Articles Tagged with California criminal attorney

Without a doubt, California has the toughest gun laws in the United States. Earlier this week, Governor Jerry Brown signed several gun control bills into law, making the state’s gun laws even tougher. Effective January 1, 2019, what follows is a summary of the new legislation.

  • Age to buy shotgun or rifle increased to 21: Bill SB100 increased the age for buying a shotgun or rifle in California from 18 to 21. Exceptions are carved out for hunters, police officers, and members of the military.
  • Domestic violence offender lifetime gun ownership ban: Bill AB3129 permanently bans anyone convicted of certain domestic violence misdemeanors from owning a firearm for life.
  • Prior mental illness confinement lifetime gun ownership ban: Bill AB1968 permanently bans anyone who has been hospitalized more than once in a year for mental health issues and found to be dangerous to self or other from owning a firearm for life.
  • Mandatory training: Bill AB2103 requires anyone applying for a concealed gun permit to attend an eight-hour gun safety and handling training course or class. The applicant must pass a test that includes fining a gun at a target.
  • Police initiated restraining orders: Police seeking a gun violence restraining order will be permitted to apply for order verbally when there is no time to make written request.
  • Maintenance of lost firearm database: All California law enforcement agencies will be required to input information on lost or stolen guns into a state database within a week of the agency finding out the firearm was missing.
  • “Bump stock” ban: Bill SB1346 bans “bump stocks” which convert semiautomatic rifles to rapid fire machine guns.
  • Ban on possession of ammunition and gun magazines if guns taken away: Bill SB1200, permits judges to order that mentally unstable people whose guns are taken away also be barred from possessing ammunition and gun magazines.

Charged With a Gun Crime in California?

Illegally carrying a firearm in California is a serious offense. If you have been charged with a gun crime in California, you can face either a misdemeanor or felony charge along with heavy fines and years of imprisonment. If you face gun charges in California, consult a qualified San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mitigate penalties. 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

This is the final installment of a six-part series on what to expect in California if you face felony criminal charges. Take a look at our past posts in the series and get to know the other steps of the felony arrest in California process.

The prior posts are:

The final step of the felony arrest process in California is sentencing. This is by far the most nerve-wracking time for people accused of crimes. By now, you have met the judge and prosecutors on your case, your attorney has kept you informed of the developments and challenges in your case, and you also have a basic understanding of maximum punishments and fines that can be assessed. What is missing, of course, is the judge’s decision.

Step 6: Sentencing

Whether you reach the sentencing phase by plea or after trial, every person charged with a felony in California will be sentenced or have punishment imposed. A sentencing hearing occurs after the trial and before the judge issues his or her sentencing decision. Some judges will provide the accused with a sentencing commitment, which is a preview of the judge’s sentencing decision; others wait until after the sentencing hearing to communicate their decision.

At the sentencing hearing, each side is afforded an opportunity to present and explain what type of sentence or sentence considerations the judge should consider when assessing punishment in the case. From a defense perspective, mitigating circumstances, prior positive community involvement, and lenient treatment are advocated. From the prosecution’s perspective, victim impact statements and harsher penalties are presented for the judge’s consideration.

After hearing both sides, the judge may sentence the criminal defendant to prison for a fixed time-period, a life sentence, or death in capital punishment cases. Other forms of permissible punishment include the assessment of fines, penalties and surcharges, and the assessment of conditions, like parole or mandatory alcohol and drug treatment. Especially in sexual assault matters, the accused person may be required to register in Sexual Offender Registries and have conditions imposed on where they may live after serving time.

Three Strikes Law

For individuals convicted of two or more violent crimes or serious felonies, a third felony conviction will automatically trigger the three strikes law. The three strikes law compels the judge to impose a life sentence, removing all other punishment options at the sentencing phase regardless of any mitigating circumstances.  

