What Should I Do With Found Property?
The law requires a person to make a reasonable effort to return found property. This is to prevent stolen items from being claimed as "found". It also protects the finder from the possibility of possessing stolen property that was found legitimately. By making a reasonable effort, it eliminates the possibility of a criminal charge against a finder for possessing stolen property. Making a reasonable effort to return found property can be accomplished a couple of different ways.
One way a reasonable effort can be made is by running an ad in the local newspaper. This method; however, could cause aggravation to the finder who may receive false claims for the property. Another way to make a reasonable effort would be to turn the property over to police custody. There are three advantages when turning found property over to the police:
- The finder does not have to deal with false claims, nor does the finder need to give out personal information such as a phone number or address to a person making a claim to the property.
- Submitting the property to the police gives the rightful owner a chance of regaining his/her property back. Found property will be held for 90 days. If it is not claimed during that period of time, the police will contact the finder and return the found property to them if they want it. The police watch for recent and incoming theft reports to see if any reported stolen property matches the property you found.
- If the property was not matched to a victim and remains unclaimed, after 90 days have passed, you will have a legitimate claim to the property. A valid paper trail is on record at the Police Department, showing you made a reasonable effort to get the property returned to its rightful owner. If the found property is unclaimed, you will be contacted by the police and asked if you are still interested in the property. If you do not want the property, it is destroyed if damaged or has no significant value (usually less than $5.00). If the property has some significant value and the finder still does not want it, then it is placed in the city auction.
Where Do I Go To Check Whether Or Not My Lost/Stolen Bike Has Been Recovered?
Drive out to the police impound lot, located on Hwy #40, about 1/4 mile south of Hwy #12, on the east side of the road (almost directly across from the airport). There is a large chain link fenced-in area along the roadway. The found bikes are placed between the inner and outer fence.
If you discover your missing bike has been recovered and is at the impound lot, stop in at the Willmar Police Department, 2201 23rd St NE, Willmar, MN, or call the Dispatch Center, (320) 235-2244, and ask when a Police Department property technician works next. There are two of them. You will need to make an appointment with this person while they are working to recover your bike. Make the appointment as soon as possible to avoid the 90 day time limit expiring and risking the chance that the bike was returned to the finder. (See question #1).
Why Do Some Cars Get Towed For Parking Violations And Others Just Get A Ticket?
Immediate towing is dependant on two things; one is safety and the other necessity. If your vehicle is parked in a manner that would apply to either of these two criteria, you stand an excellent chance of having it towed. The following violations will give you an idea of what situations might incur immediate towing:
- Blocking access to a fire hydrant - safety issue. Fire hydrants need to be accessible at all times for obvious reasons.
- Parked in a fire lane - safety issue. Fire lanes are established corridors that permit fire trucks access to likely fire locations. Parking in these lanes decreases the amount of maneuvering space fire trucks need and prevent them from reaching a fire.
- Parked blocking someone's driveway or blocking another parked vehicle so it cannot leave - both safety and necessity issues apply here. Garage sale shoppers need to be aware of this one. If your vehicle is blocking a driveway, without the property owners permission, you will more than likely find your car gone when you return (even if the rear end is only sticking partially across a driveway). Safety factors come into play in regards to the fact that the homeowner may need to leave in a hurry for a medical emergency. Necessity factors arise when a homeowner desires to leave and is held captive on their own property because they can't get out of their driveway. This also applies when blocking someone else while they are parked in a legitimate parking space.
- Snow Removal - necessity issue. Periodically during heavy winter snowfall, snow emergencies are announced. City plows need to keep the streets clean. They can only perform this duty if vehicles are absent from the areas they need to plow. Typically, a snow emergency situation is called for in the downtown area. Announcements are made on the local radio as to what hours the snow emergency will be in effect and the area it applies to. If your car is parked in an area where this emergency is announced, it will be towed any time after the declared emergency starts.
- Stalled in a lane of traffic - safety and necessity issues apply for obvious reasons relating to a disruption of normal traffic flow.
Almost all other parking violations would only warrant a ticket being issued, with your car still being present when you return.
I Don't Have Any Prior Violations, Why Didn't I Just Get A Warning?
First of all, if an officer would only give warnings to someone with no prior violations on their record, then nothing but warnings would ever be given. This is because previous warning tickets do not show up on a driving record. Therefore, an officer has no way of knowing whether or not the driver may have received a warning in another town for some offense.
