How to Win a Custody Battle in Buffalo, MN

It is common knowledge that the number of divorces has been climbing steadily over time. According to the latest data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 782,038 divorces (45 reporting States and D.C.) in the US, with a divorce rate of 2.9 per 1,000 people in 2018.

However, getting a divorce is an emotionally and financially stressful process, especially when children are involved. In an unamicable divorce, the battle for child custody can often turn into an ugly fight.

In the end, the court will consider what is in the best interest of you children and a few other factors, depending on your case, when awarding custody. So, as one of the most experienced custody lawyers in Buffalo, MN, we often advise our clients to be prepared, irrespective of whether you are a father or a mother.

Here are five tips that can help present your case in the best light and even help you win the custody of your child.

1. Try to Negotiate the Custody

In most divorce cases, you may get a chance to resolve the issue of child custody amicably. Although this isn’t necessarily a part of the legal proceedings, usually experienced custody lawyers in Buffalo, MN, will recommend to you to create a parenting plan through mutual negotiations.

The most significant advantage of this approach is that you can avoid a costly and lengthy custody battle. You will be able to save considerable money and time. Furthermore, your children won’t have to face the mental stress of a custody battle in addition to the divorce. In fact, the cordial parenting environment can help your children overcome the mental stress of your legal separation relatively quickly.

2. Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Wild

Staying calm and collected is perhaps the most critical factor to consider when fighting for your child’s custody. Irrespective of how the opposition behaves, you must keep your emotions under check.

Usually, a judge will take your behavior into account when deciding on child custody. If your behavior strikes as erratic or aggressive, the opposition will use it against you. It may compel the court to rule in your spouse’s favor.

Your spouse will also try their best to establish that they are a good parent. However, in most cases, the judge will be able to detect if the opposition is trying to be someone they are not. That’s why you can’t lose your emotional balance at any cost. So, avoid talking to your spouse if it is likely to cause an emotional outburst.

3. Understand Your Legal Rights First

The next important step is to understand the family law in Minnesota. In a child custody battle, you must understand your legal rights as a parent. While you can do some basic research on your own, make sure to consult experienced custody lawyers in Buffalo, MN.

A skilled lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and how to exercise them. For example, after taking a look at your case, the lawyer will be able to tell you whether joint custody is your best bet, or you can ask for sole custody.

Be honest with your lawyer. Don’t invent stories to put yourself in the best light. It will backfire during the court proceedings, taking away your chance of winning joint custody, let alone sole custody.

4. Perception Always Matters

You may not like it; however, perception is often everything in a custody battle. You must try your best to present yourself as a competent, responsible, and loving parent. A seemingly harmless text message, email, or social media post can be entered into the court proceedings and used against you.

Be careful of who you talk or write to, especially when communicating with your spouse or their friends and family members, and lawyers. It is better to communicate through your attorney as far as possible.

Also, make sure to dress properly and speak politely during your court hearings and meetings. Always be on time for court hearings, visits, meetings, and picking up your kids. Being late can be perceived as irresponsible behavior, which is likely to affect your chances of winning custody.

5. Keep Your Kids’ Wellbeing at the Front-and-Center

The last thing you want to do is to use your kids as pawns or tools to win the custody battle. Any experienced custody lawyers in Buffalo, MN, will advise you against the idea of putting your children in the courtroom or on the witness stand. In fact, you should keep your children out of the courtroom and your divorce proceedings.

You should never vilify your spouse to turn your children against them. Also, never exaggerate the shortcomings of your spouse. You should never talk negatively about your ex at all. What matters in the court proceedings is evidence, not your opinion. So, keep them to yourself.

If your children ask you difficult questions, try to be positive. Any lies you tell your kids will eventually backfire, causing more harm than good to your case. Make sure to share only the facts your kids can handle. You needn’t burden them with the stress of your divorce. Talk to an expert such as a child psychiatrist, if needed.

Conclusion

When children are involved, child custody becomes the most critical aspect of a divorce. In most cases, the court considers what is in the best interest of children when awarding custody rights to parents. However, you do need to talk to an experienced custody lawyer to increase your chances of winning a custody battle. Hopefully, these five tips will help you make an informed decision about your custody battle.

Call the Most Experienced Custody Lawyers in Buffalo, MN.

Going through a divorce is emotionally stressful. As one of the most experienced custody lawyers in Buffalo, MN, Carlson & Jones, P.A. will help present your case in the best light. Depending on the circumstances of your case, our expert lawyers will try their best to increase your chances of winning child custody. Call us on (855) 976-2444 or contact us online to know more about our legal services.

Should I Call a Buffalo Personal Injury Lawyer If I Used Talcum Powder?

Recent developments in the nationwide talcum powder lawsuits are very favorable to victims. So, even if you used talcum powder years ago, you should definitely discuss your legal options with a Buffalo personal injury lawyer.

Facing an avalanche of liability lawsuits, Johnson & Johnson talc supplier Imerys Talc America filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2019. ITA officials said they believed the 11,000-plus lawsuits were not meritorious, but the company could not afford the legal fees necessary to defend itself in court. A few months earlier, a Missouri jury awarded a staggering $4.7 billion to over twenty women who said that J&J’s talcum powder caused their cancers. Shortly before trial, ITA settled with the plaintiffs in that case for an undisclosed amount.

