So, I got this little DUI thingy going on…

You wake up, not remembering much, but do recall a little paper that you received the night before.  You pull it out from your pants pocket to look and it’s a notice to appear in court for the DUI that you got last night.  What fun!  Well, there are a certain number of things that you should keep in mind while you navigate this process and I’ll do my best to help explain that complicated process to you a bit.

Nearly all DUIs begin one of three ways: 1) you are pulled over for a traffic violation like speeding or not using your turn signal, 2) you are pulled over for an equipment violation on your car or 3) you were in an accident and law enforcement responded to that accident.

The officer will make contact with you and, without fail, will note in their report that at that time, you “observed the objective symptoms of intoxication,” such as “red bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and/or a flushed face”, and observed an “odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from your breath.”  You will then be asked to perform a number of standard field sobriety tests and, at the end of all of that fun, asked to blow into a preliminary alcohol screening device (PAS), commonly known as the breathalyzer.

Let’s take a quick break here.  You must remember, assuming you are in a state of mind to do so, that you are not obligated to perform any of the field sobriety tests and/or the PAS device and frankly, I wouldn’t do so myself.  Why you might ask?  Well, you will have to submit to another blood alcohol chemical test after you are arrested (more about that in a minute), the field sobriety tests are so difficult to complete without making an error that most people cannot successfully complete them sober, and blowing into the PAS this early into the investigation does not do you any favors.  Might as well wait for some time to go by and let that blood alcohol level decrease as much as possible.

Now, you do have to submit to a breath or blood test to determine the level of alcohol or drugs in your system.  This is known as the implied consent law in California and when you go to get your driver’s license, you are impliedly consenting to give a blood alcohol test when a law enforcement officer has suspicion that you are driving under the influence.  I typically “recommend” choosing the blood draw as this typically takes a little longer for law enforcement to get you somewhere that can draw the blood as opposed to going straight to the station where they have a breath test device set up.

So now you’ve already submitted to your blood alcohol test, have been arrested, booked, released, etc.  Now what?  Well, you now have 10 days from the date of arrest to contact the DMV to request a hearing before they automatically suspend your license and request a stay on the automatic suspension of your license, pending a hearing.  If you don’t plan on driving, you might consider not requesting a stay on that suspension in order to “start the clock” on your restriction earlier.  Remember that the DMV and the court have separate proceedings and that the court doesn’t care about the DMV and vice versa.  Thus, you criminal matter could be dismissed or never filed, yet you could still have your license suspended from the DMV.  Any Los Angeles criminal defense attorney worth their weight typically handles both proceedings for you.

Once we get to court, we are able to see all of the evidence against you.  Police reports, narratives of arresting officers, pictures, body cam footage, dashboard cam footage, etc.  This is our chance to see if you were properly arrested, if the officers’ narrative of the events are in fact accurate, whether you were properly admonished regarding the need to submit to an blood alcohol test, and a number of other things I look at to see if law enforcement did their job properly.  Anything they failed to do, lied about, or did not do as prescribed by law, creates ways I can attack the government’s case and the validity of the arrest.

The prosecutor typically looks at how “bad” your driving was, including the presence of a traffic accident, and looks a lot at the blood alcohol test results.  Thus, if the “numbers” are relatively low, lack of criminal history and not very “bad” driving, there is potential to get the charge reduced.

Without getting into more (not so exciting) detail on this post, this is the first steps involved in a DUI in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties.  If you want the full version, feel free to call my office and talk to me about your case.  This is what I do for a living so I’m always happy to hear your set of facts and let you know what we can expect at court.

California Paying Inmates $1 An Hour To Fight Fires

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.

LAPD Chief Proposes Eliminating Homeless Person’s Bench Warrants

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 countyOrange countySan Bernardino county or Ventura countycontact 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.

L.A. County To Build New Jail For Mentally Ill

In the wake of continued troubles for the Los Angeles County Jail system, the Board of Supervisors approved a plan that would move at least 1,000 mentally ill offenders out of current lockups and into a new facility focused on treating the mentally ill.  This plan begins as the criticism over how the county handles the mentally ill and substance abuse inmates who make up 20% of the total jail population.

This new approach, sought out by, among others, County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, would move mentally ill people out of jail and into treatment programs with the hope of reducing recidivism.  The hallmark of this plan would be the new 3,885 bed jail in downtown which would replace the old and troubled Men’s Central Jail.  The plan would be to move many of the mentally ill housed in the Twin Towers facility over to this new mental health facility and move those general population inmates in Men’s Central over to Twin Towers.  Twin Towers was originally set up to house the general population inmates and not specifically for the mentally ill.

The new jail will take between six to eight years to build and, as opposed to the traditional cells with metal bars lined up in narrow rows, the new living areas will have more open space and be easier for guards to monitor.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said her plan for the jail focused on putting more offenders into treatment rather than behind bars.

