If you have been accused of criminal negligence, you likely are experiencing a range of emotions. While you may have anger or regrets about what occurred that may have led to another person’s suffering or death, those feelings are poised right next to feelings of fear and anxiety about how criminal negligence charges could impact your future.   

What Constitutes Criminal Negligence?

When charging criminal negligence, a prosecutor must prove that a defendant’s actions were so reckless that they resulted in serious injury or death to someone, that the defendant exhibited a callous disregard for another person’s well-being, and that any reasonable person in the same situation would have known better and behaved differently to avoid harm or death to another person. Criminal charges may be filed to address egregious missteps that result in horrific injuries or death. These charges occur across many areas:

  • Charges of criminal negligence might be brought against a medical professional or caregiver who allegedly administers a lethal dose of medication to a patient, who over-prescribes opiates, who neglects to respond appropriately to a patient’s complaints, who makes surgical errors, or who is connected to any number of medical mishaps.
  • Parents whose decisions lead to harm or death of someone could lead to these charges. A parent who leaves a child in a hot car could be charged with criminal negligence, for example. Likewise, adults who leave a loaded gun out where children can access it could face charges if the children’s use of the weapon leads to injuries or fatalities.
  • A driver who causes a collision due to texting while behind the wheel might be charged with criminal negligence. The same goes for a driver who speeds through a school zone.
  • If someone brings an aggressive dog with a history of biting to an off-leash park and that dog attacks someone, they could be criminally charged.
  • A company that knowingly ignores safety guidelines issued by OSHA, particularly if a previous warning has been issued, may face criminal negligence charges.


While every case of criminal negligence is different, a guilty verdict can result in an array of penalties, including probation, a prison sentence, significant fines, restitution to the victim, loss of privileges (such as the ability to drive or to own a firearm), community service, and more. The other consequences could include job loss, family alienation, rehousing, depression, anxiety, and significant changes to the future you may have been planning on. Continue reading

Anyone who has ever been charged with a crime knows that, more often than not, the case is settled long before it goes to trial. According to Pew Research, only two out of every 100 federal criminal cases make it that far. In 90% of these cases, people pleaded guilty, likely in exchange for lesser charges, and the charges are dropped in the remaining eight percent of federal cases. State cases are tried with more frequency, though still only at a rate of about 5% to 10%. All these statistics are the reality for the majority of people charged with a crime. But what about those who do go to trial? What can be expected? 

The Narrative

For starters, defendants can expect the prosecution to present a narrative with a particular theme highlighting the character flaws of the alleged criminal. Greed, indifference, callousness, negligence — these are all characteristics that could be nailed onto the defendant to win the jury over to the prosecution’s way of seeing the evidence. 

On television, confidential informants (CIs) help to put the bad guys behind bars, right? Except that, even Hollywood sometimes depicts these individuals as self-serving criminals who are willing to say and do whatever it takes to secure a better deal for themselves and their own legal hassles. And since the use of these informants is basically unregulated by courts, law enforcement has free reign as they wheel and deal in order to “prove” their cases and nab their suspects. 

False Testimony 

The incentive to lie is indisputable in most cases because CIs generally work under a give-and-take agreement: information is exchanged for benefits—like perhaps some assistance with their own legal perils. If an informant can significantly reduce their own time behind bars by giving investigators the juice they are looking for, why not? If law enforcement does not validate information by corroborating with another trustworthy source who is not getting a benefit for the testimony, why wouldn’t an informant who could use a little good luck, or one who battles addictions or other mental health issues, make a deal to improve their circumstances even if they have to embellish a little bit?

When you are in pain, you want relief — period. For many, that means turning to opioids, and in some cases, patients ask for additional prescriptions down the road. And as we all know, sometimes people get addicted, and the outcomes are horrible. Prescribing doctors have been blamed for the opioid crisis for years now, but the U. S. Supreme Court recently found that it is time to reconsider where that blame is placed. 

