University of Minnesota: Wrestling with Xanax

Yes, it is a crime to possess Xanax without a proper prescription from a health care provider.  This question has arisen in the recent days and has been discussed at length by many local sports radio stations, TV personalities, and newspapers.

For the non-sports fans, or those who have not heard the recent reports, here is a synopsis of what we know so far: University of Minnesota Wrestling Head Coach J Robinson discovered that some of his players got their hands on 2,500 pills of Xanax from an old teammate, and were selling the drug in the dorms.  Robinson decided to handle the matter internally instead of notifying authorities.  He had his wrestlers turn the pills over to him and required each wrestler to write an essay about what they learned from the incident.  You can read the StarTribune’s story here.

Of course, this is terrible news for the University of Minnesota and their entire athletic department.  Interim Athletic Director Beth Goetz and incoming Athletic Director Mark Coyle will have their hands full dealing with the public relations backlash from this incident.

All athletics and university issues aside, in the debate over the seriousness of these allegations, there is a major misunderstanding of the legal consequences of possessing Xanax without a valid prescription.  In fact, a local morning radio show had a caller yesterday morning voice his opinion, saying, essentially, “well at least they were not out committing felonies.”  -- This is a paraphrase of course.

That caller is 100% wrong.   Xanax is the commercial name for the drug: Alprazolam, which is a schedule IV controlled substance in Minnesota.  This classification makes it a felony both to sell the drug, or merely possess it without a valid prescription.  Both possession and the sale of Xanax, no matter how small, qualifies as a fifth degree controlled substance crime, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.  Selling any amount of Xanax to someone under the age of 18 is a fourth degree controlled substance crime, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a $100,000 fine, or both. 

It should be noted that this law will be modified on August 1, 2016, reducing the crime to a gross misdemeanor for first time offenders that possess no more than one dosage unit  of Xanax. However, the modification will have no affect on cases occurring before that date.

What should one do if they are faced with allegations of possessing or selling Xanax, or any other illegal narcotic?  Simple, don’t speak to anyone about it and immediately call a lawyer.  If your coach, parent, administrator, or anyone, tells you to write an essay on what you learned from your mistake—don’t!  Sure, they may have told you this will be handled internally, but it is not that simple.  Your paper will be “discoverable,” meaning that it is not protected and may be obtained by law enforcement.  And once law enforcement has their hands on it--voila—they have a signed confession, from you, admitting to a felony drug offense. 

On the other hand, if you immediately call a lawyer, that communication is protected by the attorney client privilege.  This means that the lawyer is required to keep the content of the conversation to himself, and cannot be forced by anyone, including the courts, to reveal what was said.

If you are ultimately charged with any controlled substance crime you are facing grave consequences, as your criminal record will begin to affect many aspects of your life; losing your job, student loans, and your residence are just some of the major consequences of a controlled substance conviction.  However, this is not a hopeless situation as there are ways to keep this off your record that involve getting the evidence suppressed or even getting a prosecutor to agree to a resolution that does not involve a conviction.

Backdoor Breath Testing 4: Legal Standards From Our Implied Consent Law And Standard Criminal Jury Instructions (Part I)

Our previous posts in this series discussed why law enforcement prefer breath tests when investigating DWIs, why it is important to report how uncertain breath test results actually are, and why untraceable and inaccurate breath tests are a serious problem. Today, we’re going to expand on that last point, and highlight the numerous ways in which Minnesota law actually requires the State to disclose how uncertain their breath tests are in Court in order for those results to actually be useful (or admissible!).

Generally speaking, it is important to realize that every DWI is split into two separate court cases: a criminal case (dealing with consequences like jail and probation) and a civil case (dealing solely with the revocation of a person’s driver’s license). In each case, the breath test result is the best (and sometimes only) evidence the State can use to punish a driver. Which is why both the civil and criminal law make it clear that the State cannot continue to misleadingly report breath test results as a bald number.

