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Terroristic threats: The Catchall Felony

“Touch me again, and I’m gonna knock you out.”  We’re Americans. We live in a society and in a culture that is no stranger to confrontation. The fact is we love fighting. We love to watch smack talk in sports. We love to see a baseball or football coach take an umpire or referee to task, spitting and yelling with the glare of rage in their eyes. We love watching guys in a movie engage in macho banter back and forth, and this aids in character development. Even our political discourse has become a dog fight, with right and left pundits yelling over each other, and the media purposefully seeks out confrontational and divisive topics less for our information than our entertainment. For better or for worse, this affects our interaction in everyday life. When we get pissed off, and when we’re looking to make a show and stir some drama up, we use fighting words. We put on a fighting face and take stand as a character of sorts. The frank truth is nobody takes it too seriously, and everyone knows it’s mostly hot air. You would think that wouldn’t be a crime. You would think actually hitting a guy in the face and giving him a black eye, or stealing, or damaging someone’s property would be a worse action. But guess what? At the most basic level, those are misdemeanors. Turns out going Joe Pesci with your mouth gets you charged with a Felony, a thing called Terroristic Threats.  That’s right. You might as well have kept your mouth shut and socked the dude in eye, because that’s only a misdemeanor, presuming you don’t have prior assaults and you don’t break any bones.  Now you’re a terrorist.  Ok, so punching a guy is not my legal advice. You want free advice? Here it is: Anyone who “unlawfully and feloniously directly or indirectly threatens to commit any crime of violence with the purpose to terrorize another or in a reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror” commits a terroristic threats. The critical distinction on which criminal activity turns in Terroristic Threats in Minnesota is the scienter requirement, or “mens rea.” That was for the other lawyers out there or the Catholic School kids that actually had to take Latin. That means your mindset. It doesn’t say “intentionally”, but in common language, it means you have to actually mean what you say in order to really be guilty of terroristic threats. You have to seriously and immediately mean that you’re going to hurt someone or their property, or you should have known that someone was going to be genuinely fearful you would cash the check your mouth is writing. In other words, it can’t be just posturing. “The test of whether words or phrases are harmless or threatening is the context in which they are used.” United States v. Prochaska, 222 F.2d 1 (7 Cir. 1955); United States v. Pennell, 144 F.Supp. 317 (N.D.Cal.1956). “ Thus the question… Read more {+}

Collateral Consequences for Licensed Practitioners and Nurses under Minn. Stat. 245C

Collateral consequences are those consequences of a criminal conviction that are not related to the actual sentence. Collateral consequences are the difficulties that a person has as a result of the criminal charge or conviction. For individuals in certain professions, such as nursing, there are some rather steep collateral consequences that could affect the profession. Under Minnesota Statute 245C, background checks that are performed by the Department of health and Human Services could prevent an individual from being able to work as a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, home health aide, or even being the guardian of an elderly patient. Just the filing of certain criminal charges, especially gross misdemeanors and felonies, can result in an administrative process that could lead to administrative disqualification from practicing in the field. In some cases, a person may ignore the administrative notice that is sent by the Department of Health and Human Services after they have been charged with a serious crime. All the agency has to establish is that the defendant committed the crime based on a “preponderance of the evidence.” Even an acquittal does not affect the decision that the agency has made. When a person hires aSt. Paul criminal defense attorney, their attorney will advise them of the possible notification from DHS so that appropriate steps are taken to protect the client in both criminal court and at the administrative level. An offense, such as reckless driving may not result in any action, but criminal sexual conduct, DWI, assault, domestic assault, financial crimes, and drug abuse are all examples of crimes that can result in a criminal charge that can result in the ultimate collateral offense of not being able to practice as a nurse. Under Minnesota Statute 245C.15, subdivision 1, a disqualifying crime includes all degrees lf murder, first and second-degree manslaughter, all forms of domestic assault, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, murder of an unborn child in all degrees, prostitution, all degrees and types of criminal sexual conduct, neglect or endangerment of a child, felony-level stalking, shooting at or inside a public transit facility or vehicle, indecent exposure involving a minor, and child pornography. Also considered a disqualifying offense is the aiding and abetting of someone who committed any of these crimes. The offense doesn’t have to occur in just Minnesota either. When disqualification is based on a judge’s determination before any conviction could take place, the disqualification period begins from the date the court order is issued. Subdivision 2 states that a person can be disqualified from practicing in the nursing profession permanently. They can also be disqualified if less than 15 years have passed since the sentence was discharged, if there was a sentence, in many of the crimes mentioned above (excluding murder and sex offenses), including specific white collar crimes. The ten-year disqualification pertains primarily to misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, and very few felonies. The crimes are minor compared to those resulting in permanent disqualification or 15 years of disqualification. The seven-year disqualification, like the ten-year disqualification, pertains… Read more {+}

