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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Expanding Firearm Restraining Order Law

AB 2888
Following every mass shooting, school or otherwise, society is forced to ask some pretty hard questions about gun laws. It is one of the most politicized debates in modern times; and, states' rights and the 2nd Amendment are evoked to keep gun laws the way they are today. It is often the case that when a violent crime cannot be easily explained, people are apt to question the perpetrator's mental state. Often, those who commit heinous crimes have a documented history with a mental disorder.

A question that is asked regularly is should mental illness disqualify Americans for gun ownership? Not an easy question to answer, even though answering “yes” seems like a no-brainer to millions of people.

In the wake of recent mass shootings, those familiar with the shooter will report knowing that there was something wrong with the individual before the crime was committed. Some even go so far to call and warn authorities that someone may injure them self or others with a firearm; callers ask that the individual in question have their guns confiscated. Officers who are called to look in on someone who may be a risk to others usually find that without significant evidence that a crime is imminent, taking away their guns is not a possibility.


Assembly Bill 2888

In California, a law was passed in 2016 that gives families and officers of law the ability to request a gun-violence restraining order be placed on an individual who is exhibiting signs that they may commit an act of violence, CBS News reports. Men and women deemed at risk to their self or others are required to surrender their weapons for 21-days; the probationary period can be extended for up to a year.

Some lawmakers felt that the legislation didn’t go far enough, seeing as family members and law enforcement don’t always recognize the signs of distress in time to take action. Last month, the state Senate passed Assembly Bill 2888, which expands the current law to allow more people to raise the alarm about another, potentially dangerous individual, according to the article. AB 2888 will enable co-workers and school employees to request a firearm restraining order.

“Prior to February’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, teachers and administrators expressed increasing concern about the gunman’s behavior at school” said Rep. Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the author of AB 2888. “We need to give California schools more tools to prevent another campus tragedy.”


Orange County Criminal Defense

Attorney Ronald Brower has more than three decades of experience practicing criminal defense in California. Please contact our office to discuss legal representation and to learn more about how The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can advocate for your or a loved one.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Attorney-Client Privilege Breach

attorney-client privilege
Most people, even those who have never had a run-in with the law, understand that when they speak to their attorney, it is considered privileged. A lawyer cannot breach attorney-client-privilege without the permission of their client. What is more, people awaiting trial in jail expect that any phone calls with one’s attorney are confidential; such discussions are not – should not – be made available to law enforcement officials. Unfortunately, that is not always the case in Florida, and now in California, as well.

Individuals currently serving time in penal institutions across the country are allowed to make phone calls at certain times of the day. Outgoing calls are typically made on phones with warnings attached that communication is being recorded; anything incriminating can be used against the inmate. However, the disclaimer about recording applies only to non-legal-related correspondence.

The phone system is supposed to stop recording when it becomes apparent that a privileged conversation is taking place. However, a new report reveals that the Orange County jail’s telephone carrier has improperly recorded 1,079 attorney-client discussions. It turns out that this is not the first time that GTL, the phone carrier, has violated attorney-client privilege, The Orange County Register reports. GTL also “accidentally” recorded privileged conversations in Florida.

Attorney-Client Recordings

George McNitt, vice president of technical services for GTL, testified that the phone calls in question were recorded by mistake, according to the article. McNitt argues that “human error” results in 1,300 attorney phone numbers not be added to the system as “do not record” when GTL’s software underwent an upgrade back in 2015.

Everyone can agree that over a thousand attorney-client conversations were recorded improperly; and, maybe it was all a big glitch that can be corrected to avoid repeat occurrences. Still, there is evidence that privileged calls were not purged from the system, and GTL records show Orange County deputies “listened to or downloaded attorney-client recordings” 77 times and one deputy accessed the recordings 33 times,” writes The OC Register. In a later report, the O.C. Deputy Public Defender Sara Ross told Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett that the list was inaccurate, the number is probably much higher.

An investigation is currently underway to unravel this case, and certain recorded defendants are attempting to have their cases thrown out over the mishap.


Orange County Criminal Defense

Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you or a loved one are facing criminal charges in the state of California. With decades of experience, Attorney Brower can advocate for you or your family member, ensuring the best possible outcome is achieved.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

AB 1810 Gives Judges Greater Power

AB 1810
Those who are incompetent to stand trial or ISTs are at the center of controversy in California following the signing Assembly Bill 1810. The new law, signed by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this summer dramatically changes the criminal justice system in California, it allows judges to order community mental health treatment instead of prosecution for certain people accused, The Los Angeles Times reports. Opponents of the legislation contend that violent criminals who claim to suffer from mental illness will go free.

