Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

One of the most memorable lines in the 1995 movie, The Usual Suspects, is, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he did not exist.” I am citing this movie for another reason though, specifically, for its depiction of a police line-up in California. What makes the plot of this movie so entertaining is that the band of criminals meet during a police lineup that unsurprisingly nails the wrong guy to the crime.

Eyewitness identifications or police line-ups are a part of the criminal justice system about which people get upset quite often because of the unreliability of eyewitness identifications and the abuse of process that plagues the system. Police line-ups can be photo line-ups or in-person line-ups, such as the one made famous in the movie.

Senate Bill § 923

Beginning next year, on January 1, 2020, the California Penal Code will be amended pursuant to Senate Bill § 923 to require all police and prosecutors in the state to adopt basic rules for phone line-ups and live (in-person) lineups with eyewitnesses. The exact guidelines are still under development. The California legislature however, defined specific parameters and considerations that must be contained in the new procedures.

The rules created and adopted by California law enforcement and state prosecutors are as follows:

  • As close in time as the crime is committed, ask the eyewitness for a description of the perpetrator first, before showing the eyewitness any photos or people;
  • Prohibit the investigating police officer or detective from knowing who the suspect is or where the suspect is positioned in the line-up, whether photo or in-person;
  • Advise the eyewitness that the suspect may or may not be in the line-up, whether photo or in-person, and that he or she should not feel compelled or obligated to make an identification;
  • Prohibit the investigating police officer or detective from saying something that could influence the eyewitness’s decision; and
  • If the eyewitness is able to make an identification, ask the eyewitness to assess his or her confidence level in the identification, and record the eyewitness’s response word-for-word.

This bill was signed into law by former California governor Jerry Brown and was a part of a series of significant changes to California’s penal code. At the heart of the changes to the line-up procedure is the overwhelming wrongful convictions based on bad eyewitness identifications. By creating a streamlined and uniformed process for conducting police line-ups, the legislature hopes to decrease wrongful convictions based on misidentification of the suspect. Continue reading

An arrest is an undeniably traumatic experience. The simple question, am I free to go, will be answered with an affirmative “no.” Keep in mind that once the police officer starts the arrest process, he or she has probable cause to believe that you have committed a crime. If during the arrest process, you resist arrest, for example, you will receive an additional charge and that charge can stand on its own regardless of whether there is a conviction for the underlying arrest charge.

While you have a constitutional right to disrespect a police officer, if you desire to do so, we advise against it. It complicates the process. Resisting arrest can involve more than physical acts. Spitting on the police officer can support a conviction for resisting arrest, as well.

If you are arrested or taken to a police station:

  • DO tell the police your name and basic identifying information. But nothing else.
  • DO say “I want to remain silent” and “I want to talk to a lawyer.” The police should stop questioning you after that.
  • DO make sure you get your three phone calls within three hours of getting arrested or immediately after being booked. You can call a lawyer, bail bondsman, relative, or any other person. If you have children under 18, you get two additional calls to arrange childcare. Memorize phone numbers ahead of time.
  • DO know the police are recording your calls (except the call with your lawyer).

    If you are arrested or taken to a police station:
  • DON’T give police any information except for your name and basic identifying information.
  • DON’T give police a fake name or your cousin’s name. This may lead to another charge.
  • DON’T give explanations, excuses, or stories about your conduct or the subject of the police investigation. Calmly say, “I want to remain silent” and “I want to talk to a lawyer.”
  • DON’T talk about your case on the phone with anyone. The police might be recording your phone calls (except those to your lawyer).
  • DON’T make any decisions in your case without talking to a lawyer.
  • DON’T discuss your citizenship or immigration status with anyone other than your lawyer.

Continue reading

Most people’s contact with police occurs in their cars. Drivers routinely get stopped and cited for traffic and moving violations. Sometimes people are stopped because their vehicle matches a description of a vehicle of interest in a police investigation, or at a sobriety checkpoint during the holidays, or at the site of a car accident. No matter the occasion for the stop, there are certain behaviors that are acceptable and others that you should avoid. What follows are tips on how to handle a police stop in your car in California.

If you are stopped in your car, DO:

  • DO show your license, registration, and proof of insurance when asked by the police officer if you were driving the vehicle.
  • DO keep your hands on the wheel and let the police officer know what you are doing. For example, “I’m going to reach for my wallet to get my drivers’ license out.”
  • DO say, “I do not consent to a search.”
  • DO sign your ticket if you are given one and asked to sign it. Otherwise, you may be arrested.
  • DO take a breathalyzer and participate in any DUI tests unless you are willing to risk the suspension of your license.
  • DO ask if you can park your car in a safe place or have a licensed driver take it away, if you are arrested, to avoid towing and impoundment fees.

