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Facebook criminal caseIf you are like most people who use Facebook, you probably enjoy reading about the good things that happen in the lives of your social circle, and you probably share the same type of information, photos and videos. In fact, a recent study found that the majority of social media users screen the photos they post online and only post photos in which they seem “socially desirable.” The study also found that social media users “are unlikely to capture shameful, regrettable or lonely moments with a camera.”1

Yet these same purposefully positive posts can be used as evidence against you in court. Because most people only post photos in which they appear happy on social media, it could hurt their case if they claim they are unhappy.

Emoticons and Birthday Wishes May Be Used Against You

Don’t think that photos and status updates are the only thing that can be used against you as evidence. All those birthday wishes from friends, family members, co-workers and people you are connected to may hurt your case as well. You may also want to stop using smiley face emojis.

Take for example, the case of a woman who was injured when her chair collapsed at work. The woman sued the manufacturer of the chair, claiming the collapse caused her to suffer a serious back injury that confined her to her home and caused her to suffer a loss of enjoyment of life. The manufacturer checked out the woman’s social media profiles and found that the woman regularly used smiley emoticons, indicating the woman was happy.2

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You have just gotten home from a long, difficult day at work. You are at a point where you can relax and truly consider yourself done for the day, and now it is time to have some fun. You fire up your Xbox and start playing “Grand Theft Auto V,” the open world game where you can commit just about any act of violence or criminal mischief you have ever imagined doing if there were no real-life consequences. Steal a car? No problem. Rob a liquor store? Have at it. Murder other players and steal the money they drop? No one will stop you.

You find yourself dominating other players in deathmatches and capture missions. As the police chase you all over the fictional city of Los Santos, the sirens blaring on your TV drown out the sounds of those coming from the real police cars headed down the street to your house. Without warning, police dressed in full body armor and armed to the teeth burst into your house and order you to place your hands behind your head and lie face down on your floor.

You have just been “swatted.”

What is “Swatting?”

swatting prank“Swatting” is where, either as a practical joke or as revenge, a person or group will gather up personal information on you and send police to your home or business, claiming that a heinous crime has been committed. Usually, the prank will involve a dire and urgent situation, such as a hostage taking or a murder. The goal is to make the report so dire and urgent that police will send a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.

The result is that the victim finds him or herself staring down the barrel of a police officer’s assault weapon. In many cases, the victims have been people who play games while streaming their gaming to an audience on Internet sites such as Twitch or Periscope. In other cases, victims have been celebrities, such as singer/actress Miley Cyrus and rapper Lil Wayne.

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Gender Neutral BathroomA new ballot initiative in California could make using a public restroom awkward for most and very expensive for many. This trans-phobic initiative would force transgender people to choose a restroom in all public buildings, including public schools, colleges, and universities, based on their biological sex. If the transgender person uses a public restroom based on their gender identity, they could be fined a minimum of $4,000 by every individual who felt their privacy was violated by the transgender person using that restroom and by any person who refused to use the restroom because a transgender person was inside.

The initiative, titled the Personal Privacy Protection Act, was submitted by a group called Privacy For All. It was deemed “unconstitutional and unenforceable” by the executive director of the Transgender Law Center, who said that the proposed law “would dangerously single out Californians” and promote a “greater risk of harassment” as well as open “the state up to costly lawsuits,” the LA Times reports.1

Does the Law Have a Chance to Pass?

While the initiative is certainly unconstitutional, it is also extremely shortsighted. The group that submitted the initiative has evidently not considered how men will feel sharing a urinal with an extremely feminine trans-male, or how comfortable women may be sharing a restroom with a beefed up, extremely male trans-female.

The ballot proposal would need over 360,000 signatures before it could be included on the November 2016 ballot and voted on by Californians. Fortunately, some in the transgender community are showing the public how ridiculous these types of laws are.2

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California’s Penal Code 626.9, also known as the California Gun Free Zone Act (the Act), was enacted in 1995 to further student safety to a from school. The Act makes it illegal to knowingly carry or shoot a gun within 1,000 feet of any school zone; it does not matter whether or not the local school is public or private.

