Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Proposition A Fails, What That Means for the Law

Posted on: November 7, 2008 at 11:25 a.m.

Proposition A was a ballot measure that would have raised $30 million a year for Los Angeles anti-gang programs, and it fell just shy of the two-thirds vote needed to pass, according to unofficial returns tallied this week.

The anti-gang measure was defeated by six-tenths of a percentage point, according to unofficial returns. Supporters hope late absentee and provisional ballots may change the outcome.

Proposition A, which would have charged property owners in Los Angeles a flat rate of $36 per year, was one of dozens of tax measures that saw a surge of support thanks to the high general election turnout across Los Angeles County.

Anti-gang measures often target violent crimes. Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys often represent gang members and alleged gang members, focusing their criminal defense tactics on laws that increase penalties if it can be proved that the accused belonged to an organized crime group.

Many television shows such as "The Shield" and "Law & Order" depict gang activity and the criminal defense attorneys in Los Angeles who defend them. While these aren't always accurate depictions of how gang members and criminal defense attorneys collaborate, it does show the laws and the anti-violence angle of law enforcement.

Violent crimes carry heavy penalties, including jail time, fines, community service and more. Violent crimes are prosecuted as felonies, and only skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are able to either plea them down to misdemeanors, or get the accused off. Those found guilty of violent crimes are also heavily sentenced, especially when gang activity is linked to the crime.

If you have been charged with a serious criminal offense, do not hesitate to call Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP at (877) 781-1570. Our knowledgeable legal team can evaluate your case and advise you of your legal options.

Tagged as: gang allegations

Criminal Penalties: Losing the Right to Vote?

Posted on: October 24, 2008 at 9:10 a.m.

Being convicted of a crime could mean the criminal justice system will subject you to fines, prison/jail time and/or community service. However the fallout for criminal convictions will affect more than what a judge or prosecutor can hand down.

For example, voting privileges are often revoked for people convicted of a felony. Vermont and Maine are the only two states that allow virtually all inmates to vote.

In Vermont, the position on voting rights is enshrined in the state's 1793 Constitution: "Any elector who shall receive any gift or reward for the elector's vote, in meat, drink, moneys or otherwise, shall forfeit the right to elect."

Nationally, states began restricting felons' rights to vote in the early years of the 19th century, said Alexander Keyssar, a Harvard University historian and author of "The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States."

In most states, people incarcerated on misdemeanor convictions can vote. In some other states, there are circumstances that allow some felons to vote. One reason for restricting the right to vote is retribution, to punish a felon for violating the norms of society, while another is to protect the purity of the ballot box, he said.

In the 1790s the Vermont Legislature tried to outlaw inmate voting, but it was overruled in 1799 by the Council of Censors, a now-defunct fourth branch of government that met every seven years to decide constitutional questions, said Montpelier attorney Paul Gillies.

The most recent effort to outlaw prison voting in Vermont came in the early 1980s. The office of then-Secretary of State Jim Douglas

Tagged as: california criminal laws

Sexual Assault DNA Problems for the LAPD

Posted on: October 23, 2008 at 8:27 a.m.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys have been paying a great deal of attention to recent reports regarding the Los Angeles Police Department. As many as 200 potential sexual assault cases have gone without prosecution because Los Angeles police officials failed to meet legal deadlines to test DNA evidence that might have identified a suspect.

The audit revealing the failure in these sexual assault cases was the second critical assessment of LAPD forensic work in as many weeks. A confidential report last week disclosed shoddy work by the department's fingerprint experts that had falsely implicated people in crimes.

Chief William J. Bratton said late Monday that he had set up a task force to examine the Scientific Investigations Division, which oversees the department's fingerprint analysis unit and DNA lab. He said he had asked the FBI and Los Angeles County district attorney's office to join the task force probe.

The LAPD has a backlog of 7,000 sexual assault test kits that have not been examined. Of those cases, 217 are beyond the 10-year statute in which to prosecute the crimes, according to the report. Surely, many Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will want to know the names of the people named in these cases, as well as other cases where the statute of limitations may have passed on evidence.

Each kit, officials say, contains a potential genetic road map to the perpetrator of a crime.
Unlike the Hollywood portrayal of high-tech crime fighting on police shows such as "Law & Order" and "CSI," the LAPD's ability to analyze evidence seemed "stuck in an era of Wyatt Earp."

The LAPD has been repeatedly criticized for its huge backlog of untested DNA evidence, but officials have said that they lacked the money to move faster on the cases. Bratton said his department needed more staff and at least $7 million to address the backlog. Bratton said he was so frustrated that he turned to the Los Angeles Police Foundation to raise private funds. So far $1.5 million has been raised.

