Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Los Angeles Federal Criminal Attorneys and Point Shaving

Posted on: April 12, 2011 at 10:24 p.m.

In the 1950's, there were so many point shaving scandals in college basketball that countless careers were ruined by organized crime. Alleged mobsters would pay money to college players to either throw the game (meaning to lose it intentionally) or to "underperform" which would impact the odds. If a team is favored to win by 7 points, but they only win by 4, then anyone who took the odds would lose. When federal law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) got involved, young players had their dreams destroyed as they were either thrown out of college basketball, thrown in jail or both. An incident in San Diego demonstrates just how important it is to have a Los Angeles Federal Criminal Attorney today as it was 60 years ago.

At the University of San Diego, a point shaving investigation is shocking not only the community, but the sports scene in and around the city as well. Former USD basketball players Brandon Johnson and Brandon Dowdy are in desperate need of a Los Angeles Federal Criminal Attorney after they were indicted on charges of fixing college basketball games. The agents who were investigating the crime were originally looking into a marijuana drug ring for over a year. Investigators learned the dealers were also running sports books and allegedly bribing college players to fix games. Agents executed four search warrants at various residences and one business (a convenience store) in San Diego. By agents, this means FBI SWAT teams swarming into people's home and businesses, taking documents and people into custody. Without a skilled Federal Criminal Attorney working for you, there is no telling how law enforcement officials could take advantage of such a situation.

The investigation showed that the people allegedly involved in the bribing and point shaving operation bet on USD to lose against teams they were favored to beat. In a 7 game stretch, the team went 1-6, including 1-5-1 against the spread. These losses included three losses to teams they were favored against. The coach of the USD basketball is also allegedly involved in this operation. Each of these individuals will need a skilled, experienced Los Angeles Federal Criminal Attorney in order to get the best defense possible. If you or someone you know has been charged with a federal crime, contact the lawyers at Kestenbaum Eisner & Gorin, LLP by calling 877-781-1570 today!

Tagged as: federal law and defense

Los Angeles Counterfeit Goods: Penal Code Section 350

Posted on: December 26, 2008 at 10:48 p.m.

Los Angeles criminal courts are facing more and more cases stemming from the sale of counterfeit goods, in violation of Penal Code Section 350. The prosecution typically relies on expert opinions to prove their case that the goods seized were fake, and not licensed by the owner of the brand. Frequently counterfeited products include clothing, sunglasses, and purses. The punishmentdependsona suspect's prior record, and the number of items recovered by law enforcement. The criminal defense of these matters focuses on 1) what the client knew 2) how he or she obtained the items and 3) whether other items in the store were legitimate. Our Los Angeles defense firm has been able to obtain probation for every client it hasrepresented on charges of possession or sale of counterfeit items.

Recently Los Angeles law enforcement came down hard on the famed Santee alley, where police raids that led to the arrests of 28 people for making and selling knockoff goods.Police seized $2.7 million in counterfeit items bearing names such as Air Jordan, Ed Hardy, Coach and Sony in the weekend raids, resulting in the second-largest take of knockoffs in Los Angeles County history.

"As the economic times become tougher, the counterfeits become more and more prevalent," said Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. David Doan. "That continues to be a negative rein on businesses whose property is being counterfeited. We need to get the message out to make sure you buy smart and make sure you're helping our economy and not helping the criminals. Those arrested will face varying charges, including sales, distribution and manufacturing of counterfeit merchandise, Doan said. The stores in Santee Alley, also known as the Callejones, have long been a hot spot for selling bootleg goods -- including electronics, clothes, music and movies -- to Angelenos on a budget.

Tagged as: federal law and defense, resisting arrest pc 148

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

Do Legislatures Use Victims as a Cover?

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

A bill proposed in February of this year in the California State Assembly, AB 2417, would supposedly strengthen victims' rights by paying out more money for witnesses accounts in certain circumstances, provide leeway in "hear-say" rulings and increase prison time for certain offenses.

Amongst other provisions, this bill was proposed in order to:
- appropriate $10,000,000 annually, adjusted for inflation as specified, from the General Fund to the Safe Neighborhoods Compliance Enforcement Fund.
- expand the definition of "unavailable as a witness" to include a situation in which a declarant is present at a hearing and refuses to testify concerning the subject matter of the declarant's statement despite a court order to do so.
- provide that any person who possess methamphetamine, as specified, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, or 2 or 3 years.

While some of the plans in this proposition seem fine, it also seems that the legislature is looking to turn communities against each other, and imprison those convicted of certain crimes for longer periods of time. Many of those in jail currently in California are drug users, not violent offenders or otherwise.

Crime bills often use such terms as "victim's rights" and "safe neighborhoods." However, rarely are the terms "rights of the individual," "guilty until proven innocent" and "constitutional rights" brought up or discussed at all.

If you find yourself accused of committing a crime, contact the attorneys at Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP. The attorneys at Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP are skilled in all manner of criminal defense and can help guide you toward a proper defense.

Tagged as: federal law and defense

Pro Per Representation: Does Representing Yourself Make Sense?

Posted on: July 14, 2008 at 3:40 p.m.

Pro Se representation, or representing yourself in court/acting as your own legal counsel, is highly controversial, to say the least. In most cases that receive media attention, a violent criminal with a questionable mental state defends himself/herself. However, the practice isn't that uncommon, and it happens much more often on a small scale. Foregoing the use of an attorney in a criminal or civil procedure may seem like a cost-effective idea, but the question remains - is it a wise choice to a defend a criminal case in Southern California courtrooms?

In the case of actor Dylan McDermott, he's chosen to represent himself during a divorce proceeding. The challenge for Mr. McDermott is, can he afford to make mistakes and lose ground on the settlement?

