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Criminal Defense | Drunk Driving | Military Law

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How You Should Deal With A Hit And Run Case

After practicing criminal law for over 20 years I have built up an impressive number of successful results in hit and run cases [California Vehicle Code Section 20002(a)]. The following describes the manner in which I handle these cases and it is the way every lawyer should handle these cases although in fact few do.

Just so its clear: hit and run in California occurs when someone hits another vehicle OR some other property (guardrail, wall, curb) and causes damage no matter how little and then fails to report it to the party who owns the property OR report it to the CHP within 2 hours of the accident. (California Vehicle Code Section 20002(a))

The first thing anyone should do when they have committed a hit and run is contact a qualified lawyer. DO NOT speak to the police without speaking to a lawyer first. Although you may think its obvious you were responsible for the accident you have no way of knowing what the police know. DO NOT make their case for them by confessing.

Commonly, after a hit and run, the police will get the plate number from a witness and then go to the person’s house right away. If you are at home the police can arrest you but generally they will give a citation if the only damage is property damage. If they smell alcohol OR suspect drug use around the time of driving they can treat you like a drunk driving/driving under the influence suspect and ask you to perform field sobriety tests and even require you to give blood or breathe to assess you for intoxication and then decide whether or not to arrest you for Driving under the Influence (DUI). A chemical test taken within three hours of driving may be used as evidence against you in a Drunk Driving case. (Some hit and run drivers leave the scene because they are intoxicated.)

The police may also decline to track down the individual that night or be unable to locate them and so they might just send a letter to the individual’s address based on the plate number from a witness. DO NOT call the officer. Speak to a qualified lawyer first. Please note that if you decline to have a lawyer call the police they might issue a warrant for you.

Once the police have made contact in person or by letter the lawyer should speak to the police and try to settle the matter PRIOR to the case getting sent to the District Attorney’s office. (The police are responsible for the investigation but it is the District Attorney who takes the investigation and files charges with the court).

California permits suspects in some property crimes to resolve their cases through a process called Civil Compromise under Penal Code Sections 1377-1378. This provision allows money to be paid to the victim to compensate them for their loss and the case dismissed. While the law specifically says that the judge and the victim must be in agreement for this to occur, in practice, the police investigating the matter can resolve the case in the manner of a civil compromise with the result that the police investigation is never sent to the District Attorney and the matter is simply closed without input from a judge. Attorney Will Bruzzo has managed to convince many police officers and victims of these crimes to agree to a civil compromise resolution. This is the ideal result because not only is there no court appearance but there are no charges filed. This is as clean a result one can achieve for a client in this situation.

If the victim or the police officer is not interested in civil compromise (strictly speaking if there is bodily injury to an individual then civil compromise is not appropriate but in practice hit and run cases with bodily injury can still be resolved with civil compromise.) then the case will proceed to the District Attorney’s office. It is good practice to also attempt to resolve the matter with the District Attorney prior to them filing; certainly no harm is done in trying. If the victim agrees to the civil compromise and signs an agreement to that effect or has verbally agreed, then the District Attorney can accept that arrangement and not file the case.

If all those attempts at civil compromise fail, then ultimately the Attorney can propose a civil compromise to the Judge. I have had cases where the District Attorney objected to the civil compromise but the victim wanted to resolve the matter in that way and the Judge went along and dismissed the case.

In summation, it is important to get a qualified attorney involved quickly in the process and try to resolve the case as early as possible. The three stages which provide an opportunity for resolution are: (1) during the police investigation; (2) when the matter is with the District Attorney but not filed; and (3) in court.

Attorney William W. Bruzzo has built up a practice of successfully resolving many hit and run cases [California Vehicle Code Section 20002(a)] without the client ever entering a plea of guilty or even going to court on some occasions, despite the fact the client clearly violated the law.

Criminal Law Updates by the Law Offices of Criminal Defense Attorney William W. Bruzzo (714) 547-4636.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Active Duty Service Member Retained at Administrative Separation Board

There are three different methods of disciplining people in the military: By Court-Martial, Non-Judicial Punishment and/or Administrative Separation. Administrative Separations will be the topic of this discussion.

