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About San Diego Criminal Law Center

San Diego Criminal Law Center was created to provide useful information for anyone charged with a crime in San Diego and throughout the state of California. Author and attorney Vikas Bajaj has over 16 years of criminal defense experience. If you have been charged with a crime or under investigation, read our articles for useful info that may help you during this difficult time.


If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in California you should not hesitate to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Hiring an attorney will help to ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you are given the opportunity to defend yourself against any charges you may face. It is not only important to hire an attorney to represent you, but to hire the right attorney to represent you.

There are many factors that should be considered when you are choosing a criminal defense attorney. These can include area(s) of expertise, years in practice, and even geographic location. The attorneys at the San Diego Criminal Law Center have compiled a list of tips that can be helpful when searching for a good criminal defense attorney in California.

Search Online

The best way to begin your search for a California criminal defense attorney is to use a search engine such as Google or Yahoo. A simple search can yield thousands of results. You can narrow down your search by using certain keywords and phrases.

We suggest including your geographic location and crime for which you have been charged. For example, if you are arrested for robbery in San Diego, we would suggest doing a search for “San Diego criminal lawyer” or “San Diego robbery criminal defense attorney.”

Legal Directories

Legal directories can be a great resource for clients. These directories are similar to search engines, except that search results are limited to lawyers. Attorneys often list themselves on these legal directories to help connect them with future clients. Some popular legal directories – with both clients and attorneys – include Avvo, FindLaw, and Lawyers.com. Popular customer-review websites such as Yelp can also be a great place to start.

Avvo

Avvo can be a great resource if you are searching for a good criminal defense attorney in California. The website simply asks you to enter the type of lawyer you are interested in finding and your location. Hit “search” and you’ll be matched with attorneys in your area who focus in that particular area of law. Avvo will provide information about the attorney, ratings, reviews, and any disciplinary records that may exist. You can even compare different attorneys in your area.

FindLaw

FindLaw allows you to search by city, state, and/or legal issue. When you are matched with attorneys in your area you will be able to access their biography and contact information. There is no review or rating system, so it may be helpful to perform a cross-search for an attorney you may be interested in hiring on a different legal directory.

Lawyers.com

If you’re interested in learning about what other attorneys think about a particular California criminal defense attorney you may want to use Lawyers.com. Search results will match you with criminal defense attorneys in your area and give you access to biographies, contact information, reviews from other clients, and even reviews from other attorneys.

Yelp

Yelp is not technically a legal directory, but it has become a popular tool for connecting attorneys and clients. If you find a California criminal defense attorney through a Yelp search that you like, we suggest searching for that attorney in another directory. This will allow you to get as much information as possible and allow you to make a more informed decision.

Online Reviews

Many of your online searches for a good California criminal defense attorney may include reviews by written by former clients and/or other attorneys. These reviews can be incredibly helpful when you are trying to decide if an attorney is the right choice.

Take the time to look closely at attorney reviews. Consider how many times an attorney has been reviewed as well as their overall rating.

Most importantly, however, consider the content of the reviews. When clients take the time to write a review they are probably doing so for a good reason. They may have been extremely happy with their representation, or they may have had a poor experience and been disappointed in a result. Reading through the entirety of these reviews can help to provide valuable insight into how an attorney works and if they may be the right fit for you.

When hiring a criminal defense attorney in California you will want to make sure you choose someone you trust. Online reviews can help you decide whether a particular attorney may be someone you can confide in and trust.

California State Bar

Once you have narrowed down your search to a few California criminal defense attorneys, we suggest using the California State Bar website to look up each attorney. The California State Bar website will provide up-to-date and certified contact information and the attorney’s disciplinary record.

Questions You Should Ask During the Initial Consultation

California criminal defense attorneys generally offer a free consultation for prospective clients. This allows you to meet with multiple attorneys and conduct a search in-person. When you ask the right questions you can learn a lot about an attorney and whether they may be the right fit for you.

Questions that you should consider asking a California criminal defense attorney during your initial consultation include:

  • How many other cases like mine have you handled?
  • What were the results of those cases?
  • How many years have you been practicing law?
  • Where did you go to law school?
  • Do you practice any other areas of law?
  • How many cases have you taken to trial?
  • How many jury trials have you won?
  • Have you ever been disciplined by the California State Bar?
  • Have you ever received any awards as an attorney?
  • How much will you charge for your services?
  • Can you get the charges reduced or dropped, based on the details I’ve given you?

