The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

October 2012 Archives

More Trouble for Assemblyman Hernandez: Domestic Violence Alleged

Election Day is less than a week away. For Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, who recently beat a DUI charge, the timing of this alleged brush with the law couldn’t have come at a worse time. He faces Republican Joe Gardner, who is coincidentally a former law enforcement officer, in the race for the new 48th Assembly District. Gardner secured more votes in the primary, but Democrats state-wide seemed to stay away from the polls.

According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Hernandez was served with an emergency protective order (which is similar to a restraining order) after getting into a fight with a woman at the Lazy Dog Restaurant. She later told investigators that the two were seeing each other and that — back in July — he struck her with a belt, grabbed her by the arms, and slammed her against the wall. She also alleged in the protective order that Hernandez uses cocaine.

'Operation Boo' and Other Halloween Sex Offender Laws

Halloween might just be the most fun day of the year. As a kid, nothing is better than getting to stay up late, dress up like a Power Ranger, and score buckets and buckets of candy. For young adults, it's an excuse to dress in the most odd and obscene outfits one can imagine and get plastered.

For parents, however, it can be a worrisome day. There are a myriad of dangers that are exacerbated by Halloween, including lead-tainted costumes, drunk drivers, and worst of all, child predators. California gets it. That's why they have the following rules that restrict the movement of sex offenders. It's still a good idea to check the Megan's Law website and plan your trick-or-treating route accordingly, but these laws will hopefully add an extra bit of peace of mind.

Prop. 35: Increases Sex and Labor Trafficking Penalties - Part II

On Wednesday, after discussing the pros and provisions of Prop. 35, we asked the rhetorical question, "Who could argue against additional penalties for child sex traffickers?" Well, we call those people lawyers. Whatever you do, don't rely on the state-provided arguments. They are laughably bad.

So, why might Proposition 35 actually be worth voting against? There are a few reasons. The increased sentences might qualify as cruel and unusual in certain cases. Longer sentences also mean further strain on the state budget. Plus, we already have laws that cover these acts. Finally, the law might allow voluntary prostitutes to escape punishment.

Prop. 35: Increases Sex and Labor Trafficking Penalties - Part I

Proposition 35 is well-intentioned. No one can credibly deny that. If it passes, it will increase penalties for labor trafficking and add penalties for trafficking in the sex trade, especially in regards to minors. It also requires those convicted of sex trafficking to register as sex offenders. And really, who could possibly object to increasing penalties for pimps of underage prostitutes?

What it Changes

Under existing state law, labor trafficking is already illegal. Typically, this is where someone is coerced into providing labor without pay under duress, such as the abduction of an illegal immigrant and coercion with threats of deportation. Prop. 35 increases the potential punishment from five years in prison to twelve.

Fire Starters: Arsonists Set Man on Fire, Burn Down Carport

The fire starters were out in force over the weekend, causing thousands of dollars in damage in Pomona and setting a man on fire in Long Beach, reports the Los Angeles Times. So far, the two arsonist attacks are not thought to be related.

In the Friday evening attack, a victim was waiting for his father to finish grocery shopping when he was attacked with a Molotov cocktail. The identity and motive of the attacker are unknown. The Long Beach Police Department released surveillance video of the attack on Sunday. Anyone with a tip should call (562) 570-2582.

LAPD Needs Your Help to Identify Possible 'Grim Sleeper' Victims

The Los Angeles Police Department needs your help. Lonnie David Franklin, 60, is suspected of killing over a dozen women in the 1980s and 2000s. After weeding through photos of about 160 unidentified women, only forty-two remain. Police fear that some of them may be additional victims, of the killer known as the Grim Sleeper reports the Los Angeles Times.

These photos have now been released on Facebook, Twitter, and the LAPD’s own site. They are hoping that the Internet and social media campaign will help to identify victims and provide closure to families.

The photos are available here. Be forewarned, some photos may be disturbing.

Prop 36: Complicated Overhaul of the Three Strikes Law

Some would say that the current version of the Three Strikes Law is not in need of an overhaul. The law provides stiffer sentences for repeat felony offenders. Second strikers face sentencing enhancements that could double the amount of time spent in prison. The law also allows a prosecutor to push for a sentence of twenty-five years to life for offenders who have committed their third felony.

Of course, all sentences must also be approved by the judge as well. The discretion of the prosecutor and judge should ensure that no unfair results occur. On the other hand, we've seen cases where a man is sentenced to twenty-five years to life for stealing video tapes or pizza.

Modesto Man Tried to Light Disabled 'She-Devil' on Fire

Modesto. For many Californians, the name of the Stanislaus County town brings to mind images of, well shall we say a none too sophisticated lifestyle. And apparently, much like the fair streets of Los Angeles, the lovely town of Modesto may also have violent and insane citizens. Good times, right?

