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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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Penal Code 851.87 PC – Sealing and Destroying Arrest Records

| Police Blotter | January 18, 2018

Penal Code 851.87 PC was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October of 2017. The law allows for an individual to have their arrest record sealed as a matter of right under the following circumstances:

  • No criminal charges were ever filed after the arrest or the charges were filed, but subsequently dismissed
  • The defendant’s case went to trial and a verdict of “not guilty” was reached by the jury
  • The defendant’s conviction was vacated or overturned on appeal
  • The defendant successfully completed a pretrial or pre-sentencing diversion program, such as drug treatment

The crimes of domestic violence, child abuse and elder abuse are exempt from sealing as a matter of right; however, a judge can still order the arrest record to be sealed if they deem it serves the matter of justice.

A person’s criminal record is public information, and can be discovered by virtually anyone who has a background check run on an individual. This includes government or state licensing agencies, apartment complexes, employers, and even potential romantic partners. The potential damage this information can do to an individual is widespread, considering those listed above may not care whether or not an individual’s arrest resulted in a conviction, or even lead to charges.

Discovering that a person was arrested can cast them in an unfair light, particularly when they were never convicted of actually committing a crime. Technically, California has a law on the books (AB 1008) that bans employers from considering the arrests of a job applicant that didn’t lead to a conviction. However, compliance is ultimately in the hands of the employer, and it’s possible for them to decline to hire someone based off of their arrest records without ever stating the reason why.

Previous to the enactment of PC 851.87, an individual hoping to have an arrest record sealed had to go before a judge and factually prove that they were innocent of the crime – a difficult task – even though they were never convicted of having committed it. After the passing of the law, an individual must simply prove to a judge that the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction.

Having an arrest record sealed means that it is no longer accessible by the public. State and federal law enforcement agencies will still have access to the records in limited uses.

Anyone is eligible to have their arrest record sealed under PC 851.87 under the circumstances mentioned above. However, even those who have been convicted of a crime may be able to have their conviction expunged under California Penal Code 1203.4 PC. It should be noted, though, that having a crime expunged is a difficult process and not everyone is eligible, and of those who are eligible, not everyone will succeed in having their conviction expunged.

There are a few cases in which an individual is not eligible to have their arrest record sealed as a matter of right. Those cases include an individual whose criminal record shows a “pattern” of domestic violence, child abuse and/or elder abuse.

A “pattern” is defined as two or more convictions, or five or more arrests, in a three-year period. Note that it’s still possible for these individuals to have their arrest records sealed; it is not, however, considered a “matter of right.”

GTA Isn’t the Only Kind of Theft Vehicle Owners Need to Worry About

| Police Blotter | January 11, 2018

Recently, the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station warned residents that they’d been seeing an increase in the theft of third-row seats among SUVs in the SCV. During the week of December 18, deputies received three separate reports during the same week regarding the theft and attempted theft of third-row seats from SUVs in the Saugus area. In one of the reports, the rear window of the SUV was smashed and the third-row seat was stolen. The two other reports occurred on the same street, though the thieves’ efforts were thwarted when the third-row seats were secured and locked via cables.

Stealing car parts can be a lucrative enterprise. Doing so often requires less skill and less time than stealing an entire vehicle, and parts can be concealed during transport and present a far less conspicuous target for police, whereas a complete vehicle is much easier to locate once it’s been reported stolen. Individual parts often also possess the benefit of being able to be used in more than one model vehicle, enabling them to be sold to a variety of potential buyers.

The theft of third-row seats is a growing trend nationwide, but they’re not the most frequent car parts taken by thieves. Here is a list of some of the most commonly stolen car parts and what you can do to protect yourself from theft:

Portable GPS

GPS systems can be a godsend for those who find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings and their use has exploded among the population as the popularity of ride-hailing apps has increased. The most obvious thing to do to keep your GPS system from being stolen is to hide it from plain view when the car is parked, or to take it out altogether. Those who own GPS devices that attach via suction cup should be warned, though, that hiding the device may not be enough. The suction cups often leave a mark on the windshield that sends a red flag to thieves that a GPS system may be in the car. Even though it isn’t in view, thieves may still break in and attempt to steal it, possibly leaving you with a broken window.

Catalytic Converters

Catalytic converter theft has popped up from time-to-time in the SCV, and it likely won’t be disappearing any time soon. The catalytic converter is located on the bottom of the vehicle and serves the important purpose of helping keep toxic emissions from the car out of the environment. These parts contain small amounts of platinum and rhodium – two precious metals that have increased in value over the years, and can sell for a pretty penny to scrap yards. The cost of replacing a catalytic converter can run anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000, so protecting yours should be a priority.

Those who own lowriders can rejoice, as the most highly-targeted vehicles for catalytic converter theft are those that sit high off the ground like pickup trucks and SUVs. There isn’t much that can be done by a vehicle owner to protect their catalytic converter, though some states are adopting laws that require individuals who sell them for scrap to provide identification including their name and address to deter would-be thieves.

Tires and Rims

Custom rims and tires have been a target for thieves for a long, long time. There’s a huge market for them, and buying them new can be incredibly expensive. Thieves can jack up a car and steal the tires and/or rims within minutes, and it can be done with exceptional stealth. Luckily, there are wheel locks that can be purchased for about $20 which, while not 100 percent fool-proof, will deter most thieves.

Loose Items

Last, but not least, loose items like cell phones, tablets and sunglasses are often stolen from vehicles. Thieves will walk up and down streets at night testing unlocked doors simply to steal whatever may happen to be available in a given car. The best way to protect yourself is to always keep your doors locked, park in well-lit areas, and never leave anything of value within your vehicle in plain sight.

Good News From the LASD to Ring in the New Year

| Police Blotter | January 5, 2018

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has some good news for residents of Los Angeles County to close out 2017 and ring in 2018. According to preliminary data gathered and analyzed by the LASD, violent crimes in areas patrolled by deputies fell in 2017 –particularly homicides. L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced at an end-of-the-year news conference that homicides had fallen 20.5 percent in 2017 as compared with 2016. He credited the efforts of deputies, community outreach workers, and special programs that reduce gang activity as being especially effective in reducing violent crimes.

In 2016, there were 137 gang-related homicides in L.A. County. This year, that number has dropped to 100. The total number of homicide-related deaths in the count for 2017 was 167.

It isn’t just in homicides where authorities are seeing a decline. According to the same data, rapes, grand theft auto, larceny, aggravated assaults and robberies totaled 73,431 in 2017. Last year, that number was 77,007. Cities that contract with the LASD to provide law enforcement for Santa Clarita, Palmdale, Malibu, Lancaster, West Hollywood and Norwalk saw an overall drop of 4.6 percent in violent crime this year.

According to Sheriff McDonnell, focuses on human trafficking and cracking down on the dangerous street drug fentanyl assisted in increasing the number of arrests this year. The data in the LASD report includes 521 arrests this year of pimps and others related to human trafficking, compared to 372 in 2016. Additionally, 76 victims of human trafficking (50 of whom were minors) were rescued this year.

