Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Minnesota Domestic Assault (Explained)

Domestic Assault cases more often than not arise out of a dispute between husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend or people living together.  Some recent high profile cases, in the State of Minnesota, include the prosecution of Chris Cook - the Minnesota Viking who was recently acquitted of such a charge. 

Of the cases I worked, both as a former prosecutor and now on this side of the aisle, these types of matters are often the messiest.  Not only are they difficult for the government to prove --- it can be equally as trying for the accused to demonstrate their innocence- especially without the help of an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney.


Essentially, at its most simplistic level, Domestic Assault is the act of placing another person in fear of being harmed and/or in-fact harming that person.  Therefore, punching, slapping, hitting and/or almost any act of physical contact - or the threat of as much - can be construed to comport with a hyper-technical reading of the statute and subject you to a possible criminal conviction.

Level of Charges

5th Degree Domestic Assault is a Misdemeanor level offense punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. However, Domestic Assault can be charged out at both a Gross Misdemeanor and a Felony based on the harm done and/or someones prior record.  See, convictions for these sorts of offenses are what are referred to as enhanceable offenses. As such, if a person is charged with 5th Degree Domestic Assault more than once with the same alleged victim (over a certain period of time,)than it can be charged as a Gross Misdemeanor (Maximum of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine) or even a felony if aggravating circumstances or prior offenses are present.

No Contact Orders

More often than not, a Domestic Assault case involves an Order for Protection or a No Contact order. This is an order by the Court that restricts the individual charged from having ANY contact (direct or in-direct) with the alleged victim. To have this type of Order vacated - and to regain contact - a Judge must allow it. No contact orders are very strict and any violation of the order could land the violator in jail - facing a whole new charge.

What You Should Do?

Whenever a case is analyzed it is critical to know details about the reason you were approached by police, what procedures the officers used during your seizure and subsequent arrest, what is contained in your record (ie., your prior criminal/traffic history,) whether the officer read you your Miranda rights when you were arrested, were you allowed to contact an attorney, and many other variables.

Understanding that there are a lot of balls in the air, the next best decision is to sit down with an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney to get answers.  Remember, you're going to get one chance to get this right.  If you FAIL ... the consequences could be with you long after your court case is closed. 

It is very important to have legal representation since these are very serious types of cases. If you want to know what you need to know - and get insight into those things you didn't even know you didn't know - then call the Rolloff Law Office at (612) 234-1165 to set up a FREE CONSULTATION.  I'm a DA who has taken what the government taught me about prosecuting cases like this - to earn my clients fair and just results.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Driving Without a Valid MN License (Explained)

Driving After Revocation (DAR), Driving After Suspension (DAS),Driving After Cancellation (DAC),  and Driving After Cancellation as Inimical to Public Safety (DAC-IPS)  are common additional charges that individuals can end up facing, if their driver’s licenses have been invalidated for a period of time due to a recent Minnesota DWI conviction.

Generally speaking, these offenses are governed by Minnesota Statute 171.24, which reads in relevant part that:

[A] person is guilty of a misdemeanor if: (1) the person’s driver’s license or driving privilege has been suspended; (2) the person has been given notice of or reasonably should know of the suspension; and (3) the person disobeys the order by operating in this state any motor vehicle, the operation of which requires a driver’s license,” while the person’s license or privilege is suspended, revoked, or canceled.

Also, if a person is operating a commercial vehicle and has been disqualified from holding a commercial driver’s license in Minnesota, that person is guilty of a misdemeanor.

The statute continues to state that a person has committed a Gross Misdemeanor if that:

person’s driver’s license or driving privilege has been canceled or denied” because “the commissioner has good cause to believe that the operation of a motor vehicle on the highways by the person would be inimical to public safety or welfare,” and “the person has been given notice of or reasonably should know of the cancellation or denial; and… the person disobeys the order by operating in this state any motor vehicle, the operation of which requires a driver’s license, while the person’s license or privilege is canceled or denied.
If an individual already has a conviction for one of the charges involving driving without a valid license, the penalty for a second offense is much greater. Minnesota Statute 168.041 subd. 2 asserts that:
if a person is convicted of violating a law or municipal ordinance, except a parking law or ordinance, regulating the operation of motor vehicles on the streets or highways, and the record of the person so convicted shows a previous conviction for driving after suspension or revocation of the person’s driver’s license or driving privileges, the court may direct the commissioner of public safety to suspend the driver’s license of the person for a period not exceeding one year. The court may also require the registration plates of any self-propelled motor vehicle owned by the violator or registered in the violator’s name to be surrendered to the court.

