A new phone app called “Yik Yak” has become extremely popular among teens over the last several months. The app was originally created and meant for college-age students as a virtual campus bulletin board. It is a location-based app, which allows people to interact, “anonymously” with those around them. Although meant for college-age students and adults, younger kids, in middle school and high school can download the app fairly easily. This has become a new, increasingly serious problem as the app has been used for cyber-bullying and threats. Creators of the app say whenever a threat is posted to the site, it immediately begins working with law enforcement agencies in the area to track down the suspect.

 

The attraction for teens to this app is that it is “anonymous” and therefore, teens feel safe in posting whatever they want without the fear of being found out, or caught. But, in this situation, it is not truly anonymous. Anything you post on line can be traced and, according to the police agencies, the police can find out who you are, will find out who you are and will arrest you.

 

A recent bomb scare at San Clemente High School, in Orange County California, was a result of a Yik Yak posted threat. It forced the school to shut down and required the bomb squad and bomb-sniffing dogs to be deployed to the school. The school was later safely cleared but police are still actively pursuing the person who made the threat. If police are able to trace the threat to the responsible person, that person will face felony criminal and/or terrorist threats.

 

There have been other similar threats. Recently at 19-year-old student at Indiana State was arrested for posting a shooting threat on Yik Yak. And in Long Island, a 15 year old who posted a threat on Yik Yak, threatening to blow up the school and shoot fellow students, was arrested and charged with felony terrorist threats.

 

As we know, young people make bad decisions. What may have started out as a joke to see what would happen has turned into a very serious situation, resulting in arrests and possible convictions of serious felonies. These young individuals will need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense lawyer, who has experience in handling these types of charges, as well as handling cases involving teens and young adults, is key to providing the best legal representation possible. Understanding how the mind of a teen and/or young adult works will aid in their defense. An aggressive lawyer will work hard at helping the prosecution, probation and Judge, understand the full picture of the individual and not just focus on the “crime”.

 

Being arrested and charged with a crime is serious for anyone, but it feels especially serious when it is a minor or young adult. Because teens and young adults are still naive and immature, they do things without thinking and end up making mistakes that can and may, follow them around for the rest of their lives. A good criminal defense lawyer should be focused on mitigating the consequences so that a momentary lapse in judgment does not damage the possibility of a bright future.

 

In California, current law prohibits both public and private employers from asking an applicant to disclose any information concerning an arrest or detention that did not result in a conviction. Further, as of July 1, 2014, all state and local agencies are prohibited from asking applicants to disclose information regarding criminal convictions, with some exceptions, until it has been determined that the applicant meets the minimum employment qualifications for the position.
Exceptions include: Peace Officers, Court Employees, Prosecuting Attorneys, Public Defenders, Health Officers, Child Support EE’s, Child Care Providers, IHSS Workers, Park, Playground, Rec Center EE’s and Residential Care Facility EE’s.
Recognizing that the barriers to employment for people who have criminal convictions increases unemployment and increases the risk of individuals reoffending, the Legislature has found that reducing the barriers will decrease unemployment and improve economic stability in communities.
There are approximately 10 states and 50 municipalities that have reformed their hiring process, by eliminating criminal history questions from job applications. Madison City Wisconsin will soon join the movement, in an effort to give people with a criminal background a chance at a new start. The goal is to help those who have been unreasonably embroiled in the system or whose history prevents them from attaining gainful employment. Once it is revealed that someone has a criminal conviction, they are pretty much taken out of the running and are not considered for the job they are applying for. This prevents many from being able to start over, build a new life and support their families.
The position of those who are in favor of this resolution is that, if an arrest record is not relevant to the job, then the applicant should not be forced to reveal the information. More specifically, the goal is to eliminate criminal history questions and delay any background check until a job offer is made. The resolution would not prevent prospective employers from obtaining conviction records; it would only delay the disclosure until well into the hiring process. This gives applicants a better chance of being evaluated based on their qualifications for the job.
However, even with this movement toward helping those with criminal convictions, a criminal conviction can still prevent an individual from getting a job that will allow them to support themselves, as well as a family. It is for this reason that anyone who has been arrested should seek the advice and assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Preventing a conviction after an arrest should always be the first goal of any criminal defense attorney but, in situations where a conviction is inevitable, minimizing the seriousness of the conviction such as a reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor, should be the next goal. This will not only help with prospective future employment, it reduces the fines, fees and length of probation. An aggressive, experienced attorney, familiar with the courts in which a charge is pending, can make all the difference.
Petitions for Factual Innocence and expungement of criminal conviction are still effective tools in helping to clean up your criminal record.

