going to do for me, the answer could be a lot.

If you’ve been charged or convicted of a crime, you need a Minneapolis criminal defense attorney. An experienced lawyer can fight for the best outcome whether you’re accused of a drug crime, an assault, or some other criminal offense.

Why else should you hire a lawyer for your criminal case? We’re telling you everything you need to know about criminal defense attorneys in this guide, so keep reading.

Types of Criminal Defense Attorneys

When you’re charged with a crime, the best criminal lawyer will represent you throughout the phases of your trial. If you’re convicted, a lawyer can also help you get the charge off your record.

Anyone charged with a criminal offense in Minnesota is entitled to legal defense. But the type of defense attorney you work with depends on what you can afford. Here are the three types of criminal defenders you can work with.

Panel Lawyers

Panel lawyers are private attorneys offering representation to defendants who can’t afford private counsel. Courts appoint panel attorneys in states that don’t have a public defender system. Minnesota isn’t one of those states.

Public Defenders

In Minnesota, public defenders are court-appointed lawyers. Like panel attorneys, public defenders represent indigent criminal defendants.

Private Lawyers

Criminal defendants who can afford legal representation hire private defense attorneys. Private lawyers charge clients on a per-hour basis or by a fixed fee. Some lawyers make representation affordable by offering pro-bono representation or payment plans.

Many private attorneys start off as public defenders or prosecutors. That means they, too, have experience as court-appointed attorneys.

The benefit of hiring private attorneys is that they often have more experience because they’ve practiced for longer. Experienced lawyers leverage this experience to negotiate favorable plea deals. Plus, you can choose the private defender who’s best for your unique case.

Still, studies show that outcomes for criminal cases are similar for private lawyers and court-appointed public defendants.

Who Needs a Criminal Defense Attorney?

By now, you may be wondering: do I need a criminal defense lawyer? If a Minnesota court charged you with a crime, you need an attorney. You should also consider legal representation to get a conviction off your record.

Self-Representation in Minnesota Criminal Cases

In Minnesota, pro se representation is legal. That means you can represent yourself in a criminal case. However, we never advise self-representation for criminal defendants.

You have a lot to lose in a criminal defense case. Criminal charges in Minnesota can earn you between $1,000 and $3,000 in fines. Worse, you could end up serving at least 90 days in jail or up to a lifetime in prison.

A Minnesota court may not even accept self-representation if your charges are particularly severe. Your education level and language skills, legal knowledge of the proceedings, and the charge’s seriousness are other factors courts consider before allowing a defendant to represent himself or herself.

Types of Cases Defense Attorneys Handle

A criminal defense attorney doesn’t handle just any case. These legal experts have the experience and skills to defend criminal cases.

But what exactly counts as a criminal case in Minnesota? Here are seven of the most common criminal charges a lawyer can defend you against.

DWIs

A DWI or DUI charge is one of the most common reasons for hiring a defense lawyer. After all, DUI convictions often come with consequences like forfeiting your license, paying fines, or even prison time. A lawyer can help you avoid the worst of these penalties.

DUI lawyers can also help you get a conviction off your record. This is important because some employers won’t hire applicants with a criminal record. And many car insurance companies force you to purchase a pricier policy because of your DUI.

Drug Crimes

The production, sale, possession, distribution, and trafficking of controlled substances are illegal in Minnesota.

Drug sale convictions can earn you a fine of $10,000 to up to $1 million and prison time of five to thirty years. Possession of drugs can get you up to 158 months in prison, depending on how much you have on you. And trafficking and transport charges can earn you even more significant penalties.

The good news is that a Minneapolis criminal defense attorney can negotiate down your charges, reducing potential penalties. Ensuring you don’t have a drug crime charge is critical, too — drug crime punishments get worse if you have prior convictions on your record.

Assault

Minnesota charges assault and battery as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If the assault doesn’t result in injury, the court will likely treat the case as a misdemeanor. For example, Minnesota considers simple assault a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in the county jail and up to a $1000 fine.

Meanwhile, assault and battery cases involving weapons almost always incur felonies. And an assault felony can automatically earn you over a year in prison.

Hiring an assault lawyer will ensure you get the lowest penalty possible. The police may have already made a report, but your lawyer will gather facts to get the complete picture. The more evidence you have on your side, the greater your chances of lessening your fines and/or jail sentence.

Domestic Violence

There’s a difference between assault and domestic violence cases. Domestic violence charges apply to cases of stalking, abuse, rape, and kidnapping perpetrated by someone the victim is closely related to. This includes spouses, a parent and child, dating partners, or cohabitants.

In Minnesota, courts treat domestic violence charges extremely seriously. Violators could receive a felony charge even it’s a first-time offense. And if you’re charged with three domestic violence misdemeanors within 10 years, it’s almost automatically a felony.

Luckily, an experienced domestic violence lawyer can help. Prosecutors love to seek heftier penalties for domestic violence cases compared to regular assault. Your lawyer can get you the best possible outcome in this kind of situation.

Theft

Theft charges range from small robberies to grand larceny. Many first-time offense theft cases only incur misdemeanors. But penalties grow more serious the more theft charges on your record, when you use a weapon during the robbery, and as the total value of the stolen goods increases.

And theft cases don’t only incur criminal penalties (e.g., jail time and fines). They also lead to civil penalties. For example, many courts force defendants to compensate plaintiffs for the items stolen.

An attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor or the judge to reduce your charges. If it’s a minor, first-time offense, you could potentially get the case dismissed altogether. A defense attorney can also help you expunge prior theft convictions from your record.

Weapons Crimes

Possessing a firearm without a license is illegal in Minnesota. It’s also illegal to own and/or operate an unregistered firearm. And there are dozens of additional weapons-related laws you must adhere to or else risk a criminal charge.

Punishments for weapons crimes in Minnesota vary depending on the exact charge. As an example, merely possessing a firearm without a license could earn you a gross misdemeanor charge. And gross misdemeanors are punishable by up to $1000 fines and 90 days in jail.

Having a prior record can increase the punishment for weapons charges even further. Choosing the best criminal defense attorney in Minnesota can reduce your charges and wipe away prior convictions from your record.

Sex Crimes

The state of Minnesota classifies five levels of sex crimes. The most severe convictions can bring about up to 30 years in prison and a $40,000 fine. But repeat or particularly violent offenders are eligible for lifetime sentences in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sex crime convictions also mean you’ll have to register as a sex offender and notify your community about your sex offender status. Again, an experienced attorney is your best bet for avoiding these embarrassing consequences and getting the lowest conviction level possible.

The Benefits of Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Hiring a private defender isn’t cheap. But the benefits far outweigh the cost of criminal defense attorneys. We’ve already mentioned how a lawyer can reduce your fines and sentence times or get prior criminal convictions wiped off your record. What you may not know are all the other things an attorney can do for your criminal case.

Negotiate Deals

Attorneys are expert negotiators. They can help fight for lower bail amounts, reduced charges, and fewer days in jail.

Experienced defense lawyers can also negotiate plea deals, which are becoming increasingly common in criminal cases. At the same time, having an attorney who already knows the details of your charge would be an invaluable asset should your case go to trial.

Offer Advice

Attorneys have the skills to understand the prosecutor’s case and know the evidence against you. This means you’ll have a clearer picture of the potential sentencing options and what outcome you can most likely expect.

Your lawyer can further advise you about plea deals and their consequences. If there’s no way out of a conviction, a legal expert can also help you understand how it will impact your criminal record.

Provide Support

The legal system is complicated, time-consuming, and challenging to navigate. And the odds are even more stacked against you when you receive a criminal charge. That’s why you need a legal expert to fight for your rights.

A criminal defense lawyer knows all the stages you’ll have to go through and can give you a reality check about what to expect.

Call the Best Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney

A Minneapolis criminal defense attorney works with people like you who’ve been charged or convicted of crimes. Your attorney can help negotiate a deal to prevent your case from going to trial, offer you advice about which deals to take, and so much more.

