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Law Office of Ronald G. Brower Blog


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Eliminating Criminal Fees in Los Angeles County

criminal fees in Los Angeles
Crime doesn’t pay, but it costs a lot! Those who find themselves on the windy side of the law and are found guilty are subject to more than just jail and prison time. They often have to pay for the costs of their incarceration, court fees, fines, and victim restitution. While the latter can be justified easily, for most people guilty of crimes, fees and penalties can be severely detrimental for loved ones and inmates alike.

Last year, we covered Senate Bill 144: Families Over Fees Act, legislation that would put a stop to many administrative fees and forgive billions in debt. Many people are unaware that a failure to pay court administrative fees can be a violation that results in jail time. The legal system disproportionately impacts people with limited financial resources.

SB 144 – introduced by Senator Holly Mitchell – came in the wake of a move by San Francisco lawmakers that did away with local court fees and some fines. Now, four counties in California have passed similar legislation, including Los Angeles County. The ban may be applied statewide if SB 144 is approved and signed into law by the governor.

“We are further hampering an already fragile family or community economically,” said Sen. Holly Mitchell.

Eliminating Criminal Fees in Los Angeles

Last week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to end all criminal administrative fees, ABC 10 reports. The action will lighten the financial burden on millions of former inmates.

A report showed that the county was meant to collect an average of $121 million in fines and fees each year since 2014, according to the county’s Chief Executive Office. However, LA County only collected about $11.4 million annually or 9%.

“Most of the people who have contact with the criminal justice system are already struggling to make ends meet,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-wrote the measure. “It’s most definitely not the purpose of the justice system to punish poor people for their poverty.” 

In the past two years, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties, have passed measures that eliminate criminal fees. It’s worth noting that such measures do not apply to restitution or fees and fines required by state law.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing legal trouble in Orange County, California, then please reach out to the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. Attorney Brower has a long reputation for successfully defending clients and helping them achieve favorable outcomes. With more than 30 years of experience, you can expect the best legal representation available.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Junk Science Influences Courtroom Decisions

courtroom psychological exams
Scientists distinguish between legitimate measures for evaluating a person's psychological state and intelligence quotient (IQ) and unreliable tests, otherwise known as junk science. For example, if you are interested, you can search the internet for IQ tests if you'd like to determine where you rank. There are hundreds available; scientists stand by some of them but think many others are bogus.

The internet is also home to a myriad of psychological exams that can help people get a better picture of themselves. While mental health tests should be followed by an assessment from an expert, taking an online exam can help people find out if they meet some of the criteria for depression or bipolar disorder.

Many people are unaware of how often IQ and psychological exams are used in American courtrooms. Naturally, mental health screening is prudent if someone argues that insanity played a role in a crime they committed. A mental health diagnosis can be the difference between receiving treatment or capital punishment.

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the scientific community does not accept many of the IQ and mental health tests being used to influence courtroom decisions. A new study examines the use of psychological and IQ tests in the courts, and the findings are troubling.

Unreliable Courtroom Psychological Tests

Tess Neal, an Arizona State University psychology professor and co-author of the new study, found that a third of psychological exams used in recent court cases weren't reviewed in the field's most prominent manuals, ABC News reports. Of the hundreds of tests analyzed, nearly a quarter were deemed unreliable by researchers. The findings appear in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

Neal and her colleagues graded only 40 percent of psychological tests favorably. The research shows that junk science is influencing the decisions of judges or juries. What's more, the researchers found that the validity of psychological tests was challenged in less than 3 percent of cases.

"There's huge variability in the psychological tools now being admitted in U.S. courts," said Tess Neal. The professor adds that "There's a lot of stuff that looks like it's junk and should be filtered out by the courts, but it's not being filtered out." 

The research team came to their conclusions after examining 876 court cases in the U.S. between 2016 and 2018, according to the article. They found that the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) test was utilized by the courts most.

While the MMPI has positive reviews among professionals, the second most common test utilized was the Rorschach test. Unlike the MMPI, many psychologists view the inkblot test as "dangerously ambiguous and subjective."

"This paper is highly significant, in part because many people's fates are determined by these tests," said Dan Simon, an expert on law and psychology at the University of Southern California Law School.

