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Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

On Friday, March 27 a lawsuit was filed in San Diego federal court on behalf of three very young siblings who sustained injuries in a head-on crash on November 12, 2018. The suit is being filed against the children’s mother, who was driving the car while intoxicated.

 

Mayra Alejandra Gonzalez, 30, drove on the wrong side of Camino del Norte and smashed into another vehicle head-on. The driver of the other car was injured as a result of the crash. Gonzalez had a blood alcohol content of .29% after the crash, which is more than three times the legal limit.

 

Her three children sustained significant injuries from the incident. Her 9-month-old daughter was not in the proper child safety seat during the crash, but instead was being held by one of her sisters. When the accident took place she was thrust into the vehicle’s windshield and sustained a skull fracture and brain bleed. The young child still requires a feeding tube. Gonzalez’s two other daughters, aged 2 and 8, had facial injuries.

 

The suit alleges negligence and many other allegations against Gonzalez, San Diego County, and three social workers. The suit claims that the county was negligent in preventing Mayra from continuing to drive drunk, which she had done many times before the November 12th crash. She had a documented history of drunk driving, and social workers employed at the county’s Health and Human Services Agency were aware of her reckless behavior but ignored it, which put the children in immense danger.

 

There were four incidents in which Gonzalez was inebriated when she was driving with at least one of her children as a passenger in the car. Three were crashes that law enforcement and HHSA knew about. A crash in 2015 recorded her BAC at .26% and social workers indicated that services were necessary to assist Gonzalez and protect her children. However, no services or plan was made available and she was not required to attend substance abuse classes or parenting classes.

 

In 2016, she was driving drunk while pregnant and while her 5-year-old daughter was in the car. She caused another DUI crash which resulted in her arrest. She was charged with a felony and was sentenced to  five years of probation. Even though social workers considered her a high risk to the safety of her children, they did nothing to intervene and help.

 

Gonzalez pled guilty to felony child abuse and DUI from the November 12th crash. She is currently serving her 14-year sentence in state prison. 

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There was a call to the Chula Vista Police Department on Sunday, March 29 about a physical fight between a couple in their home. The fight was between a married couple and resulted in the death of the 35-year-old wife. A manhunt ensued for the husband, 37-year-old Francisco Uriarte, who was believed to be on the run in the San Diego area.

Police warned the public that Uriarte was considered to be armed and dangerous. Authorities believed that he was armed with a knife and a gun. According to Chula Vista police Lt. Dan Peak, it was possible that Uriarte may go to a local hospital for medical attention as he likely had severe injuries to his hands.

Reports describe the incident, which took place a bit after 1:30 a.m., as a call to the Chula Vista Police Department for a domestic violence situation. When officers arrived at the Villa Granada Apartments located on Oxford Street east of Broadway, they were met by the couple’s three children. They then found their mother in the apartment unresponsive. 

The authorities indicated that the children witnessed the fight. The children told officers that their father killed their mother. The woman died in the apartment before she was able to be transported to the hospital. The children were not harmed during the fight. Lt. Peak did not confirm the children’s ages and also would not release the name of the deceased woman until her family was notified. 

Domestic Violence in California

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 32.9% of women in California are victims of physical violence at the hands of their intimate partner. There were close to 175,000 incidents of domestic violence-related to calls to authorities in 2007 and many more incidents were not reported. In 40% of the cases reported, weapons were involved.

The two-year period between 2009 and 2011 in California saw an increase in deaths from domestic violence by 11%, even while the state reported a decrease in the homicide rate. Approximately 11.8% of all homicides in the state of California are a result of domestic violence.

Do You Need a Domestic Violence Defense Attorney in California?

Domestic violence charges are serious in California and come with significant consequences. Misdemeanor convictions could land you in jail for up to one year. If you are charged with a felony for domestic violence you could be facing up to two years in prison. The San Diego domestic violence defense attorneys at the Law Offices of David M. Boertje know that the criminal justice system will often rule in favor of the accuser.  Continue reading

An 18-year-old male driving a 2001 blue Mercedes-Benz C320 was carjacked in the Colinas Del Sol community according to reports from the San Diego Police Department. The incident took place during the early morning hours of Sunday, March 15.

