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The task force reportedly will focus on people law enforcement believes are gang members. A story in the Santa Cruz Sentinel does not explain how the task force arrives at the conclusion that a suspect is a gang member. Under California law, many offenses provide more severe sentences if prosecutors allege the offense was committed by an alleged gang member. Gang crimes in California can also lead to strikes under the California three strikes law.

The Santa Cruz task force reportedly plans initially to focus on alleged gang crimes in the South County. However, officials say the gang task force will also investigate alleged gang members in other areas of the county, including Santa Cruz, Live Oak and Soquel. Authorities claim they have identified as many as 19 gangs, each of which reportedly will receive task force scrutiny.

Officials have not disclosed the number of members will be included in the overall task force. Law enforcement says the gang task force reportedly will change in size, depending on the time of year and as the task force determines the need for additional officers.


The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department is accusing a Cal State San Bernardino professor of running a drug operation. Law enforcement reportedly conducted a raid on the professor's home and arrested nine people on suspicion of committing California drug crimes. Authorities say the accused professor was not apprehended in the raid.

A report in the Los Angeles Times does not indicate what information led law enforcement to the professor's residence. Law enforcement claims they seized more than a pound of methamphetamine, as well as guns, body armor and biker gear at the professor's home during the recent raid. Police claim the professor led not only the methamphetamine operation, but also led a local chapter of a motorcycle gang.

San Bernardino deputies reportedly arrested the nine people after the raid, claiming they are all involved in the drug operation as mid-level and street-level drug dealers. Authorities claim the professor was the leader of a local chapter of the Devils Diciples Outlaw motorcycle gang.


Two men from out-of-state reportedly were traveling through California intending to make a documentary about a substance known as "bath salts." Bath salts are a synthetic substance that is not prohibited under California's drug laws. The men were traveling on a Vespa through the state, when they apparently lost their motorcycle saddlebags on a stranger's property.

The property owner reportedly turned over the lost saddlebags to law enforcement, who conducted a search of the bags, reportedly to find the owners. Law enforcement claims they found three bags containing a white substance, each weighing between 1.7 and 4.4 grams. The deputy conducting the search tested the substance with a Narcopouch and says the presumptive test was positive for cocaine.

The deputy then left a message for the people he believed owned the saddlebags, notifying them where the bags could be retrieved. When the two men appeared at the Sheriff' Office, the men were arrested for suspicion of drug possession.


In January the California Supreme Court ruled that a police search of a cell phone after an arrest is constitutionally sound. This blog carried a story on the ruling on January 21. The January ruling involved an appeal of a case where Ventura County law enforcement searched a man's cell phone for text messages after the man was arrested on suspicion of committing a California drug crime.

The January ruling may not be the end of the story. Monday the California Assembly unanimously approved a measure aimed at requiring law enforcement to seek a valid warrant before they can lawfully search the contents of a cell phone. However, the Assembly measure differs from a bill that passed in the Senate last month. The Assembly measure waters down the warrant requirement by allowing law enforcement to conduct a warrantless search if they believe an exception applies.

The exceptions that would allow police to conduct a warrantless search under the Assembly bill would involve situations where police believe the search is necessary to prevent injuries, to stop the destruction of evidence or to prevent a crime from occurring.


The United States Supreme Court has not taken a hard look at the reliability of eyewitness testimony since 1977. The Court has agreed to revisit the issue in November. Since the time the issue was before the Court, more than 2,000 studies have been published in professional journals regarding the reliability, or lack of reliability, concerning eyewitness identifications. The nation's highest court previously ruled that judges can exclude some eyewitness identifications if the testimony is unreliable.

The difficulty with the current state of the law on the subject is highlighted by the number of wrongful convictions that have been obtained based upon mistaken identity. Criminal defense attorneys in California and across the country have regularly argued and researchers have compiled a long list of studies indicating that of the roughly 75,000 eyewitness identifications used in the country each year, about one-third are simply wrong.

Research shows that eyewitness identifications can lead to wrongful convictions. Many wrongfully convicted defendants have been exonerated by DNA analysis across the country. Of the first 250 exonerations, researchers say 190 cases involved the mistaken testimony of an eyewitness. Witnesses on those cases reportedly were certain they had identified the right person. One was "120 percent sure," reports the New York Times. Another witness had absolutely no question the wrongfully convicted defendant was involved.


