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About Robin Sandoval

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Robin Sandoval is a California Licensed Bail Bondsman and owner of SCV Bail Bonds. Robin writes blogs and articles to help increase community awareness of the bail industry. If you have questions or want to suggest a topic, email robin@scvbailbonds.com, visit www.scvbailbonds.com or call 661-299-2245.

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LAPD Ends Controversial LASER Program

| Police Blotter | April 18, 2019

Recently, the top brass at the LAPD decided to do away with a predictive policing program that residents say is rife with racial bias. The program used specific crime data to identify what law enforcement referred to as Los Angeles Strategic Extraction and Restoration (LASER) zones. The program was one of several data-driven predictive policing programs that the LAPD used to identify places where violent crimes were most likely to occur, as well as persons most likely to commit these crimes. Once a LASER zone was identified, a surge of LAPD officers would be sent to the area in an effort to deter the crimes that their data indicates would be happening there, as well as to keep tabs on individuals.

At a police commission meeting on Tuesday, April 9, LAPD Chief Michel Moore stated that the program had led to the lowest crime rates in years. Residents and skeptics of the program, however, have questioned whether or not data-driven strategies that rely on computer algorithms and other computer data to identify areas where violent crime is most likely to happen is effective at all. A recent audit found that the program itself lacked oversight, and that the data used by officers to label individuals as likely to commit violent crimes was inconsistent.

Predictive policing has been a source of contention between the police and the public since its inception. The public is highly suspicious of data-driven policing, especially residents of neighborhoods targeted by programs like LASER. Law enforcement believes that the practice has given them useful information that allows supervisors to allocate resources more efficiently. Detractors of predictive policing have been saying for a long time that the practice is focused on poor neighborhoods and areas populated primarily by people of color. According to those in the know, the data used by the predictive policing algorithm doesn’t include race or gender.

Interestingly, while LASER was the most recent predictive policing program to be shut down, it wasn’t the only one. A much more controversial segment of the program, which involved the identification and monitoring of so-called chronic offenders who are most likely to commit violent crimes, was scrapped last summer. The segment of the program involved identifying the chronic offenders, adding them to a list, and then distributing that list to officers in the area. Though the lists and database were discontinued in August, the public was only informed last month.

Ultimately, the end of the LASER program does not spell the end of predictive policing entirely – it was just one of several programs already in action. Increased oversight as well as more consistency in how the data is used may very well help quell the public outcry and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of predictive policing.

Parole – What is It?

| Canyon Country Magazine | April 15, 2019

Recently, SCV Sheriff’s Station deputies attempted to contact a vandalism suspect currently on parole and ended up being led on a high-speed chase on the northbound 14 Freeway. The suspect was a parolee from Acton who, during his attempt to flee law enforcement, hit an occupied CHP patrol vehicle in a head-on collision. The suspect continued to flee after the collision, and was able to elude a spike strip placed in the road before ending up in a single-car collision, from which he fled on foot. He was eventually apprehended and taken to the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station to undergo booking and processing.

Parole is a confusing concept for a lot of people. It’s often mistakenly used interchangeably with probation, though they’re actually two very different concepts. Probation is used as part of sentencing once a defendant is convicted of a crime. The individual can be sentenced to probation, jail time, or both. Generally, probation is part of someone’s sentence when a judge wants to reduce or eliminate the time they spend in jail.

The terms of a defendant’s probation will depend on the circumstances of the specific case involved, but for the most part, probation allows a defendant to avoid going to jail if they live within certain restrictions placed upon them by the judge. Sometimes a defendant’s probation is supervised by the court (usually in felony cases and referred to as “formal probation”) and sometimes it isn’t (“informal probation” is often used in misdemeanor cases). As long as the defendant does not violate the terms of the probation or commit any additional crimes, he/she will be able to stay out of custody. But if caught violating probation, the individual can be sent to jail for anywhere between one year and the entirety of their sentence.

Parole, on the other hand, is also a supervised program but it only applies to felony cases when the defendant has spent time in custody at a California state prison. Parole does not begin until the individual is released from prison, but it is similar to probation once the inmate is released. In order for someone to be granted parole, the inmate must agree to abide by certain conditions and limitations once released from prison. And they are required to do so for the amount of time set forth by the judge.

When paroled, an inmate will be assigned a parole agent who will supervise the inmate and ensure he or she is complying with the conditions of the parole. When inmates violate one or more of these conditions, they can be subject to a California parole violation and revocation hearing, during which it will be decided if the defendant should be allowed to remain on the street or to go back to prison. Once the period of their parole is over, they will no longer be supervised and will be able to live their lives as regular citizens.

Since the suspect in the vehicle chase undoubtedly violated his parole, it is likely he will be going back to prison. Unfortunately, since he broke several laws during the process of violating his original parole, he will probably face a much longer, harsher sentence this time around.

Management May be Forced to Live in Crime-Ridden SFV Motel and Other Unusual Sentences

| Police Blotter | April 11, 2019

The Studio 6 Motel in the San Fernando Valley has long been a hotbed of criminal activity including prostitution, narcotic sales, and gang activity.

Law enforcement and community members have long tried to curb the issues stemming from the motel to no avail. For management, the gangs, prostitutes, and drug dealers were also customers, so there was little incentive to do anything about it since it affects their bottom-line.

However, in a recent twist, management may have no other choice. The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office wants a judge to force three members of the motel’s management to live on-site until they’re able to clean things up.

Not only has law enforcement’s previous efforts to clean up the property been stymied, but the criminal activity has actually gotten worse. Now, city attorneys are hoping that if management is forced to face the problem with crime every day, they’ll finally do something about it.

This isn’t the only incident where unusual sentences, court orders, or other obligations are mandated that fit squarely outside the box. Most crimes have minimum and maximum sentences mandated by the state that provide judges with guidelines along which a convicted person’s punishment may fall. However, judges are also given a great deal of leeway and freedom when it comes to sentencing and court orders. While some judges stick to the books, others prefer to get creative.

A Texas metal-plating business owner was ordered to get rid of toxic chemicals from his property but failed to comply. He was later convicted of illegally dumping chromium, after which the presiding judge chose to sentence the man to drink a glass of nasty, toxic sludge. The intent was to make the man think twice before dumping toxic chemicals in places where they can taint wildlife or the water supply.

