Can A Person’s Prior Bad Acts Be Admitted In A Criminal Case?

Oftentimes the prosecution will want to admit a defendants prior bad conduct in a pending criminal case to show he or she is a bad dude. This practice is limited to specific acts and only if they are relevant to something other than propensity.

In People v. Ewoldt the Supreme Court noted the degree of similarity varies depending on the issue sought to be proved by the prior conduct evidence. The least degree of similarity is required when the issue to be proved is whether the defendant harbored the requisite intent for the charged crime, because of the recurrence of similar results tends increasingly to negate accident or inadvertence, self-defense, or other innocent mental states — and instead tends to show the presence of the criminal intent which normally accompanies criminal acts.

A greater degree of similarity is required when the prior conduct evidence is used to establish a common scheme or plan. In this context, the evidence must show more than merely similar results: instead, there must be such a concurrence of common features that the various acts can be explained as being caused by a general plan of which events are but individual manifestations. Evidence that the defendant has committed uncharged criminal acts that are similar to the charged offense may be relevant if these acts demonstrate circumstantially that the defendant committed the charged offense pursuant to the same design or plan he or she used in committing the uncharged acts. The common features must show the existence of a plan, moreover, rather than a series of spontaneous acts.

The greatest degree of similarity is required when the prior conduct evidence is used to establish identity: to be relevant on the issue of identity, the uncharged crimes must be highly
similar to the charged offenses. Evidence of an uncharged crime is relevant to prove identity only if the charged and uncharged offenses display a “‘pattern and characteristics . . . so unusual and distinctive as to be like a signature.’ (quoting 1 McCormick on Evidence (4th ed. 1992) § 190, pp. 801-803.) “The strength of the inference in any case depends upon two factors: (1) the degree of distinctiveness of individual shared marks, and (2) the number of minimally distinctive shared marks.” (People v. Thornton (1974) 11 Cal.3d 738, 756, emphasis in original, disapproved on other grounds in People v. Flannel (1979) 25 Cal.3d 668, 684, fn. 12.)

Under section 1102, specific instances of conduct are inadmissible under section 1102 to prove character: the statute permits, in a criminal trial, evidence “in the form of an opinion or . . . reputation”; it does not, however, permit evidence of specific instances of misconduct. (People v. Felix, supra, 70 Cal.App.4th at 431.) Moreover, evidence of a defendant’s bad character may only be offered by the prosecution under section 1102 in rebuttal to similar evidence presented by the defense. (People v. McFarland (2000) 78 Cal.App.4th 489, 495; People v. Bunyard (1988) 45 Ca1.3d 1189, 1216.) Accordingly, such evidence cannot be offered during the prosecution’s case in chief.

(b) Under section 1103, evidence of a criminal defendant’s character for violence or trait of character for violence (in the form of an opinion, evidence of reputation, or evidence of specific instances of conduct) is not made inadmissible if the evidence is offered by the prosecution to prove conduct of the defendant in conformity with the character or trait of character after evidence that the victim had a character for violence or a trait of character tending to show violence has been adduced by the defendant. Thus the evidence cannot be offered until the prosecution’s rebuttal, and only may be offered if the defense introduces evidence of defendants character for violence or trait of character tending to show violence – which he has no intention of doing.

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How A Letter From Your Therapist May Help In Your Criminal Case

In some cases clients may be getting therapy or Counseling for conditions relevant to their case. In these situations it may be helpful to have the professional write a letter so the attorney can present it to the DA and/or Judge for purposes of resolving the case. Here is some guidance on what the letter should contain:

Address the letter to “The Honorable Court”, or “To whom it may concern”. The letter should be on official letterhead and signed by the provider.

First, everything in the letter should be positive. Outline how many sessions the person participated in and give some depth to the specific areas that were focused on in the sessions and how long the sessions were. The theme of the letter should be that the patient had a problem, they sought out help and the professional treated that individual with an eye towards preventing the incident to recur. Emphasis should be made that there is little or no likelihood of the client re-offending.

Outline how the sessions gave the client skills to cope with whatever triggered the event and how the Counseling or therapy should prevent similar conduct in the future. The idea is that we want to convey to the DA and the Court that the client responded well to treatment and now has a greater chance staying out of trouble down the road.

The letter should not contain anything negative that would concern the reader that the client has serious problems. If the provider has specific concerns they should be addressed with the lawyer prior to writing the letter. Also, unless the attorney specifically asks for it, the letter should not recommend future sessions or long term treatment.

If you require any additional information contact the attorney.

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How To Get House Arrest Instead of Jail

Many folks want to avoid jail in cases where the DA or Court insists on a jail sentence. House arrest is a viable option in order to avoid actual incarceration. If client qualifies for house arrest they can go to work, any /all court ordered activities and even doctor appointments. Anything else, the sheriff would have to approve. As a local Torrance Criminal Attorney I have seen many people save there job by utilising this resource.