Were you charged with or convicted of a criminal offense in Minnesota and need legal representation? Call Carlson and Jones today to schedule a consultation with our expert criminal lawyer.

 

How Long Does Divorce Take in Minnesota?

It’s impossible for anyone to say exactly how long it will take to divorce your spouse without knowing the details of the circumstances. When you’re asking how long does divorce take in Minnesota, know that a wide range of factors can influence the timeline. Your divorce will be unique to you.

Going through a divorce is rarely an easy experience. It’s understandable that the parties involved often want to complete the process as quickly as possible. If you’re a Minnesotan preparing to get a divorce, you may be wondering, how long does divorce take in Minnesota?

This general guide on how long it takes to get a divorce in Minnesota will cover the essentials, helping you get a more realistic sense of how long you should expect the process to last. Just remember, while resolving the situation quickly may seem ideal, you don’t want to make unnecessary sacrifices or concessions in order to speed up your divorce. In the long run, you’ll likely wish you’d spent more time negotiating for a more equitable outcome.

Consider Hiring a Divorce Lawyer in Minnesota

This is one of the many reasons it’s important to enlist the help of a qualified and experienced family law and divorce lawyer in Minnesota when you’re getting a divorce. They’ll work hard to ensure that when your divorce is finalized, you’re satisfied.

A Realistic Timeline for a Minnesota Divorce

There are instances when getting a divorce in Minnesota can take as little as four weeks. This occurs when both spouses agree on various issues and work together (typically through their lawyers) to arrive at a mutually satisfying resolution quickly.

However, it’s often the case that spouses divorcing one another disagree on a number of issues. If the disagreements are fairly basic and both parties are willing to make some reasonable concessions, a divorce may take up to six months. That said, there are instances when significant disagreements can cause the divorce process to last years.

This is another reason it’s critical to hire the right Minnesota family lawyer when getting a divorce. Although no attorney can promise to convince your soon-to-be ex to change their mind on issues they may be stubborn about, they can negotiate on your behalf and increase your chances of finalizing the divorce relatively fast.

Factors Affecting How Long it Takes to Get a Divorce in Minnesota

Again, many factors can influence the timeline of a divorce. The following are among the more significant.

Children and Child Custody After Divorce

Divorces often take longer when there are children involved. Parents divorcing from one another tend to disagree over who should have custody of the children.

In some instances, it’s easy to determine which parent should have custody. If one parent has been clearly more involved in raising the kids up until this point or if one parent is unable to provide for them (whether financially, emotionally, or both), determining who should be the primary caregiver won’t be too difficult.

However, it’s often the case that both parents may seem to have strong arguments for why they should have custody. Skilled family law attorneys can help when this happens by carefully assessing all the reasons one parent is better-suited for the role of caregiver.

Finances

Research shows that money issues are among the leading causes of divorce in the US. Unfortunately, finances can also impact the length of the divorce process.

Depending on the details of the circumstances, one spouse may argue they’re entitled to a certain dollar amount or a share of the assets when getting a divorce. They may be unwilling to finalize the divorce until they feel they’ve been granted what they deserve.

Once more, an attorney’s help can be vital when this happens. If they can convince the lawyer of the stubborn spouse that what they’re asking for is unreasonable, the lawyer of the spouse who’s requesting more than they deserve might explain to them that they’re unlikely to get the deal they’re asking for, and should thus accept less in order to finalize the process and save money in the long run.

Disagreement Over the Divorce in Minnesota

Sometimes, one spouse will not wish to get a divorce from the other spouse. They may drag out the process in the vain hope that the spouse who initiated the divorce will change their mind.

This can be a very painful experience for all involved. However, it’s important to protect yourself when this happens. Don’t make the mistake of offering your spouse more than they deserve during negotiations in order to convince them to set aside their emotions and finalize the divorce. This may be tempting, but later, you’ll be unhappy that you came to an “agreement” that’s less-than-ideal for you because you simply wanted to wrap up the process. Your lawyer can advise you when you’re giving up more than you should.

Communication

It’s not uncommon for divorcing spouses to have difficulty communicating and cooperating with one another. This may even be one of the main reasons they’re getting a divorce.

However, sometimes spouses are able to cooperate, despite no longer being able to stay married. If you and your spouse communicate and work together, the divorce process will go much more smoothly and quickly.

Schedules

This may seem like a basic detail, but it’s an important one, as scheduling issues can have a relatively significant impact on how long a divorce may take in Minnesota.

Often, the divorce process involves meetings between spouses and their attorneys, court appearances, and other events that need to be scheduled. If spouses and/or their attorneys are busy, or the court is somewhat backed up, the process can take longer than it might need to.

However, it’s important to understand that it’s possible to limit the number of meetings and court appearances that need to occur if both spouses can agree on various issues. This is often easier with the help of a skilled Minnesota family lawyer.

Getting a Divorce in Minnesota: Need-to-Know Information

Along with understanding how long it takes to get a divorce in Minnesota, there are a few more important points you should be familiar with when divorcing your spouse. They include the following:

Minnesota’s ‘No-Fault’ Divorce Law

To file for a divorce in Minnesota, you have to have resided in the state for at least 180 days. However, exceptions are made when at least one spouse is a member of the armed forces and has kept their Minnesota residency.

Luckily, Minnesota is a “no-fault” divorce state. That means you can get a divorce without needing to demonstrate that your spouse did something “wrong.” Even if your spouse doesn’t want to get a divorce, you can still be granted one.

Additionally, no-fault laws limit the court’s ability to consider various factors when making key decisions. For example, there may be disagreements over custody, but when resolving this issue, the court can’t account for whether one spouse cheated on the other.

Rights During the Divorce Process in Minnesota

Generally, under Minnesota law, both spouses have equal rights during the divorce process. This impacts the degree to which both spouses may access and use assets and property during the divorce.

For example, if you and your spouse have a joint bank account, during the divorce process, both of you can withdraw money from it. If you have a car that’s under both of your names, both of you can drive it until the divorce is finalized. However, if the car is only under your name, your divorce doesn’t have the right to use it, even if you allowed them to do so freely in the past.

The law does not allow either spouse to eliminate property, assets, or money when anticipating a divorce. For instance, perhaps one spouse doesn’t want the other to share any of the funds from a retirement account when the divorce is finalized. Thus, they might cash out the account. Even if they do, though, the court can still require them to share the money.

Important Divorce Terminology

The following are a few key terms worth being familiar with if you’re planning on getting a divorce in Minnesota:

  • Dissolution of marriage: This is the legal term for divorce in Minnesota.
  • Legal separation: A legal separation involves addressing many of the key issues spouses would settle during a typical divorce, such as custody issues and division of assets. However, a legal separation isn’t technically a divorce. Spouses who opt for legal separations instead of divorces often do so for religious purposes.
  • Annulment: An annulment involves a court ruling that two people were never legally married to begin with. For example, a court may grant an annulment if one spouse was unable to consent to a marriage (perhaps due to limited mental abilities) or one of the spouses was too young to get married at the time that they did. That said, it’s important to understand that legal annulments are not the same as religious annulments, which must be granted by religious institutions and which don’t affect legal marriages.

How Long Does Divorce Take in Minnesota? Ask a Minnesota Divorce Lawyer

Yes, getting a divorce is often challenging, and it makes sense that you’d want to see the process through as quickly as possible. Still, you shouldn’t sacrifice more than is necessary simply to finalize a divorce in a few weeks. If you’re wondering how long does a divorce take in Minnesota, you should consider hiring a divorce lawyer in Minnesota to ensure your needs and rights are protected.

Contact a divorce lawyer from Carlson & Jones for a free consultation.

 

What Is a Custodial Parent in Minnesota?

