If you are booked in jail for a DUI, you should be pretty worried about how the whole thing will impact your life. In particular, this is a serious situation if this is not your first issue with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and you are going to need the skills of an experienced criminal defense attorney in order to secure the best outcomes for you. 

California Law

The laws related to alcohol and cannabis are quite strict in the state of California. In terms of simply being in a vehicle, you may not:

  • Consume alcohol or cannabis as either a passenger or a driver;
  • Carry alcohol or cannabis products in the passenger compartment if they are unsealed;
  • Hold alcohol in the glove box in an open container.

BAC Limits

While most people understand that drivers may find themselves getting a DUI if it is discovered that they have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% and higher, some may not realize that drivers under the age of 21 can get a DUI if they have a BAC of just 0.01%. That is true for drivers who are older but who are on probation for having had a DUI. Drivers who are hired to transport passengers (like ride-share or taxi drivers) or those driving vehicles requiring a commercial license could get a DUI with a BAC of 0.04%.

First Convictions

A first conviction could result in the following:

  • Revocation of your driving privileges;
  • Enrollment in a DUI program;
  • Mandatory filing for SR ww/SR1P (expensive auto insurance);
  • Fees related to driver’s license restriction and/or reissuance;
  • Potential requirement to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle and related costs;
  • Up to six months in county jail;
  • Fines of up to $390;
  • Vehicle impounding with related storage fees;
  • Probation;
  • 10 years having the DUI conviction on your driving record.

Second and Subsequent DUIs

For anyone convicted of a second DUI, the penalties get much worse. Fines jump up to $2,000, DUI school extends to up to 30 months, and jail time could double to up to a year. Other penalties will be extended, as well. If there were any aggravating factors, such as a BAC of 0.15%, having a minor in the vehicle, refusing to submit to testing for chemicals in your blood, speeding, or causing an accident, the legal consequences could get even worse. Continue reading

Let’s say you pleaded guilty—or even a no-contest—and have since thought about it and decided that you made the wrong move with that plea. Maybe it was part of a plea agreement, and you were so frightened by the thought of a long prison sentence that you copped to lesser charges just to avoid that scenario. But with time, you just cannot stomach the idea of saying you did something when you are innocent.  Even though a no-contest plea does not necessarily admit to guilt, it does result in legal penalties. In your case, the paperwork’s been signed, so are you stuck in a deal you do not like? Maybe, maybe not. 

California Law

According to California Penal Code 1018, there are circumstances under which a defendant may withdraw a plea. It is not simply something you can choose willy-nilly, though. The law requires you to show good cause in order to file a motion to withdraw your plea. That means one of the following must be true:

You agreed to the plea before you had a lawyer to advise you;

  • You had a lawyer but believe they were incompetent/ineffective;
  • When you agreed to the deal, you did not understand the potential consequences;
  • Law enforcement and/or prosecutors failed to advise you of your constitutional rights;
  • You agreed to the plea deal, but it was presented in a language other than your native tongue, and you did not completely understand what you were doing.

What is the Timeline and Process?

As a defendant, you can feasibly back out of the plea arrangement any time before you have actually been sentenced or within six months of the judgment being entered. (Under limited circumstances, you can change your plea after being convicted and sentenced, but it is a much more time-consuming and complicated process!) Prior to sentencing, your attorney will simply file the paperwork and then attend a hearing with you to try to demonstrate to the court that you have good cause to change your plea. Things can go one of two ways from there:

  • The judge can deny the motion and will sentence you based on the charges you pleaded guilty to; OR
  • The judge will grant the motion, and you will go back to the beginning, where you plead not guilty to charges at the arraignment. (Obviously, any benefits you might have reaped by agreeing to the deal are forfeited at this point).

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Rumor has it that attorneys in some states hope for jury nullification at the end of a trial, knowing that it would be nearly impossible to get a “not guilty” verdict based on the facts of the case.  What is jury nullification, and what makes it so attractive in some cases? 

Defining Jury Nullification

Jury veto, juror pardon, or conscientious acquittal: sometimes, juries understand that a defendant may be guilty while opting to reject the evidence in the case because they believe the result of a guilty verdict would be unjust. Sometimes juries may be attempting to send a message about issues larger than the case at hand and believe they have the right to send that message through their verdict. In other situations, they may simply believe that the specifics of the particular case they are hearing warrant a not-guilty verdict in spite of a belief that the law was likely broken by the defendant. Here in California, our Supreme Court has taken that right away from juries, fearful of runaway juries who, in defending the conscience of the community at large, snub the laws on the books.

