Articles Tagged with california police

The story of Stephon Clark has been heard around the world. Unarmed and on his grandmother’s property, Clark was shot eight times and killed one night in Sacramento. The police mistook the glow on his cell phone for the muzzle flash of a gun. In March the County District Attorney and the State Attorney General declined to prosecute the officers, causing massive protest demonstrations for days. 

California’s History of Use of Deadly Force

For 147 years, California use of deadly force statutes have allowed police officers to use deadly force when arresting persons charged with felonies and who are fleeing from justice or resisting arrest. In 1989, the statute was replaced by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that lethal use of force is justified against a suspect if a “reasonable” police officer would have acted the same way in a similar situation. The change, however, was not codified.

Under a Bill before the State Assembly, that threshold would rise. A police officer would be justified in using lethal force only if it were determined to be “necessary” to defend against imminent death or severe harm. Unsurprisingly, California law enforcement organizations are campaigning to codify the 1989 standard, stressing that suspects should cooperate, then complain.

For the past year, criminal justice reforms in California have entered into effect at whiplash speeds. From eliminating cash bail to suspending the death penalty, the reforms have been first in the nation and an attempt to look at who gets most impacted by the enforcement of the state’s laws, the poor, and minorities.

Increasingly, law enforcement’s stance on the issue is losing credibility. With the advent of police cameras, street cameras, and even bystander cameras, many questionably deadly shootings have been dissected to the point that even when suspects cooperate and do not complain, they lose their lives.

The bill is not cheap. To support the aims, training specifically on how to de-escalate a police incident would need to be provided to California’s approximately 500 law enforcement agencies with thousands of personnel statewide.

Community policing will continue to be under scrutiny when the same individuals get targeted for apprehension on minor infractions and end up dead at the end of the encounter. To become law, the Bill has to be passed by the state Senate and signed by the Governor. Continue reading

Most people’s contact with police occurs in their cars. Drivers routinely get stopped and cited for traffic and moving violations. Sometimes people are stopped because their vehicle matches a description of a vehicle of interest in a police investigation, or at a sobriety checkpoint during the holidays, or at the site of a car accident. No matter the occasion for the stop, there are certain behaviors that are acceptable and others that you should avoid. What follows are tips on how to handle a police stop in your car in California.

If you are stopped in your car, DO:

  • DO show your license, registration, and proof of insurance when asked by the police officer if you were driving the vehicle.
  • DO keep your hands on the wheel and let the police officer know what you are doing. For example, “I’m going to reach for my wallet to get my drivers’ license out.”
  • DO say, “I do not consent to a search.”
  • DO sign your ticket if you are given one and asked to sign it. Otherwise, you may be arrested.
  • DO take a breathalyzer and participate in any DUI tests unless you are willing to risk the suspension of your license.
  • DO ask if you can park your car in a safe place or have a licensed driver take it away, if you are arrested, to avoid towing and impoundment fees.

If you are stopped in your car, DO NOT:

  • DO NOT physically resist a search. Say, “I do not consent to a search.”
  • DO NOT refuse to sign a ticket. Remember, you can be arrested for not doing so.
  • DO NOT search for your license or registration until asked. It may look as if you are trying to hide something.
  • DO NOT disrespect the officer. Although you have a constitutional right to do so, it could lead to your arrest.
  • DO NOT attempt to bribe the police.
  • DO NOT play music loudly when the police walk up to your car.
  • DO NOT have any objects hanging from your rearview mirror or dark tinted windows. It may give police a reason to pull you over.

The Boertje Law Firm Fights for You

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in San Diego, you can face either a misdemeanor or felony charge along with heavy fines and years of imprisonment. Contact a qualified San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mitigate penalties today and explain your legal rights and responsibilities. Available 24/7, the Boertje Law Firm represents clients at any stage of the criminal case and for any crime charged — violation, misdemeanor, or felony. 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

In the latest of the terrifying bills that have come out of our current Congress, Republicans in the House and Senate recently introduced two companion bills they are calling the Back the Blue Act of 2017, to keep up with the Trump Administration’s rhetoric of “law and order.” S.1134 was introduced by John Cornyn (R-Tex.), and is co-sponsored by 15 senators, all Republicans.  H.R.2437 as introduced by Ted Poe (R-Tex.), and includes five co-sponsors, also all Republicans.

What the Bills do

The bills would create a new category of federal crimes for killing or attempting to kill a state or local law enforcement officer who works for a police agency that receives federal funding. It in effect treats all local police agencies as federal agencies because nearly all police agencies already receive some sort of federal funding. The bill would also allow for the federal death penalty in such cases, and it would impose limits on the ability of defendants to file habeas petitions in federal court after they have exhausted their appeals.

The bill would also make it a federal crime to “assault” any police officer, bringing a federal mandatory prison sentence of two to 10 years.

Additionally, the bills would allow a district attorney to overrule local officials if he or she did not like the way those officials were handling a case involving a police death. As it stands, the language of the proposed legislation explicitly authorizes federal prosecutions in cases where  “the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to State charges left demonstratively un-vindicated the Federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence.”

Qualified Immunity

It has always been the case that police actions are covered under qualified immunity, which means that in order for a victim’s lawsuit to proceed, the plaintiff in a civil rights lawsuit must show that not only were his or her rights violated, but also that a reasonable police officer should have known that the actions in question were a violation of the Constitution (essentially that the police intentionally violated his or her rights).

Under the language of this proposed bill, police would only be liable for out-of-pocket expenses and not statutory punitive damages, such as in instances of Section 1983 lawsuits under the Civil Rights Act. Lastly, the bills would bar plaintiffs from recovering attorneys fees under Section 1988 of the Civil Rights Act.

The bills are being opposed by civil rights and accountability groups nation-wide. Continue reading

In October of this year, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department this week showcased a program that focuses on gang enforcement with two new gang teams and a new homicide team.  This program is set to be formed from redirected resources from the newly defunct narcotics enforcement team. It has been reported that over the past six months, the Desert Gang Team has made over 250 arrests, seized 58 firearms and documented 347 gang members and associates.   

The shift is a response to California’s Proposition 47, approved last year, which reduced the penalties for the possession of most controlled substances from felonies to misdemeanors. As a result, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Narcotics Division was re-designated the Gangs/Narcotics Division. The Valley Gang Team is responsible for the metropolitan areas of the county from the borders with Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties extending to the Yucaipa Valley, including the mountains. The Desert Gang Team is responsible for the desert areas of the county.

California’s Gang Laws