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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Marijuana-related Arrests Fell Significantly Last Year

prop 64
It is legal to use marijuana in California recreationally provided however you are an adult over the age of 21. Proposition 64 brought about significant changes concerning offenses related to cannabis use and distribution, for instance, people above the legal age restriction can travel with up to an ounce without fear. Individuals caught selling the drug face a misdemeanor rather than a felony as was the case before Prop 64 going into effect.

While practically every cannabis-related offense was either downgraded or done away with, it is still possible to find one’s self on the wrong side of the law. People who use minors to sell marijuana and individuals who are caught cultivating substantial amounts of the drug—on numerous occasions—can be subject to felony charges.

Advocates of the legislation didn’t expect Prop 64 to put an end to marijuana offenses, but they are pleased to see the arrest rates drop across the state, The Orange County Register reports. Although, some people have concerns about racial disparity when it comes to arrests, which is a trend that has persisted for decades.


Marijuana-related Arrests Last Year

Last week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released several reports about crime in California, which included post-Proposition 64 findings. The data indicate that marijuana-related arrests fell significantly last year; total arrests dropped 56 percent, and felony arrests decreased 74 percent. The number of people facing possible incarceration and other adverse effects resulting from cannabis charges fell by almost 8,000 from the year before. All told, 6,065 people were charged with a marijuana-related offense in 2017.

“Overall, I think it bodes well for marijuana legalization in California,” said Jolene Forman, an attorney with the Drug Policy Alliance. “It shows… that law enforcement resources are not being wasted on marijuana arrests anymore and can be used on more serious offenses.” 

As mentioned above, racial disparity continues concerning weed busts. Despite data showing that white, black, and Hispanic individuals use and sell cannabis at roughly equivalent rates, whites are charged with felonies less often. The recent report shows that Hispanic people accounted for 40 percent and black people accounted for 21 percent of marijuana felony arrests, compared to 24 percent for whites.


Southern California Criminal Defense Attorney

Are you facing criminal charges related to cannabis? If so, The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can help. Please contact Attorney Brower to learn how he can advocate on your behalf and help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Ending the Felony Murder Rule in California

Felony Murder Rule
A bill under consideration in California would end a rule that allows people involved in certain serious felonies—that lead to death—to be subject to the same penalties as the killer, ABA Journal reports. SB-1437: Accomplice liability for felony murder (2017-2018) would “prohibit a participant in the commission or attempted commission of a felony inherently dangerous to human life to be imputed to have acted with implied malice, unless he or she personally committed the homicidal act.”

Senate Bill 1437 was approved by the California State Senate and is now before the California State Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, which recommends the bill move forward. If SB- 1437 becomes law, it could lead to monumental changes regarding whose liable for murder. The Felony Murder Elimination Project reports that of women serving life sentences for murder in California, 72 percent were not the murderer.

Felony Murder Rule

California judges have long railed against the state’s felony murder rule, according to the article. In fact, judges in the 1960’s called the rule “highly artificial.” The California Supreme Court called felony murder a “barbaric” rule of “dubious origins” from a “bygone age” in 1983, but stated that the state legislature was the only body with the power to amend the practice, according to The Marshall Project. And in 2011, in a ruling on California's overpopulated prisons, the U.S. Supreme Court said it violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

California isn’t the only state confronting the felony murder rule. The Pennsylvania Legislature is considering limiting the rule as well, the article reports. Other states like Ohio already addressed the law four years ago, when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that “attempted felony murder” is “impossible” to commit. While Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Michigan have abolished the rule; 45 states still adhere to the law, and in 24 states such cases are eligible for capital punishment.

California’s SB- 1437, if approved, has provisions that go beyond ending the rule. The legislation provides those already convicted the ability to be re-sentenced or have their case vacated altogether.

“Many times in California, if you didn’t commit the murder, didn’t know the murder occurred, you could be charged and have the same sentence as the actual murderer,” said State Sen. Nancy Skinner, the legislation’s sponsor. “They had bad judgment, but they didn’t commit a murder—and when I understood this, I knew we had to fix that.”


Southern California Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can help. Attorney Brower continues to provide clients with that same level of commitment and excellence as he did when he began practicing law more than 30 years ago. Please contact us today.

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Friday, July 6, 2018

California Money Bail System

money bail
The battle to reform California’s money bail system continues, and it would seem that this problem should have been resolved years ago given the progressive nature of the Golden State. Almost one year ago we discussed the topic of cash bail on this blog, specifically how the system favors the rich and discriminates against the poor. As it stands right now, people awaiting trial have one of two options, either pay 10 percent (nonrefundable) of the set bail to a bondsman or bide one’s time in jail until the proceedings come to a close.

For the wealthy, what is ten-percent of $10,000 bail but a forgettable drop in the bucket? To people of lower socioeconomic standing, $1,000 might cover bills for an entire month. What’s more, opting out of bail could mean a lengthy jail stay, during which an individual may lose their job, apartment, and possibly even child custody.

