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Residents of Los Angeles County may soon be subject to additional gun regulations under a local ordinance that would require handguns to be stored at home in one of two specific ways. While proponents of the measure say it will protect citizens from gun violence, opponents of the potential ordinance say the new rules simply serve as tools for disarming lawful gun owners.

Gun Storage Law CaliforniaThe potential new law would require that all handguns be disabled with a trigger lock or stored in a locked container unless the gun is on your person or under your control.1 Though law enforcement would not conduct compliance checks, if a handgun is unsecured in a home and police officers are summoned to that home for some reason, the gun owner could face charges. In fact, if the proposal becomes law, anyone who is found in violation could face misdemeanor charges that carry up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

The measure is similar to a San Francisco ordinance under which no gun owner has been prosecuted, but one that has been challenged in court. This proposed law would be in effect within all cities in Los Angeles County. Be aware that California currently has a separate law for improper storage of a weapon.

California Felony Gun Storage Laws (PC 25100)

California has strict gun storage laws if violated. California Penal Code Section 25100 says that if a child or an individual who is prohibited from possessing a firearm gains access to your firearm and carries that firearm into a public place or inflicts injury to themselves or others with that firearm, you could face felony charges for “criminal storage of a firearm.”

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Inmates Right to VoteWhen Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bills 109 and 107 in 2011, more commonly referred to as “prison realignment”, many expected sweeping changes in the way that California dealt with its prison population. The legislation was part of an effort to reform the way that non-violent and non-sex o ffenders are sentenced for their crimes, as well as how they are supervised post-release.1

There is a new, somewhat unexpected outcome of the prison realignment legislation; thousands of California prisoners are regaining their right to vote. As a result of a legal battle fought on behalf of prisoners by the ACLU and decisions made by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, nearly 60,000 convicts will be eligible to cast a vote in upcoming elections.

These changes could affect the rights you have if you are charged with a crime in California. While many will regain the right to vote, many will not, and you should stay informed about the possible ramifications of a criminal conviction. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are here to help you understand these changes in California law.

Why Many in California Will Now be Eligible to Vote

A major part of the prison realignment legislation involved changing where low level criminal offenders would serve their time. As part of an effort to reduce the state prison population, prisoners convicted of non-serious and non-violent crimes would now serve their time in county jails.2

As a result, once these prisoners are released they no longer are on state parole (a system of post-release supervision whereby parolees are subject to a number of conditions such as police searches and drug tests).3 Instead, these offenders are released into a program known as county-level supervision.

This is where things get interesting. The Constitution of California mandates the “disqualification of electors while mentally incompetent or imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony.”4

A judge ruled in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in 2014 that prisoners sentenced under realignment are not in fact on parole and are eligible to vote. By the time the case was appealed, Alex Padilla had begun his term as the new Secretary of State and decided to drop the appeal. As a result, nearly 60,000 former prisoners regained their ability to vote.

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In 2012, voters passed Proposition 36, which aimed to reduce the harsh punishment imposed on those who received a third strike for a non-violent or non-serious offense. Under California Three Strikes Law, a strike will be added to your criminal record if you are convicted of a serious or violent felony. If you are convicted of three of these crimes, you will face 25 years to life in prison.

Several questions remained regarding the Three Strikes Reform Act once it was passed. The Supreme Court of California recently decided on two cases that help clarify key issues regarding Prop. 36.

Clearing Up Prop. 36 Sentencing Guidelines

Three Strikes LawConfusion over Prop. 36 emerged regarding crimes that occurred between the date the crime was committed and the date the act passed. Many judges weren’t sure if they could resentence inmates whose three strikes involved a mix of serious and non-serious felonies.

In a recent decision, the court ruled that the classification of an offense as serious or violent for the purposes of the act is based on the date Prop. 36 was passed by the voters, which was Nov. 7, 2012 (People v. Johnson S219454). This means any crime that was considered a violent or serious felony before the act passed on Nov. 7, 2012 can still be considered a strike under California Three Strikes Law.

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Recently, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Crime Laboratory began its official rollout of a new fingerprint identification system. Known as Morpho Biometric Identification Solution (or MorphoBIS), this technology can be used to identify people from not only fingerprints, but from palmprints and any other location on the hand.

Developed by electronics company MorphoTrak, the MorphoBIS began as an entry in a government procurement competition. MorphoTrak already supplies the Federal Bureau of Investigation with biometric technology for the agency’s Next Generation Identification system, giving an accuracy improvement of three times the prior system and introducing palm print IDs.1 This technology could have an impact on how criminal cases are handled in Orange County.

