What Kind of DWI Defense Will a Lawyer Provide in Hutchinson?

In criminal court, McLeod County prosecutors must establish every element beyond a reasonable doubt for DWI defense. Under Minnesota law, a “reasonable doubt” is anything beyond “a fanciful or capricious doubt.” For example, the defendant’s doppelganger might have committed a crime, but that argument is capricious and fanciful. Instead, the doubt must be based on “reason and common sense.”

The “reason and common sense” line, which many states use, does little to adequately explain this rather difficult concept. Indeed, one court remarked that this description is like saying a white horse is a horse than is white.

In many ways, the debate over the precise meaning of this phrase is beside the point. The bottom line is that a Hutchinson DWI lawyer need not “prove” anything. Creating a reasonable doubt is enough. If even one juror has such a doubt, the defendant is not guilty as a matter of law. Furthermore, if the state’s evidence is weak, many prosecutors are willing to reduce charges to something like reckless driving. This offense is also a misdemeanor, but it does not have the same collateral consequences as DWI.

Possible Penalties of DWI in Hutchinson MN

Before we look at some types of DWI defense, let’s examine what is at stake in a DWI prosecution. Precise penalties vary, mostly depending on the defendant’s criminal record and the facts of the case. But the Big Three are always court supervision, aggravated circumstances, and driving privileges.

Typically, court supervision does not mean incarceration, unless the defendant has two or more prior DWIs. Court supervision, or probation, usually lasts around a year. During this time, defendants must comply with numerous conditions. The biggest ones are usually:

  • Reporting Regularly: Generally, probationers must personally report to probation officers at least once a month. These appointments are not like doctors’ appointments. Defendants cannot decide when to meet their probation officers and they cannot cancel if their kids get sick.
  • Avoiding Additional Legal Problems: Violation of this condition prompts most of the motions to revoke probation that Hutchinson DWI lawyers deal with. Anything more serious than a speeding ticket could mean jail time. 
  • Obeying Court Orders: Probation usually involves paying a fine, performing community service, and jumping through other hoops. Usually, only a steadfast and stubborn refusal to comply triggers a motion to revoke probation.

If the judge finds that the allegations in the motion to revoke probation are true, one of several things could happen. The judge could cancel probation and send the defendant to jail. More than likely, however, a motion to revoke usually means a longer period of probation or a few days in jail as a condition of reinstatement.

Aggravating circumstances in a DWI include prior drunk driving convictions, open container of alcohol in the passenger area, a child passenger under 16, and a collision. McLeod County prosecutors are notoriously aggressive in this area. If there is a hint that aggravated DWI charges might hold up in court, prosecutors usually tack on additional charges.

Refusal to provide a chemical sample is another example of an aggravating circumstance. You have the right to refuse to provide a sample, but this right is not free. The refusal is admissible in court. Most jurors assume people refuse because they have something to hide. A good Hutchinson DWI lawyer can blunt that presumption. For example, some people refuse because they are nervous or don’t trust government tests.

Refusal also impacts driving privileges. DWI usually means drivers’ license suspension, or at least drivers’ license limitation. The possibilities in this area are more severe in refusal cases.

The Venue Defense in Hutchinson DWI Cases

In the movies and TV shows, fleeing suspects often say something like “If we cross the state line, the police cannot touch us.” That’s not entirely true, but it is partially accurate, because of the venue rule.

Venue is Legalese for the jurisdiction where the state brings criminal charges. McLeod County prosecutors only have authority over crimes which occur in McLeod County. The boundary lines are not always easy to determine. For example, Cedar Mills is partially in Meeker County and partially in McLeod County. 

Things get really confusing when officers spot DWI suspects in one county and pull them over in another county. Technically, the state could bring charges in either county. But there are territoriality issues. To return to the previous example, the Meeker County Sheriff’s office usually does not want to send its deputies all the way to Hutchinson to testify in someone else’s criminal case.

Venue mistakes often give attorneys the leverage they need to successfully mount a DWI defense. If bureaucrats file charges in the wrong county, the judge must dismiss the case. Prosecutors can refile the charges in another county, but many times, they will agree to a favorable plea bargain rather than go to all that trouble. Furthermore, the delay benefits a Hutchinson DWI lawyer. Over time, memories fade and physical evidence disappears.

