Criminal Vehicular Operation CVO Charges in Buffalo, Wright County, MN

In most states, criminal authorities consider car wrecks to be civil matters between insurance companies. Peace officers rarely file criminal charges in these situations, even if the collision is fatal.

But most states do not have a law like Section 609.2113 of the Minnesota Statutes. The Criminal Vehicular Operation law is a felony. These penalties apply if the defendant causes substantial bodily harm while driving in a particular way.

This statute is quite complex, and there are lots of moving parts. So, if you face CVO charges in Wright County, only a highly experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer should represent you in court. Otherwise, you may be looking at extended prison time for something that was essentially a mistake.

CVO’s Basic Elements

To receive a Criminal Vehicular Operation charge in Buffalo, Minnesota, a person must cause an injury (not death) while driving “in a grossly negligent manner.” In general, negligence means someone acts without care for other people’s safety.

Usually, gross negligence applies to driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. But that’s not always the case. Here are two other situations that fall under gross negligence:

  1. After causing an accident (due to negligence or not), the driver flees the scene.
  2. A driver who has received a ticket for vehicle defects doesn’t fix the problem and, knowing the risk, drives anyway, ultimately causing an accident.

Much like the DUI law, the CVO law contains no mental state. It is a crime to drive under the influence of a substance. It does not matter if the defendant unintentionally, or even unknowingly, drove in this condition. The different kinds of CVO may involve a mental state, as outlined below. But in general, Wright County prosecutors must simply prove the basic elements.

The only time mental state does matter is if someone used a substance they did not know and had no reason to believe was intoxicating.

Criminal Vehicular Operation is always a felony. But the exact range of punishment depends on the amount of harm the defendant caused, as follows:

  • Great Bodily Harm: GBH CVO is a five-year felony. Typically, great bodily harm means that the car crash victim received injury treatment at a hospital and stayed at least one night. Additionally, there must be no evidence of intent to harm the alleged victim. Different statutes cover vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter. A GBH CVO is an automatic felony.
  • Serious Bodily Harm: SBH CVO, which is a three-year felony, is usually a treated-and-released offense. SBH, which may be the most common type of Criminal Vehicular Operation, usually includes things like broken bones. This crime is a felony.
  • Bodily Harm: If the vehicle collision victim received some treatment at the scene, such as a bandage or perhaps some field stitches, the maximum punishment is one year in prison. This is the only CVO charge that’s a misdemeanor.

The different levels often create proof problems. Assume Frank hits Jesse in an intersection and Jesse goes to a nearby emergency room. After waiting for about an hour, he leaves without receiving treatment. If prosecutors file GBH or even SBH charges, a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer may be able to get the case thrown out due to lack of evidence. There may be no medical bills to support the charges.

CVO vs. Vehicular Homicide in Minnesota

Vehicular homicide is a charge related to CVO in Minnesota. Courts use this charge instead of CVO if the accident results in death rather than just injury.

Vehicular homicide is an extremely serious crime in Buffalo and a felony. A conviction could result in $20,000 in fines, up to 10 years in prison, or both. Further, vehicular homicide offenders risk forfeiting their driver’s licenses, vehicles, and gun rights.

It’s important to note that vehicular homicide cases can become even more serious if the accident results in the death of a pregnant person. Fatally injuring an unborn child is an additional felony charge in Minnesota.

Even if a court convicts you of injuring an unborn child, it’s a felony. You’ll risk paying up to $20,000 in fines and/or spending up to five years in prison. The prison sentence increases to up to 10 years in the case of vehicular homicide.

Minnesota Criminal Vehicular Operation Penalties

Has a Minnesota court recently charged you with CVO? You need to hire a Buffalo, MN criminal defense lawyer ASAP. If you choose instead to represent yourself, you risk the following penalties of a CVO conviction.

Jail / Prison Time

All CVO convictions come with the potential of jail time. But exactly how long do you go to jail for vehicular assault? Here are the facts:

Even though CVOs that cause bodily harm (BH) are only a misdemeanors, you could still spend a maximum of one year in jail. The sentence only increases as the injuries to the other party get more severe.

As we’ve mentioned, a Substantial Bodily Harm (SBH) CVO conviction is a felony. As such, a conviction means prison, not jail time. SBH CVO felons must serve up to three years in prison.

Great Bodily Harm (GBH) CVOs are also felony convictions that bring on lengthy prison sentences of up to five years in prison.

Fines in MN

Jail and/or prison time aren’t the only penalties CVO offenders have to worry about. BH CVOs come with fines of up to $3,000. Offenders must pay these fines on top of court and attorney fees and bail.

SBH and GBH CVOs have even higher fines. Both SBH and GBH CVO convictions come with a fine of up to $10,000.

Background Checks in MN

Did you know that felonies must remain on your criminal record in Minnesota for at least five years? You can’t even begin the expungement process until this period is up.

The same thing is true of misdemeanors, though you only have to wait two years before you can hire a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer to expunge it.

If you apply for a job before the waiting period is up, potential employers will see your conviction. Felony convictions, in particular, may hamper your ability to find work and look like someone an employer wants to hire.

Additionally, felonies found during background checks can also affect your ability to get a loan. The lender may worry that felons may commit future crimes, face jail time, or get slapped with hefty fines, all of which can prevent the borrower from making good on his or her loan.

Other Consequences

In Minnesota, a felony conviction can affect other aspects of your life, too. For example, a court could revoke your gun and/or voting rights if you have a CVO felony.

Felonies also affect the ability to find housing. Many landlords won’t accept applications from convicted felons, leaving these offenders with limited housing options.

You don’t want to face the consequences of a CVO conviction in Minnesota. That’s why you need a CVO criminal defense attorney to fight for your rights.

