Articles Tagged with California criminal attorney

Sexual assault is something that happens every day, but when it occurs at the hands of police officers, it is somehow even worse. And studies show it is not an occasional problem. Officers who are sworn to serve and protect sometimes make victims out of arrestees.  It happens across the country, including right here in California.

Case in Point

An officer has been indicted for assaulting a number of women here in the state. The abuse ranged from instructing a victim to remove her clothes with no legitimate legal reason to forcing victims to have sex, in one instance, after locking his victim in his car and driving to a remote location. If the charges hold, the officer could be spending the rest of his life in prison and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. When individuals in power use the badge to manipulate and harm people, it is a horrendous crime. That is even more true when the victims are children.

WaPo Study

According to a study conducted by the Washington Post, children have been sexually abused by police officers and sheriffs’ deputies in hundreds of situations country-wide. And in many cases, these abusers have used their connections and knowledge of the law to protect themselves from the most serious of consequences. For example:

  • An officer who offered to “help” a 13-year-old run-away and be her mentor wound up ultimately impregnating her.
  • An L.A. County sheriff’s deputy abused a woman he had stopped near a hotel. He was later allowed to become a bureau detective with the special victims unit, where he sexually abused a 15-year-old girl.
  • A 16-year-old who was considering becoming a police officer went on ride-alongs with one officer who sexually abused her in multiple locations. After pleading guilty to statutory sodomy, he received only probation as his sentence. 
  • When a 14-year-old went to the hospital for a rape kit, she wound up being raped again—by the officer in charge.

Officers Groom Teens

In case after case, officers meet troubled teens and spend months grooming them and gaining their trust and the trust of their parents. Then they created situations when they could be alone with the teens and threatened them if they told anyone about what was happening.

Departments Must Do Better

Researchers concluded that police and sheriff departments must be better about flagging issues in officers’ background checks and at responding to complaints when they occur. Additionally, officers must be compelled to report incidents they see or suspect. Continue reading

If you are booked in jail for a DUI, you should be pretty worried about how the whole thing will impact your life. In particular, this is a serious situation if this is not your first issue with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and you are going to need the skills of an experienced criminal defense attorney in order to secure the best outcomes for you. 

California Law

The laws related to alcohol and cannabis are quite strict in the state of California. In terms of simply being in a vehicle, you may not:

  • Consume alcohol or cannabis as either a passenger or a driver;
  • Carry alcohol or cannabis products in the passenger compartment if they are unsealed;
  • Hold alcohol in the glove box in an open container.

BAC Limits

While most people understand that drivers may find themselves getting a DUI if it is discovered that they have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% and higher, some may not realize that drivers under the age of 21 can get a DUI if they have a BAC of just 0.01%. That is true for drivers who are older but who are on probation for having had a DUI. Drivers who are hired to transport passengers (like ride-share or taxi drivers) or those driving vehicles requiring a commercial license could get a DUI with a BAC of 0.04%.

First Convictions

A first conviction could result in the following:

  • Revocation of your driving privileges;
  • Enrollment in a DUI program;
  • Mandatory filing for SR ww/SR1P (expensive auto insurance);
  • Fees related to driver’s license restriction and/or reissuance;
  • Potential requirement to have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle and related costs;
  • Up to six months in county jail;
  • Fines of up to $390;
  • Vehicle impounding with related storage fees;
  • Probation;
  • 10 years having the DUI conviction on your driving record.

Second and Subsequent DUIs

For anyone convicted of a second DUI, the penalties get much worse. Fines jump up to $2,000, DUI school extends to up to 30 months, and jail time could double to up to a year. Other penalties will be extended, as well. If there were any aggravating factors, such as a BAC of 0.15%, having a minor in the vehicle, refusing to submit to testing for chemicals in your blood, speeding, or causing an accident, the legal consequences could get even worse. Continue reading

When looking at the potential penalties related to criminal charges you are facing, it can be more than a little unnerving. That is one reason it is so important to have an experienced attorney on your side. The fact is that there are many details in criminal law, one of which relates to the wobbler. Yes, the term sounds a bit trivial and flip, but wobblers are very serious business in the criminal justice system. Successfully addressing a wobbler in a court of law can have an enormous impact on the penalties you face, from incarceration to fines and beyond. What, then, is a wobbler? 


