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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.

In today’s high-tech world it is important to be careful what you post on social media. A Fallbrook High School student learned this lesson the hard way last week when he was arrested for making a threatening post on his personal Snapchat feed. The 15-year-old posted a photo of himself holding a firearm at a shooting range and included a caption warning students to stay home from school the next day. Police arrested the teen on suspicion of making criminal threats.

What Are Criminal Threats?

Criminal threats, as defined in California Penal Code 422 PC, occur when:

  1. You willfully threaten to kill or physically harm another person;
  2. You communicate this threat verbally, in writing, or electronically;
  3. You intended that your communication be understood as a threat;
  4. The threat was clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific that it was reasonable to take it seriously;
  5. The threat caused another person to fear for his/her safety or the safety of his/her family; and
  6. This fear was reasonable given the circumstances.

In San Diego, you can be charged with the crime of making criminal threats even if you aren’t able to follow through. In fact, your intent to actually harm another person is irrelevant. The fact that you make a threat that places another person in reasonable fear is sufficient to warrant criminal charges.

If the Fallbrook High School student is charged with making criminal threats the prosecution will have to establish each element of the crime in order to convict him. This includes proving that the post was made intentionally with the purpose of placing others in a state of fear.

Defending Allegations of Making Criminal Threats

The prosecution is required to establish each element of the offense in order to get a conviction. The student’s San Diego criminal defense attorney will argue any defense, fact, or piece of evidence that makes it difficult for the prosecution to make their case. After reviewing the evidence of this case, the student’s attorney will likely argue that:

  • The post was made as a joke, and was not intended to scare others;
  • Recipients of the post should have known that it was not a threat;
  • The victim’s fear was unreasonable, given the circumstances; and
  • The post was not a clear and specific threat.

Penalties for Making Criminal Threats

The crime of making criminal threats is can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in San Diego. The severity of the charges will depend on the specifics of each individual case. Factors that can influence whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony include:

  • Harm suffered by the victim;
  • The extent and seriousness of the threat;
  • The use of a deadly weapon or firearm; and
  • Your existing criminal record.

A misdemeanor conviction for making criminal threats carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in a San Diego jail and a fine of $1,000. A felony conviction for making criminal threats carries a maximum sentence of three years in a California state prison and a fine of $10,000.

The sentence for making criminal threats can be extended if you make threats:

  1. Using a deadly weapon or firearm;
  2. On multiple occasions;
  3. Against more than one person; or
  4. To further another criminal goal.

Hire an Attorney to Reduce the Risk of a Conviction for Making Criminal Threats

You can be charged with the crime of making criminal threats even if you do not intend to follow through and harm someone. It is important to speak with an experienced San Diego criminal threats attorney if you are facing criminal charges. An attorney can help to limit the consequences of your arrest by designing and arguing a persuasive defense. The prosecution must build a strong case against you, and their ability to do this will be limited when they are fought every step of the way. If you need assistance finding an attorney, click here for more information.

In a few months, California will officially legalize the use of recreational marijuana. This does not mean that using or selling marijuana will always be legal. There will still be serious consequences for breaking the law. Selling drugs to minors – including marijuana – is and will continue to be illegal. One San Diego mother recently learned this lesson the hard way. In September, Kimberly Dawn Quach was arrested for selling marijuana and other drugs to high school students in Carmel Valley. She faces criminal drug charges for employing a minor to sell or carry marijuana and furnishing marijuana to a minor. If you’re facing drug-related charges, see our guide on finding a good criminal defense attorney.

Using a Minor to Sell Drugs

In San Diego, it is a crime to involve minors in transactions involving marijuana. This includes using minors to sell, distribute, or carry marijuana on your behalf. It is a crime under California Health and Safety Code Section 11361 HS to:

  1. Hire, employ, or use a minor to unlawfully;
  2. Transport, carry, sell, give away, prepare, or peddle;
  3. Any marijuana.

The prosecution will have to prove a few things in order to convict Quach of this crime. If they cannot prove each of the following elements, Quach cannot be found guilty of the crime. The prosecution must prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) that Quach:

  1. Was over the age of 18 at the time of the offense;
  2. Hired, employed, or used someone that she knew was under the age of 18;
  3. To transport/carry/sell marijuana.

It is important to understand that compensation is not an element. Quach can be guilty of this crime even if she did not pay the minor to carry or sell the marijuana.

Using a minor to sell or transport marijuana is a felony offense. Quach is charged with 10 counts of this crime. If convicted, Quach could face 3, 5, or 7 years in prison for each of these counts.

Furnishing Marijuana to a Minor in San Diego

It is also a crime to sell or give marijuana to a minor in San Diego. California Health and Safety Code Section 11361 HS specifically states that it is a crime to “furnish, administer, or give…cannabis to a minor.” It is also a crime to offer marijuana to a minor. A person can be guilty of this crime even if they do not directly sell or give marijuana to a minor. It is enough to enlist another person to sell or give the drugs to the minor.

