Month: June 2013

“I Can’t Drive 55” – Sammy Hagar

After a person is stopped for speeding, people will often wonder how the ticket will effect their driver’s license and insurance rates.  The Honorable Alan F. Pendleton, Judge of the 10th Judicial District in Minnesota, put together a nice chart that explains when a speeding ticket will go on your record in Minnesota.

In Minnesota, if you are in a 55 mile an hour speed zone and you are not going 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, then your ticket should not appear on your record.

Click below to read the entire chart:

I can’t drive 55

When is a Juvenile Certified as adult?

imagesParents and children under the age of 18 are surprised when they find out a person under the age of 18 can go to trial as an adult for a crime.  So, when may a juvenile be required to appear in adult court for trial?  The court may order that a juvenile who was age 14 or older at the time of the offense and who is charged with certain felonies, be certified as adult and tried in adult criminal court.

Juveniles convicted of an offense in adult court receive adult sentences. Juveniles charged with first degree murder, who were age 16 or 17 at the time of the offense, are required by Minnesota Statutes to be certified as adults and sent to adult court.

Below is a summary of a juvenile matter certified as an adult.Click here if you wish to read the entire opinion.

State v. Grigsby (SUP CT, 08-01-2012, A10-1686, Ramsey Co)

Certification, Minnesota Statute Section 260B

Defendant was 15 years of age when had a petition filed against him charging him with Murder in the second degree- Intentional and was certified to stand trial as an adult. The Complaint was then amended to include Murder in the second degree Felony Murder. Defendant was found guilty of murder in the second degree – Felony murder and manslaughter in the second degree;  and found not guilty of murder in the second degree, Intentional murder. He was sentenced to 180 months.

Defendant appeals on the ground that certification is offense specific. The Defendant argued that charges not included in the certification order cannot be charged in the adult court proceeding. The Supreme Court rejects this argument and says the juvenile court certifies proceedings and those proceedings include offenses not mentioned in the certification order.

Defendant also states that he could not be sentenced as an adult for the adult convictions because he was found not guilty of the offense that he was certified as an adult for. The Supreme Court also rejects this position holding that once a juvenile is certified to stand trial in adult court, the juvenile may be sentenced as an adult for any offenses he is convicted of in adult court.

Search warrant needed before searching cell phone contents

The Minnesota Court of Appeals finds that we do have an expectation of privacy for the contents of our cell phones.  This requires law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before looking at our cell phone’s contents.

Click here to read the case in its entirety.

State v Barajas (Minnesota Court of Appeals, 07-23-2012, A11-0983, Clay Co)

The Police went to a vacant apartment and found Defendant trespassing on the property.  After search, Police found methamphetamine in the apartment, a cell phone on the kitchen counter and two cell phones on the defendant’s person.   Police took the cell phones and looked at the photographs on the cell phone without first obtaining a search warrant.  After finding the photographs, law enforcement then decided to seek a signed consent to search, a waiver of the search warrant requirement.

At the trial, the prosecution was allowed to introduce photographs taken from the cell phones.  The photographs showed defendant with a lot of money. Defendant was convicted and sent to prison for First Degree possession with intent to sell.

Defendant appealed the decision.  The Court of Appeals decided that Defendant has an expectation of privacy in the contents of the phone.   This does not end the analysis as to whether a search warrant is required.  The Court then considers whether that expectation of privacy is recognized as reasonable by society. The Court analyzes that while the Defendant did not have an expectation of privacy as to himself since he was a trespasser, he still had an expectation of privacy in the concealed contents of the phone.  In other words, the discovery of the telephones does not need a search warrant, but in order to look at the telephone’s contents, a warrant is required.  The Court says a cell phone that conceals its contents is consistent with constitutionally protected containers. Therefore, the police were required to get a search warrant to get the photographs.

The Court then discussed the Consent to search element.  Consent to search is an exception to the warrant requirement. The State argued and the trial court found that the unlawful search of the telephone without a warrant was cured by the consent the Defendant signed. The Appellate court disagreed with the trial court and found that the consent was not freely and voluntarily given in these circumstances.

This is all great news for making the sure the government does not invade our privacy without their actions being reviewed and not allowing the government to violate our 4th amendment Rights.  However, it was not enough for Defendant Barajas to have his conviction overturned, as the Court found there was enough other evidence to convict him.

 

Insanity Defense for killing wife’s lover

There have been some infamous cases surrounding the insanity defense.  One of the first occurred in 1859 and involved Defendant New York Congressman and Civil War General Dan Sickles, and victim Washington D.C. District Attorney Philip Barton Key, the son of poet Francis Scott Key who wrote the Star Spangled Banner.  The temporary insanity defense worked, Defendant Sickles was found not guilty and applauded by the community at the time for protecting the women from an adulterer the likes of victim Key.  Click here to read the details of this case.

An insanity defense is admitting to the physical act of the crime, but then the defendant asserts they are not responsible for their actions due to mental health problems.  This assertion takes place at the trial to a jury.  Minnesota does not recognize an insanity defense, but instead does allow for a defense of mental illness or deficiency.  There are differences between the two forms of defense.  The burden is on the Defendant to prove the mental illness or deficiency to the jury by a preponderance of the evidence.  The actual defense, if the case goes to trial, and notice requirements are noted in Criminal Rules of Procedure 9.02, subd. 1(5).

Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure 20.01 and 20.02 cover acts the defendant claims are the result of mental health issues.  Rule 20.01 covers whether a person is competent to participate in the proceedings, or assist in their defense. If a person is not competent to proceed and the case is a felony or gross misdemeanor, the case is then stayed for a period of time to see if competency is restored.  If competency is restored, the case then proceeds to trial.  If competency is not restored, the government must file a motion within the time lines prescribed to extend the commitment of the Defendant pursuant to the rule.  Rule 20.01, is about whether the case can proceed.

Rule 20.02, addresses the issue of proceeding to trial on the defense of mental illness or deficiency.  This rule covers the medical examination reports and the commitment proceedings if a person is found not guilty by mental illness or deficiency.

If you have any questions as to how mental illness is addressed in our Courts, please give me a call at 651-200-3484

 

Former wrongfully Convicted Inmate creates Foundation to help other wrongfully convicted inmates

In 2012 Jeff Deskovic was released from prison after serving 15 years for a crime he did not commit.  Mr. Deskovic reached an $8 million dollar settlement for his wrongful incarceration against the State.  Mr. Deskovic then set up a foundation to help other wrongfully convicted inmates.  Click here to read about an inmate Mr. Deskovic’s foundation assisted and caused a Federal Judge to state: “The result is that a likely innocent man has been in prison for over 23 years. He should be released with the state’s apology,” the judge wrote.