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Minneapolis Law Blog

Could a DWI conviction bar you from entering Canada?

Now that spring is quickly turning into summer, Minnesotans will be packing up their vehicles and hitting the road for vacations, weekend getaways and "micro adventures" (to use one of the newest buzz phrases). In their travels to see the natural beauty of the northern part of the state and beyond, some Minnesotans will be crossing into Canada.

If you're planning a fishing trip or other getaway that will require you to cross the border, you should know that having a criminal record could cause some serious travel snags. Most people don’t realize that a conviction for drunk driving or another offense could be grounds to deny you entry into Canada.

Students get anti-bullying lesson that includes LGBT tolerance

We sometimes write about the bullying problems facing students here in Minnesota and around the nation. School administrators and society as a whole are finally acknowledging that the consequences of bullying can be long-lasting or permanent and incredibly destructive.

Although victims can be bullied for any reason, it seems that LGBT individuals are particularly at risk. Additionally, being called gay or lesbian is commonly used as an insult, regardless of whether the victim is actually homosexual. For these reasons and more, schools should be increasing anti-bullying efforts while also sending the message that every person deserves respect, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The problems with sex crimes prosecution in America: Part III

In today's post, we will be continuing and concluding a discussion about a criminal case that made national headlines. It involves a couple who witnesses say were having sex in broad daylight on a public beach last summer. After being convicted earlier this month, both defendants must register as sex offenders and one could face up to 15 years in prison.

This case highlights several common problems in the American criminal justice system. In today's post, we'll discuss two problems that aren't just limited to sex crimes cases: The trial penalty and using unrelated criminal convictions to enhance sentences.

The problems with sex crimes prosecution in America: Part II

Earlier this week, we wrote about a criminal case that has made national headlines. Last summer on a public beach in Florida, a 40-year-old man and his 20-year-old girlfriend were arrested for engaging in what appeared to be sex. It was broad daylight and children were present. No genitals or penetration were seen, but the motions appeared to be sex to most witnesses.

This month, the two defendants were convicted after a two-day trial and just 15 minutes of jury deliberation. Because of a prior drug offense, the man could face up to 15 years in prison and both defendants will be required to register as sex offenders. Most would argue that the couple's actions were inappropriate, but that they do not warrant this harsh sentence. This case highlights many problems with the criminal justice system (including here in Minnesota), one of which we'll discuss today.

The problems with sex crimes prosecution in America: Part I

Some of the most publicly reviled criminal offenses are those involving sex. In cases of sexual assault, rape and crimes committed against children, it is easy to understand why these offenses often incite public anger. But there are other kinds of sex crimes that, in context, may not seem all that bad to most people.

Unfortunately, any offense labeled as a "sex crime" usually carries the stigma associated with that term and prompts people to assume the worst. While it did not occur here in Minnesota, a recent case suggests that the public hysteria surrounding sex crimes makes it difficult for certain defendants to get a fair trial or a reasonable sentence.

Age discrimination gets its newest coded catch-phrase

When people think of the tech industry, they think of Silicon Valley. But many other parts of the country offer a significant amount of tech jobs, including the Twin Cities area. And no matter where you live, it's hard to deny that advanced computer skills are becoming a must-have for employers.

Age discrimination has long been a problem in the United States, and unfortunately, it may be getting worse. Employers have gotten creative with the terms they use to discriminate against older workers. The latest such term appears to be "digital native."

How can we best address racial bias in policing? Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about a report issued by the Center for American Progress. It comes in response to the high number of officer-involved killings of unarmed black suspects as well as allegations that communities of color are unfairly targeted by police in many major cities throughout America.

The CAP report gives four recommendations for common-sense reforms that could ultimately improve transparency, repair fractured police-community relationships and ensure that racial bias is not allowed to continue. In today's post, we'll discuss the CAP's final two recommendations.

How can we best address racial bias in policing? Part I

Many of our recent posts have focused on the growing tension between minority communities and the police officers assigned to protect and serve them. Since this time last year, there have been at least half-a-dozen high profile cases of white police officers killing unarmed black men in their custody or prior to arrest.

It is now clear that these are not isolated incidents, which is why the public reaction to these cases has been so strong and sustained. While there has been a lot of media focus on the problems of racism and inequality in the criminal justice system, too little attention has been focused on offering solutions. The latter is what we'll be focusing on in our next two posts.

FBI admits to unreliability of widely used forensic test

If you watch any of the dozens of crime investigation dramas on television, you may be convinced that forensic science is the unbiased arbiter that convicts the guilty and clears the innocent. Certainly, that's how it works on TV.

Sadly, there is a lot of forensic science which can hardly be called science at all. But because jurors have been convinced that test results prove guilt or innocence, they feel confident convicting defendants of rape, murder and other violent crimes based on the testimony of so-called forensic "experts." Recently, news agencies reported that the FBI and the Justice Department are essentially reversing course on a forensic test that was widely used and trusted for decades.

The fight to ban harmful 'gay conversion' therapy: Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about the public and legal push to protect minors from a controversial practice known as "gay conversion therapy." A bill addressing the issue is currently under consideration in the Minnesota legislature, and President Obama recently spoke out in favor of banning the practice nationally (at least on minors).

To call conversion therapy either "controversial" or "therapy" risks tacitly recognizing it as legitimate. From a medical and mental-health standpoint, it has no such legitimacy. While homosexuality was once considered a mental disorder (largely due to social stigma), the American Psychiatric Association changed its classification more than 40 years ago, and has been specifically speaking out against conversion therapy since 1998. Because being gay or bisexual is not a disorder, it cannot be "cured" and patients cannot have their heterosexuality "repaired" or "restored."

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