The SDPD said that the driver parked their car in the 4200 block of Winona Avenue when the incident happened. An unidentified suspect approached the car and opened the driver’s door. Then he pulled the man out of his car, said SDPD Officer Robert Heims. The suspect then proceeded to walk the victim away from his car. After he removed the victim from the automobile, the suspect got into the car and drove off, southbound on 4200 Winona Avenue.

The incident was reported to have taken place at 3:20 a.m. The victim called the police and identified the suspect as a Hispanic male in either his 20s or 30s who was wearing all dark clothing. The SDPD continues to investigate and is asking anyone who may have information about the crime to call Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

Carjacking Statistics

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), over a nine-year period from 1993-2002, there were approximately 38,000 victims of carjacking during every one of these years. There were approximately 15 murders each year that also involved a car theft, although the murders may have not been directly related to carjacking.

The most carjacking incidents took place during the first five years of the nine-year span. Men were victimized more often than women, blacks more than whites, and Hispanics more than non-Hispanics. Carjacking affected those with lower incomes. Households that made less than $50,000 per year had higher rates of carjacking than those which made more than $50,000.

Many carjackings are conducted under violent terms. Approximately 74% of carjacking incidents involved the use of a weapon. Firearms were the most used, at 45%, while knives were used in 11% of incidents. However, victims were likely to resist the offender. In two-thirds of the carjacking incidents reported the victims fought back. Some chased the offender while others attacked the offender. There were some victims who tried to capture the offender.

Do You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney in California?

If you are arrested and charged with a carjacking in California, Penal Code 215PC indicates that it is a crime to take a car from another by using force or fear. Carjacking is a felony in the state and comes with stiff penalties of serving up to nine years in state prison. If you had a gun, injured the victim, kidnapped someone, or carjacked to benefit a gang, you may be looking at even more prison time. Continue reading

On Thursday, February 27, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department reported that an arrest was made in the hit-and-run case that occurred on Tuesday of that week. A driver hit a 12-year-old boy on a Vista-area street and then fled the scene. The driver was found and arrested in Oceanside at approximately 5:25 p.m. on Wednesday, the day after the pedestrian accident.

The suspect was found at the 3500 block of Windrift Way in Oceanside by deputies who were responding to a tip provided to them through the San Diego County Crime Stoppers hotline. When deputies arrived on the scene they found a 2016 white Toyota sedan that had visible front-end damage. Witnesses to the hit-and-run described similar damages to what deputies saw on the Toyota. After contacting the owner of the vehicle, deputies eventually arrested the person.

The driver was taken to the Vista Detention Facility and booked on suspicion of felony hit-and-run. The identity of the suspect has not been released by authorities.

The alleged hit-and-run accident inflicted serious injuries on the boy. The accident happened at the 1000 block of Mar Vista Drive on the border of Vista around 4:45 p.m. on February 25. After the deputies were called to the scene, an air ambulance took the boy to Rady Children’s Hospital for treatment. The boy suffered leg injuries and abrasions on his face as a result of the crash.

Authorities indicated that the boy was responsive and conscious when they arrived at the scene. Further information on the status of the boy’s health and injuries has not been released.

Are Pedestrian Accidents Common?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 2018 had the most pedestrian deaths on record at 6,283 since 1990. In 2017, there was one pedestrian killed in the United States every 88 minutes. The elderly and young children are at the most risk of pedestrian accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were nearly 129,000 pedestrians that sustained injuries after crashes which required treatment in emergency departments in 2015 alone. 

What Should You do if Charged With a Hit-And-Run in San Diego?

There is no denying how terrifying and traumatic traffic accidents are. If you had the unfortunate experience of hitting a pedestrian while driving and in a panic, you fled the scene, you are in violation of the law in California. California law requires anyone involved in an accident in which property damages and or physical injuries occur to stay at the scene. Failure to do so can result in either a misdemeanor or felony criminal charges. Continue reading

In response to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials serving subpoenas, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department will comply with federal court orders to provide migrant-arrest data. The state of California’s sanctuary state legislation has been fighting to shield this information from going into the hands of ICE. The announcement was made by the Sheriff’s office on Thursday, February 20.