Regarding fentanyl, deputies this year made 1,028 arrests compared to last year’s 719. As a result of the arrests, 242 lbs. of the dangerous drug were seized. Fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic opioid used in the medical world as a treatment for pain. It was developed in the 1960s, is 100 times more powerful than morphine and made headlines in 2016 as being the cause of death for world-renowned musician Prince. Fentanyl is so potent that as little as 2 or 3 micrograms, the physical size of a few grains of salt, is enough to kill an adult. The drug is strictly controlled, and typically only prescribed by doctors to cancer patients and others who experience severe pain.

While the reduction in violent crimes has been a net positive for law enforcement, Sheriff McDonnell went on to state that it was accomplished in a “very difficult police environment.” He was referring to the passages of AB 109, the transfer of prison inmates to county jails, and Propositions 47 and 57 – both of which made police work more challenging by reducing the penalties for certain crimes.

Bailing Someone Out of the Santa Clarita Jail in 2018

| Police Blotter | December 28, 2017

It’s not a happy new year when finding out that a friend or loved one has been arrested and taken into custody. It can raise a lot of questions — particularly for those who have never dealt with the bail bond process before. Being in jail is stressful, both for the defendant and for the family members, and a basic understanding of the bail process can be incredibly helpful for those who find themselves in a situation like this.

When someone is arrested in Santa Clarita, the individual is transported to the SCV/Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station for the booking process. That means the arrestee will have a photograph taken, fingerprints recorded, and a comprehensive national background or Live Scan check will be conducted to search for any warrants, probation, or immigration holds.

Once that process is complete, one of two things can occur: If the defendant is being charged with a misdemeanor, he or she can be cited and released under the obligation to return to court at the appointed date and time. If charged with a felony, the accused will likely be held at the station for up to 72 hours and will be held until the first arraignment, unless he/she is bailed out first. If bailed out, the defendant will return to court within two to three weeks.

It’s important to know, if the defendant isn’t bailed out within that 72-hour period, or if the on-site jail becomes overcrowded, then it’s likely that the suspect will be transferred to one of the larger, long-term holding facilities in downtown Los Angeles. Men are typically sent to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, while women are sent to the Lynwood Jail (both are L.A. County jails).

When bailing someone out, the first several hours are crucial in determining how long the individual will remain in custody. When time is of the essence, being able to contact a bail agent 24 hours a day, seven days a week is ideal. Once contacted, a bondsman can communicate with the SCV Sheriff’s Station jail and inform them that the bail bond process has begun, often avoiding jail transfers that can add anywhere from 24-48 hours to a defendant’s time in custody.

Privacy is a big issue for many clients, and great care should be taken to ensure their private business affairs are kept strictly confidential. All consultations should be absolutely free-of-charge, and knowledgeable agents familiar with the local jail process in the area should be available 24 hours a day to answer any questions.

The bail bond contract and paperwork required to bail someone out should be straightforward and simple. This includes filling out a bail bond application and signing the indemnitor’s agreement. The agreement states that whoever signs for the bail bond agrees to be held financially responsible in the event that the defendant doesn’t show up for court.

Provided the individual attends all of his/her mandated court dates, the bond will eventually be exonerated, and the person who signs the bail bond will not remain responsible for any cost beyond the bail bond premium. However, if the defendant does not show up for all of the required court appointments, a bench warrant may be issued for the defendant’s arrest and the person (also known as “the indemnitor”) who signed the bail bond will be responsible for paying the full amount of bail to the court.

One of the best things about working with a locally trusted SCV bail bondsman is that a bond can be posted to have a friend, family member or loved one released from the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station jail 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over – DUI Enforcement Dec. 15th – Jan 1st

| Police Blotter | December 21, 2017

Beginning last Friday, December 15, the LASD implemented a strict enforcement of driving under the influence, a policy they’re calling the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign. They’re partnering with the California Office of Traffic Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ensure that those who choose to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs are removed from the roads and taken to jail.

The enforcement program runs through January 1 and LASD stations throughout the county will be deploying increased saturation patrols and DUI checkpoints to deter would-be impaired drivers. Currently, the exact locations of the saturation patrols and DUI checkpoints have yet to be announced, and some of them may not be. However, an increased law enforcement presence should be expected in major traffic areas as well as on the freeways. Specially trained officers will be deployed to the checkpoints where they will look for signs of impaired driving as well as checking for valid licensure.

Driving under the influence, or DUI, has long been associated with the consumption of alcohol. However, in recent years, California has seen a significant increase in drug-impaired collisions. Officials with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department want to let the public know that a DUI doesn’t start and end with the consumption of alcohol; driving under the influence also includes operating a motor vehicle while affected by narcotics, marijuana, and prescription drugs. Driving under the influence of any substance that may impair a person’s physical abilities is illegal in California, even if it’s medication legally prescribed by an individual’s doctor.

Those who choose to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs pose a serious risk not only to their own safety but to the safety of others as well. The penalties for being charged for a DUI are stiff, but if someone else is injured or killed as a result of driving while intoxicated, the charges can include manslaughter and even murder. Luckily for holiday revelers, avoiding the potentially catastrophic consequences of driving under the influence has never been easier than it is today, and it all begins by planning ahead. If you know you’re going to consume alcohol while out celebrating, recruiting a designated driver is a tried-and-true method for getting to and from where you’re going safely. When you select a designated driver, he/she should download the DDVIP mobile app for both Android and iPhones. The app gives designated drivers access to special deals at local hotspots throughout Los Angeles County.

If there’s no designated driver to be had, there are plenty of ride-hailing apps to choose from — all of which can get you where you need to go as quickly and easily as possible. Of course, the price for these rides will vary depending on how far you want to go, but if you can’t afford the trip, perhaps you shouldn’t be going out at all.

Ultimately, the holidays should be a time of celebration and fun, not one of grief and criminal charges. Acting responsibly by planning a safe ride ahead of time will help ensure your holiday season falls into the former category and not the latter. Stay safe and have a happy, healthy holiday!

California Penal Code 496 PC – Receiving Stolen Merchandise

| Police Blotter | December 14, 2017

‘Tis the season of giving, and all the better if you can get a good deal at the same time, right? Shopping online has exploded in popularity over the past several years, and with good reason; some of the best prices aren’t found in stores. Unfortunately, getting a good price on something can land you in hot water if the item turns out to be stolen. Stolen property is bought and sold online all the time on websites like Craigslist and eBay, as unsuspecting shoppers are all too excited to get their hands on the latest gadgets and fashion trends.

Receiving stolen merchandise is covered under California Penal Code 496 PC and is described as buying, receiving, selling, concealing, or withholding from the owner any property which they know has been stolen. The property can be stolen in any way, including grand theft, petty theft and embezzlement. For example, an individual buys a computer from someone on Craigslist for $400 that’s advertised everywhere else for $1,500. The computer is in great condition other than the serial number is missing, but the buyer doesn’t ask about the mysteriously missing number and completes the transaction. It’s possible that the buyer in this case could be charged with receiving stolen merchandise.
A 496 PC can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The majority of charges are misdemeanors, with the possible penalties of up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If charged as a felony, the penalties include 16 months to 3 years in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The deciding factor on the severity of the charges depends on the value of the stolen property. If the value equals $950 or less, the charges will be filed as a misdemeanor. If the value is greater than $950, the charges could be filed as a felony.

