DNA plays an important role in crime investigations. From collecting fingerprints to hair follicles and swabs of saliva, DNA is the evidence that can make or break a criminal investigation. Today, we will define DNA, show you how DNA is typically used in criminal cases, the new technology surrounding DNA, and discuss whether DNA testing is always accurate. 

What is DNA?

Simply put, DNA is a blueprint or guide of cellular structures that create the genetic makeup of a person and reveal their identity.

How is DNA Used in Criminal Cases?

DNA is used in criminal cases to hold a person accountable for a crime and is typically used in these types of matters: 

According to a report in NBC 7 San Diego News, in violent crimes involving handguns, investigators and analysts are now able to use ammunition or shell casings to obtain DNA and link suspects to crimes.

DNA Technology

DNA is more advanced than it was even five years ago. In fact, DNA is so advanced now that gel is being used to prevent theft crimes. According to an article in Today, more than 5 million thefts occur each year in the United States.

Now a technology company is helping homeowners and renters by offering an anti-theft kit. The anti-theft kit allows homeowners and renters to take matters into their own hands by using gel to protect their property in the event a burglary occurs.

With the rise of thefts in San Diego, because of Proposition 47, we can expect for this gel technology to become more commonly used, especially since over 5,000 police departments have partnered with the DNA technology company.

Is DNA Testing Always Accurate or Reliable?

Of course not.

DNA mishaps is the primary reason why criminal defense attorneys make it a point to challenge DNA to represent their client. Many factors affect DNA testing, including:

  • Contamination.
  • Human error.
  • Chain of custody errors.

Under certain circumstances, DNA can be deemed inadmissible or is not allowed to be used as evidence in a criminal trial, under the California Evidence Code.

With these challenges, an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will be able to use the DNA against the prosecution to prove their client’s innocence.  Continue reading

Vandalism is an act that most people attribute to children. Unfortunately, it is an act that is performed by minors and adults all too often in San Diego. Vandalism is a serious, intolerable crime in California.

What is Vandalism? 

Penal Code 594 PC defines the act of vandalism. California law states that every person who maliciously commits any of the following acts with respect to any real or personal property not his or her own, in cases other than those specified by state law is guilty of vandalism:

  • Defaces with graffiti or other inscribed material.
  • Damages.
  • Destroys.

Examples of Vandalism in San Diego 

An ongoing report of vandalism includes BB gun vandalism where the suspects are firing BB gun pellets causing damage to vehicle windows and store windows in San Diego. 

Another instance of vandalism includes a recent closing of the Allied Gardens Pool, a San Diego city pool, due to someone throwing glass bottles over the fence and shattering the glass in and around the pool of the swim center.

San Diego Police is investigating a hate crime after graffiti included racist language spray-painted on the garage doors of two homes in University City, according to a CBS News story

Scooter Tampering is a Crime 

A final example of vandalism includes an article in the San Diego Community Newspaper Group reporting evidence of scooter tampering in Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach. The suspects are cutting brake lines on scooters. 

As of July 24, 2019, San Diego Police Department says there have been no other vandalism reports filed regarding brake tapering. Cutting brake lines on scooters is a crime. The San Diego police states that a misdemeanor or felony will follow depending on the amount of damage caused. 

Penalties for Vandalism in San Diego

The California Penal Code also spells out the penalties for vandalism. The penalties for vandalism depend on the value of the destruction. For example:

  • If the destruction is $400 or more, a person may receive between one and three years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000 or more depending upon the level of damage.
  • If the destruction is less than $400, the person may receive less than a year in a San Diego County jail for the misdemeanor and a fine no more than $1,000.
  • If the destruction is less than $400, with a previous conviction of vandalism or graffiti, the person may receive no more than one year in a county jail and a fine of no more than $5,000. 

Continue reading

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and National Interagency Fire Center, the 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season in California. While these types of fires are natural disasters, there are times when fires happen on purpose through an act of arson.  

 What is an Act of Arson?

Arson is a criminal act of unlawfully and intentionally setting fire to any property. California law states that a person is guilty of arson when he or she willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of any structure, forest land, or property.

