Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

A High-Profile Domestic Violence Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP is a criminal defense law firm that has been helping clients throughout Southern California contest their criminal charges and obtain superior results for years. Our skilled domestic violence attorneys have over 50 years of collective court room experience and we are fully prepared to undertake our clients

Tagged as: domestic violence pc 273_5

Politics and Gangs: Proposition A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged as: gang allegations

Child Pornography In Iraq War

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged as: child pornography pc 311_11

Gang Violence and Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

Tagged as: gang allegations, jury trial defense

Immigration and Crime in California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged as: immigration consequences

NFL Running Back Sentenced in L.A. to Prison

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged as: california criminal laws, jury trial defense

Three Strikes, A Sad History

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

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

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

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

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

Keffer Runnels
Sentence: 25 years to life for petty theft

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proposition 6

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

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

Tagged as: three strikes laws

What Constitutes Dangerous "Weapons" under California Penal Code Section 12020

Posted on: September 29, 2008 at 10:28 a.m.

Frequently L.A. Criminal Attorneys represent individuals charged with carrying a concealed weapon pursuant to Penal Code Section 12020, which includes knives, dirk/daggers, switchblades, brass knuckles, or other concealable weapons. The crime is a "wobbler" which means it can be prosecuted as either a felony or misdemeanor, and thus carries the possibility of jail and/or prison for someone convicted of violating this weapons law.

Many cases have addressed what type of objects can constitute a concealed weapon pursuant to this Penal Code provision. While the object may not appear to be a weapon in everyday use, many objects qualify as illegal concealed weapons.

Tagged as: california criminal laws, juvenile law

Hit and Run: Dangerous for the Victim and the Accused

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged as: violent crimes defense

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged as: california criminal laws

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