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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.

Section 1983 Lawsuits for Police Brutality

The Constitution grants you certain rights and protections. Police have to walk a very fine line when doing their jobs to ensure that your rights aren’t infringed without cause. Thanks to a civil-war era law, you have the right to hold police officers responsible for acts of misconduct. Under Section 1983 of the United States Code, you can file a lawsuit against an officer for violating or depriving you of your fundamental rights. Find out more about filing a civil lawsuit by contacting Injury Trial Lawyers, APC, a San Diego, CA based personal injury law firm. 

What is Section 1983?

Section 1983 dates back to the end of the civil war. It is initially intended as a way to allow African Americans to protect themselves from anticipated racial discrimination. Under the law, former slaves could sue police officers or state officials if they tried to oppress and/or restrict their rights. Despite being intended to help newly freed slaves integrate into American society, Section 1983 was not widely used until the 1960s.

Specifically, Section 1983 states:

“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.”

It can be more easily explained by saying that the law provides citizens with the right to sue police for harm caused by the violation of protected rights. In truth, Section 1983 lawsuits aren’t limited to police. Any “person” who is “acting under color of state law” can be named in a Section 1983 suit.

Why is Section 1983 Important?

Prior to the enactment of Section 1983, ordinary citizens had little recourse if a police officer violated their rights. Why? Police (and others in power) are generally immune from civil lawsuits for acts committed on the job. With immunity, you can’t sue the government unless the government decides to allow the claim. Section 1983 allows victims of police misconduct to work around the immunity issue. Without Section 1983, it would be nearly impossible to hold officers personally responsible for harm caused by violations of your rights.

Do I Have a Section 1983 Case?

You may have a valid Section 1983 claim if:

  1. Your rights were violated
  2. By a person acting under color of state law, and
  3. This violation caused you to suffer an injury.

You must prove each of these things in order to win your Section 1983 case.

Violation of Protected Rights

Section 1983 states that you have the right to sue any person acting under governmental authority who is responsible for the “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and law.” As a result, nearly any violation of a state or federal right can be the basis for a Section 1983 lawsuit. Most Section 1983 lawsuits involve a violation of:

Examples include illegal searches and seizures, police brutality, cruel and unusual punishment of an inmate, and coerced confessions.

It’s important to find evidence that shows the violation occurred because the person acting under color of state law:

  • Did not perform his or her job duties in good faith
  • Deliberately interfered with your rights, and/or
  • Consciously disregarded your rights.

Person Acting Under Color of State Law

A Section 1983 claim can only be valid if your rights were violated by a person acting under color of state law. A person can include an individual, municipality, or local government body. State and federal agencies are specifically excluded from the definition of “person” for Section 1983 purposes. A Section 1983 claim may be brought if your rights were violated by a:

  • Police officer or chief
  • Police department
  • Sheriff’s deputy or department
  • Prison guard or warden
  • Prison facility
  • School district, or
  • City, town, or county official or agency.

In addition to being categorized as a “person” for the purposes of Section 1983, the person must have also been acting under color of state law. This simply means that the person was acting with authority granted by some law or custom. In theory, this can extend to both government and non-government actors.

Injury

It’s not enough that your rights were violated by a person acting under color of state law. You must also have suffered some sort of injury because of the misconduct. Injuries can be physical, emotional, financial, or even social.

You can demand compensation for your injuries. Damages that may be awarded in a Section 1983 case could include those for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Lost wages
  • Injury to reputation
  • Disability
  • Legal fees, and
  • Embarrassment.

If there was a blatant and malicious deprivation of your rights, you may also be entitled to an award of punitive damages. These are intended to punish the police officer (or other person) for their misconduct.

Drunk Driving Arrests on the Rise in San Diego

Arrests for drunk driving in San Diego tend to increase around the holidays. The much celebrated Labor Day weekend is no different. Between 6 PM Friday and 6 AM Saturday, police in San Diego made more than 60 DUI-related arrests. That’s nearly a 30 percent increase in San Diego Labor Day DUI arrests from the year before.

There are two reasons the number of DUI arrests spike on and around holidays. First, there are simply more drunk and drugged drivers on the road. Holidays give people a reason to celebrate, and drugs and alcohol are often used heavily. Second, law enforcement agencies tend to use more resources to combat drunk driving around the holidays. Not only are there more DUI checkpoints, but also an increased number of officers patrolling the roads. More drunk drivers and more police is the perfect recipe for an increase in arrests.

Two Types of DUI in San Diego

It’s against the law to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are two ways you can be arrested and charged with DUI in California: per se and probable cause.

Per Se DUI

In California, you will be considered to be “under the influence” of alcohol if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .08 percent when you were driving. If chemical tests show that your BAC exceeds the legal limit, you will be charged for DUI under Vehicle Code Section 23152(b). This is known as Per Se Intoxication DUI.