Lack of Reasonable Suspicion for the DWI Stop

Venue is a procedural DWI defense, as is lack of reasonable suspicion and lack of probable cause for the arrest. Prosecutors can work around the venue defense, if they are so inclined, but they cannot work around the next two procedural defenses. Lawyers cannot turn back the clock and erase police officer mistakes in these areas.

In 2020 and 2021, there were some high-profile police stops in Minnesota which involved little evidence of wrongdoing. Some people even claimed these stops were pretext detentions. They contend that officers essentially detained these individuals because they didn’t look right.

Legally, such stops almost always hold up in court. Officers only need reasonable suspicion, which is essentially an evidence-based hunch. Furthermore, the stop’s purpose is illegal. Usually, when officers pull over DWI suspects, they care almost nothing about the expired sticker or other infraction which prompted the stop. But the stop is still legal.

Because of this low standard of evidence, it’s very difficult for a Hutchinson DWI lawyer to invalidate a stop. Probable cause for the arrest, however, is a different story.

Preliminary Evidence of Impairment in Hutchinson

Technically, this intermediate step is not a procedural DWI defense. Officers do not need evidence of impairment to go to the next step. Such evidence usually includes:

  • An unwise answer to the dreaded “Have you been drinking” question, or
  • Physical symptoms, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, slow reflexes, or unsteady balance.

However, this step is important for many jurors. If an officer pulls over a defendant and immediately assumes s/he is probably drunk, some jurors smell something fishy. That’s especially true if the officer had staked out a bar or was actively looking for DWIs as part of a concerted enforcement effort.

Once upon a time, efforts to erode police officer credibility in this way rarely worked and usually backfired. Most people highly esteemed police officers. Cops got free pancakes at Denny’s. Now, officers pay for their own pancakes. So, more jurors are willing to consider an argument that the officer railroaded the defendant. Public confidence in law enforcement officers recently hit an all-time low.

Probable Cause for the Arrest

This area is mandatory. Police must have probable cause to arrest suspects. In most cases, “probable cause” is an even more vague standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. But in the DWI context, the law is more certain.

Officers usually have probable cause to arrest suspects if they perform poorly on the field sobriety tests. In Minnesota, there are four such tests:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: For the DWI eye test, suspects must track moving objects with their eyes without moving their heads. This test reliably reveals nystagmus, a condition also known as lazy eye. The problem is that intoxication is not the only cause of nystagmus. In fact, it’s not even the leading cause of it.
  • Walk and Turn: Suspects must walk a straight line heel to toe forwards and backwards. This test is very difficult to successfully perform if the suspect is wearing anything other than athletic shoes. Furthermore, it’s much harder to walk an imaginary line than an actual line.
  • One-Leg Stand: People with any mobility impairment whatsoever usually cannot possibly stand on one foot for fifteen or twenty seconds. Additionally, officers usually have suspects perform this test near the end, when they are physically and mentally fatigued.
  • Portable Breathalyzer: This gadget’s specific flaws, or at least some of them, are discussed below. For now, we’ll just say that the portable Breathalyzers police officers carry are even more inaccurate than the bigger ones at the police station.

Officers always swear that the defendant “failed” these tests, even if the failure was a technicality, like taking too many heel-to-toe steps. Since the standard of evidence is so low, most McLeod County judges take officers at their word. The field sobriety test flaws are more important at trial. Jurors decide for themselves, based on the evidence and not based on a police officer’s opinion, whether defendants passed or failed the tests.

However, sometimes this evidence is unavailable. People sometimes assert their Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to perform these tests. Other times, hurried officers skip right to the good part and immediately cuff the defendant.

In these situations, prosecutors must rely on the reasonable suspicion evidence, such as bloodshot eyes, mentioned above. This evidence usually proves consumption. But it does little or nothing to prove intoxication.

