Articles Tagged with criminal defense

What is more terrifying than being charged with a crime that could land you behind bars for an extensive period of time? Going to trial means that a judge and up to a dozen strangers hold your future in their hands. How will they judge you? How will their life experiences play into their view of the case against you? These are critical questions—questions that are often studied by jury consultants. 

Who are Jury Consultants?

People with backgrounds in communication, law, social sciences, and linguistics may choose to enter the world of jury consulting. These individuals hold degrees ranging from bachelor’s to Juris Doctor. Their job is to focus on a range of issues related to jury selection. Consultants can play a key role in guiding research, detecting suitable prospective jurors, preparing witnesses for the stand, and responding to the unavoidable changes that occur throughout any major criminal trial.

They Conduct Research

Often, a consultant spends a chunk of their time on research. They may run mock trials, conduct online research related to potential jurors, and consult with clients to develop themes and examine potential issues with evidence.

The Help With Jury Selection

Many consultants spend substantial time in the courtroom and contribute to the process of jury selection. Prior to jury selection, or Voir Dire, consultants may guide attorneys on ways to make a positive first impression on potential jurors. They may even assist in developing questions that help to determine which jurors might be most receptive to their case.

They Help Prepare Witnesses for the Stand

Many consultants’ chief job is assisting in preparing witnesses. This is especially helpful because the average person has never seen the inside of a courtroom, let alone been expected to testify and be cross-examined. In addition to preparing witnesses for the expectations and procedures in court, consultants might assist with things like what to wear, how to present themselves, and how to communicate effectively. 

The Monitor

Throughout the trial, consultants often continue to monitor witnesses.  Which ones lack credibility? Who is not very likable?  These things can influence the approach and course of the defense team.

Are Jury Consultants Necessary?

Naturally, there is a legal team in place to take care of all of this. Even so, some clients may wish to have a jury consultant available to assist. Over time consultants have been involved in a number of high-profile cases, including the trials of O.J. Simpson, Scott Peterson, Bill Cosby, and Kyle Rittenhouse. And in the current criminal proceedings against Donald Trump, a well-known jury consultant has been employed. Continue reading

If you are facing criminal charges, there may be circumstances when a change of venue is appropriate. What are those situations, what are the benefits of such a change, and what are the procedures to get a change of venue?

When is a Change of Venue Request Appropriate?

There is an array of reasons for which a change of venue may be requested. Obviously, if the charges were filed in the wrong court, to begin with, there will be a venue change—but there are other reasons for a change, as well. The bottom line is that every defendant deserves a fair and impartial trial. One key reason might be if the defendant believes it will be impossible to find an impartial jury, such as when a case has been locally publicized and there is strong public sentiment about it. Especially if there has been frequent and significant coverage related to the event in question, it may heavily influence prospective jurors. Likewise, if the political climate in an area is decidedly against a particular defendant (for being Black or LGBTQ, for example), it is possible a change of venue might be granted. Additionally, a change might be in order if the judge appears to be prejudiced, if a qualified judge is not available, or if the location of the court is substantially inconvenient for the non-party witnesses involved such that it would interfere with providing an unbiased and timely trial.

Steps in the Change

In order to get a change of venue, a motion must be filed with the court within a particular time frame. If the request is granted, the judge involved will suggest alternate sites for the trial based on the specifics of the case. At that point, the Judicial Council of California looks into other courts to consider issues like security issues, staffing needs, media involvement, costs, the presumed length of the trial, and other considerations specific to the case. The Judicial Council then provides three or more alternative courts that could handle the case to the judge who granted the venue change. A hearing is then held by that judge where the opinions of both sides in the case are considered, and a new venue is chosen. That decision then makes its way to each court that had been under consideration. The whole process generally takes a couple of weeks in most cases. Continue reading

We all know that a warrant has many purposes: a search warrant entitles law enforcement to search specific persons or property; an arrest warrant identifies someone who will be going to jail. But what is a reverse warrant, and how does it impact you? The fact of the matter is these reverse warrants literally scoop up huge quantities of private information, never having identified a particular criminal suspect and never showing probable cause that the evidence they are seeking will be found in corporate databases being searched. 

