New 2020 Legislation On Pitchess Motions

Top Torrance Criminal Lawyer

Matthew Ruff, Torrance Criminal Defense Attorney

California law allows for the discovery of acts of misconduct on the part of police officers in a criminal prosecution.  In order to get information about misconduct from an officer’s personnel file the attorney must file what is called a Pitchess Motion in Court.  The procedures for the filing of a motion were recently amended starting in 2020.

Evidence Code 1043-1046 provides that a Pitchess motion (Pitchess v Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531), be filed pursuant to certain time constraints.  The service of the motion must be made on the law enforcement agency that maintains the records. The new law (AB 1600) amends Evidence Code § 1043 to require written notice in criminal cases to be served on the police agency and filed in Court at least 10 court days before the appointed hearing, all oppositions to be filed with the court at least 5 court days before the hearing, and all replies to be filed at least 2 court days before the hearing. AB 1600 also requires proof of service of the notice to be filed no later than 5 court days before the hearing.

Compliance with the procedures is crucial in order for the motion to be heard by the Court.  If the notice is insufficient you can expect the attorney representing the records custodian to object and ask that the hearing not take place.

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Does a Dismissal of Domestic Violence Charges Result in Termination of Protective Order?

Domestic Violence Protective Order

Domestic Violence Protective Order Termination

In a Domestic Violence Criminal Case the Court will issue a protective order to keep the peace while the case is pending.  That order can be either a level 1 or a level 2 order.  The level 1 is a full stay away order, the latter is a modified order that allows peaceful contact with the alleged victim.  The question that is discussed today is if the criminal charges are dismissed does the underlying order of protection get automatically terminated?  The answer is no.

If charges are dropped in Criminal Court or the client is acquitted the defense attorney must ask the Court to terminate the underlying order and have the District Attorney fill out a Judicial Council form CR-165.  This document must be filed with the Court and the clerk must enter it into the record.  Thereafter, the California Database that stores the information (CLETS) must be informed that the order was terminated.  Failure to do so could result in the client being arrested or being denied the ability to purchase or possess a firearm.

Top Tier Domestic Violence Attorney Matthew Ruff has a track record of getting baseless charges dropped and terminating the underlying protective order in many cases.  If you or someone you love is facing DV charges in Los Angeles County, call Matthew for a free one on one consultation.  Matt can be reached on his cell phone at 310-686-1533.

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Does a Police Officer Shining a Spotlight Constitute a Detention?

Top Torrance Criminal Lawyer

Matthew Ruff, Torrance Criminal Defense Attorney

California law allows a criminal defendant to challenge his or her arrest and any subsequent searches on the ground they were in violation of the person’s 4th Amendment Constitutional rights.  In order to invoke fourth amendment protection the individual must have been detained at the time of the alleged illegal action.  Recently the California Appeals Court addressed a recurring question, whether shining a spotlight on a vehicle is in fact detaining the occupants of the car.

In People v. Kidd (2019) 36 Cal.App.5th 12 the Court held the Defendant was detained without reasonable suspicion where an officer pulled in behind the defendant’s car, which was stopped on the side of a residential street with its fog lights on, and pointed spotlights at the car. In the early hours of the morning, an officer saw a car parked on a residential street with its amber fog lights on. Wanting to see what the two people inside the car were doing, the officer pulled in behind them, pointed his spotlights at their car, and exited his vehicle. As he approached the car, the officer smelled marijuana. After defendant (the driver) indicated he was on probation and there was a gun in the car, the officer searched the car and found contraband. Defendant was charged with several felony offenses, but the trial court granted defendant’s motion to set aside the information and all charges were dismissed. The People appealed.

The Court ruled an encounter between a law enforcement officer and a defendant is a detention if, under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would not feel free to leave. The Court determined in this case that Kidd was detained when the officer pulled in behind Kidd and trained the spotlights on Kidd’s car. Although the officer did not turn on his colored emergency lights, motorists are trained to immediately yield when a police car pulls in behind them and turns its lights on. A reasonable person in this situation would expect that if he drove off, the officer would respond by pursuing him with the siren activated, and the fact that the officer immediately got out of the car and started to approach Kidd removed any ambiguity about whether it was a detention. The detention was unjustified because the officer did not have reasonable articulable suspicion Kidd committed or was about to commit a crime. It is not illegal for a parked car to use fog lamps without headlamps and, by his own admission, the officer did not observe any wrongdoing. Although there was no indication of bad faith, the officer’s detention of Kidd in the absence of reasonable suspicion was deliberate, warranting suppression of the evidence. Thanks CCAP.

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What is a Serna Motion?

Top Torrance Criminal Lawyer

Matthew Ruff, Torrance Criminal Defense Attorney

 

Here is the scenario:  A person is arrested, they are released either on bail or with an O.R. citation and given a future Court date to appear and answer to the charges.  However, the person fails to appear and a warrant is issued for their arrest.  A long period of time goes by, more than one year, and they want to clear up the matter by getting the warrant recalled.  One possible option the person has is to file what is called a Serna Motion in order to get the charges dismissed.

A Serna Motion is a request to to the Court to dismiss the case based on the delay of the prosecution to pursue the charges and pursue the case in a speedy manner.  The motion is sometimes referred to as a “Speedy Trial Motion” because the Prosecutor has denied the defendant of his right to a speedy and expeditious trial.  One of the factors the Court considers is whether the defendant willfully failed to appear, thereby contributing to the delay.  While a failure to appear is a significant factor, it in and of itself is not enough to deny the motion.

Another consideration is what prejudice the delay has caused the defendant.  In other words, how much has the delay or passage of time caused damage to any defenses the defendant can present.  One form of prejudice is the inability of witnesses to remember the event in question.  Lack of recollection can be a huge form of prejudice to the accused.  Also, evidence may have been lost or destroyed which can prejudice the case.

