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

Have you noticed that when you need something, the price usually goes up? When COVID-19 hit, face mask prices increased 500 percent in some areas. So, many people expect to pay lots of money for a lawyer if they are accused of a crime.

Fortunately, that’s not the way it works in this area. Legal ethics require attorneys to set fixed fees for certain services. Experience level is usually the biggest factor. So, as an attorney gains experience over the years, the attorney can charge more money. But lawyers cannot double or triple their fees because you had a brush with the law.

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

Free Lawyers in Buffalo, MN

In a significant number of cases, the cost of a Minnesota criminal defense lawyer is nothing, or at least practically nothing. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to counsel in criminal cases. Furthermore, the Supreme Court recently ruled that this right means the counsel of your choice.

Exact procedure varies in different counties, and in different courts in the same county. However, the free lawyer choices are always the same: a public defender or a court-appointed lawyer.

There is some truth to the image of the overworked public defender. But truthfully, if a Buffalo criminal lawyer is not busy, there is always a reason, and it’s usually not a good reason. Additionally, many court-appointed attorneys and public defenders must meet higher professional standards than a lawyer you happen to find on Google.

However, there are some serious drawbacks. Many judges only appoint lawyers for incarcerated defendants. They reason, perhaps wrongly, that if you can afford bail, you can afford a lawyer. Additionally, individuals have no say in this process. The judge assigns counsel, sometimes at random and sometimes according to a preset formula. If you do not like your lawyer for some reason, there is generally nothing you can do.

Incidentally, you can represent yourself in a court case, including a criminal case. As a rule of thumb, if the criminal case includes possible jail time, self-representation is one of the biggest mistakes a person can make.

Expensive Buffalo Criminal Lawyers

The old adage you get what you pay for is not always true. On the low end, an inexpensive Buffalo criminal lawyer is most likely inexperienced or not very diligent. The aforementioned public interest lawyers do not count. The state pays these attorneys a competitive rate.

However, a high-priced lawyer is not necessarily better than a mid-priced lawyer. Typically, clients of high-priced lawyers pay for extras, like a large office, a famous name, or a large staff. Effective criminal defense usually does not require these things.

How Much Should I Expect to Pay?

First, a few words about fee structure. Informed consumers usually make the best choices. Some attorneys require retainers and bills by the hour. When the retainer account falls below a certain level, the client must add more money. Hourly billing is especially common in civil cases.

Most criminal attorneys charge stairstep fees, such as X for a negotiated settlement, X+Y for a bench trial, and X+Y+Z for a jury trial. Most Buffalo criminal lawyers also charge more for felonies than misdemeanors. Felonies are more complex, and there is more at stake.

Next, let’s look at how most attorneys set their fees. As mentioned, the Minnesota State Bar allows lawyers to set fees based on a number of factors. Two of the big ones are:

  • Experience: Look beyond years of experience. To many lawyers, criminal law is a sideline. These lawyers should be avoided, as should one-trick pony attorneys who only practice criminal law. You want someone in the middle.
  • Time Commitment: A murder trial or similar complex felony might require several months of full-time work. Since the lawyer cannot work on anything else during this period, the legal fee could be substantial. Also, the reason some lawyers charge less to handle plea bargains is that such matters are less time-consuming.

Other factors include the prevailing market rate for similar services, the novelty of the legal questions involved, and the client’s ability to pay.

Conclusion

Hiring an attorney involves smart thinking. Being charged with a crime can have life-changing consequences for the defendant and not in a good way. A conviction can ruin your life, and must be avoided as far as possible. In such cases, the services of an attorney who is experienced in dealing with such legal matters and getting favorable outcomes can make all the difference. Hence, it makes sense to have the best attorney on your side. Consider it as an investment you make towards a secure future. Hopefully, this post has helped you understand the importance of choosing an ethical and experienced criminal defense lawyer who adheres to a set fee structure to aggressively protect your interests.