Understanding Reverse Warrants

Law enforcement personnel have been using reverse warrants for years, and organizations like the ACLU have been increasingly alarmed.  That’s because such warrants look at wide groups of people, most of whom are not even suspected of criminal activity. These warrants have several uses, but the most widely used include:

  • Reverse location warrants, sometimes called geofence warrants, which are used to identify all the people who were within a particular area during a particular time;
  • Reverse keyword warrants, which are used to identify anyone who entered a specific word or group of words into their search engines during a particular time frame, often in a specific area.

More Reverse Warrants Every Year

Google, the biggest target of reverse warrants, has seen an increase of over 1000% in federal reverse warrants over a two-year period, with an over 800% increase in state/local law enforcement over the same time frame (California’s increase reached 813%).

Google Wants Out of the Geofence Business

The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable search, and it seems clear that throwing out a wide net in hopes of catching a criminal is invasive and unconstitutional. As Google felt pressure building to involve them in data collection, they moved location data that used to be sent to the corporation to now be stored in a user’s phone. Fundamentally, it takes Google out of the geofense equation, as they will no longer have access to user’s location information. As a result, fewer innocents will be dragged into law enforcement dragnets.

Reverse Keyword Searches

Despite progress with geofences, the problem with reverse keyword searches is still a huge issue, particularly in this age of shrinking women’s rights. The government still has access to the computer searches of countless Americans whose involvement in criminal activity is nonexistent. The unchecked power of law enforcement is being challenged in courtrooms across the country, but the battle is slow. Continue reading

The media was all a-flurry when news of Judge Tanya Chutkan issuing a partial gag order on former president Donald Trump in prior to his scheduled D.C. trial. Mr. Trump naturally cried foul, claiming the deep state and the White House is trying to rob him of his right to free speech as he jockeys for another stint in the white house. So, what do we know about gag orders in general, and Mr. Trump’s in particular? 

What is it?

First up on the docket: what is a gag order? In terms of criminal trials, a gag order is a court-issued decree that impacts a person’s ability to discuss a case. While they usually are issued to defense attorneys who may be inclined to sway public opinion on a case with slanted media interviews, in Mr. Trump’s case the order was directed at both the attorneys and the defendant himself. That is because Trumps’ social media and news presence is so pervasive, and because his social media posts, in particular, have been pretty inflammatory.

Why Trump’s was a “Partial” Gag Order

Yes, Mr. Trump is running for president. He has the right to make speeches, to complain about the opposing party, and to denigrate the current man in the White House, not to mention the justice department. What he cannot do, according to the judge, is disparage prosecutors, court employees, or witnesses, or any of their families. Since former Vice-president Mike Pence is both a witness and a political foe, specific instructions were given as to the kinds of comments Mr. Trump can make about Mr. Pence. Criticisms about Pence’s political platform: okay.  Suggestions Pence should not testify at trial or cannot be trusted to tell the truth: not okay.

Why Courts Impose Gag Order

There is nothing new about issuing a gag order in a criminal trial. In fact, you could almost say they are routine in cases where a judge would like to limit public discourse on a pending trial. And why would they want that? Some cases are so volatile that there is a concern that either witnesses will be influenced, or even intimidated, or that the jury will be tainted. In the case of Mr. Trump, the judge specifically noted that the integrity of court proceedings was at risk without the partial gag order. And as far as free speech is concerned, the court must consider the right to a fair trial and the safety of everyone just as much as it weighs one’s right to speak out in public.

What if a Gag Order is Violated?

Any time someone chooses not to adhere to a judge’s decree, it could mean trouble, and that is the case with gag orders, too. Typically, offenders could find themselves facing court admonishment, fines, and loss of liberty.  Mr. Trump has been warned of those possibilities, including the potential of house arrest or time behind bars. Continue reading

If you have been convicted of a criminal offense in California, there is a good possibility that at some point you will experience adult supervision through a California parole program. What can you expect? 