If you already have a CVO conviction on your record, a CVO lawyer can also help you navigate the expungement process in Buffalo, MN.

How Buffalo, MN Criminal Lawyers Approach the Major Kinds of CVO

Negligent operation while under the influence of a substance may be the most common type of CVO charge. These key terms deserve some close attention.

Negligence is a civil law term that denotes a lack of care or, more likely, a violation of a safety statute, like speeding or making an illegal lane change. But negligence alone is not enough. The defendant must also cause a crash while negligent. And, that crash must cause at least bodily harm.

Since negligence is a civil term, civil car crash defenses, such as contributory negligence, may be available. In criminal court, a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer need not “prove” the defense. Creating a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt is enough.

The illicit substance could be alcohol and/or a controlled substance. 609.2113 states that the defendant is guilty if s/he was “under the influence” of a substance. That’s a lower standard than intoxicated. Essentially, if the defendant had one drink or one pill, the defendant was probably under the influence of the substance.

This subdivision has some variations. It is a felony to negligently cause a serious crash if the defendant’s BAC alcohol level was at least .08 within two hours of the collision. This provision gives law enforcement some added leeway. And, it is also a felony to negligently cause a serious crash while under the influence of any Schedule I or Schedule II drug. If the defendant had a valid prescription, the defendant may be not guilty as a matter of law.

Section 609.2113 also applies to gross negligence serious crashes. The statute does not define gross negligence, but generally, this term is synonymous with reckless driving. If the defendant committed two or more traffic violations and caused a crash (e.g. speeding while traveling on the wrong side of the road), the defendant was probably grossly negligent.

Leaving the scene of a serious crash is probably the third major type of CVO. This subdivision is not like some other hit-and-run laws. This prohibition only applies if the defendant caused the crash and left the scene. Additionally, “cause” is a civil law term which may be subject to contributory negligence and some other car crash defenses.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Criminal Defense Lawyer in Wright County, MN

Criminal Vehicular Operation (CVO) occurs in Minnesota when a grossly negligent driver gets into a wreck and injures the other party. There are three types of CVO charges, two of which are felonies. Regardless of which CVO charge you receive, a conviction may result in jail or prison time, fines, and more.

Criminal Vehicular Operation is a serious felony which may be difficult to prove in court. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Originally published on October 24, 2019 and updated October 12, 2021.

Differences Between Probation and Deferred Adjudication in Buffalo, MN

In all but the most serious offenses, such as murder, almost everyone receives probation, unless they have lengthy criminal records. That’s especially true if there is any hope whatsoever that the defendant might be rehabilitated.

For the most part, incarceration is entirely punitive. That’s not true in all cases. A few inmates are “scared straight,” and a few others have religious experiences or acquire necessary life skills, like a GED. But the prison recidivism rate is over 80 percent. So, there is obviously not much rehabilitation behind bars. On a related note, prison is much more expensive than probation and also more of a hot-button political issue. These facts are not lost on Minnesota lawmakers.

Typically, either regular probation or deferred adjudication may be available. A Buffalo, MN felony lawyer will carefully review the pros and cons of each option. Nothing can substitute for a face-to-face consultation and complete representation, but a brief outline of the similarities and differences is below.

What Are Probation and Deferred Adjudication in Minnesota?

Probation and deferred adjudication are two sentencing options in Buffalo, Minnesota. These outcomes look highly similar at first glance.

 

We’ll talk about the differences between these two punishments next. But first, let’s discuss what probation and deferred adjudication are, exactly, in Buffalo, MN.

Probation

Probation is typically an alternative to jail or prison time in Minnesota. After a court convicts an offender of a crime, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer can request probation instead of jail time. Importantly, probation doesn’t mean the offense gets wiped off the offender’s record.

During probation, the offender will also have to fulfill certain court-ordered conditions of probation. The exact conditions a court will order varies based on the nature and severity of the crime.For example, a drug crime offense might earn someone monthly drug testing and narcotics awareness courses.

Sometimes, an offender might only receive probation to the court. This usually applies to cases where the offender’s only condition is that he or she not commit another crime while on probation.

Offenders with more probation conditions than abiding by the law alone may instead have to answer to a correctional officer. Probational correction officers are also known as probation officers in Minnesota.

The exact length of the probationary period also varies by crime. In general, offenders must be on probation for anywhere from one to six years. After the offender completes probation, the crime will stay on his or her record unless expunged.

Deferred Adjudication

In Minnesota, deferred adjudication is also known as deferred probation or a “stay of adjudication.” Though deferred adjudication requires an affirmative defense (i.e., you must admit a guilty plea), this outcome is highly desirable in criminal cases.

Why? Because deferred adjudication means that the offender doesn’t receive a conviction. Offenders who receive stays of adjudication can get their charges removed from their records.

However, these individuals must first meet the terms of the stay. What are “terms of the stay”? The exact terms of a stay of adjudication vary by crime and individual.

Terms of a stay commonly include statements requiring the offender to stay crime-free for at least a year. Other terms might enforce mandatory community service, fines, and certain courses (e.g., drug and alcohol awareness, self-improvement classes, etc.).

As long as the offender fully completes the stay of adjudication’s terms, the court will expunge the charge from his or her record.

If the offender doesn’t complete the terms of the stay of adjudication, the offense will remain on his or her record until it’s eligible for expungement. It’s also up to the judge whether the offender must also serve jail time and/or pay fines.

Which Crimes Qualify for Probation and Deferred Adjudication?

Were you recently charged with a crime in Buffalo? A Minnesota criminal defense lawyer can help you decide whether probation or deferred adjudication is right for you.