Implied Consent (Civil Case)

Before the State of Minnesota can revoke a driver’s license, they need to prove that the driver’s breath alcohol concentration was at or above 0.08. There are multiple statutes dedicated to this procedure, referred to as our Implied Consent Law. The most important aspect of the Implied Consent Law is the right to judicial review; the State can take someone’s license if a breath test says they were over the legal limit, but everyone has the right to have a judge independently review the evidence and determine if that license revocation was actually appropriate.

One key part of the Implied Consent law controls this judicial review; that particular statute is where the Minnesota Legislature told our judges “here are all the things you should consider when you’re asked to decide if a driver’s license revocation was appropriate and legal.” Two provisions immediately jump out:

  1. Section 169A.53, subd. 3(b)(8) – did the test result indicate at the time of testing an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more; and
  2. Section 169A.53, subd. 3(b)(10) – was the testing method use valid and reliable and were the test results accurately evaluated

Remember what we explained previously. When it comes to measuring breath alcohol concentration, we can never know the actual value we are trying to measure, we can only come up with a best estimate. That’s why the scientific community says it is essential/necessary/obligatory to report all measurements along with enough information to say exactly how close our “best estimate” really is.

Now, if a judge is just given a test result that says, say, 0.10, we’ve got two questions to answer:

  1. Does this estimate of the true value actually prove that the true value was “0.08 or more?”
  2. Can we “accurately evaluate” this estimate without knowing how good of an estimate it really is?

When a breath test result is reported as a misleadingly simple, bald number, the answer to both questions is always going to be “no.” Just because my thermometer says it’s 34 degrees outside doesn’t mean it is actually above freezing. Furthermore, how can I accurately evaluate a 34 degree reading without knowing if my thermometer is good enough to report a result plus-or-minus 1 degree . . . . or plus-or-minus 5 degrees? There is simply not enough information available to make a sound decision. And while my wife’s concern about whether our tomato plants are going to freeze overnight is a big concern in her mind (mine too, honey, mine too) it pales in comparison to concerns over someone is going to lose their driver’s license, and possibly their job, based on a misleadingly reported measurement.

This post has already gotten too long, so we’re gonna wrap it up now and save discussion of the criminal standard in the next post. We’ll then move on to touch on some of the legal objections the State has raised to this very simple challenge in yet another post (all their objections are legal, they can’t fight the science behind it). So stay tuned; Part 4 of our blog is going to be in three subparts, and the next one is coming soon.

Backdoor Breath Testing 3: Scientific Community Regarding Traceability and Accuracy

So, if you've taken the time to read our previous post regarding measurement uncertainty, you've already seen that the leading scientific bodies (the International Standards Organization, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Academy of Sciences) all demand that any scientific measurement be reported as a range of values, not a solitary number. Remember that the Minnesota BCA already does this whenever it tests a blood or a urine sample for alcohol -- it's just breath tests that are reported as a bald number, rather than a range of values that have a high likelihood of including the driver's true alcohol concentration. 

Which brings us to the next topic(s): "Traceability" and "Accuracy." We've presented whole seminars on each of these topics, but for the purposes of this blog post, it's enough to know that all scientific measurements are required to be traceable in order for the final result to be deemed valid, accurate, and reliable. In this context, a traceable measurement means a measurement that can be compared to a known, national/international standard.

That comparison comes from one of many "gold standards" held by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST has "the" ounce, "the" pound, "the" 32 degree benchmark, and so forth -- anything you can measure has a standard sitting in NIST's vault, that others can use to make their own "standards." This also includes "the" standard for 0.08 grams of alcohol per 210 liter of breath, the standard that matters for breath testing. Therefore, having a traceable breath alcohol measurement simply means that you can look at how the breath test machine was calibrated, how the test was performed, and how the final result was reported, and through a trivial amount of math and documentation "trace back" that final result from the police station all the way to the NIST vault in Washington D.C. 

