A 55-year-old man who fled the scene of a vehicle-versus-pedestrian crash in Studio City that killed a musical collaborator of singer Christopher Cross was sentenced Monday to three years formal probation.

The Defendant, who earlier pleaded no contest to hit-and-run driving resulting in death, was also ordered to complete 18 months of mental health counseling as part of the sentence negotiated with prosecutors.

Vehicle Code section 20001, also known as felony hit-and-run involving death or injury, is a wobller in California.  That means that the District Attorney may prosecute the crime as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the conduct and facts of the case.  A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000 and no less than 90 days of county jail and no more than 1 year in county jail.  This is a 2-point violation on your driver’s license and you are also subject to payment of restitution.  A felony is punishable by the same fine, 2, 3 or 4 years in the state prison, restitution and the same point violation on your driver’s license.

If you have been contacted by local law enforcement regarding a hit-and-run, or have already been charged or booked on hit-and-run charges, contact attorney Ross Erlich as soon as possible.  Consult with an attorney before speaking with law enforcement, before walking into court and before you consider pleading guilty because “I did it, what’s the point of fighting the case?”  There are oftentimes many ways to resolve these types of cases, including, but not limited to, civilly compromising the case with the victim in order to have your case dismissed and establishing that you did not legally flee the scene of the accident, among others.

Do yourself a favor and consult with attorney Ross Erlich, for free, to learn what options are available to you before you make your first move.  Ross Erlich handles hit-and-run cases in Los Angeles county, San Bernardino county, Ventura county, Orange county and Riverside county.

An elementary school principal has been charged with DUI murder in connection with a head-on crash in Palmdale that killed a woman.  The suspect principal was ordered jailed in lieu of $2 million bail while awaiting arraignment next month.

The case is taking place at the Lancaster/Antelope Valley courthouse in LA County and the report alleges that the suspect was behind the wheel of her jeep when it veered into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with the victim’s car.

If convicted of this charge, the suspect faces a strike conviction and 15 years to life in state prison.

DUI causing death murder charges, or “Watson,” murder, is a way for prosecutors in California to prosecute someone who was DUI and caused a death with second-degree murder.  This occurs if the state can prove that the defendant was committed the offense with “implied malice.”  Implied malice, in plain English, means that the suspect does not need to intend to cause death, but acted with conscious disregard for human life.  Thus, if you deliberately get into your car while intoxicated, drive and end up causing a death, the driving while impaired can be interpreted as conscious disregard for human life.

Typically, “Watson” murders are charged only after someone has had a prior DUI conviction or has attended one of the statewide drinking and driving programs.

If you have been charged with a DUI causing a death or causing great bodily injury, it is important to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.  Attorney Ross Erlich handles DUIs in Los Angeles county, Ventura county, San Bernardino county, Orange county and in Riverside county.  Additionally, if the facts surrounding the incident look bad, there are some pre-court actions attorney Ross Erlich can share to help improve your case status at the first court appearance.

Remember, if you are convicted of a DUI in California, you are looking at possible jail time, fines, loss of driver’s license, community service, problems with employment and other obligations.

Contact Ross Erlich today for a free case consultation and to stop the DMV from suspending your license.

Police in Santa Ana are looking for a suspect in a violent attack on a McDonald’s manager after the suspect requested ketchup.

According to police, the suspect entered the back employee entrance of the restaurant and requested the ketchup.  When the manager told the suspect that she was not allowed in that employee area, the suspect started kicking, punching and choking the manager.  The surveillance footage of the incident shows the suspect banging the manager’s head against a soda machine with her hands around the manager’s neck.

Eventually a man appears from the back entrance and walks the suspect out of the McDonald’s.

The suspect is likely going to be facing assault and battery charges, as well as potential criminal threats and commercial burglary charges.  In additional to facing charges for violent felonies, this case has gotten a decent share of publicity locally and prosecutors know that news outlets, and the public, will be watching.  What does that mean?  Well, it means that they are likely going to want to make sure the suspect faces a stiff sentence and any effort to negotiate or get a lenient sentence will be met by fierce opposition.

Typically, assault and battery charges and even commercial burglary charges can be dealt with by either a civil compromise, a diversionary sentence, probation, or some reduction of charges.  Depending on the nature of the assault/battery, the monetary amount of items taken or the type of conduct that occurred, a skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can help navigate a sentence that does not result in a conviction, a dismissal, suspension of criminal proceedings or other advantageous results.

If you or someone you know has been arrested in Los Angeles for assault, battery, making criminal threats or committing a commercial burglary, contact attorney Ross Erlich today for a free consultation.  Remember, don’t walk into court without someone speaking for you.