Determining the rights and duties of two parents in family court can be a difficult experience for many understandable reasons. When two separating parents both want custody of a child, it’s natural for them to struggle with their emotions. If you’re asking what is a custodial parent in Minnesota, it may be time to educate yourself.

It’s also natural for parents going through this experience to struggle simply because they may not understand the legal definitions of some of the terms courts use in these circumstances. For example, a court in Minnesota may need to determine which parent of a child will be deemed the “custodial parent” when parents are separating or divorcing.

The best way to fully understand the meaning of terms like custodial parent is to enlist the help of a family law attorney who can explain them to you. However, this blog will cover the basics. It defines what a custodial parent is in Minnesota, what a custodial parent’s rights include, how parents may share custody of a child, and how courts decide who should be a custodial parent.

What a Custodial Parent Is

The laws defining the rights and responsibilities of a custodial parent vary from one state to another to some degree. In general, though, a custodial parent is the parent who serves as a child’s primary caregiver. Although a child may spend some of their time with another parent, for the most part, the custodial parent is the parent with whom they live.

Sometimes, a court officially names someone a custodial parent by granting them legal or physical custody over a child. However, there are also instances when someone may be considered a custodial parent because they’ve reached an informal agreement with a child’s other parent. Additionally, if there is only one parent involved in a child’s life, they would qualify as the custodial parent by default.

Defining the Two Types Child Custody in Minnesota

As the above section referenced, there are generally two types of custody a court may grant a parent in Minnesota: physical and legal. It’s important to understand the difference between the two. Many don’t realize physical custody and legal custody aren’t necessarily interchangeable terms.

Under Minnesota law, when a parent is granted physical custody of a child, they have the right to make decisions about where a child lives. They can also make basic decisions about a child’s daily routine. Thus, to serve as a custodial parent, a parent must have physical custody.

A parent who’s been granted legal custody of a child has the right to make decisions about how that child is raised. These can include decisions about a child’s education, health care, and religious upbringing. However, because a child may not spend most of their time living with a parent who has legal custody, being granted legal custody doesn’t necessarily mean one has custodial parent rights and duties.

Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody in Minnesota

A court may grant one parent sole custody over a child. When this happens, they are the only parent with a custodial parent’s legal rights and responsibilities.

However, a judge may determine that joint custody is the preferable arrangement for a child. If parents are granted joint legal custody, they both have the right to make critical decisions about how to raise a child. If they’re granted joint physical custody, a structure must be established to ensure both parents have the opportunity to make decisions about a child’s day-to-day life and routine.

It’s important to understand that, even within the same family, a judge may determine that different custody arrangements are ideal for different children. For example, they might grant sole custody of a younger child to one parent, while granting both parents joint custody of an older child.

What’s More Common: Joint Custody or Sole Custody?

Minnesota’s child custody laws are designed with the assumption that in most circumstances, it’s best for both parents to have the chance to make decisions about a child’s overall upbringing. Thus, Minnesota courts tend to grant joint legal custody to parents. 

That said, there are exceptions. For instance, if two parents aren’t able to communicate or coordinate with one another in a manner that would best serve a child’s needs, a judge might be more inclined to grant sole custody to one parent. This might be the case when domestic violence or similar factors are involved.

Sharing Custodial Parent Duties

Some parents understandably wonder how they’ll successfully make decisions about a child’s upbringing they can both agree on when a court grants joint custody. If they have differing opinions about certain issues, how can they arrive at resolutions?

To some degree, parents may need to navigate these difficulties together. However, in Minnesota, when a judge grants joint custody, they can make determinations regarding the specific types of decisions each parent can make.

For example, maybe two parents have been granted joint custody. Each wants to raise a child in their own religion. The problem is, they don’t share the same religious beliefs.

Technically, legal custody involves the right to make decisions about religious upbringing. That said, in a case like this, a judge may grant joint custody while also deciding that one parent will have the right to determine which religion a child is raised in.

Factors a Court Weighs When Determining Who Should Be a Custodial Parent

Ideally, two parents who are separating from one another will be able to come to an agreement regarding which parent a child will spend most of their time living with. Of course, it’s not uncommon for parents to be unable to agree on this issue.

A court must determine who should be assigned a custodial parent’s rights and duties when this happens. To make a decision that’s in the best interests of the child or children involved, a court must account for a variety of factors. They include the following:

What Is a Custodial Parent vs. Previous Roles

In some instances, one parent has already served as a child’s primary day-to-day caregiver. They may have been the parent most likely to cook a child’s meals, address their health and medical needs, discipline them, etc. A court may be more likely to assign the role of custodial parent to this individual.

Courts also frequently consider how long a child has lived in a particular setting when determining who should serve as a custodial parent. It might be decided that removing a child from a home they’re accustomed to and forcing them to adjust to a new living situation would not be in their best interests.

Relationship

A court may factor in the degree of intimacy in a relationship between a child and both parents when determining who should be the custodial parent. This can be difficult to evaluate, but essentially, if a child is obviously closer to one parent, the court might determine that parent should have custody.

The nature of other relationships within a family might also influence a court’s decision. Relationships with siblings, relatives who live with one parent, and other important individuals in a child’s life could play a role in an eventual decision.

A Child’s Wishes

If a court determines a child is mature enough to make their own decisions regarding who should serve as their custodial parent, this might be another factor affecting the ruling.

Usually, a court won’t consider a child able to make these types of decisions if they’re younger than 12 years of age. As always, though, there may be exceptions.

Contact and Communication Between the Custodial and Non-Custodial Parent

Except in unique circumstances (again, such as instances of abuse), the goal when assigning custodial parent rights is to ensure the non-custodial parent still has the opportunity to see their child and be involved in their life to a reasonable degree. According to Minnesota Statutes §518.175, unless a parent is abusive, neglectful, or generally is incapable of providing a child with the care they deserve, a parent is entitled to at least 25% of a child’s parenting time.

In family court, it may be clear that one parent would be more inclined to allow the other parent to visit a child often enough to satisfy the legal requirements under Minnesota law. This is yet another factor that may affect who will or will not be assigned the role of custodial parent.

Cultural Background

Parents don’t always come from the same cultures. Although this is by no means the only factor that will determine who becomes a custodial parent, a court’s decision may be at least somewhat influenced by whether a child seems to be more “at home” in the culture of one particular parent.

Custodial Parents and Child Support in Minnesota

Up until fairly recently, labels such as “sole physical custody,” “primary physical custody,” and “primary physical residence” carried a high degree of weight in Minnesota. In most cases, a custodial parent who had primary physical custody of a child was the parent who would receive child support payments from the other parent. 

That’s not necessarily the case any longer. Due to recent changes to Minnesota’s laws, courts will now consider the income of both parents when determining who should receive child support payments. They’ll also factor in the percentage of parenting time each parent will have.

How an Attorney Specializing in Family Law Minnesota Can Help

All that said, it’s important to remember that this is merely a general overview. These issues and topics are very complicated. To thoroughly understand what a custodial parent is in Minnesota, and to improve your chances of being granted custodial parent rights, strongly consider hiring a qualified family law attorney.

 

Talking Cost of Divorce in Wright County with a Divorce Lawyer in Buffalo, MN

Calculating the average cost of a divorce is a bit like calculating the average price of a house. There is a significant discrepancy, to say the least. Former Today Show host Matt Lauer recently listed his Hamptons estate for $44 million. A small house in an older section of Buffalo will cost a lot, lot less than that. So, the average price of the two means almost nothing.

Therefore, if you ask a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer a question like “How much does the average divorce cost?”, the only honest answer is “more than you expect.” Anyone who gives you a different answer is most likely inexperienced or simply telling you what you want to hear. Marriage dissolution proceedings vary so much that blanket cost estimates are basically meaningless.

Additionally, divorce costs more than just money, at least in most cases. Typically, there is a significant emotional price as well. Many people alternate between intense sadness and intense happiness. Additionally, many spouses feel a profound sense of loss. They do not mourn the loss of a spouse as much as they mourn the loss of what might have been.

An experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer knows how to minimize both these costs and put long-term solutions in place for you and your family. Furthermore, we are one of the only Minnseota family law firms that offers comprehensive flat fee billing. Based on an initial evaluation, we can calculate the complete cost of a divorce. This complete divorce includes things like marriage dissolution, property division, and financial support. Flat fee billing is also available in modifications and other family law matters.

Types of Divorce

As mentioned, the type of house usually determines its cost. A few other factors, such as location, also apply. Similarly, the type of divorce often determines the cost. A few other factors, such as the lawyer’s experience level, also apply.

Absentee Spouse

Some marriage dissolutions are marital trauma divorces. Things are going rather well until something like abuse or adultery suddenly and unexpectedly poisons the relationship. However, most marriage dissolutions are slow fade divorces. Perhaps the spouses grow apart over time. Or perhaps the marriage is a near-constant cycle of sin and forgiveness, and one spouse simply cannot forgive any longer. These marriages usually break up emotionally long before they break up legally.

So, in most cases, the spouses have been separated for several weeks, months, or even years before someone finally files a divorce petition. There is a good chance that one spouse has moved on, especially if no young children were involved.

When one spouse files, a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer usually calls the proceeding an absentee spouse marriage dissolution. Since these matters often involve little more than filing papers, the cost of divorce could be rather minimal. Most courts allow citation by publication in a newspaper or even posting on the courthouse door. There’s practically no way a respondent will see these notices. So, once a brief waiting period ends, the judge often signs a divorce decree.

Don’t be fooled. Absentee divorces are surprisingly complex. For example, the aforementioned citation must include certain magic words, must appear in the right place, and must run for the prescribed amount of time. A mistake in any area could enable the respondent to completely undo the divorce, even many years after the fact.

Agreed Divorce

These marriage dissolutions are sometimes called waiver divorces. There are no substantive questions about parenting time, child support, property division, spousal support, or anything else. The petitioner files for divorce, the respondent signs all the papers, and the judge approves everything.

If the spouses were married less than six months and they are both ready to move on, the divorce might well be agreed. In general, these matters are a bit more time-consuming than absentee spouse divorces, but they are not substantially more expensive.

Those are two pretty big “ifs.” The average marriage which ends in divorce lasts about eight years. Most people have children and/or acquire property during this period. Parenting time, property division, and other issues usually cannot be resolved with just the stroke of a pen.

Additionally, if the spouses were only married a short while, the respondent often isn’t willing to let go so quickly. There is no legal defense to uncontested divorce in Minnesota. Only one spouse must testify that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. However, respondents can and do drag things out and make the divorce more expensive, usually in the hope that the petitioner will give up.

Uncontested Divorce

Most marriage dissolutions fall into this category. Neither spouse wants a protracted legal battle. But at the same time, neither spouse wants to go gentle into that good night.

We touched on some common divorce issues above. In an uncontested divorce, one or more of these issues might require dvorce mediation, which is outlined below. For now, let’s look at some common uncontested divorce issues more closely.

  • Parenting Time: There is a presumption that children benefit from consistent and meaningful contact with both parents. Parents frequently disagree as to what words like “consistent and meaningful” mean in a given context. Other parents disagree about the residential/non-residential designation.
  • Child Support: Frequently, the guidelines provide the support obligation. But judges can ignore the guidelines in some situations. Furthermore, some parents try to hide income or assets from their spouses in order to reduce their financial obligations.
  • Spousal Support: The same issues regarding asset or income-concealment apply here. Moreover, Minnesota laws are rather subjective in this area. The amount and duration of payments depends on a number of factors, such as the length of the marriage and the relative earning ability of the spouses.
  • Property Division: Roughly these same subjective factors apply to the division of debt and assets. About the only guidance is that Minnesota is an equitable distribution state. The divorce cannot be an unfair financial burden on either party. 

Uncontested divorces usually begin and end in much the same way as agreed divorces. The intermediate process could take several months or even several years. The length of that process, and the complexity of the issues, usually determines the cost of an uncontested divorce.

Contested Divorce

Only a handful of matters are contested divorces. Many Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers only handle two or three every eight or ten years.

Some people want or need the emotional closure that a divorce trial often uniquely offers. Other people want or need a judicial declaration that the breakup of the marriage was the other spouse’s fault. Still other times, the parties are so far apart on one or more of the aforementioned issues that they cannot possibly work out a settlement, even with a mediator’s help.

The judge’s rulings are pretty much final in these situations. Appeals are possible, but usually only successful if the judge abused his/her discretion or made an extremely serious error.

Reducing the Financial Cost of Divorce

Sometimes, attorneys have little or no control over the financial cost of divorce. If the adverse party agrees on most issues, the cost is generally lower. On the opposite end of the scale, if the adverse party bitterly contests every decision or throws up roadblocks, the cost could skyrocket.

We touched on asset concealment above. This problem is one of the most common cost-increasing factors in a Wright County divorce.

People try lots of different things to hide money. Common schemes include voluntarily increasing wage withholding to make their paychecks look smaller, moving assets to LLCs or other entities, and “transferring” items or accounts to friends or family members. These plans always unravel eventually, but many times, a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer must work hard to make the house of cards fall.

This work usually happens during divorce discovery. The law requires both parties to put all their cards, including financial records, on the table. To get the right answers, a lawyer must simply know the right questions to ask, or rather the right requests to make. If disputes arise over what must be produced and when, a judge usually resolves these matters.

Other times, however, attorneys have considerable control over divorce costs. Mediation is one of the best ways to reduce legal fees. The Department of Justice estimates that mediation and other alternative dispute resolution options saved litigants about $15 million in 2017.

Generally, it takes less time to prepare for mediation than trial. Mediation usually only lasts a full day or perhaps even a half day. There are no witnesses to question or cross-examine, no legal motions to argue, and no lengthy arguments to present. A trial, on the other hand, could last several days and include all these things.

Furthermore, mediation resolves divorce cases faster than trials. The DOJ also estimated that meditation reduced litigation time by a collective 13,886 days in 2017. Since time is money to clients and Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers, the faster the case is over, the lower the cost will be.

How Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers Reduce the Emotional Cost of Divorce

As outlined above, mediation could significantly lower the financial cost of marriage dissolution. Mediation usually reduces the emotional cost of divorce as well.

Trials are almost always public record. All the court filings are public, and anyone can attend the proceeding. Especially if marital fault is an issue in the divorce or the property division, such scrutiny can be truly awful.

Mediation, on the other hand, is private. Mediation usually takes place in an office building instead of a courthouse. Furthermore, only the parties know the date, time, and location. The only public document is a brief mediation report, which simply states that the case either settled or did not settle.

Additionally, mediation increases civility. The parties spend most of the time in separate rooms. They only interact with the mediator, who uses shuttle diplomacy to try and facilitate a settlement. On a related note, mediation is also empowering. When future disputes arise, and they always do, the parties often try to talk them out before they rush to hire Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers.

Trials, on the other hand, are emotional showdowns. These events are great theater for TV and movies, but they are often very hard on families.

On a final note, mediation increases control. The parties make important decisions instead of a Wright County family law judge. This added control is especially important if one or both parties have problems accepting authority.

Collaborative Law

So far, we’ve looked at litigation divorces. Litigation divorces often do not involve trials. In fact, over 90 percent of these matters settle out of court. But there is usually at least one court hearing. 

For example, at the temporary hearing, the judge sets ground rules for the divorce proceeding, including protective orders as needed. The judge also orders temporary financial support and a temporary parenting time division.

Technically, these orders expire when the judge finalizes the divorce. However, there’s an inertia factor. If the temporary orders work, even if they are not perfect, most judges hesitate to change them.

Collaborative law is a non-litigation divorce. As such, it often has very different emotional and financial costs. Litigation divorces usually begin when one spouse files a marriage dissolution petition. Collaborative law divorces begin when both parties submit a joint collaborative law declaration. That’s usually the only court filing in the case.

