Sunday, May 25, 2014

Veteran CHP Officer Charged With Felony DUI

A California Highway Patrol officer charged with felony DUI stemming from a January four-car wreck while she was off duty pleaded not guilty today in Shasta County Superior Court.
Redding criminal defense attorney John Kucera entered the not guilty plea on behalf of his client, Doreen Bernice Shaw, 42, of Redding, as she stood next to him.
Shaw, who remains free of jail custody while on her own recognizance, is scheduled to have her preliminary hearing on April 12.
A 17-year CHP veteran, Shaw is charged with felony DUI with injury, a misdemeanor count of resisting or obstructing officers and a series of enhancements.
Shaw was not hurt in the Jan. 14 chain-reaction crash on South Bonnyview Avenue, but five others suffered minor injuries.
It was originally alleged in the criminal complaint that Shaw had a blood alcohol level of at least 0.20 percent, but Kucera said the complaint, which has been amended, now claims that her blood alcohol level ranged from 0.13 percent to 0.16 percent. The legal driving limit is 0.08 percent.
A Redding police report said Shaw, who reportedly admitted she was too drunk to drive, was belligerent, combative and screamed profanities at officers following the wreck. She also allegedly tried to walk away from officers after she was handcuffed and kneed RPD Officer Tyler Lanham in his left thigh before she was forcibly placed in the back of a patrol car, the police report said.

Friday, May 23, 2014

California Court Limits Scope Of Medical Marijuana Laws

With the passage of the marijuana compassionate use laws several years ago there has been a plethora of legal cases defining how far reaching the statute applies to criminal and DUI marijuana offenses, this cases limits the ability of growers and distributors inasmuch as the person cannot simply cultivate and thereafter sell limitless amount of pot with legal immunity.

In People vs. Mitchell, The defendant formed a non-profit corporation to cultivate marijuana and projected being paid as much as 60k annually for the marijuana. He then entered into two contracts to grow marijuana every month and sell it to a for-profit corporation, the K.I.M. Collective, that operated a medical marijuana collective of which he was personally a member. Police discovered his extensive marijuana growing facility and he was convicted of marijuana cultivation (Health & Saf. Code, § 11358). On appeal, he contended that he was entitled to the protections of Health and Safety Code section 11362.775 of the MMPA. Held: Affirmed. Section 11362.775 provides that specified persons "who associate within the State of California in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes, shall not solely on the basis of that fact be subject" to certain criminal sanctions, including section 11358. However, no individual or group may cultivate medical marijuana for profit. 

In this case, the defendant was not convicted solely because of his collective or cooperative marijuana cultivation. He admitted that he intended to gain tens of thousands of dollars from his cultivation operation, expected to live off the income, and expected to be compensated for his expenses. He entered into contracts to provide marijuana to a for-profit corporation and his own corporation had no relationship with the K.I.M. Collective other than as a supplier of marijuana. Additionally, the other principal defenses available under the medical marijuana laws do not apply to the accused because the amount of marijuana he possessed exceeded the amount reasonably necessary for appellant's personal use, there was no evidence he was a primary caregiver, and the defense related to compensation for actual expenses does not apply to violations of section 11358. Thanks to (CCAP)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Torrance DUI Attorney Matthew Ruff: Weekly Case Review

The issue of what constitutes a violation of the right of confrontation in both DUI and criminal cases has been a hot topic in the last few years.  The US Supreme Court has handed down no less than 2 major cases on the issue in the last few years and the California Courts are nearly tripling that number.  At its core, the right guarantees us all from a witness testifying against us without then in Court with the ability to cross examine them.  This recent case examines that right within the context of a drug and gang case.

In People v. Archuleta, A jury convicted the accused of possession of methamphetamine and active gang participation. Police officers received information that a homicide suspect could be found at appellant's residence. At the residence, they found appellant and another suspect in the garage, each holding suspected methamphetamine. (They did not find the homicide suspect.) At trial, the prosecution's gang expert, a sheriff's deputy, testified that appellant was a high-ranking member of and active participant in the East Side Victoria (ESV) criminal street gang. He based his opinion in part on the testimonial hearsay statement of another gang member, Perez. The court considered whether the expert's testimony violated appellant's Sixth Amendment right to confrontation and concluded that federal cases provide the proper standard. Experts may rely on testimonial hearsay in forming their opinions but may not simply parrot the content of such hearsay to the jury on direct examination unless the declarant is unavailable or the defendant had a prior opportunity for cross-examination. 

The Justices opined that the question is whether the expert is giving an independent judgment or merely acting as a transmitter of testimonial hearsay. The court found that admission of Perez's out-of-court statement that appellant directed an uncharged robbery of a drug dealer by ESV gang members, as the basis for the expert's opinion, violated appellant's Sixth Amendment rights. The statement essentially was offered for its truth and it was not shown that Perez was unavailable or that appellant had a prior opportunity to cross-examine him. However, the error was deemed harmless because the verdicts on the possession and gang participation charges were unattributable to the statement. 

What this effectively means is that although the Court found the evidence inadmissible, they still believed that there was enough evidence to uphold the conviction.  This case sheds additional light on this crucial right.  There are other cases within the DUI context that disallow an expert to testify about blood tests without being present in Court and available for cross examnation.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

DNA alone not enough to convict for a crime in California

The science in criminal and DUI cases has risen to a level of CSI proportions.  Courts have been very lenient in allowing people to be convicted based on scant scientific evidence.  Here, the courts draw the line.  The defendant herein was convicted of several crimes based solely on his DNA.  Here are the facts:  The owner of a nail salon discovered a window in the front door of his business had been broken and the store burglarized. Investigating officers swabbed for DNA evidence at the crime scene. One item tested was a palm-sized rock found inside the business. DNA from the rock was matched to appellant, who was convicted of second degree burglary. On appeal he challenged the sufficiency of the evidence. 
The appeals court threw the case out and reversed the conviction, exonerating the accused.   No evidence other than appellant's DNA on the rock tied appellant to the crime. The court noted this is "a case where the only evidence inculpating the defendant to the crime is the defendant's DNA." Relying on fingerprint-only cases, the Court of Appeal stated the issue is whether a trier of fact could reasonably conclude that "contact with an object could not have occurred other than in connection with the crime." The evidence in the trial court showed the rock was located inside the business underneath one of the nail stations, and contained appellant's DNA. There was no evidence regarding the origin of the rock and the evidence regarding its relationship to the crime was weak. The DNA expert could not say how long the DNA had been on the rock. Without evidence showing when and where appellant came in contact with the rock, the factfinder could not rely on the rock alone to convict him.  (CCAP).