Articles Tagged with criminal defense

This time of year, there is an uptick in muggings, when someone is attacked and robbed in public. It can happen as a person enters his or her home, walks out of a restaurant, steps off the bus, or walks through a mall parking lot. Robbery is the taking of property from another person against his or her will by fear or force. The force may involve a weapon, such as a gun or bat, or physical force, like pushing the victim, punching the victim, or kicking the victim. Robbery in California is considered a serious and violent offense. Almost always charged with a felony, the highest crime classification in the state, individuals convicted of robbery face years in state prison.

Robbery Law in California

Under the California Penal Code at Section 211, anyone who purposefully steals someone else’s property by using force or fear will be convicted of robbery. The use of force can be pushing, hitting, slapping, grabbing, or any non-consensual contact. Fear includes any verbal act, such as threats of harm, conditional threats, and non-verbal threats like lifting up a shirt to show a gun.

An individual can be charged with first-degree robbery in California if the victim is a person performing his or her duties as an operator of a bus, taxi, cable car, street car, or any other vehicle used for the transportation of people for hire; the passengers of such vehicles; people in an inhabited residence; or a person using an ATM. A conviction of first-degree robbery can result in up to nine years in state prison.

Second degree robbery charges will follow if the accused person takes something that does not belong to him or her, in the presence of another person, and without the victim’s consent, and the accused person used force or fear and deprived the victim or owner of personal property. A conviction for second-degree robbery can result in up to five years in state prison. Continue reading

This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would bring the First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, to a vote. The proposed bill would bring criminal justice reform to individuals facing current charges and potentially cut the sentence of individuals currently serving time in federal prison.

Giving Federal Judges Sentencing Discretion

The bill proposes to give federal judges more discretion during the sentencing phase. Nonviolent crimes, particularly drug offenses, would receive shorter prison sentences. Some federal inmates would be placed in prisons closer to their homes – no more than 500 miles – making it easier for families to visit their loved ones.

Offering Rehabilitation Programs to Inmates

The bill seeks to expand prison employment programs so inmates could earn wages while they serve their federal prison sentence. Home confinement would be available for lower-level offenders, reducing the cost of housing non-violent offenders in federal prisons. Some minimum or low-risk offenders would be eligible for early release if they participate in education and rehabilitation programs aimed at reducing recidivism (returning to prison for a new offense once original sentence is served). Lastly, the bill would bar the use of restraints on pregnant inmates during labor.

Introducing Controversial Risk-Assessment System

The bill would set up a risk-assessment system to determine whether an inmate is likely to commit more crimes when released. This measure is controversial because of the high potential for bias, especially against minority communities.

Addressing Sentencing Disparities

The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences for individuals convicted of possession after 2010. The newly proposed bill seeks to apply the same rule to any individuals convicted of crack offenses retroactively, or before the 2010 Act became effective.

Text – S.3649 – 115th Congress (2017-2018): First Step Act

Hire a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney to Petition Court for Early Release

If a loved one is serving time in federal prison for a non-violent drug related offense, contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney to petition the court for early release. Petitions need to be filed in court with participation with the U.S. District Attorney’s office after your loved one completes some rehabilitation programs, or outright if his or her conviction stems from possession of crack prior to 2010. If you currently face drug possession charges, contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney to help reduce your sentence. Continue reading

For the third year in a row, the rate of hate crimes increased in California. According to a report released by the California Attorney General’s office, there were 1,093 reported hate crimes in California in 2017, a 17.4% increase. This statistic follows an uptick in hate crimes since 2014: The amount of reported incidents jumped 44% in that three-year span.

What is a Hate Crime?

Hate crimes target people based on their race, sexual orientation, religion, or other protected class. More than half of the hate crimes reported in California last year involved racial basis, Black people, in particular, represented 27% of such reported incidents.

Hate Speech or Hate Crime?

Hate Speech is behavior motivated by hate but legally protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of expression. Examples include name-calling, insults, distributing hate material in public places, and displaying hate material on a person’s own property. Hate speech is permitted by the U.S. Constitution so long as it does not interfere with the civil rights of others.

