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A Tiburon man appeared in court last week and accepted a plea agreement in a felony driving under the influence case. He also has a pending misdemeanor DUI charge in front of him that arose at a later date from the felony charge, and he says that he plans to take the later DUI case to trial. Authorities initially accused the man of felony drunk driving after pulling him over for what law enforcement claimed was to check on his welfare.

Police say the man drove past a police station on Tiburon Boulevard. Law enforcement says officers grew concerned because they heard him yelling and screaming as the car passed by the station. Police reportedly conducted a traffic stop, which eventually led to felony DUI charges.

The accused reportedly has three prior DUI convictions on his record-the oldest of which dates back to 2002. Those three priors were used to upgrade the DUI charges to a felony level under California law. The man pled guilty to felony DUI under a negotiated plea agreement with prosecutors.

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Tagged in: Felony DUI

California authorities reported to Oikos University in East Oakland Monday morning after gunshots reportedly rung out on the college campus. Students and others at the college dove for cover when the shot were fired. Officials say that as many as 10 people may have been hit by bullets, but conflicting reports have been issued as to how many people were killed in the college shooting.

SWAT team officers entered the college and other officers swarmed the campus and nearby locations Monday. Several miles away from the East Oakland campus, police in Alameda reportedly have arrested a man at a shopping center who law enforcement believes is connected to the incident.

Details about the entire incident remain confusing across media reports, including conflicting reports on the number of wounded or killed in the East Oakland shooting, and what led law enforcement to Alameda.

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It did not take long for a group of former cops, prosecutors and judges to voice their opinion of a proposed measure that seeks to create a zero tolerance type policy for driving under the influence charges involving pot. This blog discussed the new proposal last week, and members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition have written the assemblywoman who introduced the bill, urging that she immediately withdraw the measure.

Ten retired police officers, deputies, prosecutors, judges and other criminal justice professionals signed the letter calling for withdrawal of the DUI drug-related bill, saying that the draconian measure would criminalize driving by any California medical marijuana patient, even if the patient was not impaired at any time near the time of the arrest.

The criminal justice veterans acknowledge that California law already prohibits driving under the influence of drugs, based upon evidence that the pot, prescription medications or other drugs have caused impairment of the driver. The group says that the current flawed California DUI bill prohibiting pot-based driving without the need to show impairment would make driving illegal for up to 30 days after a medical marijuana patient lawfully smokes pot.

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Tagged in: DUI medical marijuana

Most Californians may be familiar with the constitutional concept of the right to remain silent. Popular culture has long depicted Miranda rights in cop shows to wrap up an episode. That public awareness, however, does not necessarily include recognition of the importance, or the potential abuse of the important constitutional right.

A state appeals court recently threw out a conviction of a Redwood City man based upon the court's finding that prosecutors violated the defendant's right to remain silent before the jury at trial. The man was accused of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence after a fatal accident at a Redwood City intersection in February 2007.

The prosecutor told the jury that the man accused of negligence did not ask about the occupants of the other car involved in the accident. The prosecutor unfairly argued to the jury that the man's silence after the alleged crash showed that he knew that he was in the wrong at the time of the accident. The man's silence occurred when he was effectively under arrest, according to the appellate court ruling, which was handed down last week.

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A California Assemblywoman says the state needs a way to collect data on marijuana related fatal crashes. She says that, "One of the problems we faced as we continue to research this issue is that data specifically related to marijuana is not being collected." She apparently now hopes to have California drivers charged with DUI in order to have a new method to collect data.

She has introduced a proposal that essentially eliminates the necessity of the state to show impairment in marijuana cases. Currently, California laws on driving under the influence prohibit drugged driving. However, the Assemblywoman wants to change DUI laws in the state to allow convictions to be based upon any detectable level of marijuana compounds, or cannabinoids, in a driver's system. Marijuana compounds can remain detectable for weeks after a person uses marijuana.

