Articles Posted in Three Strikes Law

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CBS Los Angeles is reporting that two men were recently jailed for Long Beach drug crimes, following an investigation by local police. drug-crime-in-long-beach.jpg

Law enforcement officers tracking heroin trafficking got intel that led them to Bell Gardens — specifically, to the 7500 block of Jaboneria Road. The tipoff ultimately led to them to confiscate nine firearms, 12 pounds of drugs, and nearly $120,000 in cash.

Police arrested a Bell Gardens resident, 21-year-old Oscar Salmoran, after they served a warrant. They also confiscated 2.5 pounds of crystal meth and 3.5 pounds of heroin. Salmoran was booked and held without bail at Long Beach City jail.

This Long Beach drug crime bust led police officers take on additional targets the next day. After filing search warrants, police found six more pounds of heroin and $46,000 in cash at the 5300 block of Aldama Street. They also arrested 56-year-old Domingo Payan, who was held on $100,000 bail and booked for possession of narcotics with the intent to sell. Long Beach police also visited two homes on Montecito Street (2700 block) and collected nine more guns and $72,000 in cash.

Whether these seizures – and the intel that investigators collected – will lead to further search warrants, arrests, and raids is unknown. However, this kind of police finesse is not uncommon.

Drug users, purchasers, sellers, and suppliers relate to one another in a complex network, not unlike a computer network or even a Facebook or Twitter network. Even if you never intended to get tangled up with other drug groups or criminal networks, social connections that bind you to other criminals (or alleged criminals) can get you into more trouble than you bargained for.

For instance, let’s say you did business with a drug supplier who, in his line of work, committed a violent crime, like robbery, assault, or homicide. Depending on your relationship with that person — and the nature of the wrongdoing — you could face criminal charges, even if you had no knowledge of the criminal acts and didn’t directly help.

The interconnectivity among Long Beach drug crime defendants also makes it easier for police officers and investigators to “piece together” what you’ve done and whom you’ve done it with. It also increases the odds that you’ll be stuck with a very severe sentence, related to drug conspiracy charges and violent crimes, even if you never intended to “get in that deep.”

What to do regarding your Los Angeles crime charges?

Former prosecutor turned Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, Michael Kraut, can help you understand what potential punishments you might face and what you can do to defend yourself against the worst charges. Mr. Kraut built a reputation as a very aggressive prosecutor – racking up a 99%-plus success rate at jury trials. He now serves as a legal expert for KTLA News, ABC News, and other respected media organizations.

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Nick Stahl, has been arrested for lewd conduct in Hollywood, according to news sources. Nick-Stahl-hollywood-lewd-conduct.jpg

The 33-year-old actor, who starred in Terminator 3 and in the HBO series Carnivàle, got booked on the misdemeanor after undercover police found him “watching a movie” in an adult movie shop on Hollywood Boulevard. Stahl made headlines last year, after he went missing from his estranged wife multiple times and went in and out of rehab.

According to LAist, the actor allegedly had been “touching himself” before getting booked for lewd conduct. He emerged from police custody a few hours after the incident and told a TMZ cameraman that the whole thing was a “misunderstanding.” Stahl was actually arrested by one of the same police officers who caught actor Fred Willard at the Tiki Theater in November. As we reported in a recent post on Willard’s arrest, the Los Angeles Police Department has assembled a special crack team designed to find and arrest men for lewd conduct in Hollywood.

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Nearly two decades ago, Sergio Ayala got convicted on charges of Los Angeles petty theft: he stole a leaf blower worth $150. Since the former heroin addict already had two criminal convictions “under his belt,” he found himself whalloped by California’s Three Strikes rule and landed a sentence of 25 years to life behind bars. Sergio-Ayala_3-strikes-law-petty-theft-los-angeles.JPG

17 years passed.

