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Van Nuys California Criminal Law Blog

Routine traffic stop leads to jail for California man

A routine traffic stop that took place early in the morning on July 9 led to a trip to jail for a 30-year-old California man. The police officer who made the stop took the Los Angeles resident into custody after finding several pounds of marijuana and $116,000 in cash in the trunk of his vehicle. While the recreational use of marijuana is now legal in the Golden State, individuals can still face serious charges for cultivating and selling large quantities of the drug.

According to a press report, the man's car was pulled over on Huntington Drive in South Pasadena at approximately 1 a.m. because one of its taillights was broken. The police officer who was involved said that when he approached the vehicle, he noticed the odor of burnt marijuana. The man behind the wheel allegedly admitted to the officer that he had smoked the drug recently.

Man sentenced to 15 years for meth "burritos"

One California man is facing significant prison time after he was allegedly caught distributing methamphetamines in creative packaging. Police say that the 48-year-old man, accused of being a member of a street gang in Los Angeles, was found with thousands of dollars in meth. The drugs were packaged to look like 14 foil-wrapped burritos in order to draw attention away from the items. However, after being convicted on federal drug and gun charges, the man was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was also ordered to five yeas of supervised release and a mandatory assessment of $300.

The Los Angeles Police Department reported the arrest widely at the time, posting photos of the "burritos" that actually contained meth as well as cash and a gun confiscated from the man. The sentencing judge said that the packaging of the drugs indicated that they were intended for sale and distribution and also cited the man's prior convictions when imposing the sentence. The man was arrested at a traffic stop after he was pulled over by police who accused him of driving evasively and erratically. Police say that the man agreed to a search of the vehicle, where they found the 14 meth burritos in a black trash bag on the car floor.

Study finds risk assessment algorithms racially biased

Criminal courts and judges in California are increasingly making use of risk assessment technologies to determine how likely a person is to commit a crime in the future or how likely a person is to skip out on the next hearing. These risk assessment tools are billed as more objective and scientific than the human judgments they're replacing, but evidence indicates that there may be racial bias built right in.

A study by the Center for Court Innovation indicated that black defendants are more likely than people of other races to be categorized as high risk. The CCI set up a theoretical risk assessment tool using nine questions about things like the person's history with the criminal justice system and the current charges. The CCI tool was not used to make any real-world determinations, but it was designed to be similar to existing risk assessment tools that are used. More than 175,000 people were included in the study.

An arrest for DUI is more serious than you think

Many people think that a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol is no big thing. You pay your fine and go on with your life.

If you are ever arrested on suspicion of DUI in the state of California, you will find the experience to be significantly different. To begin with, a conviction will make DUI part of your life for the next 10 years.

Dozens of arrests in 10-month drug investigation

California police claimed credit for an undercover action that led to dozens of arrests on a number of drug charges. State police agencies were involved in the raids along with local and federal law enforcement. Called "Operation Red Reaper," the investigation allegedly disrupted a significant amount of criminal activity linked to the distribution of methamphetamine and related crimes, including violent activities. Police say that the drug distribution was linked to two gangs, Nuestra Familia and the Norteño street gang.

At a press release, several prosecutors said that 54 people were arrested, 53 guns seized and 36 pounds of drugs confiscated as part of the ongoing action. They said that the investigation began in September 2018 and lasted for 10 months. The prosecutors also said that not only drug crimes were involved; they said that people connected to the gangs were engaged in extortion, robbery and murder as well as drug trafficking and manufacture. They warned against the dangers of gang-related crime, saying that several cities in the Central Valley had witnessed a significant upsurge in unsolved murders since 2015 in incidents believed to be connected to the drug trade.

A basic overview of California's embezzlement laws

Embezzlement is a serious property theft crime in California. It happens when someone entrusted with money or property steals for his or her own personal gain. The law distinguishes embezzlement from theft or larceny because a fiduciary relationship between the defendant and victim is necessary.

To put it in simpler terms, the defendant has legal access and certain duties relating to the money or property, but not legal ownership or the ability to use it for personal profit. Anyone in a position of trust in regards to money or property that belongs to someone else may commit embezzlement. 

Arrest highlights a growing concern over cell phone privacy

California residents often grapple with the idea of allowing a police search. That struggle becomes even more profound when it involves a cell phone or other electronic device. According to NBC News, police are placing increasing pressure on private citizens to give up their passwords or risk going to jail.

The trend was highlighted when a Florida man recently spent more than 44 days in jail after refusing to provide the password to his cell phone. Despite being served with a search warrant, the man stood his ground claiming that his right to privacy was at stake. He was then charged with contempt and placed behind bars.

Penalties for driving without a license

California motorists could face significant penalties if they drive without a license. An infraction may result from driving on a suspended license or merely forgetting to bring a current license on a quick trip to the store. While it may be possible for a driver to later prove that he or she has a valid license, it could still result in a fine of $250. In some cases, a driver can be charged with an infraction for driving on an expired license. Individuals who drive on a suspended or revoked license could face larger fines.

In addition to a fine of up to $1,000, a driver could be sent to jail for up to half a year for driving on a canceled, suspended or revoked license. Furthermore, the state could impound that driver's vehicle or sell it at an auction.

Apps to fight crime may promote fear, discrimination

Smartphone apps touted as aids in fighting crime have become popular among many California users despite the fact that they face less criminal activity than in the past. Apps like Nextdoor, Citizen or Ring doorbells promote themselves as methods to become more aware of the neighborhood and potentially suspicious activities. However, critics say that the apps only serve to stoke unnecessary fears about crime without making the streets safer. They also warn that the programs tend to encourage racial stereotyping and neighborhood exclusion.

Statistics show that violent crime in the United States is at its lowest point in decades, but people continue to report rising fears and uncertainty. There are a number of reasons why people are more afraid of fewer crimes, but many critiques focus on media coverage and social media sensationalism. Some say these apps help to contribute to an environment of unnecessary fear and even encourage it in order to obtain more data from users. For example, Citizen uses a fake shooting alert in the neighborhood in order to induce people to turn on location services for the app, even though it lists a disclaimer below that local alerts are not yet available for people with location deactivated.

Marijuana operation in California involves 22 agencies

The recreational use of marijuana was approved by California voters in 2016, but that does not mean that arrests for cultivating and distributing the drug have ended. On June 5, a marijuana eradication operation involving almost two dozen law enforcement agencies was conducted in the Anza Valley, which is known to be an area where marijuana is illegally grown on an industrial scale.

About 600 police officers and federal agents took part in the operation, and air cover was provided by helicopters from the California National Guard. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department reported that 140,877 marijuana plants weighing 70 tons were seized and destroyed. Law enforcement also discovered about 3,037 pounds of processed marijuana. The seized drugs would have been worth approximately $189 million on the street. In addition to the drugs, police found 10 handguns and 17 rifles when they executed 90 search warrants. Eight individuals were taken into custody.

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