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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Stanford Swimmer Appeals Conviction

sexual assault
It seems like everyone is discussing sexual assault these days, especially those on college campuses, in Hollywood, and at the White House. It’s fair to say that at no other time in modern history has the conversation been so fierce or have so many women found the courage to speak out against their assailants. This kind of spotlight has the potential of being a watershed moment in American history; a time we will look back on and remember when women around the country said enough is enough and men realized that their positions of power in society would no longer protect them from recourse.

What is happening in Washington and Hollywood is of the utmost importance, but we must remember that the topic at hand is a societal issue involving young and old alike. Sexual misconduct, assault, and rape happen every day on college campuses; these are environments where many victims are unwilling to come forward and assailants often face no punishment for their actions. What’s more, even when young women do muster up the strength seek justice, perpetrators either receive a slap on the wrist or escape discipline completely.

Who could forget the former Stanford swimmer, Brock Turner, caught in the act of sexually assaulting a fellow female student; who, after being found guilty of multiple offenses, was handed a six-month jail sentence and some probation time.


Sexual Assault Conviction Appeal

The above case brought the passing of legislation like AB 2888, which attached a mandatory minimum sentence for similar incidents in the future; and AB 701, which widens the scope of the state's definition of rape. Naturally, millions of people around the country and beyond were disturbed by Turner’s punishment. Such individuals got even angrier when they learned that he only served 3-months of his sentence before being released for good behavior.

The case is inciting people’s outrage even more upon learning that not only would Turner do little jail time, but his attorney also filed an appeal last week, SF Gate reports. Turner’s attorney alleges prosecutorial misconduct and deprivation of due process and have decided to resort the age-old tactic of victim blaming — calling into question the amount of alcohol Emily Doe consumed on the night of the assault.

“How often are we manipulated into prioritizing the abuser over the abused?” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens (Los Angeles County), author of AB 701. “How often are we being suckered into a side of a debate that we shouldn’t even be having?” 

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen initially called for a six-year sentence for Turner, according to the article. Rosen doesn't appear all that concerned about the appeal.

“Brock Turner received a fair trial and was justly convicted,” Rosen said in a statement. “His conviction will be upheld. Nothing can ever roll back Emily Doe’s legacy of raising the world’s awareness about sexual assault.”


Orange County Criminal Attorney

If you are in need of legal representation, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. He has over 30 years of experience practicing law in Southern California and is committed to helping you achieve the best possible outcome.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Wrongfully Convicted Man Pardoned

A Simi Valley mother and son were killed in 1978, leading to the arrest and eventual conviction of Craig Richard Coley in 1980. This month Governor Jerry Brown pardoned Mr. Coley after DNA testing revealed that the now 70-year old inmate was wrongly convicted, KTLA reports. Coley was serving a life sentence (without the possibility of parole) for allegedly strangling his former girlfriend Rhonda Wicht and smothering her 4-year-old son to death.

Ever since being convicted, Coley has been fighting to prove his innocence. His efforts didn’t look like they would result in a favorable outcome when the conviction was upheld during an appeal. Then, in 2015, Coley petitioned for a new investigation by the Board of Parole, according to the article. Somewhere along the way a former detective, captain, and an officer became convinced of Coley’s innocence.


DNA Saves The Day

Coley’s case was reopened in October 2016 at the behest of Simi Valley Police Chief David Livingstone, The Los Angeles Times reports. A reëxamination of a piece of evidence that was used to convict him was conducted, revealing others’ DNA, but not Mr. Coley.

Those who advocated for the pardon believe that the original detective who worked on the case “mishandled the investigation or framed” Mr. Coley, according to the article. Michael Schwartz, a prosecutor with the Ventura County district attorney’s office, said the agency has:

“...not determined at this point that a detective engaged in misconduct, but our office and the Simi Valley Police Department are continuing to investigate all aspects of the case to determine what happened and who is responsible.”

The murder of Rhonda Wicht and her four-year-old son Donald was the first double homicide in Simi Valley.


Orange County Criminal Attorney

Please contact Ronald G. Brower if you or a loved one has been charged with a crime. With over thirty years of experience, attorney Brower can provide you the best defense.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Recourse for Marijuana Convictions in California

The list of states allowing the adult recreational use of marijuana is growing. Meaning, people can use the drug without fear of prosecution in such states. With more than half of Americans in favor of either decriminalization and/or legalization, you can safely bet that the current trend is not going to change.