One of the key elements in being charged with violating PC 496 is to know that the person who receives the property knew that it was stolen. Most thieves aren’t going to advertise that their items were stolen, and being ignorant of the fact that it was stolen often leads to no charges being filed. Unfortunately, sometimes a deal can be too good to pass up, and people will buy or otherwise receive stolen property that they know is stolen based on that fact alone. If it can be proven that someone knows the property was stolen, they’ll likely face charges. However, even in the event that the recipient is completely unaware of the fact that the item was stolen, they can still lose big. That’s because when stolen property is located, it’s going to be returned to the owner, and whatever amount the recipient paid for it is usually lost.

If you’re going to buy things from people online, there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself from buying stolen merchandise. For one, be suspicious about really good deals for recently released items that are still in their original packaging. A top of the line gadget that’s still in its original packaging and selling for a lot less than its sticker price should be a red flag. Also, on big-ticket items like cars or boats, always be sure that the seller has all of the appropriate documentation before you hand over any money. One common trick car thieves use to unload recently stolen vehicles is to offer to mail the pink slip to you. Also, take a good look at the product you’re buying before you do so. If any identifying characteristics, such as serial or VIN numbers are damaged or removed — don’t buy it!

Ultimately, the vast majority of private sellers aren’t hawking stolen merchandise, but some of them do. Taking precautions to be extra careful can prevent you from, at best, wasting money and, at worst, facing criminal charges.

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

Keeping Safe During the Holidays

| Canyon Country Magazine | December 11, 2017

The holiday shopping season is upon us, and the closer we get to Christmas, the busier things will get. When our lives start to move faster and get more stressful, our awareness and concentration becomes spread pretty thin, and things can — and often do — fall through the cracks.

Here in Canyon Country, any would-be thieves are well-aware of the fact that people are going to be doing some significant shopping, and that there will be a lot of coming and going to and from the house, and unfortunately, people are going to make mistakes. Most criminals are opportunists, and those who work this time of year are no different. No matter how crazy things may get, remember that keeping you and your loved ones safe from becoming victimized by these people is a top priority. Here are a few tips to help you work toward that end.

The car might seem like a good place to hide Christmas presents, but locations like that are a prime target for the old smash-and-grab. Never leave shopping bags, gifts, or anything of value visible in your car when you’re not in it.
Try to park in well-lit areas. If you have motion-triggered lights in your driveway, all the better. However, if you must park on the street, try to park under a street light. Thieves tend to avoid areas where the odds of being caught are higher.
Always double check to make sure all your doors and windows are closed and locked before you leave the home. Thieves know that there will be unopened gifts inside, and homes are prime targets during this time period.
After the presents are opened, don’t leave boxes of expensive gifts outside for the trash pickup. Boxes for televisions, stereos and computers sitting outside by the curb telegraph to thieves exactly what the home has to offer should they decide to break in.
Last, but not least, whether you do a lot of online shopping or not, pay close attention to your credit and debit card charges for the next couple months. Watch for any suspicious purchases or activity, and contact your credit card company or financial institution immediately if you see anything that seems questionable.
This time of year is supposed to be one of joy and gratitude, and it can be if you remember to take care of yourself. From all of us to you, have a safe and happy holiday!

If you have questions about any Canyon Country bail related subject, or if you want to suggest a topic, visit Robin at Santaclaritagond.com or call 661-299-BOND(2663).

Holiday Safety Tips

| Police Blotter | December 7, 2017

Empty houses and apartments are a tantalizing target for criminals — especially during the holiday season. It’s the busiest travel period of the year and would-be thieves are well-aware of that. As a matter of fact, many will go out of their way to find out who’s leaving, where they’re going, and how long they’ll be gone. For those who will be traveling during the holiday season, there are several steps you can take to reduce your chances of being victimized. Below are a few things to think about if you plan on heading out of town that will help keep your home and your belongings safe while you’re away.

Phone a Friend

If you have a trusty, responsible friend who’s going to be in town, ask him or her to help you out. The best case scenario here would be to have them act as a full-time housesitter while you’re away, but that’s likely going to be a stretch. At the very least, your friend can stop by your home daily to keep an eye on things. Have them pick up your mail and bring in any newspapers you receive. If you have any cats, your friend can also make sure to feed them and clean out the litter box (if they’re a good friend, that is).

Don’t Post Your Travel Plans Online

Posting about your upcoming Christmas in Hawaii can be tempting, but doing so is better left until you return. Criminals tend to be an ingenious lot, and many of them troll the web looking for information that reveals when a person is or isn’t going to be home. Knowing when someone is going to be gone, and for how long, makes planning a burglary much easier. Additionally, make sure not to mention the fact that you’re away on your voicemail messages either.

Don’t Leave the Lights On

Leaving the lights on is perfectly fine, even advisable, if you’re leaving for the evening. When you’ll be gone for several days, it changes from a safety precaution to an unmistakable message to thieves that you’re not home. If you have someone checking on your house, let them turn the lights on in the evening, or you can take the extra step of buying automatic timers for your lights.

Mind Your Mail

Mail builds up quickly. If you’re going to be gone for more than a couple days, it’s extremely important to do something about your mail. Don’t ask anyone to pick it up for you unless you trust them implicitly; you’ll likely be receiving some Christmas cards in the mail, some of which may or may not contain money or gift cards. It’s possible to stop your mail delivery altogether via the post office, but it’s probably a lot easier to temporarily re-route your mail delivery to a mail service. These places will serve as a mailing address for you, whether or not you’re in town. They’re becoming increasingly popular among home-based and online business owners, serving as a place where mail, faxes, and other business communication needs can be met.

Ditch the Second Key

If you hide a key somewhere outside your home, remove it when you’re away. Casing houses is still a thing, and you never know who’s watching. If you’ve got neighbors watching your home, give the key directly to them. If not, never leave a spare outside.

Doing Your Holiday Shopping Online? Follow These Tip to Keep Safe

| Police Blotter | November 30, 2017

This year’s holiday shopping season has begun, and Americans are increasingly turning to the internet to make their purchases. On Black Friday, Americans spent over $5 billion in a 24-hour period — a 16.9 percent increase in dollars spent in the same time frame last year. It isn’t difficult to see why. Christmas shopping has long been associated with lines, stampedes of shoppers trampling over each other, and waiting outside in the cold at ungodly hours hoping to be one of the first few in the door. Now that there’s another option, people are taking advantage of it.

