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Redding California Criminal Law Blog

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  

Can traffic tickets raise your insurance rates?

When Californian residents like you get a traffic ticket, you may be wondering what sort of long-term impact it might have, if any. For example, do your car insurance rates rise any time you get any traffic ticket?

IDriveSafely.com takes a look at how insurance rates can be affected by traffic tickets. They point out that every insurance company has its own algorithm for judging drivers. Something that one company could consider a moderate risk might be something another company considers relatively benign. They take these factors and use them to paint a picture of you on a whole. Unfortunately, traffic tickets do not make for a reliable-looking portrait.

Should you fight your speeding ticket?

As a Californian who was recently served a speeding ticket, you may be wondering if it's worth your time to fight back. The answer will be different for everyone depending on your own personal circumstances. Today, we'll look at some of the pros and cons of fighting a traffic ticket.

FindLaw believes you should put some thought into deciding if you want to fight a speeding ticket. On one hand, if you fight it, you have a chance of getting the fine reduced or even getting the ticket dismissed entirely. This can be beneficial if you are worried about the cost of the ticket itself. Another, longer-term benefit is that it will keep a speeding ticket off of your record. This can keep your insurance rates from being raised, which can cost a lot over time.

Has your child been accused of domestic violence?

Young love can be beautiful. But it can also lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Young people who find themselves in a relationship are inexperienced, experiencing the highs while trying to navigate the lows. One emotionally unstable partner might physically abuse the other, but sometimes the allegations are unfounded. It can be especially difficult if the victim is not telling the truth. Even more so, when the accused is your teenage son.

According to a study cited by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, roughly 7% of 2,059 reports of sexual abuse are false. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you consider the emotional and psychological (and sometimes physical) damages suffered by the falsely accused, that percentage starts to feel a lot larger.

Examining how a DUI can affect a career

People who choose to get behind the wheel after they have been drinking in California can face may serious consequences if they are caught. In some circumstances, they may be facing fines or a suspended license. In other more serious cases, if their behavior has injured or killed innocent people, they could be facing charges of automobile homicide or other convictions that result in time spent behind bars. 

Outside of the legal consequences that people may face, they also must manage the challenges of rebuilding aspects of their personal life after news of their DUI conviction comes to light. One area that can be gravely affected in some cases is a person's career and ability to maintain their current employment. According to AOL, if a DUI offender must maintain a professional license to perform their job, any arrest on their record will also be reported to the entities under which their professional license is managed. Other employers maintain a mandatory firing policy if their employees are involved in particular crimes. 

What are the consequences of drinking on an empty stomach?

For you and many other Californians, meeting with your associates for happy hour at your favorite watering hole after work may be one of your favorite pastimes. However, if you have not had anything to eat since lunch, even having just one drink before driving home can be problematic. In fact, you may find yourself charged with a DUI despite not feeling intoxicated.

As Healthline explains, your brain begins to feel the effects of alcohol in your bloodstream within 10 minutes of having that first drink. Alcohol has an effect sooner on younger people, women and those of smaller stature than others. For most people, one regular drink may be fine. If you have a drink on an empty stomach, however, the alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream more quickly than if you had just eaten a meal. This can affect your coordination and impair your judgment faster than you may expect. If you are pulled over on your way home, a breath test may show a higher than legal blood alcohol content, even if you do not feel impaired.

Fighting a traffic ticket

When you get a ticket for speeding, parking in the wrong place or another minor traffic violation, it can be easy to assume that you have no other choice than to pay the ticket and get on with your life. However, as we are aware at the law offices of Kucera & Cohen, contesting some traffic tickets may be more beneficial than just paying the fine. You and other California residents may want to learn more about whether it is in your best interests to fight a ticket or let it be.

According to FindLaw, going to court to fight a ticket can seem like a hassle and waste of time, but in some cases, getting that ticket dropped can be better in the long run. For example, some violations can add points to your driving record and raise your insurance premium. You could potentially save hundreds or thousands of dollars by successfully getting your ticket dropped.

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