Advocates for the legalization of marijuana are vehemently opposed to the new proposal. The measure would essentially make it a crime for drivers to get behind the wheel for weeks after using pot. The Assemblywoman who has introduced the concept to essentially eliminate impairment in marijuana related DUI cases admits that the language of the bill "is not perfect." She says she does not intend the proposed measure to impact Californians who have a prescription for medical marijuana.

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The vast majority of criminal cases in the United States resolve with some sort of plea. Many defendants charged with a crime choose to go to court without an attorney and enter a guilty plea of some sort. Other defendants enter negotiated plea agreements.

Often, a plea agreement can minimize the damages that a criminal case can impose against a defendant, but criminal laws are complex and the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction can vary widely based upon the nature of the allegations.

The United States Supreme Court ruled this week that a defendant's right to effective criminal representation extends to any plea agreement or plea offer that a prosecutor may present. The court essentially ruled, in a split decision, that plea agreements are an important aspect of criminal defense.

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The Los Angeles Times has called the phenomenon a "nationwide wave of Tide laundry detergent thefts," based upon allegations in the Midwest against an unemployed man who says he could not afford the detergent and a separate case from the East Coast.

Some retailers reportedly have placed anti-theft devices as publications are calling the detergent "liquid gold." Sources suggest people are stealing the detergent to sell at flea markets. A spokesperson for the retailer that has begun placing anti-theft devices on some bottles downplays the issue saying it is not new and is also not a chain-wide issue for that retailer. Nonetheless, the recent California case involves allegations against a man accusing him of commercial burglary.

Authorities say the man walked through the store, put nine bottles of the detergent in a grocery cart and left the store. A store manager says that he confronted the accused in the parking lot before the man left in a Ford Explorer.

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Three Gilroy teens were arrested early Tuesday on serious drug charges after law enforcement stopped a vehicle for being suspicious. In all, Gilroy police claim an officer saw several "suspicious vehicles" while on patrol at around 2:55 a.m. The officer asserts that the vehicles sped off when the squad approached the area, and the officer made a traffic stop of a Honda a short time after the several cars dispersed.

Authorities claim that the truck of the Honda was not fully closed because it was overflowing with marijuana plants. Three men in the Honda were reportedly arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession for sales. Authorities say that police found equipment in the street where the Gilroy officer originally saw the allegedly suspicious vehicles parked. Law enforcement concluded that the equipment looked like it may be similar to objects used to cultivate marijuana.

During the wee hours of the morning, law enforcement thought two homes looked suspicious, and police concluded that the homes must have been burglarized. Police allege that they entered the homes as a safety precaution in the middle of the night.

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Santa Cruz criminal defense lawyers know that realignment has allowed many people who have been convicted of a low level felony in California to serve time in a county jail instead of state prison. The League of Women Voters have filed a civil lawsuit in the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco that seeks to allow citizens who serve their time at the county level to retain their right to vote.

Generally, California law bars convicted felons from voting while they are incarcerated. Traditionally, people held in county jails in California are not prohibited from voting. The California constitution prohibits voting by those citizens "imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony."

The recent lawsuit essentially says that people sent to jail are not "imprisoned" and therefore the California Constitution does not prohibit their right to vote. Similarly, under realignment inmates sent to county jail for low-level felony offenses are generally released into a program called "post-release community supervision, and are therefore not released on parole.

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Tagged in: felonies

The man's girlfriend was killed when the cannon discharged. Authorities have not identified the 38-year-old woman, who reportedly died of shrapnel wounds after the device exploded in the community of Potrero. Three other adults and a 4-year-old girl apparently were also inside the home at the time of the blast. The three other adults and the child were not injured. The man who has been arrested did suffer shrapnel wounds and received treatment at the hospital.

Authorities say that the 39-year-old man was arrested as police investigate the woman's death related to the incident. Authorities are apparently interrogating the man, although authorities have not found any motive to suggest any possible criminal intent. Officials claim that the man made a statement and law enforcement says they want to corroborate the man's story, "based on the evidence [investigators] find at the scene."

Authorities acknowledge that the incident may have been just a terrible accident.