With all of the fires that are, and were, devastating California these past couple weeks, it should be pointed out that thousands of the firefighters on the front lines are inmates in California prisons.  Many clients facing prison time often request that the trial court judge allow them to participate in fire camp.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) run a large volunteer fire program known as conservation “fire” camp.  Inmates are paid $2 a day and $1 a day when fighting an active fire.  They also, most importantly, earn time off of their sentences by participating in this program.  Each volunteer is evaluated individually to see if they are willing team members who demonstrate nonviolent behavior and are of “minimal custody” status.  There are additional steps that the jails take to evaluate inmate requests.

These inmates live in “conservation camps”, and, when there are no active fires, help to clear brush, storm drains/channels and maintain hiking and fire trails.  Today, CDCR, Cal Fire and the LA County Fire Department operate 43 adult conservation camps in 27 counties with over 3,400 inmates participating.  Many officials of the program cite the cost-savings to the state and the fact that inmates learn co-working skills, firefighting skills and rehabilitation.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a misdemeanor or felony in California and is interested in fire camp, contact attorney Ross Erlich today for a free case evaluation.  Attorney Ross Erlich handles all felony and misdemeanor crimes in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and San Bernardino counties.

A man riding a bicycle was struck and killed in a hit-and-run accident Thursday morning in Van Nuys, with the driver taken into custody on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Police responded about 3:45 a.m. to Haskell Avenue and Stagg Street and found the victim, said Officer Norma Eisenman, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department.

The cyclist was struck from behind and pushed up to 40 feet, NBC4 reported.  The driver fled the scene and was found about a mile away at Woodley Avenue and Saticoy Street, where he was taken into custody, Eisenman said.

The driver was combative and fought with officers while being arrested and was transported to a hospital with unknown injuries, NBC4 reported.

So, you’re the drive, what happens now?  Well, you are likely going to be held on high bail and, in all likelihood, will face charges of felony hit-and-run, resisting arrest and felony dui causing injury and/or vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.  All of which are serious offenses.

As discussed in prior blogs about DUIs and hit-and-runs, the technical facts surround the incident are crucial.  Did the officer(s) observe you drive?  If not, are there any circumstantial facts that would demonstrate driving?  What was your blood alcohol concentration?  Were you taking any medication at the time of the incident?  All of these facts are critical since prosecutors prosecuting DUIs rely on technical facts to prove their case.

It is also critical to contact the DMV within 10 days from the date of incident/arrest to prevent them from automatically suspending your driver’s license and request an administrative hearing.

Depending on the facts of your case, the extent of any injuries to victim(s) and other mitigation factors, punishment could range from no jail and probation to years in state prison and a year-long license (or more) license suspension.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI, hit-and-run or DUI causing injury in Los Angeles, San Bernardino or Orange county, contact attorney Ross Erlich as soon as possible.  Attorney Ross Erlich can contact the DMV and request a hearing without having them automatically suspend your license and work to suggest steps you may take to improve the outcome in your case before you even go to court for the first time.

The actor who played “Mr. Feeny” on the ABC sitcom “Boy Meets World” thwarted an attempted burglary at his San Fernando Valley home on Tuesday.

William Daniels and his wife were in their home Saturday night at about 9:20 p.m. when someone tried to kick in the back door, as was reported.

Daniels jumped up, turned on the lights and scared off the intruder, TMZ reported.  Police believe the attempted burglary at Daniels home was a random act and not tied to the string of recent celebrity break-ins across the city, TMZ reported.

Home burglary is a serious offense in Los Angeles.  It is even more serious if the home was occupied at the time of the burglary or attempted burglary.

Burglary (California Penal code 459) is defined as “entering any residential or commercial building or room with the intent to commit a felony or a theft once inside.”  A person does NOT need to actually commit the felony or theft once inside, it is sufficient that they simply entered with the required intent.

First-degree burglary is the burglary of a residence.  Since someone’s home is their “castle”, the law punishes, more significantly, the burglary of a residence.  First-degree burglary is a felony that is punishable by 2-4-6 years in state prison.  Additionally, a conviction for first-degree burglary counts as a “strike” for California’s Three Strikes law.

There are a number of reasons why you, or someone you know, may not have committed an actual burglary or may be guilty of some other, lesser, charge.  If you did not have the required intent to commit a theft or felony while in the structure, if you were mistaken as to where you were entering, if you were trying to retake items that were lawfully owned by you.

