Criminal Process

Criminal Process

A criminal defense lawyer who practices in California must be keenly aware of the process by which a case goes from arrest to conclusion. All criminal defense attorneys are not created equal. Some lawyers dabble in criminal defense, and these lawyers will attempt to handle virtually any case that comes through the door. The Kavinoky Law Firm is dedicated to the defense of criminal cases. That is all we do. If you have been accused of a crime and need a criminal defense lawyer whose concentration is not diverted into other areas, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.

The process by which a criminal case will proceed to conclusion will depend upon whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony. The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony is that a misdemeanor can be punished by up to one year in county jail, or maximum fine of $1000, or both. The punishment available in a felony case may be probation with county jail time; however, in a felony case, punishment may include term in state prison or years or decades, or even the death penalty in certain types of murder cases. It is the range of punishment available which determines whether a case is considered a felony or a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor criminal cases begin when a criminal complaint is filed. The prosecutor, whether a city attorney or a district attorney, will file a complaint upon their review of various police reports that are written by the arresting agency. The first court appearance is the arraignment, and this is where the accused is formally put on notice of the charges against him or her, and provided with copies of the various reports which purportedly support the charges.

Following the arraignment, there is what is loosely referred to as the pre-trial phase. During this phase, the criminal defense attorney should be filing a variety of motions to aggressively defend his or her client. These motions may include Discovery Motions, where additional reports or evidence is sought from the prosecutor or members of the prosecution team, including law enforcement. Other types of motions include Motions to Suppress Evidence, where evidence has been illegally seized or is the fruit of an illegal search. It is also common to file a Pitchess Motion, where the criminal defense lawyer is seeking the contents of the arresting officer’s private personnel records to determine whether others have made complaints for dishonesty, excessive force, or bias.

At the end of the pre-trial phase, the case will either be dismissed, settled pursuant to a plea bargain, or set for trial.

Trial in a misdemeanor case is no different than any other criminal trial. It begins with jury selection, and proceeds to opening statements, examination and cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses, presentation of the defense case (if any), closing arguments, and jury deliberation. In order to be convicted of a misdemeanor, all twelve jurors must agree that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If even one juror votes that he or she has a reasonable doubt in the integrity of the prosecution’s case, a “hung jury” will result. A “hung jury” results in a mistrial, and the possible dismissal of criminal charges.

Felony cases proceed a little differently. In a felony criminal case, a complaint is filed and the defendant is arraigned, just as in a misdemeanor case. However, following the arraignment, the accused in a felony case is entitled to a Preliminary Hearing. A Preliminary Hearing is a “mini-trial” which is held in front of a judge, not a jury. The judge in the Preliminary Hearing determines whether there is enough evidence to allow the case to proceed to trial. The Preliminary Hearing is a safety net to ensure that those accused do not languish in custody awaiting trial on cases with insufficient evidence to support that. It is a critically important aspect of the case for both the defendant and the criminal defense attorney, as it provides an opportunity for cross-examination of witnesses prior to trial that is not afforded in misdemeanor cases.

Following the Preliminary Hearing, if the defendant is held to answer for trial, a series of pre-trial conferences and motions are scheduled, and then the case will proceed to trial if not settled. Just as described above with respect to a misdemeanor trial, in a felony trial the prosecutor has the burden to prove his or her case beyond a reasonable doubt, to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt, or else the defendant is entitled to a judgment of not guilty.

If you, or someone you care about, has been charged with a crime, it is vitally important that you consult with a criminal defense lawyer who is aware of the criminal process, and who can zealously represent your interest. Darren Kavinoky is a criminal defense lawyer whose practice is entirely devoted to criminal defense cases. Please feel free to contact The Kavinoky Law Firm for a free consultation at no obligation to you.

