A Brainerd, MN DWI Lawyer Looks at Some Possible Defenses

Alcohol-involved wrecks usually have both civil and criminal consequences for Minnesota drivers. In civil court, victims must only establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence. That’s the lowest standard of proof in Minnesota. But in criminal court, prosecutors must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the highest standard of proof in Minnesota.

Essentially, the state’s evidence must be so overwhelming that it not only overcomes the presumption of innocence. The proof must also firmly convince jurors that the defendant is guilty. Maybe or probably guilty is not good enough.

Because the burden of proof is so high, a Brainerd, MN DWI lawyer has several options in terms of a successful defense. The result of this approach could be a complete dismissal of charges, a not-guilty verdict at trial, or a plea to a lesser included offense.

Procedural Issues

Most DWI arrests begin with traffic stops. Typically, officers can pull over motorists based on little more than a hunch. In a 2015 Iowa case, a federal judge ruled that officers could pull over a motorist for traveling 1mph over the speed limit, even though the speeding stop was just a pretext and the officers knew the charges would not hold up in court.

Sometimes, however, even this tiny bit of proof is unavailable in a DWI case. Informer tips are a good example. Frequently, these tips are so vague (blue sedan eastbound on Highway 210) that they have no value in court whatsoever.

If the stop was illegal, then the arrest was illegal as well, under the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. It does not matter if the driver was passed-out drunk behind the wheel.

Minnesota law enforcement officers also periodically set up DWI checkpoints. These roadblocks often appear around the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, and other holidays associated with drinking and driving. 

Officers do not need evidence of wrongdoing to pull over motorists at checkpoints. However, these roadblocks must meet rigid requirements. If they fall short, a Brainerd, MN DWI lawyer can invalidate the checkpoint and therefore invalidate the arrest.

Brainerd, MN DWI Lawyers and Intoxication Defenses

After they are pulled over, about 80 percent of defendants provide a chemical breath or blood sample. If the sample shows the defendant’s BAC was above the legal limit, the defendant is guilty as a matter of law.

Chemical tests are not always accurate. For example, if a defendant burped, vomited, or belched in the fifteen minutes prior to a Breathalyzer test, alcohol particles from the stomach gush into the mouth. As a result, the Brethalyzer’s BAC estimate might be artificially high.

Furthermore, chemical tests are not always admissible. If the Breathalyzer had not been calibrated properly or recently, any results might be legally inadmissible.

In the remaining 20 percent of DWI cases, prosecutors must use circumstantial evidence to prove intoxication. Such evidence usually comes from the four approved field sobriety tests, which are:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: The DWI eye test determines if the defendant has nystagmus, a condition also known as lazy eye. Intoxication is only one cause of nystagmus, and it is not even the leading cause.
  • Portable Breathalyzer: Some of the Breathalyzer’s flaws were discussed above. Portable Breathalyzers are even more inaccurate than the larger ones used at police stations.
  • One-Leg Stand: People with any mobility impairment at all usually cannot stand on one leg for more than a few seconds, whether they are drunk or sober.
  • Walk and Turn: Environmental factors often affect these test results. For example, it is much more difficult to walk an imaginary line heel-to-toe than it is to walk an actual line, like a parking lot stripe, in this fashion.

Some officers administer additional unapproved tests, like Romberg’s balance test (head back, eyes closed, and arms extended test). These results are usually only admissible for limited purposes.

Non-Intoxication Defenses

Frequently, the “intoxication” element is the only real issue in a DWI case. But in many situations, a Brainerd, MN DWI lawyer can challenge the “driving” element as well.

According to the Minnesota DWI law, “driving” is more like “operating.” The vehicle need not be moving. If the defendant is behind the wheel and the vehicle is drivable, DWI charges will probably hold up in court, at least with regard to “driving.” Sometimes, however, the defendant does not have the keys, the car is out of gas, or there are other extenuating circumstances.

DWI collisions are another example. Generally, by the time emergency responders arrive, the defendant has left the vehicle. Unless a witness places the defendant behind the wheel at or near the time of the crash, there may be insufficient evidence on this point.

Other non-intoxication defenses include the public/private place issue. Driving while intoxicated is only illegal if the defendant was in a public place. Shopping center, apartment complex, and some housing development parking lots are not public places, even if they are open to the public. A private driveway is not a public place either. The street directly in front of a private residence is in a grey area.

Connect with a Dedicated Attorney

There is a big difference between a DWI arrest and a DWI conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN DWI lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. The sooner you call us, the sooner we start fighting for you.

A Criminal Defense Lawyer in Brainerd, MN Talks About the Different Burdens of Proof

Some people might remember the O.J. Simpson murder saga in the early and mid-1990s. In 1995, after a long and sensational criminal trial, a jury acquitted the former football star of double murder charges. About a year later, another jury heard basically the same evidence and concluded that Simpson was responsible for the deaths. That’s perhaps the best example of the different burdens of proof in court cases, as outlined below.

