FacebookTwitterLinkedInJustiaGoogle+Feed

Articles Posted in Law & Information

Published on:

jail_handcuffs_prison-300x199The Orange County District Attorney’s Office recently came under fire after it was discovered that prosecutors were using a secret program in which law enforcement would place informants in jail cells with defendants in order to convince them to unwittingly give up information that could be used against them in their cases. In some cases, the prosecution failed to turn over information to the defendants’ lawyers about the informants’ past work with police agencies, denying the defense a chance to call into question the credibility of the informants.

This unfair practice has drawn the attention of California lawmakers, who have proposed a new law that limits the incentives district attorneys can offer informants.

Paying for Information

Current law allows law enforcement or corrections officers to give informants $50 for their testimony, as well as incentives such as more lenient or reduced sentences, credit for good behavior, or a reduction of the charges against the informant.

However, the law placed no limit on the amount that could be paid to an informant for the information they provide toward the investigation of a suspected crime, which means that all the work prior to an informant’s actual court testimony can be compensated at an unlimited amount. For example, two members of the Mexican Mafia, Raymond “Puppet” Cuevas and Jose “Bouncer” Paredes, received a combined total of over $335,000 cash and other perks for providing information on dozens of cases over a span of four years.

A new law, Assembly Bill 359, is attempting to change that. While this bill would allow law enforcement to pay informants up to $100 per case, it would also apply to any information they provide during the investigation phase. The law would apply to members of any “prosecution entity,” which means the cap would no longer apply just to law enforcement or corrections officers. Prosecutors would still be able to offer incentives to informants, but the unlimited flow of cash would be cut off if this bill becomes law.

Currently, AB 359 has passed the Committee on Public Safety, which means the full assembly is set to take up the debate and vote on the bill in the next few months. Continue reading →

Published on:

social-media-300x225Visiting the doctor can be an intimidating experience, especially when your doctor is using complex medical terms that you don’t understand. So, when your doctor calls you to give you medical results or advice, you may feel compelled to record that conversation so you can be certain of what the doctor told you.

However, what you do not realize is that recording your doctor without his or her permission is a crime in California.

Confidential Recordings (PC 632.01)

Under California law, it is illegal for you to intentionally eavesdrop or record a confidential communication without the consent of all the parties involved in the communication. Previously, this law did not include conversations with doctors or medical professionals.doctor-300x200

However, Assembly Bill 1671 went into effect Jan. 1, 2017. This law defines communication with healthcare providers and state-licensed medical professionals as “confidential communications.” The law amends California Penal Code Section 632. Under this law, you could be convicted of a crime if you record a medical professional without his or her consent with the intent to disclose or distribute the communication.

If you are convicted of violating PC 632.01, you could face severe consequences. You could be sentenced to up to three years in state prison and fined up to $2,500.

The Purpose of AB 1671

You may be wondering why it is against the law to record your doctor without his or her consent. The bill stemmed from the publishing of confidential videos that were recorded during an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s reported involvement in selling fetal parts. Sensing that patients and clinical staff needed their confidential interactions to be protected, Los Angeles Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez introduced the bill. Continue reading →

Published on:

california_flag.jpgIn 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed nearly 1,000 pieces of legislation into law. Many of these new laws went into effect Jan. 1, 2017. Here are eight new California laws you need to know about.

  • No More Bullet Buttons (PC 30515, 30900, 30680)

Assault rifles, semi-automatic pistols and other guns that did not have fixed magazines and instead could be reloaded by using the tip of a bullet or other tool are banned in California. With the passing of Senate Bill 880 and Assembly Bill 1135 in 2016, owners of these guns will need to register the weapons with the Department of Justice. Failing to do so could result in a sentence of up to 364 days in county jail and a $500 fine.

Published on:

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.jpg

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 →

Published on:

California’s stance on gun control is changing drastically. Several new laws that were recently passed place more restrictions on how guns and firearms are handled. Governor Jerry Brown recently signed these six new stricter gun control bills into law. Brown sees the new laws as a way to improve public safety while also protecting the rights of current law-abiding gun owners.

Restrictions on Ammunition

Concealed Weapon AttorneyTwo of the new laws involve restrictions on owning and purchasing ammunition. Senate Bill (SB) 1235 requires those who purchase ammunition for guns to undergo a background and driver’s license check. Purchasing ammunition would enter the buyer into a database that is monitored by the Department of Justice.

