Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Police Took My Medical Marijuana. How Can I Get it Back?

Marijuana remains illegal in California, but "qualified patients" may have defenses to certain marijuana-related crimes if they can prove that their doctor has recommended the use of marijuana to treat a serious medical condition.

Taken together, Prop. 215 (The Compassionate Use Act) and SB-420 (The Medical Marijuana Program Act) provide a lot of protections for Californians who use medical marijuana. Unfortunately, I encounter many people who are often surprised to learn that those protections don't go as far as they had imagined.

If you're found in possession of a significant amount of marijuana or if you are caught cultivating, you should expect to be arrested.  You should also expect that the police will seize your medicine and your growing equipment.  They will claim that the property is contraband (because, as stated above, marijuana is still illegal).  They will disregard your doctor's note.

Eventually, the DA might decline to pursue criminal charges against you, or your attorney might successfully petition the court to dismiss those charges by proving your status as a qualified medical marijuana patient.  Even after you have been exonerated of any criminal wrong-doing, though, the police might still refuse to return your medicine and growing equipment.

That's where I step in.

There is a process in California for obtaining a court order, signed by a judge, directing the local police department to give you back your property if you can prove that you are the lawful owner of the property and the property is not contraband or evidence in a pending criminal case.  The property at issue can be a car, a computer, a weapon, a pile of cash, or even your medical marijuana.  Of course, when marijuana is involved, the process is a little more complicated, but don't be discouraged.  Our firm has experience in fighting on behalf of medical marijuana patients.

A petition for the return of medical marijuana in California is called a "Kha" motion, named for the case in which the argument was first applied.  In order to prevail on your Kha motion, you and your attorney will need to convincingly demonstrate several things.

First, we must show that you are a qualified patient and that you are lawfully entitled to possess marijuana.  This means proving that your doctor has actually recommended the use of medical marijuana to treat some serious medical condition.  If you went to some shady little medical marijuana clinic and spoke to a doctor via Skype, it may be difficult to issue a subpoena for this doctor and to secure his presence in court.  Even if we are able to track him down and drag him into court, he may simply testify that he doesn't remember you or that he cannot vouch for the authenticity of your recommendation.  This is not very helpful.

The best way to prove your status as a qualified patient is to obtain a state-issued MMP ID card. These photo ID cards are administered and distributed by your local county's Health Department. To get yours, you must take your doctor's recommendation down to the local health department, along with any other medical records related to your condition and pay a fee.  The county agency will confirm that the recommendation is legitimate and they will issue you a photo ID card.  Once you have this government-issued card, you should be able to easily prove that you are a qualified medical marijuana patient, even if your doctor is not willing to testify on your behalf.  A valid state-issued MMP card looks like this:

I talk to a lot of people who possess "cards" issued by their doctors.  These doctor-issued cards are absolutely worthless unless they actually came from your county's Health Department.  Don't be duped into paying your medical marijuana doctor for a photo ID card.  If your "card" looks like this, you should follow the steps described in the previous paragraph:

Once you have established that you are a qualified medical marijuana patient, the next issue that will probably arise is the question of how much marijuana you are legally entitled to possess.  By law, you may possess as much as you need for your personal use.  Obviously, this quantity will vary by user.  If you grow your crops outdoors and you only get one harvest per year, you might need a larger amount to last until your next harvest.  Similarly, someone who eats their marijuana might need more than someone who smokes it.  Your state-issued card will indicate the quantity that you are allowed to possess.

After we prove that you are a qualified patient and that you are authorized to possess or cultivate the quantity that was found in your possession, we must prove that the marijuana is not evidence in any pending criminal case.  Even if you are allowed to possess or grow a certain amount, you could still be criminally liable for illegally selling / distributing that marijuana or engaging in some other marijuana-related crime (like manufacturing hash oil).  Talk to your attorney about any potential risks involved with petitioning for the return of your medicine.  By testifying on your own behalf, you could incriminate yourself by admitting that you possessed more than your prescribed limits or that you were involved with illegal distribution.

If your marijuana is destroyed by police during its seizure or its storage, you may also be entitled to compensation for its fair value.

