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MN House passes bill to limit DWI immunity for legislators

Published On: April 10th, 2014

April 10, 2014

Yesterday, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed H.F. 2281 with a vote of 115-13 in favor of the bill. The bill has been forwarded on to the State Senate for consideration.
The bill, if enacted into law, would make a DWI a “breach of the peace,” allowing the lawmaker to be arrested while the house is in session. After being arrested and booked, lawmakers would be still be allowed to vote. Current law grants legislators immunity from arrest while the house is in session except for “treason, felony, and breach of the peace.” The reason for the current law is to combat arrests that are intended to prevent a legislator from voting.

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Coley Grostyan is a Minneapolis, MN DWI defense attorney who represents individuals accused of alcohol related crimes in the Minnesota.

Law Office of Coley J. Grostyan, PLLC
701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 300
Minneapolis, MN 55415
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MN Bill to prohibit websites from charging a fee to remove mugshots

Published On: March 24th, 2014

A bill that would prohibit the practice of private mugshot websites charging a fee to remove booking photos is making its way through the Minnesota legislature. HF1940 would modify the language of Minnesota Statute § 13.82 to prohibit the publishing of a booking photograph if that website requires payment of a fee to remove the mugshot.

Currently websites such as mugshots.com and bustedmugshots.com collect publicly available mugshots and post them online for anyone to see. The problem is that even if the person was never charged with a crime or had the charges dismissed, the mugshot remains on the website unless you pay the website’s removal fee. Even those who have had their criminal record expunged by a judge’s order still need to pay the mugshot removal fee. A quick check of mugshots.com reveals a fee of $399 to remove one mugshot. The cost rises substantially if you want to remove multiple booking photos.

The proposed bill would prohibit publishing a booking photograph if the website requires a fee to remove the photo. Additionally, in cases where no charges were ever filed or there was no conviction, the law would require the websites to delete the mugshots immediately. Fines for violating the proposed law begins at $500 per posted photograph and can climb to $1,500 if the website continues to ignore the law.

Read the entire bill here.

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Coley Grostyan is a Minnesota criminal defense and expungement attorney who regularly helps clients attempting to seal arrest and conviction records.

Law Office of Coley J. Grostyan, PLLC
701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 300
Minneapolis, MN 55415
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MN Supreme Court rules aiding suicide statute unconstitutional

Published On: March 19th, 2014

In March of 2011, William Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in Rice County District Court of two felony counts of aiding suicide in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.215.

It is alleged Mr. Melchert-Dinkel responded to posts on suicide websites of two individuals located outside of the United States, and encouraged the two to commit suicide. The district court found Melchert-Dinkel “intentionally advised and encouraged” the two individuals to take their own lives. The district court also ruled that the speech fell outside First Amendment protections.

Today, in reversing the convictions, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the law against advising and encouraging suicide is unconstitutional. The Court severed the language “advises” and “encourages” from the statute reasoning that such language is not narrowly drawn and does not serve a compelling government interest. However, the language in the law prohibiting assisting in a suicide remains in effect.

You can read the entire opinion and legal analysis here.

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Law Office of Coley J. Grostyan, PLLC
701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 300
Minneapolis, MN 55415
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First Amendment Right to Flash Headlights Warning of Speed Trap

Published On: February 6th, 2014

A Missouri federal district court judge has ruled that drivers a have a First Amendment right to warn others of police presence by flashing vehicle headlights. The civil rights suit by Michael Elli was initiated after he was arrested for flashing his headlights at other drivers warning of a radar speed trap by police in Ellisville, MO. In response to city’s claim that Michael Elli was interfering with a police investigation by flashing his headlights, U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey stated that flashing headlights to oncoming motorists, “sends a message to bring one’s driving in conformity with the law — whether it be by slowing down, turning on one’s own headlamps at dusk or in the rain, or proceeding with caution.” Read more on the ruling here..

Although Minnesota courts have not dealt with the First Amendment issue as it relates to flashing headlights, the MN Court of Appeals has held that a driver flashing high-beams at oncoming traffic is not a basis for traffic stop when there is no indication the headlights projected “glaring rays…into the eyes of the oncoming driver.” In Sarber v. Commissioner of Public Safety, the driver was stopped and arrested for DWI after he flashed his high-beams at a Mille Lacs County deputy. Because Minnesota law only prohibits the “use of headlights in a manner that blinds or impairs other drivers,” and there was no evidence of the headlights blinded the deputy, the Court reversed Sarber’s driver’s license revocation and plate impoundment.

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Coley Grostyan is a Minnesota DWI and traffic defense attorney who regularly represents clients accused of traffic violations.

Law Office of Coley J. Grostyan, PLLC
701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 300
Minneapolis, MN 55415
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Employment applications prohibited from asking about convictions under new MN law

Published On: January 1st, 2014

Today, a new 2014 law went into effect that prohibits private employers from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal history on an initial application. The intention of the “Ban the Box” law is allow applicants to land an interview based in their training and experience, and give the applicant an opportunity to explain any criminal history to the potential employer rather than being eliminated from consideration from the onset of the hiring process.

Although public employers have been prohibited from asking about criminal convictions on applications for a few years, Minnesota is only the third state to make private employers subject to the same standards. The new law does not apply to the Department of Corrections or other public employers who conduct criminal background checks pursuant to state law. Employers will still be able to to ask about an applicant’s criminal history, but not until either the applicant is interviewed, or a conditional offer of employment has been extended. You can read the new law in its entirety here.

Employers who violate the law within the first year will receive a written warning after a first offense, with cash penalties for subsequent violations.

Although many corporate employers have an across-the-board policy against hiring convicted felons, this law is a step in the right direction and may give some individuals with a criminal history some relief in trying to secure employment. We will have to see how the new law plays out for those who have been considering trying to seal their criminal records through the expungement process.

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Coley Grostyan is a Minnesota criminal defense and expungement lawyer who regularly helps clients attempting to seal criminal records for employment purposes. 

Law Office of Coley J. Grostyan, PLLC
701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 300
Minneapolis, MN 55415
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