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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Restorative Justice Pilot Program

Restorative JusticeA new diversion program in California pairs victims and offenders prior to conviction. Those who complete the initiative can spare themselves a criminal record, AP News reports. People of all ages are eligible to take part.

The pilot program allows victims to deal directly with their offenders to help their healing process, according to the article. Moreover, sparing offenders from having a criminal record can help them avoid committing new crimes. The theory is that having a rap sheet leads to stigma; the accompanying shame can make people more inclined to offend again.

California State Senator Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, authored the measure that led to the pilot program's creation. The state budget has allocated $5 million to fund the program for five years in San Joaquin County.

The results of the project will be monitored by an independent evaluation to see if it satisfies victims and how many graduates commit new crimes.

"The goal of restorative justice is to give victims a chance to receive true justice in a much more personal way than our current system allows," said Sen. Steve Glazer. "At the same time, the program gives offenders a chance to make amends directly to the victim." 

Victims Confront Their Offenders


Victims of serious crimes have had very few opportunities to interact with their perpetrators, says San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. She adds, "This is going to put power and tools and an opportunity to heal back in the hands of our victims."

Californians charged with sexual assault or murder are not eligible to participate. The program is meant for people who do not have extensive criminal records but have committed a crime that carries the potential for violence. Those taking part may have to undergo addiction treatment, counseling, education, and life skills training.

Participants who fail to meet the diversion program requirements are at risk of having to serve the remainder of their sentence in jail or prison.

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer


Ronald G. Brower is one of the most experienced criminal defense attorneys in California. With more than three decades of helping to bring about favorable outcomes for defendants, he is the best option for those who need a qualified legal advocate. Please contact our office today to learn more.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Genetic Genealogy Breaks Another Cold Case

Genetic Genealogy
New technology allows investigators to discover the identities of murderers and rapists even if their DNA is not on file. Genetic genealogy or triangulation allows scientists to find the relative(s) of people who commit crimes.

Genealogy websites have opened doors once closed to investigators. The desire to discover one’s origin story has compromised a criminal’s ability to hide their identity. A perpetrator’s family members can help detectives break decades-old cold cases.

Some of you are probably familiar with the recent apprehension of the "East Area Rapist," aka the “Golden State Killer” or “Original Night Stalker.” Former policeman Joseph James DeAngelo was charged with capital murder last year; he is believed to be responsible for as many as 12 killings and around 50 rapes.

The public’s fascination with this new means of solving crimes has led some to question the privacy rights of individuals who provided their DNA to genealogy companies. Still, we can expect that more criminals will be apprehended moving forward thanks to novel breakthroughs in genetic science.

DNA Helps Authorities Arrest Man Suspected of Rape


Much like the Golden State Killer case, investigators used genetic triangulation to catch another man suspected of committing rape, between 1992 and 1994 in Sacramento County, KFOR reports. Mark Manteuffel, 59, was arrested by federal agents in Atlanta, Georgia.

“They have to look through the ancestry of that family and look for descendants in that family that were living in the area at the time,” said Ruth Dickover, who heads the forensic science program at the University of California, Davis.

More than 54 cold cases nationwide have been solved thanks to DNA and genetic genealogy, says Dickover. Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said his department is reviewing all violent cold cases to determine if genetic genealogy could result in breakthroughs.

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer


Attorney Ronald Brower has decades of experience successfully advocating for defendants in California. He can help you or a loved one achieve a favorable outcome. Please contact our office today for a consultation.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Criminal Background Checks for Ammunition in California

Proposition 63
In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 63: The Safety for All Act. The bill included several measures on gun control. Packed into the legislation was a ban on high-capacity magazines (more than ten rounds) and a criminal background check requirement for purchasing ammunition. It also changed the law on gun theft; stealing a gun (including one valued at less than $950) is now a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.

California already prohibits felons from purchasing or possessing firearms. Gun sellers are required to run a criminal background check on any adult attempting to buy a gun. However, nothing stops an individual who has stolen or acquired a gun from an unlicensed seller from purchasing ammunition.

Proposition 63’s ammo restriction is the first in the nation. This Monday was when the new rule on buying bullets went into effect. Naturally, many gun owners in California rushed to gun stores to purchase stockpiles of ammo. VICE News reports that some customers purchased as many as 1,000 rounds in bulk.