Judge Michael Cicconetti of Ohio has garnered quite a reputation for unusual sentencing. He’s previously ordered a woman to walk 30 miles after she stiffed a cabby out of his fair for a trip of the same distance. The judge also told a man convicted of drunk driving he could avoid jail time if he instead spent time looking at car crash corpses.

Judges who recommend unusual sentences are rare, and typically reserve the practice for first-time offenders and impressionable young people. Career criminals and those convicted of serious and/or violent crimes typically face traditional sentences. Also, not every sentence handed down by a judge stands up to scrutiny, either. It’s highly unlikely the previously mentioned Texas business owner was forced to drink a cup of toxic chemicals, for example. The judge was likely attempting to make a point with the sentence rather than make the man sick.

Felony Reckless Evading – Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC

| Police Blotter | April 4, 2019

As residents of Los Angeles County, we’re no stranger to high-speed pursuits. Oddly enough, several of those pursuits find their way through or near the Santa Clarita Valley. Thanks to the SCV’s location near the 5, 14, and 210 freeways, it’s really easy to get here if you’re fleeing the police. Of course, fleeing the police isn’t the best way to see the sights of the Santa Clarita Valley.

California Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC covers the crime of felony reckless evading. It can be charged (along with 2800.1 VC – the lesser misdemeanor charge) when you evade the police in a vehicle and drive with a wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property. Basically, if you flee the police in a motor vehicle and drive relatively safely while doing so, you’re likely to be charged with 2800.1 VC, if you drive like a maniac, you’re likely to be charged with 2800.2 VC.

For example, a person steals a vehicle and a police officer attempts to pull him over. Instead of complying or just continuing on as he was doing, the suspect speeds away and runs stop signs and red lights while doing so. When caught, the suspect would likely face two felony charges: grand theft auto and felony reckless evading.

One doesn’t necessarily have to be fleeing a crime to be charged with felony reckless evading. Suppose a person is driving and a police officer attempts to pull them over for not using their turn signal. Not wanting to have to talk to police, the suspect speeds off, causing surrounding cars to veer into each other to avoid hitting the suspect. The suspect in this case, if caught, would likely face charges of violating 2800.2 VC.

In order to be charged with fleeing a police officer, that officer actually has to be pursuing you. A good example of this would be someone driving on a suspended license and has a police car behind them. The officer gets a call and turns on the lights and siren so they can respond, but the driver thinks that the officer is trying to pull him over so he speeds off and runs several stop signs. If the driver is eventually caught, he will, at the very least, receive a ticket for running a stop sign and possibly for speeding, as well as being charged with driving on a suspended license. However, since the police officer wasn’t actually after the driver, they would not face charges of 2800.2 VC.

The term “felony” reckless evading is a bit misleading because the crime is actually a “wobbler” that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The defendant’s prior criminal history as well as the circumstances of the case will be taken under consideration by prosecutors, though more often than not, violations of 2800.2 VC result in felony charges. If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties include misdemeanor probation, 6 months to 1 year in county jail, and/or a $1,000 fine. Felony penalties include formal probation, 16 months to 3 years in California state prison, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Keep Your Children Safe from Becoming Victims of Sexual Assault

| Police Blotter | March 28, 2019

On Tuesday, March 12, a 17-year-old girl went to authorities to report that she had been the alleged victim of sexual assault by her driving instructor. According to her report, the suspect had been hired last June to give her six driving lessons. The first four proceeded without incident, though during the final two lessons, the girl claimed to have been sexually assaulted by her instructor.

As law enforcement investigated the claim, they learned that the instructor, T.M. Lam, was a registered sex offender who, while acting as a driving instructor, had been previously arrested for annoying or molesting a minor in 2014. The suspect was arrested and booked at the LASD Walnut Station on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor. After his arrest, he was released after posting $140,000 bail.

The suspect’s original crime, which occurred in 2014, is covered under California Penal Code 647.6 PC and is described as annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18. For the purposes of PC 647.6, the terms “annoying” and “molesting” mean the same thing, and refer to conduct which is motivated by sexual interest in a child, or children in general, and which is likely to irritate, disturb, or be observed by a child or children.
Under 647.6 PC, a suspect does not actually have to make any physical contact with a child or minor in order to be charged with a crime, and words alone may constitute annoying or molesting a child.

Minors can be victims of sexual assault no matter what their age. Knowing who should and should not be trusted around your children can be difficult, as many would-be child predators like to place themselves in positions of trust, such as clergy, school teachers, and even law enforcement.

One of the best ways to help keep your child safe from harm is to be involved in their lives. Ask your kids what they did during the day and with whom. If your child participates in sports or other activities, get to know the adults who will be around – particularly the parents of your child’s friends. When choosing caregivers, always screen them carefully. Be sure to educate your children on the grounds of what is and is not permissible behavior, and teach them to come to you if they feel something is wrong.

Finally, for parents, know the warning signs of child sexual abuse, and be aware of any changes in your child’s behavior or demeanor – no matter how small.

Penal Code 667.61: California’s ‘One Strike’ Law

| Police Blotter | March 21, 2019

You’ve probably heard about California’s “Three-Strikes Law.” If not, then pay attention – it’s one of the harshest sentencing proposals in the country. When it was first enacted, the law stated that if a person is convicted of three felonies, they will be sent to prison for 25 years to life.

In 2012, reformers and members of the public who had long fought to change California’s “Three Strikes Law” were able to get Proposition 36 onto the ballot. Under Prop 36, “California’s Three Strikes Law” was changed so that offenders convicted of a third felony would not automatically receive a sentence of 25 years to life unless their third conviction was for a violent felony. Additionally, inmates who were sentenced under the old “Three Strikes Law” were given the opportunity to petition to have their sentences reduced, provided they were not convicted of a sex crime, a drug crime that involved a large amount of drugs, a firearm, great bodily injury, or certain other violent offenses.

California’s “One Strike Law,” covered under Penal Code 667.61, is a lot like the “Three-Strikes Law” in that it is a sentence enhancement for certain crimes. When a defendant is convicted of committing a crime under certain aggravating circumstances, PC 667.61 says that their sentence can be enhanced to include 15 years, 25 years, or life in prison.

For example, a person convicted of rape who already has a previous rape conviction on their record could face 25 years to life under PC 667.61 as opposed to 3, 6, or 8 years under Penal Code 261 – California’s rape law.

