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America’s veterans can run into problems with drugs and alcohol or struggle with mental afflictions which can cause them to make errors and misjudgments. When these individuals make bad choices that have criminal implications in the state of California, they will be put through the criminal justice system and have to deal with the consequences. One glimmer of hope for veterans who are struggling with life issues that have caused them to engage in criminal activity is the California Veterans Court. If a veteran obtains approval to be seen in the Veteran’s Court in California, they will have access to rehabilitative programs that will help them turn their lives around and get a second chance. 

Why is the California Veteran’s Court so Helpful?

Veterans who have been exposed to or experienced a distressing event or action can develop serious mental health conditions. The trauma they sustained can have a major impact on their life and may lead to legal issues. Simple relationships with loved ones, emotional issues, and an inability to blend into society can leave a veteran hopeless and even homeless. They may engage in alcohol abuse or drug use, which compounds their harrowing situation.

When a veteran is arrested for a crime, depending on what the crime was, a Veterans Administration liaison will examine their case. If the individual never had a criminal history and their crime was not one that put others at risk of being harmed, they may be able to go through the Veterans’ Court system to address their mental health and/or substance abuse issues. Each person is looked at individually and their unique circumstances inspected in order to get a recommendation for the court system alternative. Not every veteran will be eligible or approved, but for those who are, the tremendous opportunity for rehabilitation and help is available.

There are several advantages that veterans have when they qualify to be switched out of the civilian criminal justice system in California and into the veteran’s system. Not only are the sources of their trauma diagnosed and addressed, but there is also an increased ability for full rehabilitation. All of these services are offered to the vet at no charge and the success rate of reintegrating into society to live a fulfilling life after completing the program has been shown to be high. 

Not only does the Veterans’ Court in California provide a way to avoid serving time in jail, but once a program has been completed, the veteran has the ability to have their record expunged of their arrest and charges. This alone can make a huge difference in the vet’s life because they will have many more opportunities made available to them than if they had a criminal record. Continue reading

COVID-19 has changed all of our lives and the way we conduct daily activities. Limitations on store capacity, curfews, and fears of contracting the virus have led more people to do their shopping online. You can go down any street these days and see multiple homes with packages on their front step or porch. Because there has been a marked increase in online ordering, everything from home goods to groceries, there has been a corresponding rise in these packages being stolen.

“Porch piracy” is the term used to label the act of stealing a package off of someone’s porch or the entrance to their home. The theft of packages has gotten the attention of Senator Brian W. Jones who, in response to the issue, put forth Senate Bill 358. This bill would make the penalties for porch piracy much tougher so that individuals tempted to engage in the crime would be dissuaded from doing so.

What are the Current Porch Pirate Laws in California?

According to Senator Jones, current laws are too soft on criminals who steal from others. SB 358 would fix the lenient punishments by replacing them with harsher ones. Right now theft of one’s package from their home is considered a misdemeanor. This classification does not change even in situations in which the offender continues to commit the crime. Under the provisions of SB 358, a first offense will result in a misdemeanor. However, if an individual is arrested in three or more instances for porch piracy over a three year period of time, the charges will be elevated to a felony level.

Going from a misdemeanor to a felony means that the amount of time spent behind bars will be increased. Not only are there more packages being sent to homes, but the law in California treats porch pirates differently than they treat a person who breaks into a home and robs it. This is another reason why there are more offenders who are guilty of committing the crime on a regular basis. Individuals convicted of porch piracy do not fear the California criminal justice system because the penalties are too weak. So, there is no real deterrent for these individuals.

SB 358 has not yet been passed. Currently, the legislation is waiting to be assigned a hearing date.  Continue reading

District Attorneys in Sacramento, Fresno, Kern, and San Diego counties have voiced their displeasure with Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon’s actions on criminal justice reform. Directives that DA Gascon has put forth include getting rid of cash bail and banning sentencing enhancements and re-sentencing for individuals who are facing extended time in prison. Lisa Smittcamp, the Fresno District Attorney, wrote a scathing letter to DA Gascon on January 19 regarding her disagreement with the Los Angeles Attorney General’s measures. There has yet to be a comment from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office about the letter.

Enhancements happen quite often for gang members. When a gang member commits a crime, prosecutors use their association with a gang to increase the time that is added to their sentence. Smittcamp said that eliminating enhancements can lead to more gang violence that will not just affect the city of Los Angeles but also spread across the state. Smittcamp along with the DAs in Sacramento and San Diego have indicated that they will not allow LA County to have any influence over crimes that include their counties.