Then came the November elections, and Mr. Ayala’s fortunes changed, thanks to the passage of Proposition 36, which amended the 1994 Three Strikes law and paved the way for Mr. Ayala’s release. The tweaks to Prop 36 were designed to help non-violent offenders exit the California prison system and save the state millions of dollars in tax revenues. Champions of the bill suggested that the Three Strikes law had been long overdue for a reworking, especially as it pertained to practice of “throwing the book” at non-violent third offenders, like Los Angeles petty theft defendants. Critics, however, worry that the changes to the law could lead to increased crime rates and more recidivist behavior.

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Were you or a close family member or friend recently arrested and charged with Los Angeles healthcare fraud? If so, you are not alone. uncle-sam-DUI.jpg

According to recently released government statistics – thanks to the Obama administration’s efforts, federal healthcare fraud prosecutions spiked more than 85% in 2011 over 2010. The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) statistics show that the federal government has prosecuted over 900 people so far this year for healthcare fraud. In all of fiscal year 2010, only 731 people were prosecuted across the U.S. The TRAC data suggest that prosecutions have spiked more than 70% from just half a decade ago.

A spokesman for the Justice Department, Alisa Finelli, confirmed the TRAC data analysis: “the trend certainly looks accurate and on track with our data.” Over the past 12 months, the Justice Department has brought out the heavy ammunition to nail executives, nurses, doctors, and other caregivers (e.g. chiropractors, dentists, etc.) for defrauding programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Here are some fraud arrest highlights from 2011:

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The typical case of driving under the influence in Burbank (or elsewhere in the Southland) is pretty mundane. Perhaps a police officer sees a driver weaving in a left hand lane and pulls him over. Or maybe you get stopped at a checkpoint after leaving a bar after a Lakers game. SUV-crashes-into-house.jpg

Today, this blog is going to present three stories that don’t fall under the typical pattern of Burbank DUI, Glendale DUI, Pasadena DUI, and Los Angeles DUI stories. These DUI oddities from around the nation serve not only to amuse but also to warn. It’s important to understand how dangerous and foolish it can be to mix intoxicants and drugs with driving. In any event, without further ado, here are three DUI curiosities from last week.

1. Grandmother slapped with DUI charge after she drives with grandson in her lap.

This story comes from McCracken County in Kentucky: A 52-year old grandmother, Diane Driver (her real name), had been coasting around her hometown with her 3-year old grandson on her lap – that is, not in a car seat. The grandma hit a mailbox before eventually stopping in a driveway. An alert family member rescued the child and alerted the police.

2. North Dakota DUI driver slams into a house.

Early morning last Wednesday in Fargo, North Dakota, an SUV driver, 22-year old Kirk Dehler, slammed his 2009 Land Rover into a house while he was DUI. The owner had been preparing for bed. She reportedly heard the entire house “shudder” – the SUV crash resulted in $20,000 worth of damage to the home.

3. Police officer busted for DUI in Franklin County, Maryland.

A deputy officer – driving a police vehicle, no less – was spotted speeding through Pacific City Park. Another officer saw the suspect pull on into a driveway, confronted the deputy, and arrested him.

In all three stories, drivers exhibited warning signs. Symptoms of Burbank DUI can include: Aggressive or bizarre driving, odor of alcohol on the breath, failure to cooperate with police officers, belligerent behavior, lack of balance, red and bloodshot eyes, open containers of alcohol in the car, person’s admitting to having consumed alcohol recently, and lack of mental coordination (e.g. being unable to answer officer’s questions).

Just because you exhibit some or even many of these Burbank DUI symptoms doesn’t mean that you necessarily were under the influence, legally speaking. If you face charges, it’s wise to consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, such as Mr. Michael Kraut of Los Angeles Kraut Law Group (Burbank location at: 2600 West Olive Avenue, 5th Floor, Burbank, California 91505 Phone: (818) 563-9810). Attorney Kraut is a Harvard Law School educated lawyer who has a history of getting results (99% success rate at jury trials) and a profound understanding of how prosecutors think (he was a prosecutor himself for well over a decade).

