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Law Office of Ronald G. Brower Blog


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Income Bracket May Impact Traffic Fines

suspended license
In California, the most populated state in America, there are billions of dollars in unpaid traffic tickets. In many instances, they are simply cases of people just not wanting to pay their fines. However, in perhaps the majority of cases, tickets go unpaid because offenders do not have the resources to pay the steep fines. The cost attached to running a red light is upwards of $400, a lot by the standards of the average American. If the fine portion of the penalty weren't bad enough, what happens if you do not pay the ticket is arguably even worse—suspension of license.

There are number of people who could easily argue that traffic violations, the fines and what happens if you are unable to recompense are unfair. People who get tickets often must choose between paying their monthly bills or what they owe in fines. Most people are likely to opt for putting food on the table and a roof over their family's head before they pony up and meet the state or counties demands.


Traffic Fines Based On Income

A new bill has been introduced that could mean a major break for certain traffic offenders who are on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. State Sen. Robert Hertzberg introduced SB 185, if passed it would prevent the automatic suspension of a driver's license for people who are unable to pay their traffic fines, NBC 7 reports. As opposed to an automatic suspension for unpaid traffic fines, the courts would be able to look at an offender's income; if it is deemed that you do not make enough income, then the court would put you on a payment plan or reduce the amount of the fine to something fair.

"The red light ticket right now, the minimum price right now is $490," said Mitch Mehdy, a traffic attorney. "You can't spend half your paycheck on a red light ticket." 

It is worth noting that the offenders whose income-based factors deem them eligible for a break, do not meet the requirements laid out by the court, they will in the end lose their license. Additionally, this is not a sliding scale system—people who are in higher income brackets will not receive more substantial fines.

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

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.


Unintended Consequences of High Traffic Fines

As it stands right now, people who can't afford to pay their traffic fines resulting in a loss of license are forced to make a choice. Take the bus or get a ride to work, and naturally either option will not help for some people who work far from their home. Many will make the choice to risk driving with a suspended driver's license, because they can't afford to lose their job. A significant number of such people will get caught bringing with it more fines and their vehicle will be impounded for 30 days. A problem which can go from bad to exponentially worse in the blink of an eye.

If you are experiencing such circumstances, or believe that your license or vehicle was suspended or impounded unjustly, please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Former Sheriff Lee Baca Sentenced

On more than one occasion we have covered the ongoing case of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. Towards the end of March, Baca was found guilty of obstruction of justice (felony), conspiracy (felony) and making false statements to federal investigators looking into abuse of inmates in the county jail. The former Sheriff was one of many to be convicted or plead guilty to having a role in the crimes.

Finally, after multiple trials prosecutors were able to secure a conviction against Lee Baca. Last week, a Federal Judge sentenced Baca to three-years in Federal prison for obstructing the FBI investigation into the matter, The Los Angeles Times reports. And with it, the end to the scandal which plagued the Sheriff’s Department for a long time.

“Your actions embarrass the thousands of men and women [in the department] who put their lives on the line every day,” said U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson to Baca during the sentencing. “They were a gross abuse of the trust the public placed in you.”

This case, and the multiple people in the Sheriff's department who had a role in the abuse and subsequent cover up, was evidence of systemic corruption. And it is likely that it will be a long time before the department’s reputation is restored. As for Baca, his conviction is likely to have a rippling effect in other state law enforcement departments. Judge Anderson expressed that he was hopeful that Baca’s sentence will send a clear message that this behavior will not be tolerated.

“Blind obedience to a corrupt culture has serious consequences,” he said. “No person, no matter how powerful, no matter his or her title, is above the law.” 

While it is likely that Baca (74) will serve some of his sentence, it has been reported that he is currently in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the article. Time will tell.

Need Representation?

At the Law Office of Ronald G Brower, we will continue to follow this most important story. If you have been charged with a crime in California, please contact us. Attorney Brower has been a prominent figure for over 30 years with regard to legal matters in Southern California.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

10-20-Life Law Called Into Question

life sentences
California has long been given the title of "most progressive state." We lead the country in more than one way; equal pay, abortion, and one’s “right to die” to name but a few. We lead the country and the world with respect to technological advancements, immigration and on protecting the environment. While that list could be expanded in several ways, it is important to remember that California is a very large state and is home to people who are polarized when it comes to criminal justice.