In specific, ICE wanted information on four recent cases in which Mexican nationals who are not authorized to be in the country were arrested. Since California became a sanctuary state ICE has not acted with such force. This is the first time the agency has taken such a proactive and bold move in the state. 

California authorities were not cooperating with federal immigration policy or federal authorities due to the passage of Senate Bill 54 in 2017. SB 54 prevented local law enforcement agencies in California from complying with and enforcing immigration law. According to the sheriff’s department, the change in approach came about because the authorities in the state were “obligated to comply with lawfully issued subpoenas.”

Prior to the subpoenas, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was simply asking for information from the sheriff’s department. San Diego County authorities were not compelled to provide USDHS with that information. The subpoenas changed everything as a federal authority is now forcing authorities in San Diego County to provide the records requested. If the sheriff’s department fails to provide the requested documents they can be punished by contempt of federal court.

The subpoenas are only asking for the information on the suspects. They are not requesting that the individuals in question be transferred to the federal government. ICE maintains that most of the law enforcement officials across the country provide them with information on those arrested who are not in the country legally without any issue. California’s sanctuary policies have made it very difficult for ICE to do their job.

Who are the Four Cases?

The four cases about which ICE seeks to obtain information from San Diego authorities include:

  • A 40-year-old male arrested by the San Diego Police Department for sexual abuse on children under the age of 14. This man also has two DUI convictions and has been deported back to Mexico 11 times. He remains in the US in the county jail.
  • A 42-year-old male arrested for robbery. He also was convicted of methamphetamine possession in 2013. After being granted voluntary departure, the man refused to leave the country. Due to sanctuary laws in the state, he was not held in custody but was instead released into the general population.
  • A 31-year-old male arrested for battery of his spouse and false imprisonment. He also had a prior conviction for possessing false government identification. Deported three times, he was released in the state.
  • A 28-year-old male arrested for assault with great bodily injury, child cruelty, and battery of his spouse. Additionally, he was previously arrested for spousal battery and has been repeatedly deported. He remains in custody.

Similar to the way that ICE is acting in California, similar subpoenas were issued in Connecticut, Denver, and New York. Failure to comply will result in immigration officers seeking a U.S. District Court Order requiring compliance. Continue reading

A 66-year-old San Diego woman has been arrested and for stealing over $300,000 of jewelry in San Diego County and throughout the country since 2008. The woman, identified as Huong Thi Tran pleaded not guilty while in a Vista courtroom on Monday, February 10. Her charges included two grand theft felonies, one burglary charge, coupled with many other charges.

The Escondido Police Department reported that Tran used a sleight-of-hand technique combined with other deceptive tactics to steal jewelry for more than a decade in Southern California, Texas, and Virginia. Brock Arstill, San Diego County Deputy District Attorney said that Tran most recently burglarized the Royal Maui Jewelry Store located on East Via Rancho Parkway. She went into the store and asked to see some bracelets. She bought two but was able to pocket two that had a value of $7,200. The store clerk was able to see the robbery on video after it was realized that jewelry was missing.

Escondido police described multiple other incidents where Tran robbed jewelry stores in California and Texas. She was arrested by San Diego police in City Heights and has bail set at $75,000. Her preliminary hearing is going to be February 25 at 8:45 a.m. 

Grand Theft in San Diego

Grand theft is defined under California’s Penal Code 487. When an individual illegally takes property from another individual and that property has a value of more than $950, grand theft charges may apply. When you have been charged with grand theft it is important that you have experienced and knowledgeable legal representation from a San Diego felony attorney defending your case. Because grand theft is considered a wobbler after the verdict has been made you will be either facing punishment as a felony or a misdemeanor.

Wobbler cases are those where the prosecution determines the classification of the charge as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If you have an inadequate legal defense, you risk being charged with a felony that comes with much stricter penalties. 

  • Misdemeanor charges come with one year in local county jail and may also have a fine of upwards of $1,000.
  • Felony charges will have either one year in local county jail along with felony probation or can come with up to three years in county jail and may also have to pay a fine up to $10,000.

Those that are charged with felony grand theft may also face additional time in jail based on how much the property they stole was worth. 

