On Tuesday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a landmark criminal justice bill into law making California the first state to abolish cash bail in criminal cases. Judges now have the discretion to decide who is released on their own recognizance or who must remain in custody pending trial following an arrest for a criminal offense.

In the past, accused people had to buy their release through a bail bondsman or with cash. Now people will be released with no bail on their own recognizance or under supervised conditions.

Criminal justice reform advocates have long sought an overhaul of the bail process arguing the system was not favorable to the poor and overcrowded jails with defendants accused of minor offenses. Judges must now determine who is a public safety threat or a flight risk when making custody determinations.

Bail Schedule Abolished

Bail in California is set according to a fixed bail schedule. The charge and defendant’s prior criminal record are factors in determining bail amount. The judges were required to set bail according to the schedule. If the accused person could not pay cash bail they hired the services of a bail bonds person who would pay bail for a fee.

New Risk Assessment System to be Established

The new law goes into effect in October 2019. Bail will no longer be determined by schedule; instead judges will use a risk assessment system that is yet to be established. The preliminary framework includes two tracks for determining bail.

The first track is related to people charged with non-violent minor or misdemeanor charges. Considered low to medium risk, these individuals will be released 12 hours after they are arrested and booked and before they see the judge. No cash bail will be imposed. They will be given a future date to appear in court for arraignment and disposition of the case.

The second track is reserved for individuals considered medium to high risk or accused of violent offenses or are repeat offenders. These individuals will remain in custody (jail) until a bail hearing or trial. No bail will be set. Judges will consider the accused person’s criminal history, the nature of the offense (violent or non-violent) charged, and the accused person’s appearance history. If the individual failed to appear in court before, he or she may not receive bail and instead remain in custody until their case is resolved.

The new law, called Senate Bill No. 11 at Chapter 244 can be found here.   Continue reading

Shoplifting, also known as boosting, is the concealment of a store item on a person, in pockets, under clothes, under handbags or other bags and leaving the store without paying for it. Shoplifting is a crime in California. Criminal penalties include a fine, jail time, and a criminal record. The merchant or retailer also starts civil proceedings against a shoplifter – oftentimes at greater intensity than the criminal case – and requires the shoplifter to pay for the item taken and the merchant or retailer’s attorneys fees and court costs.

What are Shoplifting Charges?

Shoplifting charges depend on the value of the item taken. California Penal Code Section 484 refers to shoplifting as theft – carrying away, or otherwise appropriating someone else’s property, with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of that property. The two possible charges are petty theft and theft.

What are Criminal Shoplifting Penalties?

Petty theft charges are reserved for items taken under $950 in value. If the item itself is valued at less than $50, expect an infraction with a fine of up to $250 to resolve the criminal case. An infraction is not a crime and charged at the discretion of the prosecutor. If the prosecutor wishes, shoplifting items worth less than $950 subjects a person to misdemeanor petty theft charges. Misdemeanor petty theft carries with it mandatory fines between $50 and $1000, and up to six months in jail. The most serious shoplifting crime is called grand theft and is reserved for items valued at over $950 and is applied to theft of a firearm. If the item taken was a firearm, jail time between 16 months and two years can be assessed or up to a year of incarceration for all other items and mandatory fines.

What are Civil Shoplifting Penalties?

Merchants and retailers sue the shoplifter immediately after pressing criminal charges. Merchants can receive between $50 and $500 plus the value of the merchandise if it is not recovered in sellable condition as damages. Many merchants and retailers ban the shoplifter from their store or retail establishment for life.

Charged Under California Petty Theft or Grand Theft Laws? Hire a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

California offers pretrial diversion programs for first-time offenders as an alternative to prosecution. Eligibility depends on age and prior criminal record. Criminal charges under the pretrial diversion program are dismissed if the person successfully completes court-mandated programs and conditions within a specified time frame. If you or a loved one is facing felony or misdemeanor petty theft or grand theft, seek legal advice and legal representation from an experienced San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney. Continue reading

Since 1989, 200 people have had their convictions overturned in California because they were wrong. In a major study conducted by UC Berkeley School of Law, researchers found that:

  • California leads the nation in exonerations as defined by the National Registry of Exonerations with 120, surpassing Illinois (110), Texas (100), and New York (100);
  • Since 1989, courts have exonerated or dismissed convictions against 214 Californians. Reasons include official misconduct, insufficient evidence, findings of innocence, ineffective defense, and legal error;
  • The vast majority of these wrongfully convicted individuals served time in state or federal prison before their convictions were thrown out, collectively losing 1,313 years of their freedom;
  • 40% of individuals in the dataset were initially sentenced to 20 years or more in prison, including many who received life, life without parole, or death sentences before their convictions were overturned;
  • African Americans have been wrongfully convicted at a much higher rate than people of other races and that the majority of wrongful convictions occur in just a few counties.