The BCA has repeatedly admitted under oath that Minnesota's breath tests are not traceable (trust us, we have the transcripts!)

On to "accuracy." Like most metrological terms, "accuracy" has a specific definition: a measurement is only "accurate" if you can mathematically say how likely it is that whatever you are measuring is fairly close to what your actual measurement result was. In laymen's terms, any measurement is "accurate" as long as you admit how inaccurate it actually is.

Confused? Don't be. Say I take the outside temperature, and my thermometer says it's 40 degrees. That measurement is scientifically inaccurate -- I can't draw any conclusions from it at all. I can't say that it's above freezing or below freezing. Now, say I take the outside temperature and my measurement is "40 degrees plus-or-minus 3 degrees with a 99.7% level of confidence." NOW I've told you just how inaccurate my measurement is, which in turn means that my measurement actually IS accurate. NOW I can tell you "yup, it's above freezing." Accuracy isn't about perfection: it's about admitting your imperfections, so that you can actually use the measurement you produced.

The BCA has repeatedly admitted under oath that Minnesota's breath tests are not accurate (trust us, we have the transcripts!). In fact, one scientists admitted that he can not even tell us what the "outer bound" is when it comes to how inaccurate our breath tests could be. Another one, when asked if he could say under oath that our breath tests are accurate to within 0.1 (that's HUGE) admitted that he could not even say that

Again, we have to stress that this is basic science; nothing fancy, nothing novel or new, nothing mysterious or sneaky. The concepts of traceability and accuracy are fundamental principles that apply to all measurements, and have nothing to do with how good (or bad) your measurement system is. In fact, these principles assume that whatever device you are using to take measurements -- whether it is a tape measure, a thermometer, or a breath test machine -- is the absolute best device on the market. Even the best measurement devices are imperfect, which is why every measurement that matters needs to be both traceable and accurate . . . . but don't take our word for it!

International Vocabulary of Metrology:  “The objective of measurement in the Uncertainty Approach is not to determine a true value as closely as possible. Rather, it is assumed that the information from measurement only permits assignment of an interval of reasonable values to the measurand, based on the assumption that no mistakes have been made in performing the measurement . . . . However, even the most refined measurement cannot reduce the interval to a single value."

Guide to Uncertainty of Measurement: “When reporting the result of a measurement of a physical quantity, it is obligatory that some quantitative indication of the quality of the result be given so those who use it can assess its reliability. Without such an indication, measurement results cannot be compared, either among themselves or with reference values given in a specification or standard.” (emphasis added). 

International Standards Organization: "The laboratory shall at least attempt to identify all the components of uncertainty and make a reasonable estimation and ensure that the form of reporting of the result does not give the wrong impression of the uncertainty"

These last few blog posts should have made it crystal clear that Minnesota's method of conducting breath tests is so fundamentally unsound so as to be effectively useless. But anyone with any experience with the criminal defense system will tell you that holding scientists accountable for their measurements takes more than being right -- you can't just be scientifically right, you need to be legally right as well (and sometimes the two are very different).

Luckily, not only is the science on our side, but the law is too. Up next, we'll discuss the legal standards that apply to these untraceable, inaccurate breath alcohol measurements (and after that, we'll show you some of those transcripts!).

Next Post:

Legal Standards From Our Implied Consent Law And Standard Criminal Jury Instructions

Backdoor Breath Testing 2: Scientific Community's Opinion on Measurement Uncertainty

You’ve been arrested on suspicion of DWI; you were placed in the back of a cop car, brought to a police station, and told to blow into strange looking device that looks like a computer straight out of an 80’s science fiction movie with an E-cigarette attached to it.  This machine spits out a number, let’s say .09.  This number (.09) will now be used to charge you with a crime, revoke your driver’s license, force you to get “whisky plates,” and potentially even take your vehicle.  It is a powerful number indeed. 

