Articles Tagged with California criminal attorney

America’s veterans can run into problems with drugs and alcohol or struggle with mental afflictions which can cause them to make errors and misjudgments. When these individuals make bad choices that have criminal implications in the state of California, they will be put through the criminal justice system and have to deal with the consequences. One glimmer of hope for veterans who are struggling with life issues that have caused them to engage in criminal activity is the California Veterans Court. If a veteran obtains approval to be seen in the Veteran’s Court in California, they will have access to rehabilitative programs that will help them turn their lives around and get a second chance. 

Why is the California Veteran’s Court so Helpful?

Veterans who have been exposed to or experienced a distressing event or action can develop serious mental health conditions. The trauma they sustained can have a major impact on their life and may lead to legal issues. Simple relationships with loved ones, emotional issues, and an inability to blend into society can leave a veteran hopeless and even homeless. They may engage in alcohol abuse or drug use, which compounds their harrowing situation.

When a veteran is arrested for a crime, depending on what the crime was, a Veterans Administration liaison will examine their case. If the individual never had a criminal history and their crime was not one that put others at risk of being harmed, they may be able to go through the Veterans’ Court system to address their mental health and/or substance abuse issues. Each person is looked at individually and their unique circumstances inspected in order to get a recommendation for the court system alternative. Not every veteran will be eligible or approved, but for those who are, the tremendous opportunity for rehabilitation and help is available.

There are several advantages that veterans have when they qualify to be switched out of the civilian criminal justice system in California and into the veteran’s system. Not only are the sources of their trauma diagnosed and addressed, but there is also an increased ability for full rehabilitation. All of these services are offered to the vet at no charge and the success rate of reintegrating into society to live a fulfilling life after completing the program has been shown to be high. 

Not only does the Veterans’ Court in California provide a way to avoid serving time in jail, but once a program has been completed, the veteran has the ability to have their record expunged of their arrest and charges. This alone can make a huge difference in the vet’s life because they will have many more opportunities made available to them than if they had a criminal record. Continue reading

District Attorneys in Sacramento, Fresno, Kern, and San Diego counties have voiced their displeasure with Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon’s actions on criminal justice reform. Directives that DA Gascon has put forth include getting rid of cash bail and banning sentencing enhancements and re-sentencing for individuals who are facing extended time in prison. Lisa Smittcamp, the Fresno District Attorney, wrote a scathing letter to DA Gascon on January 19 regarding her disagreement with the Los Angeles Attorney General’s measures. There has yet to be a comment from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office about the letter.

Enhancements happen quite often for gang members. When a gang member commits a crime, prosecutors use their association with a gang to increase the time that is added to their sentence. Smittcamp said that eliminating enhancements can lead to more gang violence that will not just affect the city of Los Angeles but also spread across the state. Smittcamp along with the DAs in Sacramento and San Diego have indicated that they will not allow LA County to have any influence over crimes that include their counties.

How District Attorneys Across California are Tackling Criminal Justice Reform

Despite the pushback against the actions that DA Gascon has taken, there are many supporters of his efforts. Backers say that the changes that DA Gascon has made are important and necessary to reverse the trend of substantial incarceration of the population. Additionally, advocates of the changes also indicate that the bail system is unfair and low-income individuals are the hardest hit.

Even though there are several California DAs opposed to the reforms that DA Gascon has taken, that does not mean that they have not also made improvements to address the issues. Smittcamp in Fresno created a Mental Health Court, Drug Court, Veteran’s Court, and Restorative Justice program, along with other systems that are aimed at preventing youth from getting involved in gangs. She said that DAs and prosecutors are putting great emphasis on keeping individuals of color, those who are living in poverty, those who have mental conditions, and others who have drug problems the ability to access support programs. Helping these individuals overcome their personal battles could prevent them from getting tangled up with the California criminal justice system. Continue reading

A man was strangled at a park in Emerald Hills by another man who was allegedly yelling “I’m going to kill you” to the victim. On July 11, a man who was described as approximately 40 years of age with a thin mustache and goatee, who was about 6’ in height and around 170 pounds. He had a look that could indicate he had jaundice or other condition that caused the whites of his eyes to be yellow in color. The suspect attacked a 23-year-old man at Emerald Hills Park on Bethune Court. The San Diego County Crime Stoppers used the information to release a composite sketch for the community of the suspect. If found, the suspect will be charged with attempted homicide.

The incident took place in the middle of the day at 1:50 p.m. According to the victim, the suspect tried to grab for the victim’s cell phone which was on a table in the park. When the victim witnessed this the two men got into a physical altercation. The suspect revealed a box cutter and began threatening the victim that he was going to kill him. The suspect used the box cutter to stab the victim in his arm, and then he proceeded to strangle the young man. After the San Diego Police arrived on the scene they were able to get the victim medical care. The victim received 18 staples to the laceration on his arm.

The last report of the suspect placed him walking into a canyon near Kelton Road and state Route 94. The SDPD is hopeful that the sketch will result in more leads from the public. The suspect was said to be wearing a bright orange, flat brim hat that had a white “C” on the front, a very large navy sweatshirt with a hood, dark-colored sweatpants, and a gray backpack that had zebra stripes at the time of the attack. The investigation is active and ongoing. 