Contact an Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney in Buffalo

If you or your loved one has been arrested, you should act as quickly as possible because evidence and case facts need to be gathered without any delay. Our Buffalo criminal defense lawyers can begin working on your case as soon as you contact us, so you can look forward to positive outcomes and even avoid a potential conviction. Legal representation in a criminal case might be the most important investment you ever make. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. at (855) 976-2444. Convenient payment plans are available.

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.

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.

Evidence in Drugged Driving Cases and Buffalo, MN DUI Lawyers

One day soon, marijuana Breathalyzers might revolutionize drugged driving prosecutions in Wright County. Under current law, if the defendant’s THC level was above five nanograms per milliliter of blood, the defendant was intoxicated as a matter of law. Marijuana, whether it was legally acquired or not, is the leading source of drugged driving prosecutions in Minnesota, followed by prescription medications like Xanax and Oxycontin.

For the foreseeable future, prosecutors must normally rely on rather thin circumstantial evidence to convict defendants in these situations. The burden of proof is very high. So, in order to overcome the presumption of innocence, the amount of evidence must be almost overwhelming.

Given the current environment, a skilled Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer is often able to successfully resolve these cases. That resolution could be a complete dismissal of charges, a not-guilty verdict at trial, or a favorable plea bargain arrangement.

Unapproved Drug Impairment Tests

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has approved three field sobriety tests for use in DUI-drug arrests. These tests arguably have some scientific basis, although that basis is rather shaky, as outlined below.

Nevertheless, many Wright County law enforcement officers have defendants perform unapproved tests as well. These tests fatigue defendants mentally and physically, so they do not do as well on the tests that count. Additionally, unless a Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer objects to their use, these test results are usually admissible in court.

Romberg’s balance test is probably the most common unapproved test. A German scientist developed this test about two hundred years ago. Subjects must stand perfectly straight while their eyes are closed and their heads are tilted back. This position robs subjects of the three things needed to maintain balance, which are:

  • Knowing the position of one’s body (proprioception),
  • Knowing one’s head position (vestibular function), and
  • Vision.

Sometimes, officers add additional bells and whistles, like having subjects touch the tips of their noses with their index fingers.

A Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer can normally get this test, and other tests, excluded. However, it’s sometimes best to let an officer try to explain things like “vestibular function” and “proprioception” to jurors. If the officer does not know the underlying principles of this test, which is likely, it looks like the state is trying to railroad the defendant.

Buffalo, MN DUI Lawyers and Approved Drug Impairment Field Tests

The Horizontal Dage Nystagmus test is usually the first approved test in the three-test battery. Subjects must follow moving objects, like ink pens, using only their eyes. If a pupil moves involuntarily at certain angles, the subject probably has nystagmus.

Drug impairment is one cause of nystagmus. But it’s not the only cause. It’s not even the leading cause. Genetic abnormalities and mild childhood brain injuries cause most nystagmus cases. This condition is also known as lazy eye. Many people have a lazy eye, but the symptoms are so mild they do not know it.

The bottom line is that many people “fail” this test even if they are not high or stoned. As a result, many Wright County judges only admit HGN test results for limited purposes.

The Walk and Turn usually comes next. Walking a straight line is probably the signature drug impairment field test. During this exam, officers look for a number of clues, such as swaying or not walking heel to toe, which indicate drug impairment.

Environmental factors often affect this test. It’s very difficult to walk an imaginary line unless the surface is perfectly level and flat. Additionally, it’s hard to maintain concentration when cars whiz by at high speeds and flashing strobe light dance on the top of the squad car.

By the time defendants get to the One Leg Stand, they are usually fatigued mentally and physically, especially if they had to do unapproved tests. Under these conditions, anyone with any mobility impairment will be unable to pass this test. Additionally, officers often issue failing grades on this test because of technicalities, like holding the elevated leg at slightly the wrong angle.

Drug Recognition “Experts”

DREs are police officers who have additional training in this area. That additional training usually comes exclusively from a brief, police-sponsored seminar, so its educational value might be limited.