But just how accurate is that number as an indication of your true alcohol concentration?  Quite simply, we don’t know, and neither does the Minnesota BCA or law enforcement.  That’s because all measurements need to be reported alongside another number that tells you just how accurate (or inaccurate) the measurement actually is – the concept of “measurement uncertainty.”

That is not our opinion; that’s the opinion of every single scientific body in the world.  It’s a well-established practice everywhere.  For example, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)—a society of distinguished scholars, established by Congress, and charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology—says all breath tests “need to be reported, along with a confidence interval that has a high probability of containing the true blood-alcohol level.”

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) agrees, saying that test results are only estimates of the true value of what is being measured, and are “complete only when accompanied by a quantitative statement of its uncertainty.” Similar opinions are also held by distinguished authorities in the scientific community, such as Rod Gullberg and A.W. Jones.   Specifically, Gullberg states that all measurements “that matter” must be reported with their full range of measurement uncertainty

The International Standards Organization (ISO), the “gold standard” when it comes to reporting measurements, is adamant on the importance of measurement uncertainty, stating that it is “essential to the interpretation of the result,” and without it, it is “impossible” to know if “laws, based on limits, have been broken.”  The ISO also warns that failure to accompany test results with a measurement uncertainty may result in “incorrect prosecution in law.”

With such a universal consensus in the scientific community, there is no doubt that breath test results must be accompanied by a measurement uncertainty.  This is the only way for judges and juries to evaluate the accuracy of the test result before issuing harsh sanctions and criminal penalties. 

This isn’t anything groundbreaking; as we told you in the first post of this series, the Minnesota BCA already reports the full measurement uncertainty every time they measure the alcohol in a blood or urine sample.  What’s baffling (especially in light of all the scientific consensus we showed you above) is that the Minnesota BCA has elected to almost completely ignore measurement uncertainty for breath tests.  Later in this blog series we will discuss the BCA’s mind-numbing arguments as to why they feel their breath tests in Minnesota do not need to comply with this fundamental requirement.  For now, just know that breath tests in Minnesota are fundamentally flawed—and that’s not our opinion, that’s the opinion of organizations like the NAS, ISO, and NIST, as well as highly regarded researchers like Rod Gullberg and A.W. Jones.

 

Next Post:

Part 3: Scientific Community Regarding Traceability and Accuracy

 

Backdoor Breath Testing 1: Why Law Enforcement Agencies Choose Breath Tests Over Blood and Urine Tests

As mentioned in the series introduction, breath tests are the most common tests given to DWI suspects in Minnesota. However, that is not law enforcement’s only option as they may also elect to offer a blood or urine test.  With such a high number of breath tests compared to blood and urine tests it is important to ask “why?” The short answer is simple: breath tests allow law enforcement to avoid the Constitution and the warrant requirement.

 
Without going into great detail, its enough to know that breath tests in Minnesota are currently conducted without a warrant.  The usual scenario involves an officer arresting a driver under a suspicion of driving under the influence, bringing the driver to jail (or a police station) and telling the driver that refusal to take the breath test is a crime. Once again, this is all done without a warrant.
 
The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld criminal charges for test refusal in Minnesota v. Bernard, stating that breath tests, while done without a warrant, fit within an exception to the warrant requirement. (As many of you are likely aware, that decision is currently being challenged at the U.S. Supreme Court.)
 
The key here is that the Minnesota Court of Appeals has recently held that Bernard only applies to breath tests; blood and urine tests still require warrants.  Therefore, a law enforcement agent cannot threaten a driver with a criminal charge for test refusal unless they are offering a breath test.  
 
Most law enforcement agencies in the state have reacted by only offering breath tests; and it is easy to see why: breath testing allows law enforcement to avoid the warrant requirement.  To conduct a blood or urine test, the poor officer would have to go through the painstaking process of following the Constitution—oh, the audacity of such an idea!
 