Apropos of nothing, in 2016, NFL “concussion doctor” Bennet Omalu said he would “bet my medical license” that Simpson had a serious brain injury. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative brain injury commonly associated with football players, would explain Simpson’s erratic behavior and fits of rage, according to Dr. Omalu. But that’s the subject of another blog.

The different burdens of proof affect the way a criminal defense lawyer in Brainerd, MN approaches different cases. Since the defendant is presumed innocent in the United States, the burden of proof is on the state. So, if an attorney casts doubt on the state’s case, the defendant often goes free. Alternatively, weak evidence gives a criminal defense lawyer in Brainerd, MN an edge during settlement negotiations.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Minnesota law usually defines a reasonable doubt as a doubt based on reason and common sense. Many courts have criticized this definition, arguing that it is akin to saying “a white horse is a horse that is white.” Nevertheless, that’s the generally accepted definition in The Gopher State. Some variations, such as reasonable doubt “does not mean a fanciful or capricious doubt, nor does it mean beyond all possibility of doubt,” are acceptable.

DWI-collision cases are a good illustration of the way this standard works in practice. Assume Ben and Jerry hit another car in an intersection. Ben and Jerry are both intoxicated. By the time emergency responders arrive, they have exited the vehicle. Officers arrest Ben for DWI.

Wright County prosecutors could probably prove Ben was in the car, but it would be difficult for them to prove Ben behind the wheel. Another witness, such as the other driver in the collision, would have to testify that Ben emerged from the driver’s side. That testimony would not prove he was driving beyond a shadow of a doubt, but it would establish that fact beyond a reasonable doubt.

Criminal Defense Lawyers in Brainerd, MN and Clear and Convincing Evidence

Child custody, financial fraud, and certain juvenile cases commonly employ this standard of evidence. C&C basically means “the evidence is highly and substantially more likely to be true than untrue.”

Let’s return to the previous example and change the facts a bit. Now assume that Jerry told officers Ben was driving the car. There are a number of reasons to question Jerry’s statement. He was drunk, so his memory and perception are questionable. Additionally, he might have been tattling so officers would arrest Ben instead of Jerry.

So, if the standard was beyond a reasonable doubt, Jerry’s statement might not be enough to convict Ben. But if the standard was clear and convincing evidence, which is a step lower, Jerry’s statement might hold up in court.

Preponderance of the Evidence

Typically, this final standard determines what an individual must prove, as opposed to what the state must prove. A preponderance of the proof (more likely than not) is the standard in most personal injury cases. It’s the standard the Simpson civil jury used.

Picture two stacks of typing paper sitting side by side. Both stacks have the same number of sheets. If a criminal defense lawyer in Brainerd, MN adds one sheet of paper to the stack on the left, it has more paper than the stack on the right. That’s a picture of a preponderance of the evidence.

Once more, let’s look at our DWI-collision example. Now assume the car is abandoned by the time emergency responders arrive. An investigation reveals that Ben owned the car. It’s more likely than not that a car’s owner was driving the vehicle at any given time, unless the owner had an airtight alibi. So, by a preponderance of the evidence, Ben was probably driving the car. Proving intoxication, however, would be a much more difficult matter.

Reach Out to Savvy Lawyers

The burden of proof affects the way attorneys approach different cases. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

How Does a Buffalo, MN Lawyer Uphold the Presumption of Innocence in All Three Phases of a Criminal Case?

The presumption of innocence is usually associated with the seventh century Roman Emperor Justinian. But the concept of ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the burden of proof lies upon him who affirms, not he who denies) might go back even further than that in Roman law. Jewish and Islamic religious scholars talked about this idea as well.

Today, this concept is a cornerstone of common law systems in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and a few other places. But in most parts of the world, it is almost unheard of.

Wright County prosecutors have almost unlimited resources, and they bring these resources to bear in the most serious felony and the least serious misdemeanor. The presumption of innocence is the only way a Buffalo, MN lawyer can level the playing field. So, as soon as the attorney/client partnership begins, the fight to uphold this critical concept begins as well.

Jail Release

Upholding the presumption of innocence begins at this point. If the defendant remains in jail, the presumption of innocence essentially becomes a presumption of guilt. Incarcerated defendants cannot participate in their own defense in any meaningful way. Additionally, defendants who are behind bars often accept help from a public defender instead of a top Buffalo, MN lawyer.

Typically, the Wright County sheriff sets presumptive bail amounts according to the severity of the offense and the defendant’s criminal record. People charged with felonies must pay more than people charged with misdemeanors. And, even if the prior conviction was completely unrelated, it usually drives up the bail amount.

Research suggests the opposite is true. People charged with serious offenses are more likely to face the music than people charged with petty offenses. Furthermore, if the defendant has been through the system before, the defendant is not as scared.

