Appeals Court Throws Out Probation Condition

In the criminal case of California vs. Forrest the Appeals a Court found that a condition that the defendant stay away from weapons was unreasonable. Here are the case details:

Forrest was convicted of multiple offenses arising from an attack on her sister-in-law. On appeal, Forrest challenged three probation conditions—two prohibited the possession of weapons or any instrument used as a weapon, the third prohibited Forrest from being in the presence of weapons—as being unconstitutionally vague and/or overbroad.

Held: Affirmed as to two conditions; third condition modified. One condition prohibited Forrest from possessing weapons, including replicas. She argued that the word “replica” and inclusion of “any instrument used as a weapon” rendered the condition vague. The appellate court disagreed, concluding that the condition gives fair notice of what is prohibited and that reasonable persons would understand the condition when read in context. Further, the condition prohibiting possession of a weapon is not overbroad because it fails to contain an exception for transitory possession of a weapon for self-defense. When a probationer has been convicted of a violent crime, imposition of a strict probation condition prohibiting possession of weapons is essential to public safety and it is reasonable to exclude a reference to self-defense to ensure that Forrest does not believe she is permitted to own or possess a weapon in anticipation of the possible need for self-defense. The third condition, prohibiting Forrest from being in the presence of weapons, should be modified to restrict her presence at locations where weapons are illegally present, given the widespread presence of arm security guards in buildings and other locals. As currently worded, the term impinges on her freedom of association, and her access to courts. Further, it is not narrowly tailored to safeguard these fundamental rights while restricting her conduct in a way that is designed to protect public safety. Thanks CCAP.

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Staying Out Of All Kohls Stores As Condition Of Probation Is Ok Says Appeals Court

In this criminal case the appeals court said it was alright to exclude a probationer from going to Kohls after being convicted of theft. Contreras pled no contest to felony second degree commercial burglary for stealing seven pairs of jeans from Sears and to felony possession of drugs. At the time of the offenses, he was on misdemeanor probation for two prior burglaries, one for burglarizing a Kohl’s. The court suspended imposition of sentence and granted three years of formal probation with various conditions. One condition required that he stay out of all Kohl’s stores and of all Sears stores. On appeal, Contreras raised a number of issues, including that the Kohl’s probation condition was vague, overbroad, and unreasonable under People v. Lent (1975) 15 Cal.3d 481, 486. Held: Affirmed on this point. The Kohl’s condition is not unreasonable under the Lent test. Even though Contreras’ current conviction was for stealing from Sears, he has victimized both Sears and Kohl’s in the past (this was his fourth commercial burglary) and therefore the condition is related to the crime for which he was convicted. Additionally, the condition is reasonably related to his future criminality, as his crimes are intimately related to the retail function of the stores and the condition will prevent him from further victimizing these businesses. Contreras also argued that the Kohl’s condition was overbroad because it burdened his right to travel, but the court reasoned that the condition was narrowly tailored to protect Kohl’s from further theft. His argument that the condition is unconstitutionally vague because it does not contain a knowledge requirement lacked merit: “Given the signage on modern retail establishments, we fail to see how one could unknowingly enter a Kohl’s store.” CCAP.

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Torrance Attorneys Welcome George Bird As Judge

Long time Torrance criminal defense attorney George Bird is the newest member of the Los Angeles County Superior Court as he began his assignment in downtown Metro Court, Division 60. The assignment is considered one of the toughest for any bench officer due to its high case load of criminal matters, primarily DUI and driving on suspended license. Judge Bird has already received accolades from members of the defense bar for his level of professionalism, fairness and congeniality on the bench.

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Entrapment Is A Defense In California

“I was entrapped by the police”. This is often heard when the police engage in sting operations to catch a criminal. But when is police conduct entrapment versus good police work? In California, entrapment occurs if the following three circumstances existed: (1) an officer communicated with the defendant before he committed the crime with which he was charged, (2) the officer’s communication included an inducement to commit the crime, and (3) the inducement was such that it would have motivated a “normally law-abiding per- son” to commit it.

What about sting operations? Most people agree that it is distasteful for officers to entice people to break laws that the officers are sworn to enforce. As the California Supreme Court observed, it’s the job of officers “to investigate, not instigate, crime.” This has also been asserted by the U.S. Supreme Court which said, “The function of law enforcement is the preven- tion of crime and the apprehension of criminals. Manifestly, that function does not include the manufacturing of crime.”

But not all sting operation rise to the level of entrapment. In the words of the California Supreme Court: It is impermissible for the police or their agents to pressure the suspect by overbearing conduct such as badgering, cajoling, importuning, or other affirmative acts likely to induce a normally law-abiding person to commit the crime. When the police go too far, the conduct may be shown to be entrapment.

