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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Criminal Justice Reform vs Victims' Rights

Victims' Rights
A series of bills have been signed into California law aimed at reducing the state’s prison population. While many activists are favor of criminal justice reform, the families of victims are not the biggest fans, naturally. There are concerns that victims' families are not getting a fair deal when it comes to reforms that could mean reduced sentences and early parole for those who hurt or killed their loved one.

Before a convict is paroled in the state of California, a hearing takes place. At such time, victims and their family members have a legal right to share their thoughts in court about releasing someone who was the source of great pain. The right to do so is afforded by Marsy’s Law, or the California Victim’s Bill of Rights Act of 2008; whenever a parole hearing is to take place, the parole board must notify victims and their families, it is their legal right.

A recent development in a case going back to the 1980’s has led to a lawsuit from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, The O.C. Register reports. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas accuses the parole board of failing to notify the family of Scott Campbell, the son of former San Juan Capistrano mayor Collene Campbell, that their loved one’s killer’s hearing had been moved up a year.


Parole Hearing Improperly Advanced

A violation of Marsy’s Law is what Tony Rackauckas accuses the parole board of, by failing to warn Campbell of the new parole hearing date for convicted murderer Lawrence Cowell, according to the report. Cowell was found guilty of coaxing Scott Campbell onto a Cessna plane on April 17, 1982, to fly to N. Dakota; once in the air, Cowell’s accomplice, Donald Demascio, broke Scott’s neck and tossed him out of the plane. Demascio died in prison while serving life, Cowell is serving 25 years to life, and his next parole hearing was scheduled for 2019.

Cowell’s hearing was moved up a year without any explanation from the parole board, and the family didn't get a warning, the article reports. Again, no reason was given for advancing the hearing by a year, but Rackauckas suspects it has something to do with lowering prison populations.

“Over the last few years we have been going through a time in this state of the wholesale release of prisoners,” Rackauckas said. “Laws have been made to reduce the number of people in prison… I see this as part of that. It is a continuation of this movement to get people out of prison.”


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over 30 years of experience, attorney Brower can give you the best chance of finding a favorable outcome.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

California Criminal Justice Reform

criminal justice
If you are a regular reader of our blog posts, then you are probably aware that California has made some significant changes regarding criminal justice reform, early release and redesignating the classification of certain crimes. It’s no secret that the Golden State is known for progressive thinking, which is likely the reason that voters approved legislation to bring about reform.

A little over a week ago a gathering of protesters stood in front of the state Capitol in opposition to specific changes, hoping for some rollbacks, CBS News reports. Some crime victims say that reforms have gone too far and this needs to stop.

“This stuff has got to stop,” said El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostino. “The pendulum has swung far enough.” He adds “It limits us. Law enforcement. It limits me. It limits my peers all across this state,”


Bills In Question


  • Assembly Bill 109: provides that a felony a crime that is punishable with death, by imprisonment in the state prison, or notwithstanding any other provision of law, by imprisonment in a county jail for more than one year.
  • Proposition 47: Classified “non-serious, nonviolent crimes" as misdemeanors instead of felonies unless the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses or certain gun crimes.
  • Proposition 57: increases parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and allowing judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court.
Governor Jerry Brown defends his decision to sign the above bills into law, according to the article. He also cautions against attempts to repeal the legislation.

“Today I want to talk as a human being because in a few more months, I won’t be a politician, I’ll be a human being like you,” said Brown. “And what’s important is that we bind up our wounds. Remember, a life is not just vengeance. It’s also redemption and forgiveness.” 

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

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over 30 years of experience, attorney Brower can give you the best chance of finding a favorable outcome.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Menendez Brothers Reunite

menendez brothers
It’s been an unusual time regarding high profile criminal cases in California of late in both reality and fiction, Charles Manson died last November in Bakersfield, California for instance. In recent years, television studios have brought criminal cases that made national news back into the spotlight, with The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story and Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders.

The above cases were thrust into the minds of millions of Americans in the late 1980’s and mid 1990’s, thanks to around-the-clock coverage by major news outlets. For probably the first time in history, the average citizen was able to weigh in on what was happening inside a courtroom. Few can deny the far-reaching impact that the O.J. and Menendez brothers trials had on the American public.

