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When you use your cellphone, you probably expect the information on it to stay private. You certainly don’t think that others will be able to access your private messages, account information and location unless you let them. However, law enforcement agencies sometimes use devices called Stingrays to gain access to cellphones. Is this legal?cellphone_smartphone_text_sext-300x169

What are Stingrays?

Stingrays are devices about the size of a suitcase that act as cellphone towers. Law enforcement agencies use these devices to trick phones in the area into connecting to them. By doing so, Stingrays are able to gain access to information on the cellphones.

For instance, cellphones store text messages, emails and location data of the user. All of this information is available to Stingrays in real time. These devices are powerful enough to connect to phones through walls and document this information, and interfere with or record phone calls. Police can use a Stingray to search for criminal suspects, shut down a phone before evidence can be deleted, and attempt to locate missing persons.

Stingrays have been a valuable tool for police during investigations. In 2012, the FBI used a Stingray device to catch a suspect in a mail and wire fraud investigation. However, there have been some questions raised recently about letting police use these devices without first obtaining a search warrant.

New Policies Regulating the Use of Stingrays by Law Enforcement

The use of Stingrays by law enforcement has been a controversial topic. Agencies were previously allowed to use these devices without issue. However, a recent policy change by the Department of Justice requires law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant before they can use a Stingray device.

Under this new policy, law enforcement agencies must regularly delete data collected through Stingray, bit data that could prove a suspect’s innocence must be maintained. Continue reading →

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Mariza Ruelas only wanted a recipe for a cake. Now, the single mother of six faces a year in county jail.1frustrated-mom-on-computer-300x171

According to the San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office, Ruelas and several others belonging to a Facebook group frequently broke the law by selling homemade meals without a license. Could this really be a crime?

The California Homemade Food Act of 2013

California law allows people to sell certain foods made in their own kitchens. These operations are called “Cottage Food Operations” (CFO), and are strictly governed by the California Homemade Food Act of 2013 (AB 1616).

The group of laws that make up the act contain several regulations, including:

  • Restricting the kinds of foods that can be sold
  • Requiring operators of CFOs to complete a food processing course from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and
  • Approval from the local planning and zoning department in the city or county where you plan to offer food for sale.

Under the Act, the types of foods that can be sold are generally those that do not need refrigeration, and are not made of animal products, such as chicken, fish or beef. So, while you can sell baked goods like cookies or breads, you cannot sell chicken teriyaki or, as Ruelas is accused of selling, a dish like ceviche, which is made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices and spiced with chili peppers. Continue reading →

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Credit cards are a convenient way to pay for pretty much anything. Many of us don’t think twice about handing our credit card over the counter to make a quick purchase or using it to buy something online. Those plastic cards can come in handy. However, many people do not realize that credit cards store your information on them.police-computer-300x130

Magnetic strips on the back of credit cards contain a few lines of information on them. This includes your name, account number and other details about you. Information printed on the front of the card is supposed to match that on the magnetic strip, indicating whether the card is counterfeit.

So, let’s say you were in possession of a large amount of credit cards. If a police officer was conducting a normal search of your person or other property and found these cards, it could raise suspicion,. In this case, could the officer scan your credit cards without a warrant? This question was recently answered by the Eighth District Court of Appeals.

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lawyers_judge_attorney_courtWhether you are charged with a serious crime or contesting a traffic ticket, there are rules you need to follow whenever you appear before a judge. Here are some rules you should keep in mind if you are going to court.

Dress for Success

The easiest way to show a judge that you respect the court and that you take this matter seriously is to show up well-groomed and in appropriate attire. Wear a suit or other professional attire and be well groomed. Facial hair is acceptable, but keep it trimmed and neat.

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On Nov. 8, California voters can choose to vote for or against Proposition 64, which would legalize recreational marijuana use for adults over the age of 21.DUI_Marijuana_Drugs-300x201

What does it mean if Prop 64 passes? Essentially, it would mean that any person over the age of 21 could possess, buy, or transport up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants in his or her home.

However, while the common way to describe the effect of the law is to say that it “legalizes” marijuana, it is important to know that it would not make every act involving marijuana legal. So how would passing Prop 64 affect marijuana crimes in California?

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When you have been convicted of a crime, you may lose certain rights. You could lose your right to own a firearm, your driving privileges, or even your right to vote.voted_voting-300x225

So, are you eligible to vote if you have been convicted of a crime? The answer depends on many factors.

Can I Vote if I’ve Been Convicted of a Crime?

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Nearly 10 years ago, a law that was passed in California made it illegal for people to use their cellphones to read, write, and send text messages while driving. It was found that over 80% of vehicular crashes and accidents involve distracted driving, and lawmakers wanted to do something to address this issue.1Text and Drive 2

Since then, cellphone use has drastically increased, and distracted driving continues to be a major problem. Users can snap pictures, browse the internet and play games all on their smartphones. So why is it only illegal to send texts while driving? A new California is expanding the texting while driving law.

No Phones Allowed While Driving

Cellphones have become much more complex since California’s texting while driving law went into effect. Due to this, California lawmakers felt the need to update the language of this texting-and-driving law to reflect how people currently use smartphones.

Assembly Bill 1785 was introduced earlier this year to add a section to the texting and driving law under California Vehicle Code Section 23123.5. California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed the bill into law.

This new legislation makes it illegal for anyone to operate a smartphone or any phone with their hands while driving a vehicle. This means it does not matter if you were sending texts, playing Pokemon Go, or using Tinder – all of these actions are illegal. The law will go into effect January 2017.