How District Attorneys Across California are Tackling Criminal Justice Reform

Despite the pushback against the actions that DA Gascon has taken, there are many supporters of his efforts. Backers say that the changes that DA Gascon has made are important and necessary to reverse the trend of substantial incarceration of the population. Additionally, advocates of the changes also indicate that the bail system is unfair and low-income individuals are the hardest hit.

Even though there are several California DAs opposed to the reforms that DA Gascon has taken, that does not mean that they have not also made improvements to address the issues. Smittcamp in Fresno created a Mental Health Court, Drug Court, Veteran’s Court, and Restorative Justice program, along with other systems that are aimed at preventing youth from getting involved in gangs. She said that DAs and prosecutors are putting great emphasis on keeping individuals of color, those who are living in poverty, those who have mental conditions, and others who have drug problems the ability to access support programs. Helping these individuals overcome their personal battles could prevent them from getting tangled up with the California criminal justice system. Continue reading

When a person is incarcerated for a crime in California and they are a parent, there are several different things that can happen. The child may be placed with the other parent, or the child may be placed with another family member. When a relative is not an option, the child may be thrown into the foster care system. The court will look at the specific details of a child’s case and make a determination on what is the best possible action to take for the well-being of the child.

Even though the court’s goal is to place a child in a safe home that will provide for a bright future, that does not always occur. There are over 430,000 children throughout the country in foster care. In the state of California, there are more than 60,000 in the system. According to the research, children who were involved in the foster care system have much higher rates of homelessness and about one-third of the unaccompanied homeless children live in the state of California.

The Impact of Incarceration on Families in California

After an arrest, it is advisable to connect with the most experienced and strategic legal representation possible. When you work with a California criminal defense attorney who has a proven track record of success helping defendants lower their charges, have their charges dropped, and obtain the best results for their legal situation, you will be properly positioned to protect your legal rights. David M. Boertje is a San Diego criminal defense attorney who understands that people facing criminal charges must be provided the very best legal counsel because the aftermath of a conviction can substantially impact a person’s life forever. 

It is vitally important that individuals with minor children to look after stay out of prison whenever possible. Prison time can cause your child to have to go into the foster care system and depending on your case, you may lose your parental rights to your child forever. Even if your child is not put into the foster care system, they may be placed with a family member or the other parent who is not currently serving time. After you are released from jail, your ability to connect with your child can be severely limited and potentially even revoked.

In some situations, keeping a child from their biological parent, if that parent is a danger, is necessary and right. In other situations, a parent may be substantially restricted from having a relationship with their child, and the negative implications for the child can hurt them for the long-term. Working with David M. Boertje, a dedicated and tactical California criminal defense attorney will ensure that you are suitably represented. Continue reading

California has peeping tom laws that protect the privacy of the public. The laws are found under Penal Code 647 (i) and (j) — peeking while loitering and invasion of privacy. If you are charged and convicted for either of these crimes you could be facing jail time and expensive fines. The details of your charges will determine how severe your penalties will be.

To protect yourself and your freedoms when you have been charged with peeping tom crimes in California, connect with David M. Boertje, a California criminal defense attorney who has handled thousands of criminal cases. Our legal team can provide you with a defense strategy to improve your chances of having your case dismissed, to help you obtain a not guilty verdict, have your charges reduced, or obtain a favorable plea bargain.

What are California’s Peeping Tom Laws?

Penal Code 647 (i) defines peeking while loitering, which basically makes it illegal for a person to be on private property and look at individuals who inhabit the property. If you are looking in someone’s window or watching a person in their home through their doorway, you could be arrested for peeking while loitering. When you are on another person’s property without their permission and you are watching them, you will be arrested if you are found out. Even if you are caught lingering on someone’s property and looking into the structure on that property and no one is home, you can still be arrested and charged.

Under Penal Code 647 (j), or invasion of privacy, there are ways that a person can spy on others that are illegal. Engaging in any of the following actions will result in an arrest if you are caught:

  • Making use of equipment to keep watch on a person such as would be the case with binoculars;
  • Putting a camera under someone’s clothes without their permission and taking a picture or a video to appease a sexual need; and/or
  • Using equipment to make a recording or to take a picture of a person while they are in a private space to see their body or their underwear.

Both forms of peeping tom activities are considered misdemeanors and jail time can be as long as six months. Fines can be as high as $1,000. If a person is arrested for peeping tom activities on a minor or if a person is arrested more than once for these unlawful activities jail time increases to up to one year and fines are also raised to $2,000. 