The fight for medical marijuana rights in California has been long and hard-fought.  For years, seriously ill patients were subjected to imprisonment for using the only medicine that granted them relief.  We've come a long way since 1996.  Medical marijuana continues to gain acceptance and patients are winning more protections with each courtroom victory.  Unfortunately, many law enforcement agencies refuse to recognize this progress.  Some police departments are still trained to believe that "there is no such thing as medical marijuana".  They will ignore your doctor's recommendation and seize your property.  They will cut down your crops, arrest you and take you to jail, understanding that most people simply don't have the time or the resources to assert their rights.  Too often, they're right.  Don't let them get away with this.  If police are running roughshod over your rights, hold them accountable.  Take a principled stand, demand the return of your property and let them know that it's time to stop abusing medical marijuana patients in California.

If police have seized your medical marijuana, call our office to discuss your options.  We offer free consultations.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 20, 2015

How to Get (or Fight) a Restraining Order in California: Part 3 -- Advanced Edition

Welcome to part 3 of my series covering restraining orders in California.  In this post -- the Advanced Edition -- I want to dig a little deeper into some of the specific questions you might have as you prepare for your big day in court.

If you haven't already, please take a moment to read parts 1 and 2 in the series, available at these links: How to Get (or Fight) a Restraining Order: Part 1; and How to Get (or Fight) a Restraining Order: Part 2.  In my first post, I explained some of the basics about how the entire process works. In the second part of the series, I gave some practical tips and advice to help you prepare for your court hearing.

Today's post is devoted to answering some frequently asked questions.  As always, please feel free to comment if you feel I've missed anything or if you have questions that I didn't answer.

What is an "injunction" and what does it do?

An injunction is a court order to do (or not to do) a specific thing.  A restraining order is one type of injunction that prevents, or "enjoins" the restrained party from coming near the protected party.  It may also enjoin the restrained party from having any sort of contact with the protected person, including telephonic or electronic contact, or even passing a message to the protected person through a 3rd-party intermediary.

What is the purpose of an injunction?  Will the court issue an injunction as a form of punishment?

An injunction may only be issued to prevent some future harm, not to correct some wrong that has already occurred.  The court will not order an injunction to punish someone for past bad behavior. Keep in mind, though, that a pattern of bad behavior in the past may be used to show that bad behavior is likely to continue in the future.

What if the "harassment" occurred a long time ago, or only on a single occasion?

Courts have ruled that, in order to justify the issuance of a restraining order, the harassment must be ongoing at the time the injunction is sought -- or else there must be some showing that future harassment is highly likely.  As mentioned above, a pattern of past bad behavior may cause a judge to reasonably suspect that bad behavior is likely to continue in the future.

Courts of appeal have also ruled that a single incident of violence in the past does not justify the issuance of a restraining order, unless the petitioner can prove that violence is likely to happen again.  Many judges don't seem to understand this simple principle.  I see a lot of judges who will automatically grant a restraining order whenever a petitioner can prove that violence has occurred in the past.  This is improper.  A good attorney should be prepared with relevant case law to help the judge understand this basic rule.

If you are seeking a restraining order, it is important to file your petition immediately.  Waiting weeks or months will seriously hurt your case.

As a landlord, may I use a restraining order to evict a tenant?  May my landlord use a restraining order to evict me?

It depends.  There is a process for evicting bad tenants, but a restraining order is not usually the best way to go.  Courts are generally reluctant to order someone out of his or her home.

If your tenant is falling behind on rent, damaging your property, bothering other tenants, or generally failing to abide by the rental agreement, you should consider filing an "unlawful detainer" suit to evict him or her from the property.  Unlawful detainer actions are based on the contract that you both entered into.  At these proceedings, the court is primarily concerned with whether or not the tenant has breached the contract.  Usually, it is easier for a landlord to prove a breach of contract than it is to prove civil harassment.

The court will only use a restraining order to evict a tenant if the landlord can prove that the tenant's mere presence on the property causes substantial emotional distress to the landlord, or that the tenant's presence on the property is intended to harass the landlord.

If the landlord actually lives on or near the property, he might have a more compelling argument that the tenant's mere presence causes him to suffer some emotional distress.  If the landlord lives elsewhere and only comes around to collect rent, then the court is likely to side with the tenant. Other civil remedies might still be available to the landlord in that case, but pursuing a restraining order is likely a waste of time and resources.

If you're dealing a bad tenant, you should file an unlawful detainer action before you petition for a restraining order.  Similarly, if your landlord is attempting to use a restraining order to evict you from your housing, you and your attorney should be prepared to argue that your landlord is abusing the process by filing a restraining order for an improper purpose.

What kinds of evidence can / should I present at my hearing?

