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Law Office of Ronald G. Brower Blog


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Ending Criminal Court Fees in California

SB 144
In previous posts, we have written about the impact that court and probation fees can have on an individual and their families. The cost of getting in trouble with the law can be devastating, especially for people with limited income.

If someone cannot pay their fines, it can result in them incurring more penalties. If the debt is continually neglected, it can result in jail time. It’s a vicious cycle that mostly punishes people for being poor. Some lawmakers are trying to put a stop to court fees that rack Californians with debt that they are unlikely to ever be in a position to pay back.

Getting other lawmakers and voters on board with ending court fines and supervision fees is not an easy task. One way to accomplish the goal is to show how severe the problem is across the state.

Attorney Brandon Greene joined forces with Stephanie Campos-Bui, of the policy advocacy clinic at the University of California-Berkeley, to better understand the problem, Mother Jones reports. What was found is shocking!

Ending Criminal Court Fees

A close look at statutes and data shows that there are around 100 to 150 different sections of the code permitting counties to charge fees, according to the article. In San Francisco, between 2012 to 2018, over 20,000 people incurred more than $15 million in debt due to local fees. Some $12 million of that debt originated from uncollected $50 monthly probation charges.

“From booking and arrests, to representation by a public defender, to supervision on probation: At every point, someone can be charged a fee for that particular service,” said Stephanie Campos-Bui. 

The above data led officials in San Francisco to do away with local court fees and some fines, the article reports. The move took an enormous burden off of impoverished residents.

Now, Senate Bill 144 aims to do what San Francisco did, but on the state level. SB 144: Families Over Fees Act – introduced by Sen. Holly Mitchell – would put a stop to many administrative fees and forgive billions in debt. The bill has already gone through the Senate and will soon be heard by the Assembly. There are no guarantees the legislation will pass.

Orange County Defense Attorney


Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are an adult who is facing criminal charges in California. Attorney Brower has decades of experience, and he can help you or a loved one achieve a favorable outcome to an unfortunate situation.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Cannabis Possession in California Prisons

cannabis possession
As most Californians know, Proposition 64 gave adults, over the age of 21, the right to use cannabis. The law allows for the possession of small amounts of pot for personal use.

While the laws about cannabis as they pertain to average citizens are relatively simple to understand, when it comes to people serving time in penal institutions, it is decidedly less cut and dry.

It is no secret that men and women find a way to get illegal drugs into jails. Prisoners caught with contraband of this kind are at risk of having more time added on to their sentence length. However, there is some uncertainty as to what happens when a formerly illegal drug becomes legal. Should being caught with small amounts of marijuana lead to longer sentences?

The 3rd District Court of Appeals in Sacramento weighed in on this subject recently, NPR reports. The court’s ruling may come as a surprise to some readers.

Possession of Marijuana in Prison

Last week, the court of appeals overturned the convictions of five inmates who had been found guilty of possessing marijuana while behind bars, according to the article. The decision, as one might imagine, has some prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys scratching their heads.

Naturally, much is at stake regarding this topic; the five inmates and many more in similar situations were each looking at time being added to their sentence. While prisoners are prohibited from using drugs, the law says that simple possession is not a felony.

“The plain language of Proposition 64 is clear,” said the justices. They add that “possession of less than one ounce of cannabis in prison or a similar penal institution is not a felony.” 

The panel of three justices said officials could still ban cannabis in jail and prison “to maintain order and safety in the prisons and other penal institutions.”

Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office has not announced if it plans to appeal the decision.


Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Please reach out to the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower for legal assistance. Attorney Brower specializes in several areas of criminal defense and can assist you or a loved one secure a favorable outcome.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Law Enforcement's Privacy Rights

SB 1421
Last fall, we wrote about two pieces of legislation signed into law by former California Governor Jerry Brown. They are SB 1421 and AB 748; the former grants the public access to investigations involving officer shootings and other significant uses of force. The latter gives law enforcement 45 days to release body camera footage and other recordings of incidents involving use of force.

The bills came about in response to a growing public outcry over the use of force by police. It isn't a secret that police shootings are hot button topic of late, particularly instances involving unarmed black men. Some of the officers who are caught up in questionable use of force cases may have a history of breaking protocols or abuses like racial discrimination.

However, California has strict laws protecting officer personnel files, according to The Los Angeles Times. In some ways, the laws above fly in the face of officer privacy protections. SB 1421 does not apply to the broader range of misconduct that could put an officer's record in the spotlight, such as domestic abuse, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and bribery.

The Rights of Officers vs Defendants

Last week, the California Supreme Court was divided over whether or not prosecutors should be provided the names of deputies who have committed misconduct, according to the article. At the heart of this case is a famous 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady v. Maryland. SCOTUS ruled that the suppression of evidence favorable to the defense violated due process.

In California, law enforcement agencies and unions are fighting to keep their officers' past misdeeds out of court and away from the public's eye. If district attorneys do not have all the facts about their witnesses, it could result in the overturning of convictions on appeal.

"The prosecution can't take an ostrich-like approach to this very important duty," said Justice Goodwin Liu. 

The case before the California Supreme Court originates from a lawsuit filed by the L.A. deputies' union to prevent former Sheriff Jim McDonnell from sharing some 300 names of deputies with misconduct on their record, the article reports.

In 2017, Los Angeles Court of Appeals ruled that the names must be kept secret despite Brady vs. Maryland. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye suggested that the Legislature might want to take the reins on the subject of disclosure. We will continue to follow this case as it develops.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney


Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing criminal charges in California. Attorney Brower has the knowledge and experience to help you achieve a favorable outcome in your case.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

LAX Cannabis Trafficking Arrests

cannabis trafficking
Even though marijuana use in California is legal for adult consumption, it’s still an illicit substance federally. Anyone living in California knows that there are dispensaries across the state. More marijuana is produced here than in any other state.

In Northern California, an estimated 1.7 million pounds of cannabis is cultivated each year, according to Leafly. The market is saturated; the days of a small-time grower reaping enormous profits selling weed in the Golden State are probably long gone.

So, it's probably not surprising to learn that many distributors have taken to moving their illegal wares across state lines. While most transporters or traffickers load up the car trunk and hit the road, some are turning to air travel as a means moving product.

It turns out, cannabis trafficking arrests have surged 166% at LAX since legalization, The Los Angeles Times reports. The iconic jet port, one of the busiest in the world, has become an essential hub for individuals trying to increase their profits.

Flying High in California

LAX isn’t alone in marijuana seizures; both Oakland and Sacramento have also seen a dramatic increase. It’s not just smugglers taking to the friendly skies with weed in their bag.

Average citizens know that there is only a light punishment attached to being caught with cannabis in California airports. There were 503 reports of marijuana found in passenger luggage last year; only one-fifth of them involved traffickers.

People in other states will pay hefty prices for a product that is worth much less on the west coast. California grows up to five times more marijuana than can be consumed in the state, according to the article. Naturally, authorities cannot catch everyone; most of the product leaving the state makes it to its final destination.

“This is normal procedure for these guys [traffickers], and I would say 29 out of 30 times they make it through without a problem,” said a 20-year California criminal defense lawyer who specializes in marijuana cases. 

Orange County Drug Offenses

Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower is you are facing criminal drug charges. It is helpful to have an experienced legal advocate in your corner; attorney Brower has been practicing law for more than three decades.

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