Decrease in DUI Arrests This Thanksgiving

Across California, fewer people needed to meet with a California DUI lawyer this year, although some areas of the country recorded an increase in DUI arrest activity. The California Highway Patrol says that there were more DUI arrests this Thanksgiving holiday in Orange and San Diego Counties. However, overall DUI arrest numbers across California were down.

Officers arrested 69 people for DUI in Orange County over the Thanksgiving holiday, as of Sunday morning. Last year, the number of arrests was 39. In San Diego County, the number of people arrested was 88. Last year, 85 people had been arrested over the same period of time.

Overall, the number of people arrested for DUI across California was down this year. 1,350 people were arrested this year for DUI in California. Last year, 1,419 people had been arrested for DUI. However, the number of people dying in accidents caused by alcohol use was up across the state. Last year, 12 people were killed in driving drunk driving accidents in California. This year, the number had increased to 21.

Holiday season is typically busy season for California DUI attorneys. Not only are more people likely to drink and drive during these holidays, but their chances of being pulled over are also high because of increased law-enforcement activity during holidays. In fact, the police presence on the streets is likely to increase over the next few weeks with a spike in shoppers.

Motorists are more likely to be pulled over for DUI as we get closer to Christmas and New Years’. The California Highway Patrol will step up its enforcement activities and place more troopers on streets and highways. Local law-enforcement agencies are likely to follow suit. In addition to drunk driving crackdowns, law-enforcement agencies also conduct seatbelt crackdowns during the holidays, and these checkpoints often result in DUI arrests.

Conrad Murray to Appeal Involuntary Manslaughter Conviction

Michael Jackson’s doctor Conrad Murray, who was on trial for involuntary manslaughter in the singer’s death, was convicted last week. His defense lawyers plan to appeal the verdict. The doctor was taken to the Los Angeles county jail after the verdict. An appeal is likely to come only after his sentencing on November 29.

Conrad Murray was on trial in Jackson’s death because he allegedly administered the powerful aesthetic to the singer. A Los Angeles coroner ruled that Jackson’s death had been caused by acute propofol intoxication. Murray’s lawyers insisted that Jackson had administered the sedative himself when the doctor was out of the room.

The jurors were asked to decide on a main question – was the sedative administered to Jackson using an intravenous drip, or did Jackson inject himself with the propofol using a syringe? His lawyers tried to show that Murray was just one in a team of physicians treating Jackson, and that Jackson injected himself using a syringe. However prosecutors successfully built a case painting Murray as a man who was paid $150,000 month to administer propofol infusions to the star.

Murray could be sentenced to four years in state prison, but his lawyers are likely to ask for probation and county jail time. California criminal defense lawyers believe that Murray could benefit from a new state law that is aimed at reducing county jail and state prison overcrowding in California.

Sentencing for the doctor will take place later this month. However, he is already finding his life falling apart. Murray has already had his medical license suspended. The Medical Board of California will soon consider whether to completely revoke his medical license altogether.

CA Governor Vetoes Bill Barring Warrantless Searches of Cell Phones

California Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have prevented law enforcement officers from conducting warrantless searches of cell phones of those under arrest.

The bill, SB 914, had been sent to the Governor’s desk after being passed by the California legislature. The bill would have overturned a decision of the California Supreme Court in connection with a cell phone search. That decision involved a man who was arrested in 2007. During his arrest, a Ventura County Sheriff’s Department officer checked his cell phone text messages, and found incriminating information. The Supreme Court ruled that police in California can search cell phones of a person under arrest without a warrant.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is not limited to text messages, but includes other information stored on a cellphone such as Internet browsing history, photographs, contacts, voicemail messages, chat logs and other data. The bill, which had been widely supported by privacy groups and Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers, would have prevented such warrantless searches of a person’s cell phone and other devices upon arrest.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys believe that the Governor’s decision to veto the bill will lead to an increase in the number of law enforcement officers choosing to rummage through a person’s cell phone to find incriminating evidence.

Privacy experts recommend using a password or encryption to lock access to the data on one’s cell phone, making it more difficult for police to browse one’s personal information without review by a judge.


Entertainer Pleads Not Guilty to Sex Crime Charges in California

A Hawaii-based entertainer, who was arrested last month for sex crimes in California, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse of minors. Sixty-six-year-old Cecilio Rodriguez has been charged with abuse of children under 14. The suspected abuse occurred in the 1990s.

Rodriguez is a renowned entertainer in Hawaii, and is part of the musical duo, Cecilio and Kapono. He was arrested in September after one of the victims admitted the abuse to her father, who then contacted the police. The women were apparently family friends of the entertainer. If convicted, Rodriguez could face a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

Sex crimes are some of the most serious offenses, and persons who are convicted of these offenses can be sentenced to imprisonment, and required to register in a sex offender registry. Registration can severely limit a person’s options for living and working. For instance, a person who has been convicted of a sex offense cannot live close to a school, park or any other place where children gather, once he is released or paroled. Since the definition of “where children can gather” can include a vast number of locations, this severely limits the accommodation options open to those convicted of sex offenses.