California Gun Free School Zone ActHowever, despite the Act’s restrictions, there are numerous provisions in the law that will exempt you from criminal liability. The law does not apply to merely possessing a gun under the following circumstances:

  • You have written permission by the school district;
  • You’re on private property either at a residence or business as long as you lawfully possess the gun i.e. it’s registered even if it’s within 1,000 feet of a school;
  • You are carrying a concealed pistol or revolver that is (a) unloaded an (b) in a locked container within you’re vehicle;
  • You have a reasonable fear that you might be attacked after you’ve filed a restraining order against another. However, this exemption does not apply if you and your spouse have a mutual automatic restraining order after filing for divorce.

Lawful Course of Business

If you’re a licensed individual engaged in the business of manufacturing, importing, wholesaling, repairing, or dealing in firearms, then PC 626.9 does not apply to you, as long as while possessing the gun(s), you were on the job.

Other Exemptions:

  • Authorized military personnel or police officer;
  • Authorized security guard or transporter for a bank, financial institution, or other common carrier

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A hallucinatory drug has been rising in popularity since the ban of bath salts. Reports say the drug, called Flakka, can cause users to experience super-human strength, euphoria and “excited delirium.” How popular is this high-powered drug? The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports a 780 percent jump in the number of Flakka cases reported across the country over the last three years.

What are the Effects of Flakka?

Effects of FlakkaFlakka, also known as gravel because of its crystal appearance, can be smoked, snorted, injected and even swallowed. The main ingredient of the drug is alpha-PVP, a variant of the same drug used to make bath salts.

According to reports, Flakka gives users an inexpensive, lengthy high. It works by causing a flood of dopamine, the feel-good hormone, to the brain and preventing the transmitters from being able to block the hormone. The drug can also cause the user to experience psychosis, adrenaline-fueled strength and dangerously high temperatures of 105 degrees or more.

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water wasting CaliforniaIf you have been living in California for the past few years, you know that one of the biggest problems in the state is a prolonged period of drought. While it may rain from time to time, these little showers are merely a drop in the bucket, and will not come close to solving California’s water crisis.

The severity of the drought has gotten the attention of lawmakers. Governor Jerry Brown and state water officials have decided to allow local water districts to set new regulations on water usage, including imposing new fees on people who use more than their share of water. The question is: How long before cities threaten to send water wasters to jail?

Will Old Ideas Become New Again?

This is not California’s first drought, and nor would it be the first time people have been threatened with criminal sanctions for wasting water during emergency conditions. In the late 1970s and early 1990s, the state faced similarly desperate water shortages. The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) is the largest provider of treated water in the nation, and covers most of the land between Ventura and San Diego counties. In 1977, the MWD proposed sending offenders to jail for 30 days and/or fining them $300. Many cities, including Los Angeles, adopted the recommendation as municipal ordinances, and even made a second offense a misdemeanor.

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The recently passed Prop 47 changed some felony and wobbler offenses to misdemeanors, but local jails continue to feel the burden of overcrowding. To help reduce inmate populations, some counties are introducing new alternatives to serving jail time. San Luis Obispo County recently launched a diversion program that will offer some first-time misdemeanor offenders classes as an alternative to jail time. Orange County launched the same program in 2011, and it has had positive effects.

How Misdemeanor Diversion Works

drug classUnder this program, a person charged with a misdemeanor offense may be able to take one or two-day classes on theft and property, drug and alcohol, life skills, anger management, vehicle code violations, and/or victim impact rather than face jail time. Participating in these courses is not an admission of guilt. After completing the classes, the criminal charges are dropped and will not show up on any background checks.

