Criminal Law

Criminal Law

Understanding Gun Crime Basics

- Dmitry Gurovich

The right to bear arms is a heated and highly politicized issue within the United States and although we might frequently hear about gun crime, you might not know what defenses are available to you if you are ever charged with a gun offense.

Gun Law Basics

The laws governing guns in the United States are found in a number of federal statutes. These statutes regulate the manufacture, trade, possession, transfer, record keeping, transport, and destruction of firearms, ammunition, and firearms accessories. The gun industry is heavily regulated, both locally and nationally, and the government prosecutes gun charges forcefully. The body that enforces these laws is called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Most Americans are well aware that the right to keep and bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Types of Gun Crime

The most common examples of gun crimes include:

  • possession of an unregistered weapon
  • being pulled over with a loaded weapon that has never been registered or is stolen
  • possession or sale of a machine gun
  • possession of an assault weapon

There are other crimes that are enhanced when committed with the use of a weapon. For example, if a robbery was committed with a gun then the charge and punishment will be more severe than an unarmed robbery. Prior convictions involving weapons are also treated very seriously.

Individual states also have their own rules governing when a gun can be worn and if it can be concealed. Therefore, many people are simply not aware that even though they are permitted to carry weapons, there are certain prohibitions about concealing a weapon and certain places that are off limits.

Gun Defenses

The majority of gun and weapon charges can be laid as either felonies or misdemeanors and can be punished by a range of different sentences. If a defense is unavailable and you are convicted, a judge will consider the type of weapon used and your criminal history. Depending on the state, the judge will also consider whether your offense subjects you to any firearm sentencing enhancements, some of which can add up to 25 years on your sentence. An example of this is California’s “use a gun and you’re done” law. This law applies to 19 serious felonies such as murder and sex crimes. If it applies, offenders may be sentenced to 10 years in prison for using a gun, 20 for firing it, and 25 to life for killing or seriously injuring someone with the gun. This is in addition to the original sentence for the underlying felony.

When defending yourself against a gun charge, sometimes the simplest defense is proving that you were actually licensed to carry the weapon. If this is not applicable, your criminal defense lawyer can also try to prove that the gun did not belong to you, or was placed in your possession without your knowledge. As with drug charges, your defense attorney can also investigate how the police found the weapon in order to determine if they made any procedural mistakes such as conducting an illegal search. This would make the weapon inadmissible in court and prevent any enhancements.

If you have been charged with a gun offense and you would like to discuss any possible defenses, our attorneys at Gurovich, Berk & Associates are here to assist you. We invite you to call us today at (213) 385-1555 to arrange an initial consultation.

What Defenses Are Available If You Are Charged with a Drug Offense?

- Dmitry Gurovich

With more and more drugs being legalized throughout the Unites States, you might think that drug crime offenses would be on the decrease, however, they are not. Drug use is soaring and many people are being found in possession of illegal drugs.

Charged with Possession

If you are charged with possession of drugs, either for personal use or with an intent to sell, you will need to seek the assistance of a criminal defense attorney in order to determine what defenses might apply to your case.

The federal government tends to have tough drug sentencing guidelines, whereas different states approach the problem of illicit drugs in different ways. Although there might be different sentencing approaches, drug possession defenses are fairly universal across state lines. Some defenses challenge the applicability of the law while others challenge the stated facts, testimony or validity of evidence in the case. Some other approaches are to target procedural errors, often with search and seizure violations; and some defendants argue drug possession charges on the basis of an affirmative defense which means that you have the right to use the drug (e.g. medical marijuana).

Examples of Defenses for Drug Possession Charges

Unlawful Search and Seizure

Search and seizure issues are quite common in drug possession cases. Under the Constitution everyone is guaranteed the right to due process of law, including lawful search and seizure procedures prior to an arrest. Drugs found in “plain view,” may be seized and used as evidence, however, if the drugs were found without the suspect’s permission, they cannot be used as evidence. In short, if the defendant’s rights were violated, then the drugs cannot be used at trial and the charges are typically dismissed.

