Will Bruzzo's Blog
Criminal Defense | Drunk Driving | Military Law
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
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.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
|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)|
- 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)).
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.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
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
Friday, November 7, 2014
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.
Friday, October 24, 2014
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.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
|Picture from www.ice.gov showing ICE Special Agents (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
This shift by local agencies stems from two reasons: Some departments cite the legality of upholding such a request. California for example, has a law that limits immigration detainers. As a result law enforcement departments have reduced their compliance with such requests. In Oregon a court ruled that it was violation of a woman’s constitutional rights to be held in custody without probable cause. The Riverside County Chief Deputy cites this court ruling as a reason they do not hold people. Explaining that if they did hold people the department could be held liable in civil court. Another reason is a memo distributed by ICE explaining that immigration holds were “requests not requirements” according to the LA Times.
The second reason comes from departments trying to keep a good relationship with the communities they serve. Some officers explain that deportation threats scare people from reporting crimes. This makes communities unsafe and creates a break down between police and residents.
Criminal Law Updates by the Orange County Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo (714) 547-4636.