Monday, February 20, 2017

Clean Up Your Criminal Record: Updated 2017

I wrote a post last year about the many options that can be pursued to clean up your criminal record in California.  Here's the short version of that piece:

  • If you were given probation and you successfully completed the entire term without any violations, you may be eligible to have your old case dismissed. Once a case is dismissed, you may honestly state that you have no criminal convictions for most purposes. A dismissal under this section will not restore gun rights, though. 
  • If you were convicted of a misdemeanor and NOT given probation, then you must wait one year from the date of your conviction or your release from custody, whichever came later. You must also prove that you have remained law-abiding since the conviction.  
  • If your conviction was for a felony, the charge may be reduced to a misdemeanor in some cases. If an old felony conviction is reduced to a misdemeanor, it may restore gun rights, depending on the circumstances.  
  • You must complete probation before you're eligible to apply for a dismissal. If you're still on probation, we can ask the court to terminate probation early. 
The legislature has added some new caveats over the past year to allow more types of cases to be dismissed or reduced:
  • Non-traffic infractions are now eligible for dismissal under the same process.  Non-traffic infractions include things like "disturbing the peace" and "urinating in public", for example. Applicants must wait one year from the time of the conviction. 
  • A conviction for engaging in prostitution under PC 647(b) can now be dismissed if the applicant can prove that he or she was the victim of human trafficking.
  • If you were convicted of a felony and sentenced to county jail rather than state prison, you may now apply for a dismissal.  The waiting period depends on whether or not your sentence included "mandatory supervision".  
  • If you were arrested and the case did not result in a conviction, you may be eligible to seal the record of your arrest. 
If you or a loved one has questions about cleaning up an old criminal conviction, call our office for a free attorney consultation. (714) 449-3335. Ask for John.  

Thanks for reading. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What if I Get Pulled Over and My Car Smells Like Weed?

There's a lot of misinformation on this topic.  Unfortunately for a lot of my clients, that often means that they call me after they've been arrested for DUI.  Don't make that mistake.

Driving under the influence of marijuana is a DUI in California, just like driving under the influence of alcohol.  It doesn't matter if you're over 21 or if you have a doctor's recommendation to use medical marijuana.  Think of weed like alcohol -- just because you're allowed to possess it doesn't mean that you're allowed to operate a vehicle while you're under the influence.

The big difference between marijuana and alcohol is that there's no legal limit for THC and no reliable way to determine a driver's degree of impairment with weed.  Blood, urine and saliva tests cannot accurately tell us whether or not a subject is dangerously intoxicated by marijuana.  This means that marijuana DUIs are pretty arbitrary.  They often turn on the police officer's opinion based on his observations before and after the traffic stop.  The factors that I usually see listed in police reports include:
  • Bad driving
  • Smell of marijuana coming from the interior of the vehicle
  • Driver observed smoking in a moving vehicle
  • Red, glassy eyes
  • Any signs that the driver is disoriented or has difficulty following instructions, etc.
The strongest evidence that the police usually gather in these cases, though, is the driver's own statements.  Way too many of my clients talk themselves into trouble after a traffic stop.  If you admit to consuming marijuana before (or while) driving, you will be arrested on suspicion of DUI

Without your admission of recent marijuana use, the police might not have enough evidence to arrest you.  If you keep your mouth shut and the police arrest you anyway, we'll have a much stronger defense when we appear in court.  

If you or a loved one has questions about driving under the influence of marijuana in California, call us for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John.  

Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Can a Restraining Order be Resolved Before the Court Hearing?

As I've previously discussed on this blog, obtaining a restraining order in California is a 2-step process. First, the petitioner files a "Request for a Restraining Order". Within 24 hours, a judge will determine whether or not to grant a temporary order based on the facts alleged in the petition. Next, a hearing will be scheduled within 3 weeks. At the hearing, both sides will have an opportunity to present their arguments and a judge will decide whether or not to extend the order for a longer period (up to 5 years in cases involving domestic violence, or up to 3 years in cases involving civil harassment).

Unfortunately, this 2-step process often means that nonsense restraining orders are issued for 3 weeks before the respondent has an opportunity to present his side of the story in court. During this time, the respondent's life can be turned upside down. He can be barred from his home, separated from his kids and denied access to his belongings. By the time he has a chance to defend himself, the damage may be done.

Clients often ask me about resolving their restraining orders before their scheduled court hearings. Luckily, it may be possible to start negotiating a dismissal immediately, but this must be done properly. Disregarding the court's temporary orders can make a bad situation much worse. If the respondent calls the petitioner to discuss the case while the temporary order is in effect, he can be arrested. Any violation of the temporary order can also be grounds for the issuance of a permanent order, even if the petition itself was inadequate.

If you are the subject of a temporary order, you must absolutely abide by it until the time of the hearing. That means do not contact the petitioner in any way, directly or indirectly. Don't ask someone else to pass along a message. Don't send an email or a text message. Don't leave a note on her car. Don't even respond to a message from the petitioner if he or she attempts to contact you.

Your attorney may contact the petitioner to discuss your case, though. Any communication between you and the petitioner must be done through your counsel. If you need your work uniform or your medication, talk to your attorney about reaching out to the petitioner to arrange a hand-off.

Your lawyer can also start the process of trying to negotiate a dismissal before the hearing. Restraining order hearings are often arbitrary and unpredictable. No matter how strong you believe your case is, there's a pretty good chance that the judge will disagree. Whenever you choose to fight it out in court, there's a 50/50 chance that you'll lose. Stipulated dismissals (where both parties agree to resolve the case privately, rather than in court) can be a great way to ensure that both sides get 100% of whatever they want. Usually, the petitioner wants some assurance that the respondent will stay away, and the respondent wants to avoid a restraining order and everything that comes with it.

Stipulated dismissals work like this: the parties make an informal, written agreement through their attorneys. Typically, the respondent promises to stay away from the petitioner, to stop calling, to return the petitioner's iPad, etc., and the petitioner agrees to dismiss the case. If the respondent ever violates this agreement, the petitioner can go back to court and reopen the case. She'll simply show the judge the written contract and she'll explain how the respondent has violated it. Now she has a slam dunk case, and she's much more likely to win a restraining order. If the respondent demonstrates that he's unwilling or unable to abide by his promise to stay away, then the judge will see him as dangerous or unstable, and the court will grant the petitioner's restraining order. Of course, if the respondent complies with the agreement and he stays away as promised, then everybody wins.

If you've been served with a restraining order, call our office for a free attorney consultation. (714) 449-3335. Ask for John. We have extensive experience litigating restraining orders in all Southern California courts.

Thanks for reading.

Orange County Restraining Order Lawyer