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In 2002, Steven Spielberg directed Tom Cruise in the movie Minority Report. Spoiler alert: the movie’s plot focused on a detective in a futuristic world where the police used the gifts of three people who could see into the future to stop crimes before they could happen. Fourteen years after that movie’s release, it seems that all Cruise’s character would have needed is some Internet savvy to find out whom he should be arresting.

Police agencies are turning to social media platforms to predict future crimes, as it is becoming increasingly prevalent for would-be criminals to thumb out a message on Facebook or Twitter that either directly indicates that they might commit a crime, or is a part of a pattern of messages that indicates that they might commit a crime.

Analyzing the Emerging Patterns

Dr. Sean Young, a behavioral psychologist at the University of California’s Institute for Prediction Technology and professor at UCLA’s medical school, analyzes data on social media, mobile device usage and online searches to show how these digital interactions can predict future events. The goal is to find how these daily interactions that happen millions of times per minute worldwide can be used to predict tragic events and possibly prevent them from occurring. According to Young, the data can predict events ranging from disease outbreaks to violent crime.1 Continue reading →

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In one of the stranger bits of news to start 2016, Sean Penn, the Academy Award-winning actor and director, secretly met with and interviewed one of the world’s most wanted fugitives, Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, aka “El Chapo.” Guzmán is the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the largest criminal organizations in Mexico. Mexican actress Kate del Castillo arranged the interview after the drug lord approached her about creating a movie about his life. Following the meeting, Penn’s interview with the notorious fugitive ran in Rolling Stone.1Immigrants Arrested

Six months before the meeting with Penn, Guzmán escaped a maximum-security prison. A few months after he met with Penn, the Mexican navy raided El Chapo’s coastal hideout in Los Mochis, recapturing the fugitive and returning him to prison.

Now that El Chapo has been arrested, many people are wondering if Penn’s interaction with the drug lord could be considered a crime. Continue reading →

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There is a Latin phrase that many attorneys learn in law school: “post hoc, ergo propter hoc.” Basically, that phrase translates to “after this, therefore because of this.” When one event is seemingly related to an event that follows it, there is a tendency to assume the second event was caused by the first event. However, this principle of causation is generally not true. Applying this idea would be like claiming that the St. Louis Rams decided to return to Los Angeles because their last playoff appearance was 10 years ago.

With this fallacy in mind, it is worth asking whether a change in the way crimes are classified affects the frequency in which they are committed. According to some, this is exactly what has happened in California since voters passed Proposition 47 (also known as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act”) in 2014.

The law reduced the penalties for certain drug and theft crimes to address the problems of harshly punishing non-violent offenders and jail overcrowding. The law is both prospective and retroactive, changing how crimes are charged going forward and allowing people who are serving time or have served time to have their felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. Continue reading →

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For those who have never been convicted of a crime, it is easy to think of probation as a mere slap on the wrist. But nothing could be further from the truth.

While probation is definitely better than incarceration, it is still a perilous balancing act between repaying a debt owed to society for wrongdoing and maintaining personal freedom. If you have been sentenced to probation for a crime in California, it is vital that you understand that your freedom comes at a price, and that you must always pay that price in full and on time.

Common Probation Conditions

California criminal courts are given wide latitude when it comes to the sentencing for many crimes. In crimes where probation is available, judges can impose any number of conditions upon your probation. This means that although you are not in a jail cell, you are still not free to do anything you please. If you fail to meet the conditions of your probation, a judge could terminate your probation and sentence you to the jail or prison term for the crime you committed.

Here is a typical list of what these conditions might be:

  • Restitution: The court may require you to pay either the victim or the state for damage you caused, thefts you made, or any other expenses others incurred as a result of your wrongdoing. Generally, you may make these payments in installments with the court’s approval.
  • Employment: Research indicates that people are less likely to commit crimes while they are employed. In keeping with that research, and in order to guarantee that restitution payments are made, the court may also require that you remain employed throughout your probation.
  • Drug/Alcohol Treatment: Probation is often granted for drug or alcohol related crimes, such as driving under the influence or possession of a controlled substance. Generally, you can expect that if you are convicted of a crime involving drugs or alcohol, the court may require you to enroll in a treatment program, and require that you submit to random drug testing.
  • Zero Tolerance for Alcohol: In DUI cases, there will always be a probation condition that forbids you from driving with any measurable amount of alcohol and/or drugs in your system. This might also include the requirement that you, at your own expense, install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your car that will prevent the car from starting should you fail the system’s breath test.
  • Mandatory Breath/Blood Tests: Furthermore, DUI probation will require that you submit to a chemical test of your blood or breath upon suspicion of another DUI. Under this condition, your refusal to submit to these tests will be considered a probation violation.
  • Search Warrant Waiver: You may temporarily lose your rights under the Fourth Amendment to be free from warrantless searches and seizures. This means that at any time, the police may search your person or your property without your consent and without having to follow the normal procedure of obtaining a search warrant, or without having to justify the search as being valid due to probable cause.
  • No Contact With the Victim: The court will often make it a condition of probation that you refrain from contacting the victim of your crime, or from coming within a certain distance of their person, home or workplace. This is common in domestic violence cases, but may be a condition of probation for any crime in which another person was harmed.
  • Community Service: It is common in many cases that the court will impose a requirement that you spend part of your time in service to the community. This usually takes the form of picking up litter at beaches, parks or roads, but it may also take the form of requiring you to serve in a homeless shelter or youth center.