Deny Ownership of Drugs

A common defense to any drug charge is to simply say that you do not own the drugs. In this scenario, an experienced defense attorney will pressure prosecutors to prove that the drugs found actually belonged to their client and not one of the other witnesses present during the arrest.

Drugs Were Planted or Entrapment

Both of these defenses are difficult to prove, since a police officer’s sworn testimony carries a lot of weight in the courtroom. Law enforcement officials are free to set up sting operations but entrapment occurs when officers or informants induce a suspect to commit a crime they otherwise may not have committed. This situation will very much depend on the specifics of the case and is very rarely successful.

If you’ve been arrested on a drug possession charge, you may have a plausible defense available to you. Our attorneys at Gurovich, Berk & Associates are experienced with dealing with various criminal cases and are able to advise you on all your defense options. We invite you to call us today at (213) 385-1555 to arrange an initial consultation.

Takata Pleas Guilty in Fraud Case, Agrees on $1B Penalty

- Dmitry Gurovich

Late last month, Takata Corp., a Japanese auto parts maker, pleaded guilty to fraud charges and agreed to pay approximately $1 billion in penalties after it was determined that the company concealed air bag defects that resulted in at least 16 deaths, most of which occurred in the United States.

By entering the guilty plea, Takata admitted to concealing evidence that millions of the company’s air bag inflators could explode if they encounter enough force, resulting in the hurling of lethal shrapnel at drivers and passengers.

The faulty inflators have been blamed for 11 deaths in the United States and are believed to have caused more than 180 injuries across the globe. The issue prompted the largest recall in the country’s automotive history, involving roughly 42 million vehicles and as many as 69 million inflators.

According to court records, the penalties against Takata include $850 million in restitution charges to automakers, a $25 million criminal fine, and $125 million dedicated to victims and their families.

What Qualifies as Fraud?

When an individual or entity is charged with fraud, they stand accused of theft through deception or misrepresentation. Although these types of legal cases typically involve defendants who are knowingly misrepresenting themselves for financial gain, there are still many cases today where the alleged fraud is actually accidental.

Even if the intent was never to commit a fraudulent crime, or act in a deceptive manner, the fact remains that being charged with criminal fraud is a major legal offense and should not be taken lightly.

There are several different types of behavior that typically lead to allegations or charges of fraud. The most common offenses generally involve:

  • Pidgeon drop schemes
  • Identity theft
  • Mail fraud
  • Ponzi schemes
  • Depending on the severity of the situation, fraudulent actions can result in misdemeanor or felony charges. Generally, this is based on the value of assets acquired through the fraudulent action.

If you or someone you love stand accused, or charged with, a crime of a fraudulent nature, it is important that you consult with a criminal defense attorney at the earliest possible opportunity. Only a legal adviser specializing in criminal fraud defense can assess your situation and recommend a legal defense that targets the potential outcome.

Fraud Defense Attorneys in California

That’s where the criminal defense attorneys at Gurovich, Berk & Associates come in. Throughout the state of California, our highly-skilled criminal defense attorneys help provide legal counsel to clients facing criminal charges, including those stemming from fraud.

Working with our legal team means taking the most client-centered, cutting-edge approach to your defense. From conducting an investigation into the allegations against you to collecting evidence to use in your defense, our team is committed to going above and beyond and do whatever we can to help you secure a favorable result.

Our attorneys are standing by today, prepared to defend your rights. To schedule free initial consultation to examine your legal options with one of our defense attorneys, call Gurovich, Berk & Associates at (213) 385-1555.

Police Believe Prescription Drugs to Blame for Fatal DUI Accident

- Dmitry Gurovich

A woman was arrested on suspected driving under the influence (DUI) charges last month after she ran a red light, crossed into the oncoming lane and struck another vehicle, killing the other driver.

