Articles Posted in Law & Information

In California, the crime of Vandalism is defined under California Penal Code 594(a) as maliciously damaging, defacing with graffiti or other inscribed material, or destroying any real or personal property not his or her own. Real property can include vehicles, signs, fixtures, furnishings, or property belonging to any public entity, or the federal government. The severity of punishment for a Vandalism charge largely depends on the nature and extent of the damage caused, as well as the defendant’s prior criminal history.

Is Vandalism a Felony or Misdemeanor?

Vandalism is classified as a “wobbler” offense in California, making the offense eligible to be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. The felony versus misdemeanor determination is based on the amount of destruction or defacement, and whether the cost of repair exceeds $400. Vandalism charges resulting in over $400 in damage could be prosecuted as felony crimes at the DA’s discretion.

Anyone charged with a crime would be well advised to exercise his or her right to legal representation. Throughout the complicated legal process there are many instances when the alleged offender’s rights could be violated. Without the right representation, the defendant may not even realize that his or her rights have been violated.

It is the legal obligation of the authorities to notify suspects of their rights. A suspect, for example, has the right to remain silent and not answer questions. He or she also has the right to retain the services of a defense attorney. Information obtained from suspects who have not been read their rights cannot legally be used in a court of law.

Police officers may seek an admission of guilt from a suspect before an attorney arrives. This is typically done through an interrogation while the alleged offender is still in custody. It is important to remember that all individuals have the right to not answer these questions without first discussing their case with an attorney. In addition to the right to remain silent and to have a competent attorney, defendants also have the right to a fair trial and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

On Monday, March 28, a judge ruled that Tohme Tohme, the former business manager of Michael Jackson, is required to testify in Dr. Conrad Murray’s trial, CNN reports. Murray has been accused of Jackson’s death.

While a process server testified that she had given Tohme the subpoena at his home on March 3, his attorneys have argued that he was not properly served. A used car dealer testified that he was with Tohme at the alleged time at a car auction. The judge stated he was satisfied there was service in the case and was more concerned about the argument that testimony from Tohme would be irrelevant to Murray’s case.

Paul Takakjian from the Los Angeles criminal defense law firm of Sitkoff & Hanrahan is Tohme’s attorney and stated that Murray’s defense was “tossing out a fishing line” without any knowledge that Tohme knows something that would help their case. However, attorneys for Murray allege that Tohme is a key witness to show that Jackson gave himself the fatal dose of anesthesia which caused his death in 2009. They have stated they believe Tohme has “intimate knowledge” of Jackson’s finances, as well as his habits and drug usage during the months prior to his death. The defense believes that Jackson’s serious financial difficulties at this time are relevant to their argument that Jackson self-administered the fatal dose.

With state and city budgets getting tighter, more and more cities and law enforcement agencies in the OC are relying on the Orange County crime lab to analyze evidence relating to several crimes, including high-profile murders and sexual assaults. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, Huntington Beach recently became the last of several Orange County law enforcement agencies to shut down city labs that deal with drug analysis. This move makes the county lab the only one left in the area to handle such services.

Officials say that the county lab has been able to operate without backlogs despite the recent increase in its workload. The county lab offers several forensic-related services, including DNA processing, ballistics, and drug and alcohol-testing. Needless to say, these services are extremely valuable. Running a crime lab is a costly operation due to the costly equipment that is required as well as the expertise that is necessary to make such complex analyses.

If you have been charged with a serious crime in Orange County, it is very likely that forensic evidence of some type is involved. Whether your charges involve drunk driving, drugs, burglary, sexual assault, or homicide, physical evidence is an extremely important part of a criminal case. Physical evidence in a criminal case can make the difference between incarceration and acquittal.

On Monday, January 3, the California Supreme Court ruled that police searches of cell phones without a warrant are allowed under standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court, reports

The court was ruling on a case from Ventura County that involved a man who had been arrested and convicted on drug charges. When the man was arrested, police confiscated six tablets of ecstasy and his cell phone. A detective who did not have a search warrant discovered text messages on the man’s phone that talked about selling the drugs. The man admitted he participated in the drug deal, and also pleaded guilty to transporting a controlled substance. He was sentenced to probation. However, he appealed the use of his cell phone’s text messages as evidence on the basis that the detective did not have a search warrant.

Previously, U.S. Supreme Court rulings have permitted warrantless searches of a person’s personal property that are “immediately associated” with them when they are arrested, such as cigarette packages or clothing. In this case, the California Supreme Court found that law enforcement officers are able to search cell phones within 90 minutes following a person’s arrest under the Fourth Amendment, and upheld the man’s drug conviction by a 5-2 vote. Justice Ming Chin stated he believed the man’s cell phone was similar to clothing; therefore it was able to be searched.

