Jamahl Kersey April 14, 2016 No Comments

Pending Criminal Charges and a Criminal Record: Understanding Effects on Employment

If you have pending criminal charges or a previous criminal record and are in the process of looking for a job, then you might be in for an unpleasant reality check. Simply put, pending criminal charges and a criminal record have an effect on employment, often making it difficult or seemingly impossible to secure a job with pending charges or a criminal record. By understanding the challenges of searching for a job with a criminal record and knowing your options, you can ultimately make the right decisions for your future.

What Shows Up on a Criminal Background Check?

Understand that many employers these days require job applicants to undergo a criminal background check; this is something that you will likely have to submit to as a condition of your employment. In some cases, a criminal background check may even be conducted during the application process as a means of screening employees.

So, what will show up on a criminal background check? This can vary depending on the agency conducting the background investigation. In most cases, however, you can expect the following to show up on a criminal background report:

  • felony or misdemeanor convictions
  • current charges pending against you
  • past arrests (even if charges were dropped)
  • history of tax liens and bankruptcies
  • other basic identifying information

Can You Be Denied Employment Based on Your Criminal Record?

You might be wondering if it’s even legal for you to be denied employment based on your criminal past alone. Unfortunately, in most cases, it’s perfectly legal for a private employer to refuse employment to those with criminal records. In fact, many employers prefer not to hire those with criminal history because they believe keeping these kinds of employees out of their work environment will keep things more peaceful and calm.

Of course, anybody with a prior conviction or pending criminal charges knows that this isn’t necessarily true.

Other Employment Obstacles With a Criminal Record

In addition to private employers being able to refuse you employment based on your criminal record alone, it’s also worth noting that there are some other restrictions a criminal past can put on your career. For example, you may be unable to obtain certain state or national certifications with a criminal record. And if you have a felony, you typically cannot secure a position as a police officer (or any other position that would require you to carry a firearm) due to the fact that convicted felons are not legally able to own a firearm.

Exploring Your Options

With all this in mind, then, it makes sense that finding a job when you have any kind of a criminal record can be very challenging. So, what are your options? Fortunately, you have several.

If you have current charges pending against you, now is a good time to begin working with a reputable and experienced criminal defense lawyer, who will be able to assist you in fighting your charges or possibly getting them reduced.

On the other hand, if you already have convictions on your record that are keeping you from landing a job, you may want to see if you’re eligible or expungement or sealing/destroying of your criminal record. This way, you can enjoy a “clean slate” and will no longer have your criminal past impeding your ability to secure a steady job.

Whether you’re in the process of fighting a criminal charge or are interested in expungement to increase your employment opportunities, the fact remains that you need a lawyer to help you through the process. Feel free to contact us today for the legal assistance and representation you need.

Jamahl Kersey April 12, 2016 No Comments

The Cost of Wrongful Convictions in California

The California Innocence Project reported that wrongful convictions had cost the taxpayers of the state approximately 129 million dollars from 1989 to 2013. It is further estimated that there had been at least 200 wrongful convictions in that time span. The obvious high cost was staggering and the economic impact to the state and its residents was undeniable, especially to the state’s fiscal budget crisis.

The data compiled took into consideration state and federal criminal convictions in California that were dismissed or overturned and resulted in acquittal. The data also reflected the results of official misconduct in civil damages.

Research conducted by the California Wrongful Convictions Project, launched by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Berkeley Law) and Hollway Advisory Services, found that the reasons for the wrongful convictions consisted of 39 percent official misconduct, 48 percent perjury or false accusations, 26 percent mistaken eyewitness identification, and 19 percent due to inadequate or ineffective defense counsel. Interestingly, only about 6 percent of the wrongful convictions ended up being overturned or reversed because of DNA evidence. Of all of the crimes where individuals were wrongly convicted, the highest numbers consisted of 42 percent for murder or manslaughter and 17 percent for child sex abuse.

The data compiled also counted individuals who were framed in the Los Angeles Rampart police scandal of the late 1990s. The 53 individuals convicted accounted for 25 percent of the data’s wrongful convictions.

It was further found that approximately 40 percent of the individuals who were wrongly convicted of crimes were initially sentenced to 20, or more, years in prison. Some of those wrongly convicted during that time period received life, life without parole, or death sentences before their convictions were eventually overturned.

The 129 million dollar cost to taxpayers consisted primarily of the high cost of incarceration in state or federal prisons. The cost of publicly disclosed civil settlement and compensation was also accounted for in the final financial data estimates. The often substantial price of legal representation or the fees incurred for holding individuals under incarceration in the county jails was not taken into consideration when compiling the 129 million dollars worth of fees. If those fees were taken into consideration and added into the final data compilation, then cost to the taxpayer rises significantly to an expense of 144 million dollars or more.