Non-Intoxication DWI Defense in Hutchinson, MN

Not all cases involve procedural defenses, but many do. So, a Hutchinson DWI lawyer must pay close attention to the details. This same diligence is necessary with regard to non-intoxication defenses. Frequently, intoxication is the only issue in a DWI trial, but this offense has other elements as well. Prosecutors must prove all elements of the offense, and not just one of them, beyond a reasonable doubt. Some possible non-intoxication DWI defenses include:

  • Public Place: It is not illegal to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated if the vehicle was on private property at the time. Shopping mall parking lots are not public places, even if they have street names and traffic control signals. The space in front of a private dwelling, like the curb next to a driveway, is in a grey area.
  • “Wheeling” the Defendant: This defense often comes up in DWI-collision cases. Generally, when officers arrive on the scene, the defendant has exited the vehicle. Therefore, officers cannot testify that the defendant was driving. To prove this point, prosecutors must call another witness. Such a witness may or may not be available.
  • Operating the Vehicle: On a related note, the defendant must have been operating the vehicle at the time. Legally, a person sitting in a motionless car is usually operating the vehicle, even if the person is asleep or unconscious. That’s assuming the vehicle was driveable at the time.

How does reasonable doubt work in these defenses? Public place arguments are usually all or nothing. But the other two are more subjective. If a vehicle had more than one occupant, it’s very difficult to conclusively prove who was driving the car. Or, if a prosecutor fails to prove the car had gas and was in good working order, the state has arguably not established the “operating” element.

Intoxication Defenses in Hutchinson, MN

Even if these two areas are not issues in a DWI case, intoxication, or lack thereof, is usually a question. Scientifically, alcohol blood tests are much more accurate than breath tests. But in 2016’s Birchfield v. North Dakota, the Supreme Court ruled that officers needed search warrants to perform blood draws. So, officers normally rely on flawed Breathalyzer tests. Some specific issues include:

  • Ketone Levels: Diabetics, smokers, and some other people have elevated ketone levels in their bodies. These particles basically transform sugar into energy. Breathalyzers register ketone particles as ethanol. So, the BAC estimate might be artificially high. In borderline cases, like a .08 or .09, jurors could easily have a reasonable doubt as to the result’s accuracy.
  • Mouth Alcohol: If the defendant burped or vomited prior to the test, ethanol particles from the stomach flood the mouth and skew the test result. Many officers do not watch defendants prior to the test, so there’s no way of knowing if mouth alcohol contributed to the result.
  • Recent Consumption: On a similar note, alcohol does not pass from the stomach to the blood. Instead, it goes from the stomach to the liver and then to the blood. So, if the defendant had anything to drink in the preceding hour, that alcohol has not yet entered the bloodstream.

To drive home these flaws with the jury, many Hutchinson DWI lawyers point out that the modern Breathalyzer is essentially the same gadget as the 1920s Drunk-O-Meter.

Connect with an Experienced Hutchinson DWI Lawyer

Attention to detail is often the key to creating reasonable doubt. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson DWI lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.

 

 

This article was originally published on Feb 21, 2020 and updated on June 01, 2021.

Motorcycle Crash Claims and Hutchinson, MN Auto Accident Lawyers

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

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

What Causes Motorcycle Crashes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hutchinson, MN Auto Accident Lawyers and Ordinary Negligence

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

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

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

Negligence Per Se

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

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

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

Contact a Tenacious Lawyer

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

Alimony Modifications and Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorneys

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

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

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

Changed Circumstances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorneys and Amount/Duration Adjustments

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

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

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

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

Connect with an Assertive Lawyer

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

How Do Hutchinson, MN Lawyers Resolve Truck Crash Claims?

An 80,000-pound vehicle, which is the maximum semi-truck weight, traveling at 60mph brings an immeasurable amount of force to bear in a crash. So, it’s little wonder that truck accidents often cause spine injuries and other catastrophic wounds. The medical bills alone in these cases often exceed $4 million.

Frequently, health insurance companies refuse to pay these costs. Insurance adjusters know that truck accident victims are experiencing financial distress, so they often relentlessly pressure these victims to settle their cases. The offer might be tempting, but victims simply have no way of knowing if the offer is fair or not.

So, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer works diligently to resolve these cases and make sure the victim’s medical bills get paid. Attorneys also address vehicle replacement and other concerns. Every case is different, but they all follow the same general outline.

Evidence Collection

Successful negligence claims usually begin with evidence collection. The victim/plaintiff must establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). To expedite this process, many Hutchinson, MN lawyers partner with private investigators and other professionals.

Some evidence, such as the police accident report and medical bills, is rather easy to obtain. Generally, attorneys can secure this evidence after just a few phone calls. Then, the accident evaluation process can begin.