We’ve compiled the top crimes that do and don’t qualify for these sentencing options below to give you a head start.

Which Crimes Can Receive Deferred Adjudication in Buffalo, MN?

Section 152.18 of the Minnesota Statutes mandates deferred adjudication for some first-time drug charges. This includes third-, fourth-, and fifth-degree drug possession crimes. Deferred adjudication is also applicable to:

  • Schedule V drug possession
  • Small amounts of marijuana possession
  • Synthetic cannabinoid possession and/or sale

In order to qualify for deferred adjudication, the crime must be a first offense. The offender must also not have any prior stays of adjudication related to a drug offense.

Which Crimes Can Receive Probation in Buffalo, MN?

Minnesota courts typically prefer probation over jail time. This is because probation costs less than prison. And some studies show that probation may actually reverse mass incarceration rates, cutting costs even further.

As such, offenders can receive probation for almost any crime in Minnesota. This includes misdemeanor crimes, gross misdemeanors, and even felonies. Following is a list of crimes for which probation is a sentencing option:

  • Misdemeanor crimes, including DWIs, Indecent Exposure charges, and Domestic Assault.
  • Gross Misdemeanors, including Criminal Vehicular Operation (CVO) and fifth-degree sex crimes
  • Felonies, including felony-level CVO

Felony offenders can receive a max of four years probation. The only exception is felony-level CVO, which incurs a six-year maximum probation sentence.

Most gross misdemeanor crimes can earn offenders up to two years of probation. However, the gross misdemeanor crimes we listed above incur up to six years maximum probation.

Excepting the misdemeanor crimes we listed above, offenders with misdemeanors can earn up to one year of probation. Petty misdemeanors aren’t eligible for jail time and, thus, ineligible for probation.

Similarities Between Regular and Deferred Probation in Wright County

As far as the defendant is concerned, regular probation and deferred adjudication are exactly the same. After appearing before a judge and pleading guilty or no contest, the defendant meets with a probation officer who reviews the conditions of probation. Some of these conditions include:

  • Commit No Other Offenses: About 75 percent of all motions to revoke probation are based on subsequent offenses. Sometimes, prosecutors jump the gun and file motions to revoke immediately after arrest. A good Buffalo, MN felony lawyer can often at least delay revocation proceedings in these situations.
  • Failure to Report: This offense is probably the second most common infraction. Normally, probationers must report monthly and produce certain documents, such as school transcripts or paystubs, to show they are on the straight and narrow. Typically, prosecutors do not file revocation motions unless the defendant misses multiple meetings without explanation.
  • Monetary Delinquency: Probationers must pay fines and court costs. They must also pay monthly supervision fees. If the motion alleges no other violation, a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer may be able to get the case thrown out on constitutional grounds. Debtors’ prisons are illegal in the United States.
  • Failure to Meet Program Requirements: Probationers must also complete community service requirements, attend self-improvement classes, and fulfill other such requirements. If prosecutors file motions to revoke on these grounds, and it is rare to do so, they usually withdraw them if the defendant complies immediately.

Most probation conditions also include a catch-all provision, such as avoiding disreputable activities and places. This provision gives probation officers an excuse to require random drug tests and force the probationer to submit to warrantless searches.

A motion for early discharge from regular or deferred probation may be an option, in some cases. If the judge grants the motion, defendants are immediately released from all requirements.

Some Key Differences

Regular probation goes on a defendant’s permanent record as a conviction, just as if the defendant received a jail or prison sentence. If the defendant violates probation, any jail or prison sentence is limited to the figure the prosecutor and Buffalo, MN felony lawyer worked out in a plea agreement.

Deferred disposition is different on both these points. If the defendant successfully completes deferred probation, the judge dismisses the case. The arrest record remains, but there is no conviction record. So, if a job or college application requires disclosure of any prior criminal convictions, the applicant can write “none.”

Now for the downside. If the defendant violates probation in any way, including trivial violations, and a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer cannot defeat the motion, the judge may sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum incarceration period under the law.

So, deferred adjudication is a pretty significant risk. But, it’s also a risk worth taking, at least in many cases.

How a Buffalo, MN Felony Lawyer Arranges for Deferred Adjudication

Wright County prosecutors may offer deferred adjudication in nonviolent misdemeanors, but probably not in other cases. However, that does not mean deferred is unavailable.

Many times, Buffalo, MN felony lawyers leverage defenses during the plea bargaining process, such as lack of a search warrant, to obtain better deals, like deferred adjudication. In other cases, the prosecutor may have proof problems. For example, a key witness may be unavailable. A prosecutor might offer deferred adjudication to avoid the risk of a trial.

If all else fails, an open plea may be an option for a Buffalo, MN felony lawyer. Defendants literally throw themselves on the mercy of the court. During open pleas, the judge may hear from character and other witnesses.

Contact a Dedicated Minnesota Defense Lawyer

If you want to avoid serving jail time in Minnesota, probation is the best sentencing option for you. Better yet, deferred adjudication can result in the expungement of your conviction altogether. Working with a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota can help you learn which of these options is best for your case.

Are you wondering whether probation or deferred adjudication will work for your criminal case? Most defendants have several sentencing options, even if they plead guilty. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN felony lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Originally published on September 17, 2019 and updated on October 7, 2021.

A Buffalo, MN Auto Accident Lawyer Looks at Some Common Traffic Tickets

Frequently, emergency responders issue traffic tickets at accident scenes to help insurance companies determine fault. But in many cases, these citations affect liability for damages as well. In fact, because of the negligence per se doctrine, they may conclusively determine liability.

The negligence per se doctrine applies if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated a safety law and that violation substantially caused injury. This doctrine saves time during the evidence collection process. As a result, it’s easier for Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyers to obtain fair compensation for accident victims.

