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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

A multi-agency police chase took place on Oct. 2 when a man allegedly stole a police cruiser from the annual "Tour de Poway" cycling event and drove it -- possibly while under the influence -- to the Carmel Valley area of northwest San Diego. Law enforcement booked the 30-year-old man into the San Diego County Jail after the 38-minute chase on suspicion of felony theft and felony evading, drunk driving, and driving under the influence of a controlled substance.

Authorities claim the man stole a police cruiser that was being used by volunteer officers assisting with traffic control during the annual cycling event. Police claim the man took the vehicle while two volunteer officers were standing nearby. A Sheriff's deputy spotted the vehicle moments later and began the police chase. The SDPD and the California Highway Patrol also joined in the ground pursuit.

A Sheriff's helicopter was called in to assist in tracking the vehicle, allowing law enforcement on the ground to back-off in their pursuit. Authorities say that after roughly 38 minutes, the man found himself blocked into a cul de sac in the Carmel Valley area and attempted to drive through a fence in order to reach an adjacent street.

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Tagged in: DUI felonies

A Los Angeles school police officer allegedly falsely reported a shooting last week. The Los Angeles Times reports that a senior LAPD official says the school officer's protective bullet-proof vest appeared to have been hit by a bullet. The officer reportedly suffered bruises to his chest. Los Angeles Police reportedly locked down a 7-square-mile area in response to the reported shooting.

Authorities say that the school officer has been booked on a felony charge of filing a false police report. The story that the use of a deadly weapon had occurred prompted a massive police response in the west San Fernando Valley last week.

The school officer had claimed that he confronted a man who was allegedly trying to break into cars on the El Camino Real High School Campus. He claimed his vest took a single bullet. He said he was knocked back by the impact of the bullet and hit his head in the alleged January 19 shooting.

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Horror stories in California prisons have been on the radar for roughly two decades. A sometimes heated debate regarding the issues of overcrowding and substandard medical care filled a 90-minute U.S. Supreme Court hearing last week. U.S. Supreme Court justices are being asked to rule on the extent to which federal courts can issue an order to ease overcrowding in California prisons.

People convicted of a California felony may be sent to the already overcrowded prisons in the state. The case on review in the Supreme Court stems from suits filed against the state of California dating back to the 1990s alleging that overcrowding violates inmate's Eighth Amendment constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment. Over the years federal courts have issued orders demanding that California implement better treatment for inmates in the overcrowded prison system.

A three-judge federal appellate panel issued a ruling last year that requires the state of California to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of capacity within two years. Roughly 36,000 to 45,000 prisoners would have to be released or transferred to other facilities to comply with the court order.

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Three days before the break-in, the couple and two young children that had lived in the home died in an unrelated car accident. The couple has a 19-year-old daughter that is away at college in another state.

Earlier this year the 30-year-old woman sought to have the charge reduced to second degree burglary. She said that due to the death of the California family three days before the alleged break-in, the dwelling was unoccupied. A second degree burglary in California carries a potential 5-year sentence. First degree burglary exposes an accused person to a potential 8-year sentence.

The judge declined the motion. He found that the 19-year-old college student had shown no intent to abandon the dwelling when she went away to college. The accused woman subsequently pleaded no contest to the charge.

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Tagged in: California felonies

250 more criminal cases are on appeal after dismissals for violations of the right to a speedy trial. The Constitution guarantees every criminal defendant the right to a speedy trial. A California defendant in a felony matter is entitled to trial within 60 days. Misdemeanor cases should be brought to trial within 30 days under California rules.

The ruling Monday arose from the dismissal of a California burglary charge in September 2008, and 17 other cases consolidated for review. No cases have been dismissed in the county since July 2009 based upon a shortage of judges.

In 2007 a task force comprised of judges reported that Riverside County had a culture of continuances that caused delays in the justice system. The agreed upon delays in 2007 led to delays of over a year for as many as 25 percent of the inmates in the county. One defendant sat for eight years awaiting trial, according to the 2007 task force.

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