There is also the option of a judge providing for probation in lieu of serving time in jail. When this happens, many times the defendant must pay restitution to their victim, provide for regular progress reports to the court, or a combination of both. It is imperative that the defendant follows the orders of the court to keep probation because if they violate the conditions of their probation the judge will cancel this option and instead the defendant will go to jail. Continue reading

The year 2020 was a volatile one, and now that it has come to an end, there are high hopes for a better and much more stable 2021. Across the country and in the state of California, new laws and regulations are going to take effect. Some of the new legislation is directly influenced by what we experienced during the pandemic. The world’s new normal includes considerations for COVID as well as other potential strains and viruses that could emerge.

What are the New California Laws for 2021?

The following are some of the new 2021 California laws that have taken effect as of January, 2021: 

  • Every employer who finds out that their employees have been exposed to COVID-19 has 24 hours to tell them.
  • Choke holds and carotid holds will not be used by law enforcement and are banned.
  • Parolees who were not able to vote due to their criminal history will now be able to legally vote in California.
  • Any individual serving time for a felony in a California prison who assisted with fighting the wildfires could have their felony charges expunged when they complete their sentence. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis and depends on the details of the crime committed. Those who do have the privilege of expungement will have an increased ability to become a professional firefighter.
  • Companies with greater than 25 employees will have to pay their employees a minimum of $14 per hour, and companies with under 25 employees will have to pay a minimum of $13 per hour.
  • Every California company must hold the jobs of its employees for up to 12 weeks to allow unpaid leave in the event of a childbirth or family emergency.
  • Companies that have headquarters in California and that are publicly held must have a director installed from an “underrepresented community.”
  • Insurance companies must notify their customers about any reduction in coverage and they also must confirm acknowledgment from their customers that they received the updated information. Customers must put their recognition of communications in writing.
  • Automobile brake pads that have more than 5% of copper materials will no longer be manufactured in the state.
  • Hospitals must have a stockpile of three months’ worth of personal protective equipment. Hospitals must also make sure that their healthcare workers use the equipment.

Continue reading

In an effort to minimize the prison population in California and better manage the associated costs, more inmates may be eligible for early parole. Included in this population are nonviolent sex offenders, according to a ruling by the California Supreme Court. The ballot measure, which was approved four years ago, was aimed at non-violent felons. The measure did not include language excluding sex offenders who were charged with non-violent felonies.

While former Gov. Jerry Brown has been an outspoken backer of the initiative, he said that he was not in favor of the measure including those convicted of sex crimes. The lower appeals court ruled that the way the initiative was written, it plainly includes all non-violent felonies including those convicted of sex crimes. When the ruling by the lower appeals court went to the high court, the ruling was upheld.

As a result of the ruling, 20,000 inmates may have the opportunity to gain early parole. Of those 20,000 inmates impacted by the initiative, approximately 50% are individuals serving their time for sex offenses and the other 50% had a previous sex crime conviction but were presently serving time for another crime such as burglary. These numbers were reported by Janice Bellucci the executive director of the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws. The courts indicated that the actual number of inmates who would be eligible for consideration would come to just over 4,000.

Bellucci says this ruling by the lower appeals court and which was maintained by the California Supreme Court is “a significant victory” for individuals convicted of sex crimes in California. Even though the ruling allows for sex offenders to gain consideration for parole, that does not mean a parole board will permit early release for these individuals. Ultimately, the parole board has a wide capacity for which they can determine who is paroled and who is not.

What Legal Defenses Can be Used When Charged With a Sex Crime in California?

When you have been arrested and charged for a sex crime in California, the penalties are high. The stigma of just a sex crime accusation follows a person forever and will negatively affect their life, even when there is no conviction. A conviction has even deeper implications for a person’s ability to sustain to return to a normal life after serving their time. 

It is best to have the most strategic and resourceful California criminal defense attorney representing you when you are arrested and charged with a sex crime. Possible legal defense approaches could include:

  • The alleged victim consented to the act.
  • The alleged victim falsely accused the defendant of committing the act.

Continue reading

Driving while impaired is illegal even if you are being impaired by a legal substance. Those who are 21 years of age and older are legally able to consume alcohol, but if a drunk person gets behind the wheel and an officer suspects that driver to be intoxicated, the officer will pull the driver over. If it is determined that the individual is driving with a blood alcohol concentration that is over the legal limit, which is .08% or higher, the driver will be arrested.

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of any impairing substance, legal or not, you will face charges. California DUI charges are serious, and it is important to protect your legal rights and freedoms by working with an experienced California criminal defense attorney. When you work with a California DUI attorney, you have the best chances of putting forth a strong and persuasive defense.

The Impact of a California DUI Charge

If you have consumed marijuana, which is now legal in the state of California, you can face a drugged driving charge for operating your vehicle while impaired. Even prescription medications and over-the-counter medications that cause side effects not compatible with safe driving can lead to criminal charges in California if their use leads to impaired driving. For example, if you are taking a prescription painkiller or an allergy medication that makes you feel sleepy, and you are driving erratically as a result, you may find yourself in a lot of legal trouble. You could be charged just as if you were driving with an illegal substance in your system.