As online shopping continues to grow, so too will the numbers of identity thieves, fraudsters, and other ne’er-do-wells looking to steal what they can and sour your season. Below are some tips that can help you avoid a potentially costly mistake:

  • Keep to brands and businesses that are well-known and have a good reputation. Popular online shopping sites like Amazon, Best Buy or Walmart have systems in place to reduce the chances of their customers being victims of fraud. Shopping with them is a lot safer than with smaller, unknown sites. While you’re safer from fraud using these sites, you’re not necessarily going to get quality merchandise. If the price of something seems too good to be true, it could be a foreign knock-off.
  • Do your due diligence. If you shop at smaller boutique sites, check out some of their reviews, but not necessarily those listed on their website. Google Reviews can be especially helpful in this area to see what people are saying about the company and products. If they’ve been around awhile and have a lot of satisfied customers, odds are you’re going to be one too.
  • Ensure your antivirus is up-to-date and your device is clean of malware. Always update and run your antivirus software prior to shopping online, whether you’re buying a $10,000 couch or a $20 pair of pants. Malware is abundant on the internet, and it can sit quietly on your machine just waiting for you to type in your identifying information and/or credit card/bank account numbers.
    Don’t make purchases over public Wi-Fi. If you’re going to shop online, do it at home over a secured network. It’s easy for thieves to steal your information when you’re transmitting it over an unsecured connection.
  • Pay via PayPal when possible. PayPal isn’t just a convenient way to pay for things; it serves as a protective middle-man between you and the business you’re buying from. It’s a lot easier to stop payments with PayPal than it is with your bank, and if the person you’re dealing with is trying to steal your information, a lot less damage can be done with PayPal info than with your bank account/debit card number.
  • Keep an eye on your transactions. Check regularly for any questionable purchases on your bank and/or credit card statements. If you end up the victim of identity theft, the best thing you can do to mitigate the damage is to find out as soon as possible.
  • During the holiday season, opt not to have several boxes delivered to your front door, especially if you’re not going to be home. There are many “package pirates” scoping out neighborhoods, ready to grab boxes off of your doorstep during the holidays. Sign up to have your boxes delivered to a secure place, such as a mailbox store. On the cheap, they will sign for and hold all your packages until you’re ready to pick them up. Or plan to have someone, such as a good neighbor, accept them on your behalf.

There’s no real way to be 100 percent safe when online shopping, but taking a few precautions like those listed above can considerably reduce your risk level. Most thieves want easy targets, and those who take steps to protect themselves are often not worth the trouble.

Probation Violations Explained

| Police Blotter | November 23, 2017

Probation and parole are two of the most commonly confused terms in the criminal justice system. Both terms sound similar and they both deal with offenders who are under conditional release from custody.

Probation refers to adult defenders placed in supervised, conditional release via a probation agency. It can be the sentence for a crime the offender was convicted of committing, and it can be stand-alone or in addition to jail time. Parole refers to a conditional release from prison when individuals are allowed to serve the remainder of their sentences in the community. Under both conditions, offenders are often monitored by scheduled visits with court agents, as well as unannounced parole or probation checks conducted by the local police department to ensure the offender is following the law and adhering to any conditions their release is contingent upon.

In California, judges are given a wide berth to set the conditions upon which an offender is to be released on probation. Provided the conditions logically relate to the crime the offender was convicted of committing, the judge can set almost anything they want, including:
•Mandatory fines or restitution
•Requirement to not make contact with the victim
•Requirement that the offender not drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system
•Community service/Cal-Trans
•Employment requirements
•Requirement that the offender not commit any additional crimes
•Electronic monitoring

Recently in the SCV, a probation check was conducted by deputies working out of the Santa Clarita Sheriff Station during which an offender was found to be in possession of methamphetamine. Probation checks are conducted sporadically and without prior notification of the target(s) to ensure that these individuals are following the conditions of their probation. When the conditions of probation are violated, a suspect is arrested and subject to a probation violation hearing.

A judge will preside over the probation violation hearing instead of a jury, and the burden of proof on the part of the prosecuting attorney is far less than in a criminal trial. The prosecution is also allowed to admit “hearsay” evidence to a probation violation trial — a type of evidence not typically allowed in California criminal courts. The defendant at one of these trials has the same rights he/she would have, were it a criminal trial, which include the right to obtain counsel, the right to call witnesses and use the subpoena power of the court to call witnesses to testify on the defendant’s behalf, the right to present any mitigating or extenuating circumstances that may have contributed to the defendant’s alleged violation, the right to testify on their own behalf and the right to full disclosure of any and all evidence against them.

When both the prosecution and defense have made their cases, the judge will decide the outcome of the probation violation hearing. If a judge finds that an offender did violate his/her probation, the judge will take into account the offender’s prior criminal history, how long the probation was set for, the seriousness of the violation and any recommendations made by the probation department before providing punishment. Once all things are considered, the judge may reinstate the offender’s probation, modify it with new, stricter terms, or revoke it entirely and send the offender to jail for the remainder of the individual’s sentence.

The Statute of Limitations Explained

| Police Blotter | November 16, 2017

The slew of recent sexual assault allegations hitting Hollywood elites has been hard to miss. It seems like every couple of days another person comes out and claims to be the victim of sexual assault on one or more occasion. While most of the victims have been women, a few men have made headlines, as well, when they alleged to be victims of similar crimes. One of those men happens to be actor Cory Feldman, who has long alluded to the fact that sexual predators victimized him and other young people in Hollywood during the 1980s. Once the person who allegedly committed the assault was named, the LAPD opened up an investigation.

Unfortunately for Feldman, the investigation was dropped not long after it began when it was determined that the statute of limitations for the crime had expired.

In every state, there are certain time limits attached to crimes that determine the period of time during which the crime can be investigated and charges pressed. The time limit ranges from 1-10 years, and was put in place to create general practicability and fairness when filing lawsuits. While the limitations may seem unfair to victims, it’s viewed as equally unfair to the accused to have a lawsuit hanging over his/her head indefinitely. By creating a time limit during which the crime can be investigated and charges pressed, it allows a legal conflict to have a definite end, thereby giving both parties a path to moving forward with their lives.

The statute of limitations typically begins on the date that the alleged crime occurs. For example, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in the State of California is one year. So, for instance, someone who became the victim of medical malpractice on July 1, 2017 would have until July 1, 2018 to speak up and get a lawsuit together.
In California, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of a minor is 8 years past the age of majority (the age of majority is 18, and so the statute of limitations would be when the child turns 26). However, California is one of 28 states that adopted an extension to the statute of limitations on sexual abuse of a child based on the “discovery” of the abuse or its effects. The “discovery” rule allows civil trials to go forward when the trial occurs “within three years of the date the individual discovers, or should have reasonably discovered, that psychological injury or illness was present and that the psychological injury or illness was caused by the sexual abuse.” Essentially, a person has 3 years to file a claim upon “discovery” of the memories of past sexual abuse. The rule was designed to allow those with repressed memories of abuse who discovered them years later in therapy pursue justice.

In 2016, California eliminated the statute of limitations on rape cases. Rape is considered a specific type of sexual assault that includes one or more forms of penetration, and as such is given its own set of laws covering the crime, which stand apart from simple sexual assault. Before the law eliminating the statute of limitations on rape cases was signed into law, the previous legal procedure was to allow for a statute of limitations on rape cases of 10 years, with exceptions being made for cases where DNA evidence was discovered later on.

