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In 2015, the number of violent crimes in California rose by 10%. Although the overall crime rate remained lowest in the decade, the number of crimes in California rose after a steady two years of decline.Judge-300x145

According to a report released by the state attorney general’s office, the number of violent crimes was up in all major categories of violent crimes when compared to 2014. For example, the number of aggravated assault and robbery cases increased by more than 8%, whereas the number of homicides increased 9.7%. The number of hate crimes in California also followed the same trend, showing an increase of 10.4%. Many of these cases involved religious bias, with anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim incidents on the rise along with incidents against Latinos.

The number of total property crimes climbed by 8.1%. The number of motor vehicle thefts also showed an increase. However, the number of burglaries dropped.

Despite an increase in the number of violent crimes, the number of overall violent and property crime rates were lower per 100,000 last year than those recorded in 2010. The number of overall violent and property crime rates remained drastically lower than the peak crime rates recorded in the 1980s and 1990s.

Statistics show that more than 4,000 people were murdered in 1993, whereas the number decreased to 1,861 people murdered statewide in 2015.

Similarly, the number of homicides recorded across California in 2009 reduced below 2,000 for the first time since 1974. The number has remained below that number since.

A breakdown of the number of homicides recorded in 2015 are given below:

Nearly 83% of victims in homicide cases were male. A large percentage of these victims were killed by friends and acquaintances, which was recorded at 47%. Additionally, 15% of victims were killed by their spouse, parent, or child, whereas approximately 31% of the victims were killed by strangers. More women were murdered by their spouse, as compared to men.

A large portion of homicide victims were Latino, which constituted 43% of cases. This was followed by 28.4% black, followed by 21.3% white victims. Approximately 29% of homicide cases were gang-related.

70% of these homicide cases involved the use of firearms. 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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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.

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Ryan Lochte ChargesYou get into an argument with your roommate, and he decides to move out. After he leaves, you are still angry, so you call the police and make up a story about your roommate stealing your furniture. Can you go to jail for lying to the police?

At a bar with your friends, you get into a shouting match, and then one of your friends punches you. The cops are called, but you don’t want your friend to get in trouble, so you lie to them and tell them no punches were thrown. Is this a crime?

You are an Olympic athlete and you decide to go to a party in Rio with some of your teammates. You might stay out past team-mandated curfew and might cause damage to a local business. Afraid that you might be reprimanded by your coaches and country, you may say that you were running late because you were robbed. What could happen to you?

Did Ryan Lochte and His Olympic Teammates Commit a Crime?

U.S. swimmer and 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte and several other U.S. swimmers could be facing criminal charges in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for allegedly lying to authorities.

Continue reading →

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President Obama recently announced that he will issue a series of executive orders to address prison reform following recommendations from the US Justice Department. 1 The Obama administration’s agenda hopes to address current problems with the criminal justice system to make it “fairer, to be smarter, to be more effective.”2Gen-32-300x200.jpg

Among the changes is an end to solitary confinement for juveniles and for those who committed low-level infractions. The proposed changes are aimed only at the federal prison population and are said to affect around 10,000 federal inmates, but will not affect inmates serving time in state prisons.3

Today, there are more than 2.4 million Americans in prison in America; this accounts for about 5% of the global prison population making the United States the most heavily incarcerated country in the world. 4 Clearly there is a problem with mass incarceration in this country. Though this reform is certainly progress in protecting human rights, it will likely do nothing to address the serious problem of prison overpopulation.

Who Will Benefit from Reform

  • Juveniles: Solitary confinement for juveniles will be banned. However, it is rare for a juvenile to be placed in solitary confinement.5 This is a victory toward more humane treatment of prisoners, albeit a small one.
  • The Mentally Ill: The reform seeks to expand treatment for the mentally ill as well. Excluding juveniles, there are as many as 100,000 inmates in solitary confinement today. The reform calls for increasing time inmates in solitary confinement are allowed to spend outside of their cells, but this may not be enough considering that 60 percent of inmates whose solitary confinement cases were reviewed had serious underdiagnosed or untreated mental illnesses.6 More resources need to be allocated to identify those already suffering from mental illness in prison.
    There are upwards of 25,000 inmates serving months or even years in solitary confinement with almost no human contact, which is arguably cruel and unusual.7 The new rules restrict the how long inmates who break prison rules for the first time can spend in solitary confinement. Now, the longest an inmate can be given solitary confinement for a first offense is 60 days. The previous current maximum was 365 days.8 However, studies show that any solitary confinement only exasperates mental illness, and even 60 days can potentially cause irreversible damage.9
  • Low-level offenders: The latest Obama executive order prohibits solitary confinement for those who were convicted of low-level infractions. However, there is seemingly no clear guidance on what would constitute a ‘low-level infraction’ and without it, it’s possible that arbitrary solitary punishment could continue.

Continue reading →

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A potential law regarding the use of drones in California was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown, but the debate over drone laws continues. If passed into law, SB 142 would have banned anyone from flying drones over private property without permission.1

Governor Brown said the law would have unnecessarily exposed drone users to the legal system. Although this bill failed to pass, government officials are still expected to explore criminal laws regarding drone use.

Criminalizing Drone Use

California drone lawThe proposed bill would have made it a crime for you to fly a drone less than 350 feet over private property without the owner’s approval. A violation of this proposed law could have led to criminal trespassing charges.