There are no court hearings, mediation sessions, or discovery motions in a collaborative law divorce. Instead, the parties meet privately about once a month to discuss the aforementioned divorce issues. If outside help is required, like a child psychologist or real estate agent, the parties usually split the costs. Many collaborative divorces are resolved after about six or eight meetings.

If things go wrong and the parties cannot reach an agreement, they must start over with new Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers. This rule helps ensure that the parties are fully committed to the process.

This alternative is an excellent choice in some situations. Obviously, however, it’s not for everybody.

Rely on a Dedicated Divorce Attorney in Buffalo, MN

There are a number of ways to reduce the emotional and/or financial costs of divorce. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

 

This article was originally published on July 2. 2019 and updated on June 29, 2021.

How Much Does Divorce Cost in Minnesota?

The average divorce cost in Minnesota is around $7,500 but can range anywhere from $3,000 to up to $100,000. Determining how much does a divorce cost in Minnesota depends on multiple factors, including the type of divorce attorney you hire.

What else affects the cost of divorce? And how can you make sure your divorce is as affordable as possible? We’re answering these questions and more in this guide, so keep reading. 

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Minnesota with Fixed Fees?

There are several fixed fees you’re required to pay when filing for divorce in Minnesota. These fees are court-mandated, meaning there’s typically no way to get around or reduce them. But you can control some other divorce costs. 

Learn about fixed and variable divorce fees in Minnesota and tips on how to file for divorce affordably below.

Court Filing Fees

Minnesota courts charge a fee to file for divorce. Dissolving a marriage with or without children costs $365. There’s an additional $10 fee for the forms you and your former spouse need to fill out to make your divorce official.

Judges will waive filing fees in some rare cases. Usually, you only get a waiver if you can prove to the court that you cannot afford the fee. 

Serving Fees

In Minnesota, the law requires hand delivery of divorce papers. But the state explicitly forbids the spouse seeking the divorce from serving the documents himself or herself. Instead, you must hire someone to serve divorce papers for you.

There are two parties legally allowed to serve documents in Minnesota: your local Sheriff or a process server. Sheriffs’ civil processing fees vary by county. For example, the Sheriff in Ramsey County charges $70 per service while the Hennepin County Sheriff charges $80 to serve divorce papers.

The average cost of a professional process server is $53.99. However, Minnesota law defines a process server as a person aged 18 years or older who isn’t “party to the action.” In other words, your server can technically be any adult as long as that adult isn’t you, your former spouse, or anyone else named in the divorce proceedings.

Motion Filing Fees

In some cases, you or your spouse may need to file a motion before or during divorce proceedings. Motions request that the judge make a decision about a limited matter before the start of a trial. For example, if you fear injury from your former spouse, you may request a motion for a temporary restraining order. 

Filing a motion before or during divorce proceedings will usually cost $50–$75. It’s free to file a domestic abuse/harassment motion in Minnesota. If you have to respond to a motion (i.e., if your spouse files one against you), you’ll also have to pay $50–$75. 

Third-Party Fees

Complicated divorces may require a third-party service. 

This is often the case when there are a significant number of high-value assets on the line. To ensure the equitable division of your marital property, you and your spouse may need a third-party appriasal of your property. According to bankrate.com, one single-family home appraisal costs $300–$450. The actual cost to appraise your assets will depend on their size, value, and condition.

It’s also common to hire child custody evaluators when children are involved in a divorce. The custody evaluator will conduct interviews with the child and each parent to determine what’s best for the minor. Fees for custody evaluations vary. But expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 to over $15,000. 

Mediation Expert Fees

If you’ve ever researched how to get a divorce, you may know that divorces don’t always require attorneys. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) may be an option if you and your spouse are willing to work together. 

During ADR, a mediator will help you and your spouse decide the terms of your divorce. Mediation experts are neutral parties that work for both spouses, meaning you can split the cost. A mediator could be a lawyer or another type of mediation professional.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mediators make a median pay of $30 per hour. Hiring an attorney to be your mediator can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 per hour. Yet, the cost is often worth it since the more experienced the mediator, the faster you and your spouse can come to an agreement, and the less you’ll pay in the end.

Attorney Fees

You and your spouse can finalize your divorce outside of court and for much less money if you both amicably agree on the terms. But when spouses can’t compromise, a Minnesota court will make decisions about the issue(s) for you. This is where a divorce attorney comes in.

Attorney fees are typically the highest cost during a divorce. The average US divorce attorney charges $250 per hour. This is only an average, meaning some attorneys charge more and others charge less. In Minnesota, the average attorney’s hourly fee ranges from $215–$255 depending on a few factors. 

The Location Factor

The first factor is location. City lawyers are almost always pricier per hour than rural ones. This increased rate comes partly from the fact that urban lawyers receive greater demand for their services. 

The current rural lawyer shortage has also spurred many firms to get creative with rates. Some law firms now provide flat fee services, which allows you to only pay for the divorce services you need. So, the first way to reduce divorce attorney costs is to seek out a firm offering flat fee services.

Your Minnesota Divorce Lawyer’s Expertise is a Factor

Another factor that impacts attorney rates is expertise. Young, inexperienced lawyers for divorce know they can’t compete against their tenured counterparts. So, they charge a lower hourly rate to attract business. The same thing goes for attorneys who have low success rates.

In addition to rates, you have to consider hours logged. Uncontested divorces where you and your spouse work out the terms of your divorce are always cheaper. Why? Because they’re quicker. Conversely, if you and your spouse need multiple trials to resolve disputes, your attorney will log more hours, and your final bill will be higher. 

Factors Affecting Divorce Attorney Costs

By now, you may be wondering: what if you can’t afford the cost of an attorney? Should you represent yourself in a divorce? Technically, you don’t need an attorney to get a divorce in Minnesota. But if you do choose self-representation, the judge will expect you to follow court and local laws. 

If you don’t want to represent yourself, there’s good news. You can cut divorce attorney fees by choosing an experienced lawyer with a reasonable hourly rate, working with your spouse to reduce the number of disputes needing resolution, or both. Here’s how.

The Type of Attorney You Hire

You may think hiring an inexperienced divorce lawyer will save you money. But because the attorney has less expertise, he or she will be less prepared to respond to complications in the case should they arise. 

Worse, these lawyers may try to aggravate disputes just to make an extra buck. That’s why it’s always wiser to choose a reputable lawyer with divorce expertise, even if he or she has a higher hourly rate.

Good attorneys never increase conflict in your case just to pad their paychecks. An experienced divorce attorney knows how to handle complex matters and can speed up the process, logging fewer hours in the long run. That way, you’ll pay less for the total cost of representation. 

The Complexity of Your Divorce 

Complicated divorces are always more expensive. You’ll have to go to trial for each dispute you and your spouse can’t decide on your own. And the longer you spend in court, the higher your final divorce attorney bill will be. The most commons disputes during divorces include:

  • Child Custody: when you and your spouse can’t agree on how you will or will not share custody of your children
  • Child Support: when you and your spouse can’t agree on whether or how much child support should be paid
  • Division of Assets: when you and your spouse can’t agree on how you should divide your marital property (i.e., assets purchased during the marriage)
  • Division of Liabilities: when you and your spouse can’t agree on how you should divvy up marital debts (i.e., liabilities acquired during the marriage)
  • Spousal Maintenance: when you and your spouse can’t agree on how much and for how long alimony will be paid to the lesser-earning spouse 

It’s understandable if you and your spouse have trouble agreeing on these crucial issues. However, resolving as many of these problems as possible outside of court can significantly reduce your attorney fees.

Looking for the Best Divorce Attorney in Minnesota?

When considering the divorce cost in Minnesota, you have to factor in court and attorney fees. You can’t control the fees courts require to file a divorce. But you can reduce the total cost of legal representation by compromising with your spouse or, when you can’t, by choosing an experienced attorney who knows how to fight for your rights.

