Criminal defense in California is a complex area of legal practice with numerous misconceptions that are often held as popular belief. The majority of people arrested for their first criminal charge have no experience with the criminal justice system and, therefore, routinely rely on what they’ve seen on television and in movies. Much of what is popularized in TV and film is embellished, which further adds to the myths and misconceptions about the criminal justice system and more specifically, the California criminal justice system. One of the most common myths involves what happens if the police fail to read you your rights.

What is the Miranda warning?

Derived from the landmark United States Supreme Court ruling in the case of Miranda vs. The State of Arizona, the “Miranda Rights” as it has come to be known as are the Constitutional rights you maintain while in police custody. Among your rights, you have the right to an attorney and a right to remain silent. The common misconception among many people is that if the police fail to read them their rights or Miranda warning, it serves as a legal basis for all charges to be dropped. This is not the case as it is not uncommon for police officers to make arrests without reading a suspect his/her rights. The legal technicality with respect to the Miranda warning is simply based on whether you have been placed under arrest and whether the police interrogated you while in their custody. A Miranda violation would exist if you were placed under arrested and questioned by police without first being read your rights. However, if no interrogation or interview is conducted while you’re in police custody, the Miranda rights become a nonissue.

An arrest for soliciting a prostitute can be a frightening and embarrassing experience. For most people charged with solicitation or prostitution under California Penal Code 647(b), the arrest usually represents their first encounter with the criminal justice system. Consequently, most have a multitude of concerns following their release from police custody with questions ranging from whether their arrest details can be viewed by the public to how their careers or future employment prospects will be impacted if they are convicted.

If you are like most of our clients and have been arrested for the first time in your life on prostitution charges, this article could be of great value to you as it can provide with some insight into what you can expect moving forward and how an experienced Los Angeles prostitution defense lawyer can help you avoid a misdemeanor PC 647(b) conviction.

Prostitution and Solicitation charges in Los Angeles County

Alvin Ray Shaw, Jr. of Hawthorne was convicted of 2nd degree murder, felony DUI, and driving on a suspended license by a jury in Long Beach Court on Wednesday a result of a fatal car accident he caused on August 1, 2015. Prosecutors successfully argued Shaw, while intoxicated, drove his vehicle into oncoming traffic on the Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach causing a car accident resulting in the death of a 30 year old San Pedro man and seriously injuring a 21 year old man. Shaw faces life in prison when he returns to court on March 8th.

Murder charges arising out of a DUI accident

Most people view murder as a crime involving the intent to harm the deceased person. However, Shaw’s case serves as a prime example of how a person can be charged and convicted of murder in the absence of intent to harm. In 1981, the California Supreme Court ruled in the People v. Watson that prosecutors could file murder charges against defendants in certain felony DUI cases involving fatalities. More specifically, what has become known as a “Watson Murder” could be charged in fatal DUI accidents when the defendant has been previously advised of the dangers of driving under the influence. Shaw received this very notice due to his prior DUI conviction, which involved both receiving a “Watson Warning” from the judge during his sentencing and during the course of the mandatory DUI education program he was previously ordered to complete. Under the theory of implied malice, prosecutors convinced jurors to convict Shaw on the count of 2nd degree murder based on the fact Shaw should have reasonably known through his prior DUI conviction and sentence that serious injury or death could result from drunk driving.

According to data collected in 2015 by the California Highway Patrol on hit and run collisions throughout LA County, there were almost 30,000 hit and run cases reported. Therefore, it should not be surprising that hit and defense accounts for a very large portion of our criminal defense firm’s case load. The following are the most common questions posed to us by our clients charged with hit & run in Los Angeles County:

Is it still a Hit & Run if I’m not at fault for the collision?

Yes. Responsibility or liability for a collision is not a factor. Whether you are deemed at-fault or not, you are required to remain at the scene of a traffic collision to provide proof of financial responsibility under California Vehicle Code statutes 20002 and 20001.

A man accused of an attempted rape of a 77 year old South Bay woman entered a not guilty plea at Torrance Court on Wednesday. Duncan Aaron Walton is accused of attempting to sexually assault the elderly woman at her Redondo Beach apartment complex before she was able to escape. Police arrested Walton shortly after receiving a 911 call from a neighbor who overheard the struggle. According to the criminal complaint filed by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, Walton is charged with 3 felony charges of kidnapping to commit rape, assault with intent to commit rape, and elder abuse.

Walton’s sentencing exposure will be significant if he is convicted as he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole on the kidnapping to commit rape allegation under California Penal Code 209, and/or lifetime sex offender registration if his criminal defense attorney is able to secure a sentence of probation.

Torrance Criminal Defense Attorneys Since 1987

Shoplifting and retail theft account for a significant percentage of property crime in California, and the percentage has steadily increased since the passage of Prop. 47 in 2014. As a result, our West Los Angeles based criminal defense firm has taken on significantly more shoplifting cases than in years past. Therefore, we have compiled a list of the five most frequently asked questions posed to us by prospective clients faced with shoplifting charges in Los Angeles. If you have been recently cited or arrested for shoplifting, you will likely have similar questions and may find the following explanations beneficial:    

What kind of penalties am I facing on a 1st offense Shoplifting charge?