According to police, the victim’s car was in the process of turning when it collided with the wrong-way driver. The force of the impact ejected the victim from her vehicle and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Although alcohol was not believed to have played a role initially, police soon discovered that the woman had prescription drugs in her system at the time of the collision and that her license had been suspended after a previous DUI. The woman also had a warrant out for her arrest in South Carolina.

As a result of the incident, the woman was charged with vehicular homicide, DUI and traffic-related offenses and was set to remain in a county detention center, pending further court appearances.

Driving under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol

In the state of California, like the rest of the country, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. The state’s Vehicle Code classifies DUI in two ways:

  • It is against the law to operate any automobile if drugs or alcohol have impaired your ability to do it safely
  • Any person found driving a vehicle with blood alcohol content (BAC) measuring .08 or higher is considered guilty of DUI

Though DUI is most commonly associated with the consumption of alcohol, it is also possible to be charged with DUI as a result of drug use, even if those drugs have been prescribed by a medical professional.

Driving under the influence can also involve drugs that are used legally, like marijuana in California. Although medicinal use of the drug is legal in the state, it is still illegal to operate a vehicle while under the influence of the drug.

California laws also classify DUI as a criminal charge – one that, depending on the severity of the situation, evidence and outcome of the case, can remain on a person’s criminal record. When this happens, it can adversely affect a person’s ability to pass background checks, including those required for housing and employment.

If you or someone you know have been accused of DUI charges, it is in your best interest to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. These types of charges can lead to serious consequences, like the suspension or loss of a driver’s license, financial penalties and even jail time, depending on the circumstances.

DUI Defense Attorneys in California

In Los Angeles County and the surrounding areas in California, the legal team at Gurovich, Berk & Associates represent clients in need of legal defense, including those who stand accused of DUI or drug charges.

Our firm takes a client-centered approach to every case, starting with an in-depth investigation into your charges. Our attorneys can work with you to assess the extent of your charges and determine the best possible legal strategy moving forward. Whether you have been charged with DUI as a result of alcohol consumption or drug use, our team is committed to serving as your legal advocate and defending your rights.

Do not delay – our team of skilled defense attorneys can provide the assistance you need. To get started, we invite you to call our law office today at (213) 385-1555 to schedule an initial consultation to assess your case.

California DA Drops DUI Charge in Case Involving Man Who Tested Positive for Caffeine

- Dmitry Gurovich

In late December, a California district attorney announced that a DUI charge had been dropped in a case involving a man who tested positive for caffeine after a traffic stop.

According to court documents, the man was initially pulled over on Interstate 680 after an officer witnessed him weaving through traffic, nearly causing several collisions. The officer believed the driver was under the influence of a drug, but found only workout supplements and powders in the car, all of which were legal.

Upon arriving at the jail, the man consented to a blood test, which returned negative results for several drugs, including THC, cocaine, opiates, oxycodone and methamphetamine. It did, however, test positive for caffeine.

Though the charge was pursued for 16 months, the district attorney elected to drop the case after forensic toxicologists and investigators ruled that the case could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

DUI Defense

In the state of California, an individual may be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if they are found with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that meets or exceeds .08 percent. It does not matter whether or not someone feels impaired – if the BAC exceeds the legal limit, it is classified as DUI.

It’s important to point out, however, that DUI cases are not restricted to the use of alcohol. If someone is pulled over and found to be impaired, at least to an “appreciable degree” by drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol, that may result in a DUI charge.

State law in California also says that, if you are operating a vehicle, you are providing your consent to submit to a blood, breath or urine test to determine your BAC. There are consequences for refusing such tests in California. These offenses vary depending on whether or not it is a first, second or third offense:

  • First offense – One year license suspension
  • Second offense – Two year license suspension
  • Third offense – Two year license suspension

Although BAC is technically supposed to be measured at the time of driving, it is possible to prove culpability if BAC is measured after that time. For example, if tests are issued at the police station, those results may be applicable in a court of law.

