Articles Tagged with civil rights

Citizens of the United States, both those who are unencumbered by the criminal justice system and are free and those who are serving time behind bars after a criminal conviction, have rights. Being arrested, charged, and then convicted of a crime in California is never the intended outcome for a defendant, yet convictions happen every day. Jail time as a consequence of a conviction is also common, but serving time does not make you less of a human or a citizen of the country. You still are entitled to basic rights under the United States constitution.

If you do not know what your rights are, you will have a much harder time understanding situations in which you may not be treated equitably. Understanding your rights can help you keep the dignity you are entitled to as well as protect you from inhumane abuse. David M. Boertje is a San Diego criminal defense attorney who offers experienced and skilled legal counsel and defense to individuals who are arrested for crimes in San Diego. A conviction can have many life-long negative implications. Having the most proficient legal defense supporting you is important to improving the chances that you see the best outcome possible, including avoiding having to spend time in jail.

What Rights Do You Have While You are Serving Time in a California Jail?

An arrest is a suspicion of a crime, not a confirmation of one. When you enter the criminal justice system, you are innocent until proven guilty, and you should be treated like this. When it is proven that you committed a crime, you will face punishment for that offense. If your penalty includes jail, while you are behind bars you are afforded the following protections:

  • You can not be treated in a cruel and depraved way.
  • You must be granted access to services and resources that are available to support a disability or illness if you have one.
  • You have the ability to connect with and use the court system if you need to, so if you have a complaint you are allowed to voice it.
  • You do not lose due process while in the prison system. For example, if it is alleged that you committed a crime while you were incarcerated you can use witnesses and other evidence to defend yourself. You will not be granted professional legal representation, but you have the right to fight back against the accusations.
  • You must be able to get the treatment you need for physical and mental issues.
  • You must not be discriminated against.
  • You have the right to practice your religion without obstruction and if you do not have a religion, you cannot be forced to partake in religious practice.

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The year 2020 was a volatile one, and now that it has come to an end, there are high hopes for a better and much more stable 2021. Across the country and in the state of California, new laws and regulations are going to take effect. Some of the new legislation is directly influenced by what we experienced during the pandemic. The world’s new normal includes considerations for COVID as well as other potential strains and viruses that could emerge.

What are the New California Laws for 2021?

The following are some of the new 2021 California laws that have taken effect as of January, 2021: 

  • Every employer who finds out that their employees have been exposed to COVID-19 has 24 hours to tell them.
  • Choke holds and carotid holds will not be used by law enforcement and are banned.
  • Parolees who were not able to vote due to their criminal history will now be able to legally vote in California.
  • Any individual serving time for a felony in a California prison who assisted with fighting the wildfires could have their felony charges expunged when they complete their sentence. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis and depends on the details of the crime committed. Those who do have the privilege of expungement will have an increased ability to become a professional firefighter.
  • Companies with greater than 25 employees will have to pay their employees a minimum of $14 per hour, and companies with under 25 employees will have to pay a minimum of $13 per hour.
  • Every California company must hold the jobs of its employees for up to 12 weeks to allow unpaid leave in the event of a childbirth or family emergency.
  • Companies that have headquarters in California and that are publicly held must have a director installed from an “underrepresented community.”
  • Insurance companies must notify their customers about any reduction in coverage and they also must confirm acknowledgment from their customers that they received the updated information. Customers must put their recognition of communications in writing.
  • Automobile brake pads that have more than 5% of copper materials will no longer be manufactured in the state.
  • Hospitals must have a stockpile of three months’ worth of personal protective equipment. Hospitals must also make sure that their healthcare workers use the equipment.

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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

In an attempt to address the ongoing trend of police misconduct and institutional bias, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation last week mandating that California law enforcement agencies collect and make public data on the racial makeup of all those encountered by police.  A.B. 953, was written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) as a response to fatal police shootings of unarmed black men and other people of color. A 2008 study of LAPD data by a Yale researcher found blacks and Latinos were subjected to stops, frisks, searches, and arrests at significantly higher rates than whites, regardless of whether they lived in high-crime neighborhoods.

What A.B. 953 Does

A.B. 953 will amend Sections 13012 and 13519.4 of the California Penal Code. Under the new law, California police must collect data on the people they stop, including perceived race and ethnicity, the reason for the encounter, and the outcome. The state attorney general’s office will determine how the reporting is done and how the data are stored. In addition, police agencies whose officers wear cameras will have to follow rules on storing and using the video so it is not mishandled. The regulations dictate how long video should be kept and how supervisors should use it in investigations.

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