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Grand Forks Criminal Law Blog

Weapons charges: North Dakota man pleads to voluntary homicide

A North Dakota man was found guilty recently in federal court. Though he did not specifically face weapons charges, he was found to have used a Samurai sword to kill his life-long friend. He ultimately pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to serve six years in prison. The sentence could have been as much as 78 months.

According to a report, the man was involved in a fight with the victim just before the incident in Lame Deer. The duo had been friends for years, and both appear to have had long criminal histories. Much of the contact with police had come as a result of drug use, authorities noted.

SEC, 2 state attorneys general probe Exxon on climate accounting

ExxonMobile may have materially misled its investors on the potential costs of climate change, according to the attorney general of New York. The attorney general of Massachusetts is also investigating the company. In a separate case, the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into whether the company's oil and gas reserves are over-valued, considering the market and potential restrictions on their use that could arise due to climate change.

The oil giant has commented that it believes the New York probe is politically motivated and called the allegations "inaccurate and irresponsible."

Judge offers 3 reasons why alleged child porn should be tossed

When law enforcement or any other agent of the government performs a search or seizure that is objectively unreasonable, any evidence they obtain can be suppressed. In other words, the government can't use tainted evidence against defendants.

If a private party does something unreasonable and obtains evidence for the prosecution, however, there usually isn't any stain on the evidence. Unless, of course, the private party was actually in collusion with the government. Law enforcement can't bring in third parties just to get around the Constitution.

Is it possible to outwit the ignition interlock device?

If law enforcement arrested you for drunk driving in the state of Minnesota, you could face jail time and a fine of up to $3,000 just for a first offense. You could also lose your driving privileges for a year or agree to the installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.

An IID would seem to be the obvious choice in terms of penalties, but as a driver, you may find it confining, and you wonder if there is a way to trick or outwit this device. The short answer is: possible, but not probable.

Jeff Sessions requiring prosecutors to trigger mandatory minimums

With the number of people incarcerated in the U.S. at unprecedented rates, largely due to long sentences for drug offenders, the trend had been to try to reduce those sentences -- at least for low-level, nonviolent offenders. That was the purpose of a 2013 policy memo by then-Attorney General Eric Holder.

In that memo, Holder recommended that federal prosecutors omit the quantity of drugs when preparing sentencing memoranda for these low-level offenders. The point of doing that was to avoid triggering mandatory minimum sentences under the federal sentencing guidelines. The quantity of drugs involved in a criminal incident acts as a multiplier under those guidelines.

Police using social media to find criminal activity

Practically everyone uses social media these days, including law enforcement. In 2013, the International Association of Chiefs of Police released a survey showing that almost 96 percent of the agencies included used social media in some capacity.

Although many agencies use social media as a way of connecting to the community and providing and gathering information, the most common use for social media was in criminal investigations. Police use social media in many ways to find criminal activity:

  • Some people actually post pictures or videos of themselves committing a crime or boast about illegal activities online.
  • Law enforcement asks the community for help in finding people who have committed crimes. For instance, the police may post a low-quality photo taken of a crime on social networks and ask people to help identify the individuals pictured.
  • Investigators use social media connections to track networks of criminals. By looking at your friend lists, they can find other people who might have been or are involved in criminal activity.
  • Law enforcement is also using social media to help find endangered or missing people. Amber alerts have people stay on alert for missing children.
  • Police can track your timeline on social media. If you check in somewhere like a club or restaurant, the police might question you about your activity if a crime has occurred in the neighborhood.
  • Liking a picture or video could implicate you in a crime. 

Minn. medical cannabis program shows promise for pain relief

"When our medicines are killers of patients who entrusted their lives and care to use, we need to first stop doing that and then we can go from there," says Dr. Andrew Bachman, CEO of LeafLine Labs, one of Minnesota's two medical marijuana providers. "That's why I'm in medicine."

He's talking about prescription opioid painkillers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdoses of these powerful pharmaceuticals, along with their illegal relatives heroin and morphine, killed 338 people in Minnesota in 2015. Tragically, the largest group of victims was people in their late 20s and early 30s.

New state law: No permit required to carry a concealed handgun

Currently in North Dakota, it is considered a misdemeanor to carry a hidden firearm without a permit. Thanks to recently-passed legislation, however, individuals will soon be able to carry a handgun without a concealed-carry permit.

Our state has become the latest to adopt what proponents of gun rights refer to as "constitutional carry." This new gun law, signed by Governor Doug Burgum on March 23, will allow North Dakotans who are 18 years or older to "carry hidden firearms without having to undergo background checks or training — as long as they're law-abiding citizens."

What parents should know about teenage sexting

You probably gave your teenager a cell phone for easy contact and peace of mind in emergency situations. However, cell phones come with risks, and sexting, or sending nude or sexual photos with an electronic device, has become a common occurrence. When the images involve persons younger than 18, teenagers can be prosecuted under child pornography laws. Here is how you can help your children avoid this unlawful situation.

What is entrapment?

It is not uncommon for some law enforcement officers to overstep their bounds and become overzealous when making arrests in East Grand Forks. Some people who are wrongfully enticed into committing crimes by law enforcement, informants and other affiliated parties may be able to claim entrapment. However, anyone who plans to use entrapment as their defense has the burden of proof.

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