When the law goes into effect, drivers in California will be prohibited from holding a phone while behind the wheel. However, there will be some exceptions. The use of a phone or smartphone is allowed if the device is mounted to the vehicle’s dashboard or windshield, and if the driver is activating or deactivating a feature of the phone that requires a single swipe or tap of their finger.

Punishment for Using Your Phone While Driving in California

The punishment for violating this law remains the same as it did for texting while driving. A first offense is punishable by a fine of $20. While this number seems small, being cited for texting while driving will actually cost you a lot more. With additional fees and penalty assessments associated with your violation, you will wind up paying around $165 for breaking this law. Continue reading →

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An ongoing scandal involving the Orange County District Attorney’s Office has led California lawmakers to pass a new law. Beginning at the start of 2017, prosecutors who falsify or withhold evidence in a criminal case could be charged with a felony.evidence1

So, what does this new law mean for you?

Felony Charges for Prosecutors Who Withhold Evidence

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a law that will make it a felony for prosecutors in the state to tamper with or hide evidence that could disprove the guilt of a defendant. Any prosecutor who violates this law faces up to three years in state prison.

Altering or hiding exculpatory evidence was previously a crime, but it was only a misdemeanor, which carries significantly lesser penalties.

In addition, the California State Bar proposed a new ethical rule that requires criminal prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence in a timely manner. The California Supreme Court must approve this rule before it can go into effect. However, doing so would line the State Bar’s rules up with other states, so it is not expected to face opposition.

If it is adopted by the California Supreme Court, violating this ethical rule would result in state bar discipline. This means prosecutors who willfully fail to turn over evidence could face the suspension or revocation of their license to practice law.

Why Pass This Law Now?

Assemblywoman Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando), who introduced the legislation, said the bill was drafted in an effort to reduce misconduct in criminal cases and prevent wrongful convictions. It was not a specific response to the events occurring in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, but Lopez acknowledged those events helped move the bill forward.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office was removed from the prosecution of alleged mass murderer Scott Dekraai in 2015. The judge who made this decision said it was due to the district attorney’s failure to turn over evidence, which the judge considered repeated violations of Dekraai’s rights.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has also recently faced additional allegations of violating the rights of defendants through the misuse of jailhouse informants.

How Does This Law Affect Me?

This new law is a big win that protects the rights of criminal defendants in California. While some unethical prosecutors may still attempt to violate the law and State Bar rules, being subject to felony charges should prevent many prosecutors from committing misconduct by withholding or falsifying evidence. Continue reading →

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Wallin & Klarich, A Law Corporation is proud to announce that the Southern California Defense Blog has been nominated for best legal blog of the year by The Expert Institute.

The Southern California Defense Blog has been selected as one of the best blogs in the criminal defense law category in the annual contest by The Expert Institute.

Now, the best legal blog will be awarded based on a voting system. Anyone can cast a vote for any of the nominees for the best legal blog by visiting the voting page on The Expert Institute’s website.

The Southern California Defense Blog is a premier source of information regarding criminal defense topics and how they relate to southern California. On the site, you can find the latest legal news, including new and updated laws, and advice from skilled criminal attorneys with more than 35 years of experience. Continue reading →

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You may think fighting your traffic ticket seems like a waste. You may feel “a cop says I was speeding, and it’s going to be her word against mine,” so why bother?ticketsm

Wrong. Fighting a traffic ticket is always a good choice because you have the chance to have your fine dismissed and to prevent any points from being added to your record from the ticket. There is no additional penalty for contesting a ticket.

If you decide to fight your ticket in court, there are several ways to increase your chance at winning your case. Here are five tips that you should keep in mind when fighting your ticket.

  • Trial By Declaration

Suppose you are ticketed for running a stop sign. With minor traffic violations like this, you can request a Trial by Declaration in which you submit a written declaration on a form to the court. On this form, you will plead not guilty to the traffic offense, and explain the facts that you believe show you are not guilty.

When drafting your declaration, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced traffic attorney. You will be signing the form under penalty of perjury, so you cannot lie in your declaration. However, that does not mean you are required to admit that you are guilty. Your attorney can help you draft a statement that does not lie, but does not admit guilt.

The officer who gave you the ticket will be asked to submit his or her own statement about your offense. Based on a comparison of the two statements, the court may dismiss your violation or find you guilty. The good news is that California law allows you a second trial if you are found guilty. So, the trial by declaration is a good choice because it costs you no additional fines and it allows you two chances to beat your ticket.

  • Show Up!

In every court case, there are two ways to lose: not to show up or to show up late. Courts have a lot of cases to work through each day, and judges want to get through them as efficiently as possible.

Remember that a traffic ticket is a promise on your part to appear in court on a specific date. If you break this promise by not showing up, the judge can issue a warrant for your arrest for failing to appear, which can result in additional fines and a hold on your license. The court can also decide to try your traffic case without you. If you cannot appear, you should speak to an attorney about appearing for you.

  • Gather Evidence

Perhaps a construction crew that was working on the sidewalk obstructed your view of the stop sign. Maybe a vandal had stolen the stop sign and it was not there when the officer stopped you. These would be facts that explain why you rolled through the stop, and you are allowed to bring evidence of these facts to the court’s attention.

If you can, go back to the scene of your violation and take photographs that show these factors exist. Continue reading →

About Wallin & Klarich

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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.