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LOS ANGELES CRIMINAL DEFENSE BLOG

Rape and Other Sex Crimes

What many people have in mind of when they hear the term rape is an assault committed by means of physical force. In truth, rape is any non-consensual sexual activity, including those accomplished by guile. Any form of sexual conduct forced on a person against their will through means of violence, menace, duress, fear of injury or other danger is rape under California law.

Specifically, California Penal Code Section 261 PC defines rape as a criminal offense that involves non consensual sexual intercourse by means of threats, force or fraud. It is one of a number of statutes that pertain to sex crimes, all of which are taken very seriously in a court of law.

Misappropriation of Funds

Located on the otherwise undistinguished east bank of the Los Angeles River, the City of Bell was the scene of perhaps one of the most notorious cases of misappropriation of funds in recent Southern California history. A disgraced former city manager of Bell, Angela Spaccia, was found guilty of 11 felony counts related for her part in a corruption scandal and convicted of misappropriation of public funds, conflict of interest and other charges.

The scandal first came to light in 2010 when the hefty salaries of Bell city officials, including Spaccia’s, were exposed. With she and her boss, Robert Rizzo, in charge of establishing pay rates for city officials, they deemed that as a city deputy Spaccia was entitled to a salary of $564,000-a-year. In the ensuing corruption scandal, two counts of misappropriation of public funds were based on the amounts of her salary and the salary of city administrator Rizzo. Spaccia also was charged with three counts of conflict of interest for the handling of her own employment contracts in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

Child Neglect in California

In general, under California law parents may raise their children however they see fit, but a parent is legally responsible to do all that is reasonable in order to provide necessities for minor children. A failure to provide a child with the basic necessities of care may make a parent guilty of child neglect under California Penal Code Section 270 PC. It is criminal conduct in California for a parent to willfully withhold care, food, shelter, medical services, or other remedial care from a child without a legal excuse.

If, through no fault of his or her own, a parent who is unable to earn enough money and does not have sufficient assets or income to pay for necessities has a legal excuse for their failure to provide for their children. A parent who has spent money on other unreasonable things or has failed to look for work would not have a legal excuse.

Theft of Art and Cultural Property

Grand theft is a common crime, in part, because it often involves stealing everyday items like cars or other motor vehicles. Another form of grand theft has a far more adventurous image, at least in the view of the movie going public. It is the theft of art and cultural property. Such theft can be accomplished by means of fraud, looting, burglary and sometimes even stealth.

The stolen items are then often trafficked across state and international lines. Federal law enforcement calls such theft a looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses in the billions of dollars annually. In 2009, Southern California was the setting for a complex case involving the theft and sale of multiple paintings. The parties involved were two Los Angeles art galleries and Vero Beach, Florida “art dealer.”

The Gun Violence Restraining Order

California has signed into law legislation (AB1014) allowing the temporary seizure of guns from people determined by the courts to be a threat to themselves or others. The legislation approved by the governor allows law enforcement officers or family members to ask a court for a restraining order against a person believed to be a threat, barring his or her possession of firearms for 21 days.

The bill comes in response to a deadly rampage by Elliot Rodger near the University of California in Santa Barbara, earlier this year. Rodger shot and killed six people before firing a bullet into his own head. His estranged parents had long grappled with their 22-year-old son’s struggle with emotional problems.

Criminal Storage of Firearms

In 2011, Section 25100 was added to California’s Penal Code and established a crime that is formally known as ‘criminal storage of a firearm.’ This law applies to parents who allow children (persons under 18) to gain unauthorized access to firearms. For the second time in as many months, a Los Angeles County parent has been charged under this law. A 54-year-old man from South Los Angeles faces three misdemeanor charges after his son took his unsecured gun and brandished it at other teens.

The father was arrested after telling school police that he had kept the loaded firearm under a towel in an unlocked dresser drawer and that his son knew where it was, according to prosecutors. The State of California requires every gun to have a trigger lock and be put away safely.

The Charge of Vehicular Manslaughter

When we hear, through TV or other media, that someone has been killed in a driving incident and the driver has been charged with vehicular manslaughter, we may question why this charge applies and not another greater or lesser charge. The answer lies, to a large degree, in the specific wording of the penal code section with which the driver has been charged.

California Penal Code Section 192(c) defines vehicular manslaughter as driving a vehicle with ordinary negligence that results in the unlawful killing of a human being. The law defines elements of vehicular manslaughter and those elements will be used to determine if the charge applies. These elements are:

Street Protests and Failure to Disperse

In light of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, the spread of mass protests to politically aware Los Angeles was inevitable. And with this new wave of demonstrators, just as during the Occupy Los Angeles movement, the Los Angeles Police Department has employed the method of declaring assemblies unlawful and then issuing orders to disperse.

Those who don’t heed the warning and fail to leave the area in a timely manner may be arrested for failure to disperse under Section 409 of the Penal Code, which makes it a misdemeanor to fail to disperse from a riot, rout, or unlawful assembly. In the view of many demonstrators, arresting a person for failure to disperse is merely an expedient means to clear a public area of citizens wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights to Free Speech or the right to free assembly. Though it would be difficult to prove, an unfounded arrest for failure to disperse would constitute a violation of a person’s civil rights.

Protesting and Unlawful Assembly in California

While the First Amendment offers broad freedom of assembly protections, not all assemblies are construed to be legal. California state law narrowly defines and prohibits “assemblies which are violent or which pose a clear and present danger of imminent violence” and determines them to be illegal assemblies.

From a practical standpoint, it would appear that authorities can simply declare any assembly of which they disapprove unlawful by deeming it to be violent or arbitrarily determining that it poses a clear and present danger of imminent violence. They are then free to begin the arrest of protestors they feel are in violation of the law.

The Thanksgiving DUI

A bottle of wine is a seemingly natural accompaniment for a Thanksgiving dinner. For some, this happy coincidence may lead to having a little too much to drink. But, at the end of the evening, they get behind the wheel anyway, and having done this before, they think nothing will happen this time. They are totally unaware that about two-thirds of DUI convictions are for first time offenders.

Another common belief is that New Year’s Eve is the night when the most drunken driving accidents occur. It is a mistaken belief. New Year’s Eve runs a distant second to Thanksgiving, which statistically has the largest number of drunk driving fatalities.

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