Continue reading →

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It has been famously said that ignorance of the law is no defense. With that in mind, the lawyers at Wallin & Klarich are here to remind you that with each new year comes new laws that you need to know about. By keeping yourself up to date, you can avoid the embarrassment of telling a police officer “I didn’t know I couldn’t do that!”

California Gun Laws for 2016

New laws relating to gun ownership take effect in 2016. One of them, Senate Bill 707, amended parts of the Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995.1 Previously, persons with a valid concealed carry permit were exempt from firearm bans on public or private school campuses. SB 707 updated the law to eliminate this exemption, except for certain retired peace officers. Violating the act by bringing a gun onto a school campus is punishable by two, three or five years in state prison.

Along with SB 707, Governor Brown also signed into law Assembly Bill 1014. This gun violence restraining order law allows law enforcement officials to seize firearms from individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others.2 Once a family member or law enforcement officer asks the court to issue a GVRO against someone, that person could be banned from possessing a firearm for 2` days or one year, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Rules of the Road

Several new laws affecting drivers took effect with the new year. Senate Bill 491 makes it a crime to operate a motor vehicle while wearing headphones in both ears.3 This law applies to bicycle riders as well, and carries with it a potential fine of $160.4

Assembly Bill 208 extends to bicycle riders the requirement that slow moving vehicles pull over to allow cars to pass when five or more cars are behind them.5 Assembly Bill 604 puts regulations on the use of popular “hoverboard” scooters.6 Riders must now be 16 years old or above to operate a hoverboard and are required to wear helmets.

Drinking and Drugs

Senate Bill 212 creates additional penalties for manufacturers of methamphetamine and the marijuana concentrate known as butane hash oil.7 Judges can now impose longer prison sentences when methamphetamine is made within 200 feet of an occupied residence or structure, and when butane hash oil is made within 300 feet of an occupied residence or structure. Legislators argued that the explosive nature of the chemicals used to make those drugs warranted harsher penalties.

For those people who have been convicted of a DUI in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, or Tulare counties, Senate Bill 61 extended a pilot program that requires ignition interlock devices to be placed in cars. A first time DUI conviction will result in the device being placed in your car for five months, a year for a second DUI, two years for a third DUI, and four years for each subsequent DUI conviction.8 Continue reading →

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The legality of firearm possession for people who have committed crimes in California is often a difficult issue. If you have been convicted of certain crimes, not only are you subject to California’s laws restricting gun possession, but you are also subject to a strict federal law – the Lautenberg Amendment (18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9)) imposes a lifetime ban on gun ownership by any person who has committed a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”

This is easy to understand if you have a felony conviction: If you are convicted of any felony, regardless of your age or whether the conviction was in California, you are subject to a lifetime ban on gun possession under California Penal Code section 29800.1

However, with misdemeanors, the ban is less clear. California law also applies a lifetime ban on firearm possession to certain misdemeanors involving the use of a firearm, such as misdemeanor domestic violence crimes, assault with a firearm, or having two convictions for brandishing a firearm. This ban is consistent with the federal law.

Adding to the confusion is this: Under California Penal Code section 29805, California has a 10-year ban on firearm possession by anyone convicted of any of 40 different types of misdemeanors.2 Among those is the crime of misdemeanor battery.

While California’s Court of Appeal ruled in 2013 (Shirey v. Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission) that people convicted of misdemeanor battery under California Penal Code section 242 are not prohibited from possessing firearms under the federal law,3 a more recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court has cast doubt on the prospects of gun possession for people convicted of misdemeanor battery.

United States v. Castleman and the Meaning of “Physical Force”

In 2014, the Supreme Court upheld a lifetime ban on firearms for a man who had a misdemeanor conviction under a Tennessee domestic violence law for “intentionally or knowingly cause[d] bodily injury to” the mother of his child. He had successfully argued in lower courts that his conviction for firearm possession was invalid because his prior conviction did not require proving he had violent contact with the victim, which was required under the law.4

The court in Castleman changed course, holding “that the requirement of ‘physical force’ is satisfied, for purposes of §922(g)(9), by the degree of force that supports a common-law battery conviction.”5 The court reasoned that the general policy behind the Lautenberg Amendment supports “grouping domestic abusers convicted of generic assault or battery offenses together with the others whom §922(g) disqualifies from gun ownership.”