Johnson & Johnson claims that its talcum powder is safe and said it plans to appeal this most recent verdict.

Talcum Powder Injuries

Until very recently, talcum powder claims, like many other defective product claims, relied on inductive reasoning. The victim used talcum powder over a long period of time, and the victim developed ovarian cancer. So, the talcum powder must have caused the injury.

Let’s put this in more simplistic terms. Inductive reasoning is a conclusion based on very little observation. For example, if Johnny ate spinach and Johnny threw up, then Johnny must be allergic to spinach. A good Buffalo personal injury lawyer can make a connection like that hold up in court, but it isn’t easy.

But assume that Johnny ate spinach that contained traces of strychnine (rat poison) and he later threw up. That connection, while not absolute, is much stronger.

It turns out that women who used talcum powder were not just using talcum powder. They were probably using talcum powder laced with asbestos. This substance is incredibly toxic. Just one fiber can cause cancer. These fibers are incredibly small. 20,000 of them can fit in the space between Abraham Lincoln’s nose and mouth on a U.S. penny. Tiny particles like these can easily migrate to a woman’s sensitive reproductive areas, as well as other parts of the body.

The talcum powder-asbestos link is not surprising. These minerals are very similar, so they often come out of the same general area and go through the same general refining process in about the same area.

The real bombshell in this development is Johnson & Johnson’s knowledge. Between 1972 and 2000, J&J executives had access to thousands of documents detailing the chemical properties of talcum powder. These documents repeatedly used words like “rods,” “fiberform,” and other common asbestos euphemisms.

It gets worse. In 1976, J&J told the Food and Drug Administration that no asbestos had ever been detected in any of its talcum powder products. But between 1972 and 1975, at least three different lab reports, which were in the possession of Johnson & Johnson, showed elevated asbestos levels.

How a Buffalo Personal Injury Attorney Overcomes Legal Hurdles

Cancer usually has a very long incubation period. It may be years or even decades before a victim shows environmental cancer symptoms. Additionally, when they see doctors, the physician often misdiagnosis the condition. The statute of limitations is usually only two years in mass tort cases. So, these delays could be a serious problem.

But the longstanding discovery rule tolls the statute of limitations in these cases. Under Minnesota law, the limitation clock does not begin running until the victim/plaintiff:

  • Knows about the illness, injury, or other condition, and
  • Connects that condition to the defendant’s conduct or misconduct.

Buffalo personal injury attorneys can use the discovery rule in other contexts as well. Assume Mike takes Drug X in 2018, the company amends the warning label in 2019 (after he stopped taking the drug), he goes to the doctor in 2020, and he sees a TV ad which links Drug X and his condition in 2021. The insurance company may argue that the statute of limitations expired in 2018 (two years after took Drug X). But because of the discovery rule, Mike has until 2023 to file a claim.

The Talcum Powder Lawsuit Process

Most talcum powder, mesothelioma, and other mass tort claims are MDL actions. Multi-District Litigation is a way to consolidate many claims that do not qualify as class actions because their facts are not similar enough.

MDL is great for victim/plaintiffs. One judge controls all the discovery and other pretrial aspects of the case. This judge usually has a great deal of experience with that particular kind of case. Additionally, victim/plaintiffs can pool their resources. It’s almost like one Buffalo personal injury attorney is taking on J&J. Finally, if one case settles, the settlement creates momentum in other negotiations. The dominos start falling the right way.

Contact an Aggressive Lawyer

Talcum powder use can cause serious injury. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo personal injury attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

What to Expect When a Buffalo Family Law Attorney Handles Your Divorce

In many ways, February is a month of romantic extremes. For example, February means Valentines Day, and it also means Divorce Month.

Typically, feuding couples bury the hatchet between Haloween and Thanksgiving in anticipation of the coming winter holidays. The truce usually lasts until mid or late January. At that point, the barrage of “Don’t forget to buy roses for your sweetheart” Valentines Day ads reaches a fevered pitch. Then, some of these unsatisfied spouses reflect on how bad their marriages have become. They want out, and they call a Buffalo family law attorney.

Fling Divorce in Wright County

Like many other jurisdictions, Minnesota is a pure no-fault state. Irreconcileable differences is the only grounds for marriage dissolution in the Gopher State. Marital fault, like adultery, abandonment, or cruelty, is usually irrelevant.

Unlike many other jurisdictions, there is no divorce waiting period in Minnesota. The law only requires that at least one spouse resided in Minnesota for at least 180 days prior to the petition’s filing date.

The filing party must also notify the other party about the filing. If at all possible, personal service is best. A waiver of citation is the next best thing, but these waivers have some intricate technical requirements. In 2015, a New York judge allowed a divorce petitioner to serve her husband via Facebook, but another court later rescinded that order. As far as Buffalo family law attorneys are concerned, online service is not yet a reality.

Buffalo Family Law Attorneys and the Divorce Temporary Hearing

The temporary hearing usually occurs about two or three weeks after the petition is filed. The brief delay gives both sides ample time to retain a Buffalo family law attorney. Both sides need representation at this point, because the temporary hearing is a very critical point in the case.