The California Highway Patrol says they are requesting felony DUI charges to be filed in relation to the accident. Authorities say a 19-year-old Carmel Valley resident was killed in the roll-over accident and a second passenger was severely injured. Neither passenger was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, according to the CHP. A third passenger, who was wearing a seat belt reportedly, suffered minor injuries in the incident, according to the CHP.

Law enforcement says the man accused of driving at the time of the accident crawled up the embankment after the crash to get a signal on his cellphone. The accused man reportedly called in a report of the accident after the crash.

California DUI laws allow prosecutors to seek felony level charges in cases where authorities allege a drunk driving accident caused an injury. A person need not have any prior driving offenses on their record to potentially face a felony DUI if an injury producing accident is involved.


Posted on in Felony DUI

The California Highway Patrol announced Wednesday that an 18-year-old was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter stemming from allegations surrounding a Saturday evening car accident. Law enforcement says they believe the 18-year-old lost control of a Jeep while traveling on Tassajara Road just after 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The Jeep reportedly rolled several times after leaving the pavement.

The California Highway Patrol says they are requesting felony DUI charges to be filed in relation to the accident. Authorities say a 19-year-old Carmel Valley resident was killed in the roll-over accident and a second passenger was severely injured. Neither passenger was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, according to the CHP. A third passenger, who was wearing a seat belt reportedly, suffered minor injuries in the incident, according to the CHP.

Law enforcement says the man accused of driving at the time of the accident crawled up the embankment after the crash to get a signal on his cellphone. The accused man reportedly called in a report of the accident after the crash.


The issues were recently before the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco in regard to a man charged with failure to provide a DNA sample after an arrest on suspicion of arson in 2009. In January 2009, California law began requiring any person arrested for any felony to submit a DNA sample. The law requires the sample to be provided "immediately following arrest, or during the booking . . . process or as soon as administratively practicable after arrest."

The appellate court struck down the law as unconstitutional. The court says a person arrested for a felony, but has not appeared before a judge for "a judicial determination of probable cause" is more like an ordinary citizen than a prisoner.

Ordinary citizens, cloaked in the presumption of innocence, have the full expectation of privacy, free from unreasonable governmental intrusions. The court says convicted prisoners have a "limited expectation of privacy" under the Fourth Amendment.


Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new measure into law making it harder for the state to convict a person accused of a crime based upon the testimony of jailhouse informants. Criminal defense attorneys, civil rights advocates and at least two district attorneys in the state supported the measure. Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar vetoed the same proposal twice during his administration at the urging of the California District Attorneys Association.

Our criminal justice system has a variety of important safeguards built in to protect a person accused of a crime from being wrongfully convicted. Every person has the right to a fair trial. Our system places the burden on the prosecutor to prove allegations beyond a reasonable doubt in order to get a conviction. But individuals accused of a crime also have the right to a complete defense.

Among the safeguards the law affords Californians accused of a crime is the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses at trial. But what if a trial witness is unreliable? In 2004, the California Senate created a statewide commission to look into the causes of wrongful convictions in the state.


The California three strikes law actually increases a person's exposure to significant prison time before the third strike. The number of people crowding California prisons has received a high level of scrutiny since the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state to reduce the overcrowding of our state prisons.

Most Californians know the three strikes law allows prosecutors to seek a mandatory 25-year-to-life sentence in allegedly qualifying cases. Currently, roughly 8,700 are serving prison time on a third strike under the law. However, 32,390 people are serving increased sentences under the second strike provision of the law. Second strike prisoners account for nearly 20 percent of the state's prison population.

The provision under the three strikes law related to second strikers allows prosecutors to seek double the prison time for a second strike conviction. Barry Krisberg, a researcher at UC Berkeley's institute on law and social policy says the significance of the second strike provision "is having an enormous impact on our prison population, and many second strikers are serving more time than third strikers, but when people talk about the policy of reforming three strikes, nobody wants to touch the second strike."


