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Brainerd Minnesota Law Blog

A surprising asset in family law matters

As some Minnesota parents get ready to file for divorce or fight for custody, they might overlook what could become an important asset their case -- the family calendar. Usually, people throw out their old calendars as the new year begins. If there are major legal decisions to be made, however, that calendar can be a valuable source for supporting evidence.

An old calendar can help a person remember important dates and events that might matter in divorce, custody or child support negotiations. For example, it can provide dates and times to help establish the family lifestyle and how much it costs. This can include dinners out and other entertainment that seemed routine and might be forgotten during the divorce planning. While expensive, major vacations might come to mind right away, the smaller ones might be forgotten.

Frequently asked questions about field sobriety tests

Like the rest of the nation, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit in Minnesota is .08%. And while a roadside breath test might measure your BAC accurately, police officers often revert to field sobriety tests to determine whether they should arrest you for drunk driving.

Below are just three common questions you may have should an officer pull you over and ask you to perform a field sobriety test.

Tips for family talks about estate planning

Minnesota parents may want to lay the groundwork for strong estate planning by talking to their children about their values when they are young. By establishing an early tradition that money is an appropriate subject, they make it easier to discuss finances in the family. They can also discuss their values with their children, which can help ensure that their legacy is carried on through estate planning and other means.

Talking about estate planning can still be tough for everyone. Parents who are introducing the topic might begin by telling their children that they want to make sure they are taken care of as they age and that they want to talk about expectations. Children who broach the topic can tell their parents that they want to make sure everything is in place to ensure they are able to help them as they get older.

Adjusting your custody Agreement as your children grow

As kids get older custody arrangements often need to be changed. Just because you have an order does not mean that it is set in concrete, judges understand that teenagers have different needs than toddlers, and need different schedules with their parents. Even a year or two of age difference for a child can make a huge difference in what type of schedule works for them. No matter what the age of your kids, if things have changed and the current custody order no longer works for them, take a look at getting it changed.

Report shows that the racial divide in prisons is narrowing

Racial disparities among state prison inmates in Minnesota and around the country are becoming much less pronounced, but the figures show that African Americans are still incarcerated at much higher rates than whites. This was just one of the conclusions found in a report on prison demographics released on Dec. 3 by the Council on Criminal Justice. The nonpartisan organization also noticed a narrower disparity between the number of black and white individuals on parole or probation.

The mass incarceration of African Americans peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s due to the emergence of crack cocaine as a major law enforcement challenge. By the year 2000, a black American was 15 times more likely than a white American to be sent to prison for possessing or distributing illegal drugs. In 2016, an African American was five times more likely to be incarcerated on narcotics charges. The overall ratio of black to white inmates fell from 9-1 to 6-1 between 2000 and 2016 according to the COCJ report.

WHAT IS A MOTOR VEHICLE AND WHAT IS DRIVING?

Seems like two real dumb questions, we all know a motor vehicle is a car or truck, and driving is when we are going down the road in them. But, that old rule your teacher told you about there being no such thing as a dumb question is true here. State law defines motor vehicles differently than many of us do for purposes of the drunk driving laws. 

Estate plan concerns

Estate planning can be a sensitive, stressful issue for people and families in Minnesota as well as around the country. Many people are uncomfortable thinking about death or the possibility of a debilitating accident or illness. They are even more uncomfortable discussing these things with family members.

Unfortunately, this discomfort can lead to an absence of estate planning or the creation of a plan that is inadequate. Many experts advise estate planners to schedule a conversation with their children and heirs so that everyone is aware of an estate plan and how it will be executed. Doing this helps to prevent surprises and might reduce family tension.

Ways to maintain communication with children after divorce

Family courts often encourage parents to create a parenting time schedule. When both parents live in Minnesota, this could mean that children regularly spend time in both homes. Many children spend weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other. In cases where the children live in a different state than one of their parents, noncustodial parents may need to be more creative to ensure that children benefit from constant communication.

The noncustodial parents may keep in touch with their children after divorce through phone calls, video calls and social media. Because noncustodial parents don't see their children every day, social media could give them insight into their children's lives.

Snitches Get Stiches

It is an old saying, but still has some truth to it. Some people charged with a crime make a deal to reduce, or sometimes almost eliminate any punishment, in exchange for telling the police and prosecution useful information about other people involved in their crime with them. Besides the advantage of reduced punishment, this type of deal carries some risk. Depending on who one is cooperating against, and what your long term plans are, there may be a risk of getting some stitches. If you have a chance to cooperate in exchange for a reduction in punishment, it may be a good deal, but give it some serious thought, you do not want to be getting any stitches, or worse.

Experts question the value of forensic evidence

Minnesota residents who watch shows like 'CSI" on television may be surprised to learn that questions have been raised about the validity of forensic evidence and the qualifications of the experts who provide it. After studying the way hairs, fingerprints and fibers are gathered and processed, a panel of scientists, academics and legal experts found problems with virtually every technique and concluded that the interpretation of forensic evidence is often based on subjective factors rather than science. Their findings were published in 2009 by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

The NAS report was especially critical of blood pattern analysis. This is a technique forensic experts use to determine the sequence of events at a crime scene based on blood drips, smears and splatter. The NAS experts found little in the way of solid science to back up BPA and discovered that its practitioners often lacked accreditation and proper training. Findings such as these are particularly worrying for groups advocating for criminal justice reform because juries tend to find this kind of evidence extremely convincing.

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