Articles Tagged with sex crimes

In California and throughout the nation, the collection of DNA is a huge undertaking. All 50 states are required to collect DNA evidence from suspects, with some occurring at the arrest, prior to getting a conviction. Several types of DNA evidence exist in society today. DNA swabbing is one of the most common. DNA swabbing is a type of DNA used to collect evidence from the suspect of a sexual offense, such as rape. For purposes of this article, we will focus on DNA swabbing, the techniques of swabbing, and problems that exist in San Diego County.

What is DNA Swabbing?

A DNA swab, or what is technically known as a buccal swab, is the process by which cells are collected from the cheek of the mouth using a cotton-tipped applicator. Many people refer to DNA swab as a cheek swab.

According to Puritan Medical Products, there are three techniques of DNA swabbing:

  • Touch DNA swabbing
  • Double touch DNA swabbing
  • Blood and fluid swabbing

Puritan Medical Products also lays out the steps of DNA swabbing:

  • Preparation
  • Swabbing for cells
  • Preservation of cells for transport

After learning about the techniques of DNA swabbing and the steps it takes to complete DNA swabbing, you may be surprised to hear that San Diego County is facing its own problems when it comes to DNA swabbing and testing of rape kits.

San Diego Faces Problems With Rape Kit Policies

San Diego County is currently facing a problem with the incomplete testing of DNA rape kits. The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) admits to not having the capacity to test all untested rape kits in their possession while handling daily duties, according to an article in the Voice of San Diego.  

SDPD was testing only a single swab from untested rape kits. This was the procedure specifically reserved for circumstances where the DA declined to prosecute, according to a report by 10 News San Diego.

Although San Diego is making plans to resolve these problems, this just reiterates the fact that DNA swabbing is not always effective. Ineffective DNA swabbing is what lands an innocent person in jail.

DNA Swabbing is Not Always Effective

Regardless of the steps taken to preserve the evidence, DNA swabbing is not always effective in crime investigations.  DNA swabbing can be faulty and a technician’s error in handling the evidence happens often.

Because of the ineffectiveness of DNA evidence, this is where a knowledgeable San Diego criminal defense attorney can create a cloud of reasonable doubt surrounding the evidence. 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

Prostitution is illegal in the majority of states in America, including California. Often referred to as the “world’s oldest profession,” at its most simple definition, prostitution is the exchange of sex for money. People are divided as to whether prostitution is a victimless crime, as sex workers often endure serious physical, financial, drug, and sexual abuse. Others, especially in states that permit prostitution, like Nevada, argue that it is a job like any other.

California’s Prostitution Laws

Prostitution is the exchange of sex for money or other form of payment. California laws define prostitution as a lewd act requiring physical contact of a sexual nature, sexual conduct, or sexual intercourse between two people. The sex worker is often the person charged with prostitution crimes.

California’s Solicitation Laws

Solicitation is an offer to pay money for sex. The john or client is often the person charged with solicitation crimes.

California’s Pandering Laws

Pandering is the act of arranging a sex act between a sex worker and client for a fee or cut of the amount charged. The panderer is called a pimp or madame and is often charged with pandering crimes.

Defenses to Prostitution Charges

Law enforcement agencies throughout the country set up sting operations to round up prostitutes and their clients. Every couple of months numerous arrests for prostitution and solicitation charges make the media, with over a dozen people arrested in a sting. Individuals charged with prostitution often rely on the defense of entrapment by an undercover police officer if their arrests were part of a sting operation by law enforcement officials.

Minors can no longer be charged with prostitution crimes with the passage of SB 1322, which decriminalized prostitution for individuals under 18. These individuals are instead referred to child welfare services.

Charged With a Prostitution Crime in California?