PC 667.61 does not apply to every felony. It covers a very specific set of crimes, including: rape (PC 261), spousal rape (PC 262), lewd or lascivious acts (PC 288), continuous sexual abuse of a child (PC 288.5), and a few other similar crimes. The aggravating factors that qualify one of the previously listed crimes for a sentence enhancement under California’s “One Strike Law” include: a previous conviction of one of the above listed offenses, kidnapping the victim, inflicting bodily harm on the victim, using a dangerous weapon during the commission of the crime, tying the victim up, and/or administering a controlled substance to the victim.

California imposes serious sentences for the most serious crimes. PC 667.61 applies generally to repeat, violent sex-offenders, and it is often up to a judge to determine what, if any, sentence enhancement is warranted.

PC 273(a) – Child Endangerment

| Canyon Country Magazine | March 20, 2019

Residents of a Canyon Country apartment complex got a scare recently when they witnessed a small child standing dangerously in front of an open window and banging on the screen. According to eyewitnesses, the little girl was heard screaming and crying as she pounded against the screen of a second-story window. With the sliding glass open, the flimsy screen was the only thing keeping the child inside the apartment.

Neighbors quickly phoned 911, and emergency response teams were dispatched to the location. Deputies from the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station were attempting to get into the apartment through the door, but were having trouble, so a fire truck with a ladder was brought in to get the girl to safety. Fortunately, one of the deputies was able to gain entry to the apartment and get the girl from the window. The child appeared to have been left unattended and, once located, her parents were both arrested and charged with child endangerment. They were taken to the SCV Sheriff’s Station to undergo booking and processing and were held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Child endangerment is covered under California Penal Code 273(a) PC and is defined quite simply as willfully exposing a child to pain, suffering, or danger. Anyone can be charged with violating PC 273(a) – not just parents.
More often than not, the charge is pressed against an adult who has a child under the age of 18 in their care.
Per its definition, child endangerment may sound a lot like child abuse, but they are, in fact, two different things covered by separate penal codes. Child abuse is covered under California Penal Code 273(d) and is described as imposing physical injury or cruel punishment on a child. The major difference between child endangerment and child abuse is that, in cases of child endangerment no actual harm has to happen to the child. In cases of child abuse there typically needs to be some sort of injury to the child.

Child endangerment can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s prior criminal history (if any). If charged as a misdemeanor, the possible penalties include misdemeanor probation and/or up to 6 months in county jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. For felony charges, the penalties include 2, 4, or 6 years in California state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 and/or at least 4 years of formal, felony probation.

Kidnapping in California – California Penal Code 207 PC

| Police Blotter | March 14, 2019

When you hear that someone was kidnapped, what images come to mind? Do you think of a ski-mask-wearing bad guy forcing a victim into his vehicle at gunpoint? What about an adult grabbing a child off the street and speeding away? Recently, a Canyon Country man found out the hard way that kidnapping in California has a very broad definition.

On the morning of Wednesday, March 6, deputies responded to a domestic violence incident near a business on Soledad Canyon Road. According to witnesses, the incident began with a man and woman getting into an argument, and then the man allegedly grabbed the woman by the arm and forced her into his vehicle against her will. Deputies responding to the scene were able to locate the suspect relatively quickly and he was quickly arrested and on suspicion of kidnapping and domestic battery.

Kidnapping is covered under various California Penal Codes, including: 207, 208, 209, and 209.5. Each penal code deals with different situations, but in general, a person can be charged with kidnapping when they move someone else a substantial distance, without that person’s consent, and by using force, fraud or fear to do so. In the case of the Canyon Country suspect above, grabbing his girlfriend by the arm and forcing her into his vehicle likely qualified as “use of force or fear.”

It’s important to note that a person’s intent when they allegedly kidnap someone is irrelevant. A suspect doesn’t need to intend to assault, injure, ransom, or otherwise harm their victim in order to be charged with simple kidnapping. The crime occurs when the victim is moved a substantial distance against their will by the use of force, fraud, or fear. However, if an individual does kidnap someone for ransom or with other intentions in mind, it can upgrade their charge from simple kidnapping to aggravated kidnapping.

The penalties for kidnapping depend on the circumstances of the case. Simple kidnapping, for example, is a felony for which the penalties include 3, 5, or 8 years in California state prison, and/or a maximum fine of $10,000. If convicted of aggravated kidnapping and the victim was a child under 14, the prison sentence is increased to 5, 8, or 11 years in state prison. The penalty is increased to a life sentence with the possibility of parole if the kidnapping occurred with the specific intent to ransom the victim, extort them, use them in a variety of sex crimes, or carjacking.

The suspect in the Canyon Country incident is likely being charged with simple kidnapping, though the additional charge of domestic battery could end up increasing his jail time, if convicted.

Craigslist Emerges as Hot Spot for Fentanyl

| Police Blotter | March 7, 2019

Investigators have long trolled the pages of Craigslist looking for people looking to commit illicit activities. Whether it’s selling stolen merchandise, advertising one’s sexual services, or simply selling drugs, you may be able to find it on Craigslist – if you know where to look.

Over the past several months, Craigslist has emerged as a major hub for people looking to buy and sell the dangerous drug called Fentanyl. Fentanyl is an extremely powerful opioid that’s typically used in a medical setting to ease intense post-surgical pain in hospitalized patients, or to treat short-term conditions that are accompanied by significant pain. Fentanyl is roughly one-hundred times more powerful that morphine, most doctors’ go-to drug for pain relief, and about 50 times more powerful than heroine.

Controlled substances and other illicit chemicals have been sold on Craigslist under a variety of pseudonyms (roofing tar – heroine, clear-sealant – crystal meth, and M30 – oxycodone). Over the past year, on Los Angeles’ Craigslist pages, investigators have seen more and more ads for Fentanyl. Like other drugs, Fentanyl has its own pseudonyms, including China White Doll and White China Plates.

According to assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles Ben Barron, Craigslist has proven to be an extremely effective agent in the dissemination of illegal drugs. Barron is in charge of prosecuting Los Angeles’ first Craigslist-related Fentanyl death.

The death occurred when the suspect, A. Madi, allegedly sold Fentanyl to the victim after being contacted through his post on Craigslist. The victim had just recently left drug treatment and like so many others, went right back to using. The victim originally contacted Madi via the suspect’s Craigslist ad looking for heroine. However, Madi was out of heroine at the time, and instead introduced the victim to Fentanyl. A few days later, the victim was found dead in his apartment of an apparent Fentanyl overdose; a baggy of the drug near the victim’s body.

