December 2011 Archives

Holiday Season DUI Enforcement Just Around the Corner in Orange County

It seems that as holiday approach, there is more and more news that law enforcement throughout Orange County is preparing DUI enforcement efforts.

Some might see that as a bad strategy because what happens the rest of the year? And why should people driving near a holiday be subjected to more police presence than any other time?
Regardless of the debate, it's going to happen. As our Santa Ana DUI defense lawyers predicted in November, law enforcement would step up its patrols for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and it did. More than 1,350 people were arrested for DUI in Santa Ana and statewide during only a five-day period.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the number is actually 69 fewer than the number of people charged with DUI last year. There were also six more traffic deaths during the time period this year compared to last, the California Highway Patrol reports. It's unclear if any were alcohol-related.

If statistics from the California Office of Traffic Safety are any indication, Orange County drivers should be careful from mid-December until the beginning of the new year. Last year, there were 743 DUI arrests from Dec. 17 to Jan. 1 in the county alone.

In 2009, numbers were down considerably, but the office only reported arrests from Jan. 1 to 3. Even in that short period, there were 110 DUI arrests.

DUI is not a charge that should be taken lightly. Lawmakers have made it so even a first-time offender, a person with no prior alcohol-related offenses and who likely had one drink too many, could end up facing jail time, probation, fines and fees, a driver's license suspension and other court-ordered sanctions.

While a Department of Motor Vehicles administrative hearing can be requested within 10 days of an arrest to fight the suspension of a driver's license, this is separate from the criminal case.

In the criminal case, many aspects of the state's evidence can be challenged. This includes faulty breathalyzers, which have caused many cases to be dropped after authorities found them to be poorly manufactured or not calibrated correctly.

Field sobriety testing -- when officers ask a driver to walk, heel-to-toe, stand and touch their nose or follow a light from left to right -- can be challenged if the officer isn't properly trained to conduct the tests or makes poor observations.

A couple tips to be aware of this time of the year, given that law enforcement will be out on the streets in larger numbers:

  • Police can pull you over for any minor traffic violation and then start a DUI investigation, so drive carefully.

  • Anything you say to an officer can be used against you in court.

  • Aggressive or loud behavior can lead to additional charges.

  • Remain calm, stay silent and call a Santa Ana DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

Continue reading "Holiday Season DUI Enforcement Just Around the Corner in Orange County" »

Boykins v. State Brings up Major Fourth Amendment Issue in Santa Ana Drug Cases

A recent Georgia case brings to light issues that must be applied to Santa Ana drug cases as well.

Whether drug possession or drug sales in Orange County, these charges can be enhanced based on a multitude of factors. For one, the criminal history of the defendant can play a role in what charges the state brings against a suspect. If there have been many or serious convictions for drug sales in the past, it's possible the charges will be shifted to federal court, where the penalties are often tougher.
If guns are used or found during a police search, if children are nearby and factors such as the type of drug and quantity are all things that go into determining what charges a person could face. All charges related to drugs are serious.

But because of the government's decades-long ongoing "War on Drugs," more and more law enforcement resources are going into undercover operations, sting operations and overall enforcement of drug laws.

The zeal of officers to make arrests can sometimes cause problems and it happened in Boykins v. State. In this case, a man pulled his vehicle up to a woman in a high-crime area and police observed the act. When officers pulled up, the man drove off.

Officers asked the woman if she knew the man and she said no and they suspected prostitution. They followed the man to a nearby apartment complex and pulled behind him. When asked for identification, the man said it was in his apartment, but he gave them his name and date of birth.

Officers found he had an outstanding warrant, handcuffed him and put him in custody. An officer then searched his car, finding cocaine in the center console. Before trial, his lawyers sought to suppress evidence from the officer searching the vehicle.

The only evidence presented by the state was the testimony of the arresting officer, who said that the driver exited the vehicle when he was being questioned about his identification. All before the search, the man was arrested, handcuffed and put in the other vehicle.

Previous court decisions have allowed police officers to search vehicles if they believe the suspect is close enough to reach in and pull something out. But it is limited. The Georgia Supreme Court overturned the case, ruling that the state failed to show why this should be an example of when a "rare" case where a warrantless search should be allowed.

This is an example of the criminal justice system upholding a defendant's rights. Police have rules and the court is a checks and balance system for law enforcement. When they break the rules, and a defendant's rights are violated, there are consequences. Police have problems in cases every day. Allow a Santa Ana criminal defense lawyer to uphold your rights if you are charged with a crime.

Continue reading "Boykins v. State Brings up Major Fourth Amendment Issue in Santa Ana Drug Cases" »

Aleman v. Village of Hanover Park Shows Careless Police Work Can Ruin Lives

A recent case out of Illinois shows that when police are careless in their investigative techniques, a person's life can be flipped upside down and ruined.

In the case of Aleman v. Village of Hanover Park, it appears that is what has happened. And poor police work can happen anywhere, including Santa Ana and other areas of Southern California.
Cases of murder in Fullerton are serious offenses that require the best representation possible. In many cases of homicide, police have a good idea who committed the crime. In others, however, they have no good evidence and fish for a confession.