If you are stopped in your car, DO NOT:

  • DO NOT physically resist a search. Say, “I do not consent to a search.”
  • DO NOT refuse to sign a ticket. Remember, you can be arrested for not doing so.
  • DO NOT search for your license or registration until asked. It may look as if you are trying to hide something.
  • DO NOT disrespect the officer. Although you have a constitutional right to do so, it could lead to your arrest.
  • DO NOT attempt to bribe the police.
  • DO NOT play music loudly when the police walk up to your car.
  • DO NOT have any objects hanging from your rearview mirror or dark tinted windows. It may give police a reason to pull you over.

The Boertje Law Firm Fights for You

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in San Diego, you can face either a misdemeanor or felony charge along with heavy fines and years of imprisonment. Contact a qualified San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mitigate penalties today and explain your legal rights and responsibilities. Available 24/7, the Boertje Law Firm represents clients at any stage of the criminal case and for any crime charged — violation, misdemeanor, or felony. Continue reading

Entering a guilty plea in a criminal case goes beyond the pronouncement of the word, “guilty.” What follows is a discussion of the different types of plea options in California examining the implications of invoking each option.

The California Penal Code provides for six possible pleas to an indictment for information. The three most common pleas are “not guilty,” “guilty,” or “no contest.” Less common are a former judgment of a conviction or acquittal of the offense charged, once in jeopardy, and not guilty by reason of insanity. CPC Section 1016. This post will focus on the first three, or the most common pleas.

How Should I Plead?

To determine which plea option is appropriate for your case, carefully consider the recommendation of your criminal defense attorney. Not only does the criminal defense attorney know the court and its practices in your jurisdiction, but he or she will also be able to share insights on how similar cases were resolved.

“Not Guilty” vs. “Guilty”

When you enter a plea of “not guilty” and a plea deal is not accepted or offered, your case goes to trial before the judge or a jury of no more than 12 people. All other plea options, like “guilty” and “no contest” skip the trial and proceed to sentencing.

“Guilty”’

The accused person admits to committing the crime and allows the judge to determine the sentence. The jury trial is skipped when an accused person enters a guilty plea.

“No Contest”

The accused person neither admits or denies guilt, but acknowledges that the evidence is sufficient to convict should the case go to trial. The jury trial is skipped when an accused person enters a “nolo contendere” plea.

The Role of the Criminal Defense Attorney

The criminal defense attorney is often able to obtain a more favorable deal if you decide to accept a plea. A criminal defense attorney is also able to make sure that everything is done properly, and the correct process is utilized to dispose of your case. Lastly, the criminal defense attorney will help you understand the full consequences of a guilty plea in your particular case.

What to do if You are Charged With a Crime in San Diego

Guilty pleas have an impact outside of the courtroom. It is important for accused persons to discuss the benefits of settling a criminal case and understand the impact of a conviction on their employment options, housing opportunities, gun possession licenses, and voting rights. Continue reading

Encounters with police or other law enforcement officials can be scary. Some individuals are treated fairly when questioned or detained by the police, while others are not, and remember their experiences quite negatively. The following will provide some practical information regarding your rights when you interact with the police.

If You are Stopped by a Police Officer

First, understand what a police officer’s job is, regardless of whether your stop is fair or unfair. If the police have reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime or are in the process of committing a crime, then they are required to investigate.

If you are stopped for questioning, DO:

  • Ask the police officer, “Am I free to go?” If the police officer says yes, then you can leave. If the officer says no, ask him or her to explain why he or she is detaining you.
  • Remain silent, as is your right. Say, “I want to remain silent.” Do not start answering questions and then stop. It is best not to answer any questions. You must provide your name, date of birth, and address, but nothing more.
  • Tell the police officer you do not consent to a search. The police officer will search you upon arrest or as part of the investigation into your alleged crime. Nonetheless, you can say, “I do not consent to a search.”

If you are stopped for questioning, DO NOT:

  • Act or speak disrespectfully toward the police officer.
  • Run away or physically resist a “pat-down” or search. Simply say, “I do not consent to a search.” Be aware that you will be searched despite your objection.
  • Lie to the police. When they ask for your name and address, provide your name and address, not your sister’s or cousin’s or made up name. After you provide this basic information, you can remain silent and say, “I want to remain silent.”
  • Discuss your citizenship or immigration status with anyone but your criminal defense lawyer.

