Month: December 2018

How is DNA Profiling Used in California?

In 1953, the double helix, the twisted-ladder like structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (“DNA”) was discovered by scientists James Watson and Francis Crick. DNA is a self-replicating material present in all human beings as the main part of their chromosomes. This material is important because it carries an individual’s unique genetic information.

DNA profiling was originally developed as a method to determine paternity. It was used to link a parent to a child. It was first used in court in 1986 during a criminal trial to exonerate a 17-year-old teen who  confessed to two rape-murders in England. The DNA tests proved that the actual attacker was someone else, not the teen. Even though the teen confessed to both rape-murders, he was exonerated because they were able to prove that it was not his DNA found at the crime scene or on the victims.

In the United States, the first use of DNA profiling to support a conviction occurred in 1987 in Orange County, Florida. Tommy Lee Andrews, was convicted of rape after DNA tests matched his DNA, from a blood sample, with that of semen traces found in the rape victim.

What is DNA Profiling?

DNA profiling was considered a breakthrough in forensic science. For the first time, law enforcement was able to use technology to identify an accused person and link or connect that person to a crime based on the presence of genetic material at the crime scene. This same genetic material can also be used to exonerate an wrongfully-charged person. Practically, it can support a not-guilty verdict in a criminal case, as was the case with the English teen, or can be used as the basis of overturning a criminal conviction.

No two people, with the exception of identical twins, have the same DNA. Approximately 99.9% of the human DNA sequence is the same for every person. The remaining .01%, and the matter most valuable to a forensic scientist, is different in every person. DNA profiling creates a map of the .01% of a human’s DNA that is different. A unique identifier is established to connect the matter to a person and enable law enforcement to connect a person to the crime scene.

Charged With a Felony or Misdemeanor in Los Angeles?

The Law Offices of James E. Blatt has two convenient locations in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area in Beverly Hills and Encino. Call us toll-free at (877) 546-2528 24/7 to speak to a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney today. At the Law Offices of James E. Blatt, we have been committed to providing our clients with the best possible criminal defense in every type of criminal case. We provide zealous representation and make recommendations on how best to resolve your criminal case.

If you are under investigation by state, federal, or international authorities or have been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense, seek legal representation from the Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys.


Money Bail Abolished in California

In late Summer 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a landmark criminal justice bill, Senate Bill No. 11, abolishing cash bail in criminal cases. California is the first state to abolish the cash bail system in criminal cases. Beginning in October 2019, the law now gives judges the discretion to decide who is released on his or her own recognizance or who must remain in custody pending a plea bargain or trial following an arrest for a criminal offense, whether misdemeanor or felony. The new law can be found here.  

Up until the law was passed, accused defendants had to buy their release from jail through a bail bondsman or with cash. Now, individuals will be released after arraignment with no bail, on their own recognizance or under supervised conditions.

Hailed as a victory for criminal justice reform advocates, the elimination of cash bail was one of many criminal justice reforms passed by the outgoing Governor Brown. Opponents of cash bail systems argued for years that the cash bail system disadvantages the poor and overcrowds jails with defendants accused of minor offenses. Judges must now determine who is a public safety threat or a flight risk when making custody determinations.

Bail Schedule Abolished

Bail in California used to be established according to a fixed bail schedule published by Los Angeles County or other initiating law enforcement agencies. Judges considered the charge and the defendant’s prior criminal record and used that information to determine a cash bail amount.  The judges had no discretion in setting bail. They were required to set bail according to the schedule. If the defendant was unable to pay cash bail, he or she was able to hire a bail bonds person who would pay the cash bail for a fee.

New Risk Assessment System to be Established

When the new law goes into effect in October 2019, judges will determine bail as follows:

  • Individuals charged with a non-violent minor or misdemeanor charge, if considered a low to medium risk, will be released 12 hours after they are arrested and booked, before they see the judge for an arraignment. No cash bail will be imposed. The individuals will be given a date to appear in court for their arraignment.
  • Individuals considered medium to high risk and who are accused of committing a violent offense or are repeat offenders, will remain in custody (jail) until a bail hearing or trial. No bail will be set, especially if the defendant failed to appear in court before. To make their assessment, judges will consider the accused person’s criminal history and nature of the offense.

Charged With a Crime in Los Angeles?

If you have been arrested or under investigation for a criminal offense in California, whether state, federal, or international, seek the knowledgeable and experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys to assist you.

At the Law Offices of James E. Blatt, we are committed to providing zealous representation of our client’s best interests. Our attorneys have been involved in every type of criminal defense, from misdemeanors to felonies to complex international prosecutions. We successfully represent clients in the investigation, plea bargain, trial, and appeal stages in state, federal, and international court.

Proudly serving the greater Los Angeles metro area, along with Beverly Hills and Encino, the Law Office of James E. Blatt is available to begin legal representation immediately following an arrest. Speak to a lawyer now. Call toll-free at (877) 546-2528 to request a confidential consultation right away.


The Hertzberg-Alarcon California Prevention of Terrorism Act

California legislators recognised the need to combat terroristic threats, more specifically those where biological, nuclear, WMDs (weapons of mass destruction), radio-logical and chemical agents could be used in perpetrating such actions. As these weapons could place Californians in great peril, Governor Gray Davis signed the Hertzberg-Alarcon California Prevention of Terrorism Act on September 28, 1999.

