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Two Arrests Made in Irvine Craigslist Robbery

Two men were recently arrested and charged with robbery after allegedly setting up a purchase on Craigslist, The Orange County Register reports.

The 24-year-old and 22-year-old now face felony charges in Irvine. Robbery is taking possessions from another person. Sometimes it can involve force or a weapon, which can enhance charges.
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An experienced Irvine defense attorney knows that a felony is not something to take lightly. While some people believe that they may be able to work out a favorable plea deal or beat the charges altogether, that's not always the case.

Some prosecutors are simply unwilling to negotiate and play hard ball. Others may be more willing to listen to reason, but you don't know who you're going to get initially. This can make a felony charge a real burden on a defendant. It's not always going to turn into a misdemeanor.

And many factors go into the decision of how to approach a case by prosecutors. If the defendant has an extensive criminal history or a criminal history in this type of crime, the state is unlikely to go easy on the person.

If the crime was violent or there were injuries or a traumatic effect on the victim, those are going to be two big aggravating factors that the prosecutor looks at before determining what charges to file and how to handle the case. Most of this is out of the control of the defendant.

But what is in their control is which lawyer they choose and if that experienced lawyer has the time to look through all the evidence and assess the weaknesses in the case. Every case has holes and it's just a matter of time until they are discovered.

In this case, according to the newspaper report, two men set up a meeting with a Huntington Beach man who was trying to sell his laptop on the popular website Craigslist. The victim told police that when he met the potential buyer at an Irvine park, the buyer reached into his coat to pull out what the man thought was a wallet, but instead it was a handgun.

The man demanded the laptop and then ran to a car driven by another man and they drove off. Detectives say they were able to identify the suspects and they spotted them driving a few days later. After the men spotted detectives following them, the driver began driving erratically and stopped to let the other man out of the vehicle.

The man was then pulled over and arrested without further incident. The passenger was arrested 10 minutes later, the newspaper reports. A gun was found in the vehicle. The laptop, which detectives said had been sold, was recovered.

Both men face charges of suspicion of armed robbery, petit theft and conspiracy. Both were booked into the Orange County Jail.

Continue reading "Two Arrests Made in Irvine Craigslist Robbery" »

Police Say They Have Arrested Santa Ana Serial Rapist

Police recently made some serious allegations in a Santa Ana sex crimes case by arresting a man they're telling the public is responsible for several local sexual assaults.

Being charged with a sex crime in California carries serious penalties, with possible prison sentences that can run into the decades. Defendants can also be stuck having to register as a sexual offender on state and national registries. Those listings can last for years or a lifetime, depending on the severity of the charges.
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Santa Ana criminal defense lawyers will question whether a person is actually a "serial" criminal because that is a difficult thing to prove. But law enforcement officers will sometimes jump to conclusions based on a weak string of evidence in trying to clear out many cases at once.

For instance, in Santa Ana burglary cases, detectives will look to see if there's a similar "style," or "description" of a person in different burglaries in the same neighborhood. If they end up arresting one person, they may try to pin several burglaries on that person.

But common sense tells us that most burglaries are done in a similar fashion -- using the same tools, looking for the most expensive goods for example. Usually, descriptions are so vague, anyone could be a potential match. But if police arrest a person and charge them with several crimes, they can mark those cases closed and move on, even if there is no conviction.

A similar thing can happen in sex cases. In this situation, ABC News reports, police have arrested a 39-year-old man from Baldwin Park whom they believe was targeting undocumented residents as well as prostitutes.

The man was charged after he allegedly raped a 23-year-old woman in December. The man allegedly followed her from a Christmas Eve party, forced her into a van, threatened her with a gun, knife and Taser, assaulted her and dumped her body on the side of the road and then tossed her clothing back to her.

Police say they have evidence from the clothing that connects the man to the crime. And after serving a search warrant on his home, detectives say they found guns and a Taser and other evidence they say links him to other victims. The police declined to elaborate on what the other evidence may be.

Because it's unclear what other evidence there is, it's tough to say how legitimate of a case there is. Simply owning guns or a Taser hardly is sound evidence to call a person a rapist. And often in traumatizing events, witnesses can't think clearly enough to get a good look at a suspect.

But if police suggest a person to them, they sometimes get in their head that that's the person, even if it's not. The fact that alleged victims may be undocumented or prostitutes won't help their credibility, unless there is iron-clad proof presented by the state.