How Does MorphoBIS Work?

Orange County fingerprintBiometric identification systems use permanent human characteristics to identify a potential suspect at a crime scene. Ridges formed on your hand are developed from birth and the patterns of these ridges remain for life.2 If you touch an object and leave a pattern, your unique print can be identified and stored by biometric identification systems. MorphoBIS is unique among ID systems by being the first to include searches of “Major Case Prints” – all the friction ridge areas across the entire surface of the hand.3

The MorphoBIS suite is a comprehensive criminal identification solution which includes a number of the latest features for accuracy and efficiency. Some features are:

  • Multi-biometric capacity, which can read and process fingerprints, faces, and iris (eyes) patterns;
  • A biometric engine with algorithms for the highest in accurate readings;
  • Multiple verification processes.4

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Morpho’s algorithms were ranked first in fingerprint accuracy for image-only latent searches.5

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While most users’ Instagram pages consist of snapshots of gourmet meals, tropical vacations, and #nofilter selfies, other individuals have instead gone with a potentially incriminating approach that could be admitted as evidence against them in a court of law. The following examples explain why you need to be careful what you post on social media, because it could lead to facing serious legal consequences.

How an Instagram Post Sent a Minor to Jail

texting illegalRecently, a juvenile’s conviction on two counts of possessing firearms was affirmed by a state appellate court based on a photo the teen had posted to his Instagram account. The juvenile lawyers argued that the images, which depicted the teen wielding multiple guns in a room with camouflage curtains, should not be admitted as evidence because there was no way to verify their authenticity.

The unanimous ruling, however, concluded that the images could be used as evidence. The reason for this ruling was due to the fact that the images were captured from a cell phone that was found at the scene of the crime and appeared on the defendant’s Instagram account. Additionally, the court reasoned that the clothes the defendant was wearing and his location upon arrest matched what was depicted in the Instagram photo.1

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The legalization of marijuana is a constantly debated issue in California. Possessing marijuana for medicinal purposes can now be legal if you are licensed by a physician, but this has created uncertainty when it comes to other marijuana laws in California.

One such law involves the transportation of marijuana, and a recently passed bill clarifies what is required to convict you of the crime of marijuana transportation.

Does Transportation of Marijuana Require Intent to Sell?

Marijuana TransportationIn 2013, Assembly Bill 721 passed, amending Health and Safety Code 11352 and 11379 to provide that “transports” means to transport for the purpose of selling a drug, not just carrying it around. However, this law excluded the transportation of marijuana, PCP and psilocybin mushrooms.

Assembly Bill 730 was recently passed into law and will go into effect Jan. 1, 2016. The bill will revise Health and Safety Code Sections 11360, 11379.5 and 11391 to require the intent to sell in order for you to be convicted of a felony for transporting drugs. This means that beginning Jan. 1, 2016, you cannot be convicted of felony transportation of a controlled substance, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, PCP or shrooms unless you had the intent to sell the drug.

Prior to this recent change in law, you could be charged with a felony for transportation of marijuana regardless if you had the intent to sell the drug. You could be charged with this crime simply for carrying a usable amount of marijuana and having the knowledge that you were carrying it. It did not matter if you were planning to use the drug for your personal use or how much of the drug you had on you.

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In August 2014, California passed a “kill switch” law requiring all smartphones sold in the state to include built-in remote locking technology. The “kill switch” law, which went into effect July, allows the owner of a smartphone to disable the device even when he or she does not have possession of the phone. The largest smartphone manufacturers, Apple and Google, are offering remote kill software, known as “Activation Lock” and “Device Protection,” respectively.

How does kill switch technology work?

kill switch law CaliforniaKill switch software protects a smartphone by allowing the owner to remotely render it inoperable. For instance, the owner of a smartphone can remotely apply a passcode before it can be unlocked or restored to factory settings. Aside from screen locking, other remote abilities include wiping data and preventing unauthorized resets. In addition, the user can reverse data wipes and restore phone operability. According to the bill, “the technological solution, when enabled, [is] able to withstand a hard reset…and prevent reactivation of the smartphone on a wireless network except by an authorized user.”1

Is kill switch technology effective?