California Police May Enter the Homes of DUI Suspects Without a Warrant

California Police May Enter the Homes of DUI Suspects Without a Warrant

Police seeking suspected DUI / DWI drivers can enter private homes without warrants, the California Supreme Court has ruled in a 6-1 decision that erodes Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

The lone dissenter, Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, said the ruling essentially gives police a “free pass” to sidestep constitutional protections and enter private homes without warrants.

The Fourth Amendment bars authorities from entering homes without warrants unless “exigent circumstances” exist, such as the pursuit of a fleeing felon, imminent danger to police or others, or the possibility that evidence will be destroyed if police wait for a warrant.

The court ruled in People v. Thompson that warrantless entries are justified in drunk driving cases because motorists can hide inside their homes until they no longer exceed the legal limit for driving. The court also cited the possibility that motorists can falsely claim that they continued to drink inside the home, which can skew the results of chemical tests to determine blood alcohol content and provide a defense to a DUI / DWI charge.

Justice Marvin Baxter wrote that the decision does not give police unlimited power to enter homes in pursuit of criminal suspects without warrants – they may only do so if exigent circumstances exist.

However, police will interpret the ruling as broadly as possible and use it to justify searches that were once prohibited. There is always a possibility that a criminal suspect may destroy evidence, Mickle Werdegar wrote in dissent.

The panel’s ruling is among several recent high court decisions that threaten the constitutional rights of criminal defendants in California and across the country. The California Supreme Court recently ruled that police can use uncorroborated anonymous tips to arrest drunk driving suspects. And the U.S. Supreme Court determined that police are no longer required to knock and announce themselves when serving a search warrant at a private home.

These high court rulings show why it’s more important than ever to have a skilled lawyer representing the rights of every criminal defendant, said Darren T. Kavinoky, who is widely regarded as one of the top defense attorneys in California.

“These decisions safeguard the rights of police officers, not the public,” Kavinoky said. “Defendants need top-notch legal representation to ensure they get a fair shake in the justice system.”

The attorneys of the Kavinoky Law Firm have the skills and experience needed to ensure that individuals facing charges of driving under the influence or other criminal offenses receive the quality defense they deserve. During a free consultation, one of the firm’s top attorneys will carefully review the facts of a case to determine the best defense strategy.

Although the courts continue to weaken the rights of criminal defendants, many options still exist to challenge arrests and evidence. Mounting an aggressive defense can make the difference between a conviction and an acquittal.

Supreme Court Approves No-Knock Warrants

Supreme Court Approves No-Knock Warrants

For decades, police were required to knock and announce themselves before entering a private home to execute a warrant. That protection has disappeared in the wake of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held that police can burst into criminal suspects’ homes without knocking if they have a valid warrant.

Overturning more than 90 years of precedent that held that such entries violated the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable search and seizure, the justices ruled in Hudson v. Michigan that Detroit police were justified when they barged into a man’s home looking for weapons and drugs.

As the nation’s highest court grows more conservative, and Constitutional protections are weakened or eliminated, it’s more important than ever to have an experienced criminal defense attorney fighting for the rights of defendants.

The ruling means that defense attorneys will have to use other proven methods to exclude evidence from trials that was seized during warrant searches. A skilled attorney may argue that permission was improperly obtained, that the search was improperly executed, or that evidence seized was outside of the scope of the warrant.

An experienced criminal defense attorney will use these avenues and other available options to challenge evidence and convince jurors that there is reasonable doubt in a defendant’s guilt.

“There are many ways to challenge evidence in a criminal trial,” said Darren T. Kavinoky, a top-notch defense attorney known for his expertise in having evidence excluded. “This ruling makes it more difficult for defendants to get a fair trial, but a skilled defense attorney will find a way to ensure justice.”

Four justices dissented from the ruling, saying the ruling will further erode the Constitutional rights of Americans and essentially give police a free pass to enter private homes without notice.