Not only do breath tests allow law enforcement to circumvent the Constitution, the test results are honestly not nearly as accurate as blood or urine tests. A final breath test result is affected by a lot of factors (how the subject blows, temperature, the environment in the testing room, and more) that simply don’t impact blood or urine tests. Scientifically, this means that we are more uncertain about the accuracy of breath tests than we are for other types of tests. Most of the following blog posts are going to go into great detail about this uncertainty, and by the time we’re done, you’ll be able to see just how absurd the current breath testing procedure in Minnesota really is. Here’s a hint: while the government experts will all agree that breath tests are far, far more uncertain than blood tests, those same experts will only tell us how uncertain their blood test results are – in other words, when it comes to breath tests, they’ll only give us a raw number, whereas blood tests are reported alongside a bunch of other data that specifically describe just how uncertain the final results are. So, a breath test (the more inaccurate test) will be reported as a, say, “0.084.” A blood test (the more accurate test) will be reported with far more detail, such as “0.084 ± 0.005 with a 99.7% confidence rate.”
 
We’ll explain why this simple reporting difference is such a colossal blunder shortly, so keep checking back!
 
Next Post:
Part 2: Scientific Community’s Opinion on Measurement Uncertainty

Backdoor Breath Tests: Bypassing the Constitution and Bastardizing Science In One Blow -- A New Blog Series From Ramsay Law Firm

By far, the most common tests given to DWI suspects in Minnesota are breath tests; and while the Minnesota BCA, prosecutors, the Attorney General, and many judges hold these test results to be gospel and unassailable, they suffer from inherent limitations and a lack of essential scientific information. 

We will explore why breath tests are law enforcement’s preferred method of alcohol testing, the flaws in Minnesota’s current breath test scheme, and the BCA's attempt to avoid fundamental scientific practices for breath tests in a multi-part series titled: Backdoor Breath Tests: Bypassing the Constitution and Bastardizing Science In One Blow.  

This blog series will span through the month of May, so check back often.  The content will be in-depth and comprehensive, but it will definitely be worth following.  By the end of the month you will have a strong understanding of the major flaws of Minnesota’s current breath test scheme, including the lack of measurement uncertainty with breath test results and the associated legal challenges.  

Supreme Court Releases Audio Recording of Bernard Argument

The United States Supreme Court posted the audio of the Bernard argument this morning. Download it and review it at your leisure!

We highly recommend that everyone take the time to listen to the argument or read the transcript (or both if you are a Constitution enthusiast with a serious lack of plans this weekend). 

If you want to get right to the juicy bits, we’ve provided time stamps for some of the key portions of the argument below, including: 

32:25 Justice Roberts goes on the offensive, comparing the dangers of texting while driving to driving under the influence, pointing out that if law enforcement don’t have the authority to dig though driver’s cell phones they shouldn’t have the authority to dig through their bodies.

 43:35 Justice Kennedy discusses the “wake of our recent cases” regarding the undisputed fact that technological advancements make obtaining warrants quicker and easier than ever, and that warrants are the preferred method of executing a search.

44:08 Justice Kennedy points out that to rule in favor of the State would be to grant an “extraordinary exception” to the Fourth Amendment.

48:46 Justice Breyer realizes that the breath tests at issue in this case are not roadside breath tests, but evidentiary tests that are actually taken at the local police station and/or jail, and how that knowledge changes the tone of the entire argument.

56:00 Justice Sotomayor points out that the State is asking the Court to craft a new, “drastic” exception to the Fourth Amendment.

The whole argument is worth listening to, these are just some of the highlights.

Check back often as we will continue to provide analysis of Bernard v. Minnesota until a decision is issued—hopefully sometime in early June.

Bernard Oral Argument: Impressions From Inside the United States Supreme Court

It’s been several hours since I walked out of the lower level of the United States Supreme Court and back out onto the sunlit National Mall (and even longer since I first started standing in the “Bar Member Only” line to get a front-row seat to the arguments) and after having a little time to collect my thoughts, I’m ready to give my impressions on how the arguments went ... and give my prediction on what the final outcome of the case will be.

