Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Child Prostitution in San Bernardino

Posted on: January 20, 2009 at 7:35 a.m.

Child prostitution is a terrible crime, something that causes children to suffer throughout the world. Most people seem to think that child prostitution is something that doesn't happen in America today, but those people would be terribly wrong.

Ontario and west San Bernardino county are being investigated for multiple cases of child prostitution.

One is of a 45-year-old man arrested by Montclair police and accused of pimping a 13-year-old runaway and having sex regularly with her, all while wearing a GPS ankle bracelet that kept track of his whereabouts for authorities. According to court documents, the man accused of pimping the 13-year-old girl is Reginald Edward Christopher of Riverside. The girl, who called herself Baby Face 13 on the screen saver of her phone, said she was sleeping behind a Dumpster in an apartment complex in Ontario when Christopher picked her up and allegedly turned her to prostitution. The parolee was wearing a GPS ankle bracelet. Authorities said he lived in his 2005 black Cadillac and was required by the terms of his parole to be in a Riverside Park & Ride every night by 10 p.m. and to remain there until 6 a.m. Investigators said in court documents that it didn't prevent Christopher from having sex every night with the girl. He just took her along with him.

The second case involves a 26-year-old woman arrested by Ontario police and accused of pandering by procuring a minor under the age of 16 for prostitution. Investigators say she met the 14-year-old San Diego girl in a shopping mall and won her friendship with gifts and guile. The story of the young victim was reported in earlier stories as the one put into prostitution on weekends, so that she could go to school and her parents wouldn't find out.

According to the United States Department of Justice, it is estimated that about 293,000 American youth are currently at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

Tagged as: sex crime accusations

Gang Activity and the Death Penalty

Posted on: January 14, 2009 at 7:23 a.m.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys understand that when criminal activity, especially violent criminal activity, is coupled with gang activity, the resulting penalty can be severe. For most Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys, part of the defense strategy when defending someone accused of a gang-related crime is to debunk the "gang" accusation.

For years, authorities say, McGhee waged a campaign of terror in the northeastern part of Los Angeles. A shot-caller for a long-entrenched gang, he hunted rivals but sometimes killed indiscriminately, boasting in rap lyrics about the pleasure he felt in taking life.

He taunted law enforcement and led a sophisticated ambush that ensnared two Los Angeles Police Department officers in a barrage of gunfire. While locked up, he incited jail riots and assaulted guards, responding to one attack in which an officer survived by saying, "Next time I'll have to stab him." On Friday, McGhee, once one of the nation's most sought-after fugitives, sat shackled in orange jailhouse scrubs as Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry sentenced him to death for the murder of three people.

"He is a committed killer and an obvious danger to society," Perry said. Police and prosecutors described McGhee as a thrill killer who was among the most feared members of the Toonerville gang, which was formed in the 1950s and claims as its turf a largely middle class area north of Los Feliz Boulevard between San Fernando Road and the Los Angeles River.

Violent felony convictions carry serious jail-time, and the "time off for good behavior" line you hear on television is rarely a reality. Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys, such as the attorneys at Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, defend those accused of violent crimes every day. Violent crimes are criminal acts that involve the use or threat of violence. In most cases, violence is used as a means to an end, especially during crimes such as rape and robbery. During the commission of a violent crime, the offender may or may not use a weapon. If the offender uses a weapon while committing a violent crime, the offense will usually be classified as felony.

Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP is a criminal defense law firm that has been helping clients throughout Southern California contest their criminal charges and obtain superior results for years. Our skilled violent crimes attorneys have over 50 years of collective court room experience and we are fully prepared to undertake our clients cases. When we work with our clients, we do everything possible to make sure that they receive the attention, resources, and dedicated legal counsel that they deserve.

Tagged as: gang allegations, jury trial defense

Sex Crimes, Minors and Schools

Posted on: January 13, 2009 at 7:59 a.m.

Los Angeles sex crimes attorneys know that laws are often written based upon the fears of the general public. For example, the penalties and laws surrounding sexual offense and sex crimes involving children are specific, broad and severe. The reason is that parents are protective of their children, and politicians want citizens to feel protected by the law. Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys know that when protecting someone accused of a sex crime involving a minor, they are fighting an uphill battle.

For example, a women was recently charged with forcing a minor to have sex with her and smoke marijuana with her. The woman accused of the sex crime is a guidance counselor at Santa Clarita High School.

The complaint filed in Chatsworth Superior Court alleges the William S. Hart High School District should have prevented guidance counselor Roselyn Hubble, 33, from abusing, molesting and harassing the boy, now 16, while he attended Golden Valley High School. The complaint alleges the alleged sexual contact occurred from January through September 2007.