In a recent decision, WILLIAM M. HALLEY v. STATE OF MONTANA, in The Supreme Court of the State of Montana, a defendant claimed that he was denied his legal rights, in part due to interference of his attempted pro se representation. He claimed the attorneys that were appointed to him gave him ineffective counsel. He was found guilty in the case for which he defended himself, and was given a 40 year suspended sentence. So, in the end he greatly annoyed the attorneys in the case, the judge and filed several motions concering portions of the law he did not have a good understanding of, which all led to being found guilty.

There are many "apparent" reasons to defend yourself, cost, intelligence, seeming know how, but in the end a skilled and experienced attorney can not only take the burden off of your shoulders, but can navigate the legal waters in a way you can't. Whether it's a DUI matter, drug charge or some other felony or misdemeanor offense, an experienced criminal defense attorney may save you thousands of dollars in fines, years in jail and a damaged criminal record.

The ins and outs of the law, the ability to negotiate and plea bargain, and the experience of being able to defend against a knowledgeable prosecutor is invaluable. Hiring a plumber makes sense if a pipe bursts and hiring an attorney makes sense if the police arrest you.

Tagged as: federal law and defense

Animal Cruelty, a California Felony

Posted on: July 3, 2008 at 2:17 p.m.

Los Angeles Criminal Lawyers are sometimes hired to defend cases of animal cruelty. While rare, the charges often bring public outrage. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office even created a Special Unit to prosecute such cases.

A homeless man in Los Angeles was arrested and charged with multiple felony counts of animal abuse for allegedly soaking cats in gasoline and lighting them on fire. In 2008 there have been multiple cases of animal abuse reported and prosecuted by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, including illegal cock-fights, animal poisoning, shooting of animals, dog fighting and more.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 2003 increased penalties for people found guilty of animal abuse. Aggravated cruelty can lead to $11,000 in fines, two years in jail or both if convicted. While some states prosecute this crime as a misdemeanor, California considers it a felony.

Michael Vick's conviction for dog-fighting has brought a great deal of attention to the area of animal abuse, and sentences and penalties have increased as a result. There are a number of people who want animal abuse to be more than just a felony, but to bring with it intense jail time.

Here are some animal abuse crimes that can/will carry with them serious penalties:

- Killing an animal that belongs to someone will often net a more harsh penalty, in part because of the emotional attachment and in part because of the destruction of property.

- Killing an endangered animal, or an animal protected by a state agency, can lead to serious jail time and fines.

- Involvement in illegal animal fights, such as dog fights or cock fights, can lead to a number of felony charges, in part because gambling is usually involved.

Tagged as: federal law and defense, jury trial defense

Forced Mental Examinations Unlawful, Penal Code Section 1054

Posted on: July 2, 2008 at 12:46 p.m.

A recent decision by the California Supreme Court Verdin v. Superior Court, wrestled with the issue of "diminished actuality" or "diminished capacity." This describes an individual's mental capacity as it pertains to the ability to have the mental will to commit a crime. This term can be used by the defense in order to protect an accused individual if s/he does not have the mental capacity to stand trial.

The major issue was whether a defendant can be forced to undergo a mental examination requested by the prosecution. In this particular case, the defendant attacked his wife and daughter and was found by the police sitting naked on his front porch, claiming he'd killed his daughter. Thankfully his wife and daughter were alive, although they'd been beaten and a firearm had been discharged during the fray.

In the past, if a defense attorney claimed his/her client was mentally impaired, or suffered from "diminished actuality," the prosecution would seek and successful obtain a court order requiring the accused to undergo a mental examination, to be conducted by an expert of the prosecution's choosing. Obviously, a forced exam raises the issue of constitutional protections, and exsposed the system's has major flaws. Many cases supported the court's right to allow the prosecution to test the defendant as the prosecution saw fit.

However, in the above mentioned case, the California Supreme Court ruled that the trial court could no longer make such an order. It limited the trial court's powers, stating it only has the right to order discover motions explicitly stated in Penal Code section 1054.3. This is an important ruling in criminal defense, as it gives California attorneys greater flexibility to serve their clients, and justice, in defending those individuals whose mental capacity may be in question. While this specific decision only applies to pre-trial testing, it may spread to mid-trial or post trial testing as well. That has yet to be decided, however it does mean that defense attorneys have an increased ability to defend their clients.

Tagged as: federal law and defense

Weapons Charges and Dennis Farina

Posted on: June 12, 2008 at 10:09 a.m.

Dennis Farina, star of the television show "Law & Order" and the movie "Get Shorty," was arrested on weapons charges for bringing a gun to an airport.

Back in May, the 64-year-old actor was booked in the felony case for possessing a case with a semiautomatic .22 gun. The actor spent a day in the Van Nuys jail and posted $35,000 bail. Farina claimed to have forgotten he had the gun with him. Farina isn't the only high-profile individual to have had this happen to him; Snoop-Dog was arrested at an airport for similar charges, as was the son of former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Both were carrying weapons into the airport, which is illegal.

In California, especially in cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, weapons and firearms laws are particularly stringent, and the general public must be aware of this.

Below are some tips on how to handle firearms and weapons related charges:

1. Contact an attorney - Law enforcement may not notify you of your rights entirely, and security at the location where you've been arrested may not act according to the law. An experienced attorney will be able to help you with this.
2. Cooperate with police - While you do have the right to remain silent, you don't have the right to resist arrest, fight with the police or obstruct justice. This may help with sentencing.
3. Be aware of your surroundings - Places like airports, schools and other public places will be particularly sensitive to someone bringing firearms or weapons with them. Be aware of this when you're traveling to a school, a park, any major city or the airport.
4. A serious enough weapons charge could count against you as a felony or under California's Three Strikes laws.
5. Any weapon can and will be checked for recent crimes, and even if you aren't the person who committed the crime, it could lead to jail time.