Stealing smartphones, as a relatively quick and easy crime to commit, has become a widespread problem in the United States (accounting for 30-40% of all robberies in the nation in 2012). Reports say that one in ten people have had their smartphone stolen.2 In California, smartphone theft accounts for more than 50% of street robberies.3 By vastly reducing the resale value of smartphones, kills switch technology is expected to greatly curb theft. In 2013, 3.1 million smartphones were stolen in the United States. According to a study by Consumer Reports, the numbers have dropped to 2.1 million (or 32%) in 2014,4 largely as a result of kill switch technology.5

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Car Theft CaliforniaA recent study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) showed that California was the number one state for car thefts in 2014. The report also listed the areas in California where auto theft occurred the most:

  • The San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan region had the most car thefts per capita, with a ratio of 633.3 thefts per 100,000 people (a combined total of 29,093 stolen cars)
  • Bakersfield was second with approximately 596 thefts per 100,000 people (totaling 5,211 stolen cars)
  • The Stockton-Lodi area reached 593 thefts per 100,000 residents (with 4,245 thefts in 2014)

Why is Car Theft so Prevalent in California?

Frank Scafidi, spokesman and director of public affairs for NICB, offered the following reasons for the disproportionate level of auto theft in California:

  • Cars are generally maintained better in California – As a result of the state’s temperate weather, California vehicles are in better condition than they would otherwise be if they were in excessive heat or snow. Thus, stolen cars from California can fetch a higher price in illicit markets.
  • Cars can be more easily transported out of the country via California’s proximity to sea lanes – California is optimally situated in terms of geography for the logistics of auto theft. As a coastal state, stolen cars can be smuggled out from the state’s seaports relatively quickly and easily.
  • California has more cars – As anyone who has driven on interstate 405 during rush hour can attest, California is a largely vehicle-oriented state. According to Scafidi, there are more cars in California than there are in any other state, which increases the opportunity and likelihood of auto theft.
  • California has a drug problem. Scafidi stated that the state’s widespread issue with methamphetamine abuse drives auto theft as users seek to quickly finance their addiction by stealing cars and selling them for parts.1

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According to a recent report by the Daily Journal, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office has decided to amp up oversight of the use of jailhouse informants.

The criminal justice system in Orange County has been under a microscope the past few months. The District Attorney’s Office has come under fire recently for numerous possible legal and ethical violations that have been widely reported in the media.

Orange County District Attorney’s Office Reported Misconduct

jailhouse informant Orange CountyThe alleged misconduct first surfaced during the ongoing murder trial involving the shootings of Scott Dekraai that happened in 2011. Allegations were made that prosecutors had violated Dekraai’s rights by repeatedly failing to turn over important evidence to his defense attorneys. The allegations were so serious that Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals ruled that the Orange County District Attorney’s Office could no longer handle the case, which is now being handled by the Attorney General’s Office.

“Certain aspects of the district attorney’s performance in this case might be described as a comedy of errors but for the fact that it has been so sadly deficient,” Goethals wrote in his ruling. “There is nothing funny about that.”1

The judge indicated that prosecutors had shown a “chronic failure” to comply with orders to turn over evidence to the defense. Because of their failure, prosecutors had also deprived Dekraai – who pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder – of his right to a fair trial.2

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Mike Brown of Ferguson, Missouri. Tamir Rice and Tanisha Anderson of Cleveland, Ohio. Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York. Walter Scott of North Charleston, South Carolina. These are five names and five cities that you may have heard in the news over the last year. These people have one thing in common, and it is the manner in which they died – at the hands of law enforcement officers.

Police Deadly ForceThe point of mentioning these names is not to reexamine the cases to determine whether any of those killings were justified (in fact, the officer who killed Walter Scott is now charged with murder).1 Instead, it is to point out the sobering fact that these are just five people out of the estimated hundreds killed by police officers each year. Staggeringly, the figure lies between 930 and 1,240 annual deaths per year, with the exact number remaining unknown because there is no national consensus on how the figures are reported.2

The lack of a consensus approach to reporting the number of killings by police is just one symptom of a larger problem in the United States that has drawn the ire of Amnesty International USA. The non-governmental organization, which is dedicated to ending human rights violations around the world, released a scathing report in which it declares that law enforcement agencies in all 50 states in the U.S. are failing to comply with international standards regarding the use of deadly force.

Falling Below International Standards

Article 3 of the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states “Law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.”3 The comments on the article explain that the use of a firearm by a law enforcement officer is “an extreme measure. Every effort should be made to exclude the use of firearms, especially against children. In general, firearms should not be used except when a suspected offender offers armed resistance or otherwise jeopardizes the lives of others and less extreme measures are not sufficient to restrain or apprehend the suspect. In every instance in which a firearm is discharged, a report should be made promptly to the proper authorities.”4

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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.