Preparing for the Initial Consultation

Some of the answers a California criminal defense attorney gives you during an initial consultation may only be helpful if you have a basic understanding of the charges you face. Before meeting with an attorney it is a good idea to do a little bit of research about California law and the crime(s) you have been charged with.

A simple google search can provide a lot of information. An even better place to start is the criminal defense attorney’s website. Most criminal defense attorneys have pages dedicated to certain “practice areas” and crimes. These pages can provide a lot of insight into the law, whether an attorney has experience handling certain cases, and how they may approach a case like yours.

Understanding the Fees

It is important to understand how a criminal defense attorney will calculate his or her legal fees. Some California criminal defense attorneys charge a flat rate per case and others may charge by the hour. Many attorneys will require you to pay a retainer fee before they begin to work on your case. There are many factors that can go into how an attorney calculates a legal fee. Here are some questions you may want to ask during your initial consultation:

  • Do you have a fee structure I can review?
  • Do you charge a flat rate per case or on an hourly basis?
  • What would I have to pay today to secure you as my California criminal defense attorney?
  • Will I be responsible for court costs?
  • What happens if the case becomes more complicated than you initially thought?

While the cost of an attorney may be a factor you want to consider when hiring an attorney, it should not be the only factor. Expensive legal fees do not necessarily mean that your attorney will be better than another attorney who charges less. The opposite is also true. Be sure to investigate how familiar an attorney is with the specific legal issue you need help resolving.

Personality

While you are not hiring an attorney to be your friend, you are hiring someone to handle a very sensitive and personal matter. You must comfortable with and trust the California criminal defense attorney you hire to defend you. Try to choose an attorney who is easy to speak with and understand. An initial consultation is a great way to determine if you and the attorney would be a good fit.

Have you been arrested or charged with a crime in California? If so, do not hesitate to contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at the San Diego Criminal Law Center for a free consultation. Our skilled attorneys would be happy to review your case, answer any questions you may have, and explain your legal options.

See Our Infographic on Finding a Good Criminal Defense Attorney in California

We created this infographic so that you can take it with you when you meet with attorneys. Please click on it to view full-size and print for future reference.

On August 23, 2000, a North Park man was beaten to within inches of his life. He was hospitalized but, sadly, died three days later. San Diego police responding to the scene firmly believed that three male suspects were guilty of the deadly assault, but had no evidence to support their case. As a result, the North Park man’s murder has remained unsolved for nearly 18 years. That is, however, until a recent forensic breakthrough allowed police to gather the evidence they needed to make an arrest. Earlier this month, those three suspects were placed under arrest on suspicion of murder.

Statute of Limitations in California

Most crimes in California are subject to a statute of limitations. A statute of limitations requires the state to bring criminal charges against a person within a specific period of time. If charges are not filed before the statute of limitations expires, they can never be brought. California imposes a statute of limitations for a few different reasons. These include:

  • Encouraging the state to promptly investigate and prosecute all criminal matters
  • Ensuring that a prosecution is based on the best possible evidence, which is likely to fade with time, and
  • Protecting defendants from being prosecuted for criminal acts committed during a different part of their lives.

How is it possible, then, that police in San Diego were able to arrest three men suspected of murdering a North Park man nearly two decades ago? The answer is simple: there is no statute of limitations for murder (or other crimes punishable by death or life in prison) in California.

No Limit on Bringing Criminal Charges for Murder

Why is there no statute of limitations for the crime of murder? There are a few different rationales for not putting restraints on the state’s ability to investigate and prosecute the crime of murder.

Prosecutions Can Provide Closure

Murder can never be undone. Once a person’s life is taken, that’s the end of their story. Families who have members torn away from them unexpectedly will be forced to cope with that reality for the rest of their lives. Prosecuting the person responsible for a family member’s death is seen as one of the few ways to provide closure. As a result, the state is free to investigate a murder case without time restraints.

