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Law Office of Ronald G. Brower Blog


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Death Penalty Executive Moratorium

death penalty
In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 66. The bill, which passed narrowly, kept the death penalty in place along with some procedural changes that expedited the appeals process by putting trial courts in charge of initial petitions challenging death penalty convictions. Prop 66 also set a new time frame for death penalty review.

The legislation goes even further, requiring death row inmates to work to pay restitution to victims' families. The measure did away with public review requirements for the state’s lethal injection procedures.

California is widely held to be one of the most progressive states in the nation. However, capital punishment tends to fly in the face of lenient viewpoints. Still, the death penalty is a fixture of state law; yet, the state’s new governor is doing what he can to put an end to the practice, one that disproportionately affects people of color and those with mental health disabilities. January 17, 2006, was the last time a death penalty sentence was carried out in California.

Moratorium on Executions in California

One of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first orders of business is halting any executions in California, as long as he is governor, NPR reports. His executive moratorium ordered the closure of the state's execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison, effective immediately. The Governor’s action does not overturn any existing convictions or death penalty sentences.

"Our death penalty system has been — by any measure — a failure," Newsom said in a written statement. "It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. But most of all, the death penalty is absolute, irreversible and irreparable in the event of a human error."

Gov. Newsom’s move put the state in line with Colorado and Oregon which have similar moratoriums on the death penalty, according to the article. The Death Penalty Information Center reports that twenty states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation abolishing capital punishment.

Supporters of the death penalty called the executive moratorium an “abuse of power.”


Orange County Criminal Defense

If you or a loved one is being charged with any form of homicide, it is vital that you seek experienced legal representation. The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower has handled many homicide defense cases, and attorney Brower can provide you with the quality representation you or your family requires. Please contact our office today to learn more.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Automatically Sealing Criminal Records

criminal records
An arrest record can significantly disrupt a person’s life. Many Californians who have served time for a conviction struggle to find employment, secure loans, and acquire housing. Unfortunately, many of the said individuals do not know that there is an avenue of recourse that could dramatically change their lives—petitioning the court to seal a person’s arrest record.

Existing law authorizes a person who was arrested and has successfully completed a pre-filing diversion program, a specified drug diversion program, et al. to have their record sealed. When such petitions are approved, the crime for which the defendant was charged is deemed to have never occurred.

Low-level offenders can seal their records, in many cases, but most eligible offenders are not privy to this information and are "living in a paper prison," says San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. California Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco has introduced a bill that would automatically clear some 8 million criminal convictions eligible for sealing, Capital Public Radio reports. AB 1076, Criminal records: automatic relief would require the Department of Justice to review the records in the state summary criminal history information database and to identify those who are eligible for having their record sealed, and seal the said records without a petition.

Sealing Criminal Records

If passed, law enforcement databases would hold records of a low-level offender's conviction, but background check agencies and the general public would be unable to find evidence of a person’s past transgressions. It is important to note that sex offenders and those who served time in prison are ineligible for utilizing the benefits of AB 1076.

"There has been such a focus on rehabilitation in Sacramento," Ting said. "Rehabilitation begins with a fresh start. You can't get a fresh start with something still on your record." 

A similar practice of sealing records was used in San Francisco following the legalization of marijuana, according to the article. Rather than have people go through the long process of petitioning the courts to have their record sealed, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office automatically erased 9,000 marijuana convictions eligible for sealing. AB 1076 would use the same method for other low-level offenders throughout the state.

"This is very low-level technology," Gascon said. "It will provide relief to people who are unable to get jobs and housing."


Southern California Criminal Defense Attorney

The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can assist you or a loved one who is facing legal trouble. Attorney Brower has a long history of bringing about favorable outcomes in some of the most challenging cases. Please contact our office today to learn more.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Civil Forfeiture Limitations

civil forfeiture
Civil forfeiture (otherwise known as civil asset forfeiture, civil judicial forfeiture, or civil seizure) is a legal mechanism allowing law enforcement officers to take assets from persons who are suspected of committing a crime or illegal activity. This process has occurred in the United States for decades; one of the facets of this procedure that is both unique and controversial is that assets can be seized without necessarily charging the owners with wrongdoing.

For instance, a person driving down a freeway may get pulled over; said driver just finished selling their expensive watch to an individual they met on eBay and maybe failed to get a receipt. An officer searches the driver's vehicle, discovers thousands of dollars in the form of cash and finds the discovery “suspicious.” The officer then asks the driver to prove the money was not involved in criminal activity. Such a request isn’t so simple to honor; unlike a civil procedure (person v. person), a civil seizure is a dispute between law enforcement and property.

Essentially, a police officer can take someone's property – without any proof of a crime – and tell them if they want it back they have to take steps to prove that the property isn’t linked to a crime. Proving the innocence of one’s money or car isn’t a simple endeavor, one may have to hire an attorney they cannot afford. As you can imagine, some people involved in these types of cases are unable to cover the cost of hiring representation and give up and lose their property. It’s a scenario that plays out more times than not!

Naturally, law enforcement agencies are allowed to keep the property seized that victims are unable to prove ownership. Critics of this practice sometimes refer to it as “policing for profit.”

Civil Forfeiture On the Ropes

We have taken the time to cover the controversial practice of civil forfeiture on numerous occasions in recent years. Major media outlets have done exposés on the subject highlighting severe abuses across the country by both local, state, and Federal law enforcement agencies. HBO’s comedic commentator John Oliver did a whole segment on the practice in 2014. Oliver breaks down the problem, one that allows billions of dollars to be confiscated without ever charging anyone with a crime.

Last month, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) weighed in on civil forfeiture. The Justices agreed unanimously to place limitations on civil forfeiture, but did not ban the practice outright. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg authored the opinion in Timbs v. Indiana. Timbs pled guilty to selling heroin; he paid his fines ($1,203), did house arrest, went to treatment for opioid addiction, and is on five years of probation. Then the state of Indiana hired a private law firm to help seize Timbs’ Land Rover; the vehicle was valued at $42,000 (more than four times the maximum fine for a drug conviction), Slate reports. The state and its law firm would share the profits of the seizure.

However, the Eighth Amendment guarantees that no “excessive fines” may be “imposed,” applied to the states through the 14th Amendment. Timbs fought it and lost in the Indiana Supreme Court. The case was taken up by SCOTUS which ruled:

“the historical and logical case for concluding that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause is overwhelming …. the judgment of the Indiana Supreme Court is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.” 

This case will set a precedent for years to come, and there is little doubt that similar cases will be affected.


Orange County Criminal Defense

Please reach out to the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing criminal charges. We can advocate for you and help you achieve the best possible outcome in your situation. With more than three decades of practicing law, you can trust that Attorney Brower will provide you with excellent representation.

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

DNA Leads To Arrest In Newport Beach Cold Case

We have written about DNA as it pertains to the law on numerous occasions. A person’s genetic fingerprint being left at the scene of a crime can make a prosecutor’s case; but, it can also prove someone’s innocence, even decades later.

Last year, we covered the remarkable story of the apprehension of the “Golden State Killer.” DNA brought former law enforcement officer Joseph James DeAngelo to the attention of authorities. As we pointed out, law enforcement officials attribute 12 murders and around 50 rapes to DeAngelo throughout many years.

The ability to use genetic material to solve crimes has been around for decades. However, new advancements allow scientists to find out the identity of criminals through their family tree. Experts no longer require the suspects DNA; they only need one of their family members to get curious about their heritage. Millions of Americans now use ancestry websites to find out more about their origins, much to the annoyance of those who would harm other people.

1973 Newport Beach Slaying Solved

Last year, the Newport Beach police took a fresh look at the 1973 slaying of 11-year old Linda O'Keefe, NBC News reports. O'Keefe had resided in the surf-side neighborhood of Corona del Mar when last seen alive on July 6, 1973. She was found the next day with strangulation marks around her neck.

“For 45 years, the Newport Beach Police Department continued to search for Linda’s killer," said Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis. "Generations of investigators worked on her case. We never gave up." 

The revitalized investigation led to the arrest of a Colorado man named James Alan Neal, 72, according to the article. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said that interest in Neal stemmed from genealogical DNA. Using genetic material voluntarily given to ancestry research companies, DNA investigator CeCe Moore was able to point authorities in the right direction.

Orange County Criminal Defense

If you are facing criminal charges in Southern California, The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can help you secure a favorable outcome to your case. With decades of legal experience, Attorney Brower can advocate for you in several practice areas. Please contact our office for a consultation.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

The First Step Act

First Step Act
Reducing recidivism rates in California is vital to lowering California state prison populations. One way to keep men and women from returning to incarceration is to provide support following release, without it the risk is high.

The Custody to Community Transitional Reentry Program (CCTRP) allows eligible offenders with serious and violent crimes committed to State prison to serve their sentence in the community at a CCTRP instead of confinement in State prison. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation CCTRP provides rehabilitative services that assist with alcohol and drug recovery, employment, education, housing, family reunification, and social support.

Another program available to state prisoners meant to reduce recidivism rates is the Male Community Reentry Program (MCRP). The program permits eligible offenders to serve the end of their sentences (up to one year) in the community. MCRP provides a range of community-based, rehabilitative services that assist with substance use disorders, mental health care, medical care, employment, education, housing, family reunification, and social support.

Naturally, the above initiatives are only for prisoners in California. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of similar options for men and women serving time in Federal prisons in California and beyond.

The First Step Act

Programs like the Custody to Community Transitional Reentry Program and the Male Community Reentry Program have helped thousands of people make a smoother transition back into society. There is ample evidence to suggest that working with inmates before their release can better ensure successful outcomes following parole. By assisting prisoners long before they are paroled, it can have a significant impact on both convicted felons and the communities they return to down the road.

In December, The First Step Act was signed into law to support federal inmates through the utilization of in-prison programs. The New York Times says the legislation will deliver "the most significant changes to the criminal justice system in a generation."

The First Step Act authorizes $75 million per year for five years for in-custody programming that prepares inmates for life after release, The Mercury News reports. The funding will expand the number of inmates who can participate and support them better along the way.

Orange County Attorney At Law

The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower invites Californians who are facing legal trouble to contact our team for support. With decades of criminal justice experience, Attorney Brower is the best candidate to advocate for your freedom. 714-997-4400

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Reducing Police Shootings In California

AB 931
Some California lawmakers would like to change the rules of engagement regarding the use of deadly force involving peace or police officers. Last summer, The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower shed some light on California Assembly Bill 931. The legislation would have made changes as to when law enforcement could resort to lethal force. After severe push-back from police groups, AB 931 was shelved for a later date.

While most Americans can agree that utilizing deadly force should only occur when necessary, there will probably always be a debate about when it is warranted. Because, at the end of the day citizens, and those who keep the peace, should both be afforded the right to safety.

Even though AB 931 was set aside, civil rights advocates and law enforcement lobbyists, along with legislative aides, are working on what new “use of deadly force” legislation should entail, CALMatters reports. It is likely that a new version of the bill will be forthcoming in the very near future.


Reducing Police Shootings In California

Assemblymembers Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty are the architects behind legislation to reduce police shootings in California. Civil rights activists are looking out for the interests of the mostly black and brown communities, that are most often affected by police officers exercising the use of deadly force. On the other side of the debate are the law enforcement associations, which feel that changing deadly force rules will put peace officers' lives in jeopardy.

“Our law is way too permissive. It gives very broad discretion to use force to kill people regardless of what other options (an officer) had,” said Lizzie Buchen, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “There’s a pretty overwhelming perception by the public that police operate with impunity and that they can kill people without being held accountable.”

“Ninety-nine percent of the time officers are reacting to the way someone is approaching them. To sit here and say if I roll up on a scene that I have to use a Taser, a night stick, and go hands-on before I can use deadly force, you’re jeopardizing public safety,” said Brian Marvel, president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California. “We have all these tools on our belt and depending on what we’re facing and how violent the person is toward us will determine what force we use.”

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

Having the right legal representation can make all the difference, if you are facing criminal charges. Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower to learn how we can help you achieve a favorable outcome with your case. Attorney Brower has decades of experience making him the ideal candidate to advocate for your family.

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Friday, February 1, 2019

'Gay Panic Defense' Bans

gay panic defense
California Assembly Bill No. 2501 was approved by Governor Jerry Brown on September 27, 2014. The legislation amended Section 192 of the Penal Code, relating to manslaughter. AB 2501 banned a controversial manslaughter defense known as 'gay panic defense.' Before we get into what such a defense entails, it is prudent to discuss what constitutes manslaughter.

In California, the definition of voluntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a person “without malice upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.” Those found guilty of the crime face incarceration for 3, 6, or 11 years in state prison. While the definition appears to be fairly straightforward, what is an appropriate justification for manslaughter is not so cut and dry.

While more and more people in the United States are tolerant of equal rights for the LGBTQ community, there still exists individuals who take issue with the sexual preference and the preferred gender identity of others.

It is not unheard of for an individual, upon learning that they were flirting or intimate with a transgender or homosexual, to commit deadly acts of violence. With such knowledge in hand, they commit manslaughter in the “heat of passion.”

‘Gay Panic Defense In California and Beyond

The passing of AB 2501 means that:  

...for purposes of determining sudden quarrel or heat of passion, the provocation was not objectively reasonable if it resulted from the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, including under circumstances in which the victim made an unwanted nonforcible romantic or sexual advance towards the defendant, or if the defendant and victim dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship.

In fact, the American Bar Association is calling upon state legislatures to put an end to gay and trans panic defenses, according to NBC News. The organization insists that this type of argument is neither medically nor psychologically sound. Such strategies imply the victim is to blame for his or her death owing to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, only California and Illinois have passed legislation banning gay and trans panic defenses, according to the article. In the wake of these types of killings in the State of New York, lawmakers are pushing for similar legislation.

“Transgender and gender-nonconforming people already face astronomical rates of violence, [but] they are doubly victimized by courts that allow these unconscionable excuses for assault,” explains Andy Marra, of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. 

On the Federal level, Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., is sponsoring the Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act of 2018.

California Criminal Defense Attorney

If you, or a family member, face criminal charges in California, then we invite you to contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. Bringing decades of experience to the table, and having worked on several high-profile cases, Attorney Brower is equipped to advocate for your family.

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