It is unclear whether the bill would have been written into current California criminal trespass laws or if it would have been a separate crime with harsher penalties. The current law states that you are guilty of this crime if you enter and occupy real property or structures of any kind without the owner’s consent, the owner’s agent, or any person in lawful possession.2

In California, criminal trespass is a misdemeanor. If convicted of this crime, you face up to 364 days in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. It is likely that the proposed law would have imposed these same penalties for unauthorized use of a drone.

Continue reading →

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Evidence on FacebookA California Appeals Court recently ruled that a criminal defendant’s right to social media information is outweighed by and protected under Federal Privacy laws.1

Two defendants facing murder charges subpoenaed account information from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in an effort to help their defense. The defendants claimed that social media postings from the alleged victims and a prosecution witness would show bias and a motive to lie about their involvement in the murder

Despite this information being highly relevant to their defense, the Court ruled that it would not be available to them or any criminal defendant similarly situated before trial.

Court of Appeals Ruling Explained

The Stored Communications Act protects your personal information online and formed the basis for the Court’s decision. However, this decades-old law clearly did not contemplate modern day technology and the cultural shift where many people voluntarily choose to publicize their lives on social media sites.

Opponents of the decision point out that social media companies must turn over this information when requested by government authorities with a warrant. Facebook and other social networking sites could choose to turn over the information voluntarily, but they are not required to do so under subpoena. The court dismissed the argument that restricting the defendants’ access to this information would infringe the defendants’ constitutional right to a fair trial.

Continue reading →

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District attorney misconductAll lawyers are held to strict ethical standards and bound by laws in California. District attorneys are no different. Prosecutors are required to turn over any and all possible exculpatory evidence upon receiving it and discovering its useful nature to the defense. This can include anything, ranging from:

  • Investigator notes
  • Interrogations
  • Witness testimony
  • Audio and video records

Based on the Brady v. Maryland case (Brady v. Maryland 373 U.S. 83 (1963)), this is commonly referred to as “Brady material.” In the Brady case, the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors must turn over evidence that could help the defense or be used to attack the credibility of a witness. So what happens when district attorneys fail to follow this procedure?

District Attorney Misconduct in Orange County

This situation of district attorney misconduct recently came to light in Orange County. Deputy District Attorney Erik Petersen, who was assigned to felony cases in the North Justice Center, reportedly used misconduct in several high profile cases.

Most of this alleged misconduct surrounded the use of jailhouse informants, who are inmates that investigators use to get a confession from the suspect while being held in custody. When the inmate hears a confession from the suspect, he will inform prosecutors. The use of jailhouse informants is not illegal. However, it is not allowed when the suspect is represented by an attorney because it can be considered a form of interrogation, and the suspect has a right to an attorney during an interrogation.

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leaf blower movie theaterFalsely yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater is one of the few items not covered under free speech laws in the U.S. This act could cause an entire audience of people to act in fear and could bring great harm to movie-goers. But shouting “fire” isn’t the only act in a movie theater that could lead to criminal charges.

Incidents of shootings at movie theaters have been in the news lately, striking fear in those who go to watch movies. Most notably, the massacre in Colorado during the opening of a Batman movie has led theaters to take increased security measures. Regal Entertainment Group has begun checking bags before people can enter the theater.1 Playing on this fear, pranksters recently took a leaf blower to the movies, and the noise caused a major scramble that could lead to criminal charges for the people who only thought they were pulling a harmless prank.

When a Prank Becomes a Crime

The incident occurred recently at a theater in Newport Beach. Four teenagers interrupted a late night showing of The Gift by turning on a leaf blower inside the theater. The action caused a commotion in the movie theater, with some suffering minor injuries as they scrambled toward the exit.2 The teens likely intended no harm, but authorities took the incident seriously enough to issue a warrant for their arrests. After turning themselves in, police are considering exactly what charges to levy on the four individuals.

Because of the uniqueness of this act, authorities are unsure exactly how to approach the situation. Since three of the alleged perpetrators are minors, the case may be sent to juvenile court. Many times, less serious charges brought upon juveniles are resolved informally through counseling, curfews and other measures that do not involve spending time in custody.3

Continue reading →

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Any time Timmy fell into the well, we could count on his dog Lassie to alert the proper people in order to save him. However, Lassie was a TV character. What happens when dogs are counted on when someone’s life is on the line in real life?

The accuracy of drug-sniffing dogs used by police has come into question of late. A recent court ruling could help create the foundation necessary to eliminate the use of drug-sniffing dogs by law enforcement.

Inaccurate Dog Becomes Convicted Man’s Best Friend on Appeal

Drug DogsIn August 2015, a U.S. Court of Appeals decision challenged the accuracy of drug-sniffing dogs. The ruling, carried out by Chicago’s 7th District U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, found that the results from drug-sniffing dogs may not be legally admissible as the basis for a search.

The decision was a result of an appeal by Larry Bentley Jr., who was previously found guilty of drug possession. A drug-sniffing police dog was used to justify a search of Bentley’s car, and police found 20 kilograms of cocaine inside. The dog in the case in question, named Lex, was shown to identify the presence of drugs in 93% of cases. He was proven to be wrong 40% of the time.1

The court ruled that if the drug search and subsequent conviction had relied solely on evidence derived from Lex’s detection, it could have caused the conviction to be overturned.

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.