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.

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

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

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

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

The Negligent Entrustment Rule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “Trade or Business” Requirement

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

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

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

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

Connect with a Hard-Hitting Attorney

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

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.

Vehicle Collision Defenses and Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers

The average car wreck causes about $20,000 in economic losses, such as property damage, medical bills, and lost wages. Depending on the facts of the case, compensation for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, might be two or three times the amount of economic losses. Therefore, in any given vehicle collision case, there is a substantial amount of money at stake.

Despite what TV commercials might imply, the insurance company is not “on your side” if you are a car crash victim. Instead, many companies look for legal loopholes that might reduce or deny compensation. Keep reading to find out more about some of these loopholes.

A Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, on the other hand, is definitely on your side. Lawyers collect evidence which supports compensation claims and then effectively present that evidence in court or at the bargaining table. As a result, victims obtain the financial resources they need to put their shattered lives back together.

The Seatbelt Defense

Like every other state except New Hampshire, Minnesota has a mandatory seatbelt law. In fact, the Gopher State’s seatbelt law is broader than most. All occupants, whether they are in the front or back seat and whether they are adults or children, must wear seatbelts. And, small children must be in age-appropriate car seats.

In many states, if victims do not wear seatbelts, insurance companies can at least reduce the amount of compensation they receive. Furthermore, many jurors refuse to award damages in these cases. Many jurors feel that, if unrestrained people are injured in car crashes, it’s their own fault.

However, in Minnesota, the so-called seatbelt defense is nonexistent. Evidence of seatbelt non-use is flatly inadmissible in civil court. Brainerd, MN accident lawyers must be vigilant in this area. Insurance defense lawyers often try to suggest that maybe the victim was not wearing a seatbelt. Such implications are illegal in Minnesota.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Contributory Negligence

Thanks to Section 169.685, many insurance company lawyers do not even try to talk about seatbelt non-use. The penalties for violating this law are too great.

Contributory negligence is on the other end of the spectrum. Comparative fault is perhaps the most common insurance company defense in Minnesota car wreck claims. This doctrine shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) onto the victim.

Assume Driver made a rolling right turn at a red light. Since she was looking to the left watching for oncoming traffic, she did not see Pedestrian, who was crossing the street outside the crosswalk. Technically, both parties are partially at fault. Driver failed to obey a traffic signal, and Pedestrian was jaywalking.

In these situations, the Crow Wing County jury must listen to the evidence and divide fault between the victim and tortfeasor on a percentage basis.

The percentage division is important, because contributory negligence laws differ slightly in different states. Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, even if Driver was at least 51 percent responsible for the wreck, Driver is liable for a proportionate share of damages.

Insurance companies bear the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion in comparative fault cases. First, lawyers must convince the judge that the victim’s fault substantially contributed to the accident. Then, they must convince jurors of the same thing. Each time, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer can challenge the insurance company’s evidence.

Sudden Emergency/Last Clear Chance

At worst, contributory negligence usually reduces the amount of compensation the victim receives. Sudden emergency and its legal cousin eliminate compensation altogether.

The sudden emergency defense often comes up in pedestrian claims. Frequently, insurance company lawyers argue the victim “darted out into traffic” and so a collision was inevitable. Legally, this defense applies if the tortfeasor reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency.

“Sudden emergency” has a limited meaning in this context. The label only applies to unexpected situations, like a lightning strike. Everyday events, such as careless pedestrians, are not sudden emergencies.

Last clear chance often arises in rear-end or head-on crash claims. Assume Sam crossed the center line and Brenda did not swerve or do anything else to avoid the crash. Brenda could be legally responsible for the wreck, even though Sam drove recklessly.

There’s a big difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. Frequently, because of traffic or other conditions, sudden emergency maneuvers might cause a more serious wreck than the one they avoid.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

Insurance companies often cite legal loopholes to avoid paying fair compensation to accident victims. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury claims.

