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Aug 042015
 

The issues regarding police misconduct, use of excessive force, and police brutality, continues to be a growing concern for myself and my colleagues in the criminal defense community. This article offers you some important tools and information on how you should respond to and report abuses of power by the police.

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has some great instructions that you should follow during your encounters with law enforcement personnel. You can find a link to their site here, but I have also posted a few of their more important suggestion below:

If the Police Stop You…

  • Stay in control of your emotions and words. Don’t physically resist.
  • Keep your hands visible.
  • Remain silent.
  • The less you say, the better. Silence is not a crime.
  • Ask, “Am I free to go?” If they keep you, you are being detained.
  • Ask, “Why are you detaining me?” To detain you, the police must have reasonable suspicion that a person has been involved in criminal activity.

or Stop You in Your Car…

  • When they ask you, show them your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
  • Tell the officer, “I do not consent to a search.”
  • Don’t open your trunk or car door.
  • The police can order occupants out of their car for police safety.  As long as you maintain that you do not consent, opening your car door doesn’t necessarily mean you consent to a search.
  • If they give you a ticket, sign it. Otherwise you can be arrested. Fight the ticket in court later.
  • If the police suspect you of drunk driving and you refuse to take a blood, urine or breath test, your license can be suspended.

Always Be a Witness

  • Always be a witness for a friend, relative or stranger.
  • Stop and watch.
  • Record the officer’s name, badge number, and car number. Write down the time, the place, who said what, and who did what.

If the officer tells you to leave, say, “I have the right to observe from a safe distance.” Assure them, “I’m not trying to interfere.”

Regardless of what you may have been told or heard, it is not illegal for you to record the police in a public place! In fact the ACLU has created a mobile app, MobileJusticeCA, specifically for that purpose. The app is easy to use, and automatically uploads the video to ACLU. The automatic upload is necessary because of the unfortunate instances where police officers have destroyed witness’s phones and cameras.

It is important that we do not allow the minority of officers who engage in police misconduct, tarnish the reputation and respect of those officers who exercise common sense and proper restraint. Holding peace officers accountable for their actions, and ensuring that they conduct themselves in a professional and legal manner, protects not only civilian community, but the law enforcement community as well. 

If you have any questions regarding this article, or if you or a loved one are facing criminal charges and believe that you are a victim of police misconduct, please call our office at 310-633-4612 for a free consultation.

 

 Posted by at 12:39 pm
Apr 162015
 

Pictured below is an in-progress photo of an exciting new development for Torrance locals: the “renewed” and “redeveloped” Del Amo Fashion Center, anchored by a high-end retailer in Nordstroms. As you can likely tell just from this photo, the redevelopment is massive in scope. I have a particularly good sense of just how big this new mall is because it is literally across the street from my office (see the map below; our office is just on the north side of Fashion Way), so I see the ongoing construction every day. Opening is expected sometime this fall.

shoplifting expectations for Del Amo mall (under construction)

With new high-end retailers coming in and a brand new facility, our office definitely anticipates that there will be a corresponding increase in theft/shoplifting enforcement efforts. This new mall will be opening with the latest-and-greatest in closed circuit security systems, no doubt; the technology available seems to radically improve every year. No more will we be seeing blurry, grainy, or even black-and-white images of suspected shoplifters. These are the days of perfectly lit, perfectly focused, high definition security footage. I expect nothing less in the new mall.

One question is whether the prosecuting agencies who handle shoplifting cases will take on a “get tough” approach to offenses in the new mall. Ideally, all shoplifting offenses are going to be treated the same, regardless of where they occur, but we don’t always live in the ideal world.