The Very Real Drug Crisis 

The number of deaths related to drug overdoses has been rising steadily for decades, with well over 80,000 fatalities related to both prescription and illicit opioids in 2021, according to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Roughly eight in ten heroin users say they previously used prescription opioids, indicating that the first step to addiction often occurs with a prescription. The link between prescriptions and illegal drug use is palpable; heroin, which is similar chemically to prescription opioids, is simply cheaper and easier to obtain than prescriptions are in many cases. Undoubtedly, the misuse of opioid prescriptions—taking them in ways other than prescribed, taking the medications that were prescribed to someone else, or taking medications just to get high rather than for the intended purpose—is definitely one factor that leads to the use of heroin or other illicit drugs.

While the death penalty has not been used since 2006 in the state of California, it does not mean that, under certain circumstances, the sentence is not available to judges and juries. The facts surrounding state-sponsored execution include a number of realities of which many people may not be aware—despite the fact that the majority of the public favors capital punishment. 

Death Row in California

For more than 700 inmates in the state of California, the death penalty hangs over their lives as a constant possibility. In recent decades the number of these prisoners has increased by 28%, indicating that it is still a preferred option for juries, despite the fact that executions have been held up in the current political and legal climate. Interestingly, more inmates on death row die of natural causes or from suicide than by execution in California, with only 15 of 135 death row deaths occurring as a result of execution since 1978.

When there are questions about the veracity of conclusions in a court case, it is reassuring to have forensic evidence to support inferences and assumptions, isn’t it? After all, there is no arguing with science! Actually, it may surprise you to know that researchers have found plenty to question about scientific conclusions in general and forensic evidence in particular. 

The Question of Context

One huge issue as it relates to forensic evidence is the context of that evidence. We all know that context can influence the interpretation of any given fact. For instance, if a red-headed woman was seen breaking a window, and you see a red-headed woman coming around the corner from the building where that window was broken, the context of the situation could lead you to conclude that the woman you now see was responsible for the break. The same is true for forensic scientists. If, for example, a crime scene investigator collects evidence and then examines it in the lab, it is logical that impressions of that crime scene will influence assumptions going forward. If another detective shares information about a suspect, it might lead the forensic scientist toward bias in the evaluation, interpretation, analysis, and conclusion of any evidence studied. 

Cascading Bias

Exposure to information and materials related to a particular crime can demonstrably impact a scientist’s interpretation and thoughts regarding forensics. One mistaken impression can then cascade throughout other phases of the investigation. The failure to isolate information that individuals consider can lead to what is referred to as a bias snowball. That snowball can send biased reasoning throughout multiple phases and people involved in a case, resulting in the inadvertent effort to prove a particular theory.

 rather than simply allowing the facts to lead to a conclusion. For instance, consider the impact of determining the relevance of a particular piece of evidence. It may be quite difficult to differentiate between items of significance and those of no import at all. Let’s say, for example, that a cigarette butt is found in the street near a dead body. Is it a piece of trash or a clue? Would knowing that the key suspect is not a smoker influence an examiner’s evaluation of the evidence? It is not far-fetched to believe that it could. When an examiner is responsible for both studying and integrating various lines of evidence, the chances for error in terms of cascading bias increase.

A Serious Problem 

The issue of bias has been described by researchers as both pernicious and generally unrecognized by those in the criminal justice field. Truly, this puts into question the reliability of so-called expert witnesses who testify to forensic conclusions and makes one wonder why it is that these kinds of errors related to bias are not being aggressively addressed by the criminal justice community. Continue reading

With two million Americans in jail or prison and another three million under some kind of correctional control, It makes sense that criminal justice system reforms are constantly being studied and experimented with. Incarcerating more people than any other country does not seem to be working. What will it take to make a real difference? 

Changes are Needed

Revision of policies and practices is sorely needed, as it seems all of the get tough on crime bombast has only led to the current problem of over-incarceration in this country. What changes are we seeing in various states across America? 

Addressing Racial Disparity

Racial disparity in the criminal justice system is a harsh reality.  Consider Black people alone: though they comprise just over 13% of the population, they are involved in over 20% of fatal shootings by police, nearly half of the wrongful convictions that are later exonerated, and they make up over one-third of all executions as a result of the death penalty. In California, they are addressing the problem with the Racial Justice Act for All measure, which gives individuals who have received judgments or convictions earlier than 2021 to seek relief if there is proof of racial bias in their case.