At this hearing, the judge makes a lot of decisions based on very little evidence. So, arguments of counsel are critical. Some of these decisions include:

  • Interim spousal support,
  • Child custody and visitation arrangements,
  • Temporary child support, and
  • Temporary property division.

Technically, these orders automatically expire when the divorce becomes final. But as a practical matter, the judge often rolls the temporary orders into the final orders. To change this outcome, there must be dramatic new evidence. For example, a social services investigation might reveal a history of child abuse.

The Pretrial Process

Next comes the most time-consuming part of any marriage dissolution case. A lot of things happen between the temporary hearing and the case’s resolution.

Discovery

Fundamentally, a marriage dissolution case is not about choosing a “winner” and a “loser.” Rather, the case must divide marital property in an equitable way and contain a parenting time plan which reflects the best interests of the children.

So, divorce cases always involve discovery. Sometimes, discovery involves a document exchange, and that’s about it. But in most cases, discovery is much more intense. In addition to document exchanges, there are things like:

  • Oral depositions,
  • A social services investigation,
  • Long lists of questions that must be answered under oath, and
  • Property inspections.

Discovery is especially protracted if a Buffalo family law attorney suspects that a spouse is concealing financial or other information from the other spouse.

Social Services Investigation

If parenting time is contested, most Wright County family law judges order social services investigations.

Typically, a government social worker talks to the parents, interviews the children, conducts at least one home inspection, speaks with witnesses, such as teachers or doctors, and reviews documents, such as school report cards and medical records. Based on all this evidence, the social worker prepares a report and files it with the court.

The social worker’s recommendation is not binding. But in many cases, the judge gives it considerable weight.

Settlement Negotiations

The vast majority of divorce cases settle out of court. Some settlements occur very early, perhaps even at the temporary hearing. Others take place very late, sometimes literally just before trial is about to begin. Mostly, however, settlement occurs once discovery is at least substantially complete.

If Buffalo family law attorneys cannot settle the case on their own, a trained mediator sometimes helps. This person is usually either a retired judge or a family law attorney who is unaffiliated with the case. If both parties participate with open minds and in good faith, mediation is successful about 75 percent of the time.

Agreed settlement is usually preferable to an emotional trial. Additionally, a negotiated settlement gives the parties more control over the outcome. As a result, voluntary compliance is a little higher. Finally, when problems crop up later, and they always do, the parties feel empowered to talk things out instead of running to court. That situation is better for everybody.

Speak with a Dedicated Lawyer

The divorce process is usually costly, both emotionally and financially. But an experienced Buffalo family law attorney from Carlson & Jones, P.A. can greatly minimize these costs. Call us today for a free consultation.

Can a Buffalo Criminal Defense Lawyer Clear My Name?

In 2015, the Minnesota legislature significantly expanded the state’s expungement law. The expansion included additional eligible offenses as well as additional forms of relief. There is no guarantee that the new expungement law will erase your criminal past. However, the law gives assertive Buffalo criminal defense lawyers additional opportunities. And sometimes, that chance is all it takes.

A criminal conviction greatly interferes with some things which many people take for granted. For example, Minnesota’s ban the box law prohibits employers from asking about criminal backgrounds during the initial screening process. But employers can, and often do, refuse to interview people with criminal histories. Courts have repeatedly upheld these blanket policies.

If potential employers do not see your conviction record, they cannot ask about it. This proactive approach is the best way to deal with problems like this one.

A Buffalo Criminal Defense Lawyer Explains the Different Kinds of Expungement

There are basically three forms of expungement in Minnesota, and not all of them follow the traditional expungement pathway.

Deferred Adjudication

Initial plea bargain agreements often include deferred adjudication. Prosecutors normally recommend deferred if the case is a nonviolent offense and the defendant has no criminal history. In other situations, a judge may unilaterally grant deferred adjudication. Open pleas like this one, however, are rather risky.

Then again, the entire concept of deferred adjudication is risky. Procedurally, the defendant enters a plea and the judge places the defendant on probation. However, the judge does not enter a finding of guilt. Instead, the judge defers this part of the proceeding until after the defendant completes probation.

If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the criminal charges. However, if the defendant violates probation, the judge may sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum. If the case is a serious felony, that could mean a very long prison term. Common probation violations include:

  • Failure to report,
  • Committing a new offense while on probation,
  • Failure to pay money, and
  • Violating an offense-specific condition, like failing a drug test.

Many times, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer bundles a motion for early discharge from probation with deferred adjudication probation. Typically, defendants who have squeaky-clean probation records, have completed at least half the term, and have fulfilled all outstanding obligations (e.g. paid restitution and completed required classes) are eligible for early discharge.

Early release from probation eliminates the risk of violating probation. That’s a very significant plus. Additionally, for expungement purposes, early release makes a probation officer’s endorsement more likely. That endorsement is not quite the Midas touch, but it is pretty close.

Partial Expungement

Deferred adjudication, by itself, eliminates the conviction record. The arrest record remains and is still in full public view. A Buffalo criminal defense lawyer can also ask the court to seal the record. Under the new expungement law, courts have almost unlimited authority to expunge their own records.