A grove of marijuana plants was found a few weeks ago by Orange County Parks Personnel, which they believe had been growing for quite some time. The grove was discovered very close to a “really nice residential area”, which is unusual, especially a grove this large.

According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, approximately 2,500 to 4,000 plants were discovered in the Canyon area of the Laguna Wilderness Park and may be worth around $5 million. The plants are reported to be in various stages of growth and it seems clear that the grove has been there, unnoticed by residences and OC Parks Personnel, for a while. Although the plants were discovered outside of city limits, residence are shocked that anyone or any group, would be so brazen as to cultivate such a large grove of marijuana in such a visible area. They are equally as shocked that it went unnoticed long enough to grow so large.

On August 15, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department began a marijuana cultivation eradication operation, which will consist of narcotics investigators hiking into the area, which is apparently very rugged, in order to pull up the plants manually. The Sheriff’s Department has also enlisted the help of an airship to lift the plants and carry them to a area nearby where they will be processed as evidence.

The Sheriff’s Department news release indicated that they do not have any suspect information but are obviously investigating all evidence and asking for the public’s help with any information on the individual or individuals involved.

The laws are very strict when it comes to cultivation, transportation and use of marijuana for medical purposes. There are strict guidelines as to how many plants you can have, even if you have a license to grow marijuana. Due to the large number of plants in this situation, it does not appear that this marijuana grove was planted, legally, for medical purposes and therefore, the individuals involved, if caught, will face very serious felony charges.

For more information, see our related marijuana sales post:

Possession for Sale of Marijuana Laws in California

St. Paul, Minn has a new bill that may someday make it’s way to California. It is called the criminal records expungement bill. The bill will allow those convicted of misdemeanors and some low-level felonies, to get their criminal records sealed.

The idea behind the new law is designed to help people go forward with their lives and help with potential jobs and housing. There are many companies who have policies against hiring people with a criminal record, even if that record is 20 years old. The mistakes people make when they are young follow them around for the rest of their lives and in many cases, prevent them from getting good jobs.

During the signing ceremony, a woman spoke of how two misdemeanor convictions, when she was 18 and 20, have derailed her getting hired with good companies. Even though she has changed her life and worked her way through college, her criminal background continues to hold her back. She earned a marketing degree but lost out on good jobs once a background check was done.

It is not benefiting society as a whole to hold people back who have worked hard to better their lives, only to be turned down due to past mistakes. While it is understandable that the are certain convictions that will and should prevent people from holding certain jobs, minor misdemeanor convictions should be expunged and/or sealed to allow those who have bettered their lives, a second chance.

St. Paul, Minn. is paving the way for other states to begin to consider doing the same. The way it would work is as follows:

Those looking to seal their records would have to first complete probation and then to go through a waiting period of two to five years, depending on the time of crime. But it’s not automatic.

After the waiting period ends a person may petition the court for expungement. The judge will also have an opportunity to hear from victims and prosecutors before ruling on whether to seal the criminal records in question.

Law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and judges will still have access to the sealed records. Companies that specialize in culling criminal records and selling them to employers for background checks would be required to removed sealed records from their databases.