Most of the developed world, it turns out, has long since done away with the practice of nonrefundable money bail. In many places, defendants can pay the 10 percent of their bond and get a refund after the trial comes to an end, provided of course that they show up to court. The Philippines and most American states are the only places where private bail guarantors reign supreme, The Los Angeles Times reports. In the United States, the industry has influential lobbyists with the ear of many a lawmaker.

Ending Money Bail

The UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs published a report showing the median bail amount in California is about $50,000—five times higher than anywhere else in the nation. Around 90 percent of people detained pretrial are only behind bars because they can’t cover the cost of bail.

"While defendants await trial in jail custody, they are unable to attend to their obligations, such as working, going to school, paying rent, or caring for family members," the report states. 

Some 39 years ago, California had an opportunity to end the divisive practice of nonrefundable cash bail. The state Senate approved a measure that would reform the system, but then Gov. Jerry Brown was unable to sign the bill because lobbyist won in the end, according to the article. Once again, an opportunity has arrived to end this punishing practice once and for all; last year, the Senate passed SB 10; however, Gov. Brown has yet to sign the bill, and you can probably guess why, lobbyists.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are in need of legal assistance. Attorney Brower brings over 30 years of experience to the table, and he is committed to achieving the best possible outcome for you and your loved ones.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Major Meth Bust in Fresno Leads to Federal Charges

Federal charges
Expired registration tags precipitated a series of arrests in California when authorities found the driver to be in possession of a pound of meth and other drugs, ABC 30 reports. Minor infractions are often a catalyst to remarkable drug busts in the Golden State, the crisscross of highways and interstates being notorious for the transporting local-grown marijuana and other drugs crossing the southern border from Mexico.

Ever since Federal and state officials began cracking down on methamphetamine, culminating with the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, the vast majority of crystal meth which people use in the United States originates in Mexico. Gone are the days—for the most part—of clandestine meth labs at trailer parks and in the trunk of cars in a state of disrepair, the meth Americans use today is manufactured in cartel super labs. It is much easier for people in Mexico to acquire the necessary precursors for synthesizing the drug.

The cartels, ironically, have a way of capitalizing on American laws to curb substance misuse and abuse. The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 has the unintended effect of opening a new market for the cartels, just as crackdowns on prescription opioid misuse brought about a dramatic surge in Mexican heroin trafficking.

Major Drug Operation Bust in Fresno

The arrest of David Stuard of Fresno, CA, led the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office to the seizure of five weapons and another 45 pounds of meth, and six more arrests, according to the article. The seven people in custody are facing Federal charges; and, local and federal investigators continue to try to pinpoint the source of the drug. In response to the Fresno drug sting, some people are using it as an opportunity to attack California's sanctuary state law, including U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott. However, Scott acknowledges that the sanctuary state law has no bearing on the Fresno meth bust.

"Something is rotten in Denmark, with the California Criminal justice system, said U.S. Attorney Scott. “It has gone too far in decriminalizing crime in this state." 

Although, as Tony Capozzi, a former Federal Prosecutor, correctly points out:

"There is not a lot of difference between the state [California] and federal penalties when it comes to drug offenses.”


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over 30 years of experience, attorney Brower can give you the best chance of finding a favorable outcome.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

California Supreme Court Sides With Criminal Defendants

criminal defendants
The California Supreme Court is the first state high court to consider and decide on the issue of whether or not social media companies should turn over users' public communications to criminal defendants in response to subpoenas, The Los Angeles Times reports. The Supreme Court was unanimous in their decision, siding with the criminal defense bar overturning a previous appeals court decision that said that criminal defense lawyers could not impel companies like Facebook and Twitter to comply with subpoenas prior to trial.

The decision last Thursday is a huge win for those facing charges that could be vindicated via online communications. What’s interesting is that while social media companies would cite federal privacy laws [Stored Communications Act] as cause for not wanting to cooperate with defense attorneys, police and prosecutors have had little trouble acquiring the same kind of information in the past.

"Whenever criminal defendants subpoena records that we think we need to prove our clients are innocent, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram ignore us completely," said Janelle Caywood, a criminal defense lawyer who has attempted to subpoena user information. She adds, "This is the first step in the right direction to full and fair access."


Social Media Companies Must Comply With Subpoenas

The landmark California Supreme Court decision came about from a drive-by shooting case in San Francisco, according to the article. One of the defendants, 14-years of age, said that he’d been "tagged" in an Instagram video featuring guns by one of the victims. Defense lawyers served subpoenas on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for the accounts of a witness and the victim. Adducing the Stored Communications Act, the social media companies refused to comply with the subpoenas. The 14-year old admitted to shooting the victim six times, adding that and the victim "would have done the same thing to us."