If you were recently involved in a car accident due to one of the following offenses, you need to call a Buffalo car accident lawyer ASAP.

Consequences of Speeding in Buffalo and Minnesota

Excessive velocity is a factor in about a third of the fatal car crashes in Minnesota. That’s because speed affects the risk of a collision and the force in a collision.

Speed multiples stopping distance. At 30mph, most cars travel about six car lengths between the moment a driver sees a hazard and the moment the car safely stops. At 60mph, stopping distance multiplies to about eighteen car lengths. Other factors, such as vehicle weight and environmental conditions, often increase stopping distance.

Velocity also multiplies the force in a collision between two objects. In this context, speed transforms property damage fender-bender crashes into serious injury or fatal collisions.

In Minnesota, the posted speed limits are presumptively reasonable speeds. So, officers could issue speeding tickets even if the driver was not exceeding the posted limit, if the officer felt the driver was going too fast for the conditions. But officers rarely hand out such tickets. So, in these cases, Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyers normally rely on the ordinary negligence doctrine. Essentially, negligence is a lack of reasonable care.

Failure to Signal/Illegal Lane Change in Minnesota

These citations are especially common in serious motorcycle crash claims. Today’s cars are so solid that sideswipe collisions don’t often cause serious collisions, unless victims lose control of their vehicles. But motorcycle riders have no seatbelts, airbags, steel cocoons, or other things to protect them in these cases. They are completely exposed to danger.

Visibility is also a factor in these situations. Frequently, tortfeasors simply do not see motorcycle riders. But that’s no excuse for negligence, and certainly no defense to a negligence per se claim.

Crossing the Median

These citations illustrate the difference between fault at the scene and liability for damages. If a driver is ticketed for crossing the median, that driver is almost always faulted for the crash. But legal responsibility might be different, because of the last clear chance rule.

All drivers have a duty of reasonable care, regardless of what another driver does. This duty includes a responsibility to avoid accidents when possible. So, if Driver A saw Driver B cross the center line and Driver A did nothing to stop the wreck, Driver A might be legally responsible for the crash.

There’s a big difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. Frequently, collisions happen so fast that there is no way to avoid them. Also, if the tortfeasor was driving erratically at the time, it’s very difficult to get out of the way.

Failure to Yield to Pedestrians in Buffalo, MN

Much like motorcyclists, pedestrians have no protection from onrushing cars. The moment they step into the street, they are completely exposed to danger.

Minnesota law is a bit vague when it comes to pedestrian right-of-way. If the pedestrian was in the crosswalk and crossing with the light, the pedestrian clearly had the right-of-way. Other situations, like crossing against the light in the crosswalk, are more uncertain.

In terms of legal liability, the last clear chance rule applies in pedestrian cases. If a driver sees a pedestrian in the road, the driver has a duty to avoid a crash, even if the driver has the right-of-way.

Sudden emergency, a related doctrine, sometimes comes up in pedestrian crashes as well. Frequently, insurance company lawyers argue that a pedestrian victim “darted out into traffic.” This argument sets up the sudden emergency defense. This doctrine excuses negligent conduct if the driver reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency.

But a jaywalking pedestrian is usually not a “sudden emergency.” This label only applies to lightning strikes, tire blowouts, and other completely unexpected situations.

School Bus Stop Arm Violations in MN

These citations are often perfect storm citations. Drivers who ignore school bus stop arms are frequently speeding. Children disembarking from school busses are vulnerable, and since they often cross in front of the stopped bus, they are hard to see.

What’s At Risk With These Common Traffic Tickets?

We’ve already mentioned how Minnesota courts often determine car accident fault based on traffic citations issued on the scene. But being at fault for the accident, injuries to the other driver, and property damage aren’t the only consequences the other driver has to worry about.

When someone receives a traffic ticket in Buffalo, MN, they’ll also have to pay a fine. The exact fines for traffic tickets vary by county and by violation.

Speeding Ticket Fines in Buffalo, MN

The fines for Minnesota speeding tickets vary based on how many miles per hour the driver was going over the speed limit. Fines break down as the following:

  • 1–10 mph over the speed limit: $125 fine
  • 11–14 mph over the speed limit: $135 fine
  • 15–19 mph over the speed limit: $145 fine
  • 20–25 mph over the speed limit: $225 fine
  • 26–30 mph over the speed limit: $285 fine

If a law enforcement officer catches a driver going 31 mph or more over the speed limit, the fine increases to $385.

Failure to Signal/Illegal Lane Change Fines

Failure to signal and illegal lane change (i.e., “improper lane use” in Minnesota) are separate crimes. As such, they can incur two different fines.

Failing to signal while driving can incur a $125 fine. Meanwhile, improper lane use, which might include failure to signal, incurs a higher penalty. Offenders have to pay $135 for this type of traffic violation.

Crossing the Median Fines

The Minnesota Statutes don’t have a specific traffic fine for crossing the median. This violation is typically charged under another type of driving offense. The discretion is largely left up to the charging officer.

For example, an officer could charge someone with inattentive driving, which caused that driver to cross into the median. This type of traffic violation comes with a $125 fine.

Another way to charge drivers with crossing the median is with a “failure to obey traffic control devices” citation. After all, median lines are tools for traffic control. Receiving a charge for this violation typically incurs a $135 fine.

Failure to Yield to Pedestrians Fines in Minnesota

The fines for failure to yield right of way and failure to yield to pedestrians are a world apart. The former incurs a mere $135 fine. But failing to yield to pedestrians is a much more severe crime in Minnesota.

The first time someone fails to yield to pedestrians in Minnesota, he or she will receive a misdemeanor. Conviction penalties include up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $700.

