Archive for the ‘ Criminal Defense ’ Category

Can You Fight Extradition For A Charge And Succeed?

Posted on: April 17, 2019 by in Criminal Defense
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What is extradition? If a criminal suspect flees from this state to avoid prosecution or punishment, will the authorities in California pursue that suspect and seek extradition?

What if you’re in California and you are wanted for a crime in another state? If that state seeks extradition, will California automatically send you back? Can a sex crimes attorney help?

Extradition is the legal procedure of returning someone back to the jurisdiction where that person is charged with a crime or where that person has violated the terms of bail, probation, or parole.

WHAT TRIGGERS AN EXTRADITION PROCESS?

Routinely, some persons are extradited into California, and others are extradited out of California. Extradition into California can happen when someone has been apprehended in a different state after:

  • being charged with a crime by California authorities
  • escaping from custody in California
  • violating the conditions of bail, probation, or parole in California

Extradition out of California is a similar – but reversed – situation where the alleged crime or alleged violation happened in another state, and the suspect or offender has been apprehended in California.

HOW IS THE EXTRADITION PROCESS GOVERNED BY THE LAW?

California law governs both situations. It spells out precisely what is required of both states and how the states must conduct an extradition procedure. The state seeking the extradition is called the “demanding” state (or the “home” state), and the other state is called the “asylum” state.

Along with those who have intentionally fled or escaped to another state and those who have violated bail, probation, or parole, extradition also extends to those who have moved or traveled without knowing that they are wanted for a crime or that an active arrest warrant is pending.

WHAT STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS GOVERN EXTRADITION?

California and forty-six other states have enacted the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA). This statute clearly spells out the legal procedures that the states must follow when they conduct an extradition.

Federal extradition law requires the demanding state to deliver to the asylum state an affidavit or indictment charging the alleged fugitive.

Federal law then requires the asylum state to arrest the individual and to hold that person in custody for up to thirty days until an agent from the demanding state arrives to “claim” that person. After thirty days, if no agent has arrived, the asylum state must release the individual.

WHAT’S REQUIRED FOR CALIFORNIA TO EXTRADITE SOMEONE?

If you have been charged with a crime in California, if you escape from custody, or if you violate the conditions of bail, parole, or probation in California, and if you subsequently flee from this state, California authorities may seek your extradition.

However, before California will demand your return, authorities will balance the cost and the time involved in extraditing you against the gravity of the crime or violation that you are accused of.

violent offenders in CA

Extradition is more likely for felonies and violent crimes and less likely for non-violent misdemeanors. If California authorities choose extradition, they must:

  • issue to the asylum state a legal demand for your extradition
  • send an agent to the asylum state to “claim” you within thirty days of your arrest
  • return you to California for trial, sentencing, or reincarceration

WHAT IF ANOTHER STATE ASKS CALIFORNIA TO RETURN YOU?

It works a bit differently when California is the asylum state and another state is demanding an extradition. State law makes the authorities here ensure that there is no mistaken identity and that the demanding state has complied with both federal and California state extradition laws.

To that end, before California will hand over anyone in this state to an agent of another state, the California courts will conduct an extradition hearing to ensure that the suspect has been rightly identified and that the suspect’s rights have not been violated.

HOW WILL A SKILLED DEFENSE LAWYER HELP YOU FIGHT EXTRADITION?

If another state is demanding your extradition from California, can you successfully fight the extradition? Your defense attorney has a number of legal defenses available, but the two most frequent defenses offered in extradition cases are these:

  • There are flaws with the legal paperwork in the case, and those flaws render the extradition demand invalid.
  • The person who is about to be extradited is a victim of mistaken identity and is not in fact the person that the demanding state is actually seeking.

law gavel and books

In most extradition hearings, the defendant will be at a distinct disadvantage. He or she has already been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense and has fled from the demanding state, so there is little presumption of innocence.

WHAT ELSE CAN A DEFENSE ATTORNEY DO ON YOUR BEHALF?

If another state is demanding your extradition from California, you must be advised and represented at your extradition hearing by a top-rated Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.

If you choose to fight extradition, your attorney may negotiate with the prosecutor in the demanding state in an effort to resolve the charge against you without requiring extradition. Every extradition case is different, so you must have a good attorney’s sound advice.

If you flee from California after learning that an arrest warrant has been issued for you in this state, you will be subject to extradition upon your arrest in another state.

police in other states

You can fight extradition in the state where you are arrested, but if you are returned to California, you will face not only the underlying criminal charge but also additional penalties for trying to escape justice.

WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAW FIRM IN CA?

If a California arrest warrant is issued for you, and if you learn of it and become a fugitive, you will only hurt yourself. If you are charged with any crime or with a probation violation, speak to an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at once.

In California and every other state, if you’re arrested, you have the right to remain silent, and it is the most important rule to remember if you are placed under arrest. Your right to remain silent – and your right to have an attorney present during questioning – are basic constitutional rights.

The Fugitive was a blockbuster movie and a popular television series, but in real life – and this cannot be stressed strongly enough – it’s better to turn yourself in with an attorney’s help and let that attorney fight for justice on your behalf. A good defense attorney’s help is your right.

How Is Bail Determined In California?

Posted on: March 18, 2019 by in Criminal Defense
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In many cases, a criminal defendant in California will be able to get out of jail while his or her case is pending by posting bail. The amount of that bail will depend on a number of factors. Even if you’re innocent, you may have to post bail to be released.

If you are charged with a crime, will you be able to post bail while your own case is pending? What does bail cost? What else should you know about cash bails? How can a Los Angeles drug crimes lawyer help?

WHAT IS BAIL AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Exactly what is bail? It’s money that a defendant deposits with the court to be released from jail. It is supposed to ensure that the defendant does not flee and appears for trial. If the defendant fails to appear, the money is forfeited, and an arrest warrant may be issued for failure to appear.

gavel and books

Even if a defendant is found not guilty, or if the charge is dropped or dismissed, it can take as long as twelve weeks for someone to recover a cash bail from the court after the resolution of the case. Defendants who are convicted may put the cash toward paying fines and court fees.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED WHEN BAIL AMOUNTS ARE SET?

When a California judge sets a bail figure for a defendant who is charged with a crime, these factors are taken into consideration:

  • the particulars of the charge
  • the risk that the defendant will flee and fail to appear at trial
  • the risk to public safety
  • the suspect’s prior criminal convictions

If you’re charged with a crime in Southern California, you have the right to an attorney. Exercise that right, contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, and do not try to act as your own lawyer. Your future – and maybe even your freedom – will be at risk.