If you or someone you know has been charged with burglary, contact Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Ross Erlich as soon as possible.  Remember, facts of the case are important and they always differ between each case.  No two cases have the same set of facts, so call us today for your free case consultation.   Ross Erlich handles burglary cases in all courts throughout Southern California, including Airport Court, Van Nuys Court, San Fernando Court, CCB, Pasadena Court, and San Bernardino county

New LAPD Chief Michael Moore is considering a plan that would allow thousands of homeless peoples to get rid of their old bench warrants as part of a larger effort to reform a system that, in all honesty, is broken.

Getting rid of all of these old bench warrants on homeless persons would help end a vicious cycle that starts with homeless persons not able to, let’s say, pay a fine.  Then a bench warrant is issued when they don’t show up to court to pay the fine.  Then, ultimately, they come into contact with law enforcement and are arrested on their outstanding warrant for failure to pay a fine.  That means they go into custody (jail). get brought into the court, still can’t pay the fine, and are usually released right then and there since the underlying crime or violation is not serious at all.

This cycle explained above costs thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars.  It will also ease the pressure on the court system, jails, and police stations which are overwhelmed with the hundreds of daily arrests for old warrants.

Many of the original crimes homeless persons are cited for are “quality of life” crimes – sleeping on sidewalk, public urination, low-level drug possession.  These are usually simple fines, but can add up after court costs are imposed and become more of a problem once they go into warrant status.

Criminal bench warrants can be an issue for you if you haven’t shown up for court or have failed to return to court to show progress or completion of a court-ordered program.  Typically, people are placed on probation following a conviction and, usually, must complete some type of obligation(s) to the court.  This can range from something as minimal as pay a fine up to regular court appearances to show progress in a domestic violence program, alcohol program, and current restitution payments.  If you fail to show up to one of those appearances, you are looking at, potentially, increased punishment for the probation violation, which can be greater than what you originally were obligated to do.

Furthermore, there is always the chance the judge wants to set bail if you have failed to show up for court or it has been a long time since your warrant was issued.  A good criminal defense attorney can discuss with you ways in which to potentially avoid any bail and strategies to minimize any probation violation before even walking into court.

If you or someone you know has a bench warrant in Los Angeles county, Orange county, San Bernardino county or Ventura county, contact attorney Ross Erlich as soon as you can.  Judges are happier when the least amount of time has elapsed since the warrant has been issued.

Attorney Ross Erlich handles all criminal bench warrants, including those for battery, dui, drug possession, petty theft, hit-and-run, assault, suspended license and domestic violence.

An L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy has been shown to have faked evidence and this was kept secret from the public and suspects in his cases for years.

In 2003, deputy Jose Ovalle was working his shift at a county jail.  While on shift, a fight broke out between gang members at the jail, resulting in one person getting stabbed multiple times.  Deputy Ovalle was responsible for collecting the evidence in this assault case and, when he realized he could not find the bloody shirt from one of the suspects, he took a clean shirt, spilled taco sauce on it to look like blood, and photographed it for evidence.  Ultimately someone observed him doing this, reported it to the supervisor, and deputy Ovalle was handed a 30-day suspension, only having to serve 10 days of that.

Ovalle’s past has been kept a secret from prosecutors, judges and, jurors and defendants for the past several years, even though he was a witness, or even the arresting officer, in many of these cases.  Deputy Ovalle took the witness stand in 31 cases before the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office found out about his prior misconduct.  This created problems since the DA’s office then had to go back to all of the cases deputy Ovalle was involved in and make “sweetheart” deals or drop criminal charges altogether.

This story, sadly, is not uncommon.  Police misconduct is routinely kept hidden by California’s police privacy laws.  Even though the U.S. Supreme Court requires prosecutors to inform criminal defendants, and their lawyers, about an officer’s wrongdoing, the state’s laws prevent the prosecution from directly accessing the personnel files of officers.  Thus, California places the burden on defendants and their attorneys to prove to a judge that an officer’s record is relevant.  In other words, the burden is on us, the defense, to prove that a police officer’s record needs to be looked into.  It is not something that is disclosed to us automatically, or even after we conduct a hearing.

Additionally, there is a secret list of Sheriff “problem” deputies that have been involved in misconduct that is kept by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  The new Sheriff, Jim McDonnell, wanted to disclose this list (containing approximately 300 deputies) to prosecutors, but the police union sued in court to stop this.  The California state Supreme Court will be deciding soon whether the Sheriff’s Department, and other law enforcement agencies, can tell prosecutors if a police witness has a record of serious discipline.

Some people somewhat jokingly ask me, “how do you sleep at night?”, referring to my work defending people charged with committing crimes, sometimes very serious ones.  Well, this article summarizes my usual answer to them.  A criminal defense attorney’s number 1 job is to zealously advocate on behalf of their client to the best of their ability.  This means leaving no stone unturned, fighting for their client as if it is themselves and making sure the government is doing their job correctly and playing by the rules.