With specific punishments that include automatic life in prison, it is important to familiarise yourself with HACPTA, its sanctions, and what penalties could be imposed for merely “pretending” to have the capacity to wipe out an entire state.

Specifics Addressed in This Act

According to California legislature, manufacturing, possessing, threatening to use, or transferring various gas, nerve, or explosive agents designed to cause injury or death to mass groups of people is an offence punishable with up to nine years in state prison. Those who have been previously convicted may serve up to 15 years in prison.

Persons possessing biological agents such as bacillus anthracis (anthrax), rickettsia, coccidioides immitis, South African hemorrhagic fever viruses, and toxins like diacetoxyscirpenol may be fined up to $250,000 or imprisoned for up to 12 years, or both. This includes the deliberate use or threatened use of commercial or industrial chemicals as weapons against animals or humans, and specific attacks that cause damage to food, crops, and seeds.

Those who successfully deploy these weapons against persons shall be punished by life in prison; if those weapons cause death to one or more persons, the sentence is enhanced to life without parole.

Emailing or faxing plans for weapons of mass destruction is punishable up to one year, but is enhanced to two years if receiving such plans induces fear.

Why Punishments are so Harsh

Terrorist threats have divided not only California, but our nation, since the events that transpired during 9/11. Even with heightened airport security and tougher immigration laws, terrorists are not only attempting to destroy us from the outside, but from within.

To help curb these crimes, the Act makes possessing, using, and selling these weapons both a state felony and quite possibly a federal charge if done on government property or if agents are launched at government properties from afar.

Defenses to Crimes Under this Act

As with all crimes, criminal defense attorneys will raise numerous meritorious defenses in their clients’ cases. Prosecutors must prove, beyond a doubt, that possession of such weapons was for the sole purpose of causing mass destruction, to induce fear, to embezzle, or to perform other criminal acts.

Defense attorneys will note that their client:

  • Did not know the agent was on a banned substance list;
  • Had no intention to email or transmit via facsimile plans to create such weapons;
  • Lived with a person who actually possessed these items; and
  • Was nowhere near the weapon when it launched.

Successful defenses may dismiss charges or lessen them to misdemeanors. Material evidence and witnesses will be cross-examined to discredit potentially false or misleading information presented by the state.

Terrorist threats are serious charges in California, punishable by death in some scenarios. If under investigation for possessing or using weapons with banned substances, contact James E. Blatt immediately.


What Happens if I Fight Extradition Back to California?

If you have been charged with a serious felony like homicide in California, but have moved to another state, the prosecutor and judge in your case may approve extradition back to California to face charges. Fighting extradition may or may not have benefits depending on how you look at things.

Should your loved abscond justice, and you are wanting to help them make the right decision, we will discuss both the pitfalls and positives in waiving or fighting extradition to California.

Determining Whether Crimes are Extraditable

California, like 47 other states, follows the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act (UCEA) which states that any person wanted on charges can be held in any U.S. locality until the receiving state (California) decides to expound time and resources to pick the wanted person up. Only Missouri and South Carolina have not adopted the UCEA but may have their own rules on extradition.

In deciding whether fugitives from justice should be extradited, California will consider:

  • Distance from California in relation to seriousness of offense;
  • Costs involved including paying personnel, fuel, lodging and food;

Note that California will generally pick up fugitives in any state for murder or similarly high offenses.

Waiving or Fighting Extradition

By signing a waiver of extradition, fugitives forgo their right to fight being captured in another state. From there, California has 30 days to arrange transport back to the county that charged the fugitive. Each day spent in custody after waiving extradition gets credited toward the offence which the fugitive will face.

Should a fugitive fight extradition, a court date will be established to hear arguments why the defendant should not be returned to California. If the crime is a lower felony or misdemeanor, a bond may be issued, which allows the fugitive to go free until their hearing.

If the court determines just cause exists to return the fugitive back to California, a Governor’s Warrant will be signed and the person being returned will be transported within 90 days. Note that whether it takes 10 or 80 days, none of that time goes toward the underlying offence which the fugitive will face back home.

Should I Fight, or Just Come Back?

There are no “cheat sheets” used by county prosecutors or judges to determine whether they’ll request your return back to California, but there are several factors of which you should be mindful:

  • Misdemeanor crimes are generally not worth the resources required to extradite if the defendant is over 500 miles away;
  • Low-level “wobbler” felonies and those deemed non-violent may, too, not be worth the county’s time and money unless the prosecutor really, really wants you;
  • The longer you run, the harsher you may be treated upon your return;
  • Extradition from Arizona to California, because it is a bordering state, may be imminent regardless what level of crime you face;
  • County jail overcrowding, availability of guards or police assets, amount of money required to bring you back home and the likelihood you will waive extradition are other factors used to determine whether you will be returned.

Due to California extradition time limits mandated by UCEA, decisions are often made quickly.

Yes, an Attorney can Represent You From Afar

If you are living in another state, and the prosecutor decided to charge you with some crime committed months or years ago, extradition back to California could happen if your whereabouts are known. You will then need to decide whether you will accept the extradition request, or fight it in the county in which you have been detained.

Each case for which extradition is possible is based on its own merits. No two decisions are ever the same. With criminal defense working for you back in California, you may receive a bond. You can then return to California yourself, allow your attorney to resolve the case in absentia, or go with what they suggest. Fighting or waiving extradition may have positives; your attorney will know.

Either way, take your potential extradition seriously.