Articles Tagged with California criminal attorney

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. 

Continue reading

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.

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. 

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

If you watch any crime drama on television, you know the scoop: the case could be up in the air with no way to nab the culprit—until miraculously, a fingerprint or a wayward strand of hair is discovered by a fervent detective. Instantaneously, it seems, the evidence is analyzed in the lab, proving without question who is guilty of the crime. The perpetrator goes to jail, and justice is served. But how accurate is this depiction of the criminal justice system at work? If you are being charged with criminal activity and there is forensic evidence that puts you at the crime scene, there are several things you should know. 

Justice is Slow

For starters, unlike on TV, it takes a lot of time — weeks, months, and sometimes years — after a crime is reported until it goes to trial. Moreover, forensic evidence is not quite as cut and dried as it appears on the screen.

  • Hair analysis: The forensic analysis of hair has been under scrutiny of late—in fact, it is sometimes referred to as pseudoscience. That is because so many of the characteristics of hair are extremely common, so the likelihood of an accurate match is slim to none.  According to The Guardian, one expert in the field stated that microscopic examinations are essentially without value except as a method to exclude a suspect.
  • Fingerprints: Examiners — the majority of whom have never been required to pass any sort of accreditation or testing standards — are taught to report their findings with certainty. Unbelievably, however, training standards for fingerprint analysts vary from state to state, and many of the conclusions reached by these fingerprint “experts” should be viewed as less than airtight, to say the least. The problems with fingerprint identifications are becoming more and more well-known, leading many courts across the country to exclude fingerprint evidence altogether! That is because the accuracy of fingerprint identifications has not ever really been tested.  

Challenging “Expert” Testimony

When your defense team encounters what they consider dubious conclusions made by a supposed expert, Daubert Motions can challenge the testimony based on any of three key areas:

  • The qualifications of the “specialist”;
  • The methodology used to arrive at specific conclusions;
  • The accuracy of the science itself.

These are precisely the types of challenges that give a judge reason to doubt the legitimacy of “expert” testimony. Such challenges could benefit defendants by prompting a judge to instruct a jury to give less weight to such testimony, to strike the testimony related to that evidence altogether, or even to dismiss the case outright.   Continue reading

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