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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Hate Crimes In America

hate crimes
Last weekend, The New York Times Magazine featured a story about White Nationalism and hate crimes in America. The cover photo listed scores of such crimes since June of 2015; including the most recent race or religion-related mass murders, such as the Tree of Life massacre.

On November 13, The Washington Post published a complimentary story citing FBI data that indicates that for the third year there was an increase in hate crimes. There was a 17 percent rise just last year alone; the report shows that the most significant jump involves anti-Semitic attacks – like the recent synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.

In 2017, we wrote about an effort to address hate crimes in California. California Assembly Bill 39 would have created a California Hate Crimes Registry, but the bill died in committee.


Hate Crimes In California

While hate crimes may appear to be rare and isolated events to most people, including those living in a progressive state like California, the data does not lie. Even in affluent communities like those located in Orange County, there are victims of such types of killings. In January 2018, a Newport Beach man allegedly murdered his former classmate because of the victim's sexual orientation. Samuel Woodward, 21, is believed to have killed Blaze Bernstein for being gay.

Last week, Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger stripped Woodward of his right to bail, The Los Angeles Times reports. Despite the pleas from Woodward’s defense attorney, Judge Menninger said, “I do believe it would be a danger to others in the community, based on preliminary hearing transcripts.”

The defendant has pleaded not guilty. If found guilty, the hate crime enhancement means he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. According to the article, Woodward is scheduled to return to court January 25, 2019.

Orange County Criminal Defense

If you or a loved one need legal assistance in California, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. Bringing decades of experience to the table, Attorney Brower is fully equipped to advocate for you or your family.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

California SB 10 Repeal Effort

money bail
2018 is the year of criminal justice reforms in the Golden State; from reducing prison populations and legislation to keep juveniles out of the adult system to end the practice of money bail. Regarding the latter, Governor Jerry Brown penned his signature to Senate Bill 10 with this ending the hotly contested system that keeps the poorest of Americans in jail awaiting prosecution. On the day Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure into law, August 28, 2018, he stated “today, California reforms its bail system, so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” according to The Washington Post. Naturally, the move was welcome among equal rights activists and national organizations.

It’s worth remembering that cash bail is a big business generating millions and millions of dollars each year. Not surprisingly, the industry is not going to step aside without a coordinated effort to delay the rollout of SB 10 and repeal it when the opportunity arises. A campaign is underway to collect enough signatures to put a measure before voters in 2020.

Repealing SB 10

At the end of October, the bail bond industry had raised $2.5 million to fund the SB 10 repeal effort, the article reports. Triton, a bail company, owned by Endeavour Capital (private equity firm), has made an $800,000 contribution to the effort. The money raised is funding a veritable army of signature collectors. For each signature collected, solicitors in San Diego earn $3.25.

An executive at Triton justified the company’s decision to donate by pointing out that Senate Bill 10 “would wipe out the bail industry in California.” If the legislation stands, then it stands to reason that bail guarantors would lose their entire customer base. A lot is at stake!

The Private Equity Stakeholder Project, a nonprofit group tracking firms like Endeavour Capital, reports that they’ve bought many companies who service low income individuals. Such industries include:
  • Low-income housing
  • Payday loan businesses
  • Nursing homes
  • Detention centers
  • Prison phone services
To be fair, some progressive groups are not a fan of SB 10 either; the American Civil Liberties Union stopped lending their support despite their opposition to money bail. The organization has concerns that the bill is too broad and may result in higher rates of pretrial incarceration.

“As much as we would welcome an end to the predatory lending practices of the for-profit bail industry, [this bill] cannot promise a system with a substantial reduction in pretrial detention,” California’s ACLU affiliates said in a statement. “We oppose the bill because it seeks to replace the current deeply flawed system with an overly broad presumption of preventive detention.”

Southern California Criminal Defense

Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G Brower is you require a strong legal defense. Attorney Brower brings decades of experience to the table and can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

California's Bloated Prisons Budget

prop 57
Lenore Anderson, a former assistant district attorney in San Francisco and executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, is calling on California lawmakers to address the state’s bloated prisons budget in the wake of several criminal justice reforms. In an op-ed for The Sacramento Bee, Anderson highlights how Governor Jerry Brown has supported legislation in recent years. She points out that Brown’s support for bills like Proposition 57 for instance, is in stark contrast to the California Governor of 40 years ago.

Prop 57, you will remember, allows parole consideration for nonviolent felons and made changes in who decides whether a minor will be charged as an adult or not. The legislation also authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and education. Brown’s support for the bill is ironic considering that the laws passed during Brown’s first tenure in office – Anderson argues – are some of the direct causes of California’s enormous jail and prison populations.

