Recent Criminal Case Law

 

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.

The gang police detective posed as a friend to gain access to defendant’s social media account and viewed and saved a copy of a video that defendant posted of himself wearing and talking a chain resembling one taken in a robbery. The social media platform was one where posts disappeared after a period of time. The Court ruled that the defendant assumed the risk that the account for one of his “friends” could be an undercover profile for a police detective or that any other “friend” could save and share the information with government officials. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act had is inapplicable because defendant voluntarily granted access to his social media account to a “friend” and voluntarily posted an incriminating evidence of himself.

People v. Pride (2019) 31 Cal. App. 5th 133

Courts must determine whether defendants can pay restitution fines and fees

Defendant, an indigent and homeless mother of young children, pled no contest to driving with a suspended license. The trial court placed her on probation, imposed $220 in fees and fines under Gov. Code, § 70373, Pen. Code, § 1465.8, and Pen. Code, § 1202.4, and ordered that if an outstanding debt remained at the end of her probation, the amount due would go to collections without further order of the court.

The Court of Appeal reversed the order imposing court facilities and court operations assessments. The only reason that defendant could not pay the fees was because of poverty and using the criminal process to collect would have been unconstitutional.

Due process of law requires the trial court to conduct an ability to pay hearing and determine a defendant’s ability to pay before it imposes court facilities and court operations assessments. Despite Pen. Code, § 1202.4, barring  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 this statute must be stayed until the trial court holds an ability to pay hearing and concludes that the defendant has the present ability to pay the restitution fine

Dueñas argued that that imposing the fees and fine without considering her ability to pay violates state and federal constitutional guarantees because it simply punishes her for being poor. The court agreed.

People v. Dueñas (2019) 30 Cal. App. 5th 1157

Shoplifting v Burglary defined

Proposition 47, the 2014 voter initiative created a new misdemeanor offense called “shoplifting.” (Pen. Code, § 459.5.) Shoplifting is the act of entering a commercial establishment with intent to steal property while the establishment is open during regular business hours, where the value of the property taken or intended to be taken is $950 or less. This crime was previously punishable as felony burglary. The issue before the Court was: If a person enters a store during regular business hours but then enters a private back office with intent to steal, do they commit burglary or shoplifting?

Entering an interior room that is objectively identifiable as off-limits to the public with intent to steal remains punishable as burglary.

People v. Colbert, 6 Cal. 5th 596