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Law Office of Ronald G. Brower Blog

 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Equity and Justice Reform Package

If you are arrested and cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. It may sound as if you are impoverished, then you are entitled to a defense, gratis. That is not what that means. In fact, those who are represented by a public defender are required to pay back the costs of the defense. You might be thinking that it doesn’t make sense. If a person could not afford to hire a private attorney, how could they be expected to pay back the costs of services rendered after the fact?

 

Equity and Justice


Regarding this subject, some changes are on the horizon. Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 355: Reimbursement for Court-Appointed Counsel into law, recently, The Los Angeles Sentinel reports. Which means that those represented by public defenders will only be required to reimburse for such services, if they are found guilty. Innocents are now exempt.

“Under current criminal law, a low-income, homeless or impoverished person who is accused of a crime that they did not commit can still be ordered to pay the costs of a court-appointed attorney,” said Sen. Holly J. Mitchell of Los Angeles, co-author of the bill. “We are pleased to have the governor support our #EquityAndJustice reforms. We are hopeful that he will continue to be a partner as the remaining #EquityAndJustice bills make their way to his desk.

“Together we can bring compassion, reason and greater social awareness about the true costs of a criminal justice system that for too long has followed policies that created and perpetuated a cradle-to-grave prison pipeline.”

 

Reform Package


Sen. Mitchell’s bill is one of a number of pending bills that fall under the California Equity and Justice reform package, according to the article. The other bills still pending in the Assembly Public Safety Committee, include:
  • SB 180 (Drug Sentence Enhancements): a step toward ending wasteful incarceration spending involving certain nonviolent drug offenses.
  • SB 190 (Ending Juvenile Fees): eliminates administrative fees for youth involved in the juvenile justice system and their families.
  • SB 393 (Sealing of Arrest Records): seals arrest records of those arrested but not convicted.
  • SB 394 (Juveniles Life Without the Possibility of Parole): juveniles cannot be sentenced to Life Without Parole.
  • SB 395 (Miranda Rights for Youth): require those under the age of 18 to consult with legal counsel before they waive their constitutional rights in interrogations with police.

 

Need Legal Assistance


Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you have been charged with a crime. For more than 30 years, attorney Brower has been successfully representing defendants in Southern California. He can provide you, or a loved one, with a solid legal defense.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Proposition 66: A Court Divided

prop 66
What is the appropriate punishment for murder in the United States? For the citizens of some states, including California, the answer to that question is the death penalty. An eye for an eye, at least in the biblical sense. The death penalty question has been hotly contested in the United States for time immemorial, but in other western countries (for the most part) it is no longer a question—it’s been abolished. In fact, in Europe the death penalty for peacetime crimes has been done away with in every country except Belarus as of 2017.

Yet for a number of reasons, the death penalty remains intact in the U.S. More than half of the country still has the death penalty. As of 2016, the death penalty is legal in 32 states and illegal in 18 states (and DC). To be sure, the ethics and morality of taking a life for a crime could be covered at length. However, as long as the citizens of California deem it necessary, the conversation should pivot towards the manner in which the process is carried out. Whether that is the method, or as we have seen of late, the amount of time a person remains on death row after conviction.

 

Proposition 66


Californians voted on a number of items last November, arguably the most important being the President. But going to the polls is about much more than electing leaders. Equally paramount are the laws that are passed. In addition to voting in favor of legalizing marijuana for adult consumption (Prop. 64), Californians voted on ending or amending the death penalty. Voters chose to amend in favor of Proposition 66. Essentially, Prop. 66:
  • Kept capital punishment in place.
  • Changes the death penalty procedures to speed up the appeals process by putting trial courts in charge of initial petitions challenging death penalty convictions, establishing a time frame for death penalty review, and requiring appointed attorneys to work on death penalty cases.
  • Stipulates that all effects would occur once Proposition 66 is enacted and authorizes death row inmate transfers among California prisons.
  • Would require prisoners on death row to work while in prison and pay restitution to victims' families. The portion of wages to be provided as restitution would be 70 percent or the restitution fine, whichever is less.
  • Stipulates that other death penalty measures approved would be void in the event that more affirmative votes are given for Proposition 66.
  • Remove public review requirements for the state’s lethal injection procedures.

