Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

Posts Tagged ‘grand theft’

What Are “wobblers” in California Criminal Law?

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Like any other profession, the world of criminal law has its own lingo.    Go into any criminal lawyers office, any courtroom and you’ll hear the word “wobbler” thrown around quite a bit.   So what is it?

In California, there a wide variety of offenses that can be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors.  These offenses are wobblers.  What sort of felonies are wobblers?  Well, too many to list here, but here are a few of the most common:

    • Domestic violence or spousal battery with injury (Penal Code 273.5)
    • Grand Theft (Penal Code 487)
    • Possession of certain controlled substances (Health and Safety Code 11377)
    • Possession of concentrated cannabis (aka hash) (Health and Safety Code 11357(a))
    • Driving Under the Influence with Injury (Vehicle Code Section 23153)
    • Sexual penetration with a foreign object where victim is a minor (Penal Code 288(h)
    • Criminal Threats (Penal Code Section 422)
    • Resisting arrest by force (Penal Code 69)

So how does the prosecutor decide whether to file a charge as a felony or a misdemeanor? It depends on the severity of the alleged conduct and the defendant’s criminal history.  For example, if  a guy with no criminal record or arrests is accused of hitting is girlfriend and it leaves a small bruise or other minor injury, that may very well be charged as a misdemeanor.  If someone with a series of arrests or prior convictions is accused of the same thing, even if the priors are unrelated to the current charge, a felony may be filed.   Along those lines, if the injury is more serious, it may be filed as a felony even if the injury is not severe.  It also largely depends on the policies of the individual prosecutor’s office.  Even within the same county, each prosecutor’s office in each courthouse has a different policy.

 The other thing to know about wobblers is that even if the case if filed as a felony, it gives your attorney some room to try and reduce the charge to a misdemeanor – either at a preliminary hearing or through negotiating with the DA.    Even if someone is convicted of a felony, if the charge is a wobbler, they may be eligible for the case to be reduced to a misdemeanor through the expungement process.
If you want to know more about wobblers, or to discuss your criminal case in general, call me for a free confidential consultation at 310-210-0744.

Arrested for Shoplifting in California? Five Things You Need to Know

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

If you or a loved one were arrested for grand theft, petty theft and/or commercial burglary in Los Angeles County or anywhere else in California, here’s five things  you need to know:

1)Remember when they told you to “Just Admit Everything And You Wouldn’t Be Charged?”  That Was a Lie.  Yeah, sorry.  That loss prevention officer who took you into that little room and told you that if you just told the truth that nothing bad would happen to you?  Lies.  All lies.  You may have figured this out by now, but that confession you made to the store detective or that you wrote out is going to be used against you.

2) Be wary of an attorney who promises you a “civil compromise” to prevent prosecution.  Technically speaking, if you are charged with a misdemeanor petty theft case, a civil compromise is available under Penal Code 1377.  In a civil compromise, the defendant negotiates a settlement with the store and the case gets dismissed.  But I’m telling you right now, if you stole from a big chain store or a store that is owned by a bigger corporation, the odds of getting a civil compromise are very low.  If a defense lawyer tells you that he/she will “get you a civil compromise” ask them to do the following:  1) Put the guarantee in writing in their retainer agreement; 2) Give you the last three cases (with case numbers) where they obtained a civil compromise from a big chain store.    Watch what happens.

3)  Do NOT pay the letter from a civil law firm demanding money until you talk to a lawyer.   You’re going to get a letter from a law firm, probably from Florida with a local office in California, making a “civil demand” for damages.  This letter will tell you to pay a few hundred bucks by a certain date under the threat of a higher payment.  Do not pay.  It has nothing to do with your criminal case.  Paying it will not make your criminal case go away.  This letter is a shakedown to get more money out of you.  They’re banking on the fact that you are scared and vulnerable.  Your lawyer can explain it to you in detail.  But do not panic and just pay what they’re asking.  You’re throwing money away.

