Articles Tagged with criminal defense

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

Criminal law has entered the digital age. Every day, the privacy of innocent people is compromised as law enforcement officials scoop up information about them while executing routine search warrants involving someone else. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a warrant was required for law enforcement to be able to access historical data about an accused person’s cell phone location over several weeks. This ruling, however, does not address the use of geo-fence warrants by law enforcement officials when seeking to identify the perpetrators or witnesses to a crime.

Geo-Fence Warrant in Action

The police department in a suburb of Phoenix obtained a search warrant to identify the perpetrators and witnesses to a crime. They asked Google to provide information about any and all devices it recorded near the crime site to identify suspects and witnesses. Independent video surveillance showed the vehicle of interest was a white Honda Civic. The video did not capture an image of the driver or license plate number.  

Google’s Sensorvault

Sensorvault is a global database maintained by Google to capture and record personal information about its users. Where you go with your friends, what you read, eat, listen to, and watch, and when these activities happen are all recorded.

For years, technology companies have responded to court orders and search warrant to reveal specific user information. That is and remains legal. Under the geo-warrants, a single warrant can collect location information on dozens or hundreds of devices at or near the area of interest.

Geo-fence warrants are just one of the technological advancements that have improved criminal investigations in California and North Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, and Washington, other states that routinely use these types of warrants during criminal investigations.

Apple states that it is not able to perform these types of searches involving their iOS devices. However, Google software is the culprit, and that software can be downloaded onto an iPhone. The software, not the device, tracks user’s location and other data.

Review and Understand Your Privacy Settings

Selling you location data is a lucrative business for Google and companies that track your information to share with themselves or others. To protect yourself against intrusion, understand the location history setting on your mobile devices and portable computers. If you routinely travel with your smartphone and tablet, the feature must be disabled on all devices to avoid being tracked. The location history setting enables users to see what information is being tracked and recorded. Users can opt to delete their location and account history permanently, but future information must also be purged or it will remain on their website in perpetuity. Continue reading

For the last two weeks the owner of the New England Patriots football team has been the subject of many jokes and conjecture in regards to his sex life following his recent arrest and charge for solicitation of prostitutes in Jupiter, Florida. As many as 300 people are expected to be arrested in the latest law enforcement crackdown of sex trafficking in massage parlors in that region. Kraft faces two counts of soliciting another to commit prostitution, which are misdemeanor charges allegedly based on two separate visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.

The massage parlor at the center of the Kraft investigation, the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, was shut down along with nine other massage parlor businesses in Florida. The massage parlors are accused of running a prostitution service out of their stores. These massage parlors are often located in strip malls and advertise half an hour to an hour massages for a fee. Instead of a massage, however, sexual acts are performed by the workers.

Women were also arrested during this crackdown. The women were identified as sex workers or victims of sex trafficking. The sex trafficking victims are new arrivals to the United States. They are recruited in their hometowns overseas or in the U.S. immediately after their arrival under false pretenses of a legitimate job. Once here, however, they are forced to become sex workers against their will.

Sex Trafficking in San Diego

The weekend before the Super Bowl, the FBI made splashy headlines around the nation when they announced the arrest of 139 people in the greater Atlanta Georgia area for soliciting sex from prostitutes. The Florida and Georgia stings may seem remote, but San Diego conducts such stings regularly. In January 2018, 29 people were arrested for soliciting sex during a sex trafficking sting operation here in California. The FBI lists San Diego as one of the 13 highest sex trafficking areas in the country.

Massage parlors are part of many sting operations because they are a common place at which these types of activities occur. An investigation published by WNBC San Diego in November of 2018 found that 243 massage parlors in San Diego offered sex acts to clients as a service. The practice is so rampant, that a subscription-based website was created to provide reviews and pricing of the services members received. Continue reading

Domestic violence, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. The behavior becomes criminal when one partner hits or strikes the other partner, known as battery, which is often part of the pattern of abusive behavior. Other words used to describe domestic violence include intimate partner violence, domestic abuse, or relationship abuse.  

Who is an Intimate Partner?

Domestic battery as opposed to battery is a crime against a close family member or among persons in an amorous relationship, regardless of sexual orientation. An intimate partner includes a current or former spouse, a fiancé, co-parent of your child, a person you are dating, or a person who lives with you.

Domestic Battery Under the California Law

To be convicted of domestic battery under California law, the prosecution must prove that the accused person inflicted unlawful force or violence upon an intimate partner. (California Penal Code §243(e)(1)). If that charge fails, the prosecutor may charge the accused person with assault or battery.

Penalties for Misdemeanor Domestic Battery

Individuals convicted, by a guilty plea or after a trial, can face up to $2,000 in fines, be sentenced to one year in county jail, and be required to complete year-long treatment program for batterers. Beginning on January 1, 2019, there is the additional penalty of taking away the right of the accused person to own a gun for life.

Misdemeanor Domestic Battery Conviction Triggers Gun Ownership Ban

Any person convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery in California after January 1, 2019, even if it is a first offense, loses his or her right to own a gun for life. The imposition of the lifetime ban on gun ownership for convicted persons became law as part of Assembly Bill §3129 and is now part of the Penal Code at §273.5

Help is Available for the Accused Person

The National Domestic Violence Hotline helps the accused person as well as the victim of intimate partner violence. Per the hotline, if you are questioning your own behavior at all, or if someone else has brought it to your attention, acknowledging it is a step in the right direction. Give us a call today at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat online with us to start the conversation. Continue reading

This week a San Francisco free-speech group, the First Amendment Coalition, sued the California Attorney General and Justice Department over their refusal to disclose police misconduct records under the state’s new transparency laws. Last year the Senate passed a bill providing the public with greater access to police personnel files as well as greater access to video or audio from police shootings or deadly use of force encounters. Details surrounding both laws are described below.

Greater Access to Police Personnel Files

The California Penal Code was amended with Senate Bill §1421 to permit more access to police and prison personnel records. In the past, police and prison personnel records were not disclosed for confidentiality reasons even for litigation and public-records requests.

While police and prison personnel records are still confidential, they may be released in situations in which one or more of the following conditions apply.

  • When a gun is fired by police or prison personnel that results in death or great bodily injury;
  • A sustained finding that police or prison personnel sexually assaulted someone; or
  • A sustained finding that police or prison personnel were dishonest in a criminal case or in the investigation of another police or prison officer.

A sustained finding is a decision by investigational authorities in cases of police or prison personnel misconduct that finds fault in the conduct of the police or prison officer.

Greater Access to Video and Audio From Police Shootings

Assembly Bill §748 also amended the California Government Code and provides the public with greater access to video or audio from police shootings or deadly use of force incidents that result in death or great bodily injury.

The right to receive access to video and audio is not absolute. A police department or prison may deny disclosure or release of the video and audio recordings if the incident is under investigation and if would violate someone’s privacy rights. Assembly Bill §748 goes into effect on July 1, 2019.

Charged With a Misdemeanor or Felony Crime in California?

Most people 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 peace of mind during a turbulent and scary time for you and your loved ones.

Contact an experienced and knowledgeable San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mitigate penalties 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. Continue reading