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Duluth cops seize record amount of fentanyl

On Nov. 21, Minnesota authorities arrested two men for allegedly distributing fentanyl in the Duluth area. The undercover operation led to the seizure of 80 grams of pure fentanyl powder, which is the largest amount ever confiscated in the state.

According to local media outlets, the defendants, a 29-year-old resident of Duluth and a 35-year-old resident of Chicago, were in possession of enough fentanyl to kill 26,000 people. As a result, they will likely be charged with felony drug crimes in St. Louis County District Court.

Judges might not realize how unconscious biases drive decisions

People assume that judges strive to act in an objective and deliberative manner when presiding over courts in Minnesota. However, neuroscience and trends in judicial decisions suggest otherwise. Unconscious biases held by judges could make them issue unfair rulings even when they believe that they are acting fairly.

Neuroscience researchers have found that brain activity does not consistently correspond with people's consciously held beliefs. Their internal unconscious biases tend to color how they view other people's behaviors or circumstances. In the court room, biases influencing judges have the potential to inflict serious consequences on other people.

Minnesota judge rules drug search unconstitutional

A Minnesota judge ruled on Oct. 8 that police did not have sufficient probable cause to search a camper in March. The ruling led to the release of two Montana men who were taken into custody when police discovered more than 900 pounds of marijuana in the camper. The men were facing up to 30 years in prison on drug possession charges.

The Minnesota State Patrol trooper who made the traffic stop on Interstate 94 said that he pulled the camper over because it was being driven erratically and had a cracked windshield. He also claimed that seeing campers at that time of the year was rare. However, footage recorded by his cruiser's dashboard camera revealed that the camper was being driven safely, and several other campers were on the road at the time.

Almost 77,000 THC vaping cartridges seized in Minnesota

On Sept. 23, Minnesota authorities confiscated nearly 77,000 illicit THC vaping cartridges from a residence in Coon Rapids. The bust is thought to be the one of the largest drug busts in state history.

According to media reports, the Northwest Metro Drug Task Force raided a home and uncovered the cartridges, which have an estimated street value of $3.8 million. Investigators believe they were brought in from another state so they could be distributed locally. However, they are uncertain if they are legal products from other states or black market products that were shipped in. In addition to the cartridges, investigators found other THC and marijuana products and $23,380 in counterfeit cash in the home. A man in the residence was taken into custody, but the charges against him were not disclosed.

Scientists claim device can detect cannabis in breath

As cannabis is legalized in an increasing number of states, many people have raised concerns about individuals driving while under the influence of marijuana. Drunken driving has been linked to a large number of motor vehicle collisions in Minnesota. States across the country have enacted tough laws setting out clear blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits. Drivers caught exceeding these limits can face drunken driving charges. The 0.08% BAC limit is backed up by a significant amount of research regarding how alcohol affects drivers' decision-making abilities. However, there is relatively little research about how cannabis affects a person's driving skills.

Many people arrested for drunken driving are tested with a Breathalyzer. Suspected drunk drivers are directed by police to blow into the device, so it can measure the alcohol in their breath. While the device is now accepted, initially, it was the subject of intense debate and skepticism. Scientists are working on efforts to develop a Breathalyzer-type instrument to measure a driver's level of cannabis intoxication. One University of Pittsburgh team announced a new device to measure the level of THC, the active component in marijuana, in the breath.

Minnesota men face 15-count federal narcotics indictment

Federal prosecutors in Minnesota reported that two men have been charged with conspiring to distribute in excess of 2 pounds of heroin in St. Louis County. The 36-year-old and 39-year-old Duluth residents face multiple conspiracy, drug possession and weapons charges. The 15-count indictment was announced in an Aug. 30 press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota. The press release did not indicate where the men are being held or when they are scheduled to be arraigned.

The men were taken into custody on May 30 when officers attached to the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force executed search warrants at two locations in Duluth. The searches of an apartment and hotel room allegedly led to the discovery of heroin and cocaine with a street value of approximately $350,000. Police also claim to have recovered $94,000 in currency and a loaded firearm.

Minnesota Supreme Court rules on drug dealer rectum case

A man convicted of dealing drugs in 2015 became an unlikely civil rights hero on Aug. 14 when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the methods police used to obtain the crack cocaine used to convict him violated his rights against unreasonable searches and seizures guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. The drugs were recovered after the man was sedated, strapped to a table and subjected to a cavity search of his rectum.

Police say that they saw the man appear to conceal the drugs when he was taken into custody following an undercover narcotics buy. Doctors at North Memorial Hospital refused to perform a cavity search because the warrant obtained by police did not specifically authorize such an invasive procedure. The search was later performed by doctors at the Hennepin County Medical Center after police had obtained a more explicit warrant. Two officers remained in the room while the man was searched.

How to deal with potentially biased testimony

In Minnesota and throughout the country, there is an ongoing debate about accepting testimony from police officers with histories of misconduct. It was recently revealed that officers in Lake County, Florida, were making racist comments on a Facebook page. A letter from a variety of progressive groups was sent to the Florida state attorney asking that officers that make such comments not be called to testify at trial.

The letter claims that holding these views could make it harder for them to be seen as objective witnesses. Another letter sent to the district attorney in Los Angeles also claims that biased testimony could harm communities and call into question the objectivity of the legal system. Some jurisdictions already have what are referred to as Brady lists, which keep track of officers who have not been truthful in previous cases.

Authorities begin to implement First Step Act

Those who are currently serving time in Minnesota prisons may be eligible for an early release because of the First Step Act. Beginning on July 19, 3,100 inmates will be released in an effort to comply with the law. Of those who are going to be released soon, about 900 will need to resolve immigration or other local charges. The Department of Homeland Security and other state agencies have discretion as to what happens to them.

As part of the First Step Act, inmates are given a risk assessment score, and that score is reevaluated every six months. Those who are deemed a low enough risk could be entitled to credits that allow them to be released sooner than anticipated. The law also grants greater access to home confinement and compassionate release programs that had been used infrequently before it was passed.

Minnesota couple facing drug charges after residence search

Two Minnesota residents were taken into custody on the morning of July 1 when deputies from the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office and officers from the Southeast Minnesota Violent Crime Enforcement Team executed a search warrant in Stewartville. The search was conducted as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation according to police reports.

According to media accounts, police entered a residence on Heron Drive Northwest at approximately 8:50 a.m. An ensuing search of the property is said to have led to the discovery and seizure of approximately 45 grams of a substance believed to be marijuana, a bag containing an undisclosed quantity of a substance believed to be cocaine, approximately $500 in currency and several items of drug paraphernalia.

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