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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

California Criminal Justice Reform

criminal justice
If you are a regular reader of our blog posts, then you are probably aware that California has made some significant changes regarding criminal justice reform, early release and redesignating the classification of certain crimes. It’s no secret that the Golden State is known for progressive thinking, which is likely the reason that voters approved legislation to bring about reform.

A little over a week ago a gathering of protesters stood in front of the state Capitol in opposition to specific changes, hoping for some rollbacks, CBS News reports. Some crime victims say that reforms have gone too far and this needs to stop.

“This stuff has got to stop,” said El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostino. “The pendulum has swung far enough.” He adds “It limits us. Law enforcement. It limits me. It limits my peers all across this state,”


Bills In Question


  • Assembly Bill 109: provides that a felony a crime that is punishable with death, by imprisonment in the state prison, or notwithstanding any other provision of law, by imprisonment in a county jail for more than one year.
  • Proposition 47: Classified “non-serious, nonviolent crimes" as misdemeanors instead of felonies unless the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses or certain gun crimes.
  • Proposition 57: increases parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and allowing judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court.
Governor Jerry Brown defends his decision to sign the above bills into law, according to the article. He also cautions against attempts to repeal the legislation.

“Today I want to talk as a human being because in a few more months, I won’t be a politician, I’ll be a human being like you,” said Brown. “And what’s important is that we bind up our wounds. Remember, a life is not just vengeance. It’s also redemption and forgiveness.” 

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

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.


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, April 10, 2018

Menendez Brothers Reunite

menendez brothers
It’s been an unusual time regarding high profile criminal cases in California of late in both reality and fiction, Charles Manson died last November in Bakersfield, California for instance. In recent years, television studios have brought criminal cases that made national news back into the spotlight, with The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story and Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders.

The above cases were thrust into the minds of millions of Americans in the late 1980’s and mid 1990’s, thanks to around-the-clock coverage by major news outlets. For probably the first time in history, the average citizen was able to weigh in on what was happening inside a courtroom. Few can deny the far-reaching impact that the O.J. and Menendez brothers trials had on the American public.

Concerning the former, few high-profile cases went so far to split the American public; regardless if Simpson was thought to be guilty or not, sides were taken. When jurors read O.J.’s verdict aloud, it was like one half of the nation rejoiced while the other was angered. The Menendez brothers' murder cases were an entirely different animal than the O.J. trial, perhaps the public's fascination stemmed from their disbelief: how could two young men with the world at their fingertips conspire to murder their sleeping parents savagely? The answer to the question will never be fully understood.


The Menendez Brothers Reunite

In the last 365 days, O.J. Simpson was released from a Nevada prison after serving nine years for crimes unrelated to the double murders; and, the Menendez brothers, Lyle (50) and Erik (47), reunited at San Diego's R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility. It’s the first time the brothers have been housed to together since the trial when Lyle was 21 and Erik was 18, CBS News reports. Today, and thanks to good behavior, the brothers are participating in educational and rehabilitation programs together.

“The department could find no reason they could not be in the same prison,” corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton told the New York Daily News

Thornton points out that former crime partners living under the same prison roof or sharing a cell are not unprecedented.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you, or a loved one, face 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, April 4, 2018

Criminal History, Sexual Harassment, and Cannabis Legislation

sexual harassment
It is only April, and people are already gearing up to vote in November. While elected leaders are worth careful consideration, legislation can have lasting effects for years to come. With that in mind, we felt it of significant value to share with you some bills that could be of great importance to the people living in the state of California.

Before the legislative spring break on March 22, 2018, lawmakers across the state scurried to introduce some 2,000 pieces of legislation before the February 16, 2018, bill introduction deadline. It goes without saying that many of measures proposed will never make it to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, but some definitely will; knowing how those measures will affect people’s lives is critical.

The bills on the table for consideration deal with subjects ranging from sexual harassment to how employers deal with marijuana use among their workers. Many of the bills focus on employment law. Naturally, in the wake of Harvey Weinstein et al., sexual harassment law is a hot-button topic in the United States; especially here in Southern California. Marijuana legalization and medical cannabis implementation continue to be of great concern, as well. Let's take a moment to familiarize ourselves with some of the bills.


Criminal Conviction History 


AB 2680 would require a standard consent form to be created by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) that must be used by employers when they request an applicant for a job to consent to a DOJ criminal conviction history background check. This ties into the ban the box legislation that was passed and signed into law last year.

SB 1298 known as The Increasing Access to Employment Act would limit to the last five years the criminal history that could be provided to a prospective employer by the DOJ. This would include felonies and misdemeanors, and those required for registration as a sex offender. Disclosure of any convictions that have been dismissed, exonerations, or arrests that have been sealed would also be prohibited by this bill.


