Friday, August 12, 2016

How to Collect a Restitution Award in California

If you've been the victim of a crime in California and the defendant has been convicted in criminal court, the judge may have ordered the defendant to pay restitution to compensate you for your economic losses arising from the crime.

The amount of restitution is determined at the time of sentencing or shortly thereafter.  A restitution award may cover your medical expenses resulting from a crime, mental health counseling, the value of stolen or damaged property and lost wages, plus interest. A restitution award may also include expenses incurred by the victim to relocate away from the defendant, to install or improve residential security and to retrofit a home or vehicle if the victim was disabled by the crime.

Restitution awards are criminal in nature, so they're treated a little differently than civil lawsuits. On one hand, they are cheaper and easier for victims to obtain because the District Attorney will handle most of the legwork in criminal court and they will not charge you any fee to do so. Unlike a civil lawsuit, however, restitution only covers economic losses, not "pain and suffering" or punitive damages. Obtaining a restitution award will not preclude the victim from additionally seeking compensation for non-economic losses in civil court.

Once you have a restitution order in hand, the hard part is often trying to collect your money. The order itself is only a piece of paper. Courts and prosecutors are not collections agents and they will not actively work to enforce an existing restitution order. To make matters worse, defendants often attempt to hide their assets to avoid paying you.

An aggressive attorney can help collect your money and put your back onto your feet.  Our firm can:

  • Order the defendant to personally appear and to answer questions about his assets under penalty of perjury. If the defendant fails to appear or lies about his assets, he can be arrested.  
  • Work with the courts and the sheriff to seize the defendant's assets and deliver them to you, or to liquidate them and to deliver the proceeds to you.  
  • Garnish a defendant's wages, intercept tax refunds and seize any cash bail that the defendant posted in his criminal case.  We can even seize money that a defendant earns while incarcerated. 
  • File a judgement lien against a defendant's assets which will give you priority over other unsecured creditors and will prevent the defendant from selling or disposing of those assets.
And here's the best part: often, our services cost you NOTHING. California law allows victims to recover compensation from defendants for the costs that they incur in trying to collect their restitution awards.  This includes reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses paid to private investigators.  

If you're having trouble collecting an existing restitution award, call us for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John.  Thanks for reading.

Orange County Restitution Lawyer

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What We're Working on Now

I haven't been posting as frequently as I'd like recently because we've been busy crusading for justice.

Summer is usually a slow time of year for us. Vacation schedules mean that filing deputies at the DA's office aren't processing new cases, judges are out and prospective clients have less disposable income to invest in their own defense.  We're bucking the trend this year and keeping busy with a steady stream of great cases. Here's a summary of what we're working on now:

Restraining Orders

My year-long winning streak with restraining orders finally came to an end last month, but we're starting to string together some more "W"s.

Last week, I represented a woman in Chatsworth who had been served with a restraining order petition by her knucklehead ex-boyfriend. We beat that case and she left the courthouse with a restraining order against him.

She really did a great job of helping me prepare and making sure that I had the necessary documents to demonstrate that the petitioner was abusing the legal system. We put together a response that was clear, concise and easy for the judge to understand.  The hearing went quickly and my client emerged victorious because she followed my advice and presented herself in a very professional manner.

Yesterday, I represented a man who had been served with a restraining order by his own brother. The petitioner (the guy who was seeking the order against my client) came to court prepared with hundreds of pages of documents and photos, meticulously organized in 3-ring binders with color-coordinated tabs and everything. I was impressed with his organization. Unfortunately for him, he did not understand the rules of evidence and most of his exhibits were inadmissible at the hearing. This is why hiring a professional attorney will dramatically increase your chances of success.  We beat that case and my client avoided being slapped with an unnecessary restraining order.

Criminal Defense

This morning, we successfully petitioned the Downey Court to release my client from probation early in a DUI case.  He had been convicted before I represented him and his status on probation was having a severe financial impact for him.  He was demoted from a lucrative position at work and the demotion carried a $100K decrease is his yearly salary.  We showed the judge how my client was being disproportionately burdened by remaining on probation and why an early termination served the "interests of justice". The judge understood and agreed to release my client from probation prior to his scheduled termination date. Now he can get back to work earning good money and paying taxes to support the court system.