A second or more violation becomes a gross misdemeanor. Traffic violators convicted of subsequent failure to yield to pedestrian citations must pay up to $3000 in fines, spend up to one year in prison, or both.

School Bus Stop Arm Violation Fines

The House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee recently approved HF2172, which intends to change how law enforcement charges school bus stop arm violations in Minnesota.

Currently, drivers who fail to stop behind school busses can incur a misdemeanor. If convicted, the driver faces a $500 fine.

Unfortunately, officers can’t always identify the driver in these situations. When that happens, they will cite the violation to the owner of the vehicle. Today, the fine for vehicle owners is $100.

HF2172 seeks to increase the fine to the vehicle owner. The auto owner would be faced with a misdemeanor and an increased $300 fine.

Minnesota intends to apply the majority of funds received through these fines to equip school busses with cameras. That way, officers can more easily catch and charge the actual school bus stop arm violation offenders.

Do You Need a Buffalo Car Accident Lawyer in Minnesota?

If you were injured in a car accident caused by one of the above traffic violations, you need to call a Buffalo personal injury lawyer ASAP.

Your attorney can help you understand how much to expect from a car accident settlement, whether you want to file suit against your insurance company or the other driver.

Insurance companies love to low-ball their settlement offers. But a seasoned Buffalo car accident attorney knows how to fight for the damages you deserve. Your lawyer can help you negotiate a better settlement or, when that doesn’t work, fight for your rights in court.

In Minnesota, insurance companies are only required to pay up to $20,000 of medical care for a car wreck injury. This is called personal injury protection (PIP). But, if that doesn’t suffice to cover your medical expenses, your attorney can file a lawsuit against the negligent driver and recover damages.

Reaching Out to Personal Injury Lawyers in Buffalo, Minnesota

Some of the top reasons for Minnesota traffic citations include speeding, failing to signal, crossing the median, failure to yield to pedestrians, and school bus stop arm violations. Receiving one of these tickets incurs fines and, sometimes, jail time, especially if the offense caused a wreck.

Were you recently injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence? Then you need to hire a Buffalo car accident lawyer. Traffic violations make it easier to obtain compensation in car wreck claims.

For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Originally published on April 22, 2020 and updated October 1, 2021.

Can a Car Accident Lawyer in Buffalo, MN Get Around the Graves Amendment?

You’ve probably never asked this question, but it’s a very important one this time of year. The period between October and May is usually the busiest time of year for moving. Summer is extreme in many parts of the country, and summer moving is always more expensive than fall or spring moves.

That interesting fact does not explain why this question is important, but we’re getting there. Many U-Haul, Ryder, and other rented moving trucks are large vehicles that normally require commercial licenses. Yet most business owners rent these monsters to anyone with a valid credit card. These vehicles are difficult enough to drive if the operator concentrates on driving. But many of these individuals have one eye on the road and one eye on their GPS navigation devices.

For years and years, if these drivers caused car crashes, the vehicle owner may have been vicariously liable for damages. These damages could be substantial, as large truck crashes usually cause wrongful death and other catastrophic injuries. The 2005 Graves Amendment purported to change all that. But is it possible for a car accident lawyer in Buffalo, MN to get around the Graves Amendment?

What Is the Graves Amendment?

Before the Graves Amendment, injured persons could file for damages against car rental companies and moving truck rental companies after an accident with a negligent renter. This was known as vicarious liability.

In 2005, the Graves Amendment made it illegal to bring vicarious liability charges in the US. Under this law, any person or company that owns vehicles and leases them out to other parties cannot be held liable for car accidents caused by renters. The Graves Amendment also stipulates that an injured person can’t hold these lessors responsible for accidents that cause property damage while a renter is driving a leased vehicle.

The Graves Amendment is a Federal law, meaning it applies to people in all US states. This includes Minnesotans.

The only time injured persons’ car accident lawyers can bring charges against one of these companies is if the company is negligent. And that negligence has to have had something to do with the accident that caused the injury.

For example, if faulty brakes cause a car renter to crash, the car rental company may also be liable for your injuries. In this case, you can bring charges against the company without violating the Graves Amendment.

Definitions

Per the Graves Amendment, the owner includes the person who is in the trade or business of renting vehicles. The owner could also be an affiliate of the vehicle renting company, including the company’s employees.

There is one exception to the above rule. If the car lease has an initial term of six or more months, the Graves Amendment considers the lessee the owner of the vehicle. But this designation is only for insurance and liability purposes.

Keep in mind that the Graves Amendment doesn’t only apply to owners of rented or leased vehicles. Graves Amendment-related lawsuits have also come up against owners of tractor leasing companies and ridesharing companies.

What About Interstate Accidents?

Often, people rent cars and moving trucks to travel across state lines. The Graves Amendment still applies in these situations. 

In fact, the Graves Amendment has precedence over any contradicting laws in the state where an accident occurs.

 

Why Does All This Matter?

This post has a lot of questions, doesn’t it? Hopefully, it will provide a few answers as well.

A fully-loaded 26’ moving truck weighs at least 22,000 pounds. That’s not much lighter than a semi-truck. SO, when these trucks are involved in collisions, they usually cause extremely serious injuries, like:

  • Serious Burns: That same truck carries sixty gallons of diesel fuel. Diesel burns at a different temperature from gasoline. So, diesel fuel explosions nearly always cause third or fourth-degree burns. These injuries are often fatal.
  • Crushed Bones: A mid-sized moving truck can basically crush most cars. So, the victims’ bones are usually crushed as well. That injury usually means extensive corrective surgery as well as painful physical rehabilitation.
  • Internal Injuries: These same forces cause internal organs to grind against one another. With no protective layers, these organs usually bleed profusely. And, it may be quite some time before doctors find and stop this bleeding.