If you are one of the thousands of Americans whose only conviction on their criminal record is marijuana, it’s possible you are wondering what legalization will do for you. Aside from not having to worry about a repeat of history, in some states, who loosened their stance on the drug, individuals with previous convictions have some recourse. In fact, in states like California, people with felony “pot” convictions can petition the courts to have the sentence downgraded to a misdemeanor.


Sealing Your Record

When Californians voted to legalize adult cannabis use last November, they were also in favor of allowing some residents to clean up their criminal record, The Huffington Post reports. It’s not just allowing the changing of felonies to misdemeanors; people with a cannabis-related crime can have it changed to an infraction, and in some cases, the charged can be erased entirely from one’s record.
“We call it reparative justice: repairing the harms caused by the war on drugs,” says Eunisses Hernandez of the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit that helped write California Proposition 64.
Having a criminal record, even a charge for something as benign as marijuana, can seriously impact the course of one’s life. Such charges make it difficult to find employment and places to live; some landlords will not rent to people with past convictions. Allowing people to petition the courts, can result in drastically improving the quality of one's life. California is not alone, the states listed below all have legislation allowing for reducing marijuana-related crimes, including:
  • Colorado
  • Maryland
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon


Orange County Criminal Attorney

Were you charged with a crime? If so, please reach out to Ronald G. Brower. With over thirty years of experience, attorney Brower can provide you the best defense. Please contact our office today.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

LAPD Seen Planting Evidence

planting evidence
A CBS News investigation uncovered some troubling misconduct on behalf of the Los Angeles Police Department. The news provider obtained body cam footage showing a police officer planting cocaine in a man’s wallet. The action led to a cocaine possession charge for suspect Ronald Shields, who was initially pulled over for hit-and-run.

In the footage obtained by David Goldstein, a CBS 2 investigative reporter, viewers can clearly see LAPD Officer Samuel Lee placing a small bag of white powder (that later tested positive for cocaine) into Ronald Shields' wallet. In response to the investigation’s airing, the LAPD said:

"The LAPD takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and, as in all cases, will conduct a thorough investigation."


Planting Evidence


Naturally, Shields' attorney challenged evidence against his client. Officer Lee and fellow officer "Gaxiola" were called into to court to explain themselves, according to the article. In court, Lee echoed what he wrote in his police report, that the cocaine was found in Shields' left front pocket. When you watch the video however, you see something altogether different. Please take a moment to watch:

If you are having trouble watching please click here.

Mayor Eric Garcetti released a statement, saying he "expects the highest integrity from everyone who wears the badge."

The hearing challenging evidence will commence in December, this is the first time body-cam video used in a case has been obtained by the media. We will continue to follow this story as it develops.


Orange County Criminal Attorney

If you have been charged with a drug offense, please contact Ronald G. Brower. With over thirty-years of experience, attorney Browser is able to provide you the best defense.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

CalGang Database Reform

California has struggled with gang violence for a long time. The 18th St gang and 38th St gang, the Mexican Mafia, and several outlaw motorcycle gangs have all had a hand in making the streets of Southern California unsafe for years. One could say that when Americans across the nation think of gang violence, Los Angeles comes to mind.

Policing gang activity isn't an easy task, there are thousands of individuals affiliated with gangs throughout the state. The matter of combating gang violence and going after suspects is greater complicated by the fact that a significant number of members are not citizens. The international criminal gang MS 13 originated in Los Angeles in the 1980s, mainly comprised of Central Americans.

In an attempt to keep track of people believed affiliated with gangs, the State of California employs the use of a database. However, as San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber pointed out, the state’s gang database is full of errors. Weber’s assertions were accurate, the California State Auditor found a preponderance of people in the database that didn’t belong, according to Voice of San Diego. The findings, naturally, led to reform in the way of Assembly Bill 90, which was approved by Governor Jerry Brown last month.


Purging the Gang Database

The audit of the database, known as CalGang, showed that 42 individuals were supposedly younger than one year of age at the time of entry. Of those individuals, 28 were entered for ‘admitting to being gang members," the article reports. The auditors found many flaws, people remained in the database for longer than federal regulations permit. The audit showed that CalGang didn’t allow for public input or oversight.