Are you facing DUI-related charges? If so, it is important that you enlist the guidance of a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible. Because these types of cases can involve the suspension of a driver’s license, or even jail time, it is important to work with an attorney who has experience and success in handling DUI-related charges.

DUI Defense Attorneys in California

That’s where the criminal defense team at Gurovich, Berk and Associates comes in. Our firm specializes in criminal defense, including cases involving DUI and related charges. Our legal team is well versed in the laws surrounding DUI in California and we can provide the wise legal guidance you are looking for as you build your case’s defense.

Whether this is your first or a subsequent offense, our attorneys have the tools, experience and legal knowledge necessary to see your case through to a successful end result. To schedule your free preliminary consultation, contact Gurovich, Berk & Associates at (213) 385-1555.

Lawmaker Gets New Court Date in Domestic Violence, Weapons Case

- Dmitry Gurovich

Last month, a South Carolina judge set new court dates in a case involving Rep. Chris Corley, who stands accused of a number of felony weapons and domestic violence charges.

Corley was charged after a Dec. 26 incident at his family home, where he allegedly beat his wife before pointing a gun at her in the presence of their three small children. In a January court appearance, a circuit court judge set a $50,000 bond against the lawmaker for criminal domestic violence of an aggravated nature.

Corley was also charged with pointing a weapon at a person, a charge that carries up to five years in prison. If he is found guilty on all charges, Corley faces up to 25 years in prison.

Under the terms of the bond, Corley is to have no contact with his children or his wife, unless the court issues an order allowing it. His wife was granted a temporary restraining order in connection with the case.

Domestic Violence Defense

Domestic violence is a catchall phrase that refers to violent acts, or threats of violence, that occur between two individuals of a close, often familial, relationship. This can involve people who are living together, married, or even just dating. In some cases, they may even share a child in common.

The truth is, anyone can become a victim or a perpetrator of domestic violence, regardless of sexual orientation. In some cases, these situations can involve serious injuries, especially in cases where a male has attacked a female. However, many cases also involve lesser acts of violence, such as pushing or slapping. In some situations, domestic violence may extend to children as well.

In many states, domestic violence is defined as a distinct crime. This means that someone can be charged with a form of domestic violence in addition to, or instead of, other crimes, such as assault and battery. Additionally, prosecutors will often push for harsher sentencing in domestic violence cases, supporting more jail time in cases where someone attacks a spouse or family member, rather than a stranger.

Have you been accused of a domestic violence offense? If so, it is important for you to retain experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. Only an attorney who is well versed in your state’s domestic violence laws can protect you and your rights, not just now, but in the future as well. Because these types of cases involve close relationships, they can often become complex, so it is important to find an attorney who can support you every step of the way.

Finding a Domestic Violence Defense Attorney

At Gurovich, Berk and Associates, we believe early intervention by skilled legal counsel is the key to a strong, proper defense. Our legal team is comprised of the finest defense attorneys, including those specializing in complex family law matters, like domestic violence.

Our attorneys will work with you to conduct an in-depth investigation into your domestic violence charges and can recommend the best possible strategy for you and your case.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your domestic violence charge, our firm can help. We have become known as a premier legal resource, not just in California, but across the country as well.

Do not delay – these types of charges are not to be taken lightly. Allow us work with you to build a strong, successful defense. To schedule your complimentary initial consultation with a member of our criminal defense team, contact the attorneys at Gurovich, Berk & Associates today at (213) 385-1555.

Intricacies of Assault Charges

- Dmitry Gurovich

It is not uncommon for someone to be charged with assault. An assault is an “attempted application of force.” This distinguishes an assault from its common counterpart: battery. Battery is a different crime and is the actual use of force or violence against someone else. These crimes are frequently confused but it is important to remember that they are different. This means that they require different types of defenses to refute the charges.

Common Situations

It is important for anyone charged with assault to have an attorney that is capable of understanding the intricacies of an assault case. Many times, assault charges actually stem from a non-violent confrontation that is misconstrued to be violent in nature.