As of right now, the sexual assault allegations targeting major players in Hollywood are continuing to come to light; only time will tell if any of them go to criminal or civil trials. In the meantime, the battle continues to rage in the court of public opinion.

Violent Crime in Los Angeles My Be Higher than Previously Thought

| Police Blotter | November 9, 2017

The LAPD periodically releases crime statistics to keep the public informed about crime levels throughout the Los Angeles area. Recently, a captain with the police force has accused high-ranking LAPD officials of purposely misclassifying violent crimes in an effort to mislead the public in regards to crime levels throughout Los Angeles.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, a claim was filed last week by Capt. L. Carranza, overseer of the Van Nuys Police Station, which states that she had been notifying LAPD superiors since 2014 about underreporting of crime in the Foothill area. The area includes Pacoima, Sunland and Tujunga, and Capt. Carranza’s claim states that no action was taken regarding the information she brought forward.

Capt. Carranza assumed control of the LAPD’s Van Nuys Police Station in 2015 and, upon doing so, began to conduct her own analysis of violent crimes stored in the department’s database. The claim did not include the raw data that Capt. Carranza collected regarding crime, though it did state that, according to her own analysis, aggravated assaults in 2016 were underreported by 10 percent in the Pacific and Central divisions. She does not claim that the crimes went unreported, but that they were instead classified as less serious offenses in an effort to alter violent crime statistics in the area.

Another analysis conducted by Capt. Carranza, this time of the Hollenbeck and Mission divisions, showed a 10 percent undercounting of aggravated assaults in 2017. In her claim, Capt. Carranza states that the LAPD “engaged in a highly complex and elaborate cover-up in an attempt to hide the fact that command officers had been providing false crime figures to the public attempting to convince the public that crime was not significantly increasing.”

The LAPD chose not to comment on the allegations in Capt. Carranza’s claim. However, LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein did issue a statement praising the accuracy of the department’s crime statistics and explained that there was a special unit developed designed to scrutinize the data and ensure it was accurate. Rubenstein went on to state, “Integrity in all we say and do is a core value for the department and any accusation related to the accuracy of our reports will be taken very seriously and investigated as a potential disciplinary matter.”

This is not the first time that Capt. Carranza made claims regarding the accuracy of the LAPD’s crime reports. She said that she was told in September that she would be denied a promotion to commander due to her “meddling into others’ business.” She is currently seeking damages for lost wages and pension money, as well as emotional distress and unspecified physical injuries.

Another investigation, this time performed by the Los Angeles Times, found that the department had misclassified 1,200 violent crimes in a one-year span that ended in September of 2013. According to an auditor, the misclassification stemmed from “a combination of systemic issues, procedural deficiencies, department-wide misconceptions about what constitutes an aggravated assault, and, in a small number of cases, individual officer error.”

Skimmer Discovered on Bank ATM

| Police Blotter | November 2, 2017

The LASD is warning people to be on the lookout for credit card skimming devices when going about. One of the devices was recently discovered at Cathay Bank in Rowland Heights, and detectives from the Walnut/Diamond Bar station are currently investigating. It isn’t known yet if, or how many, people may have been victimized.

Skimmers are card readers that take the data from an unsuspecting victim’s credit or debit card. They typically fit conveniently over the actual reader on ATMs, gas pumps and other often-used pieces of technology. When someone swipes their card through a device that has a skimmer on it, the skimmer will steal the data from the magnetic strip on the back of the card and store it in a file on the device. Then, the thief has to return to the skimmer to obtain the file with which they can create cloned credit cards or simply steal money from an individual’s accounts. While some skimmers are more obvious to spot than others — for those who know to look — the scariest kind are those that don’t interfere with the official reader on the machine. In other words, a person can be using an ATM that has a skimmer on it and still complete their bank transaction as if the device wasn’t there.

Skimmers aren’t new, but thieves have been getting savvier with their use. Advancements in technology have allowed skimmers to get smaller and smaller over the years, conveniently fitting over actual card readers on machines. Additionally, thieves have been planting small hidden cameras near their skimmers to capture their victims’ PIN numbers or other valuable passwords.

As the holiday shopping season heats up, thieves are going to be working overtime to steal people’s credit card or other identifying information. This time of year is when it’s more important than ever to be on the lookout for these devices when you’re out and about. Here are a few things you can look for:
Check for signs of tampering at the ATM before you use it. Graphics or pieces that don’t line up correctly, different colored materials, or other signs of obvious tampering at the top of the ATM or near the speakers could mean that the machine is compromised.
If you’re someplace where there’s more than one ATM in a row, such as a bank, do a quick comparison and make sure both ATMs look identical — they should. If one looks different than the other, don’t use either one and report it to bank management.
Gas pumps are another common target for skimmers, and the above rules both apply to those as well. It can be harder to tell with gas pumps, as they’re usually not as well-maintained as ATMs, but if anything feels fishy, you can always pay inside instead.
PINs are essential for thieves, so even if everything looks safe with the ATM you’re using, cover your hand as you type in your PIN. If there’s a camera installed, it’s a lot less likely to catch that crucial piece of information.

The vast majority of card readers available to the public are skimmer-free, of course, but a little caution now can save a ton of headaches down the road.

Conspiracy to Commit Fraud – California Penal Code 182 PC

| Police Blotter | October 26, 2017

Two transient women were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud when it was discovered they were lying to passersby to elicit donations. C. Doll, 26, of Loma Linda was arrested on the corner of Tippecanoe Ave. and Coulston St. in San Bernardino where she was panhandling. An hour later, another woman, this time 41-year-old M. Love of Yucca Valley, was arrested on the same corner for the same reason.

During the booking and processing procedure, it was discovered that the two women were linked — the women were working together to make signs in order to get donations from the public. The sign that the two women created was a large poster that had a baby’s face on it, which they used to ask the public for donations to pay the baby’s funeral costs. Deputies working with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department determined that the baby on the poster didn’t belong to either woman, nor was there any need for funeral and burial costs. Both women were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud.

According to California Penal Code 182 PC, a criminal conspiracy takes place when at least two or more individuals agree to commit a crime and at least one of them commits an overt act in furtherance of that crime. For example, if two people agree to burn down someone’s house, and one of them buys an accelerant and some matches, both parties will be vulnerable to conspiracy charges. For someone to be charged with conspiracy, it isn’t necessary that the planned crime actually takes place, nor will they be charged for simply planning to commit a crime. For someone to be eligible for conspiracy charges, they must plan to commit a crime with someone else and do something to bring those plans to fruition. The act doesn’t necessarily have to be criminal in nature. As mentioned above, there’s nothing illegal about purchasing matches and an accelerant (light fluid, gasoline, etc.). However, buying those items becomes a crime once it’s been agreed upon by two or more people to use them to commit a crime.

Interestingly, there doesn’t need to be a formal or explicit agreement between the parties; it’s possible for investigators to establish that an agreement existed by examining the parties’ actions. Additionally, when people are charged with violating 182 PC, they become criminally responsible for any crimes committed by co-conspirators in furtherance of the conspiracy. So, if the person in the example above chose to steal the accelerant and matches, and got caught for it, then the other conspirator would be responsible for the theft, even if they weren’t involved in it or knew it was happening.