Cash bail has been controversial in the state of California for at least several decades. Critics have charged that the bail system discriminates disproportionately against minority defendants and against those who are least able to pay bail costs.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT LEGAL STATUS OF CASH BAIL IN CALIFORNIA?

Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation in 2018 that was supposed to abolish cash bail in this state and grant judges more discretion to determine which defendants should remain behind bars while their cases are pending.

However, the fate of bail reform in California is now unclear, and it appears that the law signed by Governor Brown in 2018 may be suspended until 2020, when voters statewide may decide whether or not to overturn it.

WHY IS BAIL SO IMPORTANT FOR DEFENDANTS?

For many criminal defendants, being bailed out means that for the months – and sometimes even years – before their cases actually go to trial, those defendants are able to maintain their daily routines in their communities, go to work or school, and care for their children.

When they are out of jail, and their cases are pending, criminal defendants are also able to make better decisions – and to take their time about making those decisions – regarding their legal options and the plea bargains that they may be offered.

HOW ARE BAIL AMOUNTS PAID?

When a bail amount has been set, the defendant may be released by posting the entire amount in cash, by retaining the services of a bail bondsman, or by posting a “property bond.”

bail money

Bail is not cheap, and cash payments are rare. Most defendants work with a bail bondsman. In most cases, a bondsman loans the full bail amount to the defendant for a nonrefundable, up-front fee of ten percent.

Criminal defendants in California also have the option of paying bail with a property bond, but that is extremely rare. The property’s equity must be valued at double the bail amount or higher, and the equity must be estimated professionally for the court.

WHAT DOES BAIL COST?

How much will bail cost? Each California county uses its own bail schedule. For heinous crimes, bail may be set at a million dollars or even higher, but more typical bail amounts range from $20,000 to $50,000 for less severe offenses.

handcuffs and law books

If you have been charged with a crime and you cannot pay the bail amount that has been set, or if you believe that the figure is excessive or unfair, an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can ask for a bail hearing on your behalf.

However, when a defendant is charged with a violent or otherwise serious felony, a judge typically will not drop that defendant’s bail amount below the standard, “scheduled” figure for that charge in that county.

A judge in such a case has to be presented with “good cause” or “unusual circumstances” to reduce a bail figure.

WHAT IS AN O.R. RELEASE?

A defendant may also request a release “O.R.,” meaning a release on the defendant’s “own recognizance” that involves no cash but merely a promise by the defendant to appear at trial.

With criticism of the cash bond system growing, and especially after the bail legislation signed by Governor Brown in 2018, criminal defendants are increasingly being released on their own recognizance by California judges.

attorney negotiating

At a bail hearing, a defense lawyer can sometimes persuade a judge to reduce a defendant’s bail amount or approve an O.R. release. If a defendant will agree to some terms and conditions, a release is more likely. Those terms and conditions might include requiring the defendant to:

  • surrender a passport and/or driver’s license
  • avoid traveling outside of the jurisdiction
  • go into a treatment or counseling program
  • wear a GPS tracking device or a SCRAM monitoring device

WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A TOP DEFENSE LAW FIRM?

What you’ve read here is a general look at the bail system in California, but if you are the person who’s being charged with a crime, you’re going to need the personalized legal advice that a California defense lawyer can only provide after reviewing the specifics of your case.

You already know that you have the right to a lawyer if you are charged with a crime. A Southern California defense attorney can give anyone who is facing a criminal charge sound legal advice about bail options and the other aspects of the case.

But you’ll need to exercise your right to an attorney as soon as possible after an arrest. Your attorney will provide the legal help you need, but the first move in your defense – making the call to a reliable defense lawyer – is your move and yours alone.

Defending Embezzlement Charges In L.A. County

Posted on: February 17, 2019 by in Criminal Defense
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Embezzlement is a particular kind of theft – planned, methodical, and stealthy. Embezzlement is also betrayal – the abuse of someone’s trust. Successful embezzlements remain undiscovered for weeks and even months, and some embezzlements may never be discovered.

Because of mistakes and misunderstandings, innocent people can be accused of embezzlement. However, it can be difficult to fight an embezzlement charge in California, even if you’re innocent. Can a Los Angeles embezzlement lawyer help?

PRECISELY HOW IS EMBEZZLEMENT DEFINED?

If someone takes property or money without the owner’s consent and means to keep that property or money, it’s theft. But if you temporarily have someone’s property or money because you’ve been asked to hold or watch it, and you steal the money or property, it’s embezzlement.

Embezzlers usually take great care to conceal the crime. They typically embezzle only a fraction of the resources or funds entrusted to them to minimize the possibility of detection. When they succeed, embezzlers can operate for years without discovery.

Lackadaisical accounting practices are a big temptation to embezzlers. Unless the accounting is meticulous, embezzlement probably won’t be uncovered quickly.

money and coins

Practically anybody can be victimized by embezzlement, but as you might guess, financial institutions make tempting targets for embezzlers. The offense is a federal crime if the victim is a bank or any other agency owned or regulated by the United States government.

EXACTLY WHAT CHARGES CAN EMBEZZLERS FACE IN CALIFORNIA?

Here in California, hinging on the amount of money or property that is embezzled, the charge can be filed as either grand theft or petty theft:

  • Grand theft is the charge when the property or money embezzled is valued above $950. A grand theft charge in California may be filed as a misdemeanor or as a felony.
  • Embezzlements for amounts less than $950 are prosecuted as misdemeanor petty thefts.

Before 2014, when Proposition 47 was approved by California’s voters, all firearm and vehicle thefts in California were charged as grand theft. However, grand theft now is charged in these cases only when a firearm or a vehicle is worth at least $950.

To recap, California law provides for three possible embezzlement charges:

  • felony grand theft
  • misdemeanor grand theft
  • misdemeanor petty theft

HOW SERIOUS IS AN EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGE?

Understand, however, that even petty theft is considered a serious crime in this state, and jail time is a genuine possibility for anyone who is convicted of any embezzlement or any other theft.

If you face any charge of embezzlement in the greater Los Angeles area, you must reach out immediately to an experienced and reliable criminal defense attorney.

Exactly how does embezzlement work? Embezzlers typically forge or alter financial account records to “skim” and then to conceal assets. Embezzlement may not be discovered without a complete financial audit.

HOW WILL A LAW FIRM DEFEND YOU AGAINST AN EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGE?

Of course, not every embezzlement suspect is guilty. Mistakes and misunderstandings sometimes lead to wrongful embezzlement charges, and embezzlers often commit the crime in a way that points the blame at someone who’s innocent.

embezzlement lawyer in los angeles

If you are charged with embezzlement in California, a prosecutor must prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” to win a conviction against you. A good defense lawyer can usually find a flaw in the state’s case, exploit that flaw, and cast doubt on the state’s evidence against you.

