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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act: Update

Child Abuse
In the Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, it says that the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. Whereby parishioners, the faithful, enter into a confessional to obtain absolution for the sins committed against God and neighbor.

It is a long-held tradition that confession is sacred: what a person confesses stays in the box. Essentially, penitential communication shall not be repeated, under no uncertain terms. However, in modern times this age-old practice is being called into question, notably when and how a priest learns of abuse.

A California state lawmaker, Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), is gearing up for a fight on this subject. Sen. Hill has introduced Senate Bill 360 Mandated reporters: clergy (2019-2020), The Los Angeles Times reports. A relatively straightforward piece of legislation that is sure to lead to complicated and philosophical debates.

Right to Private Penance vs Protecting Children

A mandated reporter is a person who is legally required to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities. People working in certain professions, such as teaching, counseling, and practicing medicine, must report instances of abuse.

Failure to report abuse can lead to severe legal and professional ramifications. The list of mandated reporters, under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, is lengthy, and it includes clergy. However, existing law allows priests a special dispensation: when abuse is discovered via penitential communication. SB-360 would remove the exception, requiring clergy to notify the appropriate authorities despite learning of mistreatment in the confession box.

“SB 360 is about the safety and protection of children,” said Sen. Hill. “The law should apply equally to all professionals who have been designated as mandated reporters of these crimes — with no exceptions, period. The exemption for clergy only protects the abuser and places children at further risk.” 

Around the globe, the church is in spotlight regarding child molestation. Evidence of widespread abuse and coverups will lead to some changes, hopefully. Still, it is unlikely that many readers will be surprised to learn that the Catholic Church is not an advocate of Sen. Hill’s proposal.

“Inserting government into the Confessional does nothing to protect children and everything to erode the fundamental constitutional rights and liberties we enjoy as Americans,” said Steve Pehanich, director of communications and advocacy for the California Catholic Conference.

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer

People facing criminal charges require a sound legal defense, which means they need an experienced attorney to serve as their advocate. The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower is the ideal practice to turn to for anyone with legal trouble.

Attorney Brower reputation for bringing about favorable outcomes in court precedes him throughout California and beyond. With more than 30 years of experience, he is an advocate you and your family can rely on during difficult times. Please contact us today to learn more.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

People vs. Dueñas: Punishing Poor People

court fines in California
It is often said: "Crime doesn’t pay." The idiom might mean different things to different people; but, one thing is for sure, it’s that those who break the law are subject to having to pay significant fines. So, in a sense, being on the windy side of the law can be an expensive enterprise.

Today, we would like to draw your attention to a court case that is sending shockwaves across the Golden State—People vs. Dueñas. In January, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles decided that California is punishing people for being poor. The Justices found that imposing steep fines on a misdemeanor offense for men and women who cannot afford to pay violates their rights.

Velia Dueñas of Los Angeles – now a homeless mother of two – was unable to pay $1,088 in fines for tickets she received as a juvenile, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Due to her inability to pay, her license was suspended (until 2017, failure to pay fines could result in losing the right to drive). She was then convicted three times of driving with a suspended license and had to serve 141 days because she lacked the funds to pay the fines.

Forcing Courts to Take Poverty into Account

Dueñas was caught driving illegally again, spent nine days in jail for being unable to pay the $300 fine, and then ordered to pay an additional $220. The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles ordered the court that sentenced Dueñas to hold a hearing to consider her ability to pay fines. The article reports that the court of appeals wrote that the Legislature should rewrite the law to require financial consideration hearings.

Since the January decision, attorneys across the state have filed Dueñas-based motions for their low-income clients, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Moreover, Senate Bill 144 – a newly proposed piece of legislation – aims to do away with administrative fees for programs like diversion and probation.

“Dueñas has changed the landscape in a number of ways,” said Brandon Greene, an attorney who worked with the East Bay Community Law Center on the case. “I think California is on track to recognize that the way that we fund certain services — whether it’s at the state or county level — is on the cusp of re-envisioning.” 

“Funding things on the backs of poor people,” he adds, “is neither just nor sustainable.”

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing legal challenges in California, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower to discuss how we can help you. With more than three decades of experience, Attorney Brower is the ideal candidate to advocate for you and your family.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Circumventing Criminal Justice Reforms

criminal justice reforms
It is no secret that the criminal justice system in California has been subjected to several changes in recent years. Efforts by criminal justice advocates and members of the Legislature have brought about many reforms to ensure equal rights and reduce inmate populations.

We have written about several pieces of legislation that have resulted in convicted felons petitioning to receive lower sentences. When laws change, it opens opportunities for some people to have felonies reduced to misdemeanors or to have a conviction thrown out altogether.

Naturally, some district attorneys and law enforcement organizations have looked upon specific criminal justice reforms unfavorably. Some DAs have sought to find legislative workarounds.

