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Law Office of Ronald G. Brower Blog

 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lee Baca Found Guilty of Conspiracy

obstruction of justice
After a mistrial late last year, a team of prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office decided to take another stab at convincing jurors that former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was, in fact, guilty of obstructing a federal investigation. The efforts of the public corruption prosecutors paid off, with a jury finding Lee Baca guilty of obstructing an FBI investigation into abuse of jail inmates and lying to cover up such offenses, The Los Angeles Times reports. Despite having early stage Alzheimer’s disease, it is likely that the former Sheriff will do some time in Federal prison.

The is a story that highlights one man's long fall from grace, as is evident by the case of Lee Baca. During his decade and a half tenure as L.A. County Sheriff, Baca earned a reputation for having forward thinking ideas about criminal justice, according to the article. A reputation that proved to be inconsequential to a panel of jurors, after prosecutors showed that he was behind efforts to:
  • Prohibit FBI agents from speaking with an inmate who had acted as an informant.
  • Coercing potential witnesses in the federal inquiry.
  • Intimidated an FBI agent.
Baca’s defense attorney had attempted to convince jurors that it was Baca's Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka and others below, who were behind the effort to obstruct the FBI, the article reports. Baca’s attorneys argued that his client was unaware of what was happening. Both Baca and Tanaka, as well as eight lower-level deputies have been convicted or pleaded guilty. Baca’s was found guilty of:
  • Obstruction of Justice (felony)
  • Conspiracy (felony)
  • Making False Statements to Federal Investigators
“This verdict sends a clear message that no one is above the law.... With a career in law enforcement, he knew right from wrong. And he made a decision that was to commit a crime … and when the time came, he lied — he lied to cover up his tracks.” — Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown

The former Sheriff plans to appeal the decision.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Orange County, California. Attorney Brower has over three decades of experience representing individuals charged with a range of crimes and in high-profile matters.

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

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Federal Judge Overrides California Naloxone Law

drug overdose
There isn’t an area in this country that has not been touched by the American opioid addiction epidemic. Rich or poor, white or black, urban or rural. And even those who are cut off from the outside world, such as inmates in jail or prison, manage to acquire the potentially deadly class of narcotics. Anything from prescription opioids, like OxyContin, to heroin. While it may be more difficult to get one’s hands on drugs when living behind bars, their ability to cut one's life short are just the same.

If you have been following news related to the epidemic, or you yourself know an addict personally, you probably have some knowledge about opioid addiction. You are probably aware that in the case of an overdose, the deadly symptoms can be reversed with the drug naloxone. The relatively easy to use drug, has reversed thousands of overdoses in recent years. As a result, both lawmakers and health experts have been working tirelessly to make it easier for people to acquire naloxone. Equipping first responders with the drug has been a major priority. In some states the drug can now be purchased in pharmacies without a prescription, which means that an addict's family member can administer the drug. With overdoses, time is of the essence. Seeing as first responders can’t always make it in time, loosening restrictions on naloxone has saved lives that would have otherwise been lost.

Depending on which state you live, the rules regarding who can prescribe and/or administer naloxone vary. In California, registered nurses can administer the drug without first receiving permission from a doctor, but not licensed vocational nurses (LVN), the Associated Press reports. The time it takes for an LVN to receive permission to administer the antidote might be too long. U.S. Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco approved the request of a federal receiver to waive the state law, thus allowing vocational nurses to administer the live-saving drug. There are about 1,800 licensed vocational nurses working for the state prison system.

Federal receiver J. Clark Kelso, says that 17 inmates die each year on average from a drug overdose, according to the article. An analysis of California prison deaths, showed that California prison overdose deaths are three-times the national prison drug overdose death rate.

LVN’s "are predominantly our first responders for health care services in the prison system," Kelso spokeswoman Joyce Hayhoe said. "The LVNs really function as our EMTs and paramedics in the prison system, so that's why we needed them to be able to administer these lifesaving drugs." 