Dog Bite Injuries and Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers

Pet owners are common in communities across America. So, it’s not surprising that dogs bite almost five million Americans a year. Some of these incidents are not much more than annoying. But many of them cause serious physical and emotional injuries, as outlined below.

Largely due to the complex nature of these injuries, along with rising hospitalization costs since the end of the Great Recession, the average dog bite settlement amount has increased 76 percent since 2003. These settlement amounts usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Occasionally, these settlements also include additional punitive damages.

To successfully resolve animal attack claims, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer must understand the nature of dog bite injuries and how they affect victims as well as families.

Physical Injuries

Every dog bite case is different. But most serious injury claims involve large mastiff breed animals, like pit bulls or rottweilers, and small children or other vulnerable victims.

When a big dog launches itself toward a small child, the knockdown by itself usually causes serious injuries. Some of them include:

  • Head Injuries: Contrary to popular myth, the impact of hitting the ground is not the only issue here. The sudden, violent motion might be enough to cause a head injury. This motion causes the brain to slam against the inside of the skull.
  • Internal Injuries: This same force causes internal organs to grind and bump against each other. Since these organs lack protective skin layers, they often bleed profusely. Frequently, doctors have a hard time identifying and stopping internal bleeding.
  • Broken Bones: When children fall off their bikes, the broken bones usually set easily and heal completely. But when large dogs attack small children, the broken bones do not mend nearly as easily. Doctors typically use metal screws or plates to set them, and even after physical therapy, there may be some permanent loss of use.

In most cases, the knockdown is just the beginning. When dogs bite, their teeth cause tearing lacerations and deep puncture wounds. The lacerations often require delicate reconstructive surgery to correct, and the deep puncture wounds make the aforementioned internal bleeding even worse. In fact, many small children lose so much blood that they are on the edge of hypovolemic shock by the time emergency responders arrive.

Dog bite injuries have very high infection rates. The most common bacterial infections are Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Capnocytophaga, and Pasteurella. If the victim had a pre-existing condition or a compromised immune system, as is often the case, these infections are often life-threatening.

A tiny amount of bacteria can cause a serious anaphylactic or other reaction. So, if a dog bites your child, it’s always important to see a doctor straightaway, even if the child does not seem seriously injured.

Brainerd, MN injury lawyers do more than obtain compensation for all these medical bills. Attorneys also arrange for victims to receive prompt medical care, usually at no upfront cost. Providers who focus on dog bite injuries typically provide this care. These providers know how to identify and treat things like head injuries and bacterial infections. These conditions are normally hard to diagnose and address.

Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers and Emotional Animal Attack Injuries

Many child victims develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Frequently, the symptoms do not appear for several months. So, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers must not move to settle such cases too quickly. If that happens, the victims might not receive fair compensation for all their injuries.

PTSD is a physical brain injury. It is not a processing disorder. Therefore, PTSD is permanent. Once brain cells are damaged, they never regenerate. That being said, extensive therapy can address symptoms like nightmares, depression, hypervigilance, and flashbacks. So, former victims can still have normal childhoods.

Your Claim for Damages

To obtain the aforementioned compensation, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers have several options. Minnesota has a very broad strict liability law. Owners are technically responsible for damages even if the dog had never bitten anyone before and had never shown any dangerous propensities.

Scienter (knowledge) is another option. Owners are liable for damages if they knew their animals were potentially dangerous yet they did nothing to keep them away from people. Evidence of knowledge includes previous attacks and pre-bite behavior, like loud barking or sudden lunging.

Insurance company defenses in dog bite claims usually revolve around the assumption of the risk rule. Specific facts include provocative behavior or a “Beware of Dog” sign. These defenses do not always hold up in court. In Minnesota, provocation is far more than aggressive teasing. And, warning signs are only legally valid in certain situations.

Contact a Tenacious Attorney

Animal attack victims are entitled to substantial compensation for their serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

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 Does a Personal Injury Lawyer in Brainerd, MN Resolve Motorcycle Crash Claims?