A search of other major U.S. cities’ Craigslist sites only turned up a handful of similar ads. It’s believed that the Fentanyl market on the site is limited to Los Angeles due to the area being a prime hub for drugs out of Mexico and China – with both countries housing labs that produce a great deal of the substance.

Many believe the explosive popularity of Fentanyl is the result of several high-profile busts of heroine dealers in the Los Angeles area, who sold to addicts unable to get prescription opioids after doctors stopped over-prescribing them. That being said, it would seem the growing popularity of Fentanyl, much like heroine, is not the result of the traditional drug trade getting bolder, but the result of the pharmaceutical and medical industry’s overzealous habits in prescribing opioid painkillers.

Murder vs. Manslaughter: What’s the Difference?

| Police Blotter | February 28, 2019

Murder and manslaughter are similar crimes, though they have very different penalties. Here is a description of the two, in addition to what makes them different.

Murder, covered under California Penal Code 187 PC, is described as “the unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought.” The term “malice aforethought” means that “the killer with wanton disregard for human life, does an act that involves a high degree of probability that it will result in death.” Basically, it means that the killer wanted to kill someone, and then performed a necessary action that had a high probability of killing someone.

Voluntary manslaughter is covered under California Penal Code 192(a) PC and is described as “the killing of another person that one commits during a sudden quarrel, in the heat of passion, or based on the honest but unreasonable belief the need to defend oneself.”

As you can see, both crimes involve one person willfully killing another. However, the key difference between murder and voluntary manslaughter is the term “malice aforethought.” To be charged with murder, a prosecutor must be able to prove “malice aforethought,” to be charged with voluntary manslaughter, they do not. Below are two scenarios intended to illustrate the difference between the two crimes.

Example 1: A wife comes home early from work to surprise her husband, but is surprised herself when she finds him with another woman. Upon seeing this, the wife is overcome with rage, picks up a lamp from the bedside table, hits her husband in the head and he dies. In this scenario, the wife did not come home with the intent of murdering her husband, so there was no malice aforethought necessary to make a murder charge stick. Instead, she would likely be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter because the killing occurred in a moment of passion.

Example 2: A wife thinks her husband is cheating on her so she hires a private investigator to watch him while she is at work. The P.I. comes back with indisputable proof that the wife is indeed being cheated on. The wife then plans to take revenge on her husband by poisoning his drink with arsenic. The husband drinks it and dies. In this case, the wife would definitely be charged with murder, since she planned to kill her husband with the arsenic (malice aforethought).

Most of the time, voluntary manslaughter isn’t charged; it’s agreed to as a plea bargain in a murder case. The penalties include 3, 6, or 11 years in California state prison, a potential strike under California’s Three Strikes Law, a maximum $10,000 fine, community service, counseling, loss of firearm privileges, and any other conditions that the court believes are relevant to the case. For murder convictions, the potential penalty includes 25 years to life in prison, life in prison without parole, or the death penalty.

Armed Robber Sought by SCV Sheriff Station Deputies

| Police Blotter | February 21, 2019

Shortly after 12 p.m. on Saturday, February 16, Joe’s Liquor in Canyon Country was robbed by a masked suspect. According to reports, several calls reporting a potential robbery came in at about 12:40 p.m., and deputies rushed to the scene. Witnesses describe a man wearing a black ski mask, armed with a handgun who had a “darker skin tone” fleeing from the scene mere minutes before police arrived.

Deputies searched the area to no avail, and it’s believed that the suspect escaped with several thousand dollars. Law enforcement’s efforts to locate the victim were hamstrung by staff at the liquor store who sent the surveillance video to a third party before showing it to SCV Sheriff Station deputies. Without any information on what the suspect looked like, their build, etc. deputies were forced to search the area with inadequate identifying information on the suspect.
Robbery is covered under California Penal Code 211 PC and is described as taking personal property from someone else or their immediate presence, without their permission, through the use of force or fear. An interesting fact about PC 211 is that, in order for an action to count as robbery, the suspect must intend to deprive the owner of the property permanently or for long enough that the owner of the property would be denied a major portion of its value or enjoyment.

For example, suppose a man is playing Frisbee with his new girlfriend’s son and the Frisbee gets caught in a tree. The little boy starts to cry and the man doesn’t want his new girlfriend to think he made the boy cry, but the Frisbee is caught in the tree just out of reach.

Suddenly, the man notices a woman walking down the sidewalk with her purse and, not one to ignore opportunity when it knocks, he asks the woman if he can use her purse to knock down the Frisbee. The lady, not willing to give her purse over to a random stranger, naturally declines. The sobs of the child grow louder, and the man begins to panic because he knows the boy’s mother will hear sooner or later. So, he pulls out a knife and threatens to cut the woman if she doesn’t give him her purse. Naturally, she gives her purse to the man who uses it to knock the Frisbee out of the tree and silence the child. The man then gives the purse back to the woman.

The situation above describes a scenario in which someone takes personal property from the possession of another person against their will. However, the man in the story would probably not be charged with robbery because he didn’t intend to deprive the woman of her purse permanently. He would, however, likely be charged with another crime. Threatening people is not the way to get them to let you borrow things, even if it’s for a moment.

Robbery is divided into two separate crimes, first-degree robbery and second-degree robbery. First-degree robbery is charged if the victim is the driver or passenger of some sort of transportation for hire (taxi, bus, cable car, etc.), the robbery takes place in an inhabited dwelling, or the robbery takes place during or immediately after the victim uses an ATM. The possible penalties include felony probation, three to six years in California state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Second-degree robbery is defined as any robbery that does not meet the criteria for first-degree robbery. The possible penalties include: felony probation, two to five years in California state prison, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Since the suspect allegedly used a firearm during the robbery, the potential sentence is significantly enhanced under California’s “10-20-Life Use a Gun and You’re Done Law.” Under this law, using a gun during a robbery enhances the prison sentence to 10 years, firing a gun during a robbery enhances the prison sentence to 20 years, and 25 years to life for causing great bodily injury or death by using a gun during a robbery.

Joyriding Charges in Canyon Country

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 18, 2019

On January 29, 2019 a vehicle was reported stolen near Whispering Leaves Drive and Sierra Highway in Santa Clarita. When deputies located the vehicle, they attempted to make contact with the suspect, but he ran from them. A containment area was set up and the suspect was caught less than an hour later. He was arrested under suspicion of unlawfully taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent, as well as two other warrants, including vandalism and violation of a domestic court order.