Now the unit that tests the kits is working at maximum capacity and is able to keep up only with the new cases and ones that must be processed because the statute of limitations is close to expiring.

Auditors also found that the LAPD was failing to comply with a state law that requires sexual assault victims to be notified by the police if their rape kits are not tested within a two-year period. Bratton said such failures would be among the issues that the task force would take up. If authorities had made those notifications the statute of limitations would have been extended.

LAPD officials acknowledged that some kits were beyond the legal deadline, but said it was possible that some of those cases had been prosecuted using other evidence. They added that some of the stored DNA evidence may be tied to crimes other than sexual assault.

The problem of untested DNA evidence is not unique to the LAPD. Forensic labs throughout the nation have been swamped by demands, not only from regular investigators but also from "cold hit" squads seeking breaks in long-dormant cases and from convicts with claims of innocence. According to U.S. Justice Department statistics, more than 500,000 unsolved crimes, including 169,000 rapes, have untested DNA evidence.

Tagged as: sex crime accusations

Probation Violations: Too Serious to Ignore

Posted on: October 22, 2008 at 9:25 a.m.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can have real challenges when it comes to probation, in part because not all defendants understand the terms of their probation, or care enough to take it seriously. Probation is a serious matter, and not following the terms of probation properly, even on the smallest matters, can lead to further arrests, fines and even jail time.

Judges in the Los Angeles criminal courts take probation seriously, and any probation violations will be met with often swift punishment. Probation violation occurs when a person fails to adhere to the terms of his/her probation. When a person does not comply with the terms of his/her probation, he/she may be punished with the maximum sentence for the crime in which he/she was placed on probation for committing.

In such a case, only skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys understand how to work with a judge and the prosecutor to get the best possible results for the defendant.

After a person is placed on probation, he/she is allowed to return to his/her home environment instead of jail. In order for a person to successfully complete the terms of his/her probation, he/she must follow the rules that were set forth by the court at the time he/she was sentenced. Once a person has been placed on probation, he/she may have to report to a corrections officer on a regular basis, or complete community service activities. If a person fails to complete the terms of his/her probation, he/she can be charged with probation violation by California law enforcement.

A probation violation doesn't have to mean a rich defendant fleeing the country during a murder trial. As any Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer will tell you, the charges can be simple. Recently, Michelle Rodriguez failed to fulfill the terms of her probation in a DUI case and faced jail time in Los Angeles as a result. She was actually shooting scenes for a television show during the process. Country singer Mindy McCready surrendered to authorities and served a 60-day sentence for violating her probation on a 2004 drug charge.

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 probation violation attorneys have over 50 years of collective court room experience and we are fully prepared to undertake our clients

Tagged as: vandalism pc 594

Immigration Consequences from Criminal Convictions - DUI Drunk Driving Charges

Posted on: October 21, 2008 at 4:24 p.m.

The immigration consequences resulting from a conviction is a frequent issue considered by defense attorneys in Los Angeles Criminal Courts. The conventional wisdom is that criminal defendants who are not citizens may face deportation if convicted for a criminal offense, felony or misdemeanor. However deportation is not automatic, nor predictable. The reality is that the more serious the criminal offense, and greater the number of prior convictions, then the greater the likelihood that INS will begin deportation proceedings in immigration court. Sometimes however even a less serious criminal conviction leads to deportation, such a Driving Under the Influence offense (California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a)) -- which is quite atypical.

A recent Court of Appeal decision addressed this issue, holding that the U.S. Attorney General may decide by adjudication that a non-citizen's individual crime was

Tagged as: california criminal laws, immigration consequences, violent crimes defense

Improper Fingerprint Evidence in Los Angeles Criminal Courtrooms

Posted on: October 21, 2008 at 3:55 p.m.

Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers who defend burglary, murder, and other serious crimes in Southern California courtroom frequently contend with expert testimony related to fingerprint evidence. For example, in trial, a crime scene expert would testify that a print was lifted from the point of entry in a burglary case, and then a scientific examiner testifies that Defendant's prints (based on an expert comparison) match the lifted print from the entryway. In trial, jurors find this testimony very compelling because the use and knowledge of fingerprints science (whether you are providing your fingerprints at the DMV, the notary public, or for some other formal documentation) is part of everyday life for many.

A necessary step in trial preparation for a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer is to hire a defense fingerprint expert, to reexamine the work of the prosecutor's forensic examiner to deterimine whether the testing and comparison of the lift to the defendant's prints was done accurately.

