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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Policing for Profit in California

Civil asset forfeiture is a product of the American “war on drugs.” We have covered this subject in recent months due to the passing of Senate Bill 443. The bill went into effect in California at the beginning of the year, prohibiting law enforcement from seizing assets valued at less than $40,000 without a criminal conviction. Just one of many steps being taken across the country in recent years to protect Americans from unlawful seizure of property.

As we have mentioned in the past, civil asset forfeiture laws and rules were written with drug dealers in mind, specifically gangs and drug cartels. However, there is significant evidence of law enforcement agencies, both federal and local, using the practice to turn a profit. It has been shown that most of the money and property being seized is coming from average Americans—not drug dealers.

In fact, a video has gone viral showing at the University of California Berkeley police officer taking cash out of the wallet of a hot dog vendor recently, ABC 10 reports. The crime: operating without a license. The police officer confiscated the vendors $60 as "suspected proceeds of the violation."


Did the Police Officer Break the Law?

A number of people have been chiming in, responding to what they saw in the video. Many asking: under SB 443, did the UC police officer break the law? Due to the fact that the vendor had not been convicted of a crime, only cited. And the proceeds in the bacon hot dog makers wallet only added up to $60 (far shy of the required $40,000), it would seem that the police officer had no right to confiscate the vendor’s proceeds.

Please take a moment to watch a video below:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

As an aside, California was ranked second worst regarding civil asset forfeiture laws, according to the Institute for Justice (IJ). Something that the state hopes SB 443 will fix in the coming years.


Was Your Property Unlawfully Seized?

As you can see, SB 443 has not stopped some police officers from unlawfully seizing property. It is likely that the “hot dog” case is not an isolated event. If you feel that your property was seized illegally, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

District Judge Anderson Rejects Bail

lee baca
Over the last year and beyond, we have been closely following the developments of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. Recently we wrote about a Federal Judge sentencing Baca to three-years in Federal prison for obstructing an FBI investigation into abuse of county jail inmates. Of course, Baca’s attorney is challenging the guilty verdict by way of appeals and his attorney had hoped to keep the former Sheriff out of prison during the process. One of the argument being that Baca, now 74-years old, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Unfortunately for Baca, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson rejected Baca’s attorney’s arguments for bail, and has ordered that Lee Baca should spend “his best remaining days” in prison, The Los Angeles Times reports. This does not mean that Baca will be sent to jail immediately, because his attorney will ask the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule Anderson regarding bail during the appeal process. It could take several weeks or months for the court of appeals to decide, and Baca can remain free until such time.


A Cruel Rejection?

It appears that the former Sheriff abused his power and broke the law. Therefore, he, like anyone else, should be held accountable and serve his time. Alzheimer’s disease is a serious and deadly illness, some readers may feel that Judge Anderson’s bail rejection is cruel, considering that Baca may not be long for this world. However, the decision appears to be grounded in reason. Anderson pointed out that if the disease worsens while Baca appeals his verdict, Baca’s worsened mental state could “complicate or prevent resentencing or further proceedings,” according to the article. Anderson wrote:

“Moreover, given the progressive nature of Alzheimer’s disease, the delays in this action, and any additional delay before defendant begins serving his sentence should defendant be granted bail pending appeal, would continue to allow defendant to spend his best remaining days on bail rather than incarcerated. In the face of these concerns, defendant has offered no evidence and precious little argument of a non-dilatory purpose for his appeal despite repeated opportunities to do so.”

Baca's best hope now is the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. We will continue to keep you up to date regarding this case.


Southern California Criminal Attorney

If you live in the Orange County area and are in need of solid legal representation, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. Attorney Brower is a well-respected, seasoned attorney who has be practicing criminal law for over three decades.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Judge Persky Judicial Recall Continues

The story continues regarding the recall of Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, following his controversial sentencing of former Stanford University Swimmer, Brock Turner. If you were one of the millions of Americans who felt that a six-month sentence for raping a fellow student was far too lenient, then it’s likely that you wanted to see Judge Persky face repercussions.

The Brock Turner case led to redefining the criteria for rape and sexual assault in California. As well as imposing mandatory prison sentences for those convicted of some sexual assaults, including those involving victims who were unconscious or incapable of giving consent due to intoxication. It also led to a pouring in of support for a judicial review and recall of Judge Persky for what many have dubbed a slap on the wrist for a heinous crime. But, naturally Judge Persky was not going to go down without a fight.


Judicial Recalls

After Turner was sentenced, a campaign to gather signatures for a judicial recall was launched. With the aim of getting the recall on the June 2018 ballot. However, Persky’s attorneys fought for a temporary halt on gathering signatures, which a California judge granted. Judge Persky probably considered the temporary stay as a victory, albeit one that would be short lived.