Defense lawyers in California and criminal justice reform advocates are taking issue with prosecutors in San Diego. They claim that the use of a waiver in some instances, that end with a plea bargain, is an attempt to circumvent the will of voters, The San Diego Tribune reports. Defendants in specific cases involving serious crimes like homicide or sexual assault are being asked to sign waivers barring them from seeking lower sentences if laws change. The waiver used by North County DAs reads:

“This agreement waives all future potential benefits of any legislative actions or judicial decisions or other changes in the law that may occur after the date of this plea, whether or not such future changes are specifically designed to provide pre- or post-conviction relief to any convicted defendants, and whether or not they are intended to be retroactive.”


Giving Up Future Rights

The recent change to California’s felony-murder rule is retroactive, according to the article. The new rules mean that hundreds of prisoners are petitioning for lower sentences. Kate Chatfield, of the reform group Re:store Justice, believes the attempt to lock in pleas in San Diego is in response to the legislative change.

“The ground is shifting underneath them,” said Chatfield. “They don’t like it. And that’s shameful.”

San Diego County Public Defender Randy Miz points out that you can’t ask a defendant to give up a right that doesn’t exist yet, the article reports. Michael Crowley, a member of the Criminal Defense Bar Association, thinks the move is a snub toward the Legislature.

“Basically what they are trying to do on a case by case basis is tell the Legislature, you don’t know what you are doing, and we know better,” Crowley said.

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Attorney Ronald Brower has decades of experience advocating for the legal rights of his clients. Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower to learn how he can fight for you or a loved one.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

California Prosecutors Oppose SB-1437

A controversial new law that went into effect this year changes the felony murder rules in California. Senate Bill 1437 prohibits “a participant in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of one of the specified first-degree murder felonies in which a death occurs from being liable for murder.” Some of our readers may remember a previous post on the subject; if not please click here.

As we pointed out in January, SB-1437 should lead to the release of a significant number of inmates. Such prisoners, who are serving time for murder even though they did not commit the killing.

Before January 1, 2019, an individual could receive a lengthy prison sentence for being involved in a crime that results in a murder. Crimes are often committed in tandem; when a homicide occurs, only one of the perpetrators fires the gun or wields the knife usually. However, the accomplice can find themselves in equally hot water.

SB-1437 provides an avenue of recourse for many people serving time. The law allows some inmates to have their convictions vacated and be re-sentenced. It has come to light, however, that implementing the new felony murder rules is challenging.

Raising the Standards Prosecutors Must Meet

When a controversial new law goes into effect, there is always at least two sides—those for or against the legislation. Advocates for SB-1437 contend that it will prevent low-level accomplices to crimes that result in death from receiving extremely harsh punishments.

Opponents argue that the bill makes it more challenging to secure murder convictions and will result in dangerous people being released. The Mercury News notes that state prosecutors are the most critical opponents of SB-1437.

The fierce debate over instituting the new bill means that inmates who thought they might receive a judicial win will have to wait longer. San Mateo County Assistant District Attorney Sean Gallagher states that the new law conflicts with two voter-approved propositions, according to the article. It is likely that what happens next will involve the California Supreme Court to resolve the issues.

“California is still moving in the direction of leniency,” said law professor Robert Weisberg, co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, “but it can still be four steps forward and three steps back, or complete gridlock for a while.” 

Thus far, hundreds of inmates serving lengthy sentences for their involvement in crimes that led to murder have petitioned the courts for re-sentencing under California’s new law. We will continue to follow the updates on this critical piece of legislation.

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been charged with a serious crime, then it is vital to have the best legal defense attorney in your family’s corner. Attorney Ronald G. Brower has decades of experience successfully advocating for defendants, ensuring they receive competent representation. Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower to learn more.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Legislation Tackles BAC and IID Rules

drunk driving
Driving under the influence is an offense that can result in severe penalties for those convicted. California is no exception. In the Golden State, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more. An individual can also receive a citation for driving under the influence of any amount of drugs.

Each case is different depending on the circumstances of the offense. Some DUI cases are more severe than others. The penalty for a first DUI may result in up to 6 months in jail, $390 to $1,000 fine, six months license suspension, and an ignition interlock device (IID) requirement of up to 6 months or 12-month. Second and third offenses carry even stricter penalties, naturally.

Repeat offenders can face up to a year in jail, a significantly heftier fine, longer suspensions, and lengthier IID requirements. It is simple to see that getting behind the wheel under the influence is not worth it, but people will continue to think they can avoid apprehension.

California IID and BAC Limit Laws

Existing law requires a person to install an IID following a criminal conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol with a prior DUI conviction or if the incident involved an injury. Legislation introduced recently would change the mandate on IIDs. Senate Bill 545 would “require, instead of authorize, the court, upon the first criminal conviction of a person for driving under the influence, to order the person to install and maintain an IID for a specified period of time. The bill would delete those provisions authorizing a restricted license in lieu of an IID for first offenders.”