A first offense conviction for shoplifting carries up to 6 months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. However, these are not mandatory punishments and only represent the maximum sentencing exposure you face if charged with shoplifting under California Penal Code 459.5. The range of punishment can vary depending on the facts of your case and your prior criminal history. Although jail time is rarely imposed on first offense shoplifting convictions, if you have a prior criminal record for non-theft related offenses or are currently on probation for a previous criminal conviction, a jail sentence could result if you were convicted of shoplifting even as a first offense. A typical 1st offense penalty usually involves a sentence of summary probation between 1 to 3 years, fines & penalty assessments, and/or community service or community labor.    

A 67 year old doctor was recently arrested following sexual assault allegations made by multiple female patients. Dr. Michael Popkin, who has been licensed to practice medicine in California since 1977, was alleged to have committed the assaults at his Encino office during medical exams between 2001 and 2016. Given Dr. Popkin’s 4 decades of medical practice, detectives within LAPD’s sex crimes unit are continuing their investigation hoping to locate additional victims. As it stands, Dr. Popkin is currently facing 4 sex crime charges ranging from sexual exploitation of a patient and sexual battery. If convicted Dr. Popkin could face imprisonment in county jail or state prison and lifetime sex offender registration.

Criminal Arrests Involving Licensed Professionals

Dr. Popkin’s case exemplifies the heightened consequences licensed professionals face when charged with criminal offenses. In addition to the criminal case, the Medical Board of California (MBC) will likely launch their own independent investigation into Dr. Popkin’s medical licensing. As a California state licensing agency, the MBC has the authority to conduct its own administrative investigations and independently dispense its own punishments for acts which violate the board’s code of ethics. Similar to the California DMV’s authority to suspend one’s driving privilege even without a DUI conviction in court, the MBC and other professional licensing can impose administrative sanctions upon licensees without a criminal conviction.

The California criminal offenses of “assault” and “battery” are commonly used interchangeably. However, each offense represents two different yet closely related violent crimes. The crime of assault is described under California Penal Code statute 240 as an unlawful attempt, with present ability, to commit a violent act upon another person. Conversely, described under California Penal Code statute 242, battery is a willful and unlawful use of force committed upon the person of another. Therefore, while the definition of both offenses sounds very similar, the distinguishing characteristic between the two is that the crime of assault does not require any physical contact, whereas the crime of battery does. In other words, assault can be accurately described as an attempted battery.

Are Assault & Battery Felony or Misdemeanor Charges?

Violent crimes can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors in California depending on factors such as a person’s prior criminal record, whether a weapon or firearm was used, and the extent of the victim’s injuries. While seriously injuring another person would clearly rise to felony conduct, it is possible to be charged with a felony crime without causing injuries or even making physical contact with another. Raising your fist at another in a threatening manner would constitute a misdemeanor assault. However, raising your fist with a knife in your hand in a threatening manner would constitute a more aggravated form of assault – assault with a deadly weapon. Defined under California Penal Code statute 245(a)1, assault with a deadly weapon is a wobbler offense which can be prosecuted as either a felony or misdemeanor.

Living Torah Center Chabad, a Jewish synagogue in Santa Monica, has experienced its share of anti-semitic acts over the past couple years ranging from a man interrupting a service by yelling, “Heil Hitler” to a letter containing an anti-semitic message left in the synagogue’s mailbox. The most recent incident was discovered by a Rabbi who arrived Christmas morning to the repugnant sight of feces and food smeared across the entrance. Synagogue officials believe the vandalism to be racially motivated and although Santa Monica Police Department has not officially classified the criminal act as a Hate Crime, detectives have not ruled out the possibility as their investigation continues.

In California, the property crime of vandalism is typically prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense under Penal Code statute 594(a) and is described as defacing with graffiti or an inscribed object, damaging, or destroying real or personal property that is not his or her own. However, vandalizing a building owned and occupied by a religious institution primarily used as a place of worship can be charged as felony vandalism under Penal Code 594.3(a), thus increasing the punishment range. In addition, a Hate Crime special circumstance allegation would further enhance sentencing.

Charged or investigated for vandalism?

A 49-year-old teacher has been arrested after meeting an undercover federal agent with whom he allegedly agreed to watch child pornography. According to a KTLA news report, the Covina teacher was arrested in his Royal Oak Middle School classroom. Officials say he engaged in online chats with an agent about young boys and agreed to a meeting to watch child pornography together. Investigators then allegedly found videos depicting child pornography on his computer. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison for distributing child pornography online.

It is illegal to distribute, employ minors to participate in, advertise, develop, exchange or possess child pornography. Under California law, child pornography is defined as any material that depicts minors simulating or engaging in sexual conduct. This means that any material featuring children engaged in penetration, sadomasochistic abuse, masturbation, defecation, or exhibition of genitals is illegal…
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