Obviously, the only way to combat the rising price of wrongful convictions to the state of California’s taxpayers is to change legislation and implement changes to the state’s legal reform system. The system needs to flow more smoothly and there needs to be a reduction in the amount of time that an individual spends incarcerated as they await trail.

Researchers and legal experts suggest that the system needs to undergo systematic scrutiny to discover the loopholes and flaws that have enabled such a large number of individuals to be wrongly convicted in the state of California. Once the areas of concern are studied and better understood, then the other problems in the justice system, such as prison overcrowding and the high cost of individual incarceration, must also be examined and overhauled.

Ideally, the justice system needs to function fairly and with fewer flaws. No system is perfect, but the high numbers of wrongful convictions and substantial expense indicates a severe problem with the system that needs to be corrected.

There is also the morality of incarcerating wrongly accused individuals. It is estimated that wrongly convicted people have spent about 1,313 years in prison. Lawmakers and legislators need to also think about the fact that if an individual is wrongly convicted and incarcerated then the true criminal remains at large to perpetrate other crimes.

If you are seeking criminal defense or have legal questions, please contact us. 

Jamahl Kersey April 8, 2016 No Comments

What Happens During a Jail Booking?

If you’ve never been arrested, you may not understand what occurs after a person has been arrested for a crime. Suspects aren’t just thrown into jail immediately after they’ve been arrested. Before people who are arrested for crimes are placed in jail cells, several procedures have to occur. Here are the steps involved in what happens during a jail booking.

Processing Paperwork

The first step, which is also known as a “processing”, involves processing paperwork. This involves recording a suspect’s personal information, including a full name, date of birth (DOB), his or her of employment, address, social security number and medical data. While this used to be done manually, most booking records today are computerized.

Mug Shots

Next, photos or “mug shots” are taken of a suspect or defendant. These photos are used to physically document defendants at the time when they’re arrested. Photos also are useful in showing the physical condition of defendants. This is important because these photos can show proof of if a defendant was in a physical altercation prior to the arrest.

Also, mug shots are used for protection against mistaken identity. For example, sometimes there are people in jail who have identical names. Several mug shots are taken of each defendant. After the mug shots are taken, they’re printed out and then used for various purposes, including name tag identification, cell tags and files.

Fingerprinting

Suspects are fingerprinted, and the fingerprints are entered into a federal database. This is needed for identifying prisoners, as well as for comparing crime scene evidence. Even suspects with prior arrests, who already have their fingerprints on file, have be fingerprinted. Information on suspects is checked for criminal backgrounds against a nationwide database to see if there have been other histories of arrests.

Full-Body Search and Personal Property Confiscation

Suspects must undergo full-body searches to ensure that they aren’t bringing any smuggled goods or weapons with them into jail. Also called a “strip search,” a full-body search is extremely humiliating but is necessary. However, they’re done by jail employees who are of the same sex as the suspect. 

Personal property confiscation is the next step. This entails taking away car keys, wallets and other personal items. Prisoners don’t get back their personal belongings until they’re released from jail.

Considerations and Cautions

  • How long does a booking take? The slowest bookings can entail hours. The length of time it takes for a booking procedure can depend on several factors, such as how many police officers are working and the number of people have been arrested during the same time period.
  • Suspects must have health screenings to protect other prisoners and the prison staff. This involves taking blood test for checking for communicable diseases as AIDS and gonorrhea. X-rays, for detecting tuberculosis, are also done before prisoners can associate with the general prison population.
  • Shoe laces and belts may be removed for suspects who are considered to be self-destructive or a threat to others.
  • Even suspects arrested for seemingly minor crimes, such as unpaid traffic tickets, may have to go through full-body strip searches.
  • Bail hearings are also conducted to decide if a suspect can be released while awaiting his or her pending trail. They’re also done to set the amount of bail. After bail has been posted, by either a bail bond agent or the defendant, the suspect is released.
  • Suspects who have pending arrest warrants generally aren’t released on bail.

It’s only until the police begin questioning suspects, regarding what occurred at arrest scenes, or when they’ve been placed in a lineup with other defendants, that a criminal defense lawyer is needed. At this time, it’s important that they consult a qualified criminal defense attorney and not take part in answering any more questions. If you, or someone you know, has been arrested and needs help, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Jamahl Kersey March 29, 2016 No Comments

Tips on Finding a Good Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are faced with a criminal charge, your best option is to seek a good criminal defense lawyer to consult and possibly represent you in court. Criminal charges are serious and understanding the justice system is imperative if you are facing a court trial. You will need to ensure that you have the best legal defense that you can financially afford.

Here are several tips on how you can find a good criminal defense lawyer.

1.  Research — Research the lawyer you are considering online to make sure they an expert in the criminal defense that you seek. Look for articles, FAQ’s, or other informational pieces about the lawyer or his firm. Also, check to see if he is a member of any reputable associations in the specific area of criminal defense that may be beneficial to your circumstances. You should contact the state bar association to make sure the lawyer is in good standing.

