Archive for the ‘Court News’ Category

Judge Wapner Passes Away at 97

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Judge Wapner, also know as Judge Joseph Albert Wapner, passed away today at the age of 97, reportedly passing peacefully in his sleep.

Judge Wapner was the the judge on the famous television show “The People’s Court”. Judge Wapner presided over conciliation court disputes on the show from 1981 to 1993. Growing up in the 80′s and always wanting to be a lawyer, Judge Wapner’s People’s Court was a significant influence on my legal career.

Read more about Judge Wapner’s career and life on his Wikipedia page.

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Coley Grostyan is a Minneapolis defense attorney.

MN Bill Would Prohibit Phone Calls While Driving

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

A bill that would make it a crime to make phone calls while driving, and otherwise use wireless devices while driving, unless in hands free mode is moving forward in the legislature and is expected to pass as a law.

Currently, Minnesota law prohibits composing, reading, or sending electronic messages, when the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. The making a phone call or talking on the phone while driving is not currently against the law except for newly licensed drivers.

The new law would make it a misdemeanor crime to use any wireless device while driving or in traffic, unless the device is being used in hands free mode. The proposed language of the law reads as follows:

No person may operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device when the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic. For the purposes of this section, “using a wireless communications device” includes: (1) composing, reading, or sending an electronic (2) dialing, answering, or talking on a cellular phone; and (3) otherwise making a cellular phone call.

Permissible exceptions to the use of wireless devices would still include the use (1) solely in a voice-activated or other hands-free mode, (2) for obtaining emergency assistance to report a traffic accident, medical emergency, or serious traffic hazard, or prevent a crime about to be committed, (3) in the reasonable belief that a person’s life or safety is in immediate danger, or (5) in an authorized emergency vehicle while in the performance of official duties.

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Coley Grostyan is a Minnesota criminal 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

Nervous behavior alone is not enough for pat-down search

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

The MN Court of Appeals reversed a Felony 5th Degree Drug conviction where the officer discovered drugs after searching the defendant. The officer’s basis for the pat-search was largely based on the defendant acting nervous and placing his hands in his pockets. The Court held that the officer did not have “reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity,” the legal requirement needed before an officer can conduct a protective pat-down search for weapons.

Although I often see police reports describing nervous and fidgety behavior as a basis some suspected criminal wrongdoing, most people are rightfully nervous when confronted by law enforcement. Regardless of guilt, being questioned or stopped by law enforcement can be stressful, and the level of nervousness varies greatly from person to person. From legitimate anxiety issues to lacking experience with the law, there is no right or innocent body language or behavior given the stress of such an encounter. For these reasons, MN courts are reluctant to find that nervous behavior meets the legal standard of “reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity.”

Read the full court decision here.

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Coley Grostyan is a Minneapolis based drug defense attorney.

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

Chicago Gun Range Restrictions Violate 2nd Amendment

Friday, January 20th, 2017

gun imageThe 7th District Federal Court of Appeals ruled that age and zoning restrictions placed on gun ranges in the City Chicago violates the 2nd Amendment by being overly broad. Chicago city ordinances had prohibited anyone under 18 years-old from entering a gun range in the city. Additionally, gun ranges were only allowed in manufacturing districts and were required to be more than 500 feet away from churches and schools.

The city stated Chicago’s gun violence poses a “serious public health and safety problem with both social and economic consequences,” and argued the zoning restrictions were reasonable as gun ranges attract crime and can cause lead contamination, noise pollution and fire. However, the city offered no evidence to support their claims.

Chicago frequently makes the news about significant gun violence in the city and has enacted numerous restrictive gun laws in an attempt to curb the violence. This is not the first time Chicago gun-related ordinances have been overturned, including the highly publicized ban on handgun possession that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in McDonald v. Chicago, where the Court stated the 2nd Amendment is applicable to the States through the 14th Amendment, and that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense.

Read the entire opinion related to gun range zoning here.

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Minnesota 2nd Amendment Lawyer Coley Grostyan is a criminal defense attorney who represents the accused and those wrongfully denied their 2nd Amendment rights.

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

Court Orders Defendant to Unlock Phone with Fingerprint

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

This week the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued an opinion upholding an Order requiring a criminal defendant to submit fingerprints to unlock a cell phone. The Court held that a defendant’s 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination is not violated when they are ordered to provide fingerprints to unlock a telephone. The court reasoned that providing fingerprints to unlock a phone is no different that requiring fingerprints for booking and identification. Nevermind the reason for obtaining the fingerprints, one being for identification and the other for the sole purpose to fish for self-incriminating evidence on a defendant’s cell phone.

The Court did distinguish this case from cases where it is a clear violation to require a defendant to decrypt a computer or provide a password combination for a safe.

The lesson to be learned from this case is that password protection actually creates a barrier from access by the government, but a fingerprint lock does not.

You can read the entire opinion here.

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Coley Grostyan is a Minnesota criminal defense attorney.

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