Selling marijuana to a minor is a felony offense. The severity of the crime depends on the age of the minor. Selling marijuana to a minor under the age of 14 carries a possible criminal sentence of 3, 5, or 7 years in prison. Furnishing marijuana to a minor over the age of 14 carries a possible criminal sentence of 3, 4, or 5 years in prison.

Quach faces 16 counts of furnishing marijuana to a minor over the age of 14. She could face 3, 4, or 5 years in prison for each of those offenses.

Consequences of a Drug Related Conviction in San Diego

A conviction will likely make Quach’s life incredibly difficult. She faces serious time in prison and steep fines for her crimes. In addition to these criminal consequences, Quach would be faced with other challenges in her life. Collateral consequences are penalties and sanctions that are related to a criminal conviction. A criminal record, especially one that reflects a felony conviction, can:

  1. Result in the loss of your right to vote;
  2. Revoke your right to carry a firearm;
  3. Limit your ability to get a government job;
  4. Limit your ability to work in a school or healthcare facility; and
  5. Make you ineligible to recover financial assistance or aid from government welfare programs.

Quach may also face challenges in finding employment or housing. Many applications ask about your criminal record. Employers and landlords may not want to work with Quach if they see multiple convictions on her record. Quach will also have to deal with the social stigma that is associated with a criminal record.

Skilled San Diego Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you have been charged with a crime in San Diego do not hesitate to contact an attorney. Our skilled San Diego criminal defense attorneys can help to limit the negative consequences of your arrest. We understand that your future is at stake. We will fight to make sure that your legal rights are protected and that you are given every opportunity to defend yourself. Contact our office today to set up a free consultation. The sooner you call, the sooner we can start working on your case.

San Diego Pair Arrested For Vista Carjacking

At least two people were recently arrested for their role in a San Diego carjacking. The carjacking reportedly occurred in early October. Reports indicate that individuals who were arrested approached a woman who was sitting her car on Rollins Way in Vista around 5 AM. The pair showed her a knife, threatened her, and demanded that she get out of the vehicle. The woman resisted and sustained significant injuries in the struggle. When the woman was subdued, the alleged carjackers got into her car and drove away. Police found the woman’s vehicle at a nearby gas station later that evening. A police search, which included patrol dogs, led to the discovery of the carjackers and their associates.

What is carjacking?

Carjacking is basically a type of robbery. California Penal Code Section 215 PC defines the crime of carjacking as “the 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 simpler terms, carjacking is the crime of:

  1. Taking a car from the immediate presence of another person;
  2. Without that person’s consent;
  3. Using force, fear, or intimidation;
  4. With the intent to deprive that person of the vehicle, temporarily or permanently.

In order for the Vista carjackers to be convicted, the prosecution will be required to prove that they are guilty of each element of the crime. The report about the carjacking appears to provide all of the information that is necessary to establish these elements. The pair of carjackers

  1. Approached the victim;
  2. Displayed a weapon to intimidate her;
  3. Forcibly removed her from the car;
  4. Took the vehicle from her possession; and
  5. Did so with the intent to deprive her of its use.

If the information provided in the report is true, the San Diego carjackers will likely be convicted for the felony of carjacking.

What are the penalties for carjacking?

Carjacking is a felony in San Diego. A conviction for felony carjacking in San Diego can be punished by either:

  • One year in a San Diego County jail and a term of probation, or
  • Three, five, or nine years in a California state prison and a fine of $10,000.

Carjacking charges will apply for each victim who is present at the scene of the crime. This means that a person who forcibly takes a vehicle from a driver who has two passengers, the carjacker could face three counts of carjacking.

When can the penalties for carjacking be enhanced?

The penalties associated with carjacking in San Diego can be more severe. There are certain situations and circumstances that will cause the penalties to be enhanced. Most of these situations will occur when a carjacker has an existing criminal record.

  1. Great Bodily Injury. If a victim of a carjacking suffers great bodily injury, the possible term of imprisonment can be extended by three to six years.
  2. Use of a Firearm. In San Diego, if you use a firearm to commit a crime the penalties for the crime you commit can be enhanced. Under the 10-20-Life law, you could face an additional 10 years for using a firearm, 15 years for discharging a firearm, or 25 years-to-life for causing death or serious bodily harm with a firearm.
  3. Three Strikes. Carjacking will count as a strike for the purposes of California’s Three Strikes Law. This can result in sentence enhancements that include a requirement to complete 85% of your prison sentence and additional terms of imprisonment of 25 years-to-life.

Fighting Carjacking Charges in San Diego

The best way to limit the consequences of an arrest for carjacking is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle your case. A criminal conviction for felony carjacking can change your life forever. Hiring an attorney will increase your chances of getting the best possible resolution to your criminal case. Contact the San Diego Criminal Law Center to learn about how our carjacking attorneys may be able to help you today.