Keep in mind that the police are allowed to lie, intimidate, and bluff. Even if you do not strike a police officer while you are being questioned after a stop, spitting on a police officer is an assault and can be charged as resisting arrest, too.

Do Not Go it Alone

Most people with contacts in the criminal justice system are first-time offenders. For many accused people, it may be the first and only criminal case they have in their lifetime. Understanding your rights and the steps involved to resolve a criminal case brings with it peace of mind during a turbulent time for you and your loved ones. Continue reading

This time of year, there is an uptick in muggings, when someone is attacked and robbed in public. It can happen as a person enters his or her home, walks out of a restaurant, steps off the bus, or walks through a mall parking lot. Robbery is the taking of property from another person against his or her will by fear or force. The force may involve a weapon, such as a gun or bat, or physical force, like pushing the victim, punching the victim, or kicking the victim. Robbery in California is considered a serious and violent offense. Almost always charged with a felony, the highest crime classification in the state, individuals convicted of robbery face years in state prison.

Robbery Law in California

Under the California Penal Code at Section 211, anyone who purposefully steals someone else’s property by using force or fear will be convicted of robbery. The use of force can be pushing, hitting, slapping, grabbing, or any non-consensual contact. Fear includes any verbal act, such as threats of harm, conditional threats, and non-verbal threats like lifting up a shirt to show a gun.

An individual can be charged with first-degree robbery in California if the victim is a person performing his or her duties as an operator of a bus, taxi, cable car, street car, or any other vehicle used for the transportation of people for hire; the passengers of such vehicles; people in an inhabited residence; or a person using an ATM. A conviction of first-degree robbery can result in up to nine years in state prison.

Second degree robbery charges will follow if the accused person takes something that does not belong to him or her, in the presence of another person, and without the victim’s consent, and the accused person used force or fear and deprived the victim or owner of personal property. A conviction for second-degree robbery can result in up to five years in state prison. Continue reading

The unauthorized use, or even possession, of someone else’s personal identifying information can result in charges of identity theft. Identity theft is a crime that occurs when someone uses another person’s personal information to pose as the person in order to obtain goods, services, or something of value, like credit.

According to 2018 Identity Fraud: Fraud Enters a New Era of Complexity from Javelin Strategy & Research, in 2017, there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud, a record high that followed a previous record the year before.

A common identity theft scenario might involve calling someone and claiming to be a representative from the bank or IRS. During the call, a person is asked to verify his or her financial and identifying information, like a mailing address, date of birth, bank account number, or social security number. That information is used then, to make unlawful withdrawals from the person’s bank account.

Identity Theft in California

In California, the law against identity theft is found in Penal Code Section 530.5. Under the Penal Code, identity theft is obtaining and using another person’s personal information for an unlawful or fraudulent purpose, as follows:

  • Obtaining and using another person’s information without their consent for an unlawful purpose;
  • Obtaining and using another person’s information without their consent to commit fraud;
  • Selling, transferring or conveying another’s personal information without their consent with the intent to commit fraud, and
  • Selling, transferring or conveying another’s personal information without their consent knowing that the information will be used to commit fraud,

Identity Theft Penalties

Identity theft is a wobbler offense in California. This means that it can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of the offense and the accused person’s criminal history. A misdemeanor conviction will result in up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. A felony conviction will result in up to three years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

Examples of Identity Theft

Examples of identity theft include:

  • Stolen checks;
  • Stolen ATM cards;
  • Fraudulent change of address;
  • Social security number misuse;
  • Passport misuse;
  • Driver license number misuse; and
  • False civil and criminal judgment.

Continue reading

This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would bring the First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, to a vote. The proposed bill would bring criminal justice reform to individuals facing current charges and potentially cut the sentence of individuals currently serving time in federal prison.

Giving Federal Judges Sentencing Discretion

The bill proposes to give federal judges more discretion during the sentencing phase. Nonviolent crimes, particularly drug offenses, would receive shorter prison sentences. Some federal inmates would be placed in prisons closer to their homes – no more than 500 miles – making it easier for families to visit their loved ones.

Offering Rehabilitation Programs to Inmates

The bill seeks to expand prison employment programs so inmates could earn wages while they serve their federal prison sentence. Home confinement would be available for lower-level offenders, reducing the cost of housing non-violent offenders in federal prisons. Some minimum or low-risk offenders would be eligible for early release if they participate in education and rehabilitation programs aimed at reducing recidivism (returning to prison for a new offense once original sentence is served). Lastly, the bill would bar the use of restraints on pregnant inmates during labor.

