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Driving for a ride share? Be careful about drugs in your vehicle

Throughout the state, drug busts happen often. The authorities take pride in being able to track drugs and finding those who would sell or distribute them.

You were just driving for a ride-sharing service when an officer pulled you over. You knew that your passenger seemed odd, but you knew there would be trouble when the officer said they recognized them. What started out as a traffic stop for speeding has now become a drug investigation.

Mayor pleads guilty to DWI after crashing in snow bank

It's not too often that you hear about the city's mayor getting drunk and driving, but that's what happened in this case out of Minnesota. According to a report from May 7, Minnesota Mayor Mike Maguire admitted that he had been drinking while watching the Vikings place in January. Then, he went on to drive.

The mayor pleaded guilty in his case, stating that he accepted responsibility for the consequences of the errors he had made. On that day in January, he had crashed with a blood-alcohol concentration of approximately 0.19%, which is over twice the state's legal limit. He faced two counts for third-degree driving while impaired.

The collateral consequences of being branded a federal felon

There are long-term penalties associated with federal convictions that go way beyond fines and prison sentences. Many government officials argue that "collateral consequences" are imposed on ex-convicts for public safety reasons. Policy reformists cite this as the reason for high recidivism rates among these individuals. If you're facing federal charges, then you need to know what the long-term implications of being branded a felon are.

Researchers with the Heritage Foundation found that there are more than 46,000 federal, state or local laws on the books that currently restrict the rights of ex-convicts post-conviction. Their research shows that whether a defendant was incarcerated or not has little to no impact on the collateral consequences that they face. The authors of the study note that defendants must fight an uphill battle simply based on having been branded a felon.

Facing drug charges? You deserve a solid defense

You were just trying to have a unique experience when you decided to buy drugs. You probably should have been more cautious, though. It turns out that the first person you tried to buy from had connections to the authorities.

It wasn't much after that when an officer approached you and arrested you for buying drugs. Now, you're facing drug charges with a possibility of heavy fines and imprisonment. You just want to go back to how things were before; you only made a single mistake.

Can you fail the horizontal gaze nystagmus test when sober?

You were stopped by an officer for weaving in and out of traffic. He felt like you weren't being safe, and he asked you if you'd been drinking. You didn't want to lie, so you admitted you'd had a beer before heading out. That was a mistake. He asked you to get out of your vehicle to take a field sobriety test.

You did well on all parts of the test except for the horizontal gaze nystagmus assessment, or HGN. While your balance wasn't as good as you would have liked and you didn't turn and walk as well as you might have without so much stress, the real influence in the arrest was the HGN. When the officer asked you to look to the side, he looked concerned. Your eyes jerked involuntarily, which is a potential sign of intoxication. Along with your admission that you were drinking, he decided to make the arrest. Your blood alcohol content was only .04%.

Minnesota police ramp up marijuana enforcement

With cannabis legalization legislation being proposed in Minnesota, it may appear that there is widespread support for proposals to end the criminalization of people found with marijuana. Recreational cannabis has already been legalized in 11 states, and Minnesota may join them in the future. Nevertheless, in 2019, drug enforcement teams in the state reported a "record year" of drug seizures, particularly marijuana and other cannabis products. The agencies also said that drug raids and seizures for heroin, cocaine and prescription pills almost doubled from 2018 and 2019, while cannabis seizures spiked by 62% in the same time period.

In fact, since cannabis was legalized in states like Colorado in 2014, seizures have gone up 33 times. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said that they were seizing all types of cannabis products, from marijuana flowers to edibles, concentrates and vape cartridges. The spokesperson boasted of achieving the "largest seizure" of 75,000 vape cartridges with THC in one home in Anoka County. Officials said that many people had traveled back to Minnesota with products that were purchased legally in other states but justified the increased enforcement by saying that drug trafficking is linked to violence and gang activity, despite the legal source of the cannabis.

Challenging racial bias in criminal cases

Some Minnesota residents have raised serious concerns about the impact of racial bias on criminal convictions and sentencing. Studies have shown that black defendants face disproportionately longer sentences and may be more likely to remain in pretrial detention. Some researchers have attributed this ongoing issue to implicit racial bias, when jurors or judges do not act consciously to perpetrate racial discrimination but rely on stereotypes about danger and criminality when evaluating a case. Other issues about race may also arise in the course of a case, including the unreliability of cross-racial witness identifications.

Legal researchers believe that criminal defense lawyers may be able to help overcome racial biases by speaking openly about the issue. Because implicit bias is unconscious, raising the issue to the level of consciousness may push judges and juries to consider more closely whether their evaluations of an individual could be related to racial stereotypes. For example, lawyers may ask the judge to explicitly mention the potential of racial bias or stereotype when giving instructions to the jury, while warning against reliance on gut feelings or personal like or dislike of a defendant or witness. They also advise defense lawyers to promote an individual narrative about their client in order to free them from the realm of stereotype.

The DUI crash rate has gone down in most states

According to a study conducted by Siegfried and Jensen, Minnesota has the toughest drunk driving laws in the nation. However, the state ranked 17th in the nation in reducing DUI crashes per 100,000 drivers between 2004 and 2018. In 2004, Minnesota had a DUI crash rate of 5.1, and in 2018, that rate had dropped 39.4% to 3.1 per 100,000 crashes.

The report found that every state except for Connecticut saw a decrease in DUI crashes during the study period. In Connecticut, the DUI crash rate increased by 7.1%. Tennessee led the nation with a 57.1% decline in drunk driving crashes between 2004 and 2018. Individuals are encouraged to use Uber or Lyft to get a ride home when they are drunk or otherwise impaired. If they are not available in a given area, residents are urged to call a friend or family member for a ride home.

Three men arrested during Hibbing drug bust

On Jan. 8, Minnesota authorities arrested three men for allegedly possessing and distributing methamphetamine. The trio was taken into custody in Hibbing.

According to media releases, deputies from the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office executed a search warrant at an apartment complex on the 2000 block of 6th Avenue East at approximately 8:40 p.m. A 33-year-old male answered the door, and deputies placed him under arrest. A search of his clothing reportedly revealed that he was carrying over 300 grams of methamphetamine on his person. Two other men inside the apartment, ages 57 and 61, were also found to have cash, several baggies of meth and drug paraphernalia in their possession.

Minnesota DWI charges increased by 4% in 2019

More people were detained in Minnesota in 2019 on suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI) than in the previous year. A preliminary report that was released from the Department of Public Safety detailed the number of drivers detained on DWI charges as part of a program to decrease the number of drunk drivers on the road.

The report showed that 26,825 individuals were detained on suspicion of DWI in 2018. In 2019, however, these numbers jumped to 27,975, a 4% increase. Programs to reduce the number of DWI charges began in 2015. These programs focused on the counties in Minnesota that had the largest amount of drunk driving incidents. The program included placing 18 officers on full-time DWI patrol in these counties.

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