Drug Policy Reforms 

In Kentucky, people who have been charged with low-level drug activity and are eligible for a new program are having their cases put on hold temporarily while they focus on treatment programs that address substance use disorders or mental health disorders. From there, they are assisted through outpatient services, including housing assistance, vocational training and placement, education, and behavioral or cognitive treatments.

Many states have decriminalized the use of marijuana, which will have a huge impact on the number of incarcerated individuals. States include Maryland, Arkansas, South Dakota, Missouri, and North Dakota; Colorado decriminalized some psychedelics, only the second state to take such action after Oregon did so in 2020.

Youth Protections

The age for detention in Maryland inched up to 13 in all but exceptional cases, and incarceration for youth offenders has been eliminated as a penalty for the majority of misdemeanors—excluding gun violations– and for straightforward probation violations.  Maryland also opened more passageways so a greater portion of the youth who are convicted of nonviolent offenses can participate in diversion programs. In Indiana, children under age 12 can no longer be detained; instead, they can take advantage of other interventions directed toward younger offenders. Life sentences for young offenders have been eliminated in Tennessee, and Wyoming is focusing on collecting and standardizing all information related to the juvenile justice program in order to better track offenders and their success or lack thereof.

California’s Reform Measures

California is taking the lead in some important reforms, as well.  Senate Bill 731 is one critical piece of legislation that was recently signed into law. It permanently seals virtually all convictions if an individual completes their sentence and stays out of trouble for an additional four years. Other important changes to California law include:

  • The end of sentences with mandatory minimums associated with non-violent drug crimes;
  • Limits to gang enhancement laws;
  • The availability of good behavior credits for individuals in mental health treatment facilities;
  • Retroactive repeal of sentence enhancements in certain situations hat had previously been excluded.

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Have you been charged with leaving the scene of an accident? Perhaps you were confused, afraid, or in shock. Maybe it was not even you behind the wheel. In any case, it is crucial that you have a fierce, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney working on your behalf the minute you are charged. 

California Statistics

With 17% of all hit-and-run fatalities occurring here in the Golden State, the rate of hit-and-run incidents has been on the rise. California tops the nation for the worst rate of fatalities due to such accidents—well over 3,000 annually. The most likely to be killed? People aged 25 to 34.

Why Drivers Leave the Scene

There are plenty of reasons drivers decide to leave the scene of a traffic accident—none of which provide much consolation to the victims. Without question, such drivers come from every walk of life. While some may imagine every hit-and-run driver to be an alcoholic or a career criminal, the truth is that students, the elderly, the working class, the wealthy, and everyone else are all represented in hit-and-run statistics. So, why do even the most respectable members of our communities leave the scene after an accident? In general, drivers are fearful of consequences.

  • In some cases, they may be driving a vehicle without the owner’s permission;
  • If the collision was with a parked vehicle, the driver may rationalize it is no big deal.
  • If they are driving a rental vehicle, they may presume they can get away with it unscathed;
  • They could be afraid of police contact due to an outstanding warrant, being in the country illegally, or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • The driver may be worried about employment repercussions if it involves a company vehicle;
  • The driver may be in shock;
  • Perhaps the car lacks mandatory insurance, and the driver is concerned about financial repercussions;
  • Some drivers may not be aware that they hit something;
  • They may have been drunk or high at the time of the incident.

Legal Penalties

Hit-and-run drivers may be struggling with remorse, but the legal penalties headed their way could make their lives much, much worse.

Every incident is different, but the penalties increase depending on the driver’s history and whether there were injuries or fatalities. For a misdemeanor hit-and-run—say, hitting a parked car — a driver could be slapped with six months behind bars and $10,000 in fines, along with restitution for damages. If there are injuries related to the hit-and-run, you could face felony charges, and the incarceration time could be bumped up to as long as three years in prison. With an enhancement to vehicular manslaughter—the driver has left the scene fully knowledgeable that there was likely an injured individual involved — another five years could be added to the sentence. Continue reading

For anyone who thought that police use of force would wane after the riotous year of BLM protests in the recent past, the discouraging news is that these incidents are on the rise. Across the country in general, and in California specifically, documented cases of police use of force are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emergency room visits following police interactions have exceeded 400,000 throughout the United States in the past. Lethal force is particularly worrisome—with over 1,000 fatal police shootings in California in 2020 alone. Another unsurprising fact: these kinds of things happen most frequently in Black and brown communities, according to research.   