Prostitution and solicitation crimes are considered nuisance crimes, that lower the standards of a community. They make a big splash because prominent people often get arrested for solicitation. While jail sentences tend to be short, many times the sex workers themselves are repeat offenders, and their penalties increase with each arrest. Pandering charges tend to be felonies and carry long jail terms. If you face prostitution, solicitation, or pandering charges in California, consult a qualified San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mitigate the penalties. Continue reading

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation modernizing California’s sex offender registry, allowing potentially thousands of current sex offenders to be removed from the publicly accessible list beginning in 2021. The measure was introduced by Los Angeles District Attorney who noted that the registry, with over 105,000 names, has become so large and all-encompassing that it undermines the registry’s intended purpose – to assist in investigating and prosecuting new sex crimes. The current registry requires law enforcement to spend “hours on paperwork for annual evaluations of every offender,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Considering that one out of every 400 Californians is on the sex offender registry at this point, that amounts to a lot of wasted resources.

As one of the only four states in the country that require lifetime registration for a sex crime, the database includes offenders who have not offended in decades and pose no risk to the public – but still occupy hours of law enforcement agents’ time every year and swell the sex offender registry to the point of uselessness. For example, back in the 1960s and 1970s, police commonly raided public parks to arrest gay men having consensual sex. Gay rights activists have long protested these individuals being listed next to criminals who harm children.

The new sex offender registry will be much more focused on public safety, according to Gov. Jerry Brown’s office. For the lowest-level offenses, such as urinating in public, a person may petition the court to be removed from the sex offender registry within 10 years of committing the offense. A judge will assess each case individually, with the input of the District Attorney. After 20 years, individuals convicted of more serious crimes will have the opportunity to petition the judge to have their name removed from the registry. These crimes may include rape by deception and lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 14, according to the newspaper. In any case, the name will only be removed if the person has gone the entire period of time without reoffending.

Under the new law, the sex offender registry will also identify sex offenders by their level of risk. Sex offenders accused of Tier 1 crimes, which include misdemeanor sex crimes or non-violent felony sex crimes, will be able to have their name removed from the sex offender registry as long as they do not re-offend during that time. Sex offenders accused of Tier 2 crimes, which include violent or serious felonies, will be removed from the database after going 20 years without reoffending. Sex offenders in Tier 3 are repeat offenders, predators who have committed sex crimes against children, or participated in the sex trafficking of minors. All Tier 3 sex offenders will spend their entire lifetime on the sex offender registry. Continue reading

Prostitution has been illegal in California since 1872.  However, despite the over-a-century-long history, some sex workers claim that engaging in sexual activity for money is part of their right to earn a living. A sex workers’ advocacy group, the Service Providers Legal Education and Research Project, is seeking to decriminalize prostitution and has filed a constitutional challenge to the anti-prostitution law in California, saying it violates constitutional protections on free speech, freedom of association, and due process. The plaintiffs also include three unidentified former prostitutes and a disabled man who says he wants to be a respectful client of erotic services.

Citing the landmark 2003 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down the sodomy law in the state of Texas, the plaintiffs in this case argue that sexual conduct among consenting adults is a “fundamental right.”

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled that the legal challenge may proceed.

A change in the status of sex workers could have a big impact on California beyond escorts and prostitutes. Deterring human trafficking is one reason that state authorities have cited for keeping the law as is. Currently, prostitution is illegal in all 50 states with the exception of a few Nevada counties.

Current California Law on Prostitution:

California Penal Code § 647(b) explicitly prohibits:

  • Engaging in the act of prostitution, and
  • Offering or agreeing to engage in the act of prostitution.

The crime of prostitution or solicitation of it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a $1000 fine. However, California law does not automatically require registration as a sex offender if you have been convicted of prostitution.

California Penal Code § 653.22 further makes it a crime punishable by six months imprisonment to loiter to commit prostitution (i.e. standing in a street corner).

Legal Defenses

Entrapment occurs when police behave in a way that applies pressure or defrauds you to engage in behavior you otherwise would not have. Entrapment defenses are sometimes used, since a number of prostitution/solicitation arrests are made by undercover cops. Many defendants are unfairly lured by saavy cops.