Retired Judge Ksenia Tsenin went ahead and lifted the temporary restraining order on collecting signatures, allowing the process to move forward, CBS SF Bay Area reports. Tsenin’s ruling was cheered on by supporters of recalling Judge Persky. The same supporters have some 159 days to collect 58,634 signatures for making the June 2018 ballot.

“We’re very thankful that the judge ruled in favor of Santa Clara County voters and their constitutional right to petition to recall Judge Persky,” said Recall Persky Campaign chair and Stanford Law professor Michele Dauber after today’s ruling. “This ruling validates our belief that Judge Persky filed a frivolous lawsuit that was intended to stall, delay and obstruct the democratic process, and also to waste taxpayer money.” 

Please take a moment to watch a short video below:

If you are having trouble watching please click here.

We will continue to follow the recall case as it moves forward.


Legal Trouble

If you or a loved one has been charged with an offense, please contact Attorney Ronald G. Brower. For over thirty years, he has provided excellent representation for defendants in Southern California.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Money Bail System Debate Continues

money bail system
California’s money bail system is on the minds of many people across the state, as efforts continue to do away with the practice. In the last year we have covered this topic a couple times, as it could result in major changes in the criminal justice system. Opponents of the money bail system argue that it discriminates against the poor. If one cannot afford to make bail they are required to remain behind bars until the case is settled. Which could take months.

Senate Bill 10, introduced by Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), passed a Senate Public Safety Committee 5-1. However, a twin bill introduced by Assemblyman Rob Bonta in the State Assembly was rejected, PBS NEWSHOUR reports. The Assembly is taking another stab at money bail reform, with a similar bill awaiting clearance from the Appropriations Committee, according to The Sacramento Bee. As you can probably imagine, there are many opponents of reform bail in California, including bail agents and law enforcement.

Opponents of Ending Money Bail

The money bail industry, which naturally has much to lose if such efforts become law, even brought Dog the Bounty Hunter to Sacramento to testify against legislation that would end bail for most defendants. Opponents claim that stopping money bail would pose a threat to the public. If the Assembly can manage to pass legislation similar to SB 10, it could lead to judges have more leeway in deciding whether or not to impose bail. Judges would consider a defendant's financial means before making a decision or would impose bail as a condition of release, taking the defendant’s income into account.

Yesterday, the “Imagine Justice" concert was held at the Capitol Mall in Sacramento, The Los Angeles Times reports. Performers included Common, J. Cole, Goapele and Los Rakas. The event organizers, Common and criminal justice organizations, threw the free concert in support of overhauling California’s money bail system and to protect the rights of minors in juvenile detention.

Legal Help

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, please contact Attorney Ronald G. Brower. For over thirty years Attorney Brower has maintained a commitment to excellence, providing clients with the best defense.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Santa Clara County Judge Recall

Recalling judges is not something that happens often. In fact, it is for the most part an unheard of occurrence in California. That was until Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky gave the former Stanford University swimmer a slap on the wrist last summer for sexually assaulting a fellow classmate. It is likely that you remember the case, the sentencing of Brock Turner sparked national outrage when Judge Persky handed the young man a six-month jail sentence for his crime.

As a result, lawmakers moved quickly to create new state laws for the handling of sexual assault cases. The passing of Assembly Bill 2888 placed mandatory prison sentences for those convicted of certain sexual assaults, specifically involving victims being unconscious or those incapable of giving consent while under the influence alcohol. The bills passing was hailed as a victory. And that hopefully will prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Brock Turner's sentence led to some million Americans signing petitions for judicial review of Judge Persky, and to have the judge removed from his seat. Citizens were not satisfied when Judge Persky claimed that he was just following the letter of law. Sexual assault did not carry as stiff a punishment as rape convictions. This did not satisfy most people and the effort continued to recall Persky.

California history shows judicial recalls to be extremely rare, one in San Francisco in 1913 and another in Los Angeles in 1932, The Mercury News reports. A clear sign recalling judges is not something that is taken lightly. So, it may not come as a surprise for you to learn that at the end of last week a California judge ordered a temporary halt on efforts to gather signatures on petitions to get Persky’s recall on the June ballot. This comes in the wake of petitions being approved by Shannon Bushey, Santa Clara County’s registrar of voters, to begin the signature collecting process. But, Persky is not out of hot water yet.

“The recall is going forward no matter how much taxpayer money Judge Persky decides to waste on frivolous lawsuits,” said Stanford law professor and recall campaign chair, Michele Dauber. “He cannot stop this movement of women who are upset he doesn’t take sexual violence against women seriously.” 