Prosecutors claim the woman stole money and a bracelet from Alex Trebek's hotel room while the TV host and his wife were sleeping. Trebek says he woke up in his hotel room and saw a woman rummaging through his belongings. The TV host says he chased the woman.

The woman now accused of breaking into the hotel room says she was not involved in the alleged burglary. The woman was visiting in the hotel and happened to be waiting at the elevator when a man approached her. She reportedly says Trebek approached her and asked if she had been in his room. She says she had not been in the room. The San Francisco Chronicle reports the woman ran because she feared police would become involved.

The woman reportedly was detained downstairs by hotel security. The woman was arrested on suspicion of burglary and is being held on $625,000 bond. Prosecutors say the woman has burglary convictions dating from 1990 and 1991, which prosecutors are considering relying on to seek a 25 to life sentence under the California three strikes law. A decision whether to pursue a three strikes sentence reportedly will be made after a preliminary hearing is held in the case.


The threshold for conducting a traffic stop is fairly low for police in Santa Cruz, like anywhere in California. Law enforcement needs only a reasonable suspicion that some violation occurred for a court to determine the officer's decision to conduct a traffic stop was reasonable. During a traffic stop police often seek to find evidence to support a suspicion of potentially more serious offenses.

Many Californians have read stories of DUI arrests that include the narrative of odors of alcohol, glassy eyes and slurred speech. Odors are a common basis that police try to rely upon to expand the scope of an investigation during a traffic stop. An alleged strong odor of marijuana is part of the allegations of police that led to the arrest of a Eureka man after a traffic stop Tuesday.

An officer claims he saw a car make an abrupt lane change on southbound Highway 101 Tuesday evening. The officer says the driver cut off another vehicle during the lane change. The California Highway Patrol reports the officer conducted a traffic stop due to the observations.


This blog reported the story of the arrest last week, and that another person originally arrested related to the Dodger Stadium incident has been exonerated. Now, police and prosecutors have released more details about the new arrests as two men have been charged in the matter.

The 29 and 30-year-old men appeared in court on charges of assault and mayhem. Mayhem involves serious allegations. Under California law, a charge of mayhem involves allegations of serious injury of another person. The 29-year-old man is also accused of battery related to allegations arising inside the stadium, during the opening day game.

At the time the two men were arrested, a 31-year-old woman was also taken into custody on suspicion of being an accessory after the fact. The woman was later released and not charged. Police say the woman is the sister of the 29-year-old and engaged to the other man accused of beating Santa Cruz resident Brian Stow after the game. Law enforcement says the woman has implicated the two men in the incident.

Tagged in: assault and battery

Matt Szabo, senior aide to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says, "Obviously, we're going to need to get an explanation." Police say the original arrest stemmed from suspicions raised by a parole agent that the original 31-year-old suspect may have been involved in the Dodger Stadium attack. The parole agent reportedly grew suspicious that the man may have been involved. Police had claimed multiple witnesses identified the original detainee, based upon photo lineups.

Police took the 31-year-old man into custody in a raid on May 22. A news conference the flowing day proclaimed the man was captured and taken into custody.

However, after reviewing surveillance videos, phone and financial records and hundreds of tips, police were never able to tie the arrested man to the beating. No charges were ever filed against the man. Nonetheless, law enforcement held the man in custody on an alleged probation violation. In June, the 31-year-old was sent to prison for 10-months on the probation violation.

Tagged in: assault and battery

The California Highway Patrol says a 28-year-old woman was speeding on Interstate 5 near Disneyland around 12:45 a.m. Sunday. Law enforcement claims the woman was involved in a fatal accident and has taken the woman into custody on suspicion of felony DUI.

Police say the woman made an abrupt lane change between the Number 3 lane and the Number 4 lane when her GMC S-10 pickup struck the left rear corner of a 1995 Mercury Villager. The pickup truck reportedly careened off the roadway and ran head-on into a bridge abutment at Disneyland Drive. The pickup truck rolled over several times, rebounding back across the Santa Ana Freeway coming to a rest in the Number 1 lane, according to the CHP.

A 24-year-old woman in the Mercury Villager sustained injuries and was hospitalized. Police claim both people in the GMC pickup truck sustained injuries and were taken to the hospital. The 28-year-old male passenger in the GMC reportedly died at UC Irvine Medical Center at r 4:15 Sunday morning.

