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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lee Baca Found Guilty of Conspiracy

obstruction of justice
After a mistrial late last year, a team of prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office decided to take another stab at convincing jurors that former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was, in fact, guilty of obstructing a federal investigation. The efforts of the public corruption prosecutors paid off, with a jury finding Lee Baca guilty of obstructing an FBI investigation into abuse of jail inmates and lying to cover up such offenses, The Los Angeles Times reports. Despite having early stage Alzheimer’s disease, it is likely that the former Sheriff will do some time in Federal prison.

The is a story that highlights one man's long fall from grace, as is evident by the case of Lee Baca. During his decade and a half tenure as L.A. County Sheriff, Baca earned a reputation for having forward thinking ideas about criminal justice, according to the article. A reputation that proved to be inconsequential to a panel of jurors, after prosecutors showed that he was behind efforts to:
  • Prohibit FBI agents from speaking with an inmate who had acted as an informant.
  • Coercing potential witnesses in the federal inquiry.
  • Intimidated an FBI agent.
Baca’s defense attorney had attempted to convince jurors that it was Baca's Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka and others below, who were behind the effort to obstruct the FBI, the article reports. Baca’s attorneys argued that his client was unaware of what was happening. Both Baca and Tanaka, as well as eight lower-level deputies have been convicted or pleaded guilty. Baca’s was found guilty of:
  • Obstruction of Justice (felony)
  • Conspiracy (felony)
  • Making False Statements to Federal Investigators
“This verdict sends a clear message that no one is above the law.... With a career in law enforcement, he knew right from wrong. And he made a decision that was to commit a crime … and when the time came, he lied — he lied to cover up his tracks.” — Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown

The former Sheriff plans to appeal the decision.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Orange County, California. Attorney Brower has over three decades of experience representing individuals charged with a range of crimes and in high-profile matters.

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

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Federal Judge Overrides California Naloxone Law

drug overdose
There isn’t an area in this country that has not been touched by the American opioid addiction epidemic. Rich or poor, white or black, urban or rural. And even those who are cut off from the outside world, such as inmates in jail or prison, manage to acquire the potentially deadly class of narcotics. Anything from prescription opioids, like OxyContin, to heroin. While it may be more difficult to get one’s hands on drugs when living behind bars, their ability to cut one's life short are just the same.

If you have been following news related to the epidemic, or you yourself know an addict personally, you probably have some knowledge about opioid addiction. You are probably aware that in the case of an overdose, the deadly symptoms can be reversed with the drug naloxone. The relatively easy to use drug, has reversed thousands of overdoses in recent years. As a result, both lawmakers and health experts have been working tirelessly to make it easier for people to acquire naloxone. Equipping first responders with the drug has been a major priority. In some states the drug can now be purchased in pharmacies without a prescription, which means that an addict's family member can administer the drug. With overdoses, time is of the essence. Seeing as first responders can’t always make it in time, loosening restrictions on naloxone has saved lives that would have otherwise been lost.

Depending on which state you live, the rules regarding who can prescribe and/or administer naloxone vary. In California, registered nurses can administer the drug without first receiving permission from a doctor, but not licensed vocational nurses (LVN), the Associated Press reports. The time it takes for an LVN to receive permission to administer the antidote might be too long. U.S. Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco approved the request of a federal receiver to waive the state law, thus allowing vocational nurses to administer the live-saving drug. There are about 1,800 licensed vocational nurses working for the state prison system.

Federal receiver J. Clark Kelso, says that 17 inmates die each year on average from a drug overdose, according to the article. An analysis of California prison deaths, showed that California prison overdose deaths are three-times the national prison drug overdose death rate.

LVN’s "are predominantly our first responders for health care services in the prison system," Kelso spokeswoman Joyce Hayhoe said. "The LVNs really function as our EMTs and paramedics in the prison system, so that's why we needed them to be able to administer these lifesaving drugs." 

The nonprofit Prison Law Office and the State, both agreed with federal receiver's request.

It is important to remember, the decision on whether a drug offense is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the type of drug and the amount found in your possession. Contact Attorney Ronald G. Brower if you are facing being charged for a drug offense. 

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Regulating Marijuana Comes With Uncertainty

Proposition 64
If you live in California you are probably aware that Proposition 64 (Adult Use of Marijuana Act) was passed by voters in November 2016. And with voter approval, California became one of eight states and the District of Columbia where it is legal for adults to use cannabis products. It is a sign that more and more Americans across the country are in favor of lightening restrictions on a drug that has been deemed illegal by the Federal government for over 80 years.