A Buffalo, MN lawyer can bring up these points during a bail reduction hearing. This hearing usually occurs within seventy-two hours of an arrest. When the case comes up, the judge considers a wide range of factors, including:

  • Amount of evidence the state has,
  • Defendant’s contacts with the community,
  • Risk of flight, if any, and
  • Defendant’s ability to pay.

Frequently, Buffalo, MN lawyers make deals with prosecutors to secure the defendant’s release. These deals usually involve some give-and-take. For example, the state might agree to reduce the bail amount if the defendant wears an ankle bracelet.

Attorneys often work out these same kinds of arrangements to resolve criminal cases. More on that below.

Lawyers in Buffalo, MN and Pretrial Matters

The police might gather evidence against the defendant, but that does not mean prosecutors can use this proof in court. If a Buffalo, MN lawyer reduces the amount of available evidence, it’s much easier to successfully resolve the charges.

Pretrial proceedings often focus on procedural matters. A police error early in the process has a significant impact on the trial. Some examples include:

  • Failure to Mirandize: When custodial interrogation begins, officers must give defendants their Miranda rights (you have the right to remain silent, etc.). Otherwise, any statements the defendant makes are inadmissible. Custodial interrogation starts when officers ask any questions and the defendant does not feel free to leave.
  • Search Warrant Issues: Possession cases always involve either search warrants or search warrant exceptions. Unless officers had a valid warrant or a narrow search warrant exception applied, any guns, drugs, or other contraband officers seized is probably inadmissible.
  • Lineup Issues: Criminology professionals recommend double-blind lineups. Neither the witness nor the administering officer should know the suspect’s identity. But Minnesota only requires blind lineups. Arguably, these identifications are inherently unreliable.

Buffalo, MN lawyers also do their own evidence collection. Technically, prosecutors are legally required to turn over exculpatory evidence. But they short-circuit this requirement whenever possible.

Resolving a Criminal Case

As discussed above, plea bargains resolve about 95 percent of the criminal cases in Wright County. Mostly because of the presumption of innocence, these plea bargains usually involve reduced charges and/or a reduced sentence.

Aggravated assault, which is one of the most common felonies in Minnesota, is a good example. If the evidence is weak, prosecutors often agree to reduce these charges to ordinary assault, which is a misdemeanor. Additionally, instead of lengthy incarceration, many defendants are sentenced to a brief period of probation.

If the case goes to trial, prosecutors must prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt, which brings us back to the presumption of innocence. So, in the aggravated assault example, unless there is overwhelming evidence that the defendant assaulted the victim and also caused a serious injury, the jury must acquit the defendant.

Connect with an Assertive Attorney

The presumption of innocence alone is enough to acquit a defendant in Minnesota. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.

Car Crash Evidence and Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers

To obtain compensation for their injuries, victims must establish key facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Imagine there are two stacks of typing paper side by side. Both stacks have the same number of sheets. If someone moves one sheet from the right to the left, the stack on the left is bigger than the one on the right. That’s what a preponderance of the evidence means.

Generally, the key facts involve negligence. That negligence could be a lack of ordinary care or a violation of a safety statute. In defective product car crash cases, like a tire blow-out or defective Takata airbag, the victim/plaintiff must only prove cause by a preponderance of the proof.

So, a good Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer must be more than a good litigator. An attorney must also be a good investigator. Since the evidence collection process is so critical, many lawyers partner with accident reconstructionists, private investigators, or other such professionals during this phase of a car crash claim.

Traditional Evidence Sources

Frequently, Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers use a combination of medical bills, the police accident report, and the victim/plaintiff’s own testimony to build successful damage claims.

Medical bills are critical because, in many injury cases, medical expenses are the largest damage category. IN a serious injury claim, the medical bills often exceed $100,000. Additionally, these records often contain treatment notes which indicate things like the victim’s pain level. These notations are relevant to the noneconomic damages in the case.

All these physician records are usually admissible in a Wright County civil court. That’s assuming a Buffalo, MN personal injury attorney lays the proper foundation.

A police accident report usually contains an accident narrative. The officer pieces together the physical evidence to create a detailed picture of the accident. Generally, police accident reports carry a great deal of weight with jurors.

Moreover, the police accident report usually includes a list of witnesses. That list serves as a starting point for additional evidence-gathering, if it is necessary.

Most jurors want to hear from the victim in a personal injury case, even though the victim’s testimony is technically not necessary in most cases. It’s important for a Buffalo, MN personal injury attorney to properly prepare the victim to be a witness. The testimony must not sound rehearsed. But, the victim must know what to say, and what not to say, during cross-examination.

Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers and Nontraditional Evidence

These sources of evidence are normally reliable, but that’s not always true. The police accident report is a good example. In terms of evidence collection, even the most experienced emergency responder is not an accident reconstructionist. Additionally, if the victim was killed or seriously injured, the police report narrative might only contain one side of the story.

