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Alameda County Criminal Law Blog

California man charged with the murder of his girlfriend

Police in California have charged a 26-year-old man with murder after the body of his missing girlfriend was discovered in a remote part of Siskiyou County. The man was taken into custody by deputies from the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office on Oct. 10, and reports indicate that he is being held at a detention facility in Yreka, with bail set at $1 million.

The 24-year-old victim's family reported her missing on Oct. 5 after not being in contact with her for a few days. Police became suspicious about the disappearance when they discovered that the victim had left behind many personal items, and their investigation soon focused on her boyfriend. Social media accounts suggest that the couple had been involved with each other for two years and had two children. Police say that a number of leads led them to the location of the woman's body, but initial reports did not include details about how she died or what led officers to suspect her boyfriend was involved.

FBI data reveals that the war on drugs is far from over

A ballot measure legalizing marijuana for recreational use was approved by California voters in November 2016, and opinion polls show that even the residents of traditionally conservative states are beginning to lose patience with the way authorities are waging war on drugs. More and more people view drug use as a public health rather than criminal issue, but that did not prevent law enforcement agencies across the country arresting 1.57 million people for drug-related offenses in 2016 according to FBI crime data.

The bureau's latest Uniform Crime Report reveals that police are stepping up their drug enforcement efforts despite growing public opposition to the drug war. Drug arrests were up by 5.63 percent in 2016 over the previous year, and the figures indicate that more than 84 percent of these arrests were for simple possession. Bills legalizing marijuana for recreational or medical use have been passed in dozens of states, but that did not prevent law enforcement from arresting more than 600,000 individuals for marijuana-related offenses in 2016.

Prosecutors pile on charges to force plea deals

Suspects arrested in California for what might appear to be a single criminal act sometimes find themselves facing multiple criminal charges. Laws designed to prosecute criminal gangs or drug cartels sometimes enable prosecutors to add charges of conspiracy or racketeering. In some cases, state and federal prosecutors issue separate charges for a single alleged crime.

Authorities developed conspiracy and racketeering laws to increase their ability to penalize people involved in organized crime operations. Gangs or cartels might organize enterprises that include drug trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and gambling. Individuals within the syndicate generally specialize in only a segment of the operation, but if they have knowledge of other activities or support their planning in even small ways, prosecutors could apply conspiracy charges. Intention to support a crime matters more than actual participation or completion. For example, a person who discusses a plan to murder someone could face conspiracy to commit murder charges even if the act does not occur.

2 gang members convicted on murder charges

Two California gang members have been found guilty of killing five homeless people who were living near a Long Beach freeway. Authorities were tipped off to the killings, which occurred in November 2008, after the bodies were found in a seedy neighborhood.

Authorities said that one of the convicted men, age 36, had an ongoing feud that involved drug debt with a man who was living in the homeless encampment. It was believed that this man, two other men and two women were all killed to ensure that there were no witnesses. The 36-year-old, who was reportedly a member of a Watts criminal street gang, was also convicted on charges related to the kidnapping and murder of a fourth man in March 2009. This killing allegedly occurred after the deceased man did not hand over drug money.

Differences between first-degree and second-degree murder

When California residents are charged with murder, they could be charged with first-degree murder or second-degree murder. While both charges deal with an intentional killing of someone, the first-degree and second-degree part of the charges are different based on the accused individuals' mental states.

Murder is legally defined as an intentional killing or a killing that resulted from another person's dangerous conduct with a lack of concern for human life. Those who are charged with first-degree murder are accused of creating a plan to commit the murder and then carrying out that plan. Those who are charged with second-degree murder are accused of killing another person without prior planning.

Sex offender bill revived using gut-and-amend

A sex offender registry bill was revived by a lawmaker from San Francisco just days before the California legislative session was scheduled to end. After passing through four committees and the state senate, it was held up in the California Assembly Appropriations Committee. It was brought back by a process called gut-and-amend. This involves scrapping a dead bill, putting its contents into an active bill and then using that bill to bypass committee.

It was a controversial move that has been decried by those who want to see better governance. In this case, the text of the sex offender bill was placed in a bill that originally would have given cities the option to keep bars open until 4 a.m. According to the politician who was trying to push the bill, law enforcement and rape advocates had insisted that the current offender registry system was broken.

Home security video aids investigation of California gang

Police in Richmond have arrested seven men accused of participating in a crime spree committed by a gang known as Swerve Team. The Richmond Chief of Police said that surveillance video captured during a home invasion in Fremont launched the investigation that eventually involved local, state and federal law enforcement. A detective recognized a man in the video as someone from Richmond and wondered why he was in Fremont. The seven suspects now face charges for multiple violent crimes, including three murders and 14 attempts at killing people, that occurred throughout Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

The three murders took place in Richmond. A spokesman for the Richmond Police said that one victim died after 50 gunshots at close range. He was only 18 years old and had no gang affiliations. An FBI special assistant commenting on the crime spree noted that the crimes exceeded typical Bay Area gang retaliation activities.

32 arrested in sex offender compliance operation

On Aug. 21, California authorities began a three-day operation to ensure that Sacramento County sex offenders were complying with the sex offender registration requirements. During the course of the operation, 32 individuals were taken into custody for failing to register or who were in violation of the laws.

Officers contacted about 300 people during the compliance checks. They also checked 49 addresses where known sex offenders were registered to, leading to 17 new compliance cases. Fourteen of those who were taken into custody were not in compliance with the sex offender registration laws. The operation was also conducted with the intention to find the whereabouts of certain sex offenders who had active warrants open.

Man sentenced to life in prison for grad student murder

A California man was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Aug. 16 for the 2014 murder of a Chinese engineering student. The 21-year-old man was just one of four individuals charged with the murder of the 24-year-old University of Southern California graduate student.

On July 24, 2014, the convicted 21-year-old man and three others reportedly attacked the student with a baseball bat and wrench as he was attempting to walk home from the school. It appeared that the convicted man and the other alleged attackers thought that he had money on him. The student was reportedly able to escape the attackers and arrived home covered in blood. He was discovered by his roommates several hours later after he had already died from his injuries.

3 charged in murder of 12-year-old girl

A man and two women were taken into custody and charged in connection to a fatal shooting in California. All three individuals were facing murder charges associated with the shooting death of a 12-year-old girl.

On Aug. 9, the 12-year-old girl was inside her Victorville home when she was shot through the front window at about 8:30 p.m. She was taken to a local hospital where she died shortly after due to her injuries. Authorities said that witnesses had reported that the man had approached the home, shot into the home several times and then fled from the scene in a vehicle. It appeared that the girl was not the target.

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