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Articles Tagged with criminal defense

Scott Peterson became a well-known name when he was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife Laci in 2002. He was facing the death penalty for the murder. Recently, the California Supreme Court overturned his death penalty sentence. According to Justice Leondra Kruger, the trial judge dismissed jurors who were opposed to capital punishment. Discharging prospective jurors was not the right course of action. What should have happened is that these individuals should have been questioned further on their views.

 

The highest court in the state still maintained the guilty verdict of Peterson’s trial and indicated that prosecutors retained the ability to retry him for the death penalty. Not only did Peterson bring up the unfair removal of some jurors, but he also said that the immense amount of publicity that was put on his case before he went to trial precluded fairness. His trial was actually moved to San Mateo County because a judge said that there was no way he could see a fair trial if it took place in Modesto. Peterson’s lawyer said that there still was no fairness in San Mateo County, where a substantial number of jurors interviewed said that they believed he was guilty. For this reason, his trial should have been moved again to an area where there was not such rampant bias.

 

Despite the arguments surrounding the trial’s publicity, the court said that it would be difficult to find an area that had not already heard about the case so continually moving it would not have made a difference. The amount of attention that Peterson’s trial received was on the level of O.J. Simpson and the Manson family. 

 

Prosecutors are determining what course of action to take. They have not come to a decision on whether they will try him again for the death penalty or just allow him to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. One of the considerations that is going to factor into their decision will be the opinions of Laci’s family.

 

The Disappearance of Laci Peterson

 

Laci Peterson was 27 and only a month away from her due date when she went missing on Christmas Eve. According to Scott Peterson, he was fishing in Berkeley at the time of her disappearance. A search for her went on for four months, until a portion of her body and that of her unborn son was spotted by a passerby who was out on a walk. They were found on the rocky shore only a few miles from the location Scott Peterson said he was fishing. Laci’s family was supportive of Scott initially, not suspecting him. But when his mistress, Amber Frey came forward and admitted that she was dating him, that changed. Scott appeared to try to flee but authorities found him in San Diego county with bleached hair and $15,000, where they arrested him.

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In June, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that requires all people who are outside of their homes to have a mask on. People in California have been mandated to have a mask on at all times if they are not at home, and that includes wearing one while walking about outside. Supporting Gov. Newsom’s order is Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has also ordered those in L.A. to be wearing a mask outside their private homes. However, despite these orders, one Los Angeles Councilman says there are too many people in his district who are not adhering to the requirements and are not wearing masks.

 

Councilman Paul Koretz who represents Bel Air, Westwood, Culver City, Encino, Palms, and South Robertson, says that he sees far too many people walking around his district directly disobeying the mandate. Koretz suggested that there be punishments for those who are not wearing their masks by considering refusal to wear one to be reckless endangerment. Now an L.A. City Council committee is exploring ways to motivate residents to wear masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Recommendations include forms of enforcement including the issuing of citations in addition to a public education campaign explaining the need for masks.

 

Imperial County in California has been negatively impacted by the virus the most in recent weeks. This county, outside of San Diego, is nearing 23% for their test positivity rate over a two-week period. More testing and increased numbers in hospitalization rates from the virus are causing great unease across the state.

 

Gov. Newsom announced that he is leaving the COVID-preventative restrictions to be decided by officials in their respective counties. However, if these counties are unable to figure out an effective way of getting their residents to wear masks, Newsom said he would intervene. Newsome urged officials in Imperial County to re-issue the stay-at-home order and shut back down. 

 

How Does the Los Angeles Police Department Feel About Mask Enforcement Measures?

 

Newsom warned the state that those counties that will not comply with widespread maks-wearing will risk losing some of the $2.5 billion COVID-19 funding. The LAPD has tried to stay on the sidelines thus far, hoping that the public would overwhelmingly decide to wear their masks on their own. Police officials would prefer not to have to issue citations and fines to individuals without masks. There were cases reported of incidents in which people were charged with trespassing when they would not use their masks inside a private business. 

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Protests over the killing of of George Floyd by a police officer in downtown Minneapolis came with waves of violence and looting across the country. In San Diego, the aftermath of prolonged protests that melded with rowdy rioters was over 100 arrests being made by the San Diego Police Department. At approximately 2:30 a.m. on Monday, June 1, the SDPD announced that the charges were diverse and included failure to disperse, assaulting officers, burglary, and vandalism.