Driving or taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent is covered under California Vehicle Code 10851 VC. It can be charged when someone drives or takes a vehicle without the owner’s consent, and with the intention of depriving the owner of the vehicle for any length of time. VC 10851 is often referred to as “joyriding,” because it isn’t quite the same as grand theft auto (GTA) which is covered under California Penal Code 487(d)(1)PC.

The two crimes are similar in many respects in that they both involve taking someone else’s car without the owner’s permission. The major difference between the two revolves around how long the suspect intended to keep the vehicle. Generally, when someone steals a car with the intention of depriving the owner of it permanently (whether by keeping it themselves or selling it), the person will be charged with GTA – a straight felony. If, however, a person takes a car without permission with the intention of keeping it only for a short while, it’s more likely they will be charged with joyriding – which is a “wobbler.”

A lot of California crimes are “wobblers,” which can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s prior criminal record. When “joyriding” is charged as a misdemeanor, the possible penalties include up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. If charged as a felony, the potential penalties are increased to 16 months to 3 years in county jail.

Impersonating a Police Officer – California Penal Code 538 PC

| Police Blotter | February 14, 2019

On Friday, February 8, a man was arrested by the LASD under suspicion of impersonating a police officer. The arrest came after police were sent video in January of a man wearing an LAPD T-shirt antagonizing a group of Black Lives Matter protesters. The people gathered to protest the October shooting of an unarmed black man by an LAPD officer inside a gym. In the video, the suspect can be seen wearing a T-shirt with the LAPD logo on it and chanting “white power” at the protesters. The suspect in the case is of Asian descent.

LASD deputies made the arrest when they saw the suspect wearing the same T-shirt bearing the LAPD logo on it and recognized him from the video footage. Upon being interviewed, the suspect admitted to impersonating a police officer on multiple occasions in an effort to “get respect.” After his arrest, the suspect was released from custody on $2,500 bail.

Impersonating a police officer is covered under California Penal Code 538 PC. Simply dressing like a police officer for a Halloween party, a play, or even as a joke isn’t enough to be charged with violating PC 538. You cross the line when you dress up as a police officer and fraudulently cause another person to think that you are a police officer. Additionally, PC 538 requires that anyone who sells genuine police uniforms must verify that the person to whom they are selling actually is a police officer. If not, the merchant will be charged under PC 538(d).

There are two notable exceptions to the law. When someone is wearing a police uniform for the sole purpose of a theater production or movie/television filming, or if that person has written permission from the identified law enforcement agency (in this case, the LAPD). These exemptions extend to selling, transferring, and wearing a police uniform.

Impersonating a police officer is a misdemeanor in California. The possible penalties include summary probation, up to 6 months in county jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

The Danger of Driving While Impaired

| Police Blotter | February 7, 2019

Over Super Bowl weekend, members of the CHP and deputies from Santa Clarita Sheriff Station arrested nine people for allegedly driving under the influence. According to law enforcement, there is an average of about 10 DUI-related arrests in the area any given weekend. The fact that Superbowl weekend only saw nine means that even though a lot of people were celebrating this weekend, it didn’t equate to more people driving drunk.

Law enforcement agencies including the LASD, LAPD, and CHP, have long been vocal about their efforts to increase their vigilance when it comes to stopping impaired motorists. DUI checkpoints are held regularly at different locations around the county and saturation patrols are conducted at various times of the year. The consequences of driving under the influence will vary from situation-to-situation. Some people get behind the wheel while intoxicated and end up arriving at their destination. Others, however, like the recently-sentenced Saugus resident K. Hussain, are not so lucky.

On February 5, 2018, Hussain was driving on McBean Parkway near Bridgeport when his truck hit a tree and severed a water main. Both he and his toddler son were taken to the hospital with injuries. A few hours later, Hussain was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI with injury. He was sentenced this month to two years in California State prison.

The penalty for a DUI depends largely on the circumstances surrounding the crime and the defendant’s prior criminal history. A first-offense misdemeanor DUI carries the penalties of up to six months in county jail, a fine of $390 to $1000, six months suspended or restricted driving privileges, three or nine months of DUI school, and other associated costs totaling upwards of several thousand dollars.

For a third-offense, the driver faces much stiffer penalties, including six months to a year in county jail, the same fine, two years mandatory ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle (or three years of having their driving privileges suspended if they do not comply), 30 months of DUI school and significantly higher associated costs and fees.

If charged as a felony, defendants face anywhere from 16 months in state prison for a first-offense to three years for subsequent felony offenses. Additionally, they face up to five years of suspended driving privileges.

Of course, the real cost to driving under the influence comes when collisions occur which involve fatalities. Alcohol-related deaths are not uncommon, and when it happens, the charges and penalties a defendant faces increase sharply and include murder.

Shoplifting: What it is and How it’s Different From Other Forms of Theft

| Police Blotter | January 31, 2019

Recently in Stevenson Ranch, a suspect entered a business on the 24700 block of Pico Canyon Road, put two bottles of perfume into his backpack, and then left the store without paying. He was arrested shortly thereafter by deputies from the Santa Clarita Sheriff Station and charged with shoplifting.

Shoplifting is covered under California Penal Code 459.5 PC and is described as: “entering a commercial establishment with the intent to commit larceny (to steal something) while that establishment is open during regular business hours, where the value of the property that was taken or attempted to be taken is valued at no more than $950.” The law goes on to state that “any other attempt to enter a commercial establishment in order to commit larceny is burglary.”

The term “shoplifting” has been around for decades, if not longer. However, the actual crime of shoplifting has only been on the books in California for 4 years. Prior to the passage of Proposition 47 in 2014, shoplifting could have been prosecuted as burglary.
Burglary is covered under California Penal Code 459 PC and is described as entering any residential or commercial building or room with the intent to commit a felony. The reason shoplifting is no longer considered a type of burglary (even though the elements of the crime can be identical) is because in order to be charged with burglary, a person must enter the residential or commercial structure with the intent to commit a felony. Stealing something with a value of $950 or less is considered petty theft, which is a misdemeanor – not a felony. Therefore, since the crime of burglary requires someone to enter a residential/commercial structure with the intent of committing a felony, it would not apply when the crime committed by the suspect was a misdemeanor (petty theft).

If the value of the items stolen was over $950, or if the individual committed another felony while inside the structure (buying/selling controlled substances, for example), then it’s possible that they would be charged with burglary instead.

