Both the California penal and Welfare & Inbstututions Code set forth ways a person can be rendered unable to own/possess a firearm Here ia. brief summary.
Any person convicted of a misdemeanor violation of the following:
Any person taken into custody as a danger to self or others, assessed, and admitted to a mental health facility under Welfare and Institutions Code sections 5150, 5151, 5152; or certified under Welfare and Institutions Code sections 5250, 5260, 5270 .15 . Persons certified under Welfare and Institutions Code sections 5250, 5260, or 5270 .15 may be subject to a lifetime prohibition pursuant to federal law .
Juveniles adjudged wards of the juvenile court are prohibited until they reach age 30 if they committed an offense listed in Welfare and Institutions Code section 707, subdivision (b) . (Pen . Code, § 29820 .)
If a conviction is rendering it impossible for you to own/possess a firearm, there may be ways to get that conviction removed from your record. Give Devina a call, and see if she can help!
The following information was taken from the "Crime in California 2019" Report (the most current year for which data is available,) as published by the state DOJ.
Crime Rates per 100,000 Population
Arrest Rates per 100,000 Population at Risk
Dispositions – Adult Felony Arrests
Criminal Justice Full-Time Personnel
Civilians’ Complaints Against Peace Officers
Domestic Violence-Related Calls For Assistance
Law Enforcement Officers Killed or Assaulted
Under California law, a defendant is mentally incompetent to stand trial if, as a result of a mental disorder or developmental disability, he cannot: (1) understand the nature of the criminal proceedings, or (2) assist counsel in preparing a defense in a rational manner, as the person simply isn't able to defend against criminal charges. But what dos that actually mean? It's often clearer to explain looking to whether a person is competent to stand trial. The courts have declared a that a person is competent to stand trial if they have “sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding” and have "a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him." (Dusky v. United States (1960) 362 U.S. 402.) Unlike insanity, the inquiry looks to the person's current cognitive functioning, not that at the time the crime was committed.
There is a general misunderstanding out there that a person can be found incompetent to stand trial if they display strange behavior or are being uncooperative with the process. This is not the case. The person needs to demonstrate a genuine inability to assist with their defense.
As they are often those who work most closely with affected defendants it is often defense counsel who raises a doubt that her client is competent to stand trial, but this doubt can be raised the the judge or any other official involved in the system. From there, that doubt is declared on the record and the defendant is evaluated my a qualified mental health provider to make the determination as to whether the defendant can assist in their own defense.
If the mental health provider believes the person is competent, and after a hearing, if required, the court agrees, the criminal proceedings resume. If the mental health provider agrees that the defendant is not competent, and after a hearing, if required, the court agrees, then the defendant is ordered to participate in competency training, a term we use to describe the process of trying to restore the person to company, through counseling or medication. This training is typically done via the defendants commitment to a mental health hospital or placement is a suitable outpatient program. During this time, a judge can order that the defendant be administered medication against their will.
If the defendant can be restored to competency, the criminal proceedings will be reinstated, picking up from where the proceedings previously left off. If they can't, then the defendant may be forced to remain in the custody of the mental health care facility for an amount of time up to the maximum term for the offense for which they were charged.
Every New Years brings about a flurry of sometimes small, sometimes substantial, changes to the way in which our criminal justice system works. Here are the notable changes taking effect in 2021:
The Adult System
The Juvenile System
Changes to Law Enforcement Procedures
In California, a victim of a crime has certain right, granted to them under the State Constitution. These rights are often known as "Marsy's Law" rights.
The purpose of Marsy’s Law is to:
Marsy’s Law significantly expands the rights of victims in California. Under Marsy’s Law, the California Constitution article I, § 28, section (b) now provides victims with the following enumerated rights:
Would you feel so differently about the person selling you a new car that you wouldn’t buy a new car from him or her if you knew the salesperson had a recent conviction for Possession of a Controlled Substance? Probably not. But what about if the transaction you’re about to engage in is not buying a car, but having surgery? Would you be just as willing to let a doctor operate on you if you found out he had a similar conviction?