Tagged as: california criminal laws, counterfeit goods pc 350, federal law and defense, jury trial defense

Violation of Prosecutor's Duty to Disclose Favorable Defense Evidence: Penal Code Section 1054

Posted on: May 27, 2008 at 10:12 p.m.

L.A. criminal attorneys turn to Penal Code Section 1054 which requires that the prosecutors provide all reports, witness statements, physical evidence, videotapes, photographs, etc. By reviewing what the police has gathered as part of its investigation, the defense is able to be ready to contest the criminal charges. In turn, the defense may want to reinterview witnesses to determine how credible their observations were. The defense may also want retest DNA results, enhance videotape footage, test fingerprints, and do any other forensic investigation to ensure that nothing was missed in the way the case was investigated, so that there are no other suspects and that the forensic testing of evidence was consistent with established scientific principles.

In a recent decision, The California Supreme Court ordered a new penalty trial in the killing of an Eagle Rock convenience store clerk in the early 1980's. The basis for the ruling was the prosecution's failure to turn over favorable evidence to the defense. If evidence is not turned over, then the defense is not able to present it to the jury and thus the rightfulness of the conviction is subject to question. As to this 1982 case, the court held that the death sentence imposed on Adam Miranda for the 1980 killing was tainted because prosecutors, who blamed Miranda for another murder during the penalty phase of his 1982 trial, failed to turn over a letter to the defense in which another man claimed he committed that crime.

At trial, jurors convicted Miranda of the murder of the store clerk, Gary Black, and of assaulting Black

Tagged as: federal law and defense, motion to dismiss unlawful police search

Emergency Exception: When can police lawfully enter a home without a Search Warrant?

Posted on: April 1, 2008 at 11:41 p.m.

In most instances when the police decide to search a home, the Constitution requires law enforcement to have a preapproved search warrant. A search warrant provides a justification, prescreened by a judge, explaining why the police can invade the privacy of someone's house. When the justification is insufficient, the judge denies the search warrant and the police cannot search with the court's blessing.

Several exceptions exist to the warrant requirement that are frequently litigated by way of Penal Code Section 1538.5 Motions in Southern California courtrooms. These are also referred to as Search and Seizure Motions, or Motions to Suppress Evidence, by Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors. The emergency exception to having a search warrant is one basis law enforcement frequently falls back on to justify the search of a home without a warrant. The basic rule of law is that to justify a warrantless entry by law enforcement in an emergency situation: (1) under the totality of the circumstances, law enforcement must have an objectively reasonable basis for concluding that there was an immediate need to protect others or themselves from serious harm; and (2) the search

Tagged as: federal law and defense, probation and sentencing laws

How does California help the Wrongly Imprisoned?

Posted on: February 28, 2008 at 10:44 p.m.

A recent study focuses on how the state of California deals with those people who were sent to prison, and were later exonerated.

A reviewing commission concluded that California does a poor job of compensating people wrongfully convicted in its courts. Men and women imprisoned for years, even decades, for crimes they didn't commit are offered fewer benefits than convicts released on parole.

Exonerated prisoners "face many difficult obstacles to full restoration of their rights and liberties, and the compensation they receive for their losses is frequently inadequate," said the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, a state body chaired by former California Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp that has been studying the problem of wrongful convictions.

The commission, which includes prosecutors, defense lawyers, law professors and law enforcement officials, recommended a number of reforms, including giving wrongly convicted men and women state assistance in locating housing, a cash allowance, clothing and employment counseling. But the proposals would hardly open the floodgates. The compensation, "should be limited to those who have been found innocent of the crime or crimes for which they were convicted and imprisoned, not because of procedural errors in their trials," the panel said.

The commission also recommended that:

* Exonerated prisoners be permitted two years rather than six months to file compensation claims.

* The maximum compensation be increased from $36,500 to $50,000 for every year of incarceration.

* People who gave false confessions or forced guilty pleas be allowed to seek a court determination of factual innocence, the gateway to compensation.

* The deadline for a wrongfully convicted person to sue his trial lawyer for malpractice should be pushed back. The commission said the recent case of Peter Rose, who was wrongfully convicted of the kidnap and rape of a 13-year old girl in November 1995, demonstrates the need for this reform.

Rose's conviction was vacated in October 2004 after he was exonerated by DNA testing. He filed a complaint against his original defense lawyer, alleging that the lawyer's negligence contributed to his wrongful conviction. But the suit was dismissed because it was not filed within the statute of limitations, "even though the court conceded that he could not have recovered on his claim until his conviction had been vacated," the commission report said. Rose is one of 15 wrongfully convicted individuals who have been compensated by the state. The state has denied 25 claims and dismissed an additional 19 because they were untimely, incomplete or the claimant had not been released from prison.

Commissioners also recommended that the state resume funding for the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University Law School and the California Innocence Project at Cal Western Law School in San Diego, the primary legal groups in the state fighting to overturn wrongful convictions.

The Legislature in 2001 allocated $1.6 million over two years to provide lawyers to assist inmates with innocence claims. The legal assistance funding was eliminated in 2003 because of state budget cuts.

To date, the two Innocence Projects "have succeeded in helping to exonerate 11 people, two based on DNA evidence and nine on other grounds. Each exoneration has saved the state the cost of housing an innocent person," the commission said. The group also pointed out that the 1996 exoneration of Kevin Green, an Orange County man who spent more than 15 years in prison for the assault on his wife and murder of their unborn child, led to the conviction of the real murderer and rapist.

The report said the two Innocence Projects are now actively investigating 288 cases and have a backlog of 700 cases.

Tagged as: federal law and defense

Los Angeles Federal Crimes: Corrupt Cops on Trial

Posted on: January 16, 2008 at 12:15 a.m.

