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Overcrowding has been a large problem in California's prison system. In fact, lawsuits tracing back to 1990 challenging overcrowding issues led a district court to order the state to reduce its prison population. California took the matter to the highest court in the land. A Santa Cruz criminal defense attorney knows that individuals charged with crimes in the state have the constitutional right to challenge the state's case at trial. However, people convicted of crimes who are placed in the state's prison system also retain certain constitutional rights.

Monday the United States Supreme Court agreed that California's overcrowded prisons are a matter of constitutional importance. The Court handed down a five-to-four ruling that concludes the state has failed to correct "serious constitutional violations" in the prison system related to overcrowding.

The state prison system was designed to hold a maximum capacity of roughly 80,000 people when the federal litigation began in 1990. Two separate class-action lawsuits were filed over more than a decade in an effort to correct the constitutional flaws in the prison system. Populations in the state's prison grew to more than double the intended capacity of the system.

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State and federal law enforcement agents swarmed neighborhoods on Los Angeles yesterday arresting as many as 80 people. Law enforcement says the operation was the culmination of more than two years of investigations. Sixty six Californians were arrested on suspicion of California weapons and drug charges. Federal authorities took an additional 14 Californians into custody, reportedly under federal indictments.

Law enforcement says the previous investigation included the use of undercover agents who allegedly purchased as many as 90 firearms. Undercover agents reportedly also bought drugs during the investigation. Police say agents bought roughly 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of crack, 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, 2 kilograms of heroin and 26 pounds of marijuana during the investigation.

Police allege that the focus of the investigation was on alleged California gang members and their associates. Law enforcement says they were particularly focusing on Rancho San Pedro, a gang that currently has 600 members and 400 associates.

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The Assembly proposal was introduced at the urging of the Riverside County district attorney's office after the November death of Riverside Police Officer Ryan Bonaminio. Prosecutors allege that a 45-year-old man killed the police officer after a foot chase through Riverside's Fairmont Park. The man accused of beating and shooting the Riverside officer to death has not yet been tried on charges, but could face the death penalty in the matter if convicted at trial.

The accused reportedly has a prior conviction for battery on a police officer relating to an incident dating back to 1990. The man's prior history reportedly provided the impetus to introduce the new measure in the Assembly. The proposed measure failed on a vote of 3-4 in its first committee test on Tuesday.

The chairman of the panel, Tom Ammiano says he has some "very serious concerns" about the measure. The main concerns center on the impact such a measure may have on the already overcrowded California prison system. The proposal is expected to be reconsidered at a future time.

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The incident began around 8:00 in the morning when calls were placed to the police station regarding a stray pit bull trying to attack a leashed dog whose owner was taking the pet for a walk. The dog turned out to be an Argentine Dogo. The dog reportedly lunged at one of the police officers. Law enforcement claims the dog bumped the officer in the chest and tried to bite the officer's face. The officer responded with force, shooting the dog in its head.

The injured dog fled to the backyard of a nearby residence. Police approached the residence to talk to the occupants about the injured animal. Law enforcement claims that during the investigation related to the dog, police uncovered evidence of marijuana at the house.

Two people reportedly were in the house during the contact with police. One of the occupants reportedly admitted responsibility for drugs that were found in the house. Police seized an undisclosed amount of processed marijuana and marijuana plants. The man who police say claimed responsibility for the drugs was arrested on several drug charges.

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Tagged in: drug charges marijuana

In 2009, a Watsonville man entered a guilty plea to felony gun charges. The 37-year-old man is a Mexican immigrant married to a U.S. citizen. After entering the plea, the man learned that the conviction may lead to deportation. He attempted to withdraw his plea and was denied.

Last year the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in a separate case mandating that a criminal defense attorney has a duty to inform defendants of possible ramifications that a criminal conviction may have on the defendant's immigration status. On March 11, 2011, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Watsonville man's guilty pleas based upon the U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

The 37-year-old man's case has been remanded to the U.S. District Court in San Jose. The man has served nearly the entire balance of a two year prison sentence related to the original plea agreement. He reportedly was scheduled to be released from the sentence on May 10. Now the matter returns to the District Court for determination of whether the case will be retried.

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