The State of California recognizes that in order to protect the public certain professions require those performing professional duties to hold themselves to a higher standard. Professionals such as lawyers, doctors, nurses, dentists, accountants, contractors, law enforcement officers, teachers and social workers are closely monitored by state licensing boards. As a result, professionals working in these industries often have more to lose than a little money and a little freedom if they are charged with a crime; they could lose their livelihood!
The details surrounding what happens at the hearings conducted by Administrative Law Boards is outside the scope of this article, but rest assured any one licensed by the state is entitled to a hearing at which they can present their side of the case, it is the State that bears the burden of showing the licensee did something wrong, and the hearing is overseen by an independent Administrative Law Judge.
One of ways in which licensing authorities find out about a licensee doing something that could give rise to a professional license suspension or revocation is through on-going criminal records checks, so don’t think that just because you don’t report a criminal conviction to the authorities doesn’t mean those authorities won’t find out. (And if you are working in a profession where you are required to report convictions, a failure to report would land you in even more hot water!) It is imperative for any licensed professional to do everything they can to minimize the collateral consequences of a potentially criminal act. If you are a licenses professional it is critical that your attorney knows about that fact, and that they work to resolve your case in a way that protects your license. Or if you have an old conviction, it’s imperative that your record is made as clean as possible under the law.
Options for cleaning up your record include:
Past convictions can haunt you! If you have any sort of conviction on your record in California (or pending criminal charges,) that you feel is holding you back, reach out to Devina Douglas to discuss your options.
Sonoma County is at a funny point in its handling of jury service right now in light of the COVID pandemic. Jurors are meeting—not at the courthouse, but at the fairgrounds. Very few trials are being held. But the county is still sending out lots of jury summons. Which begs the question (loudly these days, if you ask me): Does a person actually have to show up for jury service?
A person’s constitutionally-guaranteed right to a jury of one’s peers is one of the most important aspects of our criminal justice system, inspired by the idea that it shouldn’t just be the high ranking mucky-mucks, or government officials, or the “cool kids” who sit in judgement of the citizenry, it’s the citizens themselves. That’s why it is imperative that a person respond as directed to a jury summons, not just because it is a crime (potentially leading to actual jail time,) to ignore it.
Once you’ve received that summons, take a close look at the date for which you’re supposed to respond. If you’re supposed to be somewhere else that day, because of an important medical procedure, or a pre-planned vacation, don’t worry! You get one free postponement, simply by mailing a request for postponement back. But unless you request a postponement, you’re going to need to follow the directions for reporting as indicated on the summons. (In Sonoma County, you can call or check the County’s website the night prior to your service date to see if you need to actually report in person.)
If you’re called in to serve, but have a compelling reason why you should not be asked to be seated on an actual jury, you’ll have a chance to explain to the court why serving would be a hardship. Reasons accepted by the court include:
Yes, having to upset your daily life for jury service can be a real pain, but put yourself in the position of the defendant: would you rather have people from your own community sitting in judgment of you, or a default, nameless, faceless government entity?
A common question I’m asked is “how long do the police have to arrest me after I’ve committed a crime.” A better question to ask is “how long does the DA’s office have to charge me with the crime.” And the answer to that, like so many other questions is: “it depends.” It depends mostly on the type of crime a person has committed, but whether the victim was a minor at the time of the offense can also affect this legal deadline, called the statute of limitations. The various statutes of limitation for crimes committed in California are defined in Penal Code sections 799-805.
We have statutes of limitation to ensure the DA’s office files charges in a timely manner, when evidence should be more easily available and the events are more fresh in the minds of any witnesses, so that the defendant gets the most fair trial possible. In general, once the statute of limitations period for a case has run, the DA’s office can no longer file charges.
Of course, there are very serious crimes for which there is no statute of limitations: Murder, treason, and embezzlement of public funds.
