Articles Tagged with California criminal defense attorney

Entering a guilty plea in a criminal case goes beyond the pronouncement of the word, “guilty.” What follows is a discussion of the different types of plea options in California examining the implications of invoking each option.

The California Penal Code provides for six possible pleas to an indictment for information. The three most common pleas are “not guilty,” “guilty,” or “no contest.” Less common are a former judgment of a conviction or acquittal of the offense charged, once in jeopardy, and not guilty by reason of insanity. CPC Section 1016. This post will focus on the first three, or the most common pleas.

How Should I Plead?

To determine which plea option is appropriate for your case, carefully consider the recommendation of your criminal defense attorney. Not only does the criminal defense attorney know the court and its practices in your jurisdiction, but he or she will also be able to share insights on how similar cases were resolved.

“Not Guilty” vs. “Guilty”

When you enter a plea of “not guilty” and a plea deal is not accepted or offered, your case goes to trial before the judge or a jury of no more than 12 people. All other plea options, like “guilty” and “no contest” skip the trial and proceed to sentencing.

“Guilty”’

The accused person admits to committing the crime and allows the judge to determine the sentence. The jury trial is skipped when an accused person enters a guilty plea.

“No Contest”

The accused person neither admits or denies guilt, but acknowledges that the evidence is sufficient to convict should the case go to trial. The jury trial is skipped when an accused person enters a “nolo contendere” plea.

The Role of the Criminal Defense Attorney

The criminal defense attorney is often able to obtain a more favorable deal if you decide to accept a plea. A criminal defense attorney is also able to make sure that everything is done properly, and the correct process is utilized to dispose of your case. Lastly, the criminal defense attorney will help you understand the full consequences of a guilty plea in your particular case.

What to do if You are Charged With a Crime in San Diego

Guilty pleas have an impact outside of the courtroom. It is important for accused persons to discuss the benefits of settling a criminal case and understand the impact of a conviction on their employment options, housing opportunities, gun possession licenses, and voting rights. Continue reading

Encounters with police or other law enforcement officials can be scary. Some individuals are treated fairly when questioned or detained by the police, while others are not, and remember their experiences quite negatively. The following will provide some practical information regarding your rights when you interact with the police.

If You are Stopped by a Police Officer

First, understand what a police officer’s job is, regardless of whether your stop is fair or unfair. If the police have reasonable suspicion that you have committed a crime or are in the process of committing a crime, then they are required to investigate.

If you are stopped for questioning, DO:

  • Ask the police officer, “Am I free to go?” If the police officer says yes, then you can leave. If the officer says no, ask him or her to explain why he or she is detaining you.
  • Remain silent, as is your right. Say, “I want to remain silent.” Do not start answering questions and then stop. It is best not to answer any questions. You must provide your name, date of birth, and address, but nothing more.
  • Tell the police officer you do not consent to a search. The police officer will search you upon arrest or as part of the investigation into your alleged crime. Nonetheless, you can say, “I do not consent to a search.”

If you are stopped for questioning, DO NOT:

  • Act or speak disrespectfully toward the police officer.
  • Run away or physically resist a “pat-down” or search. Simply say, “I do not consent to a search.” Be aware that you will be searched despite your objection.
  • Lie to the police. When they ask for your name and address, provide your name and address, not your sister’s or cousin’s or made up name. After you provide this basic information, you can remain silent and say, “I want to remain silent.”
  • Discuss your citizenship or immigration status with anyone but your criminal defense lawyer.

Keep in mind that the police are allowed to lie, intimidate, and bluff. Even if you do not strike a police officer while you are being questioned after a stop, spitting on a police officer is an assault and can be charged as resisting arrest, too.

Do Not Go it Alone

Most people with contacts in the criminal justice system are first-time offenders. For many accused people, it may be the first and only criminal case they have in their lifetime. Understanding your rights and the steps involved to resolve a criminal case brings with it peace of mind during a turbulent time for you and your loved ones. Continue reading

The unauthorized use, or even possession, of someone else’s personal identifying information can result in charges of identity theft. Identity theft is a crime that occurs when someone uses another person’s personal information to pose as the person in order to obtain goods, services, or something of value, like credit.

According to 2018 Identity Fraud: Fraud Enters a New Era of Complexity from Javelin Strategy & Research, in 2017, there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud, a record high that followed a previous record the year before.

A common identity theft scenario might involve calling someone and claiming to be a representative from the bank or IRS. During the call, a person is asked to verify his or her financial and identifying information, like a mailing address, date of birth, bank account number, or social security number. That information is used then, to make unlawful withdrawals from the person’s bank account.

