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Category Archives: Criminal Defense

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Do Marijuana Laws Protect Me From Getting Sued?

If your state has passed marijuana legalization laws, you may be wondering if you can still get into trouble for using it. Are you fully protected by these laws, or do risks remain that you could be sued or even arrested for smoking a joint? Let’s consider what these laws mean for marijuana users.

First of all, research the marijuana laws in your state. No two states are alike with respect to these laws, and they’re changing fast. This fact alone should send a warning signal to marijuana users who want to stay out of trouble. Not only are these laws new and potentially confusing to you, but law enforcement officers, judges and attorneys are still learning about them and trying to figure out their policies and procedures.

In recent years, states have been progressively legalizing the use of marijuana. States usually start off by decriminalizing marijuana, meaning that the drug remains technically illegal but by policy the laws aren’t usually enforced. Then states move to legalize medical marijuana for licensed patients demonstrating a medical need, as well as dispensaries to provide the drug to them. This allowance eventually gives way to legalizing the growing and using of marijuana for recreational purposes. Marijuana has now been broadly legalized in eight states: California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Alaska, Massachusetts and Maine.

Despite all these changes, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, even in states that have legalized it. The federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, meaning that they consider it to have a high potential for abuse with no medical value. Furthermore, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has told federal prosecutors to crack down on marijuana businesses operating legally under their respective states’ laws. For now, it appears that individual marijuana users aren’t targeted by the feds, but that could change overnight.

All the marijuana laws specify certain restrictions. Smoking marijuana in public is illegal in all states. Employers are allowed to prohibit marijuana use, and they can test for it and use a positive result as cause for termination. Landlords can refuse to rent to pot smokers. In most cases, any private party or government agency can prohibit use on their property.

Mere possession is illegal under some circumstances too. Most states limit possession to a maximum amount, such as one ounce (which is a lot), and they prohibit the possession of any amount on the grounds of grade schools.

If you’re following the law, you should still realize that frivolous lawsuits happen. After all, we live in a country where writing a negative online review could get you sued for libel. Your use of marijuana can be used to impugn your character in court. In a parental dispute over child custody, for instance, the opposing lawyer could use your smoking habit to paint you as an unreliable druggie slacker, even though your smoking may be perfectly legal where you live.

Even in states that have legalized recreational use of cannabis, the consequences of using marijuana and driving remain potentially severe. “Although many people feel they can drive safely while high on marijuana, driving under the influence of pot is still illegal,” says Jason Hennessey, marketing director for several law firms that handle such cases. “In fact, it’s treated almost identically to drunk driving and all other forms of DUI under state law.” Worse still, cannabis metabolites remain detectable in the body for days and weeks after use, so you could get a DUI without being high if the test comes back positive and the prosecutor can establish that you were impaired. Also keep in mind that as you drive across state lines, all the laws change. Driving from Nevada into Utah, for instance, is a risky proposition for the pot smoker.

Though marijuana has been legalized in many states, the legal risks incurred by using this drug remain quite high. None of the state laws can protect you from being sued, or worse, for using marijuana. Use at your own risk.

 

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How a DUI can Add up in No Time

A criminal charge may not lead to jail time, but a conviction will almost always result in your wallet getting a little lighter. Minor traffic tickets and misdemeanor offenses may leave you out a couple hundred dollars, but a DUI is one of the more costly convictions on the books. A DUI can easily cost you thousands of dollars, and it doesn’t all come in the form of a huge fine. Here’s a look at some of the fines and fees you may have to pay after a DUI conviction.

The Price Of A DUI

Here’s why a drunk driving conviction can add up in no time:

Car Insurance Increases – Your car insurance rates are based on your likelihood of getting in an accident on the road, and nothing raises your rates more than a drunk driving conviction. The average yearly increase to insurance premiums after a DUI is about $835 a year, and that elevated rate remains in place for an average of three years. This means the average DUI offender will spend an additional $2,500 over the next three years just to maintain automobile coverage.