Companies have to comply with subpoenas from defense attorneys for users' information, public at the time of the request, says California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

"A provider must disclose any such communication pursuant to a subpoena that is authorized under state law," writes Cantil-Sakauye in the decision.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over 30 years of experience, attorney Brower can give you the best chance of finding a favorable outcome.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

First Judicial Recall in More Than 80 Years

judicial recall
In 2015, Emily Doe became a victim of sexual assault after blacking out from drinking too much alcohol. In March of the following year a jury found, then Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner (20), guilty of three felonies:
  • Sexual penetration with a foreign object of an intoxicated person;
  • sexual penetration with a foreign object of an unconscious person;
  • and, intent to commit rape.
Sexual assault and rape occur on college campuses across the country at an unbelievable rate. Research varies somewhat, but it’s possible that 25% of undergraduate women experience sexual assault while in college, according to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). It is worth keeping in mind that campus sexual assault and rape often goes unreported, so it’s possible that such crimes are even more pervasive than studies show.

At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we have been following the Brock Turner case with some interest for two essential reasons: the guilty verdict led to a shockingly light punishment from Judge Aaron Persky and the fact that the sentence led to a successful judicial recall last week. The latter being the first such instance of recalling a judge in California in more than eight decades, The New York Times reports. While ending the judge’s career may have in fact been warranted given the circumstances, the implications of such a move could have a lasting effect on the criminal justice system.

A 6-Month Sentence for Sexual Assault

Brock Turner served three months of a six-month jail sentence for his crimes. The former collegiate swimmer’s name is on the list of registered sex offenders, and he is on probation for three years. It’s worth pointing out that the crimes Turner was found guilty of were punishable by 14 years in prison. Judge Persky argues that such a lengthy sentence would have done irreparable damage to the life of the young athlete, but he said little of the lasting damage that sexual assault would likely have on Emily Doe for the rest of her life.

Even though Judge Persky was cleared of any official misconduct, Michele Dauber, a law professor at Stanford took measure to recall the judge—acquiring the necessary number of signatures to allow Californians to vote on the matter, according to the article. Ms. Dauber’s daughter is a friend of Emily Doe, so there is arguably a personal element to the professor's successful recall campaign.

“The voters of Santa Clara County are the winners of this election,” Michele Dauber, a law professor at Stanford who led the recall campaign, said in a statement. “We voted that sexual violence, including campus sexual violence, must be taken seriously by our elected officials, and by the justice system.” 

Many legal experts thought Turner’s sentence was too lenient but opposed the recall, the article reports. It’s probable that judges will be less likely to consider leniency even when the circumstances of a particular case warrant lighter sentences.

“Most of the judges in California would have done the same thing as Judge Persky,” said Jeffrey Rosen, the Santa Clara County district attorney, “which told me the problem was not the judge but the law, and that the law needed to be changed.”

As we have highlighted in the past, Turner’s sentencing did lead state lawmakers to change the law; sexual assaults now carry mandatory minimum sentences.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over 30 years of experience, attorney Brower can give you the best chance of finding a favorable outcome.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

AB 931: Reasonable Use of Force in California

Ab 931
The swath of killings involving unarmed black men in the United States has led many people to ask the question, ‘What is a reasonable use of force?’ Naturally, there isn’t an easy way to answer such a query, and depending on who you ask (i.e., police officer or average citizen) you might get totally different answers; however, it is hard to ignore an essential question, ‘Is the perception of fear—warranted or not—just cause to take another's life?’

There is a long list of people who are no longer alive because a police officer exercised what he or she believed was reasonable force, just in the last five years alone. In the case of Trayvon Martin, his life came to an end when a member of the neighborhood watch felt it necessary to protect the streets. In either type of scenario, police or “upright citizen,” there are severe concerns in every state about justified use of force.

National worry about 'reasonable' use of force by police extends far beyond cases involving firearms; there are numerous instances when academy-taught forms of restraint result in loss of life. But, and by and large, most people want answers as to why police officers are using their service weapon to stop unarmed people? Some will say that it is poor police training, others will adduce race and racism as the cause for “un-reasonable” use of force; while it may be impossible to get to the root cause in every case, most would agree that something needs to give.


California Assembly Bill 931

Bringing about changes in police practices isn’t an easy task, and there isn’t a guarantee that the Federal government will step in to ensure public safety. Whenever police departments are sued for wrongdoing, things rarely go the way that the pursuant hopes; what’s more, police officers suspected of wrongdoing, by and large, don’t serve any significant length of time. Without making examples out of individual officers, it is unlikely others will change their ways.

In the wake of several cases of excessive force, legislators in California put forward Assembly Bill 931, The Los Angeles Times reports. AB 931 would allow police to use deadly force only when it's "necessary" to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death; lethal force would be justified if, given the totality of the circumstances, there were no reasonable alternative, i.e., warnings, verbal persuasion, and other nonlethal methods of resolution or de-escalation. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean and Jesse H. Choper distinguished professor of law at the UC Berkeley School of Law, states:

“Being a police officer is unquestionably a dangerous job that often requires split-second life-and-death decisions. But too many have died and been seriously injured from unnecessary police use of deadly force. Reforming the laws that set the standards is essential and California can lead the way.” 

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over 30 years of experience, attorney Brower can give you the best chance of finding a favorable outcome.

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