Ready to learn how Carlson & Jones P.A. can help you afford the cost of divorce? Contact us for a free consultation with our Minnesota divorce attorney. 

How Your Jail Release in Minnesota Helps and Impacts Your Case

After more than fifty years, it appears that public support for America’s war on drugs is faltering. A growing number of Wright County jurors see illicit drugs as a health and safety issue, as opposed to a criminal law issue. So, outcomes for a Buffalo MN drug crime lawyer in these cases are changing, particularly in simple possession matters.

Court and Government Response to Drug Crimes in the U.S.

Nevertheless, prosecutors are still very aggressive in this area, especially regarding possession cases. In the 1980s, when the War on Drugs was just heating up, drug arrests were evenly split between possession and distribution matters. Today, simple possession cases make up over 80 percent of all drug arrests. 

Apropos of nothing, the law enforcement climate changed in the early 80s mostly because of Len Bias’ death. According to many, this basketball phenom was as good as Michael Jordan, or maybe better. If you see this kid’s highlight reel, it’s hard to disagree with either assertion. A few hours after the Boston Celtics chose Bias in the first round, he did a line of cocaine at a party, laid down, and died. 

In response, Congress passed a number of laws which, in retrospect, were overly strict. These laws included the controversial mandatory minimum sentencing requirement. A trace amount of cocaine meant a long prison sentence, regardless of the facts. Several decades later, President Barack Obama issued over 1,700 pardons, most of them for harsh drug crime sentences from the late 20th century.

The aforementioned environmental changes (public health v. public safety) give Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyers an even better opportunity to successfully resolve drug possession cases in Wright County. While every matter is different, most follow the same general outline.

Get Out of Jail (Almost) Free in Buffalo MN

A new day is also dawning in terms of jail release, which is always the first priority in a criminal case. The changed political and social climate is a good sign, but pretrial detention creates multiple serious problems for Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyers and their clients. 

Economic Impact of Drug Charges in Buffalo MN

Even a few days behind bars could have an unbelievable economic impact on a Minnesota family. Most people lose their jobs and/or businesses in these situations. Without any way to provide for their families, these individuals often become increasingly desperate. 

The strain on emotional relationships could be even worse than the strain on professional relationships. 

Emotion Impact of Drug Charges in Buffalo MN

Furthermore, incarceration can cause brain injury, which is colloquially known as the “jailhouse blues.” Incarceration triggers the fight-or-flight instinct. People who are behind bars have neither option. So, their stress hormone levels go through the roof. Continued exposure to such hormones alters brain chemistry. Many people know someone who was not the same person when s/he got out of jail as s/he was before. That’s because, from a brain biology standpoint, the person is different.

Perhaps most importantly, many jurors assume if the defendant is in jail, the defendant must have done something wrong. At that point, the drug possession case becomes a criminal law violation which merits punishment, as far as the jury is concerned. In other words, especially in these cases, pretrial detention transforms the presumption of innocence into a presumption of guilt.

Release on Your Own Recognizance in Buffalo MN

OR (Own Recognizance) release is often an option in nonviolent cases, such as drug possession. Essentially, the defendant promises to appear at trial, and the sheriff releases the defendant. This form of pretrial release has gained significant traction in recent years, as critics have harped on the cash bail system. These critics note that most inmates in county jails are unsentenced. They are simply waiting for trial because they cannot afford bail.

That commonly-cited statistic might be misleading. Many of the incarcerated people have already made bail and are just waiting on their paperwork to clear. Indeed, a number of these individuals probably voluntarily surrendered and are booking in and booking out. They might never make it past the waiting room. Furthermore, a pure OR release program gives judges no discretion in this area. Semi-violent offenders, like stalkers, are right back out on the street, regardless of the facts.

So, complete bail reform, which several states have tried, is pretty much a bust. In New York, the pure OR system lasted less than a year.

Nevertheless, OR is a good option in many cases. The procedure varies slightly in different jurisdictions. Generally, a review board considers the charged offense and the defendant’s criminal record, then gives a thumbs up or thumbs down.

Although there is no formal hearing, a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer can usually advocate for defendants before review boards, at least informally. This advocacy could be the difference between OR release and a money-based release option.

Traditional Jail Release Options

Cash bail, or a bail bond, is still available in Wright County. Typically, and forgive us if we sound like a broken record, the sheriff sets a presumptive bail amount based on the defendant’s criminal history, if any, and the severity of the offense. The presumptive amount is usually around $700 for most misdemeanors and $1,500 for most felonies. The exact amount varies significantly, mostly according to the facts of the case.

Bail Per Charge in Buffalo MN

Also, bail is usually per charge as opposed to per arrest. So, if Dexter faces three felony charges, his bail will probably be a minimum of $4,500. Due to the facts of the case, it will probably be a lot higher than that. Indeed, the sheriff might not even set a presumptive amount in such cases. More on that below.

Cash Bail in Buffalo MN

Financially, cash bail is like a rental property security deposit. If the defendant fulfills all bail conditions, the county refunds most of the cash bail money. In addition to appearing at trial, some other common pretrial release conditions include reporting to a bail bond agent, remaining in the county, and avoiding any further legal trouble.

The cash bail system has been around for thousands of years. Most people value their money above all else. The prospect of losing it is usually sufficient to convince people to toe the line, at least temporarily. The obvious problem with this system is that, for many people, $4,500 might as well be $45 million.

Bail “Bond” in Buffalo MN

So, a bail bond is usually available. Essentially, a bond is an insurance policy. If your car is damaged, your auto insurance company assumes the financial risk. Similarly, if a defendant fails to meet all bond conditions and the judge revokes it, the bail bond company assumes the financial risk. Most bail bonds companies charge about a 15 percent premium to issue these insurance policies.

Bail Revocation in Buffalo MN

Speaking of bail revocation, if the judge revokes your bond, a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer can help you turn yourself in, as outlined above. Usually, a lawyer has all the ducks in a row, including a new bond. This alternative is much better than having a warrant pop up during a random traffic stop.

In serious cases, such as drug trafficking or felony drug possession cases, cash bail or a bail bond might not be an immediate option. Either the sheriff doesn’t set an amount or the amount is so high that the defendant cannot possibly pay it. A Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer can set or reduce bail at the arraignment, which usually happens about three days after the arrest.

Initial determinations are usually limited to criminal record and nature of the offense. At the arraignment, the judge considers a number of other factors, such as the defendant’s:

  • Links to the community,
  • Ability to skip bail,
  • Threat to individual witnesses or victims,
  • Ability to pay, and
  • Willingness to abide by conditions.

Attorneys usually settle these matters out of court. For example, the prosecutor might agree to reduce the bail amount if the defendant agrees to electronic monitoring.

Procedural Defenses for Drug Crimes in Buffalo MN

Jail release gives a defense attorney a head start. Pretrial release does more than eliminate the presumption of guilt. Release also allows defendants and Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyers to work together as partners. However, there is still a long race to run.

To seal the deal, the case must usually involve a legal defense. A defense gives the jury the legal opportunity to acquit a defendant. So, the better the defense, the riskier trial becomes. That risk increases a Wright County prosecutor’s willingness to deal.

What the 4th Amendment Means

Many drug possession cases involve a procedural defense. Under the Fourth Amendment, officers either need a search warrant or probable cause before they can seize evidence of a crime, including contraband substances. If a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer excludes the evidence, the state’s case normally collapses like a house of cards. An officer’s testimony that the defendant had drugs is insufficient.

Search Warrants in Buffalo MN

Most drug trafficking cases involve search warrants. Typically, several agencies work together on these arrests, which culminate with a search warrant. Frequently, officers depend, at least in large part, on a confidential informant’s testimony. CIs receive money or leniency in exchange for such testimony. Therefore, a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer can often successfully challenge drug trafficking search warrants. Many people will say nearly anything for love or money.

