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In 2010, American entrepreneur Travis Kalanick founded the ride-sharing app, Uber. Today, Uber is used in over 50 countries and 250 cities worldwide and is valued to be worth a whopping $41.2 billion. The road to Uber’s success, however, has not come without a few speedbumps.

Most recently, Uber has found itself in a tense legal battle regarding the regulations required of its drivers compared to the rigorous necessities required to drive a taxicab.

Alleged Uber Driver Criminal Activity Places Company in Hot Water

Uber Driver RapeIn the past few months, Uber drivers throughout the world have been accused of committing a variety of criminal acts. Last month in Boston, a driver was arrested for allegedly raping, kidnapping and assaulting a female passenger in his vehicle. In the same month, an Uber driver in New Delhi, India, who had already been arrested for rape twice in the past, was arrested yet again for raping a female passenger. In September, a San Francisco Uber driver was placed under arrest after he allegedly struck a passenger in the head with a clawed hammer and fractured the alleged victim’s skull.

As a result of the recent accusations – presumably due to the lack of regulations for drivers- several governments around the globe have begun to ban Uber from operating within their jurisdictions. These jurisdictions include: Nevada, Portland, Germany, France, New Delhi, the Netherlands, Thailand, Brussels, Toronto and Spain. According to the Daily Journal, several other states, including California, are considering similar action.

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The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided to hear the case of Dennys Rodriguez v. United States of America.1 The issue is whether, after a traffic stop is concluded and a ticket or warning is issued, it’s okay to detain the driver longer in order to allow a drug sniffing K-9 to sniff the car.

Can Police Delay the Length of a Traffic Stop?

Police officer Morgan Streubels stopped Dennys Rodriguez at 12:06 a.m. because he swerved off the road, and issued him a written warning at 12:27 a.m. At that point the stop was over, but Officer Streubels would not allow Rodriguez to leave.

Drug Sniffing Dog Traffic StopStreubels called a K-9 unit to the scene for backup so he could allow the dog to sniff around Rodriguez’s car. Streubels wanted to see if the dog alerted to drugs, which would be probable cause for a search of the vehicle. Before the K-9 backup had arrived, Streubels ran Rodriguez’s license, questioned passenger Scott Pollman and issued a written warning to Rodriguez. When the warning was issued and the paperwork was returned, the traffic stop was finished, but backup still had not arrived.

The traffic stop was concluded, but Streubels detained Rodriguez for six minutes. During this detention, Streubels asked Rodriguez for permission to have the drug dog sniff the car. Rodriguez refused the search. Streubels then ordered Rodriguez to get out of the car. Approximately eight minutes after the conclusion of the traffic stop, the K-9 sniffed around the vehicle without Rodriguez’s permission. The dog smelled drugs, so Streubels searched the car and found “a large bag of methamphetamine.”

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The recent deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City have placed police tactics under the media spotlight. It is a sad truth that innocent people die at the hands of police every year in this country. Since 2000, law enforcement officers have killed nearly 600 people in Los Angeles County alone, which amounts to roughly one death per week.1

There is no denying that there are police officers that enjoy the violent aspects of their work, but it is far more common that officers we encounter are just trying to do their job. While no one has yet put forward a good solution to the problem of violent cops, there are some steps you can take to avoid making your dealings with the police more peaceful.

The Police Mindset

Police BrutalityThe first thing to do is understand the mindset of a police officer. Men and women in law enforcement are trained that every person they approach could be the person that ends their life. Therefore, they are trained to recognize life-threatening movements and verbal threats. If you make a sudden, unprompted move to the pocket on the inside of your jacket or to the waistband of your pants, you could find yourself staring down the barrel of the officer’s gun.

Keep your hands visible, and if you have to make a move to your pocket, tell the officer that you are going to do so. Explain why you need to get into your pocket, and do so slowly.

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A study published recently in an issue of Science Magazine entitled “Summer Jobs Reduce Violence Among Disadvantaged Youth” showed that when high school students from low-income, high-violence Chicago communities were employed through a One Summer Plus program for eight weeks, violent crime arrests dropped by nearly 43 percent for more than a year after the employment ended.1

How the One Summer Plus Program Worked

summer jobsFor the study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania worked with the University of Chicago Crime Lab to establish a summer program in which participants were divided into three groups: no job, summer job, and summer job plus social emotional learning. About 1,634 students participated in the study. The summer job group worked about 25 hours a week at $8.25 an hour, and the summer job plus group worked 15 hours a week at $8.25 and received 10 hours a week of social-emotional learning based on the principals of cognitive behavior therapy. The control group was not offered work through the One Summer Plus program, but were allowed to find their own jobs or summer activities.2 Employed students in the program earned about $1,400 over the summer and were given bus passes and one meal each day.

Nearly all participants were African American with an average age of 16, and more than 90 percent lived in some degree of poverty and carried about a C average in school. Nearly 20 percent of participants had been a victim of crime and nearly 20 percent had an arrest record. All lived in neighborhoods with very high violent crime rates and 19 percent unemployment.

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Recently, a Reddit user posted that the Guardians of Peace (GOP) had hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment.1 Within days, news media outlets reported that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) was actively investigating the Sony servers breach and hinting that North Korea could be involved as the country had denounced the release of the Sony film “The Interview.”