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Los Angeles DUI statisticians often chart the rise and fall of fortunes of local movie stars, politicians, and actors. But this post will examine something a little less personal but potentially pretty intriguing; namely, what is the record number of Los Angeles DUI arrests for a single person?record-dui-arrest.jpg

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics put out in 2009, nearly 400,000 people in the U.S. have at least five DUI convictions on their records. Extrapolating from the numbers, it is safe to say that several thousand people have ten DUI arrests or more. One online search reports that an individual in Illinois got a whopping 22 DUI convictions!

An AP story from April 12th has reported that a 49-year old man named Thaylin Shawn Pierce of Billings, Montana recently pled guilty to his 11th DUI. This comes on the heels of an arrest made back in November 2008, when Pierce was pulled over near a casino with a BAC in excess of 0.09%. (Remember that California’s legal limit, according to California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (b) is 0.08%).

If you drive with this much alcohol in your system or more, you can be subjected to arrest and penalties ranging from points on your license to loss of your license to jail time to mandatory installation of interlock ignition device (IID) on your vehicle, which you will have to pay for and maintain.

If you are arrested four or more times for DUI in Beverly Hills, for instance, within a span of 10 years of less, you can be subject to intense punishments. These include a minimum of 180 days in jail – that’s if the charge is only a misdemeanor – if it’s a felony, you can have significantly more jail time – up to three years. You’ll also see your California license suspended for three years, and you won’t be eligible for a restricted license for either work or school for four whole years. In addition, you will have to attend DUI alcohol school for 18 months and you will likely face huge court costs and fines along with strict terms of probation.

If you are arrested for driving under the influence in Beverly Hills in conjunction with a hit-and-run injury accident or any accident that results in injury to another person, your charges can be higher still. The state does not look fondly upon recidivist (repeat) Southern California DUI offenders.

If you or a family member has been tagged for multiple Beverly Hills DUI arrests, what should you do?

In addition to seeking treatment ASAP for alcohol related problems, it may behoove you to connect with an attorney who you can explain your rights and responsibilities under the law.

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Nearly every week, news reports announce yet another Burbank DUI arrest. The story lines range widely. Sometimes, it’s a B-List celebrity stopped for speeding on the 101 and found to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15%. Other times, it’s a case of an 18-year-old actor who drives after drinking at a house party and winds up totaling his car on Lankershim Blvd. The details and names change. But the story remains the same. burbank-dui.jpg

So what’s behind this epidemic?

Scientifically, it may be impossible to say. But we can offer some informed speculation about what might be driving (so to speak) at least some of the Burbank DUI epidemic.

1. Rapidly changing traffic patterns

During the daytime, freeways like the 5, the 101, and the 405 get totally clogged. If you are on these freeways at the wrong time, you may be stuck literally for hours. However, after the traffic “thaws” and the sun goes down, cars suddenly can go at a much more rapid clip. This huge difference in driver behavior (between trafficky times and non-trafficky times) can create confusion and make roads in the Valley more difficult to navigate than roads elsewhere in L.A.

2. It’s easy to get lost.

Okay, the Valley is not exactly Boston: its traffic grid is at least somewhat intelligible. And if you make a wrong turn, you won’t have to drive three miles before getting back on track. But signage can confuse easily. Many areas (particularly along Ventura Boulevard) “look like one another.” As a result, you have probably a higher than average contingent of drivers who don’t know where they are going or who may be searching for directions while driving.

3. Increase in cell phone use in automobiles.

Think back ten years ago. A few people in Burbank had cell phones and pagers and such. But today, cell phones are nearly ubiquitous. Despite California laws forbidding drivers to use mobile devices unless they use hands free headsets, the practical reality is that lots of drivers still talk on their phones by holding them up to their ears. This makes them more distracted and more likely to get into accidents. Thanks to the increased distractibility of drivers, the probability of Burbank DUI crashes goes way up.

4. Burbank is home to a lot of “out of the way” nightspots and clubs.

When you look at party areas of the city of Los Angeles — such as the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood and Mainstreet in Santa Monica — these places can be dangerous, sure, but they are at least concentrated in a relatively small location. In the Valley, things are different. Places to drink in Burbank are more spread out. As a result, drivers who hop from club to club or from party to party may be more likely to get into their cars, thus increasing the likelihood that they will get into a Burbank DUI accident or be subject to arrest for DUI in Southern California.

