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Twin Cities Criminal Law Blog

Why would 9 similar crimes get 9 different sentences?

A Minnesota judge just wrapped up the trials of nine recruits to a terror network who attempted to join ISIS. The Judge handed down sentences that ranged from time served and probation in a halfway house to 35 years in prison.

What made the difference for each defendant's sentence? All of them were accused of similar crimes under the U.S. Patriot Act. All were similar in age, and all were stopped before they could carry out their plans to join ISIS. Why, then, did the judge show more compassion to some defendants than others?

Federal officials say that Child Protection Services proceedings are on the rise

Over the past three years, there has been a nationwide increase in the number of children being placed in foster care, according to federal records. Today's numbers have several moving parts, as the federal data suggests that more kids are staying in foster care for longer periods of time. Other children may be in foster care for a short period, but reentering at a later date.

The data says that  total number of children in foster care has risen for three consecutive years. However, the acting secretary of the Administration on Children and Families, Mark Greenberg, says that fewer kids today are in foster care than the numbers recorded a decade ago, according to The Chronicle of Social Change.

Job market may still be tough for ex-offenders

Hiring for the upcoming holiday shopping season has begun in earnest. While actual numbers likely won’t be available for a month or so, it is possible for hundreds of thousands of temporary employees to be hired in the last months of 2016.

For the most part, retailers will have many candidates to choose from. Even though the economy has improved and unemployment has dropped compared to last year, there are still those who will find it difficult to gain employment.

The facts of life with Halloween and drunk driving

Even with Halloween being on a Monday night, it would not be surprising if a number of Halloween revelers will make it a long weekend. For an unfortunate group of people, they may wake up in jail on Tuesday morning, or with the memory of spending half the night being processed after being arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

While this may be a simple fact of life in the Twin Cities, history does not have to repeat itself as the holidays come around. For those who are counting, Thanksgiving is just over three weeks away. It is expected that additional patrols for DUI will be out, so it is imperative for drivers to pay close attention to what they drink if they are driving on Halloween night. 

Could texters be caught by undercover cops?

While you may not see as many public service announcements about it,  texting while driving is still a major problem in the Twin Cities. Even though Minnesota law bans the practice, it is no surprising to see motorists checking their phones while in traffic. Some may be following turn-by-turn directions, while others may want to check the score of a football game.

Nevertheless, enforcing distracted driving laws can be difficult. It’s not very often that a driver will blatantly look at their phone after seeing a police car behind them. Because of this, some law enforcement agencies are going undercover….even in broad daylight.

The problems facing teens seeing parents who drink and drive

The popular parenting adage, “Do as I say, not as I do “ apparently does not resonate with teens when it comes to drinking and driving. A 2014 study published by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that teens who have driven with an intoxicated driver are much more likely to do it themselves.

The research findings prompted one of the researchers to explain that it is just as dangerous for a teen to ride with an intoxicated driver as it is to drive while under the influence of alcohol themselves. The research focused on 10 graders who had their driver’s licenses. Specifically, those who reported riding with a drunk driver were more than 20 times more likely to drive while under the influence by their senior year in high school. 

Can a criminal court order lead to debtors' prison

Everyone who has been issued a citation or has been ordered to pay court costs (and fines) has been there. When you have to make a choice between paying rent or buying diapers for a child and paying court imposed fees, what do you choose? More likely than not, the choice is made to maintain the necessities in life (i.e. shelter, buying food, paying utilities). When this occurs, people in arrears run the risk of having warrants issued for their arrest.

But this may run contrary to the notion that America has no debtors’ prisons. Essentially, a person cannot be jailed for not being able to pay contractual debts. Secured creditors can take back the property that is not being paid for, and unsecured creditors can bring a lawsuit and obtain a judgment to collect payment. 

Why field sobriety tests are so important to law enforcement

As the summer draws to a close, many will celebrate it with their last vacation before the school season, which begins in earnest after Labor Day. With many holiday weekends, there will be an increased police presence to stem the number of drunk drivers on the road. When people are stopped on suspicion of DWI, an officer commonly asks the driver to perform a series of sobriety tests.

Many people unwittingly submit to the tests, which may include the “walk and turn,” “one-leg stand,” and “horizontal gaze nystagamus.” They may believe that they can prove that they are okay to drive, only to give officers the evidence they need to insist that the driver submit to a portable breathalyzer test (PBT), which is commonly the icing on the cake when it comes to having enough evidence to make an arrest. 

The Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners announces new rules

Cosmetologists, nail technicians, instructors and aestheticians are facing new rules that go into effect in mid-September. Salon owners, schools and individual cosmetologists who rely on their professional license to make a living can expect not only stricter guidelines, but greater scrutiny when the new rules take effect on September 13. State regulators have added more than 500 new rules, and are looking to increase the number of inspectors who drop in on salons to look for potential rule violations.

The Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners says that complaints about inadequate infection control led the board to consider updating the rules. The expansion of the industry in recent decades also out strains on the inspectors, leading to the decision to double the number of inspectors with the hopes that every salon will be investigated at least once a year.

What is an expungement and will it work for me?

In our last post, we discussed how being unable to get out of jail may affect how people plead to crimes, even if there is a good chance that they would be found not guilty at trial. Essentially, the need to get out of jail may lead people to plea to lesser crimes, without knowing the future consequences of pleading guilty.

One of the things a defendant may miss is the ability of getting the crime expunged after their probation has expired. 

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