Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Gang Violence and Los Angeles

Posted on: October 13, 2008 at 9:59 a.m.

One of the longest running stories in Los Angeles is the influence and level of violence of gangs. Gang activity has cost the lives of many Angelinos, and the high profile murders and violent crimes are heavily prosecuted by the district attorney in hopes of being able to stem the tide of violence.

Recently a Los Angeles gang member was extradited from Mexico to face charges of murdering a 12-year-old boy a decade ago has been sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole. A judge rejected the man's request for a new trial and sentenced him to life plus an additional term of 145 years to life. A jury convicted him in August of murder and attempted murder. Although he denied he was the gang member whose stray bullet struck Steven Morales in the head in 1998 as the boy played baseball in front of his Highland Park home, the judge showed no leniency.

More than 1,400 criminal street gangs exist in Los Angeles County. Gang crimes

Tagged as: gang allegations, jury trial defense

Immigration and Crime in California

Posted on: October 8, 2008 at 10:03 a.m.

San Francisco officials say a federal grand jury is investigating the city's policy of offering sanctuary to illegal immigrants. The probe focuses on whether the policy violates federal laws against harboring people who are in the U.S. illegally.

The city attorney says his office has hired a criminal defense lawyer to represent employees who might be questioned or asked for documents. Mayor Gavin Newsom says he will cooperate with the investigation.

The San Francisco law prohibits the use of city funds to help enforce federal immigration law or question individuals about their immigration status. About 80 other cities and five states have similar policies.

Immigration and criminal activity are controversial enough as separate issues, but when combined, emotions are hightened. A frequently encountered issue with Immigration proceedings and criminal law is an old conviction, or probation case, which has raised a red flag with the INS. Often the INS will begin deportation proceedings 10-15 years later, against someone who has led a trouble-free life for many years, working, raising a family, and being an overall model citizen.

There are numerous legal mechanisms to vacate, or attack, a prior conviction. We have successfully used a "Writ of Corum Nobis" in situations where clients were not advised of all immigration consequences at the time their plea was taken. Another option is to attempt to re-negotiate the old charges with the prosecutor's office, to seek an agreement that the crime of moral turpitude is dismissed, and substitute in its place an offense that is more innocuous in the eyes of the INS.

Alternatively, if you or loved one is facing an open criminal case in Southern California, a conviction may cause direct and grave consequences to one's immigration status, often leading to deportation proceedings. The INS guidelines are often very complex and our criminal defense attorneys frequently confer with immigration law specialists to properly advise clients. Before going to court, our Los Angeles criminal lawyers discuss with clients their immigration status. The Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP have represented numerous clients in criminal matters involving immigration.

Tagged as: immigration consequences

NFL Running Back Sentenced in L.A. to Prison

Posted on: October 7, 2008 at 2:38 p.m.

While some were waiting for news on former USC and NFL great OJ Simpson's trial to end, another former college star who played in the NFL was sentenced in Los Angeles. Former NFL running back Lawrence Phillips was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison, two years after he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.

The sentencing was repeatedly delayed while Phillips fought to withdraw a guilty plea in a domestic abuse case that could have led to a stiffer sentence. The crime would be considered a first strike under California's "three strikes" law. If the guilty plea stood, it means the car assault would be a second strike carrying a potential sentence of 20 years, prosecutors said.

The 33-year-old former Nebraska running back has been jailed for assault since August 2005, when he drove onto a field near Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and his car struck three boys, ages 14 and 15, and a 19-year-old man, who suffered cuts and bruises. The car narrowly missed four other people, prosecutor Todd Hicks. Phillips was allegedly upset after losing a pickup football game to the youths and accused them of stealing some of his possessions.

Assault with a deadly weapon is the act of menacing another person with a weapon that could cause death. This is usually a gun, but it doesn't need to be. This form of assault does not include the action of using force, called battery, but it often leads to assault and battery charges. Understandably, stiff penalties are involved. Interpretation of assault versus battery with a deadly weapon can depend on local statutes, which makes researching the penalties in your region essential. Knowledgeable criminal attorneys in Los Angeles can assist those facing all manner of assault and/or battery charges.

There are many defenses to charges of assault, and contacting an attorney as soon as charges are filed will allow evidence to be evaluated and witnesses questioned while everything is still fresh. A skillful Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer can help you get through this complicated process.

Tagged as: california criminal laws, jury trial defense

Three Strikes, A Sad History

Posted on: October 2, 2008 at 11:32 a.m.

California's Three Strikes Law has ruined the lives of many individuals. Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys who have spent any amount of time defending the accused have seen individuals sentenced to decades in prison for crimes that, if committed by themselves, wouldn't make anyone bat and eyelash.