Parole services are individualized based on a parolee’s needs and the need to protect the community. Reintegration can be a difficult process, so intensive supervision and support are available as needed, and can be adapted with time. Some of the services include:

  • Re-entry supervision at regular and intensive levels is available to help the individual make a successful transition from an institution into the community.
  • Electronic supervision may be used for parolees who require more structured requirements.
  • Specialized programs to assist with issues such as substance use disorders, mental health issues, anger management, as well as programs to address the unique needs of sex offenders and former gang members are available. 
  • GED preparation courses are available, along with employment services and life skills classes.
  • Personal assistance in the form of clothing, cash, transportation aid, parenting classes, and other forms of counseling are available for those who could benefit.
  • VIP—Volunteers in Parole—assigns attorneys who volunteer to mentor parolees.  

Rules for Parolees

Life is no picnic for parolees, as they are held to strict requirements until their stint with the program ends. Parolees need to be ready to give up some of their self-determination and color within the lines.  Just some of the conditions of parole include:

  • You and everything you own, as well as your residence, can be searched at any time for no reason at all.
  • Your Parole Officer (PO) needs to know where you live and work at all times, and must be notified of changes before they occur.
  • A warrant for your arrest can be issued if you miss any meetings with your PO.
  • You need your PO’s permission to travel more than 50 miles.
  • If you want to leave the county for more than two days you need your PO’s okay.
  • A travel pass from your PO is required for any out of state travel.
  • You cannot be anywhere near weapons, especially guns and ammunition, even toy weapons that look real.
  • You can’t have a knife with a blade longer than two inches.
  • If you work with knives, you need your PO’s permission, and cannot have the knives outside of work unless you have a note from your PO on your person at all times.

Continue reading

Everyone knows that the media has an intense impact on modern society.  Whether you are talking about television, radio, and other digital forms of media, you can find virtually any information you want, from the current score in a college ball game to weather information across the globe and the latest in politics from your state, the nation, or the world. So, it is certainly not a shock to learn that the media has the potential to influence attitudes and beliefs.  While the value of this is debatable, it can, in fact, be problematic when media coverage influences attitudes about current criminal cases. That is because the criminal justice system relies on the open-mindedness of jurors when deciding a case. When a juror has heard about a case, it could influence their feelings about a defendant. Additionally, cameras in the courtroom could influence the way witnesses or jurors behave. It is a big deal, especially when defendants are facing serious penalties. 

Pre-Trial Publicity

When it comes to finding jurors who can look beyond their own bias, high-profile cases can be especially challenging when the media has implied innocence or guilt. A juror’s impartiality is scrutinized during voir dire, the selection process. At that time, both the prosecution and the defense attorneys are permitted to question members of the jury pool. Some of that questioning could relate to each juror’s exposure to various media reports related to the case. Judges and attorneys recognize that media can prejudice people, even though they may not realize it themselves.  In cases where a juror does believe that they can act with impartiality and follow the instructions issued by the judge, they may be eliminated for cause by either side. 

Bias on the Bench

Of course, judges are people, too, and thus are equally susceptible to the media they consume.  One study concluded that elected judges are susceptible to thoughts relating to public views of crime, which results in more punitive sentencing when cases are widely reported. 

Capital Cases

Capital cases can be particularly tricky, both because they are emotionally charged and because they have had top media coverage. In these cases, jurors must be “death qualified.” They will be questioned as to whether they believe they will be able to weigh the evidence presented, including aggravating or mitigating evidence, and truly contemplate a possible sentence of execution and/or life in prison. This can be difficult for anyone, especially if the media has had a strong impact on one’s view of the case before it gets to trial. Research indicates that death-qualified jurors are more likely to watch the news daily and lean toward the prosecution.  Continue reading

Whether you are elated or disgusted by the fact that former President Trump was indicted, you are likely curious as to what that means. The district attorney from Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, pursued charges, announced the indictment, and arraigned Mr. Trump after years of questions about the former president’s involvement in a hush-money scheme, surprising many onlookers.  How did it all happen, and how will Trump’s experience with a criminal indictment parallel that of a typical person? 