The importance of reviewing law enforcement forensic work cannot be overstated. A recent confidential report, regarding LAPD fingerprint testing, concluded that people have been falsely implicated in crimes because the department's fingerprint experts wrongly identified them as suspects. The 10-page internal LAPD report highlighted two cases in which criminal defendants had charges against them dropped after problems with the fingerprint analysis were exposed. LAPD officials do not know how many other people might have been wrongly accused over the years as a result of poor fingerprint analysis and do not have the funds to pay for a comprehensive audit to find out, according to police records and interviews.

Subsequently internal discipline investigations led to the firing of one fingerprint analyst, who had been involved in both of the mishandled cases. Three other analysts received suspensions. In addition, two supervisors responsible for overseeing the unit were replaced, staff was bolstered and oversight tightened, she said.

There are 78 forensic print specialists assigned to the unit, according to the department's website. They are not sworn police officers but among the hundreds of civilians who fill specialty jobs in the department. After prints are lifted from a crime scene, the specialists run them through automated databases to find possible matches and then analyze those to seek a more precise match. Two other analysts are then supposed to check the work for accuracy.

LAPD department officials, however, described a poorly run operation, in which records and evidence were left lying around or misplaced, and supervisors "were stuck in the old way of doing things." Pressed to explain the sloppy work of the unit, the commanding officer of the Scientific Investigation Division, speculated that "people were reviewing the work of friends and just rubber stamping it without really reviewing it."

In one of the cases highlighted in the report, a man was extradited from Alabama to face burglary charges after an analyst matched his prints to those found at the scene. The mistake was missed by two reviewers and was caught only when a third reviewer was preparing to testify at the trial.

In the other example, Maria Delosange Maldonado, a pregnant hospital technician, was charged in February 2006 with breaking into a San Fernando Valley cellphone store. When questions were raised about the accuracy of the print analysis, the LAPD said the prints could not be reexamined because they had been lost. The audit characterized the fingerprint identification in that case as "erroneous."

The LAPD's internal investigation challenges the widely held view that forensic matches made by fingerprint experts are airtight. The authors of the internal LAPD report recalled the infamous example of an Oregon man who was linked through faulty fingerprint analysis by three federal agents to the 2004 terrorist train bombings in Madrid.

Tagged as: police misconduct

White Collar Crimes, A Growing Situation

Posted on: October 21, 2008 at 11:33 a.m.

White collar crimes are criminal offenses that are usually committed by white collar professionals, such as managers, directors, supervisors, executives, politicians, and other individuals in respected, high-profile positions.

During the recent economic crisis and real estate/credit crunch, law enforcement authorities have been targeting individuals in real estate, banks and related fields, searching for white collar crime violations. While many of these cases won't garner the same attention as the recent Congressional hearings have, these matter carry serious consequences and the accused need experienced and knowledgeable Los Angeles criminal attorneys to represent them.

There are a variety of white collar crimes that are prosecuted to the fullest extent by law enforcement. Commonly committed white collar crimes include: money laundering, pyramid schemes, counterfeiting, embezzlement, fraud, tax evasion, RICO, extortion, computer crimes, forgery, bribery, and bankruptcy fraud.

In California, lenders have foreclosed on $100 billion worth of homes over the last two years and are foreclosing at a rate of 1,300 houses every business day, according to a recent report. That sort of activity will lead to many angry citizens, and will lead to not only tougher laws, but action. People will be hostile towards the government and law enforcement if they think individuals are getting away with white collar crimes. That kind of public pressure has mounted before; after the Enron and energy crisis in California, tougher regulations were put in place and some individuals were prosecuted for their involvement. In fact, that particular crisis is one of the main reasons former Governor Gray Davis was recalled.

The FBI had about 1,000 agents deployed on banking fraud during the S&L bust of the 1980s and '90s, said Anthony Adamski, who oversaw financial crime investigations for the FBI at the time. The FBI says it now has about 200 agents working on mortgage fraud, and that number is expected to increase, especially depending upon the new president.

Due to the life-altering legal consequences that are involved, it is always in a person

Tagged as: theft, white collar crime fraud theft laws

A High-Profile Domestic Violence Matter

Posted on: October 20, 2008 at 10:06 a.m.

Domestic violence is physical or verbal abuse that occurs within a family or intimate relationship. Incidents of domestic violence may happen only once, or over an extended period time. Violence of this nature may occur between spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, or siblings. In most domestic violence cases, physical force and/or verbal abuse is used to instill fear in the victim. For this reason, many domestic violence incidents are not reported to law enforcement.

A very high-profile personality in Los Angeles was arrested recently these chargers. Don Cornelius, the producer and former host of "Soul Train," was arrested at his San Fernando Valley home Friday night on suspicion of domestic violence, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Officers were called to respond to Cornelius' home on Mulholland Drive for a domestic incident. After investigating, they arrested Cornelius, 72, for felony domestic violence and brought him to the Van Nuys jail, setting bail at $50,000.