If you’re charged with any embezzlement crime in southern California – whether it’s a felony or a misdemeanor, at the federal level or at the state level – immediately contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has substantial experience with embezzlement cases.

WHAT MUST THE PROSECUTION PROVE IN AN EMBEZZLEMENT CASE?

If you handle large sums on a regular basis – or if you deal with or handle any part of the record-keeping for those sums – you probably, occasionally make a mistake. That doesn’t make you a criminal.

To convict someone for embezzlement, the prosecution must prove that:

  • The victim and defendant had a fiduciary relationship.
  • The defendant took advantage of the relationship to take money and/or property.
  • The embezzlement was consciously and intentionally committed.

stolen money

The distinction between embezzlement and larceny is that embezzlers were allowed by the owner to possess or access the assets or other items that were embezzled. In contrast, larceny is the direct appropriation of assets or property without the owner’s permission.

WHO CAN BE ACCUSED OF EMBEZZLEMENT?

Because embezzlement is a betrayal, people in positions of trust are charged with embezzlement, framed for it, and sometimes are convicted of it. Bankers, accountants, trustees, attorneys, and public officials are often suspected of – and are sometimes accused of – embezzlement schemes.

finances

But anyone trusted with another party’s property or money can be accused of embezzlement, and any person who entrusts another party with property or money could be victimized by embezzlement.

WHAT ARE THIS STATE’S PENALTIES FOR AN EMBEZZLEMENT CONVICTION?

These are the potential penalties for anyone who is convicted of embezzlement by a California state court:

  • A felony conviction for grand theft is punishable with as much as three years in state prison, a fine of as much as $10,000, and formal probation.
  • A misdemeanor conviction for grand theft is punishable with up to one year in custody, a fine of $1,000, and summary probation.
  • A misdemeanor conviction for petty theft is punishable with up to six months in custody, a fine of as much as $1,000, and misdemeanor probation.

WHAT ARE THE FEDERAL PENALTIES FOR EMBEZZLEMENT CONVICTIONS?

Federal charges for embezzlement are filed as fraud charges – wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, or securities fraud. At the federal level:

  • If the money or property embezzled is valued at over $1,000, it’s a felony, and a conviction may be penalized with a fine of $250,000 and/or up to ten years in a federal prison.
  • If the money or property embezzled is valued at or below $1,000, it’s a misdemeanor, and a conviction may be penalized with a $100,000 fine and/or up to a year in jail.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU KNOW ABOUT EMBEZZLEMENT?

A court may additionally require the payment of restitution to a victim of embezzlement, and a victim may seek compensation with a civil court action entirely distinct from the prosecution in the criminal courts.

Sometimes a simple accounting mistake can look a lot like embezzlement. Innocent people are accused of embezzlement for a number of reasons, but if you are the person charged with embezzlement, you must obtain the help of a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney – at once.

How To Get Witnesses To Testify For Your Case

Posted on: October 16, 2018 by in Criminal Defense
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If you have been wrongly charged with a crime – any felony or misdemeanor – defending yourself against the charge may not be easy, and you are going to need help.

You won’t have to “prove” your innocence, because the obligation falls on the state to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is because in any criminal case you will need to have several factors in your favor, including:

1. You’ll need legal advice and aggressive defense representation from an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. Make that call at your very first opportunity – as quickly as possible after you’ve been charged with a crime.

2. You will also need some evidence that backs up your claim of innocence, and that evidence may include the testimony of a witness who can clear you of the charge.

WHAT TYPE OF WITNESS MAY BE NEEDED IN A CRIMINAL TRIAL?

If you are the defendant in a criminal trial, you may need the testimony of an eyewitness who can confirm your alibi, an expert witness who can prove the DNA or the handwriting wasn’t yours, or a witness offering some other type of testimony on your behalf.

It works both ways. The best lawyer in the world can’t help you without some kind of evidence to present to the court, and the best evidence can’t help you without a knowledgeable attorney who can explain to the court what that evidence means.

However, if you need the testimony of a specific witness or witnesses as a part of your defense, you may find some resistance. Not everyone will be willing to miss work voluntarily and go through the inconvenience of appearing and testifying in court.

WHAT IS THE FIRST STEP IN GETTING SOMEONE TO TESTIFY FOR YOU?

The first thing you should do, if you need someone to testify on your behalf, is simply to ask. In many cases, a family member will be happy to testify on your behalf. A neighbor or shopkeeper may want to testify voluntarily if that person witnessed a crime near his or her home or business.

Several advantages are inherent when a witness voluntarily testifies. You won’t have to pay or subpoena a voluntary witness, and witnesses who don’t feel compelled to testify are typically more cooperative.

A subpoena is a court order requiring someone to testify in court or to produce particular evidence. If you need to compel a particular person to testify for you, you and your attorney must request a subpoena from the court and explain why the subpoena is necessary.

WHEN MAY A WITNESS LEGALLY REFUSE TO TESTIFY?

Every witness has a constitutional right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If a witness believes that answering a question would involve self-incrimination, the witness can assert that Fifth Amendment right and decline to answer the question.

Avoiding self-incrimination is not the only reason why a witness may legally refuse to testify. Marital privilege lets spouses decline to testify against one another.

California law also recognizes the necessity of particular professions to maintain professional confidentiality, so your doctor, lawyer, psychiatrist, or priest cannot be compelled to testify against you.

In most cases, however, if you need the testimony of a particular witness, a subpoena will be sufficient. But even if a witness has a legal reason for refusing to testify, a subpoenaed witness must appear in court as ordered by the subpoena and explain that reason to the judge.

WHAT IF YOU NEED AN EXPERT WITNESS?

In many criminal cases, a defendant is going to need the testimony of an expert witness to provide the scientific or technical details, explanations, and insights that jurors and judges may need.

The best criminal defense attorneys work routinely with ballistics experts, medical examiners, toxicologists, and other specialists who may provide expert testimony.

Expert witnesses, however, are paid well for their time and expenses, so if you need an expert to testify on your behalf, you will face a key decision: Is the expert’s testimony worth what it will cost you?

It’s a question that you will need to consider seriously and discuss candidly with your defense lawyer. In some cases, an expert’s testimony can make all the difference.

WHO IS AN EXPERT?

What makes an expert? There’s no rule or legal definition, but an expert witness generally has substantial educational, research, and professional experience in a particular field. An expert’s credentials typically include academic awards and articles published by academic journals.

If you hire an expert, make sure that you understand why the expert’s testimony is necessary, what the expert will cost, and how the payment will be arranged.

In fact, if you are charged with a crime, have your defense lawyer address all of your questions and concerns.