Some common situations that give rise to assault allegations:

  • Spousal disputes
  • Arguments with friends
  • Insults and joking threats
  • Children acting out

Evidence as an Issue

In addition to this, the evidence is often tenuous in an assault case and this makes it a common issue for those charged with assault. Many times assaults have no witnesses except for the victim. This means that the cases may come down to what each party is claiming occurred during the alleged. This poses frequent issues for individuals charged with assault.

For example, in domestic violence cases, the male party is most frequently charged with assaults. This occurs if the alleged victim calls the police and claims that the man attempted to assault her. If there was no battery, then when the officer arrives on the scene it can be difficult to determine if an assault actually occurred if there is no evidence. This means that the alleged victim can simply claim that there was an assault and force the individual to go through legal proceedings. It is not uncommon for false allegations to occur, as well as alleged victims to recant their previous testimony after the consider the consequences of their allegations.

Hire an Attorney

This is why it is important to have an attorney that is capable of understanding the complicated nature of assaults. If you or a loved one has been charged with assault in the Los Angeles area, please call (213) 385-1555 to speak with an attorney from Gurovich, Berk & Associates. Our attorneys have successfully represented a number of clients on assault charges because of our experience and understanding of the process.

We are available twenty-four hours a day for a free consultation so that you can being to build the best defense to any allegations of assault.

Recreational Marijuana Bill Could Impact California Drug DUI Laws

- Dmitry Gurovich

With an election around the corner, California is preparing for a vote on Proposition 64 that could significantly impact drug-related DUI cases. Currently, Californians cannot legally possess, transport, or use marijuana for recreational purposes. Proposition 64 seeks to change that by legalizing recreational marijuana.

According to the Proposition, marijuana sales will be taxed at a rate of 15%. A portion of the proceeds from this tax will be used to research the effects of marijuana on driving. The findings from this research may be used in the future to establish guidelines for intoxication levels for people who have been accused of a DUI involving marijuana or drugs, similar to the 0.08 standard for an alcohol-related DUI.

Being Found Guilty of DUI

Under current California law, there are two ways for a person to be found guilty of DUI.

The first way occurs when the prosecutor can show that a person had a blood alcohol content above 0.08. This standard is inapplicable in a drug case because drugs do not affect a person’s blood alcohol content. Proposition 64 could change this. If research takes place, under Proposition 64, it is conceivable that a standard similar to 0.08 could be created for THC levels in the blood from marijuana consumption.

The second form of DUI requires the prosecutor to show that

  • A person drove a vehicle
  • While driving, the person was under the influence of drug(s) or alcohol

According to California Criminal Jury Instruction 2110, the prosecutor has to show that the person was under the influence, which means that a person is no longer able to drive a vehicle in a manner similar to a sober person under the similar circumstances.

Currently, all drug DUI cases, not involving alcohol, must be proven under this second standard. Namely, the prosecutor must show that the person was impaired by drugs to the degree where he could no longer safely operate a motor vehicle. This type of conviction is more difficult for a prosecutor to prove because the prosecutor cannot rely on a set standard, such as a BAC of 0.08.

Fighting DUI Charges

There are multiple ways to fight this standard for DUI drug cases. On the issue of California Jury Instruction 2110 alone, an experienced criminal defense attorney may argue that the defendant used ordinary care while driving or that a sober person would have acted similarly under the circumstances that were presented to the accused. Even in cases where the defendant’s behavior fell well below the standard associated with a sober person, a defense attorney may potentially argue that the person could have driven a vehicle with the caution of a sober person even if the evidence shows that he did not.

There are many nuances to a DUI Drug case. If you are accused of a DUI involving drugs, you would do well to talk to an experienced attorney about your case. To schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney from Gurovich, Berk & Associates, we invite you to call call (213) 385-1555.