 Driving without a valid driver’s license can put not only an individual’s future driving privilege in jeopardy, but can also potentially lead to license plate impoundment for the vehicle, even if the vehicle belongs to someone else. 

What Should You Do

Believe it or not, most prosecutors and judges believe that a person should have a valid license to drive. So if you find yourself facing a charge such as this, my suggestion to you is to get an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney on-board ASAP.  Deals can be made - and the consequences you face do not have to be the most dire.  Don't believe me, call the Rolloff Law Office at (612) 234-1165 and learn how you can preserve your license - even when all fees lost.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Minnesota Criminal Defense (is the Best Offense)

In basketball, there are offensive plays and defensive plays, and a good team understands that it’s succeeding in a combination of these two types of plays that helps them win the game.

In a criminal case, the State is usually on the offense: they bring the complaint, and carrying the burden of proof throughout the case.  And the defendant is usually on the defense: Defending his constitutional and procedural rights, ensuring that the police didn’t overstep the rules and that there is sufficient evidence being presented by the State for it to meet its hefty burden.

However, there are times the defendant also gets to play offense. This happens when their experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney utilizes an Affirmative Defenses. Bringing an affirmative defense has the same effect as when the home team manages to get the ball just about all the way to the visitor’s goal line before they let the visiting team get the ball back, so the visitors have to go the whole length of the field all over again to try to score.

The best Affirmative Defenses can set the State back substantially and sometimes, they can also act as a complete bar to an element of the State’s case, effectively stopping the State from proceeding.

Common Affirmative Defenses

1. Self-defense, and Defense of Others.   True self defense or defense of another requires that an individual acted out of fear for his/her safety or the safety of another against the imminent use of unlawful force against him/herself or another. Factors that affect a claim of self defense are things such as the extent of the right to self defense in the situation, the force used, against whom it was used, and for what reason.

2. Entrapment. When someone is induced or persuaded by law enforcement officials to commit a crime that the person had no previous intent to commit, he or she has been entrapped.

3. Mental illness or Deficiency. This defense asserts that at the time the acts constituting the offense were committed, the defendant was not capable of comprehending that what he or she was doing was a crime due to mental illness or deficiency.

4. Duress. If a defendant participated in a crime only because he or she believed or had reason to believe that he or she would be seriously harmed if he of she did not participate, the defendant may be able to use the defense of duress.

5. Intoxication. Involuntary intoxication, or involuntarily being under the influence of a drug or substance – can be an affirmative defense. Voluntary intoxication is only potentially a defense against the intent element of a crime; it can be used to prove an act was committed recklessly instead of with intent to cause serious harm.

Whether an Affirmative Defense applies in your case or not is a decision that you and your attorney need to make together.  The next right step, contact The Rolloff Law Office at (612) 234-1165 and find out if there's a good defense to defend you offense. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Minnesota Field Sobriety Tests (Explained)

The Minnesota Field Sobriety Test are one of the most controversial aspects of any Drunk Driving arrest.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration developed a model system and published several training manuals for administering Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.  Essentially, these tests are known as “divided attention tests” to determine whether someone can perform mental and physical multitasking which is deemed a requirement for safe driving.

Generally, a police officer will ask someone suspected of driving while impaired to submit to one or more tests for the purpose of determining whether there is probable cause for a DWI arrest. If the person fails one ore more of the tests often an arrest is made. An individual who refuses to perform a testis usually simply arrested and must later submit to breath, urine or blood test.  (Because these tests will rarely help someone avoid an arrest - because if the cop has it in his mind to arrest you - he's going to arrest you - my suggest is to not do these tests.)

Minnesota Field Sobriety Tests

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test – Nystagmus refers to the jerking of an eyeball as it follows an introduced object. The administering officer observes the angle at which your eye starts to jerk while you keep your head still. A pencil or the officer’s finger, which should be 12-15 inches away from you, may be used as the object to follow with your eyes while your head isn’t moving. It is believed that if the eyeball jerks before 45 degrees, the driver’s BAC is 0.05.