There are several negative life implications that can result from a California DUI charge. If you are convicted of this crime, there are expensive fines you will be required to pay, in addition to paying for your court costs.

If you caused an accident as a result of driving in an unsafe physical condition, any damages that you caused to another party will be your responsibility. If you need to use your car insurance to pay for those damages, your premiums may increase sharply. Additionally, you could also be responsible for medical costs from injuries that you caused another party. A victim may bring a civil suit against you for additional financial compensation and depending on the nature of your accident you may even have punitive costs put on top of those extra losses that victim suffered. 

Paying money to victims and to the court is not the only penalty you may face. Your record will reflect a DUI conviction which could limit your opportunities at gainful employment or acceptance to learning institutions. You also may have difficulty securing loans or renting a space to live.  Continue reading

If you suspect that you have an outstanding warrant in your name it is best to be proactive and look into it. You may find you have either an outstanding California bench warrant or an outstanding arrest warrant. Either way, should you find that you do have an outstanding warrant in California, the sooner you take action, the higher your chances of reducing the associated penalties you face.

If you need assistance determining your status with respect to a warrant in California, David M. Boertje can help. David M. Boertje is a California criminal defense attorney that can confirm if you actually have a warrant in your name or not. When you have a warrant in your name it is best to have a knowledgeable San Diego criminal defense attorney by your side when you go to court to address the situation.

How Can You Find Out if You Have a Warrant in California?

If you are confused about researching your criminal history to see if a warrant exists or if you want to make sure that a warrant you believe exists is really in your name, you can always work with a San Diego criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney will not only inform you about the existence of your warrant but they will also be able to tell you why you have a warrant and they can find out what your bail amount is. There are other ways that you can look to see if you have an outstanding California warrant including searching either of the following websites:

  • The local sheriff or court
  • Superior Court of California

Another route you can take is to have a background check performed on yourself. Your criminal history, including if you have a warrant will show up on that report. Both a bench and arrest warrant allow the police to put you under arrest if you are found. The difference between the two is that an arrest warrant names you in a crime while a bench warrant is issued when you have violated a court order.

It is important to understand that any police officer has access to information regarding your warrant. This means that it doesn’t matter which local court issued your warrant, an officer that you encounter anywhere in the state of California or in the country can see it. This is because your warrant will show up on the website of the U.S. Department of Justice. Continue reading

The United States offers its people the most freedom and liberty of any country in the world, yet, despite this, the prison population is larger here than in all other countries. For a country that is forward-thinking and home to laws that are not draconian by any means, it does not seem logical that there are so many people incarcerated. In 2016, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that approximately 2.2 million adults were locked away in jail. 

When a person is locked up, many times, they are not serving their time alone. Often, inmates leave behind loved ones that have to also endure the distance apart and manage the emotional toll of the situation. In some instances, the inmate was the sole means of financial support for their loved ones and while they are behind bars, their loved ones suffer that loss. There are several implications that come along with a prison sentence, and the effects are far-reaching. In many instances, a jail term affects more people than just the inmate themselves.

Why are America’s Prison Populations So Big?

America’s struggle with prison reform has gotten more attention in recent years. There are many factors that are being evaluated to determine what the best approach would be when it comes to using prison in a reasonable manner and when the prison is not the right approach to a specific case. There are many reasons why so many people are housed in the U.S. prison system, but the following three issues are the most pervasive:

  • The United States has made a concerted effort to fight the “War on Drugs” for close to 50 years since President Richard Nixon declared it in 1971. Federal dollars were funneled to drug control agencies and assistance was plentiful for other efforts the country made in trying to control the problem. Federal prisons are more than half-full of people serving time simply because they were associated with controlled substances in some capacity. Unfortunately for those individuals jailed because of their addiction, jail is not a remedy nor a cure and these individuals are being immensely underserved by the system.
  • Recidivism rates are high when a criminal record is a permanent blemish on a person’s history that follows them around for the rest of their life. A person with a criminal history has to work much harder to live a lawful life and get ahead because they are significantly limited in their opportunities. It is also a barrier for an ex-con to establish new, healthy relationships with others.
  • Those living at the lowest economic levels are at increased risk for exposure to criminal activity and to engage in criminal activity. For instance, in the United States, if your income level is under the Federal poverty level the risk for violent victimization is more than 50% higher than those that have higher income levels. When urban poverty is assessed, individuals living in these conditions are the most vulnerable to violent aggression as well as overall crime.

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