Charges such as these have far ranging consequences for the accused. The women, who has only been accused mind you, will most likely be found guilty in the court of public opinion of this sex crime, and this will affect the rest of her private and professional life. For example:

With more and more employers doing deep background checks, even if found not guilty the woman faces a lifetime of rejections from any school district.

  • If found guilty, the woman may be placed on the sexual offender's list per "Megan's Law."

  • Many communities will attempt to keep this woman out of their neighborhoods should they find out what she's been accused of, which means she will be severely limited in finding housing.

  • If she is found guilty and has to register as a sex offender, her career options will be limited, and she surely have to end her education career.

California Sex Crime Legal Penalties
Of all crimes, sexual offenses tend to be the most vigorously prosecuted by law enforcement and district attorneys. Once a person is convicted a sexual offense, he/she may be punished with:
  • imprisonment
  • large fines
  • restitution
  • court ordered counseling
  • community service
  • probation
  • parole
  • mandatory Sex Offender Registration

Tagged as: sex crime accusations

Bail: Details on How It Works

Posted on: January 12, 2009 at 12:30 p.m.

When a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney prepares for a trial, he or she must consider how bail will play out for their client.

Traditionally in Los Angeles, bail is some form of property deposited or pledged to a court in order to persuade it to release a suspect from jail, on the understanding that the suspect will return for trial or forfeit the bail (and be guilty of the crime of failure to appear). In most cases bail money will be returned at the end of the trial, if all court appearances are made, no matter whether the person is found guilty or not guilty of the crime accused.

In Los Angeles, criminal defense attorneys will attempt to get the lowest bail possible for their clients, or have no bail at all. Los Angeles courts will try to set a bail that will assure the accused wither will spend time in prison or will be sure not to flee the area before trial. In cases that involve extreme violence or extremely wealthy individuals, bail may be extraordinarily high. For example, a lawyer for a Swedish hip-hop artist accused of murdering a pedestrian in a sensational act of road rage invoked the movie "Crash" on Friday in asking for a reduction in the performer's $1-million bail. The fatal encounter happened in a Hollywood crosswalk.

This particular case is an example of both a high-profile defendant and a particularly violent episode (which usually means a high bail amount). Police say Jassy, 34, punched, kicked and then ran over John Osnes, a 55-year-old jazz pianist, during the Nov. 24 incident. Witnesses told police that Osnes, who did not own a car and was a stickler for pedestrian rights, had struck with his hands the front of Jassy's SUV after it edged into the crosswalk. In the filing, the criminal defense lawyer wrote that further investigation and forensic tests were required to determine the facts, but his summary of the alleged crime suggested Jassy may contend that Osnes played a more aggressive role than authorities have said. The lawyer labeled the incident a "fight" and said Osnes was "angry that his way was partially blocked" and had "pounded his fists" on Jassy's vehicle.

At Arraignment, a client may be released O.R., which means on his or her recognizance without having to post bail. In the event a bail amount is set by the court, we counsel our clients and his or her family on how to post bail, to get the loved one released from custody as quickly as possible. Bail is financial assurance that a Defendant will return to court after being released from custody.

Tagged as: bail and release

Major Challenges Involving Sexual Assault

Posted on: January 8, 2009 at 9:51 a.m.

Los Angeles sexual assault attorneys understand the difficulties in defending individuals accused of sexual assault, rape and so forth. Juries are often swayed by their emotions, laws heavily favor the accuser and the individual accused of sexual assault may not properly cooperate with the Los Angeles sexual assault attorney.

When a case is complex, or involves odd outside factors, it makes a sexual assault defense attorneys job that much more difficult.

In Santa Ana, three young men are charged with a sexual assault case that, should they get the maximum, could net them 18 years each in prison. The three men, two of whom play football for Santa Ana College, were charged with raping and sexually assaulting a drunk or unconscious woman last summer and videotaping the crime. The sexual assault took place in July of 2008 at a hotel room. The three men allegedly took turns videotaping and sexually assaulting the girl who allegedly passed out, either from drugs or drinking.

An associate of one suspect discovered the 19-minute recording Dec. 28 and gave it to police, Tustin police Lt. John Strain said. All three suspects are being held in the Orange County Jail on $100,000 bail.

The video tape could make the case difficult to defend for the following reasons:

  1. The girl may not even need to testify because the tape could be used as evidence.

  2. The tape may not show whether the group of people were role-playing (which has been used for a defense in the past).

Tagged as: sex crime accusations

Probation Violations

Posted on: January 7, 2009 at 8:08 a.m.

