Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog
     


LAPD Wants You to Squeel On Your Neighbors

Posted on: September 18, 2008 at 11:02 a.m.

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton unveiled a new system allowing people to provide anonymous crime tips to police through text messages and the department's website.

Bratton said he hoped the new technology, which protects the sender's identity, would generate more crime tips to the LAPD from the public. "Far too often, victims and witnesses are too afraid to come forward out of fear of retaliation. Today, we're changing that," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who appeared at a news conference with Bratton.

The text message system was already used by police in New York, Boston and San Diego.

Actions like this provoke a variety of arguments regarding crime and how the police are responding to it. Attempting to recruit average citizens to become informants has constitutional implications, and may also put the lives of citizens are risk.

Tagged as: california criminal laws




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




Violent Crimes Against the Homeless: Hard to Prosecute

Posted on: September 10, 2008 at 9:32 a.m.

Los Angeles police were investigating Sunday the fatal stabbing of a homeless man behind a liquor store in Woodland Hills. The victim was a transient who was stabbed multiple times near the back door of a liquor store.

Violent crime investigations involve a variety of information gathering tactics, including interviewing victims, interviewing possible witnesses and combing the crime scene. When a violent crime is committed against a homeless person however, it makes gather evidence incredibly difficult. If the violent crime committed is murder, it makes the crime even more difficult to investigate and prosecute. For police and detectives investigating violent crimes, if the victim has no home or have a community that can support the investigation, it makes things difficult.

Violent crime investigations include a behavioral analysis, which is done to provide behavioral based investigative and operational support by applying case experience, research, and training to complex and time-sensitive crimes, typically involving acts or threats of violence.

Law enforcement investigators may also enter certain violent crime information into a database for comparison and possible matches with unsolved cases. Additionally, criteria cases with an unidentified offender may be submitted for database comparison.

Tagged as: jury trial defense




High Profile Murders in Los Angeles

Posted on: September 9, 2008 at 1:09 p.m.

Recent murder trials which have received a great deal of press coverage are bringing a focus back to violent crimes in Los Angeles.

A man found guilty of slaying his girlfriend and leaving her to rot in a backyard shed was sentenced on September 8th to 15 years to life in prison. A jury convicted the man of second-degree murder in December for killing his girlfriend, stuffing her into a box and leaving her to decompose in a shed in August 2006, the hottest summer on record in the San Fernando Valley.

Also on September 8th, a death sentence was handed down for an Azusa gang member convicted of murdering four people between 1999 and 2004. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy rejected an automatic motion to reduce Ralph Flores' punishment to life in prison without the possibility of parole for three of the killings, and also denied the Los Angeles criminal defense attorney's request for a new trial.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys know that California

Tagged as: jury trial defense




Internet Crimes, a Growing Area of Criminal Law

Posted on: September 8, 2008 at 11:32 a.m.

Over the last fifteen years the Internet has gone from a little known technology to a part of everyday life for most Americans. With that though has come a growing area of criminal law.

An internet crime is a criminal act that is committed while using the internet or while on the internet. These crimes are far ranging, the laws can cover anything from luring a minor across state lines for the purposes of sex to online identity theft. Obviously these crimes are quite different. Los Angeles criminal attorneys are often scrambling to deal with the new issues which arise regularly when it comes to Internet crimes.

It is important to remember that Internet crimes can either be crimes in the state of California or Federal crimes. Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys also wrestle with that issue on Internet crimes, as states will have different laws, penalties and jurisdictions, making a criminal defense contingent upon who is prosecuting the crime.

Here are a few examples of how varied Internet crimes can be for Los Angeles criminal attorneys to defend:

- Auction fraud is the most commonly reported crime online, according to the federal Internet Crime Complaint Center, also known as the IC3. And in Los Angeles, an eBay auctioneer was selling fake memorabilia for months.
- Law enforcement officials cracked an international ring that tapped customer databases and trafficked in tens of millions of credit card numbers; a researcher uncovered a major flaw that permits hackers to steer some Web surfers to fake versions of popular Websites filled with malicious software; and computer assaults, which some researchers said they had traced back to Russia's state-run telecommunications firms, crippled websites belonging to the country of Georgia.
- Money lost in Internet crimes hit a new high last year, topping about $240 million, according to a government report showing increases in scams involving pets, check-cashing schemes and online dating.

Tagged as: internet crimes defense




Falsely Accused of Murder: Los Angeles Men Freed after 4 Months in Custody - Wrong Identification to Blame Says Prosecutor

Posted on: September 6, 2008 at 10:58 p.m.

Two Hollywood men who spent nearly four months in a Los Angeles County jail walked out free after a murder case against them was dropped, in Los Angeles, California. The men, both 20, had been charged with murder and attempted murder in a drive-by gang shooting in April that left one man dead and another injured. "This matter is dismissed in the interest of justice," Superior Court Commissioner Henry J. Hall said Friday afternoon, prompting applause by family members sitting in the courtroom.

The men, still wearing their blue jumpsuits, left the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles about 6:30 p.m. Relatives yelled, clapped and rushed toward them. "I feel like a million bucks," said one, "I knew I was wrongfully accused. I just had to wait it out."

The decedent Heriberto Osorio, 19, was killed on North Oxford Avenue in Hollywood early on the morning of April 20. Police arrested the two suspect about an hour after the shooting, and prosecutors filed charges a few days later. If convicted, they could have faced life in prison. The Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney on the case said the men matched the physical description given by witnesses and were in the immediate area of the shooting shortly after it occurred. Witnesses also identified both men in a field show-up, singling out one of the men as the gunman. Both men had prior criminal records and police believe at least one had gang affiliations. They both are construction workers.

