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LOS ANGELES CRIMINAL DEFENSE BLOG

The Trouble with Eyewitness Testimony

Eyewitness Testimony…the Gold Standard?

Eyewitness testimony is understood by most people to be the gold standard when it comes to reconstructing the details of certain events that haven’t been documented by any other means. This belief comes into question when any number of people can witness a crime in progress and later report substantially different accounts than others witness present at the same event. Seemingly obvious items like gender, hair color, or if the person was wearing a hat can vary. In is further astounding when those same witnesses will later provide totally different details of the incident to another questioner.

DNA and Criminality: Two Sides of a Coin

Unique to an individual, except in very limited situations, DNA is unchanging throughout one’s life. DNA is a reliable identifier, and, most conveniently for forensic purposes, it is found in all the body’s cells. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is an essential molecule that is found in every part of our bodies. DNA testing on biological samples such as skin, saliva, semen, blood or hair is increasingly used to help convict or exonerate people suspected of crimes and with great accuracy. As crucial courtroom evidence, it must be properly collected, preserved and kept from contamination. When the whole procedure is expertly undertaken and correctly completed, DNA testing has become the modern, almost foolproof version of fingerprinting.

 

Civil Rights Violations and the Local Police

Civil Rights Violations and the Local Police

Any casual viewer of cable network news would conclude that many Americans are of the opinion that the filing of charges by the Department of Justice against certain individuals, notably local police officers, for federal civil rights violations is an alternative for supposedly failed local criminal prosecution. This seems to occur especially when a vocal segment of the nation disagrees with the results of a local criminal investigation or the actions (or inactions) of certain district attorneys. Recent cases that are prime examples of the prevailing thought pattern include the Darren Wilson

Domestic Violence in California

Domestic violence continues to place itself high on the list of hot topics in the national conversation. Professional sports figures contribute many high profile stories for the public and the media to put under the microscope, but every day, ordinary citizens are involved in cases that are much more emblematic of the everyday violence committed against domestic partners. Some victims go almost unnoticed, while other victims of the violence pay the ultimate price. Meanwhile, public officials charged with the responsibility for enforcing the existing domestic violence laws seem to go on with business as usual, seemingly overwhelmed by their daily exposure to all the violence and oblivious to people’s fundamental lack of respect towards those closest to them.

Murder, The Ultimate Price of Domestic Violence

When a woman is murdered by her husband, suddenly a community’s denial about the seriousness and the potential deadliness of domestic violence vanishes. Other women being battered realize they could be next, and often consider calling law enforcement or begin to seek restraining orders.

What Happened When California Decriminalized Marijuana

Noticeable (and Notable) Effects of California Marijuana Laws

Observers have seen a number of noticeable (and notable) consequences in California resulting from the gradual move toward decriminalization of marijuana laws. Prior to the relaxation of such laws, so-called experts voiced dire warnings against partial legalization, of civic disorder, increased lawlessness and a drastic rise in other drug use. For the most part these warnings have proved unfounded.

Two pivotal events have been instrumental in shaping the current marijuana landscape in the state. California Proposition 215, also known as the Medical Use of Marijuana Initiative or the Compassionate Use Act, was placed on the 1996 general election ballot as an initiated state statute which was subsequently approved by the voters. The marijuana industry further expanded in California by the full decriminalization of marijuana that went into effect in January of 2011 when possession of one ounce (28.5 grams) or less of marijuana became an infraction, punishable only by a maximum $100 fine (plus fees), given that the possessor had no criminal record.

Participating In A Speed Contest

Both movies and television have long glamorized the image of the street race, perhaps achieving the most memorable spectacle with the racing scene in Rebel Without a Cause. The ongoing franchise of Fast and Furious movies as well Discovery’s current offering Street Outlaws have done much to burnish the image of the street race and keep it alive among California’s youth.