Conspiracy to commit fraud is a “wobbler” under California law, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties include a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to one year in county jail. If charged as a felony, the fine is the same, but the jail time is increased to 16 months to three years in county jail.

Sexual Harassment in the News – California Penal Code 243.4

| Police Blotter | October 19, 2017

Just recently, an investigation by the New York Times blew the lid off of one of Hollywood’s dirty little secrets. Acclaimed producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of having sexually assaulted several Hollywood actresses, and has reportedly reached settlement on at least eight court cases regarding similar offenses stretching back to 1990.

Once the first accusation was made, they kept on coming. Many A-listers, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Beckinsale, have come forward stating they’ve been the victims of sexual harassment and/or assault by the movie mogul in the past. Currently, the LAPD and LASD are urging individuals who feel they may have been victims of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein to come forward.

There is no criminal investigation as of yet being conducted in Los Angeles, though the NYPD is investigating an incident that occurred in 2004, and police in London are currently investigating a separate occurrence. Weinstein was recently fired from his company once the allegations came to light, and has voluntarily entered rehab.

Sexual assault is covered under California Penal Code 243.4 PC and is described as touching the intimate parts of another human being for the purpose of sexual gratification, arousal or abuse. Sexual assault differs from rape (PC 261) in that for someone to be charged with rape, actual penetration or sexual intercourse needs to have occurred; with sexual assault, touching will suffice. It should be noted that for someone to be accused of sexual assault, the touching must be unwanted.
Sexual assault is a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s prior criminal history. Misdemeanor charges typically include things like the intentional fondling of someone’s breasts, or placing a hand on their backside without their consent. The crime can be charged as a felony if the victim:
Was unlawfully restrained
Was unaware that the touching was sexual in nature because they were convinced it was for professional purposes (think doctors)
Was institutionalized and mentally incapacitated or seriously disabled
Was forced to touch the intimate body parts of the defendant
When charged as a misdemeanor, the possible penalties include up to six months in county jail, a fine of up to $3,000 and/or summary probation.

For felony offenses, the possible penalties include formal probation, 2-4 years in California state prison with a possible addition of 3-5 years if the victim suffered great bodily injury, a maximum $10,000 fine and/or mandatory registration as a sex offender.

Teaching Kids Awareness: The Dangers of Kidnapping

| Police Blotter | October 12, 2017

On Friday, October 6, a 12-year-old girl reported that she was grabbed by a man who tried offering her a ride while she was running with her soccer team in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Santa Clarita.

The soccer team had been running from the 23500 block of Bridgeport Lane to an adjacent neighborhood when the victim fell behind. It was then that she said a man asked her if he could give her a ride somewhere. When she declined the offer, the man grabbed her by the arm and dragged her a few feet before the victim was able to break free. Once the suspect lost his grip on the girl, he fled to his black car, believed to be a Toyota or Honda, and sped away.

Instances like the one above occur frequently all over the world, and the unfortunate truth is that in many of them, the victim doesn’t escape. This victim was extremely lucky that she was not only able to break free of the suspect’s grasp, but that he didn’t attempt to chase her down, but instead took off.

Kidnapping is a danger for children of any age, from the young and helpless to those in their teens, and it’s important that you speak with your children and make sure they know what to do if they ever find themselves in a situation like this. Below are a few tips to help you out:

  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Whether your child is walking alone or with friends, they should always take a look around once in awhile to make sure they aren’t attracting any undue attention. People who look like easy targets tend to be easy targets, while those who are more alert have a much better chance of thwarting a would-be attacker.
  • If possible, call the police right away. This one might seem obvious, but that’s not always the case when it comes to teenagers. When panicked, teens have been known to text friends, significant others or even make posts on social media before thinking to call the police. If your child is kidnapped and has access to their phones, tell them to immediately dial 911 and keep the phone on speaker. Cell phones can be traced, and their chances of being found increase significantly if they can leave their phone on while being tracked.
  • Use what you can. When someone is grabbed, they typically focus on trying to free the part of their body that’s being handled. Instead, teach your kids to focus on using the parts of their body that are free. For example, if a kidnapper grabs them by the arms, your child can still use his/her legs to stomp on the fragile bones of their assailant’s feet, kick the attacker in the groin, the knee, or use a free arm to scratch at his/her face.
  • Be loud and be clear. During an attempted kidnapping, children and teens should, if nothing else, make sure to scream loudly for help and state that the kidnapper is not their father/mother. The more commotion that’s created will bring more attention to the attempted crime, and possibly spook the kidnapper into flight. If not, bystanders may be able to come and help.

Planning is easy, but being able to act in the moment can be something else entirely. Make sure your kids are well-versed in what to do if they find themselves in a situation like this.

It’s Illegal to be in Possession of a ‘Destructive Device’ 18710 PC

| Police Blotter | October 5, 2017

LASD deputies received a call on Thursday, September 28 from concerned residents reporting a suspicious vehicle parked in front of a Lawndale home. When deputies arrived, they located the suspicious vehicle and questioned its two occupants. Upon conducting a search of the vehicle, deputies discovered a handgun and detained the male suspect while a female was later released. A further investigation of the home ensued, during which deputies came across nearly 30 pieces of military-grade ordnance.

According to authorities, the ordnance included grenades, ammunition, and a variety of shells of various sizes that appeared to date back to WWII. The home where the devices were discovered had been owned by a WWII veteran who passed away a few months prior to the incident. After the veteran’s death, the house remained empty until it was overtaken by transients.

Upon discovering the cache of weaponry, residents of the surrounding homes were evacuated for about 14 hours while members of the bomb squad analyzed the items. Most of the grenades and explosive devices were deemed to be inert, though some of the ammunition found on-site caused concern among investigators. Authorities are still looking into the cache of grenades, mortar rounds, artillery shells and ammunition to find out where it came from, how long it had been there, and to whom it belonged.

If the items are traced back to the previous owner of the house, it wouldn’t be the first time someone had such items in their possession. Under California Penal Code 18710 PC, it’s illegal to possess a “destructive device,” including grenades, bombs, explosive missiles, certain rockets and rocket-propelled projectiles or projectiles containing any kind of explosive or incendiary material. Under this definition, it isn’t required that the explosive device be a military-grade bomb or projectile; homemade items like Molotov cocktails count as explosive devices. For someone to be charged with violating 18710 PC, they must simply possess the destructive device — it isn’t necessary that the individual planned to explode it or use it in any way.

18710 PC is a “wobbler,” meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s prior criminal history. Potential misdemeanor penalties include up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

For felonies, the potential penalties are enhanced and include 16 months to three years in California state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The felony penalty is enhanced to include 2-6 years in California state prison if the defendant is found to have possessed the explosive device near a public street or highway, private residence, public building (such as a theater, school, church or college), near any vessel for hire that carries passengers (trains, planes, cable cars, etc.) and in or near any public place that is ordinarily passed by human beings.