When vehicles collide, multiple restraint layers protect vehicle occupants from injury. Yet these crashes still kill or seriously injure millions of people every year, largely due to the excessive force in these crashes. Riders have none of these protections, So, it’s not surprising that motorcycle rider fatalities are 300 percent higher than vehicle occupant fatalities.

Due to the seriousness of motorcycle crashes, the injuries they cause, and the pain and suffering these injuries cause, usually mean that substantial damages are available. Insurance companies care only about their own profits. So, their lawyers often fight these claims tooth and nail.

A Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer, on the other hand, is committed to you. A lawyer’s commitment might be the only way to obtain fair compensation for your injuries. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. All these claims are different, but the procedure is largely the same.

Evidence Collection

Usually, this process begins with a police accident report. Because of privacy laws and other red tape, it might take private citizens weeks to obtain the report. But in most cases, a Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer only needs to make a phone call.

Sometimes, the evidence collection process ends here as well, at least for the most part. The report’s narrative helps a Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer evaluate the case. The police accident report also contains information like the name and contact information for crash witnesses, if any.  Medical records, which are also easy for an attorney to obtain, often fill in the gaps.

In other cases, however, the police accident report is insufficient, especially in motorcycle crash claims. The narrative is a good example. Frequently, the victim was seriously injured or killed. Therefore, the narrative only contains one side of the story.

Typically, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) insists that the rider “came out of nowhere” and the collision was inevitable. This line sometimes has legal significance, as outlined below.

Additional evidence in a motorcycle crash claim includes the tortfeasor’s Event Data Recorder. Since these gadgets store things like vehicle speed and steering angle, EDR information often paints a much clearer picture of what happened.

Brainerd, MN Personal Injury Lawyers and the Types of Negligence

Evidence is like the random dots in one of those connect-the-dots pictures from kindergarten. By itself, evidence means nothing. So, a Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer must connect the dots for the jury.

Ordinary negligence is one of the most common theories in motorcycle crash claims. Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and avoid accidents when possible. Thay duty includes looking out not only for other cars, but for motorcycles as well.

To Brainerd, MN, personal injury lawyers, this type of negligence is operational negligence. Other times, negligence claims take root before drivers get behind the wheel. Perhaps they are intoxicated or sleepy. Behavioral negligence causes a great number of crashes. Intoxicated or fatigued drivers are not at their best, mentally or physically.

The final type of negligence, environmental negligence, is especially common in Minnesota. Sometimes, driving conditions are very bad, to say the least. Divers have a duty to at least slow down and be more careful during these times. But many drivers ignore this responsibility.

Negligence per se is sometimes available as well. Tortfeasors who violate safety laws, like making an illegal lane change, are liable for damages as a matter of law if they cause crashes. However, emergency responders often do not issue citations in motorcycle wreck claims. They are too busy tending to injured victims and securing the scene to bother with a traffic ticket.

Endgame

Only about 3 percent of negligence cases go to trial. Almost all the rest settle out of court, and in many cases, this settlement happens rather early in the process.

If liability is clear, insurance companies have a duty to settle claims quickly, Frequently, such settlement occurs after a Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer sends a demand letter to the insurance company.

Unfortunately, there is almost always at least some question as to liability. The “s/he came out of nowhere” line often involves a legal doctrine called comparative fault. This loophole shifts blame for the accident from the negligent driver to the victim. In this context, insurance company lawyers often argue that the rider was operating recklessly before the crash, and therefore the other driver could not avoid the crash.

So, many motorcycle crash claims settle during mediation. An unaffiliated Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer meets with both sides and tries to facilitate a settlement. Assuming both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation is usually successful.

Contact a Hard-Hitting Attorney

Motorcycle crash claims are often complex. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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.

Can a Brainerd, MN Criminal Defense Lawyer Beat a DWI if I Took a Breath or Blood Test?

This question is an important one. Roughly 80 percent of DWI suspects provide breath or blood samples. And, in Minnesota, if the defendant’s BAC is above the legal limit, the defendant is guilty as a matter of law.

