Articles Posted in Legislation

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It is common for children to be placed in therapy when sexual abuse is either suspected or alleged. In fact, police departments, social workers and child abuse investigators will frequently refer cases to child therapists that they believe will assist with disclosure or treatment of sexual abuse.

It is critical that criminal defense attorneys, representing clients in molestation or sexual abuse cases, get any and all therapy records and examine the records for impeaching or exonerating evidence.

Therapists are mandated reporters under California law. If a therapist has made an official report saying that a child claimed abuse, that information will be discoverable and should simply be listed in a police report. Attorneys should issue a subpoena duces tecum or “SDT” to the therapist for all records regarding the child, including emails, notes, billing statements, photocopies of books and photographs of toys that were used as part of the therapy.

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Californians have just enacted the biggest change to the criminal justice system in a generation. Voters have approved Proposition 47, which will reduce most drug and many theft crimes from felonies to mere misdemeanors. This will reduce or eliminate thousands of jail sentences across the state.

Anyone who is currently serving a prison sentence that qualifies under this reclassification is eligible to petition for a new, lighter sentence, even if currently incarcerated under Californias “three strikes” law. Someone serving a 25-to-life sentence may, for example, be allowed to leave prison now with credit for time that has been served.

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Siri_iPhoneIn a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court, the justices unanimously ruled that police will now require a warrant to search a person’s cell phone.

Up until now, courts have routinely allowed the data contained on cell phones as evidence in a criminal proceeding on the basis that it prevents the destruction of evidence and for the safety of police officers in the field.

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In 2011, Laguna Hills became the 7th city in the county to pass a law banning sex offenders from city parks and private parks run by homeowners associations. This went a step further than the existing Orange County ban on sex offenders from parks, beaches, and harbors. The DA was optimistic that such a move would increase public safety, especially for children. They were also confident that the ban was constitutional.

The citywide ban instituted by Laguna Hills contained additional provisions, requiring the posting of signs at parks referencing the new law and establishing criteria for waivers. These provisions were meant to help defend the new ordinances in court. The ban of sex offenders from private, homeowners association-owned parks required the associations to specifically request that the law be enforced in their own parks. No associations had made such a request since the ban was instituted.

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Orange County may soon create a registry-style website for dangerous dogs. If the measure is approved by the Orange County board of supervisors there would be a few new definitions for “dangerous” or vicious” in regards to your pet.  What are the ripple effects?  You can expect higher home insurance premiums in some areas, home prices potentially affected, and less foot traffic in certain areas to business.  The recent proposal for a website that shows you the location of these dangerous animals is most likely in response to recent attacks in other counties in Southern California that resulted in bodily injury and in one Antelope Valley case death.

What does this mean for criminal law? If you have a vicious or dangerous dog and this website comes into existence, your neighborhood, depending on volume of “dangerous” or “vicious” dogs, could become a target by law enforcement.  A person having mere custody of such a dog may make them liable regardless of ownership.  If you have a guard dog or a breed that is prone to aggressiveness, you may want to consider that a photo of the dog and your address will be published to the public at large. Vigilantes have been known to occasionally target sex offenders based on the published sex offender registry, so the safety of your dog, your home, and potentially even you and your family could be at risk if the information is published in a similar dangerous dog registry.

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More than one drink may soon be too much and could lead to a DUI arrest. As many know, the legal driving limit in California is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of less than 0.08%. This level was drastically lowered from 0.15% in the 1980s and may now be lowered again.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that the limit be lowered to 0.05%. Although the NTSB has no authority to make changes itself, it is an influential agency, and can encourage lawmakers to make changes in their respective states, as well as provide financial incentives for states to adopt their suggestions.

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Let’s face it: If you don’t want to get pulled over by a police officer, you shouldn’t give him the finger as you’re driving by. But in case you do, he’s no longer allowed to pull you over and arrest you for that reason alone.

John Swartz was pulled over and arrested in May, 2006 when he allegedly flipped off a police officer who was using a radar gun to check the speed of passing vehicles. The officer claimed that he “thought there may have been a problem in the car” and “wanted to assure the safety of the passengers.” Swartz was later charged with the misdemeanor crime of disorderly conduct, which was later dismissed.

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The number of inmates in Orange County jails has increased in recent years, and so has the average length of time that these inmates remain incarcerated. This has resulted in a larger number of inmates requesting medical attention in recent years. The types of medical care authorities must provide to inmates (such as kidney dialysis) are also growing. To counter this trend, sheriff’s officials will begin charging inmates next year a medical “co-pay” of $3 per visit to the nurse.

Officials at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department maintain that the fee is not meant to be a punishment. Their argument is that while some inmates may be truly sick and need to see a nurse, others may take advantage of the medical facilities to meet with friends, exchange information, or simply to get out of their cell for a while.

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In a recent juvenile delinquency case, a minor stole a car and damaged it beyond repair, rendering it a total loss for insurance purposes. After admitting to the crime, the juvenile court granted Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ), meaning that the case would be dismissed provided the minor complete the terms of probation, which in this case included restitution, or paying the owner of the car for damages.

The court ordered the minor pay $13,000 in damages to the car owner, along with $2,000 in interest on the car loan as part of this restitution. After the criminal defense attorney filed an appeal to challenge the $2,000 interest portion, the court surprisingly denied the appeal. The reason it was denied was because there is no way to appeal a DEJ order, and the restitution is considered part of it.

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On November 6, 2012, Californians voted in favor of Proposition 36, a ballot measure that allows for shorter sentences for some third-time offenders of the controversial “Three Strikes Law.”

The California Three Strikes Law was established in the 1990s and was intended to discourage repeat offenders from committing serious or violent crimes. Under the law, if a person is convicted of a serious or violent felony, it goes against their record as a “strike.” If he or she commits another serious or violent felony later, the sentencing gets harsher and a second strike is put on their record. Upon receiving a third strike, the criminal must be incarcerated in state prison for 25 years to life.

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