Other evidence is much more difficult to obtain. That’s especially true of critical electronic evidence, like the Event Data Recorder. These durable, high-tech gadgets usually survive even the most catastrophic truck wrecks. EDRs measure and record information like:

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

To obtain this evidence, Hutchinson, MN lawyers must overcome a number of legal and technical hurdles. Minnesota has very strict vehicle information privacy laws. So, attorneys usually need court order to use EDR information in court. Additionally, these devices are extremely sophisticated. A Hutchinson, MN lawyer needs a lot more than a screwdriver and a laptop to access and download EDR data.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Legal Issues

The evidence in a truck crash claim is like the colored squares of an unsolved Rubik’s cube. Until an attorney twists the cube the right way and puts the colors together, they are just a jumbled mess.

Usually, truck crash twists involve ordinary negligence or negligence per se. Ordinary negligence is a lack of care, and negligence per se is the violation of a safety statute. Distracted driving is a good example of the difference between these two doctrines. Minnesota law prohibits any use of a hand-held device. But other distracted driving behaviors, such as using a hands-free phone while driving, are just as dangerous. So, a distracted driving claim could involve either of these theories. Insurance company defenses, like comparative fault, also come into play here.

A few other truck crash claims involve dangerous products, like defective tires. Generally, manufacturers are liable for defective product injuries as a matter of law. Negligence, or lack thereof, is largely irrelevant.

Endgame

Almost all negligence cases settle out of court. These settlements reduce litigation costs, bring about closure, and give the parties more control over the outcome.

After the evidence collection and legal evaluation processes are complete, Hutchinson, MN lawyers usually open settlement negotiations with the insurance company. First, attorneys usually send demand letters. These letters demand a sum of money in exchange for a liability waiver. To calculate noneconomic losses, most attorneys multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four, depending on the facts of the case.

If liability is clear, insurance companies have a legal duty to settle the claim straightaway. However, mostly because of the aforementioned insurance company defenses, liability is usually not crystal-clear. So, to put additional pressure on the insurance company to settle the case, most Hutchinson, MN lawyers file legal paperwork in court.

Generally, insurance company lawyers file procedural motions asking the judge to throw the case out of court. However, if a Hutchinson, MN lawyer was diligent during the evidence collection and legal evaluation process, these motions hardly ever succeed.

If the parties are unable to resolve the case on their own, most McLeod County judges appoint mediators. These individuals meet with both sides and try to facilitate a settlement. Assuming both parties negotiate in good faith, which means they are willing to make compromises to reach an agreement, mediation is usually successful.

Connect with a Hard-Hitting Attorney

Truck crash claims usually settle out of court and on victim-friendly terms. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. The sooner you call us, the sooner we start working for you.

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

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

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

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

Field Sobriety Tests

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

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

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

Hutchinson, MN Criminal Lawyers and Drug Recognition Experts

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

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

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

Chemical Tests

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

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

Rely on Dedicated Attorneys

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

How does a Hutchinson, MN Lawyer Win Money in Truck Crash Claims?

Evidence is usually the key to a successful outcome in any civil case. Accident victims have the burden of proof. They must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Imagine two equally-full cups of coffee are on the same table. If the waitress adds one drop of coffee to one cup, it’s fuller than the other one. That’s what a preponderance of the evidence looks like.

The good news is that a preponderance of proof is the lowest standard of evidence in Minnesota. The bad news is that truck crashes are often so catastrophic that little or no physical evidence remains at the scene.

To make up for this lack of evidence, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer must work extra hard to amass the proof necessary to establish negligence. If jurors hear a sufficient amount of compelling evidence, they often award significant damages in these cases. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Event Data Recorder

After large airplanes crash, investigators often rely on black box flight data recorders to determine what caused the crash. Large truck Event Data Recorders are much the same. Generally, EDRs measure and record key operational information like:

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

A Hutchinson, MN lawyer, often working with an accident reconstructionist, can use this information like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Once an attorney puts the pieces together for jurors, they see a compelling picture of operator negligence.

EDRs are valuable, and Hutchinson, MN lawyers must act quickly to preserve this evidence. As mentioned, truck crashes are often devastating. Following such wrecks, insurance companies usually destroy totaled vehicles, rather than paying to store them. If that happens, the EDR, and all other physical evidence on the truck, is gone forever.

Spoliation letters usually help. These letters create a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence, including the EDR.

