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Authorities say that a law enforcement investigation into a string of California burglaries led to a number of recent arrests on a variety of charges, including allegations of gang involvement. One man was arrested on attempted burglary and conspiracy charges. Three other men reportedly were later arrested on weapons charges with allegations of gang enhancements.

Apparently, Visalia police responded to a call reporting suspicious activity. Police say the report claimed four men were attempting to break in to a backyard in Visalia. Law enforcement claims a medical marijuana grow was located on the property. News reports do not suggest the marijuana grow was illegal under California law.

A parole agent reportedly was in the same area around the same time. The parole agent claims to have seen the men drive away from the Visalia property. The parole agent claims the men stopped, but fled when the parole agent confronted the four men.

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Critics say reform to the California three strikes law is necessary as life sentences have been imposed for minor crimes, including theft crimes alleging such minor offenses as stealing a pair of socks. In February, this blog reported the story of a man facing a three strikes sentence for allegedly attempting to take a pair of gloves and some wire from a "big-box" home improvement store. That man was sentenced to a 29-years-to-life prison term for the alleged roughly $21 theft crime.

Now a group of Stanford University law professors have drafted a new proposed ballot initiative seeking to reform the harsh consequences of the sentencing law. The new proposal does not go as far as the 2004 measure that was defeated in the legislature. The new measure seeks to limit felonies triggering third strikes to serious or violent felonies for many convictions.

However, in contrast to the legislative measure narrowly defeated in 2004, the new proposal carves out an exception for so-called "hard-core" repeat offenders, that sources characterize as murderers, rapists and child molesters. In those cases the exception will allow any felony conviction, even a felony shoplifting conviction, to trigger a third strike.

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Three Gavilan College basketball players were injured in a tragic accident Sunday. Reports indicate that the driver of the car filled with the ball players and two female passengers swerved to avoid a tire in the road just prior to the crash. The car spun out and came to a stop facing the wrong direction on Highway 101. A Nissan then slammed head-on into the student's car.

Reports indicate that the group of students was at a San Francisco nightclub before the 1:30 a.m. traffic accident. Police reportedly arrested the 22-year-old student who was driving the car that initially spun out on suspicion of driving under the influence before he was released to San Francisco General Hospital, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The CHP suggests that the young man could face felony DUI charges related to the traffic accident, apparently based upon the injuries involved. California law allows prosecutors to pursue felony DUI charges, even on a first-time offense, based upon allegations that a drunk driver was involved in an accident causing injuries. The driver and two of his teammates suffered serious injuries when the car they were in was struck by the Nissan. Two women, who were passengers in the Nissan, reportedly sustained minor injuries.

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Law enforcement says the three men fled from the scene and disappeared into a nearby canyon. Police brought in dogs to search for the three men. The California Highway Patrol dispatched an airplane to provide air surveillance of the area. The massive manhunt apparently proved unsuccessful, and the search was called off by around 12:30 p.m.

Despite not being able to locate any of the alleged burglars, police claim they have suspects in mind. Law enforcement believes one of the men allegedly involved in the purported burglary is an East Palo Alto man. A second person that police think was involved is a San Carlos man who is on parole.

Authorities apparently found a car at, or near, the residence that they believe is linked to the alleged burglary. Law enforcement is relying on the presence of the car to support their suspicions on who may have been involved in the alleged incident.

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Tagged in: burglary/robbery

For the first six-months of 2012, Californians with old, unpaid traffic tickets will be able to clear up the delinquent tickets at a significant savings. The state is offering a sort-of amnesty-like program for people who have outstanding traffic tickets that are at least 3-years-old. The deal the state is offering during the six-month period is a half-price offer. Californians with old unpaid tickets can clear-up the delinquent fines for half price. The new law seeks to recover a portion of the roughly $900 million in overdue traffic ticket fines.

The Administrative Office of the Courts in California estimates the traffic ticket discount could generate as much as $46 million for the state. The traffic ticket discount offer applies to tickets that had an original due date before the start of 2009. A major caveat, however, the 50 percent traffic ticket discount program does not apply to drunk driving fines, reckless driving offenses nor parking tickets.

