John M. Kucera, Attorney at Law
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Redding California Criminal Law Blog

You do not have to automatically accept a plea bargain

As the American Bar Association (ABA) points out, 95 percent of cases are settled first before going to trial, so chances are if you are involved in a criminal case in California, you might receive a proposal to reduce your prison sentence or eliminate it entirely in exchange for a guilty plea to lesser charges. However, even as your defense attorney provides counsel on the matter, remember that the final choice to accept or reject any deal is yours.

If an attorney believes an offer placed on the table by a prosecutor is the best the client can expect and that a trial will likely bring harsh consequences if the client is convicted of the charges, the attorney can counsel the client to take the offer even if the client is more inclined to fight the charges. What an attorney cannot do, however, is accept or reject an offer to settle the charges on behalf of the client. It is up to the client to evaluate the deal presented and to decide how to move forward.

What happens when someone passes a stopped school bus?

There have many devastating news stories about drivers passing school buses or not paying attention to a stopped school bus. Children almost always pay the price in these situations. That is why California has laws about stopping for school buses. Protecting children who are getting on or off a bus can only be done as a group effort. Drivers must pay attention and adhere to the law about stopped school buses.

California Legislative Information explains that when a school bus is at a stop and has its stop lights flashing and stop sign arm extended, all drivers on the roadway must stop. This includes drivers going in both directions. The only exception is on a road that is split in the middle with two lanes of traffic on each side. In that case, only the traffic on the same side as the bus must stop. Traffic cannot resume until the bus driver has turned off the stop lights and closed the stop sign arm. At that point, drivers may pass the bus as well.

Buzzed driving and uncertainty over BAC level

Sometimes, people take to the road when they are extremely intoxicated, and some of these reckless drivers may not care about their blood alcohol content (BAC) level at all. Other drivers, however, may be more concerned about whether they are over the legal limit or not, not only to avoid some of the repercussions associated with drunk driving charges but in order to protect their safety while behind the wheel. However, people who take to the road while they are buzzed may also be charged with driving drunk, facing serious consequences as well.

There are many factors to consider when it comes to buzzed driving. For example, some people who are inexperienced drinkers may not be familiar with how they react to alcohol and they may have difficulty judging how intoxicated they are or whether their BAC level is over the legal limit. Some may assume that they are able to drive even though their BAC level remains over the legal limit. For example, they may not be familiar with how long it takes for alcohol to be cleared from their system.

Defend your driving career from DUI consequences

At the law offices of John M. Kucera, Attorney at Law, we know that driving is more than a way of getting around for some people. Some of our clients depend on their driving privileges in California to make a living, support their families and safe for their futures.

Unfortunately, your rights in terms of driving might not be as secure as you might expect. This is especially true if you have a commercial driver's license. That is because, even if you were not driving for work at the time of an arrest, a DUI conviction could potentially affect your professional credentials.

What penalties could my underage child face for a DUI?

Most parents who find out a child was caught drinking and driving are filled with disappointment and worry. This is especially true when that child is under the legal drinking age. While many adults have a general understanding of the consequences an adult might face for a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) citation, most are a little less familiar with the consequences a child may face.

The consequences your child may face will vary based on his or her blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Although the legal limit for adults is .08 percent, it is unlawful for anyone under age 21 to drive with any detectable amount of alcohol in his or her system.

Do not go it alone in a jury trial

If you feel financially pinched during a time of legal trouble, you might feel tempted to eschew legal representation if you end up in a California court in order to save money. However, representing yourself in a criminal or even civil proceeding can be very perilous. You might not even realize that something as simple as jury selection can make or break your case.

The men and women who will serve on a jury in a criminal case will hear the arguments and evidence presented and render a verdict as to your innocence or guilt. However, professional defense attorneys are heavily involved in jury selections. If there is a juror that is biased against you before the trial begins, your prospects for acquittal will diminish. Without legal counsel to represent you, you could run into any of the following problems.

Changes to how police respond to domestic violence

The California court system regards domestic violence as a very serious crime. If convicted of domestic violence, the consequences can be severe, wide-ranging and have a long-lasting effect on the future. However, according to FindLaw, public perception of domestic violence has evolved over the years, which has, in turn, changed the way that police respond to a domestic violence call.

Currently, if there is sufficient evidence of abuse, many jurisdictions require that law enforcement officers responding to a domestic violence call make an arrest. However, this is a relatively recent development, dating back only to the late 1980s. Prior to the late 20th century, the assumption was that "real" police work did not include responding to domestic violence calls. Therefore, neither the police nor the courts have always taken domestic violence reports seriously.

What to know about driving on the shoulder

Sometimes when caught in traffic, a driver in the right hand lane is tempted to pull out and drive up the shoulder until reaching an intersection where the driver hopes to turn off the congested road. However, California drivers should resist this temptation. For one thing, it is a recipe for legal trouble. Casually driving on the shoulder also disregards the true purpose of using this route.

California law makes it clear that drivers are to stick to the road if they want to get past another vehicle. If a driver seeks to get around traffic, the driver must do so safely without putting other motorists or pedestrians at risk. However, if no lane is available to make a pass, the motorist should remain on the road. State law does not allow a driver to veer off the designated main travel area of the road or the paved portion just to bypass a congested travel lane.

Collateral consequences make it difficult to find work, pay fines

When a California judge or jury convicts you of a crime, you may wind up facing repercussions that come from outside the criminal justice system, in addition to fines, jail time and other potential penalties. These repercussions are commonly known as “collateral consequences,” and they have the potential to make many areas of your life monumentally more difficult. At the law offices of John M. Kucera, we recognize that collateral consequences can make it hard to hold down a job or pay fines, and we have helped many offenders seek to reduce the damage caused by their criminal records.

According to the OC Register, one out of every five California residents has a criminal record, which accounts to more than 800 million state residents. Additionally, more than 4,800 laws are currently on the books that set barriers for those with criminal records, and nearly 60 percent of them relate to employment.

What is California's three-strike DUI policy?

California does indeed have what you might call a three-strike policy when it comes to DUIs: Minimum penalties increase with subsequent judgments. You could eventually go to jail for a significant period of time under certain circumstances of repeat offense.

It is important to note that this law does not apply to your arrests. It would only start to affect you after your first conviction. Therefore, because the consequences of drunk driving increase with the number of offenses, it would probably be a high priority to avoid your first or any subsequent DUI convictions. The ramifications of an adverse court decision could follow you for many years. It usually takes 10 years for the strike count to reset.

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John M. Kucera Attorney at Law

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Redding, CA 96001

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