There is much more to the bill but the just of it is to help people move forward past their mistakes and become good citizens within their communities. This new law does appear to have strict guidelines to protect the individual, the public and businesses, but it is definitely good news for those who will qualify and who will take advantage of the new bill. Those who have convictions that are 10, 15, 20 and even 30 years old are still being held back from reaching their full potential even though they have paid for their mistakes. This bill will help those who have been denied access to good jobs, good housing and even acceptance to graduate schools due to their past convictions.

The crime of kidnapping is defined as the use of force or fear to take a person and move him or her, a substantial distance. If convicted of kidnapping, the penalty can be up to 8 years in State Prison, or more if:

1) The victim was injured or abused;
2) If the victim was a child or;
3) if the kidnapping was done to facilitate another crime.

There are certain elements to the crime of kidnapping. They are:

(1) The kidnapper took, held, or detained another person by means of force or by instilling reasonable fear;
(2) Using that force or fear, the kidnapper moved the other person or made the other person move a substantial distance; and
(3) The other person did not consent to the movement.

Kidnapping is considered a serious Felony and is a “Strike Crime” under California’s “Three Strikes Law”. However, there are defenses to kidnapping. For example, a person is not guilty of kidnapping if he/she reasonably and actually believed that the other person consented to the movement. The prosecution has the burden to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant did not believe that the other person consented to the movement.

Consent as a defense to kidnapping is discussed in more detail below. If the other person consented to go with the defendant, the defendant is not guilty of kidnapping. Consent is defined as:

(1) The person freely and voluntarily agreed to go with or be moved by the defendant;
(2) The person was aware of the movement, and
(3) The person had sufficient maturity and understanding to choose to go with the defendant.

Again, the prosecution has the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that consent was not given. (It is important to note that consent may be withdrawn. If at first the person consented to go with the defendant but later changed their mind, the defendant is guilty of kidnapping if after the other person withdrew consent, the defendant committed the crime outlined above.)

Other defenses may include:

1) The alleged movement was insufficient to be considered a kidnapping. As indicated above, the victim has to have been moved from one place to another but what constitutes “movement”. The movement has to have been substantial. It cannot be just a slight distance. However, there are several factors that will determine whether the movement was enough to constitute kidnapping. The actual distance moved is one factor. Also, did the movement increase the risk of harm to the victim and, was the movement enough to, or with the intent to, prevent the “kidnapper” from being caught.

2) You may have been present but, did not participate in the kidnapping; and
3) Mistake in identity.

Two graduates of an exclusive Pennsylvania prep school were charged with operating an extensive drug ring that dealt cocaine and marijuana to students at high schools and colleges in an affluent part of Philadelphia, authorities said on Tuesday.’
These two young men reportedly led the effort to create a “monopoly” on drug sales in the area and used high school students to deal drugs at their local schools. They are being accused of using the schools to create drug addicts and using their privileged connections to move the drugs through the suburban neighborhoods.

It is being reported that the young men referred to the drug network as the “main line take over project” which employed students from five of the local high schools and three colleges, to distribute cocaine, marijuana, hash oil and ecstasy. It is also being reported that the two young men, the leaders of the operation, expected the “sub-dealers” to meet quotas at the schools they were assigned to sell to.

Investigators reportedly discovered text messages and other communications in which the young men discussed the business. Other evidence such as guns, large sums of cash and drugs were also discovered when the two were finally arrested.

Drug trafficking or possessions of narcotics for sale is a very serious felony under any circumstance. But, what makes this particular situation potentially more serious is the sophistication with which the two men ran the operation. Further, they employed high school kids in affluent areas to help grow their business.

The fact that these men probably have no prior history or criminal record will help them but, the seriousness of the crime and how it was carried out, make it a complicated defense and will require at attorney with extensive criminal defense experience, specifically in defending drug charges.

