Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Three Strikes Laws: 14 Years and Counting

Posted on: August 15, 2008 at 2:26 p.m.

Three strikes laws are statutes enacted by state governments in the United States which require the state courts to hand down a mandatory and extended period of incarceration to persons who have been convicted of a serious criminal offense on three or more separate occasions. While the three strikes laws were designed to be a deterrent to criminals, the general trend of crime in America is the same in states without three strikes statutes as they are in states with them.

The increased incarcerations have filled California's prisons to the brim. As of 2007, the system holds over 170,000 prisoners in custody in a system designed for 83,000, and most California prisons currently hold populations more than double their design capacity.

In fact, the constant protest regarding Three Strikes Law doesn't just come from activists and alleged criminals. Hon. Jesse W. Curtis, who passed away on August 5, was a judge for 40 years in the U.S. District Court for Central California before stepping down over the rigid Three Strikes sentencing guidelines. It has been proven that the three strikes laws are not deterrents to crime at all, since as many as 70% of those sent to prison, once released, will recycle back within three years. Obviously there is a disconnect.

Another flaw in the Three Strikes system is how violent and non-violent offenders are treated with the same set of laws. Thieves and rapists face the same punishment. Even crimes that may fall under the same umbrella are prosecuted in the same manner, for example:
- Michael James is serving 25 years to life under the three-strikes law for passing a bad check for $94.
- Michael Schneider is serving 28 years for stealing $43 million from 57 investors.
- Santos Reyes, George Anderson, Linda Susan Teague, Gary Ewing and Leandro Andrade are serving a total of 176 years, and the most serious criminal among them is Ewing. He stole three golf clubs.

Bias in the courts can lead to other serious violations of justice. Recently, a man who was convicted of stabbing and wounding his mother in a 1998 trial and sentenced to 30 years to life in prison under the three-strikes law because of previous felony convictions, was granted a new trial by a federal appeals court, which said the prosecutor removed at least one black juror for racial reasons. How many other prisoners are serving decades long prison sentences because they stole two pizzas, were at the wrong place at the wrong time or simply had a skin color that was too dark?

If you or someone you know is facing a Three Strikes violation, contact the attorneys at Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP.

Tagged as: three strikes laws

The Complexity of Child Pornography Cases

Posted on: August 12, 2008 at 9:17 a.m.

Lindsay, CA, a town roughly 200 miles north of Los Angeles, has an increasingly complex case involving a man accused of viewing child pornography at a public library.

The basic details are that, allegedly, then-assistant librarian Brenda Biesterfeld of the Lindsay Library found Donny Crisler viewing images of child pornography on one of the library's computers. Biesterfeld reported it to her superior who allegedly did nothing about it, which led her to report it to the police. After Crisler, who was caught allegedly viewing child pornography, was arrested, it was discovered that he was deaf and dumb. Biesterfeld was fired after the event, which she alleges was because of her actions in reporting the infraction to the police. However, the library alleges the event had nothing to do with her firing.

In July, the court ruled that Donny Crisler had to take a psychological evaluation, for which a sign language interpreter is needed. This puts the criminal case against Crisler at a stand still until his ability to competantly participate in his own defense is evaluated.

Recently, a member of the California Assembly recently passed a bill through the Assembly Public Safety Committee regarding child pornography which requires offenders convicted of possession of child pornography to register as sex offenders and which expands the list of qualifying offenses permitting offenders convicted of possession of child pornography with prior sex offense convictions to receive enhanced penalties to include all offenses that require registration as a sex offender. Under current law, such offenders DO NOT have to register as sex offenders.

Tagged as: child pornography pc 311_11

Unauthorized Practice of Law is Criminallly Prosecuted

Posted on: August 11, 2008 at 11:17 p.m.

While these criminal offenses are rarely seen in Los Angeles criminal courts, the crimes of Unauthorized Practice of Law, and similarly the Unauthorized Practice of Medicine, are in fact prosecuted in Southern California as violations of the California Penal Code, and the California Business and Professions Code. The offenses carry the possibility of jail time, fines, and even prison if victims demonstrate they were defrauded or suffered substantial pecuniary harm.

Oftentime, unsuspecting clients may be hurt by individuals posing as trained lawyers or doctors. An aggressive courtroom defense, or plea negotiations, are typically pursued of those who are criminally accused.

Recently the State Bar shut down a Montebello company accused of providing immigration legal services without a law license. The raid took place after the State Bar obtained the interim order pursuant to Business and Professions Code Sec. 6126.3. The law, which entered into effect in January 2006, allows a judge, on the petition of the State Bar, to grant the bar jurisdiction over a law practice if there is probable cause to believe that the practice is being illegally operated by a non-lawyer and that a client or other interested party is likely to be harmed if the practice continues.

Immediately after the order was issued, a team of State Bar investigators entered the company's offices and seized client files, served a court order on several banks to freeze the company

Tagged as: federal law and defense, theft, white collar crime fraud theft laws

Los Angeles Immigration Courts

Posted on: August 11, 2008 at 10:32 a.m.

The LA Times reported that the number of immigrants landing in Los Angeles Immigration Court has surged in recent years, while the number of judges has remained about the same, causing crushing caseloads and lengthy delays.

Los Angeles immigration judges heard 27,200 cases last fiscal year, up from about 17,800 in 2000. In the last fiscal year alone, the number of immigration cases rose nearly 40%.

On a recent day in Los Angeles Immigration Court, one judge had 44 cases on the docket. Every seat was filled, and a crowd waited in the hall. The judge heard the cases quickly, getting updates, asking questions and setting new court dates -- sometimes six months in the future.

Immigration is intertwined with a number of criminal matters in Los Angeles, from outstanding warrants for homicide to gang activity. 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.