Here is a short list of those serving long prison sentences for violating the third strike:

Rene Landa
Sentence: 27 years to life for stealing a spare tire

Johnny Quirino
Sentence: 25 years to life for petty theft of razor blades

Keffer Runnels
Sentence: 25 years to life for petty theft

Thomas Williams
Sentence: 25 years to life for possession of a stolen bicycle

George Michael Lane
Sentence: 25 years to life for possession of $40 worth of roommate's jewelry

David Lynn Robinson
Sentence: 25 years to life for attempted forged check and forged check

By themselves, these crimes would garner little, if any, jail time. Most are petty theft offenses, and many others who are in jail violated minor crimes to receive their life sentence. Others who have received a third strike are in jail even though they are mentally disabled in one way or another. People who find themselves facing a potential third strike conviction need Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys who know the ins and outs of the law, and who can give them expert advice. Many of those in jail didn't know their rights, or the potential cause of being convicted of a third strike offense.

While various community and civic organizations have fought to reform, or even repeal the mandatory sentencing guidelines of the Three Strikes laws, California State Attorney General Jerry Brown has fought for tougher laws to keep criminals off the streets by imposing a strict curfew for those who have committed serious crimes at night and was a leader in the campaign to defeat Proposition 66 - an attempt to dismantle California's three strikes law.

In fact, the Three Strikes laws are growing, there's a new proposition piggy-backing onto the Three Strikes penalties:

Proposition 6

What it does: Commits close to 1% of the state's annual general fund budget for anti-crime programs. The state Legislative Analyst's Office estimates costs of $500 million for additional prison space.

Back story: This is the Son of Three Strikes and Jessica's Law. It's sponsored in part by Mike Reynolds, author of the 1994 Three Strikes Initiative, and state Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster), whose anti-sex-offender Proposition 83 -- Jessica's Law -- won 71% of the vote in 2006. The top donor is Henry T. Nicholas III, who gave $1 million (see Proposition 9).

Tagged as: three strikes laws

Hit and Run: Dangerous for the Victim and the Accused

Posted on: September 24, 2008 at 11:54 a.m.

Hit and run is the crime of colliding with a person, their personal property (including their motor vehicle), or a fixture, and failing to stop and identify oneself afterwards. Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys who defend the accused in such cases understand the severity of the charges and the penalties.

In Los Angeles recently, an alleged hit and run driver was behind bars after a hit and run accident, in which a woman was fatally struck in a Northridge crosswalk, police said. The woman was arrested after the accident on a hit and run charge in the 10300 block of North Lindley Avenue.

The victim died on the spot about 5:25 p.m., a fire department spokeswoman said. The suspect vehicle was westbound on Devonshire when it went through a red light, striking the victim, who was walking south across Lindley.

Police found the white sport utility vehicle that struck the woman abandoned near Devonshire and Reseda Boulevard, Lee said. The victim of the hit and run accident is believed to have been a Cal State Northridge student, because of the papers and books she was carrying at the time of the crash.

According to California Penal Code 20001:
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to any person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of any person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident. Any person who violates this law shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $10,000, or by both that imprisonment and fine. If the accident results in death or permanent, serious injury, any person who violates this law shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not less than 90 days nor more than one year, or by a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $10,000, or by both that imprisonment and fine. However, the court, in the interests of justice and for reasons stated in the record, may reduce or eliminate the minimum imprisonment required by this paragraph.

Before a person is sentenced for committing hit and run, the court will evaluate a variety of factors such as the nature of the accident, if any person was injured during the accident, the severity of the other person

Tagged as: violent crimes defense

Jails and Prisons: Is There a Difference? Which is Better?

Posted on: September 24, 2008 at 11:24 a.m.

Some people think that the terms jail and prison are interchangeable. However, at least in Los Angeles, these two terms mean very different things. Qualified Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys who know the system can adequately advise their clients as to which would be the better choice, should that situation arise.

County jails in Los Angeles, for example, are run and supervised by the Sheriff's Department and are designed to house inmates with sentences of less than one year, most of whom have been convicted of misdemeanors. Private jails are either small city jails or jails owned and operated by private entities that meet certain criteria and get approval from the state.

State prisons, on the other hand, are run and supervised by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and are designed to house felons who have been sentenced to one or more years in the penitentiary. Inmates sentenced to state prison are generally considered dangerous and, as such, are not eligible for the relative "freedoms" of pay-to-stay confinement. Inmates sentenced to jail, however, are often there because they have been convicted of first-time or nonviolent offenses.

Tagged as: california criminal laws

Resisting Arrest Charges

Posted on: September 22, 2008 at 11:22 a.m.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are familiar with the subtle nuances of criminal law, and how police can utilize, or sometimes manipulate, the law. For example, a USC football player was arrested and charged with felony resisting a police officer. The charge may or may not be warranted, but the crime can be as ambiguous as it sounds.

The player was arraigned last week in San Bernardino County Superior Court in connection with an incident at a party in Colton on Sept. 7.

These types of crimes can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor conviction of Resisting Arrest or Battery on a Police Officer carries a maximum sentence of a year in County Jail and a $1000.00 fine.

If you are charged with a Felony Battery on an Officer, you could face a State Prison Sentence of 16 months, 2 years or 3 years. A felony may also count as a strike in California's "Three Strikes Laws."

Tagged as: resisting arrest pc 148

California Murder Defense Law

Posted on: September 20, 2008 at 12:05 p.m.