Continue reading "Police Say They Have Arrested Santa Ana Serial Rapist" »

Anaheim Continues Ban On Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

City officials recently extended a ban on Anaheim medical marijuana dispensaries as leaders try to figure out how legal challenges to California's law will play out, The Orange County Register reports.

California's medical marijuana industry has come under fire from all sides in recent months, as federal prosecutors have threatened to bring charges against not only dispensaries and cultivators, but also the landlords who rent them space to do business. This has led to local officials becoming unsure about how to proceed. It appears Anaheim city leaders are also not sure how to move forward in the wake of the recent controversy.
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Our Santa Ana criminal defense attorneys are constantly following any news in the medical marijuana field in California because it affects many people. Many patients lean on this drug as a painkiller for debilitating diseases like cancer. Dispensaries and collectives operating within the bounds of state law get harassed by federal agents as well as local law enforcement, who try desperately to prove they are operating illegally.

Anaheim city officials recently unanimously approved keeping a ban on pot dispensaries through January 2013. Four speakers addressed council members at a recent meeting, urging them to strictly regulate dispensaries and tax them, but council members didn't listen and voted without comment to extend a moratorium.

Despite California voters -- and no doubt Anaheim voters -- asking that marijuana be legalized for medical use in 1996, the city has banned operations in city limits since 2007. The city's law was challenged by patients who said the law unfairly limited their rights based on the state law, the newspaper reports.

In August, a judge ruled that the city's law doesn't conflict with either the 1996 law passed by voters or the 2003 state law that allows for medical-grade marijuana to be used by patients. But the case is being appealed, so city leaders decided to wait another year before making any changes to medical marijuana in the city limits.

The city council's ruling doesn't prohibit grandfathered-in dispensaries from operating, but it puts an end to the addition of new dispensaries in the city. The city's action comes as major court cases revolving around medical marijuana are ongoing. In November, an appeals court ruled that the city of Riverside won a case that says cities can legally ban medical marijuana dispensaries. Another ruling stated that cities can't create laws that would regulate these businesses.

On top of pressure from federal authorities, this has become a difficult topic in California. While there is clearly a demand from medical marijuana patients, there is also backlash from city and county officials, who are trying to limit these. And then there are law enforcement officers, who try to make arrests, even when they're not justified. Those in the industry require strong legal representation if they are arrested or threatened with criminal action.

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Santa Barbara Doctor Faces Federal Drug Charges After Arrest

A Santa Barbara doctor was arrested recently after officials allege he violated federal drug trafficking laws and he is being held without bond, the Associated Press reports.

Agents have become more aggressive in their efforts to make federal drug arrests in Santa Ana and nationwide in recent months as prescription drug abuse has soared into the public eye. California and Florida are battling as the top two states dealing with the most abuse of the drug, which is a big money maker for drug companies as well as doctors who prescribe them to patients.
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But where is the line between doctor trying to help a patient and doctor putting patients at risk in order to make money? Our Santa Ana criminal defense lawyers would suggest that law enforcement officers, who likely have no training in medicine, might not be able to accurately make the distinction.

Yet many doctors, as well as drug distributors, patients and others involved in the medical field have come under scrutiny in recent months because of a frenzy of criminal investigations aimed at this field. Many are alleging that pharmacists are, in fact, operating "pill mills" where they distribute pills like candy after patients come in with prescriptions from doctors who are handing them out to anyone who asks.

Perhaps there are some bad apples in the bunch, but what this new craze has done is soiled the names of hard-working doctors whose aim is simply to help patients the best they know how. Sadly, many are stuck with criminal charges as a result of overzealous law enforcement officers.

In the recent case out of Orange county, the doctor faces federal drug trafficking charges after authorities accused him of over-medicating patients. He has been questioned, but not charged, in connection with at least one death of a woman he had been treating. Some women allege he traded drugs for sexual favors.

Hospital officials say they began keeping tabs on how many of this doctor's patients came in with prescription-based illnesses or overdoses. Other doctors say they notified the state's medical board in 2009, two years after police questioned the doctor in connection with the death of a 53-year-old woman.
Some officials are upset that authorities moved too slowly in attempting to arrest this doctor, but despite receiving complaints, it obviously took a long time for authorities to put together any type of evidence they believe will stand up in court. The doctor told the Los Angeles Times recently that if he didn't try to help patients, they would simply go to the street to get medications they needed. He told the newspaper he may have given some people too many prescriptions.

The doctor now faces up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted. But the government will have to determine that fine line between a doctor doing his job and trying to help patients or being negligent. The question of whether his prescriptions violate federal drug trafficking laws is one a jury will have to determine.