Tagged in: Felony DUI

Another issue that can be difficult to grasp for many Santa Cruz residents is what constitutes a deadly weapon. California law recognizes firearms as a deadly weapon. But Californians can also face charges of assault with a deadly weapon in certain circumstances, even when no firearm is involved. For instance, a Glendale woman has been arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after allegations arose that the woman used her SUV to attack an ex-boyfriend.

Police claim the woman drove into a parking lot Saturday evening and ran into her ex-boyfriend. Initially the man was pinned against a wall, according to law enforcement. The man reportedly pulled out his cell-phone and photographed the license plate attached to the SUV, according to police. Law enforcement claims the woman responded to the photograph by backing up a short distance, and then ramming the man a second time with the SUV.

The woman reportedly told police she had parked at the man's feet initially. She says the man began insulting her mother, according to law enforcement. She noticed the man was taking a photograph and allegedly ran into the man because she is afraid of her ex-boyfriend, according to police reports.


Three Californians are facing marijuana and child endangerment charges in relation to an alleged illegal marijuana growing operation. One of the men reportedly is 17-years-old. The allegations allege the group was using the Internet to sell marijuana. The three were reportedly specifically arrested on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and child endangerment.

The three Porterville residents were arrested after raids of properties located in Porterville and California Hot Springs. Law enforcement claims the searches at the properties followed a two-month probe into allegations that the group of Californians was selling marijuana through YouTube.

Deputies with the Sheriff's tactical Enforcement Personnel unit in Tulare County reportedly made the arrests after allegedly locating indoor and outdoor grows of medical marijuana that law enforcement claims exceeded allowable amounts under California law.


Police arrested a man Wednesday in connection with allegations the man walked away from a San Francisco art gallery with a Picasso sketch, valued at roughly $275,000. The San Francisco District Attorney's Office reportedly has charged the man with several counts alleging California theft crime. The man faces charges of grand theft, receiving stolen property and second degree burglary.

Police claim the man walked into the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco Tuesday. At around 11:40 a.m., police say the man wrestled a Picasso sketch from the wall and walked out of the gallery with the original artwork wrapped in paper.

The man reportedly hailed a Black and White Checker Cab and rode off, en route to the Palomar Hotel. Tuesday night San Francisco police seized a taxicab they believe the art theft suspect hailed after allegedly stealing the Picasso drawing, known as "Tête de femme." Police say the cab had a security video system. Law enforcement also interviewed the driver of the cab Tuesday night.


Over the long holiday weekend, many government offices across the country were closed down in observance of our nation's independence. At the same time, at least one courthouse drew national media attention as the murder trial of Casey Anthony wrapped up and the jury began deliberations.

Santa Cruz criminal defense attorneys know that the constitutional principles that guarantee a defendant the right to a fair trial include the right to a fair and impartial jury. To that end, the judge in the Anthony murder trial sequestered the jury early on. The trial concluded over the holiday weekend and the jury began its deliberations on the Fourth of July. Tuesday, after roughly 11 hours of deliberations the jury let the judge in the case know that a unanimous verdict was reached.

Casey Anthony was accused of murder in the June 16, 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter. She faced a number of other serious charges in related to the 2008 incident. At trial, she chose not to testify in her own defense.


In March, a California appeals court overturned the murder conviction of a man based upon the trial judge's jury instructions. A seasoned Santa Cruz criminal defense attorney knows that misleading jury instructions in a criminal case can deny a defendant the right to a fair trial.

The First District Court of Appeal overturned the murder conviction of a San Francisco man, concluding the definition of the lesser offense of manslaughter at trial may have misled the jury. The California Supreme Court will now weigh the matter. The high court recently agreed to review the appellate court ruling.

Prosecutors had claimed the man stabbed a 28-year-old woman to death in front of her children in October, 2000. The man was charged with murder and the case went to trial before a jury in 2008. The man argued to the jury the allegations could only support a charge of voluntary manslaughter. A conviction for voluntary manslaughter would have only exposed the accused to a sentence of three to eleven years. The man ultimately was convicted of murder and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.

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