Rampart Police Scandal

In late 1990 the Los Angeles Police Department was involved in widespread police corruption scandal in the Communities Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) anti-gang unit. More than 70 police officers were charged with misconduct. The misconduct included unprovoked shootings and beatings, planting of false evidence, stealing and dealing narcotics, perjury, and obstruction of justice, among other crimes. The UC Berkeley School of Law study also found that:

  • Individuals framed in the Los Angeles Rampart police scandal of the late 1990s account for 25% of the wrongful convictions in the dataset (53 people thus far; news reports estimate the total number of exonerated individuals at greater than 100;)
  • Excluding the Rampart cases, all of which were due to official misconduct, major factors contributing to these wrongful convictions include:
    • perjury or false accusation (42% of the cases);
    • official misconduct by police or prosecutors (39% of cases);
    • mistaken eyewitness ID (26% of cases);
    • inadequate or ineffective defense counsel (19% of cases); and
    • DNA evidence (fewer than 6% of the cases).

This was the final installment of the series DNA Profiling by Law Enforcement in California.

Have You Been Arrested in San Diego, California?

There is no greater injustice than being convicted of a crime you did not commit. If you or someone you know was wrongfully convicted, contact San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer David Boertje to understand your legal rights. Continue reading

This is the fifth post in a continuing series about the use of DNA profiling by law enforcement in California. The focus in this segment is the DNA collection of criminal suspects or people arrested and charged for a crime but not found guilty or have not pled guilty to criminal charges. Check back next week for the final segment of the series about overturning wrongful convictions.

California is often at the forefront of criminal law. A place where it is a clear leader is the collection of DNA samples from criminal suspects. The American criminal law system functions with the assumption that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. While the use of DNA evidence for crime solving is one of the most important tools available to law enforcement, requiring the submission of DNA at the arrest stage reverses the assumption of guilty until proven innocent.

What is an Arrest?

Individuals arrested or taken into police custody and charged with a felony crime are subject to DNA collection in California. An arrest in California is the “taking [of] a person into custody, in a case and in the manner authorized by law.” (California Penal Code Section 834). In practical terms, custody means that the individual is not free to leave when he or she wants.

Adults Arrested for Any Felony Offense are Subject to DNA Collection

Prior to November 3, 2004, adults arrested for murder, voluntary manslaughter, a felony PC 290 sex offense, or an attempt to commit one of those crimes were subject to DNA collection. On January 1, 2009 all that changed. The new law requires all adults arrested for any felony offense to be subject to DNA collection. This also includes any person that is the subject of a “direct file” homicide complaint. The law requires the suspect to submit DNA as part of the criminal case.

When is DNA Collected?

DNA samples of criminal defendants are collected at the booking phase. The booking phase is when identifying information is collected along with fingerprints and photographs and occurs immediately following the arrest and before the person is placed in jail or sees a judge. Continue reading

This is the third post in a series on the use of DNA profiling by law enforcement in California. The focus here is on the DNA collection of juvenile offenders.


Sometimes referred to as “Section 602 proceedings,” after the California law governing delinquency proceedings, juvenile court is not a part of California’s criminal justice system. Instead, juvenile court is considered a civil proceeding where cases get “adjudicated.” Most juvenile offenders are housed in county facilities close to their home where they can keep in contact with their family and have access to social services. These juvenile offenders, depending on their charges, may be required to submit a DNA sample as part of the resolution of their juvenile delinquency case.


Whose DNA Gets Collected?

This is a second post in a series on DNA profiling in California.

DNA fingerprinting or DNA profiling is the process of determining an individual’s DNA characteristics. DNA tests can be performed using a sample of a person’s blood, hair, skin, amniotic fluid, or other tissue to create a unique DNA profile that then gets matched to a specific person. DNA fingerprinting is commonly used as a forensic technique in criminal investigations. At crime scenes, evidence is collected and tested. Once a DNA profile is created, law enforcement looks to match it with other people who may or may not have been at the crime scene. The profile or profiles created can include multiple suspects, the victim, or an unknown person. Through a process of elimination, successful DNA investigations are able to identify the perpetrator and support an arrest and then conviction for a crime.

How is a DNA sample collected?

People are mostly familiar with the buccal smear DNA sample collection process. A cotton swab is rubbed on the inside of the mouth and the saliva is tested to create a unique DNA sample. This process is the most widespread because it is easy to administer and non-invasive. Other methods collect a sample of blood, saliva, semen, vaginal lubrication, and other appropriate fluid or tissue from physical personal items like toothbrush or razor.