California Law on Lethal Force 

According to recent California law, lethal force is justifiable only in cases where human life is being protected. This is in contrast to the previous law allowing lethal force whenever an officer deemed it reasonable. Even so, case after case of police shootings continue to destroy families and neighborhoods. However, in some cases, officers are not getting off scot-free. A deputy in San Diego recently faced charges of second-degree murder, while an officer from San Leandro was looking at manslaughter charges, both a result of excessive use of force. 

So, it seems our strict use-of-force laws are making a difference—though not eliminating the problem. Perhaps that is because officer training is very inconsistent across California. While some departments require that officers take a two-hour course, others have condensed the training down to 14 minutes in front of a video and being handed a memo. And many officers have received no training at all on the new law yet—and San Diego officers are sorely behind in the training.

A San Diego Story

One San Diego story is a tragic one. A 36-year-old who loved the environment and animals suffered from a mental illness that made him easily frustrated. To escape the pressure of difficult situations, he started running away as a toddler, and the pattern of behavior continued throughout his school years and into adulthood. In multiple situations, he ran from the police. When confronted by a park ranger for having his dog off-leash one afternoon, he fled. Ultimately the ranger and a backup officer found him, and he was tased and put under arrest due to his resistance and because he held a golf club that appeared to be held as a weapon. Cuffed and in the back of the squad car, the man managed to free one of his hands, open the door, and run.  Though several officers on the scene believed he was not a threat, one officer shot the fugitive four times, resulting in his death later in the hospital.

When it Comes to Race…

Who is most likely to suffer police use of force? Black individuals are on the receiving end of such tactics in four of ten cases, despite the fact they make up only about one-tenth of the population. Conversely, whites experience police use of force in less than one-third of incidents, despite making up over 40% of the population.  Continue reading

After experiencing an arrest, you are probably experiencing a jumble of emotions, including trepidation, disbelief, embarrassment, and fury. How will an arrest impact your immediate and long-term future? Regardless of the circumstances, when you have an experienced and tenacious criminal defense attorney by your side, the outcomes will likely be better for you.  

Understanding Your Miranda Rights

If the arresting officers have done their job right, you have been advised of your Miranda rights.  Listen carefully and understand that the Miranda warning is no joke! When you were told that you have the right to remain silent and that whatever you say could be used against you in court, they are not kidding. So stay calm, and respectfully tell them that you will not speak with them until your attorney is present. Do not allow officers to bait you into responding to their queries or commentaries; do not defend yourself or try to explain your side of things. Remain silent.

If You Were Not Mirandized

There are only certain situations in which an officer may not Mirandize you:

  • The officer was not acting in accordance with the law.
  • When the questioning by police occurs before an arrest or custody.
  • When public safety is in jeopardy, such as when an assailant is at large.
  •  In some DUI or other cases when there is no intention of interrogating you following arrest.
  • When the arrest involves a juvenile, who cannot legally be questioned without their parents or guardians present.
  • When questioning is being done by someone other than police, like perhaps a security guard at a store.
  • When police are simply getting your identifying information.

When Your Attorney Arrives

Once your attorney is present, they will advise you about how much you should say to the police. Your attorney will guide you and will outline your options and potential defense strategies. Depending on the circumstances, you may discuss the following:

  • Convincing police to dismiss all charges: In some cases, the police will quickly learn that they have the wrong person in custody.
  • Demanding a reduction in charges: Law enforcement may be convinced to offer lesser charges that are more appropriate in your case.
  • Striking a plea deal: You may be willing to trade information/testimony for lesser charges.
  • The potential for inclusion in a diversion program: You may be eligible for drug court, mental health court, or military diversion rather than incarceration.
  • Fighting all charges: You may wish to plead not guilty and fight all charges.
  • A guilty plea.

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