Examples of Arson

Acts of arson occur each day in San Diego and they are fairly common. Here are two examples of what the act of arson looks like:

  • A San Diego jury finding a transient guilty of murder by arson on July 20, 2019, according to an article by Herald-Mail Media.
  • The Cocos Fire in San Marcos in 2014, where a 14-year-old intentionally started a fire that destroyed 36 homes and caused $10.4 million in damage, according to a report by NBC News.  

Why do People Commit Arson Crimes?

The reasons why people commit arson are often left unexplained. Research suggests that the main reason why people commit arson is to profit. These people are looking to collect on an insurance policy and use the money for their own financial gain. According to a psychologist, anger is also a motivating factor behind arsons, particularly in California.

If I am Arrested for Arson, What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove?

If you get arrested for suspicion of committing an act of arson in San Diego, contact an experienced San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney with successful results in representing those involved in criminal matters.

It is difficult for the prosecution to prove that someone actually committed an act of arson. Arsons are difficult to prove because they are not obvious as to who or what caused the fire to start —  it could be a lit cigarette, a blown fuse or an electrical issue.

According to Cal Fire, San Diego brush fires are usually caused by accident. Just because someone walks away from or is near the place where a fire originates does not mean the person committed the act of arson. For a prosecutor to get a conviction of arson, he or she must prove not only that the defendant set the property, structure, forest or land on fire, but that the defendant’s act was willful and malicious.

This means that an act of arson must be committed on purpose with the intention of harming someone, injuring someone, or damaging property. Until the prosecution can bring evidence to prove the act, they do not have a case. 

In the Event You are Convicted of Arson, You Must Take This Step

California law, particularly Penal Code Section 457.1(a), requires a person convicted of arson to register with local law enforcement as a registered arson offender for the rest of his or her life. The person must update his or her contact or location records with law enforcement as well. This information is collected in an arson registry database maintained by the San Diego Metro Arson Task Force. Continue reading

Domestic violence is a problem that occurs far too often in San Diego. According to the San Diego Domestic Violence Council, 17,000 domestic violence incidents are reported to law enforcement in San Diego County each year. When people think of domestic violence, they usually imagine a dispute between a couple. Unfortunately, domestic violence is not an act that solely happens between couples, it happens between families – siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, even in-laws. Domestic violence not only affects the adults in the situation, domestic violence also negatively impacts the children.

What is Domestic Violence? 

Domestic violence is a violent crime that occurs when a person imposes abuse or harm to another, be it a family member or partner. California Penal Code 13700(b) defines domestic violence as abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship. 

Abuse means to intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, or placing another in a position to cause serious bodily injury to himself or another person.

Example of Family Domestic Violence Among Family

A perfect example of family domestic is a July 23, 2019, story in NBC 7 News San Diego. The story discusses three adults being charged due to a family fight while at Disneyland. Children were screaming and witnesses helped to break up the fight.

A man is accused of attacking his sister, brother-in-law and girlfriend and endangering children who were with the family. The altercation was seen by several witnesses and bystanders. The man is facing felony counts of domestic battery, assault, criminal threats and child endangerment while the other family members are facing misdemeanor charges.

Handling a Domestic Violence Accusation

If you are being accused of domestic violence, here are some ways you can protect yourself:

  • Gather evidence in your favor. Written statements, text messages, emails, and photos will help to show the status of your relationship with your accuser. If your criminal history is clean, get a report. This way, no one will be able to establish this pattern of behavior.
  •  Maintain your distance.  Avoid contact and communication with your accuser. If you must talk to him or her, take note of any and all communications with the accuser. This means, if you talk to the accuser on the phone, record the conversation. Otherwise, communicate through text message or email.
  • Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney. Do not pursue the accusation alone. Domestic violence accusations are emotional and can take a toll on your well-being. Discuss the accusation with a knowledgeable criminal attorney in your area. The attorney will establish a defense and help you navigate the procedures concerning the case.

Continue reading

If you are driving along San Diego’s highways, you are familiar with the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. These lanes are commonly referred to as carpool lanes or diamond lanes. The purpose of these lanes is to minimize traffic congestion and encourage ridesharing to reduce the rider capacity on San Diego roads.  With the benefit of these lanes, comes rules and regulations. The misuse of these lanes results in traffic violations, meaning punishments such as tickets, fines, and court fees. 

According to a recent NBC News San Diego report, HOV lane violations have tripled over the last three years. For example, in San Diego County alone, there were 4,547 HOV traffic violations in 2017.  

