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Wrongfully Charged with Criminal Sexual Conduct

It is difficult for some people to hear that a person has been acquitted of criminal sexual conduct. However, Minnesota does not necessary have to corroborate the story of the accuser in order for someone to be charged or convicted of the crime. It is outlined in Minnesota Statute 609.347 subd. 1 that the testimony of a victim does not have to be corroborated. This was also stated in the case State v. Ani (Minn 1977). “Corroboration” is defined as other evidence that supports the accusation of the accuser. There have been a number of cases throughout Minnesota in which individuals have been wrongfully charged of criminal sexual conduct because of simple accusations. Not only does this hurt the accused, but it also hurts the credibility of those who have legitimately been victimized. It is a disservice to law enforcement and the court system as well. Even if a person does not have a prior criminal record and has a flawless reputation, the accusation takes precedent and the case is aggressively prosecuted. Nationwide, there have been quite a few false accusations. These false accusations have led to convictions that sent these individuals to prison under the title of “rapist” or “sex offender.” DNA evidence has led to the release of some of them, while others are still waiting. When DNA evidence has led to the declaration of their innocence and they are released from prison, they tend to win large monetary settlements for the wrongful conviction and the years of their lives that they lost. Sometimes false accusations stem from custody issues or out of “revenge.” For instance, a parent may coach their young child to say that the other person touched them inappropriately in an effort to keep the other parent from ever gaining custody of the child. Other times, someone may be mad at another and wish to get revenge by going as far as accusing them of sexual assault. Also unfortunate is when someone makes the accusation for the sole purpose of getting attention. Sometimes these individuals recant and other times they see it through to the conclusion. In some cases, they will come out and say after the conviction that their accusations were false, but it takes much more than that to get a person out of prison. However, you cannot be convicted of criminal sexual conduct unless the prosecutor convinces the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that each of the elements of criminal sexual conduct exist. The job of the defense is to implant reasonable doubt where it belongs to get the correct verdict. Nonetheless, the prosecutor legally points to the jury and states that if they believe the victim, that is enough evidence to convict the defendant. In other words, the conviction occurs simply because of another person’s word and not the evidence or lack of evidence in the case. Most juries do review the facts and evidence in the case, knowing that false accusations do happen and the defense’s job is to point… Read more {+}

The importance of responding immediately with “I’m invoking my 5th Amendment right to counsel”

Under the Fifth Amendment, a defendant is given the right to not testify. This means that the judge, prosecutor, and even the lawyer of the defendant cannot force them to testify on their own behalf in fear that they may self-incriminate without intending to do so. Any time someone says, “I plead to the Fifth” or “pleading to the Fifth,” they are doing so because it is their right to not answer questions. When in the custody of police or when in court, a person can exercise their Fifth Amendment right to not self-incriminate. The origin of this right is rather interesting in that it originates from the refusal of the Puritans to cooperate with the English interrogators. The Puritans would often be tortured or coerced into confessing their religious affiliation and they would be considered guilty if they were silent. English law granted the right for citizens to not self-incriminate in the mid-1600s when a revolution created the greater parliamentary power. This right then followed the Puritans to America, where it would be included in the Bill of Rights. When you are pulled over for DWI or you are charged with any type of criminal offense, you do not have to answer the questions of law enforcement. You can invoke your Fifth Amendment right to stay silent until you have counsel present. Your Miranda Rights say that you have the “right to remain silent” and that “anything you say or do can be used against you in a court of law.” It also states you have the “right to an attorney.” When you contact your attorney after invoking your Fifth Amendment right, your attorney will advise you on what you should and should not say. You can have your attorney present during questioning so that you do not self-incriminate yourself. Even if you feel your statement is completely innocent, it can be misconstrued by law enforcement to mean something that it doesn’t and this can be used against you in court. By invoking your Fifth Amendment right to counsel, you could be making the difference between freedom and conviction. It is important to note that the Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination does not extend to blood tests, fingerprinting, or DNA evidence that is being gathered for a criminal case. The Supreme Court has upheld that the privilege only extends to communicative evidence, such as interrogation. DNA and fingerprints, in particular are considered non-communicative or non-testimonial. The importance of responding immediately with “I’m invoking my 5th Amendment right to counsel” was last modified: November 19th, 2014 by Alex DeMarco

Minnesota County Gets Probation Security System

Brown County commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the purchase and installation of a wireless personnel security system for the Probation Department building. The county was seeing a rise in issues with probation violations and the individuals who violated their probation coming into the building and displaying dangerous behavior, especially when addressing violations or other issues. This is a system that other counties in Minnesota could implement as their budgets allow. Brown County received a $3,000 budget for the security system purchase. This is a trend that can be expected to spread throughout Minnesota as more probation departments experience problems from violators coming into the offices in hopes to explain themselves. However, the issues haven’t just been with probation violators who find that they cannot stop legal action against them when they come into the office. There are some simply checking in who have displayed erratic behavior. In Brown County alone, 116 calls were made to law enforcement regarding unruly and dangerous individuals and Brown County does not deal with as many individuals on probation as some of the larger counties, such as Hennepin County. One call was made regarding a woman who tried to injure herself with a sharp object. There have also been calls regarding people bringing loaded handguns into the office or bringing in large knives. When this occurs, felony level offenders are violating their pre-trial release conditions and this is causing them to face possible prison sentences. Probation officers deal with individuals every day who are angry, suffer from mental health issues, and who are being treated by mood altering chemicals. Many of these individuals who are visiting their probation officers with weapons in hand are not allowed to carry weapons as part of the conditions of their probation. They are to not possess weapons or commit any other crimes and bringing weapons into the building like that is considered a crime and the charges are enhanced if some kind of threat is made. This is resulting in probation violators in Minnesota going back to jail. Minnesota County Gets Probation Security System was last modified: November 19th, 2014 by Alex DeMarco