However, courts lack the authority to expunge executive branch records. So, the BCA and all other law enforcement agencies still have their arrest records. That could be important if, for example, the defendant needs to undergo a background check for security reasons.

That being said, a residual arrest record is not the end of the world. That’s certainly true in the aforementioned employment situations. Most employers want to know about convictions and not arrests.

Full Expungement

In some cases, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer may be able to clear your name for any and all purposes. Before 2015, full expungement was only available in a limited number of cases. Now, expungement may be available in the following situations:

  • First-time drug possession offenses,
  • Juvenile matters prosecuted in adult court,
  • Not guilty finding at trial,
  • Any of the property crimes listed here, and
  • Case dismissed for cause.

A for-cause dismissal means something like a lack of evidence or a lack of probable cause. Prosecutorial discretion dismissals are usually not eligible for expungement.

Most domestic violence cases, such as assault and violation of a protective order, are never expungeable. The same thing is basically true of most sex offenses. Additionally, a waiting period of between one and five years may apply.

Factors the Judge May Consider

Plea bargains resolve most original criminal cases. But there is no plea bargaining in expungement matters. If the probation officer endorses the petition, the prosecutor may not contest it. However, the judge always has the final say. The factors to consider include:

  • Severity of the offense,
  • Amount of time that’s passed since the conviction,
  • Defendant’s employment status and community ties,
  • Criminal history, and
  • Affirmative rehabilitation steps.

Generally, the judge will grant the expungement petition if the defendant meets all the technical requirements, the probation officer endorses the petition, and the defendant has a good reason for the request.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Most defendants are eligible for some form of expungement. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Three Liability Theories Buffalo Personal Injury Lawyers Use in Dog Bite Claims

Every year, dogs attack over four million people. A number of these incidents cause serious injury, and many of these injuries are invisible to the naked eye.

Many dog bite victims are young children, and in these cases, the physical injuries are often gruesome. Dogs usually bite into flesh and then tear it. As a result, victims have both deep puncture wounds and serious abrasions. This combination usually necessitates reconstructive surgery. Techniques in this area have improved significantly since 2009. Progress has not been cheap, which probably explains why medical costs have escalated so much over the last ten years.

Buffalo personal injury lawyers can also obtain compensation for noneconomic damages. Typically, animal attack victims suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms. High-stress events, like sudden dog bites or being in combat, erode the cerebral cortex. This part of the brain controls logical thought. As a result, the amygdala, which controls emotional responses, becomes too powerful. This imbalance explains symptoms like flashbacks, heightened awareness, and an unnatural fear of dogs.

Both animal owners and non-owners may be legally responsible for damages in Minnesota. In a nutshell, the Gopher State’s law gives Buffalo personal injury lawyers multiple options in these situations.

Minnesota’s Strict Liability Animal Attack Law

Buffalo dog owners are liable for all animal attack damages as a matter of law. Victims need not prove that the owner knew the animal was dangerous. Victims also do not need to prove fault or negligence. They only need to establish causation.

This law broadly defines “owners.” This term includes both record owners and temporary custodians. Furthermore, if a person takes in a stray dog and never legally adopts it, that person is still the dog’s owner. A temporary custodian could be a veterinarian or a vet assistant.

Minnesota’s strict liability rule is one of the broadest ones in the country. Owners or custodians must pay full compensation for all damages. Moreover, the law bars most of the normal common-law negligence defenses. That includes things like contributory negligence.

Provocation is the only recognized defense, so insurance companies almost always raise it. In this context, provocation means more than aggressive teasing or even physical harm. Instead, victims provoke animals when they inflict so much pain that the animal must respond violently. Moreover, Minnesota’s version of the provocation defense usually requires multiple or extended incidents. And, some individuals, such as very young children, cannot provoke a dog as a matter of law.

Buffalo Personal Injury Lawyers and Negligence Claims

As mentioned, dog bites often cause catastrophic injuries. Fortunately, most homeowners insurance policies have very high claims limits. But in some cases, especially if someone like a dog walker was primarily responsible, the victim may need an additional source of compensation.

Negligence is essentially a lack of ordinary care. Persons who act carelessly are usually liable for the damages they cause, strict liability law or not. To establish negligence, the tortfeasor (negligent actor) must violate a legal duty and thereby cause damages.

These claims also introduce the prospect of third-party liability. Let’s return to the dog walker example. Assume Cindy is walking a dog in an off-leash park. While she is not looking, the dog then attacks a nearby child. If Cindy worked for a dog walking company or even got her gig from a referral agency, that company may be liable for damages under the respondeat superior rule. This doctrine applies if the tortfeasor was:

  • An employee who
  • Was acting within the scope of employment.

The law defines both these prongs in broad, victim-friendly terms. So, even if the company had no direct control over Cindy, it might still be an “employer” for negligence purposes. Minnesota is a modified joint and several liability state. Generally, if there are multiple responsible parties, the judge apportions damages among them based on their percentage of fault.