“Probably people are pretty shocked about just how deep the problems are in the CalGang system in terms of lack of transparency, lack of consistency in terms of how the standards are used,” Weber said. “I was not shocked at all. If you don’t live in a community that has had concerns about this … I’ve heard these complaints for years. As most folks know, my own son was threatened to be put on the gang list, and he hadn’t done anything. I hear these things from parents on a regular basis. But I think some of my colleagues were shocked.”

A.B. 90 sets new standards and regulations for operating CalGang, which will include audits for accuracy and proper use, according to Electronic Frontier Foundation (the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world).


Southern California Criminal Attorney

If you were charged with a crime, you are in need of an experienced attorney. For more than three-decades Attorney Brower has successfully defended clients throughout the Southland, he can give you or a loved one the best chance at a favorable outcome. Please reach out for help.

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

California Hiring Practices

criminal history
A couple of major changes are on the horizon for employers in the State of California regarding hiring practices. On more than one occasion we have covered the topic of employers inquiring into an applicant's criminal history. As we mentioned in the past, one’s criminal history can make or break an applicant's prospects for being hired.

Employers and the respective Human Resources departments should be preparing themselves for the changes ahead. If hiring adjustments are not made respecting such alterations, the result could be quite costly for employers.


Changes in Hiring Ahead

At the turn of the year, Assembly Bill 1008/California Government Code Section 12952 goes into effect, which means significant changes for how all California employers with five or more employees treat new hires, this includes state and local governments, The National Law Review reports. Effective January 1, 2018, employers can no longer inquire into applicant's criminal conviction history before a conditional offer of employment is offered.

If a conditional offer is made, employers can only use a person's history as a reason to not hire if one’s previous crimes have a "direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job that justify denying the applicant the position." If an employer decides that a person's criminal past disqualifies them for hire, the employer must inform the applicant in writing before a final decision, so that he or she can respond. The notification must include:
  • The disqualifying conviction(s) that lead to the decision.
  • A copy of the applicant's conviction history report.
  • An explanation of the applicant's right to respond and dispute the accuracy of the conviction history report.
Before a final decision, the employer must consider the applicant's response. If the steps mentioned above aren't respected, an applicant may sue for damages under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Assembly Bill 168/Labor Code Section 432.3 prohibits employers from inquiring about an applicant's salary history, according to the article. One’s salary history can’t be a factor in deciding to hire. If an applicant voluntarily discloses their previous salary, employers can’t use it to excuse any disparity in compensation.


California Criminal Defense Attorney

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense lawyer with over three decades of experience. Attorney Brower has represented in state and federal court individuals charged with a range of crimes.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Voting Rights for Felons

AB 2466
The United States is a democracy, which means that every citizen has the right to vote after maturing to the proper age. It’s a right that's never taken for granted; a significant number of countries around the world do not permit their citizen's such liberties. When we vote for someone running for office or a piece of legislation that could have an impact on our lives, it's a reminder that our voice matters. That we are just as crucial to the entire process as those elected to lead us.

There are instances when one can lose their right to take part in the democratic process. The majority of states have laws on the books prohibiting those convicted of certain crimes (felony crimes) like murder from voting. Each state handles it differently, but the result is usually the same. Convicted felons cannot vote.

As you can imagine there are some who take issue with disenfranchising a considerable swath of the American populate. It’s one thing to strip one’s right to vote while incarcerated, but after felons are released, they still can’t vote in most cases. Despite any efforts made to rehabilitate oneself while behind bars, individuals do not have their constitutional right to vote reinstated.


Voting Rights in California

At the end of September, California Governor Jerry Brown restored voting rights to thousands of felons, CBS News reports. With the passage of Assembly Bill 2466, felons not serving time in Federal prisons will be allowed to vote even if they are still doing time in a county jail. AB 2466 will apply to low-level convicted felons.

The bill, authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City), is the direct result of a lawsuit arguing that felons doing time in county jail should not be treated commensurately with Federal inmates, according to the article. The suit won and, as a result, as many as 50,000 felons will be voting again. The ACLU claims that current laws prohibiting felons from voting were modern-day “felony disenfranchisement” and a “legacy of Jim Crow.” However, opponents of the bill say that the bill rewards criminals for their bad choices.

“Close elections, especially at the local level, could now turn on a handful of ballots cast by people in jail,” said Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) in a statement.


Orange County Criminal Attorney

If you have been charged with a felony, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. His stellar track record over 30 years of legal practice, means that Attorney Brower will give you the best chance of favorable outcomes.

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