  • Stolen property over $65,000 one additional year in jail
  • Stolen property over $200,000 two additional years in jail 
  • Stolen property over $1,300,000 three additional years in jail
  • Any property over $3,200,000 four additional years in jail

Defendants that have a criminal record with many offenses are more likely to get the stiffest punishments. 

You can be charged with various types of grand felonies. Grand felony by trick occurs when someone uses deceit or fraud to steal another’s property. In this case, the victim is tricked into transferring the possession of the property but not legal ownership.  Continue reading

Rapper Brandon “Tiny Doo” Duncan and Aaron Harvey are being compensated at the expense of the city of San Diego. According to the L.A. Times, the two men will be paid close to $1.5 million for the emotional damages they suffered during their seven-month jail sentence. This payout comes six years after the two were released from jail and in response to a civil-rights lawsuit they filed. 

Three years ago, the two men took their case to federal court saying their incarceration was improper. Penal Code 182.5 is a gang law that states gang members who know about any crimes that their gang committed will be prosecuted if they benefited from the crime, furthered it, or promoted or assisted it. The law was approved in 2000 and was responsible for sentencing many dozens of alleged gang members in the San Diego region to jail.

Duncan and Harvey claim that their sentencing was due to PC 182.5 and the police had violated their First Amendment free-speech rights. They won their case and on December 10, 2019, it was approved that each man would receive $737,500 as a result.

Supporters of the law believe that it is necessary to tackle the gang problem in the city. Opponents believe it unfairly punishes mostly young men of color whose only crime is being guilty by association.

Duncan and Harvey were implicated along with 15 other alleged gang members for nine shootings between 2013 and 2014. Material evidence was not produced proving that either of the men committed the crimes. Rap lyrics and social media were used to argue that the men were harming the community with gang violence. Both men deny being a part of a gang and have only admitted to being friendly with some gang members. 

When the men were arrested in 2014, Harvey’s bond was $1.1 million while Duncan’s was $500,000. It took seven months for a judge to lower both men’s bonds and during the time leading up to these changes, the men sat in jail.

Mistakes can Happen in Criminal Justice

Imprisonment under false charges or misuse of the law does happen. There are victims who have been wrongly punished for crimes they did not commit. There are also instances in which arrests have been made incorrectly. This is why it is so critically important that when you are arrested for a crime you immediately get in contact with a California criminal defense attorney. David M. Boertje has extensive knowledge of criminal law in California and knows when an injustice has been done. Individuals who are accused of crimes have rights that deserve to be protected. Continue reading

A decades-old murder mystery in San Diego’s Middletown neighborhood may have finally been solved. A man was arrested in New York on Wednesday, January 29 in connection with the murder. Alvaro Espeleta, 28, was found brutally murdered on December 31, 1975. He was found in his home, located on Reynard Way, badly beaten and strangled.

Espeleta was a dental technician with the U.S. Navy and he was working at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. When Espeleta was a no-show at work, two co-workers went to his residence to check on him, and they found his dead body. Investigators scrutinized all leads and never had any luck. The case grew old, but investigators kept it active. After 44 years, modern forensic science and technology along with multiple agencies working together found a suspect and put him in custody.

When Espeleta died, he had a palm print on his body, but it was highly difficult for authorities to determine to whom it belonged. 

Dennis Lepage, 62, was placed under arrest in New York when he had his fingerprints taken for a minor charge. His fingerprints were put through a law enforcement database. A match was found between the palm print on Espeleta’s body and the print from Lepage. The match was made, and Lepage was arrested in Troy, New York in connection with the murder of Alvaro Espeleta. Dennis Lepage would have been only 18 years old when he murdered Espeleta. 

According to NCIS, Lepage was also an active duty Navy Sailor who was living in San Diego. A fellow tenant who lived in the apartment building where the murder of Espeleta occurred said that there were red flags when thinking back to Lepage’s apartment. Lepage’s apartment had carpeting when all other tenants had hardwood flooring. The appearance looked as if there was something that the man was trying to cover up.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office did not provide comment. The San Diego Police Department gave many thanks to the agencies that helped in the case including NCIS, FBI, DA’s Office, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, New York State Police, and Albany County Sheriff’s Department to name a few.