Probation violations are usually quite specific, meaning that an individual has to commit a particular offense in order to "violate" their probation. However, not every law and ruling is clear, and this could lead to troublesome probation violations. Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys who represent those accused of probation violation know that open-ended laws make it difficult for their clients to be rehabilitated, or even obey the law.

Probation is the suspension of all or part of a jail sentence; the criminal who is "on probation" has been convicted of a crime, but instead of serving jail time, has been found by the Court to be amenable to probation and will be returned to the community for a period in which they will have to abide to certain conditions set forth by the Court under the supervision of a probation officer; or has served part of the sentence but has been released before its end.

General conditions may include maintaining employment, abiding to a curfew, living where directed, abstaining from unlawful behavior, following the probation officer's orders, not absconding, and refraining from contact with other individuals, who may include victims of the original crime (such as a former partner in a domestic violence case), potential victims of similar crimes (such as minors when the crime involves child sexual abuse), potential witnesses, or those who have partnered with the offender in the earlier crime.

Unlikely, perhaps, but it's possible under a ruling this week by the California Supreme Court, which upheld a judge's order requiring a man convicted of drunken driving to tell his probation officer if he had any pets in his home. "Pets residing with probationers have the potential to distract, impede and endanger probation officers" who make unannounced visits, Chief Justice Ronald George wrote in the 5-2 ruling.

Although the court focused on the dangers posed by frightened or vicious dogs - citing the fatal mauling of a woman in the hallway of a San Francisco apartment building in 2001 and the subsequent murder conviction of the dog's keeper - both the ruling and the original judge's order covered all types of pets, regardless of size or potential menace.

So, at least in theory, a probationer's failure to reveal the presence of a pet turtle or hamster could result in a probation violation and a trip to the slammer.

Dissenting Justice Joyce Kennard chided the court majority in Monday's ruling for applying the same standard to "Jaws the goldfish, Tweety the canary and Hank the hamster" as to animals that might actually present a problem for a probation officer.

In a case where the probation violation is left unclear, or broad, it could give police the opportunity to arrest an individual for violating probation with very little actual offense occurring.

Deputy Attorney General Barry Carlton, one of the state's lawyers, noted that the original order required only that Staley's client, Alejandro Olguin, tell his probation officer whether he had pets. It didn't specifically bar Olguin from having any animal. Carlton said the court had rightly concluded that the probation officer, not the person on probation, should decide which pets might pose problems on a home inspection.

"We presume the probation department will make the appropriate decision," Carlton said. "If they hear the probationer has a goldfish, they'll file it away" and not worry about it. "But a decision about supervision of probationers and safety of law enforcement officers should be made by the probation department."

Probation officers make unscheduled visits and conduct unannounced searches of probationers' homes, missions that might be impeded by a snarling dog or a harmless pup that barked at a stranger's approach, Chief Justice George said in the majority opinion.

Tagged as: vandalism pc 594

Multiple DUI's, A Bad Situation

Posted on: January 6, 2009 at 12:04 p.m.

Actor Rip Torn has pleaded not guilty to drunken driving charges in Connecticut, nearly two years after being fined and losing his license for similar charges in New York. The 77-year-old Salisbury resident appeared in Bantam Superior Court on Monday. He pleaded not guilty to illegal operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence and failure to drive in the proper lane. He failed part of a field sobriety exam, then gave up after saying the ground wasn't level enough, state police said. He also refused to take a breathalyzer test and used profanity while in the trooper's cruiser, police said.

Despite previous drunken driving arrests in New York, Torn may qualify for Connecticut's alcohol education program. The program is for first-time offenders and could lead to the charges being dropped after a period of probation. Torn's DUI defense attorney was able to assist him in this matter; had he been tried as a multiple offender, his jail time, fines and other penalties would have increased.

In a Manhattan case in 2004, Torn was acquitted of DUI charges after jurors said the prosecution failed to prove he was drinking before a fender-bender with a taxi, although a police videotape showed him cursing and berating officers before turning down a sobriety test.

In California, there are harsh penalties for being convicted multiple times for DUI. The court process for a DUI charge is rather complex, involving a DMV hearing as well as regular court proceedings. With a qualified DUI attorney on your side, you will understand the whole process so you are prepared for what is to come.

