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Ryan Lochte ChargesYou get into an argument with your roommate, and he decides to move out. After he leaves, you are still angry, so you call the police and make up a story about your roommate stealing your furniture. Can you go to jail for lying to the police?

At a bar with your friends, you get into a shouting match, and then one of your friends punches you. The cops are called, but you don’t want your friend to get in trouble, so you lie to them and tell them no punches were thrown. Is this a crime?

You are an Olympic athlete and you decide to go to a party in Rio with some of your teammates. You might stay out past team-mandated curfew and might cause damage to a local business. Afraid that you might be reprimanded by your coaches and country, you may say that you were running late because you were robbed. What could happen to you?

Did Ryan Lochte and His Olympic Teammates Commit a Crime?

U.S. swimmer and 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte and several other U.S. swimmers could be facing criminal charges in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for allegedly lying to authorities.

Continue reading →

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Persons convicted of sex crimes against children are often required to stay away from parks and playgrounds as part of their sentence. Someone in California who is convicted of drunk driving could be ordered to stay away from liquor stores. So, is it unconstitutional to order a man convicted of stealing from Home Depot to stay away from any Home Depot store?

If you are convicted of a crime and placed on probation, you will likely to have to follow many conditions that are related to your crime. But can a judge place any probation conditions on you that he or she pleases? When are probation conditions illegal?

Explaining How California Probation Works

Probation is a type of punishment for a crime in California that allows you to serve your sentence without being held in custody in jail or prison. You will be released back into the community, but only with the expectation that you follow certain terms and conditions. If you fail to follow any of these conditions or appear at any scheduled court hearing, you are considered in violation of your probation and this could lead to you being sent to jail.

Under California Penal Code Section 1203, judges have wide discretion when determining the terms of your probation. Judges can issue any term or condition of your probation as long as it relates in some way to the crime you committed.

Probation Condition Banning Man from Entering All Home Depot Stores Upheld

The California Supreme Court recently upheld a probation condition that banned a man who was convicted of shoplifting from entering any Home Depot store and adjacent parking lots. The man plead no contest to second degree burglary of $128 worth of merchandise from a Home Depot store, but appealed the probation term preventing him from going to any Home Depot stores and parking lots.

According to the state Supreme Court, the condition “was reasonably related to his crime and to preventing future criminality.” Furthermore, the court reasoned that the probation condition barring the man from entering any Home Depot did not implicate his right to travel. Therefore, the court ruled the probation condition was constitutional. Continue reading →

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Video games, increasingly looked at as a way to have fun by people of all ages, is quickly becoming a cause of concern in Orange County. Some residents of Orange County are using video games to transform their private homes into illegal gambling arcades, and in doing so, they could be facing serious consequences.

Rise of Slaphouses in Orange County

Many homes in Southern California have set up arcade video game machines that can seat as many as six people so that players can bet money, gambling for hours on end while often engaging in drinking and drug use. These homes are becoming known as “slaphouses” because of the loud sounds people’s hands make when slapping down on the game controls.

These slaphouses reportedly originated in Garden Grove, catering to the Vietnamese community who would play them in coffee bars. The machines are designed to switch easily from innocent games like Street Fighter or Pac-Man to potentially illegal ones like poker and blackjack. In 2011, Garden Grove outlawed these games in coffee houses, causing the shift to homes.

Being able to switch from a game of poker to an actual video game makes it easier for the owners of the machines to conduct illegal activity and shut it off if they fear the authorities are about to enter their home. Having the gambling take place in homes also makes it more difficult for law enforcement to discover where the illegal activities are taking place.

Consequences of Illegal Gambling in California (PC 330)

Gambling may seem like a common activity in places like Las Vegas. Your place of business might even bet on March Madness or a fantasy league. However, these slaphouses can make tens of thousands of dollars in one night. Continue reading →

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Recently, the nation was fixated on the light punishment for 20-year-old Stanford student Brock Turner, who received a sentence of only six months in jail after he was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.

Well, your Facebook friends and relatives weren’t the only ones paying attention to this case. It got the attention of California lawmakers, who are now attempting to redefine rape laws in the state.