What is an Indictment, Anyway?

While most people have heard the term “indictment,” many are unsure as to what it really is. In a nutshell, an indictment is simply the formal term used to encompass an accusation of legal wrongdoing. In criminal court, it means that the district attorney calls for a grand jury made up of randomly picked typical people to hear evidence against a particular individual. Unlike a regular jury, this panel of people weighs information without the presence of a judge, questioning witnesses at will. A simple majority ultimately must determine that there is enough evidence to pursue an indictment. 

More About the Grand Jury

A grand jury’s work is done outside of the public eye. The evidence they hear is one-sided because they are dealing with the question of whether or not there is evidence of criminal activity worth pursuing. Later, as in the case of Mr. Trump, if the grand jury votes to indict, the defendant will have an opportunity to stand trial before a jury of peers who hear both sides of the case in a more adversarial setting. Prior to any trial, however, attorneys for the defense may move to have the case dismissed. It could take months, or even years, for a case to finally land in a courtroom for the trial.

After the Indictment

Once a defendant is indicted, they are Mirandized and arrested. That often involves negotiation as to how and when the defendant surrenders to have mug shots and fingerprinting done. Unlike most defendants, Mr. Trump did not have a mugshot taken, largely because it was deemed unnecessary due to his public status. From there, the defendant is given the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty (Trump pleaded not guilty). The judge then rules on conditions for release by setting bond, releasing on recognizance, and so forth.

Worth Noting

It is important to emphasize a few key points:

  • In this country, a defendant is still considered innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution must prove guilt; the defense has no obligation whatsoever.
  • An indictment is an accusation, not a conviction.
  • Prosecutors must rely on the vote of a grand jury before they are able to indict anyone.
  • Following an indictment, the conviction rate is over 90% Continue reading

Domestic violence charges can result from a wide array of actions. In California, the most common domestic violence charges are filed when one party physically harms another with whom they were intimate at some point. This type of corporal or physical punishment between intimate parties can have criminal implications if reported to law enforcement. Domestic violence charges in California can be at the felony or misdemeanor level.

Being arrested for domestic violence, even if you are not charged, can greatly damage your reputation and negatively impact your life for the long term. Such accusations can tear families apart and even have professional ramifications. Guarding yourself against domestic violence charges is incredibly important. If you were arrested for a domestic violence incident in the greater San Diego area, the San Diego domestic violence attorney at the Law Offices of David M. Boertje offers effective and strategic legal defense services that may help you secure the best possible outcome for your case.

Basics of Domestic Abuse in California 

Domestic violence is not just restricted to adult men; people of all genders and ages have the potential to harm a loved one. Also, abuse happens in every environment including those that are rural, in the city, or in the suburbs. Additionally, no one race is immune from domestic violence nor is any income level. 

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that as many as 20 people every minute will be a victim of domestic abuse in the United States. This means that over 10 million people annually will be the victims of abuse.

There are several contributing factors common in many domestic abuse situations: 

  • People who have witnessed abuse as a child can come to believe that is how to interact with others. 
  • Being a victim of abuse at some point in a person’s life can lead them to be abusive, too.
  • As a matter of routine, a couple may go through the progressions and stages of violence, cycling from calm to intense rage.
  • Individuals experiencing certain mental health issues may act out violently. Schizophrenia, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder are a few examples.
  • Drug and alcohol use can cause a person to act differently when they have a substance in their system than they would if they were sober.
  • A person who was raised without examples and guidance on proper values may translate into an adult that is also unable to judge what is acceptable and what is not.

Every domestic abuse situation is unique, and the contributing factors will vary from couple to couple. 

If you are struggling with managing your anger, understanding why can make all the difference. There are programs and supportive resources that can help you cope with your internal strife. Looking at root causes and putting efforts toward getting better and changing behavior can not only keep you and your partner together in a healthy relationship, but it can also improve your overall quality of life. It can also keep you out of trouble with the law. Continue reading

Wisconsin has been the center of media attention and unrest with the recent verdict of the Kyle Rittenhouse case followed by the Christmas parade that was terrorized by a motorist. According to reports, Darrel Brooks was charged with an attack on parade-goers who were attending a Christmas parade in Waukesha, WI. As a result of his arrest, he was held on bail at $5 million. On Tuesday, November 23, Brooks came to his first court appearance. 