When tickets are issued, it is based upon many different factors. An officer takes all of these factors into consideration when making a determination whether to issue a warning or a citation. These factors include considering the actual violation, the location of the violation, the driver's record, and also the driver's attitude. Let's take a look at each of these areas and see how it may or may not affect a citation being issued. We'll use speeding as an example since it is such a common argued offense.
Actual Violation as a Factor - An officer must consider the actual violation. At what point should the absolute line be drawn? 1 mph, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 mph over the posted limit? Each one of these is only one mile per hour more than the previous number. If a violator wants an absolute line drawn, then our job is easy... the line is drawn at the posted speed level. However, luckily for motorists, officers are allowed to exercise discretion when making a decision as to whether or not a ticket should be issued. This leads us into the other factors an officer considers.
Location of the Violation - An officer considers location as an issuing factor also. Five (5) mph over the posted speed limit around a school or construction zone is obviously more dangerous than a wide street designed to handle large volumes of traffic with little chance of pedestrians being present. Road conditions may be considered also. Ice, packed snow, heavy rain, and a multitude of other road surface conditions are taken into account. Other factors such as daytime or nighttime lighting, visibility, and traffic volume need to be considered.
Driving Record - A person with a lengthy driving record indicates someone who has less respect for our laws and society. This person poses a greater danger to others on the roadway. Giving this type of driver a break only enforces their mentality that violating the law is "no big deal" and actually encourages future driving violations.
Attitude - Now you really would think that attitude has nothing to do with the actual facts and circumstances of the traffic violation. However, it plays an important role in the determination as to whether to cite or warn. Drivers have been pulled over many times only to make statements that the only reason they were speeding is because they "were upset". Current emotional attitude affected their driving.
Attitude toward the officer may also make an officer decide to issue a citation rather than warn. Why would an officer warn a driver who swears, loudly argues, or threatens the officer? This type of behavior/attitude only displays a lack of respect for the law that the officer is trying to enforce. Someone who disrespects the law certainly is not going to make future attempts to abide by it. Issuing a warning in these circumstances would be a total waste of time.
The next time you hear two people discussing traffic stops they were involved in or that they "heard about" and they are wondering why one friend got a warning for 10 mph over and the other received a citation, please educate them. No two speeding instances have ever been exactly the same. The speed each driver was traveling at might be the same, but as you can see, this factor is only a small part of the whole picture.
What Happens To Evidence Seized By The Police?
Property seized by the police will either be returned, destroyed, acquired, sold directly or auctioned. Each of these actions are explained in greater detail as follows:
Returned Property - If a true owner can be determined and the property is not illegal to possess, then the property will be returned to this person. An exception to this rule is if the property was used in a manner to harm someone, then that particular piece of property would normally be destroyed. This is to prevent the item from being used in the same manner again by the owner. Examples of items that might be destroyed instead of being returned would be knives, bats, clubs, etc.
Destroyed Property - Any property that is illegal to possess by the general public or has no value is destroyed. Some examples of these items would be alcohol, tobacco, drugs, drug paraphernalia, broken items, or cheap firearms that cannot be returned by law because the owner is a convicted felon.
Auctioned or Property Sold Directly - Property that has no established owner or finder but possesses a value of more than $5.00 is placed in the city auction. This property includes everything from abandoned vehicles to kids' toys. The city auction is usually held in the spring of each year. It is announced in the local paper.
Guns and jewelry are not placed in a city auction. Instead, bids are obtained from three federally licensed firearms dealers for the guns seized by the police and sold to the highest bidder. This is to ensure that guns are re-entered into the federal firearms registration records. If the gun is of questionable value or design, it is destroyed.
Jewelry is not sold at an auction because it is difficult to ascertain the true value. Instead, bids are obtained from three licensed jewelers and sold to the highest bidder.
The money obtained from any item sold or auctioned is placed in the City of Willmar's general fund.
Acquired Property - When property is unclaimed and could be used by one of the city departments, it is acquired. This allows the city to save money for our taxpayers. Rather than selling an item at the city auction and then having to purchase the same item through retail means at a higher cost to the taxpayer, the property is instead acquired for city use.
Can An Officer Enter A House Or A Vehicle Without A Search Warrant?