Case in point:

Late last week, a disabled woman in a wheelchair was waiting to cross the street when Nathan Yarbrough approached her. Believing that she was the Prince of Darkness, a.k.a. Satan, he poured lighter fluid on her and then tried to light her on fire, reports Fox 40. Good times, indeed. Fortunately for 54-year-old Margie Padron, her fiancé and a good Samaritan chased the (likely insane) man away.

He wasn't done with his lighter fluid, however. He also doused his arresting officer's shoes. He was arrested for attempted murder, assault with a caustic chemical, and elder abuse.

Oddball Sneaking Smoke Grenade onto Airplane Denied Bail

"This is a game," Yongda Huang Harris told investigators after he was stopped from carrying some questionable items onto a flight from LAX to Boston. He has said little else, reports the Daily Mail, though his attire certainly does sound like it came out of a video game.

Investigators first noticed the bulletproof vest. Those aren't typically worn through airport security. They also noticed the flame retardant pants, body armor, knee pads, and trench coat. Obviously, the odd attire attracted attention and necessitated a closer look. According to NBC Los Angeles, in his checked luggage, they found the following fun and exciting toys:

Recycling Fraud Costs California Millions - It's All Seinfeld's Fault

Recycling fraud: what is it? Why read an explanation when you could have Seinfeld’s Cosmo and Kramer explain the process?

If Seinfeld isn’t your thing, here’s the quick and dirty summary. California charges $0.05 per can or bottle purchased. That deposit is returned when the bottle is recycled. Arizona and Nevada do not have these types of deposit programs. The common sense scheme is obvious, right?

Prop 34: End the Death Penalty, Save $130 Million Per Year?

Fact: Since 1978, 900 individuals have been sentenced to death in California. Of those, 14 have been executed, 83 died on death row, and 75 had their sentence reduced. That's approximately a 1.6% execution rate. Meanwhile, each of those 900 individuals lived in solo cells on death row, required extra security during transports, and drained millions of dollars in state funds for decades of court hearings, attorney's fees, and other related expenses. Even pro-death penalty advocates would agree that our system is less than efficient.

The Savings, Accountability, and Full Enforcement for California Act (SAFE California Act) will, under the banner of budget savings, eliminate the death penalty and commute existing death sentences to life without the possibility of parole.

It Pays to be Paranoid: Online Fraud and Identity Theft

The key to online safety might just be a combination of paranoia and common sense.

Online shopping has gone from a niche in the 1990s to an everyday practice, thanks in large part to online security measures such as encryption and secure connections. However, online fraud and identity theft present a recurrent problem for many.

Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of cyber-crime. Many of these steps are free. If you have already been hacked, we've also got information on remedying the problems.

Manson Follower, Bruce Davis, Gets Paroled ... Kinda

One of Charles Manson’s followers, Bruce Davis, could be a free man after a few decades in prison, reports the Los Angeles Times. This is the second time in three years that he has been paroled.

How does someone get paroled twice? And why might this all amount to nothing but false hope for Mr. Davis? Much like a criminal defense appeal, the decision to parole Mr. Davis is subject to review by two higher levels of authority - the Board of Parole Hearings and Governor Jerry Brown. In 2010, Davis was approved for parole initially before then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the decision, as he believed that Davis was a danger to society.

L.A. Medicial Marijuana Dispensary Ban Overturned Already

If you blinked, you might have missed the whole hubbub over medicinal pot clinics here in Los Angeles. Since the introduction of medical marijuana dispensaries, the stores have been sprouting up like, well, weeds. Eight-hundred and fifty shops were in operation as of late July. In some places, the familiar green cross neon lights could be found on every block.

The L.A. City Council banned all weed dispensaries in July. According to NBC Los Angeles, the ban only made exceptions for home growers and caregivers. Of course, if you want to motivate a chronic Chronic user, simply take away his easy access. Immediately, proponents of the clinics vowed to fight the ban.

Two months, and 49,000 signatures later, they won.

Man Stabbed on the Blue Line, Not Terribly Shocking

The Blue Line is probably the grimiest of Los Angeles' subways and trains. The Red and Purple lines are far older, and less modernized, yet are rarely off-schedule and are clean and dependable. The gloriously clean Gold Line is a similar vintage light rail system that pretty much no one uses, so it remains shiny.

The Blue Line, on the other hand, reigns supreme in terms of graffiti and annoying passengers. There's the mildly mentally ill older gentleman that plays 60s funk on his boombox a bit too loudly, there's the homeless guy that nearly sits on your lap because he's hammered, and there's the really high teenage kid that keeps asking you questions about your MP3 player.

One rides the Blue Line due to necessity, not due to comfort or convenience.