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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 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.

Escondido Teacher Arrested on Child Molestation Charges

Earlier this week, a 32-year-old San Diego school teacher was arrested after police learned that he might have sexually abused several young teens. None of the alleged victims are believed to have been his students. None of the alleged abuse is believed to have taken place at the Escondido school where he worked. He is currently being held at a Vista detention center on four charges of lewd act with a minor.

Understanding California’s Child Molestation Law

It’s a crime for an adult to engage in sexual conduct with any child under the age of 18. This is true even if the child welcomes or willingly participates in the sexual activity. Why? Children do not have the ability to consent. Without consent, any sexual contact with another person is a crime.

The most commonly charged child sexual abuse crime in California is lewd acts with a child, also known as child molestation. The law applies to sexual contact with children under the age of 16. Under California Penal Code 288 PC, it is illegal for any person to:

  • Touch a child for a sexual purpose, or
  • Cause a child to touch themselves or another person for a sexual purpose.

In other words, it’s a crime to touch or have a child touch you for the purpose of becoming sexually aroused. The sexual contact does not have to involve genitals or locations on the body that are traditionally associated with arousal. Any contact with a child – including contact over clothing – that is intended to illicit sexual gratification or arousal, is a violation of 288 PC.

You don’t have to intend to arouse or sexually satisfy yourself. 288 PC also prohibits contact that is intended to arouse or gratify the child involved in the sexual act.

Penalties for Lewd Acts With a Minor

In California, child molestation under 288 PC is typically a felony offense. The range of penalties that can apply to a conviction for lewd acts ultimately depends on:

  • The child’s age
  • The defendant’s age
  • The relationship between the child and the defendant
  • Whether the defendant used force or fear, and
  • Bodily injury, if any, suffered by the child.

The 32-year-old Escondido schoolteacher is accused of having engaged in sexual contact with several young teenagers between the ages of 14 and 15. This crime would be tried as a violation of Penal Code 288(c)(1) PC – sexual contact with a 14 or 15-year-old child where the defendant is at least 10 years older. Crimes tried under 288(c)(1) PC are considered to be public offenses, and can be punishable as misdemeanors or felonies.

If the schoolteacher is convicted, his criminal sentence could include:

  • A maximum of 3 years in a California state prison and $10,000 in fines, OR
  • Up to 12 months in a San Diego County Jail and $1,000 in fines.

A conviction for lewd acts with a child can also have devastating collateral consequences, indulging the loss of professional licenses, possible deportation, and the loss of gun-related rights.

Mandatory Sex Offender Registration Requirements

A person convicted of lewd acts with a child under 288 PC will be required to register as a sex offender in the state of California. The state is currently getting ready to implement its new three-tiered registry system.

Beginning in 2021, a first-time conviction for lewd acts with a minor will be a Tier 2 offense. Tier 2 offenders must stay on the sex offender registry for a minimum of 20 years.

Subsequent convictions for lewd acts with a minor will require lifetime registration as a sex offender in the state.

Defending Charges of Lewd Acts With a Child

Anyone charged with a sex crime involving a child should speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. A strong defense can be the difference between a conviction and an acquittal or dropped charges. Many defenses can be argued if you’ve been accused of engaging in lewd acts with a child, including:

  • No intent to sexually arouse or gratify
  • Contact was unintentional, or
  • False accusations.

An attorney will know which defense(s) are best suited for a specific case. Call our San Diego criminal defense attorneys for immediate assistance with your criminal case today.

Months after a raid on his home, a popular professional skateboarder from San Diego is facing federal criminal drug charges. According to reports, police officers discovered a pound of methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, mushrooms, hundreds of Xanax pills, and various distribution supplies in Rob Lorifice’s Encinitas home. Lorifice was home at the time of the raid and allegedly tried to flush some of the stash down the toilet before it could be discovered by police. He was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

Why Was Lorifice Charged With a Federal Crime?

Both California state and the federal government have laws on the books criminalizing various drug-related activities. Possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute is a crime under both state and federal law. However, Lorifice has only been charged with a violation of federal drug laws. Why wasn’t he charged with a violation of California state law?

Whether you face federal or state charges often boils down to the specific details and circumstances of your crime. The state will typically have jurisdiction for crimes that are committed entirely within the state’s borders. Drug crimes that are typically charged as violations fo state law include simple possession and relatively-minor distribution schemes.

The federal government will typically have jurisdiction for crimes that are intricate and widespread. Large-scale drug distribution operations, much like the one Lorifice is accused of running, often involve activity in multiple states. For example, it’s common for distribution rings to involve trafficking or moving drugs across state lines and using federal banking institutions to transfer and mask cash transactions.

Lorifice is likely charged with federal drug crimes because of the scale of his operation. If he were only found in possession of a small amount of one type of drug, it’s quite possible that the federal government would step aside and let the state of California handle the charges.

How Do Prosecutors Prove Possession With Intent to Distribute?

It’s a crime to possess any controlled substance without a lawful purpose. The penalties for crimes of simple possession can be quite severe. When a person possesses more of a drug than would be reasonable for personal use, they can face enhanced criminal charges for possession with intent to distribute. The penalties for possession with intent to distribute are much more severe than those for simple possession.

How does the government prove that you possessed drugs with the intent to sell or distribute? Most possession with intent to sell cases rely heavily on circumstantial evidence. A prosecutor’s primary goal is to persuade a judge or jury that it would be reasonable to believe that you intended to sell the drugs you possessed.

So, in truth, the government doesn’t have to prove that you had the intent to sell. Instead, it simply has to make a strong argument that it’s reasonable to believe you had the intent to sell.

The following factors and evidence may be used to create a presumption that you intended to sell the drugs in your possession:

  • The quantity of the drugs in your possession
  • The type of drugs in your possession
  • The presence or absence of drug paraphernalia
  • The presence of scales, packaging materials, baggies, and other tools commonly used in distribution schemes, and
  • Large quantities of cash on hand.

When officers raided Lorifice’s San Diego home, he was found in possession of large quantities of several types of drugs, a digital scale, packaging materials, and more than $16,000 in cash. When considered as a whole, it’s reasonable to believe that he didn’t intend to consume the drugs himself. Federal prosecutors will rely heavily on this evidence throughout the criminal case against the skateboarder.

Penalties for Possession of Methamphetamine With Intent to Sell

Possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute is a violation of California state and federal law. The penalties for federal crimes tend to be more severe than those for state crimes. Specific penalties will depend on the quantity of the drug involved in the offense.

Officers found 193 grams of methamphetamine in Lorifice’s home during the raid. According to federal sentencing guidelines, possessing 50 grams or more of methamphetamine is punishable by between 10 years and life in prison.

Federal drug crimes are also punishable by substantial fines and/or probation.

 

Are you facing federal criminal drug charges? You need to speak with an attorney immediately. Contact the experienced legal team at the San Diego Criminal Law Center today. We will carefully review your case and help you fight to protect your future. Your first consultation is free, so call now.