“A thousand people are killed every year from drunk drivers and 20,000 are injured. We want to reduce those numbers and this will do it,” said California Sen. Jerry Hill.

Hill introduced the Matthew Klozbach Mandatory Ignition Interlock for DUI Offender Act of 2019, according to KPIX. Matthew is the son of Mothers Against Drunk Driving activist Mary Klozbach; he died in 2001 when a drunk driver struck the family vehicle.

Another bill up for consideration is Senate Bill 1713, KPIX reports. SB-1713, if passed, would change the legal drunk driving limit to .05, down from the current .08. The legislation’s passing would mean California would join Utah in having the strictest BAC rule. We will continue to follow the progress of both SB-545 and SB-1713.

California DUI Attorney

Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you or a loved one is charged with a DUI. Attorney Brower has significant experience in this field of law. He can advocate for you and help secure the most favorable outcome for your case.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Mandatory Attorney Re-Fingerprinting Reveals Criminal Records

Re-fingerprinting California Attorneys
Members of the California State Bar, Foreign Legal Consultants, and Registered In-House Counsel had until February 1, 2019, to be re-fingerprinted. Some of our readers may remember a post we wrote on this subject last summer. Those who did not meet the deadline were subject to fines.

Now that the deadline is long since passed, some people may be wondering what the mandate uncovered. Well, it turns out that lawyers are above neither the law nor breaking the law. The fingerprinting rule, among other things, is meant to protect the public from attorney misconduct.

When the database of attorney fingerprints was reviewed, some 2,200 practicing attorneys were found to have criminal records, according to California Globe. The California Bar Association’s mandatory re-fingerprinting revealed 20 unreported felonies.


Why Re-Fingerprint California Attorneys?

A 1989 law required the Cal. Bar Association to ensure the retention of attorney fingerprints, the article reports. That way, if an attorney is arrested and convicted of a crime, the Bar would know. Such discoveries would influence whether a lawyer keeps or loses their license.

When it was discovered that the Cal. Bar Association was doing a poor job policing its members, lawmakers took action. Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) authored Senate Bill 36 to add reforms to the State Bar through the separation of the Sections of the State Bar of California.

The number of attorneys with criminal convictions is expected to grow, according to the article. However, the Bar Association only has an interest in more serious criminal convictions.

“The bar recently reported that roughly two-thirds of the state’s 189,641 active lawyers had been fingerprinted as required, while 64,170 attorneys had not yet come into compliance,” Above the Law reports

Southern California Criminal Defense Attorney

Attorney Ronal Brower specializes in several areas of criminal defense, and he can help you or a loved one overcome the most difficult legal problems. With decades of experience, he is well suited to advocate for tour family effectively. Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower to learn more.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

AB-392 Peace Officers: Deadly Force

deadly force in California
Last year, two police officers in Sacramento fatally shot Stephon Clark, 22. Mr. Clark was unarmed; it is an all too familiar scenario in this day and age. Unarmed people of color losing their lives to use of force is a regular occurrence.

People who follow deadly use of force cases know that police officers often escape punishment with little to no repercussions. Several lawmakers and civil rights activists would like to seek legislative changes to prevent future incidents. If the penalties are stricter, law enforcement officials are more likely to exercise greater caution when using force.

In February, we wrote about the subject of deadly force in California. We discussed California Assembly Bill 931, a shelved bill that would have changed the law as to when police officers could resort to lethal force. In the months since, lawmakers have been busy contemplating legislation that voters can get behind.

Currently, a homicide by an officer is justifiable if a felon is fleeing or resisting arrest, according to U.S. News & World Report. AB-392 Peace officers: deadly force would change the deadly force rules for law enforcement.

Use of Deadly Force by Police

There are instances when deadly force is justifiable. However, unarmed black and Latino men face deadly force unjustifiably, far too often. AB-392 would alter the circumstances under which a homicide by a peace officer is considered justifiable. Such as:

“when the killing is in self-defense or the defense of another, consistent with the existing legal standard for self-defense, or when the killing is necessary to prevent the escape of a fleeing felon whose immediate apprehension is necessary to prevent death or serious injury. The bill would additionally bar the use of this defense if the peace officer acted in a criminally negligent manner that caused the death, including if the officer’s criminally negligent actions created the necessity for the use of deadly force.” 

AB-392, like AB-931 before it, is receiving significant pushback from law enforcement associations, the article reports. Timothy Davis, president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, believes the proposed legislation would create an “unobtainable standard” for when deadly force is justifiable.

This is a developing story.


Orange County Criminal Defense

Attorney Ronald G. Brower can advocate for you or a family member who is facing criminal charges. For more than 30 years, The Law Office Ronald G. Brower has help defendants achieve favorable outcomes for unfortunate situations. Please contact our office today to learn more about how we can help.

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