The Definition of Rape in California

The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”1

All but a few states have integrated this definition of rape with their own rape laws. California is among the few that has not, electing to define its own laws for rape.

In California, rape is defined as “an act of sexual intercourse” without consent, including where a victim may be unconscious or otherwise unable to give consent, under California Penal Code Section 261. This is the specific definition of rape in California, but there are separate laws for other acts such as sodomy, sexual assault and oral copulation.

This means convicted offenders could face lighter punishment for such crimes rather than the severe consequences of rape.

Will Rape Laws Change in California?

California assemblymembers Cristina Garcia and Susan Eggman have proposed legislation that would eliminate the state’s broad definition of rape and adopt the FBI’s definition. The bill has already passed the Senate Public Safety Committee and is being supported by many other assemblymembers.

Garcia and Eggman feel California’s broad definition of rape is problematic. Having different laws for similar crimes creates a system that hands down shorter sentences based on technicalities, such as the specific kind of sexual penetration involved.

Should someone who is charged with oral copulation face different consequences than someone accused of rape? The lawmakers feel the FBI’s definition of rape will clear up what it means to have “sexual intercourse” and make the definition of “rape” much more clear, even if it does change the state’s current definition. Continue reading →

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Could a law designed to prevent computer fraud unintentionally make criminals out of millions of Americans who use services such as Netflix and Amazon? That is precisely what one federal judge sees as the potential outcome of a recent ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Criminalizing All Sorts of Innocuous Conduct”

The case, United States v. Nosal, concerned a violation of the 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which is a federal law that makes it a crime to engage in the unauthorized use of a computer or network. The law has been amended numerous times since its enactment, and in its present form, it is essentially an anti-hacking law.

David Nosal’s case, however, was a little different than a typical hacking case. Nosal left his position at his company after he was denied a promotion. He decided to build a company to compete against his former employer. He and his associates began accessing the company’s databases by using his former assistant’s password.

Nosal was charged with conspiracy, theft of trade secrets, and three counts of computer fraud under the CFAA. He received a prison sentence, probation, and was ordered to pay $900,000 in restitution and fines.

Is It a Crime to Share Your Netflix Password?

For dissenting justice Stephen Reinhardt, the phrase “without authorization” is the one that is most troubling about the upholding of Nosal’s conviction. He notes that the sharing of a password is something that millions of Americans do each day.

“People frequently share their passwords, notwithstanding the fact that websites and employers have policies prohibiting it. In my view, the CFAA does not make the millions of people who engage in this ubiquitous, useful, and generally harmless conduct into unwitting federal criminals,” he wrote in his dissenting opinion.

Reinhardt’s worries are not baseless. People who have violated the “Terms of Service” that users are required to agree to before they can use many computer-based services have been prosecuted in the past. Whenever Netflix updates its Terms of Service, a user of its streaming service will be greeted upon logging in with a lengthy legal notice on-screen that explains the rules for how the service can be used. A subscriber must accept these terms by clicking the on-screen button before they can access the service. Even more problematic is that many people do not bother to read those terms before agreeing to them. Continue reading →

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You’ve just committed a crime, but you dropped your smartphone while you were doing it. Now the police arrive to investigate the scene of the crime, and they find your phone. Are they allowed to use the phone to find you? Do they need a warrant to check your phone?

This situation was called into question in a recent case.

Using Your Phone to Find You

The California case involved a person who broke into a home. After the owner put up a fight, the intruder ran off, but he left his cellphone behind. A password was necessary to unlock the phone, so police dialed 911 using a feature where a phone’s security is bypassed if an emergency call needs to be made.

Emergency dispatchers gave police the phone number used to make the call, which allowed officers to contact the carrier, Verizon. The company wouldn’t release the name of who owned the phone until police obtained a search warrant.

Within a few hours, a warrant was issued. After obtaining the information about the suspect from Verizon, authorities went to his home and arrested him. During a search of his home, police found materials in the man’s home that connected him to a separate kidnapping case.

Does Using a Cellphone Violate the Owner’s Rights?