2.  Types — You will need to understand what type of defense lawyer your case requires. If you have been charged with breaking a state law, such as traffic violations, broken contracts, robberies or a family dispute, then you will need a lawyer who specializes in state laws. Federal cases involve the violation of the US Constitution or are cases in which the United States is a party, such as bankruptcy issues, patent problems, and copyright cases.

Ideally, any defense lawyer you retain should specialize in the specific crime that you are being charged with and have at least a few years of specialized experience. He should also have a good track record of winning the cases he has previously represented.

3.  Qualities — You should be able to communicate well with your criminal defense attorney and understand exactly what he is explaining to you. An attorney with excellent communication skills will undoubtedly argue your case well. He should also have adequate negotiation skills. With superior negotiation skills, the odds are good that he can perhaps negotiate a deal so your case does not have to go to a jury trial. It is not uncommon for a wide majority of criminal cases to be resolved via a plea agreement. Be sure to ask the lawyer if he has a good working relationship with the prosecuting attorney, which might prove beneficial to your case and help him be successful at perhaps getting an acceptable plea bargain.

A good criminal defense lawyer also works frequently in the jurisdiction holding your case and in the particular county where you are charged. The experience gives him the upper hand in knowing the local legal system and the key players that he will be dealing with on a professional level.

4.  References —  Prior to retaining the attorney, don’t be afraid to ask him for references. Remember, your very freedom is on the line, so you will want to make the best decision you can make when it comes to retaining a lawyer. After the lawyer provides you with references, call them to verify his history and previous case success.

5.  Retainer — Ask for a copy of the attorney’s retainer and take the time to read it. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask the lawyer. Prior to signing the retainer, you should always understand exactly what services will be provided and what you are paying for before going forward with the contract.

Finding a good criminal defense lawyer who will effectively represent you is imperative to a positive outcome for your case. Sometimes, you simply have to follow your gut instincts. If you clash with your lawyer’s personality, then you might want to consider retaining a different attorney to represent you. You will want to make sure you have a good working relationship with each other so you can build a strong defense for your criminal case.

Please contact us to learn more about our criminal defense services.

Jamahl Kersey March 24, 2016 No Comments

When Can the Police Search My Car? Understanding Your Rights During a Traffic Stop

Most people have been pulled over by the police at least once in their lives. In many cases, a traffic stop simply ends with a warning or a citation–but in some situations, a traffic stop could very well lead to an arrest. Regardless of whether you believe you’ve done anything wrong or not, there are some basic things you’ll want to keep in mind when you’ll pulled over by the police. For example, many people wonder, “when can the police search my car?

A Note About Traffic Stops

First of all, understand that traffic stops are the single most dangerous aspect of any police officer’s job. More police officers are injured and killed during traffic stops than in any other call, so it’s important that you take steps to show the officer that you’re not a threat.

Upon realizing you’re being pulled over, turn on your hazard lights and pull off to the side of the road immediately. If it’s dark out, turn on your vehicle dome light so the officer can see who’s in the car. Then, wait for the officer to approach before reaching for your driver’s license, registration, or anything else. Making sudden movements could lead the officer to believe you’re a threat.

Warrants Versus Probable Cause

It’s also helpful here to understand the difference between a search warrant and having probable cause. Contrary to what many misinformed citizens believe, a police officer doesn’t need a search warrant to search your car; this only applies to stationary property (such as your house).

Instead, an officer only needs probable cause to search your car. In other words, if the officer has even a small amount of evidence (not just a hunch) that you’ve committed a crime, he or she is legally allowed to conduct the search.

What Constitutes Probable Cause in a Traffic Stop?

During a traffic stop, there are numerous things that could constitute probable cause. If the officer smells alcohol coming from your vehicle, he or she may have probable cause to suspect that you’re drinking while driving, just the same as the smell of marijuana coming from the car may give an officer probable cause to believe you’ve been using illegal substances.

Verbally Refusing Your Consent to Search

If an officer has probable cause to search your vehicle, you’ll likely still be asked for your consent. You have every right to refuse consent for any reason, but keep in mind that this won’t stop the officer from searching the car if he or she has probable cause.

Unfortunately, even in situations where an officer doesn’t have probable cause, many unsuspecting drivers are led to believe they have no choice but to consent to the search. Instead of asking for consent to search, the officers might say something along the lines of, “if you haven’t done anything wrong, then you won’t mind if we search your vehicle, right?”

Exercising Your Right to Remain Silent

If an officer searches your vehicle, regardless of whether you have something to hide or not, remember that you can exercise your right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment. In fact, it’s recommended that you elect not to answer any questions (especially if you’re being detained) and that you request a lawyer before speaking to police officers. After all, anything you say can and will be used against you.

Getting pulled over and asked for consent to search your car can be an intimidating and unsettling experience for anybody. If you’re in need of legal guidance following a traffic stop, feel free to contact us today. Our team would be happy to assist you.