California DUI Trial

A California DUI trial usually takes several days. First, your DUI attorney and the prosecuting attorney will select a jury. After the jury is selected, the trial begins. There are several standard steps which will follow:

  • Opening statements
  • Examination and cross-examination of witnesses
  • Closing arguments
  • The judge will then instruct the jury as to how they can apply the facts of the case to the law and their verdict
  • Jury deliberation (deciding upon their verdict)
  • Verdict (guilty or not guilty)
  • Sentencing, decided by the judge

Throughout the entire process, our skilled DUI lawyers will be able to keep you informed and appraised as to what is going on. We believe in working directly with you to get the best outcome for your case.

Tagged as: counterfeit goods pc 350, violent crimes defense

Holiday Season Homicides in LA

Posted on: January 5, 2009 at 7 a.m.

The holiday season can be a stressful time for people, especially when the economy is bad and people are depressed. Los Angeles violent crime defense attorneys often see a rise in certain types of violent activities, as people are morbidly affected by the pressure to spend money they don't have, or are depressed by a lack of family. This holiday season saw two major tragic events define the city.

Los Angeles rang in the new year with at least five homicides and a fatal officer-involved shooting. Vannaly Tim, 24, and her boyfriend, Sarith Em, 25, were shot outside their Signal Hill-area apartment.

Em, an Iraq war veteran, and Tim went outside to move a car to avoid a parking ticket, and Tim's younger sister, Debi So, heard six gunshots, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported.

At first, So thought the shots were part of a New Year's Eve celebration, but she later found Em shot several times in the back and lying in the street on top of Tim. One of the bullets went through Em and lodged in Tim's chest.

In Panorama City, Los Angeles police fatally shot 41-year-old Saul Soriano, had been threatening his family with a gun and firing shots into the air early Thursday after his son complained about his drinking.

On Christmas Eve, a recently divorced 45-year-old man ran amok with guns and a homemade flame-thrower, killing his ex-wife and eight other members of her family, before killing himself. Soriano had been confronted by a son about his drinking, Soriano's sister-in-law, Iris Zuniga, told NBC4. After the shooting, officers searching his car found an improvised grenade that was almost certainly homemade, Romero said, adding that it was safely detonated in place by a bomb squad.

Also during the holiday week:

  • In Pomona, Adrienne Davidson, 46, woman told deputies she fatally shot her husband and surrendered at the sheriff's Walnut station.

  • At a party in the 3900 block of Avenida del Sol, off Coldwater Canyon Avenue, a young man was fatally shot at close range, according to Los Angeles police at the North Hollywood Station.

  • In the Pico-Union district just west of downtown, a man was fatally stabbed in the 1200 block of West Eighth Street.

Violent crimes affect individuals, families and communities, and effective Los Angeles violent crime defense attorneys know the importance of protecting the accused from succumbing to the negative emotions surrounding such crimes. People are often deranged, depressed and just lost mentally, which often leads them to commit crimes they wouldn't ordinarily commit the other 51 weeks of the year. When holiday parties include alcohol in the mix of circumstances, it makes for that many more problems.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a violent crime, contact a qualified and experienced Los Angeles violent crime defense attorney today!

Tagged as: jury trial defense

Arrest Warrants and Illegal Stops

Posted on: December 28, 2008 at 4:32 p.m.

Typically law enforcement must act within the purview of the U.S. Constitution to justify a search of a person, car, or home. Our firm's Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers frequently contest a client's search where we feel the police violated the constitutional requirements. A recent case, however, provides the police a broader basis for searching a car, even though the reason for the stop was illegal where the police are armed with an arrest warrant for the car's passenger.

The California Supreme Court recently concluded that evidence obtained by searching a vehicle after arresting a passenger pursuant to a valid warrant was admissible against the passenger even though the underlying traffic stop that led to discovery of the warrant was illegal.The judges upheld defendant's conviction and four-year sentence for possession and manufacture of methamphetamine.

Defendant was the passenger of a Buick that Sutter County Sheriffs Deputies stopped in 2001 on the basis of expired registration tabs. Although the deputy learned that there was a pending application for the registrations renewal,he directed the driver to pull over in order to investigate the validity of the temporary operating permit taped to the cars rear window. Testimony at a suppression hearing indicated that the deputy approached the cars driver side and asked for the drivers license, and upon recognizingdefendant as a possible parolee at large and verifying that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest, orderedhim out of the car at gunpoint and arrested him for parole violation.

During a search incident to the arrest,the deputyfound an orange syringe cap on defendant, along with drugs and drug paraphernalia on the driver and in the back seat of the car. Defendant moved to suppress the drug evidence, arguing thatthe detention of the Buick and its driver constituted an illegal seizure of his person that tainted all of the subsequently discovered evidence. In denying the motion to suppress,a Sutter Superior Court Judge held thatdefendant was seized not at the point of the traffic stop but rather whenthe deputycommanded him to get out of the car and placed him under arrest.The defendant then pled guilty, subject to his right of appeal, and was sentenced to four years in prison.

