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Criminal Defense | Drunk Driving | Military Law

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Will Bruzzo’s Client Found NOT GUILTY of Sexual Battery in Orange County College Brawl

Orange County Assault Attorney
Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Will Bruzzo successfully defended an Orange County college student accused of Felony Assault with Force Likely to Cause Great Bodily Injury (Penal Code Section 245(a)(4)) and Misdemeanor Sexual Battery (Penal Code Section 243.4 (e)(1)). If convicted the Defendant was facing lifetime sex registration under Penal Code Section 290 for the sexual battery charge. The trial occurred at the North Justice Center in Fullerton, California.

The facts of the case are that the Defendant allegedly grabbed the buttock of an adult female with his hand, one time at a college party. Sometime later the partygoers left the party and congregated together in an elevator lobby area. At that time the same Defendant who allegedly grabbed the buttock of the female then punched her boyfriend in the face one time. Friends and acquaintances of the first Defendant then all hit the victim-boyfriend one time each in the face except for one co-defendant who hit the victim in the back. Including Mr. Bruzzo’s client there were four co-defendants.

The victim allegedly lost consciousness, suffered cuts and bruises and two years after the fact claimed to suffer from headaches resulting from the attack. Despite the injuries Mr. Bruzzo managed to convince an Orange County Superior Court Judge to reduce the felony Assault to a misdemeanor per Penal Code Section 17b. Mr. Bruzzo believes the court’s actions here resulted in part out of the court’s frustration with the District Attorney refusing to alter or dismiss the sexual assault charge and instead insisting on lifetime sex registration for one buttock grab, which prevented resolution of the case.

Mr. Bruzzo’s client was originally facing a maximum of 4 years in prison for these offenses prior to the Assault being reduced to a misdemeanor.

What made this case difficult for the Defense is that the entire attack in the elevator lobby area was caught on high definition, high quality surveillance video. The video left no doubt as to the identity of the attackers or of the fact that none of the Defendants could rely on self-defense. The video revealed what appeared to be a ruthless, brutal attack by four individuals on one person. The video was so disturbing that when it was played for the jurors an audible gasp was heard from several of them.

Mr. Bruzzo made the strategic decision to have his client admit to the attack when he testified, while stating in mitigation that provocative words had been exchanged between them prior to the fight. There was essentially no issue as to the Assault charge since it was on video and the jury found the Defendant guilty of that charge. The biggest problem with the video as pertained to the second charge of sexual battery is that even though there was no video of the sexual assault, the video of the fight put the Defendant in a very unflattering light.

The Defense was aided by the prior statements of the sexual battery victim who first told the police that she had been grabbed several times, then changed her story to one time and finally at trial she stated that whatever she told the police originally must be accurate. The jury did not confer with the attorneys after trial but it could be that the sexual battery victim’s seeming inability to recall the events from her own memory undermined her credibility and lent strength to the Defendant’s claim that he never touched her buttocks.

Also, sexual battery requires that the Prosecution show the Defendant acted with the specific intent to arouse himself and/or seek sexual gratification with the offensive touching. It could be that the jurors could not say for certain whether the Defendant was trying to get the sexual battery victim’s attention or that the touching was incidental and not intentional. It could also be that the jurors felt that one touching of the buttock was not conduct which deserved a criminal charge. The latter would be jury nullification since the law allows for one touching to satisfy the law and permit a finding of guilty.

After less then 45 minutes of deliberation time the jurors found Mr. Bruzzo’s client NOT GUILTY of the Sexual Battery Charge. This is despite the very disturbing video of the Assault.

If you or a loved one is accused of Assault, Battery or Sexual Battery, contact the Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo for a free consult at (714) 547-4636.

