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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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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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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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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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