May 22, 2009

Vehicle Code 14601 and Vehicle Code 12500: Punishing Unlicensed Driving in California

California has two primary criminal laws that punish people for driving a motor vehicle when they are not properly licensed. California Vehicle Code 12500 makes it a misdemeanor to drive without a valid driver’s license. California Vehicle Code 14601 makes it a misdemeanor to drive on a suspended license.

California Vehicle Code 12500 is a relatively straightforward statute. It makes it a crime to drive without a validly issued license. This most often applies to people who never obtained a drivers license in the first place, or who failed to renew their license upon expiration, or people who moved to California and failed to switch from a license issued in the previous state to a California drivers license.

Vehicle Code 14601, on the other hand, applies to someone who had a valid driver’s license but whose license got suspended. The reasons for the suspension could include a California DUI conviction, failure to pay traffic fines and DMV fees, or becoming a "negligent operator" accumulating too many points on one's driving record.

Vehicle Code 14601 cases can be more difficult for the prosecutor to prove. To be guilty of the crime, the driver must have knowledge that his license was suspended at the time of driving. Unless a judge, police officer or DMV official specifically advised him/her of the suspension, this "knowledge" element can be difficult to prove (beyond a reasonable doubt, anyhow). But though VC 14601 is a tougher crime for the state to substantiate, the penalties for California Vehicle Code 14601 are substantially greater.

May 14, 2009

Twin Towers Jail in Los Angeles Serves Multiple Purposes

The Twin Towers Correctional Facility is known to be the world’s largest jail at approximately 1.5 million square feet complex. It is built on 10 acres of land consisting of two towers, hence the idea for the name evolved from that concept. The Twin Towers Jail in Los Angeles has an impressive jail system operated by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for the last 11 years. The security system is derived from the “panoptic” unique design of the building which allows the monitoring officer to have an all around view of the facility in one place.

This huge jail facility houses inmates that are on maximum security as well as inmates that have medical conditions. Inmates that require a variety of serious medical and mental health needs are also accommodated at the Twin Towers Jail in Los Angeles because they have a full-service medical response unit to provide treatment for the inmates both at the Medical Services Building and the Medical Center Jail Ward. All other inmates requiring comprehensive medical attention are transported to the Los Angeles Medical Center.

May 11, 2009

Sheriffs Plead Guilty to “Assaulting and Battering” a Firefighter

On April 23, two deputies from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office plead guilty to beating a San Dimas firefighter. All three men were off-duty at the time of the attack. One of the deputies plead guilty to California misdemeanor assault under Penal Code 240, the other to California misdemeanor battery under Penal Code 242. The firefighter underwent several weeks of medical treatment for his injuries that were sustained when he was beaten and kicked by his assailants.

The details of the attack weren’t reported, although it can be assumed that the firefighter wasn’t fighting a fire or otherwise engaged in the “performance of his duties” based on the fact that the Sherriff deputies were only charged with misdemeanors. Even though he was “off-duty”, if he had been in the act of trying to either save someone/something or fight a fire, the deputies would have most likely faced felony counts of assault and battery.

This is because firefighters, peace officers, doctors, nurses and a host of others receive special protection under California Penal Code sections 243 (b) and (c) when they are (1) engaged in the performance of their duties…whether on or off-duty, and (2) their assailant(s) knew or should have known that they were engaged in the performance of those duties.

If the fireman fit into that category, the deputies would have faced up to four years in the California State Prison and a possible “strike” on their records under Three Strikes Law, depending on how severely the firefighter was injured. As it was, both men were assigned community service and one of the deputies was additionally ordered to attend a year’s worth of AA meetings. Both deputies were relieved of duty without pay and are pending investigations to determine their final status within the department.

May 4, 2009

California Domestic Battery: What You Need To Know

There are three ways someone can be prosecuted for battery under California’s domestic violence laws. “Simple domestic battery”, “willful infliction of corporal injury” and “aggravated battery” each has a slightly different angle on when and how it would be filed. Below is a brief description of these differences.

California Penal Code 242 battery is "any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon another person." This offense is usually charged when the person committing the battery has no domestic-type relation to the alleged victim.

California Penal Code section 243 (e) (1) “simple domestic battery” is the misdemeanor charge and, therefore, the least serious of these three domestic violence offenses. To be convicted here, all you have to do is intentionally “touch” your “intimate partner” in an offensive or angry manner…that’s it…he/she doesn’t even need to be injured, only offended. 243 (e) (1) also has a broad definition of “intimate partners”. Here, your “intimate partner” includes your fiancé or fiancée, your current or former spouse, someone with whom you live or lived, anyone you are or were dating, or the parent of your child.

California Penal Code section 273.5 “willful infliction of corporal injury” is a bit more serious, in that it requires the accuser to at least suffer some type of injury. The accuser must sustain a “traumatic condition” which can actually be as insignificant as a red-mark or scratch. Here, your “fiancé/fiancée” and “people you are or were dating” do not qualify as “intimate partners”. Although this section could be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony, it would typically only be filed over the 243(e)(1) above if prosecutors were pursuing the felony allegation.

California Penal Code section 243 (d) “aggravated battery” is the felony “catchall” for domestic battery purposes. This section, too, can be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony, but would typically only be used in a spousal abuse situation if there was a “serious bodily injury” -- rising to felony level -- and the accuser didn’t meet the definition of “intimate partner” in 273.5 above.