The law also allows individual counties to further limit the scope of the discount program. For instance, a manager with the Enhanced Collection's Unit with the state courts says a county can limit the discount to such infractions as speeding tickets and running a red light, while excluding misdemeanor violations, like driving with a suspended license.

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What began as a traffic stop for an alleged speeding violation turned much more serious recently for a Garberville man. The California Highway Patrol claims the 41-year-old Garberville man was speeding on U.S. Highway 101 near Miranda last week. During the traffic stop, the man apparently was arrested on suspicion of DUI. A news report on the incident in The Times-Standard does not address the alleged evidence that the CHP is relying upon to support their suspicion that the driver was under the influence.

CHP officers say they conducted an inventory search of the 2007 Dodge Ram that they say the Garberville man was driving last Tuesday. The officers apparently decided to have the vehicle towed after the DUI arrest. CHP officers say they conducted an inventory search of the Dodge prior to towing. That search reportedly has led to serious California drug charges against the driver of the vehicle. The CHP says that a 23-year-old passenger in the Dodge was released at the scene of the original traffic stop.

The CHP claims they found roughly 30 pounds of processed marijuana hidden from view somewhere in the vehicle during the inventory search. The CHP estimates the street value of the pot to be more than $90,000.

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A California man allegedly tried to ship a package from California to Illinois through Federal Express in July 2010. A FedEx employee claims the package smelled of marijuana and called police to report the parcel. The man accused of trying to send the package was ultimately charged with serious California drug crimes, including possession of marijuana for sale and sale and transportation of marijuana, according to court records.

Police claim that when they were called to FedEx, the responding officer could smell marijuana and seized the parcel as evidence. The officer brought the package back to the police station and the narcotics unit apparently declined to investigate the matter. The officer and his supervisor decided to open the package without first seeking a judicially sanctioned warrant. They claim the package contained nearly a pound of marijuana.

The man accused of the drug crime sought to have the evidence thrown out of court. The Superior Court judge ruled against the defendant, reasoning that both the seizure and the warrantless search of the package were justified. Monday a California Appellate court overturned that ruling.

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Police claim some form of argument erupted recently between a laundromat employee and a customer. Law enforcement believes the argument escalated beyond words at some point. Police claim the 26-year-old customer had entered the establishment around 10:00 a.m. Saturday. He apparently was toting a wooden skateboard. After the alleged argument broke out, law enforcement says the customer swung his skateboard at the Laundromat employee. The 26-year-old customer could be facing serious felony charges based upon the allegations.

The laundromat employee apparently did not suffer any injury in the alleged incident. Authorities say the employee did not seek any kind of medical treatment after the alleged incident. In fact, police believe the employee grabbed the skateboard during the alleged incident.

Nonetheless, police suspect the customer committed assault with a deadly weapon. The alleged assault apparently includes the allegation that the customer swung the skateboard at the employee. The police further suspect that the skateboard will serve as the evidence that a deadly weapon was used in the alleged incident.

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Allegations of gang crimes can bring serious consequences under state law. A recent case in Santa Cruz County highlights how thin the evidence of gang involvement can be to lead to a gang crimes charge. A Watsonville mother recently faced a charge of gang participation after a video was posted on YouTube. A schoolyard fight that reportedly occurred in September apparently was the focus of the video.

The fight reportedly involved the Watsonville Mother's child. The woman reportedly heard that her daughter was being jumped and she went to the Harkins Slough area to find her daughter. Apparently, she saw the fight and tried to scare off the girl who was fighting with her daughter. The mother shouted, and the shouts reportedly were captured on the YouTube video.

Law enforcement reportedly got wind that the video was posted on YouTube and after viewing it, the woman was charged with parental neglect and gang participation. The gang crime apparently was based upon the woman's language. Police claimed the language made references to an alleged Watsonville gang.