No one denies that it’s important to keep children safe from sexual predators. However, such protection should not come at the cost of incarcerating innocent people. Unfortunately, in sex crime cases, Los Angeles sex crimes defense attorneys often find that persons are presumed to be guilty until proven innocent – a gross violation of their rights.

50 Percent of Drug Crime Arrests in U.S. Involve Marijuana

According to new data by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, more than half of all drug arrests in the United States last year involved marijuana crimes. In fact, 2010 saw more people being arrested for marijuana crimes than in any other year.

Last year, 853,000 people were arrested for marijuana-related crimes. That comprises 52% of all drug arrests across the country in 2010. Out of these 853,000 arrests for marijuana-related crimes, 80% were only charged with possession of marijuana, and not cultivating or distributing it. Overall, since the year 2000, approximately 7.9 million people have been arrested for marijuana-related crimes.

The percentage of marijuana arrests was highest in the Midwest where these arrests comprised 63.5% of all drug arrests. The South also saw high numbers of marijuana-related arrests with 57% of drug arrests in these states. The number of marijuana-related arrests was lowest in the West, where these comprised 49% of the total number of arrests for drug crimes.

Overall, more than 1.6 million people were arrested for drug crimes in the United States last year. Not surprisingly to Los Angeles drug crime defense lawyers, arrests for drug crimes surpassed arrest rates for all other types of crimes. In fact, in 2010, one person was arrested every 19 seconds for possession, production or manufacture of drugs. More than 81% of these arrests were for possession of drugs. In all, 750,591 drug arrests in 2010 were for possession of drugs, while just over 103,000 arrests were for production or manufacture of drugs.

Federal law enforcement agencies have to understand that arresting people every minute for a drug crime hasn’t achieved any objectives, and has not made the community safer.

Ineffectiveness and Unfairness of Sex Offender Registries

A new book by Roger Lancaster, professor of cultural studies at George Mason University, is forcing the review of popular attitudes towards sex offender registries. In the book, Lancaster argues that these registries are not just ineffective in preventing sex crimes, but as California criminal defense lawyers also find, also unfair to the millions of people who are included in registries with barely any violation to their name.

In the book, Lancaster talks of the unfairness of a registry system that prevents sex offenders from living or working within 2000 feet of a school, playground or any other place where children gather under Jessica’s Law. Such restrictions dramatically reduce a person’s chances of living a normal life after incarceration, and defeat any attempt to reintegrate the person into society. According to Lancaster, we should rethink this approach, which resembles techniques of governance in authoritarian or even totalitarian states.”

He also compares the sex offender registry system in the United States with that in Britain, which also requires sex offenders to register themselves. However, in Britain, the number of persons actually on sex offender registries is much more limited, and is a much smaller proportion of the population.

In order to understand how sex offender laws in the United States have run riot, consider this – in the United States, the ratio of registered sex offenders to the general population is 228 per 100,000. In Britain, the ratio is 46 per 100,000. Additionally, in Britain, the majority of offenders are classified as minimal risk, and require low supervision. Information from the registries is closely guarded, and can be accessed only by parole officers, law enforcement officers and other interested parties.

This is unlike in the United States, where anybody can access a sex offender registry, and make uniformed assumptions about a person’s character based on his inclusion in the registry. Further, in the United States, a substantial chunk of sex offender registrants are those involved in relationships simply because one of the persons involved in the relationship was under the age of eighteen.

West Memphis Three Walk Free under Plea Deal

After spending 18 years in prison for the murder of three young boys, three men who have come to be collectively referred to by California criminal Defense lawyers, the public and the media as the West Memphis Three, have walked free from prison. Their dramatic release came after a plea deal between the men and prosecutors.

The three men, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Junior had all been serving life sentences after they were convicted of the murder of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The murders had taken place in 1993, and sent shockwaves through the state. The naked bodies of the three boys, all eight years old, were found in a canal in a wooded area of West Memphis. The bodies had been badly mutilated and tied.

For police investigating the murders, the finger of suspicion quickly pointed to Eckels, a troubled eighteen-year-old, who had an interest in heavy metal music and considered himself a Wiccan. Eckels as well as his friends Misskelley and Borden were arrested after Misskelley confessed to the murders. They were arrested in spite of the fact that Misskelley’s confession of the crime had major holes that did not match with the information that police had.

Misskelley later withdrew his confession, but it was too late. He was convicted on the basis of his confession in February 1994. Soon after, Eckels and Baldwin were convicted. Out of the three, only Eckels was on death row.