While this plan just recently won Board of Supervisor approval and is sure to face some obstacles, it signals a shift in local law enforcement priorities to provide treatment for the mentally ill and those with substance abuse problems as opposed to housing them in cells.  It is also yet to be seen how getting to this new facility will play out in the court system and whether or not there will be hurdles to clear in order to become “eligible” to serve time in the mental health/substance abuse facility.

If you or someone you know has been arrested, charged with or is being investigation for a crime, contact attorney Ross Erlich as soon as possible.  Attorney Ross Erlich has extensive experience representing clients with both mental health and substance abuse problems.  This representation usually involves assisting the client in inpatient or outpatient treatment facilities, mental health counseling, self-help resources and pre-filing work done to open the channels of communication between us and the prosecutor’f office before any crime is charged.

Contact our office for a free consultation today.

Smile! You Might Be On Camera!

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department just announced that they will be testing body cameras on dozens of deputies at selected stations as part of a six-month pilot program.

The Sheriff’s spokesperson says that 96 cameras are being tested and that deputies in the Antelope Valley and harbor region have already been wearing them.  The LAPD has been testing cameras on 30 officers working on foot patrols in Downtown Los Angeles for a nine-month period with plans on rolling out hundreds more next year.

As you may recall, the U.S. Justice Department found that the Antelope Valley Sheriff’s Deputies had been discriminating against blacks and Latinos with unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures and by using excessive force.  The use of these body cameras, it is presumed, is to correct this problem, repair the image of the Sheriff’s Department, and to make sure that there is video evidence to support the claims of either the law enforcement officer or the civilian.

Many in the public have been wandering why it has taken so long for law enforcement to start instituting body cameras in this day in age.  They cite the fact that many officers wear audio recording equipment and an increasing number of police vehicles have on-board dash cameras to record traffic stops and investigations.  A common argument has been that if all officers wore body cameras, we would have first-hand evidence of what really transpired during an incident or an alleged civil rights violation.

You might be asking yourself, what does this mean to me?  Well, it means that you should start paying a little more attention to your actions and words if stopped by law enforcement.  It means that soon are the days where there is no longer a “he said, she said” issue at the heart of a criminal case, but instead actual video footage of someone’s words, admissions, physical altercations and the like.

It can also mean that law enforcement personnel must now watch their actions more closely and be careful with what they say to people and how they handle their investigation and initial contact.  For example, cameras can make it easier to show the officer did not read you your Miranda warnings or prove that you were wrongfully accused.

If you have questions regarding what to do if stopped by the cops or if you have been arrested and are facing a criminal charge in Los Angeles, contact attorney Ross Erlich today for a free consultation.  Attorney Ross Erlich handles all felonies and misdemeanors in California and can properly advise you on how best to resolve the matter.

You’re Going To Need A Warrant For That, Officer

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Americans have a constitutional right to privacy in the personal information they carry on smartphones.  Thus, police may not search your smartphone without a warrant.

Chief Justice Roberts stated how modern cellphones contain the average American’s privacies of life and are not simply just a piece of technology.  Roberts continued by comparing smartphones to cameras, video players, calendars, tape recorders, diaries and the like.  All of these items would require a search warrant for law enforcement to search so the same should apply to the smartphone.

Now, law enforcement must convince a magistrate that they have probable cause to believe a crime is involved before they search a suspect’s smartphone and not just during the course of a routine arrest and search.

Prior to this Supreme Court decision, law enforcement agents would routinely search a suspect’s cellphone during an arrest without a warrant under the “search incident to arrest” exception.  The Court decided that this was no longer valid, as applied to cellphones, since the “search incident to arrest” exception has been traditionally limited to officer safety and to protect against destruction of evidence.

Law enforcement likes to search cellphones when there is a drug possession arrest, drug transportation arrest or possession for sales arrest in an attempt to find drug transaction text messages and/or contacts.  If you have been arrested for those charges, there are likely to be some search and seizure issues involved in your case.  For example, was there a search warrant?  Was a confidential informant used?  Was there a proper arrest?  Was type of surveillance, if any, was used?

If you or someone you know has been arrested for drug possession, possession for sales or drug transportation in Los Angeles, Torrance, Pasadena or anywhere else in Southern California, contact attorney Ross Erlich today.

Los Angeles County Probation Department Has Problems With GPS

The Los Angeles County Probation Department has admitted that they have lost track of some ex-convicts for days, and even weeks, at a time because of problems they have had with their GPS electronic monitoring system. LA County Probation Department Chief Powers said that while the county’s flawed GPS monitoring is an example of not to implement such a system, they are currently working to address and fix the problems.  Powers said the Probation Department found issues with the private provider around equipment failures, offenders being placed into inactive status without consultation of the Department and non-compliance of the hookup requirements of placing offenders’ equipment on within 24 hours. Another issue the Probation Department cited were the up to 20,000 alerts received each day, many of which were for low battery, blind spots and other minor or non-relevant alerts.

