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

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

Lawyer cannot concede client is guilty when client insists on a defense of factual innocence

Defendant was found guilty of first degree murder and using a knife in the commission of the crime after his lawyer conceded his guilt of voluntary manslaughter during closing argument. Defendant’s request to replace counsel was denied at sentencing and the court and imposed a sentence of 25 years to life, plus one year for the knife enhancement.

The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment and held that the Defendant’s absolute Sixth Amendment right to maintain his innocence was violated when counsel conceded guilt of voluntary manslaughter during closing argument, despite the defendant disagreeing  with the strategy. It did not matter that defendant did not consistently assert his right to maintain innocence or object to counsel’s concession until after he was convicted.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has very wide-ranging powers in that it can suspend or revoke a driver’s driving privileges for a lot of different reasons. One of the more common reasons is alleged concern about your health and whether you’re medically able to drive safely. If that issue arises, the DMV may contact you and ask you to complete a “Form DS 326,” also known as a Driver Medical Evaluation form, or DME. Your temptation might be to think that you can handle this type of issue on your own. Don’t make that mistake. Your ability to continue driving legally could hinge on any one of the responses contained on that form, and even a small mistake may cost you your license. Before you do anything else, reach out to an experienced San Francisco DMV defense attorney about your situation.

The DMV website states that it only requests a Form DS 326 “when medical information is needed to evaluate a driver’s medical condition in relationship to safe driving.” That all probably sounds fairly harmless on the surface. But think about this: the DMV licenses more than 26 million drivers. Certainly, a DMV with 26 million licensees won’t just go around just asking for doctors’ notes from random drivers. In actuality, the DMV only requests submission of this form from drivers that it suspects may not be safe to drive, either because of a physical disability or a mental problem. If they’re requesting the form from you, they are probably giving serious consideration to suspending your license.

The DS 326 is five-page-long form with 13 sections. The form instructs you, the driver, to complete the first three sections and for the medical provider whom you select to complete Sections 4-13. In your part, the DMV asks you to offer up a short history of your health, and to swear that you’ve told the truth in your answers. The remainder of the form is medical information provided by the doctor you select.

The State of Alabama set an execution date for prisoner who then asserted an Eight Amendment Claim because his mental condition, relating to a series of strokes, rendered him incapable of recollecting committing the crime for which he had been sentenced to die. The Alabama Circuit Court found that the  prisoner was competent to be executed. Certiorari was granted.

The Supreme Court, Justice Kagan, held that:

A mental disorder that leaves a prisoner without any memory of committing his crime does not necessarily preclude execution; dementia may preclude execution; and the Supreme Court was unsure whether the state court relied on an incorrect view of the law, i.e., that only delusions, and not dementia, could preclude execution, and thus, state court’s judgment was vacated, and the case remanded.

Body Worn Cameras for trust and transparency 

Body Worn Cameras (BWC) are a tool for law enforcement agencies to demonstrate commitment to transparency, ensure the accountability of its members, increase the public’s trust in officers, and protect department members from unjustified complaints of misconduct. (San Francisco Police Department Statement on Body Worn Cameras)

The SFPD’s Body Worn Camera Policy was adopted on 06/01/2016. All 10 of SFPD’s District Stations have been trained, along with the Traffic Company and Headquarters personnel. The remaining units were scheduled for training completion by the end of March 2017.

Common Law: Court has no jurisdiction over defendant once execution of sentence commences

Under the common law, once execution of the sentence has commenced or the trial court relinquishes custody over the defendant, the trial court no longer has jurisdiction over a defendant.  If trial court retains the actual or constructive custody of the defendant and the execution of sentence has not begun, the court may vacate and modify the sentence. In a criminal case, the execution of a judgment of conviction is the process of carrying the judgment into effect. Under the common law, the court relinquishes control over a defendant by committing and delivering the defendant to the prison authority. However, Pen C § 1170(d), extends the jurisdiction of the trial court to mitigate the sentence imposed by an additional 120 days. People v. Superior Court (Cornelius) (1995), 31 Cal. App. 4th 343.

PC § 1170 (d) and mitigation of sentence

Law enforcement may use social media to gain incriminating information about a suspect.

A jury convicted Chaz Nasjhee Pride of robbery and found true allegations he committed the robbery for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

Pride argued that his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) were violated when a police detective viewed and saved a copy of a video Pride posted on a social media account shortly after the robbery depicting Pride wearing a chain taken in the robbery.  The Fourth Amendment protects the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures safeguard the privacy and security of individuals against arbitrary invasions by governmental officials. The Court found no violation of Pride’s  Fourth Amendment Rights.