Monday, May 14, 2018

What to Do if You're Pulled Over for a DUI

If you are stopped by police on suspicion of DUI, your behavior and demeanor can often determine whether or not you will spend a night in jail.  Even if you are arrested, knowing how to interact with police can make a big difference for the outcome of your case in court and with the DMV.

Do Not Talk Yourself Into Trouble

The most common mistake I see clients make is to admit they've been drinking or using drugs.  It is a crime to lie to police, but that doesn't mean that you're legally obligated to talk yourself into trouble.  You can (and should) politely refuse to answer any questions whenever you're being grilled by police.  Virtually nothing you can say will lead to less trouble than you're already in.  If you start talking and your speech sounds slurred or if your breath smells like alcohol, those observations will be noted in the arrest report.  If you admit that you've taken some prescription drugs or consumed marijuana (even medical marijuana), you will almost certainly be taken to the police station for a blood test.

Do Not Voluntarily Submit to Field Sobriety Tests

Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs, or the "roadside Olympics") are a series of standardized tasks that police use to evaluate drivers who are suspected of DUI.  Common FSTs include the "Walk and Turn" test (where subjects are instructed to walk heel-to-toe for 9 steps along an imaginary line, pivot and walk back), the "Rhomberg" test (where subjects close their eyes and tilt their head back without swaying from side to side), and the "Finger to Nose" test (what it sounds like).

Unless you are currently on probation for DUI, you are not legally obligated to participate in any of these tests.  No matter how well you perform on FSTs, the arrest report will always say that you "appeared disoriented", you "had difficultly following instructions", you were "unsteady on your feet", etc.  Those tests not intended to be "passed", they're intended to give the arresting officer plenty of reasons to form a subjective opinion that you were too impaired to drive safely.  Of course, there are plenty of reasons that a perfectly sober person might perform poorly on those tests.  They're not easy.

Do Not Submit to a Breathalyzer Before You Are Arrested

The police officer might ask if you want to voluntarily take a roadside breath test.  Again, you have no obligation to take the Preliminary Alcohol Screen (PAS) unless you are currently on probation for DUI.   Don't do it.  After you are arrested, you must provide a sample for chemical testing, but not before.

Breath Test or Blood Test?

If you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, then (and only then) you must submit to your choice of either a breath test or a blood test.  If one test is unavailable, you must take the other.  If you are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs, then you have no choice; you must take a blood test.  Breath machines cannot test for drugs other than alcohol.

The police will read you an admonishment to specifically warn you about your obligation to provide a chemical sample for testing.  If you are lawfully arrested on suspicion of DUI, the police read the appropriate warning, and you refuse to submit to a breath or blood test, your driver's license will automatically be suspended for one year.  The police may even obtain a warrant to take your blood by force if necessary.

If you are given the choice, is it better to take a breath test or a blood test?  In my opinion there are advantages and disadvantages to each.  The blood test will preserve a sample that can be retested at a private facility if you disagree with the analysis that the county crime lab provides.  Retesting that sample may reveal several different reasons that the county's toxicology report is unreliable.  If the blood is contaminated with bacteria or improper preservatives, your attorney might have a good argument to have the sample thrown out entirely.  On the other hand, a blood test will also reveal drugs other than alcohol that can form the basis for a DUI.  If you take prescription medicine, sleep aids or if you have consumed marijuana within about 5 hours before driving, prosecutors may file additional charges.

The breath test does not retain a sample for retesting and it will not reveal other drugs that might be present in your blood.  There are a handful of reasons that a breath test might be unreliable.  Your attorney may challenge the machine's maintenance and calibration, or he might argue that the officer who administered the test failed to follow the manufacturer's instructions.

If you have recently consumed ANY drugs other than alcohol (even legal, prescription drugs) and you are given the option, I would personally opt for a breath test.  If you have NOT taken any other drugs, you might choose the blood test.

To Post Bail or Not to Post Bail?

If you are arrested for a first-time DUI and nobody got injured, you will usually be released on your own recognizance within about 12 hours.  You will be required to sign a "Promise to Appear" in court on a specific date for your arraignment, usually scheduled about 6-8 weeks after your arrest.

