February 25, 2009

Southern California Welfare Fraud

In late December 2008, KABC-TV Los Angeles put out a report regarding the pending arrest of county in-home care employees allegedly involved in over 700 cases of fraud. Over 174,000 residents of Los Angeles County receive in-home care from the Department of Social Services, and investigating officials allege that fraud is present within the program.

The news came less than two months after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced the arrest of 10 people on felony warrants for welfare fraud. DA officials allege that the individuals involved in the charges had defrauded welfare programs for more than $460,000 in money and services.

These two examples of fraud in Southern California illustrate the highly diverse nature of what are commonly called “white collar crimes.” White collar crime in Southern California is a loose set of non-violent criminal activity typically associated with business people, investors and other professionals in positions of trust.

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February 18, 2009

Los Angeles DNA Evidence Backlog: The Perfect Storm

According to a NPR report, a recent audit of the Los Angeles Police Department crime labs found that the department had missed legal deadlines to test DNA samples that were collected as evidence in over 200 rape cases. Police Chief Bill Bratton pointed to a lack of funding and manpower in the DNA lab as an explanation for the missed deadlines.

Bratton cited a $500,000 shortfall in federal funding and delays in hiring 16 new lab technicians which strained the crime lab’s ability to process DNA evidence. In the NPR interview, Bratton stated that processing DNA evidence is “extraordinarily labor-intensive…not CSI,” and that “there are just not enough people in the crime lab to do the work.”

That situation is not likely to improve soon. Beginning this year, 2009, the state of California will be required to collect DNA from all adults arrested—not charged—for a felony offense. This is an expansion of existing California law, which mandated the collection of DNA samples from adults arrested—not charged—for California felony sex offenses, murder or manslaughter.

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February 11, 2009

Tustin Sex Crime Arrest of School Athletic trainer

On Christmas Day 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported in an article on the arrest of Hope Jacoby, a 23-year-old athletic trainer at Tustin High School for suspicion of committing sexual offenses that included illegal sex acts with an underage boy. Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokespersons have revealed that Jacoby is under suspicion for committing oral copulation with a minor and unlawful sex with a minor.

In California, oral copulation with a minor is the act of making contact between the mouth of one person and the anus or genitals of another person where at least one of the persons involved is a minor (under the age of 18). The duration or intensity of that contact is not relevant—even a fleeting touch is sufficient under California law.

Unlawful sex with a minor is a sex act between an adult and a minor where the adult is not the spouse of the minor. Depending on the comparative ages of the persons involved as well as other factors—such as the use of force or drugs—a conviction could result in one year of jail time or up to fours incarceration in the state prison. In addition, unlawful sex with a minor can carry civil penalties of up to $25,000.

Added to these legal punishments are the long lasting social and economic damages that a conviction for a sex crime in California inflicts on the defendant. Even being arrested on the suspicion of having done these acts can hurt a person’s career and reputation—even if no charges are filed.

If your livelihood and reputation are at stake, the guidance of an experienced California sex crimes defense attorney is highly recommended. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

February 6, 2009

Comparing The Nevada and California Burglary Laws

The basic definition of burglary is the same in California and Nevada: entering a structure or vehicle intending to commit certain crimes once inside. But the two states differ in whether or not they distinguish between residential and commercial burglary.

In Penal Code 459 , California burglary law draws a distinction between first degree residential burglary, and second degree commercial burglary. Burglarizing a home can land someone in California Prison for six years, whereas burglarizing a commercial establishment carries only a four-year maximum sentence. Moreover, residential burglary is a strike under California’s Three Strikes laws.

Nevada burglary laws , as defined in NRS 205.060, make no distinction between burglarizing a residential or commercial structure. Nor does Nevada burglary law have first and second degree variations. Furthermore, the penalties for burglary of any type are substantially harsher in Nevada. Any burglary conviction in the Silver State carries potentially up to 10 years of Nevada prison time.

Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Michael Becker, who practices in both states, explains that “maximum sentences” for various crimes do tend to be longer in Nevada than California. Nevertheless, he says that judges retain a great deal of discretion to show leniency (or not) depending on all the facts of the particular case.