Historical Jury Nullifications

Jury nullification has been around for centuries! Fugitive Slave Laws were undermined when people who harbored escaped slaves were found to be “not guilty” by juries, despite stacks of evidence pointing to guilt. Alcohol prohibition laws were minimized when juries declined to convict guilty parties who’d violated laws related to alcohol control, a move in support of community values. More recently, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was found “not guilty” of murder three times when his involvement in “mercy killings” was relatively clear. In other situations, juries who believed drug laws were much too harsh have been unwilling to punish minor drug offenders in multiple states. When the enforcement of written laws is rejected, eventually laws around certain matters are simply unenforceable.

Is Jury Nullification Legal Elsewhere? 

While not necessarily encouraged, jury nullification is completely legal across the country. Sometimes prosecutors and/or judges will warn juries that jury nullification would be a relinquishment of their duty, but it is nonetheless a power that juries have in most of the United States. These verdicts cannot be overturned, and jurors cannot be punished for their verdict. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the most powerful legal minds in the world, publicly affirmed that she believes there is a place for jury nullification in our justice system. Whatever one’s thoughts on the issue, one study divulges that in 19% of cases, juries acquit when a judge would have leaned toward conviction, and roughly one-fifth of these acquittals were a result of jury nullification. 

How Do Jurors Know About this Option?

Since the late 1800’s courts have been reluctant to inform juries of jury nullification, let alone encourage it. In fact, in most cases, judges tell juries that it is, indeed, their duty to apply the law precisely as it is provided to them, even if they disagree with the law. In fact, some courts have determined that a juror who intends to nullify the law may be removed when reported by another juror. Though defense teams may wish for jury nullification, they are usually not allowed to propose it in their closing arguments. Unless a juror already knows about it, it likely will not happen. Nonetheless, it is something that dangles as an option in many courtrooms across the country. Continue reading

Anyone facing criminal charges is hoping for an outcome other than a guilty verdict. That can come through an acquittal, although sometimes it is quicker and easier to have the charges dropped or dismissed before ever reaching a courtroom. How can any of these results find their way to your case? 

Dropped Charges

Criminal charges are filed when a prosecutor thinks they have enough evidence to get a guilty verdict if the case makes it to trial. If the prosecutor has doubts about that, they may drop the charges and tell the police to find further evidence if they want the case to move forward. This can occur at any stage of the process.

Dismissed Charges 

When the prosecution believes they have proof beyond a reasonable doubt, they will press forward with the case. The issue of reasonable cause is weighed by a magistrate judge during a preliminary hearing, where the judge takes a look at the evidence at hand. If the judge believes there is probable cause to move forward, it is a green light to the prosecutor. If there is not a strong foundation for a case, on the other hand, the complaint will be dismissed, and the defendant is free to go.

What if the Victim Wants the Charges Dropped

Sometimes victims want charges to be dropped, but the final decision is the prosecutors. If the prosecutor thinks it is in the interest of public safety to continue on, they may have to ignore a victim’s request. However, if the victim fails to cooperate, it may destroy the prosecution’s case, resulting in dropped charges anyway. This happens in cases of domestic violence, for example, when victims choose not to testify against their abusers.

Reasons Prosecutors/Judges May Choose to Drop or Dismiss Cases

There are plenty of situations when cases are dropped or dismissed, and a defendant walks away from the whole thing. While there may be a possibility that the case comes back to haunt a defendant later down the road, sometimes the case takes a turn in a whole new direction. Circumstances that could lead to a reprieve include:

  • Lack of evidence to support a guilty verdict;
  • Request by the victim to drop the case;
  • New information that contradicts the original theory of the crime;
  • Problems with evidence being inadmissible for one reason or another;
  • Issues relating to a defendant’s constitutional rights being violated;
  • An acceptable plea deal is reached wherein a defendant pleads guilty to lesser charges in exchange for lesser penalties.

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When looking at the potential penalties related to criminal charges you are facing, it can be more than a little unnerving. That is one reason it is so important to have an experienced attorney on your side. The fact is that there are many details in criminal law, one of which relates to the wobbler. Yes, the term sounds a bit trivial and flip, but wobblers are very serious business in the criminal justice system. Successfully addressing a wobbler in a court of law can have an enormous impact on the penalties you face, from incarceration to fines and beyond. What, then, is a wobbler? 