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Holiday Season DUI Enforcement Just Around the Corner in Orange County

It seems that as holiday approach, there is more and more news that law enforcement throughout Orange County is preparing DUI enforcement efforts.

Some might see that as a bad strategy because what happens the rest of the year? And why should people driving near a holiday be subjected to more police presence than any other time?
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Regardless of the debate, it's going to happen. As our Santa Ana DUI defense lawyers predicted in November, law enforcement would step up its patrols for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and it did. More than 1,350 people were arrested for DUI in Santa Ana and statewide during only a five-day period.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the number is actually 69 fewer than the number of people charged with DUI last year. There were also six more traffic deaths during the time period this year compared to last, the California Highway Patrol reports. It's unclear if any were alcohol-related.

If statistics from the California Office of Traffic Safety are any indication, Orange County drivers should be careful from mid-December until the beginning of the new year. Last year, there were 743 DUI arrests from Dec. 17 to Jan. 1 in the county alone.

In 2009, numbers were down considerably, but the office only reported arrests from Jan. 1 to 3. Even in that short period, there were 110 DUI arrests.

DUI is not a charge that should be taken lightly. Lawmakers have made it so even a first-time offender, a person with no prior alcohol-related offenses and who likely had one drink too many, could end up facing jail time, probation, fines and fees, a driver's license suspension and other court-ordered sanctions.

While a Department of Motor Vehicles administrative hearing can be requested within 10 days of an arrest to fight the suspension of a driver's license, this is separate from the criminal case.

In the criminal case, many aspects of the state's evidence can be challenged. This includes faulty breathalyzers, which have caused many cases to be dropped after authorities found them to be poorly manufactured or not calibrated correctly.

Field sobriety testing -- when officers ask a driver to walk, heel-to-toe, stand and touch their nose or follow a light from left to right -- can be challenged if the officer isn't properly trained to conduct the tests or makes poor observations.

A couple tips to be aware of this time of the year, given that law enforcement will be out on the streets in larger numbers:


  • Police can pull you over for any minor traffic violation and then start a DUI investigation, so drive carefully.

  • Anything you say to an officer can be used against you in court.

  • Aggressive or loud behavior can lead to additional charges.

  • Remain calm, stay silent and call a Santa Ana DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

Continue reading "Holiday Season DUI Enforcement Just Around the Corner in Orange County" »

Boykins v. State Brings up Major Fourth Amendment Issue in Santa Ana Drug Cases

A recent Georgia case brings to light issues that must be applied to Santa Ana drug cases as well.

Whether drug possession or drug sales in Orange County, these charges can be enhanced based on a multitude of factors. For one, the criminal history of the defendant can play a role in what charges the state brings against a suspect. If there have been many or serious convictions for drug sales in the past, it's possible the charges will be shifted to federal court, where the penalties are often tougher.
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If guns are used or found during a police search, if children are nearby and factors such as the type of drug and quantity are all things that go into determining what charges a person could face. All charges related to drugs are serious.

But because of the government's decades-long ongoing "War on Drugs," more and more law enforcement resources are going into undercover operations, sting operations and overall enforcement of drug laws.

The zeal of officers to make arrests can sometimes cause problems and it happened in Boykins v. State. In this case, a man pulled his vehicle up to a woman in a high-crime area and police observed the act. When officers pulled up, the man drove off.

Officers asked the woman if she knew the man and she said no and they suspected prostitution. They followed the man to a nearby apartment complex and pulled behind him. When asked for identification, the man said it was in his apartment, but he gave them his name and date of birth.

Officers found he had an outstanding warrant, handcuffed him and put him in custody. An officer then searched his car, finding cocaine in the center console. Before trial, his lawyers sought to suppress evidence from the officer searching the vehicle.

The only evidence presented by the state was the testimony of the arresting officer, who said that the driver exited the vehicle when he was being questioned about his identification. All before the search, the man was arrested, handcuffed and put in the other vehicle.

Previous court decisions have allowed police officers to search vehicles if they believe the suspect is close enough to reach in and pull something out. But it is limited. The Georgia Supreme Court overturned the case, ruling that the state failed to show why this should be an example of when a "rare" case where a warrantless search should be allowed.

This is an example of the criminal justice system upholding a defendant's rights. Police have rules and the court is a checks and balance system for law enforcement. When they break the rules, and a defendant's rights are violated, there are consequences. Police have problems in cases every day. Allow a Santa Ana criminal defense lawyer to uphold your rights if you are charged with a crime.