Those rushing to beat the deadline were not people with criminal records necessarily; there may have been a financial incentive compelling them to act quickly. The new law requires customers to pay $1 each time they go through a background check to buy ammo and $20 if the Department of Justice (DOJ) doesn’t already have their information in the system.

 

Criminal Background Checks for Bullets


Even though the Golden State already had some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, the new rule on ammo is a huge step forward. Governor Gavin Newsom is committed to keeping both guns and bullets out of the hands of those who would harm others. The new law reads:

Reasonable, common-sense gun laws reduce gun deaths and injuries, keep guns away from criminals and fight illegal gun trafficking. Although California has led the nation in gun safety laws, those laws still have loopholes that leave communities throughout the state vulnerable to gun violence and mass shootings. We can close these loopholes while still safeguarding the ability of law-abiding, responsible Californians to own guns for self-defense, hunting, and recreation.

The new rule was met with fierce opposition by gun-rights activists and the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA sued the state over the new law, which is why it took almost three years to implement. The ban on high-capacity magazines has not gone into effect either because the gun lobby has sued over that measure as well. A federal judge agreed with the NRA, but California is appealing the decision.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney


Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing criminal charges in the state of California. Attorney Brower has the experience to advocate for you and help achieve a favorable outcome.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Ending Criminal Court Fees in California

SB 144
In previous posts, we have written about the impact that court and probation fees can have on an individual and their families. The cost of getting in trouble with the law can be devastating, especially for people with limited income.

If someone cannot pay their fines, it can result in them incurring more penalties. If the debt is continually neglected, it can result in jail time. It’s a vicious cycle that mostly punishes people for being poor. Some lawmakers are trying to put a stop to court fees that rack Californians with debt that they are unlikely to ever be in a position to pay back.

Getting other lawmakers and voters on board with ending court fines and supervision fees is not an easy task. One way to accomplish the goal is to show how severe the problem is across the state.

Attorney Brandon Greene joined forces with Stephanie Campos-Bui, of the policy advocacy clinic at the University of California-Berkeley, to better understand the problem, Mother Jones reports. What was found is shocking!

Ending Criminal Court Fees


A close look at statutes and data shows that there are around 100 to 150 different sections of the code permitting counties to charge fees, according to the article. In San Francisco, between 2012 to 2018, over 20,000 people incurred more than $15 million in debt due to local fees. Some $12 million of that debt originated from uncollected $50 monthly probation charges.

“From booking and arrests, to representation by a public defender, to supervision on probation: At every point, someone can be charged a fee for that particular service,” said Stephanie Campos-Bui. 

The above data led officials in San Francisco to do away with local court fees and some fines, the article reports. The move took an enormous burden off of impoverished residents.

Now, Senate Bill 144 aims to do what San Francisco did, but on the state level. SB 144: Families Over Fees Act – introduced by Sen. Holly Mitchell – would put a stop to many administrative fees and forgive billions in debt. The bill has already gone through the Senate and will soon be heard by the Assembly. There are no guarantees the legislation will pass.

Orange County Defense Attorney

 

Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are an adult who is facing criminal charges in California. Attorney Brower has decades of experience, and he can help you or a loved one achieve a favorable outcome to an unfortunate situation.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Cannabis Possession in California Prisons

cannabis possession
As most Californians know, Proposition 64 gave adults, over the age of 21, the right to use cannabis. The law allows for the possession of small amounts of pot for personal use.

While the laws about cannabis as they pertain to average citizens are relatively simple to understand, when it comes to people serving time in penal institutions, it is decidedly less cut and dry.

It is no secret that men and women find a way to get illegal drugs into jails. Prisoners caught with contraband of this kind are at risk of having more time added on to their sentence length. However, there is some uncertainty as to what happens when a formerly illegal drug becomes legal. Should being caught with small amounts of marijuana lead to longer sentences?

The 3rd District Court of Appeals in Sacramento weighed in on this subject recently, NPR reports. The court’s ruling may come as a surprise to some readers.

Possession of Marijuana in Prison


Last week, the court of appeals overturned the convictions of five inmates who had been found guilty of possessing marijuana while behind bars, according to the article. The decision, as one might imagine, has some prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys scratching their heads.

Naturally, much is at stake regarding this topic; the five inmates and many more in similar situations were each looking at time being added to their sentence. While prisoners are prohibited from using drugs, the law says that simple possession is not a felony.

