Articles Posted in General Criminal Defense

Californians with criminal records face obstacles and barriers to employment. For example, Uber has announced more intense screening of its drivers, including background checks every two years and checks on new criminal and DUI charges. But recent laws limit how employers may use an applicant’s criminal history and open licensed professions to those with criminal records.

California Criminal Background Check Reform

The Fair Chance Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2018, is a “Ban the Box” law that prohibits employers from:

In August 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 10, which enacted sweeping reforms to part of the state’s pre-trial criminal process, specifically bail. Under the new process, which will take effect in October 2019, cash bail is abolished. In its place will be a new system that does not condition your release upon your ability to pay money. Whether you are arrested before or after these reforms take effect next year, it is important to be sure you have a skilled San Francisco criminal defense attorney on your side from the very start of your interaction with the legal system.

The reform was intended as a measure to alleviate the problem of two systems of justice: one for those with wealth and one for those without. For example, the Washington Post reported earlier this year on the case of a 16-year-old from New York City who spent almost three years in a New York jail awaiting trial on an alleged theft of cash and property worth $700. The teen was arraigned and bail was set at $3,000. With a bail bondsman, the teen’s family would have needed to produce only a fraction of that amount (less than $1,000). They didn’t have the means to pay, however, and the teen remained locked up for more than two and one-half years, during which time he allegedly suffered extensive physical and mental abuse.

The California bill was designed to avoid these types of scenarios, where people not yet convicted of anything spend years in custody simply because they lack the wealth to pay bond. The Sacramento Bee reported that, in signing the bill, the governor said in a statement that, through the new law, “California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly.”

Interactions with law enforcement can be stressful events. You may think that you are being pulled over for a traffic violation, only to find that the scope of the stop has expanded now that the officer has you pulled over. The law places certain limits on what the police can do, however, and that includes the searches they perform without a warrant. If your person or possessions have been the subject of a warrantless police search, and you have subsequently been charged with a crime, make sure that you promptly retain an experienced San Francisco criminal defense attorney to fight for your rights.

An example of how a warrantless search can lead to the exclusion of evidence was the criminal trial of a man named Leroy. Leroy’s March 2015 interaction with law enforcement began the way many encounters do:  an officer stopped him for committing a traffic violation. While that officer had Leroy stopped, another officer contacted him to let him know that Leroy was a suspect in a domestic violence incident that had happened 1-2 days earlier.

The two Fairfield officers took Leroy from his car, handcuffed him, and put him in a police vehicle. They then proceeded to search Leroy’s car. Since Leroy was alone in the car, and, allegedly, no one was available to take possession of the car, the police had it towed. In their search, the police found a two-foot-long brown wooden baton with a red tape handle. Based on that find, the prosecution added another charge against Leroy:  violation of Penal Code Section 22210, which bars possessing “any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a billy, blackjack, sandbag, sandclub, sap, or slingshot.”

At a trial’s end, a defendant is either guilty or not guilty. Ultimately, there is no difference between a defendant who avoids a conviction because key evidence was thrown out due to an illegal search versus someone who is declared not guilty by a jury. Based on these things, one thing that is wise, when facing charges, is to retain a knowledgeable San Francisco criminal defense attorney who can do everything they can to protect your rights to the fullest extent of the law, whether those arguments are factual or legal/procedural.

One thing you should not do, however, is to fire an attorney who is making an intelligent and potentially successfully procedural argument on your behalf so that you can represent yourself and make an outlandish factual argument instead. This brings us to the case of Izell from San Rafael, as reported by Izell was on trial for forcible rape. The alleged rape took place in the summer of 2017 at Bay Club Marin, where the accused man worked. The accuser was a woman who was an acquaintance of the accused and worked near the club.

In the beginning of the case, Izell had counsel. The accused’s attorney, upon reviewing all of the information, discovered a flaw in the prosecution’s case, which is what good criminal defense attorneys do. Originally, the alleged victim told law enforcement that Izell raped her on July 27. The state obtained a search warrant that allowed them to access certain surveillance video footage and some of Izell’s Snapchat messages, based on a search warrant that had the July 27 date on it. Later, though, the alleged victim declared that the rape happened on July 13, rather than July 27.