Wobblers

Wobblers are an exclusive class of crimes that vary in their level of seriousness. Plenty of offenses are wobblers, including property defacement, domestic violence, vehicular manslaughter, and assault with a deadly weapon. Some of the most common wobbler cases include certain drug charges, sexual battery, and forgery. Notably, these crimes may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, meaning the penalties can be fairly mild or very, very serious. A guilty verdict could land an offender with a simple fine, in the county jail, or with a lengthy prison sentence.

Misdemeanor or Felony?

A judge considers the specifics of cases involving wobblers to determine whether the crimes should be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. Some factors to be weighed include the severity of the crime, as well as any previous charges and convictions the defendant may have amassed. 

Felony Charges Have Long-Term Implications

Certainly, being charged with a misdemeanor, even a gross misdemeanor, has far better outcomes for defendants than felony charges. Besides having much lighter penalties, the social shame associated with felony charges is much tougher than is it for misdemeanors. And there are more:

  • Felons may be denied housing;
  • Felons cannot vote while in prison or on parole;
  • Felons may not serve on a jury while imprisoned;
  • Felons may have professional licenses revoked, suspended, or disqualified permanently;
  • Felons may be barred from working with labor unions, banks, federal defense contractors or subcontractors, and more;
  • Felons may be denied other employment opportunities based on employer preference;
  • Felons cannot serve in the armed forces;
  • Felons cannot purchase or possess firearms, and could be charged with another felony if they violate this rule for anywhere from 10 years to life;
  • Certain felons may not hold public office;
  • Felons may not be eligible for student loans;
  • Felons may not be eligible for public assistance;
  • A felony record may be more difficult to expunge.

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If criminal charges have you headed for a trial and you are determined to testify in your own defense, be prepared for a rough cross-examination experience. Prosecutors know how to paint people in a negative light, and they will undoubtedly be prepared to try to overwhelm you with a variety of questions and techniques 

Prosecutors’ Goals

A prosecutor is single-mindedly trying to undercut your story by attempting to catch you in discrepancies and inconsistencies. They will try to get you to confirm the facts that they have presented while simultaneously dinging your credibility, all in pursuit of a guilty verdict. You can anticipate a premeditated and planned-out attack.

Since 2020 this country has seen thousands of protestors standing up to excessive police use of force. The aim was to bring awareness to a serious issue affecting countless communities across the United States and to get the police to rein in tactics that historically resulted in serious injury or death during police encounters.  Have the protests made a difference? 

Racial Statistics

Police killings of civilians topped out in 2022 with 1,176 deaths.  But that number exploded to over 1,200 in 2023, making it the deadliest year for deadly law enforcement actions in the last decade. It is likely no surprise to many that Black people fared the worst:

  • They are the most likely demographic to be killed by police in numbers disproportionate to their population;
  • The rate at which they are killed is triple the rate for white people;
  • They are more likely to be unarmed than white people;
  • The biggest group of unarmed people who were killed were people of color;
  • Most killings by police occur as a result of non-violent offenses, mental health checks, or relating to traffic stops.

Other Facts

While killings are on the decline in urban areas, they are on the rise in rural areas. The numbers remain steady in suburban zip codes. More incidents are occurring involving county sheriff’s offices. Over 30% of victims were killed while fleeing from police on foot or in a vehicle. 98.1% of deaths related to law enforcement interactions have not resulted in criminal charges for any officers involved in the incident.

California’s Numbers

The statistics here in California are nothing to shout about. Of 1,478 killings by police, Black people were nearly four times as likely to be killed, and Latinx people were 1.5 times more likely to be killed than white people. However, not all police misconduct results in death. Of more than 60,000 complaints of police misconduct over a five-year period, just nine percent of cases were ruled in civilians’ favor. In terms of use-of-force complaints, only 3% of the more than 4,500 complaints ruled for civilians. Overall, the state of California earned a score of 35% by the Police Scorecard based on data from both local and state law enforcement. The lower the score, the more spent on policing, the more arrests for low-level offenses, the more use of force, and the less likely errant officers are held accountable for their actions. On a bright note, the racial disparity in police killings is below the national rate—though still high enough to be of serious concern. Continue reading

What is more terrifying than being charged with a crime that could land you behind bars for an extensive period of time? Going to trial means that a judge and up to a dozen strangers hold your future in their hands. How will they judge you? How will their life experiences play into their view of the case against you? These are critical questions—questions that are often studied by jury consultants. 

Who are Jury Consultants?