Criminal Law Updates by the Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Naked Man Parking Lot Rampage

According to the Los Angeles Times, a suspect was apprehended in Anaheim after he crashed naked through the back window of a car. The car was parked in an apartment complex lot and the incident was caught on surveillance video. The posted surveillance footage shows a woman getting into her car. Then the naked man is seen running toward the parked car she is in. He runs straight though the closed back window of the minivan next to her car. The man lands head first into the back window and almost half of his body makes it into the car. He falls out and rolls on the floor as the woman reverses out of her spot next to the minivan. The suspect gets up and runs toward the lady in her car and jumps on her car while she tries to drive off. As she drives away the suspect falls off the hood back onto the parking lot floor. Other people witnessed him getting up and leaving the scene. Anaheim PD found him and arrested him. He was taken to UCI Medical Center for his injuries. It is unclear why the suspect was acting in such an erratic manner. The most extraordinary thing about the case was that the whole incident was caught on video. Criminal Law Updates by the Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo (714) 547-4636

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to Remove an Arrest from your Record in California

removing arrest from record California

I have practiced law for over 20 years and during that time I have seen many people get arrested for a crime who end up never going to court because the District Attorney declines to file the charge. There are many reasons for this. The most common is that the police may have probable cause to arrest someone for a crime but once they submit their reports to the prosecution, the prosecutor may decide that they cannot prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is because the police threshold for arresting someone (probable cause) is much lower than the threshold needed for a jury to find someone guilty (beyond a reasonable doubt). Regardless, while the individual does not face a charge in court, the arrest remains on their record.

The competitive nature of the current job market coupled with the ease with which potential employers can find information on potential employees makes it imperative to have as clean a record as possible. This may also include removing any arrests.

Fortunately, California has a process for removing arrests through Penal Code Section 851.8. This law directs that if a Petition under that section is granted the record of arrest must be sealed for three years from the date of the arrest and thereafter the record of arrest must be destroyed. The Petition is known as a Petition to Seal and Destroy Arrest Records and as a Factual Innocence Motion.

Penal Code Section 851.8 states that in order for this Petition to be granted the court must find that no reasonable cause exists to believe that the arrestee committed the offense for which the arrest was made. Reasonable cause as used here by the Penal Code is the same as probable cause and refers to the relatively low legal standard the police must have to arrest someone.

In practice however, in situations where the case was never filed, the District Attorney usually does not oppose these motions even if there was reasonable cause to believe the arrestee was committing a crime. I believe that the reason the District Attorneys rarely oppose these Petitions is that they see little sense in litigating the matter when a decision was already made that the evidence was insufficient to prove the case.

I have filed many Petitions to Seal and Destroy Arrest Records and in almost every case reasonable cause existed to make the arrest. However, in virtually every case I have handled the District Attorney either did not oppose the matter or the Judge granted my Petition over the District Attorney’s objection and I have won the Petition!

The rare nature of these Petitions and the indifferent nature of the District Attorney and the Court often plays a part in their being successfully granted. Notably, these Petitions can also be filed after a finding of Not Guilty by a Jury or Judge.

These Petitions should be filed within two-years of the arrest but in practice and in the interests of justice I have filed such Petitions many years after the arrest and they have still been granted.

Filing a Petition to Seal and Destroy Arrest Records is a two-step process. The Petition must first be served on the arresting police agency who also have the power to grant or decline the request. If they grant the request then the arrest record will be sealed and destroyed and the process is over. It is rare that a police agency grants such a request although it does occur. If the Police agency declines the request or does not respond within 60 days, then the Petition is filed with the court and the matter goes before a Judge. The District Attorney must also be served with the Petition and be permitted to weigh in on the matter. The Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo and William W. Bruzzo, Esq. have successfully represented many clients in successful Petitions to Seal and Destroy Arrest Records / Factual Innocence Motions. Criminal Law Updates by the Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo (714) 547-4636.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Criminal Cases in City of Los Angeles Resolved Without Ever Going to Court Under New Program!

Los Angeles City Hall shortly after its comple...
Los Angeles City Hall shortly after its completion (1931) Original caption: "New Los Angeles City Hall which rises 28 stories and dominates the Civic Center". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In September of 2014 the Los Angeles City Attorney started a new diversion type program called the Neighborhood Justice Program. Once a Defendant is arrested or cited for an offense he may be eligible for a program where the case never actually goes to court. This program only applies to certain minor charges such as:
  • Petty Theft (Penal Code Section 484-488(a)), 
  • Disturbing the Peace (Penal Code Section 415), 
  • Vandalism and Graffiti (Penal Code Section 594), 
  • Minor in Possession of Alcohol (Business and Professions Code Section 25662, 
  • Vehicle Code Section 13202.5), 
  • Possession of False Identification or Possession of False Driver’s License (Penal Code Section 148.9, Penal Code Section 470b) and 
  • Public Intoxication (Penal Code Section 647(f)).  
Generally eligible persons should not have a previous record but that may be negotiable.
Other minor crimes not listed may also be covered by this new program and a skilled lawyer may be able to persuade the Los Angeles City Attorney to make other violations of law eligible. Notably, the program is only open to Defendants who commit crimes in the City of Los Angeles as other cities in Los Angeles County do not yet have any such program. Similarly, cases prosecuted through the Los Angeles County District Attorney do not have any such program.

