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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Stand Your Ground Law In California

stand your ground
The phrase “stand your ground” is something we hear quite a bit these days. Some 27 states have adopted what is known as Stand-Your-Ground Laws; and, seven states, including California, have passed stand-your-ground in practice. Criminal defense attorneys in states like Florida cite the self-defense law regularly, recent cases of note include the trial of George Zimmerman which led to an acquittal for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Naturally, people can find arguments for supporting or opposing stand-your-ground laws. Advocates say that duty-to-retreat laws put the safety of criminals above a victim. Opponents say that stand-your-ground laws make prosecuting cases against individuals who shoot others and then claim self-defense, a real challenge, according to MSNBC. If you consider a death that occurs and the only other witness to the incident is the victim: the killer can claim that his life was in danger, and the person who could have argued otherwise is dead. MSNBC reports that since Florida enacted the law, self-defense claims tripled in the subsequent years. Stand-your-ground is laid out in Dawkins v. State, 252 P.3d 214 (Okla. 2011), whereby the court wrote:

"[T]he 'stand your ground' law... provide[s] that a person has a right to expect absolute safety in a place they have a right to be, and may use deadly force to repel an intruder... for a person to be justified in using deadly force, the person must not be 'engaged in unlawful activity." 

Stand Your Ground In California

Stand-your-ground laws allow citizens to "stand their ground" and use force without retreating, to protect and defend themselves or others against threats or perceived threats. While California hasn’t enacted a stand-your-ground law, we do have something similar: the Castle Doctrine.  

Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred.

Mostly, the Golden State takes a stricter stance on using force for self-defense; Californians do not have to retreat and can use deadly force if they are at home or place of business. In Florida, the use of deadly force is allowed regardless of where a person is or whether or not he or she has an opportunity to retreat.

"Here in California we use the Castle Doctrine that has some of the elements of the Stand Your Ground law," Sgt. Stephen Wells with the Kern County Sheriff's Office tells Bakersfield Now. "Basically if you're inside your home you're allowed to use reasonable force to protect yourself and other people in your home."

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Please reach out to the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you or a family member are facing criminal charges in the State of California. Attorney Brower has the expertise, experience, and understanding of the law to help clients acquire the most favorable outcome.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Constitutional Challenge to the Felony Murder Rule

felony murder
At this time, there are hundreds of inmates serving exceedingly long prison sentences for their participation in crimes that involved murder, even though – they – didn’t kill anyone. The reality for such prisoners is the result of a state law that allows prosecutors to charge alleged criminals with second-degree murder if they are part of an “inherently dangerous” felony that leads to an unintentional death, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Essentially, California’s felony-murder law gives district attorneys the authority to file murder charges without having to prove that the defendant intended to take a life.

While still uncertain and vehemently opposed by many California prosecutors, a federal appeals court cleared the way this month for a constitutional challenge to the state’s broad felony-murder law, according to the article. New legislation passed in the Senate, if approved and signed into law, would amend the constitution to exclude people from murder charges if they do not actually commit the killing or act with “reckless indifference” to human life.

“Inherently Dangerous” Felony

A defendant is charged with murder, under a theory of felony murder. In order to prove that the defendant is guilty of second-degree murder under the theory of felony murder, the State must prove that:
  1. The defendant committed [or attempted to commit] inherently dangerous felony or felonies;
  2. The defendant intended to commit an inherently dangerous felony or felonies; and,
  3. The defendant did an act that caused the death of another person. A person may be guilty of felony murder even if the killing was unintentional, accidental, or negligent.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco decided that a man who is serving 19 years to life for a 1996 murder conviction could try to make a case that the California felony-murder law is unconstitutionally vague, according to the article. The court stated that the rule “takes an abstract approach to evaluating a crime’s dangerousness.”

“The risk threshold for an inherently dangerous crime is imprecise,” said Judge Ronald Gould. 