 

A Court Divided


Following the law’s passing, an opponent sued to block the measure arguing that Prop. 66 usurped the power of the judicial branch to run the courts, The Los Angeles Times reports. A number of the California Supreme Court Justices believe that the law's five-year deadlines for resolving death penalty appeals could not be met. Proponents of the bill responded saying that the 5-year limit was a target, not a mandate. To which “So it is a mandatory deadline that is toothless?” asked Justice Leondra Kruger asked:

“So it is a mandatory deadline that is toothless?”

If you are confused about what Prop. 66 is trying to accomplish, you are not alone. But, it seems that the law's proponents are looking to address the death row backlog, according to the article. It has been 11-years since the last execution and California has more than 750 condemned inmates. A decision is due within the next 90 days.

The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower has decades of experience in homicide defense. We can help you or a loved one with quality representation.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Proposition 63: Surrendering Gun Magazines

proposition 63
Last November, Californians voted on a number of important pieces of legislation, many of which passed. But while many throughout the state have been focused on Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana for adult recreational use, there were a few other important measures that passed which gained far less attention. One such bill was Proposition 63, which banned the ownership of gun magazines that hold more than 10 ammunition rounds and requires background checks for buying ammunition.

By and large, California is a progressive state and, as such, has a reputation for being so. To be sure, coastal California are bastions of liberalism, rural parts of the state our quite the opposite. And as you can probably imagine, Prop. 63 did not receive much support in those necks of the woods.

July 1, 2017, marked the deadline for those owning (with very few exceptions) high-volume firearm magazines to dispose of them. Being caught with such magazines could carry jail-time, but there are some concerns that few California gun owners will comply.

 

Armed Resistance


With some 6 million legal gun owners across the state, it is probably safe to bet that not everyone is going to comply with a law that is not easy to enforce. It is not as if authorities are going to conduct property searches looking for such ammunition. Additionally, many gun owners take a “don’t tread on me" approach to their gun rights, so the likelihood of people driving down to their local police station to surrender their magazines is undoubtedly, slim.

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko says that not a single gun owner in the county has surrendered one, The Sacramento Bee reports. And he has no intention of ordering his deputies to hunt for magazines that can hold over 10 rounds. “We’re not going to be knocking on anybody’s door looking for them,” Bosenko said. “We’re essentially making law-abiding citizens into criminals with this new law.”

For those gun owners who wish to abide by the law, you have a few options, including:
  • Moving them out of state.
  • Surrendering them into law enforcement.
  • Selling them to a licensed dealer
  • Destroying the magazines.

 

Does Magazine Size Matter


A supporter of Proposition 63, Ari Freilich (staff attorney for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence), argues that high-volume magazines have been linked to both mass-shootings and those who wish to attack law enforcement. “They do not have legitimate self-defense value.”

On the other side, however, Chuck Michel, a gun-rights attorney in Long Beach, writes:

“The reason for the popularity of these magazines is straightforward: In a confrontation with a violent attacker, having enough ammunition can be the difference between life and death. Banning magazines over ten rounds is no more likely to reduce criminal abuse of guns than banning high horsepower engines is likely to reduce criminal abuse of automobiles.”

Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Proposition 63


According to the Los Angeles Times, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction for enforcement of Proposition 63, on June 29, 2017. You can read the full article here.  We will continue to follow this story line.
 
If you have been charged with a crime involving a firearm, please contact Attorney Ronald G. Brower.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Drugged Driving Mouth Swab

drugged driving
If someone drives under the influence of alcohol, and gets stopped—it can be life-altering. Police officers who suspect a driver has had too much to drink will typically call for a field sobriety test to determine if one’s motor skills are abnormal. Depending how that test goes, said officers will often ask drivers in question to then submit to a breathalyzer which tells blood alcohol content (BAC). A reading of .08 or above will normally lead offenders to a jail cell and/or loss of license and eventual serious fines.

The above series of events occurs every day of the week across the country. With each year that passes penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol become more stringent—fines get steeper and potential for serving time becomes more likely. This can be true even for a first offense DUI. Second and third-offenders can pretty much guarantee lengthy stays in jail.