You can and should present any evidence which is relevant to the issue that the court is addressing.  Remember, the issue is limited to this: has the petitioner been the victim of civil harassment?  As mentioned in previous posts, the judge does not care about anything else, no matter how important some other issues might be to you.  Do not waste your time and the court's with arguments that you are a nice person and the other party is a jerk (or that you have done nice things for the other party in the past, or that the other party has lied about something irrelevant in the past, or that the other party is an alcoholic, etc.)

If you allege that someone has been sending you harassing emails and text messages,  you should bring copies of those messages.  If you allege that someone has been calling you repeatedly, you should bring your phone records.  Any records that you want to present at the hearing should be in paper form.  These records are going to become "exhibits" and they need to be placed into the court's file.  Do not simply hold up your phone to show the judge your call log.  Your phone cannot be filed as evidence.

As mentioned in my previous posts, you may bring witnesses if they actually saw the things that you allege occurred (or if they will provide an alibi to prove that you did not do the things alleged). If you intend to present witnesses, you should have them subpoenaed.  An attorney can help you with the process of issuing subpoenas.

Do not present "affidavits" or "declarations" from witnesses who are unable to appear in court. Those documents are hearsay, subject to a few complicated exceptions.  Generally, a witness must be present to take an oath and to answer questions about his or her testimony.  The other side must have an opportunity to cross-examine the witness.

If you allege that you have been the victim of violence, threats or other harassment, the judge will want to know whether or not the police were involved.  If they were, you should bring copies of any incident reports that police prepared.  You may also subpoena any officers who were involved to testify on your behalf.  As mentioned in a previous post, there is a process for issuing a civil subpoena to a law enforcement officer.  There may also be a fee involved to compensate taxpayers for the value of the officer's time.

What kinds of defenses are available to fight against a restraining order?

The burden is entirely on the petitioner to prove "by clear and convincing evidence" that harassment has occurred.  The respondent does not have to prove anything, he only has to show that the petitioner's case is neither "clear" nor "convincing".  Of course, the defense is even stronger if the respondent can prove that harassment did not occur, but it may be difficult to prove a negative.

A qualified attorney should be well-versed in cross-examining a witness to get to the truth of the matter.  Your lawyer should request that all witnesses be excluded from the courtroom when they're not testifying so that they may not tailor their stories to match the testimony of the witnesses before them.

Often, when a respondent has acted badly in the past or done things that he's not proud of, he may be able to prove that he had a lawful purpose for engaging in that conduct.  Speak with a lawyer to determine whether or not your purpose is actually "lawful".

Even when it can be shown that the respondent has behaved badly and engaged in a course of conduct that meets the legal definition of "harassment", he may still prevail if he can convincingly demonstrate that the bad conduct is unlikely to occur again in the future.

If you've been the victim of harassment or you've been served with a restraining order, call us for a free consultation.  We have extensive experience litigating in all Southern California courts on both sides of these issues.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How to Get (or Fight) a Restraining Order in California: Part 2

I have previously written about the process of applying for (or fighting against) restraining orders in the State of California.  I described the nuts and bolts of preparing the petition, having the proper documents served on the opposing party and filed with the court, and appearing before a judge for a series of hearings on the matter.  That post is available here.  Part 3 in this series is available here.

Today, I wanted to discuss the strategy involved in preparing for your big day in court, along with a few things to keep in mind when you're in front of the judge.  I have assembled some helpful tips based on my experiences litigating on behalf of clients both for and against restraining orders.

Know Your Judge

The first thing I want to emphasize is the unique nature of restraining order proceedings.  These hearings are really unlike any other type of court hearing that you might have previously been involved with.

One thing that makes these hearings so unique is their informality.  While the typical rules of evidence and civil procedure still apply, judges often adopt their own courtroom policies to streamline the process and to hear a large number of cases in a limited number of courtrooms.

Every judge in every courtroom has his or her own daily routine for calling cases, hearing evidence and issuing rulings in a timely manner.  Being familiar with your judge's personal style will give you a huge advantage over your opponent.  If you've never appeared before a particular judge, you should strongly consider hiring an attorney who has.  In the alternative, you should make time to sit in and observe a day of proceedings before your court date.  Pay attention to types of arguments that the judge finds persuasive.  Being familiar with your judge and the court rules will also help you feel more confident and relaxed when it's your turn to present your case.

