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San Francisco Criminal Defense Blog

When neighborhood disputes escalate

How many people in America have lived next door to an aggravating neighbor? It's a common situation, and most people choose not to engage in arguments or retaliation. Others have a low tolerance for being irritated. Neighborhood skirmishes have erupted into physical fights over seemingly minor issues.

For example, one neighbor allowed tree branches to hang over his neighbor's fence. After getting no results with a tense discussion, the irate neighbor finally lopped off the offending limbs. The tree did not like it, and neither did its owner.

What constitutes battery in California?

Many people tend to use the terms "assault" and "battery" interchangeably because they so often go together. However, assault encompasses actions that merely threatened another individual while California law defines battery as the unlawful and willful use of violence against another person. Battery requires the perpetrator to make actual physical contact with another. 

Battery can come with an array of penalties because numerous factors impact the charges. While most battery charges end up as misdemeanors, the state can upgrade it to a felony under certain circumstances. 

When can the cops search your car in California?

Average citizens have rights against unlawful searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution prevents police from randomly searching people's homes and cars. 

At the end of the day, the police cannot search your car on a whim. Even if the cops pull you over on suspicion of drunk driving or anything else, they need a warrant to search a vehicle. However, there are circumstances under which the cops do not need to have a warrant, but specific criteria need to be present. 

Defending against a RICO charge

If you enjoy watching old black-and-white TV shows on your California classics channel, you likely are a big fan of The Untouchables, the 1959-1963 series about Elliott Ness and the other intrepid G-men who pursued such Prohibition-era gangsters as Al Capone. If you are of a certain age, you may even remember seeing the original of this rousing series where the good guys always won and the bad guys always went to jail.

While it is true that the Feds always have and still do go after alleged racketeers, real life is not so simple or cut and dried. Plus, the definition of racketeering has changed dramatically over the decades. Much of this is due to the passage of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act in 1970. Its original purpose was to curtail Mafia activities, but the Feds often use RICO today to go after people alleged to have engaged in many illegal activities including the following:

  • Money laundering
  • Embezzlement
  • Mail fraud
  • Counterfeiting
  • Bribery

Can you own a firearm after a felony conviction?

California has some of the strictest regulations in the country concerning firearm possession. In 2018, the state passed new laws, such as how gun owners can no longer purchase assault rifles in the state and how they need to register the ones they currently have. 

There are many punishments that come with a felony conviction, including prison time, significant fines and even the loss of the right to own guns. California has numerous stipulations on who can own a firearm. In addition to people convicted of felonies, the following demographics cannot purchase or own guns in the state: 

  • Anyone addicted to narcotic drugs
  • Anyone prohibited from owning a gun due to a history of chronic alcoholism or extreme mental illness
  • Anyone who cannot possess a firearm as a direct order from probation
  • Anyone who has an outstanding arrest warrant due to a firearm-related crime
  • Anyone convicted of a crime, including a misdemeanor, that involved the unlawful use of a firearm, a hate crime or violence of any sort

What to do when falsely accused of assault

There are plenty of cases of assault occurring around the Bay Area. One recent example involved a San Mateo woman who robbed and assaulted another woman who police apprehended shortly after. 

However, some people have to contend with false assault accusations. This can happen due to a number of reasons, such as mistaken identity. It is also possible you acted out of self-defense, but the other party claims you started the fight. It is vital to remember your rights, and when the police question you, you should remain silent until you can speak with an attorney. 

One big misconception about shaken baby syndrome

The issue of shaken baby syndrome is nowhere as clear-cut as people used to believe. In fact, it is troubling how many have been falsely accused of shaking their babies and convicted of related charges.

Unfortunately, quite a few people, including those in the law enforcement and legal profession, still have some misunderstandings about shaken baby syndrome. Here is a look at what is going on.

Impatient drivers beware: Road rage is a crime

It can be difficult driving in California at the best of times. Traffic is usually congested, and people are always in a hurry. Impatient, rude and inattentive drivers surround you wherever you go. It is no surprise that it can be easy to lose your patience. However, before you lose control and decide to get back at the next person who cuts you off by chasing him down and cutting him off in return, consider the fact that you could face serious criminal charges for this type of behavior.

The American Safety Council states that there is a difference between aggressive driving and road rage. If you speed, swerve from lane to lane or tailgate, you are driving aggressively. This behavior can cause accidents, but it would be a traffic offense if you get a ticket. On the other hand, road rage is a criminal offense because you cross the line from driving impatiently to intentionally meaning to cause harm. It does not matter if you acted in the heat of the moment without taking time to consider the consequences. If you participate in road rage and someone gets hurt, you may face assault charges.

Could you be denied a real estate license due to a crime?

Some employers are hesitant to hire people who have criminal convictions, no matter how light or serious the convictions seem to be. That is one reason quite a few people with convictions start their own businesses, from relatively simple lawn care businesses to more elaborate tech startups.

If you are in this boat or are currently facing criminal charges, working as a real estate agent might seem appealing. After all, it is a common yet fairly lucrative job, and you can be your own boss. However, be aware that you could be denied a real estate license due to a criminal conviction.

Are you facing accusations of shaken baby syndrome?

Are you facing accusations, arrest or charges for shaking a baby? This is a serious criminal allegation that may result in conviction of child abuse or even murder if the baby dies. However, it is possible to defend against these charges and prove you are not a child abuser.

In order to combat the accusations you are facing, it is important to understand exactly what shaken baby syndrome is and how common it is for false allegations to occur. 

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