Briefly, it is usually a good idea to refuse to provide a chemical sample. Yes, you will face additional drivers’ license suspension penalties. And yes, Minnesota has a refusal-to-submit law. So, people who refuse face additional criminal charges independent of DWI. But your drivers’ license will also be suspended if you fail the test. And, a refusal-to-submit conviction usually does not have the same collateral consequences as a DWI conviction.

Nevertheless, if you provided a sample, what’s done is done. Fortunately, there are a number of ways a Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer can successfully challenge chemical test results, as outlined below.

Probable Cause for Breath Tests

Before officers administer Breathalyzer tests, they must have probable cause to demand a sample. That’s a higher evidentiary standard than reasonable suspicion, which is the standard that applies at traffic stops. So, officers cannot pull over motorists, smell alcohol on their breaths, and demand chemical samples. They must collect additional evidence. Normally, the field sobriety tests provide this evidence.

However, many defendants refuse to perform these tests, like walking a straight line. Additionally, especially during high-enforcement periods, many hurried offers skip the probable cause phase. In these cases, a Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer can argue the state does not have enough evidence to establish this critical element.

Brainerd, MN Criminal Defense Lawyers and Breathalyzer Flaws

Pretty much all DWI-alcohol prosecutions involve breath tests. These gadgets may also soon be available for marijuana “drugged driving” cases. So, we’ll spend a little more time on this point.

No device is 100 percent accurate 100 percent of the time. That’s especially true of a Breathalyzer. This device is essentially a 1920s contraption that could “test a tippler’s breath,” except it has additional bells and whistles. Those early devices were flawed, and modern Breathalyzers have many of these same problems.

  • Mouth Alcohol: Technically, officers are supposed to closely monitor defendants before they provide breath samples. However, they almost never do so. So, there is no way to know if the defendant burped, vomited, or belched. If that happened, ethanol particles from the stomach gushed into the mouth. So, a BAC reading would be artificially high.
  • Errant Count: Ethanol is one of many, many ethyl particles in a person’s breath. The Breathalyzer often registers all these particles as alcohol. So, when police techs brag about how many particles the gadget measures, a good Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer can turn this statistic against the state.
  • Temperature: As a rule of thumb, the smaller the device is, the more sensitive it is to the environment. Drop a laptop and it might survive. Drop a smartphone and it’s probably toast. This same principle applies to Breathalyzers, especially regarding temperature extremes. A few degrees often affects the results significantly.
  • Undigested Alcohol: This one is a bit complicated. Most alcohol goes from the mouth to the stomach to the liver to the blood. Because of this slower process, if the defendant has been drinking within the past hour, the breath alcohol count will be higher than the blood alcohol count.

Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyers often partner with degreed chemists to drive home these flaws with the jury. These professionals carry more weight with jurors than police department technicians. Generally, Breathalyzer techs learned everything they know about these gadgets at brief, law enforcement-sponsored seminars.

Search Warrants for Blood Tests

These flaws normally do not apply in blood test cases. Blood samples are much more accurate than breath samples. However, the Supreme Court recently rules that officers must have search warrants to extract blood samples. Generally, officers do not bother to take this extra step.

Under the Fourth Amendment, search warrants must be based on affidavits which show probable cause. The probable cause portion was discussed above. An affidavit is a written and specific document supported by an oath or affirmation. A phone call to a judge is not a written document. And, a vague description of the arrest, like “we pulled over a guy for suspicion of DWI,” is not specific.

Blood Test Flaws

As mentioned, blood samples are usually accurate. However, the method that police technicians use to examine these samples is not always accurate. So, Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyers routinely order re-tests. Frequently, professionals at independent labs uncover results that are markedly different from the ones police officers claimed they found.

Additionally, blood samples often have chain of custody issues. These samples must travel from the defendant’s body to a police lab to an evidence room to the courtroom. A gap in the chain of custody might not invalidate the evidence, but it does cast doubt on its authenticity.

Team Up with a Hard-Hitting Attorney

Chemical tests are not always accurate in DWI cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.

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Buffalo Lawyers

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