Scienter Claims in Minnesota

This Latin word means “knowledge.” Scienter harkens back to the common-law one bite rule. In many ways, scienter is like negligence. But the culpability level is higher. If the owner or custodian knew the animal was dangerous and the dog bites someone, carelessness does not matter. Evidence of knowledge includes things like:

  • Vicious barking,
  • Baring of teeth,
  • Lunging, and
  • Growling.

Assume Cindy never took her eyes off the dog. But the dog growls at a child and attacks the child a moment later. Under these facts, Cindy knew the dog was dangerous and did nothing to prevent the incident. Therefore, she may also be liable for additional punitive damages. These damages are available if the tortfeasor disregarded a known risk and endangered other people. That’s arguably the case in this situation.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Dog bite victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Did No-Fault Divorce End Saturday Morning Cartoons?

2019 is a big year for comic book movies. Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) is one of the few female superheroes in the Marvel universe, and Avengers: Endgame is actor Chris Evans’ swan song as Captain America. The continued popularity of these films makes some people wonder why your favorite heroes are no longer on the small screen every Saturday morning.

The proliferaion of no-fault divorce laws may have something to do with the demise of Saturday morning cartoons. The divorce rate skyrocketed in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, many part-time parents were no longer willing to let their children spend hours in front of the television.

Other factors, such as the rise of cartoon-only cable networks and changes to TV content requirements, also pushed Spider-Man and other comic book favorites into TV oblivion.

The Pros and Cons of No-Fault Divorce

Today, Minnesota is a pure no-fault state. Buffalo divorce lawyers may only claim irreconcilable differences as a basis for marriage dissolution. Only one spouse must testify that the relationship has hopelessly broken down and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

Some people claim that no-fault laws ruin families because they make divorce too easy, but the declining divorce rate belies that contention. The pure no-fault law does keep Buffalo divorce lawyers from obtaining a judicial declaration of fault (e.g. adultery or cruelty), and in some cases, that’s a big deal.

Overall, however, no-fualt divorce is probably a good thing. The law shifts focus away from the parents and onto the children. Additionally, parents no longer need to air their “dirty laundry” in front of Buffalo divorce lawyers and everyone else. That’s especially important if children are involved, because the ex-spouses must still be effective co-parents.

Perhaps most importantly, no-fault divorce forces the parties to focus on the substantive issues in the case. Some of these issues are outlined below.

Common Issues in Wright County Marriage Dissolution Cases

Child custody and visitation matters often revolve around the distinction between caregiver and breadwinner spouses. Once upon a time, the differnce was almost always crystal clear. One parent stayed home with the kids and the other one worked full time. Some marriages are still like that.

But for the most part, these parental roles almost always overlap, at least to some extent. The relative division of labor often dictates the division of parenting time. Child and spousal support help alleviate these differences, but they still matter.

The listed best interest factors also matter here, and the Legislature recently changed them. Some prominent factors include family stability, the children’s physical and emotional safety, the needs of each child, and the abilities of each parent.

Especially in long marriages, commingled property may be a significant issue. Assume Jane uses a wedding gift from her parents to fix up a rental house that belongs to Alicia. Depending on several factors, such as the gift’s amount and the rent house’s condition, that house could be Jane’s non-marital property, Alicia’s non-marital property, or marital property that Jane and Alicia must divide equitably.

There’s more. The increase from non-marital property is also non-marital property. So, if a Wright County judge awarded the house to Jane, Alicia would have to pay Jane all the back rents she collected since the date of the transfer. Jane would also be entitled to all future income.

Buffalo divorce lawyers must also deal with spousal support. Minnesota’s laws on this subject are quite subjective. Determining the obligee spouse’s economic need and the obligor spouse’s ability to pay is often a time-consuming process, especially since the tax law changed radically on January 1, 2019.

How a Buffalo Divorce Lawyer Guides Your Case Through the System

Almost all marriage dissolution cases settle out of court, and that settlement could occur at any time. But most cases follow the same general outline.

Roughly two weeks after the divorce petition is filed, the judge usually enters temporary orders. This temporary hearing may be the most important phase in the divorce case. These orders often form the blueprint for the final orders. Unless your Buffalo divorce lawyer is well-prepared and very assertive at this stage, you will be playing catch-up for the rest of the legal proceeding.

Discovery is important as well. Unless both parties lay all their cards on the table, it’s impossible to forge a fair settlement agreement. So, the discovery process is often quite time-consuming, especially if the other spouse tries to conceal assets. To keep that from happening to you, look for telltale signs like the cessation of e-mail account updates, business correspondence with unfamiliar company names, and sudden changes in tax withholding levels.

If you think all these things sound financially and emotionally exhausting, you are not alone. So, many Buffalo divorce lawyers focus on non-litigation solutions, such as mediation and collaborative law.

Partner with Assertive Attorneys

A no-fault divorce is almost never a quickie divorce. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Do Buffalo Criminal Defense Attorneys Always Plead Out Cases?

In most cases, the answer is “yes.” Fewer than 3 percent of criminal cases go to trial. Prosecutors dismiss a handful of others, perhaps due to a lack of probable cause or a simple lack of interest in the case. Plea bargains resolve all the remaining criminal cases in Wright County.

