LEGAL NEWS AND COURT ANNOUNCEMENTS
October 2, 2016:
NEW LAW: PROSECUTORS FACE FELONY CHARGES IF THEY FALSIFY EVIDENCE OR WITHHOLD EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE
California prosecutors who willfully (intentionally or deliberately) falsify or withhold evidence could wind up in prison, under a new law signed Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill, AB 1909, makes it a felony for prosecutors to intentionally falsify or withhold evidence. Previously, such acts were prosecuted as misdemeanors; they are already felonies for police officers.
The days of District Attorneys (DA) winning cases at all costs are over. If they abuse their powers as an officer of the Court, they will have to answer for their actions. The punishment is 16 months, two years or three years of incarceration, depending on the circumstances and the specific violation.
This legislation stems from accusations that the Orange County District Attorney's office and police have illegally used jailhouse informants ("snitches") to obtain incriminating statements from a defendant - a violation of a defendant's Sixth Amendment rights under Massiah v. United States, a 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision which prohibits the government from eliciting statements from a defendant about themselves, after the point that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel attaches. The DA's office was also accused of regularly withholding information that was favorable (exculpatory evidence) to the defense.
The California Attorneys for Criminal Justice called the new law the “first … of its kind in the nation to specifically hold prosecutors accountable for their decision to choose a conviction above seeking justice, often leading to wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice.”
November 8, 2015:
CALIFORNIA'S AMNESTY PROGRAM FOR TRAFFIC TICKETS
IS ONE MONTH OLD, AND HAS SO FAR, BEEN A SUCCESS FOR THE COURTS
As anticipated in my prior announcement, California has officially begun its' amnesty program for unpaid traffic tickets. During the first month of the program, Los Angeles County, for example, has already received 18,000 applications, totaling $1.3 million in fines and fees.
You can still apply for the program until March 31, 2017 - as long as the fine for your traffic ticket was due on or before January 1, 2013. In some cases, the program is being administered by third parties on behalf of the various traffic courts throughout California. It would be best to contact the Court Clerk's office at the courthouse location where your traffic ticket is assigned, should you have any procedural questions about the program itself.
The State Amnesty Program's website can be found at the following URL: http://www.courts.ca.gov/trafficamnesty.htm
According to the website, the eligibility requirements are as follows:
1. If you have unpaid traffic tickets whose fines were originally due to be paid on or before January 1, 2013, AND you have not made any payments after September 30, 2015, you may be entitled to have your traffic ticket fine reduced by as much as 80 percent.
2. If you happen to have made a traffic ticket fine payment after September 30, 2015, you may still be eligible for a driver’s license reinstatement, as long as you are not delinquent on a payment plan.
The last time such a traffic ticket program was offered (at least here in San Bernardino County) was approximately 5 years ago - so try and take advantage of this window of opportunity if you are eligible to do so.
October 8, 2015:
PROSECUTORS MAY BE DISCHARGED FROM A CRIMINAL CASE
IF THEY ARE NOT CAREFUL
There is now a new law on California's books, which makes it much easier for a judge to disqualify a Prosecutor on the basis that he/she withheld evidence - especially evidence that is favorable to the Defense.
Prosecutors have long been required to turn over exculpatory evidence - evidence that would help a Defendant towards a dismissal or an acquittal. The Constitution and professional ethics already require this. This new law gives judges more discretion to levy heavier penalties, up to and including the ejection of an entire County District Attorney's office.
The new law also requires judges to report prosecutorial misconduct to the California State Bar - which regulates and licenses all District Attorneys.
October 7, 2015:
CALIFORNIA OFFERS AN AMNESTY PROGRAM
FOR PAST DUE TRAFFIC FINES
California traffic violators with tickets that were due on or before January 1, 2013, now have until March 31, 2017 to pay them off at a discount - which will amount to at least 50 percent, with the poorest Californians offered up to 80 percent off. The state will also waive all penalties, and allow people to pay in installments.
Drivers who have lost their licenses because they were unable to pay a prior obligation to the courts, will now have a chance to reinstate their driving privileges.
Individuals who take advantage of the amnesty program, may be required to pay a $50 court “amnesty fee.”
The Western Center on Law and Poverty reports that more than 4 million Californians have lost their driving privileges because they were unable to pay a prior traffic citation.
August 13, 2015:
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT
RESTORES PUBLIC SERVICE HOURS
All court clerk’s office locations will be open to the public Monday through
Friday, from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Public telephones will also be answered
between 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily. This effect will take place on October 13, 2015.
August 11, 2015:
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT EXPANDS SERVICES
IN THE BARSTOW SUPERIOR COURT TO INCLUDE TWO FULL-TIME COURTROOMS, AND EXTENDED CLERK’S OFFICE HOURS
Effective October 13, 2015, the San Bernardino County Superior Court system will expand services at the Barstow Superior Court by operating two full-time courtrooms
and opening the Clerk’s Office to the public full-time Monday through Friday. Budgetary concerns resulted in a reduction of services over the last several years, and this is the result of the Court's ongoing efforts to restore those services.
As part of this expansion of services in the Barstow Superior Court, all small claims, landlord tenant, and infraction matters from the Victorville Superior Court will be filed and heard in the Barstow Superior Court.
Lastly, all Traffic and Non-Traffic infraction citations from the Needles District will be filed and heard in the Barstow Superior Court, again, effective October 13, 2015. These are cases that were previously filed and heard in the Joshua Tree Superior Court. Misdemeanor and Felony cases will continue to be heard in the Victorville Superior Court.
For more information about the planned expansion of services in the Barstow Superior courthouse, you may contact the Court Executive Office at 909-708-8747.
June 19, 2013:
THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT, DOES NOT REALLY MEAN
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that your right to remain silent does not mean you have a right to REMAIN SILENT. I know that sounds unusual, but in the case of Salinas v. Texas (2013) 133 S.Ct. 2174, the Supreme Court has held that if you remain totally silent while being questioned or interrogated by law enforcement, your silence can be used against you as a consciousness of guilt - in other words, if you do not proactively assert your right by stating something along the lines of "I wish to assert my 5th Amendment right to remain silent", then the prosecution would be able to present your utter silence as evidence that you must be guilty of the accused crime, since you did not say anything in response to questioning - whether you have been arrested or not at the time you are being questioned.
In the Salinas case, two brothers were shot at home in Houston, Texas. The only evidence was shotgun shell casings left at the scene. Mr. Salinas attended a party at the subject home the night before, so police politely asked him to come down to the station (he should have never accepted the invitation in the first place) for questioning. He was never placed under arrest or read his Miranda rights during questioning. Mr. Salinas allowed the police to test his shotgun. When the police asked Mr. Salinas if the shells from the scene of the murder would match his shotgun, Mr. Salinas stopped talking, shuffled his feet nervously, bit his lip, and started to tighten up - according to the police report. At trial, the prosecution used Mr. Salinas' silence against him - and described his "uncomfortable reaction" to law enforcement's questioning about his shotgun.
On appeal, unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court took a different take on the right to remain silent, and observed that Mr. Salinas was not detained, and could have walked out at any time he chose during the questioning period. They also noted that Mr. Salinas never verbally asserted his right to remain silent. This decision dramatically increases the chance that police may coax false confessions from innocent suspects, whether they intend to or not.
Moral of the Story: VERBALLY STATE YOUR DESIRE TO INVOKE YOUR RIGHT TO "REMAIN SILENT", LOUDLY, CLEARLY, and REPEATEDLY, even if you are not a formal suspect, and haven’t been read the Miranda warnings.
Attorney at Law
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