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10.0John William Thornton REVIEWS
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Many Santa Cruz area residents ventured out to ring in the New Year last weekend. For many, the New Year is a time for a new beginning. New Year's Day is also often the beginning day for new laws in California, and Santa Cruz DUI defense lawyers understand that several new provisions went into effect Jan. 1 that relate to driving under the influence in California.

A significant new provision has been sitting dormant for roughly 15 months. In Sept. 2010, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a measure that will now allow California judges to revoke a person's driver's license for 10-years if the driver has at least three DUI convictions on his or her record.

The new DUI license revocation provision includes a process for drivers to apply for potential reinstatement of their licenses after five years if certain conditions are met. One significant condition requires the driver to install an ignition interlock device on his or her car, which can be an expensive prospect after paying installation and monthly service fees.

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The case did not originally arise in California. However, if the Supreme Court accepts the case for review, the court's decision will certainly affect whether or not law enforcement agencies in California, including along the Central Coast, can use drug-sniffing dogs outside a personal residence without a warrant.

The issue arose out of a Florida investigation into an alleged urban marijuana growing operation. Police say they received a tip of a possible marijuana cultivation operation inside a Miami home.

Law enforcement apparently put the home under surveillance and without obtaining a search warrant brought in a drug-sniffing dog. Law enforcement says the canine smelled along the base of the closed front door of the home, and sat down, indicating to law enforcement that the dog detected the scent of drugs.

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Typically, allegations involving drugs in news stories revolve around drug crimes. Drug possession charges and possession with intent to sell can bring serious consequences if a person is convicted of a California drug crime.

This blog recently discussed the unusual charges brought against a Northern California mother involving "implied malice" to support a second-degree murder charge against her, which involved allegations that her breast milk contained sufficient methamphetamine to cause her son's death. This blog has also previously recounted stories in DUI cases where prosecutors seek murder charges based upon implied malice. Those cases are typically referred to in California as "Watson murders" based upon prior California case-law.

Now prosecutors on the Central Coast are seeking a murder charge against a Paradise man based upon the implied malice theory. The case involves allegations that the defendant supplied methadone to an allegedly inebriated woman who later died. The Supreme Court rule some time ago that providing drugs to someone is not inherently dangerous enough to support a murder charge under the legal theory known as the "felony murder" rule.

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The Constitution guarantees that a criminal defendant receives a fair trial. One of the most important foundations of our justice system is the right to a trial by a fair and impartial jury. The California Supreme Court ruled last week that two men, who have been sitting on death row for nearly 15 years, were denied their right to a fair trial, and the state high court reversed those convictions.

The two men were accused of being involved in a gang. Prosecutors accused one of the men of ordering the second man to murder two men who prosecutors had claimed were members of a rival gang. Gang-related charges in California can carry significant penalties upon conviction, and after a jury trial the two men were convicted of the murder charges and sentenced to death row.

During deliberations, one of the jurors reportedly had misgivings about the credibility of one of the prosecution's witnesses in the trial. It is an important function of the jury to weigh the credibility of witnesses in a criminal trial. However, two jurors apparently complained to the judge during deliberations about the juror who found the witness lacked credibility. The judge dismissed the juror, finding that the panelist acted improperly by allegedly considering evidence not presented during the trial.

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Law enforcement claims that the Watsonville marijuana bust is one of the largest pot busts in years. Law enforcement reportedly seized dozens of bags of marijuana and $67,000 in cash at the warehouse. On Nov. 16, a 30-year-old man that law enforcement claims lived at the warehouse was taken into custody, along with a 25-year-old Santa Cruz man.

Law enforcement says the marijuana found inside the warehouse amounted to more than 130 pounds, with an estimated street value of more than $1 million. The two men have been arraigned on felony charges of possession of marijuana for sales, cultivation of marijuana and sales of marijuana. A separate arraignment was set up for the 30-year-old Watsonville man on other offenses, including driving with a suspended license.

The Santa Cruz man reportedly bailed out of custody, while the Watsonville man reportedly continues to be held on $105,000 bail.

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