A woman was driving her vehicle in Maui with her twin sister sitting in the passenger seat. Witnesses said they observed the two sisters arguing in the car while the car was stopped and that the sister in the passenger seat was seen pulling the driver’s hair. Another witness described the driver as being in a rage before the vehicle took off for a sharp left into a rock wall and then plunging 200 feet over a cliff. The passenger died. The driver was charged with the second-degree murder of her sister.

The prosecutor alleged that the driver intentionally caused the death of her sister. In Hawaii second-degree murder can be charged if a person intentionally or knowingly causes the death of another person. At first glance, you might ask: How could the driver know that the accident would kill her sister, and perhaps more to point, kill her sister but not her? Maybe the driver intended it to be a murder/suicide. And you might also wonder how the prosecution could prove that the driver intended to kill her sister. That witnesses saw the two in a heated argument in the vehicle plus evidence that when the driver went off the cliff, she did not hit her brakes, was not enough for the judge. At the preliminary hearing the judge dismissed the murder charge after finding that there was no probable cause to support the charge. The judge determined that the prosecution lacked sufficient evidence to support the allegation that the driver intentionally caused her sister’s death.


You could be charged for a crime your animal “commits.” Okay, animals can’t commit crimes but this is serious stuff. If your dog attacks a person or worse yet, kills someone, you can be facing some very serious criminal charges.

But it needn’t be your dog or even an aggressive act by an animal you own. One Vermont man is being charged with negligent involuntary manslaughter when his roaming bull was hit by a vehicle, killing the driver and the bull. The bull’s owner faces a sentence of up to 15 years in prison if he is convicted. The significant fact is the bull owner’s negligence. It is alleged that he did not properly contain the animal and this wasn’t the first time the bull had been seen wandering off the property; the bull’s owner had been cited five times for allowing his animals to wander off the pasture. In fact, it was reported that minutes before the fatal accident, another driver had warned the bull’s owner that the bull was in the road.


Many people think of crimes as acts of violence that causes harm to others, but there is probably just as much harm done by white-collar criminals—and sometimes these criminals are even wearing a white coat. Consider the scheme involving numerous doctors, hospital administrators (including a hospital CEO and CFO), chiropractors, and other healthcare professionals at Long Beach Pacific Hospital.

So far, at least nine healthcare workers and administrators have pleaded guilty to charges related to this healthcare scheme that ran into the hundreds of millions of dollars wherein doctors and other health professionals were paid illegal kickbacks to refer patients to Pacific Hospital in Long Beach. Even ex- state Senator Ron Calderon is implicated by the former CEO of Pacific Hospital, Michael Drobot Sr., an Orange County resident, who told authorities that he paid bribes to the senator while he was still in office to support legislation that would have directly affected the scheme.

Police Chase Suspect Into Backyard Hot Tub

A 29-year-old Anaheim man was arrested after Placentia police chased him into an Anaheim neighborhood and then discovered him hiding in a hot tub in the backyard of a residence.

The incident began around 5:00 a.m. when police attempted to pull over an individual in a Mustang. However, the driver ignored the officers’ instructions to pull over. At some point, a passenger in the Mustang jumped out and was detained by the officers, as the Mustang continued driving southbound on Kramer Boulevard and onto the westbound 91 freeway.


There is a scene in the Showtime series “Billions” where one of the characters is arrested by the F.B.I. for financial fraud. As he is read his Miranda rights and led away in handcuffs, he repeats only one word: “Lawyer, Lawyer, Lawyer,” Now I don’t say this just because I am a criminal defense attorney, but this scene got it right. When you are arrested, the cops must immediately “read you your rights,” which is to say, you must be informed that you have the right to remain silent, that anything you say may be used against you in a court of law, and that you have the right to an attorney. Let me emphasize something: anything you say will in all probability be used against you in a court of law even if the police later suggest during an interrogation that it won’t. All too often after an arrest the cops will use well-honed tactics to get an arrestee to talk. Your best advice is to follow the character’s action in Billions, request an attorney and say nothing else.

Under the law, once an arrestee invokes the right to remain silent and requests an attorney, the police are supposed to cease their questioning. Any response or statement made by the arrestee to further police questioning is evidence that is violation of the law and can be suppressed (i.e., not admitted in evidence). But in reality, what often happens is the police will manage to strike up a conversation with the arrestee and the arrestee will take the bait and engage in conversation with the police. Even if an arrestee says something like “I ain’t talkin’” and indeed remains silent, but then later responds—even in a limited way— to police questioning, it may be considered a waiver of the right to remain silent. In short, an arrestee must affirmatively and clearly state that he or she wishes to remain silent and moreover, do just that: Remain silent (with the exception of requesting an attorney).


