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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.

A 24-year-old Vista man has been arrested for falsely identifying himself as a San Diego sheriff’s deputy. According to reports, the man visited several San Diego businesses and reported that he was an undercover officer. Employees of several local restaurants witnessed the man interacting with area youth, became concerned, and called police to report the suspicious activity.

Police investigated the claims and determined that the man was falsely identifying himself as an officer of the law. The investigation also uncovered the fact that the man was using his alleged authority to detain young men and confiscate their skateboards. The man was located and arrested near the Wave Waterpark earlier this month.  Searches of the man and his home uncovered fake sheriff’s department business cards, sheriff’s deputy’s uniform, and badges.

Impersonating a Peace Officer

In California, it is a crime to impersonate a police officer or other officer of the law. Specifically, Penal Code 538d PC explains that “any other person other than one who by law is given the authority of a peace officer, who willfully wears, exhibits, or uses the authorized uniform, insignia, emblem, device, label, certificate, card, or writing, of a peace officer, with the intent of fraudulently impersonating a peace officer, or of fraudulently inducing the belief that he or she is a peace officer” is guilty of the crime of impersonation.

In simpler terms, it is a crime to intentionally and fraudulently attempt to make others believe that you are an officer of the law. This can be accomplished by wearing a uniform, creating a fake badge, passing off a genuine badge that is not your own, or even creating business cards to support your fraudulent claim.

What is a Peace Officer?

Penal Code 538d PC explicitly states that it is a crime to impersonate a peace officer. In California, peace officers can include anyone who “meets all standards imposed by law on a peace officer, including:

  • Sheriffs
  • Undersheriffs
  • Deputy sheriffs
  • Police officers
  • Officers of consolidated public safety agencies
  • Firefighters
  • Court marshals or deputies
  • Port police officers
  • Port wardens
  • San Diego Unified Port District Harbor police
  • Public safety agents, and more.

Generally speaking, anyone who has the lawful authority of a peace officer, or who is appointed by a chief or director of a public safety agency, will be classified as a peace officer.

Penalty for Impersonating a Peace Officer

Impersonating a peace officer in violation of California state law is a misdemeanor offense. The penalty will depend on the circumstance of each specific case.

Willfully wearing/exhibiting/using a peace officer’s badge to fraudulently induce others to believe you are a peace officer:

  • Maximum of 12 months in a San Diego County jail; and/or
  • $2,000 in fines.

Willfully wearing/exhibiting/using a falsified badge or card to induce others to believe you are a peace officer:

  • Maximum of six months in a San Diego County jail; and/or
  • $2,000 in fines

Making or selling fraudulent peace officer badges, insignias, or cards:

  • Maximum of six months in a San Diego County jail; and
  • $15,000 in fines.

Selling a law enforcement uniform to someone other than an employee of the agency:

  • $1,000 in fines.

If you are convicted for impersonating a peace officer you will be burdened with a criminal record. This record will have the ability to affect every aspect of your life. You will find that it is difficult to get a job, rent an apartment, and even secure a loan.

Defending False Impersonation Charges in San Diego

Have you been accused of falsely impersonating a peace officer in San Diego? It’s important to speak with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. Just because you have been accused of a crime does not mean that you will be charged or convicted. You have the right to defend yourself, and the San Diego Criminal Law Center can help.

As your attorneys, we will thoroughly investigate your supposed crime and determine the best legal strategy for your defense. Remember, the state cannot convict you of a crime unless it can show that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Any evidence that can cast doubt on the prosecution’s case can be helpful in minimizing the consequences of your arrest.

Call us today to schedule a free consultation with our skilled legal team. We will review your case, explain your legal rights, and outline the best arguments for your defense. The state will begin to build its case against you immediately, so do not hesitate to call us for help now.

Police officers, elected officials, and other government employees are not above the law. While on-duty government employees may be able to enjoy certain rights and privileges, but they are still expected to be law-abiding citizens on their own time. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Earlier this year, a 14-year-old girl reported that she had been touched inappropriately while standing in line at a Vista restaurant. After a thorough investigation, police have arrested Timothy Wilson, a Vista detention deputy with more than 10 years on the job, for the crime. Wilson, who is tasked with taking care of the inmates at the Vista jail, has been charged with one felony count of lewd acts with a child.

Lewd Acts With a Child

While all sexually-based crimes in San Diego are taken very serious by the state, those involving children and young people tend to receive extra attention. Children, including young teenage girls, are often not equipped with the physical strength and emotional courage necessary to thwart sexual predators. The young woman who was the victim in this case never even saw her attacker coming. After the incident, she admitted that she lived in continued fear that he would strike again. Even though Wilson did not engage in sexual activity with the girl, his actions have likely scarred her for life.

Penal Code Section 288 PC

California has crimes like “lewd acts with a child” on the books to punish this kind of behavior. California Penal Code Section 288 PC makes it a crime to “willfully and lewdly commit any lewd or lascivious act…upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of a child…with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child.”

In other words, it is a crime to touch a child in a lewd or sexual manner with the intent to arouse or gratify sexual desires.

Age of the Child

Penal Code 288 PC generally refers to lewd acts with children under the age of 14, but can also apply to lewd acts with children under the age of 16. However, if the victim 14 or 15, the defendant must be at least 10 years older than the child they are accused of molesting. This helps to prevent prosecution of young romantic partners for engaging in minor acts of sexual behavior.

What is a Lewd Act?

A lewd act can be defined to mean:

  • Touching a child for a sexual purpose
  • Having the child touch themselves for your own sexual gratification, or
  • Having a child touch you for your own sexual gratification.

Simply put, a lewd act is sexually-charged touching between an adult and a child. There is no requirement that a lewd act with a child involve a sexual organ, such as the genitals, anus, or female breast. The fact that the touching is done for sexual arousal or gratification is enough.

Consequences for Lewd Acts With a Child

Lewd acts with a child can be a felony or misdemeanor in California. However, the penalties that can be imposed will depend on the very specific circumstances of each individual case. Factors that will affect the penalty include:

  • The child’s age
  • Whether force was used to commit the act
  • Whether the child suffered great bodily harm
  • Your prior convictions and/or status as a habitual sex offender.

Felony Lewd Acts With a 14 Year Old Child

Here, Wilson is facing charges for one felony count of lewd acts with a child under the age of 16, which is a violation of 288(c)(1) PC. It is important to note that this specific crime can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The state has indicated that this is a very serious matter, perhaps due to Wilson’s status as a government employee, by choosing to pursue felony charges. If convicted, Wilson can face up to 3 years in prison and be required to pay $10,000 in criminal fines.

Sex Offender Registration

Anyone who is convicted of lewd acts with a child will be required to register as a sex offender in the state of California. This can make it incredibly difficult to get a job, rent or buy a home, and travel freely. The social stigma of being a convicted sex offender is enough, on its own, to destroy your future.

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorneys

Anyone who is charged with a crime in San Diego has the right to defend themselves. This is true regardless of the type of crime you’re accused of committing. If you are facing criminal charges in San Diego, do not hesitate to contact the San Diego Criminal Law Center for help.

Our attorneys understand that your future is on the line and will fight to protect your legal rights. We will aggressively defend you against any allegations of criminal wrongdoing and work to secure the best possible outcome in our criminal matter. Call us today to schedule a free case evaluation with our skilled San Diego criminal defense attorneys.

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.