In almost all cases, the prosecutor and Buffalo criminal defense attorney agree on the plea bargain’s terms. These terms usually include a reduced sentence and/or lesser charges. A handful of pleas are open pleas. Defendants quite literally throw themselves on the mercy of the court. An even fewer number of pleas are slow pleas. In this complex process, the defendant pleads guilty and asks the jury to set punishment.

Wright County criminal defendants normally have several sentencing options. All of them have pros and cons.

Incarceration

This option is available in both felonies and misdemeanors. But since felonies usually involve lenghty prison sentences, most defendants only choose jail time in misdemeanors.

As mentioned, the plea agreement usually involves a shorter sentence. So, an agreed jail sentence could be as short as a month. If the defendant has no work, family, or other obligations, a brief jail sentence may not be a bad idea. This option may be an even better idea if, for whatever reason, a lenghty court supervision period is a poor alternative.

The defendant may not necessarily need to serve “straight time.” Very often, a Buffalo criminal defense attorney can work with the prosecutor on options like:

  • House Arrest: In some cases, authorities may issue an ankle bracelet or other GPS monitoring device to the defendant. The defendant must then remain in a specified space or area for the duration of the incarceration term.
  • Weekends: Typically, the defendant checks into the facility late on Friday night, checks out on Sunday, and then repeats the process until the sentence is complete. Many jails give the defendant three days of credit for this period, even though the defendant was only in custody for a little over a day.
  • Work Release: The defendant basically spends every night, and every weekend, in custody until discharged. This arrangement may be the most flexible one.

If the Wright County jail is crowded, which is usually the case, the sheriff may give inmates three days credit for every one day served.

Regular Probation

Most plea bargains between prosecutors and Buffalo criminal defense attorneys involve regular probation. Instead of a jail or prison sentence, the defendant submits to court supervision for a few months or years. Probation conditions vary, but some mandatory conditions apply in all cases. A few highlights include:

  • Commit No Further Offenses: Sometimes, a subsequent arrest may violate conditions of probation. But in most cases, the defendant must be convicted.
  • Pay Money: This money usually includes fines, court costs, and supervision fees. If a prosecutor attempts to revoke probation solely on this basis, a Buffalo criminal defense attorney may have a constitutional argument. The Constitution prohibits debtors prisons.
  • Report to Probation Officer: Typically, the defendant must report in person at least once a month. In most of the motions to revoke probation in Wright County, failure to report is the violation cited.
  • Be Nice: Probationers must work or go to school full time while they avoid disreputable people and places. This condition is obviously rather hard to enforce.

There are usually some offence-specific conditions as well. For example, DUI probation usually includes an ignition interlock device, victim impact panel, and perhaps drug testing.

If a prosecutor files a motion to revoke, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the reason failure-to-report motions are so common. Prosecutors need only introduce the sign-in log. If the judge finds the defendant violated probation, the judge usually incarcerates the defendant or orders the defendant to serve a few days in jail as a condition of reinstatement.

Defered Adjudication

In these cases, the defendant pleads guilty, but the judge does not find the defendant guilty. Instead, the judge defers proceedings until after the period of probation expires. All the normal conditions and restrictions apply. But if the defendant successfully completes probation, the prosecutor dismisses the case.

So, the defendant only has an arrest record. There is no conviction record. If anyone asks about the arrest, perhaps after checking a “yes” box on a job application, a simple explanation usually makes things better. We usually tell people to say something like “I hired a lawyer and the lawyer took care of it.”

Buffalo criminal defense attorneys know that deferred has some significant downsides as well. For example, if the defendant violates probation, the judge can literally throw the book at the defendant. In regular probation cases, the punishments for violations are much more limited.

In both types of probation cases, it may be possible to terminate the period of probation early. There’s no more need to toe tht line or report to a probation officer. This procedure may have some other benefits as well.

Contact Experienced Lawyers

Defendants normally have several sentencing options. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo criminal defense attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Buffalo Personal Injury Attorneys and Truck Accidents

Mostly due to the nature of these incidents, large vehicle collisions are much different than other types of motor vehicle collisions. Perhaps the first order of business for a Buffalo personal injury attorney is determining if the truck accident was truly “accidental.” Typically, that is not the case, so victims are probably entitled to compensation.

A few truck collisions are beyond anyone’s control. For example, an earthquake might shake the ground and push a truck into another vehicle. But these incidents are incredibly unlikely. Typically, large truck crashes involve negligence, which is a lack of ordinary care.

Negligence is usually easier to establish in truck crash cases. Commercial operators are common carriers in Minnesota. Such an individual has a duty to “use all reasonable means at his disposal to avoid an accident.” This duty is much higher than the one which applies in non-commercial cases.

Compensation in large vehicle collision claims usually includes money for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some cases.

What Causes Truck Accidents?

Vehicles like multi-passenger intercity or tour buses are obviously much different than passenger cars. But neglect is neglect. So, while keeping the higher standard of care in mind, Buffalo personal injury attorneys use much the same approach in both types of cases.

Many crashes involve some form of behavioral negligence. The tortfeasor (negligent driver) makes a decision, or series of decisions, which impairs his/her ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. When the vehicle is a huge land barge, like a tour bus or semi-truck, even a slight degree of impairment may have deadly consequences.

