Prop 57, Broken Down

Recently, California voters passed Proposition 57 which substantially changes the amount of time criminal offenders can serve in prison for felony offenses. What does Prop 57 actually do?

There are three main provisions created by Proposition 57– two relating to adults and one to juveniles:
 Adults:
1. Parole Eligibility Changes
2. Credit Awards Changes

 Juveniles:
3. Direct Filing of Criminal Complaints Against Juveniles in Adult Court is Eliminated

What are the Direct Results of Proposition 57?
1. Offenders who commit multiple crimes against multiple victims will be eligible for release at the same time as offenders who only committed a single crime against a single victim.
2. Repeat offenders will be eligible for release after the same period of incarceration as first time offenders.
3. Offenders whose sentence was enhanced for especially egregious conduct will be eligible for release at the same time as those who did not engage in the egregious conduct.
4.The California Department of Corrections will have unlimited authority to award credits to all inmates, in excess of the current 15%, 20% and 50% conduct credit limitations.
5. Juvenile offenders who commit violent crimes like murder, rape and carjacking cannot be filed on as adults. They must be filed on in juvenile court and can only be found unfit by a judge.

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How Does Proposition 64 Change The Law On Marijuana in California

Proposition 64, abbreviated as AUMA (the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act”), legalizes the following conduct by persons age 21 and older:

 Possessing, processing, transporting, purchasing, obtaining, or giving away to a person age 21 or older without compensation, up to 28.5 grams (one ounce) of marijuana that is not concentrated cannabis and/or up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis

 Possessing, planting, cultivating, harvesting drying, or processing up to six living plants in or on the grounds of a private residence if the plants and any marijuana produced by the plants in excess of 28.5 grams are in a “locked space” and are not visible by normal unaided vision from a public place

 Smoking or ingesting marijuana or marijuana products

 Possessing, transporting, purchasing, obtaining, using, manufacturing, or giving away

marijuana accessories to persons age 21 or older, without any compensation

Prop. 64 also significantly reduces penalties for H&S 11357, H&S 11358, H&S 11359, and H&S 11360 marijuana crimes. It reduces significantly the penalties for marijuana crimes committed by minors such that selling or transporting for sale (H& 11360), cultivating (H&S 11358), or possessing marijuana for sale (H&S 11359) are mere infractions punishable by only a few hours of drug education and community service, thereby encouraging youth to engage in marijuana activity.

In addition a new agency called The Bureau of Marijuana Control is established to oversee the entire marijuana system, which includes detailed procedures for licensing and regulating all aspects of marijuana, including advertising, and taxing the cultivation and retail sales of marijuana.

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Where Can I Do Independent Drug Testing In The South Bay

Many times folks want to get a private drug screen to test for illegal drugs. The reasons may be a pending Court case for criminal charges, DUI or for prospective employment. In some cases it may be a good idea to conduct private drug testing ahead of a Court date to show the Judge or District Attorney that the accused is drug free and more amenable to a favorable resolution of the charges.

Many companies will do the testing and the costs vary but here are two places in the Torrance area that can perform a private test to determine if drugs are present in a persons body:

Twin Town Treatment Centers
20300 South Vermont
Torrance CA 90502
310-787-1335
Ask for Kim or Amanda

Drug Testing Center
4253 W. Redondo Beach Blvd.
Lawndale CA
310-921-9940
Ask for Betty,

Let them know Attorney Matthew Ruff referred you. Any drug can be tested for including heroin, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and all prescription drugs as well.

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Can A Domestic Violence Restraining Order Be Renewed?

California family Code §6345 pertains to the renewal of a DVRO and reads in relevant part as follows:

(a) … These orders may be renewed, upon the request of a party, either for five years or permanently, without a showing of any further abuse since the issuance of the original order, subject to termination or modification by further order of the court either on written stipulation filed with the court or on the motion of a party. […]

The scope and meaning of the section is further defined in the case of Ritchie v Konrad (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 1275 which lays out the standard of review in determining if such an order should be renewed and the factors the Court should look to in making a determination as to the renewal of such orders. In relevant part Richie provides the following direction to the Court: [I]n California, as in the rest of the country, an objective test must be satisfied before a protective order is renewed in contested cases. A trial may court renew the protective order, if and only if, it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the protective party entertains a “reasonable apprehension” of future abuse. at pg. 1290.
The Richie opinion goes on to identify several factors including recommendations that the trial court should ordinarily consider the evidence and findings on which the initial order was based in appraising…. since two orders may be written the same but based on totally different set of facts. at pg. 1290. Noting however that the mere existence of an existing protective order is seldom conclusive evidence of “reasonable apprehension” since it was issued several years earlier. Richie at pg.1291
Additionally, any significant changes that have taken place since the order was issued – for instance have the parties moved on with their lives, moved from the area, and involved with new partners/spouses/significant others and similar facts that show there is less likelihood of future abuse. Richie at pg. 1291.
The other side of the equation – the burdens the protective order imposes on the restrained party; including interfering with or preventing the restrained party from maintaining or finding employment. Obviously if there is a “reasonable apprehension of physical violence” this factor is less relevant as the physical security of the protective party trumps all burdens. Richie at pg. 1292.

The fact a judge found enough grounds to grant a protective order three years earlier does not necessarily mean sufficient grounds remain to renew that order for another three years […] merely because the protective party files a “request” and expresses her subjective desire the court issue such an extension.

Anyone considering getting an extension of a DVRO should consult an attorney.

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Torrance Bail Information

Anyone arrested on a criminal case has a right to bail. In many cases the accused has the right to request that bail be lowered or that they be released without bail. To do so the individual or their attorney can contact a bail deviation commissioner and request a reduction of bail or an O.R. Release.

Here is the information required to make such a request:
The Bail Deviation Program may request certain information in evaluating a bail deviation request, including, but not limited to: (1) the name, address, and telephone number of the person seeking the deviation and relationship to the defendant; (2) name and booking number of the defendant; (3) charge(s) on which the defendant is being held; (4) date and time of arrest; (5) address and telephone number of the jail or station at which the defendant is being held; (6) date, time and court location for the defendant’s arraignment; (7) the defendant’s age, marital status, length of residence in the community, employment history, and community ties; (8) the defendant’s prior criminal record; and (9) any facts justifying the requested deviation.

A lawyer can make the request on behalf of the person in custody. In many cases bail can be lowered if the person has no criminal record.

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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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