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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.

Meth Arrests Surging in San Diego

A study of law enforcement data has revealed that meth-related deaths and arrests are on the rise in San Diego County. This is true, despite targeted efforts to help individuals struggling with addiction. The problem seems to be most prevalent in the city of San Diego.

Between 2015 and 2018, the number of arrests and citations for possession and/or distribution of methamphetamine rose by nearly 50 percent. Other areas reporting drastic increases in meth-related arrests in recent years include Vista, Lakeside, San Marcos, and Rancho Santa Fe.

Methamphetamine is a Controlled Substance

Drugs and chemical substances are classified into one of five categories by the federal government. Schedule I controlled substances are considered to be the most dangerous and addictive, while Schedule IV controlled substances pose the smallest threat for potential abuse. Methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II drug.

According to the Controlled Substance Act, a Schedule II drug has a “high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Unlike Schedule I controlled substances, these drugs may have a legitimate medical use.

It’s Illegal to Possess Meth in San Diego

California state law prohibits possession of methamphetamine unless explicitly authorized by law. Specifically, under Health and Safety Code 11377 HS, it’s illegal to knowingly have actual or constructive possession of a usable quantity of methamphetamine.  

Actual vs. Constructive Possession

Possession can be defined two different ways: actual and constructive. Actual possession means that you are in physical contact with an object. This can include holding it in your hands or having it in your pocket. Constructive possession means that you have the ability to exert control over an object, even if you aren’t near it. For example, you’d have constructive possession of meth if it were in the glove compartment of your vehicle or your dresser drawer at home.

For the purposes of 11377 HS, there’s no difference between actual and constructive possession. Both are equally in violation of the law. It’s just as illegal to have meth in your pocket as it is to have it stashed somewhere in your home.

Knowledge

You have to have a certain degree of knowledge to be guilty under 11377 HS.

First, you must know that the substance in your possession is methamphetamine. You can’t be convicted if you honestly, but mistakenly, believed the substance was something else that is not illegal to possess.

Second, you must know that the drug is in your actual or constructive possession. This protects you if the drug is someone else’s or planted on you.

What Happens If You’re Convicted For Possessing Meth?

Thanks to Proposition 47, possession of methamphetamine is (almost) always a misdemeanor. If convicted, you’ll face a maximum of one year in prison. A judge may also order you to pay a fine and/or successfully complete stated terms of probation.

Possession of methamphetamine can still be charged as a felony if you’ve bee convicted of a violent crime or are required to register with the state as a sex offender.

You can fight meth possession charges in California. Defenses can include lack of knowledge or violations of your Constitutional rights. The best thing to do if you’re arrested on meth charges in San Diego is to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney will help you secure the best possible outcome in your case.

A San Diego neuroscientist was recently arrested in connection with a string of bank robberies across the county. According to reports, 43-year-old Karl William Doron is believed to be the mastermind of several successful and attempted credit union robberies between December and February. Surveillance footage from each of the banks places Doron at the scene.

Doron was under police surveillance when he allegedly committed at least one of the robberies. Police approached him after the heist and placed him under arrest. He was in possession of a loaded firearm at the time.

At his arraignment, Doron was formally charged with 10 counts of robbery and attempted robbery.

What is Robbery? How is it Different From Theft?

Robbery, as defined in California Penal Code 211 PC, is the “felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.”

In other words, a robbery occurs when you use force or intimidation to steal something from another person.

Robbery differs from other theft crimes in two very distinct ways. First, the crime of robbery can only be committed when another person is present. The person who is being robbed doesn’t necessarily have to know that they are the victim of a robbery. The important thing is that the theft occurs in the immediate presence of another person.

Second, Penal Code 211 PC explains that robbery requires theft by force or fear. Other crimes of theft can be done discreetly or without intimidation. Robbery, on the other hand, requires some element of force or persuasion.

What Does the State Have to Prove in a Robbery Case?

Doron has been charged with 10 counts of robbery and attempted robbery. However, the state has the burden of persuading a judge or jury that he is guilty of each of these crimes. Prosecutors will have to prove:

  • He took possession of property that didn’t belong to him
  • While that property was in another person’s possession
  • The property was taken from that person’s immediate presence against their will
  • He used force, fear, or intimidation to take the property or to prevent that person from resisting, and
  • He intended to take the property before or after the crime was committed.

The state also has to prove that Doron intended to deprive the owners of their property permanently.

What’s Considered Another Person’s Immediate Presence?

Robbery occurs when property is taken from another person’s immediate presence. Does this mean that a victim has to be physically holding onto property when it’s taken from them? Or can immediate presence be more broadly defined?