Sexual Harassment No Longer Tolerated

AB 3080 would prohibit requiring employees to agree to mandatory arbitration of any future claims related to sexual harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault as a condition of employment and non-disclosure provisions in any settlement agreement.

AB 1867 would require employers (50 or more employees) to retain records of all internal employee sexual harassment complaints for ten years.

SB 1343 would require employers (five or more employees) to provide two + hours of sexual harassment training to all employees by 2020 and every two years.

SB 1038 would impose personal liability under on an employee who found retaliating (i.e., discrimination or termination) against a person who has filed a sexual harassment complaint.


Cannabis Discrimination in California

AB 2069 would bar employers from refusing to hire, reprimanding, or terminating an employee due to cannabis-positive drug tests provided however that the employee has a medical marijuana ID card. Nota bene: employers can take actions against employees found to be under the influence on the job. Given the illegal status of cannabis on the Federal level, AB 2069 wouldn’t apply to employers would put monetary or licensing benefits at risk for hiring employees because of the drug.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

There are far too many measures to be covered in a single article. We will continue to follow these bills as they make their way closer to the Governor's desk. If you, or a loved one, is 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, March 27, 2018

Driving High on Marijuana in California

"If I don't know how much marijuana I can consume and safely drive, how can I be held to a standard that it's unsafe to drive?" Lt. Rob Sharpe, who works for the Washington State Patrol's impaired driving unit, asks The Los Angeles Times.

Answering the above question is a thorn in the side of law enforcement officers in many states. Unlike alcohol, which every state agrees on a legal limit of .08 blood alcohol content, there isn’t a standard to work from regarding cannabis.

Agreeing on how much THC in a person’s blood is too much continues to be a monumental task. In recent years, many states have gone against the federal law on marijuana. Despite the drugs “Schedule I” classification, a significant number of states have legislation allowing for adult use of medical marijuana, recreational, and/or both. Voters have taken issue with the Schedule I status of cannabis; drugs, substances, or chemicals with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. “Pot” shares the same federal status as far more harmful drugs, such as heroin, Ecstasy, and LSD.


Drugged Driving In America

driving under the influence
In California and several other states of late, recreational cannabis use is legal for adults. Laws vary slightly from one place to the next, but all in all, they are mostly the same. While research that focuses on the long-term benefits and ramifications of more permissive cannabis laws, there is widespread concern about what is known as “drugged driving.” Driving under the influence of any illegal narcotic is a punishable offense, no matter how much of a substance is in an individual's system. However, now that adults can use cannabis in California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, et al., a consensus on legal limit has yet to be set.

Washington State drivers who have more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter in their bloodstream are considered impaired, The Los Angeles Times reports. California, on the other hand, currently uses a far more subjective test to identify drugged drivers; for instance, the California Highway Patrol requires officers to take the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement program. Drivers suspected of being “too high” to drive must undergo a field sobriety test and officers take suspects blood pressure and pulse several times. If officers believe a driver is intoxicated, it then falls to judge and jury to make the final decision. The lack of a scientific standard is, as you can probably tell, problematic.

"There's a lot of subjectivity on the officers, and it puts a lot of pressure on them, in that moment, to determine what to do without having any forensic evidence to prove it," said Lou Shapiro, a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney and member of the National College for DUI Defense.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you, or a loved one, is facing a charge for driving under the influence of cannabis, 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, March 21, 2018

California Leads Nation With Inmate Education

Education opportunities exist for people serving time in California penal institutions. Although, taking advantage of college courses wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today, due to legislation approved three years ago. Thanks to Senate Bill 1391, the Golden State leads the nation in inmate education, according to a new report from Stanford Criminal Justice Center and The Opportunity Institute. In 2014, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 1391 into law, allowing community colleges to offer face-to-face courses inside state prison. At the time of the legislation passing only one prison had a college program through a private university.

The report shows that nearly 4,500 California inmates were enrolled in face-to-face community college classes in 34 of the state’s 35 prisons by the fall of 2017. In every sense, California’s public colleges and universities offer those incarcerated a second chance. SB-1391 was a significant step forward regarding jailhouse education, but other variables played a role in California leading the nation by example.

“In just three short years, California has built a new generation of college students and graduates, creating onramps to redemption and prosperity for thousands. Early data shows that incarcerated students are doing as well as or better than their on-campus counterparts, including earning higher grades,” said Debbie Mukamal, Executive Director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, and co-author of the report.


Supporting Inmates Bent On Education

There are two unique factors to California that had a hand in more inmates taking advantage of college. Firstly, public colleges and universities across the state have no undergraduate admissions barriers for students with a criminal past. Second, inmates can utilize the California College Promise Grant, which takes care of inmate tuition costs just as it would any other student in the state.