While alcohol is still the number one offender when it comes to driving under the influence of mind-altering substances, it is also illegal to drive when taking certain drugs. However, the process of determining if a driver is “high” on drugs is a more involved one, usually including laboratory blood screens. Since illicit drugs are, in fact, illegal—it doesn’t matter how much of a drug someone takes, as in the case of alcohol. Meaning the levels of a drug in one’s bloodstream. But, as more states legalize marijuana for recreational use, there is a need to set limits on what is safe for the road. A complicated process to be sure.

 

Mouth Swab for Drugged Drivers


California passed Proposition 64 last November. Which means that law enforcement across the state need to have a way to easily detect if a driver has marijuana in their system. If such a test comes back positive, then further tests can be administered by way of taking blood—which will reveal if the level of the drug in the blood stream is at impairment levels.

Police officers in San Diego began using some new equipment, this past St. Patrick's Day, that are to aid in the aforementioned process. The San Diego Police Foundation donated two Dräger DrugTest 5000 machines to the police department, The Los Angeles Times reported. The devices, priced around $6,000 each, test for the presence of seven common drugs by way of a mouth swab. If drugs, like marijuana are detected, further tests will be ordered to find out the levels of the drug in the blood.

“It’s a huge concern of ours with the legalization of marijuana that we’re going to see an increase in impaired drugged driving,” Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said at a news conference in March 2017.

The machine was first used by U.S. law enforcement in 2009, according to the article. Since then, police in Arizona, Los Angeles, Nevada and New York have used the Dräger 5000.

 

Drugged Driving Help


If you or a loved one has been arrested for driving under the influence of cannabis, please contact Ronald G. Brower for assistance. We have successfully defending a number of such cases.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

UC Berkeley New Dean of Law

Erwin Chemerinsky
The University of California, Berkeley, is arguably one the top colleges in the world. Of late, however, it has been embroiled in a free speech debate over allowing guest speakers like former Breitbart senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos stemming back to earlier this year. The irony about many Berkeley students taking up arms (verbally) about certain speakers exercising their first amendment right on campus is that the University has long been a bastion of free speech going back to the 1960’s, and beyond.

The school caught a lot flak about its handling of such situations, but it is important to remember that the actions of some students and faculty do not represent the whole university. Thus, and so, we would all remember that amidst all the chaos of who should or should not be given the honor of speaking at such a prestigious campus, the young minds of tomorrow are continually being sharpened and honed by some of the great minds of today.

 

New Dean of Berkeley Law


The University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, commonly referred to as Berkeley Law and Boalt Hall, has just named legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky to be Dean of Berkeley Law, according to a press release. Chemerinsky begins his five-year term on July 1, 2017, after serving as the founding dean of UC Irvine School of Law for just shy of a decade.

Dean Chemerinsky has written 10 books (including the timely “Free Speech on Campus” which will be published sometime this summer) and hundreds of law review articles, as well as op-eds in national print media, Berkeley News reports. He also has a weekly column in our local newspaper, the Orange County Register.

“I believe he will be a phenomenal leader for our law school, someone who will ensure that Berkeley Law remains not only a powerhouse of legal scholarship and training, but also a community built on mutual respect and inclusion,” said UC Berkeley Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ in a statement.

 

The Future of Berkeley Law


It is fair to say that Chemerinsky has much experience to bring to the table, having argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals, the press release notes. He also authored the casebook, “Constitutional Law,” a popular legal textbook which has seen wide circulation across the United States. It would seem that it is no accident Chemerinsky was named the United States’ most influential person in legal education by National Jurist magazine at the beginning of 2017. Especially when you consider the work he did at UCI Law, helping it become one of the best law schools in a number of areas. Now, his mission is Berkeley.

“I care deeply about the public mission of the law school and the public service it provides through its clinical and pro bono programs,” he said. “My goal as dean is to maintain the school’s excellence—be it in intellectual property, social justice or business law—and look for every opportunity I can to enhance it.”

Ronald G. Brower graduated from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley in 1970. He has been practicing criminal law in Orange County since 1974. Attorney Brower a leading player in the Southern California legal scene and can give you the best possible criminal defense. Please contact us today.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

California Supreme Court Overturned Three Cases

California Supreme Court
Figures from the U.S. Census indicate that there are more Latinos living in the state of California than Whites, about 14.99 million compared to 14.92 million. With that in mind, one would think that if a Latino is charged with a crime that goes to trial, there is a good chance that there would be at least a few people on the jury of a similar ethnic background. Or it least it would stand to reason. Unfortunately for some, that hasn’t always been the case.