A client in San Bernardino had recently been falsely accused of committing serious sexual offenses against an underage girl.  I worked with police investigators and prosecutors to help them understand that the allegations were false and that the girl was merely seeking attention. The District Attorney declined to prosecute my client due to a lack of evidence.  In these types of cases, it is important to drive the investigation into a dead end before it builds momentum, snowballs out of control and destroys an innocent person's life.  I'm proud that we were able to mitigate the damage in this case.

We're still appearing regularly in the Catalina Courthouse.  More and more tourists are discovering Avalon and a few of them even get to see the inside of the Sheriff's holding cell. The most common incidents arising on Catalina include fishing violations, drunk in public and battery. We're also making special appearances on behalf of other attorneys who are unavailable to personally appear on the island. (Fun fact: Celebrity attorney Mark Geragos was arrested in Avalon and spent a night in jail during his honeymoon, nearly 30 years ago).

I'm currently working on a large-scale marijuana cultivation case, some DUIs, a handful of domestic violence matters, a few smaller-scale drug charges and a really interesting child abuse case. I can't discuss details until the cases are resolved, but check back for updates as they become available.

Medical Marijuana

We're continuing to work with medical marijuana dispensaries to form proper business entities and to ensure continued compliance with California's complicated regulatory structure. The laws are changing quickly and we're doing everything we can to help our clients operate in accordance with the rules.

I'm also contributing regular columns for, an online magazine devoted to marijuana culture. My pieces, entitled "Ask a Weed Lawyer", appear each Sunday. As the name suggests, I answer common questions about marijuana laws and I try to dispel some popular myths and misconceptions.  If you haven't done so already, follow the link and enter your email address to have daily issues delivered to your inbox completely free.

That's what we've been working on, in a nutshell.  If you or a loved one has questions about criminal defense, restraining orders or medical marijuana in Southern California, call us for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What is the Best Evidence to Present at a Restraining Order Hearing?

In the old days, restraining order hearings typically involved one person's word against another's. The petitioner would testify that her ex-boyfriend threatened her. The respondent would deny that he ever made any threats, and the judge would try to determine which party was more credible.

Today, more and more restraining orders involve electronically recorded statements. These may include text messages, emails, voice mails and messages sent over social media. The judge doesn't have to weigh a witness's credibility based on some arbitrary guess anymore; he or she can simply read the messages or listen to the voice mail recordings to determine who is lying and what was said.

A single message can make or break your case. It often does. In my experience, judges are looking for that "smoking gun" that makes their job so much easier. On any given day, the court has a lot of cases to get through. They don't have the time or the patience to conduct long, drawn-out hearings. If the petitioner comes to court prepared with a copy of a text message from the respondent that clearly conveys a threat of violence, the judge can quickly grant the restraining order and move on to the next case.

The same is true for the respondent. If you've been served with a restraining order but you have messages from the petitioner in which the petitioner admits to filing the case for an improper purpose, you should be prepared to show those messages to the judge. If the petitioner has some message from you in which you make some statement that could be construed as a threat, you should be prepared to justify, explain or deny the accusation.

If you have a very valuable message that clearly proves your case, print it out, make a couple copies, and bring it to your court hearing. The judge will not look at your phone, and your phone cannot be filed as evidence. Do not alter or edit the message in any way. Make sure that the message is legible and organized into some format so that the judge can make sense of it.

The judge is not interested in reading your entire email history since the beginning of time. He or she wants the short version of the story. If you have some valuable message, make it the centerpiece of your argument. Do not bury your best evidence in a sea of worthless nonsense. Remember, you have a very limited amount of time to present your arguments. Do not waste that time presenting useless evidence.

You should also consult with an experienced expert to determine whether or not your message is really as valuable as you believe. My regular readers are tired of hearing this, but always remember the "name of the game" in restraining order hearings: keeping it relevant and being concise. That means making sure that your arguments actually go to the issue and help prove your point. The issue at your hearing is whether or not the respondent has committed violence against the petitioner, has threatened to commit violence against the petitioner, or has engaged in a course of conduct against the petitioner that serves no lawful purpose except to annoy or harass the petitioner. The judge does not care if you're a good person, or if the opposing party is a bad person, or if you've done nice things for them in the past, or if they've done mean things to you in the past. The judge is not interested in determining who was at fault for your breakup or who drinks too much. Those arguments are a waste of your time and the judge's patience.

If you have questions about restraining orders in California, call us for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John. We have extensive experience litigating all types of restraining order cases, including cases based on domestic violence, civil harassment, workplace violence and elder abuse.

Thanks for reading.

Orange County Restraining Order Lawyer