Continue reading "Boykins v. State Brings up Major Fourth Amendment Issue in Santa Ana Drug Cases" »

Aleman v. Village of Hanover Park Shows Careless Police Work Can Ruin Lives

A recent case out of Illinois shows that when police are careless in their investigative techniques, a person's life can be flipped upside down and ruined.

In the case of Aleman v. Village of Hanover Park, it appears that is what has happened. And poor police work can happen anywhere, including Santa Ana and other areas of Southern California.
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Cases of murder in Fullerton are serious offenses that require the best representation possible. In many cases of homicide, police have a good idea who committed the crime. In others, however, they have no good evidence and fish for a confession.

Our Santa Ana criminal defense lawyers believe the latter is what happened in this horrible case. And, sadly, it led to a man being arrested, branded forever as a killer even though charges were later dropped after it became obvious the police didn't do their jobs right.

According to court records, Rick Aleman ran a day care and although it had only been operational for five months when the incident in question occurred in 2005, he had five children of his own. One of the children he watched was an 11-month-old boy.

On the September date in question, the boy's mother dropped him off that morning and the boy was lethargic and feverish. Not long after the boy was dropped off, he began gasping for air and collapsed. The man attempted CPR and called 911. The boy was rushed to the hospital via ambulance. He died four days later.

Not long after the ambulance was called, police were called to the house and asked the man and his wife to come to the police department. He was placed in an interrogation room for 45 minutes and asked if he could come back in an hour. He was told he couldn't and that he was under arrest.

Some five hours later, police finally entered the room and they told the suspect he had the "most information" to offer after they had spoken to many people about the incident. He said he wanted to call his lawyer, which should have stopped the questioning right there based on the man's rights.

But officers instead filled out a waiver of Miranda rights for the man to sign and told him he could call his lawyer, but he wanted him to sign the waiver of his rights. The man called his lawyer, during which an officer picked up the phone and talked to the attorney. The lawyer said the defendant would be invoking his right to remain silent, which the court ruled didn't count as an invocation of his rights because the man had to do it himself.

The man said he wanted to go home, but officers said he wouldn't be able to go home unless he talked to them. He asked to speak with his lawyer again and the police let him. He asked the lawyer to come to the station, but officers told him he needed to sit down and talk to them. The man said his lawyer gave him the right to talk, which the court wrote would be foolish.

After four hours of talking to the man, police told him doctors had said that he must have shaken the baby to cause its injuries. The man feebly confessed. He was initially charged with aggravated battery of a child. Later, he was charged with first-degree murder.

What didn't come out initially was that the mother had a criminal history, a past of violence and had been known to strike her child and say she wanted to kill him. Also what wasn't revealed was that a medical examiner ruled initially it was "highly unlikely" the man caused the injuries, but an investigator later lied to her, saying he was "behaving normally" when he arrived and she changed her opinion. Once learning the truth, she reinstated her first opinion.

The mother was barely investigated and one investigator told the mother not to speak to any other detectives about the case, despite his knowledge of her past and threats against her son. Within a year the charges were dropped, though the mother was never charged. The officers are the subject of a civil lawsuit filed by the man.

Continue reading "Aleman v. Village of Hanover Park Shows Careless Police Work Can Ruin Lives" »

Self-Defense or Intentional Assault in Black Friday SoCal Pepper Spraying?

Shoppers in Southern California made news already this holiday season in a bad way when a woman at a Wal-Mart north of Los Angeles was accused of pepper spraying other customers on Black Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Retailers have been pumping consumers with advertisements in newspapers, online, on television and through the mail for weeks. Many decided to forgo the 5 a.m. store openings on Friday and opted instead to begin shopping Thanksgiving Day, some as early as 9 p.m.
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In this case, it's unclear whether the woman may have acted in self-defense, which often is a defense for a charge of battery in Santa Ana.

People sometimes get assault and battery confused. Assault involves not necessarily intending to injure someone, while battery requires a person to strike or injure another person through some action. The charges are somewhat intertwined, which can be confusing.

In this case, if the woman is found, it's possible she could be charged with assault or battery. As our Santa Ana criminal defense lawyers well know, the difference between the charges means a difference in possible penalties. It's also clear that self-defense is a very real defense in this case.

According to the newspaper's account, police reported "pandemonium" when a video game display offering $60 games for $30 was unveiled to people who began shopping at this particular Wal-Mart when it opened for Black Friday sales at approximately 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

In the problems that ensued, one woman allegedly pulled out a can of pepper spray and sprayed about 20 consumers who were nearby. Police have said at first they thought she was just angling to get the best deals, but now they think she may have acted in self defense.