At the end of last week, it was announced that for the first time in over a decade and a half, the California Supreme Court determined that racial bias played a part in jury selection, resulting in three (3) decisions being overturned, The Los Angeles Times reports. This is a big deal considering that two cases were for attempted murder. The decision, written by Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, was unanimous and is likely to send a message that racially motivated juror exclusions will not be tolerated.

 

Impartial Juries


To be fair, whether or not the defendants committed the crimes, what they were charged with should pale in comparison to the importance of every citizen having the right to a fair trial by an impartial jury of their peers. Prosecutors who select jury members based on race, because they believe doing so will garner a favorable verdict, is reminiscent of times in America that one would hope to be long behind us.

“It is not only litigants who are harmed when the right to trial by impartial jury is abridged,” Cuéllar wrote Thursday. “Taints of discriminatory bias in jury selection — actual or perceived — erode confidence in the adjudicative process, undermining the public’s trust in courts.” 

Last weeks, decision was the second time in 25 years where a conviction was overturned due to people being excluded from a sitting on a jury for inappropriate reasons, according to the article. Legal analysts believe that the Supreme Court’s decision is the direct result of Governor Jerry Brown appointing three liberal leaning judges. Including Justice Cuéllar, Goodwin Liu and Leondra Kruger.

“There is something of a sea change in how the court is dealing with the constitutional rights of the accused in criminal cases,” said A.J. Kutchins, a senior deputy state public defender, who represented the defense in the Kern County. She called Thursday’s decision “a real watershed.”

 

A Decision With A Rippling Effect


Gerald Uelmen, a Santa Clara University emeritus law professor, says that the decision is “a profound change,” affecting every criminal trial, the article reports. If jury selection rules are violated, and a judge does not spot the misstep, it will lead to more overturned convictions.

Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower should you have any questions regarding this California Supreme Court decision.

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Proposition 64: Reducing a Felony to Misdemeanor

proposition 64
The passing of California’s Proposition 64 put a smile on millions of faces, but not just because adults could now get high without fear of punitive consequences. The bill, which passed last November, did more than open up a billion-dollar industry to the general public; written into the law was a provision that allows for some people with felony cannabis convictions on their record to petition the court to reduce their offense to a misdemeanor.

First, consider that in the United States many of the people who have served time in jail or prison, were in there for nonviolent drug charges. Then keep in mind that the Golden State is the most populated, containing more people than the 21 least populous states together; it is fair to say that there are thousands of people whose lives have been affected indefinitely by having marijuana charges on their rap sheet.

 

From Felon to Misdemeanor


A felony on one’s records can severely impact the prospects for one’s life. In the eyes of most employers, a felony is a felony regardless of the circumstances. Even though it is impossible to compare a marijuana conviction to violent crimes, obviously, a case of apples and oranges, all the same it makes looking for a new job, for those that have a felony of any kind on their record, a struggle to get from application to interview. One's past transgressions related to cannabis can also impede individuals who are in need of loans.

Californian Jay Schlauch, is someone who has been impacted by a possession with intent to distribute charge for nearly a quarter-century, the Associated Press reports. With the passing of Prop 64, Schlauch jumped at the opportunity to better his situation under the new law.

"Why should I be lumped in with, you know, murderers and rapists and people who really deserve to get a felony?" Schlauch said.

 

Righting Wrongs


The Drug Policy Alliance, an organization who advocates for an end to mandatory minimum sentencing and treatment over jail, has been offering free legal clinics to assist convicts alter their records, according to the article. And, as a result, attorneys who focus on marijuana defense have reported increased interest from Californians with a felony marijuana record.

In the last two decades Jay Schlauch has volunteered his time working with veterans, with disabled children at a martial arts school, the article reports. He also has a degree in nursing—Mr. Schlauch is the farthest thing from a threat to society. At a hearing this winter, he provided letters of endorsement to the court.

"I don't see any reasonable risk of danger. It seems like he's entitled," Judge Martin Herscovitz said. "The petition is granted."

Schlauch case is not unique. If you are experiencing such circumstances please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. We may be able to help you get your sentence reduced.

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