AB 1810, or the mental health diversion law, is one of several criminal justice reforms in California that are part of an effort to – among other things – reduce the state’s jail and prison population. Other notable bills along the same vein include AB 109, Propositions 47, and Prop 57. At the heart of AB 1810 is expanding diversion of mentally ill defendants from the criminal justice system; and, to help IST become competent to stand trial in the future.

An Op-Ed from The Times Editorial Board points out that those deemed incompetent to stand trial are supposed to be remanded to one of a small number of California state hospitals; once there, such individuals will undergo treatment until they are determined mentally fit to stand trial. The article states that most people get better in treatment, and eventually have their day in court.

Mental Health Diversion Law

Since there is a limited number of hospitals equipped to take in those charged with a crime, what has historically happened is such ISTs are housed in local detention centers. The lack of beds available in hospitals almost guarantees the above trajectory; and, when ISTs are jailed their mental state typically worsens. The goal of AB 1810 is helping people who have a history of mental illness receive treatment; but, those opposing the measure say that judges may end up giving murderers and rapist a pass—ruling in favor of treatment over jail.

Defendants who can prove a history of mental illness can request that judges suspend criminal proceedings and divert them to mental health treatment, provided however that a defendant can show he or she isn’t a risk to the public, according to the editorial. The length of treatment can go on for two years. After the treatment comes to an end, the presiding judge can decide to prosecute or dismiss the charge altogether. The argument over the bill has at least two-facets, will this legislation put the public at risk and who should hold power to decide how such cases are handled—prosecutors or judges.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can advocate for you or a loved one facing criminal charges in California. Attorney Brower brings more than 30 years of legal expertise, experience, and understanding of the law to the table and can help secure the best possible outcome for your case. Please contact our office today to learn more.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Gov Brown Signs SB 10 Ending Money Bail

Money BailLast year, the California Senate passed Senate Bill 10; the legislation aims to do away with cash bail in favor of judges’ discretion. At the end of August, Governor Jerry Brown signed the SB 10, hereby abolishing money bail, according to The Washington Post. California once again leads the way regarding criminal justice reform, Gov. Brown’s endorsement makes the Golden State the first in the nation to end the controversial practice.

Earlier this summer, we shed some light on the practice of cash bail, and how it keeps the poorest of Americans in jail awaiting trial – not because they put public safety at risk – because they can’t afford bail. Approximately 90 percent of people detained pretrial are locked up because they can’t cover the cost of the bond, according to a report from UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs. When individuals are locked up for not being able to afford bail, they risk losing their job, neglecting their financial responsibilities, and losing their children.

“A person’s checking account balance should never determine how they are treated under the law,” California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said in a statement. “Cash bail criminalizes poverty, and with Gov. Brown’s signature today, California has opened the door to pursue and perfect a just pretrial system.” 

Pretrial Risk Assessment

Some Californians are likely to wonder what happens now when one is arrested for a misdemeanor or felony? Naturally, each case will be handled differently, but getting out of jail before pretrial will hinge on Pretrial Assessment Services and at the decision to release a person on their own recognizance will ultimately fall on the judge presiding over the hearings.

While the abolition of money bail is stepping in the right direction concerning equality, some last-minute changes to the legislation before Gov. Brown inked his name now has criminal justice reform groups at odds with the bill, the article reports. Organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Civil Rights Corps and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, have concerns that the amended measure may likely lead to a jump in pretrial incarceration owing to judges’ generous discretion in determining who jeopardize public safety or may go on the run upon release.

Starting October 2019, people charged with certain misdemeanors no longer have to appear before a judge and will be released within 12 hours. In other instances, those facing charges are subject to a “risk assessment,” to determine if they are “high risk.” Criminal justice reform advocates fear how a judge will decide who fits the bill. And, what subjective criteria or bias might a presiding judge harbor that could factor into their decision to deem someone as high risk and not eligible for release.

“Unfortunately, this amended version of [Senate Bill 10] is not the model for pretrial justice and racial equity that the ACLU of California envisioned,” the ACLU of California’s three executive directors in northern and southern California and San Diego said in a joint statement. “We oppose the bill because it seeks to replace the current deeply-flawed system with an overly broad presumption of preventive detention.”

California Criminal Defense Attorney

Anyone facing criminal charges in California can benefit from Attorney Ronald Brower’s decades-long experience. Please reach out to us to learn how can advocate for you or a family member, and achieve the best possible outcome given the circumstances of the case.

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