In California prejudice is presumed if the delay in getting the case to trial exceeds one year.  This means the defendant does not need to present evidence of prejudice if the age of the case is greater than 12 months.

How long does it take to have a Serna Motion heard by the Court?  It’s best to file a Serna motion at the arraignment or soonest possible time thereafter.  The Defense must serve the District Attorney or Prosecutor at least 10 Court days prior to the hearing.

What if the Judge grants the Serna Motion?  If the motion is granted the case is dismissed and cannot be refiled, the case is over and the defendant’s criminal record stays clean.

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Do I Need A Hit and Run Attorney?

Top Torrance Criminal Lawyer

Matthew Ruff, Torrance Criminal Defense Attorney

If you were involved in a hit and run there are many things you need to know.  First, the crime of leaving the scene after an accident is defined in California Vehicle Code 20001.  The offense is committed when you or someone else leaves an accident without exchanging information with the other party, or if no other party is around, leaving a note and immediately reporting the incident to law enforcement.  Yes, it is not enough to simply leave your contact information with the other car, you must also contact the police if the incident occurred in Los Angeles City or CHP if the collision took place in a County area.

What if you flee but later want to go to the Police and report the accident?  Unfortunately, the crime occurs when you run and do not immediately report. Showing up the next morning or hours later could still result in your arrest.

What if the damage is slight?  Any contact with another vehicle or property of any kind requires that information be exchanged.  In today’s digital age there are cameras everywhere and there is a good chance the incident was captured on video.  The first thing the police do when responding to a hit and run is check to see if there are any surveillance cameras.  Nowadays, Ring cameras are on almost every home.

In one recent case Matthew handled the client was tracked down with Ring footage.  If you are involved in a accident where you left the scene Matt can help.  Having an experienced attorney on your side early can mean the difference between criminal charges or the case being handled on a civil level.

Call Matthew today at 310-527-4100 or visit his website Hit and Run Attorney

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Can a Domestic Violence Case be Dismissed?

Top Torrance Criminal Lawyer

Matthew Ruff, Torrance Criminal Defense Attorney

The answer is yes, in many cases.  Domestic Violence charges are some of the toughest cases to defend because prosecutors are very aggressive in pursuing the allegations.  Most District Attorneys understand that these cases are capable of becoming more serious if they are left alone so they go after them with great vigor.  The major reason for this is what I call the “OJ Simpson effect”. This is a phenomenon that proliferated after the famous criminal case in Los Angeles where OJ allegedly killed his wife following many instances of domestic violence that went unprosecuted.  The result, many believe,  was the death of Nicole Brown Simpson.  After this case DA’s got much more aggressive in the filing and prosecution of DV cases throughout L.A.

Despite this, cases involving domestic assault can be successfully resolved if handled properly.  Attorney Matthew Ruff has been very successful in getting unjustified charges dismissed in his 25 years of practice. Below is the docket of a criminal case in Torrance Court alleging Penal Code 273.5 as Count 1 and Penal Code 243e1 as Count 2.  After a thorough investigation Matthew uncovered the fact that the alleged victim, the defendants wife, lied to Police about the incident.  Matt got a statement from her admitting that she lied.  When the case was set for trial the DA announced unable to proceed and the Court granted Matthew’s motion to dismiss all charges.

Can Domestic Violence Charges be Dismissed

Torrance Domestic Violence Case Dismissed

 

Many cases, such as the actual case shown above, can and should be dropped because the allegations were false.  True, there are real cases where people, both men and women, are victims of violence in a domestic relationship.  However, there are a substantial portion of cases where the allegations were made in anger, spite or were motivated by a pending divorce and are simply untrue.  In these cases justice demands that the charges be dropped.

Matthew Ruff is a Top Tier Rated Domestic Violence Defense Attorney in Los Angeles.

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Judicial Profile: Judge Rene Gilbertson in Torrance

Torrance Judges

Torrance Judge Rene Gilbertson

The Honorable Rene Gilbertson is a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge. She was elected by the voters in 2018 and was appointed by the Governor so that she could start early rather than wait to begin her assignment in 2019.  She has been on the Torrance bench since late 2018.  Judge Gilbertson replaced the late Judge Sandra Thompson who was a fixture in that Court for 3 decades.  She left some big shoes to fill and Judge Gilbertson seems to be doing a great job.  As a local Criminal Defense attorney I have had the privilege of appearing before her on several occasions, they have all been a pleasure.  From my perspective she is smart, conscientious, fair, has a pleasant and courteous demeanor, is patient with the right measure of humility, and strives to do the “right thing”.

The following biographical information was obtained from votersedge:

  • For the past 24 years, Ms. Gilbertson has worked primarily in the area of juvenile law, to prevent child abuse and neglect and to ensure that necessary services are provided to children and families.  She began her legal career as a Staff Attorney at The Alliance for Children’s Rights and, by 1995, became the Interim Executive Director. In 1996, Ms. Gilbertson began representing children in the juvenile dependency arena at Children’s Law Center Los Angeles (formerly Dependency Court Legal Services).
  • Handled child abuse cases in Los Angeles Juvenile Court
  • Served as Legal Advisor for the County Sheriff’s Department
  • Represented indigent children and youth in the foster care system
  • Dedicated 24 years to protecting the children of Los Angeles County

Judge Gilbertson puts her experience to use in her current assignment where a large majority of her cases are misdemeanor domestic violence, many involving children.  Torrance Court, Div 2 hears all misdemeanor cases originating from Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach California.

As a local Torrance Lawyer, I am often asked whether a specific Judge would be recommended on a particular case, with regard to Judge Gilbertson the answer is yes.

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