These injuries often trigger medical bills that are in the tens of thousands of dollars. These wounds usually mean significant pain and suffering as well. A Buffalo, MN car accident lawyer can obtain compensation for all these damages.

Which Party Is Responsible for Damages After a Buffalo, MN Car Wreck?

Minnesota is a no-fault state, requiring all drivers to obtain a minimum personal injury protection (PiP) plan. Your PiP policy will cover up to $20,000 in personal medical care and up to $20,000 in lost wages due to auto accident-related injuries. Once you exhaust those amounts, your only option is to recover damages from the negligent driver’s insurance plan.

Typically, the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) private auto insurance companies will not cover these losses. Such policies only cover losses in a specific vehicle. Furthermore, during the rental transaction, many moving truck renters decline insurance altogether or opt for the cheapest and lowest coverage.

Under Minnesota law, these limited policies must provide $30,000 of liability coverage. If two people are injured in an accident, that coverage increases to $60,000. But what happens if your medical bills, wage losses, and pain and suffering go beyond these amounts?

Under the traditional negligent entrustment theory mentioned above, the company that owned the vehicle would probably be responsible for damages. If that option is unavailable, it could mean that the victim has no recovery source.

Why Did Lawmakers Pass the Graves Amendment?

Tariffs and trade protectionism have been in the news some lately. Additional taxes on imported goods make domestically-produced goods cheaper and therefore more in demand. Basically the same principle applies to the Graves Amendment. But instead of using money to protect the vehicle rental industry, the people who wrote the Graves Amendment used the law.

Shortly before lawmakers passed 49 U.S. Code § 30106, a major vehicle rental company threatened to pull out of several states with victim-friendly vicarious liability laws, like a broad negligent entrustment rule. The Graves Amendment was designed to appease these corporate suits.

Also, more and more states were enforcing vicarious liability. And some of these state laws had no statute of limitations. That means injured parties could bring personal injury cases at any time, no matter how many years had passed since the wreck. 

Similarly, many states used to forego caps on personal injury settlements against vehicle lessors. In one such case, a car rental company had to pay out $21 million to a New Yorker injured by one of its vehicles.

The Graves Amendment doesn’t just protect rental companies, though. Since its passing, the law has also decreased car rental costs for consumers. Some sources say that vicarious liability laws used to tack on $100 million annually to rental costs.

But the provision itself is very short. Furthermore, there are no hearings or other legislative history in support of the Graves Amendment. So, the provision is full of holes that a Buffalo, MN car accident lawyer can exploit.

Can a Car Accident Lawyer in Buffalo, MN Bypass the Graves Amendment?

The Graves Amendment is tough to beat. Yet, research shows that courts in states where vicarious liability used to be the law are more likely to go around this law. Minnesota is one of those states, meaning the best Buffalo car accident attorney can help you beat the Graves Amendment.

Section (a) is the meat of this law. Ironically, the provisions designed to give it teeth are also the provisions that may cripple this law.

(a)(1) contains the trade or business requirement. The Graves Amendment does not define this phrase, so attorneys must look for a definition elsewhere. The Uniform Commercial Code, which is used in legal cases, defines a “merchant” as “a person who deals in goods of the kind or otherwise by his occupation holds himself out as having knowledge or skill.”

Many businesses that rent moving trucks are not vehicle rental companies. They are moving companies which happen to rent a few trucks as well. Arguably, the lessor in a car crash case may not meet this key requirement.

Further, consider the case of a company loaning a rental vehicle to someone whose personal vehicle is in repair. Because money does not exchange hands in these circumstances, the car company isn’t technically in the business of renting. So, the Graves Amendment may not apply here, depending on the terms of the vehicle loan agreement.

(a)(2) contains the not otherwise negligent requirement. In 2005, no vehicle lessors conducted electronic drivers’ license checks. The technological tools were unavailable. Now, some thirteen years later, that’s no longer the case. Indeed, according to many, verifying drivers’ licenses is now the industry standard.

Some states have a set method here. Generally, a suspended drivers’ license makes the operator incompetent as a matter of law. If the operator has a poor driving record, and the vehicle lessor knows about the poor record, there is a presumption of incompetence.

The negligent entrustment rule applies if an owner knowingly entrusts a vehicle to an incompetent driver. So, if the lessor verifies the license, learns about the bad driving record, completes the transaction, and the lessee causes a car crash, the lessor is negligent. If the lessor did not verify the license, the lessor is also negligent.

The state of Minnesota might also consider a car rental company owner negligent for failing to register its vehicles with the state. Failing to maintain minimum requirements for preparation security plans is another potentially negligent act.

A final way Buffalo car accident attorneys get around the Graves Amendment is if you’re injured in a truck wreck. Sometimes, the truck driver may be an independent contractor. That means the contractor rents equipment from another truck driver. 

The layers of ownership in these cases are complex. Still, a Buffalo personal injury lawyer could help you bring a lawsuit against the original truck owner.