Whose DNA Gets Collected?

Until January 1, 2009, only adults arrested and convicted for murder, voluntary manslaughter, a felony PC 290 sex offense, or an attempt to commit one of those crimes, on or after November 3, 2004 were subject to DNA collection. Today, all adults arrested for any felony offense are subject to DNA collection. That includes:

  • All newly convicted felony offenders (adult or juvenile;
  • Persons currently in custody or on probation, parole, or any other supervised release after conviction prior to November 3, 2004; and
  • Anyone currently on probation or any other supervised release for any offense with a prior felony must provide a DNA sample.

(See California Penal Code Sections 295, 296, and 296.1)

When is DNA Collected?

Sample collection is an administrative consequence of a conviction and is the responsibility of law enforcement or the courts to ensure that samples are taken from people in conjunction with their conviction or as soon as possible thereafter. A person must be under the jurisdiction or control of the court, government, or criminal justice system to be subject to the requirement. People in custody, on probation, on parole, or on other release or supervision are affected by this law.

Arsonists and Sexual Offenders

Arsonists and sexual offenders are required to submit their DNA sample as part of the adjudication of their criminal case. DNA samples are collected from arsonists and sexual offenders even if the underlying offense was a misdemeanor.

Check back next week for the next installment of DNA Profiling in California in which we look at how special groups, juveniles, and criminal suspects, are handled. Continue reading

Back in 1989, DNA fingerprinting, commonly known as DNA profiling, was hailed as the 20th century’s most important breakthrough in forensic science. Law enforcement was eager to use the technology to identify and prosecute people accused of committing crimes. Law enforcement has been less eager, however, to exonerate innocent people who are suspects in criminal cases or who were convicted and jailed falsely.

Private organizations like the Innocence Project exclusively represent people who have been wrongfully convicted through DNA testing. The organization, now in its 25th year, has exonerated 513 people to date who spent a combined total of 7,804 years in prison. District Attorneys, like the Brooklyn, New York District Attorney’s Office have set up a Conviction Review Unit tasked with looking into old, questionable convictions. Since its founding in 2014, 24 people have been exonerated.

This series will examine the use of DNA profiling by law enforcement in California. The first post will explore DNA Sample Collection: The Who and When. The second post will probe DNA collection from special groups like juvenile offenders and criminal suspects. The last post will explore wrongful convictions and address how to seek exoneration following a criminal conviction.

What is DNA?

A google search reveals that “DNA is known as deoxyribonucleic acid, is a self-replicating material which is present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosome. [In short], it is the carrier of genetic information.” What?

Let’s try this again. DNA is the material that carries all the information about how a living thing looks and functions. Each piece of information is carried in a different section of the DNA. These sections are called genes. DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is in every living thing. Approximately 99.9% of human DNA sequences are the same in every person. The remaining .01% is different for every person.

What is DNA Fingerprinting or DNA Profiling or DNA Testing?

DNA fingerprinting creates a profile or map of the .01% of a human’s DNA that is different to create a unique identifier specific to an actual person. Keep in mind, with the exception of identical twins, no two people have the same DNA. Thus, a DNA fingerprint is the same as a physical print of human fingers because it creates a unique profile or picture of the person to whom that DNA specimen belongs.

Check back next week for a discussion on DNA Sample Collection and how its used by law enforcement when investigating a crime.

Charged With a Felony in California?

Seek advice and legal representation from an experienced San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney when facing felony charges in California. Available 24/7, the Boertje Law Firm represents clients at any stage of their criminal case. We proudly serve San Diego County, including Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Coronado, El Cajon, Encinitas, Escondido, Fallbrook, Imperial Beach, La Jolla, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, National City, Oceanside, Poway, San Diego, San Marcos, Santee, Spring Valley, and Vista. Whether your need for a criminal defense attorney arises during the pre-arrest investigation stage or the night before a court date, San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney David Boertje is available to talk to you. Call us toll free at (888) 476-0901 or contact us on the web to begin your legal representation. Continue reading

California’s domestic violence laws cover several sections of the Penal Code. At the heart of these laws is a familial or intimate relationship between the parties. The parties can be spouses, former spouses, cohabitants, former cohabitants, or be in an active dating relationship. Many times, the parties share children or one of them has children from a previous relationship.