Criminal Threats – PC 422

| Police Blotter | September 28, 2017

Recently, a woman was arrested for entering a Kardashian-owned boutique in West Hollywood and threatening employees. The suspect, M. Medrano, is suspected of entering the boutique in the late morning on Thursday, September 21, and proceeding to point a firearm at employees of the store while demanding that they “stay away from Cuba.” She then knocked over several items as she exited the store. Two hours later, Medrano returned to the store with a 16-inch machete and swung it at reporters and bystanders outside while claiming, “The Kardashians will be executed if they step on communist territory.”

Nobody was injured during either altercation, and Medrano was able to escape before authorities arrived on both occasions. Thanks to video footage, deputies were able to track down Medrano at her home. After serving a search warrant, investigators discovered two pellet guns, one of which looked similar to the weapon brandished in the boutique. The suspect was arrested at her home on suspicion of assault and making criminal threats. She is currently being held in lieu of $50,000 bond.

Criminal threats are covered under California Penal Code 422 PC and are described as threatening to physically harm or kill someone, thereby putting the victim in a state of fear for his/her own safety, or that of the individual’s family.

The 422 PC is a “wobbler” that 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 charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties include up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If charged as a felony, the penalties include up to three years in California state prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000. If the defendant uses a deadly or dangerous weapon to communicate a threat (which Medrano apparently did), an additional and consecutive sentence of one year in California state prison can be added.

Assault is covered under California Penal Code 240 PC and is described as willfully doing something that was likely to result in the application of force against someone else while the defendant has the ability to apply force to another person. The defendant doesn’t actually have to apply force to another person in order to be charged with assault. The suspect simply needs to willfully act in a way that’s likely to result in the application of force while in a position to be able to apply that force. For example, throwing a dinner plate at someone, even if it misses, could be considered assault. However, throwing a dinner plate at someone who is much too far away to be hit by that plate would likely not result in assault charges.

Assault is typically charged as a misdemeanor, with the possible penalties of misdemeanor probation, up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

When Bail is Revoked

| Police Blotter | September 21, 2017

Ex-pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli was convicted of securities fraud some time ago, and was, until recently, out on bail pending his sentencing. Last week, prosecutors argued in front of a judge that because of his online antics, Shkreli was too dangerous to be allowed his freedom and should have his bail revoked. The judge agreed, and Shkreli now sits in jail awaiting his sentencing. Situations like this don’t occur often, but when they do, they often leave others worried that their bail could similarly be revoked.

The 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens the right to be released on bail. It does not, however, guarantee them the right to stay out on bail. When a person is released on bail they’re still expected to obey all local, state and federal laws, as well as abide by any and all conditions that may have been set by the judge. When someone is released on bail but is found to be in violation of the law or their bail conditions, they can have their bail revoked by a judge. Any money they paid to get out of jail is not refunded, whether it is to the court or to a bail bondsman.

Another reason someone can have their bail revoked (or outright denied in the first place) is if they’re deemed to be dangerous to the community or any other individual. The safety of others is the most important factor a judge takes into consideration when granting someone’s release on bail. If the defendant is believed to be a danger to one or more people, they’ll likely have their bail denied outright.

Martin Shkreli’s case is a little different. While he wasn’t deemed to be a danger at the time his bail was granted, prosecutors were able to successfully argue that the behavior he engaged in afterward did make him dangerous. The behavior at the center of the complaint was a Facebook post made by Shkreli offering a $5,000 bounty for a strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair, with the follicle intact. Prosecutors felt that the Facebook post constituted solicitation of assault.

Shkreli’s defense lawyers argued that the post wasn’t serious. However, when the post was made, the Secret Service was prompted to provide additional resources toward protecting Clinton, due to the fear that one of Shkreli’s social media followers may carry out the assault.

When released on bail, it’s important to remember that suspects are not free to go about their lives as they did before they were arrested. They’re expected to be on their best behavior, obey all laws and conditions, and to attend all of their court hearings at the appointed dates and times. Whenever someone is found to be in error, bail can not only be revoked, but it can make it much more difficult to bail the person out again.

SB 10 – Bail Reform’s Assault on Marsy’s Law

| Police Blotter | September 14, 2017

For those who aren’t aware, Senate Bill 10, or SB 10, is an initiative in the California State Senate to eliminate California’s bail system. Despite the protestation of the Association of California Judges and law enforcement agencies across the state, the bill remains in play in the state government.

Eliminating California’s bail system would have disastrous effects on the crime rates across the state by allowing violent criminals to remain on the streets pending their trials. Another, often overlooked yet important, feature of SB 10 is that it would put the victims of violent crimes at serious risk by circumventing some incredibly important features of Marsy’s Law.

Marsy’s Law was named after Marsy Nicholas, a UCSB senior who was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Though it took 25 years for the law to pass, Marsy’s Law amended the state Constitution by significantly expanding the Victims’ Bill of Rights. There were 17 rights afforded victims under Marsy’s Law, including the right (upon request) to be informed of, and given the opportunity to provide testimony before an accused defendant is released. The purpose of this right is to make the court aware of the defendant’s behavior and any potential threat he or she may pose to the alleged victim of the crime. Currently, should the defendant be found a serious threat, it’s possible that they would not be allowed bail.

Currently, when setting bail, a judge is to “take into consideration the seriousness of the offense charged, the previous criminal record of the defendant, and the probability of his or her appearance at the trial hearing of the case.” If SB 10 were to pass, thereby eliminating California’s bail system, the alleged victims of violent crimes would have no part in whether or not the defendant is released from police custody. Furthermore, judges’ discretion would be significantly hindered — if not eliminated outright – as SB 10 will only allow information about the current case to be considered when someone is charged with a crime; their criminal history will not be taken into account.

SB 10, if passed, would inevitably result in the release of individuals charged with serious and violent crimes, and would, in turn, put the alleged victims of those crimes in danger. Not only would it flood the streets with alleged criminals, but it would rescind very important rights currently held by the victims of these crimes, which took 25 years to enact.

Three Strikes, You’re Out: California’s Three Strikes Law

| Police Blotter | September 7, 2017

Most people are aware that California has a law which stipulates that anyone convicted of felonies three times gets sent to prison for life. What people may not know, though, is that not every felony-level crime applies to California’s Three Strikes Law, and that the law itself is a lot more nuanced than they’ve been lead to believe.

The law was passed in the ‘90s as an angry reaction to the murders of 18-year-old Kimber Reynolds and 12-year-old Polly Klaas. The perpetrators of the crime were two men with violent criminal records, and the law was constructed to stop repeat offenders from committing violent crimes by putting them permanently behind bars. The reaction was certainly understandable, and the law that resulted from that reaction sounded like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, data gathered since then has been unable to verify that the law did anything to reduce crime.