“It weakens, perhaps destroys, much of the practical value of the Constitution’s knock-and-announce protection,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote on behalf of himself and three other liberal justices.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hudson v. Michigan ruling means it’s more critical than ever to have superb legal representation in any criminal matter. The top attorneys of the Kavinoky Law Firm employ tested methods to exclude evidence in criminal matters and ensure that defendants receive a fair trial.

Californians Pass One of Nation’s Toughest Sex-Offender Laws

Californians Pass One of Nation’s Toughest Sex-Offender Laws

Californians have overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative that gives the state some of the strictest requirements in the nation for sex offenders. Proposition 83, known as Jessica’s Law, requires that registered sex offenders live 2,000 feet from parks and schools and allows for lifetime satellite tracking of certain offenders.

The measure is certain to be the subject of a fierce court battle. Prop. 83’s language makes it unclear whether the law will apply retroactively to California’s 90,000 registered sex offenders. And the expanded residency restrictions will likely be the subject of a constitutional challenge.

California law already prohibits registered low-risk sex offenders from living within 1,320 feet, or a quarter mile, from schools. The new requirements, if they survive a court challenge, will likely push many offenders out of cities and into rural areas, where they will face problems finding employment, transportation, and other necessities.

Forcing parolees onto public assistance doesn’t help Californians – it hurts them. There are better ways to protect children than to increase the burden on our welfare rolls.

In addition to being constitutionally dubious, Jessica’s Law is certain to be costly. The cost of using satellites to track paroled rapists, child molesters, and other felony sex offenders is expected to cost California hundreds of millions of dollars.

Prop. 83 also will further erode one of the basic tenets of our justice system – that once individuals served their sentences, they should be allowed to pursue productive lives.

Above all, Prop. 83 is unlikely to achieve what its backers set out to do – guard children and other vulnerable individuals from predators. In Iowa, where a similar law was passed, many sex offenders simply failed to register their addresses to avoid the restrictions. A coalition of Iowa prosecutors is now pushing to have the law overturned.

In California, many people fear that Prop. 83 will have a similar effect, said Darren Kavinoky, one of the state’s top defense attorneys and an expert on constitutional search and seizure issues.

“I’m in favor of anything that will protect children, but I don’t think Jessica’s Law will accomplish that goal,” Kavinoky said. “If it survives court challenges, Proposition 83 will serve only to deprive many individuals of adequate employment and housing, and prompt many to avoid registering as sex offenders.”

Studies by California Senate researchers show that under Prop. 83’s restrictions, nearly all of San Francisco and most of Los Angeles would be off-limits to registered sex offenders. In addition to making it nearly impossible for offenders to live near employment opportunities, Prop. 83 will force certain rural communities to bear a disproportionate burden.

The bureaucratic and financial burden of enforcing Prop. 83’s monitoring requirements is expected to be monumental, particularly if it’s interpreted to include tens of thousands of existing offenders.

Satellite tracking of so many individuals requires not only technology but also manpower. Using transmitters to track people is useless unless officials are prepared to devote resources to monitor and enforce the requirements. California’s law-enforcement resources are already stretched to the limit.

Prop. 83’s passage shows that it’s more important than ever to have expert legal representation if accused of a crime. The best way to avoid draconian restrictions is not to be convicted in the first place.

There’s too much at stake in any prosecution not to have an experienced defense lawyer fighting for the defendant’s rights. The skilled attorneys of the Kavinoky Law Firm are prepared to aggressively fight any criminal case and protect individuals from negative consequences.

Southern California County Employs GPS Technology to Track Drunk Drivers

Southern California County Employs GPS Technology to Track Drunk Drivers

A Southern California county has introduced a program that uses technology to notify authorities instantly when convicted drunk drivers take even a step out of line.

Riverside County recently unveiled a program that will require convicted DUI / DWI drivers to wear tracking devices equipped with Global Positioning System technology. Only individuals with multiple felony drunk driving convictions will be required to wear the lightweight devices, which can be worn on the wrist or ankle.

