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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Prop 64 Has Gray Areas

prop 64
With the passing of Proposition 64 there are many Californians who are excited about being able to legally use marijuana. After years of prohibition, both in California and across the country, millions of adults no longer must worry about being punished, and potentially thrown in jail for using the drug. In respect to reducing state prison and jail populations, Prop. 64 should be considered a step in the right direction; however, California adults should take time to apprise themselves with the law and how it applies to the workplace.

It is not uncommon for employers to drug test their employees to ensure workplace safety, especially in certain industries that involve the use of heavy equipment. Being under the influence of any mind-altering substances can jeopardize the well-being of everyone. That being said, regardless of which field someone works in, it is generally accepted as being OK for employees to drink alcohol when not at work. What they do in their own time is none of an employer's business. Even if an employer tested employees for alcohol, the substance will not show up after 12 hours, give or take. The same cannot be said for marijuana.

Clearly, regardless of the drug being legal, employers can’t have employees “high” on the job. But even if someone isn’t high on the job that doesn’t mean they won’t fail a urine analysis (UA). It goes without saying, this reality is an issue that must be addressed, sooner rather than later. In fact, Prop 64 lacks anything about how employers are to handle the changing tide regarding marijuana, CBS Sacramento reports. “Under the influence” and “in one’s system” are not the same thing, but both can get you fired, according to attorney Barbara Cotter.

“The employer has the right to say we want productivity at work. We want a safe workplace and were not going to allow anyone under the influence of any intoxicating drugs or substances in the workplace.” 

Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

OC Jailhouse Informant Special Investigation

While those who work for the “people” are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that is beyond reproach, it seems that some prosecutors will go to any lengths to ensure a conviction—even if that means breaking the law. Over the summer, we discussed a scandal taking place at the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) office, with regard to both prosecutors and local sheriff’s deputies misusing jailhouse informants.

The issue, which prompted the American Civil Liberties Union threatening to file a lawsuit, if the OCDA did not hand over internal documents related to the use of jailhouse informants, is severe with inappropriate behavior stemming back to the 1980s. The fiasco in Orange County(CA) led Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, to propose legislation that would subject any California prosecutor found withholding or falsifying evidence to felony charges and possible prison time. California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1909 on September 30, 2016.

The investigation into alleged jailhouse informant misuse has been going on for a few years now, and has become known as the “snitch scandal,” The Orange County Register reports. This week, Orange County supervisors voted on assisting to provide the Orange County grand jury with $400,000 to compensate two lawyers serving as special investigators for the grand jury. The legal duo includes Andrea Ordin, former U.S. attorney and current member of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission and Fred Woocher, an election law expert and former special counsel to the California Attorney General.

It is uncommon for grand juries to request special investigative assistance, according to the Attorney General’s office. However, the scope of the case is huge, considering that the misuse of jailhouse informants and keeping evidence from the defense that could have been beneficial has already lead to the outcome of six or more high-profile criminal cases to be altered or reversed altogether. Interestingly, neither the OCDA or the Sheriff's Department seemed to be all that concerned about the special investigation team.

“We welcome any outside inquiry in this matter and look forward to seeing the results,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff at the District Attorney’s Office. And Sheriff's department spokesman Lt. Mark Stichter said: “We always make ourselves available to the grand jury to answer questions and to provide information to them. They’re the grand jury, they can make the decision to do what they feel is best.” 

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Menendez Brothers May Get New Trial

SB 813
In September 2016, we wrote about California SB 813, a piece of legislation that came in the wake the Bill Cosby fiasco. After a series allegations of rape towards the formerly beloved comedian and actor, the question of statute of limitations regarding rape quickly became a hot button topic.

Despite the heinous nature of any sexual assault, there has been a ten-year statute of limitation for prosecution. It is fairly well understood that sexual assault victims are often reticent about coming forward, which means that if they wait too long, their window of opportunity for seeking justice may close.