The criminal defense of murder cases in Southern California is typically handled by very experienced attorneys, as the prosecution and the defense face high stakes. The prosecutor attempts to vindicate the interests of the decedent and his family, while the defense lawyer is facing the possibility of his client receiving life in prison.

California criminal law provides a person may be found guilty of murder, under an implied malice theory. In other words, when the defendant has no intent to kill a decedent, he may be found guilty of murder if his conduct is found reckless enough by a jury. For example, criminal prosecution has extended the use of the implied malice theory of murder (ie. where to is no express intent to kill the deceased) to argue that a defendant is guilty of murder, when death is caused, where the defendant's reckless conduct was committed during the course of drunk-driving, street racing, evading the police during a pursuit, interfering with railroad cars, gang crimes that begin with a simple fight, and playing russian roulette with a firearm.

A recent case dealt with the theory of implied malice in murder cases, and addressed a situation where a defendant does not know a woman is pregnant, can he be held responsible for the death of the fetus as a result of his violent actions upon the mother? While the knee jerk societal response is "of course he should be," the defendant's response is -- "I did not know of its existence and should not be found guilty."

A criminal court decision provided guidance for Los Angeles criminal lawyers specializing in the defense of murder cases. The Appeals Court rejected a defendant's argument that he was not guilty of murder for killing an unborn child because he had strangled

Tagged as: california criminal laws, jury trial defense

Immigration, Deportation and Crime

Posted on: September 11, 2008 at 11:15 a.m.

When a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney has a client who is not a legal citizen, the circumstances surrounding the case become increasingly difficult. One of the major challenges is that the anti-immigration forces in America rarely take a serious look at the realities of immigration.

For example, non-citizens who have been deported at least once from the United States are far more likely than other immigrants to repeatedly commit crimes, according to a study by the nonprofit Rand Corp. Realists might recognize that even erecting a wall between the United States and Mexico can't stop the flow of immigration, so properly handling these relationships would stem the flow of crime. However, many illegal immigrants are treated poorly and the criminal justice system is targeted towards sending even those accused of crimes back to Mexico. This study proves that such an approach is counterproductive as 75% of those who are deported are arrested again on suspicion of committing another crime within a year of their release.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has pursued immigrants with criminal records who have returned after being deported, posting agents in some U.S. attorney's offices in key cities to help with the cases of such offenders. Between Oct. 1, 2007, and Aug. 4, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported nearly 265,700 non-citizens nationwide, including about 83,700 criminals. Almost 17,600 illegal immigrants, including 6,400 criminals, were deported from Los Angeles County and the surrounding counties.

Finding a competent and skilled Los Angeles criminal attorney to handle immigration matters can be difficult, but there is a variety of laws and jurisdictions to handle. However, deportation may be preventable, especially when a defendant has financial resources to bail out immediately after an arrest. In Los Angeles County, a defendant is typically transferred into Sheriff's custody from the arresting agency's jail within 48 hours of arrest. This happens ordinarily right after the arraignment. Subsequently, a criminal disposition may be reached in court without jail time. An immigration hold in Sheriff's jail is avoided, as the accused is out on bail and his immigration status is typically not checked within the court system.

Tagged as: immigration consequences

Bail and Murder

Posted on: September 10, 2008 at 9:35 a.m.

The primary suspect in a murder this July which shocked the city of Los Angeles is being held without bail in a separate matter. James Fayed of Moorpark is charged with operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business, but a Los Angeles federal judge refused to review his no-bail status in the case, saying he was concerned that Fayed eventually might be charged with his wife's murder. A federal judge has refused to consider bail for the estranged husband of a woman who was stabbed to death in a parking garage in upscale Century City.

Prosecutors say Fayed's credit card was used to rent an apparent getaway a car seen after the slaying of his wife, Pamela, in July. They call Fayed the "primary suspect."

Fayed's attorney says the card belonged to Fayed's business and others had access to it. Werksman also says it's unfair to keep Fayed locked up on the chance of a murder charge.

It can often be difficult for a Los Angeles criminal attorney to obtain bail for his/her client in a murder trial. If the crime is particularly gruesome or high profile, or if the defendant has the ability to flee the state/country easily, then bail will be that much more difficult to procure.

For high-profile cases, such as the murder trial of Phil Spector, defendants will have bail set at an extremely high dollar amount. In the case of Spector, it was set at $1 million.

For many states the regulations on the bail industry are found in multiple state codes. In the case of California, the regulatory body is the Insurance Department, but the bail industry is also subject to California's Penal Code. There are two ways to post bail. First, "cash" bail may be posted with the custodial agency to cover the entire amount of the bail. At the end of the case, if bail is exonerated, the defendant will receive a check for the entire amount posted (takes about 8-10 weeks). Second, a "bond" through a bail company may be posted. A defendant pays about 10% of the entire amount to a bail company, which puts up the entire bail amount through a bond. If bail is exonerated, the 10% is not returned to the defendant because this is the fee he paid to the bail company to post bail on his behalf (like an insurance premium). Although the standard bail fee is 10%, there are certain circumstances where clients can qualify for an 8% premium. The bond company requires that the attorney has already been retained before qualifying the individual for a reduction.

Tagged as: bail and release, jury trial defense

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