While we are not alone regarding the later point, California is in a unique position when it comes to setting an example. Other states often look to California to gauge or adopt policies. With that in mind, it is vital that Californians do their best to set a good example. Yet, the results of a new report show that California is tied for having the most prisoners serving life sentences, PBS Newshour reports. We are tied with Utah, 129,805 prisoners currently serving life sentences, and in many cases not for just cause. To make matters worse here in California, there are 3,025 juveniles sentenced to life or virtual life sentences.


10-20-Life Law

So, how did we get to being both the most progressive and having the most life sentences? The simple answer goes back to 1996 with the enactment of the 10-20-Life law or “use a gun and you’re done” law—PC 12022.53. A mandatory minimum sentencing law that allows for enhancements to length of sentences when a gun is used in the commission of a crime. The bill was written by a father who was killed in the 1990’s, according to the article. The law adds anywhere from 3 years to life without probation in addition to their felony sentence for the crime committed, if there was gun involved. For instance, a person found guilty of robbery could be given 10, 20 years or a life sentence for using a gun to commit the crime.

“When you think of life [sentences], you think of people who killed somebody, but in California, there’s a lot of enhancements that are attached to other crimes that make you eligible for a life sentence for which the courts have no discretion,” said Tal Klement, a deputy public defender in San Francisco. “Firearms are terrible and you want to discourage the use of firearms in committing crimes, but I don’t know if there’s any evidence that supports these harsh sentences deter use of them.” 

In an effort to make changes to the 10-20-Life Law, Sen. Steven Bradford introduced SB 620 last month to the Senate Public Safety Committee, the article reports. If the legislation manages to go the distance, judges would be granted permission to weigh the individual circumstances of a defendant before dealing a harsh sentence.

“These enhancements cause problems. They disproportionately increase racial disparities in imprisonments and they greatly increase the population of incarcerated persons,” said Sen. Steven Bradford.


Need Representation?

At the Law Office of Ronald G Brower we will continue to follow this most important story. If you have been charged with a crime involving a gun in California, please contact us. Attorney Brower has been prominent figure for over 30 years with regard to legal matters in Southern California.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Sixth Amendment: Ensuring Impartial Jurors

impartial jury
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

The above text (sic) is from the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, part of the United States Bill of Rights. For the purposes of the post, we are concerned with caveat of impartial jury. It is no secret that our history is one of racial turmoil, and one could easily make the case that some Americans are more likely to receive a fair trial than others. Where one lives, and their racial demographic, can make a huge difference regarding the makeup of a “jury of one’s peers.”

Anyone who has taken U.S. History in high school can probably remember learning about the Jim Crow laws that emerged during Reconstruction in the South following the Civil War. Simply put, the disenfranchisement of an entire race. Separate, but equal could not be further from the truth.


Racial Bias In The Courthouse Today

While it goes without saying, much has changed in the U.S. regarding its treatment of ethnic minorities getting a fair shake across the country, it could easily be argued that we still have a long way to go regarding equality. It is not a coincidence that in state prisons, African-Americans are incarcerated at 5.1 times and Latinos at 1.4 times the rate of whites, according to a study published by The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit that advocates criminal justice reform.

One of the reasons for such over-representation of minorities in the penal system is likely what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy calls “racial bias in the American justice system.” Courthouse News reports. Justice Kennedy’s statement came about from Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado (2017). The highest court in the nation ruled that the Sixth Amendment requires a court in a criminal trial to investigate whether a jury's guilty verdict was based on racial bias.”


Senate Bill 576

Peña-Rodriguez’s was convicted of unlawful sexual contact and harassment, to which his attorney would go on to argue that the conviction was based on racial bias after one of the jurors said he believed Pena-Rodriguez was guilty because he is Mexican, according to the article. In an effort to stop incidences like Peña-Rodriguez’s from happening in California, State Senator Scott Wiener, has introduced Senate Bill 576; which would study the ethnic and racial makeup of prospective jurors.

“The right to a fair jury trial is one of the pillars of our justice system, and this bill will ensure our jury selection process is delivering on that fundamental democratic promise,” said Sen. Wiener. “Juries should represent the diverse communities they are drawn from, but right now we have no way of knowing if those showing up for jury duty are an accurate representation of these communities. By collecting demographic information, we can analyze our jury pools in order to determine if our current system is working. SB 576 will help us to achieve more balanced and equitable juries.” 

SB 576 is an important bill that, if passed, could lead California’s black and Latinos getting fair trials in America’s most progressive state. At the Law Office at Ronald G. Brower, we will continue to follow this story, as it could have huge implications for our prospective clients. If you have been charged with a crime, please contact us today.

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