In reality, the street race can quickly shed it’s glamorous image to reveal the picture of a very serious offense that can result in serious traffic violations for participants as well as spectators. The California Department of Motor Vehicles defines  a “speed contest” as an illegal exhibition of speed conducted on public streets or highways using a motor vehicle. It includes a motor vehicle race against another motor vehicle using a clock or other timing device. The DMV considers speed contests or exhibitions of speed, commonly known as “street race,” “speed race,” or “drag race,” a threat to the well-being and safety of the public.

Medical Care for Pregnant Inmates

In 2011 and 2012, less than 250 inmates gave birth while incarcerated in California’s prison system. Despite these small numbers, pregnant women in state prisons pose a significant problem because of their need for specialized medical care during pregnancy. After a child is born to an incarcerated felon, some of whom have been convicted of violent crimes, the need to balance what’s best for the prison with the newborn’s needs is handled in a strait forward fashion. Most new prison moms are back in shackles within two days of delivery and their infants are sent to live with relatives or foster parents.

Fortunately, in regards to the medical care, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is required by law to provide standard pre- and post-natal care for women in prison. In 2001, a California court decided that the state’s prisons were violating prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights to adequate physical and mental care and treatment.

The Use of “Stills” in California

Beginning prior to prohibition, the history of moonshine goes deeply into California’s past. It still maintains a tradition that is widely known and acknowledged. Yet, the arcane skills and talents used to produce illegal moonshine have largely remained unknown to all but a few enthusiasts who have a deep desire to taste the legendary stuff. With just a few episodes, the juggernaut that is popular television has changed all that. Highly rated shows like Moonshiners depict industrious rural citizens gathering everyday foodstuffs like corn, sugar, and yeast. Using simple hand tools, gleaming copper stills are crafted with a level of skill that can make a union-trained sheet metal worker envious. For the wannabe home still builder in California, however, there is a problem.

The problem is that the mere possession of a still is illegal under California law if it’s sole purpose is for making consumable ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol or drinking alcohol. However, they can be legally used in the production of distilled water, distilled essential oils as well as other non-alcoholic products (California Code Section 23032). Additionally, they can also be used for scientific and experimental purposes which do not concern consumable ethanol. Though it is legal to own a still provided you have obtained a permit from the state authorities, a still being used to distill alcoholic beverages without a distiller’s license, can be seized by the government and is considered to be illegal according to the ABC Act, California Code Section 25352.

Marijuana Possession at a California Airport

The possession of marijuana at a California airport is not the black-and-white issue it once was prior to the relaxation of marijuana laws in some states. At today’s airports, with the TSA’s ever present Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) screening passengers and their belongings for prohibited items (weapons, explosives, and other objects that may pose a risk to aviation security), TSOs sometimes discover marijuana possession or other items that are illegal under federal law.

TSA screening procedures are governed by federal law and designed primarily to detect threats to aviation security. TSA officers do not specifically search for illegal drugs. During security screening, and even in states where marijuana is legal, an officer may discover cannabis in an amount that may violate even state medical marijuana laws. TSOs must then contact a law enforcement officer when marijuana is discovered because possessing marijuana remains a crime under Federal law. Additionally, law enforcement officers may be contacted even if a passenger is carrying a legal amount of marijuana and a state-issued cannabis card because TSOs cannot make an independent determination as to whether a passenger’s documentation is sufficient to authorize possession of marijuana under state law.

Trespass Law in California

California trespass law defines many situations in which the offense of trespass may take place. They range from the ordinary to the highly unusual, and sometimes to the hard to figure. Trespass means different things to different people. It often means walking into an area posted with signs that state, “No Trespassing.” However, it is considered trespassing for an individual to be on a vacant property or building even if is not posted. Your claim that you didn’t know you were trespassing is not a defense.

A person who has a right to come onto the land may become a trespasser by committing wrongful acts after entry. A mail carrier has a privilege to walk up the sidewalk at a private home, he may not enter the residence because trespass laws expressly prevent breaches of the peace by protecting the quiet possession of real property.

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