When it comes to getting facts straight, the one thing attorney Ross Erlich does with each of his clients is to sit down and go over the police report and arrest narrative to make sure what the officer is saying is correct and/or totally accurate.  Oftentimes there are small discrepancies which we need to address with the prosecutor.  Other times there is a need to file a motion with the court informing the judge we believe there may be some misconduct on behalf of the officer(s) involved and request disclosure of any misconduct on the officer’s personnel record.

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is essential that you hire an attorney who will do these things on your behalf.  If you read more about the story above, you’ll find that hundreds of defendants whose case started with Deputy Ovalle plead guilty and many might not have even thought to ask about his misconduct.  Contact attorney Ross Erlich today for a free consultation and to find out what other tools we have at our disposal to ensure your case is handled correctly.

As of January 1, 2018, California courts are offering pre-plea diversion in certain drug cases.  The benefit to this pre-plea diversion, over the more traditional “formal” diversion, is that the defendant never enters a plea and, thus, is never actually convicted of anything.  They can earn a complete dismissal of the charges without suffering a conviction on their record.

Prior to this change, and for about the last 10 years, California offered a diversion called deferred entry of judgement or “DEJ.”  In the older DEJ diversions, the defendant had to plead guilty, sentencing was continued for 18 months, and the defendant would complete a drug-treatment program.  If the defendant successfully completed a drug-treatment program and had no other arrests for the diversion period, the defendant could withdraw his plea of guilt, enter a not-guilty plea and the court would dismiss the case.

There was, and still is in cases not eligible for pre-plea diversion, devastating consequences for some defendants.  First off, the federal government does not recognize diversions as a dismissal.  Thus, for purposes of your FBI criminal background, even if your case was ultimately dismissed after successful completion of DEJ, the federal government still views that as a conviction.  If you are an immigrant who is here illegally, or have limited status in the country, the conviction under federal law means that you are subject to deportation, denial of naturalization or exclusion from re-entry into the country.  Additionally, people who hold certain licenses or security clearances could lose their jobs and/or licenses as a result of this conviction.

All for a minor possession charge.

With the availability of a pre-plea diversion, there is no longer any conviction on your record.  The defendant simply waives his right to a speedy trial for up to two (2) years and the case remains “pending” while the defendant completes a drug-treatment program.  After completing the program, paying court fees and avoiding any new arrests, the case is dismissed and the defendant walks away without any conviction, ever, on his or her record.

If you have been charged with a drug crime, contact attorney Ross Erlich to talk about your rights and options with the court.  You might be eligible for pre-plea diversion, veteran’s court or a mental health diversion.

Ross Erlich handles drug charges in all courts throughout southern California, including the Airport Court, CCB Courthouse, Pasadena Court, Burbank Court, Van Nuys Court and the San Fernando Court.

President Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was destroyed, again, this week by someone with a pick ax.  This is the second time in less than two years that his star was vandalized.

Witnesses observed a man carrying the pick ax break up the star on the pavement.  The suspect then called police himself and advised that he was the one who vandalized the star.  The man was later booked on suspicion of felony vandalism.

In the previous incident, the defendant in that case plead no contest to felony vandalism and was sentenced to three years of probation, 20 days of community service and ordered to pay $4,400 for the damage.

Vandalism laws in California prohibits the maliciously damaging, defacing or destroying someone else’s property, you did not own that property, or owned it with someone else.  If the property’s value is below $400, this will generally result in a misdemeanor charge.  If the damage done is above $400, this will generally result in a felony (“wobbler”) charge.    The penalties for a conviction of misdemeanor vandalism can include up to 1 year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000 (or more if you have prior convictions), and informal probation.  Keep in mind, however, that other potential penalties can include a suspension of your driver’s license for up to 2 years, mandatory counseling and community service.

While every case, and set of facts, is different, some common defenses to vandalism charges are that the damage was an accident, mistaken identity, damage done was not malicious in nature.  Also, the use of a “civil compromise” is common in vandalism cases and allows for the criminal proceedings against you to be permanently suspended (effectively dismissed).

If you have been charged or are being investigated for a vandalism-related offense, contact attorney Ross Erlich as soon as possible.  There are a number of ways in which to fight your case and attorney Ross Erlich provides a free case consultation.  Oftentimes reaching out to the victim in the case to make sure they are compensated for any out-of-pocket expenses and are “made whole”, greatly helps the case resolve in your favor.

Don’t go at it alone.  Let an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney represent your best interests and get you the result you deserve.  Attorney Ross Erlich handles vandalism cases in all Los Angeles county courthouses, Orange county courthouses, and Ventura county courthouses.


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