Death Penalty

A death sentence is the most severe punishment for someone charged with a felony. According to the Los Angeles Times, the California Supreme Court in August 2017 kept in place a measure passed by voters to speed up executions. Due to delays and legal challenges, the state of California has not executed a prisoner in a decade. Continue reading

In a unanimous 5-0 vote at the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC), state utility regulators voted to require annual background checks for drivers at Uber, Lyft, and other ride-share companies, but decided not to subject them to the fingerprinting required of taxi drivers. Instead, rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber will be required to use contractors accredited by national association of background screeners and report the results to the state commission. They must examine criminal records and disqualify drivers who have been convicted of violent felonies or sex crimes, or convicted of driving under the influence within the last seven years.

PUC members said that the changes would strengthen the previous rules, which barred drivers with certain types of criminal records and registered sex offenders but did not require periodic background checks. They rejected the arguments of taxi drivers that ride share companies needed to do the same thing because “the costs outweigh the benefits.” Because ride-share drivers are their own independent contractors, the cost of paying for their own fingerprinting would be an unfair economic burden born by the individual, and not the company.  The PUC claims that fingerprint records, which go through an FBI database, are not always accurate and could disproportionately affect minority drivers.

Advocates of fingerprinting, such as the taxi companies, say the new requirements have failed to spot drivers with criminal records.

Fingerprint Background Checks

The California Department of Justice (DOJ) is mandated to maintain the statewide criminal record repository for the State of California. Sheriffs, police, probation departments, district attorney offices, and courts have to submit arrest information. The DOJ uses all this information to compile “RAP sheets” which are criminal records of arrest and prosecution. RAP sheets are based upon fingerprint submissions.

While all criminal background check requests must be authorized by statute, some are mandatory while others are permissive. Background checks have become the norm, for employers, rental agencies, etc.

In California, fingerprinting must be performed by a certified fingerprint roller or qualified law enforcement personnel. The live scan operator checks the applicant’s identification, inputs the applicant’s personal descriptor information, captures the applicant’s fingerprints electronically, and transmits the data to the DOJ. Once it is received, the DOJ then checks the fingerprint against the fingerprint database, which holds the fingerprints of criminal suspects, government employees, military personnel, and those with security clearances. If your fingerprints do not come up associated with a RAP sheet, then you are considered to have passed the fingerprint criminal background check. Continue reading

Like the Bill Cosby case that took the media by storm last year, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has also been accused by multiple women of rape and sexual misconduct. However, in the case of Weinstein, more than 75 women have publicly accused him of inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment and rape. Many of Weinstein’s accusers are famous actresses such as Rose McGowan and Asia Argento, who have all said publicly that Weinstein forced them into unwanted sex. Weinstein has since then denied all allegations against him.

Currently, Police departments in London, New York, Los Angeles, and Beverly Hills, California, have said that they are investigating potential criminal charges in at least 10 different cases, some involving women who have not spoken publicly. So far, only the NYPD has stated that it has enough evidence to arrest Weinstein and press charges. This is because the agency has a police report filed by actress Paz de la Huerta in October to report that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010. Additionally, at the time of the alleged assaults, de la Huerta had told her her therapist, SueAnne Piliero, who recently supplied a letter to the actress about her recollections from those sessions. Lastly, de la Huerta had told a journalist named Alexis Faith, who recorded the conversation but never published the story. She too provided the tape. Because de la Huerta alleges a forceful rape which happened after June 2006, within New York’s statute of limitations for rape in the first degree, her case is among the most compelling for prosecutors.

What is next? Currently, a senior sex crimes prosecutor has been assigned to the case in New York. Investigators are likely to present de la Huerta’s allegations to grand jury before making an arrest.  The grand jury would then decide whether to indict Weinstein based on the standard of “reasonable cause” that he committed a crime. If an indictment is issued, prosecutors would then ask a judge to issue an arrest warrant.

Due to the allegations against him, Weinstein has been fired from the film production company he co-founded. He has hired to top defense lawyers to represent him in New York and Los Angeles.