Team Up with a Hard-Working Attorney

The protectionist Graves Amendment may not protect the companies it was supposed to protect. For a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer in Buffalo, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

 

Originally published October 20, 2018 and updated September 21, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

Types of Divorce

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

Absentee Spouse

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

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

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

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

Agreed Divorce

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

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

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

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

Uncontested Divorce

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

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

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

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

Contested Divorce

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

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

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

Reducing the Financial Cost of Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collaborative Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rely on a Dedicated Divorce Attorney in Buffalo, MN

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

 

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

How Your Jail Release in Minnesota Helps and Impacts Your Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Out of Jail (Almost) Free in Buffalo MN

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

Economic Impact of Drug Charges in Buffalo MN

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

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

Emotion Impact of Drug Charges in Buffalo MN

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

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

Release on Your Own Recognizance in Buffalo MN

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

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

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

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

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

Traditional Jail Release Options

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

Bail Per Charge in Buffalo MN

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

Cash Bail in Buffalo MN

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

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

Bail “Bond” in Buffalo MN

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

Bail Revocation in Buffalo MN

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

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

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

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

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

Procedural Defenses for Drug Crimes in Buffalo MN

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

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

What the 4th Amendment Means

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

Search Warrants in Buffalo MN

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

Probable Cause Exception

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

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

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

Stingray Devices in Buffalo MN

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

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

Substantive Drug Possession Defenses

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

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

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

What is Deferred Disposition in Buffalo MN?

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

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

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

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

Connect with a Buffalo MN Drug Crime Lawyer

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

 

 

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

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

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

Accident or Negligence in Buffalo, MN?

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

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

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

Evaluating a Claim

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

Factual Investigation

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

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

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

Additional Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Determining the Settlement Value

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

Economic Losses

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

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

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

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

The Car Injury Settlement Process in Buffalo, MN

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

Demand Letter in Buffalo, MN

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

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

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

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

The Question of Liability in Buffalo, MN

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

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

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

Endgame When Negotiating a Settlement in Buffalo, MN

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

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

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

Attorney Fee Arrangements in Buffalo

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

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

If You Are Referred to Mediation by a Judge in Buffalo

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

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

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

Connect with an Experienced Wright County Attorney

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

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. That’s the basic law of supply and demand. When demand goes up, so does the price. Many people assume this law applies to criminal defense attorneys, but they are bound by legal ethics. If you’re wondering how much does a criminal defense lawyer cost, the answer depends on your charges and your income.

Why Criminal Defense Lawyers Must Set Fixed Feed for Certain Services

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. There are some other factors as well, which are outlined below. Admittedly, some of these factors are rather subjective. But one thing is for sure. 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. Therefore, Wright County provides attorneys to defendants who qualify for such assistance. 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.

The Public Defender’s Office

The public defender’s office usually assigns one lawyer to a misdemeanor court and two to a felony court. Reinforcements are usually available, especially in a serious felony case, like a complex sex crime prosecution. 

Essentially, the public defender’s office is like a private criminal defense law firm. Since the county pays all the firm’s expenses, the clients pay nothing. Frequently, public defenders are underfunded. The Wright County Commissioners are not made of money, and there is only so much funding to go around. Making matters worse, public defenders are usually at the end of the bread line. Voters usually don’t mind paying money for roads, schools, and other things that benefit many people. Paying for someone’s Buffalo, MN criminal defense lawyer is not a major item on voter wish lists.

As a result, there is some truth to the image of the overworked public defender. According to an American Bar Association study, some public defenders juggled up to 400 cases at once. That’s a bit deceptive, mostly because most criminal cases settle out of court, and settle rather quickly. More on that below. Nevertheless, there is some cause for concern.

Private Attorneys for Those Who Cannot Afford a Lawyer

To bypass this issue, many Wright County judges appoint private attorneys for people who cannot afford lawyers. Sometimes, judges screen the attorneys they appoint. That’s especially true in the aforementioned serious felony cases. Indeed, in a capital case, the state imposes additional requirements. But in many misdemeanors, judges appoint any attorney who can find the courthouse door.

Not everyone qualifies for a court-appointed attorney or a public defender. These qualifications vary in different courts. Some judges simply ask defendants if they can afford legal representation. Others require defendants to submit financial affidavits.

What Is the Incarceration Presumption?

There is also an incarceration presumption. Most judges connect bail money with the money to hire a lawyer. They assume that if the defendant cannot afford bail, the defendant cannot afford an attorney either. That’s usually accurate. However, just because a defendant can scrape up bail money, that doesn’t mean s/he can afford an attorney. Furthermore, if the defendant obtained free pretrial release, the incarceration presumption should still apply. But it usually doesn’t, at least in the minds of many judges.

A Court-Appointed Lawyer Is Permanent

Defendants who go with a free lawyer get what they get and they can’t throw a fit. Once a judge assigns a court-appointed lawyer, that assignment is permanent, unless the defendant hires a private Buffalo, MN criminal defense lawyer. Similarly, if a defendant goes to the public defender’s office, the chief public defender has the exclusive right to assign lawyers to individual cases.

Your Right to Counsel of Your Own Choosing

On a related note, the Supreme Court recently ruled that the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel means defendants have the right to counsel of their own choosing. This issue occasionally comes up in some drug crime matters. Prosecutors cannot seize so much cash during a raid that the defendant cannot afford to hire the lawyer s/he wants to hire.

Representing Yourself in Buffalo, MN

Incidentally, you can represent yourself in a court case, including a criminal case. If you’re asking how much does a criminal defense lawyer cost because you don’t think you can afford it, explore your options before making a decision. 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.

How Do Attorneys Determine Legal Fees?

This question is really two questions. First, as mentioned, attorneys must use certain factors to determine their fees. Second, different attorneys use different fee structures.

