Drug cartels are typically traditional mafia groups that are involved in the transportation and sale of drugs across state and national borders. Cartels may be smaller groups such as street gangs or large networks that operate across an entire region. However, regardless of their size, a cartel is basically any organization that is involved in drug trafficking. These groups or cartels have been widely feared and have affected how law enforcement officials operate.
History of Drug Cartels
Drug cartels are feared because of the manner in which they are organized. A number of these cartels wield an enormous amount of power and influence, which can wreak havoc in communities or even entire cities. One time period that comes to mind is Chicago in the 1920s when cartels were not only involved in illicit drug trafficking, but also with the sale of alcohol at the time of the Prohibition, money laundering, embezzlement, extortion schemes, and even murder.
Today in Mexico, drug cartels in border towns engage in mass murder terrorizing community members, perpetrating widespread corruption among officials and even kidnapping residents and tourists. The law in the United States has evolved to deal with drug cartels and organized crime. Law enforcement has had some success in cracking down on cartels and organized crime by passing tough new laws and creatively utilizing existing drug crime laws to crack down perpetrators.
What Are Some Common Charges?
Members of drug cartels are not just charged with drug crimes and related charges, but also a number of other criminal charges unrelated to drugs. When it comes to organized crime and drugs, individuals may face other charges including but not limited to assault and battery, fraud, embezzlement, prostitution, money laundering, theft, bribery, and murder. However, prosecutors find it challenging when it comes to charging members of a drug cartel because their goal is often to increase the criminal penalties to the extent where cartel members will choose to enter plea agreements.
To that end, prosecutors may try to use different strategies. They might file conspiracy charges against members of a cartel where one person assists another in the commission of a crime such as murder. In that case, the person could be found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, even if the murder didn’t actually occur. If the person had the intent to commit the crime, he or she could be found guilty of conspiracy. These types of charges are extremely effective against drug cartels and other organized criminal groups.
Fighting Drug Crime Charges
Another effective strategy employed by prosecutors is to charge defendants separately for under state and federal laws. This could result in significant punishment, for example, a lengthy prison sentence. This strategy often scares defendants into accepting a plea deal. Another law that comes into play in these cases is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or RICO, which is a federal law targeting the heads of cartels and other organized crime groups. Under RICO, such individuals may be subject to additional penalties for each racketeering charge.
It is important to understand that these are extremely serious charges with devastating, lifelong consequences. If you have been charged with a drug-related crime, it would be in your best interest to contact a Los Angeles drug crime defense lawyer who will protect your rights and fight the charges.
Physical Evidence in Arson Cases
California laws make it a crime to intentionally or recklessly set for to a structure, forest land or property. You could be charged with arson even if the property you set fire to is your own. The law views the act as arson if the property is a building or piece of real estate, if you cause the fire to your personal property to commit insurance fraud. You could, of course, face charges if the fire you are accused of setting causes injuries to another person, causes fatalities or damage to someone else’s property or land.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, nationwide, only about 10 percent of fires where arson is involved ends up in criminal charges. This is because there are often no eyewitnesses or people who actually see the fire being set. More importantly, any type of physical evidence is often destroyed in the fire.
Lack of Physical Evidence
A number of California fires, some of them fatal, have failed to yield arson charges because investigators simply could not find the physical evidence that was necessary to determine who did it. For example, some of the biggest fires in California history including the 1993 Malibu fire and the 1994 Laguna Beach fire that burned 441 homes, were never solved.
A majority of arson cases tend to be built on circumstantial evidence or evidence that depends on an inference to connect it to a conclusion of fact. When it comes to an arson case, there are typically few if any witnesses. A device that sparks the fire such as a match or a cigarette butt might itself be destroyed or burned in the fire.
Proving the Case
When it comes to California arson cases, prosecutors have been able to, in some cases, obtain convictions without any physical evidence and purely with circumstantial evidence where juries are asked to infer that the defendant committed the crime based on the circumstances of the case. However, it is much more challenging for a prosecutor to build an entire case purely on circumstantial evidence. This is because the prosecution, to obtain a conviction, must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the arson. And physical evidence is an important part of that.
An arson case is not easy to prove. It requires an extremely complex and sophisticated investigative process, which is why these cases are assigned to special units and elite teams of investigators who have the knowledge and the capability to analyze chemical and other evidence to make determinations. As criminal defense lawyers, we conduct our own independent investigations and expert witnesses who can clarify to jurors that what are perceived to be indicators of arson such as melted wiring or uneven burn patterns are not really reliable ways to conclude that the fire was caused by arson.
Depending on the nature and circumstances of the case, an arson conviction could result even in murder charges, if the fire resulted in deaths. This means a conviction could mean a life in prison sentence. The consequences of an arson conviction could be life-changing. Our arson defense lawyers can help you fight the charges and protect your rights every step of the way. Call us to find out how we can help you.