If the DRE comes to the scene of the arrest early and administers the field sobriety tests, these individuals have some credibility. They are better able to grade tests than officers on the street.

But frequently, DREs arrive after the FSTs are in progress or completed. If they testify in court, a Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer can usually challenge the testimony. Their conclusion is based on hearsay, and under Minnesota law, these police officers normally do not qualify as “experts.”

Contact an Assertive Attorney

It is not easy for the state to prove DUI-drug cases beyond a reasonable doubt. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Jail Release and Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyers

The Gopher State has one of the highest unsentenced inmate percentages in the United States. Most jail inmates are simply waiting for their trial dates. They have not been convicted of anything. This situation is not good for a number of reasons, some of which are outlined below.

The high unsentenced inmate population gives Minnesota criminal defense lawyers more options than ever in terms of jail release. Keep reading to learn more about them. In most cases, even if you were charged with a serious felony, there’s no reason to wait for your trial date in an iron cage.

Why Jail Release is Important

Pretrial detention makes it very difficult to successfully resolve criminal cases. In fact, according to many observers, pretrial detention transforms the presumption of innocence into a presumption of guilt.

These individuals understandably want quick trial dates. As a result, a Minnesota criminal defense lawyer might be forced to take shortcuts during the case evaluation and evidence collection processes. Furthermore, many people who are behind bars accept unfavorable plea bargain arrangements just to “get it over with.” Indirect effects, like immigration consequences of a felony conviction,  do not get the attention they deserve.

Jail release is also important for personal reasons, and not all these reasons are obvious. For example, incarceration greatly increases stress hormone production. Prolonged exposure to these hormones alters brain chemistry. Have you ever known a person who went to jail and came back as a different person? That’s because their brains are different.

Initial Jail Release

Blue states like Minnesota have rather liberal jail release policies. However, only a Minnesota criminal defense lawyer knows how to take full advantage of them.

If the defendant is charged with a nonviolent offense and has no criminal record, pretrial release might be an option. A review board examines the case, and if the board decides OR (own recognizance) release is appropriate, the board tells the Sherriff to release the defendant without posting any financial security.

Even if they meet the minimum qualifications, not everyone receives OR release. Sometimes, the board thinks that the defendant does not take the charges seriously. If the defendant has already hired a Minnesota criminal defense lawyer, that concern is irrelevant.

Cash bond is almost always an option. Essentially, cash bond is like a rental security deposit. If tenants pay the rent on time and take care of the property, they get most of the deposit back when the lease ends. Likewise, if defendants appear at trial and fulfill other obligations, like staying out of trouble with the law, they get most of the bond back when the case is over.

Bond amount varies, but it’s usually about $750 for a misdemeanor and $2,000 for most felonies. To many families, $2,000 might as well be $2 billion. That’s one reason the unsentenced proportion is so high. Many people simply don’t have the money.

So, a bail bond is usually available as well. A bail bond is like an insurance policy. If the house burns down, the fire insurance company covers the loss. If the defendant does not appear at trial, the bail bond company covers the financial loss. Most bonding companies charges about a 15 percent policy premium.

Frequently, bail bonds come with many, many strings attached. In addition to staying out of trouble with the police, most defendants must report to a bail bond officer and fulfill other conditions. A Minnesota criminal defense lawyer can negotiate with the bonding company and reduce these extra conditions.

Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyers and Bail Reduction Hearings

Despite an attorney’s best efforts, bail is often either unavailable or unaffordable, at least initially. At the arraignment, which usually occurs about forty-eight hours after arrest, a Minnesota criminal defense lawyer can ask the judge to reduce bail. Some factors in this decision include:

  • Severity of the offense,
  • Defendant’s ability to pay,
  • Amount of evidence against the defendant,
  • Defendant’s contact with the community (e.g. family and/or job), and
  • Any threat to the community if the defendant is released.