Once an individual is deemed eligible for the program they will go before a three person board and explain themselves to the panel. If the panel is satisfied the person has taken responsibility for the crime and shown remorse the panel will then allow the person to pay back the community for the commission of the crime by completing a “restorative agreement” with the understanding that the City Attorney will then not file the criminal case. This usually consists of some number of hours of Community Service. The Defendant will have about two (2) months to complete the restorative agreement. This program is far superior to most diversion programs which usually require a guilty plea and a court appearance. The Los Angeles City Attorney program leaves much less of a trace when it comes to background checks since official charges are never filed and the matter never goes to court. Many clients are greatly concerned about the effect of a case on their record, especially when it comes to looking for a job; this new program effectively removes many of those worries.

If you are facing charges on ANY crime in the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County or anywhere in Southern California do not hesitate to contact Mr. Bruzzo to check your eligibility for dismissal programs and for representation on any criminal case.

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

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

PROP 47: Non-Violent Offenses Including Theft And Drug Offenses Can Only Be Misdemeanors

On November 4, 2014, California voters approved a voter initiative which requires that certain crimes MUST be filed as misdemeanors. This appears to be an effort by the state of California to reduce the number of people in the state prison system. From now on theft offenses for less than $950.00 must be filed as misdemeanors-even if the person has an extensive prior record of theft offenses. This is significant because a person can only be sentenced to one (1) year or less on a misdemeanor and he stays in the county facility where the crime was committed. Previously, three or more petty theft cases for very small amounts could land a person in prison under Penal Code Section 666. However, that is no longer the case and the person cannot be sentenced to more than one year and cannot go to prison no matter how many petty theft cases he has under Proposition 47. Notably, the maximum jail penalty on a petty theft is 6 months, so from this point on it would appear that no matter how many prior petty theft convictions you have, as long as they are under $950.00, you cannot be sentenced to more than 6 months in jail.

Notably, if you are in prison for multiple petty thefts or grand thefts and the last case that sent you to prison involved a value of less than $950.00, you can be resentenced on this matter, meaning that the court will review the case and remove you from state prison and have you serve more than likely a much shorter sentence in the county jail. There may be some exceptions to this if you have prior violent convictions. The law is still being fleshed out but you can petition to have your case reviewed IMMEDIATELY if you fall into any of these categories. The only exception to that is if the court finds you are public safety risk. The definition of that seems vague and would probably be a determination made by the Judge.

Also drug offenses wherein the person is only charged with personal use because he only has a personal use amount on him, MUST now be filed as a misdemeanor. Meaning, once again that the person cannot do more than one year in jail. Previously, an individual was facing a maximum of 3 years on possession of a personal use amount of any controlled substance except for marijuana possession for personal use which has always been a misdemeanor and sometimes an infraction.

So for example, possession of methamphetamine under Health and Safety Code Section 11377(a) can only be filed as a misdemeanor; normally it is filed as a felony although it can be filed as either. Where this new law will really make a difference is when people are charged with possession of cocaine or heroin under Health and Safety Code Section 11352(a) which previously was only filed as a felony. Now those individuals are only facing misdemeanors which reduces their exposure to a year in county jail.

What will be interesting to see is what happens to people in the Penal Code Section 1210 program also known as Prop 36. It was the case that multiple fall outs from the program for personal use alone could land you in prison. However, under this new law it seems like the most the court can do for fall outs from possession for personal use is sentence the person to one year in county jail.

For first time offenders Prop 47 will have little practical effect but for individuals with multiple convictions this law could make a huge difference in their sentence. Please contact Attorney Will Bruzzo if you have any questions about your particular situation.