There is more. Minnesota has very strict vehicle information privacy laws. So, to access and download EDR information, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer typically must obtain a court order.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Electronic Logging Devices

EDRs are usually important in all truck wreck claims. ELDs are often critical in drowsy driving claims. Biologically, driving while fatigued is like driving while intoxicated. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours, which is basically a long day on the road, is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit for commercial drivers in Minnesota.

Trucking industry executives know how important this issue is. Their lawyers fought the ELD mandate all the way to the Supreme Court. But it finally took full effect in December 2019.

ELDs are basically electronic work logs which are connected to the ignition. If the truck is running, the HOS (hours of service) clock is ticking. Minnesota and the federal government both have strict laws in this area. If a driver does not get enough rest and causes a crash, the driver could be liable for damages as a matter of law.

Furthermore, ELDs are often circumstantial evidence of fatigue. Drivers can technically be in compliance with the HOS rules and still be dangerously fatigued. Research shows that even an hour or two of less sleep makes a difference.

To use this critical data in court, Hutchinson, MN lawyers must overcome the aforementioned vehicle information privacy laws as well as some other privacy laws, mostly regarding medical data.

Safety Maintenance System

Lack of physical evidence is not the only issue in truck crash claims. Generally, these operators have drivers’ licenses in several different states. As a result, it’s difficult or impossible to obtain all relevant driving records.

Several years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began keeping multistate driving records on all American truck drivers. The SMS database focuses on:

  • HOS compliance,
  • Vehicle maintenance history,
  • Prior collisions,
  • Substance abuse history, and
  • Previous traffic citations.

The SMS relies on law enforcement records as opposed to judicial records. So, it is more accurate. For example, if a tortfeasor (negligent driver) received a speeding ticket and took defensive driving, that citation would probably not appear in a judicial database. But it would pop up in the SMS database.

Connect with a Diligent Attorney

Industrious evidence collection lays the groundwork for fair compensation in a truck wreck case. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

The Field Sobriety Tests and Hutchinson, MN DUI Lawyers

Most people know that, under the Fifth Amendment, they have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions without a lawyer present. However, most people do not know how broad this right is. Defendants also have the right to remain silent in terms of their actions. They need not appear in staged lineups, pose for pictures to be used in photo lineups, or perform DUI field sobriety tests.

The FSTs are always an integral part of a DUI case. If the defendant provided a chemical sample, the FSTs serve as probable cause. If the defendant refused to provide this sample, McLeod County prosecutors normally use the FSTs as circumstantial evidence of guilt. Either way, if a Hutchinson, MN DUI lawyer undermines the FST results, it is much easier to successfully resolve these cases.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

Once upon a time, many people believed the HGN was the most reliable FST. But times have changed. As a result, many McLeod County judges only allow HGN results for limited purposes.

Nystagmus, which is also called lazy eye, is involuntary pupil movements at certain viewing angles. Most patients have probably taken a “follow my finger” eye test at one time or another. Doctors determined that many of these people had nystagmus, but almost none of them were intoxicated. That’s because a childhood brain injury and a genetic abnormality are responsible for most nystagmus cases.

Furthermore, this test has environmental problems. Laboratory HGN tests are usually accurate. Roadside HGN tests are more of a question mark. These tests do not occur under controlled conditions. Hutchinson, MN DUI lawyers can often challenge test results based solely on adverse environmental factors.

Walk and Turn

In many ways, the WAT, which is also known as the heel to toe walk (HTW), might be the signature field sobriety test. Subjects must walk as straight line heel to toe forward and backward while keeping their arms at their sides. During the test, officers look for intoxication clues, such as:

  • Beginning the test before the officer says “start,”
  • Starting with the wrong foot,
  • Not stepping heel to toe,
  • Falling off the line,
  • Taking the wrong number of steps,
  • Using hands or arms for balance, and
  • Ending the test before the officer says “stop.”

Environmental issues are even more of a problem in this test than in the HGN test. It’s very difficult to walk heel to toe on an imaginary line, yet officers often demand that suspects do this. It’s also very hard to walk a straight line in anything other than athletic shoes.

Hutchinson, MN DUI Lawyers and the One-Leg Stand

In this test, officers instruct suspects to elevate one leg about forty-five degrees, keep it there for about fifteen seconds, and stand perfectly still the entire time.

