October 31, 2011

Credit Card vs Check Fraud

With the sour economy, instances of fraud are on the rise. California criminal fraud laws make it a crime to steal or misappropriate things of value from people by way of deception.

Two of the most common forms of fraud involve credit card or checks.

Credit card fraud is when a person uses credit cards, debit cards or access cards as part of the scheme. Common examples include buying things with another person’s credit card (and without their permission), opening up a charge account using another person’s identity or credit, or using your own charge or debit card to purchase goods knowing that it has expired or been revoked.

Stated in Penal Code 476, check fraud is using checks for the same purposes. Examples include forging the payor’s signature and making the check out to you, or making out fake checks and using them to purchase goods or services.

Common to these and all forms of criminal fraud is what the law calls “intent to defraud.” This means knowingly using deception to obtain things to which you are not legally entitled. If you were duped unwittingly by someone else’s fraud scheme, or you at least had a good faith belief that your actions were legitimate, chances are you did not commit a crime and your case is defensible.

October 31, 2011

We've Heard a Ton about Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!

But what happens when that job opportunity you’ve been waiting for comes through and it’s time to fill out the application. Are they going to ask you to disclose a past criminal conviction on a job application?

The law regarding criminal convictions is complex. But generally speaking California law protects you from having to disclose certain criminal convictions on a job application.

You don’t have to tell private employers about arrests that did not lead to convictions, expunged convictions and drug convictions for which you successfully completed a deferred entry of judgment diversion program.

Some of the exceptions to this rule relate to applications to become peace officers as well as certain kinds of “sensitive” job positions that involve access to medical patients and narcotics.

October 14, 2011

Realignment Raises Hope for Innovation and Rehabilitation

California’s Public Safety Realignment Act (AB 109) took effect two weeks ago, on October 1, 2011. Passed in the midst of a tightening economy and litigation over overcrowded prisons, the law makes major changes to criminal sentencing and post-release supervision practices.

The law “realigns” from state to counties a significant level of criminal justice responsibility. It mandates that people convicted of non-violent, non-serious, non-sex offense felony crimes (such as certain California drug crimes) be punished with county jail instead of prison.

It also provides for low-risk parolees to be supervised at the county level instead of by the state California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

According to a September 2011 Los Angeles County Implementation Plan, in year one Los Angeles law enforcement officials will be charged with handling over 15,000 additional offenders who would otherwise have been paroled at the state level or initially sentenced to prison.

It is assumed that 44% of prisoners released under the new community supervision scheme will have been sentenced for a California drug crime.

Skeptics say the law will lead to public safety problems or, in conservative communities, to nothing more progressive than overcrowded jails. But others hope that we will seize the opportunity and spearhead new evidence-based practices focusing on rehabilitation.

The optimists say that a renewed focus on rehabilitation, including substance abuse counseling and sentencing alternatives for those convicted of California drug crimes, may well lead to reduced recidivism and stronger, safer, more sustainable communities.

October 13, 2011

Will A Protest-Related Arrest Remain On My California Criminal Record Forever?

With the surge in activism around California and the country, you might wonder what, if any, are the long-term consequences of a protest-related arrest in California.

One potential consequence is that the arrest will pop-up down the line on a criminal background check in California. Unless you are never charged, or you get off with a dismissal or infraction (which is punished by a fine and not considered a “crime” in California), you can anticipate a protest-related arrest to follow you in terms of your criminal record for at least some purposes into the future.

When it comes to your official California Department of Justice "rap sheet," an arrest for something like resisting arrest or misdemeanor trespass remains forever, even if ultimately dismissed or expunged. But your rap sheet is highly confidential, so this may have little practical impact on future job or other prospects.

Things are more flexible when it comes to criminal background checks generated by private record search companies. When those companies run criminal background checks in California for a private employer, they are not permitted to include arrests that are not followed by convictions or convictions that are more than seven years old.

Further, if you are convicted and comply with all the conditions of your probation, you will be able to have the conviction expunged (or "dismissed in the interest of justice"), in which case it should not show up on your criminal record and you will not have to disclose it to a future employer.

State licensing agencies, however, will still be able to inquire about your expunged convictions.

Committed individuals who put themselves on the line to advance a cause may well consider any resulting and potentially indelible arrest a badge of honor. But even the most inspired activists would agree that it’s wise to take note of what the law is today…even as they envision what it might be tomorrow.

October 7, 2011

No Time Like the Present to Clean Up Your Rap Sheet in California

With nearly 12% of California’s labor market unemployed, you need every advantage to put food on the table.

If you have a criminal conviction in your past, it’s the perfect time to clean up your rap sheet in California.

Luckily, when it comes to cleaning up your rap sheet in California, the law appears to provide more forgiveness than the current labor market. Among the methods potentially available to clean up your rap sheet in California are expungements, certificates of rehabilitation and pardons.

It’s true that your official government rap sheet in California is a confidential document, only available to a select group of people. But much of the information contained in your rap sheet is available to the public, and is reflected on the “criminal records” compiled by private criminal record search companies.

Besides, you know what’s in your past. If you’ve gone through the hard work of turning your life around…why not let the record reflect that important effort?