The defense team in this situation will need to dig into the personal lives of these two and try to determine at which point their lives shifted from being students and lacrosse players at a college prep high school, to drug dealers. Looking for “triggers” that may have started this may help in their defense. Also, painting a picture to the district attorney and judge of who these men were prior to this will also play an important role in their defense. Forcing the prosecution to get to know the person(s) other than the individuals now being charged with drug sales. When a case comes to the District Attorney, they see the “criminal” and what they have done or are being accused of doing. They know nothing else about this person so it is important for the defense attorney to help the prosecution get to know the other person and not just the “criminal”. Helping the court to realize that these individuals are people who will benefit from drug programs and counseling rather than jail or prison. That allowing them to enter drug/counseling treatment will not only benefit these individuals, but it will benefit the taxpayers and the general public also. When you have a situation like this, where the family may be able to provide the resources to help them, rather than taxpayers footing the bill for jail or prison, it is a win-win situation for all.

In very simple terms, a Ramey Warrant is an arrest warrant that is obtained by a police agency by going directly to a judge and bypassing the district attorney.

Typically, in order for a police agency to get a warrant, they must submit a report to the District Attorney and, if the District Attorney feels there is enough evidence to file the case, the police agency can request that the case be filed and at the same time, an arrest warrant issued. This is referred to as a “Walk-through Warrant.” However, with a Ramey Warrant, the officer may skip the district attorney and go directly to a judge. The police agency must submit a declaration, along with a report, to the judge setting out their reasons for requesting that the judge issue the warrant. If the Judge believes that there is probable cause, and sufficient evidence that this person has committed a crime, then the judge will issue the warrant. These types of warrants are often requested and processed after regular business hours.

So why would a police agency choose to get a Ramey Warrant instead of just the traditional arrest warrant? Well for one reason, it is faster. The police agency may not want to wait for the District Attorney’s Office to review the paperwork, which they have submitted. So, they bypass this and go straight to the source. However, most commonly, this is done when a police officer feels that he may not have enough evidence for the district attorney to actually file the charges. He doesn’t want to take the chance that the district attorney will reject the case. So, if he can get a judge to issue a Ramey Warrant, he can then arrest the person and question them with the hope of obtaining enough information and sufficient evidence to present it to the District Attorney for filing. Basically, the officer’s hope is that, once they have the individual in their possession, they will get what they need to make their case and end up with the sufficient evidence needed to get the case filed.

These types of warrants are of course legal but are fairly rare. One situation that may cause an officer to choose to go with a Ramey Warrant might be that they have previously tried to file cases against an individual but the district attorney keeps rejecting it for lack of sufficient evidence. The strategy then becomes to arrest the person, and obtain as much sufficient evidence as possible through questioning, lineups, and other investigatory techniques. However, if the individual refuses to talk, and provides them with nothing, then the officer must either file the case as is, or release the individual.

For someone who has been arrested via a Ramey Warrant, having this knowledge may make the difference in a case being filed and the agency being forced to release the individual, provided the arresting agency was unsuccessful in obtaining the information they needed.

If you would like to know more about arrest warrants, or any other criminal legal matter, feel free to contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William Weinberg at 949-474-8008 or at www.williamweinberg.com.

Why Should I Seal My Juvenile Record?

Although you may have successfully completed your probation, having a juvenile record can have a negative effect on your life going forward. It may become an issue when you are trying to get a job or get into a college. Having your record sealed can help you get a fresh start without the fear of your past coming back to haunt you.
What Is A Juvenile Record?

Your juvenile record encompasses all documents, orders and reports in your juvenile court file. This also includes any documents that relates to your case in the possession of the Department of Justice, the Probation Department and law enforcement.

What Does It Mean to Seal Your Records?

Once your records have been sealed, all documents/records in the possession of the Court, the Probation Department, The District Attorney, the Police and Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Justice will be closed and sealed. The court proceedings will be treated as though they never took place. All of these agencies must answer: “We have no record of that matter” if they are asked about a sealed record. You may also legally say that you have never been arrested, charged or convicted, for the matter that has been sealed. What many people are surprised to learn is that a juvenile conviction or adjudication, is not a criminal conviction. So, even if you have not sealed your record, you can answer no if asked if you were ever convicted of a crime. This however can be tricky because, if the record is not sealed, and they some how are able to see it, they may view this as you being untruthful.

