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Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Factors that lead to wrongful convictions

Not everyone currently sitting behind bars is guilty of committing a crime. In fact, there are a number of prisoners in California and across the nation that are innocent and have not committed a crime at all. According to the Innocence Project, 364 people have been released from their prison sentences after DNA evidence proved they were not guilty. Why are innocent people being locked up while the guilty parties are able to continue their lives as a free people? Flaws in the United States judicial system lead to wrongful convictions and incarcerations. While some states and groups are lobbying to remedy these issues, people continue to get wrongful convictions.

The Innocence Project lists several factors that contribute to conviction injustice. Bad lawyering or inadequate defense is one major contributor. When people are unable to provide their own defense, an attorney may be appointed by the state to defend their case. In some situations, these attorneys do not care about protecting the innocence of their client, but rather use bad lawyering as a form of legal malpractice.

How a criminal offense impacts your professional life

Getting into legal trouble often has more consequences than people imagine. The effects can range from issues in your personal life to serious problems in your professional pursuits. There are many companies that have zero-tolerance policies for arrests or criminal convictions. Protracted absences during court could also jeopardize a job.

While it is possible for any employer to have a policy that penalizes employees convicted of crimes, certain professionals are more at risk for negative consequences resulting from pending criminal charges.

How much does a California DUI raise your auto insurance rates?

Your life typically undergoes considerable change once you have a California driving under the influence charge on your record, and you may find that you struggle to maintain employment and support yourself or your family after a conviction. While you may, depending on circumstances, face jail time, substantial fines and related repercussions in response to your crime, you will also experience ripple effects that come from somewhere other than the California court system.

More specifically, Insure.com reports that your car insurance rates will often skyrocket following a conviction for DUI, and this typically holds true regardless of where you live, geographically. From coast to coast, for example, drivers typically see their auto insurance rates climb somewhere between 28 and 371 percent following a conviction for DUI. So, how much can you expect your insurance rates to spike as a Californian with a DUI conviction?

What are DUI checkpoints?

In California, and in many other states across the nation, DUI checkpoints are used as a way to monitor the streets and keep drunk drivers off the roads. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, California holds at least 2,500 checkpoints annually in accordance with state and federal laws. While law enforcement officers require grounds for suspicion to pull you over on most occasions, DUI checkpoints allow officers to check drivers without any probable cause.

Although DUI checkpoints are legal, officers must abide by certain rules in order to avoid infringing on your rights. In California, the checkpoints must be set up and run by supervising officers. Officers must stop drivers randomly or all motorists in a neutral fashion, without discrimination. DUI checkpoints should be placed in a practical location and at a time where motorists will not be danger when slowing down for the roadblock. Furthermore, there must be proper signage and notification indicating that the stop is a DUI checkpoint. Motorists should be held by officers for a minimal amount of time during each check and should not be made to exit their vehicle unless there is reasonable suspicion of a wrongdoing.

Can you rescind a white-collar plea agreement?

If you face federal white-collar crime charges in California, you and your attorney may be able to negotiate a favorable plea agreement with the prosecutor. Per Forbes, approximately 90 percent of federal defendants enter into plea agreements instead of placing their fates in the hands of a jury.

While a plea agreement can prove advantageous to you, it also carries negatives including the following:

  • You forego your constitutional right to a trial by jury.
  • You will have to declare your guilt in open court.
  • You usually forego your right to appeal
  • You usually cannot later rescind your plea agreement if you change your mind about it.

Arson and aggravated arson: What are the differences?

With the recent horrendous California fires, it goes without saying that you should be very careful indeed about what you do whenever you are outdoors. If you start a fire, you could find yourself charged with arson or aggravated arson.

As FindLaw explains, the California Penal Code provides for two ways in which you could be held criminally responsible for any fire you start.

Students face school-related consequences for alcohol offenses

Alcohol on college campuses is often a major part of student culture. In some university clubs and organizations, group drinking and partying events are common initiation or bonding practices. Students may feel like they have no choice but to participate in the campus alcohol culture.

Even students who have not yet reached the legal drinking age may feel pressured to join in the over-consumption of alcohol. Unfortunately, there can be very serious criminal consequences for minors who drink on college campuses or at college parties. Possessing alcohol as a minor can result in an arrest and criminal penalties, as can getting behind the wheel after drinking.

Human limitations can lead to wrongful convictions

Wrongful convictions are not unheard of in the United States justice system. In fact, a number of people who are behind bars have been found innocent after further testing showed that they were innocent of committing a crime. Even more may be wrongfully incarcerated, serving life sentences or even sitting on death row. The Innocence Project, the Innocence Network and the International Association of Chief of Police joined together to educate judges, law enforcement officers and other professionals about human phenomenon that can lead to wrongful convictions.

Certain psychological factors, including confirmation bias, memory malleability, impact bias, tunnel vision, false confessions, lie dectection and eyewitness misidentification, contribute to erroneous convictions. For example, confirmation bias describes how people seek out information that helps to confirm what they already believe to be true. They also avoid or overlook information that may show that their belief is not true. This can cause law enforcement officers who are investigating a suspect, find information to support their lead, even if that lead is innocent. In order to process all of the information involved in a case, the human brain develops filters in an attempt to organize the facts. The problem lies in the fact that everyone’s filters for viewing information are different. These filters may lead people to overlook crucial evidence that could prove that the subject they are investigating is not guilty at all.

What is the zero tolerance law?

Drunk driving takes numerous lives every year in California. This is why the law takes the offense so seriously. If you are caught drinking and driving, you can expect to face stiff penalties. The law is even harsher when it comes to underage drivers who are under the influence and on the roadways. The state has a zero tolerance law, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The zero tolerance law applies to all drivers under the age of 21. It makes it illegal for an underage driver to have a blood alcohol content of over 0.01 percent. The legal limit for drivers over 21 is 0.08 percent for comparison. Essentially, any alcohol in your system, if you are underage, is illegal. If you get caught driving with any alcohol in your system, you will face serious consequences.

What does a restricted license allow me to do?

In the event you have been convicted of a DUI and have met certain requirements under California law, you could be eligible to receive your driving privileges back, but in limited form. While you will have some ways to go before you can retrieve your full driving privileges, with a restricted license, you do have some ability to get around the Los Angeles area.

The Department of Motor Vehicles for the state of California lays out the parameters for the use of a restricted license. These parameters allow you to fulfill key obligations in your personal and professional life. With a restricted license, you can drive to and from your place of work. You may also drive during your work hours, which means you should be able to fulfill work duties if they require you to step outside of your workplace.

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