Where to Find a Murder and Homicide Attorney in San Diego

Technology is becoming more and more effective. Crimes that occurred many years ago which went cold are now having new evidence introduced causing present-day arrests. If you are facing a murder or homicide charge, from years ago or presently, you need the assistance of an experienced San Diego murder and homicide defense lawyer.   Continue reading

Police have begun a homicide investigation after the body of a deceased male was found in a downtown San Diego high-rise apartment on Monday, January 20. According to the San Diego Police, officers were called out to the scene at Vantage Pointe apartments in the 1200 block of Ninth Avenue by a security guard who worked at the apartment building along with another individual who found the deceased man’s body in one of the apartment units.

The deceased man was identified by the police as a white man in his late 40s. The man had visible trauma to his body. Police believe that the incident appeared suspicious and then determined that it was in fact a homicide. The authorities are looking for information from the public and are urging anyone who has any details to call Crimestoppers.

Homicide Data in San Diego

According to UCR Crimes by GeoArea, from January to August of 2019 there were 31 murders in San Diego. In 1950, there were 10 recorded murders. By 2018, there were 35 murders. That is a steep jump, but the murders recorded in 2018 were not nearly as high as they were in 1991. In 1991 there were 167 murders.

Between January and June of 2019, there were 5,545 violent crimes in San Diego County. This comes out to approximately 31 violent crimes committed each day during that six-month span. Violent crimes include homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. In the first half of 2018, there were 604 homicides in the city. The good news is that compared with the data from 2009, 2019 had a 19% lower violent crime rate.

In California, capital murder is the most serious charge a person can face. Punishment can include:

  • The death penalty by way of the gas chamber or lethal injection 
  • Life in prison without the possibility of parole

First-degree murder in the state falls under California Penal Code 187, and someone charged could be facing the following:

  • 25 years to life in state prison 
  • Hate crime first-degree murder comes with life in state prison without the possibility of parole 

Capital murder and first-degree murder are charges not to be taken lightly. If you are arrested for either, you are looking at many years in prison, if not the death penalty. There is no room for error when you are facing murder charges in California. The qualified and experienced legal representation from David M. Boertje, a San Diego criminal defense lawyer, will ensure that you have the best defense team on your side protecting your legal rights. Continue reading

On Sunday, January 19, a man struck and killed a pedestrian in Sherman Heights. According to the authorities at the San Diego Police Department, the man fled the scene after he hit the pedestrian, and hit another car before stopping for food. 

Apparently the man stopped at Humberto’s Taco Shop located close to Broadway and 25th Street to grab a meal after he hit the pedestrian. There were photos that showed the suspect eating at Humberto’s. After he finished his meal at the restaurant, he was entering his SUV when two women confronted him. He just sped away.

The pedestrian that lost his life was identified by authorities as Jason Gordon, 41, of San Diego. Gordon’s widow, Katie Gordon, was interviewed on Monday, January 20 on CBS8. A devastated Gordon explained that her husband had a love for life, his daughters, his wife, his friends, and his extended family. The Gordon family was in the process of finding a bigger home near San Diego State University to relocate. An operations manager at Tiffany’s, Jason Gordon was leaving a friend’s party when he was hit and killed.

There has been a GoFundMe page set up for the family. According to reports, Gordon was tragically hit by the SUV and dragged 100 feet on the 1800 block of Market Street. The San Diego Police Department has released a picture of the suspect’s vehicle in an attempt to see if the public can help find the man.

Prevalence of Hit-And-Run Accidents

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, when one person who is a part of a vehicular accident flees the scene, the accident becomes a hit-and-run. Across the United States, anyone who is involved in a crash must stay at the scene. It is unlawful to leave without offering information or aid to other parties in the accident; failing to report the crash is not acceptable. 

Unfortunately, the rates of these accidents that result in death are on the rise. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2015 there were 737,100 hit-and-run accidents, which means that one takes place somewhere in the country every 43 seconds. 2016 had the highest number of fatalities from these accidents at 2,049. 

In California, if you are charged with a hit-and-run you could be facing either a misdemeanor or a felony. The seasoned California hit-and-run defense attorneys at the Law Offices of David M. Boertje know how to fight on behalf of defendants and win. Facing a hit-and-run charge in San Diego or the North County area means that you could have your life significantly altered for the worse. You need effective legal representation to preserve your legal rights. Continue reading

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