WHAT IF THE WITNESS YOU NEED ISN’T AVAILABLE?

When a witness isn’t able or available to appear personally in the courtroom, a California court may still consider a statement from the witness – provided that the statement qualifies as an exception to hearsay.

Generally speaking, California’s criminal courts want witnesses to be in court so that they can be cross-examined and so that jurors can hear and judge the testimony for themselves.

A hearsay exception, however, may permit a statement made by an unavailable witness to be allowed at trial. A statement given at a deposition prior to the trial, for example, will usually be allowed.

The hearsay exceptions are quite complicated under California law, so if you need a statement from an unavailable witness, have your defense lawyer explain what will be required.

WHAT WILL A DEFENSE ATTORNEY DO ON YOUR BEHALF?

Very few criminal cases actually go to trial. Most cases are resolved either with negotiated plea deals or by the dismissal of charges. But if you are charged with a crime in California, and if your case does go to trial, lining up the witnesses you’ll need is only one aspect of your defense.

Your defense lawyer will explain how the law applies to your case, investigate the charge against you, craft an effective defense strategy, protect your rights, and advocate aggressively for justice on your behalf.

Let an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney represent you if you face any criminal charge – now or in the future. Your future – and your freedom – may depend on it.

The Importance Of Reviewing A Plea Agreement

Posted on: August 16, 2018 by in Criminal Defense
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Anyone can be accused of a crime. If it happens to you here in California, you will probably need to know exactly what a plea agreement (or “plea deal”) is, because you may be offered such an agreement.

Continue reading – you’ll learn how plea bargains work in California, and you’ll also learn what must be considered if you’re offered an agreement by a California prosecutor.

If you’re arrested and accused of a felony or a misdemeanor, your top priority must be seeking advice and legal representation – immediately – by contacting a Los Angeles drug crimes attorney.

IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH A CRIME, WHAT WILL YOU NEED?

This is important, and it can’t be emphasized strongly enough: Every defendant in a criminal case needs the legal advice and defense representation that only a skilled defense lawyer can provide.

Do not consider any “bargain” or plea agreement unless and until your defense attorney tells you that it is the best option available to you.

This is also vital: Under no circumstances should you attempt to arrange your own agreement with a prosecutor.

Your defense lawyer is an experienced legal negotiator. Let your lawyer’s experience and training work on your behalf.

ARE PLEA DEALS COMMON?

What is the precise definition of a plea agreement or bargain? A plea agreement is a legally binding contract between the state and a defendant charged with a crime. It’s an agreement that resolves and concludes the case against the accused.

Plea agreements are far more common than most people may think. In fact, only a very small percentage of criminal cases in California actually become courtroom trials.

WHEN DO PLEA NEGOTIATIONS TAKE PLACE?

Plea bargaining can begin even before a defendant is charged or at any time after charges are filed. A deal may be offered at any point in the process before a jury returns a verdict.

In typical plea agreements, the defendant enters a plea of guilty (or “no contest”) on one or more charges, and any other charge or charges are reduced or dismissed.

The process is like any other type of negotiation. A prosecutor’s initial offer should probably be rejected. Plea bargaining and negotiating – ideally – should be a two-way street, and a defense lawyer will ensure that his or her client receives the best “deal” possible.

Negotiations can take place prior to a suspect being charged or after charges have been filed. A plea deal can be offered at any time before a jury returns a verdict.

HOW DO PLEA AGREEMENTS WORK?

In a typical agreement, the defendant enters a no contest or guilty plea to at least one charge in return for one or more other charges being reduced or dismissed.

Like most negotiations, the first offer probably is not an offer that should be accepted. A plea agreement should be negotiated, and a good defense lawyer will ensure that his or her client gets the best available “deal.”

A trial can last for weeks – even months – but a plea deal can be arranged in just minutes. Without a jury’s participation, each side of the case has more control and more say over the outcome.

ARE PLEA DEALS NECESSARY?

California judges and prosecutors use plea bargains to push cases more quickly through the courts. Without plea agreements, the criminal courts in every state would rapidly become overcrowded and unworkable.

In the United States today, more than nine out of ten crime convictions are produced by plea agreements. Prosecutors must adhere to guidelines that spell out precisely how a plea agreement must be negotiated.

WHAT IS PROPOSITION 8?

In 1982, the voters in California passed Proposition 8, which was supposed to forbid plea negotiations in serious felony cases and DUI cases. Proposition 8 ostensibly allows exceptions only in these circumstances:

1. There is insufficient evidence to prove the state’s case beyond a reasonable doubt.
2. Testimony from a material witness is unobtainable.
3. The plea bargain will not substantially change the sentence.

However, even if these exceptions don’t apply, a criminal case in this state may still be negotiated. Proposition 8 allows plea bargaining subsequent to an arraignment, prior to a preliminary hearing, and during the course of a grand jury proceeding.

HOW SHOULD YOU AND YOUR ATTORNEY REVIEW A PLEA OFFER?

If you are charged with a crime in California, when you and your attorney review a prosecutor’s plea bargain offer, one of the key considerations is the strength of your defense strategy.

If the evidence against you is persuasive, your attorney may recommend accepting a prosecutor’s offer. However, if your defense is strong and the state’s case is weak, your defense lawyer may recommend taking the case to trial and seeking a not guilty verdict from a panel of jurors.

Every case is different, so it all depends on the details of the offer, the details of the case and the charge or charges, and what’s at stake. That is yet another reason why you will need to have a defense attorney representing you and negotiating on your behalf.

ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PLEA AGREEMENTS?

Generally speaking, there are three different ways that a plea bargain can work:

1. In a “sentencing” agreement, the defendant pleads no contest or guilty and receives a less severe sentence.

2. In a “charge” agreement, the first charge is dismissed when the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge. For instance, a DUI first offender might plead guilty to wet reckless, and in return, the DUI charge is dropped.

3. In a “count” agreement, the defendant pleads guilty to one or more charges, and in return, the state drops the other charge or charges.

HOW CAN A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER HELP?

A qualified criminal defense attorney who regularly negotiates plea agreements will know which offers to reject and which – if any – plea offer should be accepted.

This is important: If you’re wrongly charged – and not guilty – you probably should not entertain any plea deal or offer. If you are innocent, your defense lawyer will fight aggressively for a not guilty verdict – and for justice on your behalf.

You should understand, however, that a plea arrangement often makes good sense. Trials and jurors are unpredictable. Even the finest criminal attorney cannot guarantee or promise a specific outcome in any particular case.

Moreover, if you refuse a plea agreement and your case goes to trial, a conviction could result in a more severe sentence. It’s a possibility that must be considered.