Criminal Law Updates by the Orange County Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo, Esq. (714) 547-4636

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Hit and Run Driver Who Killed Three Kids On Halloween Had A Driving Record

Authorities have arrested a suspect in the Halloween hit and run that left three teenagers dead last Friday, October 31, 2014.. The incident occurred on Friday at around 7:00 p.m. at the intersection of Grand Street and Fairhaven Avenue in Santa Ana, California. Twins Lexia and Lexandra Perez were crossing the street with their friend Andrea Gonzales when they were hit by a car. The driver left the scene and police later found the car at a parking lot. The Honda CR-V had front end damage; the police do not know if the driver had been under the influence at the time of the accident. They did know that there were passengers in the Honda. Later that weekend on Sunday, police made several arrests but only kept the suspect, Jaquinn Bell. His mother, half-sister, daughter and son were arrested, but only he was held and charged with a felony hit and run charge (Vehicle Code Sections 20001 to 20003). Currently he is facing an additional charge of voluntary manslaughter and looking at up to 17 years in prison. (Penal Code Sections 192, 192.5 and 193).

Bell has a record in Orange County for driving related offenses. In 2009 he was charged with DUI and driving with a suspended license. In August of this year he was convicted of a misdemeanor hit and run and driving under the influence and was sentenced to 10 days jail. His license has been suspended since October. Felony Hit and Run causing death can cause a person to be sentenced for up to 4 years in prison.

Notably, the actual accident which caused the death of the children is NOT the crime in this instance; the crime is leaving the scene. Many accidents occur with the unfortunate result of people dying but that does not make it a crime. Making a mistake also known as simple negligence that results in someone dying is not a crime and is usually handled through the insurance companies like any other car accident as a civil matter.

Oftentimes people flee the scene of the accident because they are under the influence. In that case, if the authorities find them to have killed someone, while under the influence, they can also be sentenced to state prison. Importantly, people with prior convictions for drunk driving who commit another drunk driving offense and kill someone may now be charged with murder under the Watson Rule, referring to the case of People v. Watson. A conviction in that instance can lead to a sentence of 15 years to life.

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

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Nurses, Teachers, Need A Skilled Attorney When Facing Petty Theft Charges

The charge of Petty Theft under Penal Code Sections 484(a)-488 is a very commonly alleged crime and generally not considered serious as first time offenders generally face no jail time and small fines. However, the effect of such a conviction on professionally licensed persons like Nurses, Doctors, Lawyers and Teachers can be career ending.

The reason for this is that Petty Theft (and any theft offense) is considered a crime of moral turpitude and in the jobs indicated above convictions for crimes of moral turpitude call into question the character of the person. As such the licensing board of each vocation can convene a hearing to decide whether the person is of sufficient character to continue to perform that job in light of their conviction. For example, in the event of a Nurse getting a conviction for Petty Theft the Nursing Board can convene a hearing and could put the person on “license probation.” This status could make the person unemployable. Other lesser punishments may occur as well.

The way to prevent this situation is to avoid a conviction altogether. Attorney Will Bruzzo has successfully represented many professionals to include Nurses and Teachers accused of Petty Theft and other charges. Mr. Bruzzo has managed to negotiate arrangements which sometimes involve community service and charitable giving as a way to avoid a conviction or guilty plea.

Notably, some places like Orange County have programs which allow first time petty theft offenders to avoid a conviction by entering a diversion program. A diversion program usually requires a guilty plea with deferment (postponement) of sentencing and completion of a program; once the individual completes the program the guilty plea is withdrawn and the case dismissed. In this way there is no conviction since the person was never sentenced and California requires sentencing for a conviction.

However, what many people (and some attorneys) do not understand is that because the diversion programs requires a guilty plea the diversion program is not helpful for Nurses and other licensed individuals. This is because the Nursing Board, for example, treats a guilty plea as it if were a conviction.

Mr. Bruzzo has even counseled other criminal defense lawyers as to the dangers of diversion programs for certain individuals; it is very important that you hire a lawyer who knows what is at stake in your particular situation. Mr. Bruzzo also works with a licensing lawyer, Fred Ray Esq. to make sure that the client is getting the best representation possible and one that will preserve his/her ability to work in their chosen field.

Please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Bruzzo or look at the testimonials on his website under Petty Theft for more information.

Criminal Law Updates Law Offices of Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer 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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