If proven, Entrapment constitutes a complete defense to a crime. This means that if a jury finds that the defendant was entrapped, he goes free. It doesn’t matter that the crime was a major felony, or that the evidence against him was over- whelming, or even that his guilt was not disputed. If he was entrapped, he is entitled to an acquittal.

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Police Dog Sniff Held Unconstitutional

Many searches occur every year in an effort to control illicit drugs. In this case the Court found the police went too far.
An officer pulled Rodriguez over for swerving his car onto the shoulder of the road then back into the lane. The officer ran a records check of Rodriguez and his passenger. After issuing Rodriguez a written warning, the officer asked if he would consent to a dog sniff of his car. Rodriquez refused. The officer ordered him out of the car and waited seven to eight minutes for another officer to arrive before conducting the dog sniff. The dog alerted and officers found a large bag of methamphetamine. Rodriquez was charged with intent to distribute. He moved to suppress the drug evidence on the basis that the officer had prolonged the traffic stop without reasonable suspicion in order to conduct the dog sniff. The district court denied the motion. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari. Held: Vacated and remanded. The tolerable duration of a traffic stop is the amount of time necessary to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop and attend to related safety concerns. Although a driver’s license check, a warrant check, and an inspection of the automobile’s proof of insurance and registration are related to traffic safety concerns, a dog sniff “is a measure aimed at detecting evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.” It is not an ordinary part of a traffic stop. Additionally, dog sniffs that occur within a short time following completion of a traffic stop are not “de minimis” intrusions that may be justified by the government’s interest in detecting drug trafficking. An officer may only prolong a traffic stop to conduct unrelated checks, like a dog sniff, if there is reasonable suspicion to justify detaining the individual. The Court remanded so that the Eighth Circuit could consider whether the officer had reasonable suspicion to detain Rodriguez beyond the completion of the traffic infraction investigation.

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How To Write A Character Reference Letter

A character reference letter can sometimes make the difference between a favorable and unfavorable resolution in a criminal case. You see, Prosecutors like to have documentary evidence justifying a reduction or dismissal in case the District Attorney reviews the file of they are called out on the case at a future date. The letters, if well written can also assist the lawyer in humanizing the client and making a DA feel good about offering a great deal or dropping the charges completely.

So, how to you go about writing a character reference letter and what information is important to include in the body of the document. The following is a sample of what the letter should contain:

Honorable Judge of the Superior Court
Or, “To Whom It May Concern”
(in cases where you do not want the writer to know about the nature of the case)

​Re:​(The client’s Name)

Your Honor or To Whom it May Concern:

​(Give a brief statement concerning yourself; for example, your occupation, experience, training, education, or other facts that may have some impact on your opinion as it relates to (the person for whom you are writing the letter).

​(Tell us how long you have known (the person in question) and under what circumstances; for example, friend, relative, neighbor, fellow worker, etc.)

​(Tell us your opinion as to what kind of a person he/ she is. Give specific examples of actions or conduct that show (the person in question’s) good character, responsibility, motivation, community service, church activities, military service, concern for others, or any other conduct that may be relevant.). It is important to focus in on specific character traits that may relate to the case.  For example, in a theft case the writer may want to provide detail about how honest or trustworthy a person has been.  In a domestic violence case the writer should provide detail and examples of how peaceful and non-violent the person is.  In a DUI case the writer may include information about how the person is generally responsible when drinking and always uses a designated diver when he or she had too much to drink.

​(State whether you feel (the person in question) is a law-abiding productive person and whether this alleged act was a result of unusual circumstances and out of character for him/her.) (optional)

​(State the likely effect of jail or imprisonment on (the person in question) and his/her family.) (this is optional)

​(State any adverse consequences a criminal conviction may have on (the person in question’s employment, family, friends, and acquaintances.) (this is optional)

Sign the letter​​​​​​​ here
​​​​​​​(Your Name Printed)
Your Address and phone number

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The Importance Of Background Information In a Criminal Case

A criminal prosecution is typically based solely on police reports and any background checks the District Attorney may conduct. What is often left out is the “human story” behind a particular case. Police do a great job of writing about the bad in a given investigation and fail to present any personal information about the accused which may tend to “humanize” the case and be favorable to the outcome of the matter.

To be effective representing our client’s interests, we would like to know as much about our client as possible. To that end, we request our clients prepare a “social history”. We need to know where they were born, went to school, their occupational background and any ramifications a conviction will cause to their current or prospective job, something about their family, religious affiliations, any military service, charitable organizations they belong to, any awards or commendations they may have obtained, prior criminal history and anything else they can tell us about themselves that will enable us to know them better. My firm would also need to know if they have any prior or current medical condition or mental illness. The social history allows us to better know our client and thus give our attorneys more credibility in court when we can demonstrate our knowledge of our client’s background.

Many people may also have a professional Resume that they have used for employment, if so, include this along with the social history.

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