From there, a general rule of thumb is that most felonies (except those that are especially serious or sexual crimes committed against children,) have a statute of limitations of three years, and most misdemeanors have a statute of limitations of one year. (An “especially serious” felony is generally one in which the maximum punishment is eight or more years in custody.) For most crimes the statute of limitations begins to run at the time of the offense is committed.
In order to protect the most vulnerable segment of our community—the elderly, minors, and those who are dependent on others for their daily needs—the law allows for longer statutes of limitations. For example, some crimes which involve violent, sexual acts committed against minors have statutes of limitations which do not run until the victim has turned 40 years old. A lot of crimes which involve elderly or dependent adult victims have statutes of limitations of 5 years. And for some crimes which involve a higher degree of trickery or fraud the statute of limitations may not even begin running until the crime has been discovered.
Prior to this newly-enacted law, in California the maximum term of probation to which a judge could sentence a defendant was five years for felony offenses and three years for the vast majority of misdemeanor offenses. (That said, more serious misdemeanor-level offenses such as child abuse and repeat-offender DUIs were eligible for lengthened probationary periods of up to five years).
Despite concerns that any reduction in the time the criminal justice system has supervise and rehabilitate offenders might detrimentally impact an offender's rehabilitation, the legislature passed, and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 1950, which effectively caps misdemeanor probation at a length of one year, and felony probation at a length of two years. The reason for the change revolves around studies that have shown that probation often disproportionately affect people of color. For example, the authors of the bill cite the fact that Black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. adult population, but 30% of people who are serving a probationary sentence. Further, the "probation monitoring fees" are often an increased burden on low-income families.
A 2018 Justice Center of the Council of State Governments study found that a large portion of people violate probation and end up incarcerated as a result. The study revealed that 20 percent of prison admissions in California are the result of probation violations, accounting for the estimated $2 billion spent annually by the state to incarcerate people for supervision violations. Eight percent of people incarcerated in a California prison are behind bars for probation violations. Close to half of those violations are technical and minor in nature, such as missing a drug rehab appointment or socializing with a friend who has a criminal record. And yet despite the fact that these technical violations (non-crimes) do not threaten our communities, they cost taxpayers at least $235 million per year."
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 3234 earlier this month, creating additional statutory mechanisms for Court-initiated Misdemeanor Diversion. Now, via PC 1001.95 et seq, the courts throughout the state can grant client pre-trial diversion, even over the DA's objection, for a very wide array of offenses. (Currently excluded offenses are violations of Penal Code 290 et seq., 273.5, 243(e), and 646.9.
Previous law authorized a county to establish pretrial diversion programs for defendants who have been charged with a misdemeanor offense and authorizes other diversion programs, including for defendants with cognitive developmental disabilities, defendants in nonviolent drug cases, and traffic violations. Proactive Diversion programs have been shown to yield lower recidivism rates than seems when the judicial system used tactics more focused on prosecuting and jailing offenders.
Under the law, the defendant can be given up to 24 months to complete whatever conditions are imposed as a part of the diversion offer, and the terms of that diversion plan can be narrowly tailored to the specific facts and circumstances of the defendant's alleged crime.
Should a candidate not successfully complete the diversion program, the criminal proceedings will be reinstated. Should a candidate successfully complete the diversion program, the net result will be that the criminal case against them is officially dismissed, and the record of arrest will be sealed, allowing a person to avoid potentially lifelong collateral con sequences of a conviction generally associated with having a criminal record.
Because a candidate is not required to enter a plea to participate in diversion under this section, it will not count as a "conviction" for immigration purposes.
The following changes were made to Cal Fish and Game regulations, effective July 2020, relevant to our area:
For a full summary of the changes in the regulations see here.