An Administrative Separation is not judicial in nature. There is no judge or rules of evidence which apply in courts-martial. Instead all evidence, both documentary and testimonial is admitted for consideration. Three individuals, usually two officers and one senior enlisted person become the Administrative Separation Board. It is they who hear the evidence and decide two things: (1) whether the person should be retained in the military or discharged; (2) if they decide that the person should be discharged then they must decide what type of discharge the person should get. The options for discharge at an Administrative Separation are: Honorable; General Under Honorable Conditions and Other then Honorable. Notably, any discharge categorization which is less then Honorable will cause the person to lose all benefits to include the GI Montgomery Bill. So General Under Honorable Conditions or Other Then Honorable Discharge causes a loss of all benefits. However, the individual may still be able to apply for benefits for health issues resulting from military service through the VA, regardless of the type of discharge they received.

Most commonly Administrative Separations come about when the individual has received two or more negative counseling entries or Non-judicial punishments (NJP) (Article 15). In these cases the grounds for discharge fall under the category of a “Pattern of Misconduct.” An Administrative Separation may also occur after a conviction at a court-martial where the jury (members) declined to discharge the person or after a conviction on a criminal matter in civilian court. The grounds for this discharge would fall under the category of “Commission of a Serious Offense.” In the case of a positive urinalysis on a random drug test processing for an Administrative Separation is mandatory. That is, any person who comes up positive on a urinalysis test MUST be sent to an Administrative Board Hearing if not sent to a court-martial.

In a recent Administrative Board Hearing Attorney Will Bruzzo represented an individual who had only been in the military a few months when he came up positive on a urinalysis for a controlled substance. The individual accepted NJP (not recommended!) although he denied intentional use at the NJP (Article 15) hearing. Mr. Bruzzo had the military member testify under oath and cross examined the Drug Lab employee/expert who testified on behalf of the Government. Two officers and a senior enlisted person heard all the evidence which included information that the Drug Lab had been found responsible for contaminating samples and reporting a false positive about a year previous. Mr. Bruzzo also brought to the attention of the board that to discharge the individual the use of the drug had to be intentional, it could not be by mistake or accident.

The members of the board then deliberated and returned with a finding that NO MISCONDUCT HAD OCCURRED. As a result the individual was retained in the military despite coming up positive on a urinalysis and being subject to NJP. This was a significant victory with difficult facts. Notably Mr. Bruzzo has been practicing military law for over 20 years. View testimonials on Military Law cases here and other matters. 
Criminal Law Updates by the Law Offices of Criminal Defense Lawyer William W. Bruzzo (714) 547-4636.
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Orange County Drunk Driving Cases May Be Affected By Inaccurate Blood Tests Results

The District Attorney’s Office of Orange County informed several people who were charged and convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol that there may have been blood alcohol level inaccuracies in their test. The Orange County Crime Lab recognized an error in their blood alcohol testing procedure effecting about 2,200 driving under the influence cases. 900 of those cases resulted in convictions. The issue comes down to a 0.003 percentage difference in alcohol level, which according to the LA Times would affect about 200 cases, with only about 20 cases having a blood alcohol content level drop below 0.08%. The discrepancies were attributed to human error in the calibration of the devices used. The lab runs blood samples twice then averages the results. Two devices are used to do the tests; one of them had a calibration point entered incorrectly.

ABC Eyewitness News Channel 7 provided an update on this story on November 23, 2013

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Contact the Law Offices of Orange County Defense Lawyer William W. Bruzzo at (714) 547-4636 to inquire about this matter.
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Monday, December 9, 2013

LAPD Effort To Limit Auto Impounds Is Voided By Judge

Mike Feuer
Mike Feuer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer will appeal a judge’s ruling against the police department’s vehicle impound policy. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck had developed a policy, Special Order 7, regarding vehicle impounds for unlicensed drivers. If the unlicensed driver has insurance, a valid identification card and no record for unlicensed driving, then the vehicle will not be impounded. Those representing the police officers had sued against the policy, explaining that it attempted to override California Law. Police Chief Beck explained on October 27, that officers were told to disregard Special Order 7.

According to the L.A. Times, City Attorney Feuer was going to ask an appeals court to set aside the judge’s ruling while the appeal process takes place. The L.A. Times also reported October 3, 2013, that Governor Brown has signed a bill granting undocumented immigrants a driver’s license. The license will give a person a driving privilege but would not be acceptable for federal use, employment or to receive “public benefits.”

Criminal Law Updates by the Law Offices of Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer William W. Bruzzo (714) 547-4636.
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Friday, December 6, 2013

Mexican Mafia Operating In Orange County

Mexican Mafia gang symbol, known as "La e...
Mexican Mafia gang symbol, known as "La eMe" which stands for the spanish letter "M". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In a combined effort with three agencies, several alleged members of the Mexican Mafia and other gangs were arrested and charged in September of 2013 in Orange County according to the Los Angeles Times.

