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In this ever-increasing digital age, personal privacy and rights continue to controversial topic. In the midst of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s investigation, the District Court of California, at the formal request of the FBI, issued an All Writs Act 1789 order on Apple asking them to code a special iOS to be installed on Farook’s iPhone. The code would allow the FBI to make unlimited guesses at Farook’s password. As Apple makes their iPhones increasingly secure, the FBI is having trouble hacking into iOS data, which is costly and time-consuming.

As a result, the government has tried to co-opt Apple and used the Writ Act to force Apple to collaborate with them. Apple has currently appealed its case, with its CEO Tim Cook issuing a statement that such a code would threaten the security of iPhone owners, and pledging to uphold people’s privacy. In the interim, they have figured out that Apple’s TouchID can be bypassed with people’s fingerprints and/or copies of their fingerprints.

If Apple loses its appeal, those concerned about their security should disable their TouchID and opt for a strong password.

Earlier this week, the Naval base in San Diego received a phone call that specifically threatened one of the buildings on the base. Around 9:15am, someone called in and threatened to bomb Building 36. Around 9:15am, the base posted on its Facebook page that the area had been secured, meaning they did not find evidence of bomb(s). There was a perimeter set up between Pier 3 and Pier 5.

This is the second threat at Naval Base San Diego within two weeks. Previously, a hand-written note sparked an investigation and the evacuation of the pier at 32nd Street and Harbor Drive.

The base is currently not on lockdown. Now the Navy is offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the person who made the fake bomb threat. A spokesperson for the Navy stated that since last November, 11 fake bomb threats have been made.

Chinese New Year may have just passed, but San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón is warning residents in Chinatown about a scam that has popped up every year. The “blessing scam,” which is a scam committed by fortune tellers of all cultures, involves a “psychic” who claims s/he will un-curse someone if the victim is willing to pay up large sums of money or gold.

This world has no shortage of pain, hardships, and heartache. It is fairly easy for these “psychics” to convince their victims that they are cursed. Overall, incidents of the blessing scam, carried out mostly in San Francisco’s Chinatown, have decreased dramatically from 2012, when 47 cases were reported and 10 people were charged with crimes. City officials and law enforcement attribute this decrease to the community outreach and education they have been doing in senior centers in Chinatown. They have been warning people not to fall for scammers asking them for their family heirlooms, valuables, or money.

Fraudulent Fortune Telling vs. ‘Free Speech’

Under California’s Penal Code § 332, fraudulently taking someone’s money or property through: card game tricks (ie. the “three card monte”), betting or gambling, or fraudulent fortune telling is a crime. It is considered a type of theft.

However, the crime of fraudulent fortune telling is difficult to prosecute. Nearly three decades ago in 1985, the California Supreme Court struck down an ordinance banning fortune-telling. As such, ‘genuine’ fortune-telling is protected under the First Amendment of free speech. Since then, a handful other courts in several states (New York included) have since followed suit in response to claims brought by fortune-tellers and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

What does this mean? This means that only fortune telling fraud may be considered a crime.  Generally, the fortune-teller must not legitimately believe in his or her services, and must have the intent to defraud victims of large sums of money/property. In other words, you must have knowingly lied.

Penalties

A violation of CA Penal Code § 332 is the same as with California theft. If you defraud someone of property worth more than $950, it is up to the prosecutor to charge you with either a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment and $1,000. If you defraud someone worth more than $5,000, it is a felony punishable by up to three years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. Continue reading

As the drama unfolded in our neighboring state of Oregon in the course of two months, one cannot help but wonder what laws were and were not violated by the leaders of armed militia occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon. In case you missed it, a man named Ammon Bundy, the son of Cliven Bundy (from the Nevada BLM standoff in 2014) led a group of 30+ armed occupiers to take over a bird refuge in Harney County, Oregon. They refused to leave the Malheur national wildlife refuge since they took over the refuge’s headquarters on January 2, 2016. The militia had taken the stance that they were reclaiming public lands to protest the federal government’s regulations on private cattle grazing (the Bundy family is notorious for grazing their cows on public lands without paying the grazing fees).

