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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Supreme Court Rules on Private Social Media Posts

Supreme Court
It seems like every person uses at least one form of social media; some people have multiple accounts. Such platforms allow individuals the opportunity to connect and share their opinions about just about anything. At the same time, while men and women want their ability to share safeguarded, they also want their privacy protected.

The right to privacy in the realm of social media is a hot button topic currently. Reports of data mining or selling of information to third parties has been the source of significant anger across America. It’s probably fair to say that most of us can agree that there should be some expectation of privacy on social media platforms.

Since practically everyone has social media in their lives, in one way or another, it goes without saying that people who break the law do as well. There have been many instances of law enforcement determining the identity of criminals via Facebook.

Up until recently, only law enforcement agencies could compel social media companies to grant access to a person’s social media account, the Los Angeles Times reports. Now, the California Supreme Court has ruled that a defense team has the right to access private postings on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Social Media Companies Must Provide Private Posts

In 2018, the California Supreme Court decided that the defense attorney(s) in a gang case could have access to social media postings that were public. However, they did not rule on gaining access to private posts. The decision will not be binding on other courts.

California defense attorneys have been trying to gain access to social media accounts that may contain exculpatory evidence since 2008, according to the article. Companies like Facebook have been fighting such efforts citing the Stored Communications Act. They have said that federal privacy law prohibits their cooperation.

The case in question stems from a 2013 gang-related, drive-by-shooting in San Francisco, according to the article. One of the defendants in the murder case said that he had interacted with one of the victims on social media.

The Supreme Court’s ruling sets a precedent that will likely be cited in other cases. An attorney who thinks their clients can benefit from gaining access to private postings will want similar allowances.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Attorney Ronald G. Brower has more than three decades of experience practicing law in California. His has a reputation for bringing about favorable outcomes for defendants, which makes him an ideal choice for any person facing criminal charges in need of legal representation. Please contact our office today for more information.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Restorative Justice Pilot Program

Restorative JusticeA new diversion program in California pairs victims and offenders prior to conviction. Those who complete the initiative can spare themselves a criminal record, AP News reports. People of all ages are eligible to take part.

The pilot program allows victims to deal directly with their offenders to help their healing process, according to the article. Moreover, sparing offenders from having a criminal record can help them avoid committing new crimes. The theory is that having a rap sheet leads to stigma; the accompanying shame can make people more inclined to offend again.

California State Senator Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, authored the measure that led to the pilot program's creation. The state budget has allocated $5 million to fund the program for five years in San Joaquin County.

The results of the project will be monitored by an independent evaluation to see if it satisfies victims and how many graduates commit new crimes.

"The goal of restorative justice is to give victims a chance to receive true justice in a much more personal way than our current system allows," said Sen. Steve Glazer. "At the same time, the program gives offenders a chance to make amends directly to the victim." 

Victims Confront Their Offenders

Victims of serious crimes have had very few opportunities to interact with their perpetrators, says San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. She adds, "This is going to put power and tools and an opportunity to heal back in the hands of our victims."

Californians charged with sexual assault or murder are not eligible to participate. The program is meant for people who do not have extensive criminal records but have committed a crime that carries the potential for violence. Those taking part may have to undergo addiction treatment, counseling, education, and life skills training.

Participants who fail to meet the diversion program requirements are at risk of having to serve the remainder of their sentence in jail or prison.

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Ronald G. Brower is one of the most experienced criminal defense attorneys in California. With more than three decades of helping to bring about favorable outcomes for defendants, he is the best option for those who need a qualified legal advocate. Please contact our office today to learn more.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Genetic Genealogy Breaks Another Cold Case

Genetic Genealogy
New technology allows investigators to discover the identities of murderers and rapists even if their DNA is not on file. Genetic genealogy or triangulation allows scientists to find the relative(s) of people who commit crimes.

Genealogy websites have opened doors once closed to investigators. The desire to discover one’s origin story has compromised a criminal’s ability to hide their identity. A perpetrator’s family members can help detectives break decades-old cold cases.

Some of you are probably familiar with the recent apprehension of the "East Area Rapist," aka the “Golden State Killer” or “Original Night Stalker.” Former policeman Joseph James DeAngelo was charged with capital murder last year; he is believed to be responsible for as many as 12 killings and around 50 rapes.

The public’s fascination with this new means of solving crimes has led some to question the privacy rights of individuals who provided their DNA to genealogy companies. Still, we can expect that more criminals will be apprehended moving forward thanks to novel breakthroughs in genetic science.

DNA Helps Authorities Arrest Man Suspected of Rape

Much like the Golden State Killer case, investigators used genetic triangulation to catch another man suspected of committing rape, between 1992 and 1994 in Sacramento County, KFOR reports. Mark Manteuffel, 59, was arrested by federal agents in Atlanta, Georgia.

“They have to look through the ancestry of that family and look for descendants in that family that were living in the area at the time,” said Ruth Dickover, who heads the forensic science program at the University of California, Davis.

More than 54 cold cases nationwide have been solved thanks to DNA and genetic genealogy, says Dickover. Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said his department is reviewing all violent cold cases to determine if genetic genealogy could result in breakthroughs.

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Attorney Ronald Brower has decades of experience successfully advocating for defendants in California. He can help you or a loved one achieve a favorable outcome. Please contact our office today for a consultation.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Criminal Background Checks for Ammunition in California

Proposition 63
In 2016, California voters approved Proposition 63: The Safety for All Act. The bill included several measures on gun control. Packed into the legislation was a ban on high-capacity magazines (more than ten rounds) and a criminal background check requirement for purchasing ammunition. It also changed the law on gun theft; stealing a gun (including one valued at less than $950) is now a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.

California already prohibits felons from purchasing or possessing firearms. Gun sellers are required to run a criminal background check on any adult attempting to buy a gun. However, nothing stops an individual who has stolen or acquired a gun from an unlicensed seller from purchasing ammunition.

Proposition 63’s ammo restriction is the first in the nation. This Monday was when the new rule on buying bullets went into effect. Naturally, many gun owners in California rushed to gun stores to purchase stockpiles of ammo. VICE News reports that some customers purchased as many as 1,000 rounds in bulk.

Those rushing to beat the deadline were not people with criminal records necessarily; there may have been a financial incentive compelling them to act quickly. The new law requires customers to pay $1 each time they go through a background check to buy ammo and $20 if the Department of Justice (DOJ) doesn’t already have their information in the system.


Criminal Background Checks for Bullets

Even though the Golden State already had some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, the new rule on ammo is a huge step forward. Governor Gavin Newsom is committed to keeping both guns and bullets out of the hands of those who would harm others. The new law reads:

Reasonable, common-sense gun laws reduce gun deaths and injuries, keep guns away from criminals and fight illegal gun trafficking. Although California has led the nation in gun safety laws, those laws still have loopholes that leave communities throughout the state vulnerable to gun violence and mass shootings. We can close these loopholes while still safeguarding the ability of law-abiding, responsible Californians to own guns for self-defense, hunting, and recreation.

The new rule was met with fierce opposition by gun-rights activists and the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA sued the state over the new law, which is why it took almost three years to implement. The ban on high-capacity magazines has not gone into effect either because the gun lobby has sued over that measure as well. A federal judge agreed with the NRA, but California is appealing the decision.

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. Attorney Brower has the experience to advocate for you and help achieve a favorable outcome.

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