Simon was not involved with the new research, but he says that "Courts are supposed to sift out the junk science from the good science, as laid out in the federal rules of evidence...but that's not happening."

Orange County Attorney at Law

Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower is you are facing criminal charges in the State of California. With over 30 years practicing criminal defense, attorney Brower can effectively advocate on your behalf and help you achieve a favorable outcome.

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Friday, February 14, 2020

Senate Bill 889: Being Tried as an Adult in California

criminal justice system
In the near future, prosecutors may not be able to try teens as an adult if they are under the age of 20 and live in California. Current laws allow people under the age of 18 to be transferred from the juvenile justice system to the adult criminal justice system, provided the crime is a serious felony.

While some Californians may think trying minors as adults is acceptable in some cases, such as crimes that result in death or sexual assault, many people take issue with the practice. Adolescents are notorious for making poor decisions; they don’t always think about the potential ramifications of a particular action.

It’s no secret that teenagers are impulsive and prone to make rash decisions that can lead them to commit offenses. They may even commit a crime even when they know better.

Some may chalk up juvenile offenses as being the byproduct of bad parenting or peer pressure. However, the available science paints a different picture of why some teens get in trouble with the law and why trying them as adults is not the right course.

Trying Minors as Adults

Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, has proposed legislation that would ban the practice of charging people under the age of 20 as an adult, The Sacramento Bee reports. Senate Bill 889 is rooted in scientific research that shows that the brain is not fully developed until one is in their mid-twenties.

The proposal is not fully developed yet, but Sen. Skinner is working with the Chief Probation Officers of California and the National Center for Youth Law to write the legislation, according to the article. The bill will rely heavily on the available research regarding adolescent brains and their underdeveloped prefrontal cortices.

“When teenagers make serious mistakes and commit crimes, state prison is not the answer,” said bill sponsor Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. “Processing teenagers through the juvenile justice system will help ensure they receive the appropriate education, counseling, treatment, and rehabilitation services necessary to achieve real public safety outcomes.” Please take a moment to watch a short video on the subject:

If you are having trouble watching, please click here.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you care about is having legal difficulties, then The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can help be your legal advocate. Attorney Brower has been practicing law in California for more than 30 years, and he has the experience to help you achieve a favorable outcome. Please contact our office for a consultation today.

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Monday, February 3, 2020

Marijuana Offenses: Clearing Criminal Records

criminal record
We've written about marijuana on numerous occasions for several reasons. California was the first state to establish a medical marijuana program and on November 8, 2016, the majority of California voters passed Proposition 64.

Prop 64: The Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act legalized adult recreational marijuana use. What's more, it laid out guidelines for taxing a drug that generates billions of dollars in sales each year.

However, perhaps the most vital element of Prop 64 is that it allows hundreds of thousands of Californians to clean up their criminal record. As we pointed out in a previous post, the law permits citizens to petition the courts to have their sentences expunged. Having one's rap sheet cleared or reducing a felony to a misdemeanor is a big deal.

You might not know that felonies and even some misdemeanors can prevent individuals from getting hired or renting a home. A criminal record can also stand in the way of applying for loans.

Clearing A Criminal Record

There are roughly 39.75 million people living in California. Hundreds of thousands of them have a criminal record relating to cannabis use, cultivation, and distribution. Moreover, people are still being arrested despite changes in the law. It's worth noting that there is racial disparity involving marijuana-related arrests across the state.

A 2016 study conducted by New Frontier found that African Americans account for almost a quarter of those serving jail time for marijuana offenses. One fourth is staggering, especially when African Americans make up just 6% of California's population.

Even though Prop 64 provides an avenue for clearing one's record, most people who could benefit from it have not. The reason many people with marijuana-related criminal records haven't taken advantage of the provision is money and time. Petitioning the courts is not a simple task; it often requires hiring an attorney, which can be costly.

In an attempt to aid Californians in their effort to clear criminal records inexpensively, lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 1793 in September 2018. The legislation requires the state to proactively locate and process all marijuana cases eligible for expungement, The Orange County Register reports. Local prosecutors have until July 1, 2020, to process eligible cases.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges relating to cannabis or any other drug, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower for assistance. Attorney Brower brings decades of legal experience to the table and is the ideal candidate to advocate on your behalf.

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