Sony HackersThe hacker group allegedly stole an estimated 100 TB of emails, movies, and passwords, as well as the sensitive and private information of thousands of past and current employees, actors, actresses, employees and company officials. The group reportedly leaked a plethora of the information online, including several yet-to-be-released films. The GOP said they will hold the rest of the stolen information as long as Sony behaves.

What Can Happen to the Sony Hackers?

In the weeks following the attack on Sony, the FBI announced that North Korea should be held accountable for the incident. The United States approved new sanctions against North Korea after the FBI found “sloppy” hacking mistakes that included sending direct messages from North Korean IP addresses.2

What remains unclear is exactly who hacked the entertainment giant and what charges they may face if caught. As it stands currently, the hackers could face federal charges under Title 18 U.S. Code Section 1030, Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Computers.3

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In 2014, both California and the nation saw a huge number of changes in criminal law and a wide range of scandals. Here is a roundup of some of the top criminal law-related headlines from across the nation.

Bill Cosby Charged Sexual Assault

Past Sex Crimes Come to Light

In late November and early December, more than 20 women accused comedian and actor Bill Cosby of sexual assault. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office investigated some of the allegations, but declined to prosecute because the statute of limitations for the offenses had expired.

In early December, actor Stephen Collins publicly acknowledged that he molested three underage girls. Collins is not facing charges because the statute of limitations has expired. The publicity surrounding Cosby and Collins illustrated how not all sex crimes are prosecuted, even when the perpetrator admits the conduct.

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Amanda Bynes involuntary commitmentThe lives of child actors often become cautionary tales about the fleeting nature of fame and fortune. Amanda Bynes, once the star of Nickelodeon’s “All That,” has a story that is not unlike many that came before her, but in some ways, hers may be the most troubling case of all.

In October, doctors at a Pasadena hospital placed the 28-year-old Bynes under an involuntary 72-hour psychiatric hold after a series of strange claims she posted on her Twitter account. In one message, she stated that a surgically implanted microchip in her brain caused her to make false allegations that her father physically and sexually abused her as a child.

In the age of social media, the very public nature of Bynes’ apparent decline in mental health has put a spotlight on California’s laws concerning the process of involuntarily committing a person to treatment and care for mental illness.

Involuntary Commitment (California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 5150)

You may have heard the number “5150” used as shorthand to describe someone who has a mental illness. The number refers to California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 5150, which was created in 1972 by the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. The law allows peace officers, doctors, registered nurses, and certain other authorized individuals to declare, upon probable cause, that a person is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or that the person is gravely disabled as a result of a mental health disorder. Under this statute, “gravely disabled” means that the person is not dangerous, but is presently unable to provide for his or her basic needs for food, clothing, or shelter because of a mental disorder.1

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After a night at the bar with your friend, your friend realizes he is too intoxicated to drive you home. Your driver’s license has been revoked, but you think “what’s the harm?” and decide to drive his car home.

On the way, you swerve off the road and hit a guardrail. Your friend dies as a result from his injuries. What happens next for you? Here is a look at the potential charges you could face for driving with a revoked license or while your license is suspended and causing a fatal accident.

Driving With a Suspended or Revoked License (California Vehicle Code Section 14601)

There are various reasons why your license could be suspended or revoked by the DMV, including:

  • Driving on Suspended LicenseDUI arrest or conviction
  • Outstanding warrant
  • Too many “points” on license due to traffic violations
  • Medical issues
  • No car insurance
  • Failure to pay child support
  • Vandalism
  • Possession of a controlled substance
  • Failure to file a report with the DMV after an accident
  • Failure to pay a civil judgment related to an automobile accident

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Recently, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in the first case that seeks to limit an individual’s right to free speech on social media. The case, Elonis v. United States, concerns Anthony Elonis, an Allentown, Pennsylvania man.1

Social Media ThreatsElonis’s wife left him in 2010, taking their two children. Following her departure, Elonis allegedly made death threats to his estranged wife, local law enforcement officers, an FBI agent, and a kindergarten class in the form of multiple public posts on Facebook. He was charged with five counts of insterstate communication of illegal threats.2

The federal law under 18 U.S.C. Section 875 makes it a crime to “transmit in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another.”

Elonis was found guilty and was sentenced to 44 months in prison. In his appeal, Elonis’ counsel argued that he did not have the intent to threaten all the individuals that he named, and therefore the First Amendment gave him the freedom to make the statements.

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Mark Wahlberg Governor's PardonRecently, actor Mark Wahlberg filed a petition to the governor of Massachusetts to request that he be pardoned for an assault conviction dating to the late 1980s. The crime involved not only a physical attack, but the screaming of obscenities and racial epithets.

In California, an individual can file a petition for a pardon to the governor as well. A gubernatorial pardon is granted to those who have demonstrated “exemplary” behavior following a conviction. If you wish to seek a governor’s pardon in California, contact a Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney to help you right away.

What are the Requirements for a Governor’s Pardon?

You can seek a governor’s pardon if you were convicted in California of a felony or certain specified misdemeanor sex offenses. If you were convicted of crimes in other state courts, you must apply for a governor’s pardon in the state in which you were convicted. If you were convicted of federal crimes, you can apply for a presidential pardon.

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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.