After reviewing video surveillance and interviewing more than a dozen witnesses, police are reconsidering whether or not criminal charges should be filed. They hope to speak to another 10 witnesses. One witness told the paper that at about 9:55 p.m., people started shoving and pulling the plastic off the pallets of video games, which led to a stampede. On video, people can be heard saying "I'm being trampled, I'm being crushed."

Police hope to work out a plan for major shopping events to ensure that people are kept safe. But this isn't the first example of problems on Black Friday. A few years ago, a Wal-Mart employee in New York was trampled by mobs of people rushing into the store. In the San Francisco Bay area, a person was shot by would-be robbers as they walked to their cars. Last week in Arkansas, fights broke out over $2 waffle irons.

The bottom line is that if you are charged with a crime in Santa Ana, you need legal representation. If the emotions of a big sale got the best of you and you made a one-time mistake, you must have a lawyer by your side to help guide you through the complex and fast-moving criminal justice system.

Continue reading "Self-Defense or Intentional Assault in Black Friday SoCal Pepper Spraying?" »

Expect Orange County DUI Patrols Starting Around Thanksgiving

As the holidays approach, people may try their best to wind down and enjoy some quiet time with family members. For others, the hustle and bustle of the shopping season along with the craze of a large family gathering can be stressful.

Either way, police will be stepping up their patrols. For law enforcement, this is one of the busiest times of the years as they go out of their way to conduct roadside sobriety stops, stepped-up patrols that can lead to people being charged with DUI in Santa Ana.
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Orange County DUI defense lawyers will bet that you will begin to see television and newspaper advertisements that warn people of the dangers of DUI. And we have all seen or heard of incidents stemming from drunken driving crashes.

In fact, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety, police in Orange County made 743 DUI arrests and worked five fatal accidents last year between December 17 and January 2.

But what isn't said in those statistics is how many of those arrests turned into convictions. Not every person who is arrested for a crime is convicted and many times it was poor police work or overzealous police officers who make arrests without enough evidence to support the charges.

An aggressive defense lawyer can help this holiday season.

One reminder that police do make mistakes comes out of Santa Barbara. In a recent case there, a newspaper reporter was charged with DUI, yet later had the charges dropped.

In that case, according to the Santa Barbara Independent, the journalist was pulled over after an officer reported that he spent three to five seconds stopped at a green light. The officer swung around next to him and shone his light inside the vehicle. The driver looked up at him, looked back down and then continued.

The officer pulled him over and the man was charged with DUI after allegedly blowing a 0.09 during a breath test. But his lawyer was able to cite several out-of-state cases where judges dropped DUI charges after a person waited as long as 60 seconds at a green light and that was enough to convince this man's judge to drop his charge.

Muddying the case a bit more is that the journalist had written several in-depth newspaper articles about his arresting officer, including about her criminal history, her credit, marriage and her work with the police department. The article stated that the officer's "relationship" with the newspaperman didn't influence the case.

While there will no doubt be arrests made as we approach the holiday season, there are ways to beat these charges. The penalties can be severe and the personal repercussions can also be difficult, but aggressively fighting the charges can lead to less-serious charges and penalties or a clean slate altogether.

Continue reading "Expect Orange County DUI Patrols Starting Around Thanksgiving" »

In State v. Allen, Santa Ana Murder Charges Collapse on Judge's Misconduct

A murder defendant in Maryland went to trial twice and was convicted of robbery and murder. On appeal, he was granted a new trial because the judge told the jury that the defendant had been convicted of murder and robbery before and the jury found him guilty.

The appeals court reversed the felony murder conviction, agreeing that when the judge told jurors of the man's prior convictions, it essentially established the elements of murder for jurors to convict him.
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Murder charges in Santa Ana are the most serious on the books. That's why, in California, a person can be sentenced to death or life in prison. When a person has been killed, and a defendant's freedom is on the line, everything must be handled with great detail.

In this case, it appears the judge made a mistake. Because of what's on the line, an experienced Santa Ana criminal defense lawyer must be hired to defend a person facing this tough charge.

In State v. Allen, Allen had been tried and convicted on charges of robbery and murder.

The case stemmed from a 2001 argument between two men that led to a fight. The defendant demanded that the victim drive him home after they met at the victim's home. The victim refused and the defendant took his keys and said he was going to drive himself home. After stabbing him with a knife, the defendant drove off, but crashed the car and was arrested.