Citation Fine – Depending on which state you’re convicted in, you could face a citation amount between a couple hundred dollars to more than $1,000. Expect this fine amount to increase if you have any factors that can upgrade the significance of your DUI arrest, like you had children in the vehicle, you injured someone or you had a very high blood-alcohol content.

Ignition Interlock – After a DUI, many states allow you to maintain your driver’s license if you agree to put an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. An ignition interlock costs anywhere from $75 to $200 to have installed, but you also have to pay a monthly charge for having the device. The monthly charge is usually around $50, but considering most people need to have the device for six months to a year, an ignition interlock device usually costs about $500 on the low end.

Bond – If you need to post bail to be released before your court date, you can do so and this money will be returned to you assuming you meet all the obligations with the court. However, a lot of people don’t have $5,000 to put up as collateral, so they go the bond route. Bond is usually 10 percent of the bail amount, so in this case you would pay $500 to a bond company, and they would secure your release. That $500 is not returned to you, even if you beat the charges.

Alcohol Course – Most courts will require you to take an alcohol awareness course as part of your sentencing, or your lawyer may recommend that you voluntarily enter one as it helps to show the court that you take the charges seriously and you want to get back on a healthy path. These usually cost between $100 and $300.

License Reinstatement – If your license is revoked after a DUI, you’ll need to pay a reinstatement fee at your local DMV. We practice in Minnesota, and a reinstatement fee here will run you $680, so it’s no small fee.

Lawyer Fees – You may be wondering why you would pay a lawyer when you have all these other fees to worry about. The fact of the matter is, if you hire a lawyer who can help you get the charges dropped or reduced, you may not have to pay many of the fines listed above. When it comes to a DUI, a lawyer often pays for their services many times over based on how much money they are saving you. Consider paying up for a lawyer so that you can keep as much of your hard earned money in your wallet as possible.

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Possession of Child Pornography Defense in Minnesota

Child pornography is a serious crime. Illegal in the entire United States, the penalties can be harsh. While there are several, separate statutes in the state of Minnesota regarding this crime, statute 617.247 is the one that lays out the rules and punishments for the possession of child pornography. If you find yourself caught up in a case dealing with this crime, there are some things you should know in order to maintain your defense.

Understanding Statute 617.247

The statute, found on the state’s revisor, states that it is illegal to possess any pornographic work on any medium where a minor is performing a real or simulated sex act. However, the possession is qualified by the language, “knowing or with reason to know its content or character.”

This is an important line in the law, as it makes it clear it is not just possession, but knowing possession of child pornography that breaks the law. Similar to the possession of stolen goods, the person being charged with the possession of child pornography has to know what it is they have, otherwise they couldn’t have known what they had was illegal.

Also, while it should go without saying, the law also spells out that police officers, medical professionals, court officials, and others engaged in professional duties are exempt from the possession statute, as possessing (and even viewing) these materials is often something that has to be done in the execution of their duties.

What Are The Defenses To Possession of Child Pornography?

The affirmative defense outlined in the statute itself is that if all persons appearing in a pornographic work were 18 or older at the time the work was created, then it clearly is not child pornography. It seems obvious, but this is the reason why many pornographers will have clearly indicated warnings before their films, or on their sites, stating the true age of performers in the work, even if the characters or personas they take on in the work claim to be below the legal age of sexual consent.

As stated above, ignorance of the character of the work is also a defense against a charge of possession of child pornography. If you have a CD, for example, but you’ve never looked at what’s on it, then there is no way you could have known it was full of child pornography. The same is true if there is a computer in your home, but it isn’t yours and you don’t know the password to access it.

Something that is not a defense against a charge of possession of child pornography, however, is consent. Even if a minor, or the minor’s parents or guardians, gave consent for the work to be made, that does not make it legal to possess. Just as a minor giving consent doesn’t make it legal for an adult to have sex with them, it doesn’t make it legal to possess any media where a minor participates in simulated or genuine sex acts.