Who says there is no corruption in the police? Prosecutors frequently argue in drug possession cases that the officers finding the drugs are honest and reliable, such that their testimony should be believed. L.A. Criminal Defense Lawyers retort that we live in an imperfect world and that there are a few "bad apples" in any profession. It is left up the jury to decide whether the police, or that accused are telling the truth.

So what happens when the accused on trial are police officers? And further that the government uses others disgraced officers, as their witnesses, in their case in chief to prove corruption? A current criminal jury trial in Los Angeles provides an example of dirty dealing by local LAPD officers. During recent testimony, a former state corrections officer, sitting handcuffed in court, identified a Los Angeles police officer accused of participating in a series of home-invasion-style robberies staged to look like legitimate police raids, who is on trial. Rodrigo Duran, the former prison guard, told a federal court jury that he witnessed ex-LAPD officer William Ferguson commit several crimes while dressed in his police uniform, riding in a patrol car stolen from the police academy.

When asked to identify Ferguson for the record, Duran raised his cuffed hands and pointed a finger at the defendant, who sat impassively in a dark suit next to his attorney. Ferguson and his brother Joseph, a suspended Long Beach police officer, went on trial this week for their alleged involvement in a band of rogue officers and others accused of committing more than 30 robberies or attempted robberies at locations across Southern California.

These are not the only defendants, who are former police officers. The admitted ringleader in the case -- a former Los Angeles police officer Ruben Palomares -- and 14 other defendants have already pleaded guilty, and many have begun serving sentences in federal prison. The Ferguson brothers are the only defendants thus far to fight the charges detailed in a 54-count indictment alleging civil rights violations.

William Ferguson is accused of posing as Palomares' partner during many of the robberies, in which the officers and others allegedly stole drugs, money and other valuables while pretending to conduct narcotics raids between 1999 and 2001. Joseph Ferguson is accused of driving his brother and Palomares to the LAPD academy to steal cars to be used in the robberies and of acting as a lookout outside some of the locations while they were being robbed. He is also accused of making a fake 911 call that resulted in the arrest and eventual imprisonment of one of the drug dealers who had been providing information to them but was asking for a larger share of the take.

Prosecutors plan to call victims from at least 15 of the robberies to testify, according to a 43-page trial memorandum by Assistant U.S. Atty. Douglas M. Miller, the lead prosecutor on the case. They also plan to call Palomares to testify against his alleged former cohorts. Much of the testimony this week came from victims of robberies, who described people dressed as police arriving at their residences, saying they were there to search for drugs. Some said they were held at gunpoint or handcuffed as their houses were searched. One man wiped away tears as he described a 2001 encounter in which he said he was beaten with a baton and hit over the head with a sap because the "officers" didn't find the drugs they were looking for.

The most dramatic testimony came out recently when jurors began hearing from Duran, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors. He faces a potential life sentence but stands to receive a significant reduction as a result of his cooperation. Duran said he was recruited to join the ring by Palomares, a former high school buddy in Huntington Park. Duran said Palomares told him that another old friend -- this one a drug dealer -- was tipping him off to where rival dealers had stashes of drugs or cash. Under the deal they had worked out, Duran said, Palomares and his companions would show up at the locations dressed as police and say they were there to serve a search warrant for drugs. If they found any, they would turn them over to his dealer friend and her husband to sell and then get a cut of the profit. If they found money, they would split it.

"He said we'd be able make some money by doing the jobs she wanted us to do," Duran recalled under questioning by prosecutor Jeffrey S. Blumberg from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. Duran described several "jobs" he participated in along with Palomares and other crew members, including William Ferguson. Duran said Palomares and Ferguson would wear their LAPD uniforms, along with guns and badges, and employ police tactics while conducting the robberies. At one point, Duran said he looked on as the two officers, both in uniform, loaded a stolen 50-gallon drum filled with marijuana into the back of pickup truck owned by Palomares' cousin. Duran said the drugs were later sold and he received a $3,500 cut of the profit.

Blumberg asked Duran, who had no previous criminal record, why he accepted Palomares' invitation to become involved in the ring. "Greed," he said. "It was all about trying to help myself out because I was hurting financially." "Did you think you'd get caught?" the prosecutor asked.
"Never," Duran replied. "Why's that?" Blumberg asked. "Because we were law enforcement."

In sum, Los Angeles Criminal Lawyers must often present compelling arguments to a jury about why a client's story of police corruption is believable, despite the officers' denials. The pending trial of corrupt cops provides a great example that officers may be imperfect, have the same temptations as the rest of the public, and lie to cover up corruption.

Tagged as: federal law and defense, high profile defense

California Penal Code Section 350 - Possession and Sales of Counterfeit Goods

Posted on: December 2, 2007 at 4:56 p.m.

Fake rolexes? Gucci sunglasses? Fendi purses? Pirated DVDS? The manufacturers of these high-end items lose millions of dollars in sales, and aggressively pursue counterfeiting by hiring undercover investigators nationally. The investigators in turn chronicle what they observe in a gray-market storefronts and turn over the product of their investigations to local police agencies. An example of someone who may be investigated is an individual selling Gucci sunglasses for $20 in Downtown L.A., or Venice Beach. If the glasses were not produced by Gucci, they are considered counterfeit, even if their quality is the same or better. Even if the seller is honest with the potential buyers that the item is a fake, California law states that it is criminal to sell an item with a counterfeit label such as Gucci or Fendi on an article, without the manufacturer's consent. This is known as a trademark violation, and the criminal consequences for such conduct include large fines, jail, and prison.