Identity Theft in California

In California, the law against identity theft is found in Penal Code Section 530.5. Under the Penal Code, identity theft is obtaining and using another person’s personal information for an unlawful or fraudulent purpose, as follows:

  • Obtaining and using another person’s information without their consent for an unlawful purpose;
  • Obtaining and using another person’s information without their consent to commit fraud;
  • Selling, transferring or conveying another’s personal information without their consent with the intent to commit fraud, and
  • Selling, transferring or conveying another’s personal information without their consent knowing that the information will be used to commit fraud,

Identity Theft Penalties

Identity theft is a wobbler offense in California. This means that it can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of the offense and the accused person’s criminal history. A misdemeanor conviction will result in up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. A felony conviction will result in up to three years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

Examples of Identity Theft

Examples of identity theft include:

  • Stolen checks;
  • Stolen ATM cards;
  • Fraudulent change of address;
  • Social security number misuse;
  • Passport misuse;
  • Driver license number misuse; and
  • False civil and criminal judgment.

Continue reading

One of the most shocking revelations when a person is arrested for a crime and is being booked in jail is that they do not have a right to make that one phone call. It seems wrong on many levels because for years you may have seen and heard on television shows and movies that a person can make a call from jail to a family member or friend.

The reality is that there is no constitutional right to use a phone when you are booked into jail. Police departments that permit telephone calls do so as a courtesy. Most if not all of the police departments that permit calls record them.

Nothing is Private

Jails or detention facilities that permit telephone calls record the inmates’ calls. In fact, before an inmate is connected to whomever he or she may be calling, a preliminary recorded message informs both ends of the conversation that the telephone call will be recorded. Despite the clear warning, many inmates still talk about criminal acts, actions, knowledge, or involvement.  

Who is Listening?

Everyone involved in your criminal prosecution has access to and can listen to all of your jailhouse conversations. Whatever information collected that can help the prosecutor convict you will be used against you and shared with the presiding judge in your case. This affects culpability and sentencing. Many times, your attorney, the only person in the equation interested in defending you, will be the last to know you made an incriminating statement to someone else complicating your defense and ability to mitigate any penalties.

Individuals charged with domestic violence, for example, often speak to family members or the complaining partner or spouse, in violation of the no contact order of protection in an effort to pressure the partner or spouse to drop the charges or not appear in court. These activities, if recorded, are most certainly used against the charged individual in the existing case and to support charges of witness tampering or violation of a protective order.

If you are able to make a call from jail, do not discuss your case with anyone but your lawyer.

Hire a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with a crime in California, you can face misdemeanor or felony charges along with heavy fines and years of imprisonment. Contact a qualified and experienced  San Diego criminal defense lawyer who can help you mitigate potential penalties and put a difficult chapter of your life behind you. Continue reading

Prostitution is illegal in the majority of states in America, including California. Often referred to as the “world’s oldest profession,” at its most simple definition, prostitution is the exchange of sex for money. People are divided as to whether prostitution is a victimless crime, as sex workers often endure serious physical, financial, drug, and sexual abuse. Others, especially in states that permit prostitution, like Nevada, argue that it is a job like any other.

California’s Prostitution Laws

Prostitution is the exchange of sex for money or other form of payment. California laws define prostitution as a lewd act requiring physical contact of a sexual nature, sexual conduct, or sexual intercourse between two people. The sex worker is often the person charged with prostitution crimes.

California’s Solicitation Laws

Solicitation is an offer to pay money for sex. The john or client is often the person charged with solicitation crimes.

California’s Pandering Laws

Pandering is the act of arranging a sex act between a sex worker and client for a fee or cut of the amount charged. The panderer is called a pimp or madame and is often charged with pandering crimes.

Defenses to Prostitution Charges

Law enforcement agencies throughout the country set up sting operations to round up prostitutes and their clients. Every couple of months numerous arrests for prostitution and solicitation charges make the media, with over a dozen people arrested in a sting. Individuals charged with prostitution often rely on the defense of entrapment by an undercover police officer if their arrests were part of a sting operation by law enforcement officials.

Minors can no longer be charged with prostitution crimes with the passage of SB 1322, which decriminalized prostitution for individuals under 18. These individuals are instead referred to child welfare services.

Charged With a Prostitution Crime in California?

Prostitution and solicitation crimes are considered nuisance crimes, that lower the standards of a community. They make a big splash because prominent people often get arrested for solicitation. While jail sentences tend to be short, many times the sex workers themselves are repeat offenders, and their penalties increase with each arrest. Pandering charges tend to be felonies and carry long jail terms. If you face prostitution, solicitation, or pandering charges in California, consult a qualified San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mitigate the penalties. Continue reading

Criminal behavior in California is defined by law and contained in the state’s statutes. If a person engages in actions the state has determined are criminal, he or she will be prosecuted in criminal court and possibly be convicted of the crime.