A two and a half year long investigation by FBI agents, Orange County Sheriff’s detectives, Santa Ana police department and the Orange County district attorney’s office resulted in federal and state indictments of 129 people.

There were 55 arrests along with seizures of weapons and drugs. The charges were for extortion, racketeering, and drug dealing. Officials released some details regarding the type of criminal activities the gang members were supposedly involved in. Some were said to have been dealing drugs in the jail or involved in beatings of gang member inmates.

The district attorney’s offices explained that these crimes were ordered by the Mexican Mafia. In the streets of Orange County, the Mexican Mafia ordered gangs to be taxed in order to operate in neighborhoods. The investigation, called Operation Smokin’ Aces, uncovered communications dealings with heroin trafficking and orders for beatings.

Criminal Law Updates by the Law Offices of Criminal Defense Attorney William W. Bruzzo (714) 547-4636
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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Woman Kills Her Two Children Then Attempts Suicide In Orange County

The arraignment for Marilyn Edge was to occur on October 25 2013; however, in court on October 25th the arraignment was delayed until Dec. 13, 2013. She is being charged with two counts of murder for the deaths of her children, 10 year old Faith and 13 year old Jaelen. She is being held without bail. At her original arraignment hearing on September 17, 2013, when asked by the judge in court if she would agree to have her arraignment continued, Edge responded by requesting the death penalty.

The children’s bodies were found in a Santa Ana motel after she had told police where to find their bodies. Edge had crashed her car into metal posts in Costa Mesa in an attempt to kill herself. Police found a propane tank in her car; Edge had wanted to blow up the car with a crash. When the crash did not end her life, she tried strangling herself with electrical wires. Once she was taken out of the car she told police about the children. According to the LA Times the children’s father had full custody and lives in Georgia, while Edge lived in Scottsdale, Arizona. She had brought the kids to California on the pretense of taking them to Disneyland.

NBC 4 Southern California reports on this case...

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Criminal Law Updates by Law Offices of Orange County Defense Attorney William W. Bruzzo (714) 547-4636

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Governor Gives Reprieve to Juvenile Offenders Serving Life Sentences

English: Photo of California Attorney General ...
English: Photo of California Attorney General (and former California Governor) Jerry Brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Just before the end of California’s last legislative session, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would allow the possibility of parole for minors tried as adults. According to the LA Times, about 6,000 inmates could go before a parole board. Their sentences could be reduced and they could be placed on parole after serving 15 years of their sentence. This means that an inmate sentenced in his mid teens would get out in his early thirties. Many were sentenced to life without parole for various types of charges including violent crimes or being an accomplice. One group lobbied for bill SB260 in order to change the approach the system takes on inmate youth.

Governor Brown referenced the signed bill in his request for an extension of time to reduce the states prison population. He explained that this bill would decrease the amount of inmates in state prisons. A federal panel of judges has given California until December 31, 2013 to reduce the numbers by around 8,000 inmates according to Reuters. Some legislators and groups would like to see the state fund rehabilitation programs in order to reduce the prison population. Families of victims have a different perspective on the issue and some believe that whether they were minors or not at the time of commission of the offense, they should serve their entire sentence.

Criminal Law Updates by the Law Offices of Orange County Defense Attorney William W. Bruzzo (714) 547-4636.
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I represent criminal clients accused of everything from domestic violence and drunk driving to murder. I will not close a case until I believe that I have exhausted every possibility, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony. If the facts support it I will take any case to trial; if the facts do not support going to trial, I will use all the relationships and knowledge I have developed with over  20 years of practice to negotiate the best result possible. I have managed to get "hopeless" cases dismissed just based on my knowledge of the local players (District Attorneys and Judges). An attorney's familiarity with the local system is invaluable to clients. I am that person in Orange County.

After practicing law for over 10 years I established my own firm in 2004 in Santa Ana, California. I am still in the same location.

Example cases

• People v. Arney (2011). I filed a motion to dismiss when the magistrate in the lower court kept out evidence over my objection. My motion was granted and the case was dismissed.

• People v. Willson (2010) I negotiated a dismissal of hit and run charges by getting the District Attorney to agree to dismiss the charges if the victim also agreed. The victim ultimately agreed and the case was dismissed.

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