July 28, 2010

Arraignment Postponed for Los Angeles "Grim Sleeper"

Arraignment was postponed for Lonnie Franklin Jr. (a.k.a. the “grim sleeper) until August 23rd because of a change in his public defender. The Los Angeles man who was charged with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder that took place over a 22-year period is expected to enter a “not guilty” plea. Franklin’s “grim sleeper” nickname came about because of a 14-year gap in killings, the most recent of which took place in 2007.

In this state, an arraignment is the first stage of the California criminal court process. As the first stage of this process, a California arraignment is the defendant’s first opportunity to enter a plea. People who are represented by an attorney generally enter a “not guilty” plea at the arraignment, since there hasn’t been much time to conduct an in-depth investigation into the case.

However, there may be times when entering a guilty or “no contest” plea may be beneficial as well. Perhaps you know that other charges should have also been filed that were inadvertently ignored, perhaps you simply want to “get on with your life”, perhaps you can’t afford the time and expense of fighting the case.

Whatever the circumstances, California arraignment law is strictly regulated and must comply with rigid timelines…if it does not, the state may be forced to drop its charges against you.

July 22, 2010

When Therapists Also Need Help

Professionals beware…if you suffer a criminal conviction (or perhaps even simply suffer an arrest)…your professional license, livelihood, and reputation are on the line. This is because most California professional organizations discipline their members for criminal conduct.

And while that sounds somewhat obvious at first blush, thinking about it further raises some controversial issues. For starters, what kind of criminal conduct? Any criminal conduct?

The legal answer is no, not any criminal conduct. Only conduct that is substantially related to the qualifications and functions of your profession are supposed to result in discipline. The real-life answer, however, is yes…pretty much any criminal conduct.

Let’s say that you’re a social worker or marriage therapist accused of a California crime. If, for example, the allegations against you are that you engaged in criminal sexual conduct with a client, a hold on your license might be understandable.

However, California law has upheld license restrictions and suspensions for social workers and marriage therapists accused of California crimes including DUIs, brandishing a weapon, possession of a controlled substance, battery, and theft…and these are just a sample of the types of crimes that the state argues are “substantially related” to being a therapist.

As you can see, essentially any criminal conduct could subject you to professional discipline, which is why it is critical to consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney immediately upon any accusation. Keeping your record clean is the key to keeping your job.

July 20, 2010

Attempted Murder -- California's "Catch-all" Crime

California’s attempted murder law is easy to charge but fortunately a little more difficult to prove. We say this because anytime someone is beaten, sexually assaulted, maimed, or even threatened, overzealous prosecutors charge this crime. They attempt to prove that any serious injury or any criminal conduct involving a weapon necessarily involves an attempted murder.

However…

Before you can be convicted of California’s attempted murder law, the prosecutor must prove that you had the “specific intent to kill”. Not the intent to seriously injure someone, not the intent to threaten someone, not the intent to maim someone, not the intent to torture someone, but the specific intent to kill another person.

Proving this intent can be difficult, absent very compelling evidence. If, for example, you are holding a loaded gun to someone’s head and pull the trigger…but for some reason, the gun malfunctions and doesn’t fire…your intent is pretty clear.

But absent this type of scenario, proving that you intended to kill someone can be a challenge. And an experienced California criminal defense lawyer is sure to help make that challenge even more difficult.

July 14, 2010

A Felon No More

Our society stigmatizes criminals. I know, this isn’t news, right? But what is noteworthy is the fact that you don’t necessarily have to bear the lifetime burden of being labeled a “felon”. California law allows certain felony offenses to be reduced to misdemeanors.

Reducing a felony conviction to a misdemeanor has a number of benefits.

First and foremost, reducing a felony conviction to a misdemeanor allows you to say truthfully that you have never been convicted of a felony. This is important because virtually all applications ask whether or not you’ve ever been convicted of a felony (employment applications, loan applications, housing applications, etc.). Once the person reviewing the application sees that you have, they almost immediately dismiss you as a candidate.

Professional licenses and firearm rights are also intertwined with felony convictions. Certain professions will suspend or revoke a professional license upon learning about a felony conviction. And, in California, felons lose the right to own or acquire firearms for life.