On top of that, any time there was an alert, each probation officer in the County was notified, even if they were not working the alert area. GPS monitoring can be a preferential alternative to county jail time for both people convicted of crimes and law enforcement.  The County makes sure that offenders are being monitored and it reduces jail overcrowding while the offender gets to remain out of jail and, in many instances, able to work and take care of family. If you or someone you know has been arrested, charged with or being investigated for a crime, contact attorney Ross Erlich ASAP.  Handling you or your loved one’s case the right way from the beginning can make all the difference in the world.  As you may have seen from this article, there are a number of ways to resolve your case that DO NOT involve going to jail or losing your job. Contact attorney Ross Erlich today to discuss the possibilities of probation in LA County and other alternatives to pleading guilty.

Miranda Warnings Must Be Given In Correct Spanish

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided on Monday that a district court judge erred by admitting comments made by a suspect after he was given his Miranda warnings in English and “poor” Spanish.

The Circuit Court ruled that a Miranda warning given in English and Spanish to a Spanish-speaking suspect is insufficient if a police officer’s translation fails to convey the true meaning of the arrested person’s rights.

As you may have heard on television of the movies, a Miranda warning is your right to remain silent, the fact that anything you say may be used against you in court, your right to an attorney before speaking to the police and if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you before you are questioned by police.

This issue arose when a detective used the word “libre,” meaning “without cost,” when giving the Miranda warning to a Spanish-speaking suspect.  Expert witnesses testified that this was an incorrect translation.  They testified that “libre” instead means free as in “being available or at liberty to do something,” and not as in free of cost.

If you have been stopped by law enforcement and are being questioned, remember that you have a Constitutionally-protected right to remain silent, not answer any questions and to be able to consult with your attorney before answering any questions.  If you cannot afford an attorney, you will be able to speak to a public defender when you are first brought before a judge.  Also remember this; it is never a good idea to answer questions without an attorney present or to think you can talk your way out of something.  This usually only provides the prosecutor with incriminating statements to be used at you at your criminal court case.

If you have been arrested or contacted by police in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Pasadena, Downtown Los Angeles or Santa Monica, contact attorney Ross Erlich as soon as possible.

An End To Marijuana Dispensaries?

The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that cities and local municipalities may ban medical marijuana dispensaries within their territory.  The Court stated that nothing in the current medical marijuana law restricts the rights of these local governments and cities throughout the state to declare medical marijuana dispensaries a nuisance due to the increased dangers of crime, congestion, blight and drug abuse in the community.

The problem was that under Proposition 215, the statewide proposition that allowed people to use medical marijuana as long as they had a recommendation from a doctor, there was never any mention of dispensaries, shops, stores or anywhere a patient could purchase their marijuana.  What Proposition 215 stated was that people and their primary caregivers can grow or possess marijuana with a physician’s recommendation.  The law made no mention about the availability of dispensaries or collectives.  The Court cleared the way for cities to decide how much, if any, regulation or limitation of dispensaries they choose.  For example, a city may limit dispensaries in a particular area within the city while placing no limits on dispensaries in another area.

Cities and dispensary owners have been in a years-long battle regarding what cities can and cannot due to limit the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries within their borders.  Further confusion ensued when lower courts all over the state issued rulings that conflicted rulings in other jurisdictions.  One only needs to look at the Los Angeles City Council who, at first, embraced dispensaries, then tried to regulate them, and then tried to ban them.

Drug possession, sales, cultivation and transportation are serious felony offenses in Los Angeles County.  On the flip side, increasingly liberal drug laws combined with overcrowding in state prisons and local jails make the resolution of these cases by attorney Ross Erlich more advantageous to you, the client.  Additionally, if you have a physician’s recommendation to possess or cultivate marijuana, that may also benefit your case.

If you have been charged with a drug offense such as simple possession, possession for sales, transportation of a controlled substance or cultivation, contact attorney Ross Erlich before you say something to law enforcement that you may regret down the line.  Attempting to “talk your way out of it” usually does not work and, consequently, usually results in statements that are used against you.  Attorney Ross Erlich handles drug offenses in the Airport Court, CCB (Criminal Courts Building), Burbank Court and the Pasadena Court.

Lohan To Miss Rehab Deadline?

Lindsay Lohan may be in some hot water with the law.  Again.  Lohan must provide proof to a Los Angeles Superior Court judge today that she has enrolled in rehab.  The problems has been that, according to social network websites and other news media, Lohan has yet to get enrolled in any program.  Additionally, a source in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office said they had not yet received any news of her enrollment.