Walk and Turn Test – Because intoxicated drivers find it difficult to perform tasks and listen to instructions simultaneously, this test requires you to do heel-to-toe movements on a dry, hard surface while following the officer’s instructions at the same time. During the test if the officer finds two or more signs (out of a possible 8 the officers are trained to look for) then you’re believed to have over 0.08 BAC level in your system. According to NHTSA, this test is 68% accurate.

One Leg Stand Test – In this test, the officer instructs you to perform a task while demonstrating the instructions to you. The officer also tells you not to start performing the test until you’re told to do so. To start the test, you have to stand with both heels together while your arms are down the sides. You are them asked to stand on one leg of your choice while holding your other foot out front approximately 6 inches off the ground for 30 seconds. If you struggle in this position, the officer assumes that your BAC is over 0.08.  Based on NHTSA study, this test is 65% accurate.

Do Field Sobriety Tests Really Measure Impaired Driving?
That's the real questions - isn't it.  The purpose of these tests is to ensure that police officers use scientifically-backed tests… but just by virtue of the fact that the officer may screw up in administering these tests (I would argue)  makes them faulty and all but worthless 
The truth be told - even when tests are correctly administered, failing the tests doesn’t necessarily indicate a person is guilty of impaired driving. Experienced Minnesota DWI Attorneys know the assumption that a person with no alcohol in his/her system is coordinated enough to pass the tests is faulty. This is because there are several factors that can cause even a sober individual to become uncoordinated which including: illnesses, stress, fear/anxiety, confusion, tiredness, age, weight, etc.

Now What?

An experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney, who focuses his practice on Drunk Driving defense, can assist you with demonstrating the problems with these test - and (maybe) worked to get the charges against you reduce and/or dismissed. Honestly, if an individuals performance on field sobriety testing is the foundation for a police officer’s determination whether there exists probable cause for an arrest --- then why not make some hay before you're forced to eat an unfounded charge?  Call the Rolloff Law Office to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION, today, by dialing (612) 234-1165.  Hold the government to its burden - it works to help everyone of us.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Minnesota DWI - Physical Control (Explained)

Being a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney for as long as I have, one of the most difficult concepts I've had to relate to far too many clients the notion of “physical control” as it relates to Drunk Driving cases.  In other words, the idea that someone could be charged or convicted of a Minnesota DWI for just sitting or lying in a motor vehicle.

Granted, this one can be a real head-scratcher --- you can get a DWI for not driving and/or "sleeping one off"?  Sadly, the answer is big fat YES!

What's Up With That?

Over the last several years, Minnesota Courts have given a very broad definition of “physical control” when it comes to DWI charging. As an example, in a January of  2010, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled, in the case of the State of Minnesota vs. Fleck, that it was proper for a jury to find Mr. Fleck guilty when  he was found asleep in his motor vehicle in the parking lot of his apartment complex.

In this case, when the cops got on the scene,  they found Mr. Fleck asleep behind the wheel of his vehicle with the driver’s side door open and the ignition keys in the center console of the vehicle between the driver and passenger seats.  As is often the case, with these sorts of matters, there is an assumption that, although law enforcement did not see the actual driving conduct, it’s clear that the individual actually drove to the location based on other circumstantial evidence. However, in Fleck, the officer’s had determined that Mr. Fleck had not recently driven his motor vehicle because the car was “cold to the touch”, the lights were not on, and it did not look as though the vehicle had been running. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court found that Mr. Fleck was in a position to exercise domain over his vehicle. In other words, without too much difficulty, the Court believed he  could have made his motor vehicle a source of danger on the roadways by awakening, in an intoxicated state, and then subsequently taking the keys from the console and starting the vehicle and driving off.

Isn't that ice to know --- that law enforcement can just "know" (ala the Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report”) not just what you've done but also what you're going to do --- even before you do it?

Again, as an experienced Minnesota DWI Defense Lawyer, who has had to argue the concept of “physical control” many times throughout my career, this decision comes as little surprise. Nevertheless, this case is remarkable in the sense that there was actual evidence that the driver did NOT drive the motor vehicle to the location, but the Court still found “physical control”.