California Statute of Limitations

Like New York, which eliminated its statute of limitations on rape charges back in 2006, California also amended its criminal code last year to eliminate the statute of limitations of rape and sexual assault charges. See S.B. 813.  Prior to that, the state had a 10-year window. Continue reading

According to news outlet ABC 10, a Carlsbad pastor named Matthew Tague, 43, has been arrested on 16 counts of child molestation. Deputies with the San Diego Sheriff’s child abuse unit has charged him with lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14. The charges against Tague, a pastor at North Coast Calvary Chapel in Carlsbad, are not related to his duties as a pastor. Tague is currently being held in Vista Detention Facility on $1.9 million bail. He was due in court on June 2.

Once he appeared in court, he pleaded “not guilty” to charges of repeatedly molesting a female member of his congregation for two years. He also pleaded “not guilty” to charges of 14 forcible sex acts against a child. Additionally, Deputy District Attorney Patricia Lavermicocca said Tague is accused of violating a family member when s/he was 12 and 13 years old. It is reported that Tague’s wife caught him abusing the victim, and turned him in.

Child Molestation Under California Law

Not only are sex crimes taken seriously in California, but sex crimes against children are viewed upon by society as even worse. Just being accused of a sexual offense against a child can ruin your life and reputation.

There are several sections in the California Penal Code that address sex crimes against children.

Lewd or Lascivious Acts with a Minor (Penal Code § 288)

A lewd or lascivious act against a minor is defined as touching any part of the body (bare or covered) of a minor or forcing him or her to touch themselves for the purposes of sexually arousing or gratifying yourself or the victim. Subsection (a) of the statute states that if the victim was under 14, it is a felony punishable by up to eight years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

Subsection (b) of the statute addresses lewd acts against a minor under the age of 18, by fear of duress or violence. A conviction under this subsection is also a felony punishable by 10 yrs imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

Subsection (c) specifies that if the victim was under 14 or 15 years old, and you are at least 10 years older than the victim, you will also face a felony punishable by up to three years in state prison.

Soliciting a Minor for Lewd Purposes (Penal Code § 288.4)

Solicitation of any child under the age of 18 can either be a misdemeanor or felony, punishable by up one to three years imprisonment and a $1,000 to $10,000 fine. Continue reading

While the allure of exploring one’s family tree and lineage has meant big business for some companies, two major that research family lineage (for a fee) claim that over the last two years, they have received law enforcement demands for genetic information stored in their DNA databases. Ancestry.com and their competitor 23andme, hold the genetic information of hundreds of thousands of people. They have received five requests from law enforcement agencies for the DNA of six people.

Ancestry.com did turn over one person’s data for an investigation into the murder and rape of an 18-year-old woman in Idaho Falls, Idaho. 23andme has received four other court orders but have  been successful in persuading investigators to withdraw the requests.

Privacy advocates and experts are concerned that genetic information turned over for medical, family history research or other highly personal reasons will be misused by investigators, and that this new trend could start a slippery slope.

Earlier this Week, the California Supreme Court decided unanimously that blanket, statewide bans on where sex offenders may not live (“Jessica’s Law”) violate the constitutional rights of parolees in San Diego County.  Jessica’s Law (aka Proposition 83), named after a 9-year-old girl who fell victim to a sex offender who failed to report his whereabouts, was proposed via a ballot initiative in 2006.  Due to Megan’s Law, those who have been convicted of a sex crime must register with their local law enforcement agency.

Jessica’s Law therefore barred registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park where children gather, regardless of whether the crimes actually involved children.  Sex offenders subsequently challenged the law in court, claiming that it made it impossible for them to find a place to live.  The court recognized that the law made over 97% of rental housing in San Diego unavailable, and ruled that the consequences of the law were so severe, it hampered rehabilitation and caused homelessness.  Although the unanimous ruling immediately affects only San Diego County, it will certainly pave the way for the same policies in major metropolitan areas, including San Francisco.

What to Do If You Are Charged With a Sex Crime