Wobblers are an exclusive class of crimes that vary in their level of seriousness. Plenty of offenses are wobblers, including property defacement, domestic violence, vehicular manslaughter, and assault with a deadly weapon. Some of the most common wobbler cases include certain drug charges, sexual battery, and forgery. Notably, these crimes may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, meaning the penalties can be fairly mild or very, very serious. A guilty verdict could land an offender with a simple fine, in the county jail, or with a lengthy prison sentence.

Misdemeanor or Felony?

A judge considers the specifics of cases involving wobblers to determine whether the crimes should be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. Some factors to be weighed include the severity of the crime, as well as any previous charges and convictions the defendant may have amassed. 

Felony Charges Have Long-Term Implications

Certainly, being charged with a misdemeanor, even a gross misdemeanor, has far better outcomes for defendants than felony charges. Besides having much lighter penalties, the social shame associated with felony charges is much tougher than is it for misdemeanors. And there are more:

  • Felons may be denied housing;
  • Felons cannot vote while in prison or on parole;
  • Felons may not serve on a jury while imprisoned;
  • Felons may have professional licenses revoked, suspended, or disqualified permanently;
  • Felons may be barred from working with labor unions, banks, federal defense contractors or subcontractors, and more;
  • Felons may be denied other employment opportunities based on employer preference;
  • Felons cannot serve in the armed forces;
  • Felons cannot purchase or possess firearms, and could be charged with another felony if they violate this rule for anywhere from 10 years to life;
  • Certain felons may not hold public office;
  • Felons may not be eligible for student loans;
  • Felons may not be eligible for public assistance;
  • A felony record may be more difficult to expunge.

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If, while defending yourself, someone else, or property, you caused harm to another individual, it’s possible you could be charged with a crime like assault, battery, or even, in the most extreme situation, murder.  But you were only defending yourself, so how is this possible? Sometimes it takes a court of law to sort things out and come to an equitable and just conclusion. And when self-defense is a factor, having a good attorney to represent your interests is important.

Legal Requirements for Self-Defense

In California, there are three key elements that must be proven when self-defense is claimed:

  • You were in imminent danger of being harmed, touched illegally, or killed: This means that the danger was right in front of you, and you had to react to prevent it.
  • You had a reasonable belief that you needed to react with force in order to address the harm headed your way: Even if you  were mistaken in your perception of danger, if you had reason to believe you were in a precarious situation, your violent response may be considered reasonable by a jury.
  • You used just enough force to eliminate the threat: If your use of force was not proportionate to the threat, it is not a viable defense, meaning if someone slaps you and you beat them to death, you have probably exceeded the force necessary to protect yourself.

Stand Your Ground

Under California law, you are not required to back down or try to run away when facing a threat. You have every right to protect yourself and others when necessary. When it comes to property, it is legally permitted to protect yours and others’ too.

Deadly Force

Deadly force is allowable if that’s what it takes to provide a proper defense. Additionally, as per the Castle Doctrine, you are always allowed to use deadly force when protecting against a home invasion.  Even if you do not know the intent or the types of weapons an intruder may have, you are fully within your rights to use deadly force. That’s because when someone forcibly enters your home, it can be assumed they are up to no good, and it is reasonable to believe they will cause harm to you, your family, and/or your property. Continue reading

If you have been arrested for a felony, you are doubtlessly feeling frightened. What is in the cards for you? Should you accommodate police requests for information to demonstrate your innocence? Should you do anything and everything to get out of custody? No, and no! If you are looking at felony charges, your initial decisions will have a massive effect on your case. So sit tight and remember your rights. 

Fifth Amendment

Regardless of how pleasant or how threatening investigators may be, it is crucial that you remain silent. It is the first step toward avoiding self-incrimination and is your Constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment. This is the number one instruction to remember. Outside of identifying yourself, answer nothing. Then, courteously request an attorney, zip your lips, and stay cool. It will not necessarily be easy, especially if you believe you are innocent and you are being pressured by authoritative figures. Were you wrongfully arrested? Was excessive force used? Maybe. But it will require an attorney to get to the bottom of it, so forget the temptation to defend yourself or to accuse officers of misdeeds. It will not get you anywhere except in deeper trouble.