Stanford Law School points out California is unique regarding educational grants. In the rest of the country, inmates are barred from Pell Grants; unless they are attending school at just 67 colleges that take part in the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program. Many of the community colleges in California go beyond allowing inmates to enroll, a significant number of schools have student groups or support programs for formerly incarcerated students, the article reports. Rebecca Silbert, Senior Fellow at The Opportunity Institute in Berkeley, and co-author of the report says:

We can’t stop now. We owe it to ourselves and to those who are changing their lives to make sure that degree pathways in our public colleges and universities remain open to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students into the future.”


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you, or a loved one, is 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, March 13, 2018

First Research On Proposition 47

Proposition 47
Roughly one year ago we wrote about how Proposition 47 is affecting crime rates in California. The legislation is meant to reduce our states prison population through reclassifying some drug and property felonies to misdemeanors. Some time has passed since 2014 when Prop 47 came into being, which means experts are in a better position to say if the measure is having the desired effect.

Last April, when we set our sights on Proposition 47, there were indications that arrest rates had fallen significantly and certain crimes were on the rise across the Golden State. Critics of the bill argue that reclassifying many nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors makes it more difficult for authorities to do their job. Others have asserted that downgrading crimes emboldens criminals leading to a rise in certain crimes.

The available data from last year showing a decrease in arrests rates may have had more to do with staff shortages and deployment strategy changes than with Prop 47. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck also pointed out that increasing public safety without necessarily having to make arrests is preferable. As with any controversial legislation there will always be differences of opinion, so we have an obligation to defer to the research before we laud or deride policy. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the science.


Proposition 47: Good or Bad?

Law enforcement officials contend that Prop 47 has made their job more difficult and has led to a drop in arrests and increase in certain crimes. However, criminologist Charis Kubrin and her student Bradley Bartos at the University of California Irvine say otherwise, according to The Crime Report. Their research indicates that the legislation did not cause the crime trends being witnessed across the state.

“Proposition 47 has been blamed for rising crime in California since it took effect in 2014, yet no research has evaluated this claim,” write the researchers. “Using a novel method of policy analysis to compare crime rates in California pre- and post-Proposition 47, our findings suggest that the blame is misplaced.”

Instead, the findings indicate that Prop 47 gave counties the ability to reduce imprisonment time for lesser offenses and more time for serious crimes, according to the article. The authors write, “crime rates going up (or down for that matter) tell us nothing about the source of those trends, and studies such as this one are necessary to determine any link between criminal justice reform and crime rates.”


Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can help. Attorney Brower has over thirty years of experience and is well respected across the state of California. Please contact us today.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Life Without Parole for Minors

It’s probably hard for some people to imagine that a decision made as a teenager could irrevocably disrupt the course of a person’s life. Young people are notorious for making uninformed decisions when it comes to a significant number of choices. Which, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense. The teenage brain is still developing; even when a young person is brought up in a stable household with loving parents who afford teens every opportunity in life, poor judgment can prevail.

In 2010, a U.S. Supreme Court decision made it unlawful to sentence a juvenile to life without parole for committing most crimes, with the one exception being murder. Life sentences deny an opportunity for young people to learn from their mistakes. Last year, California passed, and the governor signed legislation designed to protect young people caught up in the criminal justice system, including SB 394, SB 395, and AB 1308.

All three pieces of legislation are essential; especially SB 394 which gives minors sentenced to life without parole the opportunity to earn parole after 24 years of incarceration. SB 394, along with the 2010 Supreme Court decision offered a glimmer of hope to a significant number of young people serving long sentences for their criminal deeds.


California Supreme Court Sides With Reform

Toward the end of last month, the California Supreme Court decided two sentences relevant to this topic. In a 4-3 decision, Supreme Court justices found that 50 years to life for one defendant and 58 years to life for the other violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, The Mercury News reports. Juvenile sentences need to consider a youth offender's capacity for rehabilitation, says California Supreme Court Associate Justice Goodwin Liu.

“Even assuming defendants’ parole eligibility dates are within their expected lifespans, the chance for release would come near the end of their lives,” Liu said. “Even if released, they will have spent the vast majority of adulthood in prison."

The cases the Supreme Court decided on, go back to 2012, when two 16-year-olds were charged as adults and convicted of kidnapping and raping two teenage girls in San Diego County, according to the article. The court’s decision means a lower court will have to re-sentence the, now, young adults.

“The majority describes these ages as falling ‘near the end’ of a person’s life, language that suggests that fulfillment at such a juncture is well-nigh impossible. The millions of productively employed senior citizens would beg to differ,” said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, in his dissenting decision.


Criminal Defense Attorney

If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can help. Attorney Brower has over thirty years of experience and is well respected across the state of California. Please contact us today.

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