In California, embezzlement refers to stealing or misappropriation of funds that have been entrusted to an individual. To convict a defendant of embezzlement, the prosecutor must prove that the owner of the property entrusted it to the defendant; that the defendant then fraudulently used the property for his or her own benefit; and that by doing so, the defendant intended to deprive the owner of the property of its use. In order to prove that the defendant committed the act of embezzlement the prosecutor must show evidence that there was a relationship of trust between the property’s owner and the person who was entrusted with it.
Embezzlement is a crime that may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. This depends on the amount of money that has been embezzled or the value of the property that is believed to have been taken. A misdemeanor embezzlement conviction could result in up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A felony embezzlement conviction could result in up to three years in prison, formal probation and a fine of up to $10,000.
Tips if You Have Been Accused
If you have been accused of embezzling money or property, you may be wondering how to clear your name and defend the charges. Here are a few tips from our Orange County embezzlement defense lawyers:
Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away. Whether you are under investigation for embezzlement or whether you are actually facing charges, the most important step you can take is contact a criminal defense lawyer who can help ensure that your legal rights and protected every step of the way.
Don’t talk to the police or investigators. You need to have a defense lawyer by your side before you talk to anyone. Police officers may seem friendly and may even seem like they have your best interests at heart. But, that’s not usually the case. Anything you tell the police can, and most often, will be used against you in court.
Stay away from social media. Remember, that anything you post on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere on the Internet can also be used against you as evidence in court. This could include posts by you, responses you post on others’ sites and any photos or videos you may upload. If you are been accused of embezzlement, it is best to stay away from posting or responding to anything online.
Preserve all pertinent evidence. Save any and all types of evidence including receipts, internal memos, emails and other communications and correspondence, which show you did not embezzle the money or property.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
Our experienced criminal defense lawyers know that even getting accused of embezzlement can have serious repercussions for you. In addition to facing criminal charges, you may be looking at other consequences such as job loss or even career loss. The allegations may leave your precious reputation tarnished. This is why you need to fight the charges with a knowledgeable and skilled defense attorney on your side.
Probation violations in California ? When you are convicted of a crime or plead guilty to a criminal charge in California, you may be placed on probation instead of being sentenced to county jail or state prison. Needless to say, this is a much better alternative to being incarcerated. That said probation comes with a lot of conditions. In other words, if you are on probation, you must adhere to a strict set of rules and if you fail to do so, you may suffer serious consequences, which could include jail time.
Formal and Informal Probation
In California, you could be sentenced to formal or informal probation. The big difference between the two is in how the person who is on probation is supervised. Simply put, those who are placed on informal probation are not “formally supervised.” They don’t have to report to probation officers. But, they do need to report to the court when something has changed such as if they have been arrested, changed their address or are submitting evidence of completing certain probation requirements.
On the other hand, a probation officer supervises someone who is on formal probation. A person who placed on formal probation must meet with the officer weekly or monthly depending on the requirements. The frequency might be more for serious offenders. In a majority of misdemeanor or infraction cases, judges are likely to order informal probation. In more serious cases, you are more likely to receive formal probation.
Common Probation Violations In California
There are a number of ways in which you could violate your probation and land yourself in serious trouble. Some of the most common probation violations include:
- Failing to meet with your probation officer. You need to follow the schedule very strictly. If you miss an appointment, you are in violation of your probation and the officer could report this violation to the court.
- Not completing your probation requirements. If you are sentenced to community service, you must be diligent about getting those hours. If you have been convicted of a DUI, for example, you must show proof that you have completed court-ordered alcohol education programs.
- Failing to pay fines and penalties. If you fail to pay fines or restitution on the schedule set by the court, you may be in violation of your probation.
- Visiting people or places. One of the terms of probation could be to not visit people or places linked with your prior criminal activity. For example, if you were convicted of a gang-related crime, you may be prohibited from visiting gang members or communicating with them.
- Not getting a job. In some cases, you may be required under the conditions of your probation to get a job or enroll in training programs. If you fail to do so within a reasonable time, you may be in violation of your probation.
- Committing a crime. One of the most basic terms of probation is to not commit another crime when you are on probation. Even something as minor as a traffic violation such as speeding or reckless driving could be considered a probation.
What Are the Consequences?
If you are found to be in violation of your probation, you will need to attend a court hearing where a judge will determine if you have in fact violated your probation. Some of the consequences could include additional conditions, extension of the probationary period, jail sentence or revocation of probation leading to a jail or prison sentence.
If you have been found in violation of your probation, our knowledgeable Southern California criminal defense lawyers can help you come with strong defenses. The consequences of probation violations can be devastating. Call us to discuss your case at no cost.