California SB 813 was approved and signed by California's Governor Brown, ending the statute of limitation on sexual abuse, which many lawmakers and activists have hailed as a victory. And by all accounts, it will help countless people get the justice they deserve.

However, the legislation will also give some people who are sitting behind bars an opportunity for an appeal, as they were barred from using sexual assault as grounds for self-defense because of the statute of limitations. The new California law may give people like the Menendez brothers another attempt at an appeal, CBS Los Angeles reports.

If you were an adult in the 1990’s, there is a good chance you remember the Menendez brothers, who were charged with murdering their parents. In the brothers’ first trial, which ended with a hung jury, the defense claimed that the murders were self-defense in response to experiencing years of physical and sexual abuse. The second trial would not go the same way, the two brothers were found guilty, which may have been due to the fact the judge barred the use of the sexual abuse defense. With the passing of SB 813, the Menendez brothers may get a third chance to prove their innocence.

Please take a moment to watch the short video below: If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Synthetic Drug Ring Leader Pleads Guilty

synthetic marijuana
The manufacturing, sale and use of what are known as synthetic drugs has been an important topic in the media of late. The surge of synthetic drug use and subsequent hospitalizations has led to a number of lawmakers demanding that action be taken to stem the tide of dangerous chemicals coming into the United States. The chemicals used to make synthetic drugs are made in China, with little oversight and no one testing to see if the compounds are safe for human consumption.

Every time lawmakers or federal agencies ban synthetic drugs or the chemicals used to make them, the chemists simply change the formula to elude officials. And, until recently, the Chinese government has done little to aid the American effort to put a stop to the manufacturing and use of the insidious chemicals.

Here is how it typically works. The chemicals are synthesized in China; the chemicals are then purchased by people overseas who ultimately spray the chemicals on plant matter (synthetic marijuana) or salt crystals (bath salts). The synthetic cannabis and bath salts are then packaged, labeled and sold. While the packaging clearly states on the packets, “not for human consumption,” the warning hardly deters use.

People who use synthetic drugs are subject to a host of negative side effects that often require medical assistance. It is extremely easy to overdose on synthetic drugs and the symptoms can be and have been fatal at times. Because synthetic drugs are so cheap to acquire, they appeal greatly to young people and the impoverished. The most commonly used form of synthetic drugs are synthetic cannabinoids, the most popular of which are sold under the name “Spice” or “K2.” Unlike traditional marijuana, synthetic cannabis is extremely dangerous.

As was mentioned earlier, the government is determined to put a stop to the synthetic drug industry, which has not proved easy. Law enforcement officials have also been doing their part to curb the use of these pernicious substances, by going after the people making and selling synthetic drugs.

Last week, a 41-year old man from Newport Beach, California plead guilty to drug, weapons and money laundering charges, The Los Angeles Times reports. Prosecutors alleged that Sean Libbert was leader of synthetic drug ring which distributed more than $12 million worth of synthetic drugs.

“The investigation in this case revealed that this defendant controlled an organization that was one of the largest importers and distributors of dangerous, synthetic drugs in the nation,” said U.S. Atty. Eileen M. Decker. “Over the course of only 16 months, this organization smuggled well over 600 pounds of chemicals into the U.S., knowing that the drugs would be used to manufacture synthetic marijuana or ‘spice.'"

Libbert will serve at least six years behind bars.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Marijuana Legalization, Et. Al.

proposition 64
After nearly two-years of a grueling presidential election, much of which most Americans are probably ready to put far behind them with the announcement of a new President-elect, it is time to look to the future and attempt to reunite as both a state and a nation. If you voted in California yesterday, then it is likely that you voted on legislation that will affect several things throughout the state.

For a number of Americans, state proposals appeared even more important than the presidency, as they may have greater impact on one’s future. We feel that it’s important we take stock in some of the California propositions that we have discussed in the past months, with regard to how the state voted and what it means going forward.