Two California Vehicle Code Sections define what it means to be DUI in Southern California — sections 23152(a) and 23152(b). 23152(a) lays out the definition and potential punishments for California DUI. 23152(b) stipulates that if you drive a car, truck, or motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or above, you can be arrested for DUI.

So, with that lecture on the law and discussion of potential causes of DUI in Pasadena and Burbank and elsewhere in the Valley behind us, let’s turn our attention to legal defenses:

What should you do if you or a family member has been arrested for DUI?

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Would the public and people suspected of driving under the influence in Burbank, Long Beach, and elsewhere in Southern California be better served if police use more accurate methods to test for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels?breathalyzer-dui-los-angeles.jpg

The Breathalyzer device has been a law enforcement staple for decades. Most people — including most police officers and drivers — assume that Breathalyzer tests used at DUI checkpoints are pretty accurate.

We take it on faith that these tests work at least well enough to determine guilt or innocence for driving under the influence in Southern California. However, unrefuted analyses show that Breathalyzer readings can be riddled with errors. Let’s examine some of the most common sources of error:

1. Calibration problems
Silicone oxide sensors can be contaminated and influenced by chemicals other than ethyl alcohol (the “active ingredient” in most cocktails and drinks). Both the so-called wet bath method and the dry gas method of calibration have flaws. A failure to recalibrate — or interference with recalibration — can lead tests to be widely off the mark.

2. Certain chemical compounds can interfere with readings
Diabetics, most famously, can have acetone levels in their blood that can throw off BAC readings (and thus yield a false positive). A scientific study out of Europe recently found that certain asthma medications can also lead to false positives. Environmental compounds, such as MTBE — an additive in gasoline — can also interfere with breathalyzer mechanisms and lead to false positives… as can paint remover, other kinds of alcohols, lacquers, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

3. Variations among people
Variations in human physiology abound, and these can play a not insignificant role. One person’s breath may be “more alcoholic seeming” than another person’s breath — even though the two subjects may have identical BACs. In other words, someone well above California’s legal limit of 0.08% could test below the legal limit because he has what’s known as a high partition ratio. Conversely, a driver who has a low partition ratio (e.g. 1400:1) could have a de-facto BAC level of 0.06% and still test above the legal limit for Long Beach DUI.

4. Officer bias and other issues
Police officers are people too, and they can make mistakes — both in terms of recording BAC levels and in terms of conveying relevant information up the chain of command.

Also, variations between men and women, variations due to temperature, and variations due to cell volume of the blood of suspects (known as hematocrit) can also lead to skewed results and false positives.

So what should you do if you or a loved one has been slapped with a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence in Long Beach, and you believe that the Breathalyzer test gave a false positive? Even if the facts are on your side, you still likely need a competent and trial-proven lawyer to help you plead your case.

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The problem of driving under the influence in West Hollywood is a perennial one. On weekend nights and certain holidays (especially Halloween), the surface streets in West Hollywood become extremely hazardous to both pedestrians and drivers. Here, we provide some tips for how to (hopefully) drive safer and smarter in and around the City of West Hollywood. dui-in-west-hollywood.jpg

1. Limit your driving on party nights.

As long time residents know, the City of West Hollywood comes alive on weekend nights — particularly along the stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard from Doheny east to La Cenega. The Sunset Strip (to the north) is also the site of many arrests for DUI in Hollywood.

Hard partying drivers pose risks not only to other cars on the roads but also to pedestrians. According to authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (SuperFreakonomics), walking while under the influence of alcohol may be even MORE dangerous than driving under the influence, per mile traveled. So pedestrians and drivers alike should be particularly cautious in the “party zones” — especially during weekends and holidays.

2. DUI drivers who get distracted while looking for parking spots can be doubly dangerous.

Parking restrictions abound in West Hollywood. Trying to finagle a parking space, especially near the clubs and restaurants along Robertson, Santa Monica Boulevard, and La Cienega Blvd, can be perilous even if you’re driving sober and in the middle of the day. The constant cat and mouse game that is the quest to find parking in West Hollywood can result in drivers becoming extremely distracted. When you combine this with alcohol in any form, the dangers skyrocket.