 

Due to the unrest, officials decided to close all state buildings with offices located in the downtown area of the city on Monday. Amy Palmer, the spokeswoman for the state Government Operations Agency indicated that the decision was made after discussions between the California Highway Patrol and the Office of Emergency Services, where it was determined that the closures were necessary. The Department of Motor Vehicles all the way through offices that act to license workers and those that provide healthcare were closed down while urging those employees who can work from home to continue to do so.

 

The protests contained very tense moments. At one point, traffic on Interstate 5 was shut down by the protesters’ presence in the streets. In some instances, officers fired tear gas, flashbangs, and used less-lethal ammunition to control the unruly crowds. Much destruction to the community was left afterward. After the protests subsided, a large group of volunteers spent their day cleaning up businesses that were damaged and picked up debris on the ground from the chaos that took place earlier.

 

What is Considered “Vandalism”?

 

When an individual is determined and intent to destroy or bring about damages to property by way of trashing or tarnishing the appearance of the property, defacing it, or ruining it in such a way that its value is decreased, this act is considered vandalism. Vandalism is a willful crime and can include any of the following acts:

 

  • Using a marker to write on a public bench
  • Carving words, letters, or symbols into a public tree
  • Scratching up a car or slashing tires
  • Smashing windows
  • Spray painting buildings

 

There are other terms that are used synonymously “vandalism.” These include “destruction of property” and “damage to property.” Depending on the state you live in, these terms may describe more serious forms of property destruction. Other states use these terms in tandem with vandalism keeping the crimes in the same category. Crimes associated with vandalism, therefore, vary by state, and as such, so do the penalties.

 

In general, in order for you to be proven guilty of committing vandalism, the prosecutor must successfully make the case that the following took place:

 

  • Your acts resulted in physical damage
  • Your damage was done to another owner’s property who did not give you permission to change their property’s appearance
  • Your acts were done intentionally, not by accident

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A decades-old murder mystery in San Diego’s Middletown neighborhood may have finally been solved. A man was arrested in New York on Wednesday, January 29 in connection with the murder. Alvaro Espeleta, 28, was found brutally murdered on December 31, 1975. He was found in his home, located on Reynard Way, badly beaten and strangled.

Espeleta was a dental technician with the U.S. Navy and he was working at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. When Espeleta was a no-show at work, two co-workers went to his residence to check on him, and they found his dead body. Investigators scrutinized all leads and never had any luck. The case grew old, but investigators kept it active. After 44 years, modern forensic science and technology along with multiple agencies working together found a suspect and put him in custody.

When Espeleta died, he had a palm print on his body, but it was highly difficult for authorities to determine to whom it belonged. 

Dennis Lepage, 62, was placed under arrest in New York when he had his fingerprints taken for a minor charge. His fingerprints were put through a law enforcement database. A match was found between the palm print on Espeleta’s body and the print from Lepage. The match was made, and Lepage was arrested in Troy, New York in connection with the murder of Alvaro Espeleta. Dennis Lepage would have been only 18 years old when he murdered Espeleta. 

According to NCIS, Lepage was also an active duty Navy Sailor who was living in San Diego. A fellow tenant who lived in the apartment building where the murder of Espeleta occurred said that there were red flags when thinking back to Lepage’s apartment. Lepage’s apartment had carpeting when all other tenants had hardwood flooring. The appearance looked as if there was something that the man was trying to cover up.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office did not provide comment. The San Diego Police Department gave many thanks to the agencies that helped in the case including NCIS, FBI, DA’s Office, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, New York State Police, and Albany County Sheriff’s Department to name a few.

Where to Find a Murder and Homicide Attorney in San Diego

Technology is becoming more and more effective. Crimes that occurred many years ago which went cold are now having new evidence introduced causing present-day arrests. If you are facing a murder or homicide charge, from years ago or presently, you need the assistance of an experienced San Diego murder and homicide defense lawyer.   Continue reading

Every year during the holidays, tons of San Diegans will be receiving packages of goods that they have ordered online. Meanwhile, porch pirates will be following Amazon, UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service to steal these goods from the homes of others. San Diego legislators are working to combat porch pirates at the state level. While porch pirating is a low level theft crime under Proposition 47, stealing packages off porches is still a crime.  

What is a Porch Pirate?

A porch pirate is someone who takes packages and goods that are left on the doorsteps or porches of homes. Essentially, a porch pirate is a thief.

California Ranks #3 for Porch Pirating

With the growth of online shopping comes a common problem in San Diego, California, and throughout the United States – porch pirating.

A survey as indicated by The Mercury News report, reveals that the Golden State made the top 10 list of states with the highest rates of porch pirating.

The City of San Diego ranks number 9 on the list for the top cities in California with porch pirating issues.

What is Proposition 47?