Shoplifting is also similar to, but not quite the same, as the crime of robbery. Under California Penal Code 211 PC, robbery is described as taking property from someone’s immediate person or presence, against that person’s will, by use of force or fear. Robbery is always charged as a felony regardless of the value of the item(s) stolen.

The difference between shoplifting from a business and robbing that business depends a lot on how the suspect gains possession of the stolen items. If someone slips a candy bar into their pocket and leaves without paying for it, it’s shoplifting. If a person slips a candy bar into their pocket, then grabs the clerk by the collar and threatens to kill them if they call the cops, it’s likely to be charged as robbery. In both scenarios, the merchandise taken was the same, and not worth much. The key difference was that during the robbery scenario, the merchandise was taken through the use of force or fear, whereas in the shoplifting scenario it was not.

Child Neglect and Filing a False Report of a Crime

| Police Blotter | January 24, 2019

Recently, police were called to the home of Blac Chyna after it was reported that she was drunk and being neglectful of her child. Upon arrival, police discovered that Blac Chyna, and everyone else at her home, were sober and the child was fine. A nanny was also present.

It’s believed that the false report of a crime was related to a fight between Blac Chyna and her makeup artist on Sunday. However, the reality star is also known to have feuded in the past with ex-lovers’ current girlfriends.

Child neglect is covered under California Penal Code 270 PC and is a serious crime. It can be charged when a parent fails to provide physical necessities for their minor child, without a lawful excuse. Interestingly, the term “parent” is given an extremely broad definition under California law. It includes both adoptive parents, as well as those who hold themselves out as parents (such as foster parents), as well as the husband of a woman who gives birth to a child while the husband is living with her. The term does not cover anyone who no longer has any rights or obligations to the child due to a court decision.

Often times, reports of child neglect are made when a parent or parents are too poor to provide for the physical necessities for their minor child. A prosecutor will typically take into account the family’s financial situation when dealing with child neglect cases. For example, if a parent loses their job and is unable to afford adequate meals, new clothes, or whatever other physical necessities the child needs, and is able to prove that the job loss is the reason why, the prosecutor will likely drop the charges. However, if a lack of money is due to mishandling funds, or if the parent spends their money on something other than their child’s welfare and, as a result, is unable to properly provide for them, the charges will probably still apply.

Often, 270 PC is charged as a misdemeanor with the possible penalties of misdemeanor probation, up to 1 year in county jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000. However, the crime can be charged as a felony under certain circumstances which usually involve a paternity suit. When charged as a felony, the possible penalties include up to 1 year in county jail, 1 year and 1 day in California state prison, and/or a fine of up to $2,000.

Making a false report of a crime is covered under California Penal Code 148.5 PC and can be charged when someone falsely reports a misdemeanor or a felony to a police officer, prosecutor, grand jury, or state or local employee designated to receive reports from citizens (such as 911 operators). Penal Code 148.5 PC is only charged when the person who makes the false reports knew that it was false as they were making it. There is no penalty or charge if you report a crime and it turns out that no crime was actually committed.

Penal Code 148.5 PC is a misdemeanor with the possible penalty of up to 6 months in county jail. However, based on the defendant’s prior criminal history, motive for making the false report, as well as the consequences of the false report, judges often sentence convicted defendants to little or no jail time.

California Penal Codes (Weapons): Did You Know?

| Police Blotter | January 18, 2019

California Penal Code 24310 PC

Carrying a machine gun in a violin case was a common trope in old mobster movies. It’s a practical idea for anyone trying to get a gun someplace without being noticed, and today you can buy all sorts of custom containers to carry your firearms. However, for residents of California, it’s illegal to do so.

California Penal Code 24310 makes it illegal to manufacture, import into the State of California, keep for sale, offer for sale, give, lend, or possess a camouflaging firearm container. The most notable example of a camouflaged firearm container is shaped like a musical instrument, but there are other styles too, including books, globes, clocks, first-aid kits, and more.

24310 PC is a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor penalties include no more than one year in county jail. Felony penalties include 16 months to three years in California state prison. The severity of the charge will depend on the circumstances surrounding the case.

California Penal Code 29810 PC

Anyone who is convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors is legally obligated to relinquish their firearms. For example, a defendant is convicted of felony assault and, after the conviction, the defendant turns over his hunting rifle to the local police station.

Under California Penal Code 29810 PC, the courts must instruct the defendant that he or she is prohibited from owning, possessing, or having any firearms, ammunition, or magazines. The courts will provide the defendant with a Prohibited Persons Relinquishment Form, upon which any and all firearms, ammunition and/or magazines the defendant has must be identified. Then, the defendant can either relinquish the items to law enforcement, sell them to a licensed gun dealer, or have them stored by a licensed gun dealer.

Failing to fill out and submit the Prohibited Persons Relinquishment Form is an infraction punished by a $100 fine. If the firearms are not relinquished and law enforcement finds out about it, the defendant will likely be charged with a crime, namely California Penal Code 29800 PC – felon with a firearm – a felony. If convicted, the defendant faces 16 months to three years in California state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

California Penal Code 22010 PC

For the most part, California Penal Code 22010 PC makes it illegal to own or possess nunchakus (nunchucks) in California. Nunchucks are a traditional martial arts weapon that consists of two rods attached at one end by a rope or chain.

Most members of the public are generally prohibited from owning this dangerous weapon; however, there are a few exceptions: self-defense schools with a regulatory or business license that keep the nunchucks on the premises; people who are taking someone else’s illegal nunchucks to the police station where they can be properly disposed of like the menace to society they are; possession of antique nunchuks by a person authorized to own them; authorized museums, libraries, and historical societies; or people making a movie, TV show, or video production.

If an unauthorized person is caught in possession of a pair of nunchucks, they face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if charged as a misdemeanor. Or, up to three years in prison and $10,000 fine for a felony.

Felony Probation – What Is It?

| Police Blotter | January 10, 2019

Recently, a 40-year-old Santa Clarita woman was in the news after being arrested for violating her probation. According to the SCV Sheriff Station’s Facebook page, they received reports about a motor home that had been parked for several days outside of a business on Golden Triangle Road. Deputies went to check it out, and while doing so, discovered that one of the occupants was on active probation and also in possession of illegal narcotics. She was arrested and taken to the Sheriff’s Station for her probation violation and the motor home was towed.

Felony probation is not freedom, it’s used as an alternative to prison. It allows for a person convicted of a felony to either remain in the community provided that they agree to live under certain conditions and supervision of the courts and a probation officer.