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Law enforcement cordoned off an area near a multi-use building on Prospect Street in Watsonville Tuesday afternoon. Authorities were apparently suspicious that a gun allegedly taken during a recent burglary may have been in the building. Law enforcement says that they also thought a 30-year-old parolee may have been in the building. The man is on parole for domestic violence.

Two men apparently were inside the building and denied entry to the police. Law enforcement says that they had information that one of the men would be heavily armed. It appears in that the parolee police believed was inside, in fact was not. After a four hour standoff, police entered the building and a search revealed that no guns were inside the building.

It is unclear what information led police to believe the parolee or any weapons--including the gun allegedly taken in a California burglary that officials were looking for-were inside the Watsonville building.

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Tagged in: burglary/robbery

Earlier this month Chris Brown asked a California judge to release him early from probation. The R and B singer was given five years of supervised probation after allegations arose in 2009 that Brown assaulted Rihanna at a party held the evening before the 2009 Grammy awards.

Brown pled guilty to charges in the California domestic violence case and, since he was placed on probation in 2009, the singer has reportedly completed a year-long domestic violence program, taken part in court ordered anger-management classes and performed community service. However, he reportedly has not completed all of the hours of service under the sentencing order. At a review hearing, held just before this year's Grammy awards, the singer asked to be released from supervised probation early due to his good behavior.

A Los Angeles County judge denied the request and ordered that the singer continue to report to a probation officer in his home state of Virginia. Now, an alleged incident in Florida may cause the singer legal difficulties in California.

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Santa Cruz police claim that fingerprints found on an abandoned car led them to two Sacramento men who have now been arrested for theft crimes. Law enforcement believes that the two brothers can be linked to stealing at least five catalytic converters. Although police only believe they can link the two men to five alleged thefts of catalytic converters, Santa Cruz police say that at least 56 catalytic converters have been taken from automobiles in the city since last July. Two other men were arrested in Watsonville on February 1 in an unrelated investigation.

Those two men are also accused of stealing converters from automobiles to be sold to recyclers. Each of the men arrested in Watsonville have preliminary hearings scheduled where the judge will review evidence to see whether the prosecutors have sufficient evidence to have the criminal case proceed. A ruling at a preliminary hearing is not a finding of guilt, but only a determination of whether the state has a minimum amount of evidence for the case to proceed.

The most recent arrests in Santa Cruz reportedly followed the discovery of two abandoned cars in an area that law enforcement claims is a hot spot for catalytic converter thefts. Police say that they found fingerprints on the two cars leading law enforcement to the two men from Sacramento. Santa Cruz police claim that the two cars had been stolen and the catalytic converters were removed before the cars were abandoned.

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Santa Cruz criminal defense lawyers are aware that domestic violence charges are treated harshly in California. The law does not require that parties to an alleged domestic violence dispute be married, or even related. The allegations arising out of Pasadena Sunday night involve an unmarried couple-the two have reportedly been in a on-and-off again relationship since Aug. 2010.

Police claim that when they arrived at the couple's home they observed evidence of minor injury. Law enforcement says Sinclair displayed bruises and red marks.

Sources claim that Hefner admitted having been in an argument with Sinclair, but denies that any physical contact was involved. Authorities claim that Sinclair told police during the investigation that Hefner had puncher her and kicked her in the stomach. She reportedly says that Hefner would not let her leave the home after the alleged attack. She says that she called relatives, who notified police of the alleged altercation.

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The California Highway Patrol says that officers discovered more than eight pounds of methamphetamine in a car that had been pulled over for a routine traffic stop last week. A news report in the Red Bluff Daily News does not indicate what police claim was the original basis for the traffic stop. The driver of the vehicle was arrested on suspicion of drug crimes after the encounter.

CHP officers say that the stop occurred around 9:00 last Wednesday along Interstate 5. A 38-year-old Washington man driving a Chevrolet Trailblazer did something that officers apparently characterize as criminal activity during the traffic stop. The Daily News report does not specify what that activity allegedly involved.

