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August 2019 Archives

Understanding California’s ignition interlock device laws

When accustomed to having a California driver’s license, learning to get by in the absence of one because of a drunk driving conviction can prove immensely difficult. Even after you regain the privilege to drive, you may face additional driving-related hurdles if the court requires you install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.

Why probable cause isn't required to access online data

A person who uses Facebook or Twitter may unwittingly have their information handed over to authorities in California or other states. The same may be true of those who use Venmo, Lyft or Uber. Property owners who use the Ring home security system may not know that Amazon will generally provide basic personal information to authorities. This may happen even if the property owners themselves have refused to comply with a request to provide that data.

Shoplifting charges in California

When voters in California passed Proposition 47 in 2014, the penalties for many minor crimes were reduced. However, the consequences faced by shoplifters in the Golden State can still be severe. There is no law in California that specifically deals with shoplifting, so offenders are sentenced under the state's theft laws. Individuals caught stealing inexpensive items will usually face petty theft charges that carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. When goods worth more than $950 are involved, shoplifters can face grand theft charges and be sent to jail for up to a year. Stealing a gun can lead to even more severe penalties.

Federal prosecutors announce Bay Area crime crackdown

Federal prosecutors in California announced on Aug. 7 that 17 law enforcement agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service will be teaming up to curb rampant drug use, robberies, gun sales and other crimes in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood. The crackdown is expected to last for at least a year. A representative from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California said the multi-agency operation was being launched to improve the lives of local residents and not to harass the area's large homeless population.

Court ruling expands the definition of convictions

If a person in California has been taken into custody in the past seven years, it may show up in a background check. If the person was convicted of a crime, it may show up in a background check regardless of how long ago it happened. According to a decision made by the Seventh Circuit, a conviction occurs at the federal level whenever a person pleads guilty to a crime.

Civil rights groups urge prosecutors to keep Brady lists

Police officers are often the most compelling witnesses in criminal prosecutions because juries tend to find their testimony extremely convincing. This is why civil rights groups in several states recently sent letters that urged prosecutors to compile lists of law enforcement personnel who have behaved in ways that call their impartiality and professionalism into question. One of these letters was sent by groups including ACLU California to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Witness errors can sway the outcome of a case

Those who witness crimes in California or other states may be asked to pick the perpetrator out of a lineup. However, it is relatively common for an individual to pick the wrong person or get other details of a case wrong. Therefore, it is important that authorities have a way to determine how accurately a witness picks a potential defendant out of a lineup. There are many possible signs that an identification is correct.

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