It is important to note that employers that conduct background checks may be able to access juvenile records that contain felony adjudications.

Who Can Get Their Records Sealed?

Anyone can seal his or her record if:

1) You are at least 18 years old and have completed probation, or you are younger than 18 but at least five years have passed since your last arrest or discharge from probation.
2) You have not been convicted of a felony or of any misdemeanor involving a crime of “moral turpitude” since your last arrest or discharge from probation.

Note: A conviction is an adult criminal designation, so this means that you cannot have any felony convictions or misdemeanor convictions involving moral turpitude in criminal (adult) court. If you do, you may not be able to seal your juvenile record.

3) You can show the court that you have been “rehabilitated.”
4) Your case started and ended in juvenile court.
5) You do not have an open civil suit regarding the actions that caused your juvenile record.

What Is A Crime Involving Moral Turpitude?

Moral turpitude crimes are crimes that reflect dishonesty or a deep lack of concern about what society views as right or wrong. This involves things such as fraud, theft, sex and drug-related offenses, and offenses involving great bodily injury are considered to involve moral turpitude.

As earlier stated, sealing your record is not automatic once your juvenile case ends. You must petition the court to have your records sealed.

If you would like to know more about sealing your juvenile record, feel free to contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William Weinberg at 949-474-8008 or at www.williamweinberg.com.

There are some who believe that as the weather warms up, there is an increase in criminal behavior. This however may be due to the increase in the number of interactions that people have with one another during the warmer months. Warmer weather can bring together potential wrongdoers, victims, and belongings all in the same place.

Southern California, with its beaches and warm weather, is a very popular vacation destination. Even for those who live in Southern California, the beaches become a popular place for people to hang out and party during the summer months. Orange County California is especially known for this due to the beautiful beaches and Orange County attractions.

Orange County law enforcement agencies are very well aware of this and employ officers specifically to watch the beach communities, making sure that things don’t get too out of control. They will be busy writing tickets and making arrests for disturbing the peace, drunk in public and disorderly conduct throughout the summer.

In 2011, a new law was approved that made loud or unruly gatherings a crime, which can result in fines up to $3,000.00. This will apply to property owners where such behavior is taking place.

Many law enforcement agencies plan for summer months by adding more law enforcement presence to help with the increase of people and activity along the beaches. In some areas, the agencies have all-terrain vehicles, which patrol the beaches.

There are some experts who believe that there is an increase in violent crimes when the temperature is very hot. They believe that there is an increase in street violence, muggings, assaults and battery. Although they believe that it’s not just the temperature that influences the increase in crime, it is the combination of temperature and people getting out of their homes and interacting with one another.

Summer break from school and college is another possible reason for the increase in violent crime. Some experts believe that juveniles are move likely to commit crime, in general, and thus, when they are not in school, they get into trouble. It has further been shown that homicides in Los Angeles are the highest during the summer months of July and August but are almost as high during December and January.

Whatever the reason, law enforcement does provide extra resources in these high crime areas as well as efforts to shorten response time to calls for service.

Theft is another crime that seems to be more prevalent during the summer months. People begin to bring out and leave out valuables such as bicycles, lawn furniture, etc. This creates, and even invites more opportunities for criminals to commit theft.

Whether it’s the heat, the vacation mind-set or the interaction between people that influences the spike in crime, be aware that law enforcement are out there, watching and waiting. So, if the Southern California beach partying scene results in an arrest, be sure to contact an attorney who is experienced in criminal defense to ensure the best possible outcome.