Repeating a familiar theme, environmental problems plague the one-leg stand. It is very difficult for anyone with any mobility impairment to stand on one leg for more than a second or two. Additionally, the OLS is often the last test that officers administer. That order is intentional. Since the suspect is mentally and physically tired, the suspect usually does not do as well on this test.

Nevertheless, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the OLS is a reliable indicator of intoxication. Of course, NHTSA says the same thing about the HGN test, so its opinion is shaky.

Portable Breathalyzer

The final FST is rather unique to Minnesota. In most states, officers only administer chemical tests at the stationhouse. But in the Gopher State, officers usually administer portable Breathalyzer tests at the scene. Authorities believe this additional test gives the FST battery additional credibility with jurors. However, the opposite might be true, because portable Breathalyzers have a number of flaws.

Temperature is a good example. Portable Breathalyzers are very sensitive to temperature changes. And in Minnesota, the weather changes rapidly, especially during certain times of the year. If the gadget was not calibrated according to the current temperature, the result might be off.

To drive home flaws like this one with jurors, many Hutchinson, MN DUI lawyers partner with chemists. These professionals carry much more weight with jurors than the police technicians that prosecutors usually call to the stand.

Rely on an Experienced Attorney

Undermining the FSTs is usually the first step toward a successful resolution in these cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN DUI lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

A U-Haul Truck Hit Me. Can a Hutchinson, MN Lawyer Help Me?

Frequently, U-Haul and other rental drivers have little or no insurance. Under the traditional negligent entrustment rule, vehicle owners are liable for damages if they allow incompetent operators to use their vehicles. Generally, drivers are incompetent if there was a good chance they might cause a crash. Examples include operators with poor driving records or safety-suspended licenses.

However, commercial negligent entrustment cases work a bit differently, because of the Graves Amendment. This obscure federal law gives U-Haul and other owners negligent entrustment immunity in some situations.

So, to establish owner liability in U-Haul crash claims, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer must establish some additional elements. The burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a little proof goes a long way.

The Graves Amendment: A Closer Look

A key to winning any fight, be it a claim for damages or a high school football game, is sizing up your opponent. So, before the best Hutchinson, MN lawyers aggressively represent their clients, they take a step back to see what they are up against.

Tort reform is sometimes in the news. For example, Minnesota lawmakers recently limited damages in medical malpractice claims so insurance companies need not pay large sums when doctors go off the rails. The Graves Amendment is basically the same thing. It protects U-Haul and other vehicle rental companies from large liability judgments, even when these companies are clearly at fault.

It all started in the late 1990s. An Enterprise outlet in Connecticut rented a car to a clearly negligent driver. That driver killed someone in a fireball collision, and a jury awarded millions of dollars in damages. When Enterprise threatened to pull out of Connecticut and some other states with strong negligent entrustment laws, lawmakers added the Graves Aemdnement to a large transportation bill.

Like many policy riders, 49 USC 30106 is short and poorly drafted. Specifically, there are two key holes in this law which a Hutchinson, MN lawyer can use to pierce the immunity and hold these companies responsible for the mistakes they make.

Trade or Business

Under subsection (a)(1), immunity does not apply unless the owner is in the vehicle rental trade or business. Because of the aforementioned drafting problems, the Graves Amendment does not define this key phrase. So, Hutchinson, MN lawyers must look elsewhere to interpret it.

The Universal Commercial Code is a mainstay in contract law. The UCC does not define “trade or business,” but it does define “merchant,” which is a similar term. According to Article Two, merchants are:

  • Dealers in a particular kind of good or service
  • Who profess to have additional knowledge about the goods they sell.

Normally, a store is in a trade or business if it sells a particular kind of goods. Best Buy is an electronics store, even though it also sells home appliances, office supplies, and other non-electronics. Typically, U-Haul franchises are moving and storage companies, even though they rent a few trucks on the side.

Furthermore, the employees and franchisees at most of these locations do not have specialized knowledge about the trucks they rent. For example, they know how to turn on the air conditioner, but they could not tell you the unit’s BTU capacity.

Not Otherwise Negligent

According to section (a)(2) of the Graves Amendment, negligent entrustment immunity only applies if “there is no negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the owner (or an affiliate of the owner).”