WHO HAS THE FINAL SAY?

Inevitably, rejecting or accepting a plea deal is up to a defendant alone.

However, if you become a criminal defendant in the Los Angeles area, you will very much need the insights, advice, and aggressive representation that an experienced criminal defense attorney will provide.

Make the call to an attorney at once if you are charged with a crime. That is your right.

Can You Be Deported For A Criminal Conviction?

Posted on: July 19, 2018 by in Criminal Defense
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Aggravated felonies, crimes of “moral turpitude,” and a number of other crimes can make an immigrant – even a green card holder – deportable (or “removable”) from the United States.

Precisely who is deported, and for exactly what reasons? Deportations are increasing, so a DUI defense lawyer in Los Angeles is your best bet. If you are an immigrant, you will very much need to know what your rights are if you are accused of a crime.

WHAT IS THE LEADING REASON FOR DEPORTATION?

The legal grounds for deporting persons who are not U.S. citizens are set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

The most common reason why someone may be placed into removal proceedings is because that person has been convicted of a crime.

Specifically, immigrants are at risk of being deported if they are convicted of either what is called a “crime of moral turpitude” or an “aggravated felony.”

However, the immigration authorities may define moral turpitude and aggravated felonies somewhat differently than California’s criminal law defines these terms.

Therefore, if you are an immigrant with or without documentation and you are charged with any crime in southern California, you must obtain – immediately – the advice, insights, and representation of a criminal defense attorney.

WHAT IS A CRIME OF MORAL TURPITUDE?

Crimes of moral turpitude are not very precisely defined in U.S. immigration law. However, the Department of State has explained that a crime of moral turpitude typically includes “fraud, larceny, and intent to harm persons or things.”

A crime of dishonesty or theft will almost always constitute a crime of moral turpitude. Assault with the intent to rob, injure, or kill, domestic violence or abuse, and aggravated driving under the influence are always considered crimes of moral turpitude.

Drug crimes and gun crimes will probably be scrutinized by immigration authorities to determine if some element of moral turpitude was involved.

Most – but not all – drug crimes are considered crimes of moral turpitude.

WHAT CONSTITUTES AN “AGGRAVATED” FELONY?

A crime makes a convicted immigrant offender deportable under the Immigration and Nationality Act if it is an aggravated felony that can be punished on conviction with at least five years in prison.

But here’s where the law gets tricky. For the purposes of federal immigration law, a “conviction” includes more than guilty verdicts, guilty pleas, and no contest pleas. Immigrants need to know what immigration authorities mean when they use the term “conviction.”

WHAT IS CONSIDERED A CONVICTION BY IMMIGRATION AUTHORITIES?

Immigration authorities may consider convictions that were vacated through pretrial diversion programs and even convictions that have been expunged. That’s why it’s critical to avoid any criminal conviction – whether you are undocumented, carrying a visa, or holding a green card.

You also must not accept any plea bargain that would be considered a conviction for a deportable crime.

And that’s another reason why, if you are an immigrant, and you are charged with any felony or misdemeanor in southern California, you must be represented by a qualified defense lawyer who is familiar with immigration law and who routinely represents immigrant clients.

HOW ARE DRUG CRIMES HANDLED?

Immigration authorities offer little leniency when it comes to drug crimes.

Even attempting to commit a drug crime or conspiring to commit a drug crime – anything more than a single, prior conviction for possessing thirty grams or less of marijuana for personal use – makes an immigrant potentially deportable, even if that immigrant is not personally a drug user.

An immigrant must also avoid a conviction for driving under the influence – DUI.

If you are prosecuted for DUI, and if the charge includes any aggravating factors – reckless driving, property damage or injuries, or a minor’s involvement – those factors will be taken into account by immigration officials.

Even if you are convicted on a misdemeanor, first-offense DUI charge with no aggravating factors, any subsequent DUI charge will probably bring you to the attention of the immigration authorities and make you deportable.

COULD YOU BE INADMISSIBLE IF YOU LEAVE THE U.S.?

If immigration authorities do not remove you after a criminal conviction, leaving the U.S. temporarily after a conviction could trigger genuine legal trouble.

The rules for admissibility and the rules for deportation are different, so if an immigrant leaves the country after a criminal conviction, that immigrant may be inadmissible when he or she tries to return to the U.S.

Deportation and inadmissibility are not the only potential consequences of a criminal conviction for an immigrant. If you are a lawful permanent resident seeking U.S. citizenship, even a misdemeanor conviction can put the naturalization process on hold – in some cases, for years.

For all of the reasons mentioned above, you really must have a defense attorney’s help to avoid a conviction if you are charged with any crime while you are an immigrant in the United States. It’s your right.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH A CRIME?

Being charged with a crime, of course, does not automatically mean that you will be convicted.

To convict you, a prosecutor must prove that you are guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, but a good defense lawyer can fight aggressively to have the charge against you dropped.

If the charge cannot be dismissed, your attorney can take your case to trial and ask a jury to return a not guilty verdict.

HOW CAN A DEFENSE LAWYER HELP YOU?

If you are arrested and charged with any felony or misdemeanor in southern California, you’ll need to take your case immediately to an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.

Your attorney will protect your rights, examine the evidence and facts in your case, interrogate witnesses on your behalf, and fight aggressively for the justice you need and deserve.

Every case that comes to the attention of immigration authorities is carefully and individually examined, but it’s better if you don’t come to their attention at all. If you are facing criminal prosecution in southern California, you’ll need a good defense lawyer’s help.

Good criminal defense attorneys routinely help their clients avoid criminal convictions. Legal help is your right in the United States. Do not wait to get the help you need.

The Effect Of Gang Enhancement Laws On Your Criminal Case

Posted on: May 18, 2018 by in Criminal Defense
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It’s not just in the movies. Street gangs really are responsible for a large number of the drug crimes, drive-byes, home invasions, and armed robberies that are committed here in the Los Angeles area.

California’s Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act – known as the “STEP Act” – “enhances” the criminal sentences of street gang members, but innocent persons have sometimes been misidentified as gang members under the STEP Act. Here is how a drug crimes law firm in Los Angeles can help:

WHAT IS THE EXTENT OF GANG ACTIVITY IN THE LOS ANGELES AREA?

Hundreds of criminal street gangs have been established over the last century in and around Los Angeles.

Gangs have operated in the Los Angeles area since the 1920s, but since about 1980, the number of southern California gangs and gang members has climbed quickly and sharply.

California lawmakers responded by passing the STEP Act in 1988.

Proposition 21, approved by California voters in 2000, additionally increased the penalties for crimes committed by young persons, and Prop 21 also made it easier to transfer many youth offenders into the state’s adult criminal justice system.

