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San Francisco Traffic Law Clinic
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Since 1985 San Francisco Traffic Law Clinic

Everyone agrees that driving while distracted is a bad thing. What everyone does not agree on, however, is how best to go about encouraging drivers to put down their cell phones while behind the wheel. Currently, the California legislature is considering a bill that would increase the penalties associated with texting or otherwise using a phone while driving. As California lawmakers explore upping these penalties, it is important to keep in mind just how damaging these infractions can be for you financially. If you find yourself needing to challenge this kind of violation, be sure you have skillful San Francisco traffic ticket and DMV defense counsel on your side.

CBS Sacramento reported that, on May 16, a legislative committee passed Assembly Bill 47. As originally written, the bill would have tacked a point onto the license of any driver ticketed for texting or holding a phone while driving. The bill, however, has already undergone some changes. As currently amended, the bill says that you get a point on your license if your cell phone violation is your second within a 36-month period.

Of course, the option of traffic school may exist for you. If you are eligible for traffic school, then you can use that process to avoid having that point tacked onto your license. For those eligible, this means that you would not have a point added to your license unless you rack up at least three texting-while-driving violations in that 36-month window.

Defendant Sara Arcelia Salcido was in the business of obtaining visas for her clients that would allow them to stay in the United States legally. The Immigration Consultants Act (Bus. & Prof. Code, §§ 22440–22449) (Act) makes it illegal for a person to act as an “immigration consultant” unless they pass a background check and file a bond. Defendant failed to comply with these provisions.

Defendant was convicted on one count of unlawfully engaging in the business of an immigration consultant, a misdemeanor. (Bus. & Prof. Code, §§ 22440, 22441.) The prosecution argued that each time defendant took money from a client in exchange for providing immigration services, she was committing theft by false pretenses, because she was not a legally qualified immigration consultant under state law. The trial court agreed convicting her on six counts of grand theft (Pen. Code, §§ 484, 487, subd. (a)) and two counts of petty theft (Pen. Code, §§ 484, 488. Defendant was placed on probation for five years. On appeal, Salcido argued that Federal Law preempted state regulation.

Preemption Principles.

Uber and Lyft under increased pressure for more intensive background checks

Uber and Lyft have conducted their own background checks on drivers in most states with little or no oversight and have used lobbyists to shape legislation that would regulate how they perform background checks on drivers. However, under a demand for more protection for passengers from drivers’ with criminal records, many drivers are being terminated from driving for Uber and Lyft.

Uber background checks

Anthony Taylor filed a habeas petition claiming that his special circumstance finding in a felony murder conviction should be vacated due to insufficient evidence based on recent caselaw. His petition, filed 20 years after finality of direct review, was considered timely because it was brought within a year of that recent caselaw that provided him with a legal claim.

Taylor’s conviction as an idea and abettor

Anthony Taylor participated in an attempted robbery at a Livermore liquor store during which one of his accomplices shot to death a store employee. In 1994, Taylor was convicted of first degree felony murder and the jury found that the killing occurred in the commission of an attempted robbery that he aided and abetted “as a major participant” and “with reckless indifference to human life,” a special circumstance requiring a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole under Penal Code section 190.2, subdivision (d) (section 190.2(d) ). The special circumstance finding was previously upheld on appeal, the Court fining that Taylor was both a major participant and had made statements after the murder that showed a reckless and callous indifference for human life.

Defendants who plead or are found guilty of traffic violations and other misdemeanors are typically assessed court fees and fines under Gov. Code, § 70373, Pen. Code, § 1465.8, and Pen. Code, § 1202.4, Unpaid fines usually go to collections without further order of the court.

Courts must determine a defendant’s ability to pay fees and assessment.

The Court of Appeal ruled in People v Dueñas (285645) that when poverty is the only reason a defendant cannot pay court fee and fines, using the criminal process to collect them is unconstitutional. Its decision bars courts from imposing court fees and assessments without determining a defendant’s present ability to pay. Despite Pen. Code, § 1202.4, precluding consideration of a defendant’s ability to pay unless the judge is considering increasing the fee over the statutory minimum, the execution of any restitution fine imposed under must be stayed unless and until the trial court holds an ability to pay hearing and concludes that the defendant has the present ability to pay the restitution fine

There are many different bases upon which the DMV may decide that it is proper to suspend your driving privileges. Obviously, one way to maintain your driver’s license is to avoid things that can lead to suspension. Other times, though, when you’re on the wrong end of an improper suspension of your driving privileges, the correct step is to utilize the administrative and legal systems to fight back and get your license back. When that becomes necessary, look to an experienced San Francisco DMV defense attorney to help you.

One action the DMV can take is to place a “hold” on your license. While this may sound somewhat innocuous or less serious, it isn’t. A DMV hold can prevent you from renewing your license or can lead directly to a license suspension. One way that you can get a hold placed on your license is by failing to appear in traffic court. If you get a ticket, your ticket will contain a court date listed on it. If you don’t show up for that court date and don’t otherwise resolve your ticket, then the DMV places a hold on your license under Vehicle Code Section 40509.5.

You may have heard that California changed its laws regarding traffic court and license suspensions in 2017. Be aware that that 2107 law ended the practice of suspending licenses based on your failure to pay your traffic ticket fine, not your failure to appear in traffic court.

Lawyer cannot override client’s decision to maintain innocence

Roberto Ignacio Flores was charged with attempted murder of a police officer and insisted he was not the driver of the car that injured the officer. His lawyer wanted to admit that Flores was driving the car but that he never formed the premeditated intent necessary for a conviction of first-degree murder. The evidence against Flores included a video of him in the car that hit the motorcycle officer, yet he insisted on maintaining his innocence. Flores was also later tried on possession of weapons and his lawyer wanted to concede that Flores possessed certain firearms but argue that his possession was not “knowing”because he did not know that their possession was prohibited.

Client has the right to determine fundamental objective at trial

San Francisco’s Red Light Ticket Cameras, designed to take photos of cars that run a red light have not been operating since January, 2019 as they are undergoing replacement by the SFMTA.

The SFMTA’s Automated Enforcement Program uses a network of automated cameras to enforce illegal red-light running and illegal right turns.

Red-light cameras take automatic snapshots of both the front license plate and the driver’s face when a vehicle enters an intersection after the light has changed.

People v. Aranda; S214116

The California Supreme Court reaffirmed its past holding that a court must accept a partial verdict of acquittal as to a charged greater offense when a jury has expressly indicated it has acquitted on that offense but has deadlocked on uncharged lesser included offenses. [Stone v. Superior Court (1982) 31 Cal.3d 503 (Stone)]

The Stone Rule and Federal Double Jeopardy Principles