During the first trial, the judge told jurors that they could find him guilty of felony murder whether or not they found that he intended to rob the victim before or after the murder. An appeals court found robbery as an "afterthought" can't be an underlying felony to support a conviction and death penalty case. The man was granted a new trial.

At the new trial, the defendant was once again wronged by the criminal justice system. This time, a judge told jurors in 2008 that the man had previously been convicted of second degree murder and robbery in connection with the incident. He told them they were there to determine if the man is guilty of first-degree murder.

The judge also told jurors, over objection from the defense, that he had already been convicted of robbery. By telling jurors the man had already been convicted of robbery -- the charge needed to prove felony murder -- he essentially had sealed the case for jurors. They convicted the man of felony murder.

Collateral estoppel in the criminal justice system means an issue can't be litigated twice after it's already been determined. In this case, the appeals court agreed that because the judge's instruction to jurors paved the way for them to convict, that the defendant should get a new trial, again.

Continue reading "In State v. Allen, Santa Ana Murder Charges Collapse on Judge's Misconduct" »

People v. Vang Highlights Need For Aggressive, Attentive Santa Ana Criminal Defense Lawyer

In People v. Vang, a man was convicted in San Diego of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury in connection with an attack in 2008.

The issue on appeal was whether Vang's judge should have allowed an expert to answer questions from a prosecutor that were thinly disguised as hypothetical questions that referred to facts in this case. The expert was commenting about whether Vang's crime was gang-related. Testimony revealed he is a member of the Tiny Oriental Crips street gang, according to court documents.
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In cases of alleged gang violence in Santa Ana, prosecutors will likely try to prove that a person is affiliated with a street gang, and that the act they are accused of committing was tied to that gang.

If they can prove it, a defendant can be sentenced to many more years in prison. But as an experienced Santa Ana criminal defense attorney well knows, this may not be as easy as it seems. Police and prosecutors must find people who are willing to testify under oath that the defendant is a member of a gang. Police testimony may not be enough.

The victim received a call at his home from a caller whose voice sounded familiar. He met up with Vang and they started walking down the street so they could "hang out." As the 20-year-old rounded a corner, he was struck in the back of the head from behind. He lost consciousness.

A San Diego police detective witnessed the beating and broadcast what he was seeing. He testified that he saw four men in the vicinity and three began beating the fourth and he fell to the ground. Two picked him up and beat him more.Two then backed away and a third hit the victim with a stick or pipe in the head. A second officer arrived and witnessed the beating as well.

Four defendants were arrested nearby, but the stick that the detective said he observed was never found. The victim was hospitalized and interviewed. He said he may have been attacked for disassociating himself from the gang or for overhearing something he shouldn't have.

At trial, an expert was called in by the state to show the case was gang-related. A detective was allowed to testify as an expert, testifying that the gang occupied a certain portion of the city as its territory and mainly included Laotian members. He opined that the defendants and victim were members.

The problem came in when he was allowed to answer hypothetical questions from the prosecution. Over objection from the defense, the judge allowed the detective to answer questions about a "young baby gangster." On redirect examination, the prosecutor took it a step further and asked questions based on the facts of the case in "hypothetical" form and then asked the detective if he felt the case was gang-motivated.

The detective again said he felt it was gang-related. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison. His co-defendants got four years, 12 years and probation.

The Supreme Court of California, after reviewing a court of appeal ruling that the judge erred in allowing the testimony, found that the appellate court was right in finding error, but the panel of judges doesn't believe the error would have changed the course of the verdict. Therefore, it allowed the sentences and verdicts to stay in place.

Continue reading "People v. Vang Highlights Need For Aggressive, Attentive Santa Ana Criminal Defense Lawyer" »

Feds Increasing Raids on "Pill Mill" Operations in Santa Ana, Statewide

In recent weeks, two major pill-mill busts have been announced by federal investigators who are also alleging the defendants defrauded Medicare in the process.

The most recent centered around a doctor in Glendale and a pharmacy in San Marion, The Associated Press reports.
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A few weeks earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported, 14 people were indicted and charged with operating an OxyContin ring where identities and even Medicare beneficiary information was stolen.

Pill mills have been getting a lot of attention from law enforcement agencies as they have become much more profitable and easier to operate than large-scale marijuana, cocaine and heroin businesses of the past.

In pill-mill operations, doctors, pharmacists and drug delivery companies have all come under scrutiny for allegations of fraud in Santa Ana and elsewhere. Not only are investigators considering these drug cases, but also fraud cases and possibly racketeering operations.