Expanding a Stop for a Minor Traffic Infraction

Many people throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul have been stopped for minor traffic infractions. Perhaps the driver was going a few miles over the speed limit or drove left of center for a second. However, there are times when the officer may expand the stop when the only offense was a minor traffic violation. The expanded investigatory stop is something that has been under a lot of scrutiny, as many of the actions by the officer that occur during these stops are questionable. As everyone knows, a police officer can stop a vehicle if they have probable cause to believe that that vehicle is about to engage or has already engaged in a traffic violation or criminal act. They have to have probable cause because the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable search and seizures. If a person’s vehicle is unreasonably searched, then their Constitutional right is violated. Nonetheless, a police officer is to not expand an investigation on a vehicle if they don’t have probable cause to do so. For instance, you may have been speeding. The officer pulls you over, asks you how fast you were going, you say you don’t know, and then he proceeds with telling you and either lets you off with a warning or with a ticket in most cases. It is when the officer decides to search your vehicle, pat you down, or do something else not related to the purpose of the stop (speeding) that an expanded investigation is being conducted. Even asking questions not relevant to the purpose of the stop is considered an expanded investigation and this can make a driver very uncomfortable because they feel as if they are being accused of something when they have done nothing wrong other than speeding. Such questions can include: Reasons for traveling Details of the reason for traveling Whether or not there are large amounts of cash in the car If there are drugs or alcohol in the car (although the defendant does not smell of alcohol, marijuana, or even show signs of being intoxicated) Unfortunately, law enforcement officers throughout the Twin Cities have been known to ask such questions, believing that they may be able to secure the probable cause they need to conduct an expanded investigation. The exception is when there is probable cause to have the vehicle seized. When a vehicle is seized, an inventory may be taken. Anything that is found in that inventory could be used as evidence. In an ordinary traffic stop, the officer is to not go any further than the initial investigation. If it was running a stop sign or stop light or speeding, that is all the further the officer is to conduct their investigation. A question, such as, “do you know why I pulled you over” is an acceptable question. If the officer asks where you are coming from, where you are going, and why, you do not have to answer those questions because they are irrelevant to the… Read more {+}

Terroristic Threats: The Catch-All Felony for having a Big Mouth

A person can be charged with making a terroristic threat if they use words to instill fear in others. Examples of terroristic threats include statements like: “I wish I could burn this place down.” “I am going to blow this place up.” “I am going to beat every one of you up!” Now, it is very possible that you have said at least one of those statements at some point in your life. How many times have you been aggravated at work and verbalized how you would like to burn the place down? It isn’t like you were serious, but someone may have taken you seriously and it led to a terroristic charge. Then there are those who get into fights and they may yell threats at the other person while cussing them out. Everything that is said is typically said out of anger. Statements like, “I’ll kill you” can be taken seriously. In one case, a young man was drunk and beating on a window of a friend who locked him outside. The drunk man was yelling obscenities while beating on the window, so the friend called the police. This resulted in the drunk man being arrested and charged with terroristic threats. Over time, the terroristic threat charge has become a catch-all felony for when a person simply has a big mouth. They may not have had a previous criminal offense on their record at all, but saying things that others perceive as being a true threat can result in the charge. Now, a person who says that they have planted a bomb in a building has made a true terroristic threat. This creates panic of the masses and can cause entire buildings to evacuate. In the meantime, every person is concerned with getting out as soon as possible because they are fearful that the building will blow up while they are inside. This is causing people to fear for their lives. However, a simple fight does not always result in individuals fearing for their lives, but it is prosecuted just as aggressively as if someone made a bomb threat. One trend that has happened lately is perceived threats over social media or individuals simply having a “big mouth,” thinking that they will not get into any trouble for saying what they want over sites such as Facebook and Twitter. A number of teenagers have found themselves suspended from school and criminal charges filed against them. One student made a tweet about “drilling my teammates hard.” The young man played football and anyone who knows anything about football knows that “drilling” in contact sports means a hard tackle. However, this was perceived as a threat and it landed the young man in trouble. Those that did not interpret what he was saying correctly took it as a terroristic threat, thus landing him in trouble. This is a case where the young man did not have a big mouth, but the public perception or interpretation of the statement resulted in… Read more {+}

The intersection of Child Protection Cases and Criminal Law

While family law and criminal law are typically separate, there are times when the two intersect. When they intersect, the cases can become rather complex and that means that attorneys are required, but one of those areas of the case may be outside of the focus area. This is why attorneys with focuses in both area will work together to create one linear focus. Nonetheless, the times that criminal law may intersect with family law is when there is a domestic issue, such as child protection. Perhaps the child needs protected due to an alleged domestic violence situation. Because domestic violence is a family matter and a criminal matter, the two areas of the law become twisted together, requiring a different approach from an attorney. When a client tells an attorney that they have been accused with domestic violence resulting in a child protection matter, it is important to find out if the client has been formally charged with a crime. It is possible for clients to not know the status of the charges, but a Minneapolis attorney can search records at the courthouse to find out if there are any charges that have been filed. If an attorney does know, then it is important to be ready to take a stand at any hearings regarding the child protection matter and the criminal charge. The reason why it is important to have family law and criminal law attorneys work closely together is because the criminal charge can have an impact on the family matter. If a client is found guilty of a domestic violence matter resulting in a child protection issue, it will affect custody, visitation, could result in the disproportionate division of assets and spousal and child support. Even being convicted of a simple assault charge without any family violence finding can result in negative consequences. If child protective services or the police have been called, the attorney will most likely subpoena the medical records, DHS records, and police reports so they can be studied. These materials can be helpful as can any 911 records, which can be requested within 30 days of the call. It is important to subpoena or request 911 recordings before they are destroyed. Whether or not any formal child endangerment, child abuse, or domestic violence charges have been filed, it is important to consider the depth of the allegations, their effects on any family legal matters, and the possible criminal consequences. When these allegations are made, an investigation will be done to determine their validity. The child may be interviewed, as well as anyone around the child. The attorney can request a copy of the report and be prepared for the attempt by the prosecution to use the report as evidence in the case. The forensic interviewer who interviewed the child may also be asked to testify. Failure to have the child protection matter and the criminal aspects of the case properly can have severe consequences. Much caution is used when proceeding in these… Read more {+}