This year, state lawmakers also passed legislation that did away with money bail and gave greater diversion possibilities for those living with mental illness who get arrested. Criminal justice reform is widely believed to be a step in the right direction, but Anderson notes that state expenditures on imprisonment have not changed.

More Money On Prison Than Education

California is a progressive state; however, we spend $12 billion on state prisons alone, according to the op-ed. Since 1981, there’s been a 500 percent increase in prison spending—more than any other budget item, including higher education. Anderson writes:

“But these expenditures do not align with what works to reduce crime. We know many of the drivers of crime: mental health crises, substance abuse, unaddressed trauma and housing and economic instability, especially when these factors are combined. Most of these factors are exacerbated by lengthy incarceration, not resolved by it.” She adds, “We should be investing in crisis assistance centers, in restorative justice and in programs that combine housing and treatment for chronically homeless people cycling in and out of both jails and emergency rooms.”

Orange County Criminal Defense

For more than three decades, Attorney Ronald G, Brower has provided clients with effective legal defense in Southern California. If you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge, please reach out to our office to arrange a consultation.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Parole Opportunities for Life Sentences

three strikes law
Criminal justice reform in California is of vital importance, evident by the State considering and passing laws to reduce jail and prison populations. To that end, several measures have been adopted and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in recent years. One of the subjects of particular focus is the controversial three-strike law as it pertains to nonviolent offenders.

California's Three Strikes Law requires that a defendant who is convicted of any felony with two or more strikes on their record, be mandated to a state prison term of at least 25 years to life. The nature of the third crime – violent vs. nonviolent – or the previous two are of little consequence—three-strikes and you are out!

The passing of Proposition 57, or the California Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements Initiative, allows for parole and good behavior opportunities for felons serving time for nonviolent crimes and allowing judges – instead of prosecutors – to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court. Fundamentally, Prop 57 weakens the Three Strikes Law.

Parole for Prisoners Facing Life Sentences

The 2016 ballot measure weakening the Three Strikes Law means that as many as 4,000 California inmates serving life sentences are eligible for parole, according to the Associated Press (AP). The State will start creating regulations this coming January to decide the terms of eligibility.

Michael Romano, director of Three Strikes and Justice Advocacy Projects at Stanford Law School, points out that some non-violent offenders are serving life for crimes as petty as stealing a bicycle or shoplifting shampoo, the article reports. While other states have similar laws on the books, Romano notes that California’s "was certainly the most aggressive state in the country."

"Over the decades, California has realized that the majority of people swept up under Three Strikes are not serious and not violent, many of whom have committed really petty crimes," said Romano. "They are disproportionately African American, they are disproportionately mentally ill, and, perhaps most surprising of all, they're disproportionately low risk to commit a new crime if released, according to the state's own risk evaluations. This is further acknowledgement of those truths."


Orange County Legal Defense

Attorney Ronald G. Brower is one of the “Top Attorneys in Orange County” and one the “Best Lawyers in America.” With more than three decades of experience defending clients in California, he can help you or a loved one achieve the best possible outcome. Please contact our office to learn more about how we can advocate for you!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Countdown to Capture: Newport Beach Murder

countdown to capture
In a world of unlimited streaming services, many Americans prefer something that is a little more anachronistic. Podcasts have come a long way in recent years attracting listeners from multiple generations and demographics. Simply put, there is a little something for everyone in the realm of podcasting; from comedy to true-crime, people can give their eyes a rest and listen to captivating stories.

As a matter of fact, some crime-related podcasts have led to solving cases decades later. Some such audio investigations have resulted in new information surfacing that helps law enforcement agencies hone in on suspected murderers. It is astonishing the response that some cold cases are receiving thanks to the diligent inquiries of journalists and private investigators. Hopefully, a new podcast from the Newport Beach Police Department brings closure to the murder case of Quee Choo Lim Chadwick.

Some of our followers may be familiar with previous posts we have written about Quee Choo Lim Chadwick and the disappearance of her husband and alleged killer Peter Gregory Chadwick.


Countdown to Capture

Now from the City of Newport Beach, the police department released a six-part podcast with the hopes of bringing about justice. Countdown to Capture is a true-crime drama about the case against Peter Chadwick, 54, who went missing after posting his $1-million bail, The Los Angeles Times reports. In September, the NBPD announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to Chadwick’s arrest.

