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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.

San Diego is doing what it can to crack down on underage drinking in the state. Police in San Diego recently wrapped up operation “Minor Decoy,” which was intended to identify locations where minors could get their hands on alcohol illegally. During the operation, minors under the direct supervision of local police would enter establishments across San Diego and attempt to purchase alcohol. Police were able to arrest two men for selling alcohol to minors.

It’s Illegal to Facilitate Underage Drinking

The drinking age in California is 21 years old. Under state law, it’s illegal for anyone under that age to purchase or consume alcohol. It’s also a crime to help a person under the age of 21 to obtain alcohol. Specifically, California Business & Professions Code 25658(a) BPC makes it illegal to “sell, furnish, give, or cause to be sold, furnished, or given away any alcoholic beverage to a person under 21 years of age.” So, it’s not only a crime to sell alcohol to a minor, but to provide alcohol to a minor in any way.

What Does the State Have to Prove?

When you’re accused of a crime the state still has the burden of proving that you are guilty. In order to do this, prosecutors must provide evidence to show that:

  • You sold, gave, or furnished alcohol to a specific person, and
  • That person was under the age of 21 at that time.

It will be important for prosecutors to have evidence that you’ve sold or otherwise provided alcohol to a specific person under the age of 21. The absence of this evidence could prevent them from satisfying their burden of proof.

What If I Honestly Believed the Person Was 21?

There are certain times when you may not be charged with a crime even if you do, in fact, sell or give alcohol to a minor. State law is intended to stop individuals from intentionally and knowingly providing alcohol to minors. If you can prove that you took certain steps to establish that a person was, in fact, at least 21 years old, you may be able to avoid criminal charges.

You may be able to establish that you reasonably believed a person was at least 21 if you requested government-issued ID as proof of age and relied on that ID. If this happened, you could assert a strong mistake of fact defense. The state isn’t looking to punish you if you reasonably believed that the person attempting to purchase alcohol was of legal drinking age.

Penalties For Selling or Providing Alcohol to a Minor

The consequences of selling alcohol to a person under the age of 21 can be harsh. Criminal penalties for this misdemeanor include a fine of $1,000 and at least 24 hours of community service. Bars and restaurants may also face additional fines and sanctions from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).

Dram Shop Liability

Bars & Bartenders: Bartenders and bar owners typically aren’t responsible for drunk driving accidents that are caused by their customers. However, bars may be responsible for harm caused by underage customers they’ve served. Victims of drunk driving accidents can seek financial compensation from a bar if they provided alcohol to the underage driver.

Parents and Social Hosts: It’s important to note that parents or social hosts may also be personally responsible for harm caused by underage drinkers they’ve served in their own home.

Defending Yourself If You’re Accused of Selling Alcohol to a Minor

A strong defense can help you secure the best outcome in your San Diego criminal case. Possible defense arguments in a case involving the sale of alcohol to a minor can include:

  • You reasonably believed the customer was over the age of 21
  • The person was actually over the age of 21
  • You did not sell or furnish alcohol to that person, and
  • Evidence in your case was obtained in violation of your rights.

Remember, the state has to prove that you’re guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. You can make a prosecutor’s job much more difficult by defending yourself. If you need help with your defense it’s smart to contact an experienced attorney. Your lawyer will fight to protect your rights and make sure that you have every opportunity to defend yourself.

 

Have you been arrested for an alcohol or drug-related crime in San Diego? Contact our criminal defense lawyers for immediate legal assistance. We’re here to help you fight to protect your future. Call today to learn more.

Earlier this fall a San Diego man was arrested when police found more than 156 pounds of drugs in his car. According to reports, the man met with a police source and offered to sell “large amounts of methamphetamine and heroin.” The source negotiated a deal and agreed to meet later that week for the exchange. Police searched the man’s vehicle when he arrived for the exchange and found heroin and more than 71 kilos of methamphetamine. He was arrested and charged with drug trafficking.

Methamphetamine Crimes in San Diego

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance, which means that it has a “high potential for abuse” which can lead to “severe psychological or physical dependence.” Simply put, methamphetamine is viewed as a very dangerous substance at both the state and local levels. Under Health and Safety Code 11379 HSC it is a crime to transport, import, sell, furnish, administer, or give away methamphetamine in the state of California.

What is Drug Trafficking?

Trafficking is defined as the “illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws.” So, kind of trafficking refers to the grand scheme of drug crimes in California. How does the state distinguishing between charges for the sale or distribution of methamphetamine and methamphetamine trafficking? A few different factors go into the determination.

The biggest factor is typically the quantity or amount of drugs involved the transaction. If a person has a large quantity of methamphetamine they are more likely to be charged with trafficking than distribution. Having large quantities tends to indicate that there may be other illegal activity, including manufacturing and transportation, involved.

So, sales and distribution of smaller quantities of methamphetamine will likely be charged as sale or distribution under 11379 HSC. If you’re caught trying to move larger quantities of methamphetamine, you’ll probably face charges for trafficking.

What are the Consequences for Methamphetamine Trafficking in San Diego?

Trafficking methamphetamine is a felony offense in California. Penalties can include:

  • Felony probation
  • $10,000 in fines, and/or
  • 2, 3, or 4 years in a California state prison.

Enhanced Penalties for Trafficking Methamphetamine

The penalties for trafficking methamphetamine can be enhanced if there are any aggravating factors.

Trafficking Meth in Two or More Counties: If your methamphetamine trafficking crime involves two or more counties you can be sentenced to 9 years in prison.

Trafficking Meth Near a Rehab or Detox Clinic: You can face up to an additional 1-2 years in prison if you traffick methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a drug treatment center, homeless shelter, or detox center.

Selling a Large Quantity of Methamphetamine: You can face an additional 3-15 years in prison if you sell more than one kilogram of methamphetamine.

What Does the State Have to Prove If I’m Arrested for Trafficking Meth?

When you’re charged with a crime the state still has to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This involved proving each element of the crime you’ve been accused of committing. When you’re facing charges for trafficking methamphetamine, the state must prove:

  1. You sold, imported, furnished, administered, gave away, or transported methamphetamine; and
  2. You did so knowingly and intentionally.

In other words, the state has to prove that you knew you had the drugs and that you intended to distribute them in violation of the law.

You can offer certain defenses to make it difficult for the state to build a case against you. These could include lack of knowledge, false accusation, or acting under force or duress.

 

Drug crime convictions can stay with you for life. You have the right to defend yourself, and an attorney can help. Contact our San Diego drug crime defense lawyers for immediate assistance today.

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.