Yes, under certain situations an officer can enter either type of location without a search warrant. Officers are limited by the Court as to what types of situations this action could occur in. Contrary to popular belief, an officer does not need a search warrant to enter into a private building. The confusion probably stems from not defining the difference between entering and searching. Listed below are some instances where citizens have demanded to see a search warrant when a warrant was not required.
Circumstances called "plain view" - If an officer is in a position where the citizen has a limited expectation of privacy (example: the front step of a house when responding to a complaint at the given address) and observes a crime being committed in the house, the officer may respond to the crime committed in his/her presence.
Special conditions called "exigent circumstances" - An officer does not need a warrant under emergency conditions when acting in good faith to assist during that emergency (example: entering a residence when responding to a fire call or ambulance request).
This condition also applies to motor vehicle searches. If the officer has "probable cause" to believe contraband exists in a vehicle and obtaining a search warrant will allow the offender time to destroy the contraband during the officer's absence, an officer may make a search of that vehicle under exigent circumstances.
Circumstances called "hot pursuit" - If an officer is chasing a suspect who runs into a house with the officer in close proximity of the suspect during the chase, the officer may continue into the house to apprehend the suspect. The officer does not need to remain outside the residence merely because the offender ran inside.
Circumstances involving consent or public places - An officer does not need a search warrant if permission to enter into a house has been granted by someone with the legal authority to do so. Demands frequently occur in domestic situations when a wife has consented to allow an officer into the residence and the husband demands to see a "search warrant" before he will allow the officer to enter.
An officer does not need a search warrant to enter a public place during normal business hours, as long as his/her presence is in an area open to the general public.
Officers are constantly trained on the current rulings of the Court involving search and seizure. A defendant should never worry about an illegal search because this is usually one of the first areas examined by the Court and attorneys. If a search is held to be illegal, all charges against a defendant will more than likely be dropped.
What Is The Curfew Time And Age Limits In The City Of Willmar?
It is unlawful for any person under age (16) to be in or upon or loiter at any public place between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. unless accompanied by a responsible adult. Anyone age 16 or 17 cannot be loitering in a public place between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 5:00 a.m. unless accompanied by a responsible adult. There are some exceptions to curfew limitations. If you are at a job, or returning from a supervised activity and traveling in a direct path from the job or event to your home, you will be excused. The key point is that if you are under age 18, you need to have adult supervision present, or be able to show that you are in direct travel from a job or event where supervision was present, to your residence. This does not include stopping off for groceries or running other errands.
Parents also share responsibility in the following manner. It is unlawful for any parent or other adult having the legal care of any juvenile to allow or permit the juvenile to violate the curfew ordinance. This person; however, cannot be prosecuted unless he/she has been notified in writing of a prior curfew violation committed by the juvenile. Such notification may be made by any law enforcement officer, probation officer, court services officer, or court administrator, and may be either personally served or mailed.
A curfew violation is a City of Willmar Ordinance #10-62 violation. The fine is $25.00 for each offense after two initial offenses.
What Is The Law Relating To Fireworks In The State Of Minnesota?
Minnesota law changed on April 30, 2002, to allow people to possess and use sparkling, non-explosive, non-arial fireworks items. The statute regulating fireworks is MN Statute 624.20(C).
Basically if the fireworks are explosive or become aerial during discharge, it is illegal to possess or use. This would include fireworks of the type commonly known as "firecrackers", "lady-fingers", "sky rockets", "bottle rockets", missile type rockets, aerial spinners, planes, helicopters or UFO's, Roman candles, mines or shells (which are a heavy cardboard or paper tube attached to a base and upon ignition stars, balls, or reports are propelled into the air), Chasers, or Parachutes.
So now you probably wonder what is legal? Well, the law allows you to posses and use:
- Wire or wood sparklers of not more than 100 grams of mixture per item
- Novelty items such as snakes, glow worms, smoke devices or trick noisemakers, which include paper streamers, party poppers, string poppers, snappers, and drop pops, each consisting of not more than twenty-five hundredths grains of explosive mixture.
- Other sparkling items which are non-explosive and non-aerial and contain 75 grams or less of chemical mixture per tube or a total of 200 grams or less for multiple tubes. This type of item would include: cylindrical fountains, cone fountains, illuminating torches, wheels, ground spinners, flitter sparklers, and flash/strobes.