October 30, 2007

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies Had An “Arrest Contest”

A recent Los Angeles Times article uncovered a strange kind of contest in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It was not a friendly type of sports contest between police departments or even within the department. Rather it was a competition among deputies – a game – to see who could make the most number of arrests in one day. According to a news report in the Los Angeles Times , this internal game show was called “Operation Any Booking.” The goal of this contest was to arrest the most people possible in a specific 24-hour period.

There wasn’t just one contest, but several “themed” games such as how many vehicle impounds deputies could accomplish in a day or how many gang members and other suspected criminals they could stop and question in a 24-hour period. What was the grand prize for this contest? Simply bragging rights according to Lt. James Tatreau, who helped organize these contests in the southeast Los Angeles cities, the Times article said.

Tatreau said these games were organized only as morale-boosting exercises. He told the Times that at no point were officers told to illegally stop anyone or arrest anyone without probable cause. But news of the contest created an uproar among civil libertarians and California criminal defense attorneys all over the Southland – and rightly so.

An arrest is definitely not something to be treated lightly. As California criminal defense attorneys, we see lives being turned upside down as a result of an arrest, however minor the particular crime may be considered. An arrest is an extremely powerful tool in law enforcement. With it, an officer is basically taking away someone’s freedom at that point in time. It’s a tool that must be used with great thought and discretion. It’s not a game show!

The other issue here is it may encourage police departments to make improper arrests just to boost their numbers. Sheriff Lee Baca when questioned by the Times commented that his department focuses on quality, not quantity and assured the newspaper that these games will never happen again in his department.

We hope Sheriff Baca will make sure that these meaningless contests never ever take place at the department again. They are not only dangerous, but will affect the lives of real people in a very negative and real way. Sometimes, all it takes to ruin a life is one arrest.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a crime, call a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss your case.

October 17, 2007

Senator Craig is Guilty, But Not of a Crime

Oh, the perils of following one’s knee-jerk reaction when faced with criminal prosecution for an alleged wrongdoing. Three-term United States Senator, Larry Craig from Idaho, acted entirely foolish by pleading guilty to “lewd conduct ” after he was allegedly observed by an officer foot-tapping and waiving his hand under the adjacent stall at a bathroom at the Minneapolis airport last June.

Apparently, this gesture is code for “let’s engage in hanky-panky right here in the john.” A critical piece of this strange puzzle is that the recipient of the “signals” was a sting officer, who was being paid to sit in the bathroom all day, on the prowl for perps. The scenario was quite different from being “caught in the act,” as it were.

The Idaho statute is very similar to California Penal Code 647a . This statute makes it a misdemeanor offense to touch one’s private parts in public for the purposes of sexual gratification when others may be present who may be offended by it. Police in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego are notorious for setting up similar bathroom operations to entrap people into engaging in Lewd Conduct or Lewd Acts in Public .

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October 5, 2007

Britney Spears Charged With Misdemeanor Hit-and-Run

As if she didn’t have enough problems, singer Britney Spears now faces misdemeanor counts of hit and run and driving without a valid license in connection with an Aug. 6 incident when she reportedly rammed her car into another vehicle in a parking lot. According to an article posted on MSNBC’s Web site, the singer is actually in some serious legal trouble. She could face up to six months in jail and a possible $1,000 fine on each of the counts.

The 25-year-old singer was caught on camera crashing her car into another at a Studio City parking lot. She was also shown on camera examining her car for damage and then walking away. Investigators looked into Spears’ lack of a valid license after the affected car owner filed a police report about the incident. The owner of course learned it was Spears who hit her car after she watched a video of the incident posted on CelebTV.com, the MSNBC report said.

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October 3, 2007