Punishment

In the state of Minnesota, punishment for a first offense of possession of child pornography is a sentence of not more than 5 years, and not more than $5,000 in a fine. A second offense is a sentence of not more than 10 years, and not more than a $10,000 fine.

This punishment can be exacerbated, though. If someone is on a predatory registry, then that can lead to steeper punishment. Additionally, if a second violation occurs within 15 years of the first, then the offender will also have to undergo mandatory psychiatric evaluation by a court-appointed physician.

 

BIO:

Charles R. Segal, of Segal Defense, P.A., Has Over 20 Years Defending Minnesota Clients. Charles has handled over a thousand DWI, Traffic, Misdemeanor, and Felony Cases.

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What Happens Next After A DWI Arrest?

Driving under the influence (DUI) or Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is unfortunately a very common occurrence. Sadly as many US cities have few public transportation options, many people are finding themselves in the driver seat when they are incapacitated and unable to make sound judgments due to drugs or alcohol. Statistics from the FBI for 2014 show that there were over 1 million arrest related to DUI.

No longer just a meaningless statistic, you find yourself faced with a DWI arrest. The days following your arrest for DWI are full of uncertainties. There are many unknowns such as how will this affect by future record, what implications will there be for my insurance and how will the legal proceedings go? Not to mention, how much will all of this cost?

In the days following your arrest and release, you will receive many solicitations from lawyers in the mail. You may believe that you cannot afford legal assistance but the reality may be that you can’t afford not to. What are some of the advantages of having a legal representative?

Firstly, depending on what evidence has been collected against you will determine if you plead guilty or not-guilty. A lawyer can help you to evaluate what you are up against and which plea will have the least damaging repercussions. There are also differing laws according to state and a lawyer can help you to understand how your individual case will be treated in the courts. Some factors that will affect your case are your blood alcohol level, whether or not there were any minors in the vehicle with you and if you were involved in an accident.

Secondly, whether this is your first offence or are you a repeat offender, you could be looking at very hefty fines and prison. Therefore, it would be wise not to go the proceedings without legal representation.

You will be required to appear in court for your arraignment hearing which is when you will put in your plea of guilty or not guilty. Your lawyer can advise you on what plea to put in. If you plead not guilty there will be further court hearings to weigh the evidence and then the final sentencing.

If the charges are dropped:

Best case scenario, your case could be dropped or charges reduced. This could happen if the arresting officer did not have just cause to pull over your vehicle. Even if your lawyer was able to successfully get your charges dropped, you will still be responsible for the court costs and your lawyers fees. In order to have charges reduced, you may be required to attend a DWI class. The focus of this class would be to modify future behaviors and to impress on the student the negative consequences of impaired driving.

If the charges stick:

The DWI will permanently be on your criminal record and will be on your driving record for 10 years. This could result in increased insurance premiums or your insurance company dropping you as a client.

Depending on your conviction you will be required to pay a fee and/or serve a prison sentence. You will also have limited driving privileges and could possibly be required to use the ignition interlock on your vehicle. The Ignition Interlock is a breathalyzer device that is installed under the vehicles dash and requires breathing into a device to measure presence of alcohol. The vehicle will not start if alcohol is detected.

Clearly, being arrested for a DWI was not part of your plans this summer. But a valuable investment in your future and your present well-being is having legal council that can help you to navigate the coming days. We would be happy to help you understand better what your arrest means for you in the state of Minnesota. Contact us on what help there is for your specific case.

 

BIO:   Judith Samson

I am a Minneapolis Criminal Lawyer, and I have served clients in the Twin Cities and Western Suburbs for years. I have become known for my aggressive and effective litigation skills as well as for my individual approach to representing clients. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact my Twin Cities law office or email me at judith@samson-law.com