Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Another bad bill at the gate - makes it illegal to drive a car with ANY LEVEL of MJ in your system.

As I have reported previously, this time of year we see all kinds of crazy bills being proposed.  This latest from Assembly person Norma Torres (a Democrat no less) would make it illegal to drive a car with ANY LEVEL of cannabinoids in your system.  So if you were exposed to MJ two weeks previously and a blood test showed MJ in your system you would be guilty of a DUI - even if you were totally sober at the time.

Also, would this give police more reasons to pull you over in the car?  What it you have a Grateful Dead sticker on your car?  Is that probable cause under this law?

(Torres D) Driving under the influence.
Current Text: Introduced: 2/24/2012
Summary: Current law prohibits a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle. This bill would make it a crime for a person who has any level of cannabinoids or synthetic cannabinoid compound, as defined, in his or her blood or urine to drive a vehicle. This bill would establish a rebuttable presumption that a person had cannabinoids or synthetic cannabinoid compound in his or her blood or urine at the time he or she drove a vehicle if the substance is present in his or her blood or urine at the time of a chemical test performed within three hours after driving. This bill would impose a state-mandated local program by expanding the definition of a crime. This bill contains other related provisions and other current laws.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Legislative update for 3/23/12

Mike is a member of the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and is actively involved with the legislative committee which monitors all of the criminal justice bills that come through the Capital each year. 2012 has, like most years, had some bad bills proposed. CACJ has been active in killing several of those bills. Mike was actively involved and wrote the opposition letter to a bill that would require all registered sex offenders to carry identification. This would have widened the discretion for law enforcement to stop citizens.

Below is the CACJ Legislative Update

A multitude of public safety bills are being deliberated on as we move into the height of the legislative session. CACJ Legislative Committee members have continued to volunteer their time to fight back against the flurry of bills to expand the criminal justice system. We have seen a number of key victories this past week including the voting down of a bill to require sex offenders to carry identification.  

Bills up next week:
AB 1709 (Mitchell) Jury Trials for Juveniles This bill would require that a minor be afforded the right to a jury trial if a juvenile adjudication can be used against them in the future.

 SB 968 (Wright) Electronic Monitoring This bill would allow a person to apply for reduced bail if they agree to begin an electronic monitoring program.

AB 1707 (Ammiano) CACI Listing Removal This bill would delete listings of minor perpetrators on the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) 10 years after the incident if there were no subsequent incidents.

SB 1060 (Hancock) Lifetime ban on CalWORKS This bill would end the lifetime ban on CalWORKs eligibility to people who have a past felony conviction provided they verify that they have participated in a recovery program and certify that they are participating in or have successfully completed a government recognized treatment program.  

Bills defeated or pulled by author this week:
AB 1695 (Cook) Sex Offender Identification This bill would make it a misdemeanor for any registered sex offender convicted of a crime committed against a minor under the age of 14 to be found without their state issued identification card while outside their home. Bill defeated. Mike wrote the opposition letter

AB 1682 (Portantino) Statute of Limitations for Rape This bill would eliminate the statute of limitations for the crime of rape in California. Hearing delayed.

AB 1528 (Donnelly) Penalty Increase This bill would make disorderly conduct, an invasion of privacy, from a felony to a misdemeanor. Hearing delayed.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jake Stebner wins jury trial

Last week, Jake Stebner was in a jury trial in Yolo County. He represented a gentlemen accused of failing to register as a sex offender. These are always difficult cases. Using daring strategy and solid lawyering, Jake proved how confusing the law is and showed that his client did not willfully fail to register. On Monday morning the jury returned a NOT GUILTY verdict. Nice work Jake.

Friday, March 9, 2012

What is a criminal attorney going to cost??

What is a criminal lawyer going to cost? How much you will spend on a criminal defense attorney is dependent upon a lot of factors. The hourly rate, the complexity of the case, and whether the case will proceed to jury trial are just a few of the factors that will determine what a case will cost. Unlike purchasing an item (like a car) retaining an attorney is hiring a person to do a service.

In most situations, the cost of that service depends on the amount of time it takes to perform the service times the hourly rate. The hourly rate is generally set based upon the experience of the attorney. In short, what you pay for is the attorneys time. How long the service - whether it is a court appearance, drafting a motion or negotiating with the prosecution- will depend upon the complexity of the case. 

While billing by the hour is the traditional method of billing, some attorneys will offer flat rate billing. Flat rate billing is a set amount for a certain type of case, regardless of how much time it takes. Driving under the influence cases, expungements and simple misdemeanor cases are examples of cases that a flat rate may be fair and appropriate. In some cases, a combination of an hourly rate and flat rate for certain events, such as a jury trial can be negotiated. For an hourly rate, the attorney will require a retainer. I attempt to determine how much I think a case will cost in determining the amount of the retainer. For example, if it appears that the case will settle quickly, I would require a smaller retainer then a case that I expect to go to jury trial. The client deposits money in the attorneys trust fund and the attorney will pay him/her self periodically as the work is done. A flat rate is not deposited in trust and is earned as soon as the case is accepted. Thereafter the attorney performs his/her work without any additional compensation.

I, personally, feel that it is important that any attorney see a case all the way through. While some attorneys will take a case only through preliminary hearing or some other defined point in the process, I feel that it is wrong to take a clients money then quit them just because you reach a certain point in the process. It can often be difficult for a new attorney to pick up the case in the middle and sometimes information gets lost or misplaced. I work hard to avoid this situation by trying to have an honest conversation with the client to determine his/her goals and attempt to determine how much time will be needed to bring a case to conclusion. By laying out a tentative game plan regarding how to proceed, one can get a reasonable estimate regarding the type of resources necessary to properly defend the case.

In addition to the attorney fees, it is not uncommon to require the services of experts and/or investigators. It is important to remember that these are just estimates. Attempting to guess how the opposing attorney or the court will react and respond is all ways tricky. Things that appear simple are often made complicated in unpredictable ways. Sometimes, however, everyone will be reasonable from the outset and a case will reach a quick resolution. This usually means that the client will receive a refund from their trust fund deposit.

An important point to remember is that most attorneys will be willing to negotiate their fees. As for myself, the more a client is willing to place in trust upfront, the more I am willing to lower my hourly rate and/or endeavor to lower the the total fees. What I don't want to have to do, is come after a client for past due legal fees. Unfortunately after a case is concluded, some clients will ignore or completely disregard such a bill.

There is no getting around the fact that hiring a good criminal defense attorney will be expensive. But understanding how the fees are determined and attempting to negotate a fair fee is appropriate for any client.