A hate crime is a crime against a person, group, or property motivated by the victim’s real or perceived protected social group.

California Hate Crime Laws

Intent or motive to commit a crime is at the heart of most criminal offenses. Under the law, if one of the motivators for committing the crime is hate, the accused person will be subject to enhanced penalties, like a longer prison sentence or steeper fines.

California considers a person’s disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation protected characteristics. If a person is harmed, threatened, or harassed because of the person’s protected characteristics, then the law imposes severe additional punishment for the criminal offender.

How to Spot a Hate Crime

A hate crime occurs when a victim or property is targeted because they belong to a protected group, like race or religion. During the commission of the crime, the perpetrator often makes verbal comments showing prejudice.

Have You Been Charged With a Hate Crime in California?

Committing a violent crime against an individual from a protected class California is a serious offense. If you have been charged with a hate crime in California, you can face heavy fines and years of imprisonment. Consult a qualified San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mitigate your penalties. Continue reading

Many employers conduct criminal background checks when individuals apply for a job. If you have been arrested or convicted of a crime, getting a job can become a stressful undertaking because some employers do not hire individuals with arrest or conviction records. Depending on the job, some classes of convicted people may be prohibited by law from getting hired.

Problems with Criminal Background Check Reports

It is not uncommon for an applicant to have incorrect or missing information in their criminal background check report. Reports can be mismatched, contain inaccurate information, include someone else’s information, or misclassify the criminal offense.

Expunging or Sealing Criminal Conviction Records

People who committed crimes when they were minors or people who have old criminal convictions can seek that their arrest and criminal conviction records be expunged, meaning they are hidden or sealed from public disclosure. This helps individuals put past behavior away and keep it from affecting their future employment or housing prospects.

Federal Laws that Protect Individuals with Arrest and Conviction Records

There are two main laws, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Title VII that protect individuals from discrimination in employment because of prior arrest and conviction records. Under the FCRA, background checks that look into an individual’s criminal records, may not include arrest records that are more than seven years old, unless the position pays more than $75,000 a year. Conviction records however, have no such time limit. Title VII prohibits discrimination including in job screening and hiring practices in employment and frowns upon employment practices that issue blanket prohibitions against employment people with prior arrests or convictions.

Charged with a Misdemeanor Crime in California?

It is important that a person accused of a crime talk with his or her criminal defense attorney to understand the impact of a criminal conviction on his or her employment options. Current jobs may be lost after a person pleads guilty to a crime and future job opportunities may be curtailed because of an arrest or criminal conviction.

For example, if you are employed in commercial driving and you are arrested for driving while intoxicated, you may lose your commercial drivers’ license immediately. No drivers’ license means you can not work while your case is pending.

If you have been charged with a crime in California, 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. 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

Changes to California’s felony murder rule with respect to accomplices has been the subject of the last posts. For background information on accomplice liability in California, click here. Access our last post for the background on SB-1437 and how it applies to new cases. The following post will examine the application of SB-1437 to past cases.

I am Already Serving a Life Sentence for Felony Murder as an Accomplice, is There Anything I can do to Get out of Jail Sooner?

SB-1437 contains a provision for defendants that have already been convicted of felony murder and were an accomplice in the original charge. Keep in mind that as an accomplice you are liable for the underlying felony. Any time allotted to the underlying felony must be served. The sentence that is reduced or eliminated has to do with the murder. The practical effect of the new law is less time in prison for individuals charged with felony murder as an accomplice after September 30, 2018.

Individuals serving time for felony murder as an accomplice before September 30, 2018, are now able to petition the court for a reduced sentence if they did not kill or intend to kill the victim in the felony murder charge.

SB-1437 provide a means of vacating the conviction and resentencing a defendant when a complaint, information, or indictment was filed against the defendant that allowed the prosecution to proceed under a theory of first degree felony murder or murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine, the defendant was sentenced for first degree or second degree murder or accepted a plea offer in lieu of a trial at which the defendant could be convicted for first degree or second degree murder, and the defendant could not be charged with murder after the enactment of this bill.

Serving Time for Felony Murder as an Accomplice?