Should you have the misfortune of being accused of theft from a retailer, especially one of the new mall retailers when it opens, it will become incredibly important to have the right legal counsel protecting your interests. Shoplifting offenses carry real consequences, and can even (in unusual cases) result in actual, significant jail time. But jail time can often be the least of your worries if you are convicted of a theft-related offense. Furthermore, people convicted of shoplifting are usually subjected to “stay away” orders which prevent the person from going near the location of the offense– and if that means the Del Amo Fashion Center, that will leave you on the outside looking in with regard to the social and shopping life in the South Bay. Nothing like telling your date that you can’t meet at the outdoor dining pavilion because you’re legally barred from going near it…

Our office is prepared to vigorously advocate on behalf of anyone accused of shoplifting. We treat each case like it’s the only case, and shoplifting cases are no exception!

shoplifters expectations for Del Amo mall coming Fall 2015

Mar 052015
 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the problem of an elected judiciary failing to properly curtail prosecutorial misconduct and ensure that criminal trials are conducted fairly. If you haven’t had a chance to read that article you can find it here. In the piece, I discussed an active federal habeas case called Baca v. Adams. This was the case where a man was convicted of murder based on the testimony of a “jailhouse snitch,” and it was later discovered that Deputy District Attorney Robert Spira had lied under oath about the lenient treatment the snitch received in exchange for his testimony. Subsequently there have been two interesting developments, and I thought a brief foll0w-up would be appropriate here.

The first update is that we now have a result in the Baca v. Adams matter. If you watched this video, you may remember that the 9th Circuit panel threatened to “name names” if the Attorney General failed to address the issue of Mr. Spira’s prosecutorial misconduct and continued to oppose Mr. Baca’s appeal. Subsequently, the Attorney General reversed course, decided not to oppose the appeal, and the court ordered that Mr. Baca be released from custody pending a potential retrial. You can find the 9th Circuit’s order here.

I don’t pretend to know the exact reasoning behind Attorney General’s sudden change of heart, but feel free to speculate. Most people would find it surprising that they reversed their position after they had fervently advocated for the appeal’s denial on five previous occasions. While it is certainly the appropriate, just decision on the Attorney General’s part, it seems almost shameful that public notoriety and a viral video were what was required to force the prosecution’s hand. There was no change in the facts or the circumstances of the case which the Attorney General might point to as the reason for the sudden change of heart. Their office spent years defending the gross prosecutorial misconduct, never once taking the opportunity to “do the right thing.” Only now, after an instantly legendary public shaming, do they reverse course completely.

Finally, you may be familiar with HBO’s excellent Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Two weeks ago, Mr. Oliver put together a tremendous feature segment highlighting some of the very same issues that I mentioned in my article. I have embedded the video below, and it is well worth the watch.  While Mr. Oliver doesn’t go into great detail about the institutional effects an elected judiciary has on individual criminal cases, he does provide a broader background on this topic, a topic which has never really been touched upon by traditional media outlets. I think his take on the topic provides a perfect a bookend to my article, and can provide you with some good laughs along the way.

 Posted by at 3:49 pm
Jan 222015
 

THE POTENTIAL IMPACT OF THE NEW “COURT” MISDEMEANOR DIVERSION PROGRAM ON CRIMINAL DEFENSE CASES IN TORRANCE: A LOCAL PERSPECTIVE

Much has already been written about the recent enactment of a new “pilot program” for misdemeanor diversion here in Los Angeles County, codified in Penal Code section 1001.94 et seq. The short, summary version of the change in the law is this:  up until now, a judge technically had no power to offer “diversion” to a defendant. If the prosecution didn’t want to offer diversion, the defendant couldn’t get it (except for in drug related cases).

Now, certain people who are accused of misdemeanors can ask the judge to simply cut the prosecutor out of the loop and make a diversion deal directly with the defense. Of course, not everyone is eligible for this kind of diversion; for example, it doesn’t apply to

(That is not an exhaustive list. Penal Code section 1001.98 lists all of the exceptions.)

As this program begins to be implemented, however, I’d like to note that it may have a very significant impact on how all misdemeanor cases play out here in the Torrance branch of the Superior Court (and other Los Angeles County criminal courts.) As I’ve discussed in previous video blogs, the Torrance court is somewhat unusual within L.A. County, in that it has several prosecuting agencies which handle misdemeanor cases only for their specific city. In Los Angeles proper, the Los Angeles City Attorney handles misdemeanors and the District Attorney handles felonies. Here, there are several smaller cities which have their own misdemeanor prosecutors.