KEEPING AN EYE ON CHANGING LAWS IN RESPONSE TO THE CURRENT BLM PROTESTS: QUALIFIED immunity for police
We certainly cannot expect our police officers to make perfect decisions all of the time. Because of this, the legal doctrine of qualified immunity generally applies to the decision they make. "Qualified Immunity protects officers from being held personally legally responsible for a variety of constitutional violations (notably now: the right to be free from the police using excessive force against them) for money damages under federal law if the police did not violate "clearly established law."
But right now, the Supreme Court is debating whether or not this protection for officers should continue to exist.
OCTOBER 2020 Update:
This legislative session changes in the law have been adopted to help address instances of potential police misconduct:
For more, see here.
Public access to records regarding police misconduct has been a hot-button issue for the last several years. Thankfully, New York is taking steps in the right direction to bring transparency to the misconduct of its officers.
For the full story see here.
The following information was originally reported by the associated press:
“More than a quarter of U.S. states and numerous smaller jurisdictions are looking for ways to reduce the use of solitary confinement, according to the Vera Institute of Justice, which encourages alternatives to a practice behavioral experts say is dehumanizing and can worsen mental illness.
The new policies in California came after Specter’s firm sued seven of California’s 58 counties, alleging that conditions had grown inhumane as jails absorbed inmates who previously would have served their sentences in state prisons. The state in 2011 began sending less serious offenders to local jails for years at a time to ease crowding in state penitentiaries.
Some jurisdictions nationwide are banning isolation for young offenders, pregnant women or those with mental health diagnoses. The California counties’ approach of generally limiting it to those who engage in continued violent behavior has dramatically reduced the number of inmates in isolation and the length of time they stay there….
Sacramento County also is following the policy pioneered by Santa Clara County, while Fresno County is considering it. Among other things, it encourages the use of low-cost incentives to reward good behavior, like the opportunity to listen to the radio, watch a movie or get an extra snack.
Sacramento County has cut its isolated population roughly in half, to about 60 inmates, said Lt. Alex McCamy: “It’s a limited time frame and a limited group, but the initial impression is positive.”
Rick Raemisch, who restricted the use of solitary confinement when he headed Colorado’s prison system, said the violent, tense, dirty conditions in Santa Clara County’s jail improved markedly with the new policy. “Think of yourself being in a cell the size of a parking space for 23 hours a day,” said Raemisch, who consulted with county officials. “At a minimum you’re going to get angry, and when you get angry you’re going to fight back.”
Inmates nationwide are most often segregated for nonviolent “nuisance infractions” like smoking, cursing, disobeying orders or having unauthorized items from the commissary, said the Vera Institute’s Sara Sullivan.
Santa Clara County once locked a woman in solitary confinement for 2 1/2 years for talking back to correctional officers or yelling and banging on her cell door with other detainees, according to Specter’s lawsuit.
The California counties’ new policy of restricting its use to continued violent behavior could be seen as a national pilot program, Sullivan said.
...There’s been a decades-long effort to reform solitary, especially in prisons. But what we haven’t seen is a paired reform effort for jails,” said Amy Fettig, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s Stop Solitary campaign….
Long-term isolation can be so debilitating, Fettig said, that she’s had clients cut themselves “just to feel something because they’ve become numb.”
Despite the passage of the “Wildlife Traffic Safety Act,” the result of SB 395, it is still illegal to collect or possess roadkill. However, the new law is paving the way for citizens to use the “salvageable wild game [roadkill] meat” meat of deer, elk, pronghorn antelope or wild pig.
According to data from the CHP, approximately 8,000 large game animal vs. vehicle collisions have occurred statewide over the last six years. These collisions have resulted in over 1,500 injuries and at least 24 fatalities to motorists and their passengers. UC Davis researchers estimate that the costs associated with animal vs. vehicle collisions exceed $200 million annually. But perhaps more tragically, for the large animals involved in these collisions, approximately 40% of them are killed, and many are injured, however the fate of roughly one-third is unknown.
According to the author of SB 395, Bob Archuleta, “By allowing the take of large game animals after a highway collision, and by logging the site of the incident, we not only clean up our highways, we gather the necessary data to prevent the occurrence in the future.”