Advances in Technology

In 2000, police were unable to gather evidence to show that three suspects were physically present at the scene of the North Park murder. Today, however, advances in forensic technology allowed police to link the suspects to the murder. Since technology is always advancing, placing a limit on the amount of time police have to investigate a crime as serious as murder would not be in the interests of justice.

Revisiting Previously Closed Cases

What happens if someone is wrongfully convicted of murder and then, two decades later, evidence surfaces to show that they are innocent of the crime? If there was a statute of limitations for murder, the state would not be able to find, arrest, and try the actual criminal. However, since there is no time limit for bringing murder charges, the state is free to reopen and investigate a previously-closed case.

Difficulty Prosecuting Cold Cases

Cold cases can remain open for decades. When new evidence surfaces in a murder case, the state has the right to arrest, charge, and try a criminal suspect. However, prosecuting a cold case can prove to be quite difficult. While the state may have new evidence to support their case, old evidence may have been lost, forgotten, or become degraded over time. Witnesses to the crime may have forgotten what happened or may no longer be around.

An attorney representing a defendant charged with a decades-old murder will undoubtedly challenge the validity of any evidence and testimony offered by the state. In some cases, these challenges may prevent the state from successfully convicting a defendant for a murder that happened long ago. In these situations, defendants may be able to secure a plea or walk away without facing any penalties, at all.

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorneys

Most criminal matters must be resolved within a few years of the crime. However, this is not true for the crime of murder. The state has the right to investigate murder for as long as it takes to make an arrest.

Have you been arrested on suspicion of a crime that was committed years ago? Contact the San Diego Criminal Law Center for help. Our experienced attorneys will review your alleged crime, determine if the state has the authority to charge you with a crime, and fight to protect your future. Call today to schedule your free case evaluation and learn more.

Carjacking typically involves stealing, or attempting to steal, a car from a stranger. However, a San Diego man was recently arrested after he attempted to carjack his own mother. Reports indicate that the man asked his mother to drive him from the Marina in downtown San Diego to the bank. During the trip, the man directed his mother to take less-traveled back roads.

When they were secluded, he forced the car into Park, removed the keys from the ignition, and exited the vehicle. He walked around to the driver’s side and attempted to forcibly remove his mother from the car. When she resisted, he threw the keys and ran. The man was subsequently found by police and arrested on suspicion of carjacking.

What is Carjacking?

In California, carjacking is actually a specific type of robbery. Robbery occurs when you use force or the threat of force to commit a theft directly from another person. This can involve taking property from another person’s body or taking property while in their immediate presence. Carjacking is essentially a robbery where the target is a vehicle.

Specifically, carjacking is defined in Penal Code 215 PC to mean “felonious taking of a motor vehicle in the possession of another, from his or her person or immediate presence, or from the person or immediate presence of a passenger of the motor vehicle, against his or her will and with the intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person in possession of the motor vehicle of his or her possession, accomplished by means of force or fear.”

In other words, carjacking is the crime of forcibly taking the vehicle from another person by using force, fear, or intimidation. You must intend to either permanently or temporarily deprive the owner possession of the vehicle.

What are the Penalties for Carjacking?

Carjacking is specifically defined as the “felonious taking” of a motor vehicle. As a result, carjacking is classified as a felony in California.

If you are convicted of carjacking in San Diego your criminal sentence may include:

  • 3, 5, or 9 years in a California state prison, and
  • $25,000 in criminal fines.

The penalties for carjacking can be aggravated in certain situations. The penalties may be more severe if you used a firearm, injured a victim, or committed the crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

Sentencing Enhancements

Carjacking is classified as a “strike” offense in California. The state’s Three Strikes Law allows a judge to impose harsher criminal penalties if you have multiple convictions for strike offenses. If this is your second strike offense, the penalties for your crime can be doubled. If this is your third strike offense, you can be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Defending Carjacking Charges in San Diego

When you face carjacking charges in San Diego you have the right to defend yourself. The best defense will help to explain, excuse, and/or justify your behavior. Other defenses can be used to cast doubt on your guilt and make it difficult for the state to build a persuasive case against you. Defenses that may be helpful in a carjacking case include:

  • You didn’t intend to deprive the owner of the vehicle
  • You mistakenly believed you had a right to take the car
  • You are the lawful owner of the vehicle
  • You had the owner’s consent
  • You did not use force or fear to take the vehicle, and
  • The victim’s fear was not reasonable.