The question becomes: how will it affect this multitude of smaller agencies when, in a substantial number of their cases, a judge can simply cut the prosecution out of the bargaining process and deal directly with a defendant?

Now, in any number of cases, the agency which filed the misdemeanor charges will potentially have no role in deciding what a defendant has to do in order to get a diversion of the case. Again, this won’t affect all cases, but it affects enough of them that it could seriously impact the relationship between the bench (judges), the prosecution, and local criminal defense attorneys.

Possible Impacts

It’s certainly too early to report on what impact, if any, this is having. It’s also foolish to speculate as to what is ultimately going to happen as a result of this program. I would, however, offer the following thoughts about factors that will have an impact on how this plays out:

  • The prosecution will still get to control if a defendant gets an “informal” diversion offer. The difference between “informal” and “formal” diversion relates to whether the defendant has to enter a plea of no contest to the charge before getting diversion, or can simply put the case off for a few months and then get it dismissed. For the average defendant, this difference is just a formality, and doesn’t affect him or her at all. But for others—particularly those who are not full citizens of the United States—this is a hugely important distinction. Will these smaller agencies even continue to make informal diversion offers? Will that be a “carrot” or a “stick” in negotiations with defense attorneys? That remains to be seen.
  • If a prosecuting agency only handles misdemeanors—as many here in Torrance do—and they don’t like the way a judge utilizes the new authority of Penal Code section 1001.94, what will they do about it? What kind of pressure can they exert? How will this affect the relationships between the judges in the courthouse and the prosecuting agencies?
  • Are judges going to be extremely strict about compliance with diversion programs, and what consequences will they impose if someone fails to get everything done? This will certainly impact how local defense attorneys advise their clients. Are there going to be situations where it makes more sense to deal directly with the prosecution than to take advantage of the program? That remains to be seen.

Knowledgeable Misdemeanors Attorney

Again, it’s unclear how all of this will play out. For now, be aware that if you are looking to hire an attorney to represent you in a misdemeanor case, it is important that he or she is paying attention to this shifting dynamic going forward. This program could cause a significant shift in the local, “on the ground” realities of handling misdemeanor accusations here in the Torrance court. It may not—sometimes these things wind up being much ado about nothing—but you should ensure any attorney you hire is aware of the issues and makes strategic decisions accordingly.

As always, if you or your loved one is facing a criminal case of any sort here in the Torrance courthouse, please feel free to call our office at (310)-633-4612 for a free consultation.

 Posted by at 1:19 pm
Jul 172014
 

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Community Service vs Community Labor for Probation Conditions

At the Torrance Courthouse and throughout Los Angeles County, community service and community labor are two different types of public service people can be required to do as a condition of probation. These options are often bargained for by defense attorneys as an alternative to someone spending time in jail.

Most judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys “rank” the severity of potential punishments in this order:

  • prison time,
  • jail time,
  • community labor,
  • and community service.

Community labor is considered more severe than community service. However, not every client actually feels that way about these two options, so it is important to understand what each entails here in greater South Bay area. This video above discusses these important differences so that you can know what might be best for yourself or your loved one.

 Call Anytime – (310) 633-4612

VIDEO TRANSCRIPTION

“In Los Angeles County there are a couple of terms that are so familiar to criminal defense attorneys that we use them all the time, and I think sometimes we forget our clients don’t always know what they mean. Those terms are community service and community labor.

They sound similar, and in some ways they are, but there are some important distinctions. And it’s important that when you’re talking about criminal cases and possibly having community service or community labor as part of your probation conditions, that you know there is a difference between the two.