Probable Cause DUI

Contrary to popular belief, you can be arrested for DUI even if you don’t fail a breath test. Under Vehicle Code Section 23152(a), police have the authority to arrest you for DUI if they have reason to believe that you are unable to drive safely because you have consumed drugs or alcohol. However, police must have probable cause to believe that you’ve violated the law. Indicators that may establish probable cause for your arrest include:

  • Failed field sobriety tests
  • Chemical testing showing some level of alcohol in your system
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • The odor of alcohol or drugs in the car, or
  • Drugs and/or paraphernalia visible in the car.

The state will present any evidence that shows you were intoxicated in violation of the law to support its case.

Penalties for DUI in San Diego

While there are two ways you can be arrested for DUI in San Diego, the penalties for each crime is the same. In California, DUI can be a misdemeanor or a felony offense. The seriousness of your charge, as well as the potential penalties, will depend on a variety of factors. These include:

  • Prior DUI convictions
  • BAC
  • Injury or death of a victim, and
  • Willingness to cooperate with police during chemical testing.

First DUI: First-time DUI offenses, absent any aggravating circumstances, are punishable by a maximum of:

  • Fines: $1,000

 

  • Jail: 6 months
  • Probation: 3 years

 

  • License Suspension: 6 months.

Second DUI:  Second DUI convictions, absent any aggravating circumstances, are punishable by:

  • Fines: $390 to $1,000

 

  • Jail: 96 hours to 6 months
  • Probation: 3 to 5 years

 

  • License Suspension: 2 years criminal, 1 year administrative (concurrently)

First DUI: Subsequent DUI offenses, absent any aggravating circumstances, are punishable by:

  • Fines: $390 to $1,000

 

  • Jail: 120 days to 12 months
  • Probation: 5 years

 

  • License Suspension: 3 years criminal, 1 year administrative (concurrently).

In addition to these criminal penalties, you can also face administrative sanctions and be required to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. Most individuals convicted of DUI end up spending thousands as a result of their arrest.

Fighting DUI Charges in San Diego

Don’t give up hope when you are arrested for DUI. You have the right to defend yourself throughout the criminal proceedings. Hiring an attorney to handle your defense will help you secure the best possible result. Your attorney will thoroughly investigate your alleged crime and determine the best way to defend you. Defenses should be constructed to (a) undermine the state’s case against you and (b) explain or justify your behavior.

DUI defenses can include:

  • Illegal traffic stop
  • Illegal arrest
  • Chemical test results are invalid and unreliable
  • Police did not administer field sobriety tests properly, or
  • You have been falsely accused.

If you have been arrested for DUI in San Diego you need to speak with an attorney. Call the San Diego Criminal Law Center to schedule a free case evaluation. Our attorneys are here to help you protect your future.

Two Men Arrested for Robbing Marijuana Dispensary

Two San Diego men suspected of robbing a marijuana dispensary in Banning have been arrested. According to reports, the men robbed the facility shortly before closing. During the robbery, they allegedly shot and stabbed at least three people. Both men will face criminal charges for robbery.

Understanding Robbery in San Diego

Robbery is the crime of taking property directly from another person through the use of force or fear. It is similar to other crimes of theft, but unique because it requires that property is taken:

  1. From the “immediate presence” of a victim; and
  2. Using force or fear.

Immediate Presence

What does it mean to take something from a person’s immediate presence? In the most basic sense, immediate presence means taking something that a person is holding, occupying, or wearing. This could include a watch, wallet, or purse on a person’s body.

Immediate presence can also mean taking something that is within another person’s reach. Let’s go back to the men who robbed the marijuana dispensary. They may have stolen property directly from customers and employees. However, most of the things they stole, including money, drugs, and paraphernalia, were likely within the reach of employees. If the employees were close enough to the property and could have kept “possession of it if not prevented by force or fear,” it would be considered to be in their immediate presence.

Force or Fear

Robbery also requires that a theft involve the use of force or fear. It is important to understand that you must enter the situation and intend to use force or fear to steal property. If you decide to steal property and then resort to force or fear, you will face charges for a different crime.

Example 1: John drives to a liquor store with the intent to steal money from the register. He enters with a gun and points it at the clerk as he demands money. Since John entered the situation with the intent to use force to steal the money, he can be charged with robbery.

Example 2: John is shopping in a liquor store when he notices an expensive and rare bottle behind the counter. The clerk walks away to help a customer, so John slips behind the counter and tries to steal the bottle. The clerk notices and confronts him. John reaches into his pocket and pulls out a knife to threaten the clerk. Since John did not enter the situation intending to use force or fear, he will likely not be charged with robbery. He can, however, be charged with other crimes.

Causing Injury During a Robbery

The men who robbed the San Diego marijuana dispensary may be facing additional penalties for their crime since at least three people were injured. Why? California’s great bodily injury enhancement can apply when you commit or attempt to commit a felony and cause another person to suffer a serious physical injury.

Second-degree robbery in San Diego is typically punishable by 2, 3, or 5 years in a California state prison. If the great bodily injury enhancement is imposed, the men could face an additional 3 to 6 years behind bars.

The men may also face criminal charges for attempted murder in addition to those for robbery. A thorough investigation into the crime will help the state determine which charges are most appropriate.

 

Are you or someone you love facing criminal charges in San Diego? Members of our criminal defense team are always standing by to help you understand your rights. Call us today to learn more.