Published on:

In August 2014, California passed a “kill switch” law requiring all smartphones sold in the state to include built-in remote locking technology. The “kill switch” law, which went into effect July, allows the owner of a smartphone to disable the device even when he or she does not have possession of the phone. The largest smartphone manufacturers, Apple and Google, are offering remote kill software, known as “Activation Lock” and “Device Protection,” respectively.

How does kill switch technology work?

kill switch law CaliforniaKill switch software protects a smartphone by allowing the owner to remotely render it inoperable. For instance, the owner of a smartphone can remotely apply a passcode before it can be unlocked or restored to factory settings. Aside from screen locking, other remote abilities include wiping data and preventing unauthorized resets. In addition, the user can reverse data wipes and restore phone operability. According to the bill, “the technological solution, when enabled, [is] able to withstand a hard reset…and prevent reactivation of the smartphone on a wireless network except by an authorized user.”1

Is kill switch technology effective?

Stealing smartphones, as a relatively quick and easy crime to commit, has become a widespread problem in the United States (accounting for 30-40% of all robberies in the nation in 2012). Reports say that one in ten people have had their smartphone stolen.2 In California, smartphone theft accounts for more than 50% of street robberies.3 By vastly reducing the resale value of smartphones, kills switch technology is expected to greatly curb theft. In 2013, 3.1 million smartphones were stolen in the United States. According to a study by Consumer Reports, the numbers have dropped to 2.1 million (or 32%) in 2014,4 largely as a result of kill switch technology.5

Continue reading →

Published on:

When the family members or friends of an inmate accept a jailhouse call, they will likely have to acknowledge a recording stating that the call is being recorded. There are also usually signs by the phones in the jail informing inmates that their calls are being recorded. The only calls that remain private are between inmates and their attorneys.

jailhouse phone callsDespite the warning, inmates often talk about their cases over the phone, sometimes even incriminating themselves. Even though attorney-client conversations are privileged, they sometimes are recorded or even monitored live. One such case took place in New York. A prosecutor submitted a recording of an inmate’s conversation with his attorney from a jail call.1 In another case, Baltimore County prosecutors used a recording of an inmate’s call to his ex-girlfriend to present what the judge called “overwhelming, damning evidence of [the inmate’s] guilt.”2

Prosecutors have long been using recorded phone calls as evidence, and inmates have been admitting to crimes during these phone calls for years, so it seems the practice is gaining in popularity. However, jailhouse phone calls must be certified by the telephone provider of the correctional facility to be used by the prosecution.3

When you speak to your lawyer from a jailhouse phone, you need to begin your conversation with the words, “I am only speaking to my lawyer because I know what I tell him is 100% confidential and cannot be used as evidence in a court of law.” This will mean that your phone call is private and can’t be used against you as evidence.

Why Inmates Admit Guilt Over the Phone

Most of the time, inmates don’t think anyone is really listening to their calls, or they may just get caught up in their situation and say too much. Many don’t realize their call can be used as evidence. Inmates may try to pass information, apologize for their action or try to convince someone to lie or hide evidence. Sometimes they talk about their case because they feel lonely and just want to talk about what’s happening. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter why you say too much on the phone, only that you did.

Continue reading →

Published on:

warrant for phoneSearch warrants have been a part of our criminal justice system since this country was founded, but when the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1791, the Founding Fathers could not have possibly anticipated the advances in technology that are a part of our daily lives in the 21st century. Laptops, tablets and smartphones could not have been imagined at a time when even the telegraph had yet to be invented.

Likewise, the men who wrote the Bill of Rights could not have foreseen the technology that law enforcement agencies would use to conduct searches and seizures of private information. Technology moves faster than the laws that govern its use, so there is always a gap between the time a new privacy invasion device is invented and the time that legislators find a way to protect against it.

Fortunately, California lawmakers are working on strengthening the public’s protections against unwarranted invasions of privacy in the digital age.

Existing Law Provides Few Protections

Law enforcement agencies have been able to exploit the gap between technology and the slow-moving process of changing the law. Police can search the physical aspects of the phone, such as pulling the phone out of its case or opening the battery compartment (if the model has one). In situations where they actually believe evidence on the phone is likely to be immediately destroyed, police officers can search the cell phone without a warrant.

Nicole Ozer, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), explained, “While technology has advanced exponentially, California privacy law has remained largely unchanged. Law enforcement is increasingly taking advantage of outdated privacy laws to turn mobile phones into tracking devices and to access e-mails, digital documents, and text messages without proper judicial oversight.”1

Continue reading →

Published on:

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.

Continue reading →

Published on:

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.

Continue reading →

About Wallin & Klarich

partnersfooter

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.