The Law Blog's attention has recently been turned to criminal counterfeiting cases, which are appearing more often in Southern California Courts. Manufacturers and distributors of counterfeit items are being arrested more frequently. Los Angeles criminal lawyers are now facing the prospect of defending criminal charges brought pursuant to Penal Code Section 350. The biggest criminal defense challenge in these cases is to keep clients out of custody. The clients usually have clean prior records and often do not realize, before being arrested, that their entrepreneurial activity was illegal. Mistake of law is not a defense in California courts. Penal Code Section 350 states in part:

"(a) Any person who willfully manufactures, intentionally sells, or knowingly possesses for sale any counterfeit of a mark registered with the Secretary of State or registered on the Principal Register of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, shall, upon conviction, be punishable as follows:

(1) When the offense involves less than 1,000 of the articles described in this subdivision, with a total retail or fair market value less than that required for grand theft as defined in Section 487, and if the person is an individual, he or she shall be punished by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment; or, if the person is a corporation, by a fine of not more than one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000).

(2) When the offense involves 1,000 or more of the articles described in this subdivision, or has a total retail or fair market value equal to or greater than that required for grand theft as defined in Section 487, and if the person is an individual, he or she shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years, or by a fine not to exceed two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine; or, if the person is a corporation, by a fine not to exceed five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000).

(b) Any person who has been convicted of a violation of either paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (a) shall, upon a subsequent conviction of paragraph (1) of subdivision (a), if the person is an individual, be punished by a fine of not more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or in the state prison for 16 months, or two or three years, or by both that fine and imprisonment; or, if the person is a corporation, by a fine of not more than two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000).

(c) Any person who has been convicted of a violation of subdivision (a) and who, by virtue of the conduct that was the basis of the conviction, has directly and foreseeably caused death or great bodily injury to another through reliance on the counterfeited item for its intended purpose shall, if the person is an individual, be punished by a fine of not more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or by both that fine and imprisonment; or, if the person is a corporation, by a fine of not more than two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000).

In a recent LAPD sting in the Los Angeles Downtown shopping district, known as the Santee Alley, 26 people were arrested and $8 million of counterfeit goods were confiscated. It was reported in the press that more than 140 law enforcement officers descended on Santee Alley Police and seized more than 50,000 items, including pirated CDs and DVDs as well as near-perfect reproductions of designer merchandise. The street value of the goods seized by officials with the Los Angeles Anti-Piracy Task Force was estimated at more than $8 million. "It sends a strong message going into the holiday shopping season that this kind of activity is not going to be tolerated," said LAPD Capt. Jodi Wakefield. "If they are going to be doing it, we are going to be arresting them." But some shoppers in the alley said they felt sympathy for merchants. "It's a Catch-22," said Ron Brown, 39. "It's trademarked merchandise. It kind of hurts the manufacturer. [But] especially this time of year, you kind of feel bad -- people are just trying to make money, survive and feed their families. People are out there trying to make a living. Unfortunately it's illegal." Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department cordoned off a blocklong section of 11th Street on either side of Santee Alley. Aided by investigators for design companies, the officers examined merchandise such as watches, purses and perfume. They found copycats that carried designer labels, including Prada, Rolex, Fendi and Gucci, officials said. "I'm a librarian by trade, so I know about copyright laws," said Becky McIntosh, 60, of Idaho, wandering the fashion district after returning from a Southern California cruise. "I can't in good conscience do it -- I know it's taking away the profit of the original designers." But shopper Jackie Williams, 41, a part-time nurse from Corona, toted a few handbags she had just picked up and saw the issue in simpler terms. "If people choose to buy the real Coach, they can go to Nordstrom," she said. "For me," she said of Santee deals, "it's something I like."

Despite the debate about whether such investigations help society, counterfeiting will continue especially with the inflow of counterfeit goods from China. As a result, Los Angleles criminal lawyers will stay busy defending Penal Code Section 350 violations in court.

Tagged as: federal law and defense

Internet Crimes and Child Pornography: Latest Court Ruling on the Application of California Penal Code Section 311.11

Posted on: October 27, 2007 at 12:52 p.m.

Soutern Callifornia criminal attorneys have noticed that police at the local, state, and federal levels has been investing more and more resources into the investigation of internet crimes. In California, frequently committed internet crimes include: internet fraud, phishing, credit card fraud, illegal downloading, child pornography, illegal pornography, and illegal distribution of viruses/spam. With the recent publicity of "To Catch a Predator" on NBC's Dateline, the public is more aware of suspects attempting to use the internet to engage in sexual chat and activities with minors.

California Penal Code Section 311.11 specifically makes illegal the possession of child pornography. While pornography overall is typically protected speech under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (as ruled over 30 years ago during the Larry Flynt obscenity trials), child pornography is considered to be harmful and illegal speech, and is not subject to constitutional protections. The law is clearly aimed at protecting minors from exploitation, and victimization.

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyers should be aware of the latest ruling in California, People v. Herzig, interprets Section 311.11. The ruling states that an individual who possesses multiple images of child pornography on a computer can only be convicted of one count of possessing such images. In other words, if the police recover a computer with mutliple images from suspect's home, the defendant can only be charged with one criminal violation. As a result, in the Herzig decision, the Appeals Court ruled that nine of 10 counts on which Timothy Donald Hertzig was convicted of possessing child pornography under Penal Code Sec. 311.11 must be dismissed. The panel said Hertzig

Tagged as: federal law and defense, sex crime accusations

What rights do you have as a passenger in a vehicle after a traffic stop? Can the police search you, order you to provide identification, or pat you down for weapons?

Posted on: September 6, 2007 at 9:52 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Brendlin v. California (2007) 127 S.Ct. 2400 addressed many legal issues related to what constitutional rights passengers have after a traffic stop.

Assume that the police stop a car for an alleged traffic violation. Obviously, the driver is detained. But what about the passengers? Although it might seem obvious and a simple matter of common sense, a split developed on whether passengers in stopped cars were in fact detained. This is important because if the passengers were not detained, those passengers could not challenge the legality of the traffic stop. So even if the traffic stop turned out to be unlawful, and any evidence related to the driver had to be suppressed, the passengers were fair game and would lose their motions to suppress.