You’ve seen it in the movies and on TV shows: The police approach a person on the street or tell them to get out of a vehicle after a traffic stop and command the person to submit to a frisk. In my previous post, I discussed the lawfulness of police detentions so you might wonder what factors must be present for an officer to lawfully conduct what is commonly called a “Stop and Frisk.”

In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court held that it is not an unlawful search and seizure when an officer stops an individual in the public arena and frisks that individual if the officer has reasonable suspicion that the individual is committing a crime, has committed a crime, or is about to commit a crime and furthermore, has a reasonable belief that the individual might be armed and therefore dangerous. Officers and legal authorities often refer to this as a “Terry Stop,” referencing the Supreme Court decision, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, in which this decision was pronounced. The decision is premised on officer safety, that is, if the officer has reasonable suspicion of the criminal activity, the officer can lightly frisk the detained individual for a weapon. Because the officer has reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the individual is considered “detained” (but not arrested) and is not free to walk away without the officers consent.


If a police officer stops you in a public place and begins asking you questions, what rights do you have?

(Note that this post does not apply to a DUI stop. For information on your rights if you are stopped for a suspected DUI, see my DUI blog. )


In last week’s post, I discussed the high prison population in the United States relative to other countries. According to all available statistics, the U.S. leads the world in the incarceration of its population per capita. This statistic paints the picture: Almost 25% of the world’s prisoners are in the United States, yet the United States has only 4.5% of the world’s population.

The high incarceration rates are often blamed on the number of people the U.S. locked up for relatively minor drug possession offenses, the so-called “War on Drugs,” but that doesn’t stack up. As I discussed in last week’s post, the incarceration statistics don’t entirely support that theory. It is quite likely that there is more than one overriding reason the United States locks up so much of its population.

According to the London-based International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS), which is an arm of the University of London Law School Institute for Criminal Policy Research, the United State ranks 2nd in the world for the number of prisoners locked up per capita. Based on the latest statistics (2014), only the tiny Seychelles outranks the U.S. for the number of people locked up per capita and that is almost certainly a statistical quirk since the Seychelles has a population of less than 100,000, which is the benchmark per capita rate. So for all intents and purposes, the United States has more prisoners per capita (693 per 100,000 in population) than any country in the world. That’s way behind countries like Russia (445/100,000), Saudi Arabia (161/100,000), and China (118/100,000). Some may argue that those countries’ statistics are not transparent, but the ICPS maintains that it gathers the data monthly from reputable sources. Whether the data is entirely accurate or not, the United States clearly locks up more of its population than other country in the world.

So, what gives? Does the United States just produce more criminals? Is this due to the War on Drug? Is Law Enforcement more effective in the United States? Do federal and state laws impose harsher sentences than other countries? Is the criminal justice system broken in the United States?

These questions have been researched in depth and not surprisingly, different researchers come up with different answers. Many blame it on the so-called “War on Drugs” and indeed, the federal government released new guidelines in 2015 aimed at scaling back federal incarceration rates, which is expected to see the early release of 17,000 prisoners who were convicted on nonviolent drug offenses. But that is just a drop in the bucket. Between local jails, state and federal prisons, the United States incarcerates approximately 2.3 million people (according the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2014). While there might be something to the theory that the War on Drugs has contributed to the prison population, a deeper look at the numbers suggest that the War on Drugs is not entirely the answer. The War on Drugs really took off during the Regan years of the early 1980’s. Shortly thereafter, prison populations soared, but demographics might have had more of a role in that increase than the War on Drugs.


Imagine you are a 26 years old sailor docked at port. A murder and brutal rape is committed in the city where your ship is docked. The rape victim cannot identify her assailant but she does describe him as wearing a sailor’s uniform bearing the same insignia as your company. DNA samples are collected from the rape victim and a bite mark on her leg is photographed. The police investigation focuses on your ship and dental records are collected of all the sailors whose uniform carries the insignia identified by the victim. Your dental records apparently lead the police to suspect you and you are required to provide a dental impression. A forensic odontologist then identifies your teeth as the same teeth that left the bit mark on the victim’s leg. Despite your protestations of innocence, you are tired and convicted of the crime purely on the expert testimony that the bite mark was yours. You receive a life sentence.

During the ensuing years, you challenge the verdict in the appellate courts, staunchly maintaining your innocence. And indeed you are innocent of the crime!