The reasons why Californians voted the way they did are varied, but many would probably argue that marijuana prohibition has done far more bad for society, than good. While many scientists and health experts agree that the drug can have a negative impact on the mind and body (especially on teenagers and young adults), they would also argue that the punishment for using the drug has never matched the severity of the crime.

California has a long history of being involved in the movement to change marijuana policy in America. In 1996, Californians were the first to pass and institute a medical marijuana program. Now, twenty years late the state is gearing up for legal pot beginning on January 1, 2018. The process of instituting a recreational pot industry should not be “too” difficult, since several other states have already paved the way (i.e. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, et al.). However, as California works to put in place cannabis regulations, there is some uncertainty regarding the Federal government.

Over the last eight years, the previous White House administration essentially left states to their own devices regarding marijuana law, even though the drug was still illegal under Federal law. Naturally, we are all living in different times than just over a month ago. It seems the current Commander-in-Chief and Attorney General's outlooks on marijuana legislation might be more conservative than previous administrations. So, it probably won’t come as any surprise that there is talk of taking a hard stance on marijuana law by both the White House and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, The Los Angeles Times reports. But, at this point, there is no way of knowing what the current administration plans to do about enforcing Federal law in states that have legalized the controversial drug.

“We’d like to know who’s making the decisions [about federal marijuana policy]. Is it Congress? The president? The attorney general?” — California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

If you have been charged with a drug offense in California, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Immigration Law Training and Resources

immigration law
Immigration and citizenship have been politicized topics of late, in the wake of some controversial orders emanating from Washington D.C. There is still a lot that is unknown about what will be in the coming months and years, but for those living in states hosting millions of undocumented people living in America right now there is an observable angst among the community.

For those whose status is questionable, the slightest infraction (i.e. speeding ticket) could result in deportation. Naturally, attorneys are the last line of defense against being forcibly removed from the United States; it is vital for attorneys working in states with huge swaths of illegal immigrants have both the skills and the necessary resources to provide the best defense possible. Unfortunately, the call for deporting undocumented people across the country comes at a time when there is a serious lack of attorneys trained in immigration law, especially among public defenders.

It is a real problem in the state of California, prompting Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) to call for support of legislation that would increase resources for criminal defense attorneys throughout the state, The Los Angeles Times reports. Speaking before an Assembly Public Safety Committee, Bonta said that California Assembly Bill 3 aims to build regional and statewide resource centers equipped to train lawyers in immigration and advise public defenders. The bill passed in the committee with a 4-0 vote.

People living in the U.S. under the radar who get arrested for some action might think that they will have to serve some jail time, but the way things seem to be going recently the real worry for such people is deportation. Advocates of AB 3 refer to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2010, determining that the 6th Amendment requires attorneys to inform undocumented immigrant defendants about the possible immigration consequences that come with their case, according to the article. However, such an order is rendered ineffective given the fact that few attorneys are equipped to argue cases which involve immigration.

"So many counties did not have the resources," said Raha Jorjani, director of Immigration Representation Project. "So many counties were thrilled to have one immigration lawyer to answer one or two questions, and they would repeatedly, constantly tell me, 'I am not sure what I am going to do next week.'"
The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower will continue to follow the status of AB3. 

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

SB 284: Misdemeanor Property Crimes

SB 284
Property crime is a major issue in the state of California. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, showed that property crime was up 6.6% in 2015, from the previous year and 41 of the state’s 58 counties had increases in property crime rates during the same time period. Naturally, the uptick in property crimes like theft and burglary can be attributed to a number of variables, but one major reason may be due to the level of punishment that accompanies such crimes.

In California, if a person steals something under the $950 in value and is caught, they are typically cited and released. Of course, such a light punishment isn’t likely to deter recidivism. In an effort to stiffen the penalties for property crime, California Senator Janet Nguyen introduced Senate Bill 284, which would give law enforcement the authority to book and hold violators who commit misdemeanor property crimes like burglary, theft, and shoplifting even if the stolen items are worth less the $950, OC Breeze reports. Senator Nguyen represents the 34th State Senate District, which includes a number of Southern Californian cities, including Santa Ana.

The bill is an important move for those living in Orange County, considering that the county saw a 23% increase in overall property crime in 2015, according to the article. Property crime may seem like an insignificant area to address; however, those who commit property crimes are more likely to advance to more serious offenses. Nipping this behavior in the bud early on may prevent such an occurrence.

