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Articles Posted in Criminal Appeals

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The 2017 legislative session is underway and California lawmakers have introduced a flurry of proposed laws. Many of the proposed laws could have a major impact on the California criminal justice system and how certain crimes are punished. From marijuana Breathalyzers to a new crime registry, here are six recently proposed laws that could affect you.california_flag_law_senate_building-300x200

  • Reclassifying “violent crimes” to get around Prop. 57

In an effort to help ease overcrowding in California jails and prisons, lawmakers proposed Proposition 57. This law, which was passed by voters in the Nov. 8 election, increased opportunities for those convicted of non-violent felonies to receive parole and “good behavior” benefits that decrease time in custody.

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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.jpg

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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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.unnamed-300x199.jpg

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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There is a strong movement under way in California to have the voters of California decide very soon whether our state should abolish the death penalty. In place of the death penalty would be life sentences without the possibility for parole. Many legal scholars have written well researched articles on this topic and have come to the conclusion that the death penalty is a financial burden that our state cannot continue to bear. Further, the evidence is clear that it is almost impossible for the state to find competent appellate lawyers for those on death row.

The proposed ballot measure states that those convicted of crimes that currently subject them to the death penalty would be required to work and pay restitution to victims families of their crimes. The proposal would also set aside 100 million dollars to be used by law enforcement to help solve unsolved murder and rape crimes that cannot currently continue for lack of funding.

The bottom line is that since 1978 only 13 people have been put to death under our current death penalty law. The cost of housing and providing lawyers for the thousands of men and women on death row has exceeded four billion dollars and the cost continues to grow. It is very difficult to find lawyers to take on death penalty appeals. Persons on death row are allowed to continue to appeal their sentences. In some cases the appeals have gone on for over twenty years. Many cases sit and go nowhere while a search goes on to find a lawyer willing to take on the case.

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Now that the US Supreme Court has told the California prison systems they have two years to reduce the California State Prison population dramatically many experts are asking how that will be accomplished. Here are some of the real possibilities

Prison inmates serving time for non-violent offenses may be granted parole earlier than their current release date and placed in half way houses or other local facilities

Many prison inmates will be transferred to serve the balance of their time in county jail facilities

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Judge rules that FBI misled the court and FBI’s statements to court were blatantly false

A United States District Court Judge has ruled that the government misled the court in a case involving government surveillance in Southern California’s Muslim-American Community.

In 2007, The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of six Muslim groups and five individuals who were attempting to obtain records under the Freedom of Information Act, which they believed would show that the FBI had been unfairly targeting Muslims.

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For people who have been convicted of lower-level crimes (misdemeanors) but still have work or school obligations, it may be possible to enroll in an inmate worker program – also referred to as “pay & stay.”

If permitted by the court, a convicted person can seek to work or attend school during the day and check into a city-run detainment facility in the evening. The inmate worker program is designed to be an alternative to serving a sentence in County Jail.

This is a fee-based program that is only available to qualified applicants. To help you with this process if it becomes necessary and to best ensure that your rights are protected, you need the legal counsel of a criminal defense attorney.

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Prison: Alternative Custody for “Female inmates, Pregnant inmates, or Inmates Who … [Are] Primary Caregivers of Dependent Children” (Stats. 2010, Ch.644 [S.B. 1266])

A new law that went into effect January on 1, 2011, which authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) to offer a program for female inmates, pregnant inmates, or male/female inmates who are caregivers of dependent children a chance to participate in voluntary alternative custody programs, instead of serving time in state prison.

Alternative sentencing will allow pregnant inmates or primary guardians to continue to take care of children while serving their sentence. Options for alternative sentencing will include confinement to a residential home, a residential drug or treatment program, or a transitional care facility that offers the appropriate services.

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In a recent decision by the California Court of Appeals, it was held that the trial court erred in admitting irrelevant and highly prejudicial gang evidence of the defendants’ membership in a motorcycle club, where there was no evidence that the club was a street gang or a criminal enterprise, and where the prosecution offered this evidence in its case-in-chief primarily to show defendants’ criminal disposition to commit murder. (People v. Memory (March 5, 2010) Case No. Co54422.)

In California, evidence that defendants are members of a certain street gang is relevant to prove identity of those individuals suspected of violating the law. Moreover, gang evidence is relevant and admissible when the very reason for the underlying crime is related to gang activities. In Memory, however, the prosecution offered gang related evidence that the defendants were members of the Jus Brothers motorcycle gang. The prosecution wanted to show that membership in this gang required the members to carry knives and to fight when challenged by other people.

The court held that evidence of gang membership could not be introduced to prove intent or culpability of the defendants. The court found the evidence to be irrelevant. The evidence could not be admitted at trial where its sole relevance was to show defendants’ criminal disposition or bad character as a means of creating an inference that the defendant committed the homicide. By admitting this highly inflammatory and irrelevant evidence, the trial court committed reversible error resulted in a miscarriage of justice requiring reversal of defendants’ convictions.

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It was recently reported that a California court held that a juror in a criminal trial was engaged in prejudicial misconduct. The court found that a juror engaged in conversations with a non-juror friend about trial matters concerning the merits of the case, including discussions about the defendant’s decision not to testify. (People v. Cissna (Feb. 26, 2010) Case No. D053464). It was thus decided a retrial would be granted.

Jurors who are selected through jury selection take an oath to follow a court’s instructions designed to eliminate outside influences and generate decisions based solely on the evidence presented at trial. In this case, one juror ignored these rules and violated his sworn duties by speaking on a daily basis about the merits of the case with his non-juror friend. After the defendant was found guilty, the defendant learned of this juror’s misconduct and moved for a new trial.

The court concluded that these conversations interfered with the deliberative process and the right to have the case decided by twelve impartial jurors. The court explained that the defendant could not receive a fair trial when even one juror lacked impartiality. Therefore, the juror’s misconduct in this case required that the judgment be reversed.

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.