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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Voting Behind Bars in California

AB-2466
People who are found guilty of committing a felony in California are not allowed to vote in an election until they complete their parole. But what about felons currently serving time in California county jails, do they get to vote? Well, as of right now they cannot, but that could change if a Governor Jerry Brown signs a bill put forward by the California State Legislature, numerous news agencies report, including CBSNews Sacramento. The Governor has until September 30, 2016, to sign AB-2466, which would effectively amend the language in the state’s constitution by defining imprisoned as “currently serving a state or federal prison sentence.”

It is reported AB-2466 has the support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The organization believes that that laws which disenfranchise minorities are a vestige of Jim Crow. The ACLU notes that “three out of every four men in California prisons are men of color,” which means that “felony disenfranchisement laws are a legacy of Jim Crow.” AB-2466 is “a step towards ending the shameful legacy of Jim Crow in California.”

“While national attention is focused on a few states, many fail to realize that in California voters of color have suffered new restrictions on their right to vote in recent years. I wrote AB 2466 because I want to send a message to the nation that California will not stand for discrimination in voting,” said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, the author of the bill. 

Here is how California compares to other states regarding felon voting rights:
  • Felons have the right to vote while behind bars in both Maine and Vermont.
  • Voting rights are restored automatically upon release in fourteen states.
  • Felons can vote again after completing parole in four states (including California).
  • Voting rights are returned after the completion of a sentence thirty-eight states.
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, September 14, 2016

OC Court Clerk Racketeering Indictment

court clerk
When it comes to breaking the law, it appears that who you know and how much money you have to spend could help you skirt the long arm of the law. Or at least that was the case in Orange County (OC), California, up until recently, when county clerk Juan Lopez Jr. was arrested for accepting bribes to forge electronic documents, The Los Angeles Times reports. For the right price, one could have their drunk driving, speeding and red-light running charges in Orange County—all but disappear.

This is a story that you may think came right out of Hollywood, serious corruption involving a low-level paper pusher for a county court. The investigation stems back to 2010, when word of the 'get out of jail' scheme was spreading around upper crust circles of car enthusiasts in the "O.C." A federal indictment unsealed last Wednesday indicates that Lopez closed out more than 1,000 cases that were favorable for the defendant. Once payment was received, Lopez would use the court computer to make it appear that people had, when in fact they had not:
  • Served Jail Time
  • Had Charges Dismissed
  • Paid Fines
With the assistance of 11 middlemen collecting and delivering payoffs, Lopez helped people beat the system, according to the article. As a result, the indictment includes 38-counts of racketeering.

“This defendant allegedly assumed the roles of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to line his pockets in a staggering abuse of his position. Very simply, he compromised the entire justice system in Orange County,” said U.S. Atty. Eileen Decker.

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, September 7, 2016

Rape Statute of Limitations

statute of limitations
Not too long ago, when people thought of formerly beloved comedian Bill Cosby it would bring smiles. Today, amidst a pile of rape and assault allegations, people are typically disgusted when thinking about Cosby. Many people are outraged about two different aspects of the allegations: the fact that there are so many, and that fact that many of them are well beyond the statute of limitations.

The Cosby rape fiasco has led a number of states to amend the statute of limitations on rape cases. While lengthening the time that prosecutors have to try those indicted on rape charges may not affect Cosby, it could help countless women in the future—those victims who may not have been ready to confront what happened to them at the time of the offense. In the state of California, unlike rape, there isn’t a time limit on filing:
  • Murder Charges
  • Embezzlement of Public Funds
  • Rape Involving Serious Injury or Weapons
Most sex-related crimes in California carry a 10-year statute of limitation, The Los Angeles Times reports. That time limit could be extended in the near future. Both California houses of the Legislature passed a proposal that would increase the legal deadline for rape crimes, following a new law in Nevada that increases the legal deadline for rape prosecutions. California SB 813 will now go to the governor for review.

Nevada recently extended their deadline from four to 20 years on rape cases, after an alleged Cosby victim fought for amending the length, according to the article. While old sex crimes may be difficult to prove and difficult for a defendant to contest, San Bernardino County Dist. Attorney Mike Ramos, a co-sponsor of the bill, points out:

“But at least it gives victims an opportunity for law enforcement to really look into this. At least they have their day to sit down and say what happened.” 

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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Friday, September 2, 2016

Unanimous Support for AB 2888

sexual assault
Over the course of the summer, we have discussed the controversial case of the former Stanford University swimmer, Brock Turner. The case made national headlines because of the light sentence Turner received from Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky. After being found guilty of numerous sexual assault charges, Persky decided that six (6) months in prison and three (3) years of probation would be an adequate sentence. Naturally, the sentence caused millions of Americans to become enraged, calling for the Persky’s resignation and stricter sentencing laws.

