August 26, 2010

Dr. Conrad Murray's Preliminary Hearing Set for January 4, 2011

A Los Angeles judge has scheduled a preliminary hearing for Dr. Conrad Murray on January 4, 2011. Dr. Murray is the doctor charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the drug overdose of legendary pop-star Michael Jackson.

At his California preliminary hearing, prosecutors will attempt to prove that there is probable cause for the judge to hold Murray to stand trial. “Probable cause” is “a state of facts as would lead a man of ordinary care and prudence to believe and conscientiously entertain an honest and strong suspicion that the person is guilty of a crime.”

Whether Dr. Murray will actually go to trial will depend in part on the outcome of his California preliminary hearing, but will also largely depend on what type of plea bargain his attorney can negotiate with the prosecution.

Currently, Dr. Murray is still practicing medicine, as a Los Angeles judge ruled that he could keep his California medical license pending further investigation.

August 19, 2010

When the Judge Gets it Wrong

There are a number of precautionary steps within California’s criminal justice system to try to prevent innocent people from being wrongly prosecuted and convicted. One of these steps is a preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing is held at the beginning of a felony case. Its purpose is to make sure that the prosecution has “probable cause” (that is, sufficient evidence) to “hold you to answer” for your charge(s).

But fortunately, even this type of proceeding is subject to additional “checks and balances”. This is because sometimes the judge simply gets it wrong. When this is the case, California criminal defense attorneys file what is known as a California Penal Code 995 motion to set aside the information.

A California Penal Code 995 motion to set aside the information is a request for a judge to dismiss one or more of the charges against the defendant. The defense files this motion immediately following a preliminary hearing when the defendant has either (1) been illegally committed, or (2) committed without probable cause.

If successful, the requested charge(s) will be dismissed, and the prosecution may even be inclined to offer you a generous plea bargain for any remaining counts. If denied, there is yet another possible remedy to cure the mistake…an appeal.

August 18, 2010

When Justice Goes Awry

Anyone charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense in California has the right to a jury trial. The right to be “judged by one of your peers” is so deeply rooted in our criminal justice system that if anything or anyone interferes with that right…the right to a fair trial…you are entitled to a new trial.

A judge may grant a California motion for a new trial anytime a defendant is deprived of a substantial right. And because there are so many ways that a defendant’s substantial rights may be violated, there are a number of grounds on which a defendant can raise this motion.

A California motion for a new trial can be granted based on jury misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, judicial misconduct, new evidence, new laws, ineffective assistance of counsel…the list goes on and on.
But a motion for a new trial can’t be raised at anytime; it must be raised before the judge pronounces judgment. If...during your trial or shortly thereafter…you believe you were deprived of the right to a fair trial, it is advisable to discuss your situation immediately with your attorney.

August 16, 2010

Criminal Convictions and Their Impact on California Medical Licenses

It’s a well known fact that when a licensed physician is convicted of engaging in prescription fraud, medical fraud, insurance fraud, or inappropriate behavior with a patient, it’s pretty much a given that he/she will be disciplined. This is because the Medical Board of California governs its licensees when it comes to criminal convictions. Depending on the individual circumstances, it may (1) suspend, revoke, or deny a medical license, (2) warn the license holder, or (3) place the license holder on probation.

What’s not so well known is that the Medical Board will discipline a California doctor for almost any criminal conviction…even if the offense isn’t directly related to the practice of medicine. This means that a conviction for driving under the influence, battery, or even petty theft could ultimately result in the loss of your medical license.

The key is whether the conviction is “substantially related” to the qualifications, functions, and/or duties of being a doctor. If the Medical Board believes that the offense is substantially related to being a physician, it will discipline the license holder. This is why it is advisable to consult with a skilled California criminal defense attorney who knows the most effective arguments to convince it otherwise.

You worked long and hard to become a doctor…don’t let one foolish mistake or unfortunate misunderstanding take that away from you. It’s always worth fighting the charge!

August 13, 2010

Professional Licenses and Criminal Convictions

Let’s say you and your girlfriend get into a fight. Emotions are running high and in the heat of passion, you strike her. She calls the police and you are charged with and convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. Your California judge sentences you to pay a fine, attend batterer’s classes, and to complete some nominal hours of community service.

Now let’s say that you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, a teacher, a real estate broker… anyone who holds a professional license in California. You are not only subject to the court-imposed penalties mentioned above, but also risk losing your professional license which essentially means your livelihood.

Professional licenses in California are subject to revocation for criminal convictions that are “substantially related” to your profession. Similarly, professional licenses in this state may not even be issued to someone who has previously been convicted of a crime… even if the conviction has been expunged.

The good news is that this is not a black and white law. The fact is that “substantially related” is open to interpretation. Many would argue that hitting your girlfriend in the heat of passion isn’t substantially related to your duties, for example, as a real estate broker.

It’s because of issues like these that make it so important to consult with a skilled California criminal defense attorney immediately upon a criminal accusation. There are ways to prevent your California professional license from being revoked based on a criminal conviction… you just have to know the right arguments to make and the right steps to take.

August 6, 2010

High School Principal Charged with 17 Counts of Lewd Conduct with Minors

Jonas Silverio resigned as Firebaugh High School’s principal on June 30th when his teaching credentials were suspended due to pending criminal charges. Silverio is set to be arraigned at the Compton Superior Court on August 11th. If convicted of any of the alleged 17 counts of lewd conduct with a minor, the state will turn the temporary suspension into a lifetime revocation.

What’s particularly noteworthy about this case is the fact that Silverio had a 1995 conviction for the same offense, yet has been teaching ever since. This is because the laws have changed since he applied for his credentials in 1998. Prior to that, the fact that a California court had expunged a conviction allowed an individual to obtain or maintain teaching credentials. Today, a conviction for an offense like that would result in an automatic denial / revocation.

But with respect to other types of offenses, the law is more complicated. Before the California Commission on Teaching Credentialing will suspend / revoke / deny teaching credentials based on criminal charges, it must evaluate whether or not the offense renders the applicant / credential holder “unfit to teach”. In order to answer that question, it looks to a variety of factors, including (but not limited to): impact on conduct of students, extenuating or aggravating circumstances, and likelihood of recurrence.

Silverio is currently being held at Men’s Central Jail in Downtown Los Angeles on $1 million bail.