Pronto: Call an Attorney Right 

It is important to have experienced legal counsel by your side immediately. And that means a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, not your hairdresser’s divorce guy. A good defense attorney will know all the tricks in the book and will protect you from saying things that will lead to trouble or signing a bogus plea deal. Remember: prosecutors and police are in cahoots to lock you up. A criminal defense attorney is working for you.

Tell Your Attorney the Truth

Any defense attorney will tell you there’s nothing worse than being blindsided by new information presented by the prosecution. You help your own defense when you spill it all, knowing that attorney-client privilege keeps that information private. It is the best way to build a strong defense.

Stay Mum Otherwise

It may be tough, but do not talk about the case on social media with reporters who want to know what you have to say for yourself or even with family or friends. And remember, what you say to friends is not protected—so if anyone gets the wrong idea or you reveal a defense strategy, the prosecution could get a hold of it. Let your attorney defend you in court and keep quiet otherwise.

This is Serious

If you are convicted of a felony, it could mean time in prison and hefty fines. And the punishment does not end after you have paid your debt to society. That is when you could re-enter a society that has no concern with your ability to find a home, a job, professional certifications, or happiness. Remember this and make smart decisions going forward. Continue reading

Swatting—or placing false calls requesting emergency assistance– is illegal, according to the FBI. These harassing and deceptive emergency calls send response teams to various locations with claims that an emergency is underway. Although the prank calls send SWAT teams and others to a scene where nothing unusual is occurring, officers do not know that the location is actually safe. That means they arrive with weapons brandished– making the potential for accidents distressingly high. 

Types of Calls

What kinds of phony emergency service calls are we talking about? Sometimes, callers claim there is a dangerous hostage situation unfolding; other times, they say there are bombs present in a building. Still other calls report rapes, murders, or other criminal activity.

California Case

A recent swatting case here in California involved a 19-year-old man who was stalking a young woman who was underage. The two had become acquainted online, and when things did not work out as planned, the man made multiple calls reporting bombs at the high school attended by the object of his attention. Although explosive devices were never discovered, the school was evacuated repeatedly as a safety measure, interrupting school programming and burning through police resources.

Politicians Targeted

While it is true that many swatting calls focus on public areas like businesses, schools, and airports, there have been a number of recent swatting calls directed at the homes or offices of well-known politicians:

  • Here in California, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis was the victim of a swatting call that reported a shooting in her San Francisco home.
  • Rick Scott of Florida endured a swatting experience when an anonymous call came in reporting that a woman had been shot by her husband with an AR-15 at Scott’s home address.
  • Republican Brandon Williams, from New York, was stunned when police notified him that they had received a call reporting a crisis in his home. When law enforcement arrived, the Williams family was directed to assemble in the kitchen and to keep their hands in view.
  • The embattled secretary of state from Maine, Shenna Bellows, was swatted when a man claimed to have broken into her home.
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia’s federal House representative, claims to have been swatted as many as eight times, including on Christmas Day 2023. 

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Anyone who has watched courtroom drama on TV has heard of double jeopardy—the 5th Amendment protections against being tried twice for the same crime. But there is a qualification here — separate prosecutions are permitted when state and federal governments prosecute separately for the same crime. In fact, two different state governments could prosecute in two separate trials for a single offense if both have jurisdiction in the case. And there is one more consideration: civil and criminal trials could pursue different forms of justice for the same act. 

An Example of Two Trials for the Same Act in Los Angeles

Originally, the Double Jeopardy Clause applied to just federal cases, but it later was integrated into state laws, as well. While it is true that a criminal trial and its related penalties cannot be held successively for the same act or omission, the Supreme Court has held that both civil and criminal sanctions may be handed down for the same offense after separate civil and criminal trials. So, an offender might be tried criminally for a particular offense, only to later face civil charges in a separate trial based on the same actions.

A notorious situation illustrating this ability involves the criminal murder trial of O.J. Simpson seeking incarceration or worse (found not guilty), followed by the civil trial for wrongful death seeking monetary damages after the initial trial (found guilty). Simpson managed to avoid prison time in the criminal trial but was ordered to pay over $33 million in damages after being found responsible for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson (his ex-wife) and Ronald Goldman in the civil trial. Same act, different trials, with different goals and different outcomes. But even after being found guilty in the civil trial, Simpson could not be retried criminally for the same offense under double jeopardy protections.