Now, does this mean that this result will always repeat itself --- that there is no hope?  Not necessarily.  As a matter of fact, often cases such as these can be negotiated (often at something less than a DWI) if you engage the services of a someone who knows what he's doing when it comes to criminal defense.  If you want answers for your legal dilemma - call The Rolloff Law Office today @ (612) 619-0262.  Just because you've been charged does not mean you'll be found guilty.  Believe it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Minnesota Assault Charges (Explained)

What is considered an assault crime? Under the laws of the State of Minnesota, an assault is an act done with intent to cause another injury or imminent fear of injury in another individual.  This offense is generally broken down into a number of categories, or degrees.

If you are accused of an assault crime, then you could be looking at more than just a slap on the wrist. Most assault crimes are considered felony offences and come with a long term prison sentence, hefty fines and restitution to the victim if convicted.

Some of the various assault crimea that  Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney J. Rolloff defends includes:

 First degree assault
 Second degree assault
 Third degree assault
 Forth degree assault
 Fifth degree assault
 Domestic assault
 Sexual assault cases

Living with an assault conviction can be extremely difficult. However, an assault accusation is not an automatic guilty sentence!

Do not accept defeat! If you have been arrested or accused of assault, then an experienced Minnesota Assault Lawyer will be able to assess your situation, determine your options for defense and ensure that your legal rights are protected before, during and after the court process.

An allegation, accusation or arrest does not mean you will be automatically found guilty – an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney can help clear your name so you can move on with your life.

If you have been arrested for an assault crime, it is important to remain as calm as possible. Stay out of the limelight and avoid triggers that could make the situation worse. They may include drugs, alcohol and certain people. You want to avoid an assault conviction at all costs. Even after you have served your time, an assault conviction will remain on your permanent criminal record which can be accessed by potential landlords, employers, schools and financial institutes. They may be hesitant to work with you if you have this serious felony offense on your record.

What is at Stake?

If you are charged with assault, you are looking at anywhere from 90 days in jail to 20 years in prison, depending on the severity of the crime and the circumstances surrounding the events. You could also be looking at a fine of anywhere from $1,000 to $40,000.

While first, second and third degree assault crimes are considered felony offenses, fourth and fifth degree crimes are considered gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses. If this is not your first offense, you could be looking at an even longer jail term. In some instances, an assault accusation may be linked to another crime, such as a robbery or a sex crime. You could also be looking at even more severe punishments if you are facing more than one degree of assault or if you have a past criminal record or history of assault.

What Should You Do?

Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney, J. Rolloff has years of experience - from both sides of the aisle - in all manner of assault case and can provide you with the legal services you need during this difficult time. For affordable payment options, aggressive representation and confidential legal advice when you need it most, contact The Rolloff Law Office today at (612) 234-1165.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Avoid a Minnesota DWI (After You've Been Pulled Over)

I don't think that anyone ever plans one being pulled over by the police for a DWI but if you are one of those types who likes to be prepare for every eventuallity, then here are some helpful tips.

Propbably more than any other criminal offense, law enforcement is often hard at work arresting people for Drunk Driving.  Believe you me, the cops are looking to make arrests and in the process often arrest perfectly innocent people or shortcuting  investigation to make their stats.

So what should you do to make sure you are not falsely convicted of a Minnesota DWI? 
Here are five practical tips you can follow to protect yourself and your rights:

1. Shut up!

The consitution affords you the right to remain silent; so use it.  It’s amazing how many people try to reason with the officer and end up talking their way into trouble instead of out of it.  Don’t tell them where you are coming from; don’t tell them where you are going.  Just give them the requested documents and identification information and stay quiet.

Sure, the police will try to pressure you to talk.  They may lie and say things like “Looks like you’ve got something to hide” or “By not cooperating you’re only making things worse for yourself.” Don’t fall for these lies and pressure tactics.  Politely answer: “Officer, I choose to use my right to remain silent”.
Remember, “ANYTHING you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law.” But, your silence can never be used in that manner.

2. Don’t Blow

The portable breath testing (PBT) machines that the police use in the field are very inaccurate. Even if you have had nothing to drink, the faulty technology in these machine can still produce an erroneous result.  The good news is blowing into them is 100% optional. So, refuse it.

Your refusal to blow into these devices cannot be used against you in the State of Minnesota  Granted, failure to do as much might lead to your arrest - but if the officer intended on arresting you --- then this test was going to be your saving grace anyway.  (Note: You you do have to submit to the request for a blood, breath or urine sample asked of you back at the cop shop.  If you do not, you maybe charged with a DWI Refusal.