The Court of Appeal reversed, reasoning thatdefendant was illegally detained as a result of the traffic stop and the stop itself was unlawful. But the high court, split 4-3, ruled that a passenger is not seized as a constitutional matter following a traffic stop because he or she need not submit to the officers show of authority. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, agreed with the court of appeal, saying no reasonable passenger would have thought himself free to leave under the circumstances.

The case was sent back to the state high court to consider whether there the search was valid based on the existence of the warrant. In a subsequent opinion the court reasoned that Case law from other state and federal courts uniformly holds that the discovery of an outstanding arrest warrant prior to a search incident to arrest constitutes an intervening circumstance that mayand, in the absence of purposeful or flagrant police misconduct, willattenuate the taint of the antecedent unlawful traffic stop.

The Court rejected the contention that allowing the search under these circumstances would encourage the police to randomly stop cars to run warrant checks on the occupants. While a search will not be upheld if it is flagrantly or knowingly unconstitutional or is otherwise undertaken as a fishing expedition, he wrote, here the deputy did not act pretextually or in bad faith. The jurist also emphasized that the search did not take place until after the existence of the warrant had been confirmed.

Tagged as: bench warrants, probation and sentencing laws

Medicinal Marijuana Defense: Medical Caregiver Exception Defined

Posted on: December 27, 2008 at 11:24 a.m.

When does a person qualify as a caregiver under Californa's medicinal marijuana laws? The Supreme Court ruled he or she must have provided patients some previous other form of caregiving in order to qualify as a "primary caregiver" and be immune from prosecution for growing or selling the drug.

The CaliforniaSupreme Court unanimously ruled that a Santa Cruz County man whose caregiving consisted principally of supplying marijuana and instructing on its use, and who otherwise only sporadically took some patients to medical appointments, was not entitled to a jury instruction on the affirmative defense - meaning that he does not get the jury to even consider it.

Defendant had been arrested in 2003 and charged with cultivation of marijuana and possession for sale after sheriffs deputiesacting on a tip from a bank teller who said thatsuspect made several cash deposits of more than $2,000 each over a three-month period in small bills smelling strongly of marijuanafound 190 plants, plus other drugs and firearms, during a search of his residence.

Defendant, who had a medical marijuana recommendation for colitis, dysphoria, and depression, said that he smoked about four marijuana cigarettes per day for medicinal purposes. However, the investigators concluded the operation was primarily a for-profit commercial venture afterdefendant admitted he sold the drug to five other medical marijuana users.

At trial,Defendant asserted that Californias Compassionate Use Act of 1996which provides partial immunity for the possession and cultivation of marijuana by qualified patients and their primary caregiversshielded him from prosecution because as he was the other users primary caregiver insofar as he had consistently assumed responsibility for their health by providing them medical marijuana upon a doctors recommendation or approval.

The act defines a primary caregiver as the individual designated by the person exempted under this section who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person.

The trial judge, despite grantingdefense request to instruct the jury that he was partially immune as a qualified patient, declined to instruct the jury on immunity as a primary caregiver after concluding that the evidence was insufficient to showdefendant had provided such services, and the jury convicted him.

The appelate court explained thatdefendantwas not entitled to the instruction because he had failed to satisfy both halves [of the definition]the designee clause and the responsibility clause.Examining the latter, the justice explained that a defendant asserting primary caregiver status must prove at a minimum that he or she (1) consistently provided caregiving, (2) independent of any assistance in taking medical marijuana, (3) at or before the time he or she assumed responsibility for assisting with medical marijuana.

Explainingthat defendants evidence failed to demonstrate satisfaction of each of the three aspects,the revieiwng courtconcluded that the trial court had ruled correctly because the act simply does not provideprotection where the provision of marijuana is itself the substance of the relationship.

The court also rejected defendants argument that the 2003 enactment of the Medical Marijuana Programwhich provides a defense to similar charges for those who give assistance to patients and primary caregivers in administering medical marijuana, and acquiring the skills necessary to cultivate or administer itimmunized his conduct.

The Defendant, to the extent he assisted in administering, or advised or counseled in the administration or cultivation of, medical marijuana, could not be charged with cultivation or possession for sale on that sole basis, she wrote. It does not meanhe could not be charged with cultivation or possession for sale on any basis; to the extent he went beyond the immunized range of conduct, i.e., administration, advice, and counseling, he would, once again, subject himself to the full force of the criminal law.

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