Defendants had denied any involvement and told police that they were at a nearby McDonald's restaurant at the time. Despite the arrests, Los Angeles police detectives discovered the possible involvement of other individuals in the shooting, according to the prosecutor. One woman has since been arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting, but police are still searching for the gunman.

Prosecutors realized that the clock on the McDonald's camera was incorrect and that Defendants said the car they were driving was at the fast-food restaurant just minutes after the shooting. Although the McDonald's video did not show them, it did show the van -- a different vehicle than witnesses said was used in the shooting, according to the prosecutor.

Thereafter, after reviewing the case, the L.A. criminal prosecutor made a motion to dismiss the case, which was scheduled for a preliminary hearing next week. "When we put it all together . . . it became clear to me at that point there was reasonable doubt, and, in fact, it was likely they didn't commit the crime," he said. "If someone is in custody improperly, we have to release them as soon as possible."

Tagged as: jury trial defense, police misconduct




Great Bodily Injury Enhancement, California Penal Code Section 12022.7 - Sex Crime Defense Issues

Posted on: September 6, 2008 at 10:51 p.m.

Frequently Los Angeles Criminal Attorneys defend sex offenses being charged in criminal court, including a violation of Penal Code 261.5 Statutory Rape, Penal Code 261(a)(2) Forcible Rape, Penal Code Section 288(a) Child Molestation, just to name a few. Typically these offenses carry the possibility of probation up to 16 years in prison, per one count. Often these cases involve the allegation of numerous criminal acts, and thus the maximum possible confinement time adds up.

Another allegation that may increase an offender's possible punishment is the infliction of great bodily injury upon the alleged victim. This is viewed by the court system as something grave, and substantial (broken bones, lacerations, etc). Recently a new theory of injury was decided by the California Supreme Court: pregnancy. The court ruled that a pregnancy without medical complications that results from unlawful, but not forcible, sexual conduct with a minor may support a finding of great bodily injury.

The state high court unanimously affirmed a defendant's 15 year-to-life sentence based on a jury

Tagged as: jury trial defense, sex crime accusations




Heat of Passion? How Murder Trials Work

Posted on: September 3, 2008 at 11:09 a.m.

In Tennessee, a high school teacher's husband has admitted killing his wife's teenage lover, her former student, but it will be up to a jury to decide if it was premeditation, the heat of passion or an accident.

When it comes to murder charges, and other violent crimes, a defense often used by the defense is that the crime was an "act of passion." However, it can be difficult to prove such circumstances, because the defense often has to prove that there is no real motive other than an emotional response. In this particular murder trial, the husband came home one day and claimed he found the teenage lover there and demanded the teenager leave. The teen refused and the husband then called 911. He reported an intruder, "some guy who's stalking my wife."

After a few moments, Powell apparently backed down and McLean told the dispatcher the intruder was leaving. Seven minutes later, the wife called 911 and screamed, "My husband just killed someone. ... Please come. Hurry! Hurry!"

In a murder trial, those seven minutes can add up to 25 years or more in prison. In fact, prosecutors contend the facts point to premeditated murder. The defense attorney said what happened in those seven minutes between the 911 calls shows an act in the heat of passion, part of his argument for conviction on a lesser count like voluntary manslaughter. The Assistant District Attorney failed to get a first-degree murder indictment the first time the case went before a grand jury. The panel instead returned a second-degree murder charge carrying a 25-year maximum sentence. A second grand jury in December agreed to hand up the first-degree charge to prosecutors.

In California, where the death-penalty is legal, the difference between a first-degree and second-degree murder charge could mean death, or even decades longer in prison.

Tagged as: jury trial defense




California Drug Crimes: Different Drugs, Different Penalties, Aggressive Defense

Posted on: August 26, 2008 at 9:45 a.m.

Federal drug offenses can have a complex sentencing structure, dependent upon type of drug, the amount of drug, number of previous offenses and the surrounding factors of the arrest. Federal criminal lawyers in Los Angeles are quite familiar with the United States Sentencing Guildelines used to assess sentencing issues for drug charges in federal court.

For example, if a person is arrested for the first time in a drug trafficking violation with 10 grams of pure methamphetamine, he faces the possibility no less than 5 years in prison. However, if it's 50 grams of pure methamphetamine, then no less than ten years. Certain drugs, usually those considered more dangerous or addictive, such as methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, PCP, crack and the like carry heavy time in jail as well as heavy fines. Second offenses can keep an individual in jail for a decade or more, and a third offense can equal life imprisonment. Of course, the goverment must first prove these offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. Aggressive criminal defense of drug charges works to preclude such heavy sentencing.

The federal drug offense penalty for trafficking marijuana is equally as harsh, but the amount one would need to get a 10-year+ sentence is 1,000 kilograms or 1,000 or more plants. Possessing 100 - 999 Kgs or 100 - 999 plants would amount to a sentence of 5-10 years. Both of these sentences are for first time drug offenses.

What it comes down to, is federal and state drug enforcement agencies take all drug offenses seriously; one statistic shows that there were 95 arrests per hour in the United States in 2006 (up from 2 per hour in 1966), and that's just for marijuana. During the past two decades, California experienced a 25-fold increase in the number of drug offenders sentenced to state prison.

Every drug offense, from possession to trafficking should be taken seriously, and competent attorneys are needed in every case. Life sentences are possible, in both state and federal court, where the recovered quantity is high and there is an extensive criminal history (example: three strikes legislation in California).

Tagged as: drug crimes defense




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