Can Composite Sketches Lead to Arrests?

When a suspect connected to a crime is at large, the police take many actions to locate and find the individual. One of the ways that they look for information is to reach out to the community and see what details and facts they can gather to help them find the suspect. They will also release composite sketches if they have a victim or witnesses that can provide a description. The sketch can help get the public more involved in helping and potentially lead to an identification. 

There are many factors that go into how accurate the drawing will be including the recollection of a witness and the skill of the artist. While there may not be firm statistics on how effective composite sketches are at finding suspects, it is known that there are cases where a sketch was pivotal in finding a suspect and making an arrest. Continue reading

For the last seven years, the police in the city of San Diego made use of facial recognition technology through a network of 1,300 mobile cameras. The information compiled was successful in developing a database of 65,500 face scans. As of December 31, 2019, though, the California legislature put a stop to the use of the technology. A three-year ban was enacted against the use of mobile facial recognition technology by law enforcement. The ban came at the frustration of the police, but privacy advocates saw it as a win. 

Unfortunately, determining the effectiveness of the technology is not simple or easy. San Diego law enforcement agencies did not keep track of the results associated with the facial recognition initiative. According to the city’s police spokesperson, it is not known that there were arrests or prosecutions as a result of using the technology.

What is the Tactical Identification System (TACIDS)?

In 2012 the TACIDS was put into place without a public hearing or public notice. The software behind the system worked by focusing on unique identifiers via patterns and textures on the face to compare with a database of over 1.8 million mugshots. In less than two seconds the software can compare the traits to find matches with the images collected by the San Diego County Sheriff’s office.

FaceFirst supplied the software to law enforcement agencies. There were 30 agencies as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement who used TACIDS. Out of all the agencies that had access to the software, law enforcement in San Diego made the most use of it. The large police department used it frequently. The newly developed Neighborhood Policing Division which began in 2018 was easily behind the department’s high rate of use. This division was a response to the rising homeless population in the city. The technology was given to officers so that they could identify homeless individuals who often do not carry identification.

How Did the Ban on TACIDS Come About?

Privacy advocates had major concerns with the facial recognition technology, and increased pressure on lawmakers motivated them to put the ban in place. The American Civil Liberties Union tested the software and found that it had flaws. They found a 20% failure rate for matching individuals and the majority of those that were mistaken were with individuals of color. Community leaders argued that the technology violated people’s civil liberties. Lawmakers listening to these concerns agreed that there are problems with the way surveillance capabilities are utilized. Continue reading

 

A criminal record is a blemish on a person’s life. This blemish can keep a person from obtaining normal aspects of life such as a job or a lease on an apartment. There is one step a person can take to wipe the slate clean and get a fresh start on life. This step is called a record expungement.

What is a Record Expungement?

A record expungement is a legal process in which a lawyer submits a request to the court to remove a criminal record, under California Law. This process can give a person freedom and peace of mind because once the process is complete, the person does not have to reveal the criminal act that was once holding him or her back from certain opportunities. The person will be able to say, “No, I do not have a conviction on record.”

There are different types of expungements, with each type depending upon the criminal case and the factors involved. Keep in mind that record expungements are not available to all individuals. In order to get a record expungement, a person must qualify.

Criteria for Record Expungement

Expungement is an option for individuals convicted of certain misdemeanors or felonies. There are certain requirements a person must meet in order to get a record expungement. The criteria are as follows:

  • State convictions and state prison only
  • Probation term successful or conviction date is older than one year
  • Sentence requirements have been satisfied
  • No current charges pending
  • Not currently on probation
  • No crimes involving sex crimes against children and others according to California Penal Code 1203.4

All hope is not lost if you do not meet these requirements. Below, we list the options for those who are ineligible for record expungement.

What if I am Not Eligible for Expungement?

For those who do not meet the criteria for record expungement, the options are:

  • A pardon from the governor
  •  Clemency (Certificate of Rehabilitation or Commutation)

These options require an application and investigation of criminal history records, court and police records.

What a Record Expungement Does and Does Not do

A record expungement can help a person achieve success in life. A person can obtain gainful employment, get a professional license, and get a fresh start. However, an expungement does not make that person invincible.

While the expungement only removes the conviction from a person’s record, there are instances in which the expunged record may need to be disclosed. It is also important to note that the record expungement does not restore a person’s driving privileges. Continue reading

Many states have old, outdated laws in existence. Unfortunately, the laws make no sense and do not coincide with society in 2019. This is why early this September, Governor Newsom signed a bill that no longer makes it a misdemeanor for citizens to refuse to help the police. The law is an outdated one from the days of the Wild West and is known as the California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872.

What is the California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872?

Although you may have not heard of the law, the California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872 made it a crime, specifically a misdemeanor, for an able-bodied person over the age of 18 to refuse to assist the police in making arrests or taking people into custody. The elements of the law are:

  • Person must be 18 years of age or older
  • Person must be able-bodied – meaning no physical ailments or disabilities
  •  Police must request assistance on demand

The law dates back to the Wild West days when cowboys and outlaws, or fugitives and bandits wandered around the State of California.

