Category: General Information

jury

What is a Hung Jury?

I recently conducted a jury trial in San Jose that resulted in a hung jury. It was a DUI case where the client was alleged to have a .18 BAC.

You might have heard this term on television shows or even the news. Sometimes at the conclusion of a jury trial, if the jury cannot unanimously reach a verdict, the court will declare a mistrial. When this happens, the judge will bring the jury in to the court, and typically poll them individually, or ask each juror that a verdict cannot be reached. The judge will also typically ask which way the split is, meaning how many have voted for guilt.

If, after the judge speaks to the jury, the court determines that they are at an impasse, the judge must declare a mistrial. The Penal Code of California requires this in sections 1140 and 1141. The judge will typically ask the jurors to speak with the attorneys only if they wish to. In my case, the jurors did speak to both the District Attorney and myself, which provided valuable insight.

After a mistrial has been declared, there are a few options for what happens next. If the District Attorney wants to, they can insist on trying the case again. However, because their case has been shown to have at least some weaknesses, they often are willing to reduce the charges or offer a resolution that is better than before the case was set for trial. The court may also entertain a motion to dismiss the case. Finally, if the parties cannot reach a decision, the case may be retried again.

In my case, it is unclear whether or not the case will have to be retried. If it is, I now know what the District Attorney’s theories of the case are, and can be even more prepared to fight.

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We Will Continue to Represent Your Interests Even if You Pass Away Before Your Matter is Resolved

Pending a recent appeal I have for the office, my client had an unfortunate motorcycle accident and passed away as a result of it. Normally, a criminal client’s death while his appeal is pending would terminate the proceedings and lead to an automatic vacating of the judgment of conviction. The case would then go back to the trial court so it could be dismissed. It is an otherwise good result for us, but for the circumstances that created it.

However, in my case, there is a good point of criminal law that my client and I really wished to have decided and published. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to see that the court may still choose to rule on our issue even though my client passed away. See, e.g. In re Sheena K. (2007) 40 Cal.4th 875, 879. I am pleased to pursue the issue and continue my client’s fight. In either event, the results should be the same resulting in the ultimate dismissal of my client’s case. It is just unfortunate he will not be able to enjoy it with me in person.

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Tattoos can be problematic for Criminal Defense Attorneys and Defendants at trial

This news article was published this week highlighting a man going to trial on Murder charges who had the mirrored word “MURDER” tattooed on his neck. Wisely, the defendant was concerned that his tattoo might prejudice the jury against him.

The constitutional right to a jury trial in criminal matters is one of the great protections of the U.S. Constitution. It provides that you will be judged by a jury of your peers. However, the reality is that while jury members are instructed to try to consider only the evidence presented at trial, Jurors are humans, and they are prone, like all of us, to be bias and prejudiced by things that they do not understand. For example, a juror who is not in to tattoo may be prone to being judgmental towards others with tattoos, especially one so shocking as this one.

When defendants go to trial, they are usually allowed to get out of the jail jumpsuits that they normally wear, and put on a nice suit, so as not to look like a criminal defendant, and too not unfairly prejudice the jury. This is because, Jurors are susceptible to jump to conclusions based on appearances.

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The courtroom can be a highly emotional place

The courtroom can be a highly emotional place, as demonstrated by this video filmed in a Michigan criminal court. Admittedly, criminal cases involve all sorts of facts, some of which can illicit extreme emotional responses from those involved. This includes judges, District Attorneys, Public Defenders, private criminal defense attorneys and defendants. Understanding this fact, and understanding that emotions in a courtroom can have an impact on justice and on people’s lives, it is critical that if you have a criminal case you are protected from infringements on your freedom due to one party being overly emotional.

For example, I have represented many clients whose case is being handled by a district attorney who seems to have an emotional reaction to the type of crime being accused. Recently I handled an animal cruelty case which was being prosecuted by an assistant district attorney who seemed very emotionally reactive to the case. After working with this district attorney, it quickly became apparent that she was a true animal lover, and consequently this caused her to despise my client and want to impose a punishment that, in my view, was far too harsh under the circumstances.

