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Law Office of Ronald G. Brower Blog

 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Drunk Driving Carries A Heavy Cost

DUI
Christmas Eve is just around the corner and Sunday is Christmas Day; therefore, it is important to put safety first when driving on the roads. It is no secret that during the holidays there is a dramatic increase of drunk drivers traveling the highways and byways. While many will manage to skirt the authorities, others may find themselves approaching a drunk driving checkpoint on one of the many Southern California roads. Between now and New Year's there will be driving under the influence (DUI) checkpoints every night, especially in Orange County, people found to have blood alcohol content (BAC) above .8 percent may find themselves spending Christmas in the “drunk tank.”

This year's anti-DUI holiday campaign, known as "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" will include both DUI checkpoints and special "saturation patrols," The Orange County Register reports. While the checkpoints are fixed locations, the saturation patrols are specifically tasked with finding and pulling over suspected drivers under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

If you think there is a chance that you may be driving under the influence this weekend, please be aware of the potential consequences of your decision. Californians who are caught driving drunk or high are looking at possible jail time, driver's license suspension and staggering fines totaling around $10,000. Sadly, there are even bigger potential costs associated with driving under the influence, every Christmas holiday drunk driving accidents claim the lives of both the drunk driver and other innocent drivers on the road.

One of the most common excuses people give for choosing to get behind the wheel under the influence is that they did not have any other way home. A somewhat unlikely excuse given the plethora of taxi services in the Orange County area, but assuming that is the truth and you can't find a ride home there are options. There is a free app available to download on your smartphone that can help you get where you need to go if you're too drunk to drive. The California Office of Traffic and Safety Designated Driver VIP (DDVIP) could save your life, the lives of others and your savings account.

If you are charged with a DUI over the holiday season, please contact Orange County attorney Ronald G. Brower. California has some of the harshest DUI laws in the nation and it is important that you have an experienced and competent criminal defense attorney. At the Law Office of Ronald Brower, we would like to wish everyone a safe and Merry Christmas.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Civil Forfeiture Changes in California

civil forfeiture
Over the summer we discussed civil forfeiture, its history and how it violated people’s 5th Amendment rights, or at least the latter part: “...nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The practice of civil forfeiture, otherwise known as asset forfeiture, has been under scrutiny since its conception in the 1980’s. Such laws, on both the federal and state level, basically allow agents of the law to take people's assets before they are proven to be guilty. What’s more, getting back one’s property after they have proved their innocence in criminal court is no walk in the park, and innocent victims need to prove in civil court that their money or property were not acquired illegally.

It is not uncommon for innocent people to give up on getting their property back, simply because they cannot afford to fight for it in civil court. Despite the ever-apparent unconstitutional nature of asset forfeiture laws, changing them is not an easy task; keeping in mind that police departments and federal agencies reap the rewards of their illegally gained bounty.

Seized assets are pooled into a fund, and then paid back out to law enforcement agencies across the country proportionately. Over the last 5-years, nearly $14.2 billion went into the fund, with California contributing $854.5 million to the pot, The Orange County Register reports. During that same time period, California was given back $410.9 million, the counties seeing the most return included:
  • Los Angeles
  • Orange
  • San Bernardino
It would seem that the times are changing, with California Senate Bill 443 going into effect on January 1, 2017. At which time, assets valued at less than $40,000 can only be seized after a criminal conviction, according to the article. Additionally, local agencies can no longer join forces partnering with federal agencies in order to skirt state laws.

California attempted to get a handle on forfeiture laws in 1994, passing legislation requiring a criminal conviction before police can seize assets worth less than $25,000, and putting a ceiling on what can be taken being no more than 65 percent of the total, the article reports. Police departments figured a way around the law by seizing assets under federal law, which allowed them to keep 80 percent of the proceeds without a criminal conviction.

“I don’t want to disparage law enforcement because these laws are being used properly most of the time,” Issa [U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa, R-CA] said in a statement. “The problem is, ‘most of the time’ isn’t good enough when it’s your civil rights.” 

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Orange County, California. If you are facing criminal charges and have been the victim of civil forfeiture laws, please contact Attorney Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Prop 64 Has Gray Areas

prop 64
With the passing of Proposition 64 there are many Californians who are excited about being able to legally use marijuana. After years of prohibition, both in California and across the country, millions of adults no longer must worry about being punished, and potentially thrown in jail for using the drug. In respect to reducing state prison and jail populations, Prop. 64 should be considered a step in the right direction; however, California adults should take time to apprise themselves with the law and how it applies to the workplace.

It is not uncommon for employers to drug test their employees to ensure workplace safety, especially in certain industries that involve the use of heavy equipment. Being under the influence of any mind-altering substances can jeopardize the well-being of everyone. That being said, regardless of which field someone works in, it is generally accepted as being OK for employees to drink alcohol when not at work. What they do in their own time is none of an employer's business. Even if an employer tested employees for alcohol, the substance will not show up after 12 hours, give or take. The same cannot be said for marijuana.

Clearly, regardless of the drug being legal, employers can’t have employees “high” on the job. But even if someone isn’t high on the job that doesn’t mean they won’t fail a urine analysis (UA). It goes without saying, this reality is an issue that must be addressed, sooner rather than later. In fact, Prop 64 lacks anything about how employers are to handle the changing tide regarding marijuana, CBS Sacramento reports. “Under the influence” and “in one’s system” are not the same thing, but both can get you fired, according to attorney Barbara Cotter.

“The employer has the right to say we want productivity at work. We want a safe workplace and were not going to allow anyone under the influence of any intoxicating drugs or substances in the workplace.” 

Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:


If you are having trouble watching, please click here.

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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Thursday, December 1, 2016

OC Jailhouse Informant Special Investigation

While those who work for the “people” are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that is beyond reproach, it seems that some prosecutors will go to any lengths to ensure a conviction—even if that means breaking the law. Over the summer, we discussed a scandal taking place at the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) office, with regard to both prosecutors and local sheriff’s deputies misusing jailhouse informants.

The issue, which prompted the American Civil Liberties Union threatening to file a lawsuit, if the OCDA did not hand over internal documents related to the use of jailhouse informants, is severe with inappropriate behavior stemming back to the 1980s. The fiasco in Orange County(CA) led Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, to propose legislation that would subject any California prosecutor found withholding or falsifying evidence to felony charges and possible prison time. California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1909 on September 30, 2016.

The investigation into alleged jailhouse informant misuse has been going on for a few years now, and has become known as the “snitch scandal,” The Orange County Register reports. This week, Orange County supervisors voted on assisting to provide the Orange County grand jury with $400,000 to compensate two lawyers serving as special investigators for the grand jury. The legal duo includes Andrea Ordin, former U.S. attorney and current member of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission and Fred Woocher, an election law expert and former special counsel to the California Attorney General.

It is uncommon for grand juries to request special investigative assistance, according to the Attorney General’s office. However, the scope of the case is huge, considering that the misuse of jailhouse informants and keeping evidence from the defense that could have been beneficial has already lead to the outcome of six or more high-profile criminal cases to be altered or reversed altogether. Interestingly, neither the OCDA or the Sheriff's Department seemed to be all that concerned about the special investigation team.

“We welcome any outside inquiry in this matter and look forward to seeing the results,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff at the District Attorney’s Office. And Sheriff's department spokesman Lt. Mark Stichter said: “We always make ourselves available to the grand jury to answer questions and to provide information to them. They’re the grand jury, they can make the decision to do what they feel is best.” 

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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