3. Certain intersections have a reputation for being unwieldy.

The intersections of Santa Monica Boulevard with north-south streets like Fairfax, La Cienega, and Doheny, for instance, can get crowded and competitive during rush hour. So be extra mindful at these big intersections. Watch for drivers cutting across traffic or breaking other rules.

4. DUI in West Hollywood dangers can actually increase when fewer cars are on the roads.

During the day, when most of Los Angeles is stuck in a perpetual traffic gridlock, cars obviously have to drive slower, and thus the potential dangers of injuries from certain collisions decrease. When the traffic frees up — during the evening hours and sometimes in the weekends — cars naturally speed up. While this makes getting around West Hollywood a little easier, it also poses problems. DUI in Hollywood collisions are more likely to lead to injuries and death, for instance. This hazard can be compounded on the weekends because certain neighborhoods will clog up with traffic (people going into and out of popular clubs and restaurants), and thus there’s a lot of stop and go action on the roads, which can make things even scarier — particularly when you add DUI in West Hollywood drivers to the mix.

The laws governing DUI in West Hollywood are the same as the laws that govern DUI elsewhere in the state. Two sections of the law are particularly relevant — California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) and California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b). These sections outline precisely what constitutes the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and sets forth the (many) punishments that can be handed out to violators. Two related laws, California Vehicle Code Section 23153(a) and California Vehicle Code Section 23153(b), outline the crime of Southern California DUI with injury and stipulate the punishments for that crime.

To build a stiff defense against any of these charges, it helps to retain a lawyer who has a deep working understanding of Southern California judicial system from both the prosecutorial and defense side.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) monitors trends regarding fatal Southern California DUI incidences. A close look at the recent stats points to many positive developments and some concerns. Let’s consider the stats over the past 30 years to wee how the dangers of DUI in Southern California have evolved. (We believe that it’s crucial to regularly step back from analyzing DUI headlines and inspecting the latest CA DUI laws to get perspective on the size and scope of the issues drivers face.)roadside_los_angeles_dui_fatality.jpg

In the early 1980s, driving in Southern California was extremely dangerous — much much more so than it is today. In 1982, for instance, over 60% of CA’s traffic fatalities were alcohol-related. There were 4,615 total roadside fatalities, 2,799 of which were alcohol-related; and 2,484 of the alcohol-related fatalities involved drivers who tested over the state’s legal limit of 0.08%.

Due to a variety of factors, including increased awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence in Los Angeles, stronger enforcement of DUI and seatbelt laws, and better car safety engineering, alcohol-related fatality rates plunged over the next several years, even as the total number of California roadside fatalities increased. The high watermark hit in 1987, when 5,504 died on California’s roads — 2,961 of whom did so in alcohol-related crashes.

Over the next eleven years (1987-1998), both the total number of fatal accidents and the number of alcohol-related fatalities declined, bottoming out in 1998 at 3,494 (total) and 1,367 (alcohol-related). This decline could be almost entirely accounted for by the decline in alcohol-related fatalities.

Unfortunately, over the next seven or eight years, the downward trend reversed itself for both total and alcohol-related fatalities. By 2005, the numbers rose to 4,329 (total) and 1,719 (DUI related). Since the 2005 high water mark, however, the numbers have reversed yet again. In 2008, there were only 3,434 total fatalities on the road, of which only 1,198 were alcohol related.

Of course, analyzing statistics like these can lead to misguided conclusions. It is very difficult to tease out cause from correlation. Even when you have good statistical data, and you can identify strong correlations between two variables, to prove cause requires a much higher logical burden of proof.

Not all DUI related fatalities are charged as felonies. Some accidents can result in charges of DUI vehicular manslaughter. Other accidents can lead to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter. Still others — so-called Watson Murders — can be DUI murders.

To respond effectively to any of these charges, you likely need a trial-proven lawyer to help you.

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