California Law on HOV Lanes

A portion of California Vehicle Code Section 21655.5 (b) states:

A person shall not drive a vehicle upon those lanes except in conformity with the instructions imparted by the official traffic control devices. A motorcycle, a mass transit vehicle, a blood transport vehicle that is clearly and identifiably marked as such on all sides of the vehicle, or a paratransit vehicle that is clearly and identifiably marked on all sides of the vehicle with the name of the paratransit provider may be operated upon those exclusive or preferential use lanes unless specifically prohibited by a traffic control device.

Can Everyone Use the HOV Lane in San Diego?

Unfortunately, no. According to Caltrans, San Diego reserves HOV lanes during operational hours for the following:

  • Motorcycles
  • Mass Transits (buses)
  • Vehicles with two or more occupants
  • Certain plug-in hybrid, alternative fuel and clean air vehicles (must have red decal issued by DMV)

In San Diego, I-5 San Ysidro requires three or more persons per vehicle.

Who is an Occupant?

Please keep in mind that Caltrans identifies an occupant as any person who occupies a safety restraint device such as a seatbelt. This means that if a dog rides in your vehicle, you will not be able to use the HOV lane.

Other situations where drivers cannot use the HOV lane include the recent ABC News article where a Nevada hearse driver was pulled over for traveling in the HOV lane carrying a body. The driver believed that the body would count as two people. And, a report where Brea Police caught a driver using a mannequin to drive in the HOV lane a few years ago.

HOV Traffic Violation Punishments

If you violate the California Vehicle Code by driving illegally in the HOV or carpool lane, the violation can be costly. You may receive a traffic ticket and face the following punishments:

  • Fines – minimum of $490
  • Points on your driver’s license
  • Increase in car insurance premiums

If you are a repeat offender, the fines could be much higher.

Let a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney Help with Your HOV Traffic Ticket

While there is no obligation to hire a criminal defense attorney to help with your ticket, if you receive a ticket for an HOV violation, you should discuss your case with an attorney and discover your options. An attorney may be able to help get your ticket dismissed, get the fines reduced, or make it possible for you to do community service or traffic school in order as an alternative. Continue reading

A shoplifting charge is a serious crime in California, whether it is your first offense or your fifth. Now that you and your friend are facing shoplifting charges, you probably think you will get off without any trouble since it is your first time. This is not true. And as a result, you attempt to handle the petty theft charge on your own. 

Without a criminal defense attorney providing representation for you, you place limits on your options – meaning the court is less likely to listen to your side of the story, and you may receive unfair treatment as you go through the criminal process.

If you and your friend are facing charges for a petty theft crime, you should immediately hire a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in shoplifting and petty theft.

What Exactly is Shoplifting? 

California law describes shoplifting as a theft by larceny. This happens when you take someone’s else’s property, without their permission, with the intention of permanently depriving them.

Below are some examples of shoplifting:

  • The San Diego shoplifting ring in which 22 people were stealing more than $20 million in merchandise from U.S. high-end malls to sell the items in Mexico.
  •  A KTLA news report showing California women stealing laundry detergent and toiletries at Dollar General, and being confronted by a store employee.

How can the Prosecutor Prove My Shoplifting Charge?

To prove shoplifting, under California law, the prosecutor must establish the following elements:

  • You took possession of property owned by someone else;
  • You entered a commercial establishment with intent to commit the crime;
  • The establishment is open during regular business hours; and
  • The value of the property stolen is more than $950

Penalties for Shoplifting

Shoplifting is a misdemeanor charge. According to California Penal Code Section 490.5, the misdemeanor results in the following penalties:

  • Three years of informal probation
  • Six months or less in a county jail
  • A fine up to $1000

First-Time Offender Programs

Since you and your friend are first-time offenders, you may qualify for the California petty theft diversion program, or your attorney may be able to get your charge reduced. 

The diversion program is a program that allows an offender to avoid punishment for the alleged crime, upon successful completion of the program. The program may take six months or longer to complete and may include:

  • Counseling
  • Community service
  • Behavior modification
  • Classes

The program is a great alternative for you and your friend to look into with your attorney. Eligibility depends on your age and prior criminal record.