The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office focuses their efforts on such crimes. The Family Violence Division of the DA's office, which handles cases in Downtown Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, was created to deal with the most serious offenders and to sensitively help victims with the healing process. The Family Violence Division is comprised of specially trained attorneys who vertically prosecute spousal abuse, physical child abuse, and other domestic violence crimes. This means that one deputy district attorney handles each case from beginning to end.

Domestic violence is usually classified as a misdemeanor offense. However, the offense may be categorized as a felony if the defendant sexually abused a minor, assaulted a minor, or caused substantial bodily damage to the victim. Once a person is convicted of domestic violence, he/she may be punished with:

- imprisonment
- restitution
- large fines
- community service
- probation
- parole
- court ordered counseling

If the defendant has a prior criminal offense on his/her record, he/she may be subject to enhanced criminal charges and sentencing if convicted.

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 domestic violence attorneys have over 50 years of collective court room experience and we are fully prepared to undertake our clients

Tagged as: domestic violence pc 273_5

Politics and Gangs: Proposition A

Posted on: October 16, 2008 at 8:59 a.m.

Proposition A will be on the ballot in Los Angeles on November 4. It will be an interesting proposition for Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys, regular citizens and suspected gang members. Rather than simply arrest every gang member they can find, the city is attempting to stop the growth of gangs. The measure, which needs two-thirds support to take effect, is a $36-a-year tax on every piece of property in the city to raise $30 million a year to fund gang prevention and intervention programs.

Two years ago, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton made gang suppression their top priority, developing a top 10 list of the most wanted gangsters and gangs in the city. It resulted in high-profile arrests and a startling drop in gang crime. The most recent figures released by Bratton showed gang homicides have dropped to 119 from 164 a year ago and overall gang crime is down 19 percent. Part of that is enforcement, but officials also credit the new emphasis on diversion programs.

For years, Los Angeles criminal attorneys have tried to encourage the city not to simply throw accused or suspected gang members in prison. Giving them options instead would be a more effective way to slow down the crime rate.

Villaraigosa gained control of the anti-gang programs July 1, and his office has been going through requests for proposals to begin the new effort. One program funded this past summer, Summer Night Lights, offered activities at selected city parks to keep kids from joining gangs. Proposition A is designed to make sure such programs have an ongoing source of revenue, Hahn said.

The Los Angeles Police Department estimates there are 400 gangs and 38,000 gang members within the City of Los Angeles. Gang violence results in loss of life and negatively affects living conditions in many parts of the City.

Some of the causes of the growth of gang violence across the City are the lack of job and training opportunities and other healthy productive options for youth. Currently, the City cannot adequately fund programs and activities that help young people develop employment skills and provide positive alternatives to gangs that are necessary to end gang violence.

Tagged as: gang allegations

Child Pornography In Iraq War

Posted on: October 15, 2008 at 9:34 a.m.

One of the worst crimes against children is a child pornography crime. Child pornography refers to material depicting children being in a state of undress, engaged in erotic poses or sexual activity. Child sexual abuse occurs in the production of child pornography when sexual acts are photographed, and the effects of the abuse on the child (and continuing into maturity) are compounded by the wide distribution and lasting availability of the photographs of the abuse.

For practical reasons, legal definitions of child pornography generally refer to a wider age range, including any pornography involving a minor, according to jurisdiction. Most possessors of child pornography who are arrested are found to possess images of prepubescent children; possessors of pornographic images of post-puberty minors might be less likely to be prosecuted, even though those images also fall within the statutes.

In regard to the Iraq case, a federal judge rejected arguments Friday from a former civilian contractor in Iraq who said his sentence for possessing child pornography should be lighter to more closely align with what military personnel would face. The prosecutor in the case said the defendant's case is "a run-of-the-mill child pornography possession case that happened to take place in Baghdad." The defendant had a history of viewing child pornography, and is being tried in federal court.

Law enforcement authorities at the local, state, and federal levels have been investing more and more resources in the investigation of Internet crimes. California Penal Code Section 311.11 specifically makes illegal the possession of child pornography. Charges of child pornography may be prosecuted by the government in either state or federal court. While pornography depicting adults is typically protected speech under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, child pornography is considered to be illegal speech, and is not subject to constitutional protections.

The attorneys at Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP are experienced in defending the accused in Child Pornography matters. Our criminal lawyers aggressively defend individuals on child pornography charges. With more than 50 years experience, our former senior Los Angeles prosecutors are well-aware of how the government builds its case. The government must prove the client was in actual possession of the images, and that the images were unlawful. To be unlawful, the images must not be digitally-created. Further, the government must prove the client was aware of what was on his or her computer.

Tagged as: child pornography pc 311_11

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