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It certainly is common to see signs posted in stores proclaiming "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service," across the country. However, now law enforcement agencies in some California communities seem to be chiming in to create a new policy. The Los Angeles Police Department has reportedly proclaimed that consumers will be required to remove their hats and hoodies when entering stores.

Officials with the LAPD reportedly met with community leaders and officials in Studio City and North Hollywood last week to announce the new initiative aimed at reducing the number of thefts and robberies at area businesses.

LAPD officials claim that people attempting to steal from businesses often use hats and hoodies to shield their features from video surveillance and potential witnesses during alleged crimes. The California law enforcement officials cited what the Los Angeles Times characterized as a rash of recent jewelry heists, where hoodie-wearing men allegedly used the hoods on their sweatshirts to hide from security video.

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Tagged in: burglary/robbery theft

Santa Cruz County deputies announced this week that they have arrested an Aptos man on suspicion of drug charges. Sheriff's deputies reportedly raided the 47-year-old man's home Tuesday. Law enforcement claims they received a number of tips regarding a possible marijuana cultivation operation and sought a search warrant, apparently based upon the tips.

Deputies say the Aptos man was arrested during the police search. Authorities admit the man had a marijuana prescription. The man's medicinal medical marijuana card entitles him to grow a limited amount of medical marijuana for his personal use. Deputies, however claim the man rarely used marijuana personally.

Law enforcement says they found 500 marijuana plants and 4 pounds of processed marijuana in the Aptos home during the Sheriff's Office raid. Deputies further claim they found a scale and packaging material during the search. Authorities believe the alleged operation was capable of generating more than $150,000 annually. Law enforcement claims the man used the marijuana grow operation as his main source of income.

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Rapper Tone Loc appeared in court last week and pled no contest to weapons and domestic violence charges. The actor/singer, whose real name is Anthony Smith apparently chose not to try to negotiate a plea agreement with prosecutors in the criminal case. He pled no contest to possession of an assault weapon and corporal injury to a spouse charges.

The charges involve allegations of a domestic incident that occurred June 18. News reports do not provide details of the facts of what police believe occurred. However, during an investigation of the alleged California domestic violence incident, police claim they found an unregistered Colt AR-15 Sporter. The assault weapon was not used in the alleged domestic violence incident.

The rapper left it to the court as to what the sentence would be in the no contest plea. The judge pronounced sentence at the same hearing. The rapper was sentenced to 1 day in jail, with three years of formal probation. The rapper is required to perform 30 days of community service under the sentence. He will also have to participate in 52 weeks of anger management counseling.

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Tagged in: domestic violence

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 number of Californians appearing for arraignment in DUI cases were recently the focus of a so-called police sting operation in Walnut Creek. News reports indicate that roughly 97 people appeared in Superior Court for arraignment on DUI charges on Sept. 26. Nearly all of the accused reportedly had suspended licenses.

Police say the judge warned each of the accused not to drive with a suspended license. News reports say most of the defendants did not drive, but police claim a number of people leaving the courthouse did drive away from their arraignments. Undercover officers reportedly watched as the defendants left the courthouse in Walnut Creek after the arraignment.

Law enforcement arrested 12 people leaving the courthouse. The undercover officers at the courthouse apparently radioed information to motorcycle officers waiting nearby. The motorcycle officers reportedly conducted traffic stops based upon the undercover officer's observations.

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Tagged in: DUI

A 35-year-old man that police once compared to the fictional character Jason Bourne pled guilty Friday to multiple felonies in a plea deal that will allow the man to avoid prison time. The accused entered guilty pleas to two counts of felony drug charges alleging possession with intent to sell, and one count each of possession of concentrated cannabis, forgery and possession for sale of a controlled substance while armed. The judge imposed a suspended 7-year prison term and released the man on probation.

The case stems from a tip police claim a neighbor called in, reporting a suspicious smell emanating from the man's penthouse apartment. Police and firefighters reportedly responded to the location, but reportedly did not detect any suspicious smells.