Today, in the combined seven-county region that includes San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Riverside, Orange, San Luis Obispo, and Los Angeles counties, more than 175,000 individuals constitute over 1,300 criminal gangs, if the FBI’s most recent figures are correct.

HOW DOES LAW ENFORCEMENT DEAL WITH GANG ACTIVITY?

Although these street gangs offer young men friendship, status, and self-esteem, it is no surprise to anyone in the Los Angeles area that the overall effect of the street gangs is negative and destructive.

But when law enforcement officials use clothing, symbols, tattoos, race, and age to identify gang members, they’re casting a wide net that can and does catch a lot of innocent people.

Fundamentally, it’s a law enforcement strategy that does not address the root of the street gang problem.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PROBLEMS WITH CALIFORNIA’S STEP ACT?

In fact, most gang members are in most ways very typical young men, and most of their crimes involve fights over respect, girls, and “territory.”

Every parent in the Los Angeles area needs to know about the STEP Act. The sentencing enhancements are particularly troubling in cases that involve juveniles because a juvenile court’s mission in this state is supposed to be rehabilitation.

Nevertheless, some California prosecutors have misused the STEP Act to detain youths without cause, to commit young people to the state’s youth correctional system, and to support the transfers of juvenile cases to adult courts.

However, most California law enforcement authorities now believe that gang activity must be approached with multiple strategies, and they believe the entire community – the police, courts, schools, healthcare professionals, and media – must cooperate for those strategies to be effective.

Critics charge that instead of protecting at-risk youth, California’s STEP Act is exceedingly punitive. They believe that our state urgently needs to reform its approach to gang crime and gang prosecution.

EXACTLY WHAT DOES THE LAW PROVIDE?

Two provisions constitute the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. The sentencing enhancement section is only one of the provisions:

1. The STEP Act outlaws any active gang participation. Defendants face as much as three years in prison if convicted of membership or participation in a gang.

2. The STEP Act mandates a sentencing enhancement – additional mandatory time in prison – for a defendant convicted of a felony committed for the benefit of a gang. The additional time is added onto the basic penalty for the original, “underlying” crime.

The STEP Act’s sentencing enhancement provision means a minimum of two additional years in state prison – and more, in many cases – for anyone who is convicted of a gang-related crime.

For the most violent felonies, the enhancement can be twenty-five or more years in a California state prison.

HOW ARE GANGS AND GANG MEMBERS DEFINED IN CALIFORNIA LAW?

To convict a defendant of a STEP Act violation – that is, to demonstrate that a defendant assisted, promoted, or furthered a street gang’s felony activity – a California prosecutor first must show that the suspect either aided and abetted or in fact committed a felony.

California law says a gang is “any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons … whose members individually or collectively engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity.”

The law says that a gang member is a person who “participates in any gang … and who willfully promotes, furthers, or assists in any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang.”

The exact penalties for STEP Act convictions hinge on factors that include the offender’s criminal history and the particulars of the “underlying” crime.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ARE CHARGED UNDER THE STEP ACT?

The Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act is a complex statute, so anyone charged under the STEP Act must be represented by an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.

If you’re accused of being a gang member, or if you are accused of a gang crime under the STEP Act, immediately obtain the legal help that you need.

Be cooperative and polite as you are being arrested and booked, but don’t answer any questions except to explain – respectfully – that you are choosing to exercise your right to remain silent.

Then, contact a defense lawyer as quickly as possible.

HOW CAN A DEFENSE LAWYER HELP?

Many in the Los Angeles area who’ve never been a member of a gang – and many who happened to vaguely know a gang member – have been wrongfully charged with “gang” crimes under the STEP Act.

In the Los Angeles area, if you’re charged with a gang-related crime under the STEP Act, you must be defended by an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the STEP Act and who has substantial experience defending those accused of gang crimes.

If you’re not guilty, if you are guilty of a minor crime that wasn’t gang-related, or even if you’re guilty as charged, a good defense lawyer can help you, but it’s up to you to make the call.

If you are arrested and if you face any type of gang-related charge, your future and your freedom may be on the line. Get the legal help you need – immediately. It’s your right.

Is California’s Bail System Unfair?

Posted on: March 19, 2018 by in Criminal Defense
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If you’re charged with a crime in California, and you don’t want to languish in jail while you’re awaiting trial, in many cases, you’ll be required to pay for a cash bond.

But you’re about to learn why cash bonds are increasingly under criticism and soon may be eliminated.

Primarily, it’s because in the United States, you’re supposed to be presumed innocent until and unless you are proven guilty – beyond a reasonable doubt – of a crime.

For a number of years, activists have been working and lobbying to abolish cash bonds, and the movement is picking up support in southern California and across the nation.

WHAT IS THE CONSTITUTIONAL ARGUMENT AGAINST CASH BONDS?

Cash bonds, claim the activists, violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the poor often cannot afford a cash bond – and linger in jail awaiting trial – while more affluent suspects can purchase their release.

The poor, say the activists, are forced to stay in jail not because they’ve been convicted of any crime, but simply because they are poor.

Many are now saying that the current cash bond system in California violates the Constitution and that it needs to come to an end.

WHAT ARE JUDICIAL AUTHORITIES SAYING ABOUT CASH BONDS?

For example, the Chief Justice of California’s Supreme Court has now suggested that cash bonds should be eliminated completely and replaced by an expanded network and system of pretrial programs and services.

And in October 2017, the Judicial Council of California, an advisory and policymaking panel that makes recommendations to the California courts, called the state’s bail system “unfair” and “unsafe.”

Judicial Council members criticized the current state bail system for its narrow focus on a suspect’s available cash.

The bail system, said Judicial Council members, instead should focus on a suspect’s flight risk and on any danger that releasing a defendant might pose to public safety.

New York City and the state of New Jersey have already made substantial reforms to their bail systems, and a number of states are also currently considering changes.

WHAT ARE CALIFORNIA LAWMAKERS PROPOSING?

In Sacramento, State Senator Bob Hertzberg and State Assemblyman Rob Bonta are co-sponsoring a proposal that would dramatically reform this state’s bail system.

And in a related development, the California First District Court of Appeal determined in January that only the most dangerous defendants should have to pay a high bail amount.

That ruling was handed down as the court ordered a second bail hearing for a man who has been held in jail for eight months.

Kenneth Humphrey had been held for robbery since May of last year. He could not afford $350,000 for bail or $35,000 for a bail service.

A new hearing was ordered, according to the three judges, because “A defendant may not be imprisoned solely due to poverty.”

A high bail amount in Humphrey’s case violated the Constitution’s “due process protections,” the Court of Appeal concluded.