Since then, a total of 25 people have been charged with the standoff. The most recent six arrested include: Blaine Cooper of Arizona; Wesley Kjar of Utah; Corey Lequieu of Nevada; Neil Wampler of California, Jason Blomgren of North Carolina, and Darryl Thorn and Eric Flores, both of Washington state. They surrendered to the FBI without incident. Two unnamed occupiers are currently on the run, and being sought. Ammon Bundy was arrested at a traffic stop on January 26, and his father Cliven, was arrested on Thursday. The occupiers themselves all face the same felony count under 18 U.S.C. § 372 – conspiracy to impede with federal workers. It is a felony punishable by six years imprisonment.

Regardless, legal experts say that the armed occupiers would have hefty fines and more than 10 years in jail, if the Department of Justice had decided prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Some of the federal charges they potentially faced include:

A new state law taking effect this new year will require any California city or county that uses the Stingray technology or any other cell-site simulator technology to approve and publish a usage and privacy policy.  The policies would be required amongst other things, to say who is using the equipment, how the data is retained, how the program is monitored, whether information is shared, etc.  The new law also requires this policy to be publicly available, and posted on the city or county website.

However, San Diego has not done so yet. The only thing that has been released, is a one page policy, which privacy groups say falls short of the state’s law. For example, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit group, one of the things missing from SDPD’s policy are details on their data retention plans, and clarifications on whether the SDPD plan to share their data with other departments.

What is Stingray and What Does the Law Say?

Stingray, also known as cell-site simulators, is a technology which locates a cell phone and intercepts calls and text messages. It is a hand held device that acts as a makeshift cell-phone tower.  The device(s) essentially trick cellphones into bouncing their information off the devices instead of cell towers, allowing police to rake in all of the nearby phone numbers and locations.  They also relay contact numbers.

Back in October of 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that requires police get a warrant to use a stingray during criminal investigations. The law, known as the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, would require a search warrant for the police to wiretap or access your cell phones or any digital data. The language of the statute itself is broad, and does not apply to specific technologies. This gives the law the ability to stay relevant as technology also changes.   

It should be noted that California is not the first state to legislate such a requirement. Others states that already have similar laws include Washington, Virginia, Minnesota, and Utah.

Probable Cause

Under the fourth amendment of the constitution, probable cause is required for any warrant to be issued, in order to avoid a search and seizure violation. Probable cause means that there is sufficient reason based upon the facts, that a crime has been committed. Continue reading

A Chipotle restaurant chain in California has been served with a grand jury subpoena as part of a criminal investigation of a norovirus outbreak. The subpoena was granted by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California in an inquiry the office is conducting with the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations. It seeks a broad range of documents which has not been specified to the public.

Back in August 2015, two hundred and seven people, including 18 Chipotle employees, reported falling ill after eating at one of Chipotle’s restaurants in Simi Valley, California. Restaurants in that area typically contact the Ventura County Environmental Health Division as soon as they become aware of food-borne illnesses, but in this case Chipotle did not notify the agency until the restaurant had been closed down, cleaned, and re-opened.  While it does not appear that the California outbreak spread beyond one restaurant, it is unusual for federal enforcement to occur for localized outbreaks.

In recent months, the burrito chain has suffered a series of food-related illnesses amongst customers and employees. Chipotle voluntarily closed 43 restaurants in Washington State and Oregon due to an E. coli outbreak, and another norovirus outbreak occurred in Boston, Massachusetts in December.

With the New year just starting, a lot of new criminal laws will be effective that may affect you.  There have been 807 bills signed into law set to take place in the new year, affecting everything from gun ownership, new regulations on medical marijuana, and health insurance. This blog aims to give you the run-down of the most important laws that may affect you.