Electronic evidence, such as the Event Data Recorder, often fills in the gap. Much like a black box flight data recorder inside a commercial airplane, a vehicle’s EDR measures and records things like:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle,
  • Brake application, and
  • Engine acceleration or deceleration.

Tech-savvy Wright County jurors often respond very well to electronic evidence. And, from a legal standpoint, it is more reliable than eyewitness testimony or other kinds of proof. Assuming the gadget was working properly, a computer is never biased or inaccurate.

However, this critical evidence might not be available, unless a Buffalo, MN personal injury attorney is very proactive. Minnesota has strict vehicle information privacy laws, and a lawyer must know how to overcome them. Moreover, unless a lawyer sends a spoliation letter, the insurance company might “accidentally” destroy the EDR.

Other kinds of electronic evidence, such as a commercial vehicle’s Electronic Logging Device, might be important as well. ELDs are often critical in drowsy driving claims. These gadgets track HOS (Hours of Service) compliance. If a tortfeasor (negligent driver) did not follow rules regarding driving caps and mandatory rest periods, the tortfeasor might be legally responsible for a crash as a matter of law.

Damages in a car crash claim normally include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Normally, there is a direct connection between the strength of the evidence in a case and the amount of damages the jury awards.

Contact a Tenacious Lawyer

All successful car wreck claims are built on foundations of solid evidence. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Motorcycle Crash Claims and Hutchinson, MN Auto Accident Lawyers

The vehicle occupant fatality rate has declined since the 1990s, mostly because today’s cars are much safer than they were before. But the motorcycle crash fatality rate has remained largely unchanged. Unlike their vehicle occupant counterparts, motorcyclists are almost completely exposed to danger in a crash. As a result, the death rate for motorcycle riders is almost thirty times higher than the death rate for four-wheel vehicle occupants.

Because of this high death rate and the severity of the victim’s injuries, a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer might be able to obtain substantial compensation in these cases. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme situations.

What Causes Motorcycle Crashes?

Driver error causes most of the motorcycle crashes in McLeod County. Generally, that error falls into one of three categories. The nature of the driver error usually affects the amount of damages available.

Behavioral negligence includes things like alcohol or drug use and driver fatigue. Compensation is usually highest in these cases. Arguably, these impaired drivers know that they should not get behind the wheel. Nevertheless, they do so anyway, so they intentionally disregard the safety of other people on the road.

These claims are also very difficult for insurance companies to defend in court. People do not “accidentally” drive drunk. Additionally, even if a legal loophole is available, like contributory negligence, many jurors hesitate to cut drunk or fatigued drivers very much slack.

Especially during certain times of year, environmental negligence is a serious problem in Minnesota. The weather often changes quickly, and many drivers do not adjust to the new conditions, even though the duty of reasonable care requires them to be flexible.

Rain is a good example. When visibility is limited and streets are wet, drivers should slow down. But many drivers fail to do so.

Rain also brings up a point about motorcycle visibility. Many people are not looking out for motorcycles, especially during semi-inclement weather. Most riders who have gone down probably heard the tortfeasor (negligent driver) say something like “You came out of nowhere and I didn’t see you.” These drivers probably were not maintaining a proper lookout, which is part of the duty of reasonable care.

Minimal damages are usually available in operational negligence claims. These instances include things like speeding and changing lanes without signaling. Some jurors think these things are accidents (wrong place at the wrong time) as opposed to negligence (a lack of care). The good news is that these claims are rather easy for Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyers to prove in court. That’s especially true if the negligence per se rule applies. More on that below.

Hutchinson, MN Auto Accident Lawyers and Ordinary Negligence

A theory of responsibility helps jurors better understand the nature of the claim and makes the claim easier to prove. That being said, a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer must still establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. The elements of a negligence case in Minnesota are:

  • Duty: Most noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively at all times. Most commercial drivers, such as Uber drivers, have a higher duty of care, especially in motorcycle crash claims.
  • Breach: Duty is a question of law for the judge. Breach is a question of fact for the jury. Some of the common breaches of duty were outlined above.
  • Cause: “But-for” causation means the crash would not have happened but for the tortfeasor’s negligence. Proximate cause means foreseeability. A Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer must prove both kinds of cause.
  • Damages: The victim/plaintiff must suffer physical injury. A near miss is not actionable in court. If the damages are related to a physical injury, the monetary award is tax-free.

Victim/plaintiffs must prove all these elements by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Negligence Per Se

Sometimes, Minnesota law establishes the standard of care. So, tortfeasors are liable for damages as a matter of law if they violate a safety law and that violation substantially causes injury. There’s no need to prove duty or breach. These are usually the most time-consuming elements of a negligence case. Instead, victim/plaintiffs must only prove cause and damages.