The devices are programmed to alert a probation officer when an offender enters a restricted area, such as a bar, or leaves a mandatory confinement, such as house arrest or an alcohol rehabilitation center. The devices can be programmed to send the information instantly or one day later, depending on how much county officials want to pay.

The county already requires repeat offenders to wear a device known as the Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor, or SCRAM, which detects alcohol consumption through secretions in the skin.

The GPS technology costs $10 per offender each day for devices that report information instantly, and $5 per day to receive the information the next day. The SCRAM monitors cost the county an additional $15 per day. Once a grant covering the program’s costs expires in 2007, officials will consider making offenders pay the cost of monitoring.

Although the technology is currently being used in only one California county, it may become more widespread as officials in other jurisdictions monitor the program’s progress. Neighboring San Bernardino County will soon launch a similar program.

As laws governing drunk driving become more and more strict, and the penalties more severe, it’s clear that accused motorists need expert legal help when confronting DUI / DWI charges. The skilled attorneys of the Kavinoky Law Firm can effectively defend driving under the influence charges throughout California.

Riverside County’s program is a perfect example of why it’s imperative to aggressively fight drunk driving charges, whether it’s a first offense or a repeat DUI / DWI, said Darren Kavinoky, KLF’s founder and a national expert on drinking and driving defense.

"Technology such as the GPS monitor can now track every move a repeat DUI offender makes," he said. "Successfully fighting a drunk driving charge means that driver will continue to enjoy the freedom that we all take for granted."

The stakes are high in a DUI / DWI case, so it’s crucial to have an experienced drunk driving lawyer providing an exceptional defense. The top attorneys of the Kavinoky Law Firm have the experience and knowledge to expertly confront a drinking and driving prosecution and keep negative consequences to a minimum.

Asset Forfeiture in a Drug Case

The law of forfeiture is complex, and is rooted in ancient theories about property itself being “guilty.” Due to these odd theories, modern forfeiture laws make it fairly simple for the government to go after someone’s assets. One need not be convicted or charged with a crime before his or her property is seized and forfeited. In situations involving drugs all the government needs to do is provide some reasonable connection between the money and the drugs.

It takes an experienced lawyer to handle a forfeiture case. Forfeiture cases involve the ability to trace a connection between money and an illegal substance. It cannot always be certain that there is a connection, but often it is not difficult to come up with one that sounds reasonable. It takes true skill and sophistication to defeat the government’s attempt to force forfeiture.

There are many items that are eligible for forfeiture. The long and extensive list includes any cars, boats, airplanes, or other vehicle which is used or intended for use, as a container of any illegal substances or equipment, and raw material used in the making of the illegal substances. Of course, the illegal substances and the raw material required for their production are also subject to forfeiture.

In the area of drug-dealing, if the government believes that your car, boat, or airplane was used to facilitate the manufacture of, possession for sale, or sale of specific amounts of different drugs, that vehicle will be seized and forfeited. The laws are harsh, but they can be fought with some hard work by a qualified attorney.

All books, records, research products and materials, and any tapes or data, and devices that contain data that were used or intended for use in connection with the illegal substances may be seized.

All money, stocks, or any other thing of value that is furnished or intended to be furnished, by any person in exchange for controlled substances may be seized. These things may be seized so long as they can be traced back to an exchange for controlled substances.

Real property, including houses, is also subject to forfeiture. But, because more than one person generally lives in a house, the property will not be seized for forfeiture if it is used as a family residence or for another lawful purpose. Also, if two or more individuals own a home, so long as one of the individuals had no knowledge of the criminal activity, the property will not be forfeited.

To protect your property rights, it is best to get in touch with an experienced attorney as soon as you have knowledge of any investigative actions concerning your property. The process for forfeiture can begin before criminal charges are even filed against you. Act fast to try to save yourself from having to file appeals which can take years. The knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers of the Kavinoky Law Firm are unsurpassed in achieving the best possible results for their clients. Call them today for a free consultation.