1. Passengers do have a Reasonable Privacy Expectation and have Standing to Challege Unlawful Police Intrusions after a Traffic Stop
Remarkably, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Brendlin and has now issued its opinion, unanimously reversing the California Supreme Court. The holding of the court is that passengers in stopped cars are detained, thereby permitting those passengers the right to challenge the legality of the stop of the car: When a police officer makes a traffic stop, the driver of the car is seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The question in this case is whether the same is true of a passenger. We hold that a passenger is seized as well and so may challenge the constitutionality of the stop. (Brendlin v. California (2007) 127 S.Ct. 2400, 2403.)

The test of whether someone is detained comes from two cases. In United States v. Mendenhall (1980) 446 U.S. 544, 100 S.Ct. 1870, 64 L.Ed.2d 497, the court held that a person is seized if a reasonable person would believe that he or she is not free to leave. This test does not cover all situations, so the court adopted a gloss on this test, in United States v. Drayton (2002) 536 U.S. 194, 202, 122 S.Ct. 2105, 153 L.Ed.2d 242, saying that a person is detained where that person would not feel free to decline the officer

Tagged as: federal law and defense, probation and sentencing laws

Prosecution and Defense of Consumer Fraud Crimes in Southern California Courts

Posted on: September 2, 2007 at 11:51 a.m.

Consumer Fraud is organized into several areas under the misdemeanor prosecution powers of the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office for fraud practices - Immigration, Contractor, Auto Insurance, Solicitation, Loan Scams, and Credit Repair Fraud. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office prosecutes these criminal fraud cases as well, but typically as felony matters.

The Los Angeles Criminal Defense of all consumer felony and misdemeanor fraud matters requires timely intervention, especially with aggressive prosecution practices in Los Angeles and Southern California courtrooms. Often a California Criminal Lawyer's aggressive intervention can result in a felony theft matter being reduced to a misdemeanor charge.

In Los Angeles courts, one area of criminal law enforcement scrutinty is so-called Immigration Consultant fraud -- the investigation of people who are not attorneys, but pretend to be by misadvising clients about areas of law they have no expertise in, nor appropriate licensing. Under California law, an immigration consultant cannot provide a client with any advice on immigration matters. The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office feels these consultants are not lawyers and should not give legal advice. An immigration consultant may only provide a person assistance with translating information, locating and securing documents on your behalf, and completing immigration forms.

Another area of criminal investigation by Los Angeles prosecutors is Contractor Fraud. Often contractors have legal issues related to appropriate licensing, bonding, and pending complaints. Crimes of theft, fraud, and other legal matters are aggressively investigated and prosecuted as both felonies and misdemeanors. The decision to file charges depends on the level of loss, as well as the age and level vulnerability of the alleged victim. Again, Los Angeles Criminal Attorneys defend these allegations immediately, ensuring that restitution if any is paid, and that felony charges are reduced.

Another hotbed area for covert investigations, including undercover media reports, is Auto Repair Fraud, which includes appropriate licensing and fraudulent estimates/work inquiries by the police. The police often set up sting operations, and seek the filing of felony charges. Again swift and strategic legal action by a criminal defense lawyer can mean the difference between jail, and no custody time, in Los Angeles and So. California courtrooms.

Identy theft is another area of Consumer Prosecution. Los Angeles prosecutors focus on prosecuting all individuals using others' personal data for fraud. This is on of the fastest growing crimes in the United States is identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone steals a person's identity and proceeds to ruin credit or commit crimes in the person's name.

Finally, Loan Scamming is a related area of criminal prosecution -- money is taken from a consumer, under the guise of a loan promise that nevermaterializes. Or, a consumer's equity is taken under the false promise of a home improvement, or refinancing. Again, these are fraud matters that Los Angeles criminal lawyers defend as either felony or misdemeanor cases. Southern California consumer fraud matters are typically aggressively prosecuted, and thus the criminal defense of these matters needs to be equally aggressive.

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

Murder or Manslaughter? Criminal Defense, California Law, and Sentencing Issues

Posted on: August 28, 2007 at 11:01 a.m.

To be found guilty of the crime of murder requires that the accused have an intent to kill the deceased. The intent may be express (Defendant stating "I am going to kill her" and then pointing the gun at the victim's face), or implied (as in high-risk conduct by a Defendant in a police pursuit causing the death of an innocent pedestrian). Because of the gravity of the offense, the crime of murder carries life in prison, and due to the politics in California the Office of the Governor and the Parole Board almost never release someone on parole previously convicted of murder. Accordingly, criminal defense lawyers that are working in Los Angeles Courts, and throughout the Southern California criminal justice system, may ask that the jury to find their client guilty of something less than murder, such as a voluntary manslaughter or an involuntary manslaughter. Thes are crimes for which a Defendant is eligile for probation. The typical defenses to a murder charge being reduced include (1) "unreasonable" self-defense (2) voluntary intoxication (3) provocation and (4) heat of passion. Should the Los Angeles criminal lawyer be able to establish the defense, the Defendant is eligible for probation after a trial.

For example, a preacher's wife in the south was recently convicted of Manslaughter for killing her husband, and received probation. The case received lots of media attention. Court TV reported tha: "A preacher's wife who was convicted of manslaughter for shooting her husband to death left jail Wednesday for a mental health facility, where she will serve the remainder of her sentence. After spending 13 days in McNairy County jail in Selmer, Tenn., Mary Winkler was transferred to an undisclosed mental health facility, where she will receive treatment for longstanding mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and a mild personaliyy disorder. Circuit Judge Weber McCraw, who presided over Winkler's murder trial and gave her the option of serving some of her sentence in a mental health facility, signed the sealed order releasing Winkler Wednesday."At the provider's request and to ensure she has the treatment she needs, the name and location of the facility are not being disclosed," Tennessee Supreme Court public information officer Sue Allison said."