SB-1437 requires the participation of district attorneys and public defenders in the resentencing process. The individual appears in court again to be resentenced. Your attorney will address the mitigating circumstances and facts that demonstrate that you acted as an accomplice in the underlying felony but did not commit the homicide or intend to commit the homicide. It is critical that you contact the San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney if your loved one is incarcerated to discuss the possibility of a resentence for a felony murder conviction as an accomplice. Continue reading

The California legislature has been working furiously to pass many laws that affect all aspects of California life. Many changes were implemented that affect the criminal law and criminal justice system. One key change that has occurred affects accomplice liability or California’s aider and abettor laws with respect to felony murder. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that limits who can be prosecuted for felony murder to those who commit or intend to commit a killing.

For a brief overview of California’s accomplice liability laws, click here.

California’s Felony Murder Rule

Previously, California’s felony murder rule allowed accomplices to be convicted of first-degree murder if a victim died during the commission of a felony even if the accomplice did not intend to kill, or did not know a homicide took place.

The underlying felonies are arson, rape and other sexual crimes, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking, and homicide committed by intentionally firing a gun from a motor vehicle at a person outside of the motor vehicle with the intention to cause death.

Returning to our prior example, if Mateo had shot and killed a clerk in the jewelry store while robbing it, Logan and Nathan would also have been charged with felony murder under the old felony murder rule.

What is SB-1437?

SB-1437 prohibits a participant in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of one of the specified first degree murder felonies in which a death occurs from being liable for murder, unless the person was the actual killer or the person was not the actual killer but, with the intent to kill, aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced, solicited, requested, or assisted the actual killer, or the person was a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life, unless the victim was a peace officer who was killed in the course of performing his or her duties, and the defendant knew or should reasonably have known the victim was a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties.

How Does SB-1437 Affect My Case?

Anyone charged with felony murder after September 30, 2018 who was also an accomplice that did not actually kill the victim or intended to kill the victim could potentially mean less time in prison if convicted after a jury trial or plea.

If the jewelry heist occurred after September 30, 2018, Logan and Nathan would not be convicted of felony murder because they did not kill the victim nor knew that Mateo was going to kill the victim. Logan and Nathan are still guilty of robbery because they were active participants in the heist.

Check back next week to find out how SB-147 affects individuals already convicted and serving time for felony murder as an accomplice.

Charged Under California’s Felony Murder Statute?

Under California law, if you aid and abet a person who actually committed a crime, you could face the same exact penalties, meaning 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 the San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss your defense and mitigating circumstances. Continue reading

The United States is the third most populous country in the world behind India and China. The U.S. has been adding about 1 million immigrants annually since 1990. California is the most populous state in the Union. Not surprisingly, many immigrants make California home. California, New York, and Florida account for 60% of the foreign-born population who have immigrated to the U.S.

According to the FBI, violent and property crime has been steadily declining. In 2014, more offenders were arrested for drug crimes than property crimes and violent crimes. Researchers led by Robert Adelman at the State University of New York at Buffalo compared immigration rates with crime rates for 200 metropolitan areas over the last several decades. In 136 metro areas, including San Diego, almost 70% of the immigration population increased between 1980 and 2016 while crime stayed stable or fell.

Immigration Law

A lawful permanent resident is deportable if he or she is convicted of an aggravated felony or a crime involving moral turpitude.

What crimes make you deportable?

Aggravated felonies include murder, drug trafficking (possession and intent to distribute), money laundering (over $10k), trafficking in firearms or explosives, and crimes of violence with a sentence of at least a year.

What is a crime of moral turpitude?

Any crime that involves an intent to commit fraud, theft, or inflict bodily harm qualifies as a crime of moral turpitude.

Seek Legal Advice From an Immigration and Criminal Law Attorney

Discuss your criminal charges with your criminal attorney and an immigration attorney before pleading guilty to discuss what will happen to your immigration status once you are convicted of a crime. There are two ways criminal convictions can affect immigration status – inadmissibility and removability. Inadmissibility applies to people seeking admission to US – a criminal conviction can be used as a basis to allow the person to enter the U.S. from abroad. Removability applies to individuals in the U.S. legally. The criminal conviction makes the individual deportable or removable after entry.