If you read my previous post about restraining orders (available by clicking the link, above), you know that the judge is looking for "clear and convincing" evidence of harassment.  If the petitioner is able to prove that he or she has been the victim of harassment, then the petitioner wins.  The law defines "harassment" as 1) violence, 2) credible threats of violence, or 3) a course of conduct, directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys or harasses the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose.  That last part ("...that serves no legitimate purpose") is the wild card.  Judges have very different opinions about what does and does not constitute a "legitimate purpose".  For example, some judges feel that debt collection is a legitimate purpose.  Others disagree.

Abe owes Ben some money and Ben calls Abe repeatedly, asking to be repaid.  Abe is annoyed and alarmed by the repeated phone calls.  He asks Ben to stop calling him, but Ben starts showing up at his home and place of work.  Abe finally petitions for a restraining order against Ben.  Should the order be granted?

Some judges will find that Ben has engaged in a course of conduct, directed at Abe that seriously alarms, annoys and harasses Abe and that serves no legitimate purpose.  If Ben feels that Abe owes him money, he should sue Abe.  Other judges are likely to find that debt collection is a legitimate purpose, as long as no violence is used or threatened.  Being familiar with your judge and his / her opinions on the subject will give you an advantage by allowing you to craft your arguments accordingly.

Be Prepared

Proper preparation will also give you an advantage over your opponent.  This includes bringing any necessary documents to court with you for your hearing.  These documents may include phone records, copies of text messages and emails, photos of anything relevant and witnesses who will testify on your behalf.

If you have witnesses who will corroborate your side of the story, it is important that they personally appear for the hearing.  You may not simply submit a written declaration with their statements because that declaration would be considered "hearsay".  The other party must have the opportunity to cross-examine the witness, and the judge must also have a chance to ask the witness some questions.  Make sure you have a very clear idea of what the witness will say under examination -- you don't want to be surprised by anything.

If you intend to present witnesses, you should have those witnesses subpoenaed.  If you fail to issue a subpoena and the witness doesn't show up to court, you are out of luck.  You may ask for a continuance, the judge is likely to deny your request if you can't show that you properly subpoenaed the witness.

There is a process (and a fee) for issuing subpoenas to police officers who you want to testify on your behalf.  It's a little complicated, but an attorney can help.

Consult With an Attorney

This is part of "being prepared".  Some people will appear at their restraining order hearings represented by counsel.  Others will come alone.  Of course, being accompanied by a qualified, local attorney is the best way to ensure that your case gets a compelling and convincing presentation.

A lawyer will understand the rules of evidence -- what is admissible and what is not.  Your attorney will draft the necessary documents and properly serve them on the opposing party.  He or she will issue subpoenas and prepare witnesses.  Your lawyer will make sure that you understand the important issues and that those issues are communicated to the court in a clear and concise manner.  He or she should allay your anxiety and give you a confident peace of mind in knowing that things have been done correctly the first time.

Stay on Topic

This is the best advice I have for anyone involved in either side of a restraining order hearing.  I saved it for last.  Think of this tip as "dessert" -- your reward for reading my entire post.

Remember, as I mentioned above, the issue at a restraining order hearing -- the only issue -- is whether or not the petitioner can prove by clear and convincing evidence that he or she has been the victim of harassment.  That's the question that the judge must answer, and that's the only thing that the judge cares about.

The judge does not care if you're a good person.  The judge does not care if the other party is a bad person.  The judge does not care if the other party deserved whatever you did to him.  The judge does not care if the other party has lied about something irrelevant in the past.  The judge does not care if you've done nice things for the other party in the past, or if the other party has done mean things to you.  Do not waste the judge's time (and your own) with these types of arguments.  There are a lot of other cases on calendar and the judge is not interested in hearing irrelevant testimony, no matter how important these issues are to you.

Any time that a relationship devolves to the point where one person files a restraining order against another, it's safe to assume that both parties are angry about a lot of things.  You might have a lot that you want to get off your chest, but the courtroom is not the place to air these grievances. When you go off topic, the judge loses interest and you risk burying your good arguments in a pile of bad arguments.

Everything you say, every piece of evidence you present and every witness you call should be directly related to proving that harassment has (or has not) occurred.

If you or a loved one has questions about a restraining order, call my office for a free consultation. Our expert staff has an excellent track record in litigating restraining orders all over Southern California.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Brag Board: Recent Success Stories

Until recently, I kept a running list of my success stories on my website, here.

The list is starting to get a little unwieldy, plus it's majorly inconvenient to edit the website every time I want to brag about the outcome of a case.  For the sake of simplicity, I'll be posting (and boasting) here on the blog whenever I have some good news to share.  For confidentiality, I've replaced the names of clients with initials.

Disclaimer:  the following is a list of a few cases of which I'm particularly proud.  These cases may or may not be similar to your case.  Each case is unique and turns on its own specific facts.  These success stories are not guarantees or predictions of future success.  No attorney can accurately predict how your case will turn out without thoroughly reviewing the relevant facts and evidence.

People v. L.S. (hit & run in Riverside):  Case dismissed for violation of defendant's right to a speedy trial.  The violation occurred in 2012, but the DA failed to properly notify the defendant that a case had been filed against him.  A warrant was outstanding for over 2 years before the defendant learned about his active case.

T.V. v. J.M. and related case of J.M. v. T.V. (Restraining orders in Southwest Riverside County):  I represented T.V. and successfully petitioned for a restraining order against her neighbor, J.M.  J.M. then filed for a restraining order against my client, which we successfully defended (2 for 2).

S.T. v. G.P. (Restraining order in Torrance):  Successfully defended against a restraining order that my client's ex-girlfriend had filed.  She claimed that he was stalking her and sending harassing messages, but her story did not hold up under examination.

J.G. v. A.B. (Restraining order in Newport Beach):  Client's former roommate claimed he was harassing and stalking her.  Successfully defended against her petitions for restraining orders (twice).

I hope to have more success stories posted here soon.  If you or a loved one is accused of a crime or you have questions regarding a restraining order, call us for a free consultation.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Orange County

The Orange County District Attorney's Office has taken an aggressive approach to cracking down on drivers who operate vehicles while under the influence of marijuana and other drugs.  Their office now employs specially-trained prosecutors who are exclusively assigned to handle cases involving driving under the influence of drugs (or "DUID").  They take these matters seriously.  You should too.

Holding a valid recommendation to use medical marijuana is no defense to the charge of driving under the influence of marijuana.  I always tell my clients to think of marijuana like alcohol: I might be allowed to legally possess alcohol (because I'm an adult), but I'm not allowed to drive a car while I'm dangerously impaired.  I can drink one beer and legally drive a car -- I can probably drink several beers and still drive a car safely and legally.  But I cannot drive a car if my blood alcohol concentration is greater than 0.08%.

Unlike alcohol, however, there is no legal limit to clearly define when a driver is too stoned to get behind the wheel.  In order to be found guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana, the District Attorney must prove that a driver was "impaired" by the drug to such a degree that he or she was unable to safely operate a vehicle.  This is where it gets complicated.

Trying to determine a person's precise degree of marijuana impairment is difficult for several reasons.  First, marijuana affects users differently, depending on a person's relative experience with the drug, the particular strain of marijuana, the method of ingestion (smoked, eaten or vaporized), and the user's unique psycho-physiology.  Of course, an inexperienced user might have a very strong reaction to a dosage that Willie Nelson ingests before breakfast.  See Maureen Dowd's piece in The New York Times from last year.

Also, unlike alcohol, peak blood-THC concentrations do not necessarily correlate with peak impairment.  Strangely, levels of THC as detected in the blood tend to trail the effects of the drug as felt by the user.  A toxicology report might reveal that a subject had a particular level of THC in his or her blood within an hour of being arrested, but this number is not very valuable in helping to determine the subject's actual degree of impairment at the time of driving.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests ("the roadside Olympics") are designed and intended to detect drivers who are impaired by alcohol.  During these tests, police are looking for the tell-tale signs that a suspect is too drunk to drive -- poor balance / coordination, slurred speech, etc.  Since marijuana does not affect balance and coordination like alcohol, those tests are not reliable indicators of marijuana intoxication.

Cases of alleged driving under the influence of marijuana typically turn on the police officer's opinions based on his own observations after the traffic stop.  These impressions are obviously very subjective and open to interpretation.  The officer will testify that the subject "appeared disoriented" and was either "too relaxed" or "too nervous" (see the catch-22?).  Prosecutors will also attempt to prove impairment by introducing evidence of bad driving (either too fast or too slow, following too closely to far, etc.).  Any maneuver you make (or don't make) will be introduced as "proof" of marijuana impairment.

Our office has extensive experience defending "driving under the influence of marijuana" cases in Orange County and surrounding areas.  Don't let the DA railroad you into a bad deal.  If you or a loved one is accused of DUI for alcohol, marijuana or any other drug, call us for a free consultation.  Ask for John.  (714) 505-2468.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Resisting Arrest in California: PC 148(a)(1)

Section 148(a)(1) of the California Penal Code makes it a misdemeanor to willfully resist, obstruct or delay any public officer in the performance of their lawful duties.  Essentially, this code section makes it a crime to waste a cop's time.  If a police officer feels that you are making his job more difficult or time-consuming than necessary, this is usually the law that they will cite in taking you to jail for the evening, even if you haven't done anything else illegal.

"Resisting arrest" is a bit of misnomer, because you can be arrested on suspicion of violating PC 148(a)(1), even if you weren't even under arrest until you began resisting.  My clients tell me all the time, "I can't be guilty of resisting arrest, because I wasn't under arrest until I was arrested for resisting arrest".  Unfortunately, the law encompasses all sorts of behavior that "obstructs or delays" police while they attempt to perform their duties.  Cops and prosecutors will argue that the law includes behaviors which are merely annoying or inconvenient to police (talking back, refusing to identify yourself, getting in the way, creating a distraction, etc.).

In order be found guilty of violating PC 148(a)(1), prosecutors must prove that police were actually engaged in the lawful performance of their duties.  If you are charged under this code section, you may have a defense based on an argument that police overstepped their legal authority and were, therefore, not lawfully attempting to perform their jobs.  Only an experienced attorney can tell you whether or not this is a winning argument in your case.

If you or a loved one is accused of resisting, obstructing or delaying a police officer in violation of PC 148(a)(1), call our office for a free consultation.  I'd be happy to discuss the facts of your case to determine whether or not we can help.  Our firm has extensive experience in all courts within Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino.  Ask for John.  (714) 505-2468.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cleaning Up Your Criminal Record in California

If you've ever been convicted of a crime in California, there may be several options available to help you clean up your criminal record for a fresh start in the new year.

Your criminal record is public.  Anyone who cares to check can quickly and easily access detailed reports regarding any criminal charges that have ever been filed against you, even if you were later acquitted of those charges or the case was dismissed.  These public records will continue to cause you embarrassment, can prevent you from getting hired or promoted, and may also be grounds for loss or denial of a professional license.

Luckily, our office has extensive experience in helping people clean up their criminal records so that they can get back onto their feet and on with their lives.

I've previously written about expungements -- what they can (and can't) do, who qualifies and how the process works.  In a nutshell, an expungment will dismiss an old case against you after you have successfully completed probation and served all other penalties.  An expungement will not completely hide the fact that you once had an criminal charge, but will change aspects of your record so that your criminal history no longer shows a "conviction".

If you're currently on probation, you aren't eligible for an expungement.  You might, however, be eligible for early release from probation.  There is a process for asking the judge to let you off probation early.  This is something we can help you with.  Typically, a judge wants to see that you have completed a majority of your probation (at least 2/3 or 3/4 of the total term), that you have had excellent performance so far while on probation, and that there is some compelling reason that justice would be served by letting you off early (like going back to school or accepting a new job, etc.).

If you've ever been convicted of a felony, there are a couple ways that you might be eligible to have that charge reduced to a misdemeanor.  The first option is called a "17(b) Petition".  17(b) petitions apply when you've been convicted of a crime that is categorized as a "wobbler" -- one that may be filed as either a felony or a misdemeanor -- if the DA elected to charge you with a felony.  We may petition the court to later drop that charge to a misdemeanor.  This doesn't work for every felony charge, because not every felony is a "wobbler" (not every felony may alternatively be charged as a misdemeanor.  Drug sales, for example, is a straight felony and cannot be reduced by a 17(b) petition).

Since California voters passed Prop. 47 in November, some felons are now entitled to have their charges reduced to misdemeanors.  Unlike 17(b) petitions, Prop. 47 petitions do not require any showing of "good cause", or a compelling reason why a reduction serves the interest of justice.  For that reason, they may be easier to obtain in some cases than the old-fashion 17(b).  Prop. 47 petitions can be filed at any time -- while a case is pending, while an applicant is currently serving a sentence after conviction, or even after the applicant has been released from custody.  Prop. 47 took many charges that had previously been classified as "wobblers" and reduced them to straight misdemeanors.  Determining a person's eligibility for relief under Prop. 47 can be complicated because the law includes a lot of exceptions and caveats, but we can help evaluate your chances of success.

If you or a loved one has questions about cleaning up your criminal history and starting off the new year with a fresh record, call our office for a free consultation.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.  Thanks for reading.