This makes the charges even more difficult to beat, but it's not impossible. As Santa Ana criminal defense lawyers know, these complicated investigations often ensnare a dozen or more defendants, while the facts may not support convictions for all of them.

In order to show that a person is guilty of fraud in these drug cases, prosecutors must prove there is intent and knowledge of such a scheme. A low-end employee may have unknowingly operated a part of the scheme without realizing he or she was involved in illegal activity, for instance.

In the first alleged operation, a doctor, operators of pain clinics and others -- 14 total -- were indicted on charges of insurance fraud and operating a scheme to obtain and illegally distribute the painful painkiller OxyContin.

Officials accuse doctors of writing prescriptions to uninsured patients who didn't need the drug. Medicare and other insurance companies were also fraudulently billed by pharmacies, the indictments allege. In some cases, Medicare beneficiary information and identities were stolen. The penalties range from 10 to 40 years in prison.

In the most recent alleged scam, 16 people operated an $18 million scheme that defrauded Medicare after veterans, the homeless, elderly and poor were recruited. Court documents accuse a pain clinic doctor of writing prescriptions for anti-psychotic drugs, such as Seroquel, Abilify and Zyprexa.

The drugs were billed to Medi-Cal and Medicare, but didn't go to the people whose names were on the bill, the news report states. The drugs were instead sold illegally and funneled to San Gabriel Valley, where they were repackaged and resold for profit.

Some Medicare beneficiaries whose identities were stolen were later denied coverage after this happened, authorities allege. The government alleges that of the $18 million in billing, about $7.3 million was actually paid out. One pharmacy -- Huntington Pharmacy in San Marino -- had less than $45,000 in Medi-Cal claims in 2009, but that jumped to $1.5 million a year later.

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Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Orange County Come Under Fire

Years after California lawmakers allowed marijuana for medical purposes, law enforcement is investigating and raiding many medical marijuana dispensaries statewide, including Orange County. Investigators say these operations are nothing but a front for drug dealing.

The fine line between drug dealing and growing medical marijuana in Santa Ana has proven to be difficult for dispensaries that are created to cultivate and distribute marijuana for medicinal purposes.
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The problem in California is that while growing and selling marijuana for medical use is legal and governed by local towns, it is still illegal under federal law. Santa Ana medical marijuana defense lawyers have seen many people charged with a crime in mix-ups even though they have the legal right to smoke marijuana for medical reasons.

Despite California's forward-thinking in this regard, it has still led to many problems among those who have a right to use the drug for medical reasons. Therefore, a strong defense must be presented to clear up the confusion in these cases.

USA Today reports that officials are saying medical marijuana dispensaries are fronts to the illegal drug industry, and therefore they have begun raids to try to uncover illegal drug dealing. Marijuana is legal for medical use in 15 other states and Washington. D.C., as well but there are strict regulations.

The dispute between state and federal law has signaled the Justice Department to tell U.S. attorneys that they can prosecute dispensaries under federal drug and money laundering laws, a priority that has been increased in recent months.

Fox News reports that many believe this is a bad faith effort by the Obama Administration, which previously agreed to leave marijuana shops alone. With an election upcoming, some believe recent raids have a political motive. Many dispensaries have been given warning letters telling them to shut down or face prosecution.

Dispensary owners have been hoping federal investigators wouldn't stick their nose in California's business, but they have sat by idly since 1996, when the law was passed. Since then, the state and federal laws have been at odds, but the feds have largely laid back and taken a hands-off approach.

But it appears they have done an about-face and are now seeking to prosecute dispensary owners under federal laws that are designed to crack down on large-scale drug ring operations. Money laundering and racketeering operations were designed to cut out mob-like businesses that use illegal acts to make big money. Dispensaries are used for medical purposes, as dictated by the law.

This is simply a waste of time and money, but one that some politicians hope will look good on their resumes. It appears the famed "War on Drugs" goes on, even for drugs used to help the hurting.

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Davila v. State: Parent Kidnapping Can Happen in Orange County Too

In a recent Florida case, Davila v. State, attorneys challenged whether a parent could be charged with kidnapping. And in the case of Baby Lisa Irwin of Kansas City, investigators there have begun looking at the family more than two weeks after the child went missing from her home.
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Parent kidnapping can and does happen anywhere in America, including California. Cases of kidnapping in Santa Ana for instance are often based on allegations that a person was taken against his or her will, and sometimes revolve around drug cases or debts that are outstanding. But as the name of the crime implies, the law is written to prevent a child from being taken against his or her will.

