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Auburn California Criminal Defense Blog

What is the difference between arson and aggravated arson?

As a California resident, you know the fire danger our state faces almost year round. Everyone needs to be constantly on guard against accidentally starting a fire by means of a cigarette, a barbecue grill, a campfire and other innocuous, but sometimes careless, activities.

As FindLaw explains, you can be held criminally liable if you recklessly cause a fire in a forest or on someone’s property, even if you are not actually charged with arson. If you are charged with arson, the California Penal Code provides for both arson and aggravated arson. It also provides for attempted arson and unlawfully causing a fire.

AG Sessions rolls back Obama pot prosecution policies

When California legalized medical marijuana some 20 years ago, this state’s cannabis industry took off and now is the largest and most firmly entrenched in the nation. On January 1, California’s new law decriminalizing marijuana production, sale and recreational usage went into effect. Los Angeles and San Francisco are expected to immediately begin issuing dispensary licenses, and over 100 dispensaries have already begun selling recreational marijuana.

Three days later, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a memo to federal prosecutors rescinding the Obama-era hands-off policies regarding prosecution of marijuana crimes in states that have legalized it. Given that federal law still considers marijuana to be an illegal drug, federal prosecutors now have far greater flexibility to prosecute, regardless of state laws to the contrary. California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom immediately recommended that the 29 states where some form of pot is legal band together to work around the new federal policy.

Do drug courts work?

If you are facing a California drug charge, you may have serious concerns about having to spend time behind bars. Increasingly, however, some drug offenders, depending on the circumstances of their crimes and criminal history, receive an offer to take part in a drug court program, as opposed to serving time in jail. Drug courts seek to treat the addiction itself through a combination of counseling and regular appearances before a court. The main idea is that the program will help addicts stay on track while keeping more non-violent drug offenders out of California’s already-overcrowded prison system.

Do drug courts deliver all they promise, though? According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, they absolutely do, and they also offer a number of benefits not only for the addicts, but for their surrounding communities. For starters, they save taxpayers considerable money. Nationally, every $1 invested in drug court saves as much as $3.36 by reducing related criminal justice expenditures.

Is an ignition interlock system the key to starting your car?

Like many people in California, you may have, at some point in your life, made a choice that you later regretted. For instance, perhaps you went out with friends once and chose to get behind the wheel of a car to drive after imbibing alcohol. You only had a drink or two, so you really didn't think it was that big of a deal at the time, until you wound up facing DUI charges after a police officer pulled you over on the way home.

Such situations don't have to ruin your life, however. In fact, there may even be a way you can continue to drive following a DUI conviction. Of course, it's all the better if you can avoid conviction altogether, but if not, then making the best of a bad situation is often the key to getting life back on track. If you install an ignition interlock device in your car, you may be able to drive, but you'll also want to beware of the possible ramifications of failing a breath test.

What is Megan’s Law?

If you have ever been convicted in any state of a sex-related crime involving a child and are now living in California, you must register as a sex offender in this state. The California Department of Justice’s Megan’s Law Website sets forth full information regarding Megan’s Law, Section 290.46 of the California Penal Code, that was passed in 1996. The law is named for seven-year-old Megan Kanka, whose neighbor raped and murdered her. Although he was a known child molester, he nevertheless had been allowed to move across the street from Megan’s family without their knowledge.

Subsequent to Megan’s death, her parents advocated for public warnings and information about sex offenders so that other families could easily access such information and be aware of sex offenders living in their neighborhood. Today, all states have passed some form of Megan’s Law, and the resulting state sex offender registries give the public easy access to information about where convicted child sex offenders are living.

What is sexual harassment?

If you are a California employer or independent contractor, you may not be aware that California law requires you to train all your supervisory employees in how to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The California Department of Employment and Housing defines sexual harassment as not only an unwanted sexual advance, but also any form of physical, verbal or visual sexual conduct that harasses someone of the opposite or same sex as that of the harasser.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many forms, including the following:

  • Physical – touching someone, assaulting them or blocking their movements
  • Verbal – making derogatory comments or jokes about someone’s physical appearance; verbally abusing them by means of degrading words or graphic commentaries of a sexual nature; requesting sexual favors in exchange for workplace benefits and/or threatening retaliation if they refuse
  • Visual – displaying sexually suggestive pictures, posters, cartoons or objects or making sexual gestures such as leering

Can you really be prosecuted for graffiti?

If you are a young California resident thinking about putting some of your “art work” on someone else’s property, you may wish to think again. Section 594 of the California Penal Code defines graffiti as any type of unauthorized design, figure, mark, words or inscription that you paint, draw, etch, write or scratch on someone else’s real or personal property without his or her permission. This includes a building, a vehicle, a sign, or any other kind of property.

California considers graffiti to be a type of malicious mischief known as vandalism. It is a crime for which you can be prosecuted.

What raises a DUI to a felony DUI?

Every crime has varying degrees of severity. When it comes to driving under the influence, there is a big difference in a DUI and a felony DUI. According to California law, what raises a standard DUI charge to felony level status?

Driving under the influence is a crime that numerous people have committed in their lifetime, though, many do not get caught. Police officers cannot be everywhere at all times. If an officer pulls you over for suspected DUI, you may wonder what that means for you if you end up being charged and ultimately convicted. At the end of the day, how you are charged all depends on a few things: the circumstances surrounding your arrest, your level of intoxication and your criminal record.

Refuting larceny charges

FindLaw summarizes theft laws in California by first defining theft - a crime against property - and then emphasizing burden of proof. Prosecutors, they say, "must establish the defendant's intent to permanently take or withhold the property owner's possession or right to the property." At Leupp & Woodall, we understand the ins and outs of defending against larceny charges and often assist clients who face them. 

Larceny, another legal term for stealing, generally falls in two categories: petty or grand. The courts label thievery of possessions worth less than $950 as "petty" crimes and heists of valuables worth more than $950 as "grand." As simple as the label sounds, it is actually a determining factor when judges impose penalties. Knowing how the law views your incident will help you mentally prepare for what follows.

What it means to possess and distribute drugs

Some California residents may not realize that there are a variety of drug charges. Because the penalty can change depending on what offense a person is charged with, it is important to understand these differences. One kind of drug charge deals with the ownership of drugs and a person's intent to give them away.

Simply having drugs does not mean that a person means to distribute them to other people. According to FindLaw, someone needs to both plan to dole out the drugs and own the drugs in order to be charged with possession with the intent to distribute. This is because it needs to be demonstrated that a person planned to give the drugs to other people. This means that if someone has a small amount of a certain drug, they are likely not planning to distribute it. It is usually when a person has a large amount of a drug that they may be charged with the intent to distribute.