4)  Get Honest With Yourself.  Do you have a problem with stealing?  Do you steal items you don’t really need. Do you steal even though you may be able to afford it?  Are you worried that you’re addicted to the thrill of it? Is there another underlying issue?  I know it is embarrassing and tough to admit, but  you MUST get some help to get this under control.  Why do you need help?  Because you can’t control this on your own.  You’ve now been arrested for it (maybe more than once). In California, petty theft (shoplifitng) is what’s known as a “priorable” offense.  This means the punishment will increase every time you get caught.  The third time you get caught, you could be charged with a felony. Also, if you get out in front of this and get into counseling to deal with the issue, an experienced criminal defense attorney should be able to use this to help your case.

5) Even If You Were Caught and You Confessed, You Still May Have A Defense.  Look, I get it.  You were caught with the clothes in the bag or you confessed you changed price tags or whatever.  Plus you confessed.  Plus they say they have you on video.  Whatever the case may be, DO NOT just go to court and plead guilty.  Every courthouse deals with these cases differently.  I’m a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.  I can tell you that the way these cases are handled in Beverly Hills courthouse is different than Airport courthouse which is different than downtown or Van Nuys.  It depends whether the District Attorney is prosecuting the case or the City Attorney is prosecuting the case.  It depends on the exact facts of the case. It depends on the specific circumstances of your life.  It depends on a LOT of things. Did you take not much more than $50 worth of stuff?  If so, you may be able to negotiate this down to an infraction.   Bottom line:  Call a qualified criminal defense lawyer to at talk about your case.  A good lawyer will be honest with you, give you a real assessment about your case and won’t just try to “close the deal” to get your money.

And hey, if you want to talk to me. You can always give me a call at 310-210-0744. I’m happy to talk to you at no charge.


Los Angeles Mortgage Fraud Arrests

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Mortgage fraud is one of those terms that people use without fully understanding what it is.  In the wake of the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008, the media started to focus on mortgages that ended up in foreclosure.  In particular, we became much more aware of banking practices that included giving mortgages to people who had no or little demonstrated income.

As a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, I can tell you that mortgage fraud is something else entirely.  While it remains to be seen whether anyone associated with major banking institutions will be criminally charged for their role in processing dubious mortgage applications, charges of mortgage fraud generally involve the applicant rather than the bank.

In California mortgage fraud cases involve a variety of related charges; mortgage fraud is more than one thing, and it almost always involves allegations that several laws were broken.

Yesterday’s arrest of nine people is a good example of how mortgage fraud cases are charged. The nine are accused of  committing fraud in connection with the sale of six houses, and netting $2.4 million in the process. Here’s how their arrests were reported by the Los Angeles Times.

“The suspects are accused of obtaining titles to the residential properties, taking out loans in the names of straw buyers, and selling the homes at inflated prices, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

Two of the loans were in names of identity fraud victims, authorities said.

In allegedly carrying out the scheme, the suspects used false bank account and employment documents, according to authorities.”

The essence of mortgage fraud is an allegation that the accused lied on their mortgage application.  The lie or misrepresentation has to be material, and can include withholding information from the bank or other institution that is reviewing the application.  Because the lie is alleged to have been made for financial motives, and a way to obtain money, mortgage fraud cases almost always include grand theft charges (California Penal Code section 487a).  This is punishable by a three-year sentence per violation.

There are common fact patterns in mortgage fraud cases, and the charges described above include two of them. One is that a straw buyer was used.  When the bank is unlikely to accept the application of a buyer, oftentimes because of a bad or incomplete credit history, a different person (the straw man or woman) is named on the application.

This case also includes allegations that the purchase price of the house was inflated. This is where the straw (and potentially others) resell the property at successively higher prices.

In addition to grand theft, mortgage fraud cases can involve the following charges: identity theft, forgery, recording a false or fraudulent financial instrument, as well as notary fraud and escrow theft.

Given the number of people who were arrested, this case also involves conspiracy charges.  It won’t be surprising, therefore, if prosecutors consider using the testimony of ”smaller fish” in an effort to build a stronger case against the perceived leaders of the conspiracy.

This case is a good example of how mortgage fraud cases are much more complicated than they first appear.