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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

SB 443: Upholding The 5th Amendment

civil forfeiture
In the United States, it is not uncommon for those who are alleged of committing drug related crimes to face what is known as civil forfeiture. The history behind such cases, stems back to the 1980’s when America’s “War on Drugs” was at its height. In an attempt to fight drug kingpins, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) decided on a novel approach. The DOJ gave police and prosecutors the authority to confiscate the property of people suspected of having involvement in the drug trade, The Orange County Register reports. Individual states followed suit, adopting similar policies.

While seizing the assets of people believed to be involved in a drug racket may seem like common sense policy, the fact of the matter is that civil forfeiture rules disproportionately affect addicts rather than drug lords and violate the 5th Amendment of the Constitution.

“No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”

People who have their property taken from them are often times not found guilty of the charges. So you might imagine, in error, that they would receive an apology and are given back their belongings. However, “forfeiture” is a civil rather than “criminal” process, which means that having one’s property returned involves going civil court. The process is both involved and costly, forcing many innocent people who fell victim to draconian civil forfeiture laws to walk away.

In an attempt to uphold the 5th Amendment, California Senate Bill 443 was proposed. If passed, it would have required police agencies to obtain a criminal conviction before seizing people’s:
  • Houses
  • Boats
  • Cars
  • Cash
As you might have guessed the bill was met with some opposition which required a compromise be made. This week, the California Assembly approved a compromise version of SB 443, according to the article. The compromise still allows for the seizure of cash amounts above $40,000 without a conviction, but one’s property cannot be taken without a conviction.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

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

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Felony Prosecutorial Misconduct Bill

prosecutorial misconduct
Certain prosecutors in California may have something to fear as a new bill was scheduled to go before the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday, August 11, 2016, and it was approved in committee. The bill will now continue through the legislation process and prosecutors who purposefully omit or falsify evidence could face felony charges and face penalties to between 16 months and three years, The Orange County Register reports. The bill comes in the wake of allegations that Orange County prosecutors misused jailhouse informants and withheld information from defense attorneys on a number of occasions.

A 2010 study by Santa Clara University School of Law found that between 1997 and 2009, only six out of 600 prosecutors accused of misconduct were punished by the state Bar, according to the article. The researchers concluded that:

“Courts fail to report prosecutorial misconduct (despite having a statutory obligation to do so), prosecutors deny that it occurred, and the California State Bar almost never disciplines it...The problem is critical.” 

The new bill AB 1909, proposed by Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, seeks to amend current California statutes where it is only a misdemeanor for anyone who omits or falsifies evidence, the article notes. What’s more, prosecutorial misconduct has led to both attempted murder and murder cases being overturned.

“As a member of the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, I believe that accountability for California’s prosecutors is critical to ensuring that justice in our courts is truly served,” Lopez said. 

We will continue to follow this story in the coming months, and hope that the problem which appears to be systemic will be addressed.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

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

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

California's New License Plate Law

license plate law
If someone commits a crime in California and drives away from the scene, then hopefully a witness will be able to write down the license plate number in order to help authorities track down the offender. Seems pretty straight forward. However, what if the offender recently purchased a new vehicle? That is where things get complicated.

Under California law, a newly purchased vehicle are not required to display for up to 90 days. If somebody commits a crime with a brand new vehicle, there is a fairly good chance that there will not be a license plate.

Two investigations on the aforementioned problem in 2013 led Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) to work tirelessly for three years to change the law, starting first with AB 516, which had been hindering police investigations, KTVU reports. Towards the end of last month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the new statewide license plate law.

California is the only state that allowed for the three (3) month grace period. The new law requires a temporary numbered plate to be attached to all vehicles before leaving the dealer lot. The law should go into effect on January 1, 2019.

"This will create for the first time in the state of California a temporary license plate program," said Mullin. 

Please take a moment to watch a short video:


If you are having trouble viewing the video, please click here.

This new law will assist with crime investigations for offenses like drunk driving, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, and hit and run to name a few.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

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

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

California First Year Law Students’ Exam Error

California Bar Exam
If you want to go to law school you must take the law school administration test, otherwise known as the LSAT. How well one does on the LSAT could dictate the caliber of law school you find yourself attending. If you want to become a lawyer and practice law in a particular state, you must first pass the bar exam. The process sounds pretty straightforward, right?

You may find it interesting to learn that some law students who may have to take what is known as the “baby bar,” an exam that some first year law students in California are required to take if they happen to be attending a law school that is not ABA or California Bar accredited. The baby bar, or California First Year Law Students’ Exam, tests students' knowledge of three standard first-year courses: torts, contracts, and criminal law.

However, this year something went amiss on the test, and students were tested on something that they did not learn in the previous year, Above the Law reports. Upon realizing what at happened, the California Bar had to act quickly to fix the problem. The administration decided that student test scores would be adjusted to ignore the inappropriate question. Below is a quick look at, according to a tip, exactly what went on with this year’s baby bar:

“The exam covers three first year subjects: contracts, torts, and notably, CRIM LAW. Generally, these three subjects are covered in random order in the first three essays, and the fourth essay covers one of those subjects one more time.

On this fateful day, Questions 1 and 2 were what you expected, involving torts and contracts. But then Question 3 arrived and it asked about whether two different incidents constituted SEARCHES under the FOURTH AMENDMENT. You read it correctly: a crim pro question on a question that expressly does not cover that subject. It’s the equivalent of admiralty law being tested on the California Bar Exam.” 

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based out of Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court.

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

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