Behavioral negligence is one of the leading causes of car crashes. It usually involves one of the following kids of driving impairment:

  • Drugs: Street drugs, like LSD and heroin, only cause a few truck crashes. But legal drugs, like Oxycontin or Percocet, sometimes cause more behavioral negligence crashes than alcohol. There is nothing wrong with taking these drugs, as long as the person has a valid prescription. But it’s incredibly unsafe to drive under the influence of these substances.
  • Alcohol: This substance impairs both judgment ability and muscle reflexes. This impairment begins with the first drink. So, a Buffalo personal injury attorney can often use evidence of consumption, like an odor of alcohol, as evidence of impairment.
  • Fatigue: Drowsiness affects the brain in roughly the same way as alcohol. In fact, driving after eighteen awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC. Additionally, most people are naturally drowsy early in the morning and late at night, no matter how much sleep they had the night before.

Dishonorable mention in the behavioral negligence category goes to driving with a medical condition, such as epilepsy or heart disease, which can cause sudden unconsciousness.

Operational negligence causes a significant number of truck accidents as well. This kind of negligence usually involves violating a safety law. SPeeding, failure to maintain a proper lookout, and making an illegal turn are the most common forms of operational negligence. Minnesota’s expansive negligence per se rule may mean that operationally negligent tortfeasors may be responsible for damages as a matter of law.

How Do Buffalo Personal Injury Attorneys Prove Liability in Truck Accident Claims?

Drowsy driving is perhaps the most common type of behavioral negligence in truck accident cases. Many transportation companies pay drivers by the load. This system encourages them to drive for long hours at a time. Additionally, many tour bus drivers are behind the wheel early in the morning and/or late at night.

In both these cases, the vehicle’s Electronic Logging Device may provide valuable information. ELDs are attached to the truck’s engine. So, they provide near-irrefutable evidence about HOS (hours of service) compliance, as well as the times the driver operated the vehicle.

Operational negligence claims frequently involve the tortfeasor’s driving record. But since most commercial drivers operate in multiple states, Buffalo personal injury attorneys often have a hard time obtaining these records. Fortunately, the federal government’s Safety Management System contains a clearinghouse of information regarding things like:

  • Unsafe driving,
  • Crash history,
  • Driver fitness, and
  • Vehicle maintenance.

The SMS clearinghouse relies on law enforcement data, which is usually more reliable than judicial or even DMV records.

Contact Diligent Attorneys

Truck accident claims are usually quite complex. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo personal injury attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

Six Best Interests Factors Used by Buffalo Family Law Attorneys

Recent legal innovations, like the recognition of same-sex marriages, have changed family law significantly in the past few years. Yet Minnesota’s family code had not been significantly updated since the addition of no-fault divorce.

That changed in January 2016, when a slew of new best interest factors went into effect. Now, almost three years later, both family law courts and Buffalo family law attorneys have had an opportunity to fully digest these changes. So, it’s a good time to look at the leading child custody factors in both initial determinations and modifications.

Children’s Overall Needs

Quite appropriately, the first factor concerns the children’s “physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual, and other needs, and the effect of the proposed arrangements on the child’s needs and development.”

Every child is different. But in general, most children need consistency and boundaries. Following a divorce, most children need to stay in the same neighborhood, retain the same friends, go to the same school, and retain the same religious habits. In other words, they often need to stay with the parent that obtained custody at the temporary hearing. The old saying that possession is nine points of the law is very appropriate here.

That being said, children need boundaries. The residential parent must be one that tells children to brush their teeth, do their homework, go to bed on time, and so on. The failure to do so could impair the children’s emotional development.

Children’s Special Needs

This factor is a new one. To one extent or another, all children have “special medical, mental health, or educational needs.”

This dynamic is especially important if there was a clear division of parental responsibility during the marriage. In other words, did the family have a “caregiver” spouse and a “breadwinner” spouse? If so, the breadwinner may not understand the details of a special need the way a caregiver spouse understands these things.

Children’s Preference

This factor is not nearly as important as some Buffalo family law attorneys believe it is. For one thing, many children do not want to choose one parent over another one. Moreover, the judge always has the final word. Any preference expressed must be in the children’s best interests.

So, a Wright County judge may consider such opinions “if the court deems the child to be of sufficient ability, age, and maturity to express an independent, reliable preference.” In other words, the judge has almost complete discretion. If warranted by the facts, a judge may discount the preference of a 16-year-old or embrace the preference of a 4-year-old.

Parent’s Physical and Mental Fitness

Some parents have health issues which prevent them from taking care of children. Sometimes, these conditions are self-inflicted, at least to some extent. On that note, the onset or removal of a disability is often the basis of a successful motion to modify.

Parental preference is relevant as well. Some adults are perfectly willing to be weekend parents. Sometimes they express this preference directly. Other times, the expression is indirect. Quite often, one parent faithfully attends choir concerts or soccer games and the other parent seemingly always has something else to do.

Ability to Co-Parent

During initial determinations or modifications, many people hire overly-aggressive Buffalo family law attorneys. These lawyers contest every point and refuse to compromise. This strategy often backfires. Many Wright County judges assume that parents who are combative during court proceedings will be even more combative once court supervision ends. Minnesota law presumes that children benefit from consistent and meaningful contact with both parents. If a parent repeatedly erects roadblocks, that’s usually not a good thing.

