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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

Van Nuys California Criminal Law Blog

New ruling seen as win for individual privacy

A California district court judge has ruled that U.S. cops can't force people to unlock their cellphones using their fingers or faces. The case in question involved an individual who was trying to extort another by threatening to play an embarrassing video on Facebook. Authorities were planning to raid a property and wanted permission to unlock any devices that used facial recognition or similar technology.

The judge in the case addressed two separate issues when making her ruling. First, she ruled that the request in itself went too far because it wasn't narrow enough. However, she also found that forcing someone to unlock a phone could be tantamount to self-incrimination. Ultimately, the judge believes these types of security measures should be given the same treatment as a passcode used to protect a phone. Previous rulings have found that passcodes are different than biometric features because they require a person to actually verbalize the code.

Issues with the misdemeanor system

According to arrest data gathered from the FBI, around 80 percent of all arrests can be classified as misdemeanors, aka small crimes that carry a maximum sentence of one year. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 13 million misdemeanor cases find their way into a prosecutor's lap every year. That's why many Californians may be interested to know that the misdemeanor system carries an inequality that favors the well-off over the poor.

First of all, individuals with restricted means usually have to hand over their fates to public defenders. These lawyers are often swarmed with such large caseloads that they urge most of their clients to take plea deals rather than fight in court. Conversely, affluent individuals can afford to hire good lawyers who can give their cases the necessary attention.

California man accused of stealing thousands of library materials

A Fair Oaks man is facing felony shoplifting and grand theft charges after thousands of library books and DVDs were discovered in his home. The 46-year-old man allegedly took most of the materials from the Sacramento Public Library, which was determined from the attached labels. A search warrant for the man's home was granted after the library contacted sheriff's deputies to report a man spotted on surveillance cameras placing several books in his backpack while only checking one of them out.

While theft and property crimes of this nature are unusual, the resulting charges can carry significant weight and have serious consequences. Upon entering the man's home, investigators found more than 2,500 books and nearly 4,000 DVDs, most of which were undamaged. Prior to contacting law enforcement officials, library staff had noticed a higher than normal amount of missing materials detected during regular inventory reviews over a one-year period.

California man sentenced for selling drugs out of home

On Jan. 3, a California judge sentenced a man to two years in state prison for selling drugs out of his home in Temecula. The 31-year-old defendant had pleaded guilty to multiple drug charges in December.

According to the Riverside County Sheriff's Office, narcotics investigators received a tip that the defendant was selling drugs at his residence, which is located on the 42000 block of Kaffirboom Court. In response, investigators began conducting surveillance of the property and witnessed a second defendant, identified as a 49-year-old male, enter and exit the residence on May 4, 2018. After he drove away, authorities executed a traffic stop and searched his vehicle, uncovering an undisclosed amount of cocaine.

Selecting the best attorney for your misdemeanor case

Though a misdemeanor is not the most critical charge, it is still a serious accusation. The punishment for a conviction can be quite severe, and the charge on your record can follow you throughout your life.

It is important to take facing criminal charges seriously. It is also critical you select the right attorney. There are a few things you should look for during that process.

How state law defines auto theft

In the state of California, auto theft could be considered to be either a misdemeanor or a felony charge. The severity of the charge depends on the facts in the case, and it could also hinge on the defendant's criminal record. Furthermore, the type of charge a person faces may depend on whether he or she intended to keep the vehicle permanently or merely took it on a joyride.

However, most auto theft charges are prosecuted as felonies. To qualify as auto theft in California, several elements need to be proven, including the fact that the automobile was worth more than $950. Prosecutors would also need to show that the vehicle didn't belong to the defendant and that it was taken without permission. An individual may have committed auto theft whether the car was taken with the help of equipment or by deceiving its owner.

California ignition interlock device law goes into effect

More of the drivers convicted of drunk driving in California each year will be required to have ignition interlock devices fitted to their vehicles when Senate Bill 1046 goes into effect on Jan. 1. The law, which apples to first-time DUI offenders who are in an accident that injures others, is being rolled out statewide after pilot programs in Tulare, Alameda and Los Angeles counties were successful.

When ignition interlock devices are installed, drivers must blow into breath testing apparatus before starting their vehicles. The devices are designed to prevent vehicles from starting when alcohol is detected. They also prompt additional tests once the vehicle is moving to ensure that motorists do not begin drinking after starting their vehicles. Motorists convicted of their first DUI will be required to use the devices for six months under the provisions of S.B. 1046. Repeat offenders will be required to keep ignition interlock devices in their vehicles for at least a year.

First driving under the influence (DUI) charges explained

When the operator of a motor vehicle in California is believed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while behind the wheel, he or she may face a driving under the influence (DUI) charge. Generally, when a driver is charged with his or her first DUI, he or she is arrested and placed in jail for a brief period of time. Oftentimes, a first-time offender is able to leave jail after bail is set and posted provided he or she is no longer under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

An accused individual is often represented in court by a DUI defense attorney familiar with state and local statutes and procedures if a hearing date is scheduled. The resulting punishment may include fines, license suspension and other penalties unique to the situation, such as property damage that occurred if a car crash was part of the incident. The arrest process may also involve a breath test and other field sobriety tests. Blood alcohol content (BAC) may be evaluated as well to determine if it's above the acceptable legal limit in California.

California woman sentenced to 30 years for fatal DUI accident

A judge in California has handed down a sentence of 30 years to life to a 26-year-old woman who caused a wrong-way accident in 2014 that claimed the lives of six people including her sister. The San Bernardino County resident learned of her fate during a Dec. 5 sentencing hearing in Los Angeles. Toxicology tests performed about three hours after the fatal crash are said to have revealed the woman's blood alcohol concentration to be almost double the .08 percent drunk driving limit.

The woman was convicted on six second-degree murder counts in May after entering no contest pleas. Court documents reveal that the woman had been warned by the court about the possible consequences of driving while impaired following an earlier DUI incident.

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