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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

SB 284: Misdemeanor Property Crimes

SB 284
Property crime is a major issue in the state of California. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, showed that property crime was up 6.6% in 2015, from the previous year and 41 of the state’s 58 counties had increases in property crime rates during the same time period. Naturally, the uptick in property crimes like theft and burglary can be attributed to a number of variables, but one major reason may be due to the level of punishment that accompanies such crimes.

In California, if a person steals something under the $950 in value and is caught, they are typically cited and released. Of course, such a light punishment isn’t likely to deter recidivism. In an effort to stiffen the penalties for property crime, California Senator Janet Nguyen introduced Senate Bill 284, which would give law enforcement the authority to book and hold violators who commit misdemeanor property crimes like burglary, theft, and shoplifting even if the stolen items are worth less the $950, OC Breeze reports. Senator Nguyen represents the 34th State Senate District, which includes a number of Southern Californian cities, including Santa Ana.

The bill is an important move for those living in Orange County, considering that the county saw a 23% increase in overall property crime in 2015, according to the article. Property crime may seem like an insignificant area to address; however, those who commit property crimes are more likely to advance to more serious offenses. Nipping this behavior in the bud early on may prevent such an occurrence.

“As a result of the minimal consequences for property theft, perpetrators face no accountability for their actions,” said Senator Janet Nguyen. “SB 284 would give law enforcement officers the option to remove these offenders from the community as long as we can by law. The intent is to make it more difficult for perpetrators to re-offend and hinder their ability to commit multiple crimes in a short period of time. This is especially important because some violators tend to commit multiple crimes within the same day.” 

We will continue to follow the progress of SB 284. With property crime, intent plays a huge roll. Attorney Ronald Brower has a great understanding property crime and how it is interpreted. If you are need of a lawyer for burglary or shoplifting, please contact us today.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

HIV Transmission Laws in California

Senate Bill 239
We do not hear about HIV and AIDS much anymore in the U.S., unless it is regarding Africa and third-world countries, with limited resources to prevent the spread of the virus. Although, the deadly illness did make national news after an outbreak swept across southeastern Indiana in 2015, primarily the result of intravenous prescription opioid abuse. While new outbreaks in the U.S. are rare in the wake of both federal and state level efforts to prevent new cases, there are an estimated 1,218,400 persons aged 13 years and older living with HIV, including 156,300 (12.8%) who don’t know they are infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In response to the national HIV/AIDS epidemic, states had to come up with novel ways of preventing disease transmission. In California, the state legislature made it a serious crime (up to six years in prison) to donate blood after receiving a diagnosis in 1988. Then it became a felony (ten years in prison) to have sex with the mission of transmitting the virus to another. Soon, it may be illegal to intentionally spread any form of infectious disease in the state of California, STAT reports. Senate Bill 239, if passed, would make it a misdemeanor to intentionally spread hepatitis C or HIV. It is worth noting that 38 states have HIV-specific laws similar to the ones that SB 239 would repeal, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

While the existing law makes it a felony to donate blood, body organs or other tissue, or, under specified circumstances, semen or breast milk, if the person knows that he or she has acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), SB 239 would repeal those provisions making the intentional transmission of an infectious or communicable disease, as defined, a misdemeanor.

“When you tell people that these laws single out HIV and only apply to people with HIV and not any other infectious disease, they pretty quickly see that it’s irrational and discriminatory,” said state Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco who introduced the bill. 

SB 239 has not met any real opposition as of yet, according to the article. Although opposition is likely, as Senator Wiener points out for relaxing penalties for intentional HIV transmission, given that the 1998 law for increasing penalties had huge support.

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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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Ending Money Bail In California

money bail
If you are arrested for allegedly having committed a crime, you will likely be offered bail in most states. Once paid, you can go about your life as usual, but are expected to appear in court at your appointed date. If you fail to appear, the money you put up for bail will be forfeited and a warrant for your arrest will be issued. Make sense, right?

Financial incentives are as good as any for compelling people to appear before a judge. But, what if you have limited, or no means for putting up bail? The answer is, as you have probably already determined, that you will have to stay in jail, until you are either convicted or acquitted.

In recent years, a number of people and rights activists have raised concerns about the fairness of bail. The argument is that bail directly affects the poor. A disparity that keeps thousands of people needlessly behind bars. A couple of years ago the non-profit organization Equal Justice Under Law began filing lawsuits which challenge the money bail system. And as a result, they have had some success in a number of areas, with regards to ending the practice.

California state Senator Bob Hertzberg and Assemblyman Rob Bonta aim to push through legislation that would change or end the money bail system, The Sacramento Bee reports. Such legislation is of the utmost importance, especially when you consider that data from the Board of State and Community Corrections indicates that roughly 63% of inmates in California jails are awaiting trial.

The Public Policy Institute of California reports that bail in California is five times higher than the national average, with a median of $50,000. Clearly, most people (alleged criminals or not) cannot afford such a steep price tag. What’s more, failing to come up with bail, as Senator Hertzberg points out, effects more than just the inmate.

“They can’t pay their rent. They can’t pay child support or take their kids to school. There’s so many other consequences to that,” Hertzberg said. “That isn’t patriotic. That isn’t American. That isn’t the right thing to do.” 

Naturally, those against ending money bail in California citing the interest of public safety, will likely include:
  • Bail Bond Agents
  • Police Officers
  • District Attorneys
At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we will continue to follow this important topic.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What Are Violent Crimes?

violent crimes
In the past we have written about how certain states (i.e. California) are rethinking who belongs behind bars. Severe overpopulation problems across the United States stem from locking up hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders. With a number of states legalizing the use of marijuana, it might mean that several nonviolent offenders could be released from prison early. Naturally, the ensuing paradigm shift regarding the penal system begs the question, what is a violent crime?

Last November, Californians voted “yes” on Proposition 57. The legislation aimed to increase parole and good behavior opportunities for nonviolent felons and gave judges the power to decide which minors would be tried as adults, rather than prosecutors.

As you can probably imagine, a number of lawmakers and victims are concerned that those who belong in prison might get out and potentially hurt others. State prosecutors complain that California’s violent felony list is short, which could result dangerous prisoners being set free, The Los Angeles Times reports. State Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) recently filed a bill to reclassify more than 20 offenses, re-designating them as violent felonies.

“There are many of them that really need a second thought,” she said. “If you put yourself in the position of a victim in any one of those crimes, you will say, ‘That was violent because that affected me physically and emotionally.’”

In deciding what is a violent offense, presumably lawmakers must by law rely on the violent felony penal code of 1976. While the list has been added to over the years, missing from it are some rape crimes and domestic violence, according to the article. In an attempt to fill in some of the glaring omissions from the violent crimes list, Governor Jerry Brown excluded all sex offenders from early parole consideration, despite how their crimes were designated.

Offenses that may be re-designated as violent offenses, include:
  • Certain Rape Crimes
  • Human Trafficking Involving Minors
  • Vehicular Manslaughter
  • Solicitation of Murder
  • Child Abduction for Prostitution
  • Crimes Against the Elderly
  • Animal Cruelty
The distinction between violent and nonviolent crimes is an important topic, one that we will continue to follow. So, remember to stay tuned...in the meantime, if you live in Southern California and need a criminal defense attorney, please feel free to contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower.

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