“Almost six years later we haven’t had the satisfaction of seeing him stand trial,” Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis said last month. “Our investigators have put together all the reports, the witness statements, the evidence that we need, and we’re confident in our case. The one thing missing is our defendant.”

Chadwick is on the U.S. Marshals Service’s 15 Most Wanted Fugitives list. If you are interested in listening to the series of digital audio episodes, please click here. Those with information pertaining Chadwick’s whereabouts are invited to call the Newport Beach Police Department tip line at (800) 550-6273.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you have been charged with a crime in California. Attorney Brower’s decades of experience can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Call today: (714) 997-4400

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Two Laws Address Police Transparency In California

SB 1421
Transparency is a good thing, especially when it comes to law enforcement and legal proceedings. Even though California is a progressive state, when it comes to police records, secrecy has long been the mantra. In the wake of controversial shootings and alleged police brutality across the country in recent years, there is a public outcry for greater access to internal police investigations.

Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills which address the public’s concern, Senate Bill 1421 and Assembly Bill 748, The Los Angeles Times reports. SB 1421 gives the public access to investigations formerly under lock and key, such as officer shootings and other significant uses of force. The signing of AB 748 means that police have 45 days to release body camera footage and other recordings of incidents involving an officer's use of his sidearm and other severe applications of force.

“This is revolutionary,” said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. “It would unveil what we have been wanting for a long time.”

The authors of both pieces of legislation are thrilled with Gov. Brown’s endorsement; however, police unions and labor officials are anything but happy about the new requirements.


Police Transparency

SB 1421 also opens up interview transcripts, evidence and full investigatory reports to the public, prosecutors and defense attorneys, according to the article. Regarding AB 748, law enforcement officials are not required to release video footage if doing so would interfere with an investigation.

“With Governor Brown’s signature, California is finally joining other states in granting access to the investigatory records on officer conduct that the public truly has a right to know,” said Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), author of SB 1421.

The new open records law goes live on Jan. 1, 2019, the body-camera law on July 1, 2019. The head of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, Brian Marvel, is concerned that the new regulations may put law enforcement at risk. Marvel worries that citizens will seek retribution after accessing info on the use of force. “There would be a greater potential for officers and their families being harmed by having all of their information being put out publicly,” Marvel said.


Criminal Defense Attorney

With over 30 years of experience practicing law in Southern California, Attorney Ronald G. Brower has the expertise to help you achieve a favorable outcome with any legal matter you face. Please contact our office to learn how we can advocate for you and your family during this difficult time.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Attorney General’s Office Opposes NIBIN

The National Integrated Ballistics Information Network allows law enforcement agencies to share ballistics intelligence across the United States. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) runs NIBIN and is hopeful that more states will begin using the technology. However, crime labs in California are not mandated to use the life-saving network, NBC Bay Area reports. California’s Department of Justice is the reason that the intelligence sharing program is not utilized.

Before NIBIN, firearms examiners had to perform ballistic examinations manually. As you can imagine, the process was extremely time consuming, time not being of the essence when it comes to solving a crime. NIBIN gives examiners the ability to enter cartridge casing evidence into the Integrated Ballistic Identification System, according to the ATF. The information collected is matched against images in the database, allowing law enforcement across state lines to be more effective. The ATF writes:

The NIBIN Program automates ballistics evaluations and provides actionable investigative leads promptly. NIBIN is the only interstate automated ballistic imaging network in operation in the United States and is available to most major population centers in the United States.


Resistance Against NIBIN

While the majority of California law enforcement agencies in urban areas use NIBIN, the ten state-run crime labs operated by the California Department of Justice are not utilizing the system, according to the article. California Assemblyman Evan Low introduced a bill that would close the gaps by compelling law enforcement to enter all guns and shell casings recovered at crime scenes into NIBIN. Interestingly, California’s Attorney General’s Office lobbied against the bill and succeeded; the reasons being the cost, competing technology already in use, and a resistance to any mandates instructing crime labs on how to operate.

The Santa Ana Police Department uses NIBIN; however, the Orange County Crime Lab down the street does not and instead uses another system called Evofinder®, according to the article. Unfortunately, NIBIN and Evofinder systems are unable to communicate; which means that crucial information is probably not being shared as quickly as possible.

“[Evofinder] gave us the ability to process bullets immediately with the same system that we were doing cartridge cases with at a much lower cost,” said Bruce Houlihan, the director of Orange County’s crime lab. 

Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:
If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Assemblymen Low plans to reintroduce his bill again next year.


Orange County Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing criminal charges in California. With decades of experience helping clients acquire favorable outcomes in their case, Attorney Brower can provide that same level of commitment and excellence in your case.

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