The district attorney’s office contacts those eligible for the jail alternative and gives them 30 days to sign up for the program. Those who sign up for the program pay a $100 administrative fee as well as a fee for the class, which ranges from $250 to $450.

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The trial of mass-murderer Scott Dekraai, who killed eight people in a Seal Beach beauty salon in 2011, should have been a crowning achievement for Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. Having secured a conviction for the deadliest killing spree in the county’s history, Rackauckas had the case lined up for a slam-dunk sentencing phase that would put Dekraai on track for the death penalty, a result that would surely increase the chances of another election victory for the veteran prosecutor.

jailhouse informantThat’s when the wheels came off the case. Now, Rackauckas’s victory has been made hollow by a stunning revelation about prosecutorial misconduct in the D.A.’s office.

In a scathing decision, Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals employed the extraordinary remedy of removing Rackauckas and his deputies from the case, turning it over to the state attorney general’s office. The judge’s opinion cited the D.A.’s failure to produce evidence after repeated requests by Dekraai’s public defender, Scott Sanders, and the widespread misuse of jailhouse informants to gather evidence in violation of Dekraai’s constitutional rights. Jailers planted a microphone in his cell, and placed him in a cell next to the one of the most notorious paid snitches the county has ever known.

“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,” Judge Goethals wrote. “There is nothing funny about that.”1

The judge concluded that the jailhouse snitch problem was so widespread that two deputies had lied on the witness stand to cover up the constitutional abuses.2

The Sordid History of Jailhouse Snitching

This is not the first time a California criminal case has been undermined by the reliance on the testimony of a jailhouse snitch. Earlier this year, and as a result of Sanders’ digging into the Orange County jail system during the Dekraai case, three other defendants in unrelated cases have had their murder charges either dropped or vacated.3

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Serving time in jail or prison will not excuse you from your financial obligations. However, often weeks, months or even years can pass from the time you are arrested to the time your case is closed. So what happens to your funds during this time?

If a judge determines you’re not a flight risk and you’re in a position financially to make bail, then you should have time to sort out your finances. If you are denied or unable to make bail, your credit and finances may suffer unless you make the appropriate arrangements.

What Happens to Your Money While in Prison?

manage funds jailGenerally, nothing happens to your bank account if you are sent to prison; however there are some exceptions. If the government believes that you financially benefitted from your criminal activity, such as selling drugs or insider trading, they may freeze or even take your assets.

All banks are different, but most banks will put a hold on your account restricting any access to your funds if there is no banking activity for a certain amount of time. By updating your banking address to your jail or prison address and making small deposits periodically, you can avoid bank holds due to account dormancy.

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Brittany MaynardIt is a heart-breaking story. A 29-year-old woman learns that she has terminal brain cancer. Her doctors tell her that she has six months to live at most. Seeing a future filled with seizures and unbearable migraines, she decides that the best option is to decide that she will die on her own terms. The problem? Her home state of California does not give her the option of seeking the help of others in ending her life.

This was the story of Brittany Maynard, a California woman who moved to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s legal option of physician-assisted suicide. She ended her life by drinking a fatal cocktail containing a lethal dose of prescribed medications.1 Following her diagnosis, Maynard also used her final days to become a vocal advocate for the cause of legalizing physician-assisted suicide throughout the United States.

Four states (Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Montana) currently give terminally ill patients the option of having a physician assist them in the ending of their lives. Since Maynard’s public battle began, 13 more states – including California – have begun weighing the merits of legalizing physician-assisted suicide.

California’s Proposed Law

In March, California’s legislature began holding hearings on Senate Bill 128, which has been named the End of Life Option Act. The bill, which was recently endorsed by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)2, would allow terminally ill patients to receive help from a doctor to commit suicide if they meet the following conditions:

  • The patient must receive a prognosis of six months or less to live from two physicians;
  • The patient must submit a written request and make two oral requests to a physician at least 15 days apart; and
  • The patient must have the mental competency to make decisions about his or her own health care.3

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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.