The nonprofit Prison Law Office and the State, both agreed with federal receiver's request.

It is important to remember, the decision on whether a drug offense is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the type of drug and the amount found in your possession. Contact Attorney Ronald G. Brower if you are facing being charged for a drug offense. 

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Regulating Marijuana Comes With Uncertainty

Proposition 64
If you live in California you are probably aware that Proposition 64 (Adult Use of Marijuana Act) was passed by voters in November 2016. And with voter approval, California became one of eight states and the District of Columbia where it is legal for adults to use cannabis products. It is a sign that more and more Americans across the country are in favor of lightening restrictions on a drug that has been deemed illegal by the Federal government for over 80 years.

The reasons why Californians voted the way they did are varied, but many would probably argue that marijuana prohibition has done far more bad for society, than good. While many scientists and health experts agree that the drug can have a negative impact on the mind and body (especially on teenagers and young adults), they would also argue that the punishment for using the drug has never matched the severity of the crime.

California has a long history of being involved in the movement to change marijuana policy in America. In 1996, Californians were the first to pass and institute a medical marijuana program. Now, twenty years late the state is gearing up for legal pot beginning on January 1, 2018. The process of instituting a recreational pot industry should not be “too” difficult, since several other states have already paved the way (i.e. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, et al.). However, as California works to put in place cannabis regulations, there is some uncertainty regarding the Federal government.

Over the last eight years, the previous White House administration essentially left states to their own devices regarding marijuana law, even though the drug was still illegal under Federal law. Naturally, we are all living in different times than just over a month ago. It seems the current Commander-in-Chief and Attorney General's outlooks on marijuana legislation might be more conservative than previous administrations. So, it probably won’t come as any surprise that there is talk of taking a hard stance on marijuana law by both the White House and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, The Los Angeles Times reports. But, at this point, there is no way of knowing what the current administration plans to do about enforcing Federal law in states that have legalized the controversial drug.

“We’d like to know who’s making the decisions [about federal marijuana policy]. Is it Congress? The president? The attorney general?” — California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

If you have been charged with a drug offense in California, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Immigration Law Training and Resources

immigration law
Immigration and citizenship have been politicized topics of late, in the wake of some controversial orders emanating from Washington D.C. There is still a lot that is unknown about what will be in the coming months and years, but for those living in states hosting millions of undocumented people living in America right now there is an observable angst among the community.

For those whose status is questionable, the slightest infraction (i.e. speeding ticket) could result in deportation. Naturally, attorneys are the last line of defense against being forcibly removed from the United States; it is vital for attorneys working in states with huge swaths of illegal immigrants have both the skills and the necessary resources to provide the best defense possible. Unfortunately, the call for deporting undocumented people across the country comes at a time when there is a serious lack of attorneys trained in immigration law, especially among public defenders.

It is a real problem in the state of California, prompting Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) to call for support of legislation that would increase resources for criminal defense attorneys throughout the state, The Los Angeles Times reports. Speaking before an Assembly Public Safety Committee, Bonta said that California Assembly Bill 3 aims to build regional and statewide resource centers equipped to train lawyers in immigration and advise public defenders. The bill passed in the committee with a 4-0 vote.

People living in the U.S. under the radar who get arrested for some action might think that they will have to serve some jail time, but the way things seem to be going recently the real worry for such people is deportation. Advocates of AB 3 refer to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2010, determining that the 6th Amendment requires attorneys to inform undocumented immigrant defendants about the possible immigration consequences that come with their case, according to the article. However, such an order is rendered ineffective given the fact that few attorneys are equipped to argue cases which involve immigration.

"So many counties did not have the resources," said Raha Jorjani, director of Immigration Representation Project. "So many counties were thrilled to have one immigration lawyer to answer one or two questions, and they would repeatedly, constantly tell me, 'I am not sure what I am going to do next week.'"
The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower will continue to follow the status of AB3. 

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