Probation is a possible sentence for many California felonies – but not all of them. Probation may not be granted to defendants who commit violent or serious felonies, as well as certain sex crimes. Probation is seldom granted for people who commit crimes that include: great bodily harm to the victim, offenses involving deadly weapons, grand theft of over $100,000, furnishing PCP, and being a public official convicted of embezzlement or receiving bribes.

If a person is going to be put on probation, it will happen at the time of their sentencing. A judge will either “suspend execution” of the defendant’s jail or prison sentence provided that the defendant adhere to specific conditions upon their release, or the judge will sentence the defendant to probation with no conditions attached.

If a judge does set conditions for a defendant’s probation, they can vary pretty widely. Generally, most probation conditions include: meeting with a probation officer once a month, paying restitution to the victim, participating in therapy, drug testing, performing community service, and, of course, not breaking any other laws.

Probation typically lasts for anywhere from three to five years, and any violations that occur during that period are taken very seriously. If the violation is relatively minor, it’s possible to receive a warning from a judge and not have probation revoked. When this happens, judges have the power to set even stricter conditions with which the defendant must comply for the remainder of their probation. When someone commits a serious probation violation, such as committing a violent crime, not meeting with their probation officer, or being in possession of narcotics, judges are far less likely to be lenient and issue a warning. In these cases, defendants are often sent directly to prison or jail for one or more years.

Violent Crime Drops in Los Angeles in 2018

| Police Blotter | January 3, 2019

Law enforcement agencies throughout Los Angeles have been hard-pressed to explain the rise of violent crimes that the area has experienced over the past five years. However, in 2018, the effort they’ve put in to trying to reverse the trend are beginning to bear fruit. According to recent statistics, Los Angeles saw a total of 253 murders over 2018, a decrease of 9.9 percent since 2017, during which 281 murders took place.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore issued a tweet praising the hard working officers of the LAPD and touting the news as evidence that their crime fighting strategies have been working. He credited the LAPD’s view that personal safety is a “shared responsibility” among the public and law enforcement, and that working together is the only way forward.

One way in which the LAPD has successfully worked with the public to share the responsibility of public safety is through their commitment to community policing. The practice is based upon a partnership between the LAPD and the community. The responsibility of identifying, reducing, eliminating, and preventing problems that erode order and safety within the community is shared by the LAPD and the community itself.

The LAPD believes that if people are able to bring their community’s specific needs to the attention of the LAPD, a plan can be put together by which problems of safety and order can be resolved that increased patrols or police presence may not necessarily solve. Community policing also serves to foster a bond of trust between members of law enforcement and members of the public as it creates greater familiarity between the two parties.

Unfortunately, not all of the LAPD’s crime prevention tactics have been embraced as quickly by the public as community policing was. One major point of contention was the LAPD’s use of the controversial “predictive policing” strategy. The strategy includes technology developed by the CIA that incorporates street-level intelligence with cell phone and license plate tracking of ex-convicts and other things. All of that data is then run through a powerful computer called Palantir to identify specific locations throughout the city where crime is most likely to occur. The LAPD lauds the technology as a way to indicate where best to spend their resources, while some members of the public are dubious about the relative secrecy surrounding the technology.

Much of the blame for the spike in violent crimes that began in 2014 was heaped on the passage of the controversial Proposition 47 which reduced the severity of a host of felonies to misdemeanors, thereby reducing the potency of the punishment’s deterrent. However, a study conducted by UC Irvine found that the spike in crime was not due to the passing of Proposition 47 – a finding which law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys found difficult to accept.

LAPD Investigating Brazen Burglars

| Police Blotter | December 27, 2018

LAPD detectives are investigating a string of burglaries that began on October 15 of this year. The crimes are unusual for a few reasons. The thieves are hitting homes in rapid succession and all of the homes are concentrated in one relatively small area. Namely, in the Coldwater Canyon Blvd. and Bellaire Ave., between Roscoe and Victory.

According to investigators, the suspects are targeting single-family homes with minimal or no outdoor lighting. The suspects have been seen by witnesses in a Kia Rouge, Cadillac Escalade, and a Nissan – all with paper license plates. Detectives aren’t sure how many suspects there are in all, as those who have been described by witnesses were wearing all black, and all appeared to have similar heights and builds. The suspects are believed to be working in teams of two to four, and are gaining entry to their target homes through rear sliding-glass doors. Once inside, the suspects have taken jewelry, guns, cash, and designer handbags. All of the burglaries happened between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., and the LAPD is asking for anyone with information to call the North Hollywood Station’s burglary detectives at 818-754-9378 or 818-754-8377.

Crimes like this highlight important precautions we all need to take to keep our homes and valuables safe. Adequate outdoor lighting is, by far, one of the biggest deterrents to would-be burglars when they’re out casing houses. The more visible their actions are, the more likely they are to be caught. If the outside of your home has a lot of darkness around it at night, it might be wise to install motion-detector lighting in common entrance areas like in front of the garage and behind the house near the back door.

Your risk of being burglarized increases this time of year, considering all the shopping and gift-giving that is done. Whether you’re out shopping or parked in your driveway, remember to never leave anything of potential value visible in your car. Smashing a car window to steal a pair of sunglasses is easy, and backpacks, shopping bags, or other packages is quick and easy. If you have to keep anything in your car, make sure it’s kept in the trunk and out of view, and always double-check to ensure your doors and windows are locked.

A New Year, New Laws for Californians

| Police Blotter | December 20, 2018

The year 2019 is a few weeks away, and all that it will bring is anyone’s guess. However, when it comes to road safety, there are a few new laws as well as changes to existing ones that will be taking effect in the New Year.

  • Anyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, skateboard, scooter, or skates. If not, they become eligible to receive a “fix-it ticket” from law enforcement. The citation will give the offending party 120 days to show law enforcement that they’ve completed a bicycle safety course and possess a helmet that meets California’s safety standards. On the up-side, people over 18 will no longer be required to wear a helmet on motorized scooters.
  • Beginning January 1, 2019 and continuing until January 1, 2026, all DUI offenders, whether repeat or first-time, whose violations cause injury, will be required to install ignition interlock devices on their vehicles for a period of 12 to 48 months. Anyone whose license is suspended as a result of a DUI will be allowed to obtain an ignition interlock device and receive credit toward the restriction period while their license is suspended.
  • Aside from first-time and repeat DUI offenders whose violations cause injury, it will be possible for the courts to order first-time DUI offenders whose violations did not cause injury to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for up to six months.
  • The exemption period for vehicles to require smog checks has been extended from six years to eight years. However, owners of vehicles whose model year falls within that extra two-year period will be required to pay a $25 smog check abatement fee.
  • It is now possible when applying for a California drivers license to choose male, female, or non-binary on the application. Those who choose non-binary will receive an X next to the gender category on their license.