3. Don’t Do the Field Sobriety Tests

Sometimes police officers will ask you to step out of the vehicle to perform some physical tests like the Walk and Turn, a one-leg stand and/or follow-my-finger-with-your-eyes test.  Like the PBT, these are also completely voluntary and can only cause you trouble.  Many sober people have physical conditions that may cause them to fail or they might be clumsy or nervous.   This is why you are better off staying put and refusing.

4. As Soon as Possible: Write Things Down

Make sure to take notes so you don’t lose track of important facts. Don’t give it to anyone.  Make sure to note the time of stop, where it was made, weather conditions, the name of the officer, names of witnesses and any other possible details.  Details win cases and the more you have the stronger your case can be.  (Believe it or not - law enforcement can be sloppy.  If they fail to dot their I's or cross their T's --- that could be your saving grace.)

5. Get a Lawyer. Fast.At the first opportunity possible call an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney and get some answers.  Many matters in a DWI case are time sensitive and contacting a lawyer early on can greatly increase your chances of a successful defense.

DWI defense is one of the cornerstones of my practice. Please do not confused what I have offered here as a "get out of jail free" card.  Rather, I'm relating to you some of my knowledge from having had not only defended many DWI cases - but also the hundreds that I prosecuted.  I take Drunk Driving very seriously and encourage everyone to make responsible decisions.  I'm not encouraging people to drive while intoxicated. In fact, what I'm trying to do here is encourage innocent people to be aware of their rights and use them to protect themselves against false conviction.

If You need help call the Rolloff Law Office today - (612) 234-1165.  Take the next right step.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Minnesota Criminal Defense FAQS

As an experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney, I gets questions - lots and lots of questions.  To save you some time - and money - here are some answers to those most frequently asked.

What type of crime have I been charged with?

There are four different levels of offenses in the State of Minnesota: Petty Misdemeanors, Misdemeanors, Gross Misdemeanors, and Felonys. These are best identified by the possible sentence you could receive if you were convicted of one of these offense.

  • A Petty Misdemeanor is a non-criminal offense punishable only by a maximum $300 fine.
  • A Misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, and/or a $1000 fine.
  • A Gross Misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $3000 fine.
  • A Felony is punishable by over one year in prison and/or more than a $3000 fine.

I have been charged with a crime. What are my rights?

Your number one right is to have an attorney represent you.

Short of offering your name and date of birth, you do not (let me repeat that: DO NOT) have to talk to the police about the crime you have been charged with. If you choose to talk to police you have a right to have an attorney with you when you do so. An experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney can assist you in making that decision.

What will happen if I am convicted?

If you are convicted of a crime the court will impose a sentence that may include any of the following:

  • Jail or prison time
  • Fines
  • Community Service
  • Electronic Home Monitoring
  • Probation conditions, such as:
    o No-contact orders
    o Programming and/or Education requirements (such as: Anger Management, DWI Education, MADD Victim Impact Panel Attendance, etc.)
    o Abstinence from chemical use (alcohol and drugs)

In addition to jail time and fines, there are other possible consequences (collateral consequences) if you plead guilty or are found guilty at a trial.

  • Traffic offenses and DWI offenses may result in your driver’s license being suspended or revoked.
  • If you are convicted of a felony, you will not be allowed to possess a firearm under state and federal law.
  • Conviction of certain offenses can require you to register with the State as a predatory offender.
  • Conviction of certain offenses may result in suspension or revocation of certain professional licenses.

What can a criminal defense attorney do for me?

Not ot put too fine a point on it but the legal system is complicated and confusing. An experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney, such myself:

  • Represent you while your case is being investigated and try to prevent criminal charges
  • Challenge evidence against you and make sure illegally obtained evidence or inadmissible evidence is not used at your trial
  • Determine whether you have any legal defenses to the crime you have been charged with that could result in the charges being dismissed or an acquittal at trial.
  • Negotiate with the prosecutor to get you the best outcome possible if you decide to plead guilty to the charges.
If you even think you might need a lawyer - feel free to call the Rolloff Law Office and set up a free consultation.  Call today: (612) 234-116