WHAT HAS THE JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF CALIFORNIA RECOMMENDED?

The Judicial Council of California advocates eliminating the state’s current bail bond system and replacing it with:

1. detailed pretrial assessment of the safety and flight risk of each defendant
2. pretrial services that are more comprehensive and expanded than what is now offered
3. preventive detention, but only for the riskiest defendants

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye supports the Judicial Council’s recommendations. The state imposes some of the highest bail amounts in the nation, and it also has one of the nation’s highest failure to appear rates.

Nearly six out of ten people in the state’s county jails are there awaiting trial because they can’t afford to pay for bail. That’s according to the director of the American Civil Liberties Union of California, Natasha Minsker.

“The bail system in California is not working,” Ms. Minsker told National Public Radio.

WHO FAVORS RETAINING THE CURRENT SYSTEM?

Not everyone, however, agrees that cash bail should be abolished.

A number of California prosecutors and judges – and the bail industry, as you might imagine – say that the current system works well and needs only minor tweaks rather than comprehensive reform.

Jeff Clayton, the executive director of the American Bail Coalition, agrees that non-violent defendants should not await trial in jail simply because they’re poor, but he says that abolishing the current system is extreme.

The American Bail Coalition takes the position that local jurisdictions “need the option of bail,” Clayton says.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO REFORM THE SYSTEM?

Backers of the current bail system insist that substantial reforms in our state would cost millions of dollars and require an amendment to the state constitution.

Whether or not that is the case, some kind of reforms to the bail system are inevitable. Cash bail might not be abolished, but its use is already starting to decline.

Bail system reform, of course, does not mean that law enforcement will be relaxed.

If you’re charged with a criminal offense in Los Angeles County, seek the advice and representation of an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney – at once.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED WHEN BAIL IS SET?

When a judge in California sets a defendant’s bail, what factors are taken into account?

1. the details of the alleged crime and the charge
2. the suspect’s criminal history
3. the general public’s safety
4. the defendant’s flight risk

If you’re arrested and charged with any crime in California, your freedom and future may be in jeopardy, but your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney are absolute.

HOW CAN A DEFENSE LAWYER HELP?

If you are charged with a crime, you must exercise those rights. An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can seek to have your bail amount reduced or to have you released on your own recognizance.

Bail may be paid in California with cash, with a surety bond, or with a property bond. If you return for your court appearance, the amount is returned to you.

If you fail to appear, you forfeit any bail money, and a bench warrant will probably be issued for your immediate arrest.

A good defense lawyer will aggressively protect your legal rights, fight diligently for justice on your behalf, and bring your case to its best possible conclusion.

If you’re charged with a crime, you must get the legal help you need. It’s your future, your freedom, and your right.

How Is Possession Determined In California

Posted on: December 16, 2017 by in Criminal Defense
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If you are charged with illegally possessing drugs, firearms, or anything else that it may be illegal for you to possess in California, how will the state prove that you, in fact, were “in possession” of the illegal item or items?

If you’re innocent – or even if you aren’t – how can you defend yourself against a “possession” charge in California? Can a Los Angeles drug crimes lawyer help?

Keep reading, because the law regarding possession is complicated, and anyone could conceivably be wrongly accused.

To convict a suspect of possessing illegal drugs or weapons in California, a prosecutor must prove that the suspect had what the law calls actual, constructive, or joint possession of the illegal item or items.

While “actual” possession may not be difficult for the state to prove, “constructive” or “joint” possession is more complicated and more difficult to prove.

HOW ARE THESE DIFFERENT KINDS OF POSSESSION DEFINED?

How does the law in California define these terms? Actual possession is when the police find an illegal item or items on a suspect’s “person” – in someone’s pocket, purse, backpack, or socks and shoes, for example. Actual possession is usually when the police catch someone “red-handed.”

If the police conducted the search legally, testimony by the officer who found the illegal item or items will usually be conclusive and lead to a conviction. But actual possession can also be shown with circumstantial evidence.

Thus, if a suspect flushes, swallows, or throws an item away, a prosecutor still may be able to prove that the suspect “actually” possessed it.

WHAT IS “CONSTRUCTIVE” POSSESSION?

California law presumes that you are in “constructive” possession of illegal drugs or weapons if the item or items are found not on your person but in your home, vehicle, your desk or locker at your place of work, or a storage space that you’ve rented.

To find that a person has constructive possession of an illegal item, that person must have “dominion and control” over the area where the item is discovered.

Someone’s guilt for constructive possession can be inferred. For example, if the police find illegal drugs in someone’s medicine cabinet or refrigerator, it can be “inferred” that the suspect had dominion and control over the medicine cabinet or refrigerator, and thus over the drugs.

So to win a conviction for a constructive possession charge, for example, it is not necessary for a prosecutor to prove when and where the illegal drugs were obtained by the suspect.

Still, constructive possession can be tough to prove in many circumstances because a prosecutor must prove first that the suspect had dominion and control over the location where the contraband was found, and secondly, the prosecutor must prove that the suspect knew or “should have known” that the item or items were illegal.

Simply being near illegal drugs or weapons is proof of constructive possession. A prosecutor must provide more conclusive evidence.

HOW CAN A PROSECUTOR PROVE CONSTRUCTIVE POSSESSION?

If a suspect lives alone or is alone in a vehicle where contraband is discovered, being alone is usually enough to prove constructive or actual possession of the illegal item or items. But if a suspect is not alone in a residence or a vehicle, a prosecutor must offer more to prove constructive possession.

For example, in a home with multiple residents, finding contraband in a suspect’s bedroom might prove constructive possession, whereas contraband found in a spot where all residents have access – a refrigerator or laundry room, for example – is probably not enough to convict a suspect for constructive possession.

However, if you hide contraband in a public place – let’s say that you bury a bag of cocaine or heroin under a park bench across from your home, and a prosecutor can prove it – California’s criminal courts will presume that you are still in constructive possession of the illegal item or items.

The details will be different in every case involving the possession illegal drugs or firearms, so if you face any kind of illegal possession charge in southern California, you’ll need personalized advice from an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney regarding how the law will apply to your own case.

WHAT IS “JOINT” POSSESSION?

When two or more individuals share either actual or constructive possession of an illegal item, they have “joint” possession. For instance, if illegal items are found in a married couple’s bedroom or kitchen, a prosecutor will assume – unless there’s evidence indicating otherwise – that both partners constructively possessed the illegal weapons or drugs.

If you are charged in Southern California with the illegal possession of drugs, firearms, or any other contraband, speak at once with a skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who can explain your rights and legal options.