Authorities called in a drug sniffing dog to check out the vehicle, according to the CHP. Law enforcement claims that the dog behaved as if a controlled substance was inside the vehicle. Officers claim that they seized 8.1 pounds of methamphetamine during a search of the Trailblazer, according to a Tehama Interagency Drug Enforcement Task Force report. Agents from the task force apparently were called in to assist the CHP in the investigation.

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Often in cases where a person is accused of a crime, new stories are written with one side. A police report is often the only public information available to a reporter, so they publish stories that rely heavily on a police report and have little or no commentary from the person accused.

When a woman was arrested three times in five days last week in Santa Cruz, she wasn't afforded to ability to tell her side of the story about drug charges she is facing or respond to allegations by police. According to one news article, the woman was arrested for intent to commit illegal drug activity early in the week. She was later released. It isn't clear what kind of activity the police say the woman may have committed, and the story did not include her response to the allegations.

The woman was later arrested for trespassing before being released again. The she was arrested for allegedly resisting arrest or obstructing an officer. The police were at the residence where she was arrested to execute a probation search. They said they didn't find the person they were looking for and arrested the woman for refusing to exit the house or apartment.

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In 2010, California began a limited pilot project in driving under the influence cases to test whether ignition interlocks should be used in sentencing for a DUI conviction. The pilot project is being conducted in four counties, and is expected to run through 2016. Sources say that many states are testing the devices in a variety of ways, and roughly 15 states require ignition interlocks in all DUI cases, even for first-time offenders.

Now lawmakers in the nation's capitol are seeking to force states to mandate the use of ignition interlocks in all DUI cases. Ignition interlocks generally are small devices that attach inside the car. The devices act as a portable Breathalyzer-like machine that drivers must use to start the car. The machines come with steep installation fees and monthly charges. If a driver fails the breath test, the car will not start.

Representatives in the U.S. House introduced a measure that would encourage states to require interlocks in all DUI cases. The measure was unveiled Tuesday as part of a transportation spending bill. The federal government cannot tell states directly what criminal laws to pass in individual states, but Congress can dangle money as a carrot to get their way.

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Tagged in: ignition interlocks

While courts have been struggling with the validity and constitutional fairness of the use of technological gadgets used to create evidence in criminal cases, a law enforcement agency in California claims that a facial recognition program has linked two people to three California armed robberies. A sergeant from the Lancaster Sheriff's office says the facial recognition program is "only available to law enforcement."

The technology "is a relatively new program that uses advancing technology to compare clear facial photos to booking photos already in the database," according to the sergeant. Deputies say that a 31-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman were arrested last week, based at least in part on the new technology, to which only police have access.

Law enforcement claims that the man and woman teamed up to commit the alleged armed robberies at businesses that had no customers present at the time of the offenses. The Lancaster sergeant says that, "The male suspect would wait for the other patrons to leave the targeted businesses before approaching the cashiers."

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Tagged in: armed robbery

School district trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to allow Pleasanton police dogs to stroll through the parking lots of the high schools to conduct random warrantless searches. The dogs reportedly will be allowed inside the physical education locker rooms when students are not present to sniff for contraband. Additionally, the high school principals will be authorized to seek approval to request warrantless searches.

Four of the five trustees voted to delay implementation of the new dog sniff protocol until the school district can develop a policy for conducting the random warrantless dog sniff searches. Sources say that could take until the end of February. One of the trustees voted against waiting to develop a policy, saying the drug problem is urgent.

Although the district superintendent claims that the alleged drug problem in Pleasanton schools does not involve every student, presumably, every student may be subject to the police dog scrutiny, even if the student is not involved.

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Tagged in: warrantless search

With today's technology, constitutional issues can involve complex arguments in criminal cases. Last summer, this blog reported that the United states Supreme Court had agreed to review whether law enforcement's use of a global positioning system device without a warrant during a drug crime investigation was done in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Monday, the high court ruled unanimously that the Constitution requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant.

Although all nine justices ruled that the Constitution requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant, some questions may arise in the future from the Supreme Court ruling.

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