New California Diversion Program Allows Victims to Confront Offenders

KUSI News reports that state officials are experimenting with a new diversion program that allows victims to confront offenders. The program will pair victims and offenders before they are convicted, and offenders who complete the program can avoid having a criminal record.

The state-funded program is targeting offenders who do not have extensive criminal histories, but who have committed serious crimes. This is important for you to know just in case you are a part of the new diversion program. Continue reading

San Diego has a new regulation that went into effect on July 1. The San Diego City Council put new regulations in place for scooters and bikes – sometimes referred to as dockless devices – to increase the safety of the public. Now, dockless bike and scooter riders must keep an eye on their speed in certain areas and stay informed of the parking locations where dockless bikes and scooters are accepted or face traffic tickets from law enforcement. 

The Dockless Scooter and Bike Regulations do the following:

  • Limit riders’ speed to 8 miles per hour on beach boardwalks
  • Limit riders’ seed to 3 miles per hour in high-traffic areas
  • Ban scooters from parking at hospitals, schools and certain parks
  • Prohibit scooters from riding on sidewalks in the City

Additionally, the regulations:

  • Require scooter companies to pay a permit fee of more than $5,000 every six months, including a $150 per device fee
  • Create designated scooter parking corrals (stenciled zones where riders can park bikes and scooters) so they do not block pathways on sidewalks
  • Require riders to stage scooters in groups of no more than four
  • Require riders to place 40 feet between each staging area

For your information, the City of San Diego offers a map showing the areas with speed and parking restrictions. To prevent people from violating the regulations, riders will receive notifications from the dockless bike and scooter companies letting them know when they are in no-ride zones.

Although some people are not in favor of the regulations, they can help to prevent accidents on sidewalks. Just this year, the first known scooter fatality in San Diego occurred — a tourist was riding a scooter on the sidewalk when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed, suffering fatal head injuries. The report states that the tourist was not wearing a helmet.

New Dockless Scooter Regulations Enforced by the San Diego Police Department

Yes, with the new regulations, you can get a ticket and face fines for violations. The San Diego Municipal Code and California Vehicle Code explain the laws pertaining to scooters and bicycles. These laws are enforceable by the San Diego Police Department. The new regulation will allow riders and dockless device users to report dangerous behaviors and consider mechanisms for citations.

According to a Fox 5 News article, San Diego Police Department say they will be diligent in enforcing more serious traffic violations such as riding two people to a scooter or riding while under the influence. Both violations come with traffic tickets which require riders to go to traffic court or traffic school. Continue reading

California is already known for having the toughest gun control laws in the United States. With Proposition 63, the rule requiring background checks for ammo purchases, taking effect on July 1, 2019, the state takes another step toward regulating gun laws. Michael Schwartz, Executive Director of the San Diego Gun Owners PAC, believes the new law will lead criminals to conspire or team up with people out of state to supply bullets for their guns. This could result in more guns and crime in California, but the Safety for All Act of 2016 still seeks to prevent this from happening. 

The Safety for All Act of 2016

The Proposition, known as the Safety for All Act of 2016, will:

  • Keep guns and ammunition out of the hands of those prohibited by law from possessing them;
  • Require background checks for ammunition;
  • Ensure vendors report lost or missing ammunition;
  • Make sure the state shares information with federal agencies concerning who cannot have guns;
  • Report lost or stolen guns to the police;
  • Require people to give up their firearms when convicted;
  • Ban military-style ammunition magazines; and
  • Take guns out of the hands of those who steal them.

Finally, this law also means that those who sell ammo must register for a license to do so. This law now makes the sale of ammo and magazines similar to the regulation of gun sales.

No, You Cannot Buy Ammo Outside of California and Bring it Back

Citizens of California cannot buy ammo out of state and bring it back. In an article from 10 News San Diego Mr. Schwartz states, “If you’re Californian, and you go out of state to get ammunition and bring it back into the State of California, you’ve just broken the law. But if you live in another state, you can bring as much ammunition as you want into the state and give it to anybody in California that you like.”

Proposition 63 Divides Californians

As you know, those who oppose Proposition 63 and those in favor of the law stand on opposite sides of the fence and are in a constant battle when it comes to California’s regulations of guns and ammo. Some argue the law will fuel an underground market for criminals. Others, like Ron Markus, the spokesperson for San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention, say the law will provide more checks and balances so the state has a better idea of to whom ammo is sold. 