What Was the Aftermath of the Massacre in Waukesha?

It has been reported that as a result of allegedly driving his car into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, WI, Darrel Brooks killed at least six people and injured 62 individuals. The state of Wisconsin does not have a statute for the death penalty, but each person who succumbed to their injuries will count toward a homicide charge. In Wisconsin, homicide can be life in prison with no potential for parole.

Brooks was stated to have a long criminal record before the incident in Waukesha took place. Even with police barricades set up, Brooks is said to have driven his car through the crowd that came to see the Christmas parade and participate in it. Two officers attempted, unsuccessfully, to stop the vehicle from mowing down the crowd. The vehicle that Brooks used was a red Ford Escape SUV.

When seen in his first court appearance, it was noted that Brooks appeared regretful and sad about his actions. Authorities have mentioned that the incident did not appear to be a terroristic threat.

Because his bail is so high, it is not expected that he will be able to pay it, and because of this, he is going to stay behind bars. Should a conviction happen, the most likely result is life in prison. 

There is no doubt that Darrel Brooks has a tall hill to climb to overcome his charges. While his case is egregious in nature, he still deserves his day in court. Having a smart and skilled legal defense may secure the best possible outcome. Often, the quality and experience of a person’s legal counsel are what makes the difference between the harshest penalties and those that are more sustainable.

If you have been charged with homicide in California, you may face many years behind bars if not life, and extremely high fines. Also, it is possible that victims’ families may bring civil suits against you and that can come with a hefty price tag if they win their case. The aftermath of a murder charge in California is very serious and can be life-altering. Having the right legal defense representing your best interests can be pivotal to how your case turns out. Continue reading

California has peeping tom laws that protect the privacy of the public. The laws are found under Penal Code 647 (i) and (j) — peeking while loitering and invasion of privacy. If you are charged and convicted for either of these crimes you could be facing jail time and expensive fines. The details of your charges will determine how severe your penalties will be.

To protect yourself and your freedoms when you have been charged with peeping tom crimes in California, connect with David M. Boertje, a California criminal defense attorney who has handled thousands of criminal cases. Our legal team can provide you with a defense strategy to improve your chances of having your case dismissed, to help you obtain a not guilty verdict, have your charges reduced, or obtain a favorable plea bargain.

What are California’s Peeping Tom Laws?

Penal Code 647 (i) defines peeking while loitering, which basically makes it illegal for a person to be on private property and look at individuals who inhabit the property. If you are looking in someone’s window or watching a person in their home through their doorway, you could be arrested for peeking while loitering. When you are on another person’s property without their permission and you are watching them, you will be arrested if you are found out. Even if you are caught lingering on someone’s property and looking into the structure on that property and no one is home, you can still be arrested and charged.

Under Penal Code 647 (j), or invasion of privacy, there are ways that a person can spy on others that are illegal. Engaging in any of the following actions will result in an arrest if you are caught:

  • Making use of equipment to keep watch on a person such as would be the case with binoculars;
  • Putting a camera under someone’s clothes without their permission and taking a picture or a video to appease a sexual need; and/or
  • Using equipment to make a recording or to take a picture of a person while they are in a private space to see their body or their underwear.

Both forms of peeping tom activities are considered misdemeanors and jail time can be as long as six months. Fines can be as high as $1,000. If a person is arrested for peeping tom activities on a minor or if a person is arrested more than once for these unlawful activities jail time increases to up to one year and fines are also raised to $2,000. 

There is also the option of a judge providing for probation in lieu of serving time in jail. When this happens, many times the defendant must pay restitution to their victim, provide for regular progress reports to the court, or a combination of both. It is imperative that the defendant follows the orders of the court to keep probation because if they violate the conditions of their probation the judge will cancel this option and instead the defendant will go to jail. Continue reading

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