The issue presented is fairly straightforward: Can the government make it a crime to refuse to submit to a warrantless search in a DWI investigation. The secondary question is “should there be a different standard for breath tests versus blood tests?” When the Court issues its decision this spring, I expect both answers to be “no,” and I’ll go into the reasons why below.

For starters, there was a shocking undertone to the whole argument that was only cleared up 2/3 of the way through the discussion. For most of the argument, the justices were all under the impression that “DWI breath test” meant “roadside preliminary breath test.” The fact (which eventually came to light) is that there are almost always two breath tests in every DWI arrest – a roadside preliminary test, inadmissible in court, to determine if the driver should be arrested, and then a second, evidentiary test, taken at the police station and used in court to try and convict the driver of actually breaking the law.

With that in mind, the argument takes a very different tone, and you could almost see the Justices shift gears once they realized which breath test was actually at issue (Justice Kagan actually admitted as much out loud). The Justices started by discussing the level of intrusiveness of a breath test versus a blood test, and prompted responses from both parties about whether “implied consent” to a breath test is enough, or whether the Court could (or should) demand something along the lines of an actual written contract from all drivers in order to ensure "implied” consent was “actual” consent (which, of course, begs the question of what to do if that consent is later withdrawn, but I digress).

The Court homed in very quickly on the heart of the matter; Justice Breyer, taking the lead for most of the questioning, succinctly pointed out that if breath tests were protected searches, the defense would win; if they were not protected, the State had more freedom to penalize the act of refusal.

But then the fireworks started. The Justices took turns relentlessly demanding that the State provide practical, factual reasons why a warrant could not be obtained, sometimes talking over one another (and the government attorneys) in an attempt to get a straight answer.

To the best of my recollection, no answer was ever actually provided.

Justice Breyer, Justice Kagan, and Justice Sotomayor each independently raised particular emphasis on the “drastic” and “extraordinary” demands that were being made by the State. With very pointed questions, all three Justices were all but begging the State to give a reason why the Court should craft what would be, in effect, a brand new exception to a 250 year old document that was specifically designed to place a neutral judge between the actions of law enforcement and the rights of private citizens.  The Court’s hypotheticals focused on the ability to obtain warrants in 15 minutes, before the arrested driver would have even arrived at the police station, and why the warrant process even needed to be tampered with when there appeared to be no good reason to do so.

That appeared to be the turning point of the argument – when the Justices were discussing PBTs, their questions focused on the “less intrusive” nature of breath tests. Once they realized these tests are conducted at the police station, on drivers that were already placed under arrest, the questions about “intrusiveness” faded away and the Court zeroed in on the practicalities of the situation. At several points the questions generated laughter (Justice Alito interrupted at one point to clarify to the State’s attorney that Justice Sotomayor’s previous question was simply assuming that the State had already lost the case and was just looking to gauge how the State would react!)

In the end, the theme of the argument became clear: a majority of the Court wants to continue with the current “theme” of recent decisions and emphasize that law enforcement must use the warrant process whenever practicable. With discussions of things like a smartphone “warrant app” with a big red “W” button for law enforcement to push at need, to comments about rural judges just waiting by the phone, hoping for a phone call, the Court appeared to be inclined to use the Bernard case as a vehicle to remind the nation of just how crucial the warrant process is to the criminal investigation process – especially in light of recent technological advances that make the warrant process more pain-free than ever.

The question of civil consequences for test refusal (license revocations and plate impoundments) went largely unaddressed, but the few questions that were raised on that point make it appear that the Court may be willing to approve of administrative penalties for test refusal. But with respect to criminal penalties, it looks as though both blood and breath tests are not going to be granted any special status under the Constitution, and will still be protected by the warrant requirement.

My prediction? The Court will rule 6-2 in favor of the defense in Bernard, striking down Minnesota’s criminal DWI test refusal law, with a dissent from Justice Thomas and Justice Alito. Whether increased license revocations for test refusal will remain constitutional is a very different question, however, and I honestly don't want to hazard a guess at this point.