Lawmakers approved the 49 USC 30106 in the early 2000s. Back then, it was impossible to verify an operator’s drivers’ license, aside from a visual inspection. Now, technology makes it possible to run a thorough check. In fact, such evaluations are arguably the industry standard. Owners and affiliates are negligent when they violate such standards.

How Hutchinson, MN Lawyers Establish Liability

Getting around the Graves Amendment is only part of the fight. A Hutchinson, MN lawyer must also establish the key elements of the negligent entrustment doctrine. Owners are liable for damages if they knowingly allow incompetent drivers to operate their motor vehicles. Evidence of incompetency includes:

  • No drivers’ license,
  • Safety-suspended drivers’ license,
  • Driving in violation of license restrictions (e.g. without glasses),
  • Prior safety suspensions, and
  • A poor driving record.

These items are roughly in descending order. People without valid licenses are usually incompetent as a matter of law. A poor driving record, in and of itself, is probably not enough to prove negligence.

Damages in a truck crash claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Given the size of a fully-loaded U-Haul truck, these damages are often substantial.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

The best injury lawyers do not let legal loopholes decide cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

A Hutchinson, MN DUI Lawyer Looks at Roadside Checkpoint Requirements

St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most alcohol-fueled holidays on the calendar. Roughly a third of Americans celebrate at a bar or restaurant. St. Patrick’s Day is also the number four drinking day of the year, behind New Year’s, Christmas, and the Fourth of July. So, if you pull out of a neighborhood bar on or around St. Patrick’s Day, do not be surprised if you see a DUI roadblock dead ahead.

Police departments love checkpoints. If they did not cost so much money, they would probably be up every weekend. Properly-executed DUI roadblocks enable officers to bypass the Fourth Amendment and detain motorists without reasonable suspicion.

However, motorists still have rights at checkpoints. For example, the Fifth Amendment is still in play. So, you have the right to remain silent. In fact, drivers do not have to roll down their windows. They must simply flash a drivers’ license and proof of insurance.

If officers violate your rights at a checkpoint, or it does not meet any of the legal requirements listed below, a Hutchinson, MN DUI lawyer can probably invalidate both the stop and the arrest.

Pre-Checkpoint Publicity

Police departments need not take out full-page ads in local newspapers to advertise checkpoints in advance. However, a brief tweet or note on the department’s Facebook site is probably not sufficient publicity. The goal is to alert people who normally drive in a certain area and give them the opportunity to avoid that area altogether.

In court, the state has the burden of proof on this point and all other aspects of checkpoint operation. A Hutchinson, MN DUI lawyer must only create doubt.

Roadblock Location and Hutchinson, MN DUI Lawyers

DUI roadblock location has become increasingly controversial. Frequently, police departments set up checkpoints to search for illegal weapons, drugs, and other contraband. Or, they use checkpoints to arrest people with outstanding traffic warrants or other issues unrelated to DUI.

To invalidate a checkpoint on this point, a Hutchinson, MN DUI lawyer often pulls arrest statistics in that area from the previous year. The argument is very meticulous and time-consuming, but it’s often worth the effort.

Additionally, the DUI roadblock must be in a safe place. Freeway off-ramps are not safe places, although they might ensnare more drivers. Additional safety measures include lots of signage and lighting. More on this point below.

Neutral Formula

Contrary to popular myth, checkpoints are not random. Officers cannot detain motorists who do not “look right” and wave other people through. For example, officers might detain every third vehicle that pulls through the roadblock.

Generally, field officers have no discretion when it comes to checkpoint operation. A supervisor must set up every detail, such as the length of operation and checkpoint location. However, if traffic backs up, officers can change to another neutral formula. That formula might be detaining every fourth or fifth motorist.

Checkpoint Signage

DUI roadblocks are not modified speed traps. Warning signs should be deployed about a quarter-mile ahead of the checkpoint. Other signs should tell motorists what to do, like “Be Prepared to Stop” and “Have Drivers’ License and Proof of Insurance Ready.” DUI checkpoints should also include things like traffic cones.

The first signs should be far enough away that drivers have a chance to turn around and avoid the checkpoint. Patrol cars normally tail these people for at least several blocks, but officers must have reasonable suspicion to detain these motorists.

Length

The operational length must be limited. About two or three hours is as long as a checkpoint can last. Anything much longer is an unreasonable length which violates Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz and other key cases.