Momentary Possession as a Defense to Drug Charges

- Dmitry Gurovich

A former USC and Raider quarterback was recently charged with having methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in his possession, and other charges. According to reports, he was found in the backyard of a home, which was not his own, trying to dispose of a bag containing meth and marijuana.

Transitory Possession

This case raises an interesting but seldom used defense in drug cases called “transitory possession”. Under this defense, an individual will not be found guilty for possession if he can establish, beyond a preponderance of the evidence, that:

  • For a momentary or transitory time the person had possession of it
  • The defendant was only in control of it while trying to get rid of it
  • The defendant did not intend to obstruct law enforcement from getting it

This defense comes from a case that was decided in the 1970s where the California Supreme Court found that drug possession offenses were not meant to include situations where a person was attempting to dispose of drugs and only held the drugs while disposing of them [see People v. Mijares].

If you believe that this defense is applicable to your case, you should speak with an drug possession attorney experienced in handling drug possession cases. Raising this defense is difficult because it requires an admission to the crime. In stating that you were attempting to get rid of drugs, you admit that you had drugs and that they were, in fact, drugs.

Additionally, this defense is risky because it shifts the burden from the prosecution to the defense. What this means is that the defendant will have to prove that he was trying to dispose of the drugs or else he will be found guilty. Ordinarily, the defendant does not have to prove any portion of a case and is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty by the prosecutor. Because of this burden shift, this defense carries a number of substantial risks. Naturally, this defense should only be attempted by an experienced attorney.

Raising This Defense

The defense of momentary possession is not typically available in all possession in cases. It relies heavily on the details of the case and requires the careful analysis of an experienced defense lawyer before using it.

If you are charged with a Drug offense in California, the defense attorneys at Gurovich, Berk & Associates can provide a free consultation at (213) 385-1555 to help you better understand your options in cases similar to this involving drugs.

Process for Reducing Theft Felony Offenses to Misdemeanors

- Dmitry Gurovich

California’s Proposition 47 which was intended to reduce jail congestion has led to numerous applications for re-sentencing and reclassification of theft crimes and other qualified felonies. The new law is expected to benefit some 10,000 inmates who are currently serving sentences for non-serious and nonviolent crimes.

Theft Offenses Reduced to Misdemeanors

The offenses of Grand Theft and Receiving Stolen Property are now reduced to petty theft misdemeanors, as long as the value of the property taken does not exceed $950. In addition, a new theft misdemeanor of shoplifting has been included in Section 459.5 of the Penal Code. Shoplifting is defined as:

Entering a commercial establishment with the intent to commit larceny, while the establishment is open, and where the value of the property taken does not exceed $950.

Procedures Available for Theft Sentences

The new law provides the following options to persons who have been convicted of theft felonies before the act took effect in 2014:

  • Persons currently serving felony sentences for theft offenses may petition the court for re-sentencing as a misdemeanor
  • Persons who have already served felony sentences may apply for reclassification of their crimes as misdemeanors

Exclusions

As with most laws, not everyone will qualify for misdemeanor re-sentencing or re-classification. The court may deny applications or petitions of persons with prior convictions for designated violent offenses or for a crime which requires registration as a sex offender.

Legal procedure

The recall or re-sentencing, however, is not automatic. The appropriate petition must be filed in court and the petitioner must establish that they satisfy the criteria for re-sentencing or re-classification. Depending on the circumstances of the petitioner, the court may issue an order recalling the first sentence and impose a new one for a misdemeanor.

If you are currently serving prison time for a theft felony under circumstances that would fall under the new definitions for theft misdemeanors, it’s important to speak to an experienced theft attorney about the possibility of re-sentencing. Your attorney should also be able to prepare the appropriate petition, present evidence to the satisfaction of the court, and ultimately obtain a reduced sentence or charge under your circumstances.

In Los Angeles, California, the law firm of Gurovich, Berk & Associates has over 35 years of combined experience handling theft-related charges and achieving positive outcomes. We invite you to call us today at (213) 385-1555 to speak to one of our dedicated attorneys about your situation.