Once on house arrest, the client is locked down at home, inside the 4 walls, no backyard, no garage, no balcony, no porch, etc. (except for the allowed activities)

To qualify, the client cannot have had any of the following on current charge on in the past 10 years:

Domestic Violence
Drug Sales / Trafficking
Weapons charges
Evasion from Law Enforcement
Restraining orders

Always best to get the judge to order house arrest directly from the bench, but if not possible, you do not want to ask. You can convert fines / caltrans / community service to jail days (save client time and money) and get the surrender at Los Angeles County jail (IRC for men and Lynwood for females).
Get a commitment order and the attorney. If a court surrender is imposed, please get it on a Monday, males can be processed out in 4 days and females in about 5. If you are currently in custody, please contact me with the booking number.

Hope this helps, I can speak to anyone in advance of the sentencing or at time of intake to help explain the program.

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How To Apply For A Pardon In California

Individuals who have been convicted of a crime in California may apply to the Governor for a pardon. A gubernatorial pardon is an honor that may be granted to people who have demonstrated exemplary behavior following their conviction. A pardon will not be granted unless it has been earned. Obtaining a pardon is a distinct achievement based upon proof of a productive and law‐abiding life following conviction. Historically, governors have granted very few pardons.

Applications generally will not be considered unless the applicant has been discharged from probation or parole for at least 10 years without further criminal activity during that period. There is no fee for applying for a pardon.

The Governor of California cannot grant a pardon for a conviction from another jurisdiction, such as another state or a federal proceeding. A person convicted in another state must apply for a pardon in that state. Federal pardon information may be obtained from the Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, 500 First Street Northwest, Washington, D.C. 20530.

For more information on how to apply for a pardon in California
You can visit How To Get A Pardon In California

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How Do I Get A Certified Copy Of Court Records?

Many folks find themselves in need of certified copies of Court records for pending employment, licenses, or government applications. The best and quickest way to get your “official records” is to send a letter directly to the clerk of the Criminal Division of the Court where your case was heard and include a check ” not to exceed $50.00″ to cover the cost of certification.  Include the case number if you have it, or your full name, drivers license number, social security number, date of birth, etc…

Most Courts, such as Los Angeles charge a minimum of $25 to certify records and a cost per page of the records, an additional $5.00 if you do not have the case number. Include a self addressed stamped envelope with you return address.

Here is a sample of a request you can use:

Dear clerk of the Criminal Court,
I am requesting a certified copy of my case record or “docket”.
Enclosed is a check not to exceed $50.00 to cover the costs.
Please mail the case docket in the self addressed stamped envelope enclosed, your prompt reply is appreciated as the records are necessary for a pending license.

Here is a link to the specific addresses of the Courts in Los Angeles:

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The Right To Jury Trial In A DUI Case

Every person accused of a crime that carries potential jail time has a Constitutional right to a jury trial, where 12 citizens are selected from the community to listen to the evidence, be instructed on the applicable law, and render a verdict by applying the facts to the law. A jury trial generally lasts about a week or so, depending upon which courthouse your case is assigned to. A jury trial in a DUI case is like any other criminal case. It begins with jury selection, and proceeds through opening statements, examination and cross-examination of each of the witnesses, closing arguments, jury instructions, deliberations, and verdict.

If you are charged with a violation of Vehicle Code Section 23152 (b), driving with a blood or breath alcohol level of .08% or higher, and if you are acquitted of that charge (meaning that all 12 jurors agree you are not guilty of the charge), then the DMV case is automatically set aside. This is the only thing that can happen in court that will impact the DMV Hearing.

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Dealing With CPS On Child Abuse Cases

DCFS, sometimes referred to as CPS, is there to protect children and that is a very noble cause in most cases. However, there may be instances where a CPS worker can be over zealous and border harassment towards parents in certain cases. As a criminal defense attorney in Torrance for over twenty years I have seen many horror stories. This article helps to explain how to deal with Child Protective Services when they have you in their sights.

First, understand the role of the CPS worker, their goal is to investigate cases of suspected abuse and resolve the cases by either closing the case and doing nothing or taking the child and referring the case to the County for prosecution.

In most cases it is best to cooperate fully with them, let them do their job. In many cases, hiring a lawyer may actually aggravate the situation and extend the investigation. If a child makes allegations of abuse they take these statements seriously. They have jurisdiction over the child. CPS will view any lawyer for the child who was hired by the parent in this context as having a conflict of interest. They rarely believe any recant, and if a lawyer hired by mom or dad is hovering, they will assume the parents have pressured the recant and you are there to force the issue.

With regard to requests to interview the child, cooperate. They will yank the kids if mom prohibits kids from speaking with them. CPS first and foremost is about the welfare. If you don’t play the game with DCFS they have no other choice but to remove the child from the home to facilitate an interview.

Regard the decision to hire an attorney as a last case scenario. There certainly are cases where retains counsel can be the best decision, certainly contact a Child Abuse Defense Attorney when allegations have risen to a criminal investigation and the police want to interview you about the accusations.

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