Road safety has been a major issue for local law enforcement, particularly in Los Angeles where the LAPD has been on the lookout for pedestrians who don’t exercise proper safety precautions, as well as in Santa Clarita where speeders frequently hit pedestrians trying to cross the street. While most of the new laws will only affect a small portion of the population, they’re a step in the right direction to increasing road safety for both motorists and pedestrians throughout the state.

California Penal Code 647(f) – Drunk in Public

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 19, 2018

In the early morning hours of Monday, November 26, several reports were made to Santa Clarita deputies about a woman screaming in a Canyon Country wash. When the deputies arrived, they found a drunk, 67-year-old woman drinking wine in the wash. Once she was identified, deputies discovered that she had four outstanding warrants totaling over $200,000 for crimes including driving on a suspended license, DUI, battery on a police officer, and drunk in public. The woman was arrested and is facing a second charge of drunk in public as well.

Drunk in public is covered under California Penal Code 647(f) PC and is described as more than simply being drunk in a public space, which isn’t illegal. In order to be charged with violating PC 647(f), you need to be so drunk that you are unable to exercise care for your personal safety or that of others OR interfere with, obstruct, or otherwise prevent people from using public walkways, sidewalks, or streets. For example, if you drink so much that you end up passing out on the sidewalk, you could be charged with being drunk in public because you’re inhibiting other people from using that space while you’re passed out in it. However, a person who passes out someplace that doesn’t meet the requirement of being a public way, sidewalk or street probably won’t be charged. When it comes to whether or not you are able to exercise care for your own safety or the safety of people around you, a lot is left up to interpretation by police on the scene.

Being drunk in public is a misdemeanor with the possible penalties of summary probation, up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. In some cases, instead of filing charges, police can take the drunk person to an inebriation treatment facility (a.k.a. the “drunk tank”) where he/she can be held for treatment and observation for up to 72-hours. This action is usually referred to as civil protective custody, though unfortunately a lot of cities and towns don’t have one, which means criminal prosecution is the only option.

It’s The Most ‘Mail Theft’ Time of the Year

| Police Blotter | December 14, 2018

It’s the holiday season once again, and that means certain types of crimes are going to be on the rise, and it’s up to you to take extra precautions in order to avoid becoming the victim of an opportunistic criminal.

Mail theft, covered under California Penal Code 530.5(e) PC and 18 US Code 1708 has historically been a significant threat this time of year, and recent years have seen a further uptick in reported incidents. The official definition of mail theft under PC 530.5(e) is:

  • To steal or take any mail or packages from a mailbox, receptacle, or other authorized depository for mail, or from a post office letter carrier;
  • Use fraud or deception to obtain or attempt to obtain mail from any of these sources;
  • Remove the contents of any stolen mail;
  • Destroy or hide any stolen mail;
  • Buy, receive, or possess any stolen mail, knowing that it is stolen.

Mail theft is commonly associated with identity theft because thieves usually steal mail to obtain the personal identifying information of the recipients.

In California, 530.5(e) PC is a misdemeanor with the possible penalties of: summary probation, up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. However, the federal crime of mail theft under 18 US Code 1708 is much steeper, and can result in up to five years in prison.

The thought of someone stealing your mail and using the information contained therein to steal your identity is a scary one, and it’s important to protect yourself. If you’re going to be on vacation, whether during the holiday season or any other time, call your local post office and have them put a stop on your mail delivery until you return. If for some reason you’re unable to do so, or if you’re expecting something with information you need immediately, have a trusted friend or neighbor pick your mail up for you when it’s delivered.

If you live in a neighborhood where mail theft has been an issue before, consider talking to your neighbors and starting a neighborhood watch. If people are on the lookout for suspicious activity, odds are they’ll see something and be able to report it long before anyone notices their mail has been stolen.

Opt for paperless billing. Bills and receipts can contain personal identifying information that thieves need to steal your identity. The fewer bills you receive in the mail, the better. By opting for more paperless correspondences, you’ll cut down significantly on the amount of personal information about you making its way through the postal system.

It’s The Most ‘Mail Theft’ Time of the Year

| Police Blotter | December 13, 2018

It’s the holiday season once again, and that means certain types of crimes are going to be on the rise, and it’s up to you to take extra precautions in order to avoid becoming the victim of an opportunistic criminal.

Mail theft, covered under California Penal Code 530.5(e) PC and 18 US Code 1708 has historically been a significant threat this time of year, and recent years have seen a further uptick in reported incidents. The official definition of mail theft under PC 530.5(e) is:

  • To steal or take any mail or packages from a mailbox, receptacle, or other authorized depository for mail, or from a post office letter carrier;
  • Use fraud or deception to obtain or attempt to obtain mail from any of these sources;
  • Remove the contents of any stolen mail;
  • Destroy or hide any stolen mail;
  • Buy, receive, or possess any stolen mail, knowing that it is stolen.

Mail theft is commonly associated with identity theft because thieves usually steal mail to obtain the personal identifying information of the recipients.

In California, 530.5(e) PC is a misdemeanor with the possible penalties of: summary probation, up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. However, the federal crime of mail theft under 18 US Code 1708 is much steeper, and can result in up to five years in prison.

The thought of someone stealing your mail and using the information contained therein to steal your identity is a scary one, and it’s important to protect yourself. If you’re going to be on vacation, whether during the holiday season or any other time, call your local post office and have them put a stop on your mail delivery until you return. If for some reason you’re unable to do so, or if you’re expecting something with information you need immediately, have a trusted friend or neighbor pick your mail up for you when it’s delivered.

If you live in a neighborhood where mail theft has been an issue before, consider talking to your neighbors and starting a neighborhood watch. If people are on the lookout for suspicious activity, odds are they’ll see something and be able to report it long before anyone notices their mail has been stolen.

Opt for paperless billing. Bills and receipts can contain personal identifying information that thieves need to steal your identity. The fewer bills you receive in the mail, the better. By opting for more paperless correspondences, you’ll cut down significantly on the amount of personal information about you making its way through the postal system.

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