So if the new law doesn’t allow the taking of roadkill, what does it do? The new change in the law gives the California Fish and Game Commission permission to work with the California Department of Transportation, California Highway Patrol and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment with the goal of ultimately adopting regulations to establish a “salvageable wild game meat utilization program.” Such a program would almost certainly include a permitting and a reporting process.
Currently, California’s best public reporting system on roadkill statistics is that run by the University of California, Davis. (Their California Roadkill Observation System (CROS) allows anyone to contribute roadkill data and photos to the system.) However, the new law allows the Fish and Game Department to create their own roadkill reporting database, with the goal of helping wildlife managers identify the places where wildlife/vehicle collisions are most common. With that information, legislators claim the state can make more pinpointed wildlife conservation efforts.
The permitting process—which per the law’s text, will generate free permits—is expected to be run via a user-friendly and cell-phone-friendly web- based portal. Permitting will take into consideration roadways, locations, species subject to salvage, and any other aspect necessary to ensure the salvage pilot program’s success. With a permit, any person who unintentionally strikes and kills a specified animal on a roadway or who encounters an unintentionally killed animal of eligible species may recover, possess, use or transport the whole animal and salvage the edible portions. That said, only an officer of the Fish and Game department or a law enforcement may kill a severely injured animal that has been struck by a passing vehicle. However, once an injured animal has been euthanized by one of these designated officers, a permitee can lawfully collect the meat.
With this change in the law, California will be one of among half of the states allow roadkill to be collected, processed and eaten.
If you have been arrested or cited for a Fish and Game violation in Sonoma, or any of Sonoma’s surrounding counties, contact Devina Douglas.
Trapping animals for the sale or use of fur is now illegal in California, the first state to implement such a law. The fur-bearing animals protected by this law include grey fox, coyote, beaver, badger and mink.
Previously, trappers were required to obtain a trapping license, but the state claims that the licensing system had become unwieldy. Apparently, the state issued only 133 trapping licenses and four fur dealer licenses in 2017, generating only $16,000 in revenue for the state. “Not only does the cruel fur trapping trade decimate our increasingly vulnerable wildlife populations, running this program doesn’t even make fiscal policy sense,” Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D), author of the legislation, said in a statement. “Taxpayers are subsidizing this unnecessary commercial activity because the cost of managing this program isn’t even covered by the revenue from trapping license fees.”
Despite bobcat numbers growing steadily throughout the state and country, after the passage of Assembly bill 1254, touted as being part of a package of bills promoting “animal welfare” and “fighting animal cruelty,” the “trophy hunting” of bobcats will be illegal for the next five years and possibly longer, unless state wildlife officials approve a plan to preserve the animals’ overall population. This means that under most circumstances, hunting, trapping or killing a bobcat is prohibited, with exceptions allowed for:
This law will stay in place for at least the next five years. After that, state wildlife officials will have the option of reopening the hunting season with regards to bobcats. …However, as most of us who keep our eyes on such matters have noted, the chances of Fish and Game reopening a once-closed season is small. Further, in order for the season to reopen, the Legislature will have to appropriates funds specifically earmarked to satisfy conditions imposed by the bill. These conditions include performing studies, which are estimated to cost $2.5 million, and setting tag fees sufficient to recoup the costs. As a point of reference, the current revenue from bobcat tags amounts to approximately $35,000 a year, less than 2% of the estimated cost of reopening a season.
The necessity of this bill is in doubt as opponents (a large majority of whom are part of the hunting world,) pointed out that while during the 2017/2018 hunting season (the last season for which there is comprehensive data,) the Department of Fish and Wildlife issued just shy of 12,000 bobcat tags, but only 331 animals were actually taken. These opponents also note “The harvest rate of bobcats is so low – not because bobcats are scarce – but rather because bobcats are shy and secretive by nature, and because of the severe restrictions already in place on how and where they can be taken.”