Additionally, individual motorists cannot wait at checkpoints for more than about twenty seconds. That includes the time spent waiting in line and also the time spent at the actual checkpoint. A longer detention violates the Fourth Amendment.

Contact Tenacious Attorneys

Law enforcement officers do not have unlimited rights at checkpoints. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN DUI lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

A Hutchinson, MN Lawyer Talks About Your Claim for Damages in a Motorcycle Crash Case

The number of fatal motorcycle wrecks has increased significantly since 2015. Even if they wear crash helmets, motorcycle riders risk serious injury every time they go out. The force of a collision usually throws riders off their bikes. As a result, they suffer serious and often fatal injuries like internal wounds and head injuries.

These victims usually require immediate medical attention. After they recover, they must usually endure months of painful and expensive physical therapy. An attorney can make all the necessary arrangements in this area. Lawyers also take care of vehicle replacement and other situations.

Collecting evidence and facilitating medical care are just two jobs for a Hutchinson, MN lawyer. Perhaps more importantly, an attorney must prepare the victim’s legal case for damages. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Ordinary Negligence

Essentially, a negligence claim holds tortfeasors (negligent drivers) responsible for the mistakes they make. If I accidentally forget my wife’s birthday, I must pay damages. Likewise, if I accidentally strike a motorcyclist, I must pay damages.

Most non-commercial operators have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and obey the rules of the road. Some commercial drivers have a higher duty of care. They must take additional precautions against accidents, such as not driving in heavy rain.

Drowsy driving is a good example of an ordinary negligence claim. Although fatigued driving is not against the law, it is very dangerous. Driving after eighteen consecutive sleepless hours is like driving with a .05 BAC. That’s a dangerous impairment level. Evidence of drowsy driving includes:

  • Erratic Driving: Many sleepy drivers are unable to maintain a single lane or even stay on their side of the road. Other fatigued operators drive well below the speed limit.
  • Time of Day or Night: Most people are naturally drowsy early in the morning and late at night. It does not matter how much rest they had the night before. For example, teen drowsy driver crashes are significantly higher if classes begin before 7:30.
  • Medical Condition: People with sleep apnea get little, if any, deep sleep. Instead, they basically nap all night. Other medical conditions could affect sleep as well.

In an ordinary negligence claim, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer must prove that the tortfeasor breached the duty of care, and that breach substantially caused injury.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Negligence Per Se

These cases work a bit differently. Sometimes, the law establishes the standard of care. If that’s the case, victim/plaintiffs must only prove causation. Some examples include:

  • Speeding,
  • Making an illegal turn,
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and
  • Device distraction.

Sometimes, ordinary negligence and negligence per se overlap. For example, Minnesota has a hands-free law. Drivers may not hold cell phones or other devices while they are behind the wheel. But the law has a number of exceptions. Additionally, the law does not apply to all forms of device distraction, such as using a hands-free phone while driving. In these situations, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer must pursue an ordinary negligence claim.

Some Insurance Company Defenses

Preparing a case in chief is important, but it is not the only requirement for fair compensation in a motorcycle crash claim. Hutchinson, MN lawyers must also be prepared for some common insurance company defenses, such as:

  • Contributory Negligence: This legal loophole shifts responsibility for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim. For example, the vehicle operator might have been talking on a cell phone and the motorcyclist might have been speeding. Insurance company lawyers must convince the judge the defense applies, and then they must convince jurors of the same thing.
  • Assumption of the Risk: In this context, this defense usually involves the failure to wear a motorcycle helmet. Minnesota has a universal helmet law. Nevertheless, motorcycle helmet non-use is only admissible in a civil proceeding for limited purposes.
  • Last Clear Chance: This defense often comes up in left-turn motorcycle crash claims. If the tortfeasor turned left in front of the victim, the insurance company argues that the motorcycle rider had the last clear chance to avoid the crash. This defense is very difficult to prove in court.

Sometimes, these defenses completely immunize the tortfeasor. Other times, they only reduce the amount of compensation the victim receives.

Reach Out to a Diligent Attorney

Motorcycle crash victims might be entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several area offices.

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

Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

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

Office Details
Map and Directions

Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

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

Office Details
Map and Directions

Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

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

Office Details
Map and Directions

Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (952) 260-9640
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions