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Friday, February 16, 2018

Santa Clara County Voting On Judicial Recall

Brock Turner
The 2016 sentencing of former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner went from being a story about pervasive sexual assault on campus to a question about how judges wield punishment. It’s fair to wager that a significant number of Americans are familiar with the Turner case, owing less to the deed than to the light sentence the then college freshman received. If you are not yet familiar with the facts, we’ll take a moment to give you a breakdown.

Brock Turner sexually assaulted a fellow student behind a dumpster while she was unconscious. He was caught in the act and was looking at up to 14 years in prison for committing the act. A jury found the swimmer guilty, and most people assumed that the judge would deal Turner a stiff sentence; perhaps everyone thought Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky would make an example of Turner. The punishment handed down from Persky was the exact opposite.

Judge Persky sentenced Brock turner to 6 months in jail (he only served three months), three years of probation, and was required to register as a sex offender. Turner’s 2016 sentence led to public criticism on a grand scale and led to a petition to recall Judge Persky. The recall was made eligible for a vote after 95,000 people penned their names on the petition, The Huffington Post reports. This summer, Santa Clara County voters will decide whether or not to oust Persky from his post.

Recalling a Judge


“California law requires every judge to consider rehabilitation and probation for first-time offenders,” Persky said in a statement. “It’s not always popular, but it’s the law, and I took an oath to follow it without regard to public opinion or any personal opinions I might have as a former prosecutor.”

Stanford law professor, Michele Dauber, is spearheading the campaign to remove Persky from his seat, according to the article. Dauber is grateful for all the signatories, many of whom speculate that the lenient sentence was the result of Turner being Caucasian and a star athlete privilege as a white male and a star athlete.

“This historic campaign is part of a national social movement to end impunity for athletes and other privileged perpetrators of sexual assault and violence against women,” Dauber said.

 

Criminal Defense Attorney


If you are facing criminal charges, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over three decades of experience, Attorney Brower can help you achieve the best possible outcome.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System

mental illness
Mental illness is prevalent in the criminal justice system, far beyond defendants pleading innocent for reasons of insanity. Research shows that many convicted felons struggle with mental health conditions; what’s more, if people who needed treatment, got it, it would have an impact on crime rates. Regardless of what a person is dealing with, i.e., addiction, depression, bipolar disorder, treatment is the best way to mitigate the risk of having problems with the law and the rate of recidivism.

In a significant number of cases, people believed to have taken part in crime are not competent to stand trial. In such cases, they are ordered to psychiatric facilities for varying lengths of time. Naturally, beds and support staff are costly; substantial resources are required to provide the care such people need.

Evidence suggests that in California there’s a severe lack of funding to address the needs of mentally ill people in the criminal justice system. In the new state budget for California, Gov. Jerry Brown earmarked $117 million to increase the mental health services for those unable to stand trial, The Los Angeles Times reports. The funds would expand mental health programs and the number of available beds.

 

Inmate Population With Mental Illness


It’s a promising sign that more judges are seeing the value of treatment over jail time. More Americans struggling with mental illness receive referrals to psychiatric or addiction treatment programs. The changes made in recent years couldn't have come at a better time, especially when you consider that the 33% mental health population increase in the criminal justice system in last three years, according to the article. While Gov. Brown’s earmarked funds are a good sign, Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) isn’t sure it’s going to suffice.

Over 800 mentally ill inmates are found incompetent to stand trial. An even more significant number of Californians standing trial currently, would be better served by treatment, rather than prison. Studies show that treatment severely impacts crime recidivism. However, the lack resources of available resources and programs make it hard to provide everyone such options; current laws need revision.

"It seems to me that the courts, the behavioral health people, law enforcement, social work — everybody should get together and try to solve that problem," Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) said at a recent budget committee hearing. "Because it's like a bottomless pit if we don't reform." 

Sen. Beall introduced legislation that, instead of prosecution, would grant judges the power remand mentally ill defendants into pretrial diversion programs for up to two years.

 

Criminal Defense Attorney

 

If you are charged with a crime, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over three decades of experience, Attorney Brower can help you achieve the best possible outcome.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Holiday Season DUIs Soar

DUI
Just before Christmas, we highlighted some of the risks that come with deciding to drive under the influence of alcohol. Even if nobody is hurt, those caught imbibing and driving, end up being ordered to pay severe fines and lose their license for varying lengths of time. People who have incurred second or third offenses face even harsher penalties for their decisions.

The holiday season is notorious for good people making poor choices, especially when it comes to alcohol use. Most adults understand, and even appreciate, drunk driving laws; the thought of another person slamming into your vehicle while drunk is enough to make anyone cringe. Despite the fact that your average American agrees with having strict driving under the influence laws, many of those same people ignore the rules.

It doesn’t matter where a person hails from, the socio-economic background or level of education; anyone under the influence of alcohol behind the wheel puts countless people at risk of injury. Politicians to professors are eligible for DUIs, too.

 

Stanford Grad Student Sentenced in Fatal DUI Crash


In 2013, Stanford University grad student, Zachary Katz, got behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol. He entered Highway 101 driving in the wrong direction and crashed head-on with a taxi carrying two unbuckled Puerto Ricans. One of the victims, Pedro Juan Soldevila, died on the scene, while the other survived but experienced significant head injuries. Last November, a jury found Katz guilty of three felonies, including vehicular manslaughter under the influence of alcohol, The Mercury News reports. A judge sentenced the young man, now 28, to nearly five years in prison and he is ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution.

The Katz vehicular manslaughter case is not unique, and it underscores the grave risks that accompany driving under the influence. Kind, intelligent people regularly underestimate their level of inebriation; intoxicated individuals are ill-equipped to grasp the potential ramifications of their decisions. A point made clear by this holiday seasons drunk driving figures.

 

A Drunk Conclusion to 2017


During the 2017 holiday season, a significant number of people were arrested for driving intoxicated in California. In fact, between Dec. 29 and Jan.1, the California Highway Patrol the arrested 936 DUI suspects, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. During the same period in 2016, CHP arrested 767 people; 2017 represented a 22 percent increase from the previous year.

Thanksgiving weekend, the CHP arrested 1,057 people, up from 902 in 2016, according to the article. During Christmas weekend, 917 DUI arrests, compared with 621 in 2016.

“Any time you see a rise it’s concerning, especially when we look at fatalities, because that’s somebody’s loved one,” said CHP Officer John Fransen. “But the sheer number of arrests that are made, to see roughly 1,000 people arrested in every single maximum enforcement period, it’s disheartening.”

 

Criminal Defense Attorney


If you are facing DUI charges, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. Attorney Brower has the experience to help you achieve the best possible outcome for an unfortunate situation.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Stored Communications Act Under Fire

Stored Communications Act
Under the federal Stored Communications Act, Facebook and other electronic communication services, are expressly prohibited from handing over private user communications to others. While the legislation makes sense regarding user privacy, it presents serious problems for people facing criminal charges in court. Every American has the right to a fair trial and due process, but some argue that the SCA can infringe upon those rights.

The Stored Communications Act is of particular interest to Lance Touchstone, a Californian who is currently awaiting trial on an attempted murder charge, The Recorder reports. Touchstone’s lawyers take issue with being unable to access the Facebook profile of the man their client is accused of shooting. Touchstone’s lead lawyer, Katherine Tesch, contends that the SCA infringed upon his constitutional rights. The issue was raised at the lower appellate court.

 

Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Court


The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the people's right "to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." However, there isn’t a consensus over expectations of privacy in terms of recorded and/or transmitted information. The Stored Communications Act is meant to address the voluntary and compelled disclosure of "stored wire and electronic communications and transactional records" held by third-party internet service providers (ISPs).

The Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled that a criminal defendant (Touchstone in this case) did not have the right to compel Facebook to disclose the contents of a user’s private account. Now, the California Supreme Court is considering the issue of whether a criminal defendant has a constitutional right to mine a person’s social media records for potentially exculpatory contents, according to the article. The California Supreme Court's acceptance to hear Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Court, and the ultimate outcome, could shape the future of how and when Facebook must turn over private user information about third-party witnesses in criminal cases.

 

Criminal Defense Attorney


If you are charged with a criminal offense, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. Attorney Brower has the experience to help you achieve the best possible outcome.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

SB 395 Impacts Juvenile Investigations

Sb 395
Last October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 395: police cannot interrogate children 15 and under until a child has consulted with an attorney. Before, children of any age were allowed to waive their right to an attorney, even when parents had no idea their child was in custody. The legislation came about due to law enforcement officers exploiting young people’s ignorance regarding their rights.

As you might expect, SB 395 is hailed as a victory by defense attorneys, while law enforcement views it as something altogether different. As of January 1, 2018, police officers can no longer interrogate minors until suspects have consulted with an attorney, which law enforcement says will only make investigations more difficult, Bakersfield.com reports. The law "definitely complicates things," says Bakersfield Police Department spokesman, Sgt. Ryan Kroeker.

 

Understanding the Law


Defense attorney Kyle J. Humphrey points out that teenagers cannot grasp what can result from waiving their right to speak with an attorney before interrogation, according to the article. The bill highlights research indicating that young people tend to “either ignore or discount future outcomes and implications and disregard long-term consequences of important decisions." Humphrey says SB 395 is seriously past due.

"It may make it a little harder for law enforcement to do their job, but when you’re talking about someone’s freedom, or giving someone a 'scarlet letter,' it should be difficult to get a conviction," Humphrey said.

In Kern County, for instance, the Public Defender's office started a program to comply with SB 395, the article reports. A defense attorney is available 24 hours a day to consult with minors, either in person or via teleconference.

 

Criminal Defense Attorney


If your son or daughter is charged with a criminal offense, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. Juvenile cases can have a severe impact on the course of a person’s life; Attorney Brower can help you achieve the best possible outcome.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New U.S. Attorney Eastern California on Marijuana

legalization
Despite the fact that medical marijuana is legal in California since 1996, and as of January 1, 2018, adult recreational use is permitted, the U.S. Department of Justice is resistant. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has decided to change course from the previous administration which could result in a return to prosecuting people making a living in the billion-dollar industry.

Some of you may remember a memo sent out by President Barack Obama during his tenure? A statement issued directed prosecutors to take a “hands-off approach” regarding marijuana-related cases in states with legalized marijuana. Last week, AG Sessions voided president Obama’s memo, The Sacramento Bee reports. Sessions gave federal prosecutors the authority to pursue marijuana cases in states with legal weed, once again.

While it’s difficult to say what any of this will lead to at this point, some advocates are concerned that the order will cripple California’s new industry, one that is already off to a shaky start.

 

Marijuana’s Future in California


California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Lori Ajax of the Bureau of Cannabis Control, and Hezekiah Allen of the California Growers Association have all spoken out against Sessions' move last week, according to the article. Even though Becerra and Ajax have made encouraging statements in favor of legalization, Hezekiah Allen still has concerns that Sessions’ move could prompt some growers to stay in the black market.

The new U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California has a history of going after people in the cannabis industry. President Donald Trump appointed to the Eastern District, McGregor Scott, who had previously served as an appointee of President George W. Bush. Before leaving office in 2009, Scott had a history of prosecuting people in California’s medical marijuana industry, including some high-profile cases. Scott’s re-appointment has some advocates reeling; it stands to reason that he may return to a similar approach.

Again, it’s still too early to tell what the Obama memo rescission will mean for California’s legal marijuana industry. After all, the voters have spoken, and the state’s AG has expressed his intention to uphold the will of the people. Sacramento cannabis consultant Jacqueline McGowan is optimistic:

“We are fortunate to live in a state where our attorney general has stated several times that he will respect the will of the voters and will defend compliant operators,” she said. “What the new era looks like will depend on us continuing to be a compliant and responsible industry. A memo being rescinded doesn’t change any of this.”

 

Criminal Defense Attorney


If you are facing charges for a cannabis-related crime in California, please contact Attorney Ronald G. Brower. With more than three decades of experience, he can provide you with a sound legal defense and ensure you find the best outcome possible.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Prop 57 Means Early Parole, For Some

Prop 57
In November 2016, voters in California opted to give some criminal offenders a second chance, voting in favor of Proposition 57. Individuals who’ve used their time behind bars wisely, i.e., good behavior and pursuing higher education, now have a better shot at achieving parole. Prop 57 is intended for nonviolent offenders, and by this law parole decisions no longer fall under the purview of prosecutors. The legislation aims to end the practice of prison ‘warehousing.’

Under the law, the state Board of Parole Hearings has more authority when it comes to determining which non-violent inmate may be eligible for parole, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. Giving the parole board greater power is considered a good thing. However, there are still reasonable concerns about fast-tracking parole. After all, just because a crime is nonviolent, doesn’t mean it’s not heinous and should not call for punishment reflective of the severity of the act.

 

35 Years In Prison to Five


Proposition 57, approved by California voters in late 2016 was to reduce the state prison population and give nonviolent offenders an early second chance to mend their ways. One of the two men found guilty of a medical syringe scam could get out of prison in 5 years under the new law, the article reports. Five years in jail for a $3.3 million investment scam is likely to anger some and for good reasons. In November, a jury found Matthew Mazur guilty of 36 counts mainly tied to fraud and grand theft after duping those who invested in his companies SafeSnap syringe. The judge piled on one consequential sentence after another, totaling more than 35 years. Prop 57 could result in him serving only a seventh of his term.

“I personally will be arguing against it [early parole],” said Deputy District Attorney Hector Jimenez, who prosecuted Mazur and co-defendant Carlos Manjarrez. 

It will be interesting to see how Mazur’s sentence plays out, especially when you consider that Proposition 57 takes parole decisions out of the hands of prosecutors. We will continue to follow this story as it unfolds.

 

Criminal Defense Attorney


If you have been charged with a crime in California, please contact Attorney Ronald G. Brower. With more than three decades of experience, he can provide you with an effective legal defense and ensure you find the best outcome possible.

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