“The plain language of Proposition 64 is clear,” said the justices. They add that “possession of less than one ounce of cannabis in prison or a similar penal institution is not a felony.” 

The panel of three justices said officials could still ban cannabis in jail and prison “to maintain order and safety in the prisons and other penal institutions.”

Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office has not announced if it plans to appeal the decision.

 

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer


Please reach out to the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower for legal assistance. Attorney Brower specializes in several areas of criminal defense and can assist you or a loved one secure a favorable outcome.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Law Enforcement's Privacy Rights

SB 1421
Last fall, we wrote about two pieces of legislation signed into law by former California Governor Jerry Brown. They are SB 1421 and AB 748; the former grants the public access to investigations involving officer shootings and other significant uses of force. The latter gives law enforcement 45 days to release body camera footage and other recordings of incidents involving use of force.

The bills came about in response to a growing public outcry over the use of force by police. It isn't a secret that police shootings are hot button topic of late, particularly instances involving unarmed black men. Some of the officers who are caught up in questionable use of force cases may have a history of breaking protocols or abuses like racial discrimination.

However, California has strict laws protecting officer personnel files, according to The Los Angeles Times. In some ways, the laws above fly in the face of officer privacy protections. SB 1421 does not apply to the broader range of misconduct that could put an officer's record in the spotlight, such as domestic abuse, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and bribery.


The Rights of Officers vs Defendants


Last week, the California Supreme Court was divided over whether or not prosecutors should be provided the names of deputies who have committed misconduct, according to the article. At the heart of this case is a famous 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady v. Maryland. SCOTUS ruled that the suppression of evidence favorable to the defense violated due process.

In California, law enforcement agencies and unions are fighting to keep their officers' past misdeeds out of court and away from the public's eye. If district attorneys do not have all the facts about their witnesses, it could result in the overturning of convictions on appeal.

"The prosecution can't take an ostrich-like approach to this very important duty," said Justice Goodwin Liu. 

The case before the California Supreme Court originates from a lawsuit filed by the L.A. deputies' union to prevent former Sheriff Jim McDonnell from sharing some 300 names of deputies with misconduct on their record, the article reports.

In 2017, Los Angeles Court of Appeals ruled that the names must be kept secret despite Brady vs. Maryland. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye suggested that the Legislature might want to take the reins on the subject of disclosure. We will continue to follow this case as it develops.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

 

Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing criminal charges in California. Attorney Brower has the knowledge and experience to help you achieve a favorable outcome in your case.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

LAX Cannabis Trafficking Arrests

cannabis trafficking
Even though marijuana use in California is legal for adult consumption, it’s still an illicit substance federally. Anyone living in California knows that there are dispensaries across the state. More marijuana is produced here than in any other state.

In Northern California, an estimated 1.7 million pounds of cannabis is cultivated each year, according to Leafly. The market is saturated; the days of a small-time grower reaping enormous profits selling weed in the Golden State are probably long gone.

So, it's probably not surprising to learn that many distributors have taken to moving their illegal wares across state lines. While most transporters or traffickers load up the car trunk and hit the road, some are turning to air travel as a means moving product.

It turns out, cannabis trafficking arrests have surged 166% at LAX since legalization, The Los Angeles Times reports. The iconic jet port, one of the busiest in the world, has become an essential hub for individuals trying to increase their profits.

Flying High in California


LAX isn’t alone in marijuana seizures; both Oakland and Sacramento have also seen a dramatic increase. It’s not just smugglers taking to the friendly skies with weed in their bag.

Average citizens know that there is only a light punishment attached to being caught with cannabis in California airports. There were 503 reports of marijuana found in passenger luggage last year; only one-fifth of them involved traffickers.

People in other states will pay hefty prices for a product that is worth much less on the west coast. California grows up to five times more marijuana than can be consumed in the state, according to the article. Naturally, authorities cannot catch everyone; most of the product leaving the state makes it to its final destination.

“This is normal procedure for these guys [traffickers], and I would say 29 out of 30 times they make it through without a problem,” said a 20-year California criminal defense lawyer who specializes in marijuana cases. 

Orange County Drug Offenses


Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower is you are facing criminal drug charges. It is helpful to have an experienced legal advocate in your corner; attorney Brower has been practicing law for more than three decades.

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