Adding to the complication of criminal matters involving immigration is LAPD's controversial Special Order 40, which prevents officers from checking on the immigration status of suspects in most cases. This law was brought up during the murder trial involving slain high school football star Jamiel Shaw Jr. Shaw was killed by a gang member who was found to have been living illegally in this country for more than a decade.

The attorneys at Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP are experienced in handling both criminal and immigration matters. They are especially skilled with the various state and federal laws governing immigration.

Tagged as: immigration consequences

Federal Government Begins Immigration Plan

Posted on: August 8, 2008 at 12:32 p.m.

Federal authorities launched a pilot program this month which allows noncriminal illegal immigrants with final deportation orders to surrender rather than face possible arrest and detention.

Two Southern California cities -- Santa Ana and San Diego -- are among five cities nationwide where immigrants can turn themselves in until to August 22.

Some individuals will be given up to 90 days before being required to leave the country, and the agency will pay for the plane tickets for some.

500,000 are eligible to participate in the program, which was developed to see if it would be more effective that early morning raids on shops and factories.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it will continue to track down fugitives in Southern California and throughout the nation, arresting and removing immigrants who have criminal records or who have failed to abide by deportation orders. Last fiscal year, fugitive operations teams arrested more than 19,000 immigrants nationwide, including more than 15,600 who did not have criminal records.

The mass arrests of immigrants thoughout the nation are highly controversial, and Rep. Joe Baca (D-Rialto), head of the Hispanic caucus, pointed to charges that the workers did not have proper access to lawyers and were pushed into guilty pleas.

"The way the raids took place," he said, raising a copy of the Bill of Rights, "you'd think none of this was true."

The attorneys at Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP are experienced in dealing with INS, Federal immigration authorities and the court system in immigration matters. For more information, please contact them today.

Tagged as: immigration consequences

Text Messaging as Trial Evidence? Constitutional Right to Privacy Protection

Posted on: August 4, 2008 at 9:18 p.m.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are coming across cell phone and text messaging evidence more and more in court. The evidence connects parties to crimes, established relationships, and provides actual language/conversations between people - without a wiretap order. Recently the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that users of text-messaging services have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of copies of messages the service provider stores on its network.

A three-judge panel ruled unanimously that the Ontario Police Department violated the Fourth Amendment rights of one of its officers and three others with whom he had exchanged text messages on a department-issued pager when it obtained transcripts of the messages from the service provider and reviewed their contents in order to determine whether a monthly overage charge resulted from personal use.The officer

Tagged as: motion to dismiss unlawful police search, probation and sentencing laws

Recent Los Angeles Violent Crimes, Hate Crime Allegations (Penal Code Section 422)

Posted on: August 4, 2008 at 11:30 a.m.

A violent brawl involving four white kids, one Mexican man, alcohol and ethnic slurs ended in the death of 25-year-old Luis Ramirez and murder and assault chargers for the four whites. Violent crimes with racial overtones can often involve "hate crime" charges, which can bring heavier sentences for the accused if convicted.

In this particular instance, a fight broke out amongst the men, most of whom were drunk, wherein the four white individuals used a number of slurs which incited Mr. Ramirez. Ramirez was beaten so severely that he died in the hospital two days after he was found. Two of the young white men were charged with murder, and all will face serious jail time even though two are under the age of 18.

California Penal Code Section 422.6.(a) states

Tagged as: jury trial defense

Constitutional Violation? California Criminal Conviction Reversed

Posted on: August 2, 2008 at 1:39 p.m.

A violation of the constitution by law enforcement is remedied in court by the exclusion of the evidence. In other words, the police cannot use the incriminating evidence they recovered if your rights were violated.

A recent case discussed the breadth of police officers' actions in a case involving the seizure of compact discs. The court held that police officers may view content on compact discs obtained by a private party that the private party has seen, but may not open and view additional content without implicating the Fourth Amendment, the Third District Court of Appeal held yesterday.

The court reversed Joseph Michael Wilkinson

Tagged as: probation and sentencing laws

Murder Defense: California Criminal Law Ruling

Posted on: July 31, 2008 at 11:09 p.m.

A frequent issue faced by Los Angeles criminal attorneys who defend murder cases is how the justice system deals with the killing of an accomplice. Can the defendants be charged with murder when one of their own confederates is killed unintentionally? The theory of prosecution is known as the "provocative acts" doctrine.

The California Supreme Court has agreed to determine whether two Los Angeles men whose accomplice was killed by a man they allegedly tried to rob were properly convicted of first degree murder under the

Tagged as: jury trial defense, motion to dismiss unlawful police search

Good News for Medical Marijuana?

Posted on: July 30, 2008 at 4:24 p.m.

Members of The House of representatives are proposing legislation that offers a more sensible legal approach to the use of Marijuana.

There have been 20 million marijuana-related arrests since 1965and 11 million since 1990, and "every 38 seconds, a marijuana smoker is arrested.

Rob Kampia, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said marijuana arrests outnumber arrests for "all violent crimes combined," meaning that police are spending inordinate amounts of time chasing nonviolent criminals.

Representatives, Republicans and Democrats, from California, Missouri, Texas and other states have come forward to call for marijuana laws which follow a more common sense approach. Marijuana laws not only imprison many non-violent offenders, they also imprison a disproportionate number of minorities and people of color.

Being arrested is not the American marijuana smoker's only concern, said a member of the Drug Policy Alliance Network. Those found guilty of marijuana use can lose their jobs, financial aid for college, their food stamp and welfare benefits, or their low-cost housing.

The bill proposed, House Resolution 5843, titled the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008, would allow "a very small number of individuals" suffering from chronic pain or illness to smoke marijuana with impunity.

If HR 5843 were passed by the House, marijuana smokers could possess up to 100 grams.

Tagged as: high profile defense

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