To convict you, the state must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, there are a number of good legal defenses that a good California defense lawyer might offer on your behalf, such as:

– The item in question was not yours.
– The item in question was not illegal.
– You were legally entitled to possess the item.
– You did not know that the item was there.
– You did not have “dominion and control” of the area where the item was found.
– Police officers conducted an illegal search to discover the item.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH ILLEGAL DRUG POSSESSION?

If you are charged with possessing a small amount of an illegal drug for your own personal use, you’ll probably have several options, and you may qualify for the Los Angeles County Drug Court Program (or a similar program in an adjacent jurisdiction).

Your attorney can spell out your options and explain how the drug court programs work.

However, when a defendant is charged with possessing a large quantity of illegal drugs, the defendant may face the more severe charge of “possession with intent to distribute.”

If it’s a dangerous drug like heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, a charge of possession with intent to distribute can mean severe criminal penalties upon conviction.

If you are accused of illegally possessing drugs, firearms, or any other illegal item in Southern California, immediately contact a qualified criminal defense lawyer.

A drug or weapons conviction can potentially send you to jail or prison in this state. Good defense representation is your right, and it’s imperative if you are charged with possessing illegal weapons or drugs in California.

Criminal Restitution In California

Posted on: October 19, 2017 by in Criminal Defense
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Los Angeles criminal defense attorney

Restitution – along with jail time, fines, and probation – is routinely ordered by California judges after someone is convicted of a crime.

Whether you are charged with a crime in this state, or if you become the victim of a crime – especially a crime like burglary, robbery, fraud, or theft – you need to know precisely what restitution is and how it works in California.

For starters, “restitution” is not “compensation.” Compensation is also a payment for losses, and you might receive compensation after an accident – something like a dog bite or a car crash – but restitution is different.

It’s a criminal penalty, part of a convicted offender’s sentence. The person paying restitution is giving up whatever he or she gained by committing the crime.

WHO QUALIFIES TO RECEIVE RESTITUTION?

Those who may qualify to receive restitution in California include individuals who are crime victims, their family members, and a business, a government agency, or even a nonprofit that has sustained losses due to a criminal act.

Losses can include destroyed, damaged, or stolen property, medical bills if the victim was injured, lost wages if the victim was unable to work due to the crime, and the legal costs of trying to collect restitution.

That describes “victim restitution,” and every state has some system of victim restitution. However, judges in California may also order convicted offenders to pay what’s called a restitution “fine” or “general restitution.”

General restitution payments go to the California Victims Compensation Fund. The amount an offender is ordered to pay depends on the type and severity of the crime he or she committed, and that amount may range from $100 to $10,000.

WHAT IS THE CALIFORNIA VICTIMS COMPENSATION FUND?

Everyone in California should know about our state’s Victims Compensation Fund. When a crime victim’s needs cannot be compensated by any other source, the program will help with needs that may include medical expenses, rehabilitation and therapy, relocation, or funeral costs.

While a judge determines the amount of a restitution “fine” that will be paid to the Victims Compensation Fund, victims themselves are entitled by law to recover victim compensation for the full amount of their losses.

Prosecutors do not have the authority to reduce that amount for plea bargaining purposes because the rights of the victim cannot and will not be compromised by the state or by the court.

In fact, some convicted offenders in California pay “restitution” for crimes they’re not even tried for or convicted of. How does that happen?

When a defendant agrees to a plea bargain and a charge tied to a victim’s loss is dismissed, the prosecutor will have the defendant sign a document called a “Harvey” Waiver.

A Harvey Waiver “waives” a defendant’s right to a trial and allows the court to order a victim restitution payment as a sentence for a dismissed charge.

A Harvey Waiver entitles a crime victim to restitution for any dismissed charge linked to the crime and the case.

HOW ARE RESTITUTION AMOUNTS DECIDED?

How is the amount of any particular restitution payment determined – and what if it can’t be determined? What if the victim has already been reimbursed by an insurance company or some other party such as the Victims Compensation Fund?

If you become a crime victim in southern California, you’ll need to know, and if you’re charged with a crime, you’ll need those answers, and you’ll need some legal help too.

What you’ll really need is to take your case to a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.

Crime victims in California may receive restitution, and payment may be imposed on the convicted offender, even when a crime victim is reimbursed separately through an insurance company.

If a convicted offender’s insurance company makes the payment, the defendant may then have that amount deducted from his or her remaining restitution obligation.

WHAT HAPPENS IF A RESTITUTION SUM CANNOT BE DETERMINED?

Sometimes, of course, a victim’s final medical expenses can’t be totaled until long after a sentence is handed down.

In such cases, at sentencing, a judge may order restitution as a condition of the offender’s probation – for a final amount that will be determined later at a restitution hearing.

The important question, of course, is “How is that amount determined?” In other words, what can crime victims in California realistically expect to receive? And what should convicted offenders in this state expect to pay?

The final victim compensation amount is usually decided at sentencing, or if cannot be accurately determined at that time, it’s decided at a later restitution hearing.

How those hearings work is explained next – and it’s important to know – but whether restitution is ordered at sentencing or at a later hearing, if a crime victim discovers even more losses after restitution has been ordered, the original order may be amended by the court.

WHAT HAPPENS AT A RESTITUTION HEARING?

How does a restitution hearing work? Not exactly like a trial, since the defendant has already been convicted.

Generally speaking, however, a victim still must prove that the offender’s criminal conduct – the crime – was substantially the cause of that victim’s losses.

Because a conviction is already in place, “a preponderance of the evidence” – rather than guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – is all that is required for the court to order a victim restitution payment.

But if a defendant contests the amount requested, the defendant has the burden of proving the amount is inaccurate or unjust.

If restitution is imposed, the judge will order a single “lump-sum” payment in some cases, but in most cases the judge will approve a plan that allows the convicted offender to make regular payments over a period of time.

Usually, victims prefer to have the payments sent to a local probation department which then forwards the payment. In these cases, a ten percent administrative fee may be added to the restitution total.

WHAT IF SOMEONE FAILS TO MAKE ORDERED RESTITUTION PAYMENTS?

If a convicted offender fails to make scheduled restitution payments, it is a violation of probation. Willfully failing to make restitution payments can land an offender in jail.

In southern California, if you are ordered to pay restitution, and you can’t because of financial hardship, you probably will not be sent to jail, but you should ask a qualified Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to help you have the restitution payment order amended.

What you’ve read here is a general outline of how restitution works in California, but every case is different, and the law provides for some exceptions and exemptions depending on the precise circumstances of each crime and each charge.

That’s why you must have an experienced California defense attorney’s help if you’re charged with a crime. Don’t try to represent yourself, and do not take any advice from anyone who is not a seasoned criminal defense lawyer.