A skilled criminal defense lawyer is so valuable to you when you are facing criminal charges, as they can identify people and circumstances that seem to trigger extreme emotional response, and make sure that these do not impede your ability to be dealt with justly.

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DUI Charges in Santa Barabara California May Be on the way for Weird Science star- Kelly Lebrock

For those of us who were grew up in the 1980’s, Kelly Lebrock made a lasting impression in her role as Lisa in the movie Weird Science.

Unfortunately, she has landed in a bit of trouble. According to TMZ.com, Ms. Lebrock was arrested near Santa Barabara County California on suspicion of DUI. However, being arrested for DUI does not necessarily mean someone will be charged with DUI, much less convicted. Further, being arrested for DUI does not always result in jail. An experienced DUI attorney can go a long ways towards helping in this regard.

Assuming this report is accurate, Ms. Lebrock will need to have an experienced DUI attorney review her case to determine if she was stopped legally. When I say legally, I am generally referring to whether the stop was consistent with the 4th amendment of the United States Constitution. Many stops are made illegally and an experienced DUI attorney will know how to spot this. If it is believed that the stop was illegal, Lebrock’s DUI attorney will file a motion for a suppression hearing where he will attempt to have the evidence collected as a result of the stop ( presumable her blood alcohol concentration) suppressed.

Aside from determining whether the stop was legal, it will also need to be determined whether her arrest was legal. After that, it will need to be determined whether Ms. Lebrock was impaired while she was driving. That raises a whole host of issues. Remember, in a criminal case, the state carries the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was committed. Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is a high standard. Consequently, if you are ever arrested, you should not assume that an arrest means you will necessarily lose your license, be convicted, or go to jail. The state carries that burden of proof, and their are many way that a skilled DUI Attorney can help you with your case.

george_zimmerman

Domestic Violence Charges of George Zimmerman are Dropped.

In a previous blog post we predicted that George Zimmerman was going to get hammered by the prosecutors in Florida for his new assault and domestic violence charges, as a sort of retribution for the killing of which he was previously acquitted. We anticipated that George Zimmerman’s criminal defense attorneys were going to have their hands full trying to get him a fair trial given the publicity of his murder trial earlier this year.

Well…. it turns out we were wrong. Once again, George Zimmerman is either very lucky or he is very good at picking criminal defense lawyers to get him out of trouble. It was announced this week that George Zimmerman’s criminal charges were dismissed.

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Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Weighs in on George Zimmerman Arrest

I could hardly believe it when I heard on the news this morning that George Zimmerman was arrested AGAIN today.

This is the same George Zimmerman who shot and killed Treyvon Martin and was subsequently acquitted following a very public jury trial. Many people felt that George Zimmerman got lucky. Here was a man facing life in prison for murder, who, due to some fine lawyering by his criminal defense attorneys, narrowly escaped conviction. You would think that someone who had been through that, and had faced the very real possibility of life in prison, would be scared, and make a firm commitment to avoid any run ins with the law. You would think that this guys would live everyday of his life with gratitude for the fact that he dodged a bullet, but seemingly no such luck. This guy was involved in an incident just a few months after being acquitted in which he was accused of punching his father in law in the face, and pulling a gun on his father in law and his estranged wife. There was an ipad involved in this incident which was thought to contain evidence of this crime, but the ipad was broken to the point that no evidence was recoverable. Charges were either dropped or never filed.

This week, Zimmerman was arrested again in Florida. He is now being accused of assaulting his girlfriend with a gun, in addition to some amount of domestic violence or battery. He is facing several charges including at least one felony. My suspicion is that Mr. Zimmerman will be willing to take these charges to trial, as he may be very confident that he can win at trial, as he has once before. Likewise, I suspect the District Attorney will be somewhat reluctant to plea bargain as they may feel like this is their chance for a second bite at the apple, so to speak. A second chance to get a conviction against Mr. Zimmerman, who they likely perceive as a menace, at this point.