The law allowed for citizens to receive a misdemeanor charge along with a fine of up to $1,000 for refusing or failing to help police make arrests or catch suspects, when the police request the help on demand.

How Was the Law Found?

According to an article in CNN, the interns of Senator Hertzberg found the old law. They were tasked with identifying old laws in the books. When they found this law was still in existence, Senator Hertzberg introduced State Senate Bill 192 to remove the law.

Had the Law Been Used Recently?

Unfortunately, yes.

Law enforcement made an attempt to use it to its benefit recently. According to a report by the Sacramento Bee, the law was referred to in 2014 when a sheriff’s office used posse comitatus as a defense in a lawsuit filed against them for an allegation by a man and woman saying they were deceived into responding to a 911 call by the sheriff’s office.

What Does ‘Posse Comitatus’ Mean?

Black’s Law Dictionary defines posse comitatus as the power or force of the county. The term is Latin, much like many legal terms. While the term also applies to a U.S. federal law, 18 U.S.C. Section 1385, the federal law reserves itself to the use of military personnel. Continue reading

For the police to make an arrest in San Diego, a warrant must accompany them. Discovering you have a warrant can be nerve wracking. You begin to wonder why a warrant was issued against you and what to do to make the warrant go away. Sometimes, but not often, judges issue warrants by mistake. When a judge signs off on a warrant, the warrant will come in the form of an arrest warrant or bench warrant.

What is an Arrest Warrant?

An arrest warrant is the legal document the judge will use to order the police to bring a person to jail under suspicion of a crime. If a police investigation, through testimony or evidence, reveals that someone committed a crime, the police will ask the judge to issue an arrest warrant that authorizes them to make the arrest.

What is a Bench Warrant?

Differing from the arrest warrant, a bench warrant stems directly from the judge for violating court rules. One of the most common reasons why a judge issues a bench warrant is the failure to appear. A bench warrant forces a person to appear before the court or judge, hence the name bench warrant — the judge sits at the bench and the warrant was issued from the bench.

Arrest and Bench Warrant Differences

Below are the major differences between an arrest and bench warrant:

  • The method in which the judge issues the warrants
  • Once the judge issues an arrest warrant, the police will search for the suspect
  • A bench warrant is usually not in connection with a serious crime
  • The warrant that can remain outstanding in the database is the bench warrant

How to Find Out if You Have a Warrant.

One way to find out if you have an arrest warrant in San Diego is to review the Online Warrant Database at San Diego County Sheriff’s Department website. Simply type in your last name, first name, middle name and year of birth to see if your name is in the database.

If your search reveals that you have a warrant, you should locate an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney immediately. Many people try to handle the warrant on their own and face being placed in police custody. A knowledgeable San Diego criminal lawyer can get the warrant reversed and prevent law enforcement from placing you in police custody. Continue reading

San Diego has a new regulation that went into effect on July 1. The San Diego City Council put new regulations in place for scooters and bikes – sometimes referred to as dockless devices – to increase the safety of the public. Now, dockless bike and scooter riders must keep an eye on their speed in certain areas and stay informed of the parking locations where dockless bikes and scooters are accepted or face traffic tickets from law enforcement. 

The Dockless Scooter and Bike Regulations do the following:

  • Limit riders’ speed to 8 miles per hour on beach boardwalks
  • Limit riders’ seed to 3 miles per hour in high-traffic areas
  • Ban scooters from parking at hospitals, schools and certain parks
  • Prohibit scooters from riding on sidewalks in the City

Additionally, the regulations:

  • Require scooter companies to pay a permit fee of more than $5,000 every six months, including a $150 per device fee
  • Create designated scooter parking corrals (stenciled zones where riders can park bikes and scooters) so they do not block pathways on sidewalks
  • Require riders to stage scooters in groups of no more than four
  • Require riders to place 40 feet between each staging area

For your information, the City of San Diego offers a map showing the areas with speed and parking restrictions. To prevent people from violating the regulations, riders will receive notifications from the dockless bike and scooter companies letting them know when they are in no-ride zones.

Although some people are not in favor of the regulations, they can help to prevent accidents on sidewalks. Just this year, the first known scooter fatality in San Diego occurred — a tourist was riding a scooter on the sidewalk when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed, suffering fatal head injuries. The report states that the tourist was not wearing a helmet.

New Dockless Scooter Regulations Enforced by the San Diego Police Department

Yes, with the new regulations, you can get a ticket and face fines for violations. The San Diego Municipal Code and California Vehicle Code explain the laws pertaining to scooters and bicycles. These laws are enforceable by the San Diego Police Department. The new regulation will allow riders and dockless device users to report dangerous behaviors and consider mechanisms for citations.

According to a Fox 5 News article, San Diego Police Department say they will be diligent in enforcing more serious traffic violations such as riding two people to a scooter or riding while under the influence. Both violations come with traffic tickets which require riders to go to traffic court or traffic school. Continue reading

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

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