People today are well-informed and aware of the criminal justice system through what they see on TV and in movies, although they may not have much personal experience with it. True crime stories are highly publicized and have armchair jurors making judgments about the guilt or innocence of accused people. So, let us go over the basic of criminal charges in California.

There are four main types of crime:

  • Crimes against the person: Personal crimes are considered crimes against the person. They result in physical or mental harm to another person. Examples of personal crimes are assault, battery, false imprisonment, kidnapping, homicide, and rape.
  • Crimes against property: Property crimes are considered crimes against property. Things, rather than people, are harmed or another person’s right to use or enjoy property is taken away. These include larceny, robbery, burglary, arson, embezzlement, forgery, false pretenses, and receipt of stolen goods.
  • Inchoate crimes: Incomplete crimes are called inchoate crimes. These offenses were started by the perpetrator, but were not completed. The word attempt is often added to the underlying offense, like attempted homicide or attempted rape. In addition to attempt, these crimes also include solicitation and conspiracy.
  • Statutory crimes: Certain behavior by itself is not illegal, but state laws make it illegal. A good example of this is alcohol-related crimes, like driving under the influence of alcohol. Drinking by itself is not a crime. It only becomes a crime when the person tries to drive while under the influence. This type of behavior is called a statutory crime.

Have You Been Charged with a Crime in California?

Penalties for criminal convictions depend on the seriousness of the crime. The more serious crimes, like kidnapping and robbery, carry a year or more in prison. Misdemeanors are less serious and carry less than a year in jail. Both also carry monetary fines. If you face criminal charges in California, consult a qualified San Diego criminal defense attorney who can help mitigate your penalties. Continue reading

Anyone who encourages, facilitates, or aids in the commission of a crime can be arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced with the same crime as the person who actually committed it. Known as aiding and abetting or accomplice liability, this California charge catches all crimes, whether felony or misdemeanor, and any participation, whether the person committed the act constituting the offense or just aided and abetted in the commission of a crime. Aiding and abetting is not a separate crime.

For example, Nathan, Mateo, and Logan plan to rob a jewelry store. Each plays a different role. Nathan draws a diagram of the display case and safes. He gives the drawing to Mateo. Logan drives Mateo to the jewelry store and waits out front in the getaway car. Mateo actually goes inside the store, takes the jewelry, runs out of the store, and jumps in Logan’s car. The two of them drive off.

While only Mateo stole the jewels, all three could be charged with armed robbery because Mateo as the direct perpetrator entered the jewelry store and committed an armed robbery. Nathan and Logan are liable as aiders and abettors even if they did not know Mateo had the gun with him when he robbed the store.

Nathan can not put forth a defense that he was not present during the armed robbery because by drawing the diagram of the display cases and safes, he had more than knowledge of the planned robbery – he was involved in planning it and did nothing to stop it.

A new California law will redefine accomplice liability in felony murder cases. Check back next week for an in-depth look at Senate Bill 1437.

Charged Under California’s Aiding and Abetting Laws?

Under California law, if you aid and abet a person who actually committed a crime, you could face the same exact penalties, meaning a prison sentence. Aiding and abetting is not a crime in itself, instead it imposes criminal liability on the action of helpers. If you help someone commit a crime, you will be charged with the same crime as the person who actually committed the crime. Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss your defense and mitigating circumstances. Continue reading

The idea that there is some relationship between mental illness and crime is a popular theme when violent crimes are sensationalized in the media. People with mental illness live everywhere. So, it is unsurprising that some individuals accused of committing crimes in California also suffer from mental illness.

Mental Illness and Crime

According to a study conducted by David B. Kopel and Clayton E. Cramer, only a small minority of seriously mentally ill people commit violent crimes. However, close examination of mentally ill patients reveals the following:

  • Mentally ill patients comprise a large fraction of the jail and prison population;
  • Mentally ill people are disproportionately victimized by violent crime;
  • Some forms of mental illness increase the risk that a person will perpetrate a violent crime;
  • Untreated severe mental illness is significant in homicide cases; and
  • On a month to month basis mental illness treatment is more expensive in a hospital rather than prison.

San Diego Mental Health Collaborative Court (MHCC)

Since November 2016, San Diego county has offered a mental health collaborative court program to assist incarcerated people successfully reenter the community at the end of their jail or prison term. Assessments begin while the incarcerated person is still in jail and services start as soon as the individual is released.

A team of court personnel, social workers, nurses, psychiatrists, and counselors work with the incarcerated person between the ages of 18 and 59 who have been involved in or are transitioning out of correctional facilities. The individual receives a personalized treatment plan, medication management, peer support counseling, a housing subsidy, and educational or vocational services and training.