Does this now mean that Californians who, like Shirey, were convicted of a lesser charge of misdemeanor battery in a case where the victim was a spouse will be subject to a lifetime ban on firearm possession under the federal law? That seems to be the direction that the Supreme Court intends for this law to go. Though no cases have yet been reported to indicate this is the case, if you have a prior misdemeanor conviction for battery, you should consult with an attorney before you decide to purchase a firearm at the end of your 10-year ban. Continue reading →

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If you’re arrested for a crime, you’re probably wondering how much jail time you could be facing. You hear all the time in news reports and movies about a person facing up to “life in prison.” In reality, figuring out a potential sentence for your crime is more difficult than you think.

How Does Sentencing Work in California? (PC 1170)

When trying to determine how sentencing works, the first place to look is California Penal Code Section 1170. This law is amended regularly, but it states that the “general objectives” of sentencing are to:

  • Protect society
  • Punish the convicted criminal
  • Encourage the criminal to lead a law-abiding life in the future
  • Deter others from committing crimes; and
  • Secure restitution for the victims of the crime

Misdemeanor vs Felony Sentencing

Misdemeanor sentencing is much easier to understand than felony sentencing. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, the maximum amount of time you could face in jail is always less than one year. Some crimes carry a sentence of as low as 90 days, while others are punishable by up to 364 days in jail.

Sentencing becomes confusing when dealing with felonies. There are two types of felony sentencing: determinate sentencing and indeterminate sentencing. Determinate sentencing is a set sentence such as two years in prison, while indeterminate means the sentence does not have a specific date of release. Continue reading →

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Gender equality is a common topic of discussion in modern times. But one area of gender equality that deserves more attention is the differences in how men and women are treated by the criminal justice system. A recent study published in the Journal of Criminal Justice highlights a number of areas where men and women are treated differently when charged with a similar crime.[1]

License suspended

Do Women Receive More Favorable Treatment?

The study examined the period of time from a defendant’s initial appearance in court until he or she was sentenced for a crime. The sample for the study was a set of felony cases referred to the prosecutor’s office of a large, northern urban jurisdiction in the United States in 2009. The defendants’ criminal charges included various violent, property and drug offenses.

Ultimately, the study found that in a number of ways, female criminal defendants were treated better than their male counterparts. Among the findings:

Continue reading →

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In November 2014, California voters decided that the state’s classification of some crimes as felonies was overly harsh and needed to be changed. The voters passed Proposition 47 (also known as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act”) to reduce the penalties for certain drug and theft crimes.

There law changed the way these crimes are charged. Due to the change, those that have prior convictions for certain crimes are allowed to bring a motion before the court to have those felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors on their criminal record. Also, those persons currently serving a prison or jail sentence due to convictions for certain felony crimes can request the court in a formal motion to reduce their conviction to a misdemeanor and ask that their sentence be reduced or eliminated completely.

This new law has now been in effect for more than one year. Los Angeles County officials have determined that many persons who may qualify for reductions due to their prior crimes are not coming forth to take advantage of the benefits under this new law.

Two Task Forces for Two Goals

Clear Record Prop 47Under Prop 47, the deadline to apply for a reduction of a current or past criminal conviction is November 5, 2017; just three years after it became law. One of the goals of the law is to clean up the records of many people with non-violent drug and petty theft felonies.

If you have a felony on your record, you probably already know how difficult it can be to convince an employer to hire you. Reducing a felony to a misdemeanor is a major step toward getting your conviction expunged from your record, which can open up many employment and housing opportunities that you may not have had with a felony on your record.

With that in mind, Los Angeles County supervisors voted to create a task force of county officials from criminal justice and social service agencies. This group will determine how many people are eligible to reduce their convictions in Los Angeles County. They will form a plan to reach those individuals who have not yet applied. The goal is to find as many people as possible to ensure that a large and untapped workforce has an easier path to becoming productive members of society.

Continue reading →

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Marijuana is becoming legal in more states, including in California. But this is causing an issue on the road. Although studies on the subject are still underway, reports that have already been conducted show that those under the influence of marijuana are less likely to be involved in a fatal car accident than those under the influence of alcohol.

The Effects Of Marijuana When Driving

Marijuana DUI lawsAlthough many marijuana users feel more in control than those under the influence of alcohol, the effects of marijuana can impact your ability to drive. Being under the influence of marijuana could cause the following issues:

  • Decreased concentration
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Impaired judgment
  • Lessened coordination

All of the above factors increase the risk of getting into a traffic accident or being observed driving impaired by a police officer. But one question has been left unanswered: How much is too much?

The Legal Conundrum

As of 2014, only six states had set legal limits for the amount of THC in the bloodstream when operating a vehicle.1 Colorado and Washington both set the limit at five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. In states without a legal limit, any THC found in the urine or blood can result in a DUI. It can take a week to get back test results, regardless of the testing method used.

This creates a legal conundrum, especially in states where recreational or medical marijuana use is legal. Without a legal behind-the-wheel limit, how can law enforcement officials assess whether a driver is intoxicated?

Continue reading →

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.