Probable Cause Exception

But most drug possession cases don’t involve search warrants. Events happen too quickly. Therefore, the prosecutor must rely on the probable cause exception. Over the years, courts have created a few specific doctrines, such as:

  • Consent: Owners may allow officers to search their property, such as a house or a wallet. Consent is an affirmative, voluntary act. There’s a big difference between assent and consent. Furthermore, if officers threatened to get a warrant if the defendant didn’t agree to the search, that consent is arguably involuntary.
  • Plain View: This exception frequently comes up in vehicle possession cases. If officers see contraband in plain view, like a bottle of prescription painkillers, they may seize it without a warrant. This right is only available if the officer was lawfully in that place at that time. So, reasonable suspicion for the stop, or lack thereof, could be an issue.
  • Stop and Frisk: The reasonable suspicion rule also applies in these stops. Reasonable suspicion means specific, articulable facts which point to criminal activity. In this case, that criminal activity must be illegal weapon possession. During this pat-down, officers can seize any other contraband they see, or rather feel, in plain view, or rather plain touch.

Other Constitutional rights sometimes come into play. Cell phones are a good example. The Supreme Court has ruled that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in all content past the home screen. If officers want to read your text messages or take other such actions, they must either get a warrant or obtain owner consent.

Stingray Devices in Buffalo MN

Incidentally, some Minnesota law enforcement agencies have Stingray devices. These sophisticated gadgets, which are also known as IMSI catchers or cell site simulators, send false signals which trick cell phones into connecting with a fake tower, allowing police to track the owner’s movements. Some Stingrays can read your text messages, call records, Internet search history, and even tap into your phone calls.

Needless to say, these devices are quite controversial, so law enforcement agencies keep their mouths shut about the specifics of the gadgets they own.

Substantive Drug Possession Defenses

The legal definition of possession offers a defense in many cases. Proximity to the drugs, by itself, is not enough. The state must also prove the following elements:

  • Control: Theoretical possession is not enough. Prosecutors must establish that the defendant exercised control over the drugs. The drugs must not have been in a locked container, like a glove compartment, and must not have been in someone else’s possession, such as a joint passed around at a party.
  • Knowledge: This element must be more than theoretical as well. A defendant must know more than “something illegal” is in a bag. As a matter of fact, the defendant can literally be sitting on a stash of drugs, and not possess the stash for legal purposes.

At trial, the prosecutor must establish all elements of possession, and all the other elements of the offense, beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the highest standard of proof in Minnesota law.

What is Deferred Disposition in Buffalo MN?

Normally, a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer files a pretrial motion in disputed possession matters. If the judge rules favorably, the judge will throw the prosecution out of court.

If the defense is strong enough, many prosecutors offer good deals before that hearing. They do not want to risk losing everything because of an adverse judicial ruling. Deferred disposition is usually available in drug possession cases.

Prosecutorial deferred disposition is like pretrial diversion. If the defendant successfully completes program requirements, the prosecutor dismisses the case. Judicial deferred disposition is like probation. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the case.

Both these outcomes have significant advantages, but there are significant risks as well. So, before you accept one, review the situation thoroughly with an experienced Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer.

Connect with a Buffalo MN Drug Crime Lawyer

Most drug possession cases have a relatively happy ending. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

 

 

This original article was published July 17, 2019 and updated June 3, 2021.

What Kind of DWI Defense Will a Lawyer Provide in Hutchinson?

In criminal court, McLeod County prosecutors must establish every element beyond a reasonable doubt for DWI defense. Under Minnesota law, a “reasonable doubt” is anything beyond “a fanciful or capricious doubt.” For example, the defendant’s doppelganger might have committed a crime, but that argument is capricious and fanciful. Instead, the doubt must be based on “reason and common sense.”

The “reason and common sense” line, which many states use, does little to adequately explain this rather difficult concept. Indeed, one court remarked that this description is like saying a white horse is a horse than is white.

In many ways, the debate over the precise meaning of this phrase is beside the point. The bottom line is that a Hutchinson DWI lawyer need not “prove” anything. Creating a reasonable doubt is enough. If even one juror has such a doubt, the defendant is not guilty as a matter of law. Furthermore, if the state’s evidence is weak, many prosecutors are willing to reduce charges to something like reckless driving. This offense is also a misdemeanor, but it does not have the same collateral consequences as DWI.

Possible Penalties of DWI in Hutchinson MN

Before we look at some types of DWI defense, let’s examine what is at stake in a DWI prosecution. Precise penalties vary, mostly depending on the defendant’s criminal record and the facts of the case. But the Big Three are always court supervision, aggravated circumstances, and driving privileges.

Typically, court supervision does not mean incarceration, unless the defendant has two or more prior DWIs. Court supervision, or probation, usually lasts around a year. During this time, defendants must comply with numerous conditions. The biggest ones are usually:

  • Reporting Regularly: Generally, probationers must personally report to probation officers at least once a month. These appointments are not like doctors’ appointments. Defendants cannot decide when to meet their probation officers and they cannot cancel if their kids get sick.
  • Avoiding Additional Legal Problems: Violation of this condition prompts most of the motions to revoke probation that Hutchinson DWI lawyers deal with. Anything more serious than a speeding ticket could mean jail time. 
  • Obeying Court Orders: Probation usually involves paying a fine, performing community service, and jumping through other hoops. Usually, only a steadfast and stubborn refusal to comply triggers a motion to revoke probation.

If the judge finds that the allegations in the motion to revoke probation are true, one of several things could happen. The judge could cancel probation and send the defendant to jail. More than likely, however, a motion to revoke usually means a longer period of probation or a few days in jail as a condition of reinstatement.

Aggravating circumstances in a DWI include prior drunk driving convictions, open container of alcohol in the passenger area, a child passenger under 16, and a collision. McLeod County prosecutors are notoriously aggressive in this area. If there is a hint that aggravated DWI charges might hold up in court, prosecutors usually tack on additional charges.

Refusal to provide a chemical sample is another example of an aggravating circumstance. You have the right to refuse to provide a sample, but this right is not free. The refusal is admissible in court. Most jurors assume people refuse because they have something to hide. A good Hutchinson DWI lawyer can blunt that presumption. For example, some people refuse because they are nervous or don’t trust government tests.

Refusal also impacts driving privileges. DWI usually means drivers’ license suspension, or at least drivers’ license limitation. The possibilities in this area are more severe in refusal cases.

The Venue Defense in Hutchinson DWI Cases

In the movies and TV shows, fleeing suspects often say something like “If we cross the state line, the police cannot touch us.” That’s not entirely true, but it is partially accurate, because of the venue rule.

Venue is Legalese for the jurisdiction where the state brings criminal charges. McLeod County prosecutors only have authority over crimes which occur in McLeod County. The boundary lines are not always easy to determine. For example, Cedar Mills is partially in Meeker County and partially in McLeod County. 

Things get really confusing when officers spot DWI suspects in one county and pull them over in another county. Technically, the state could bring charges in either county. But there are territoriality issues. To return to the previous example, the Meeker County Sheriff’s office usually does not want to send its deputies all the way to Hutchinson to testify in someone else’s criminal case.

Venue mistakes often give attorneys the leverage they need to successfully mount a DWI defense. If bureaucrats file charges in the wrong county, the judge must dismiss the case. Prosecutors can refile the charges in another county, but many times, they will agree to a favorable plea bargain rather than go to all that trouble. Furthermore, the delay benefits a Hutchinson DWI lawyer. Over time, memories fade and physical evidence disappears.

Lack of Reasonable Suspicion for the DWI Stop

Venue is a procedural DWI defense, as is lack of reasonable suspicion and lack of probable cause for the arrest. Prosecutors can work around the venue defense, if they are so inclined, but they cannot work around the next two procedural defenses. Lawyers cannot turn back the clock and erase police officer mistakes in these areas.