But even my 6-2 prediction is simple guesswork, not legal advice. It's based on my knowledge of the issues and my impressions of the questions asked during oral arguments (you may view the transcript here). Luckily, we’ll have our answer soon (likely in early June) and then we’ll all go back to work interpreting whatever decision the Supreme Court gives us in the case of Minnesota v. Bernard. Until then, we’ll all just have to be patient.

-Daniel Koewler, Esq. 

Minnesota's Test Refusal Law Argued at the U.S. Supreme Court Today

This morning the United States Supreme Court heard attorneys’ arguments on Bernard, a case which will decide whether drivers may be charged with a crime for refusing to submit to warrantless DWI alcohol tests.

Today’s oral argument comes after many years of fighting to uphold the promises and protections embedded in the United States Constitution, namely, the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches. Transcript of the argument can be found here.

More than four years ago we predicted the end of Minnesota’s DWI test refusal law because it violated individuals’ constitutional rights.

Two years ago we predicted the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn Bernard and Minnesota’s test refusal law. “[T]he United States Supreme Court still has the final say on this issue, as it involves one of our core (perhaps the core) constitutional protections.”

The court which currently consists of eight members is expected to issue its decision in June.

Until then, check back often for analysis and audio of the argument. 

When Tragedy Strikes

Last week, a man shot and killed 23-year old law clerk Chase Passauer while he was sitting in his office. Many tragedies are senseless, and this was certainly no exception.

I'm not going to write about Chase; this post is about two different things. The first is the GoFundMe page set up on Chase's behalf to defray the costs of his funeral and other expenses that will arise from this senseless killing. 

Please click this link, and if you feel you can donate, do so

The second reason for this post is to share some information provided by Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (LCL), a Minnesota organization that is dedicated to (among other things) helping lawyers, their staff, and their family get through difficult times. Below is the message LCL wants us to share with one another in the wake of this horrible event. 

"We at Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers have been following the news of the shooting of in St. Paul.   We have reached out to the lawyers and family members from that office and know that many colleagues are offering support as well.  That’s what our community of lawyers does. 

"If thoughts of this tragedy are affecting you, we are available to help you as well.   It’s normal to be angry, afraid and want to do anything we can to help.  We may deny our own fears and reactions because we weren’t the ones who were attacked.  Post traumatic stress affects those who are impacted by tragic events as well as those who experience them directly.  It’s an issue in our profession as we are repeatedly exposed to the experiences of people who have faced loss and trauma in their lives.  That’s why they need lawyers.   But this brings it much closer to home.  Each of us may look at every client and wonder if they have that same potential.  Each of us may wonder if there will be clients who now see personal attacks or threats as an option because that line has been crossed.  Our family members may fear for our safety or their own.

"Through LCL you have access to up to 4 free counseling sessions throughout Minnesota and unlimited telephone support, 24/7.  Our office numbers 651-646-5590 or 866-525-6466 and you can transfer directly to a counselor if it’s after hours.  You may also reach a counselor directly, at any time, at 651-430-3383 or 1-888-243-5744.  Just say you were referred by Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers.  A good web resource is http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd.  Even if it feels like you’re doing okay right now, keep these phone number in mind.  It’s not uncommon for people to have a slightly delayed response as they process everything that happened during such an event. We encourage you to keep this message – you or someone you care about may benefit from it in the future.  

"We also wonder how to offer support.  It’s different for everyone, but what may be most important is to remember that we can’t change what happened and our best intentioned suggestions of what someone should do may not be helpful.   A listening ear and saying I’m here for you means a lot. 

"Please call if you need us.  You’re why we’re here."

That's the message from LCL. Again, if you are so inclined, please consider donating to Chase's GoFundMe page. His family will be forever appreciative, and if you like, you can donate anonymously.  

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