At this point, one might rightfully ask what the chances are that George Zimmerman can get a fair trial in Florida. If I was representing Mr. Zimmerman in his new criminal case in Florida, I would have real concerns about whether or not he can get a fair trial in Florida, given that virtually everyone in that state knows about his case, as a result of the extremely high publicity given to his Murder trial. In addition, the media has reported heavily regarding his subsequent brushes with law enforcement. This is one of the issues that a defense attorney at trial wrestles with. A skilled criminal defense attorney takes jury selection very seriously, as he knows that a jury who is biased against his client will likely result in a conviction.

In addition to issues relating to whether their is a venue in which Zimmerman can get a fair trial, there will be evidentiary issues that impact whether or not Zimmerman will get a fair trial. As a criminal defense attorney I would fight like crazy to keep out any evidence that alludes directly or indirectly to Zimmerman’s previous legal battles. If the jury were find out about those, it could be extremely prejudicial to his new case. A cagey prosecutor would know this, and would likely look for ways to get the information in.

Only time will tell how Mr. Zimmerman will fair against the State of Florida in his new criminal case. If the case proceeds to to trial, it will be a monumental task for his defense attorneys to select a fair jury, in a proper venue, and keep all of the prejudicial information away from the jury.

Even if Mr. Zimmerman avoids a conviction this time, one has to wonder what the chances are that this is Mr. Zimmerman’s last run in with law enforcement.

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Murder Charges Dropped Against Los Angeles / Compton Man

As a Criminal Defense Attorney, the fear that haunts us the most is that of the possibility that an innocent man or women might go to jail. This is what we fight against daily. Our job is to act as a quality control mechanism, to ensure that the government is not able to send innocent people to jail.

The LA times is currently reporting on a man by the name of Justin Marquis Scott, against whom the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office recently brought Murder charges (California Penal Code Section 187).

Fortunately for Mr. Scott he had a diligent Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney who fought to demonstrate his innocence. His criminal defense attorney was able to show through multiple sources of video footage, that Mr. Scott was at other locations during the time of the murders, thereby creating reasonable doubt that Mr. Scott was involved in the murder. Kudos to the Los Angeles Attorneys at the District Attorneys office who did the right thing and dismissed the criminal charges upon determining that there was little chance that they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Scott was the murderer. The district attorney could have elected to push the case to trial and let the jury decide. Instead, the DA took the high road and made certain charges dropped .

If you are ever facing criminal charges in Los Angeles, you will want an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney fighting for you. Please do no hesitate to give us a call. Our team of Defense Lawyers stand ready to fight for you in your time of need.

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Miranda Warning Requirements Upheld- Norwalk Criminal Conviction Overturned

It was encouraging as one who is concerned about the fact that the police routinely trample individuals’ constitutional rights, to read the recent article in the LA Times reporting on the voided conviction of a Norwalk man.

Under Miranda one who is being interrogated, in custody, has a right to an attorney. When someone exercises this right and requests an attorney, all questioning should stop until the requested attorney is present.

It is a well established principle in the field of criminal law that the only effective way to deter police from violating our constitutional rights such as those contained in the 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments is to suppress evidence obtained through the violation of these rights. Such suppression of evidence, when enforced, has the effect of disincentivizing police from violating such rights. In this case, a Federal Court threw out this Los Angeles County criminal conviction of a man who was interrogated in custody, after having asked for a Criminal defense attorney and being denied. Below is a sample of the conversation between the defendant and the interrogating officer as presented in the LA Times article:

” During the first interview, a detective told Lujan that he had the right to remain silent and to have a lawyer appointed free of charge. During a third interview, in which Lujan confessed, he asked for a lawyer.

“You feel you need one?” a detective asked.

“Yes, I do,” Lujan said.

“OK,” the detective replied. “All right. If that’s what you want to do, we’ll do that.”

