November 2011 Archives

Expect Orange County DUI Patrols Starting Around Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

An aggressive defense lawyer can help this holiday season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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