If you have previous convictions for DUI, if your case involved a collision, or if you refuse to sign the "Promise to Appear", you might not be quickly released on your own recognizance.  Bail for a first DUI is usually $2,500 - 5,000, but it can be much higher if you are accused of causing an injury.

After You Are Released

You will be given several pieces of paper when you are released from custody.  The pink page is your temporary driver's license.  It is valid for 30 days.  Once that temporary license expires, your license will automatically be suspended.  You have a right, though, to conduct a hearing with the DMV to determine whether or not your license should be suspended before your criminal case is resolved.  You must call and request that hearing within 10 days of your arrest.  If your hearing is scheduled more than 30 days in the future, you may continue driving until you receive the results from that hearing.

A private attorney can handle everything with both the court and the DMV.  If you plan to wait more than 10 days to hire an attorney, though, you should request your DMV hearing immediately.  Once you eventually hire an attorney, he or she can contact the DMV to reschedule that hearing for some time when he or she is available.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for DUI in Orange County, call us for a free attorney consultation.  714 449 3335.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Orange County DUI Lawyer

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Fighting Domestic Violence Charges in Orange County

Domestic violence cases are emotional and complicated by nature.  If you or a loved one has been arrested for domestic violence, you probably have a lot of questions.  Today, I want to discuss the process of fighting domestic violence charges and what to expect in court.  

What Kinds of Charges Count as "Domestic Violence"? 

The most common domestic violence charges in California are "spousal battery" (PC 243(e)(1)), and "inflicting corporal injury on a spouse / cohabitant" (PC 273.5).  

To be convicted of spousal battery, the DA must prove two things: 1) that you willfully "used unlawful force or violence upon the person of another", and 2) that you and the victim had ever been married, engaged, dating or you had a child together.  You can be convicted of spousal battery even if the victim was not your spouse.  Spousal battery is a misdemeanor, but it carries some heavy penalties that I'll discuss below.

PC 273.5 is a "wobbler", so it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.  To be convicted under this code section, the DA must prove that you and the victim had a relationship (currently or formerly married, engaged, dating, or had a child together).  Additionally, prosecutors must prove that you caused some injury that resulted in a "traumatic condition".  

"Domestic violence" also includes some crimes that we don't normally consider to be "violent", like vandalism, stalking, or even making harassing phone calls.  Since California is a community property state, anything that you have earned or purchased during your marriage is technically your spouse's property.  Even you earned the money and purchased an item for your own use, your spouse owns it (my wife technically owns some great fishing gear that she's never seen).  If you get pissed and break your own stuff, you have committed vandalism and your spouse is the victim.  

What is the Penalty for Domestic Violence?

For most misdemeanor domestic violence crimes, the maximum penalty includes a year in jail.  If the judge agrees to grant probation rather than jail time, he is required by law to impose some community service.  

If you are convicted of domestic violence, the court is also required to order a 52-week course of anger management counseling, called the "Batterer's Intervention Program".  If a judge determines that drugs or alcohol were involved, the defendant must attend additional substance abuse counseling.  

The maximum fine for most misdemeanor domestic violence offenses is $2,000.00, plus various state-imposed penalties and assessments.  Once all those court costs are tallied, you're looking at something closer to $8,000.00.  That number does not lawyer's fees, booking fees from the jail or restitution that the court may order you to pay.

A first conviction for felony domestic violence carries a maximum prison sentence of 4 years and a fine of $6,000.00.  Court costs may quadruple that number.  If you have another violent conviction within the previous 7 years, the prison time goes up to 5 years and the maximum fine goes to $10,000.00 plus court costs.  If a weapon was involved, children were present, or if the victim suffered "great bodily injury", the penalties get worse.  

If you are convicted of any felony offense, you will lose your right to purchase or possess firearms for the rest of your life.  Federal law also prohibits anyone from possessing guns if they have ever been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence against a spouse.  California, though, goes one step farther.  If you are convicted of any misdemeanor domestic violence in California (even against a non-spouse), you will be barred from buying or possessing firearms for the next 10 years.  

Criminal Protective Orders & Restraining Orders

The judge is required by law impose a temporary Criminal Protective Order (CPO) while your domestic violence case is pending.  You will be personally served with the order when you appear for your arraignment (your first court appearance).  The terms of a CPOs can vary, depending on the seriousness of your case.  It may order you to stay away from your own house and prevent you from having contact with the accuser, or it may allow for some limited, peaceful contact.  Once you are served with a CPO, you must surrender any firearms in your possession to the local police or to a licensed firearms dealer within 48 hours.  If you are eventually convicted of domestic violence, that CPO will be extended for the duration of the time that you are on probation (usually 3-5 years).  

A CPO is a lot like a restraining order, but there are some key differences.  For one, a CPO is issued at the request of the DA during criminal proceedings.  A domestic violence restraining order is issued at the request of an individual petitioner in family court.  They have most of the same effects (stay away, have no contact, do not harass, etc.), but the procedures involved are completely different. 

Since CPOs and domestic violence restraining orders are granted by different judges in different courts, it's common to see orders that conflict with each other.  If you are facing a domestic violence case in criminal court and a related restraining order simultaneously at family court, I strongly recommend that you use the same attorney in both matters.  It's important to coordinate your defense strategy in the two separate-but-related cases.  If your attorneys aren't on the same page, it's hard to achieve the best results.

Can I Tell the Judge to Drop the Charges?

Unfortunately, the decision of whether or not to drop charges rests solely with the District Attorney.  It's very common for accusers in domestic violence cases to recant, to admit that they lied, and to ask the court to dismiss the case.  The judge will not throw it out, though, just because victim asks him to.  The victim didn't file criminal charges (the DA did), so the victim cannot simply drop them. 

In cases where the accuser recants or is uncooperative, the DA will press ahead if they believe that they have enough evidence to do so.  Prosecutors might have 911 recordings that captured events as they happened.  There are probably audio and video recordings of interviews with police at the scene, photos of injuries, statements from neighbors, medical reports, etc.  Even without the victim's testimony, the DA might still have enough evidence to put the case before a jury.  

If the accuser is changing his or her story, or if the victim does not wish to cooperate with the prosecution, speak with a qualified, local attorney to discuss your options.  You should not attempt to negotiate or coordinate with the victim on your own.  That could be considered "witness tampering", and may be a violation of the CPO.  

As I mentioned at the top, domestic violence cases are emotional and complicated by nature.  If you or a loved one is facing a domestic violence case in Orange County, call us for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John

Thanks for reading. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Seal Your California Arrest Records

There's a new procedure in California to seal your arrest records.  This new law will be a huge benefit to anyone who has been arrested but not convicted for a crime.

This is not the same as an expungement.  As I've previously written on this blog, an expungement in California does not completely hide the fact that your case ever happened.  Instead, it simply changes your criminal history report so that your old conviction shows up as a dismissed case.  Expungements are helpful for people who were once convicted of a crime, but later complied with probation and remained law-abiding.  Once an expungement is granted, you can honestly state on most job applications that you have never been convicted of a crime.

The procedure I want to discuss today is a little different.  This new law, PC 851.91, is specifically intended to help people who were arrested but NOT convicted of any crime (i.e., the DA declined to file charges, the case was dismissed, or the petitioner was acquitted by a jury).

Until now, a petitioner who wanted to seal his arrest record had the burden of proving that he was "factually innocent" of the charges for which he was arrested.  That can be nearly impossible.  Being factually innocent is not the same as being "not guilty".  Remember, to be convicted of a crime, the DA must prove the defendant guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt".  That's pretty high burden.  The law doesn't define "beyond a reasonable doubt" in terms of a percentage, but most law school professors will tell you that it is probably the equivalent of being 98-99% sure of the defendant's guilt.  In some cases, though, the DA might only be able to prove that the defendant is "probably" guilty (let's say, 60-75% sure).  In those cases, the DA has failed to carry the burden of proof and the defendant is not guilty.  That doesn't necessarily mean that he's "factually innocent", it only means that the DA could not prove the defendant's guilt with enough confidence to sustain a conviction.  Under the old rule, a defendant who had beaten a criminal case and wanted to seal his arrest record basically had the burden of proving himself innocent (0% guilty), and that was extremely difficult.  As a result, a lot of people were stuck in a weird, gray area -- they had never been convicted of a crime, but they still had an embarrassing arrest record.

Under the new rule, though, you no longer need to prove yourself "factually innocent" to seal your arrest record.  Now, you only have to show that the arrest did not result in a conviction.  If you were arrested and the DA declined to file charges, charges were dismissed, or you were acquitted by a jury, our office can help you ensure that your embarrassing arrest records and police reports are never released to the public.

Even if you were never charged or convicted for any crime, an arrest record can make your life difficult.  When you apply for a job and your prospective employer runs a background check, they are going to see an arrest with no disposition.  They are going to have questions about the case -- were you convicted?  Were you acquitted?  Did you participate in some diversion program?  Good luck getting a job with those records following you around.  The same problem arises when you try to purchase a firearm and your record shows an arrest for some disqualifying offense, like domestic violence or assault.  Plus, it's just embarrassing.  Getting arrested was probably one of the worst nights of your life.  There's no reason that experience needs to be rehashed every time you submit to a background check.  

There are a lot of criteria that you have to satisfy before you're eligible to seal your arrest records, and the process is a little complicated, but we can help.   If you or a loved one has questions about sealing your record in California, call us for a free attorney consultation. 714 449 3335. Ask for John.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in Orange County

Everyone knows that it's illegal to drive a car while you are impaired by alcohol.  The legal blood-alcohol limit, 0.08%, is one of those numbers we can all cite off the top of our heads, like 3.14 or 867-5309.  Unfortunately for a lot of my clients, though, the rules about driving under the influence of drugs are still a mystery.  I'll do my best to break it all down in today's blog post.

There's a lot of overlap in the way that courts handle "driving under the influence of alcohol" cases and cases where defendants are accused of driving under the influence of drugs.  There are also enough differences, though, that I thought the subject deserved a post.

Drunk Driving (DUI)

Section 23152 of the California Vehicle Code defines various "DUI" crimes.  VC 23152(a), for instance, says that it is illegal for anyone to operate a vehicle while he or she is "under the influence of alcohol", regardless of the person's actual blood-alcohol concentration.  To be convicted under this section, the DA does NOT need to prove that your blood-alcohol concentration was above the legal limit of 0.08%.  Prosecutors only need to prove that you were "impaired" due to alcohol, and that you could not operate a vehicle with the skill and care of an ordinary, sober person (whatever that means).  To make their case against you, the DA will introduce evidence that you had been observed driving badly, you "appeared disoriented" after the traffic stop, and you performed poorly on field sobriety tests, etc.

VC 23152(b), on the other hand, specifically prohibits anyone from driving a motor vehicle while his or her BAC is greater than 0.08%, regardless of whether or not that person is actually "impaired" by alcohol.  Even if you can "hold your liquor" and you perfectly nail all of the field sobriety tests like a champion, you can still be convicted of violating VC 23152(b) if a chemical test determines that your blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit of 0.08%.

Starting on July 1, 2018, it will become illegal for anyone who has a BAC of 0.04% or greater to drive a car while a "passenger for hire" is present in the vehicle.  VC 23152(e) includes a definition of "passenger for hire" that makes it clear that this section applies to Uber and Lyft drivers who have a few pops on the clock, but who might still be below the legal limit of 0.08% that applies to other motorists.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID)

This is where is gets really interesting. VC 23152(f) makes it illegal for anyone to drive a car while he or she is "under the influence of ANY drug".  "Any drug" means exactly that.  If the DA can prove that you were dangerously impaired by some substance, it is not a defense to argue that the drug was prescribed by your doctor (like Ambien), or that the drug is legal in California (like marijuana).

DUID cases, then, usually turn on a couple of obvious questions: how impaired is too impaired to drive?  And how convincingly can prosecutors prove this driver's exact degree of impairment?  Typically, police officers will testify about their objective observations (swerving, speeding, driving too slowly, etc.).  A certified "Drug Recognition Expert" ("DRE") will also tell the jury that he observed your pupils, your heart rate, your performance on cognitive test, etc., and that he formed the opinion that you were under the influence of some drug or combination of drugs.  A toxicologist from the crime lab will explain how your blood was drawn, stored and tested.  The toxicologist's reports will outline the substances that were found in your blood.  Based on the totality of all these observations from state-appointed "experts", the DA will attempt to convince a jury that you were dangerously impaired by drugs at the time of driving.

Even if the DA can prove that you were on drugs, that's not the end of the story -- and it doesn't necessarily mean that you're guilty of a crime.  In addition to proving that you had consumed drugs before driving, the DA must also prove that those drugs actually made you unsafe behind the wheel.  Of course, some prescription drugs might have the effect of making a driver more attentive or capable behind the wheel when those drugs are used in therapeutic doses under a doctor's supervision.  Some of those same substances might make a driver completely unsafe if they are abused, mixed with other drugs, or if a patient has an adverse reaction.  Adderall, for instance, is essentially an amphetamine.  When used properly, the drug performs wonders for individuals who suffer from ADD.  When abused, though, Adderall is addictive and dangerous.  If a defendant is accused of driving under the influence of Adderall (or Xanax, or Vicodin, etc.), his defense attorney might demonstrate to the jury that the levels of the drug found in his blood stream are within a "therapeutic range", where the driver is actually safer than if he would have been if he hadn't taken his meds that morning.

Allegations of driving under the influence of marijuana are even more complicated, since the drug may affect individual users differently.  Marijuana toxicology reports are especially strange.  Marijuana blood tests typically identify levels of both active delta-9 THC (the chemical that is currently causing impairment in the user, and THC metabolites, sometimes called "carboxy THC", or "COOH-THC". COOH-THC is a chemical that is produced within the body after the user has already metabolized whatever he or she previously smoked.  COOH-THC is not psychoactive.  It remains detectable in the user's blood stream for weeks after his or her most recent use, but it does not indicate that user's current level of impairment.  Delta-9 THC and COOH-THC should not be confused with each other.  Even high levels of COOH-THC are absolutely irrelevant in determining whether or not a suspect is too high to drive.  High levels of COOH-THC may be relevant, however, to prove that the defendant is a regular user and, thus, has a high tolerance to the drug.

In most of the cases I've handled where my clients are accused of driving under the influence of drugs, the DA's strongest piece of evidence is my client's own statement to police.  They admit that they "smoke a little", or a that they took some prescription drugs.  Statements like those can turn a minor traffic stop into a major arrest.  Without a confession, police might not have even suspected drug use.  Even if the officer had believed that the suspect was under the influence of drugs, there might not have been enough evidence to make an arrest or to sustain a conviction.  By talking to cops, though, suspects can make the DA's job very easy.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office has decided to make a priority out of aggressively prosecuting DUID cases.  Their agency actually receives grants from various highway safety groups to specifically target these offenses.  Those grants are used to hire teams of prosecutors who exclusively handle DUID charges.  The Orange Bubble is a bad place to be arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs.  Local prosecutors like to play hardball with these cases, but that doesn't mean that they have an advantage in court.  In fact, their aggressive attitude toward DUID often means that they choose to pursue weak cases, where the evidence just doesn't support a conviction.

Fullerton is especially a DUI / DUID enforcement hot spot.  The crowds of out-of-towners and college students who fill the bars and clubs between Commonwealth and Wilshire fuel a steady stream of DUI arrests every weekend.  All Fullerton Police officers are actually instructed to swarm the downtown area around closing time, unless they are responding to some other pressing matter.  They are also specifically trained to watch for drivers who are impaired by drugs and / or alcohol.  Fullerton police have reportedly been using a controversial new saliva test that can instantly test drivers for the presence of marijuana.  And just like the OCDA, the Fullerton Police Department receives grant money for traffic safety, which they use for DUI enforcement (which generates more money...).

If you or a loved one has questions about driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, call us for a free attorney consultation.  714 449 3335. Ask for John.  Our local staff has extensive experience defending against all types of DUI / DUID charges in Orange County.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

What to Do if You've Been Served With a Restraining Order

If you've been served with a restraining order, you must immediately begin the process of preparing your defense.  That process should start by consulting with a qualified, local attorney to discuss your options and to coordinate your strategy.  A competent attorney will understand the types of arguments that are likely to be effective, and how to present admissible evidence to support your position.

If you possess firearms, you must surrender them to the local police or to a licensed gun dealer within 48 hours.  You may not simply sell them to a friend or ask a family member to hold them for you.  The police or the gun dealer will prepare some paperwork that you must file with the court.  Before your hearing, the judge will confirm that any firearms registered in your name have been accounted for.

Most importantly, though, you must resist the impulse to make matters worse.  Do not contact the petitioner in any way.  Do not ask someone else to contact the petitioner or to pass along a message on your behalf.  Do not try to "fix" the situation yourself by apologizing or by attempting to "smooth things out".  Remember, a temporary restraining order IS a restraining order.  If you violate it, you will be arrested and prosecuted.  Your violation will also be used against you at your hearing.  If the judge finds that you have violated the temporary order, he or she will almost certainly grant a permanent restraining order against you, even if the original petition was weak or deficient.  As the court sees it, your violation of the temporary order demonstrates that you are impulsive, you don't respect the law, and you are probably dangerous.

Even if the petitioner attempts to contact you while the temporary restraining order is in effect, you may not respond.  This seems unfair, and it is, but remember that the temporary restraining order prohibits you from contacting the petitioner, not vice versa.  If a judge has ordered you not to contact the petitioner, the petitioner cannot simply grant you permission to disobey the judge.

If you have some valid reason why you NEED to contact the petitioner before your hearing (e.g. you need to pick up your medication from her house, etc.), or you want to negotiate a dismissal outside of court, that communication must be done through your attorney.  Your lawyer is the ONLY person who may contact the petitioner or pass along messages to her on your behalf.

If you or a loved one has been served with a temporary restraining order in Southern California, call us for a free attorney consultation. 714 449 3335. Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

How to Fight a Restraining Order When the Facts are BAD

I've previously written on this blog about the process of getting or fighting a restraining order in California.  If you haven't already, take a moment to read some of the basics here.  In these introductory articles, I explain the legal procedures and the issues you should be prepared to discuss at your hearing.

I've also previously written on this blog about a common situation -- fighting a restraining order when the petitioner is crazy.  Defending yourself against a crazy person requires a special strategy, and that's not the focus of this article.

Today's post is specifically about fighting a restraining order when the facts against you are BAD.  Maybe you've said or done things that you're not proud of, and maybe the petitioner has proof (emails, text messages, surveillance videos, reliable witnesses, etc.).  Even if you've behaved badly, and even if we all agree on what happened, it's not necessarily a slam dunk that the petitioner will walk out of court with a restraining order in hand.  There are several effective strategies for fighting restraining orders, even if the facts appear bad at first glance.

There are situations where it may be futile to deny your bad behavior.  If the petitioner has reliable proof, you will harm your own case by disingenuously trying to deny the facts.  You will look like a liar, you will lose your credibility, and you will lose your case.  Of course, that's not to say that you should admit to things you haven't done or confess when the evidence is weak.  I'm speaking specifically about situations where you behaved badly and the petitioner can prove it.

Bad facts must be justified, excused or explained.  A justification is a defense where you essentially argue that you did the RIGHT thing under the circumstances.  Your behavior might have been illegal or improper in other situations, but perfectly proper in that particular place and time.  "Self defense" or "defense of others" are common justifications.  In most situations, for example, it is illegal to threaten someone with a weapon.  If you threaten your neighbor with a bat to make him stop beating his wife, though, you've done a GOOD thing.  If your neighbor then files a restraining order against you for threatening him with a bat, you should admit that you engaged in that conduct (you DID threaten him with a bat), and you should explain to the judge why your actions were justified under the circumstances.

If you can't justify your actions, maybe you can excuse them. An excuse is a defense where you acknowledge that your behavior wasn't "good", but you argue that you don't deserve to accept the blame.  If, for example, you were involuntarily drugged, you might not deserve to be punished for your behavior while you were under the influence.

If your behavior can't be justified or excused, maybe it can at least be explained.  An explanation is a defense where you admit that you did the wrong thing, but you argue that your blame is mitigated or reduced under the circumstances.  For example, maybe you were provoked with offensive insults and you responded with violence.  We don't agree that your violent reaction was appropriate, but maybe we understand why you reacted the way you did.  Your outburst was out-of-character and it won't happen again.

That last part is important -- it won't happen again.  As I've previously explained on this blog, a restraining order is an "injunction".  An injunction is a court order that is intended to prevent some future harm that has not yet happened, not to punish you for some past wrongdoing.  This is tricky.  The issue that the judge must decide at the restraining order hearing is: has the petitioner proven that the respondent has harassed him or her?  Sometimes -- and this is risky -- we must acknowledge that the respondent has committed some act of violence, threats or harassment against the petitioner, but we establish that the harm is not likely to reoccur in the future.  Since we're talking about an injunction and not a criminal violation, the analysis doesn't stop with, "did this happen?".  A restraining order is not appropriate unless the harm is likely to happen in the future.  If the harm has already passed and is not likely to happen again, then a restraining order is not appropriate.  There is valid case law to support this defense, but the proper citations and legal argument must be presented effectively by an experienced, competent lawyer.  Don't try this at home.

If you or a loved one has questions about a restraining order in California, call us for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 9, 2018

What We're Working On Now

It's been a busy couple of months here in the office, and I realize that I haven't posted any updates about some of our recent success stories.  If you've been anxiously holding your breath, good news!  Here's a quick rundown of some of the great cases that we've been working on:

  • Driving Without a License / False Info to a Police Officer -- Rancho Cucamonga (San Bernardino County):  Our client had been stopped several years ago for driving without a valid license.  To make matters worse, he gave a false name to the officer.  A month later, police discovered that the name was incorrect and our client was accused of 2 separate misdemeanors. Our client failed to appear in court and he had 2 outstanding warrants for several years. Eventually, the warrants caught up to him and he was going to lose his job. This morning, I met with the DA and they agreed to dismiss both matters entirely. Our client can finally get back to work without being afraid that police would show up at any minute and take him into custody on some ticky tacky old warrants. Greats news for him and his family. 
  • Elder Abuse Restraining Order -- Santa Ana (Orange County):  Our client was an elderly man who had been the victim of harassment and financial abuse by his adult daughter. He was seeking a restraining order against her to keep her away from his home and bank accounts. We were able to negotiate an out-of-court stipulation to help both parties achieve what they wanted without going to a full hearing before a judge. As I've written on this blog in the past, stipulations can be a great way for parties to negotiate their disputes in restraining order matters without involving taxpayers and judges. Out-of-court negotiations often allow both parties to achieve 100% of their goals without the risk that a judge will impose some "solution" where neither party is satisfied. 
  • Attempted Rape --  Fullerton (Orange County):  Our client is a young alcoholic. He was extremely intoxicated and acting belligerently, including some aggressive behavior toward a female stranger. We all agreed that his behavior was inappropriate, but I did not believe that he intended or attempted to "rape" anyone. After a thorough investigation, the District Attorney agreed that my client was not guilty of attempted rape. He was potentially facing several years in prison, followed by lifetime sex offender registration. Instead, he received the appropriate resolution: mandatory alcohol counseling and NO sex offender registration.  
  • Trespassing / Theft -- Fullerton (Orange County):  Our client was a "porch pirate". She was actually captured on camera stealing packages from the victim's doorstep. Package theft is rampant in North Orange County, so police and prosecutors are often eager to make an example when offenders are caught red-handed. Luckily, our client was sympathetic and apologetic. She had no serious criminal history. Most importantly, she had a great defense attorney! In the end, she agreed to a "diversion deal" -- she took a 6-hour class one Saturday and the DA agreed to dismiss the case entirely.  
  • Child Abuse -- West Covina (Los Angeles County):  Our client was accused of abusing her boyfriend's child. My client insisted that she had merely used some reasonable methods of discipline to correct behavior in an obstinate child. The defendant was a tough disciplinarian, but I did not believe that the punishments she imposed on the child were excessive or unwarranted. After some further investigation, the DA agreed to dismiss the charges.
These are just a few of the cases where we've recently achieved some great results for our clients. Obviously, the facts of every case are different, so these success stories are not guarantees or predictions of future performance.  

I have a lot more interesting cases that I'll be free to discuss soon. Check back for updates as they become available.  

If you or a loved one is accused of a crime in Orange County, call us for a free attorney consultation. (714) 449-3335