The enactment of California Proposition 47 reduced the penalties for crimes such as theft of property under $950. This includes porch pirating. The penalties for theft were reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.  

According to an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, this proposition encourages people to steal because if they are caught, the penalties are slim to none. As a result, there has been an increase of theft in the San Diego area.   

Why do People Commit Porch Piracy?

People often steal from the porches of others because of financial woes. They may not be able to afford the goods themselves. Some do it for the rush of stealing and getting away with it. Others may commit porch piracy because of drug abuse and mental illness issues.

How to Prevent Porch Piracy

Below are some tips to prevent porch piracy:

  • Install door cameras or porch surveillance cameras
  • Request signature be required for delivery
  • Deliver to another address such as a UPS store, FedEx Kinkos, or Walgreens
  • Schedule the package to arrive when you know you will be home for the day

Common Defenses to Porch Pirating

Although porch pirating is a misdemeanor, it is still an offense in the State of California. There are several defenses that may apply if you are charged with this crime. The most common defenses include:

  • Mistaken identity
  • False accusation
  • Insufficient evidence
  • Believing that the property belonged to the person being accused

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The holidays can be stressful for your loved ones sitting behind bars. This is a time when they feel like they have been forgotten because they cannot physically be with you and other family members. Cheer them up with a criminal jail visit. With these strategies, you can make your jail visitations go smoothly for all parties involved.

Take Time to Plan the Visit

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s website has plenty of information regarding visitation, how to book the reservations, the types of visits available, required identification needed for the visit, and visiting hours.

Boston, New York, Minneapolis, Denver, and Los Angeles are just a handful of cities in the United States sending teams or co-response teams of police officers and social workers to respond to incidents involving individuals suffering from mental health illness, reports The Economist magazine. 

Many individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice system suffer from undiagnosed mental illness. It is not until they receive their medical examination when they are booked in county jails that mental health professionals are able to assess them and start them on medications to manage the worst of their symptoms.

Those who know they suffer from mental illness may have difficulty medicating themselves, forgetting or skipping their meds, or not being able to afford the medication. How many people experience mental health problems during the criminal justice process is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify. Even though the U.S. Justice Department collects statistics on individuals with mental health problems in the criminal justice system, they rely on self-reported data from local police departments to complete their own assessments. Sharing the information with the U.S. Justice Department is voluntary, so the numbers available do not accurately portray the magnitude of the problem.

New Approach to a Difficult Problem

Studies show that as many as two in four of fatal police shootings nationwide involve a victim suffering from severe psychiatric problems. Most police officers are not trained to deal with mentally ill people. Many more are not advised that they are responding to a scene with a person with severe psychiatric problems. The result is often a fatal misunderstanding that perhaps could have been better resolved with the assistance of a mental health professional.

Police departments are facing severe budget shortfalls. Programs such as the co-response teams are expensive. Funding, when available, is patched together from multiple sources, including federal, state, and local funding and grants from private organizations. Before the program can even be implemented in a community, the social worker must be trained about law enforcement duties, policies, and protection, and the police officers need to be trained about mental health illness and how to respond to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.

Funding made available to local Police Departments to implement co-response teams, are used to pay for the additional personnel of a social worker, to train social workers about law enforcement, and to train police officers about mental health illnesses and how to respond to individuals experiencing a scary but not life-threatening mental health crisis. Continue reading

We are close to the one-and-a-half-year mark of the legalization of the use and possession of recreational marijuana in California. There is a tremendous amount of misinformation on what is the permissible use and possession of recreational marijuana. The following post will tackle some of these misconceptions.

Use and Possession of Marijuana is Only Legal in 10 states, Including California

When reading about legal marijuana, it is important to focus on the source. More importantly, the state the author is referencing in an article or video is a critical factor. Recreational marijuana is only legal in 10 states. They are California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska, Colorado, Michigan, Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts. Each state defines legal recreational marijuana use and possession differently. Use or possession of recreational marijuana is illegal, under federal law, in all 50 states.  

Legal Marijuana can Only be Transported in a Closed Container in the Trunk of a Car

Even though use and possession of recreational marijuana is legal in California, certain uses and types of possession remain illegal and will result in an arrest and charge if detected by police. For example, drivers can possess marijuana in their vehicles so long as it is in a container in the trunk. Even though the driver purchased marijuana legally and possesses a legalized amount, if it is in an open container, in a purse, in a glove-compartment, or on the back seat, an arrest will follow. This law is similar to the open container rule relating to alcohol possession in a car. You would not drive around with an open beer bottle; you cannot drive around with a rolled-up joint on your dashboard. Both types of possession of the legal substance, alcohol or marijuana, will result in a criminal conviction for illegal possession of marijuana or alcohol.