The bad news is that not all felony convictions are eligible for reduction. There are certain requirements that must be satisfied. To find out if you can reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor, we advise consulting with a qualified California expungement attorney.

July 12, 2010

The Difference Between Resisting Arrest and Resisting an Executive Officer

Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC California’s resisting arrest law and Penal Code 69 PC California’s resisting an executive officer law are very closely related. Both punish an individual for physically resisting an officer who is engaged in the performance of his/her duties. And along these same lines, PC 148(a)(1) is what’s known as a lesser included offense of Penal Code 69 PC, which means that you can’t even commit PC 69 without also necessarily violating Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC.

That said, there are also some significant differences between the two laws. First, Penal Code 69 PC California’s resisting an executive officer law includes a broader “victim” class than does PC 148(a)(1). PC 69 covers all executive officers (that is, any public official who exercises his discretion while performing his job duties).

Second, PC 69 covers more than physical resistance. It also includes willfully and unlawfully attempting by threats or violence to deter or prevent an executive officer from performing a lawful duty.

Third, Penal Code 69 PC is a wobbler, which means that, depending on the circumstances, prosecutors can charge the offense as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Penal Code 148(a)(1), however is a straight misdemeanor.

July 8, 2010

Unexplained Fourth of July Drive-By Shooting

Last Sunday night, as people were shooting off fireworks at Collingwood and Matson Streets in Sacramento, California celebrating the fourth of July, two people were shot during a drive-by shooting. Both victims were taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Sacramento police don’t know what prompted the shooting, as there hadn’t been a prior altercation. The shooters remain unidentified.

If police find and arrest the suspects, prosecutors have a few options.

They can charge the defendants with Penal Code 12034 PC California’s drive-by shooting law, with attempted murder (if the prosecution can prove that the shooters had the “specific intent to kill” the victims), with Penal Code 246 PC California’s law against shooting at an inhabited dwelling (if the victims were standing outside a home), and/or with Penal Code 246.3 PC California’s law against negligently discharging a firearm.

Depending on the circumstances, the penalties range from a misdemeanor with no mandatory jail time to a felony subjecting the defendants to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The most likely charge will be Penal Code 12034 PC California’s drive-by shooting law which carries a maximum seven-year state prison sentence.

July 8, 2010

How Injuries Affect a California Battery Conviction

There are essentially three levels of injury that are addressed under California’s battery laws: minor injury, serious bodily injury, and great bodily injury.

If you are convicted of Penal Code 242 PC battery…and you caused the alleged victim to suffer a minor or moderate injury (or even no injury at all)…you face a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in a county jail.

If you are convicted of Penal Code 243(d) PC California’s “battery causing serious bodily injury” law, you face up to four years in the California State Prison. Under Penal Code 243(d) PC California’s “battery causing serious bodily injury” law, a “serious bodily injury” is one that causes a serious impairment to one’s physical condition. There is no specific injury that necessarily qualifies as a serious bodily injury; it’s simply something that is determined on a case-by-case basis.

If you are convicted of a battery that causes a great bodily injury, you face a three to six-year state prison sentence in addition and consecutive to the penalty you face for the underlying battery. A “great bodily injury” is a significant or substantial physical injury. And again, what qualifies as a great bodily injury is determined on a case-by-case basis.

The problem is that the same injury could essentially be found to be moderate, serious, or great, depending on the mood of the jury. And the resulting injustice is that different people who inflict the same injury could be punished in very different ways.

As you can see, how the injury is classified is critical to your case. If you’ve been charged with a battery that causes an injury, it is advisable that you immediately consult with a California attorney who specializes in defending California battery cases.

July 2, 2010

$500,000 Worth of Illegal Fireworks Found in a La Puente Home

Last week, police discovered about $500,000 worth of illegal fireworks stockpiled in a La Puente home in Southern California. According to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, an accident could have ignited a fire that could have quickly destroyed neighboring houses.

California’s fireworks laws limit “legal” fireworks to “safe and sane” fireworks. Possession of any other fireworks could potentially trigger felony charges. And even “safe and sane” fireworks are prohibited in certain cities throughout the state.

Local laws are often much more restrictive than California’s fireworks laws in terms of when and where fireworks may be purchased, sold, and used. In order to make sure you comply, it is advisable to contact your neighborhood fire department for your local regulations.