Introducing Controversial Risk-Assessment System

The bill would set up a risk-assessment system to determine whether an inmate is likely to commit more crimes when released. This measure is controversial because of the high potential for bias, especially against minority communities.

Addressing Sentencing Disparities

The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences for individuals convicted of possession after 2010. The newly proposed bill seeks to apply the same rule to any individuals convicted of crack offenses retroactively, or before the 2010 Act became effective.

Text – S.3649 – 115th Congress (2017-2018): First Step Act

Hire a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney to Petition Court for Early Release

If a loved one is serving time in federal prison for a non-violent drug related offense, contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney to petition the court for early release. Petitions need to be filed in court with participation with the U.S. District Attorney’s office after your loved one completes some rehabilitation programs, or outright if his or her conviction stems from possession of crack prior to 2010. If you currently face drug possession charges, contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney to help reduce your sentence. Continue reading

One of the most shocking revelations when a person is arrested for a crime and is being booked in jail is that they do not have a right to make that one phone call. It seems wrong on many levels because for years you may have seen and heard on television shows and movies that a person can make a call from jail to a family member or friend.

The reality is that there is no constitutional right to use a phone when you are booked into jail. Police departments that permit telephone calls do so as a courtesy. Most if not all of the police departments that permit calls record them.

Nothing is Private

Jails or detention facilities that permit telephone calls record the inmates’ calls. In fact, before an inmate is connected to whomever he or she may be calling, a preliminary recorded message informs both ends of the conversation that the telephone call will be recorded. Despite the clear warning, many inmates still talk about criminal acts, actions, knowledge, or involvement.  

Who is Listening?

Everyone involved in your criminal prosecution has access to and can listen to all of your jailhouse conversations. Whatever information collected that can help the prosecutor convict you will be used against you and shared with the presiding judge in your case. This affects culpability and sentencing. Many times, your attorney, the only person in the equation interested in defending you, will be the last to know you made an incriminating statement to someone else complicating your defense and ability to mitigate any penalties.

Individuals charged with domestic violence, for example, often speak to family members or the complaining partner or spouse, in violation of the no contact order of protection in an effort to pressure the partner or spouse to drop the charges or not appear in court. These activities, if recorded, are most certainly used against the charged individual in the existing case and to support charges of witness tampering or violation of a protective order.

If you are able to make a call from jail, do not discuss your case with anyone but your lawyer.

Hire a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with a crime in California, you can face misdemeanor or felony charges along with heavy fines and years of imprisonment. Contact a qualified and experienced  San Diego criminal defense lawyer who can help you mitigate potential penalties and put a difficult chapter of your life behind you. Continue reading

Prostitution is illegal in the majority of states in America, including California. Often referred to as the “world’s oldest profession,” at its most simple definition, prostitution is the exchange of sex for money. People are divided as to whether prostitution is a victimless crime, as sex workers often endure serious physical, financial, drug, and sexual abuse. Others, especially in states that permit prostitution, like Nevada, argue that it is a job like any other.

California’s Prostitution Laws

Prostitution is the exchange of sex for money or other form of payment. California laws define prostitution as a lewd act requiring physical contact of a sexual nature, sexual conduct, or sexual intercourse between two people. The sex worker is often the person charged with prostitution crimes.

California’s Solicitation Laws

Solicitation is an offer to pay money for sex. The john or client is often the person charged with solicitation crimes.

California’s Pandering Laws

Pandering is the act of arranging a sex act between a sex worker and client for a fee or cut of the amount charged. The panderer is called a pimp or madame and is often charged with pandering crimes.

Defenses to Prostitution Charges

Law enforcement agencies throughout the country set up sting operations to round up prostitutes and their clients. Every couple of months numerous arrests for prostitution and solicitation charges make the media, with over a dozen people arrested in a sting. Individuals charged with prostitution often rely on the defense of entrapment by an undercover police officer if their arrests were part of a sting operation by law enforcement officials.

Minors can no longer be charged with prostitution crimes with the passage of SB 1322, which decriminalized prostitution for individuals under 18. These individuals are instead referred to child welfare services.

Charged With a Prostitution Crime in California?

Prostitution and solicitation crimes are considered nuisance crimes, that lower the standards of a community. They make a big splash because prominent people often get arrested for solicitation. While jail sentences tend to be short, many times the sex workers themselves are repeat offenders, and their penalties increase with each arrest. Pandering charges tend to be felonies and carry long jail terms. If you face prostitution, solicitation, or pandering charges in California, consult a qualified San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mitigate the penalties. Continue reading