The negligence per se shortcut usually only applies if emergency responders gave the tortfeasor a ticket. Frequently, that’s not the case, even if the tortfeasor clearly broke a traffic law. The motorcycle prejudice often comes into play at this point. In their heart of hearts, many people, including many first responders, believe that motorcycle riders are reckless thugs who do not deserve protection.

Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyers must overcome this prejudice, and other obstacles as well, to obtain fair compensation in motorcycle wreck claims.

Contact a Tenacious Lawyer

Substantial compensation is available in motorcycle wreck cases, but insurance companies do not simply give this money away. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

U-Haul Truck Crash Liability Issues and Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers

Statistically, most people move between May and September. So, we are now well into the biggest moving time of the year. Many people try to save money by renting U-Haul or other moving trucks and handling most everything themselves. As a result, it’s not too unusual to see several of these trucks on area roads at any given time. These operators have little experience driving large trucks and often over-rely on GPS navigation devices. So, in short, they are dangerous.

Since these operators do not own these vehicles, the traditional negligent entrustment rule would seem to apply. This doctrine holds vehicle owners, like U-Haul, responsible for car crash damages if the loan their property to incompetent drivers who cause accidents. But the Graves Amendment, an obscure piece of federal legislation, changes things significantly, as outlined below.

Many vehicle renters have little or no insurance. So, if you were hurt in a U-Haul truck crash, it’s important to obtain compensation from the company. Fortunately, a good Brainerd, MN injury lawyer has some was to get around the Graves Amendment and get victims the compensation they need and deserve. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

The Negligent Entrustment Rule

Negligent entrustment is one of the most common vicarious liability theories in Minnesota. Most of these cases involve teen drivers, and Minnesota has a very broad family purpose doctrine. If a family member was using a car fro a family purpose, even if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) took a side trip and the vehicle owner did not know about the trip, family-sanctioned use is presumed. So, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer must only prove incompetence. Evidence of incompetence, in roughly descending order, includes:

  • No drivers’ license,
  • Safety-suspended drivers’ license,
  • Poor driving record with recent at-fault collisions,
  • Driving in violation of a license restriction, like no night driving, and
  • Poor driving record with older collisions which were the other driver’s fault.

Note that a drivers’ license record check can uncover evidence of incompetency. This area is rather significant in terms of the first Graves Amendment loophole.

Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers and the “Not Otherwise Negligent” Requirement

Lawmakers approved the Graves Amendment in the early 2000s. Rep. Sam Graves (D-MO) wanted to protect Enterprise, U-Haul, and other such companies from liability judgments by making the negligent entrustment rule inapplicable in these cases.

Back then, it was almost impossible to run a drivers’ license check outside the DMV, except for very limited purposes. Now, technology and privacy laws have changed. Arguably, it is now the industry standard at places like U-Haul outlets to independently verify drivers’ licenses. Failure to adhere to an industry standard is typically negligence.

Section (a)(2) of the Graves Amendment states immunity only applies if the owner or agent was not negligent during the U-Haul rental transaction. Given the drivers’ license developments mentioned above, agents or owners who only perform visual license inspections are probably negligent.

The “Trade or Business” Requirement

Furthermore, under Section (a)(1), immunity only applies if the store was “engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles.” The brief Graves Amendment was an add-on to a large federal transportation bill. Curiously, the law defines some key terms, like “owner” and “agent,” but it does not define “trade or business.” So, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers must look elsewhere to determine its meaning.

The Uniform Commercial Code, which is frequently cited in legal claims, defines a “merchant,” which is similar, as a person with special knowledge about a particular product who deals in that particular kind of product. This definition does not apply to most U-Haul retailers.

Most of these retailers are moving supply companies that happen to rent a few trucks. Vehicle rental is not their primary business line. Additionally, almost no U-Haul workers have special knowledge about the trucks on the lot. They know how to drive them, but that’s about it.

In court, the insurance company/U-Haul company usually has the burden of proof on this point. Its lawyers must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Graves Amendment immunity applies. Given this discussion, that showing is unlikely.

Connect with a Hard-Hitting Attorney

The negligent entrustment rule usually applies in U-Haul crashes, despite the Graves Amendment. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Alimony Modifications and Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorneys

Income changes cause most spousal support modifications Such adjustments are frequent, since most people change jobs twelve times during their careers. The obligor’s income obviously affects his/her ability to pay. And, the obligee’s income increase might change his/her economic need. Not all income changes qualify as modification events. Under Minnesota law, the change must be unanticipated, permanent, and substantial. These three adjectives rule out a number of events, perhaps even including retirement.

Sometimes, the obligee’s economic need changes in other ways as well. That change could be a close relationship with a paramour or a failure to follow a written rehabilitation plan.