These matters, and all criminal matters, usually settle out of court. For example, the prosecutor might agree to reduce bail if the defendant agrees to electronic monitoring.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

Prompt jail release does not guarantee a successful result, but it does put the wind at your back. For a free consultation with an experienced Minnesota criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Drugged Driving Charges and Criminal Lawyers in Brainerd, MN

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

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

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

What Does the Law Say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I Expunge a Drugged Driving Conviction?

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

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

Rely on an Experienced Attorney

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

How Do Hutchinson, MN Criminal Lawyers Attack the Evidence in Drugged Driving Cases?

Nationwide, drugged drivers cause more fatal crashes than drunk drivers. As a result, law enforcement officers in McLeod County are extremely aggressive in this area. Part of this crackdown includes a new kind of expert witness, as outlined below. And, as technology continues to advance, police officers might have even more anti-drugged driving tools by the end of 2020.

Legally, the Gopher State has one of the broadest drugged driving laws in the country. Under Minnesota law, it is illegal to drive “under the influence of. . .an intoxicating substance (when the person knows, or has reason to know, that the substance has the capacity to cause impairment).” It’s also illegal for drivers to have even trace amounts of most Schedule I (street drugs like heroin and cocaine) or Schedule II drugs (prescription pills like Adderall and Vicodin) in their systems.

Pragmatically, these cases are difficult to prove in court. Generally, prosecutors must rely on circumstantial evidence to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So, if a Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyer aggressively attacks the evidence, it might be possible to get the charges thrown out of court.

Field Sobriety Tests

The bulk of circumstantial evidence in a DWI case usually comes from the subjective FSTs. Sometimes, officers ask suspects to perform unapproved tests, like balancing with their eyes closed or reciting part of the ABCs. These tests have no scientific basis. The three approved FSTs, however, have at least some scientific basis. They are:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: During the DWI eye test, officers look for involuntary pupil movements as suspects track moving objects with their eyes. Nystagmus, or lazy eye, is a fairly common condition. So, many people cannot pass this test whether they are drunk or sober.
  • One-Leg Stand: Somewhat similarly, it’s almost impossible for people with any mobility impairment whatsoever to balance on one leg for more than a few seconds. Officers deduct points for the slightest swaying, as well as for technicalities like holding up the wrong leg.
  • Walk and Turn: The heel-to-toe walk test might be the signature DWI field test. This test is almost impossible to successfully complete unless the defendant is wearing athletic shoes. It’s also very difficult to walk an imaginary line heel to toe, as opposed to an actual line.

This evidence is often unavailable. Defendants have a Fifth Amendment right to refuse the FSTs. And, the refusal cannot be used against them in court.

Hutchinson, MN Criminal Lawyers and Drug Recognition Experts

The sudden uptick in drugged driving cases has created a cottage industry in many police departments. When they stop motorists for suspicion of drugged driving, officers often summon DREs to the scene. There, they observe the FSTs and look for other physical evidence of drug use. Subsequently, they offer their “expert” opinions in court.

There are basically two ways a Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyer can undermine DRE testimony. First, these individuals often have suspect qualifications. They usually learned everything they know about drugged driving at police-sponsored seminars. Furthermore, DREs earn their wings by identifying drugged drivers, not by discerning drugged drivers from sober drivers.

Additionally, and on a related note, a DRE’s job is to confirm drugged driving, not to confirm or deny drugged driving. So, summoning a DRE to the scene is like initiating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Chemical Tests

Marijuana Breathalyzers are not on the street yet, but that could change by the end of 2020. Several firms, including a California company, have developed prototypes. These gadgets measure THC particles in the breath, just like alcohol Breathalyzers count ethanol particles.

In this area, the law has not caught up with science. Most researchers agree that .08 is a reasonable BAC limit for non-commercial drivers. But there is no such consensus with regard to THC. Minnesota law states that five nanograms per milliliter of THC seriously impairs drivers. But that figure is completely arbitrary. So, before marijuana Breathalyzers appear, Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyers will advocate for clients at the statehouse to change the law, before these cases reach the courthouse.