In recent years, there had been a flurry of support for the West Memphis Three from rockers and movie stars. Benefit concerts had been held to raise money for the men’s legal defense. Then three weeks ago, prosecutors and lawyers for Eckels began working on a plea deal. Under the terms of the deal, the men maintained that they are innocent, but admitted that they were pleading guilty to charges of first and second degree murder because it was in their best interests. After the plea deal, the judge sentenced them to eighteen years in prison, which they have already served, ensuring that they were now free.

MADD Opposes Bill to Prevent Enforcing Other Laws at DUI Checkpoints

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has come out strongly in opposition to a pending California bill that would prevent law enforcement officers from enforcing certain laws at sobriety checkpoints.  Assembly Bill 1389 would limit the ability of law-enforcement officers at checkpoints to enforce other laws, like those against driving under a suspended license.

Misuse of law-enforcement powers have meant an increase in the number of impoundments of vehicles belonging to motorists driving without a valid license.  In California, many sobriety checkpoints record greater numbers of people punished for driving without a license every year, than those arrested for driving under the influence.

Assembly Bill 1389 would prevent this.  The bill would also prevent law-enforcement officers at a sobriety checkpoint from checking for probation violations and outstanding warrants.  Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys have come out strongly against such actions by police officers at checkpoints.  Most of the vehicles that are impounded at these checkpoints belong to Hispanics and people from ethnic communities, and when these vehicles are impounded, these people are put through tremendous inconvenience.  They have no transportation to take them to school or to work, and they cannot afford to get their vehicle released.  In fact, revenues from vehicle impoundments at checkpoints have increased steadily, increasing at a higher rate than the number of DUI arrests at these checkpoints.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving however wants sobriety checkpoints to look not just for drunk drivers, but also to ensure that motorists with prior drunk driving convictions are not in violation of the law.  The group believes that Assembly Bill 1389 would allow more drivers, who have a suspended license due to a DUI conviction to drive freely throughout California.

California Has Highest Car Theft Rates in Country

An analysis of crime data indicates that California has the highest number of car thefts in the country.  The data released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau found that eight out of the top 10 cities for car theft were located in the Golden State.

The highest number of car thefts in the country was recorded in Fresno.  Here, there was an average of 8.1 car thefts for every 1000 residents.  This was followed by Modesto and Bakersfield-Alamo, rounding out the top three slots for car thefts in the country.  Following close behind were the Vallejo-Fairfield area, Sacramento, Stockton, Visalia and the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area.

The only two non-California cities on the list were Spokane and Yakima in Washington.  The fewest number of car thefts occurred in State College, Pennsylvania.  Here, there were less than .3 vehicle thefts per 1000 residents.

This isn’t the first time that Fresno has ranked in the top 10 in the country for car theft.  In 2010, Fresno had also placed first with a total of 7,559 car thefts per 100,000 population.

The Central Valley has long had a history of high numbers of car thefts.  Police blame these high rates of vehicle theft in the Central Valley on endemic poverty in these areas.  Drug use is another factor, especially the abuse of methamphetamine.  Very often, California criminal defense lawyers find that a person who has stolen a car is also a habitual drug user.

The high rates of car theft in California may also have something to do with a strong street racing culture and the presence of a thriving black market for car parts.  A person with a drug addiction problem may be more likely to steal a vehicle and sell the parts to fund his habit.

Big Bear Authorities Consider Sex Crime Charges in HS Yearbook Case

Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers expect charges to be filed soon in a California case involving a possible sex crime that was revealed after the distribution of a high school yearbook.

The alleged crime came to light when a photograph showing a 17-year-old male student at Big Bear High School with his hand inside the dress of a 15-year-old female student, was published in the yearbook.  The two were in the background of a photo of a school dance.

According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office, it is likely that a sex crime had taken place, because penetration likely occurred.  Whether charges of sex crimes will be filed against the two or not, may be left to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.  The boy in this case may be charged with either a felony or misdemeanor.

The 2011 yearbook at Big Bear High School was distributed about two weeks ago.  The photograph was brought to the notice of the high school authorities, at which point, the yearbooks were recalled.  The high school then notified the sheriff’s office about the photograph.  All the students were asked to bring in their yearbooks, so that the photograph could be removed from the books.  Those students who failed to bring back the yearbooks could even be charged with possession of child pornography.  Most of the yearbooks have been returned, except two.  Those two students have been contacted by the school, and have been ordered to bring their books back.

If the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office finds that there are grounds for charges to be filed against the boy in the picture, then he could be possibly facing charges of sex assault of a minor.   If convicted, the boy could even have to register as a sex offender.  There may even be additional charges of possession of child pornography against those who fail to return their yearbooks.

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The Pasadena, CA law firm of Khalaf & Khalaf serves clients in Los Angeles County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, & Orange County; and the citites of Torrance, San Fernando, Alhambra, Bellflower, Victorville, Long Beach, Burbank, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Moreno Valley, Glendale, South Pasadena, Alta Dena, Santa Clarita and throughout Southern California.