During the kidnapping case, the defendant’s lawyer argued that the evidence against his client should not be admissible as evidence. His argument was based on the fact that the evidence was discovered only because of the officer’s 911 call, which constituted an illegal search. Did the 911 call count as a warrantless search? Continue reading →

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If you are convicted of a crime and placed on probation, you will be required to follow certain terms and conditions of your probation. These conditions are often related to the circumstances of your crime.

So, what happens when the conditions of your probation are nearly impossible to follow? Can the court take away your right to use the internet and travel freely? This question was recently decided by the Ninth District U.S. Court of Appeals.

Court of Appeals Case

Joseph LaCoste plead guilty to federal securities fraud charges after being accused of illegally obtaining investments from his victims. He was sentenced to five years in prison followed by three years of probation.

LaCoste’s sentence was not all that unusual, but the conditions of his probation were very restrictive. Among other conditions, he was barred from using the internet without prior approval from his parole officer, and from residing in certain counties. Ultimately, the court threw out these conditions as being too broad and unrelated to his crimes.1

“A Fresh Start”

In sentencing LaCoste, the trial court found that he would often go on the internet to post disparaging comments about the people who fell victim to his crimes, spreading rumors about them and causing them additional emotional stress. The judge reasoned that because of his tendency to do this, he should not have access to the internet, and upon his release, he should not return to the communities where his victims resided.

In his remarks at sentencing, the judge told LaCoste that it would be better if he took the opportunity to make “a fresh start” so that the communities could heal.

Though he used the internet to mock and criticize his victims, the Court of Appeal found that the internet conditions were not reasonably related to the crime that he committed. The restriction barred him from any use of the internet, regardless of whether it was related to making remarks about his victims.

The appellate court saw this as too broad, and because of this, it deprived LaCoste of more freedom than was needed to prevent him from posting comments about those who complained about him. Continue reading →

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Davontae Sanford was 14 when he was sent to prison for murders he did not commit. When he was 23, another man confessed to those murders and his nine-year nightmare appeared to be finally ending.

Then, he got a bill from the court.

When it came time for his release, Sanford’s wrongful imprisonment resulted in just over $2,000 in court costs and fines that had yet to be paid. These fines and costs included fees for a public defender who represented him when he was charged with another crime while in prison. Word reached the corrections officers that Sanford had hinted he would hang himself. When those officers stormed his cell to prevent his suicide, he kicked one of the officers and spat on another, resulting in two years being added to his sentence. The court ruled that if he were to pay the fines, those years would be wiped from his sentence.

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California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country. Recently, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made those laws more strict.

The court declared that California counties have the right to deny applications for concealed carry permits if the applicant cannot show “good cause” for needing to carry a concealed firearm in public. The ruling gives each county the power to determine what good cause means.

A Significant Victory for Gun Control

In its ruling, the court stated that the Second Amendment does not protect the right of a gun owner to carry a concealed firearm in public. Judge William A. Fletcher, writing for a 7-4 majority, wrote, “The Second Amendment may or may not protect to some degree a right of a member of the general public to carry a firearm in public. If there is such a right, it is only a right to carry a firearm openly.”

The court reasoned that because the Second Amendment does not protect the right to carry concealed firearms in public, any prohibition or restriction a state may choose to impose on concealed carry – including a requirement of good cause – is legally permissible.

Gun-control advocates are praising this ruling, in which the court overruled a 2014 decision that stated California could not outlaw both the open carrying of guns in public and carrying concealed weapons at the same time. In place of that decision, the court now says that California can restrict concealed carry permits if the person applying for the permit cannot point to a specific and compelling reason why he or she needs to carry a gun in public. Continue reading →

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It is against the law to carry a loaded firearm on your person or in your vehicle while in public under California Penal Code Section 25850.1 But what exactly does “on your person” mean? The definition of “on your person” was questioned in a recent Supreme Court case involving a man who was carrying a loaded firearm in his backpack.

Is it illegal to carry a weapon in your backpack? How does a backpack factor into concealed carry laws?

California Gun Laws and Backpacks

About Wallin & Klarich

Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.