Our Santa Ana criminal defense lawyers believe the latter is what happened in this horrible case. And, sadly, it led to a man being arrested, branded forever as a killer even though charges were later dropped after it became obvious the police didn't do their jobs right.

According to court records, Rick Aleman ran a day care and although it had only been operational for five months when the incident in question occurred in 2005, he had five children of his own. One of the children he watched was an 11-month-old boy.

On the September date in question, the boy's mother dropped him off that morning and the boy was lethargic and feverish. Not long after the boy was dropped off, he began gasping for air and collapsed. The man attempted CPR and called 911. The boy was rushed to the hospital via ambulance. He died four days later.

Not long after the ambulance was called, police were called to the house and asked the man and his wife to come to the police department. He was placed in an interrogation room for 45 minutes and asked if he could come back in an hour. He was told he couldn't and that he was under arrest.

Some five hours later, police finally entered the room and they told the suspect he had the "most information" to offer after they had spoken to many people about the incident. He said he wanted to call his lawyer, which should have stopped the questioning right there based on the man's rights.

But officers instead filled out a waiver of Miranda rights for the man to sign and told him he could call his lawyer, but he wanted him to sign the waiver of his rights. The man called his lawyer, during which an officer picked up the phone and talked to the attorney. The lawyer said the defendant would be invoking his right to remain silent, which the court ruled didn't count as an invocation of his rights because the man had to do it himself.

The man said he wanted to go home, but officers said he wouldn't be able to go home unless he talked to them. He asked to speak with his lawyer again and the police let him. He asked the lawyer to come to the station, but officers told him he needed to sit down and talk to them. The man said his lawyer gave him the right to talk, which the court wrote would be foolish.

After four hours of talking to the man, police told him doctors had said that he must have shaken the baby to cause its injuries. The man feebly confessed. He was initially charged with aggravated battery of a child. Later, he was charged with first-degree murder.

What didn't come out initially was that the mother had a criminal history, a past of violence and had been known to strike her child and say she wanted to kill him. Also what wasn't revealed was that a medical examiner ruled initially it was "highly unlikely" the man caused the injuries, but an investigator later lied to her, saying he was "behaving normally" when he arrived and she changed her opinion. Once learning the truth, she reinstated her first opinion.

The mother was barely investigated and one investigator told the mother not to speak to any other detectives about the case, despite his knowledge of her past and threats against her son. Within a year the charges were dropped, though the mother was never charged. The officers are the subject of a civil lawsuit filed by the man.

Continue reading "Aleman v. Village of Hanover Park Shows Careless Police Work Can Ruin Lives" »

Self-Defense or Intentional Assault in Black Friday SoCal Pepper Spraying?

Shoppers in Southern California made news already this holiday season in a bad way when a woman at a Wal-Mart north of Los Angeles was accused of pepper spraying other customers on Black Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Retailers have been pumping consumers with advertisements in newspapers, online, on television and through the mail for weeks. Many decided to forgo the 5 a.m. store openings on Friday and opted instead to begin shopping Thanksgiving Day, some as early as 9 p.m.
In this case, it's unclear whether the woman may have acted in self-defense, which often is a defense for a charge of battery in Santa Ana.

People sometimes get assault and battery confused. Assault involves not necessarily intending to injure someone, while battery requires a person to strike or injure another person through some action. The charges are somewhat intertwined, which can be confusing.

In this case, if the woman is found, it's possible she could be charged with assault or battery. As our Santa Ana criminal defense lawyers well know, the difference between the charges means a difference in possible penalties. It's also clear that self-defense is a very real defense in this case.

According to the newspaper's account, police reported "pandemonium" when a video game display offering $60 games for $30 was unveiled to people who began shopping at this particular Wal-Mart when it opened for Black Friday sales at approximately 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

In the problems that ensued, one woman allegedly pulled out a can of pepper spray and sprayed about 20 consumers who were nearby. Police have said at first they thought she was just angling to get the best deals, but now they think she may have acted in self defense.

After reviewing video surveillance and interviewing more than a dozen witnesses, police are reconsidering whether or not criminal charges should be filed. They hope to speak to another 10 witnesses. One witness told the paper that at about 9:55 p.m., people started shoving and pulling the plastic off the pallets of video games, which led to a stampede. On video, people can be heard saying "I'm being trampled, I'm being crushed."

Police hope to work out a plan for major shopping events to ensure that people are kept safe. But this isn't the first example of problems on Black Friday. A few years ago, a Wal-Mart employee in New York was trampled by mobs of people rushing into the store. In the San Francisco Bay area, a person was shot by would-be robbers as they walked to their cars. Last week in Arkansas, fights broke out over $2 waffle irons.

The bottom line is that if you are charged with a crime in Santa Ana, you need legal representation. If the emotions of a big sale got the best of you and you made a one-time mistake, you must have a lawyer by your side to help guide you through the complex and fast-moving criminal justice system.

Continue reading "Self-Defense or Intentional Assault in Black Friday SoCal Pepper Spraying?" »