A guilty plea or conviction after a trial for crime of moral turpitude or felony automatically triggers commencement of removal proceedings and forecloses relief from deportation known as cancellation of removal in many cases. It is really important to discuss the consequences to your immigration status if you plead guilty to a crime in California. Continue reading

There are endless ways people start intentional and accidental fires. Automobile accidents, playing with matches, handling fireworks without exercising safety precautions, discarding cigarettes, overloading electrical outlets, oven fires, and furnace fires are just some examples.  

What are Arson Charges?

Arson is the deliberate act of setting a fire to property to cause damage or destruction of that property. In California, the district attorney will charge an individual with arson by considering the intent of the accused person and whether the harm caused by the fire was to people, property, or both. An arson charge can be basic or aggravated. The harm can be to any property, structure, or forest land. The main distinction between the two charges is the intent of the accused person.

Basic arson requires the accused person to have acted willfully and maliciously, set fire or burned or caused to be burned, any structure, forest land, or property. Aggravated arson requires the same actions by the accused person but also requires:

  • The specific intent to cause the injury or property damage
  • The accused had a prior conviction of arson within the past 10 years
  • The accused caused property damage or losses in excess of 6.5 million dollars.

What are Criminal Penalties for Arson Charges?

Arson is classified as a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor is subject to up to a year in jail; while a felony is subject to over a year in jail. Below is a list of the most serious criminal penalties for arson charges. For information about your arson charge, contact the San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyers.

  • Aggravated arson: Punishable by up to life in prison.
  • Arson causing injury to people called arson causing great bodily injury: Punishable by up to nine years in prison.
  • Arson causing injury to inhabited structures or properties: punishable by up to eight years in prison.
  • Arson causing damage to structures or forest land: punishable by up to six years in prison.
  • Arson of property and attempted: punishable by up to three years in prison.

What are Civil Penalties for Shoplifting Charges?

People convicted of an arson crime can also face up to $50,000 in fines and be required to pay restitution to the owner of the damaged property.

Charged Under California Arson Laws? Hire a 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. If you or a loved one is facing felony or misdemeanor arson charges, seek legal advice and legal representation from an experienced San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney. Continue reading

On Tuesday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a landmark criminal justice bill into law making California the first state to abolish cash bail in criminal cases. Judges now have the discretion to decide who is released on their own recognizance or who must remain in custody pending trial following an arrest for a criminal offense.

In the past, accused people had to buy their release through a bail bondsman or with cash. Now people will be released with no bail on their own recognizance or under supervised conditions.

Criminal justice reform advocates have long sought an overhaul of the bail process arguing the system was not favorable to the poor and overcrowded jails with defendants accused of minor offenses. Judges must now determine who is a public safety threat or a flight risk when making custody determinations.

Bail Schedule Abolished

Bail in California is set according to a fixed bail schedule. The charge and defendant’s prior criminal record are factors in determining bail amount. The judges were required to set bail according to the schedule. If the accused person could not pay cash bail they hired the services of a bail bonds person who would pay bail for a fee.

New Risk Assessment System to be Established

The new law goes into effect in October 2019. Bail will no longer be determined by schedule; instead judges will use a risk assessment system that is yet to be established. The preliminary framework includes two tracks for determining bail.

The first track is related to people charged with non-violent minor or misdemeanor charges. Considered low to medium risk, these individuals will be released 12 hours after they are arrested and booked and before they see the judge. No cash bail will be imposed. They will be given a future date to appear in court for arraignment and disposition of the case.

The second track is reserved for individuals considered medium to high risk or accused of violent offenses or are repeat offenders. These individuals will remain in custody (jail) until a bail hearing or trial. No bail will be set. Judges will consider the accused person’s criminal history, the nature of the offense (violent or non-violent) charged, and the accused person’s appearance history. If the individual failed to appear in court before, he or she may not receive bail and instead remain in custody until their case is resolved.

The new law, called Senate Bill No. 11 at Chapter 244 can be found here.   Continue reading