Individuals are referred to the program directly by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. To be eligible for the program, the incarcerated person must be:

  • 18 or older;
  • Probation eligible
  • A U.S. citizen or contain lawful resident or temporary resident status;
  • Mentally competent;
  • Diagnosed with a serious mental illness;
  • Voluntarily participate in the program; and
  • Non-serious criminal charge.

Charged With a Crime in California?

A criminal case usually starts with a police arrest report. The prosecutor then decides what criminal charges to file. Some cases go to a grand jury for a preliminary indictment, where a jury decides if there is enough evidence to proceed. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges in California, contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney.

California offers individuals with mental illness programs in court, correction facilities, and post-release. Discuss your case with a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney today. Continue reading

Identity theft is a crime in California. Identity theft relates to the deliberate use of someone else’s name and identifying information to obtain a financial benefit. Criminal identity theft is a separate crime and relates to using another person’s name and identifying information resulting in a criminal conviction record being created in that person’s name. This post will discuss identity theft crimes.

What is Identity Theft?

California Penal Code 530 is the section of the criminal law code that deals with identity theft crimes. San Diego police and the district attorney’s office have specialized units that investigate, arrest, and charge individuals accused of identity theft crimes. A growing state and national issue, identity theft crimes are aggressively prosecuted at both the state and federal level.

Identity theft or fraud describe crimes in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, most often for economic gain. Identity theft is a federal and state offense.

Federal identity theft charges are often accompanied by other crimes. They are identification fraud, credit card fraud, computer fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, or financial institution fraud.

What are the Criminal Penalties for Identity Theft Charges?

In California, identity theft crimes are penalties punishable by up to three years of state prison, restitution to the victim, court costs and fines, and post-release parole supervision.

The federal identity theft crimes listed above are felonies and can result in up to 30 years of imprisonment in a federal detention or correctional center.

Charged Under California’s Identity Theft Laws? Hire a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

A criminal case usually starts with a police arrest report. The prosecutor then decides what criminal charges to file. Some cases go to a grand jury for a preliminary indictment, where a jury decides if there is enough evidence to proceed. If you or someone you know is facing identity theft charges in California, contact the San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney.

California offers pretrial diversion programs for first-time offenders as an alternative to prosecution. Eligibility depends on age and prior criminal record. Criminal charges under the pretrial diversion program are dismissed if the person successfully completes court mandated programs and conditions within a specified time frame. Continue reading

Since 1989, 200 people have had their convictions overturned in California because they were wrong. In a major study conducted by UC Berkeley School of Law, researchers found that:

  • California leads the nation in exonerations as defined by the National Registry of Exonerations with 120, surpassing Illinois (110), Texas (100), and New York (100);
  • Since 1989, courts have exonerated or dismissed convictions against 214 Californians. Reasons include official misconduct, insufficient evidence, findings of innocence, ineffective defense, and legal error;
  • The vast majority of these wrongfully convicted individuals served time in state or federal prison before their convictions were thrown out, collectively losing 1,313 years of their freedom;
  • 40% of individuals in the dataset were initially sentenced to 20 years or more in prison, including many who received life, life without parole, or death sentences before their convictions were overturned;
  • African Americans have been wrongfully convicted at a much higher rate than people of other races and that the majority of wrongful convictions occur in just a few counties.

Rampart Police Scandal

In late 1990 the Los Angeles Police Department was involved in widespread police corruption scandal in the Communities Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) anti-gang unit. More than 70 police officers were charged with misconduct. The misconduct included unprovoked shootings and beatings, planting of false evidence, stealing and dealing narcotics, perjury, and obstruction of justice, among other crimes. The UC Berkeley School of Law study also found that:

  • Individuals framed in the Los Angeles Rampart police scandal of the late 1990s account for 25% of the wrongful convictions in the dataset (53 people thus far; news reports estimate the total number of exonerated individuals at greater than 100;)
  • Excluding the Rampart cases, all of which were due to official misconduct, major factors contributing to these wrongful convictions include:
    • perjury or false accusation (42% of the cases);
    • official misconduct by police or prosecutors (39% of cases);
    • mistaken eyewitness ID (26% of cases);
    • inadequate or ineffective defense counsel (19% of cases); and
    • DNA evidence (fewer than 6% of the cases).

This was the final installment of the series DNA Profiling by Law Enforcement in California.

Have You Been Arrested in San Diego, California?

There is no greater injustice than being convicted of a crime you did not commit. If you or someone you know was wrongfully convicted, contact San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer David Boertje to understand your legal rights. Continue reading