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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Understanding Violent Crime Increases

criminal justice reform
Both 2012 and 2015 are years that followed the passing of significant criminal justice changes in California. In the ensuing years, data indicates a rise in overall crime, The Los Angeles Times reports. The findings of an analysis, from the Marshall Project and The Los Angeles Times, may provide ammunition for opponents of laws intended to decrease the number of people in prison.

Criminal justice reform is not going to please every Californian, but hopefully, such changes result in a more humane method of treating criminal offenders. However, if such measures result in a spike in crime, it is imperative that researchers get to the bottom of such trends. They must determine if increases in crime directly stem from reform; and, if so, what are some solutions.


Are Criminal Justice Reforms Responsible for Crime Jumps?

In 2011, Assembly Bill 109 shifted the burden of housing nonviolent inmates to the counties. In 2013, voters passed Proposition 47 which reclassified drug and most theft crimes as misdemeanors, according to the article. In 2016, Proposition 57 gave some inmates a chance at earning early release from prison.

The Marshall/Times analysis showed a 12 percent increase in violent crime in California from 2014 to 2017; California's percent of increase is much higher than the national average. However, the rise in crime can mostly be attributed to property crimes like motor vehicle theft. In response to what reform opponents call a “permissive climate” to crime, the 2020 ballot will include a statewide initiative to reverse some provisions of recent criminal justice reforms.

It’s worth noting that two separate studies, including one from a UC Irvine criminologist, published recently, did not find a correlation between Prop. 47 and the increase in violent crime.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing legal trouble in California, then The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can help. With several decades of experience practicing law, and having worked on high profile cases, Attorney Brower is your best option for effective defense. Please contact us today to learn more.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Money Bail Reform In California, Update

money bail
When Senate Bill 10 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, it was seen as a step in the right direction. The legislation did away with money bail in the State of California and put the decision for which criminal defendant was eligible for release squarely in the hands of judges. While the bill was, by all means, a sweeping criminal justice reform, some criminal justice and civil rights groups believe the legislation gives judges too much power.

SB 10 is now facing opposition from criminal justice advocates and the money bail industry, The Los Angeles Times reports. The latter group has perhaps the most to lose from the law moving forward and is doing everything in its power to impede the legislation. A coalition of bail industry groups collected more than enough signatures needed for a statewide referendum on the law in 2020 and submitted them last month.

Despite such efforts, there are some who are determined to improve the pretrial detention process. California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said that criminal justice reform on the above matter will continue—with, or without, SB 10, the article reports. Even if opponents of the law succeed, Justice Cantil-Sakauye says the state’s top court officials would keep making efforts to enhance the way judges determine who is fit for release before trial.

Abolishing Money Bail

We have covered the topic of cash bail closely in recent months; and, the efforts to repeal the legislation. A bill like SB 10, after all, has the power to change the California legal system drastically. The new voter referendum, suspending some of the state’s bail overhaul efforts until November 2020, will slow the process of instituting more egalitarian methods for handling people awaiting trial. Still, many Californian cities and counties have already begun making the process fairer.

Some 49 California counties use risk assessment tools for determining who should be released pending trial, the article reports. And, eleven counties are utilizing pilot programs to reduce recidivism rates.

“We as a branch supported [Senate Bill] 10 because we believed it was a fairer way to assess a person charged with a crime,” said Cantil-Sakauye. Adding, “We are open to seeing how [bail reform] develops and going back to the drawing board. But we are committed to the fact that this is moving in the right direction.”

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

We invite adults facing legal trouble to contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower for help. Attorney Brower has the experience to advocate for you and help bring about the best possible outcome.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Felon Jury Exclusion In California

Felon Jury Exclusion
The news that Californians with a felony criminal record are permanently barred from jury service probably comes as little shock. Many states have restrictions for felons, owning firearms and voting to name two, so it’s not a stretch to think that such people would also lose the right to be a juror.