California has explained that property is in a victim’s immediate presence if it “is sufficiently within his or her physical control” and that “he or she could keep possession of it if not prevented by force or fear.”

So, immediate presence is broadly defined. For example, let’s say that Doron entered one of the banks and demanded cash from the tellers. It’s highly unlikely that the bank tellers had cash in their hands or in their pockets. They would have to open a drawer or safe to access the money. Is the money considered to be in their immediate presence? Yes. The tellers have control over the money and could have retained it if they had not been threatened by Doron.

First and Second Degree Robbery

Robbery is categorized as either first-degree robbery or second-degree robbery.

First-degree robbery occurs when the crime is committed:

  • In an inhabited dwelling
  • While someone is using, or had just used, an ATM, or
  • Against a driver of a taxi cab, bus, or trolley.

First-degree robbery is a felony, punishable by between 3 and 6 years in a California state prison, $10,000 in fines, and probation.

Second-degree robbery is any other robbery committed in the state of California. Second-degree robbery is also a felony, punishable by between 2 and 5 years in a California state prison, $10,000 in fines, and probation.

Doron can face the maximum penalty for each of the 10 counts of robbery with which he’s been charged.

Additional Jail Time For Committing a Robbery Using a Firearm

Doron allegedly used a loaded firearm to commit several robberies in San Diego. Under, California’s 10-20-Life law, also known as “use a gun and you’re done,” he could face additional time behind bars.

  • Additional 10 years for using a firearm during a robbery
  • Additional 20 years for discharging a firearm during a robbery
  • Additional 25 years to life for causing bodily harm or death with a firearm during a robbery.

These penalties are in addition to those imposed for the underlying offense. Doron could realistically be sentenced to prison for the rest of his life.

Doron faces an uphill battle. However, he does have the right to defend himself. His defense will be strongest if he hires an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney to handle his case.

 

San Diego Police Arrest 18 During Prostitution Sting

At least 18 men, ranging from ages 19 to 81, were recently arrested in a San Diego prostitution sting. The sting operation lasted about seven hours in an area of Pomona known as the Blade. The Blade is known for being a hot spot for prostitution. According to reports, female officers posed as prostitutes in the area. The men who were arrested pulled over while driving through Pomona and attempted to solicit sex from the officers.

Are Sting Operations Legal?

Yes, sting operations can be legal. However, police have to be careful as to how these operations are carried out. Officers cannot coerce or encourage individuals to engage in criminal activity that they wouldn’t have engaged in on their own. This is what is known as entrapment.

On the other hand, it’s entirely lawful to set up a situation that is likely to draw criminal activity. In this situation, San Diego police officers went undercover as prostitutes in an area that is well-known for its prostitution activity. The officers were positioned on street corners and visible to drivers as they passed by. The men who were arrested took it upon themselves to pull their cars over and approach the officers to solicit sex.

The sting isn’t illegal just because the men weren’t aware that the women they were approaching were law enforcement officers. The choice to solicit sex was entirely their own. They just happened to solicit sex from someone who could bust them for it.

Understanding Solicitation in San Diego

It’s illegal to sell or pay for sex in California. Selling sex is known as prostitution. The person who engages in sex in exchange for compensation would be charged with the crime of prostitution.

Paying for sex, or offering some sort of compensation, is known as solicitation. The person who requests and intends to pay for sex would be charged with the crime of solicitation. The crimes are prohibited under California Penal Code Section 647 PC.

Proving Solicitation Charges

The state will have the burden of proving that the 18 men arrested in Pomona are guilty of solicitation. To do this, prosecutors will have to prove:

  • The men requested that the female officers engaged in an act of prostitution
  • The men intended to engage in an act of prostitution with the officers, and
  • The officers received the request.

California defines engaging in an act of prostitution as “having sexual intercourse or doing a lewd act with someone else in exchange for money or other compensation.” Lewd acts include touching intimate or private body parts for sexual gratification or arousal.

Penalties for Solicitation

Solicitation is a misdemeanor in the state of California. The penalties that apply ultimately depend on how many times you’ve been convicted of the crime.

First-time solicitation convictions are punishable by a maximum of 6 months in a San Diego County Jail and/or $1,000 in fines. A judge may also decide that probation is an appropriate alternative.

Subsequent solicitation convictions carry mandatory jail time. You’ll be required to spend at least 45 days behind bars the second time you’re convicted. The third time around, you’ll be sentenced to a minimum of 90 days in jail.

Solicitation in a Car

The crime of solicitation will be aggravated if it is committed in a car within 1,000 feet of a residence. The state reserves the right to suspend or revoke your driver’s license for up to 6 months.

Anyone arrested for solicitation should seek legal assistance immediately. Contact the San Diego Criminal Law Center for help with your defense today.