So, a good Buffalo family law attorney walks the line. Each parent must have a strong advocate. But each parent must also be willing to work out problems and coexist with the other parent. Problems are inevitable in a co-parenting relationship.

Ability to Meet Future Needs

Obviously, no one has a crystal ball and no one can see the future. However, it is possible to ascertain “the willingness and ability of each parent to provide ongoing care for the child; to meet the child’s ongoing developmental, emotional, spiritual, and cultural needs; and to maintain consistency and follow through with parenting time.”

Most Wright County judges can quickly tell if a parent is putting on an act to obtain a favorable short-term decision. Parents who see the children as trophies, or want custody so the other spouse doesn’t get it, rarely come out on top.

Connect with Experienced Lawyers

Whether the case is resolved by agreement or at trial, all child custody determinations must be in the best interests of the children. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

 

What Happens at Buffalo DUI Roadblocks?

New Year’s Eve is just around the corner, which means that local law enforcement departments are already planning their DUI roadblocks. These checkpoints usually appear at that time of year along with other drinking-and-driving holidays, like Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.

Normally, police officers need reasonable suspicion to pull over suspected drunk drivers. The United States Supreme Court has diluted the reasonable suspicion standard in a few recent cases. But officers must still have some specific, articulable facts which indicate criminal activity. This requirement is embedded in the Fourth Amendment.

But roadblock stops are more difficult for Buffalo criminal defense lawyers to handle. At checkpoint stops, police officers do not need reasonable suspicion. Rather, officers may pull over vehicles according to a pre-set pattern.

DUI Roadblock Requirements

Since DUI checkpoints are exempt from the reasonable suspicion requirement, they must meet very specific standards, as set out by 1990’s Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz and some other cases. Some of these requirements include:

  • Supervisor-Level Planning: A few street cops cannot get together and establish checkpoints where they feel they are needed. Arguably, sergeants and lieutenants do not have this power either. Instead, these directives must come from high-level supervisors, like captains, or from lawmakers. These individuals are accountable to the voters either directly or indirectly.
  • Neutral Formula: Some checkpoint officers are tempted to combine a watered-down reasonable suspicion requirement with roadblock procedures. But officers cannot pull over cars because they “look wrong.” Instead, the checkpoint guidelines must establish a schedule (e.g. every third vehicle is detained) and stick with it for the entire time.
  • Visibility: Checkpoints are not poorly-concealed speed traps. Instead, checkpoints must include traffic cones, warning lights, adequate signage, and other items. This requirement blends in with your right to turn around and avoid the checkpoint, which is examined below.
  • Publicity: Once supervisors set out detailed checkpoint guidelines, the department must publicize the checkpoint. The rules here are a little uncertain. But the publicity must be of a sufficient nature that it gives people the opportunity to stay away from the area altogether if they choose.
  • Detention Length: The rules are a bit vague here as well. Generally, however, any period longer than about three minutes is too long. That includes the time drivers spend waiting in line to reach the checkpoint itself, interaction with officers, and leaving the area.

Buffalo criminal defense lawyers can use any breakdown to invalidate the checkpoint, and intermittent breakdowns are common. For example, officers might start detaining every fourth vehicle to speed the line up. There’s nothing wrong with that sentiment. But unless the established checkpoint guidelines authorize such action, that initiative is illegal non-supervisor planning.

Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint

At most traffic stops, Buffalo criminal defense lawyers can attack officers’ reasonable suspicion for the stop. For example, many officers claim that drivers made “furtive movements” while driving. Furtive gestures, like looking around quickly or appearing to hide something, do not constitute reasonable suspicion in most Wright County courtrooms.

Similarly, drivers have rights at DUI roadblocks. Motorists do not have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. But they do have the right to:

  • Avoid the Checkpoint: Generally, the aforementioned warning signs must begin before the line forms. Drivers must have the opportunity to make U-turns and avoid the checkpoint. If that happens, officers will probably shadow them for at least a few blocks.
  • Remain Silent in Line: When drivers reach checkpoint officers, they must produce drivers’ licenses and proof of insurance upon request. However, they do not need to answer any other questions. IN fact, they do not even have to roll down their windows. It’s enough to flash the documents, stop briefly, and then move on.
  • Remain Silent After Detention: To move motorists to the detention area, officers must have reasonable suspicion of intoxication. That could be physical symptoms, like bloodshot eyes or odor of alcohol. That could also be the driver’s statements. If officers ask you to answer more questions or perform field sobriety tests, your Fifth Amendment rights remain in place. If you remain silent, officers will almost surely arrest you. But that probably would have happened anyway.

Recording smartphone or other video is in a grey area. The United States Supreme Court has yet to rule that people have a fundamental right to film police officers as they exercise their official duties.

DUI checkpoints give police officers an enormous amount of power. If not for budget constraints, most departments would have checkpoints on every major intersection on every weekend. But this power is not absolute. Checkpoints erode some, but not all of, your constitutional rights.

Work with a Dedicated Lawyer

Every minute they are operations, DUI checkpoints must conform with the law. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

 

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