As you may recall, Lohan entered into a plea agreement whereby she would serve 90 days in a live-in drug rehabilitation facility without the ability to come and go as she pleases.  This plea deal was in exchange for a no contest plea to misdemeanor reckless driving and providing false information to a police officer, stemming from her car accident on PCH.  Additionally, Lohan must spend 18 months in psychotherapy and serve 30 days of community service.

Why such a harsh punishment you might ask?  Well, Lohan was on probation at the time of this arrest and because of this, she faced increased penalties for violating the terms and conditions of her probation.  One of the terms and conditions of all grants of probation is to “not violate any law or order of the court.”  By pleading no contest to the new charges of reckless driving and providing false information to a police officer, Lohan violated her probation in the older case by violating a law while on probation.

I see many stories where people get into car accidents and decide to either leave the scene, committing a hit-and-run, or decide to give the responding police officer some inaccurate account of what happened.  Many times this is done to cover something up, not be blamed for the accident or in an attempt to not get arrested.  What you should be aware of is that lying or providing misleading information to a police officer can be a more serious charge then the underlying reckless driving or hit-and-run.

If you have been involved in a DUI, hit-and-run or reckless driving in Los Angeles and are set to go to the Van Nuys court, Airport court, Metropolitan court or Burbank court, contact attorney Ross Erlich before you decide to make any statements to law enforcement.  It will probably be your best decision.

L.A. County Sheriff Deputies Caught Lying

Two LA County Sheriff’s deputies were arrested last week and charged with lying about a drug bust.  The two deputies were charged with filing a false police report and conspiracy to commit a crime after investigators say they discovered videotape of the drug bust that contradicts the deputies’ report.

The deputies made a brief court appearance last Thursday, but the case was continued for arraignment on May 13.

The investigation of the two deputies’ story began after a criminal defense attorney for the man arrested discovered surveillance tape that contradicted the deputies’ description of the activities.  Specifically, the Sheriff’s deputies stated that they received a tip about a man selling cocaine out of his car in a parking lot.  The deputies then stated that they contacted the suspect next to the driver’s door of his car and that they observed narcotics in plain view inside of the vehicle.

The only problem with this account is that the videotape tells a different story.  In fact, the tape shows the deputies contact the suspect at the rear of his vehicle and thus, the deputies could not possibly be in a position to observe the narcotics.

The deputies now each face up to 3 years in prison if convicted of these charges.

Sadly, false, fabricated or exaggerated police reports are not uncommon in this business.  Some police officers realize that accurately reporting the incident does not always put them, or their actions, in the best light.  It is important that if you feel you have been wrongfully accused or charged with a crime, contact attorney Ross Erlich before you make any statements to investigators or authorities.  Trying to talk your way out of an arrest most often puts you in a worse position than you would be had you exercised your right to remain silent.

If you have been charged with a crime in Beverly Hills, Downtown Los Angeles, LA County, Metro Court, LAX or the Westside, contact attorney Ross Erlich as soon as possible for a free case consultation.

The right to a fair trial, and a fair playing field

In the 1963 landmark case of Brady v. Maryland, the US Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors cannot withhold exculpatory evidence from a defendant “where that evidence is material to either guilt or punishment.”  To do so would be to violate the criminal defendant’s due process rights.  In other words, the government must turn over any evidence that can help prove the defendant innocent or helps lessen the punishment.

In the 50 years that have passed, there are prosecutors all over the country that fail to comply with this due process requirement and laws that have been enacted in an effort to limit this responsibility.  For example, California passed Proposition 115 in 1990 and one of the components of this Proposition instructed prosecutors to turn over potentially favorable evidence to the defense at least 30 days prior to trial.  One of the side effects of this provision was that some prosecutors believed they were under no obligation to turn over this potentially favorable evidence for the defense at the preliminary hearing stage of a case, where judges decide whether there is sufficient evidence to hold a defendant to answer to trial.

Recently, however, two California appellate courts have made rulings which help to clear up this grey area and held that a prosecutor’s obligation to turn over potentially favorable evidence to the defense does not only apply to trials, but applies to preliminary hearings as well.  This is of critical importance to a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney as preliminary hearings help resolve groundless and overcharged cases that cannot be proven at trial.

If you have been charged with a crime in the Metropolitan Courthouse, Criminal Courts Building, Airport Court or Burbank Courthouse, it is imperative that you contact attorney Ross Erlich for a free consultation so that you may know your rights.  Remember that the role of a prosecutor is to achieve justice and not simply to get as many convictions as they can.  To that end, it is important to have an aggressive defense attorney who will remind the prosecutor of their duty and make sure all evidence is discovered.