“Can I get one in here today?” Lujan asked.

“I really doubt it,” the detective said. “I mean, I’m going to be honest with you. It’s Sunday evening. When you go to court in a couple of days there will be one appointed for you. That’s the way the system is set up …

“If you want to call and hire an attorney, that’s fine. If you want to make a statement without an attorney, that’s up to you. I doubt that if you hire an attorney they’ll let you make a statement; they usually don’t. That’s the way it goes. So, that’s your prerogative; that’s your choice. Now, if you do want to talk to me without an attorney, that’s your choice. You can just tell the jailer, ‘Hey, I’d like to talk to the detectives without an attorney present.’ OK? That’s your choice.” “

Apparently. further interrogation and an eventual confession followed this exchange and the man was convicted in Los Angeles Superior Court in Norwalk, Ca. Thereafter an appeals court reversed the conviction.

Clients who have been arrested frequently ask me about their Miranda Rights and the Miranda Warning Requirements. The typical question stems from the fact that in some cases an arrest occurs and no Miranda advisement is given. This case illustrates well the rule of law associated with Miranda, namely that one has a right to an attorney when being questioned, while being detained against their will ( in custody). If this right is violated, the proper remedy is the suppression of the evidence that came from that interrogation. In this case, the defendant confessed to the crime later, but the appeals court in San Francisco concluded that the second confession was a result of the need to explain the first confession, and that had the first confession which was obtained illegally not been given, the second confession would not have occurred. This illustrates how sweeping a the suppression can be of evidence deemed to be “fruit of the poisonous tree” or in other words evidence collected in violation of one’s constitutional rights, as the second confession (given in court under oath) was suppressed as well as the first.

This overturned conviction is undoubtedly the result of the hard work of some experienced criminal defense attorneys dedicated to ensuring that their clients rights were protected. If you are ever facing criminal charges in Los Angeles County, do no hesitate to contact us. Our team of Experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys understand the Miranda Rules very well and are ready to ensure that your rights are protected.

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Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Reacts to Ca Prison Status

Our Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney weighs in on local news impacting Californians

The Los Angeles Times ran an article today indicating that the State of California has entered into contracts with private businesses who will provide prisons for California Inmates. This development stands to potentially impact some of our clients (and indirectly, their Los Angeles criminal defense attorney ) in the following ways:

1. Overcrowded prisons result in more inmates, especially low-risk inmates like drug offenders, being “kicked” or released early from jail. This is great news for our clients and the Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys who represent them. We have had many clients sign up for plea deals for up to several months of jail time, only to be released a few days later and their sentence is considered completed. Unfortunately, it is difficult to know if and when this will occur, so you cannot plan on it. But, when it happens, the inmates are understandably happy.

2. One of the advantages to inmates of having private run jails, is that this introduces the element of free-market competition, which tends to have the effect of driving up quality of services provided. These contracts to provide jails are worth tens of millions of dollars to the contractors awarded the contracts. These contractors stand to make a lot of money off of these contracts and consequently, the contractors want to do everything in their power to keep the contracts. This means that the contractors are motivated to run their jails in such a way, so as to minimize complaints from inmates. Too many complaining inmates puts pressure on the politicians in power to award such contracts. Thus, inmates in these private jails are likely to experience better conditions than in government run jails where there is no free-market influence. While everyone wants a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney who can help them avoid jail all together, when that is not possible, we want conditions to be ideal.

3. Overcrowded prisons will ultimately force state politicians to address problems with our current criminal system which jails too many non-violent offenders whose problems would be better addressed by drug programs and diversion programs. Our Criminal defense attorneys in Los Angeles fight hard every day because of the disproportionate relationship between crimes and the punishments handed down. Overcrowding of jails is further evidence that the system is broken.

Our team of Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys and Los Angeles DUI Lawyers have the experience and the desire to help you. If you, or someone you love is being charged with a crime in the state of California. Let call us for a free consultation with a highly experienced criminal defense attorney.