Other Related Crimes

California Penal Code § 266 covers the crimes of “pimping” and pandering, while California Penal Code § 647(a) covers lewd conduct in public. Lewd conduct occurs when  someone engages in a sexual act in public. Continue reading

A graduate student at Cal State San Marcos accused of rape has filed a federal lawsuit, alleging the university violated his rights to due process through an unfair investigation. The student, who is not identified by name in the suit, was attending a study abroad program in Germany in 2016.  Last October, he learned that a fellow student in the program had accused him of rape. However, no criminal charges were ever filed even though the university launched its own investigation.

His degree and transcripts were placed on hold once the investigation started. Allegedly, the school did not provide him with the report or his accuser’s statements or other documents. He was found guilty by the university of sexual misconduct in March. The lawsuit now argues that by withholding his academic credentials, without giving him the chance to defend himself, the university breached his constitutional rights to due process under the fifth and fourteenth amendments. In other words, he is alleging that his procedural due process has been violated because the school’s ‘procedure’ denied him access to anything regarding the accusations against him.

Officials for Cal State San Marcos pointed to the university’s policies under Title IX, which forbid discrimination in education. This means the school must create and sustain an educational environment free of sexual violence and misconduct.

This is not the first time that universities in California have come under controversy for their handling of sexual assault allegations. Back in 2015, a California court ruled that the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) acted improperly while adjudicating a sexual assault case, noting that the student was not allowed to findings of the university or cross-examine his accuser. Also in 2015, San Diego State University reversed the suspension of a male student after finding allegations of sexual misconduct against him were unsubstantiated, and he sued the school.

Due Process in Schools

Students facing possible suspension or expulsion from public colleges and universities are entitled to due process protections because their liberty and property are at stake, and because public schools take money from the state, making them state (government) actors, to an extent, in a disciplinary proceeding. This means at an absolute minimum, students in campus disciplinary cases are entitled to have notice of the charges against them, an explanation of the evidence against them, and an opportunity to defend themselves in the process, such as hearings.  See Goss v. Lopez, U.S. Supreme Court (1975).

When a school denies you your right to due process, this can be used as a defense to a suspension or expulsion decision. Continue reading

Earlier this month the criminal trial of Jacob Paul Skorniak, 51, started in San Diego Superior Court. Skorniak is accused of kidnapping and raping a 21-year-old German exchange student he met in Pacific Beach during New Year’s celebrations. He is also accused of using a knife to attack the victim. Skorniak has testified that it was consensual, but the young woman, who has since returned to Germany, has chosen not to return to San Diego to testify at the trial. She was reportedly initially cooperating with the prosecution. Even without victim testimony, the jury ultimately found Skorniak guilty of the charges of rape, kidnapping with intent to commit rape, and sexual penetration of an unconscious person.

In his case, Skorniak actually recorded the crime he committed and it was played for the jury. The victim also inadvertently dialed her cell phone during the assault and her parents answered in Germany. Her father testified that he screamed into the phone until the line went dead.

Everyone knows that being accused of rape is a serious matter. While there may be legal defenses in a situation, we will seek to explain the type of evidence that typically goes into a rape trial.

What if There is No Victim Testimony?

Usually, the most compelling evidence at a rape trial is the testimony of the victim. There is no law mandating that victims of sex crimes have to testify. Prosecutors may still decide to prosecute even without the victim’s testimony if there is other evidence that makes them think they have a case. They will also consider witness testimony as evidence to bring to trial.

What Kind of Evidence is used in Rape Cases?

Statistically speaking, the vast majority of rapes are committed by persons known to the victim.  Therefore, the identity of the person is usually known. However, prosecutors also have to rely on other evidence to prove that the accused committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes physical and forensic evidence, such as bruises and cuts on the victim, torn clothing, and DNA evidence or other witness evidence. Continue reading

The saga of Bill Crosby’s criminal trial for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting dozens of women is finally over, as earlier this month, a Pennsylvania jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision, resulting in a mistrial.

It is reported that on the sixth day of jury deliberations, two of the 12 jurors prevented a guilty verdict. The jury reportedly deliberated for 53 hours and asked 12 questions of the court during deliberations. An anonymous juror told ABC News that 10 out of the 12 jurors believed Cosby was guilty in two out of the three counts filed against him. The third count had the vote of 11 of the 12 jurors.