Because of California’s ongoing budget crisis and overcrowded prisons; California has decided to relax parole regulations for convicted nonviolent felony offenders, including no random drug tests, travel stipulations or check-in requirements. Currently, eleven percent of the California budget goes to prison costs, accounting for $8.6 billion this year alone. Officials believe that the initiative will save $500 million the first year, helping to close the $20 billion gap. This new measure is said to reduce prison populations by reducing the number of minor California parole violations that re-imprison parolees.

According to an article from the Associated Press, around 24,000 nonviolent parolees are expected to qualify for less supervision; including many who are already on parole. Although those eligible for parole in the next year in California are required to register their addresses, parole officers are not required to conduct unannounced home visits or searches. Instead, this task will be left to local law enforcement; who have expressed fears that the deregulation would lead to an increase in crime, thereby compounding the problem.
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Officials announced Wednesday, March 24, 2010 that next November, California voters will be able to vote on the legalization of marijuana. The initiative would allow the drug to be sold and taxed. According to an article on Silicon Valley Mercury News, Measure supporters collected 694,248 signatures, well over the 433,971 required. An estimated 523,531 signatures were valid.

“We’re one step closer to ending cannabis prohibition and the unjust laws that lock people up for cannabis while alcohol is not only sold openly but advertised on television to kids every day,” said Richard Lee, the main advocate for the initiative and an Oakland marijuana entrepreneur.

This bill, known as the Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, would allow adults age 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. This significantly changes California law that currently indicates that possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense punishable by $100 fine, a law that was enacted in 1975. Before that date, judges were allowed to impose sentences of up to ten years in prison.
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According to a CBS2 report, a 22-year-old man was arrested for felony DUI for causing the death of a 20-year-old woman in Costa Mesa on Sunday, February 15, 2010, at 2:30 in the morning. The accused drunk driver had been driving a Toyota pickup truck, when he went through a red light and slammed into the passenger side of a Corolla sedan at Sunflower Avenue and Sakioka Drive. The passenger in the Corolla died at the scene.

Police suspect that the alleged DUI driver was fleeing the site of an earlier hit and run non-injury crash in Santa Ana when the accident occurred. He is being held in lieu of a $1,050,000 bail and is being charged with murder and vehicular manslaughter in addition to felony DUI. In regards to the earlier crash, Santa Ana police are conducting a separate hit and run investigation.

The driver of the Corolla, a 21-year-old man, was treated at a nearby hospital for minor injuries and was charged with a misdemeanor DUI. He was released from custody at the hospital.
Being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is often an overwhelming experienced for an accused individual. A person charged with DUI faces serious penalties that can impose a wide range of life-changing consequences. However, a skilled DUI defense lawyer in California can help determine whether a person’s rights were violated during their arrest or interrogation.
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A 32-year-old San Diego man pleaded guilty to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and felony DUI causing injury for an accident that resulted in the deaths of two teenage brothers. Apparently, the man was returning home from Tijuana when his vehicle collided with a sedan which was transporting three brothers in Chula Vista. According to a San Diego News Network article, one of the brothers was declared dead at the hospital three hours following the crash. The second brother suffered brain death the next day, while the third suffered minor injuries.

The convicted man fled the scene of the fatal traffic collision but was arrested for DUI when he returned later to retrieve his wallet. He will serve 17 years in a state prison for vehicular manslaughter and felony DUI causing injury, a violation of California Vehicle Code section 23153 (a). Police said that he also has a previous robbery conviction on record in 1999.

DUI offenses are some of the most common crimes in the United States and often threaten the toughest of sentencing guidelines. Fines, probation and jail time aside, having a DUI on record can subject a person to skyrocketing insurance premiums, which can frequently be more expensive than the fines in the court’s DUI sentence.
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Based on a recent OC Register story, the city of Seal Beach settled a lawsuit filed against the police department in which an Orange County resident alleged that the Seal Beach Police Department unlawfully confiscated 40 to 50 medical marijuana plants and coerced him into becoming a drug informant. The City Manager said that the lawsuit was settled for $32,500.

The man says that he legally grew and distributed medical marijuana under California state law. Seal Beach police officers entered his apartment and took photographs of his marijuana plants, despite his having produced documentation showing that he possessed the plants legally. The police department later turned the evidence over to federal authorities.

The man was arrested under federal drug laws and he alleged that he was forced to become a drug informant for the department, providing information about other marijuana providers and setting up drug deals. In spite of the settlement, the police department contends that the plaintiff volunteered to become an informant to avoid federal drug charges; and that he was an informant for the DEA and not for the Seal Beach Police Department.
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