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California Criminal Law Blog

Multiple people charged in shooting that left 1 dead

Authorities reported on Jan. 2 that a California man was taken into custody after he was accused of being involved in a shooting that left one person dead and two others with injuries. According to authorities, the 31-year-old man was alleged to be a reputed gang member.

Just after midnight on Dec. 2, a 43-year-old man was shot and killed at a restaurant locating in the 100 block of East Olive Avenue in Monrovia. Authorities alleged that the accused man was at the location when he pulled out a gun when a verbal confrontation with his older brother escalated. He allegedly shot the gun into the crowd. Several others who were not involved in the confrontation suffered injuries.

California crime figures expected to improve

The violent crime rate is expected to fall from 2016 to 2017 in three California cities according to projections from the New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice. Researchers from the law and public policy institute analyzed crime trends in the nation's 30 largest cities using police reports and historical data, and they concluded that the overall crime rate in the United States is expected to fall slightly by 1.8 percent and the violent crime rate by 0.6 percent by the end of 2017. The study includes data from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose. Data from San Francisco was not available when the study was prepared in September.

The study suggests that crime figures in 2017 will be the lowest since 1990. The overall crime rate in Los Angeles is expected to fall by 3.3 percent with violent crimes falling by 7.4 percent. In San Diego, the overall crime rate is expected to fall by 10.1 percent with the violent crime rate remaining essentially unchanged. Violent crimes in San Jose are predicted to fall by 5.3 percent, but the overall crime rate in the city is expected to buck nationwide trends by increasing by 5.6 percent.

Ex-Standford swimmer files appeal for sexual assault conviction

On Dec. 2, a former Stanford University swimmer who was found guilty of sexual assault in California filed an appeal after he finished serving his sentence. The case became well-known after he was sentenced to just six months in jail. He was released after serving three months for good behavior.

The former swimmer was accused of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman at a fraternity house in 2015. The man, who was 19 at the time, was taken into custody after two other students reported seeing the alleged act as it was occurring. After being sentenced to six months in prison, he was required to register as a sex offender in Ohio, his home state.

Gang member sentenced to death for three murders

On Dec. 1, a California man received the death penalty for murdering three men who had wronged his street gang. The sentence was handed down in Riverside Superior Court.

According to authorities, the 27-year-old defendant was a member of the San Ja street gang, the oldest street gang in San Jacinto. In September, a jury found him guilty of killing three men associated with the gang. The first victim was shot to death while going on a beer run. He was reportedly killed for dropping out of San Ja. The second victim was shot on an Indian reservation. According to police records, he had assisted authorities on previous investigations. The third victim was a member of a rival gang and killed as part of a turf war.

Three California shootings may be tied to gang violence

California authorities are investigating a series of deadly shootings that took place in Santa Ana between Dec. 1 and Dec. 3. Police believe the spate of violence may have been committed by area gang members.

The first shooting took place on Friday, Dec. 1, and resulted in a fatality. According to police, a 36-year-old male died after he was hit in the lower torso. Four suspects, who all allegedly have gang ties, were taken into custody.

Cell phone tracking and the warrant requirement

Many California residents use cell phones to communicate with friends, family members and employers every day. Laws have changed to keep up with changing technology over the years. One question before the U.S. Supreme Court is whether or not law enforcement can use location information stored regularly by cell phone providers to track suspects.

In Carpenter v. United States, data was used to track a suspect after a string of armed robberies. Carpenter was identified as the ring leader of a group that had robbed nine different stores in Michigan and Ohio. At his trial, location information from his cell phone provider was used to show where he had placed or received calls. The calls matched up with the locations of the nine robberies.

Study shows that race strongly influences criminal sentencing

The bulging prison population in California illustrates the high incarceration rate within the United States, which has risen by 500 percent in 40 years. A study from the U.S Sentencing Commission revealed how race impacts the length of sentences. An analysis of sentencing data from 2012 to 2016 indicated that judges gave sentences to black men that were 19.1 percent longer than sentences for white men for the same crimes.

To judge how a violent history might influence sentences, the commission looked at data from fiscal year 2016. A violent past correlated with sentences for black men that were 20.4 percent longer than sentences for white men with similar histories. Researchers suggested that a decision from the Supreme Court of the United States in 2005 exacerbated these racial disparities. That decision gave judges the power to increase sentences if they believed that facts supported an enhanced sentence.

14-year-old charged with murder for gang-related death

On Nov. 7, a California teenager was facing a murder charge after allegedly being involved in a gang-related shooting that occurring in October. The accused Wilmington teen is just 14 years old.

A 19-year-old college student was just leaving a Halloween party that he had been attending and was walking across the street when he was reportedly shot and killed at about 1:45 a.m. near the 1100 block of West Cruces Street. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. The teenager accused of committing the murder was taken into police custody on Nov. 2 and was being held at the Los Padrinos juvenile detention facility. His name and other information were not released as he is a minor.

Drug take-back day: 5 tons of prescription drugs turned in

Many Californians are addicted to prescription drugs and may face criminal charges if they are caught in possession of medications that they aren't prescribed. In cases involving opiate medications, some people turn to illicit substances such as heroin in order to get high when the prescription drugs no longer work for them and because heroin might be cheaper.

In an effort to fight against the wave of prescription drug abuse and addiction, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in tandem with local law enforcement agencies held a national drug take-back day. This event was held at locations across California for four hours on Oct. 28. During that time, more than 5 tons of expired or unused prescription drugs were collected in Imperial and San Diego counties alone.

Don't hold your breath. A bad breath test doesn't guarantee guilt

Yes, you read that right. If the breath test taken by the officer on the side of the road indicates you were legally intoxicated under California law, you still have options. Even though this breath test may provide a police officer with probable cause for your arrest, it does not mean that you face an automatic conviction for driving under the influence.

Like many others, you may be under the impression that authorities have the "evidence" they need in order to substantiate a conviction, but that may not be the case. You may not realize that these roadside breath tests often come with several potential inaccuracies that invalidate the results. This is one of the primary reasons to not automatically rely on this test result and plead guilty to a DUI charge.

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