We will continue to follow this important case as developments come up. If you are in need of legal assistance, please contact the Office of Ronald G. Brower. For more than 30 years attorney Brower has been successfully defending the citizens of California.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Prop 57: Prison Inmates Get Second Chance

prop 57
“Who are you today, and is there any evidence of current violence, current unreasonable risk to public safety?” —said Jennifer Shaffer to The Los Angeles Times, executive officer of Gov. Jerry Brown’s parole commission board.

Prison is about punishment, to be sure. It is also about rehabilitation in certain situations. Obviously, there are not many concerns about rehabilitating someone who is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. But, for those who made very bad choices early in life, there should be no reason why some of them cannot make changes behind bars and one day go on to be productive members of society.

It is a sentiment that is shared among a number of California voters and lawmakers. As is evident by the passing of Proposition 57. There are many inmates who have been serving time, in some cases decades, that have taken steps to become better individuals. Earning high school and college diplomas and working programs of addiction recovery. Who those inmates are today, is often a far cry from who they were when they were sentenced. Yet, even in cases of exemplary achievement behind bars, proving you are no longer a threat to society, it was possible to be ignored by California parole boards. Not so anymore, for some.


A Second Chance

Under Prop 57, certain nonviolent felons are being given parole and good behavior opportunities. Prosecutors are no longer in charge of deciding who is given parole opportunities. For more information on what Prop 57 is about, please click here.

Governor Jerry Brown’s “new and improved” State Board of Parole Hearings is no longer flatly denying parole opportunities based on an individual's past transgressions. Looking rather to whether  an inmate poses a risk to the public's well-being, The Los Angeles Times reports. The question is no longer of the severity of one’s crime, but if inmates know what they did was wrong and have they taken steps to change their ways?

California has the largest prison population in the country. A trend that many would like to see reversed. Getting paroled in California has long proven to be a difficult task, which is likely due to the fact that the board has been mainly made of white, male ex-law enforcement agents. In 2011, Brown appointed Jennifer Shaffer as executive officer of the State Board of Parole Hearings, she says with the aim of “professionalizing the board and making it a strong, independent body.” Shaffer went on to diversify the commission, appointing of commissioners of different genders, race and professional backgrounds.

The commission hears 400 parole cases a month, and in 2016 granted early release to almost 820 inmates, according to the article. Just to give you an idea of the progress made, that number is up from 119 in 2007, and 16 prisoners two decades ago.


Need Legal Assistance

If you have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. For more than three-decades he has been achieving favorable results for defendants in the Southern California area.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Ignoring Mandatory Evacuation Orders Misdemeanor

evacuation orders
It seems that every year in California brings with it longer, more intense forest fires. If you live in the areas of the state that are most often affected by these deadly fiery tempests, then you are familiar with mandatory evacuations. While most citizens choose to heed the directive to leave their home and head toward safer areas until the danger passes by, some people choose to ignore the evacuation order. All the while, hoping the forest fire will pass by, leaving their property unharmed.

Ignoring mandatory evacuation orders is not just something that happens with forest fires. When major hurricanes are expected to strike over land, Governors and/or city leaders will order evacuations. But, as we all saw on the television with Hurricane Katrina, a significant number of people ignored the warnings—at great cost. You may remember seeing footage of people standing on New Orleans rooftops after the storm, hoping to be rescued from the deluge.

You may not be aware of the fact that ignoring mandatory evacuation directives is against the law in California. The California Emergency Services Act gives the Governor the authority to declare an emergency, giving current Governor Jerry Brown the right to harness all police power—in order to protect life and property. People who choose to ignore mandatory evacuations can be found guilty of a misdemeanor (Gov. Code 8665), ABC 10 reports, a conviction that can carry a fine of up to $1,000, six months in jail, or both.


Ignoring Mandatory Evacuation Orders and Beyond

Additionally, failing to leave a potentially dangerous area, one could also find themselves in hot water for entering a natural disaster area, according to the article. People who ignore warnings about keeping out of places that have been deemed unsafe can be found guilty of a misdemeanor, under California Penal Code 409.5. What’s more, under California law, any person who purposefully resists, delays, or obstructs police and firefighters can be fined $1,000 or up to a year a year in jail [Penal Code 148(a)].

Some of you reading this may be wondering how often people are charged for failing to follow official directives to leave? Well, the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), which aids local authorities with their own emergency plans, says the aforementioned laws are rarely enforced.


Better Safe, Than Sorry

In any circumstance of natural disaster, or potential for one, it is best to err on the side of caution. Even though a storm or fire may pass you by, there is no way of knowing that for sure. This month, Gov. Brown declared an emergency over the Detwiler Fire. People living in certain towns outlying Yosemite National Park, such as Mariposa, have been ordered to evacuate. We hope that you have chosen to move to safety.

If you are facing a misdemeanor or felony charge please contact, Attorney Ronald G. Brower. For more than 30 years, we’ve been obtaining great results for clients facing a wide range of charges.

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