As a criminal defense attorney practicing in Orange County, California for more than 20 years, I have represented many individuals charged with battery, as well as battery on a peace officer. The legal definition of battery is: “Any willful and unlawful use of force of violence upon the person of another.” We often hear the term “battery” in conjunction with the term “assault”. However, they have different meanings.

In California, “Assault” is defined as an intentional attempt to physically injure another or a menacing or threatening act or statement that causes the other person to believe they are about to be attacked. So notice that I said “intentional attempt”. You do not have to have had actual physical contact with another person to be charged with assault. Just the threat of physical harm can get you arrested if that person believes that you are serious. A failed attempt to hit, kick or strike someone is also considered an assault because you had intent to hit but missed. Unlike “Assault”, “Battery” requires some form of physical contact. A conviction for battery could result in a fine of $2,000.00 or jail time up to six months, or both.

When we talk about battery on a police officer, the charge becomes much more serious. Police Officers fall within a protected class, which, including peace officers includes custodial officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, lifeguards, security officers, and others who fall within this “protected class”. If convicted of battery on a peace officer, the penalties can include State prison for up to three years.

Battery on a Peace Officer is a wobbler meaning it can be filed as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The circumstances surrounding the battery will determine how the case is filed. When a battery is committed against a peace officer who is engaged in the performance of his or her duty, the fine can be up to $10,000.00, county jail up to one year, or up to three years in State prison.

Battery on a police officer is something that gets charged a lot in California. Unfortunately, what may have started out as a simple stop or even a simple arrest escalates and turns into an additional charge of battery on a peace officer. Here is an example of how a simple stop, or attempted questioning by a peace officer could escalate into a battery charge: Let’s say a young man is walking down the street and a police officer pulls up along side and asks him to stop because he wants to ask him some questions. The young man, knowing he has marijuana in his pocket, runs in an attempt to get away. He is chased by the officers, tackled to the ground and handcuffed. During the tackle, the young man resists and it turns into a scuffle. If during that scuffle, the police officer is hit, kicked, spit on, or in any way physically touched by the young man, it then becomes battery on a police officer. So while the young man initially had no intention of hitting the peace officer or in any way harming him, the police officer may say that he resisted and in doing so, in an attempt to get away, committed battery upon him.

Other common situations where battery on a peace officer often occurs is where there are big crowds of people like concerts and sporting events. These are situations where people are often arrested and charged by mistake. When police go into a crowd to break up fighting and enforce crowd control, police officers often get spit on, hit, kicked, pushed, etc. Often times officers will arrest those closest to them assuming they are the individual(s) who committed the battery on them. This is common in that at these types of venues, people are typically of the same age range and dressed similarly and so mistaken identity is very common. Mistaken identity is a typical, and very good defense in these types of situations.

Another good defense is that the battery was an accident. In the same scenario as above, when officers go into a crowd, if someone is grabbed by a police officer from behind, the individual has no idea who is grabbing them and throws their arms up or back in an attempt to get the person off. If the officer is hit, the individual could be charged with battery on a peace officer. The defense is of course that it was an accident and there was no intent to hit the officer.

While I believe that there are good, honest police officers, unfortunately there are those officers that are not trustworthy and who will lie or exaggerate circumstances in order to make their case. Because I know this to be true, there are situations where I may make a motion to the court to order the police department to turn over a copy of that particular police officer’s personnel records. These records can reveal information that the officer has had several complaints of excessive force or lying and/or exaggerating the truth. When a police officer gets up on the witness stand, in his uniform, and gives a statement about what happened, it is human nature to believe the officer. So if I believe that a particular officer is lying or exaggeration the truth, getting a copy of his personnel file becomes very important.

In situations where the evidence is clear and none of the above-discussed defenses are going to help, it is very important that the Court and District Attorney get to know the person behind the battery charge. Helping the Court and District Attorney get to know the good, important things about that person can help when it comes to negotiating a plea deal.

Anyone who has been arrested for Assault on a Peace Officer should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. There are defenses and a good attorney will look very closely at the evidence to get the best possible outcome.