Rely on Dedicated Attorneys

Drugged driving cases often have shaky evidentiary foundations. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Drug Possession Charges and Brainerd, MN Drug Crime Lawyers

In the 1980s, possession cases accounted for about 5 percent of all drug arrests. Since then, that proportion has grown to over 80 percent. Police officers are more aggressive when it comes to possession cases, but many Crow Wing County jurors are more forgiving. Increasingly, people view drugs as a health and safety issues as opposed to a criminal law issue. That’s especially true with regard to semi-legal drugs, like marijuana and prescription painkillers.

Partially because of this attitude, it’s easier for Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyers to successfully resolve these cases, particularly if the defendant has little or no criminal record. Additionally, as outlined below, drug possession charges are difficult to prove in court.

Produce the Substance

According to an obscure legal principle called the best evidence rule, a police officer’s testimony that a defendant had drugs is usually not good enough, unless there is corroborating physical evidence. And, just because officers seize contraband, that doesn’t mean the substance is admissible.

Normally, physical evidence is inadmissible unless officers have search warrants. Since officers rarely bother with search warrants in possession cases, they must rely on a search warrant exception. Some common ones in these cases include:

  • Consent: Officers cannot look in backpacks, glove compartments, or other containers without the owner’s permission. Typically, consent is an affirmative, immediate act. However, different rules sometimes apply if the defendant was on probation or parole.
  • Exigent Circumstances: Police officers can disrupt parties or other gatherings if they believe someone is in trouble. In these cases, they can perform a safety sweep and seize any contraband they see in plain view.
  • Plain View: As the name implies, if officers see drugs or other contraband in plain view, they may seize it without a warrant.  Partial plain view cases, such as a pistol grip protruding from under a car seat, are in a grey area.

Judges usually determine if contraband is admissible during pretrial hearings. Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyers can use previous cases to show that the seizure was illegal. If the evidence is admissible, the case moves to the next area.

Brainerd, MN Drug Crime Lawyers and Proof of Illegality

Officers always claim that substances “field-tested” positive as illegal drugs. These field tests are completely unscientific. Frequently, they are not much more than sensory tests. Additionally, these tests are completely uncorroborated. There are usually no actual test results. Frequently, it’s just the officer’s word.

So, these preliminary tests are never conclusive. In December 2018, police arrested a Florida man was arrested on heroin possession charges. That “heroin” turned out to be laundry detergent.

The lesson from cases like this one is clear. A Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyer must always order scientific tests from an independent laboratory.

This element is particularly complicated in marijuana possession cases. Industrial hemp is legal, and recreational marijuana is illegal. The problem is that hemp and marijuana are physically indistinguishable. They look alike and smell alike.

To prove the substance was marijuana and not hemp, prosecutors must order expensive THC content tests. These tests are not cost-efficient in some cases, and not available in other cases. So, it’s even easier for Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyers to resolve marijuana possession cases. Frequently, prosecutors would rather offer pretrial diversion or another alternative in these cases, especially because of the aforementioned juror attitudes.

Establishing Possession

It’s not enough to produce the substance and prove it was illegal. Crow Wing County prosecutors must also establish possession. And, they must establish it beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the everyday world, possession usually means proximity. I possess my smartphone even if it’s on the table instead of in my hand. But to Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyers, possession means more than proximity. Prosecutors must also establish knowledge and control.

Assume officers pull over Freddy for speeding. They suspect wrongdoing, and Freddy gives them consent to search the car. During that search, officers find marijuana in the glove compartment. So, they arrest Freddy and Shaggy, who was a passenger.

The possession charges against Shaggy will not hold up in court unless the state proves Shaggy knew there was marijuana in the glove box and he had access to it. Unless Freddy and Shaggy were practically joined at the hip, a Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyer could probably beat the charges against Shaggy, even if the substance turned out to be marijuana instead of hemp.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Several defenses are available to drug possession charges. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.

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