Community service is the less physically taxing of the two options. Community service means kind of what you think it means, but you don’t just get to go to your favorite volunteer organization, sit down, and do your community service. It’s run through specific centers who pick the organizations that you can go work at. Usually it’s things like sweeping floors, helping the organization set up for events. Sometimes it’s folding clothes, or helping with paperwork and filing issues, moving boxes, helping with all of the general things that go into volunteer organizations.

Community labor, on the other hand, is a little more strenuous. It’s a little more serious. And if you’re going to be doing community labor, it’s important that you know that ahead of time. Community labor is sometimes what we used to call Caltrans, which is what you’re thinking of. That’s the orange jumpsuits on the side of the road, picking up trash. Other times, it’s graffiti clean up or beach clean up, and it’s usually more physically taxing.

But when you are doing either community service or community labor as a condition of probation. They’re not interchangeable one for one. Because community service is considered less strenuous, you typically have to do more hours than you would have to do if you did community labor.

I’ve had clients who prefer community service. I’ve had clients who prefer community labor. But it’s important that you at least know that there is a difference between the two, and that’s possibly going to be an important distinction for you if you’re talking about that in your criminal case. If you have any questions, you’re welcome to call my office for a free consultation. We’re happy to talk to you at any time.”

 Posted by at 2:14 pm
Mar 122014
 

A child in trouble with the law is often a parent’s worst nightmare. If your child has been accused of a crime, how do you know if they could be tried as an adult?

 

Video Transcription:

One of the big concerns that parents have if their child is accused of a crime in the state of California is, “Is there a possibility that my child can be tried as an adult?”

Now certain serious offenses, if your child is over a certain age, can be directly filed in adult court as an adult offense. Otherwise, the case will start in juvenile delinquency proceedings, but if the district attorney’s office thinks it’s serious, they might seek to have a fitness hearing, at which point your child’s case could be transferred to adult court. But it’s important to understand, those issues aside, even if your child is going to remain in what they call juvenile delinquency court, you need to have an attorney who is familiar with those issues representing your child.

Juvenile delinquency proceedings are different than adult court proceedings, but they can have very serious consequences on your child’s life in the short-term. And frankly, nowadays with the law changing, even for the long-term. So make sure you have someone hired to represent your child who understands the strategic issues involved in juvenile delinquency proceedings and the specific laws that are available to help protect juveniles who are accused of delinquency offenses.

If you have a specific question about a case involving your child, or you wanted to discuss the issues, you’re welcome to give me a call for a free case consultation at the number at the bottom of the screen. Otherwise, thanks for watching.

 Posted by at 4:31 pm
Feb 262014
 

If you are facing the possibility of going to jail, the first question you will probably ask is “When do I get out?” The answer, at least for LA County, is more complicated than you think…

“How much time will I actually do in LA County Jail” Video Transcript

So, one question that comes up all the time here in Los Angeles County is, “How much time is my loved one, or am I really going to do inside a Los Angeles County jail facility?” And frankly, I’d love to tell you that I know the answer to that question, but the reality is nobody, judges, criminal defense attorneys, even prosecutors, really know how much time somebody is going to do if they do their time inside a Los Angeles County jail facility.

Now, when you enter into custody in a Los Angeles County jail facility, you’re given a release date, but that release date is just the day you will be released if you served all of the time you were sentenced to under the law including your credit calculations.

Yes, it is true; people get released early, much earlier than their projected release dates from LA County. But it’s turned out to be really unpredictable. And nobody that I know has any insight into what that pattern is. Sometimes it seems like people are getting released the day that they get booked in. Other times, they wind up doing most of their time or all of their time. So, yes, people are getting released early, but it’s not predictable and you shouldn’t count on it and you shouldn’t tell your loved one to count on it. It’s something that is very case-by-case and doesn’t seem to have a lot of rhyme or reason to it at this point. That’s the best answer we can give you at this time.

If you have questions about a specific legal situation, you’re welcome to call the number at the bottom of the screen for a free consultation. Otherwise, thanks for watching.

Call (310)-633-4612 for your free consultation

with Mr. Bouvier-Brown.

 Posted by at 5:58 pm