Public Consumption of Marijuana is Illegal in California

Additionally, public consumption of marijuana is illegal in California. While there may be businesses that are licensed for on-site marijuana consumption in California, these businesses may not serve alcohol or allow tobacco use on their premises. This means that bars and clubs cannot allow marijuana consumption on their premises because they serve alcohol. Continue reading

Many arrests are initiated by the victim of the alleged crime calling the police. A victim can also go to the police precinct and file a criminal complaint against the perpetrator in person. Whether in person or on the phone, the police open an investigation as soon as the victim starts talking.

The police will listen to the victim’s complaint and interview him or her for details about the event. Evidence of the alleged crime is collected and identifying characteristics of the potential defendant is gathered. At some point, the details from the investigation are written in a statement, that after being reviewed by the victim, is sworn to and signed. This statement forms the basis of the criminal complaint.

Sometimes, however, these police reports are not entirely truthful. When a victim lies and files a criminal complaint against someone, it is a crime in California. With the help of artificial intelligence, the police are actively cracking down on these fake police reports.

Artificial Intelligence in Criminal Investigations

Since the 2000s, law enforcement and artificial intelligence have been working closely to develop science and technological tools that would enable law enforcement to do their job better. Take, for example, the use of DNA collected at crime scenes in rape investigations. When used correctly, unique DNA markers can be isolated and used to identify the suspect and eliminate with almost 100% certainty all other potential suspects.

The next wave of tools to be developed will assist law enforcement with specific criminal investigations. Take, for example, robbery investigations. In California, robbery is a felony with a prison sentence of over a year in state prison. A robbery charge means a suspect took personal property in possession of another person from his or her immediate presence, against his or her will, by using force or fear. California Penal Code Section 211.

When the police are called to investigate the robbery, the victim will be asked questions to elicit a criminal complaint. What happened, how did it happen, was the victim hurt, what was taken, and who did it, are basic questions the victim will be asked. The victim will also be asked for a written statement of the robbery and the events and details described.

VeriPol can Detect Lies in Robbery Reports

VeriPol is software used in robbery investigations to identify false robbery reports. It was developed by computer scientists in Spain and used by the National Police to identify false robbery reports. The software analyzes the victim’s written statement to identify false reports. 83% of the software-identified fake reports were closed after the victim faced further questioning and resulted in no robbery charges being filed.

By analyzing the fake reports, conclusions were drawn to make robbery investigations in the future better. False robbery reports tend to be shorter, focused on the stolen property rather than the robbery itself, few details were provided about the attacker or robbery, and there was an absence of witnesses. This is just one example of how artificial intelligence is transforming criminal investigations and being used by law enforcement to go after the correct defendants. Continue reading

A Whittier man, Dealio Lockhart, was recently sentenced to 22 years and four months in state prison for his role in the 2016 street race that caused a multi-vehicle pileup on the Golden State Freeway in Commerce. Three people died and four were seriously injured. An investigation by the City Prosecutor determined that Lockhart was driving 127 miles per hour just two and a half seconds before the fatal impact. The three dead included a UPS driver whose truck immediately burst into flames, burning him to death. Two young adults returning from a trip to Disneyland were also killed in the crash.

Illegal Street Racing is Dangerous

NBC News reported that a group from Orange County known as CDK are car enthusiasts that use parking lots and surrounding streets to perform sideshows or street racing. In mid-March the San Diego Police Department responded in full force to an announcement by the group, which is comprised of members of the Car Show Addicts, Dos Madres, and King Fresh car clubs, that they were going to meet in San Diego.

Strong Street Racing Culture

Southern California has long attracted car enthusiasts. The City of San Diego and San Diego County in particular, have been battling illegal street racing for decades. One program that achieved great success was launched in 1998 and was called www.racelegal.com. The goal of the program was to directly address illegal street racing activity and its accompanying public menace of death and injury by providing a safe and controlled racing environment at the SDUCC Stadium.

At the height of the program in 2003, there was a 99% reduction in organized illegal street racing activity in San Diego; and a 79% improvement in illegal street racing involved in crash deaths from bystanders or drivers. The nonprofit however, ran out of money and ceased operations in March. The group is trying to restart with new funding but faces opposition from the city because the SDUCC stadium site is being sold to San Diego State University.

Penalties for Illegal Street Racing Conviction

Individuals convicted of illegal street racing in San Diego face penalties that may include three months in jail, $1000 in fines, and having their vehicle impounded for 30 days. Continue reading

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