What Constitutes the Same Offense? 

When weighing whether an act can be charged a second time, prosecutors must examine whether each offense to be charged has an element that is not encompassed in the previous trial. Without that unique element, it would be considered double jeopardy. In the O.J. Simpson case, for example, because the elements of the case were unchanged, the case could not be retried in a criminal court despite the guilty verdict in the civil trial.

When is Jeopardy Attached?

Jeopardy is attached when:

  • A jury is sworn in for a jury trial;
  • Any witness is sworn in in a district court;
  • Initial evidence is heard in a trial before a judge with no jury;
  • A guilty plea is accepted by a judge.

In Simpson’s case, the defendant had double jeopardy protections as soon as the jury was sworn in because he had a jury trial. Legal problems pursuant to the civil trial were completely unrelated to the slayings of his ex-wife and Goldman. Continue reading

Society has struggled with how to deal with the most deviant criminals for centuries. The question of justice becomes more complex than ever when juvenile offenders are involved.  Sadly, it’s a dilemma that is more and more frequently upon us: 

  • 17-year-old Jonathan Rojas is accused of engaging in a shooting spree that killed one person and wounded another in Greenfield, California;
  • A 14-year-old and a 16-year-old are accused of firing into a stopped vehicle, killing the driver and wounding a passenger, in what is believed to be a gang shooting in Los Angeles, California;
  • A juvenile has been charged with murder following reports of a family disturbance in Culver City, California;
  • A 14-year-old has been arrested in connection with a murder in Boyle Heights, California, and is suspected to have participated in no fewer than six additional homicides.
  • A 15-year-old has been arrested in connection with the murder of a Japantown security guard in San Francisco, California;
  • Four teens were arrested and charged with murder after the fatal gang-related shooting of a 16-year-old in Escondido, California.

Clearly, teens are connected to serious crimes more and more of late, with some facing penalties in the juvenile system, and others being tried as adults. 

Why Teens Commit Serious Crimes

Unquestionably, the depravity of these cases and others like it is stunning. It leads us, as a society, to ask how we should address children who engage in such activity. Perhaps we start by trying to come to some understanding of who teen killers are and the multifaceted environments that often produce them.

In a recent study, researchers concluded that oftentimes, young offenders grow up in homes in what they call disordered neighborhoods. These children generally have easy access to firearms and frequently have extensive exposure to violence during their formative years. Consequently, their compromised home lives drive young people to behave in foolish, passionate ways, reacting to the situations they find themselves in.  They fail to process their actions in relation to potential consequences. Rather than the myth of the “super predator teen,” researchers believe reckless morality-stripped teens are born of treacherous family and neighborhood norms.

 That, combined with myriad research surmising that the human brain does not fully develop until roughly age 25, leads to some of the horrendous criminal outcomes we see involving juveniles and is precisely the reason the Supreme Court cited as it eliminated the death penalty for juveniles in 2005, and why a sentence of life without parole is only rarely handed down to juvenile offenders still today.

The Teen Brain and Criminal Penalties

Further studies confirm what is quite obvious to the casual observer: teens crave peer approval and pursue reckless actions in their quest for that approval. Combine this with the inability to balance risk and reward, along with a shaky personal history, and you wind up with juveniles in the criminal justice system. These facts make it imperative that the expectations for teen criminals are tempered when facing courtrooms and justice systems designed with adults in mind. That is not to minimize the anguish of victims; it simply recognizes the reality of the science behind teen behavior. Continue reading

It is incredibly unnerving for an innocent individual to be charged with a crime and dragged through the criminal justice system, especially if a conviction could lead to serious time behind bars! That is why it is so important for suspects to take advantage of their Fifth Amendment rights and request a local attorney at the first sign of an arrest, then say absolutely nothing without that attorney sitting next to them. 