According to California Penal Code 207, a child under 14 who is forced out of the county, state or country is a victim of kidnapping. Whether based on coercion, seduction or monetary gain, a person who faces a kidnapping charge can be sent to prison anywhere from five years to life if convicted.

It is obviously a serious charge, which requires a highly qualified Santa Ana criminal defense attorney. With years of experience handling these complex cases, a lawyer will be able to sniff out when police have strong evidence and when they're working off "hunches." Especially in cases where children go missing, such as the Casey Anthony case, police may initially look at outside suspects, but often look internally very quickly.

Davila is a slightly different situation, though, as he was convicted of several charges going back to 2000. According to court documents, Davila was convicted of 36 counts of child abuse, three counts of false imprisonment, one count of child neglect, one count of child abuse, one count of attempted felony murder and three counts of kidnapping a child under 13.

According to testimony in the case, the boy was placed in a bathroom, tied at the hands and forced to lie in a bathtub for hours at a time. He was blindfolded and locked in the room and beaten when he got free, he said.

At issue was whether a parent could legally be charged with kidnapping in Florida and the Supreme Court said yes. Another case that has cropped into the national spotlight is the case of Baby Lisa, an 11-month-old baby who went missing Oct. 4 and hasn't been seen since.

For days, searchers looked for the child, The Kansas City Star reports, but found no traces. Police got tips that turned out to be useless leads. And recently, investigators obtained a search warrant for the house that allows them to look for evidence while banning the family from returning there.

They have now said the mother, who was home the night he baby disappeared, isn't cooperating. There were two older boys home as well and they gave statements initially, but now haven't been made available to police.

The situation is turning quickly as authorities likely are looking at the mother, who admitted to being drunk the night the girl was taken from her room. The husband returned home from a late-night shift to find his daughter missing at 4 a.m. that day. The mother said she saw her at 10:30 p.m. the night before.

Parent kidnapping charges tend to make big headlines, which also threatens the defendant's right to a fair trial. If police are going to make such strong accusations, they better have enough evidence to back it up. If not, an experienced Santa Ana criminal defense attorney will be looking for a not-guilty verdict.

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State v. Green Highlights Self-Defense Expertise Needed in Orange County Murder Cases

A case out of Georgia is a good example of why a well-presented self-defense theory can lead to a not-guilty verdict. The strategy could also be effective in a Santa Ana murder case .

In this case, a man died in 2008 when his femoral artery was punctured by a knife held by Deiran Green when the two men were engaged in a physical dispute. Green was indicted, but the charges were later dropped.
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Self-defense is often difficult to prove, especially in situations where there are large gatherings of people and a fight breaks out. Santa Ana criminal defense attorneys have seen where witnesses often blame the defendant for the attack or some third-hand witness is allowed to testify that there was a problem between the defendant and victim and so it had to be planned.

Few people intend to go out and commit murder. When people are aware of the consequences -- life in prison or possible death by lethal injection -- they must be quick to re-consider a plot for murder. In many cases, "bad blood" does turn in a fight. But the fatal blow wasn't intentional, but rather the result of an accident.

That appears to be the situation here. Green was indicted for malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a knife during the commission of a felony. But the facts of the case show he never should have been charged in the first place.

According to court documents, Green was renting a room in the home of a husband and wife. One day, he was using a butcher knife while preparing dinner. He was also talking with the wife, which apparently upset the husband, causing him to yell at the renter. The husband told the man to leave the house, and that he would receive a refund for whatever rent he had paid.

When the husband stormed off to get the refund money, Green held on to the knife, testifying he didn't trust that the man was just going to get money. When the man walked back up to Green in the kitchen, he grabbed Green's wrists and head-butted him. The knife hit the man's thigh and punctured his femoral artery, causing him to bleed to death.

The trial court found that Green didn't intend to stab the man, but that during the struggle, the knife entered his leg and that he was acting out of fear. The state appealed the ruling that dismissed the indictment.

But the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the decision, ruling that the attacker knew Green had a knife and that he acted totally irrationally by attacking him for talking to his wife. They said he had a right to be afraid of the man and held on to the knife as a threat to stop the confrontation.

Self-defense can be difficult when witnesses say the defendant acted aggressively. But the facts can be used to dispute state witnesses. This case shows that prosecutors will go to great lengths -- even when the facts are obvious -- to get a conviction. Make sure an experienced lawyer is standing by your side when you most need one.

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