Domestic Violence Charges

The most common domestic violence charge in California is Penal Code Section 273.5. This criminal offense is charged when an individual inflicts injury on a spouse, cohabitant, parent, or dating partner. When filing charges against a defendant in domestic violence cases, the prosecutor weighs the severity of the conduct and harm to the victim with the other circumstances of the event. The defendant may be charged with assault, if during an argument with his or her partner, he or she throws something at the other and causes an injury. If the object thrown is a mobile telephone that breaks, a charge may be added for domestic violence property damage.

Protective Orders

Victims of domestic violence can apply for emergency protective orders and restraining orders in both civil and criminal court on simple fear of a domestic violence situation. The offending partner may be ordered out of the home and restrained from any communication with the other partner. If there are children, the offending partner’s contact with them may also be prohibited during the pendency of the criminal case. Visitation and custody will be difficult to maintain during the pendency of the criminal action.

Technology and Abuse

New patterns of behavior in domestic violence cases are emerging relating to the use of technology. Many people own smartphones and smart devices at home that enable them to connect to items in the home, even if the person is not in the home. Items like cameras, thermostats, lights, locks, and speakers can be used to harass, monitor, revenge and control a domestic partner. All of these devices create logs of activity and records that are then used to support domestic violence charges.

A PERSON IN A DANGEROUS EMERGENCY SITUATION REQUIRING

IMMEDIATE INTERVENTION SHOULD CALL 911 FOR ASSISTANCE. Continue reading

In mid-June 2018, in a small town in Maryland, the police used a facial recognition program to identify and track down a robbery suspect. Investigators fed an Instagram photo of the suspect into the state’s vast facial recognition system and a match was made. Within minutes the Instagram photo was matched with the robbery suspect’s drivers’ license photo and the suspect’s drivers’ license popped up, providing law enforcement with the suspect’s name and address within minutes.

Increasingly, police departments across the country are using facial recognition programs to solve crimes. The prevalence of smartphone with video capabilities, the SMART connections in homes, and video cameras in private homes and public streets provide constant surveillance. Since these devices capture all activities, now more than ever, crime scenes are full of digital evidence of conversations and actions recorded.

The image of a suspect alone is not enough to identify him or her. In the past, police department released photo of suspect asking the public to provide tips to identify him or her on the news or on their websites. Now, with the image from the crime scene itself, the police can bypass the public completely, and through something as ubiquitous as an Instagram photo, identify the suspect by matching his photos with the state’s facial recognition program.

31 states, including California, use facial recognition programs to identify suspects by running photo of them against the state’s drivers’ license system photos. The technology is so advanced that not too far down the road will be a way to run the check right from a police officer’s body camera, real time, as a suspect is apprehended and taken into custody. Amazon’s Rekognition program, is one such facial recognition program used in California to assist collection of evidence in law enforcement investigations.

Although the use of these technologies raise all kinds of privacy concerns, the benefit to law enforcement, is difficult to discount if a crime is in progress or the identity of the suspect is unknown to investigators. Continue reading

Some criminal cases are not resolved at the end of the jury trial or after a plea has been entered. The defense attorney and state prosecutor can ask the court to reconsider a ruling or address a problem with the trial at the end through various oral and written motions. Some items however, can only be addressed on appeal.

Common Reasons for an Appeal

Just because you are not happy with the result of the criminal case does not mean you have a reason, or basis, to appeal. Common reasons people appeal criminal convictions are as follows:

  • Bad ruling by the judge;
  • Prosecutor failed to turn over evidence;
  • Defense lawyer made a mistake; or
  • Jury returned the wrong verdict.

What is an Appeal?

An appeal is not a new trial. Instead, it is a limited review of a problem with the conviction. No new evidence is introduced, no one testifies, and the case is not retried. Misdemeanor appeals are heard before the Appellate Division of the Superior Court; felony appeals are decided before the California Court of Appeals.

Limited Time Window to Appeal

Once you are convicted of a crime, following a bench or jury trial, you have the right to appeal. There is a strict timeline to file an appeal. You have 30 to 60 days after the conviction to file an appeal. The only exception to this rule are cases in which the defendant receives a death sentence. In California, a death sentence automatically triggers an appellate review.

What if I Pled Guilty?

If the criminal conviction is based on a plea before the trial, many times a condition of the plea agreement is that the criminal defendant waive his or her right to appeal as to the plea and sentence. You may have agreed to waive your right to an appeal if your conviction is based on a guilty plea. Review appellate options with your attorney prior to agreeing to a plea and most certainly after a conviction following bench or jury trial.

Do I Have to Pay an Attorney Again?

Keep in mind that appeals are a new case for the criminal defense attorney. Your original retainer or letter of engagement will not cover an appeal. You will need to enter into a new agreement with a criminal defense lawyer to represent you during the appeal. Continue reading