Nonetheless, police requested to enter the apartment and the man refused the request. Police claim they remained concerned about potential danger inside the apartment based upon the neighbor's phoned-in tip. While outside the door, one officer says the apartment grew quiet, further raising police concerns. Law enforcement says the broke in the door, even though they apparently did not have a warrant to conduct a search.

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Three people were arrested earlier this month after a multi-agency task force conducted raids at four San Fernando Valley clinics. Police claim the clinics conducted Medicaid fraud and acted as so-called "prescription mills." Authorities claim the clinics were issuing fake prescriptions for the pain killer OxyContin.

In addition to the allegations of the fraudulent prescriptions, authorities claim the clinics were involved in drug crimes related to sales and an alleged drug trafficking operation through the four clinics.

The raids at clinics were conducted and involved a task force of local, state and federal agencies. The raids followed an investigation where authorities say undercover officers purchased prescription drugs, such as OxyContin, by presenting fake IDs at the clinics.

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Police say that an investigation into a string of alleged burglaries in Soledad led them to a location in south Monterey County. Officers from Soledad, Greenfield, King City and the Gonzales police departments converged to execute a search warrant Saturday at the location.

Law enforcement personnel seized a variety of items during the search, according to the Salinas Californian. Law enforcement claims they found roughly a pound of crystal methamphetamine, a small amount of cocaine and other prescription medications during the search. Police further claim the seized weapons, jewelry and stones police believe may be diamonds during the raid.

Police arrested two people after the search. A 25-year-old man police claim is a gang member and a 25-year-old woman police claim is a gang associate were taken into custody after the Saturday raid.

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Police apparently were looking for a man suspected of running an indoor marijuana cultivation operation. When the man who was pulled from his home mentioned his wife, a CBS News contributor was upstairs in the home nursing the couple's 7-month-old child, officers apparently were slightly taken aback. The police apparently were relying on old information when they obtained a search warrant for the home. The man they were reportedly looking for had sold the home roughly three months earlier.

The police apparently were looking for a 43-year-old man who moved across the street into a rental property after selling the home. The newswoman says she is surprised law enforcement did not do "more of a background check" before seeking to execute a warrant at her home. Her husband says "I made it 44 years without having guns pointed at my face, and then all of a sudden having a whole bunch all at once."

Law enforcement apparently applied for a new warrant after the failed raid and arrested the man they were reportedly looking for at his home across the street. Law enforcement claims they seized guns during the second raid.

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After the alleged confession, police apparently investigated the matter. Law enforcement reportedly asked the driver several follow up questions related to the alleged automobile theft crime. The driver apparently told law enforcement that he had stolen the 2000 Honda Civic from an apartment complex. Police say the man admitted using a screwdriver to bypass the ignition system.

Police say they could not have had reason to stop the driver on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle because the car had not been reported stolen. "The amazing thing was the owner had no idea her car was missing and had not reported it," pointed out the officer. "So there was no way the officers could have singled out the car as stolen in this case had it not been for [his] declaration."

Police say they later discovered that man had been arrested before, both for auto theft and receiving stolen property, and that he was already on probation for a previous grand theft auto conviction.

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The man reportedly appeared in a Stockton court Wednesday, although prosecutors still had not filed formal charges. Sunday the man was booked into the San Joaquin County Jail and was held without bail on suspicion of a number of crimes, including murder, vehicle theft and evading police in relation to the Saturday night chase.

When police originally tried to detain the man for questioning related to the allegations of burglary, the man reportedly fled on foot. Police say he jumped a fence along Highway 99 and ran through the traffic lanes disrupting traffic. A motorcyclist, with a passenger aboard, grew distracted and reportedly crashed his bike. The passenger was thrown from the motorcycle and sustained severe head injuries. She later died at a Stanislaus County hospital.

Police claim a Good Samaritan tried to give the motorcyclists assistance and the Manteca man allegedly stole the Good Samaritan's car. Law enforcement says the Manteca man fled south and started a chase through Stanislaus County, crossed over into Merced County and back into Stanislaus. Police say they arrested the Manteca man later that night in Modesto. In all, police claim the man stole three separate vehicles during the Saturday night pursuit.

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