Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

PCP Arrests In Los Angeles and Culver City

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that two individuals have been arrested in Los Angeles County in what law enforcement officials are describing as a huge PCP operation.

PCP is the acronym for the drug  1-(1-phencyclohexyl) piperdine.  It’s chemical name is more commonly known as phencyclidine, and outside of chemistry labs and courts of law is known as Angel Dust, Supergrass, Boat, Tic Tac, Zoom, or  Sherm.

This would be an usually large amount of PCP for a single arrest.  To put 130 gallons in context, California law provides various quantity-based sentencing enhancements for the possession and manufacture of PCP.  Thus, for example, under California Health  and Safety Code Section 11370.4(b), three years are added to a sentence if the amount of PCP exceeds 30 liters, or roughly 8 gallons.  Given the amounts of PCP that are alleged to be involved here, and given that California law prohibits the sale, possession, transportation and manufacture of PCP, as well as the manufacture of certain chemicals that are thought to be precursors of PCP, these are very serions charges.

The most unusual aspect of the arrests in Los Angeles and Culver City is the alleged amount of PCP involved.  The LA Times story, written by Sam Allen, indicates that 130 gallons were seized.  It is important to remember that this Los Angeles Times story was based entirely on information supplied by police or prosecutors, they have an interest in painting the most extreme and damaging picture of the defendants as possible.  In other words:   Don’t believe everything you read.

More facts in this case will come out and those arrested should be presumed innocent.



Arrests in Mexico-Los Angeles-Denver Cocaine Ring

Monday, February 13th, 2012

It does make for a nice headline: “Feds Make Largest Mass Drug Arrest in Colo. History.”

On February 9, 2012 federal and state authorities announced that they had arrested more than 80 people in connection with a long investigation of a drug ring that connected Mexico, Los Angeles, and Denver.  Arrests were also made in Mexico and Los Angeles, although most of the action took place in Colorado.  Several dozen kilos of cocaine were seized along with a much smaller quantity of meth and a dozen firearms.

This was a large-scale investigation that appears to have started in 2010, and that involved numerous local law enforcement agencies as well as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).

Not surprisingly, the people who ran this investigation and coordinated the arrests were proud of what they had done.  U.S Attorney John F. Walsh convened a press conference at which he tried to make the case that this was a  blow to drug dealers:

“This is a big deal for Colorado. It sends a clear message to people bringing drugs and selling, and that is, ‘Your day will come,’” Walsh said.

This is language that you often hear at press conferences. The headlines are impressive as are the images of police officers standing in front of seized firearms.  I can’t tell you how many of these “record-setting drug arrests” news conferences I have seen over the years.  The amount of drugs seized in Denver certainly wouldn’t be a record here in Los Angeles.

More importantly, too little attention is paid to the fact that these kinds of records are set fairly regularly, and that these press conferences are especially popular during election years.  To be sure, federal prosecutors like Mr. Walsh don’t have to worry about being elected; they are appointed by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate.  But the same cannot be said by local district attorneys; there is a tendency to hold these press conferences as part of an effort to show voters that something is being done about drugs.

But even some of the officials who were involved in this operation tacitly acknowledged that these arrests aren’t going to make a lasting impact on the availability of drugs.  One local prosecutor was unusually candid:

“Adams County District Attorney Don Quick said the bust means that the supply side of the drug chain has been hit but the problem will never truly be resolved until agencies focus on the demand side.”We need to get our kids early so this demand doesn’t exist. If there’s always going to be a demand, there’s always going to be a supply,” Quick said. He said 80 percent of people sitting in jail currently are connected to drug use in some way.”

There is also another interesting and often overlooked aspect of these “record-setting” drug busts.  During the course of the arrests a dozen children were taken out of their parents homes and most likely handed over  to the foster care system. These children are also harmed by how our society has decided to address the real problems caused by cocaine and other drugs.

It is only a matter of time before some other federal prosecutor convenes a press conference to showcase a record drug-related arrest.  For the foreseeable future, that means that I will be plenty busy trying to defend those who have been arrested and who face lengthy prison sentences in federal jails.



Cocaine Related Arrests at LAX

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was on February 2 the scene of  high-profile drug smuggling arrests. Two Spanish nationals, mother and daughter, were stopped allegedly carrying up to ten pounds of cocaine.  According to the local NBC affiliate, the pair were here just for a stop over, and were scheduled to fly to Australia.

One of the most troubling aspect of the press coverage of this story is that, following their arrests, the mother and daughter provided authorities with incriminating information, including that they had previously received money in exchange for transporting packages.

It is perhaps too much to ask two people who are unfamiliar with American law and culture, and who undoubtedly must have been feeling an enormous amount of fear and anxiety, to know that they shouldn’t speak to authorities without first speaking to a lawyer.  It appears that federal agents paid attention to the two because they had an unusual travel pattern, including short recent trips to Panama and Columbia.