In 2012, the law was changed. Up until that point, any felony (even a “wobbler”) could result in a strike on a person’s criminal record. As such, offenders were receiving a third strike for committing relatively low-level crimes like possession of a controlled substance, or receiving stolen property. The change that occurred in 2012 was known as Proposition 36. It won the popular vote in every county in California, and significantly impacted California’s criminal justice system. Once Proposition 36 came into effect, all three strikes committed by an offender had to be violent felonies, as opposed to just the first two, for someone to be sent to prison for 25 years to life. If the third offense is a felony, but doesn’t count as a strike, the defendant will still face an enhanced sentence of double the normal penalty for the crime.

To understand how the law works in its current form, it’s important to understand which crimes qualify as a strike and which do not. Misdemeanors do not count as a strike, nor do many felonies. Those that do qualify are going to be serious felonies and/or violent felonies. Serious felonies are crimes like arson, robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, murder and rape.

Non-violent felonies, like receiving stolen property, do not qualify as a strike. However, some felonies that wouldn’t otherwise qualify as a strike will do so if they’re performed in a violent manner, such as using a firearm or inflicting great bodily injury on the victim.

Last, but not least, not every crime that counts as a strike will necessarily result in a strike on the defendant’s record. It’s possible to have a strike removed by the judge, at their discretion, at any time before sentencing. Additionally, defense attorneys can file what’s known as a Romero Motion and ask the judge to dismiss a strike in furtherance of justice.

Back to School Safety: Stranger Danger

| Canyon Country Magazine | September 5, 2017

It’s nearly Autumn, and children are heading back to school. If you haven’t already, it’s time to discuss with them how to deal with confrontations with strangers.

Kids encountering strangers on their way to school is really nothing new, and the vast majority of those people are just benign members of the community who are out and about. Unfortunately, the intentions of some people aren’t as innocent as others. Your kids need to know how to proceed if they find themselves in a situation in which they feel uncomfortable.

It’s best to begin teaching your kids about strangers when they’re little, but it’s never too late to have the talk. When dealing with younger children, it’s usually best to teach them to distinguish between “safe strangers” and the unsafe variety. Some “safe strangers” include police, firemen, teachers and other vetted school faculty. Other types of “safe strangers” could be those who happen to be working in a shop, or even the bus driver. For example, if your child feels uncomfortable or is being followed and can’t find a police officer, tell him or her to go into the nearest business and ask for help. The employee will serve as a witness and, therefore, a deterrent if the person following your child is up to no good. And the employee can always call the police if necessary.

Another good tip is to make sure your children know to never, ever approach a stranger’s vehicle. No matter what the person may say to lure a child, kids need to know that they’re under no obligation to interact with someone they don’t know.

“Safety in numbers” is an old saying, but it’s still true today; walking to and from school alone can be dangerous. If your child walks to school (or even to the bus stop), try and get together with other parents in the area and have your kids all walk together. A group of children is much less likely to be accosted than a child walking alone.

Ultimately, keeping our children safe is the responsibility of the whole community. Whether you have children or not, keep an eye out. If you see anyone suspicious in the neighborhood, or if someone is harassing children, call the police.

If you have questions about any Canyon Country bail related subject, or if you want to suggest a topic, visit Robin at www.santaclaritabond.com or call 661-299-BOND (2663).

Understanding California Penal Code 1320.5 – Failure to Appear

| Police Blotter | August 31, 2017

California Penal Code 1320.5 comes into play when someone has been charged with or convicted of a felony and failed to appear in court while they were out on bail. The potential penalties include felony probation, up to one year in county jail or 16 months to three years in California state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Additionally, those who were out on bail and failed to appear will more than likely have to forfeit their bail to the courts. All of these punishments are in addition to those of the original crime with which the defendant was charged.

California Penal Code 1320 PC is applied when someone is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony and was released from police custody on their own recognizance. If charged with a misdemeanor, the penalties for violating 1320(a) PC include misdemeanor probation, up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If charged with a felony, the charge will be under 1320(b) PC and the potential penalties are increased to felony probation, a county jail sentence of up to one year or 16 months to three years in California state prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

When people are arrested, the process is pretty much the same for everyone. They’re taken to the local police or sheriff’s station, fingerprinted, photographs are taken and a comprehensive national background check is conducted to look for additional warrants. Once all of that is complete, the individual will either be released on their own recognizance or bail is set (for all but a very few) and it will be possible to get them out of jail via bail bond. To some, having to pay bail before being released from police custody may seem like a shameless cash-grab by the authorities — but it’s not. Bail serves a very important purpose in the criminal justice system.

When someone is charged with a crime, they’re going to have to go through the court process to determine whether or not they committed that crime and, if so, what their punishment will be. It’s pretty safe to say that nobody likes being punished, and most folks would do whatever they could to avoid it, whether they deserved it or not. When a person, their family or friends have to put up money to get someone released from police custody pending their trial, it adds a particularly powerful incentive for the defendant to make sure that they appear in court at the appointed date and time.

Despite the financial incentive to follow the rules and appear in court, some individuals still choose to try and avoid law enforcement. When this occurs, they’ll typically be charged with violating California Penal Code 1320 or 1320.5 PC — failure to appear. As you can probably imagine, failing to show up for court when you’ve been charged with a crime is illegal, and these two Penal Codes outline what happens when someone does.

Penal Code 422 PC: Criminal Threats

| Police Blotter | August 24, 2017

Did you know it was illegal to put someone in a state of fear? Under California Penal Code 422 PC, California’s criminal threats law, it’s possible to be arrested just for threatening someone. Not all threats are considered criminal threats. For a threat to qualify, a few criteria must first be met. You must first threaten to physically harm someone and, by doing so:

  • The person is placed in a state of reasonably sustained fear for their safety or that of their immediate family
  • The threat is specific and unequivocal and
  • The threat was communicated verbally, in writing, or by an electronic device

For example, threatening to shoot someone could be considered a criminal threat if the criteria above is met. Additionally, telling someone they had better “watch out” or “watch their back” could be considered a criminal threat. The crime of making criminal threats is taken seriously in California, and it’s possible to be charged with the crime even if you didn’t really intend to carry out the threat, or if you didn’t have the means to. The crime isn’t in the intention of the person making the threat, but putting the target of the threat in fear.

Interestingly, only verbal statements that are spoken, written, or transmitted electronically will suffice for a criminal threat charge. So, if an individual were to make a gesture that indicated “I’m going to kill you,” such as making a gun with their finger and pretending to fire it, the gesture would not be enough to count as a criminal threat even if it put the target in fear. However, if the person making the gesture adds a verbal “pow,” this would qualify as a verbal statement and thus possibly result in a criminal threats charge.

For someone to be charged with violating California Penal Code 422 PC, the threat must be specific. It doesn’t have to be so specific as to state a time or place for the action being threatened to be carried out, but it cannot be vague. Telling someone “I’m going to get you,” without an act of violence or show of force that would place someone in reasonable fear would likely be too vague to warrant a criminal threats charge. It’s also crucial that an individual actually be put into a state of fear for a criminal threats charge to even happen. If it’s obvious that the intended target of the threat was not put into a state of fear, there is no criminal threats charge.

422 PC is a “wobbler,” meaning that it 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 charged as a misdemeanor, the possible penalties include up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For a felony, the possible penalties include up to three years in California state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

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