Regardless of what side of the fence you are on, if you find yourself in a violent crime situation involving a firearm, you need a qualified criminal lawyer to protect your freedom.  Continue reading

The story of Stephon Clark has been heard around the world. Unarmed and on his grandmother’s property, Clark was shot eight times and killed one night in Sacramento. The police mistook the glow on his cell phone for the muzzle flash of a gun. In March the County District Attorney and the State Attorney General declined to prosecute the officers, causing massive protest demonstrations for days. 

California’s History of Use of Deadly Force 

For 147 years, California use of deadly force statutes have allowed police officers to use deadly force when arresting persons charged with felonies and who are fleeing from justice or resisting arrest. In 1989, the statute was replaced by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that lethal use of force is justified against a suspect if a “reasonable” police officer would have acted the same way in a similar situation. The change, however, was not codified.

Under a Bill before the State Assembly, that threshold would rise. A police officer would be justified in using lethal force only if it were determined to be “necessary” to defend against imminent death or severe harm. Unsurprisingly, California law enforcement organizations are campaigning to codify the 1989 standard, stressing that suspects should cooperate, then complain.

For the past year, criminal justice reforms in California have entered into effect at whiplash speeds. From eliminating cash bail to suspending the death penalty, the reforms have been first in the nation and an attempt to look at who gets most impacted by the enforcement of the state’s laws, the poor, and minorities.

Increasingly, law enforcement’s stance on the issue is losing credibility. With the advent of police cameras, street cameras, and even bystander cameras, many questionably deadly shootings have been dissected to the point that even when suspects cooperate and do not complain, they lose their lives.

The bill is not cheap. To support the aims, training specifically on how to de-escalate a police incident would need to be provided to California’s approximately 500 law enforcement agencies with thousands of personnel statewide.

Community policing will continue to be under scrutiny when the same individuals get targeted for apprehension on minor infractions and end up dead at the end of the encounter. To become law, the Bill has to be passed by the state Senate and signed by the Governor. Continue reading

Last year, San Diego had the lowest violent crime rates in four decades. According to a study conducted by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), however, homicides were up. This violent crime remained steady from 2017 to 2018 and is on-trend with the rest of the country.

In San Diego County alone, there were 87 homicides in 2018, seven more than in 2017. With the rate of homicide remaining steady in San Diego, there are many reasons or motives as to why homicides are happening. Today, we will explore those reasons, but first we need to see what California law says about homicide.

Homicide Defined in California

The California Penal Code Chapter 1 discusses homicide. CA Penal Code 187 defines murder as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. A homicide includes murder – the most aggravated type of homicide. Malice aforethought means the act of killing was intentional.

Motive Matters in Homicide Cases

While the act of killing must be intentional for homicide, motive typically explains why homicide was committed. Motive is not the same as intent but it matters in homicide cases such as in the example below:

An article in the Morning Call reports that a hearing in San Diego cop-killing death penalty case is set to start on Monday, June 24, 2019. The case involves a man being charged with murder with a special-circumstance allegation of killing a peace officer, attempted murder, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The prosecutor will begin presenting evidence that the man performed the act of shooting. The defense is expected to argue that the evidence falls short of proving the man pulled the trigger that night. The man could face the death penalty if he is convicted of murdering a police officer.

Sometimes it can be difficult to prove motive and intent. This is why in violent crime cases, the parties’ arguments include reasons why the crime was committed (motive) and also seek to prove whether the crime was meant to be committed (intent). 

Common Homicide Motives Revealed

SANDAG reports that in 2018, motive could be determined for 64 of 87 of the homicides by the time of publishing their May 2019 report. Below are common motives for homicide, according to SANDAG’s report:

  • Argument (45%)
  • Domestic Violence (16%)
  • Gang-Related (13%)
  • Robbery (6%)
  • Drugs (6%)

The other 14% included one each related to child abuse, financial gain, alcohol, and four that were not specified. 

Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

If you or someone you know in the San Diego or Southern California area is facing homicide and murder charges, contact David Boertje, a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer. Mr. Boertje is an experienced murder and criminal defense attorney and has been practicing criminal defense in San Diego County since 2003. He has successfully handled hundreds of criminal cases. Continue reading