Medical Marijuana

In August 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a measure which would allow steep civil fines for marijuana farms that damage the environment by dumping wastewater and chemicals, removing trees, and killing wild animals. It was meant to target illegally operating marijuana farms which are damaging the state’s watershed system in the midst of a historic mega drought.

Expungment can be generally defined as the process of destroying, sealing, or striking out records or information related to criminal charges that affect one’s criminal record. In effect, if you have a criminal record expunged, it is as if it never happened. This means you will no longer have a criminal record and you will have the freedom to not disclose a prior criminal conviction on a job or housing application. There are different kinds of expungements, which will vary depending on the kind of criminal case that you have and the factors that are involved.    

Do I Qualify for an Expungement?

California state law (CA Penal Code § 1203.4) allows one to expunge his or her criminal records for a misdemeanor or felony offense if s/he has successfully completed probation, is not currently charged with a criminal offense, on probation for another offense, or serving a sentence.   

In an attempt to address the ongoing trend of police misconduct and institutional bias, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation last week mandating that California law enforcement agencies collect and make public data on the racial makeup of all those encountered by police.  A.B. 953, was written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) as a response to fatal police shootings of unarmed black men and other people of color. A 2008 study of LAPD data by a Yale researcher found blacks and Latinos were subjected to stops, frisks, searches, and arrests at significantly higher rates than whites, regardless of whether they lived in high-crime neighborhoods.

What A.B. 953 Does

A.B. 953 will amend Sections 13012 and 13519.4 of the California Penal Code. Under the new law, California police must collect data on the people they stop, including perceived race and ethnicity, the reason for the encounter, and the outcome. The state attorney general’s office will determine how the reporting is done and how the data are stored. In addition, police agencies whose officers wear cameras will have to follow rules on storing and using the video so it is not mishandled. The regulations dictate how long video should be kept and how supervisors should use it in investigations.

The SDPD has arrested 6 young suspects ranging from age 18 to 20 allegedly involved in a crime spree throughout Chula Vista that included an attempted homicide, criminal conspiracy, mayhem, home burglaries and stealing from middle school students on the streets on the weekend of June 20.

A 5th and 6th suspect, both 17-year-old Chula Vista residents, was also taken into custody and booked into juvenile hall for attempted homicide and robbery.  However, the San Diego District Attorney’s office is considering charging them as adults as one of them turns 18 this month.  What is more bizarre in this story is that the SDPD is looking for a 7th suspect in this group.  He is wanted on charges of attempted homicide and robbery and at large. The CVPD believes there are more victims out there who have been assaulted or robbed by this group of suspects.

Robbery Charges in California

This story is bizarre, but here is a basic breakdown of all the potential charges this group faces:

  • Assault- is defined as the “application of force” that is harmful to someone.  It is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of $1,000.  This charge is typically brought in addition to charges of battery, or assault with a deadly weapon, which is punishable by a felony of up to 4 years in jail.
  • Robbery- is defined as the act of taking someone else’s property by force or fear.  A 1st degree robbery conviction is punishable by 3-6 years in California state prison and a $10,000 fine.  If there are multiple victims as there are in this case, you will be charged with a different count of robbery for each victim.  Additionally, there are sentencing enhancements in California depending on whether the robbery was committed with a gun, or whether the victim suffered great bodily injury.  This crime also qualifies for California’s 3 Strikes Law.
  • Theft (also called larceny)- is defined as the act of permanently withholding a property owner’s right to property. California distinguishes between petty theft and grand theft.
  • Mayhem- is defined in the California Penal Code as the act of unlawfully disabling/disfiguring, or cutting off the limbs/body parts of a victim.  It is a felony punishable by 2-8 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
  • Criminal Conspiracy– exists when two or more people agree to commit almost any unlawful act.  It is punishable by up to 16 months to 3 years in state prison.
  • Attempted murder- is defined as trying to kill someone. It is a felony, but comes with a sentencing enhancement when committed as part of a criminal gang or with a gun.  These sentencing enhancements add a minimum of 10-15 years to your sentence.

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