Felon in Possession of a Weapon

In general, the law prohibits an individual convicted of a felony from possessing or purchasing a firearm under specific conditions. While there are some provisions under federal law that allow certain felons to have their gun rights restored, Congress has not declared this provision a law. Over the past 30 years, Minnesota and federal laws have changed and crimes that used to not be felonies are now considered felonies. This has resulted in arguments regarding non-violent felons having their firearms rights restored. However, legal traction has not been gained and that means nothing has been implemented. Outside of a pardon, these individuals have not been able to gain back their rights to own weapons. Nonetheless, a question that manySt. Paul criminal defense lawyers find individuals asking is what types of weapons can a convicted felon possess, if any? In Minnesota, felons are to not own weapons unless certain conditions exist and the federal law is a rather technical one in that it could be possible for a felon to purchase and own specific types of muzzle loading firearms. Generally, these weapons are defined as guns that were manufactured before or during 1898 and they are loaded from the muzzle, which is the open end of the barrel. A firing pin or primer being ignited does not trigger these firearms. Instead, a flint stone or percussion cap ignites the weapon. These are considered antique firearms and federal law does state that a person convicted of a felony can possess an antique firearm. However, there are a number of current firearms that use black powder and are made from the components of modern firearms. These weapons are not counted as antique firearms although the firing mechanisms may be similar. This means that careful research is required when wishing to own such a firearm. If an unintended violation of the firearms law is committed, just like an intentional violation, the prison sentence could be lengthy, so any attempts to own a black powder firearm must be evaluated very carefully. That way there is no chance of violating the law. The specific conditions that exist in Minnesota in regards to those convicted of a felony possessing a weapon are as follows: The individual cannot own or possess a firearm if they have been convicted or adjudicated for a felony-level drug offense or a crime of violence, unless ten years have passed since the restoration of their civil rights or since sentence discharge, whichever occurs first. During that time, the person is to not be convicted of any other offense. A person who has been convicted of a felony with a punishment of more than one year in jail whose civil rights have yet to be restored. A person currently charged with a felony that warrants more than one year imprisonment, the prohibition is limited to semiautomatic assault weapons and pistols. Violation is a gross misdemeanor, except in the case of illegal possession of an assault weapon or pistol by a minor, which is punishable… Read more {+}

DWI for Sleeping In the Car: Can it Happen?

It has been seen in the news time and time again that individuals have been arrested for DWI for sleeping in their cars. Some individuals simply go to their car to “sleep it off” before they take to the roads. When they have been at a bar and they simply don’t have a ride home or money for a cab, that’s what they decide to do in some cases. So when the question regarding whether or not a person can get a DWI for sleeping in their car is asked, the answer to the question is “it depends.” It was in 2010 that the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a decision regarding this issue. While the court did not say that every person who is asleep behind the wheel of a parked car will get a DWI, it does send a message that being over the legal blood alcohol content of .08 while behind the wheel of a vehicle, even if the vehicle was not driven, could result in a DWI charge in Minnesota. This charge could ultimately lead to a conviction. The case is known as State v. Fleck and it is in this case that Mr. Fleck was parked in his apartment building’s parking lot while intoxicated. A neighbor called the police because they saw Mr. Fleck sleeping in the driver’s seat of his car with the door of the car open. Fleck had not been driving the vehicle, which was determined by officers because the car was not warm to the touch. The car had not been running, the lights were not on. His keys were in the center console rather than in the ignition. Before the case went to trial, officers had attempted to start the vehicle, but they could not start it. There was nothing that indicated the car was operable. Mr. Fleck received the DWI charge because he was in “physical control” of the vehicle while he was impaired. The Minnesota courts define “physical control” as a situation in which an intoxicated person is found in a parked motor vehicle in which the vehicle could be started without much difficulty and become a source of danger to others or the operator. In other words, you have physical control of the vehicle if the means to put the vehicle into motion exists or you are in close proximity to the vehicle’s controls. In State v. Juncewsky (Minn 1981), the court recognized that the law does not apply to passengers who hand over control of the car to another driver. It has also been determined that being around or in the vehicle is not enough to show a person has physical control. Instead, the court considered the situation as a whole, including the location of the keys, the proximity to the vehicle or the location within, whether or not the person was a passenger, the vehicle owner, and whether the vehicle would start. There are some individuals who have had no intention of driving the car, but… Read more {+}