During the trial, prosecutors called 12 witnesses, including Andrea Constand, the woman who first came forward with allegations against Cosby.  She endured over a week of testimony with no forensic evidence.

Constand first told police about the alleged assault in January 2005, a year after she says it took place. The district attorney at the time declined to press charges, citing insufficient evidence. She thereafter sued Cosby in a civil suit and settled for an undisclosed amount in 2006.

Judge O’Neill, the judge presiding over the trial, declared the mistrial with prosecutors announcing that they plan to retry the case.

What Exactly is a Mistrial?

In the criminal justice system, a mistrial (also called a “hung jury”) is one that is not successfully completed. In other words, the jury cannot come to a decision even when it is given the adequate time to deliberate.   

Mistrials can occur for a number of reasons, including the death of the attorney, juror misconduct, or a prejudicial error unfair to the defendant. The most common reason for mistrial is a “hung jury,” when different members cannot come to a conclusion as to the guilt of the defendant.  Either side may file a motion for mistrial, which is either granted or denied by the presiding judge.  The government can still seek for a re-trial when there is a mistrial.

Juries Must be Unanimous for Criminal Trials

In federal court, whether the trial is criminal or civil, juries must reach a unanimous verdict. In state courts, almost every state requires a unanimous verdict in criminal trials.

In criminal trials, 12 jurors has traditionally been the norm, with a few outlier states that allow for six jurors (ie. Florida allows for six-person juries in criminal trials). Continue reading

There are currently more than 800,000 people registered in the nationwide list of registered sex criminals, and that list is growing dramatically. Even some who had denounced convicted rapist Brock Turner’s actions had questioned whether he should have to spend the rest of his life as a registered sex offender.

In states like California, Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama it is impossible for people convicted of any sex crime to be removed from the online registries showing their pictures, addresses, convictions, and probation details. Critics have stated that an ex-offender will struggle with getting a job and place to live for the rest of his or her life. Advocates for sex crime victims insist that lifetime registries make the public safer by preventing offender recidivism and giving citizens and police access to information on the whereabouts of sex offenders and precluding them from places like schools.

Brock was released on September 2 after serving only half his jail sentence (three months) for good behavior. Brock moved back to his parent’s house in Bellbrook, Ohio. It is reported that protesters demonstrated in front of the home before and after his arrival and Turner’s parents reported to police eggs being thrown at the house.

In the ongoing saga of rape allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, California has become one of two states that has proposed a law that would extend the statute of limitations in the prosecution of rape cases. The proposed bill, which passed both houses of the Legislature, follows a new law in Nevada that increases the legal deadline for rape prosecution from four to 20 years. In California, the statute of limitations to prosecute a rape case is currently 10 years.  Almost three dozen states, including the District of Columbia, have statute of limitations on filing sexual assault charges or lawsuits.

The state’s governor, Jerry Brown, who has had a history of vetoing bills extending legal deadlines for filing lawsuits over child sex abuse, must approve or sign into law the bill by the end of the month.

This bill however, is not the only one Governor Jerry Brown must decide to veto or approve.  The California legislature, in response to the outrage over the six-month jail sentence for Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner also passed a bill that would mandate a minimum three-year sentence for those convicted of rape or sexual assault. The proposed bill would eliminate a judge’s discretion to sentence defendants convicted of such crimes to probation.  Brock Turner was released from jail earlier this month for ‘good behavior,’ after serving three months (half) of his sentence. Had this proposed law been in place, he would still be in jail.

What are Statutes of Limitations?

Every state has something called a statute of limitations, which is generally defined as the time limit for a criminal or civil action.  In other words, once a statute of limitations has passed, one may no longer be prosecuted or sued for his or her crimes. A statute of limitations typically begins to run from the date the injury or crime was discovered.

In California, the state’s code has specific time limits for specific crimes, such as fraud, injury to personal property, and malpractice. The current California statute of limitations on prosecuting felony rape and sexual assault cases is 10 years after the crime occurs, or for incidents involving minors, until they reach the age of 26. Continue reading