Concerning the former, few high-profile cases went so far to split the American public; regardless if Simpson was thought to be guilty or not, sides were taken. When jurors read O.J.’s verdict aloud, it was like one half of the nation rejoiced while the other was angered. The Menendez brothers' murder cases were an entirely different animal than the O.J. trial, perhaps the public's fascination stemmed from their disbelief: how could two young men with the world at their fingertips conspire to murder their sleeping parents savagely? The answer to the question will never be fully understood.


The Menendez Brothers Reunite

In the last 365 days, O.J. Simpson was released from a Nevada prison after serving nine years for crimes unrelated to the double murders; and, the Menendez brothers, Lyle (50) and Erik (47), reunited at San Diego's R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility. It’s the first time the brothers have been housed to together since the trial when Lyle was 21 and Erik was 18, CBS News reports. Today, and thanks to good behavior, the brothers are participating in educational and rehabilitation programs together.

“The department could find no reason they could not be in the same prison,” corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton told the New York Daily News

Thornton points out that former crime partners living under the same prison roof or sharing a cell are not unprecedented.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you, or a loved one, face criminal charges, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over 30 years of experience, attorney Brower can give you the best chance of finding a favorable outcome.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Criminal History, Sexual Harassment, and Cannabis Legislation

sexual harassment
It is only April, and people are already gearing up to vote in November. While elected leaders are worth careful consideration, legislation can have lasting effects for years to come. With that in mind, we felt it of significant value to share with you some bills that could be of great importance to the people living in the state of California.

Before the legislative spring break on March 22, 2018, lawmakers across the state scurried to introduce some 2,000 pieces of legislation before the February 16, 2018, bill introduction deadline. It goes without saying that many of measures proposed will never make it to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, but some definitely will; knowing how those measures will affect people’s lives is critical.

The bills on the table for consideration deal with subjects ranging from sexual harassment to how employers deal with marijuana use among their workers. Many of the bills focus on employment law. Naturally, in the wake of Harvey Weinstein et al., sexual harassment law is a hot-button topic in the United States; especially here in Southern California. Marijuana legalization and medical cannabis implementation continue to be of great concern, as well. Let's take a moment to familiarize ourselves with some of the bills.


Criminal Conviction History 


AB 2680 would require a standard consent form to be created by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) that must be used by employers when they request an applicant for a job to consent to a DOJ criminal conviction history background check. This ties into the ban the box legislation that was passed and signed into law last year.

SB 1298 known as The Increasing Access to Employment Act would limit to the last five years the criminal history that could be provided to a prospective employer by the DOJ. This would include felonies and misdemeanors, and those required for registration as a sex offender. Disclosure of any convictions that have been dismissed, exonerations, or arrests that have been sealed would also be prohibited by this bill.


Sexual Harassment No Longer Tolerated

AB 3080 would prohibit requiring employees to agree to mandatory arbitration of any future claims related to sexual harassment, sexual harassment, or sexual assault as a condition of employment and non-disclosure provisions in any settlement agreement.

AB 1867 would require employers (50 or more employees) to retain records of all internal employee sexual harassment complaints for ten years.

SB 1343 would require employers (five or more employees) to provide two + hours of sexual harassment training to all employees by 2020 and every two years.

SB 1038 would impose personal liability under on an employee who found retaliating (i.e., discrimination or termination) against a person who has filed a sexual harassment complaint.


Cannabis Discrimination in California

AB 2069 would bar employers from refusing to hire, reprimanding, or terminating an employee due to cannabis-positive drug tests provided however that the employee has a medical marijuana ID card. Nota bene: employers can take actions against employees found to be under the influence on the job. Given the illegal status of cannabis on the Federal level, AB 2069 wouldn’t apply to employers would put monetary or licensing benefits at risk for hiring employees because of the drug.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

There are far too many measures to be covered in a single article. We will continue to follow these bills as they make their way closer to the Governor's desk. If you, or a loved one, is facing criminal charges, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. With over 30 years of experience, attorney Brower can give you the best chance of finding a favorable outcome.

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