Because of the quantity of cocaine that was seized, and because they were arrested at LAX by federal officials, they are facing federal charges. And that means they are facing much higher potential sentences than they would in the California state system.  Here, each may be facing up to a 40-year sentence. And in federal prison, a forty-year jail sentence means that you almost certainly going to be in prison for more than 30 years.

There is no other way to put it–the federal system is different. Most crimes are state crimes; as a result relatively few lawyers are experienced in defending cases in federal court, which has different prosecutors, judges, juries, and rules than California state courts.

It is impossible to tell from the press coverage just how damaging the statements made to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will prove to be, but I am certain that people who are arrested for drug crimes, especially ones facing federal charges, are better off talking to a lawyer before they make any statements to the authorities. And that’s true whether you are arrested or just being asked to appear for an interview with the FBI, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), The Secret Service, IRS, or any other federal agency.






New Law For Early Termination of Probation in California?

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Under California Penal Code 1203.3, a judge has the discretion to order the early termination of probation “in the interests of justice.”  The court can do this, even over the objection of the prosecutor.   However, prosecutors in Los Angeles County are starting to use a 2008 California Supreme Court case to support the position that if a probationary sentence was agreed to as part of a plea bargain with the prosecutor, then the court cannot modify probation in any way without the prosecutor’s consent.

Their rationale is based on a basic rule of contract law:  The court is not a party to the plea agreement.  The agreement is between the prosecutor and the defendant.  Therefore the court has no authority to modify the agreement. If the defendant entered an open plea to the court, then the agreement is between the defendant and the court, and the court and the defendant could agree on any subsequent modifications they want.

The case that the prosecution relies on is called People v. Seguara (2008) 44 C4th 921. Segura is about modifying custody time.  In that case, the court modified the defendant’s county jail sentence to 360 days from 365 days for immigration law purposes.  The California Supreme Court did not allow this modification of the custody time on the grounds that the lower court cannot modify a “material term’ of the plea agreement:

“As we have discussed, following entry of the judgment, the trial court retained its authority pursuant to section 1203.3 to revoke, modify, or change probation or modify conditions that were not made a part of the parties’ plea agreement. Nonetheless, as the trial court recognized, it was not at liberty to modify a condition integral to the granting of probation in the first place – a negotiated condition included within the plea agreement entered into by the parties, accepted by the court, and incorporated into the judgment.”  Segura at 936.

And what, you ask, is a “material term of probation?”  The Seguara court does not want to go there:

“We need not determine as a general matter what constitutes a material term of a plea agreement, because the one-year term in the present case clearly was a material term” Segura at 936, FN10.

So the bottom line is this:  After a negotiated disposition, the court can – without the prosecutor’s consent – modify probation under 1203.3 as long as the modification is not a material condition of the plea bargain.  But we don’t know what a material condition is.

There are other sections in 1203.3 that deal with notice to the prosecutor, but certainly nothing about a requirement that the prosecutor must approve a probation modification.

It is hard to imagine that the California Supreme Court intended to nullify the plain language of 1203.3(a), but that’s what some prosecutors are saying and some courts are starting to go along with it.

So what to do if you find out that the DA is going to use this broad interpretation of Seguara to oppose your client’s petition to terminate probation?  Argue to the court that Segura is limited to the issue of negotiated custody time, the length of probation itself is not a “material term” (as opposed to other terms and conditions of probation which require the probationer to affirmatively do something such as pay restitution, attend anger management classes, perform a certain amount of community service, etc.). And that to rule otherwise would be inconsistent with the plain language of Penal Code 1203.3(a).   If you lose, you’ve at least made your record in case your client wants to take it up on appeal — which is where this issue will eventually be resolved.

Jerod Gunsberg is a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer handling all criminal cases including early termination of probation and expungement in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California.  He can be reached at 310-210-0744.


Los Angeles DUI Tip – Don’t Mess With the Drive Thru

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

The easiest way to avoid a DUI in Los Angeles is to not drink and drive, but one sure way to get caught driving drunk is going through a fast food drive-thru while intoxicated.  If the person taking you order, your money and or giving you your food at a fast food drive-thru believes you are drunk,  they will call the police and report you.  Yes, this is perfectly legal.  The police are allowed to use a tip from a citizen informant to form the probable cause to stop you for DUI.  All the fast food worker has to do is call the police and give them your license plate number along with the make and model of your car.  If you even make it out of the parking lot before the police arrive, you’ll be pulled over very quickly, charged with a DUI and will you find yourself in need of a criminal lawyer to represent you — if you even make it out of the parking lot.   Needless to say, your chances of the police being called increase if you are rude to the people working the drive-thru window.