The California offense of statutory rape is committed by having sexual intercourse with a minor. Unlike the crime of rape, which requires the prosecutor to prove that the victim did not consent to sex, consent is not a defense to a statutory rape prosecution.
Not all acts of consensual sex with a minor are prosecuted. When a 17-year-old has sex with another 17-year-old, sensible prosecutors use their discretion not to charge either of them with a crime. The offense is more likely to be changed when an adult has sex with a minor. The younger the minor, the more likely it is that a charge will be pursued.
A number of defenses are available in California to a charge of statutory rape. The California sex crime lawyers at CMC Defense will investigate the facts underlying the charge and will choose a defense that has the greatest likelihood of success in light of the facts that the prosecutor can or cannot prove.
Statutory Rape in California
Statutory rape is also known as “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.” The crime is defined in section 261.5 of the California Penal Code. To obtain a conviction, the prosecution must prove each of the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused had sexual intercourse with another person
- The accused was not married to the other person
- The other person was under the age of 18 when the intercourse occurred
“Sexual intercourse” means penetrating the vagina with the penis. Even slight penetration violates the statute. If the accused touched or fondled but did not penetrate the vagina, the accused might have committed a different crime, but did not commit a statutory rape.
While lack of consent is not an element of the crime, if the other person did not consent, the prosecutor will probably charge the crime of rape rather than statutory rape. Rape is a more serious offense.
Males and females can both be charged with statutory rape. In fact, both participants in an act of sexual intercourse can be charged if they are both minors.
Penalties for Statutory Rape in California
The penalty for statutory rape depends on the age of the minor and, in some cases, the age of the accused.
If the minor and the accused are not more than 3 years apart in age, the offense is a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence for the misdemeanor is 1 year in jail.
If the minor and the accused are 3 or more years apart in age, the offense is a wobbler that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If the case is charged as a felony, the potential sentence depends on the respective ages of the minor and of the accused.Unless the minor was under the age of 16 and the accused was age 21 or older, the judge can choose a sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years.
If the minor was under the age of 16 and the accused was age 21 or older, a felony charge is much more likely. If the accused is convicted of a felony, the potential sentences are 2 years, 3 years, or 4 years. Probation is also an option
The “Mistake of Age” Defense
Many states make statutory rape a strict liability offense. In those states, someone who has sexual intercourse takes the risk of later discovering that his or her partner was a minor. In those states, the is guilty of statutory rape even if the accused honestly believed that the alleged victim was an adult.
California is not a strict liability state. Someone who is accused of statutory rape in California should not be convicted if he or she mistakenly believed the minor to be an adult. The “mistake of age” defense has saved countless Californians from statutory rape convictions.
The mistake of age defense can succeed if two things are true:
- the accused actually believed the sex partner was 18 or older (or the prosecution cannot prove otherwise), and
- that belief was reasonable.
For example, assume that Andy Accused meets Millie Minor on the beach. Millie looks very much like an adult to Andy and to everyone who sees her on the beach. When Andy asks Millie how old she is, Millie says “I just turned twenty.” Millie is only 16, but she lies because she knows Andy will reject her if she tells the truth. Believing that Millie is 20, Andy asks Millie to go back to his place for a drink, and an hour later they have sexual intercourse. Andy did not commit a crime because:
- Andy actually believed Millie was an adult, and
- Andy’s belief was reasonable, since Millie looked like an adult and lied about her age.
Even if the topic of age never comes up, the accused’s belief might be reasonable based on appearance. The prosecutor will bring the minor to court scrubbed clean of any makeup and wearing a schoolgirl outfit, but Facebook and other social media photos showing the girl’s usual appearance are a fruitful source of evidence to prove that any reasonable person might have mistaken her for an adult.
The ”We Didn’t Have Sex” Defense
Minors are immature. They sometimes accuse adults of having sex with them because they are being vindictive or manipulative, because they want sympathy, or because they enjoy the drama (and perhaps status among peers) that the accusation will generate.
False accusations might also be based on mistaken identity, particularly when the accused and the minor are strangers and there is no DNA evidence to support the minor’s claim. Minors who used alcohol or drugs may have trouble remembering the events of an evening, including their sex partner.
Other defenses are sometimes possible. For example, if the sexual encounter occurred near the accuser’s 18th birthday, the prosecution may be unable to prove whether the act occurred before or after the accused turned 18. If it occurred at any time on the accuser’s 18th birthday, the defendant isn’t guilty.
If there is no doubt that the accused had sexual intercourse with a minor, the focus is on making the charge a misdemeanor rather than a felony, or making an agreement to defer a prosecution. The California criminal defense attorneys at CMC Defense can advise defendants who have been charged with statutory rape of the defense that is best suited to their facts and circumstances.