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Van Nuys California Criminal Law Blog

Alcohol impairment may have caused wrong-way accident

The California Highway Patrol believe that alcohol impairment was likely the cause of a wrong-way crash in Napa County during the early morning hours of Sept. 15. Both the wrong-way driver and the man behind the wheel of the car she struck suffered serious injuries in the collision. The 36-year-old Bay Area resident was placed under arrest after being transported by ambulance to the Queen of the Valley Medical Center.

The wrong-way car accident took place on State Highway 29 in the vicinity of Tower Road at approximately 2:08 a.m. according to a CHP report. The woman is said to have been driving southbound in the northbound lanes of SH 29 near Middleton when her Chevrolet Malibu sedan struck a Kia Forte sedan head-on. Initial reports do not reveal what led CHP officers to determine that the woman may have been impaired when she crashed.

New device could be a Breathalyzer for cannabis

As more states like California legalize cannabis for recreational and medical use, questions have arisen about driving under the influence of marijuana. It can be very difficult to assess whether a driver is impaired by his or her use of cannabis. The law prohibits anyone from driving who is under the influence of a drug. Unlike in drunk driving cases, however, there is no clear test that indicates an amount of cannabis that would impair a driver. Therefore, the question of who is under the influence is all too often left to police and prosecutors.

Scientists are working to develop a Breathalyzer-type device to measure cannabis consumption through the breath. While the Breathalyzer itself was once controversial in drunk driving cases, it has become a widely accepted mechanism for determining blood alcohol concentration. On the other hand, cannabis intoxication tests so far require blood or urine analysis. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh announced that they have developed a device that can measure the amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in a person's breath. The researchers say that the device could be manufactured industrially in a matter of months.

California arrest rates drop 20% following reform

Crime has been steadily dropping across the United States for the past several decades, and California appears to be following the trend. Over the past 40 years, both crime and arrest rates dropped across the state. Analysts believe recent criminal reformation measures may be the cause of the drop.

The Public Policy Institute of California recently released a study that analyzed the effects of Proposition 47, which reduced many felonies to misdemeanors, and AB109, which is commonly termed realignment. AB109 was passed in 2011 to help decrease the number of people in overcrowded prisons. The measure moved those convicted of nonviolent crimes to local jails. In 2014, Proposition 47 was passed. The proposition reduced six nonviolent felonies, including some drug offenses to misdemeanors. These reforms have led to the overall arrest rate dropping by nearly 20%.

Accurate measurement of THC, CBD still difficult

The presence of chocolate in marijuana edibles may impact the ability to accurately measure levels of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids in the product. Researchers working in California have found that the more chocolate there is in the testing sample, the less accurate the testing results with regard to cannabinoids, but they don't yet know why. The state of scientific testing around marijuana is still in its early stages, according to researchers, despite increased focus and large gains in understanding.

In addition to attempting to develop accurate cannabinoid testing methods, scientists are also working on making weed products safer, extending their shelf life and preserving the taste and aroma of the plant. During processing, many of the chemicals, called terpenes, that give the plant its unique taste and aroma are changed or lost. Because users desire in many cases desire that earthiness, chemists are working on ways to mimic the marijuana terpenes.

California X-Games medalist pleads guilty to drug trafficking

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California has reported that a prominent San Diego area skateboarder with four X-Games medals has pleaded guilty to possessing heroin and methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. The 31-year-old man and his 27-year-old former girlfriend are scheduled to be sentenced in a federal court on Nov. 22. Investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department gathered evidence against the couple during two searches of the Encinitas residence they shared.

The searches took place in September and December 2018. On both occasions, investigators claim that the man did not answer the door and instead tried to dispose of evidence by flushing it down a toilet and sink located in the master bedroom's bathroom. When investigators gained entry, they say they found the couple in the master bedroom with significant quantities of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Understanding California’s ignition interlock device laws

When accustomed to having a California driver’s license, learning to get by in the absence of one because of a drunk driving conviction can prove immensely difficult. Even after you regain the privilege to drive, you may face additional driving-related hurdles if the court requires you install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.

Ignition interlock devices are essentially breath test devices you install on your vehicle after certain driving under the influence convictions. Before you can start a car with an ignition interlock device, you need to produce an adequate breath sample.

Why probable cause isn't required to access online data

A person who uses Facebook or Twitter may unwittingly have their information handed over to authorities in California or other states. The same may be true of those who use Venmo, Lyft or Uber. Property owners who use the Ring home security system may not know that Amazon will generally provide basic personal information to authorities. This may happen even if the property owners themselves have refused to comply with a request to provide that data.

Only California, Washington and Utah require authorities to get a warrant before accessing a person's online information. In the other 47 states, it may only take a subpoena for a tech company to provide an individual's data to law enforcement or other parties. Unlike a warrant, there is no need to have probable cause to get a subpoena. In the first half of 2017, Uber says that it provided authorities with the personal information of more than 3,000 drivers and customers.

Shoplifting charges in California

When voters in California passed Proposition 47 in 2014, the penalties for many minor crimes were reduced. However, the consequences faced by shoplifters in the Golden State can still be severe. There is no law in California that specifically deals with shoplifting, so offenders are sentenced under the state's theft laws. Individuals caught stealing inexpensive items will usually face petty theft charges that carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. When goods worth more than $950 are involved, shoplifters can face grand theft charges and be sent to jail for up to a year. Stealing a gun can lead to even more severe penalties.

Individuals can be charged with shoplifting even if they never leave the store. This is because the elements of theft are the act of taking and the intention to permanently deprive. Shoplifting charges may also be brought when individuals manipulate price tags or place items into different packaging in order to pay less than the full retail price.

California man charged with heroin distribution

In mid-August, authorities arrested a man for allegedly selling narcotics in Ventura County. The 48-year-old defendant is a resident of Littlerock in Los Angeles County.

According to media outlets, in July, officials at the Ventura County jail discovered that a drug trafficking network was bringing heroin into the county to distribute to residents. The Ventura County Sheriff's Office narcotics unit was notified, and deputies were able to identify the defendant as a suspect in the case. He was taken into custody without incident on Aug. 14.

Federal prosecutors announce Bay Area crime crackdown

Federal prosecutors in California announced on Aug. 7 that 17 law enforcement agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service will be teaming up to curb rampant drug use, robberies, gun sales and other crimes in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood. The crackdown is expected to last for at least a year. A representative from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California said the multi-agency operation was being launched to improve the lives of local residents and not to harass the area's large homeless population.

The news is likely to be welcomed by the residents of one of San Francisco's few neighborhoods where working people can still afford to live. Children in the 50-block neighborhood have complained about having to step around human excrement on their way to school, and business owners say their customers have to be careful to avoid criminals when visiting their establishments. City officials have tried to address these problems in recent years by launching needle exchange and portable toilet programs.

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