Proposition 57 (APPROVED) - The California Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements Initiative: would expand parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes. The bill also puts the power of “direct file” (charging minors as adults) in the hands of judges rather than prosecutors.

Proposition 62 (NOT-APPROVED)- The Repeal of the Death Penalty Initiative: would make life without the possibility of parole the maximum punishment for murder.

Proposition 64 (APPROVED) - The California Marijuana Legalization Initiative; would legalize recreational marijuana use for persons aged 21 years or older under state law.

Proposition 66 (APPROVED) - The Death Penalty Procedures Initiative: would change the procedures governing state court appeals and petitions that challenge death penalty convictions and sentences.

With 56 percent of Californians who voted "yes" on marijuana legalization, it could be a sign of things to come in the United States. Many believe that it is huge step to repealing federal marijuana prohibition, resulting in dramatic drop in the American prison population. On another note, 64 percent of the state voted in favor of Prop 57, a bill that will surely impact young minorities throughout the state who have been disproportionately affected by “direct file.”

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

California Death Penalty: End or Amend?

death penalty
Next week, Californians will be voting on number of controversial subjects, from legalizing marijuana to abolishing or amending the death penalty. It practically goes without saying that California has been at the forefront of progressive movements, being the first state to legalize medical marijuana is just one example. However, despite Californians' progressive sentiments, they reside in one of the 31 states with the death penalty.

When voters go to the polls next week, citizens will be asked to vote on two similar, yet conflicting propositions that could repeal or amend the death penalty statute, KSBY reports. Voting “yes” vote on Proposition 62 could result in the state abolishing the death penalty, whereas voting “yes” on Proposition 66 could lead to shortening the time legal challenges to death sentences take.

Supporters of either proposition agree that capital punishment cases are “drawn out too long and are too costly,” according to the article. Those in support of Prop 62 claim that the bill could save California $150 million per year.

“It’s very expensive and it’s not really used in the way it was originally intended,” said Cal Poly student Alison O’Neill. 

While there are 748 people currently sitting on death row in California, it has been a long time since an execution was carried out, the article reports. The last execution in California occurred over a ten years ago. with executions at a standstill. On the other hand, supporters of Prop 66 have the slogan: “Mend, Not End,” and believe that it is time for executions to resume.

“I don’t wish to pay for people who are incarcerated for years and years and years. That’s taxpayer dollars,” said Morro Bay resident Ray David. “Get them out of here. They are criminals.” 

Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:
KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

If you are having trouble watching the video, please click here.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

California Governor Signs AB 1909

AB 1909
We wrote about a piece of California legislation back in August, that would have serious impact on prosecutors throughout the state—especially for those who willingly omit or falsify evidence. The bill AB 1909, proposed by Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 30, 2016. Any California prosecutor who is found withholding or falsifying evidence can now be charged with a felony and be sentenced to prison time, The Huffington Post reports. Depending on how serious the offense is, prosecutors who are found guilty could be sentenced from 16 months to two or three years in prison.

If you have not been following this story, we can tell you that the legislation is in response to alleged corruption involving Orange County prosecutors and police. Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders accused county prosecutors and police of:
  • Violating Defendants’ Rights.
  • Illegally Obtaining Evidence
  • Withholding Evidence
  • Misusing Jail Informants
“A non-trivial number of prosecutors — and sometimes entire prosecutorial offices — engage in misconduct that seriously undermines the fairness of criminal trials,” said Judge Alex Kozinski,  9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sanders believes that every case over the last 30 years involving a jailhouse informant should be re-examined, according to the article. The stakes are extremely high considering that prosecutorial misconduct has resulted in murderers having their sentences vacated. The goal of the legislation is to deter this kind of behavior in the future. Before the passing of AB 1909, the aforementioned offenses were just a misdemeanor for anyone who omits or falsifies evidence.

“Hopefully, this will provide an additional deterrent against prosecutorial misconduct,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine. 

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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