Defendant Winkler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in April for shooting Matthew Winkler in the back as he lay in bed in the family parsonage on March 22, 2006.On June 8, McCraw sentenced Winkler to three years, but with 210 days to be served in custody, minus 143 days she served in pretrial custody in 2006. He also gave her the option of serving up to 60 days in a mental health facility.

During Winkler's trial earlier this year, defense psychologist Lynne Zager testified that Winkler's mental state affected her ability to form the criminal intent to kill her husband. Taking the stand in her defense, Winkler told jurors that her husband subjected her to emotional, physical and sexual abuse, prompting her to shoot him. The jury's verdict of voluntary manslaughter appeared to give credence to her claims. At her sentencing in June, McCraw asked Zager if Winkler would benefit from treatment in a mental heath facility, and Zager said yes.Because Winkler has already served 13 days in jail, she is set for release back to society after serving out her time in the mental health facility. Before she was taken into custody at sentencing, Winkler was living in McMinnville, Tenn., with a family who took her in after she was released on bond in 2006. The head of the household testified at her sentencing that Winkler had become a new person since going to live with the family.Her boss at a dry cleaner in McMinnville also testified at her sentencing that Winkler was a model employee whom the public should not fear if she were released.

Tagged as: federal law and defense, jury trial defense

Unlawful Police Conduct: Court of Appeals limits law enforcement's justification for searching a suspect after a traffic stop

Posted on: August 28, 2007 at 1 a.m.

A new Ninth Circuit decision will assist Criminal Defense Lawyers in Los Angeles, and Attorneys specializing in Search and Seizure Criminal Law throoughout Southern California.

In United States v. Grigg, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeas ruled last week that police officers may not detain and search a suspect solely to investigate whether the person has committed a minor offense such as a noise violation. The appeals panel held that defendant's Grigg's conviction for possession of an unregistered machine gun must be reversed.

In contrast, the holding in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), permits an officer to stop a person briefly, based on no more than reasonable suspicion that the person has committed a crime. In some circumstances, however, the courts have held that a person

Tagged as: federal law and defense, probation and sentencing laws

Criminal Defense - Jury Trials: Can a jury visit the crime scene, as part of reviewing the evidence in the case?

Posted on: August 9, 2007 at 4:13 p.m.

It is logical to believe that jurors, acting as fact finders, can visit the scene of an alleged crime as part of trying to figure out what happened, and whether the accused should be criminally responsible (and thus ultimately be punished with time in custody).

As part of trial preparation, most experienced criminal defense lawyers will visit the crime scene. A visit gives a trial attorney a sense of proportion, context, and prepares him or her for successfully dealing with cross-examination, especially when questioning witnesses familiar with the location.

However, criminal law prohibits jurors from visiting the crime scene on their own initiative. The jury instructions in California specifically prohibit jurors from visiting or driving by the crime scene. The conventional wisdom of the court system is that lawyers, not jurors, decide on which evidence to present, and how to do so. Thus it is up to criminal attorneys to request of the trial judge to have jurors conduct a supervised visit of the crime scene, as part of evidence gathering in the case.

Recently, this was done in Phil Spector's murder trial pending as reported by the L.A. Times. " Jurors in the Phil Spector murder trial toured the music producer's Alhambra home this morning, with some jury members trying to re-create the position in which actress Lana Clarkson was found after Spector allegedly killed her four years ago.

A casually dressed Spector welcomed them to his "Pyrenees Castle," as the home is called on a sign out front, wearing a long-sleeved blue T-shirt, sweatpants and sandals.

The jury visit to the hilltop property was requested by the defense. Spector's team believes jurors who see the foyer where Clarkson's body was found will be better able to decide whether Spector held the gun that killed her or whether he was an innocent bystander several feet away. The defense contends the actress killed herself with a shot to the mouth in Spector's foyer.

Richard Gabriel, the defense's jury consultant, said one of the things jurors might discern is whether there were signs of a struggle in the small space -- such as furniture or rugs knocked out of position. (Apparently there were not.)

Four jurors sat in a chair where Clarkson's body was found as they tried to re-create "the position in which she was found," said Linda Deutsch, the pool reporter."

This was not the first time a high-profile trial conducted in Los Angeles had a jury visit the crime scene. The O.J. Simpson case also had the jury visit the home of the defendant.

Tagged as: federal law and defense, motion to dismiss unlawful police search

What is a preliminary hearing?

Posted on: July 23, 2007 at 8:29 a.m.

In California criminal courts, preliminary hearings are formal court hearings where the judge determines if there is probable cause to hold the defendant to answer for trial, on charges filed in the Felony Complaint. The hearing is only available if felony charges are filed (and not in misdemeanor prosecutions). It is a "mini-trial," where prosecutors present witness testimony establishing a crime was committed, and how the defendant is responsible.

A criminal defense lawyer may use the hearing as a vehicle to:

(1) determine how strong the case is against his client - are the witnesses credible? were there problems in the investigation? should he advise the client to settle the case in the trial court?

(2) test out the defense theory of the case through extensive cross-examination, and by possibly putting on affirmative defense witnesses to establish the defendant is not guilty.

The only drawback to presenting defense witnesses at such an early stage of criminal proceedings is that, if the case is not dismissed, prosecutors have a chance to preview the defense and fix their proof problems before trial through additional preparation and investigation.

In sum, the preliminary hearing may lead to charges being dismissed, or may inform experienced defense counsel that plea-bargaining is the best strategy in the trial court. Finally, if the judge finds there is probable cause for the charges in the Complaint, the case is sent to a trial court for arraignment on charges the prosecutor files in an Information, which is the trial court's formal document listing criminal charges.