In the best case scenario, the investigators will swiftly appreciate that they have the wrong person in custody and release a suspect with apologies for the inconvenience—but that is not the typical outcome. The district attorney could hear the basics of the case before trial and decide that there is not enough evidence to secure a conviction and instruct police to release the suspect—but that is not something to count on either, nor is it necessarily a permanent solution, as they could always build their case and come after the suspect at a later date.

Plea Bargaining

Next up is a plea deal. While many people who insist on their innocence may feel unenthusiastic about accepting a deal where they acknowledge guilt for a lesser crime, the benefits of plea bargaining can make it worth considering. Whether a defendant eventually accepts a deal or not, it is definitely worth listening to and allowing an attorney to negotiate a positive outcome. If no deal is offered, or if one is rejected, the defendant is heading to a trial.  


Though television drama makes it appear otherwise, only a minority of cases ever make it to trial. The Marshall Project reports that 94% of state-level felony convictions are achieved through plea bargaining, with just 6% of cases ever making it to a courtroom. Federal rates are even lower, with roughly three percent of convictions coming from a jury verdict. If a case is one of the few to make it to trial, the prosecution is likely feeling pretty confident about its case. The goal for any defendant is an acquittal, of course, or a verdict of not guilty.


It is important to remember that every defendant is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. In a criminal trial, that means it is up to the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for every element of the charge. Simply put, the prosecutor, through the evidence they present, must persuade a jury that there is no other reasonable explanation for the crime, so the jury is virtually certain of a defendant’s guilt. The defense simply has to convince the jury that there is a realistic possibility that someone else might be guilty. If that happens, a jury will find the defendant not guilty, and the court will acquit. That wraps it up, and you can never be tried on these charges again.

Hung Jury

When a case is complex or emotional, juries may struggle to come to an agreement on a verdict by the required voting margin. While certainly a better outcome than a finding of guilt, this is a result that could mean another trial is in your future. The excruciating decision to put more time and money into a whole new trial can be hard-hitting. A tough defense attorney will pressure the prosecutor to drop the whole thing at this point, but that decision is exclusively in the prosecutor’s hands. Continue reading

Attorney-client privilege is intended to protect lawyers from having to testify against a client and to keep communications related to a client’s defense secret. And who would argue against this basic benefit afforded to those seeking legal advice and those dispensing it? After all, how could a client ever reveal the details of their experience if they had to worry that those details would later be revealed? 

In the case of former President Donald Trump, attorney-client privilege has been ruled secondary to what is known as the crime-fraud exception, and the former president’s defense attorney, Evan Corocan, must testify as to what he knows about the potential mishandling of classified documents. Additionally, both hand-written and transcribed notes related to Corcoran’s representation of Mr. Trump in the matter will be made available to the court. So, it seems attorney-client privilege is not always as clear-cut as one might imagine. For clients counting on the privilege, it is worth understanding what it entails and when it may go up in smoke.

Confidential Communications 

Any communications, oral or written, between a client and their attorney related to legal advice that occur with the expectation of confidence are protected by attorney-client privilege, and that includes the attorney’s staff who may facilitate communications. Even prospective clients who seek and receive legal advice are protected by the privilege, assuming the attorney made no attempts to deter them from relying on that advice.

Keeping it Confidential

In order to maintain the privilege, the material must remain confidential. Discussing matters outside the legal relationship or with a third-party present could nullify the privilege. Even something as simple as communicating through a work email account constitutes giving up confidentiality.


In general, attorney-client privilege protects material from showing up in a trial, although there are certain exceptions to that rule:

  • Corporations do not enjoy attorney-client privilege when pitted against shareholders if shareholders can establish cause to breach it;
  • When it can be demonstrated that there is an overriding public policy interest, the privilege may be revoked;
  • When the client communicates with the attorney with the intention of covering up a crime or fraud—known as the crime-fraud exception.

Detailing the Crime-Fraud Exception

Certain information is not protected by attorney-client privilege because it falls under the crime-fraud exception:

  • Threats made by a client against others, including adversaries in the case, witnesses, the judge, etc., must be reported by the attorney representing said client;
  • When an attorney knows their client has lied or will lie in sworn testimony, it must be reported.  It is incumbent upon attorneys not to knowingly present false or perjured evidence to the court;
  • When the attorney has knowingly helped to cover up a crime, they may be compelled to testify as to what they know.

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