In 2020 and 2021, there were some high-profile police stops in Minnesota which involved little evidence of wrongdoing. Some people even claimed these stops were pretext detentions. They contend that officers essentially detained these individuals because they didn’t look right.

Legally, such stops almost always hold up in court. Officers only need reasonable suspicion, which is essentially an evidence-based hunch. Furthermore, the stop’s purpose is illegal. Usually, when officers pull over DWI suspects, they care almost nothing about the expired sticker or other infraction which prompted the stop. But the stop is still legal.

Because of this low standard of evidence, it’s very difficult for a Hutchinson DWI lawyer to invalidate a stop. Probable cause for the arrest, however, is a different story.

Preliminary Evidence of Impairment in Hutchinson

Technically, this intermediate step is not a procedural DWI defense. Officers do not need evidence of impairment to go to the next step. Such evidence usually includes:

  • An unwise answer to the dreaded “Have you been drinking” question, or
  • Physical symptoms, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, slow reflexes, or unsteady balance.

However, this step is important for many jurors. If an officer pulls over a defendant and immediately assumes s/he is probably drunk, some jurors smell something fishy. That’s especially true if the officer had staked out a bar or was actively looking for DWIs as part of a concerted enforcement effort.

Once upon a time, efforts to erode police officer credibility in this way rarely worked and usually backfired. Most people highly esteemed police officers. Cops got free pancakes at Denny’s. Now, officers pay for their own pancakes. So, more jurors are willing to consider an argument that the officer railroaded the defendant. Public confidence in law enforcement officers recently hit an all-time low.

Probable Cause for the Arrest

This area is mandatory. Police must have probable cause to arrest suspects. In most cases, “probable cause” is an even more vague standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. But in the DWI context, the law is more certain.

Officers usually have probable cause to arrest suspects if they perform poorly on the field sobriety tests. In Minnesota, there are four such tests:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: For the DWI eye test, suspects must track moving objects with their eyes without moving their heads. This test reliably reveals nystagmus, a condition also known as lazy eye. The problem is that intoxication is not the only cause of nystagmus. In fact, it’s not even the leading cause of it.
  • Walk and Turn: Suspects must walk a straight line heel to toe forwards and backwards. This test is very difficult to successfully perform if the suspect is wearing anything other than athletic shoes. Furthermore, it’s much harder to walk an imaginary line than an actual line.
  • One-Leg Stand: People with any mobility impairment whatsoever usually cannot possibly stand on one foot for fifteen or twenty seconds. Additionally, officers usually have suspects perform this test near the end, when they are physically and mentally fatigued.
  • Portable Breathalyzer: This gadget’s specific flaws, or at least some of them, are discussed below. For now, we’ll just say that the portable Breathalyzers police officers carry are even more inaccurate than the bigger ones at the police station.

Officers always swear that the defendant “failed” these tests, even if the failure was a technicality, like taking too many heel-to-toe steps. Since the standard of evidence is so low, most McLeod County judges take officers at their word. The field sobriety test flaws are more important at trial. Jurors decide for themselves, based on the evidence and not based on a police officer’s opinion, whether defendants passed or failed the tests.

However, sometimes this evidence is unavailable. People sometimes assert their Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to perform these tests. Other times, hurried officers skip right to the good part and immediately cuff the defendant.

In these situations, prosecutors must rely on the reasonable suspicion evidence, such as bloodshot eyes, mentioned above. This evidence usually proves consumption. But it does little or nothing to prove intoxication.

Non-Intoxication DWI Defense in Hutchinson, MN

Not all cases involve procedural defenses, but many do. So, a Hutchinson DWI lawyer must pay close attention to the details. This same diligence is necessary with regard to non-intoxication defenses. Frequently, intoxication is the only issue in a DWI trial, but this offense has other elements as well. Prosecutors must prove all elements of the offense, and not just one of them, beyond a reasonable doubt. Some possible non-intoxication DWI defenses include:

  • Public Place: It is not illegal to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated if the vehicle was on private property at the time. Shopping mall parking lots are not public places, even if they have street names and traffic control signals. The space in front of a private dwelling, like the curb next to a driveway, is in a grey area.
  • “Wheeling” the Defendant: This defense often comes up in DWI-collision cases. Generally, when officers arrive on the scene, the defendant has exited the vehicle. Therefore, officers cannot testify that the defendant was driving. To prove this point, prosecutors must call another witness. Such a witness may or may not be available.
  • Operating the Vehicle: On a related note, the defendant must have been operating the vehicle at the time. Legally, a person sitting in a motionless car is usually operating the vehicle, even if the person is asleep or unconscious. That’s assuming the vehicle was driveable at the time.

How does reasonable doubt work in these defenses? Public place arguments are usually all or nothing. But the other two are more subjective. If a vehicle had more than one occupant, it’s very difficult to conclusively prove who was driving the car. Or, if a prosecutor fails to prove the car had gas and was in good working order, the state has arguably not established the “operating” element.

Intoxication Defenses in Hutchinson, MN

Even if these two areas are not issues in a DWI case, intoxication, or lack thereof, is usually a question. Scientifically, alcohol blood tests are much more accurate than breath tests. But in 2016’s Birchfield v. North Dakota, the Supreme Court ruled that officers needed search warrants to perform blood draws. So, officers normally rely on flawed Breathalyzer tests. Some specific issues include:

  • Ketone Levels: Diabetics, smokers, and some other people have elevated ketone levels in their bodies. These particles basically transform sugar into energy. Breathalyzers register ketone particles as ethanol. So, the BAC estimate might be artificially high. In borderline cases, like a .08 or .09, jurors could easily have a reasonable doubt as to the result’s accuracy.
  • Mouth Alcohol: If the defendant burped or vomited prior to the test, ethanol particles from the stomach flood the mouth and skew the test result. Many officers do not watch defendants prior to the test, so there’s no way of knowing if mouth alcohol contributed to the result.
  • Recent Consumption: On a similar note, alcohol does not pass from the stomach to the blood. Instead, it goes from the stomach to the liver and then to the blood. So, if the defendant had anything to drink in the preceding hour, that alcohol has not yet entered the bloodstream.

To drive home these flaws with the jury, many Hutchinson DWI lawyers point out that the modern Breathalyzer is essentially the same gadget as the 1920s Drunk-O-Meter.

Connect with an Experienced Hutchinson DWI Lawyer

Attention to detail is often the key to creating reasonable doubt. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson DWI lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.

 

 

This article was originally published on Feb 21, 2020 and updated on June 01, 2021.

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

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

Accident or Negligence in Buffalo, MN?

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

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

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

Evaluating a Claim

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

Factual Investigation

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

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

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

Additional Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Determining the Settlement Value

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

Economic Losses

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

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

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

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

The Car Injury Settlement Process in Buffalo, MN

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

Demand Letter in Buffalo, MN

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

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

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

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

The Question of Liability in Buffalo, MN

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

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

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

Endgame When Negotiating a Settlement in Buffalo, MN

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

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

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

Attorney Fee Arrangements in Buffalo

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

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

If You Are Referred to Mediation by a Judge in Buffalo

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

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

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

Connect with an Experienced Wright County Attorney

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

What to Do After a Car Crash in Buffalo, MN

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

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

DO Go to the Doctor in Buffalo, MN

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

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

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

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

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

DON’T Fake Your Injuries in Buffalo, MN

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

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

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

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

DON’T Say “I’m Sorry”

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

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

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

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

DON’T Talk to the Other Insurance Company

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

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

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

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

DO Collect Evidence from the Scene of Your Collison

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

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

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

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

DO File a Voluntary Report in Buffalo, MN

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

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

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

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

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

DON’T Say Too Much on Social Media

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

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

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

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

Reach Out to an Experienced Buffalo, MN Auto Accident Lawyer

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

 

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


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Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (320) 289-4761
Fax: 763-682-3330

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Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (952) 260-9640
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions