Friday, October 30, 2015

Brag Board: 10/30/15

I haven't updated this blog lately because I've been so busy negotiating great deals for my clients. Here are a couple recent success stories that I wanted to take a moment to brag about.

-People vs. A.T. (Riverside):  Deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department served a search warrant at my client's house.  They found hundreds of marijuana plants growing in an elaborate hydroponic system.  My client also had several pounds of processed, dried marijuana, a few ounces of concentrated cannabis ("honey oil", "butane hash oil", or "BHO"), equipment used to manufacture the hash oil, cash, firearms and ammunition.  As a previously-convicted felon, my client was legally prohibited from possessing guns and ammo.

My client was charged with 5 felonies: cultivation of marijuana, possession for sale, manufacture of concentrated cannabis, possession of firearms by a felon, and possession of ammunition by a felon.  The maximum penalty was approximately a decade in prison.

We learned that the sheriffs had relied on a confidential informant to obtain their search warrant. We demanded to know the identity of the informant so that we could effectively challenge the legality of the warrant.  I wanted to know who this person was, what type of information he had provided to the police, how the police determined that the information was reliable, and what the police told a judge to get the warrant.

In order to preserve the confidentiality of their informant, the DA made my client an offer that was too good to refuse:  probation and a little house arrest.  As part of the negotiated deal, my client may use medical marijuana while on probation.

I call that a win.

-People v. M.F. (Fullerton):  The CHP and Anaheim PD found 15 pounds of marijuana in my client's apartment.  She was charged with possession for sale.  The maximum penalty was 3 years in prison.

In this case, police entered my client's apartment under a bogus pretext.  They claimed that they were investigating a suspected burglary and that they were checking on the "welfare" of the resident, because they had observed an unknown subject fleeing from her balcony.  Luckily, the cops were wearing body cameras and we could prove that their story was nonsense.

Again, the DA made my client an offer that was too good to refuse.  They reduced the charge to a misdemeanor and ordered 10 days of community service.  The minute my client completes her community service, probation will terminate.  Once that happens, she will immediately become eligible for an expungement.

10 days of community service and a couple weeks of probation for 15 pounds of marijuana?  We'll take it.

Both of these cases are good examples of why no self-respecting criminal defense attorney keeps track of his or her "win / loss" record.  If you ever hear a criminal lawyer brag about his "win / loss" record like a boxer, you should be very skeptical.  Maybe hire somebody else.

In many criminal cases, it's impossible to distinguish a true "win" from a true "loss".  When a client is facing a long prison sentence and the evidence clearly shows that he committed the crime(s), but he accepts a plea deal that seems disproportionately light, does that count as a "win"?  When the facts tend to show that my client belongs in prison, but I successfully negotiate a "slap-on-the-wrist", does that go down in the win column or the loss column?

I'm very proud of the work that I did on behalf of my clients in both of these cases, but both of the clients ultimately stood before a judge and pled "guilty".  I consider both of the above-described cases to be "wins", even though both clients were convicted.  And I still don't keep track of my overall "win / loss" record.

If you or a loved one is accused of a crime, call us for a free consultation.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.  Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How to Win a Hit & Run Case in California (VC 20002)

If you leave the scene of a collision in California without exchanging identifying information, you will be charged with the crime of "hit & run" under section 20002 of the California Vehicle Code. If only property damage is involved, then the case will likely be treated as a misdemeanor. If someone was injured or killed, you can be charged with a felony.

Hit & run cases are notoriously difficult for prosecutors to prove. It may be easy to establish that your car was involved in the collision, but the DA often has a very hard time proving that you were driving and that you knew (or should have known) that you caused property damage. If you were not driving, you have no legal obligation to "snitch" on the actual driver.

Even if the facts of your case are well-established and easily proven, you might still have an opportunity to have the charges thrown out. California law allows judges to dismiss some misdemeanor charges pursuant to a "civil compromise agreement", or "civ comp" for short. Luckily, "hit & run" is one charge that may qualify for a civ comp dismissal.

In a civ comp, the victim must appear before a judge and acknowledge that he has been compensated for whatever losses he experienced due to your crime. Usually, this means that you write a check to the victim. Often, though, the victim may simply acknowledge that he received a check from your insurance carrier.

If you are accused of hit & run, your attorney should speak with the victim and negotiate a small but reasonable sum to cover the victim's damages. I would not advise anyone to reach out to a victim or to conduct the negotiations himself for several reasons. First, you could be accused of witness intimidation. If the victim does not fully understand the law, or if you make the victim feel uncomfortable, he may complain that you attempted to influence his testimony. That can lead to more serious charges. Additionally, you could accidentally talk yourself into bigger trouble by confessing to elements of the crime that were not already well-established. By allowing your lawyer to do the talking, you can avoid these hazards.

The judge has discretion to either approve or deny a proposed civil compromise. If the court approves the agreement, then the criminal charge is dismissed against the defendant.

Judges may deny proposed civ comp agreements when they feel that a dismissal is not in the interests of justice, or when the particular charge is ineligible for such relief. Charges that may NOT be civilly compromised include felonies, crimes against police, crimes committed "riotously", any crime committed with the intent to commit a felony, domestic violence charges, and crimes against elders or children.

"Hit & run" is probably the charge that is civilly compromised the most often, but other charges may also qualify. Vandalism, assault, battery, trespassing and theft may be resolved by civ comp, as well.

Victims often agree to civilly compromise cases because accepting a civ comp may be the quickest, easiest way to recoup their losses. By accepting your proposed deal, the victim can avoid the headaches and uncertainty of going to trial, testifying as a witness, and then trying to pursue / enforce an eventual restitution award. A good defense attorney should be able to clearly explain this to process to the victim so that he or she understands and agrees to cooperate.

If you or a loved one is accused of hit & run (VC 20002) in California, call us for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 449 3335.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Orange County Hit & Run Lawyer

Monday, October 12, 2015

Announcing Our New Fullerton Location

I'm proud to announce the opening of our firm's newest branch office on the 9th floor of the Fullerton Towers, 1440 N. Harbor Blvd.  Located just a block from the Fullerton Courthouse (North Orange County Justice Center), this space will allow us to better serve our clients in Fullerton, Buena Park, Brea and Anaheim.

Our main office will remain in Santa Ana.  I also plan to keep branches in Riverside and San Bernardino for the convenience of my clients in the Inland Empire.

As a local boy, I'm excited about this new opportunity to serve clients in my home town.  There's no place I'd rather be.

If you or a loved one is accused of a crime in Fullerton, call for a free consultation.  (714) 505-2468. Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Fullerton Criminal Defense Lawyer

Friday, October 9, 2015

Contempt of Court / Violating a Restraining Order

I've previously written extensively on this blog about restraining orders in California -- how to get them, how to fight them, how to prepare for your day in court, and how to effectively present your case to the judge. Those posts are available here, here, and here.

Today, I want to discuss the laws that apply when a person is accused of violating an existing restraining order. In California, those laws are codified in section 166(a)(4) of the Penal Code, commonly referred to "Contempt of Court", and in PC 273.6. Violating an existing restraining order is a misdemeanor. Depending on the circumstances and your criminal record, it may be punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

In order to be found guilty of contempt under PC 166(a)(4), the prosecutor must prove 4 things beyond a reasonable doubt:

1)  That a court had lawfully ordered you to do a specific thing (or to refrain from doing a specific thing),
2)  That you knew about the order and its contents,
3)  That you had the ability to follow the order, and
4)  That you violated the order.

You can be charged with violating a restraining order even if you're not the person named in the restraining order. A non-party (someone who was not involved in either side of the restraining order petition) is guilty of contempt if he knows about the order and he helps the restrained person violate it. For example, if your friend has a restraining order against him and he asks you to pass a message to the protected party, you can be charged with contempt if you do so.

There are several possible defenses if you're accused of violating a restraining order:

You didn't do it

As mentioned above, the prosecutor bears the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If they cannot prove that you committed the act in question, then you are not guilty. Just because a message was sent from your phone or your computer, the DA might have difficulty proving that you actually sent the message.

You might also admit that you engaged in some particular conduct, but argue that this conduct did not technically violate the restraining order. For example: You were ordered to stay away from your ex-girlfriend's place of work. You were seen in the area, but she doesn't work there any more.You might have a solid argument here that your conduct did not actually violate the judge's order.

The order itself was unlawful or unconstitutional 

You cannot be convicted of violating an unlawful restraining order. This is a difficult argument to make, though. If you disagree with a restraining order or you feel like you did not receive an adequate opportunity to present your case when the order was initially granted, you must appeal the order within a very short time period. If you fail to properly file the appeal within that time period, you will be barred from doing so in the future.

You did not know about the restraining order or its contents

The prosecutor only needs to prove that you had an opportunity to learn about the contents of the restraining order. They do not need to prove that you actually read it, or even that you were properly served with a copy of the order after it was granted.

Usually, the DA will satisfy this element by simply proving that you were served with the order. If you were served, then you are presumed to have knowledge of the order and its contents. Willfully refusing to read the order is no defense.

Even if you were never served, the DA may be still able to prove that you had knowledge of the order and intentionally avoided service. Again, this is no defense.

You were unable to comply with the order

To be convicted of contempt, the DA must prove that you acted "willfully" or "intentionally", depending on the circumstances. If the court ordered you to do something specific and you are physically unable to do that thing, then you have not violated the court's order. For example:  The judge granted a restraining order against you and he ordered you to surrender your firearms at the local police station. You have been in jail or in the hospital ever since the incident and you have not yet had an opportunity to comply with the order. In this case, you are not guilty of contempt because you have not "willfully" or "intentionally" violated the judge's instructions.

If you or a loved one is accused of violating a restraining order in California, call our office for a free consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Orange County Restraining Order Lawyer

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Attorney Available for Special Appearances on Catalina Island

Our firm has extensive experience litigating all types of criminal matters on Catalina Island.   We appear in the Avalon courthouse regularly and we know the "ins and outs" of their unique procedures.  

The Catalina courthouse is only open on alternating Fridays, weather permitting.  It hears infractions and misdemeanors only.  They conduct arraignments, pretrial conferences, and various post-conviction proceedings.  All felonies and jury trials are conducted at Long Beach.  

As a local attorney, I am available to make special appearances on the island on behalf of other attorneys.  My appearance fee is reasonable and competitive (cheaper than traveling all the way out there yourself, especially if you include the value of your time).  As your special appearance attorney, I will appear in court and diligently adhere to whatever instructions you provide.  I will promptly notify you of the outcome of the appearance.  If I receive any documentation from the court (complaint, discovery, sentencing paperwork, etc.) I will forward it to you by the end of the business day.  

I have been licensed to practice law in California since 2009.  My practice focuses exclusively on criminal defense and related issues (restraining orders, restitution, probation violations, medical marijuana, etc.).  References available upon request. 

Let me save you the time, expense and stress of traveling to Catalina Island for a routine misdemeanor appearance.  When I get a great result for your client, you can take all the credit.  

Please feel free to call my office any time.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.  Thanks for reading.