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Thursday, January 26, 2017

California Hate Crimes Registry

hate crimes
Most of us living in the United States are familiar with state sex offender registries: A tool to be used by families to determine if there is anyone in the neighborhood that they should be concerned about. However, it is important to remember there was nothing to stop a person from moving out of states they were convicted in, only to prey on individuals in other states.

Such a reality led to the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW), which came about after a 22-year-old college student Dru Sjodin of Grand Forks, North Dakota, was kidnapped and murdered by a sex offender who was registered in Minnesota in 2003. Now no matter where a sex offender was convicted, Americans in any state can find out the sordid past of their neighbors.

While there are a number of mixed opinions about state sex offender databases, in regard to civil rights and the efficacy of such programs, for the most part it would seem that people think that such databases have value when it comes to protecting children and young women. When looking at how effective several state sex offender registries have been, some lawmakers believe that the same model could be used for other heinous crimes in this country, such as “hate crimes.” Offenses motivated by:
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Ethnicity
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Bigotry or Bias
Due to a recent spike in hate crimes across the State of California, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-San Fernando Valley) introduced Assembly Bill 39 (AB 39) on the first day of the 2017-18 Legislative Session, OC Weekly reports. The bill would establish a California Hate Crimes Registry.

“We have witnessed an alarming spike in hate crimes in the days and weeks following the presidential election and a double-digit increase in hate crimes reported to California law enforcement in 2015," Bocanegra explained. "These crimes divide communities, and it is imperative that California send a message that intolerance has no place in our communities.”
Department of Justice data indicates that in 2015:
  • Hate crime incidents rose in California by 10.42 percent.
  • Incidents involving a religious bias increased 49.6 percent.
  • Incidents involving a Hispanic/Latino bias increased 35 percent.
  • The number of victims of reported hate crime incidents increased 10.39 percent.
We will continue to follow California Assembly Bill 39(2017-2018). If you require the services of a criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Ronald G. Brower. 

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

LA Sheriff Lee Baca Retrial

lee baca
If you live in Southern California, you are likely aware that both Los Angeles (L.A.) and Orange County(O.C.) have been having some trouble, specifically in their jailhouses. In the O.C., both prosecutors and local sheriff’s deputies have been allegedly misusing jailhouse informants. In L.A., the former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca was on trial for obstructing an FBI investigation into allegations that the sheriff's deputies were abusing jail inmates.

Jurors in the Baca case were unable to reach a verdict (11-1 in favor of acquittal) last month which lead to a mistrial, The Los Angeles Times reports. Baca, who ran the Sheriff’s department for 15 years, is not out of deep water yet. It was announced he will be retried on charges of conspiracy, obstruction and making false statements to federal investigators.

With so many jurors in favor of acquitting the former sheriff, it may seem strange to push forward with a retrial that could have the same result. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office declined to make a statement about the choice to retry Lee Baca, according to the article. However, Baca’s attorney, said:

“The government will make its decisions based on whatever calculations it wants to make. Traditionally, many 11-to-1 cases haven’t been retried.” 

The jury hanging was likely the result of a lack of evidence. Not many of the witnesses for the prosecution had previous interactions with Baca at the time the allegations were made, the article reports. Eleven of the 12 jurors found the case against Lee Baca to be “weak and circumstantial.”

However, previous trials of deputies, including former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, led to nine convictions or guilty pleas. The likelihood that the ex-sheriff had no role in the effort derail the FBI’s investigation, is probably low.

“The U.S. attorney’s approach to the high-level public officials has always been to go after them hard,” said Ken Julian, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted former Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona on corruption charges. “So on that level, it is not a surprise they are taking another shot at him.”
If you have experienced a mistrial and are looking for an experienced criminal defense attorney, please contact Attorney Ronald Brower online or by telephone at 714-997-4400. 

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Reining In Police Surveillance

senate bill 21
In the 21st Century, law enforcement officials have access to technology and many gadgets that their predecessors lacked. Which is probably a good thing considering that in the era of information technology (IT), there are number of new crimes to be policed, such as cyber-bullying and identity theft. In just a few short years advances in surveillance techniques have come a long way, yet there are many who have concerns about law enforcement's move into the future.

Fearing a world where police have the power to snoop on peoples' Facebook page, or use facial recognition software to find suspects with the click of a mouse, privacy advocates have been on the attack asking for transparency. California Senate Bill 21, introduced by State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), would compel any local law enforcement agency using surveillance technology to disclose plans on how the technology is used and what police are looking for, The Los Angeles Times reports. Naturally, local law enforcement officials fear that if passed, SB 21 would be impractical, serving only to slow the progress of criminal investigations. Senator Hill would like to see the legislation work “to create transparency and a check and balance.”

“There has to be standards to create limitations on the use and potential abuse of this technology, because it can be so intrusive on our lives and can very easily cross the line and violate our civil rights.” 

If passed, Senate Bill 21 would require law enforcement agencies to:
  • Identify all of their types of surveillance technology.
  • Indicate the authorized reasons for use.
  • Reveal the types of data collected.
  • Disclose which employees who can use them, and their training.
Disclosing such information could have the unintended effect of showing law enforcement's hand to criminals, points out Cory Salzillo, legislative director with the California State Sheriffs’ Association. Salzillo says that the bill could give “criminals a road map about how we surveil them.” The organization has not taken a position on Senate Bill 21.

Ronald G. Brower is a criminal defense attorney in Southern California. Based in Orange County, Attorney Brower has represented individuals charged with crimes in state and federal court, including white-collar crimes. You can reach us at 714-997-4400 or contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower online.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Child Prostitution is Not Legal in California

SB 1322
In September of 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1322, for the protection of underage sex trafficking victims. Previously, minors found to be engaging in the act of solicitation for acts of sex, were subject to laws prohibiting such acts. Now, under SB 1322, minors who have fallen subject to predators who profit from child prostitution, cannot be charged for a crime, NBC News reports. Instead, they will be considered victims who will be placed into safe environments by the Department of Social Services, rather than jails or back on the streets.

"The law is supposed to protect vulnerable children from adult abuse, yet we brand kids enmeshed in sex-for-pay with a scarlet 'P' and leave them subject to shame and prosecution," said state Sen. Holly Mitchell, who introduced SB 1322. 

It will probably come as little surprise that there are a number of lawmakers who are opposed to the new law. Some who are claiming that SB 1322 will actually have the opposite effect, encouraging juvenile prostitution, according to the article. California Assemblyman Travis Allen calls SB 1322 "terribly destructive legislation."

"So teenage girls (and boys) in California will soon be free to have sex in exchange for money without fear of arrest or prosecution," Allen wrote in an op-ed

While Allen is correct that the new law "bars law enforcement from arresting sex workers who are under the age of 18 for soliciting or engaging in prostitution, or loitering with the intent to do so," supporters of the bill claim that it was necessary to prevent minors from being held responsible for the situation they find themselves.

Both district attorneys and law enforcement officials are leery of SB 1322, the article reports. And there are concerns about there not being enough juvenile outreach resources available to meet the demand that the legislation could produce.

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