Hutchinson, MN family law attorneys must not only establish a foundation of adjustment. The court normally calculates the amount and duration of the payments as well. These determinations, whether a McLeod County judge performs them or the parties agree to them, must jive with the factors listed below.

Changed Circumstances

Before we get to changed circumstances, we should first take a step back and examine some basic points of initial alimony determinations.

In Minnesota, judges can award temporary, short-term, or long-term alimony. Temporary alimony helps obligees pay divorce-related expenses, such as attorneys’ fees and property rental deposits. Short-term alimony helps obligees with economic needs become economically self-sufficient. Long-term alimony is usually only available if the obligee is disabled, cares for a disabled child, or is otherwise incapable of self-support.

To see how the aforementioned job and life change factors work in McLeod County, let’s look at a couple of examples.

Assume Mike and Karen divorce in their late 50s after many years of marriage. Since Karen was the homemaker and Mike was the breadwinner, Karen has no current job skills and is therefore largely unemployable. So, Mike pays substantial alimony until he turns 65, when he retires.

Mike confidently works with a Hutchinson, MN family law attorney. He assumes the judge will cut off alimony or at least reduce his payments. But not so fast. Retirement is not an unanticipated event. People get older and retire. The judge might still reduce Mike’s alimony payments, but Karen might have something to say about that.

Now assume Karen finds a new boyfriend a few years after she divorces Mike. But she does not marry her boyfriend, so Mike is still technically required to pay spousal support.

But once again, not so fast. If Karen had a long-term relationship with her boyfriend which involved some shared financial matters, such as a joint checking account or joint home purchase, a Hutchinson, MN family law attorney might still be able to reduce Mike’s spousal support payments.

Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorneys and Amount/Duration Adjustments

So, either former spouse may seek to change the alimony obligation based on changed circumstances. Next, the amount and duration of payments must be re-calculated, as follows:

  • Obligee’s Financial Resources: In emotional modifications, like a new boyfriend or girlfriend, this factor is usually paramount. A new partner’s income is usually not relevant in child support inquiries, but it is incredibly relevant in spousal support matters.
  • Standard of Living During the Marriage: This factor’s significance diminishes in modification proceedings, especially if the parties have been divorced for more than a few years.
  • Relative Earning Capacity: Typically, young, healthy, and well-educated people have significant earning potential. So, if there is a considerable age, health, or other discrepancy between the two former spouses, this gap might justify an increase or decrease in spousal support payments.
  • Contributions to the Marriage: Much like the standard of living factor, this consideration is important in initial determinations, but not as important in subsequent modifications.

Most modification claims settle out of court. That includes both the need for modification and the new amount and duration of payments. As long as each spouse had an independent Hutchinson, MN family law attorney through the whole process, most McLeod County judges approve most of these settlements. Frequently, they do not even require hearings.

So, your Hutchinson, MN family law attorney must be more than a diligent researcher and forceful litigator. Your attorney must also be a good negotiator.

Connect with an Assertive Lawyer

Initial spousal support determinations are not set in stone. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Should a Brainerd, MN Criminal Defense Lawyer Represent Me at the DWI ALR Hearing?

Few other offenses have more indirect consequences than DWIs. One such collateral consequence is the Administrative License Revocation process. If the defendant’s BAC level was above the legal limit at the time of arrest, the state automatically suspends the person’s drivers’ license. The same thing happens if the defendant refuses to provide a chemical sample.

However, because of the Fourteenth Amendment, states like Minnesota usually cannot “automatically” do anything. The Fourteenth Amendment requires due process of law, and at a minimum, that means notice and an opportunity to be heard.

This right is an important one, but like so many other rights, it is just ink on paper unless a Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer enforces it. ALR hearings are difficult, but certainly not impossible, to win. And, there is more than one way to “win” one of these hearings. Keep reading to learn more about these things.

Possible Defenses

ALR hearings are difficult to win because the administrative law judge is normally a paid DMV employee. Additionally, the ALJ serves as prosecutor, judge, and jury. Finally, this proceeding is not technically a criminal proceeding. So, many of the normal Constitutional protections do not apply. For example, the ALJ may force defendants to testify against themselves.

Moreover, the burden of proof is rather low in ALR hearings. The state must only establish that officers had probable cause to demand a sample and the defendant either failed the test or refused to take it. “Probable cause” basically means officers believed that a crime had been committed.

This standard might be low, but it is higher than a reasonable suspicion, which is basically an evidence-based hunch. So, unless the state presents substantial proof, a Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer can challenge the lack of evidence.

The Field Sobriety Tests are a good illustration. Normally, officers depend on these four tests to establish probable cause in a DWI. These tests are:

  • Horizonta Gaze Nystagmus (DWI eye test),
  • Walk and Turn,
  • One Leg Stand, and
  • Portable Breathalyzer.