As we pointed out in a previous post, California law separates rape from sexual assault. Those found guilty of rape face much stiffer punishments than those convicted of sexual assault. But that is about to change in the near future.

Sexual assault in California made the news again on Monday, after legislation was passed that would place mandatory prison sentences for those convicted of certain sexual assaults, The Los Angeles Times reports. AB 2888, passed in the California Assembly with unanimous support, next stop for the legislation is Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

“If we let a rapist off with probation and little jail time, we re-victimize the victim, we dissuade other victims from coming forward and we send a message that sexual assault of an incapacitated victim is just no big deal,” said Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D-Napa), a coauthor of the measure. 

The bill would require that sexual assailants serve time in prison when their victims are unconscious or incapable of giving consent while under the influence alcohol, according to the article. While the bill would appear to be a step in the right direction, there are some people who are concerned about mandatory minimum sentences, historically disproportionately affecting minorities.

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, August 23, 2016

SB 443: Upholding The 5th Amendment

civil forfeiture
In the United States, it is not uncommon for those who are alleged of committing drug related crimes to face what is known as civil forfeiture. The history behind such cases, stems back to the 1980’s when America’s “War on Drugs” was at its height. In an attempt to fight drug kingpins, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) decided on a novel approach. The DOJ gave police and prosecutors the authority to confiscate the property of people suspected of having involvement in the drug trade, The Orange County Register reports. Individual states followed suit, adopting similar policies.

While seizing the assets of people believed to be involved in a drug racket may seem like common sense policy, the fact of the matter is that civil forfeiture rules disproportionately affect addicts rather than drug lords and violate the 5th Amendment of the Constitution.

“No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”

People who have their property taken from them are often times not found guilty of the charges. So you might imagine, in error, that they would receive an apology and are given back their belongings. However, “forfeiture” is a civil rather than “criminal” process, which means that having one’s property returned involves going civil court. The process is both involved and costly, forcing many innocent people who fell victim to draconian civil forfeiture laws to walk away.

In an attempt to uphold the 5th Amendment, California Senate Bill 443 was proposed. If passed, it would have required police agencies to obtain a criminal conviction before seizing people’s:
  • Houses
  • Boats
  • Cars
  • Cash
As you might have guessed the bill was met with some opposition which required a compromise be made. This week, the California Assembly approved a compromise version of SB 443, according to the article. The compromise still allows for the seizure of cash amounts above $40,000 without a conviction, but one’s property cannot be taken without a conviction.

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, August 17, 2016

Felony Prosecutorial Misconduct Bill

prosecutorial misconduct
Certain prosecutors in California may have something to fear as a new bill was scheduled to go before the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday, August 11, 2016, and it was approved in committee. The bill will now continue through the legislation process and prosecutors who purposefully omit or falsify evidence could face felony charges and face penalties to between 16 months and three years, The Orange County Register reports. The bill comes in the wake of allegations that Orange County prosecutors misused jailhouse informants and withheld information from defense attorneys on a number of occasions.

A 2010 study by Santa Clara University School of Law found that between 1997 and 2009, only six out of 600 prosecutors accused of misconduct were punished by the state Bar, according to the article. The researchers concluded that:

“Courts fail to report prosecutorial misconduct (despite having a statutory obligation to do so), prosecutors deny that it occurred, and the California State Bar almost never disciplines it...The problem is critical.” 

The new bill AB 1909, proposed by Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, seeks to amend current California statutes where it is only a misdemeanor for anyone who omits or falsifies evidence, the article notes. What’s more, prosecutorial misconduct has led to both attempted murder and murder cases being overturned.

“As a member of the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, I believe that accountability for California’s prosecutors is critical to ensuring that justice in our courts is truly served,” Lopez said. 

We will continue to follow this story in the coming months, and hope that the problem which appears to be systemic will be addressed.

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, August 10, 2016

California's New License Plate Law

license plate law
If someone commits a crime in California and drives away from the scene, then hopefully a witness will be able to write down the license plate number in order to help authorities track down the offender. Seems pretty straight forward. However, what if the offender recently purchased a new vehicle? That is where things get complicated.

Under California law, a newly purchased vehicle are not required to display for up to 90 days. If somebody commits a crime with a brand new vehicle, there is a fairly good chance that there will not be a license plate.

Two investigations on the aforementioned problem in 2013 led Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) to work tirelessly for three years to change the law, starting first with AB 516, which had been hindering police investigations, KTVU reports. Towards the end of last month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the new statewide license plate law.

California is the only state that allowed for the three (3) month grace period. The new law requires a temporary numbered plate to be attached to all vehicles before leaving the dealer lot. The law should go into effect on January 1, 2019.

"This will create for the first time in the state of California a temporary license plate program," said Mullin. 

Please take a moment to watch a short video:


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

This new law will assist with crime investigations for offenses like drunk driving, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, and hit and run to name a few.

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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