If evidence is gathered in violation of your rights, you can also raise these violations in your defense. Your attorney will file a motion with the court to suppress any evidence that has been tainted by the state’s unlawful actions. Without this evidence, the prosecution may be forced to consider a plea or dismiss the charges in their entirety.

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorneys

Have you been arrested on suspicion of carjacking in San Diego? Contact the attorneys at the San Diego Criminal Law Center for help. We know that your future is on the line and will fight to protect your legal rights. It is important to act quickly, so do not hesitate to contact our office today. We will review your case, explain your rights, and outline what we believe is your best defense. We offer a free consultation, so do not hesitate to call us now.

Did you know that pointing a laser at a plane or helicopter is a crime in California? A San Diego man recently learned this lesson the hard way when he was arrested for doing just that. According to reports, crew on a police Helicopter flying over San Diego notified central dispatch that a laser was being pointed in their direction. Police tracked the laser to a car at Fiesta Island, where the man was promptly arrested for aiming it at the chopper.

Pointing a Laser at an Aircraft

The FAA receives thousands of notices each year involving laser pointers. Under California law, it is a crime to direct a laser pointer in the direction of aircraft. Why? Research shows that the laser can “distract and incapacitate” pilots. In some cases, lasers can cause blindness and eye damage. This increases the risk of the aircraft being involved in an accident, which is dangerous for passengers and individuals on the ground.

California State Law

When is it illegal in California to point a laser at an aircraft? Under California Penal Code 247.5 PC, you can face criminal charges when you:

  1. Willfully and maliciously
  2. Discharge a laser at an aircraft in motion or in flight
  3. While occupied.

Willfully and Maliciously

In order to face charges under California law, you must willfully and maliciously point a laser at an aircraft. This helps to prevent individuals who accidentally or mistakenly point a laser at an airplane or helicopter from being charged with a crime. You will be considered to have acted willfully and maliciously when you act with purpose and have an understanding that those actions can cause harm.

Discharge a Laser at an Aircraft in Motion or Flight

You can only be convicted under 247.5 PC if you direct a laser beam at an aircraft that is in motion or flight. In other words, the craft must be in the air or moving in some way. California law defines aircraft to include any vessel that is designed and capable of “transporting persons through the airspace.”

While Occupied

Again, this language helps to protect individuals who shine a laser beam at an unoccupied aircraft. A danger only exists when the aircraft (a) is in motion and (b) is occupied.

Penalties for Aiming a Laser at an Aircraft

Aiming a laser beam at an aircraft in California can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Any charges that are filed will depend on the details of a specific case. Factors that may be relevant in determining whether the crime should be a misdemeanor or a felony include:

  1. The degree of harm suffered by any victims
  2. Whether the laser caused the pilot to lose control of the aircraft
  3. The defendant’s intent and purpose, and/or
  4. The defendant’s criminal record.

When charged as a misdemeanor, aiming a laser at an aircraft is punishable by:

  • 12 months in a San Diego County jail, and/or
  • $1,000 in criminal fines.

When charged as a felony, aiming a laser at an aircraft is punishable by:

  • 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in a California state prison, and/or
  • $2,000 in criminal fines.

Defending Criminal Charges in San Diego

The San Diego man is not automatically guilty just because he has been arrested by police. The state will have to gather evidence and prove that he is guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. He will have the opportunity to defend himself against all criminal charges. A strong defense will make it difficult for the state to satisfy its burden of proof.  

Defenses that may be helpful in contesting charges for aiming a laser at an aircraft include:

  1. It was an accident
  2. The defendant lacked the intent and motive necessary to commit the crime
  3. The defendant did not have a laser, as defined under California state law
  4. False accusation, or
  5. Mistaken identity.

Contact the San Diego Criminal Law Center

You have the right to defend yourself against criminal charges in San Diego. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle your case will help you secure the best possible outcome in your case.

If you have been arrested in San Diego do not hesitate to contact the San Diego Criminal Law Center for help. During your free consultation, we will review the charges against you and explain your rights as a defendant in California.