Some officers administer unapproved field sobriety tests, like Romberg’s balance test (head back, eyes closed, arms extended test). But these controversial test results might not be admissible in the ALR hearing.

Frequently, defendants refuse to perform any of these tests. Or, they perform one or two and then refuse to go on. Either way, there might not be enough evidence to establish probable cause.

There is a preliminary matter as well. Generally, officers pull over DWI defendants because they saw them commit traffic violations or they got caught in a DWI roadblock. Sometimes, however, officers rely on more subjective proof, like furtive movements behind the steering wheel. But a nervous-looking driver is not probable cause in Minnesota.

Why You Should Work with a Brainerd, MN Criminal Defense Lawyer

If left to their own devices, many ALJs would probably ignore these things and always side with police officers. So, a Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer must diligently research the law and present these findings in a compelling way.

Once these defenses are presented, the ALJ might at least reduce the suspension period or probate part of the license suspension term.

A Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer can also help a defendant obtain an occupational drivers’ license, which is called a work permit in Minnesota. This limited license allows people to drive to and from work, to and from school, to and from the doctor, and to perform some essential household functions, like buying food. A waiting period applies, as follows:

  • Fifteen days for a first work permit,
  • 90 days for a second work permit, and
  • 180 days for a third work permit.

Longer waiting periods apply in complex cases, such as DWI-manslaughter or DWI-collision cases. Defendants cannot drive with their work permits until the waiting period expires.

After a fourth DWI, a work permit might not be available. But that doesn’t matter much, because at this point, the state usually revokes the defendant’s license permanently.

A Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer might still be able to help in these situations. A little-used loophole, called the B-card, is available in these situations. If these people complete alcohol treatment and sign alcohol abstinence pledges, the state can issue a limited drivers’ license after a waiting period expires. That waiting period is usually between one and three years.

Any alcohol use, even during something like a religious ceremony, cancels the license. It is a gross misdemeanor to drive with an invalid B-card.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Attorney

A DWI arrest does not necessarily mean an interruption or cancellation of your driving privileges. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

Left Turn Motorcycle Wrecks and Buffalo Car Crash Lawyers

These kinds of motorcycle crashes, which are also known as SMIDSY wrecks (for sorry, mate, I didn’t see you), are quite common in Wright County. Generally, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is waiting to make an unprotected left turn against traffic, either at an intersection or to enter/exit a private driveway. The tortfeasor does not see the motorcyclist and turns directly into the bike’s path.

Frequently, tortfeasors do not take the time to look around large vehicles, like SUVs and pickups. So, their vision is limited and they do not see small motorcycles. Other drivers do not look for motorcycles at all. Either way, the tortfeasor is clearly at fault. However, there is often a difference between fault and liability. More on that below.

Riders normally suffer serious injuries in these cases. Therefore, a Buffalo car crash lawyer can usually obtain substantial compensation for victims and their families. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Building Succesful Left-Turn Crash Claims

Theoretical fault is not enough. A Buffalo car crash lawyer must also prove actual fault. That usually means negligence per se or ordinary negligence.

If emergency responders cited the tortfeasor for making an illegal left turn, the tortfeasor might be liable for damages as a matter of law. This doctrine applies if:

  • The tortfeasor broke a safety law, such as failure to yield the right-of-way, and
  • That violation substantially caused injury.

Unfortunately, first responders rarely issue citations after SMIDSY crashes, even if the motorcyclist died. As a result, Buffalo car crash lawyers often use the ordinary negligence doctrine.

Essentially, negligence is a lack of care. Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and obey the rules of the road. If they fail to maintain a proper lookout and cause a crash, they could be liable for damages. Driver impairment, such as alcohol use, fatigue, or distraction, contributes significantly to a negligence claim.

Evidence like driver impairment is not just important for liability purposes. It’s also important for damages purposes. Typically, there is a direct relationship between the amount of evidence the victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of damages Wright County jurors award.

Buffalo Car Crash Lawyers and Motorcycle Wreck Defenses

Evidence is not the only determining factor in terms of liability. Insurance company defenses often come into play here as well.

Contributory negligence is one of the most common insurance company defenses in motorcycle wreck claims. This rule shifts responsibility for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim. A few riders do things like lane-split (drive between cars stacked up in traffic) or speed. In these situations, jurors must divide fault between the victim and tortfeasor on a percentage basis.

Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. Even if the victim was 49 percent responsible for the crash, the tortfeasor is still responsible for a proportionate share of damages. Additionally, insurance companies have the burden of proof, and the burden of persuasion, in these situations. A Buffalo car crash lawyer must only play defense and keep the insurance company out of the endzone.

Another legal loophole, the last clear chance rule, often comes up in left-turn motorcycle wreck claims. If the rider had a reasonable chance to avoid the crash, perhaps by changing speeds or lanes, yet did not do so, the rider is legally responsible for the crash.