In 31 states and Federal courts, laws exclude felons from participating in the adjudicative process, according to the American University Law Review. The United States Supreme Court does not recognize the right to sit on a jury as fundamental.

A perplexing thing to consider in states with felon jury exclusion is that most, including California, permit felons to practice law. Such lawyers can defend or prosecute offenders, but they cannot sit in a jury box. Currently, 29 states and the Federal legal system allow felons to be admitted to the bar and practice law. It’s understandable that many attorneys would take issue with being deemed fit to practice law but not be able to sit on a jury. One such attorney wrote an interesting op-ed on the subject recently.

Felon Jury Exclusion

Attorney Dr. James Binnall, a professor in the School of Criminology, Criminal Justice & Emergency Management at Long Beach State University, writing in The Orange County Register, begins his piece by recounting the experience of learning that, while he was summoned for jury selection, he would be barred from participation. Since 2008, Binnall has been a practicing criminal defense attorney in California, despite having a felony DUI homicide on his record.

“I can represent a defendant in a death penalty case, but cannot sit on a jury in a minor traffic accident or breach of contract case,” says Binnall. “And I am not alone.”

In his op-ed, Binnall asks some thought-provoking questions and cites research that invalidates the justifications courts, and lawmakers, give for record-based juror exclusion. Dr. Binnall points to research showing that felons both respect the legal process and impartially review case facts. Studies also show that criminals are no more biased than average citizens.

He points out that 19 million Americans have felony-records. As many as 12 percent of adult African-Americans have spent time in California prisons; nationally, one in three African-American men have a felony conviction. With that in mind, it’s hard not to ignore how such rules serve to “racially homogenize” jury pools. Binnall asks:

"Is that a true cross-section of our community?"


Orange County Criminal Defense

Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing criminal charges. We know that you will benefit from Attorney Brower’s extensive legal experience; he has practiced law in California, participating in many high-profile cases, for more than 30 years.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing In America

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
In the criminal justice system, two forms of sentencing come up in courtrooms. The first and most common is discretionary sentencing, whereby a judge can order a defendant to serve anything from probation up to the maximum allowable sentence. The other, a more controversial form is mandatory minimum sentencing; a person convicted of a crime must serve a predefined term for certain crimes. In the latter type of sentencing, the length of time behind bars is not up to the judge but rather the legislature.

While mandatory minimum sentencing prevents judges from handing out stiff sentences based on personal bias, it does not account for myriad factors that any logical person would think should be considered before sentencing. What’s more, mandatory minimums are one the leading causes of our overburdened penal system in the U.S.


Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Americans mostly hear about mandatory sentencing laws in reference to drugs. In 1986, with the passing of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, different mandatory minimum sentences for drugs crimes were enacted by Congress. It became clear early on that persons found with certain drugs, and types of drugs in a given subset would be treated more harshly than others.

In many ways, the passage of the bill was a direct response to the American “crack” cocaine epidemic. Even though powder cocaine can do equal damage to a person’s life as crack, those caught with 5 grams of crack and found guilty of distribution faced minimum sentencing of 5 years. Compare that now to the mandatory sentencing guidelines for powdered cocaine; to receive a five-year mandatory, one would need to be caught with 500 grams.

In recent years many states, including California, have sought to roll back draconian mandatory minimum laws, but they persist in many cases. Moreover, there are still thousands of Americans serving unjust lengths of time for, in the grand scheme of things, relatively small crimes.

A new HBO documentary takes a close look at the pernicious damage fixed sentencing laws can have on people. Rudy Valdez’s "The Sentence" is about his sister Cindy Shank who received a 15-year mandatory sentence for conspiracy charges related to her deceased ex-boyfriend’s crimes. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival; please take a moment to watch the trailer.

If you are having difficulty viewing the clip, please click here.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Attorney Ronald Brower brings more than three decades of experience to the table in representing his clients. A leading attorney in Southern California, he can advocate for you or a loved one to help achieve a favorable outcome to an unfortunate circumstance. Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower today!

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