Tagged as: california criminal laws, federal law and defense

Small theft from a store: Petty Theft v. Burglary

Posted on: July 23, 2007 at 12:26 a.m.

California law defines a burglary as entry into a building with the intent to steal. Even if nothing is taken, a burglary is committed when the entry happens (with the intent to steal or commit a felony inside the store). For example, prosecutors may argue that someone entering a store with a booster bag (one with false bottom), and scissors, shows premeditated conduct to steal at entry, and thus even if something under $50 is taken, the criminal conduct is a burglary. A burglary is a wobbler which means it could be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Compare this to a Petty Theft, a violation of Penal Code Section 484. This crime is a misdemeanor. Anytime a theft occurs of items under $400 - California law deems a violation of this statute occurs. So, if there is no evidence of premeditation before entry into the store, a defendant is usually charged with a Petty Theft offense. If Defendant tells the police or store personnel that he or she planned the theft, a Burglary will also be charged.

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

California's Medicinal Marijuana Law is rejected by the DEA

Posted on: July 17, 2007 at 10:13 a.m.

The Los Angeles Times reported today that the DEA has sent out letters to 150 Los Angeles landlords that they risk arrest and the loss of their properties if they continue renting to cannabis dispensaries.

The two-page letter sent last week by Timothy J. Landrum, DEA special agent in charge of the Los Angeles office, has whipped up worries among landlords and dispensary operators in a region that has seen a proliferation of the businesses in the last two years.

"I'm devastated," said Lisa Sawoya, who left her lucrative job selling high-tech hospital equipment to open a dispensary 18 months ago in Hollywood. "My landlord believes in cannabis as medicine. But they're taking the letter very seriously. So I'll be closing my doors at the end of this month."

Sarah Pullen, a DEA spokeswoman in Los Angeles, said the purpose of the letters was to "educate" property owners at risk because they were housing marijuana dispensaries.

"By renting their property to individuals violating fed drug laws, they are in and of themselves violating federal law," Pullen said. "These are definitely meant to serve as a notice. What might happen as to the continuing investigations, we'll just have to see."

The DEA move has focused entirely on Los Angeles. Activists suspect that the logistics and timing

Tagged as: drug crimes defense, federal law and defense

Should a criminal case be filed in Felony or Misdemeanor court? Top L.A. Prosecutors disagree in advance of upcoming Election.

Posted on: July 15, 2007 at 10:38 a.m.

During a drunken rampage at a Los Angeles hotel in 2005, off-duty Yuba City Police Officer Jesus Barrios groped the breast of a female colleague and pointed his .40-caliber service weapon at guests in the lobby.

When Los Angeles police arrived, Barrios led them on a brief chase and had to be physically restrained. A test later revealed that his blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit.

The evidence was made even stronger when investigators found that images of Barrios menacing guests and staff had been captured on hotel video cameras.

Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo's prosecutors (Responsible for Misdemeanor Prosecutions) wanted Barrios to be charged with a felony, such as assault with a deadly weapon, which could have sent him to state prison.

As Calfiornia law prevents the City Attorney's Office from prosecuting more than misdemeanors, the case was referrred to Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, whose office decided it was not serious enough to warrant a felony charge. In a memo outlining his decision, Cooley's office noted that the police officer had been drunk, had not said anything threatening and that events had unfolded "so quickly." The case was passed back to Delgadillo, who filed a series of criminal misdemeanors and obtained a guilty plea that put Barrios in a rehabilitation center for up to 18 months.

Lawyers in Delgadillo's office point to the Barrios case

Tagged as: federal law and defense

Charges in State Court v. Federal Court

Posted on: July 1, 2007 at 8:25 p.m.

Federal court cases are typically investigated by federal agencies, including the FBI, DEA, Customs, Treasury, and other federal agencies. Sometimes state and local agencies also file charges in federal court if the offenses involve major quantity of drugs, weapons or other contraband. The federal government has more resources to prosecute cases, including special units to prosecute drugs, fraud, and violent crimes. While the state and local government also has special units, they have fewer prosecutors, with larger case loads. Also, local law enforcement does not have nearly an many resources to complete investigations with as much thoroughness as federal law enforcement. For the most part, it is definitely in a criminal defendant's interest to be prosecuted in state, rather than federal court. The state of California's sentencing system has more flexibility in terms of alternative sentencing options than the United States Sentencing Guidelines. In one large drug cases, a criminal defense attorney had his client cooperate with the police in exchange for the case to be presented to the state, rather than federal authorities for prosecution

Tagged as: california criminal laws, federal law and defense, high profile defense

How are criminal charges filed in court after someone is arrested?

Posted on: April 23, 2007 at 12:49 p.m.

The police officers that make the arrest complete all police reports about the crime, run a background check of the suspect, and do further investigation before submitting their work to a detective. As an example, in a domestic violence case, the detective in the assault unit usually follows up by contacting the witnesses and the alleged victim, to confirm whether the statements obtained by the responding officers were accurate and thorough. Often, this is they most propitious time for a defense lawyer to make a dramatic impact in a Pre-Filing Intervention, as the police usually know very little about the person arrested. The police then bring their entire investigation to the District Attorney's Office. A prosecutor reviews the documents to determine whether criminal charges are warranted. The prosecutor has the option of rejecting the case for criminal prosecution, filing a misdemeanor, or filing a felony charge. If charges are filed, the next step in the criminal process is in court, at an Arraignment. The law firm of Kestebaum Eisner & Gorin LLP is a criminal defense firm discussing aggressive prefiling intervention with the prosecutor's office.

Tagged as: california criminal laws, federal law and defense, high profile defense

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