People with backgrounds in communication, law, social sciences, and linguistics may choose to enter the world of jury consulting. These individuals hold degrees ranging from bachelor’s to Juris Doctor. Their job is to focus on a range of issues related to jury selection. Consultants can play a key role in guiding research, detecting suitable prospective jurors, preparing witnesses for the stand, and responding to the unavoidable changes that occur throughout any major criminal trial.

They Conduct Research

Often, a consultant spends a chunk of their time on research. They may run mock trials, conduct online research related to potential jurors, and consult with clients to develop themes and examine potential issues with evidence.

The Help With Jury Selection

Many consultants spend substantial time in the courtroom and contribute to the process of jury selection. Prior to jury selection, or Voir Dire, consultants may guide attorneys on ways to make a positive first impression on potential jurors. They may even assist in developing questions that help to determine which jurors might be most receptive to their case.

They Help Prepare Witnesses for the Stand

Many consultants’ chief job is assisting in preparing witnesses. This is especially helpful because the average person has never seen the inside of a courtroom, let alone been expected to testify and be cross-examined. In addition to preparing witnesses for the expectations and procedures in court, consultants might assist with things like what to wear, how to present themselves, and how to communicate effectively. 

The Monitor

Throughout the trial, consultants often continue to monitor witnesses.  Which ones lack credibility? Who is not very likable?  These things can influence the approach and course of the defense team.

Are Jury Consultants Necessary?

Naturally, there is a legal team in place to take care of all of this. Even so, some clients may wish to have a jury consultant available to assist. Over time consultants have been involved in a number of high-profile cases, including the trials of O.J. Simpson, Scott Peterson, Bill Cosby, and Kyle Rittenhouse. And in the current criminal proceedings against Donald Trump, a well-known jury consultant has been employed. Continue reading

This country faces a serious problem in terms of healthcare fraud, and authorities have not hesitated to impose serious consequences. As the most expensive white-collar crime in the country—racking up nearly $100 billion in lost funds — the state of California is more than willing to prosecute fraudsters. Both state and federal prosecutors, in fact, are going after individuals and organized groups who engage in this type of fraud on a daily basis.

Examples of Fraud

Fraud might occur involving individuals who work in hospitals, nursing homes, dentist offices, and more. Professionals and staff who try to cheat health insurance companies are a serious concern because there are multiple ways to engage in a swindle, and a successful fraudster can essentially steal big dollars and impact patient outcomes. Deliberately providing incorrect or false information to an insurance company is the bottom line of many fraud cases. 

  • Double billing insurance companies for a single procedure;
  • Coding procedures in a way that makes billing more expensive;
  • Charging for procedures and/or care to increase profits;
  • Prescribing unnecessary medications and/or procedures in order to get kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies.

 Legal Penalties

When the fraud involves under $950, offenders in California may face misdemeanor charges with up to six months in jail and fines of $1,000. Felony health care fraud, however, could mean up to five years behind bars and as much as $50,000 in penalties, or double the amount of the fraud. In the case of medical professionals being convicted, they could lose their professional license. Federal penalties are dependent on the degree of injury that occurs to a patient. Even with no injuries, perpetrators could wind up serving 10 years behind bars. That doubles when serious injury results from the fraud and becomes a life sentence if the fraud results in a fatality.  

 Federal False Claims Act

Any person or entity who knowingly submits a sham claim for Medicare, Medicaid, or other federally funded programs or who intentionally retains an overpayment for 60+ days is in violation of the federal False Claims Act. In addition to having to pay triple the damages suffered by the Government, perpetrators may have to pay nearly $22,000 per falsified claim. 

Defending Fraud Claims

One of the strongest defenses against claims of healthcare fraud is to demonstrate that any perceived billing irregularities were the result of misunderstandings and/or unintentional mistakes. Demonstrating that patients received legitimate care consistent with billing will be important, as will establishing a pattern of providing high-quality care aimed at patient well-being. Continue reading

The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech in this country. Nonetheless, we hear about judges issuing gag orders in high-profile cases, clearly restricting the speech of individuals connected to both civil and/or criminal trials. What gives? 

The Point of Gag Orders

Judges typically issue gag orders—sometimes called non-dissemination orders– to restrict people from talking about a case publicly. They can apply to witnesses, attorneys, plaintiffs, and defendants. Protecting the integrity of the court system is the goal of these orders, as judges strive to keep potential jurists from hearing about the case outside of the courtroom. Even so, they are quite controversial because limiting speech is contrary to the First Amendment. 

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