Years of experience is usually the biggest factor which determines legal fees. Inexperienced lawyers cannot charge as much as experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyers. That doesn’t mean a less experienced lawyer is not as good. It just means these attorneys cannot charge as much. Other factors include:

  • Geographic Area: Attorneys in big cities like Minneapolis usually charge more than attorneys in smaller communities like Buffalo. Rent, payroll, and other expenses are higher in big cities.
  • Client’s Ability to Pay: Attorneys can reduce their fees if the client cannot pay full price. That’s especially true if the client is from a historically underserved or neglected ethnic or socioeconomic group.
  • Complexity of the Matter: Some criminal cases are relatively straightforward and others are not. DUI is a good example. If the defendant submitted a blood sample, the case is pretty black and white. But if the defendant refused to provide any chemical sample, the case is much more complex. The state must rely on shaky circumstantial evidence in these matters. Furthermore, most Buffalo criminal lawyers also charge more for felonies than misdemeanors. Felonies are more complex, and there is more at stake.
  • Amount of Time Involved: Attorneys usually charge less for a criminal plea than a criminal trial, simply because there is not as much time involved. Many 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. 

Now, let’s talk about fee structure. As mentioned, many criminal defense lawyers charge flat fees. For example, Pam might charge $1,000 for a felony plea, no matter how much time she puts into the case. Other lawyers charge hourly fees. Hourly billing is a bit more common in civil cases.

The law prohibits criminal defense attorneys from charging contingent fees. Therefore, defendants usually have to pay at least some money upfront.

How Do I Know I’m Getting a Good Value for the Cost of a Buffalo Lawyer?

If you face criminal charges in Wright County, when it comes to legal representation, you have almost a dizzying array of choices. 

At first blush, pretty much all Buffalo, MN criminal lawyers seem alike. They all went to law school and all passed the bar exam. But upon closer inspection, there are some important differences.

The Experience of Your Buffalo, MN Lawyer Is Invaluable

As mentioned, years of experience is probably the single most important factor in this entire process. Experience is the best teacher. Furthermore, there are a number of techniques that law students do not learn in class. Finally, each county and court has its own written and unwritten procedural rules. You do not know them all unless you have handled cases in that jurisdiction.

Years of experience could be deceptive. As recently as 1990, non-jury or jury trials resolved about a fifth of the criminal cases in Minnesota. Today, that proportion is less than 5 percent. Therefore, many Buffalo, MN criminal lawyers practice for years, or even decades, and only handle a few criminal trials. 

We all fall into ruts if we are not careful. Sometimes, these attorneys fall into a rut of always, or at least usually, taking the state’s first offer. Prosecutors usually don’t make favorable offers to these lawyers. 

So, be sure and ask about the attorney’s trial experience. For example, ask the attorney about his/her most complicated or memorable trial. Lawyers love telling war stories. If the attorney has to think about this answer because s/he has such limited trial experience, that’s a bad sign.

Accessibility from Your Buffalo Criminal Defense Lawyer

The lawyer’s accessibility, or lack thereof, could be another bad sign. It could also be a very good sign.

Legally, as mentioned above, attorneys cannot assess fees based on supply and demand. So, many lawyers use volume to earn more money. Attorneys are rarely as overworked ast the unfortunate public defenders discussed above. But sometimes, they take more cases than they should.

Commonly, overworked attorneys cannot commit the amount of time they should to an individual case. So, they might miss an important detail. Furthermore, many overworked lawyers assign legal work to less-experienced associates or non-lawyer paralegals. That’s not the caliber of defense the client is paying for. 

It’s probably also best to avoid overly-accessible lawyers. If you want to try a new restaurant and there are no customers in the parking lot, that’s usually a bad sign. By the same token, if an attorney has few clients, there’s usually a reason.

Goldilocks looked long and hard to find a bowl of porridge, chair, and bed that was just right. Criminal defendants should also look for a “just right” lawyer in terms of accessibility. However, don’t look too long. The sooner you partner with a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer, the sooner the case will be over.

Dedication from a Lawyer that Lives in Buffalo

Many people have family lawyers, especially in smaller communities like Buffalo. The same attorney handles your divorce, prepares your will, settles your car crash claim, and so on. There’s a level of trust in these relationships that’s usually unavailable elsewhere. Trust is important in a criminal defense situation. But a criminal conviction, even for a misdemeanor, could easily ruin your life. So, you need someone who is dedicated to criminal law.

The late Grant Cooper, who represented Robert Kennedy’s assassin in 1969, is a good example. When Cooper agreed to represent Sirhan Sirhan, Cooper was a highly experienced lawyer. But Cooper wasn’t really a criminal defense lawyer. He handled a wide array of cases. For example, former child star Shirey Temple hired Grant Cooper to handle her divorce from B-movie actor John Agar. 

As a result, Cooper might have missed some weaknesses in the state’s evidence. Maybe that’s why Sirhan remains in a California prison to this day.

Incidentally, one of the latest Kennedy conspiracy theories is that Cooper intentionally threw the Sirhan case so the Los Angeles County District Attorney wouldn’t indict him on some unrelated gambling charges. But that’s just speculation.

Consult with a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Lawyer in Buffalo, MN

Even if you’re asking how much does a criminal defense lawyer cost, you do not want just any lawyer. You want a dedicated Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer to handle your case. Your family lawyer will understand your decision. Besides, you can still invite him/her to your next dinner party.

The cost of a criminal defense lawyer in Buffalo, MN varies in different situations. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

What to Do After a Car Crash in Buffalo, MN

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

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

DO Go to the Doctor in Buffalo, MN

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

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

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

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

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

DON’T Fake Your Injuries in Buffalo, MN

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

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

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

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

DON’T Say “I’m Sorry”

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

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

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

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

DON’T Talk to the Other Insurance Company

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

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

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

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

DO Collect Evidence from the Scene of Your Collison

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

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

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

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

DO File a Voluntary Report in Buffalo, MN

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

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

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

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

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

DON’T Say Too Much on Social Media

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

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

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

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

Reach Out to an Experienced Buffalo, MN Auto Accident Lawyer

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

 

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


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.

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Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

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Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

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Hutchinson, MN 55350

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3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

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