The decision opens the door for the constitutional challenge. We will continue to follow this critical story as it develops.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing criminal charges in the State of California. With decades of experience, attorney Brower can give you the best shot at achieving a favorable outcome in your case.

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Rolling Back Proposition 47 and Prop. 57 in 2020

Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act
California criminal justice reform is a topic that is of the utmost importance to us at the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. We work tirelessly to stay apprised of new legislation that can impact our clients; for example, in May we wrote about an effort to upend two bills signed into law that reduced certain felonies to misdemeanors (Prop 47) and made some nonviolent offenders eligible for early release (Prop 57). At the time of the post, the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018 was in the signature-gathering phase.

While many people support Proposition 47 and Proposition 57, there are a good many others who feel that the bills favor criminals and jeopardize the safety of citizens. There isn’t much evidence to support the above claims, in fact, the state Department of Justice has data showing that criminal justice reform policies are working. Nevertheless, some cities and counties would like to roll back such reforms.

Last month, the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018 received enough signatures to bring the bill up for a statewide vote, according to NBC 4. However, it will be another two years before Californians can vote on the legislation.

Toughening Criminal Penalties Will Have to Wait

Supporters of the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act had hoped to get the required number of signatures and qualify in time for the 2018 ballot but were unable to do so, according to the article. Advocates of Prop 47 and 57, say that the failure to qualify for a vote this year is indicative of the bill’s lack of support. But, we will have to wait and see how the voters lean in 2020.

If voters approve the legislation in question in 2020, it would mean shortening the list of people eligible for earlier parole, the article reports. It would reclassify the crimes that went from being a felony to misdemeanors, back to felonies again. The bill also seeks to expand the group of crimes that require the collection of DNA samples. It is worth noting that Gov. Jerry Brown opposes the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act, stating:

"Read the fine print. This flawed initiative would cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and endanger public safety by restricting parole and undermining inmate rehabilitation."


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Attorney Ronald G. Brower has more than three decades of experience advocating for clients and generating favorable outcomes in California. If you're in legal trouble, Attorney Brower can help you achieve the best results possible. Please contact our office to learn more.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Turner's Sexual Assault Conviction Appeal

sexual assault
The Brock Turner case is back in the news, again, following the former Stanford swimmer’s attorney’s appeal to have the sexual assault conviction overturned. If the nature of this case was remarkable enough, from slap-on-the-wrist sentencing to the first judicial recall in more than 80-years, it just took another somewhat unbelievable turn.

If you are just tuning in for the first time, we will take a minute to bring you up to speed. In 2015, the then 19-year old Turner was caught sexually assaulting a fellow student at a frat party. Without getting too graphic, let’s just say that the witnessed Olympic-hopeful actions led to a jury finding him guilty of multiple crimes, including:
  • Assault with intent to commit rape.
  • Sexual penetration of an intoxicated person with a foreign object.
  • Sexual penetration of an unconscious person with a foreign object.
You might say to yourself, such crimes call for severe punishment. However, presiding Judge Aaron Persky thought otherwise, sentencing Turner to 6 months in jail. When it was all said and done, Brock was released after three months, ordered to probation, and had to register as a sex offender.

Outercourse vs Intercourse

Turner’s attorney, Eric Multhaup, stood in front of a three-judge panel arguing that his client was committing an act of "sexual outercourse," and Brock did not demonstrate that his intentions were to rape the victim, according to NBC News. Multhaup says "outercourse" does not involve vaginal sex and is a "version of safe sex."

Dean Johnson, a legal analyst and defense attorney, points out that the defense’s line of reasoning would have people think that since Turner was clothed, he shouldn't have been found guilty of assault with intent to commit rape, the article reports.

"I absolutely don't understand what you are talking about," Justice Franklin Elia of California's 6th District Court of Appeal, told Multhaup.


Southern California Criminal Defense Attorney

Please reach out to the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you or a family member is facing criminal charges. Attorney Brower is committed to helping each client receive the best possible outcome in their case. With more than thirty years of experience, you can trust that you’re in good hands.

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