“As a result of the minimal consequences for property theft, perpetrators face no accountability for their actions,” said Senator Janet Nguyen. “SB 284 would give law enforcement officers the option to remove these offenders from the community as long as we can by law. The intent is to make it more difficult for perpetrators to re-offend and hinder their ability to commit multiple crimes in a short period of time. This is especially important because some violators tend to commit multiple crimes within the same day.” 

We will continue to follow the progress of SB 284. With property crime, intent plays a huge roll. Attorney Ronald Brower has a great understanding property crime and how it is interpreted. If you are need of a lawyer for burglary or shoplifting, please contact us today.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

HIV Transmission Laws in California

Senate Bill 239
We do not hear about HIV and AIDS much anymore in the U.S., unless it is regarding Africa and third-world countries, with limited resources to prevent the spread of the virus. Although, the deadly illness did make national news after an outbreak swept across southeastern Indiana in 2015, primarily the result of intravenous prescription opioid abuse. While new outbreaks in the U.S. are rare in the wake of both federal and state level efforts to prevent new cases, there are an estimated 1,218,400 persons aged 13 years and older living with HIV, including 156,300 (12.8%) who don’t know they are infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In response to the national HIV/AIDS epidemic, states had to come up with novel ways of preventing disease transmission. In California, the state legislature made it a serious crime (up to six years in prison) to donate blood after receiving a diagnosis in 1988. Then it became a felony (ten years in prison) to have sex with the mission of transmitting the virus to another. Soon, it may be illegal to intentionally spread any form of infectious disease in the state of California, STAT reports. Senate Bill 239, if passed, would make it a misdemeanor to intentionally spread hepatitis C or HIV. It is worth noting that 38 states have HIV-specific laws similar to the ones that SB 239 would repeal, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

While the existing law makes it a felony to donate blood, body organs or other tissue, or, under specified circumstances, semen or breast milk, if the person knows that he or she has acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), SB 239 would repeal those provisions making the intentional transmission of an infectious or communicable disease, as defined, a misdemeanor.

“When you tell people that these laws single out HIV and only apply to people with HIV and not any other infectious disease, they pretty quickly see that it’s irrational and discriminatory,” said state Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who introduced the bill. 

SB 239 has not met any real opposition as of yet, according to the article. Although opposition is likely, as Senator Wiener points out for relaxing penalties for intentional HIV transmission, given that the 1998 law for increasing penalties had huge support.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Orange County, California. Attorney Brower has over three decades of experience representing individuals charged with a range of crimes and in high-profile matters.

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

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Ending Money Bail In California

money bail
If you are arrested for allegedly having committed a crime, you will likely be offered bail in most states. Once paid, you can go about your life as usual, but are expected to appear in court at your appointed date. If you fail to appear, the money you put up for bail will be forfeited and a warrant for your arrest will be issued. Make sense, right?

Financial incentives are as good as any for compelling people to appear before a judge. But, what if you have limited, or no means for putting up bail? The answer is, as you have probably already determined, that you will have to stay in jail, until you are either convicted or acquitted.

In recent years, a number of people and rights activists have raised concerns about the fairness of bail. The argument is that bail directly affects the poor. A disparity that keeps thousands of people needlessly behind bars. A couple of years ago the non-profit organization Equal Justice Under Law began filing lawsuits which challenge the money bail system. And as a result, they have had some success in a number of areas, with regards to ending the practice.

California state Senator Bob Hertzberg and Assemblyman Rob Bonta aim to push through legislation that would change or end the money bail system, The Sacramento Bee reports. Such legislation is of the utmost importance, especially when you consider that data from the Board of State and Community Corrections indicates that roughly 63% of inmates in California jails are awaiting trial.

The Public Policy Institute of California reports that bail in California is five times higher than the national average, with a median of $50,000. Clearly, most people (alleged criminals or not) cannot afford such a steep price tag. What’s more, failing to come up with bail, as Senator Hertzberg points out, effects more than just the inmate.

“They can’t pay their rent. They can’t pay child support or take their kids to school. There’s so many other consequences to that,” Hertzberg said. “That isn’t patriotic. That isn’t American. That isn’t the right thing to do.” 

Naturally, those against ending money bail in California citing the interest of public safety, will likely include:
  • Bail Bond Agents
  • Police Officers
  • District Attorneys
At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we will continue to follow this important topic.

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