But the last clear chance rule often does not apply in motorcycle crash claims. If riders change speeds or lanes quickly, they often lose control of their bikes. That’s especially true if environmental, traffic, and other conditions are less than ideal. So, if they try to avoid one crash, they might cause another one.

Resolving Your Claim for Damages

Diligent evidence collection and thoughtful legal analysis are essential in these cases. Assuming a Buffalo car crash lawyer does these things well, the claim usually settles out of court.

Sometimes, the insurance company settles after an attorney sends a demand letter. Legally, if liability is clear, the insurance company has a duty to quickly resolve the claim. However, largely because of the aforementioned defenses, there is usually at least some liability dispute.

Therefore, many personal injury claims settle during mediation. Assuming both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation is about 90 percent successful. Mediation is good for both sides because it reduces litigation costs, saves time, and gives the parties more control over the outcome.

Contact Experienced Attorneys

Left-turn motorcycle crash claims might seem straightforward, but they are often complex. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN car crash lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Can a Minnesota Personal Injury Attorney Help Brain Injury Victims?

Disabling head injuries are not limited to football players. In fact, over five million Americans live with such injuries. Another party’s negligence, whether it be a sports group or an individual, usually causes these injuries.

As victims struggle to recover from these wounds, insurance companies often pressure them relentlessly to settle their claims. Adjusters know that these victims are experiencing severe financial distress. So, it’s often tempting to take the settlement offer. But victims cannot possibly know if the offers are fair.

As outlined below, a Minnesota personal injury attorney addresses both these concerns. So, victims can focus on their recoveries.

Brain Injury Causes

Motor vehicle collisions cause most brain injuries in Minnesota. These incidents often combine all three common head injury causes, which are:

  • Trauma: Even the most advanced restraint systems cannot absorb all the force in a high-speed car crash. So, victims often slam their heads on solid objects.
  • Motion: The brain does not fit snugly inside the skull. Instead, the brain is suspended in a deep pool of cerebrospinal fluid. Therefore, when victims’ heads violently move backward and forward during crashes, their brains repeatedly slam against the insides of their skulls.
  • Noise: Most witnesses say that car crashes sound like explosions. These sudden loud noises trigger shockwaves which disrupt brain functions.

Frequently, car crash head injury victims do not feel injured. The brain usually masks its own wounds. That’s why the aforementioned concussed athletes often ask their coaches to put them back in the game because they “feel fine.” So, it’s always important to go to a car crash injury specialist. Otherwise, a serious head injury might go untreated.

Falls are another leading cause of brain injuries. These incidents could cause a motion or trauma-related brain injury. And, most fall victims have no protective gear to lessen the blow.

Assaults also cause a number of head wounds. If inadequate security, like a burned-out security light or an inadequate security system, contributed to the assault, the landowner might be responsible for damages. That’s assuming the landowner had a legal duty to protect the victim and the landowner knew about the problem.

Minnesota Personal Injury Lawyers and Short-Term Help

As mentioned, immediate medical assistance is critical in head injury cases. If the damage spreads and symptoms become worse, these wounds are much more difficult to treat.

Unfortunately, head injuries are among the most commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions. Many victims do not experience signature symptoms, like unconsciousness or nausea. When patients report lesser symptoms, such as soreness or confusion, doctors often dismiss these symptoms as shock from the incident. That’s especially true in car crash cases.

Therefore, a Minnesota personal injury lawyer does not just connect a victim with a doctor. This doctor is usually an injury specialist who knows how to diagnose and treat head injuries.

There’s more. At this point, many victims are out of work. And, head injury medical bills often exceed $100,000. Most families do not have the resources to pay these costs.

So, a Minnesota personal injury lawyer typically sends a letter of protection to the medical provider. This letter guarantees payment when the case is resolved. Thus, the provider charges nothing upfront. Prior to the case’s resolution, Minnesota personal injury lawyers typically negotiate with providers and lower the medical bills. That could mean the victim gets to keep more of the settlement money.

Long-Term Assistance

Medical treatment is not just important for the victim’s health. It’s also an important evidence-collection tool. In addition to diagnosis and treatment information, most medical records contain notes about the patient’s pain level and general attitude. Since victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in negligence cases, Minnesota personal injury lawyers must collect as much evidence as possible.

Additional witness statements are often important as well. Many head injury victims cannot give testimony in court, either because they did not survive the injury or they do not remember it. Minnesota personal injury lawyers, often working with private investigators, know how to reach out to witnesses who may have seen something.

Strong, evidence-based claims frequently settle out of court. So, victims need not go to trial to obtain compensation for their economic losses, such as medical bills, and their noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Contact a Diligent Attorney

Head injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Minnesota personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Call For A Free Consultation (877) 344-1555Free Consultation

Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (612) 800-8057
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions

Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (218) 736-9429
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions

Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

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

Office Details
Map and Directions

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