California continues to be one of the most aggressive states with regards to protecting wildlife from hunting and trapping. In 1990, it became the first state to ban mountain lion hunting, the state enacted a trapping ban initiative in 1998, and the hunting of bear and bobcat hunting with hounds was outlawed in 2011.
 This language is considered a politically-motivated addition to the law, as neither hunters nor the state Fish and Game Code considers bobcats “trophy animals.”
 See Fish and Game Code 4157
 The studies will look to the potential impacts of a bobcat hunting season, including the effects on all of the following: (1) Bobcat populations, (2) Bobcats’ wild prey, (3) Disease abatement, including, but not limited to, hantavirus, and (4) The control of invasive species, especially nutria.
 A copy of the letter of opposition can be found here: https://www.calwaterfowl.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/AB-1254-SNRW-Coalition-Ltr-Oppose-6-7-19.pdf
With recent school-shootings in the news, now might be a good time to talk about CA's laws regarding the possession of firearms on school property.
The Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995 controls most of the law surrounding a person's ability to bring a firearm onto a school zone, which is defined as a zone of 1000 feet surrounding and including "an area in, or on the grounds of, a public or private school providing instruction in kindergarten or grades one to 12." That Act made it illegal to bring a firearm into a school zone under most circumstances, with exceptions being made for those with permission from school officials.
In 2019, it them became illegal for school workers, or anyone else who previously had permission, to bring guns on campus, even if that person has a concealed carry permit. Prior to this change, the Gun-Free School Zone Ac allowed districts and county education offices to make their own determinations into whether qualified civilians could carry a firearm on campus. This change in the law still allows firearms to be brought to a campus for (1) certified hunter education programs (as long as the firearms are unloaded and participants do not possess live ammunition in a school building,) (2) programs that involve shooting sports, and (3) activities that are sanctioned by a school district that occur on district property.
Firearms possessed by peace officers, honorably retired peace officers with valid concealed carry permits, and authorized security guards are still allowed to carry a firearm. Further, firearms are still allowed to be used at an existing shooting range, and any firearm technically can be on a campus if it is an unloaded handgun and is in a locked container or within the locked trunk of a vehicle.
If you have. question about gun laws, feel free to contact Devina.
Effective January 1, 2020, several changes to California Criminal law will the place. Below is a quick snapshot of the changes.
California may soon restore the voting rights of approximately 50,000 of its citizens, felons.
Currently, Only Maine and Vermont allow felons to vote while in custody in state prisons related to their sentence. Massachusetts used to… However, the law was changed after it was discovered that inmates formed a political action committee to influence their state representatives.
The California Constitution states that “The Legislature shall prohibit improper practices that affect elections and shall provide for the disqualification of electors while mentally incompetent or imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony.” However, in 1976, the state amended the constitution, restoring voting rights to felons if the felon was not still “imprisoned or on parole.” …But this change in the law was not quite so clear cut, especially after California passed its 2011 Realignment Act, which effectively moved a substantial number of low-level offenders out of state prisons to county jails as a way to address overcrowding. Were felons being housed in county jails “imprisoned”?
“If you look at the state constitution, you would have a hard time believing that jails and prisons aren’t the same intent,” noted Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation who specializes in election-related issues. However, one must wonder if this change in the law was politically motivated. “Social science shows that felons overwhelmingly vote Democrat,” von Spakovsky said.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris supported the bill, stating “The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and society, and yet for too long we have stripped certain individuals of that right.” Other proponents believe that by restoring a felon’s ability to vote, the felon will be less likely to reoffend because they are more connected to their community. The ACLU believes the change in law “would address the history of racial oppression behind California’s felony disenfranchisement laws. Three of every four men leaving California prisons are either African American, Latino, or Asian American. Black Americans are four times more likely to experience felony disenfranchisement than are white Americans.”
Devina strives to make information relevant to the lives of her clients easily accessible.