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Redding California Criminal Law Blog

Miranda warnings are given because of a Supreme Court ruling

California residents who watch crime television shows or films likely know every word of the Miranda warning. This is the statement made by police officers advising suspects of their rights. The rights mentioned are provided by the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment, but they are often referred to as Miranda warnings because of a landmark ruling the U.S. Supreme Court made in 1966.

The case involved an Arizona man whose last name was Miranda and who confessed to kidnapping and raping a woman after two grueling hours of police questioning. The justices ruled that the confession should be excluded because the interrogation was coercive and the man was not told that he had the right to remain silent and ask for an attorney. All law enforcement agencies now require their agents, officers or deputies to give a Miranda warning.

California and national drunk driving data

The state of California ranks right in the middle on a list of all the states' drunk driving rates. A study of information maintained by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that California was 25th in the country when it came to the rate of drunk driving during the year 2018, indicating 322.7 drunk driving arrests per 100,000 residents.

The state saw a drop in DUI rates of 19.5% from 2014 to 2018 and a drop of 43.2% from 2009 to 2018. The study found that only three states saw their drunk driving arrest rates increase from 2009 to 2018. According to the CDC, U.S. drivers engage in drunk driving nearly 130 million times annually. According to U.S. Drug Test Centers, women are significantly less likely than men to face drunk driving charges as men accounted for almost 75% of drunk driving arrests during 2018.

3 Commonly asked questions about protective orders

Some people have difficulty letting go after a bad breakup. Others may deal with anger and violence issues, making it unsafe for them to be around their families. And sometimes, individuals can develop unhealthy obsessions with complete strangers. When instances like these happen, a court will usually introduce a protective order into the picture.

 

Police assessment tool questioned by experts

Police departments in California and around the world are using a little-known assessment tool to determine if suspects are being truthful during criminal investigations. However, critics of the tool, which is known as Scientific Content Analysis, claim the process is unproven and its practitioners are poorly trained, causing innocent people to be arrested.

According to a recent investigative report by ProPublica and the South Bend Tribune, detectives trained in SCAN ask potential suspects to write down their version of events leading up to an alleged crime. They then analyze the handwritten statement to see if there are any signs of deception. This is done by tracking the pronouns an individual uses, any changes in vocabulary he or she may make and any details that are left out of the description. The maker of the tool, Phoenix-based Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation, claims that the process "unlocks the mystery" of a suspect's brain, and it is reportedly used by over 400 law enforcement agencies nationwide, including the FBI, the CIA and U.S. Army military intelligence.

California drug and gun swoop leads to dozens of arrests

A major narcotics and firearms investigation in California involving more than a dozen law enforcement agencies has led to the seizure of about 39 pounds of methamphetamine, 20 pounds of marijuana and over 130 guns. Officers, deputies and agents also apprehended more than two dozen suspects according to a Nov. 15 press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Agencies taking part in the operation, which is said to have been launched after a year of planning, included the California Highway Patrol, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the San Joaquin and San Mateo County Sheriff's Offices, and the San Francisco, Redwood City, Daly City and San Mateo Police Departments.

Initial reports provided few details about the gun and drug swoop, but they did reveal that most of the individuals taken into custody were apprehended in and around Redwood City. Many of the suspects are said to be East Bay residents.

University professor accused of money laundering

California residents may have heard that the author of a 2015 book about organized crime and money laundering has been accused of committing the very offenses he wrote about. Federal prosecutors say the University of Miami professor laundered millions of dollars that had been stolen from Venezuelan citizens. The 73-year-old Florida resident has been charged with two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each of the counts carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in a federal prison.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the professor received about $2.5 million during an 11-month period that began in November 2017 from bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland. About 90% of the $200,000 that the professor allegedly received each month was withdrawn from several bank accounts using cashier's checks. The professor is then said to have transferred the remaining funds to his personal bank account. Prosecutors believe that the money was the proceeds of official corruption and originated in Venezuela.

Unconscious bias could lead to sentencing inequity

Unconscious bias is a significant area of study for psychology and sociology researchers in California and across the country. Many lawyers are concerned about the role of unconscious bias in the courtroom, especially as it may affect outcomes for defendants in contested criminal cases. Neuroscientists have shown that, in many cases, unconscious reactions may influence people's responses to people, events and circumstances. These reactions may be at odds with the same people's publicly expressed views and convictions. Many have linked disproportionately harsh sentences and bail assessments directed at black defendants with bias in the courtroom, whether conscious or unconscious.

While most judges would describe themselves as unbiased, studies show that black defendants are treated worse than their white counterparts in the criminal justice system. They receive longer sentences and are more likely to be executed in comparison to white people convicted of the same type of crimes. Some research has indicated that people's very beliefs in their objectivity can make them more vulnerable to subconscious bias, and when they sit in a position of power, the consequences can be devastating for marginalized people. Judges convinced of their commitment to equality may produce inequitable results.

Study says community service is ordered unfairly

A study conducted in California indicates that community service as part of criminal punishment disproportionately impacts low-income people of color who are unable to pay fines. They are often forced to choose between jail time or performing work without compensation. The principle behind community service for those convicted of crimes is that it's an alternative to serving jail time and allows an offender to garner goodwill in their community. However, the study says community service work is likely to exacerbate or mimic the problems of a debt to the court.

The study, which was conducted by the UCLA Labor Center and School of Law, involved data from 5,000 people who were ordered to work off court-ordered fines during 2013 and 2014. Among the findings was that the amount of community service work ordered was not in line with the corresponding fines owed. For example, the median requirement for a traffic ticket was to perform 51 hours of community service to pay off a fine of $520.

What does an expungement do?

You don’t want your mistake to follow you for the rest of your life. All you want to do is resume your life as normal and move on. Expungement is a term that you may have heard that allows you to clear the conviction from your record. While expungement won’t entirely clear your slate, it will update your record to show that a judge dismissed your conviction.

To qualify for expungement, you must not be serving probation or other terms of your sentence. The law declares that expungement clears you from the penalties and effects of your conviction. Having a court previously deny you probation won’t exclude you from expungement eligibility either.

Reviewing California's justifiable homicide law

Some in Redding mat scoff at the notion of self-defense being a justification for violent action. This line of thinking no doubt comes from the assumption that any person who comes out the victor in an altercation cannot entirely be innocent in terms of its initiation. However, even law enforcement authorities recognize that there are indeed legitimate cases where the use of force (even deadly force) is justified. Indeed, according to information shared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 782 cases of justifiable homicide reported in 2017 (353 of which involved private citizens). 

One might wonder what California's policies are when it comes to self-defense. Section 197 of the California Penal Code states that homicide is considered justifiable in the following situations: 

  • When resisting an attempt made by another to murder or seriously injure another, or to commit a felony 
  • When defending one's home, property or person from another who intends or endeavors (either by violence or surprise) to commit a felony or who attempts in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner to enter a habitation with the purpose of causing harm to those therein
  • When committed while attempting to apprehend a person (by law ways and means) who has committed a felony, to suppress a riot or otherwise lawfully preserve the peace
  • When committed in the defense of oneself or their spouse, children, parents, master, mistress or servent to halt the commission of a felony or any act intended to cause great bodily harm or injury  
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