Many people in California have wondered whether SB620 or Senate Bill 620 is retroactive. Ultimately, prior to the passage of this bill local judges did not have discretion when it came to dismissing sentencing enhancements decided by prosecutors in regards to felony cases involving the use of firearms. Since the passage of SB620 in October of last year, judges are now able to determine or decide whether the sentencing enhancement given an offender who is convicted of a felony crime involving a firearm is proper or fitting to the case at hand. However, this still doesn’t meet many individuals’ definitions of equality.

Enhancements in these types of cases meant those convicted may be sentenced to an additional ten or 20 years in prison, or even a life term depending on the circumstances of the case. While the new law does not give judges permission to completely do away with enhancements altogether, it does give judges at the local level the discretion to determine on a case-by-case basis whether the enhancement given an individual should be shorter or longer depending on the circumstances and facts of the crime. In simple terms, a judge may make the decision as to whether an offender who was given a 20 year sentence enhancement should have perhaps been given a ten year enhancement instead, or even life in prison in extremely serious felony cases involving the use of a firearm.

So is SB620 retroactive, meaning those who have received sentencing enhancements for felony crimes involving a firearm prior to the passage of this bill are eligible to have their enhancements reexamined? Yes, in situations where an offender’s sentence is enhanced by 20 years or a life term. While you may be eligible for less harsh sentencing enhancement, resentencing is generally reserved for those who have committed what are considered less serious felony offenses such as drug possession or low level theft. Not everyone has the opportunity to reduce an enhanced sentence, particularly those who have been found guilty of what are considered extremely serious or heinous crimes. Do all felons have access to equal protection? This is a question many criminal defense attorneys have pondered, and one that may be vigorously contested in the future.

While recreational marijuana use may have recently been made legal in California, drug offenses are still a problem in Los Angeles and across the state. Recently it was reported that Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy Kenneth Collins was charged with operating a large-scale drug trafficking scheme along with three others who were arrested by FBI agents during a sting operation; he had been under investigation by agents for several months due to suspicions he was dealing in drugs.

Possession and sales of illicit drugs and narcotics is a huge problem in LA and surrounding areas. In fact, given the opioid epidemic it’s a growing problem across the nation. From oxycodone, fentanyl and cocaine to heroin, methamphetamine and other substances, people are finding themselves facing criminal charges that could result in punishment including a few months in jail to years or even decades behind prison bars depending on the person’s criminal history, type and amount of drug involved and other factors.

In December a Riverside couple was charged with three counts of possession of a controlled substance for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia after they were allegedly selling methamphetamine from their home and using a drone to deliver the illegal substance. News reports also stated unpackaged powders believed to contain fentanyl were discovered at the home.

Many people aren’t aware of criminal offenses that fall under the umbrella of “prostitution” such as pandering, a felony offense very similar to prostitution that can result in harsh punishment for those found guilty. Unfortunately, in Los Angeles it seems that when it comes to notoriety of victims getting the justice they deserve, there is a very obvious and decided line between black and white – and sexual orientation.. Unless you live “off the grid” or have been living under a rock in recent months, you’ve likely heard about all of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein – but what you may NOT have heard much about is the death of Gemmel Moore, a gay black man who was found dead in Ed Buck’s home this past summer. Buck is a white man who is reportedly gay, and a prominent donor to the Democratic party. Stories of victims who are mostly white women seem to be far more publicized and prominent in the media when it comes to alleged sexual crimes than those involving people of color or who are gay.

What are pimping and pandering, exactly? Pimping involves a person gaining financially from the prostitution of another individual or for locating clients for a prostitute, while pandering is a type of “recruiting” that is done when a person persuades, encourages, or induces someone to become a prostitute.

Ed Buck is a white man with financial means who allegedly has a long list of victims and has been called a sexual predator. Some of the stories black gay men have told (and provided evidence to support) involving Buck include forced drug use, kidnapping, the injection of crystal meth into unconscious victims, and filing false police reports in an effort to hide his criminal behavior which is said to include pimping, pandering, and coercion. Sadly, few of Buck’s alleged victims have received the media coverage and attention Harvey Weinstein’s alleged victims have, but why? Likely it’s due to the color and/or sexual orientation of the victims.

On October 11 California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill sponsored by the ACLU of California into law that will impact sentencing for felons convicted of crimes in which a firearm was used. Is the new law a good thing or a bad thing? It really depends on your own opinion. According to some reports law enforcement leaders feel Senate Bill 620 will only result in additional gun violence, however Senator Steve Bradford, author of the bill, says it’s really about justice.

Bradford said in a statement that “No one disputes that crimes involving firearms must be taken seriously, but California should not continue forcing judges to dole out extreme and overly punitive sentences that don’t fit the crime.” Bradford feels that judges should be afforded the same discretion at sentencing that prosecutors are afforded when filing criminal charges, and that California’s “overly punitive” sentencing laws disproportionately affected people of color.

Prior to signing Senate Bill 620 into law, judges were prohibited from dismissing or striking a firearm sentence enhancement for offenders who committed felony offenses involving firearms. If an individual was arrested for a criminal offense involving a gun, certain enhancements were added to the charges which were mandatory. Ultimately, this meant someone convicted of the charges could face a substantially longer prison term, sometimes decades longer. This new law gives judges the power to determine punishment, taking away prosecutors’ power to determine enhancements.

SCR 48 (Senate Concurrent Resolution 48) is a bill that is intended to reform the Felony Murder Rule in California, authored by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and awaiting Governor Brown’s signature as it has passed in both the California State Assembly and California State Senate.

Ultimately, SCR 48 is a bill that recognizes punishment for felony murder should be proportionate to the crime committed. In California, a person can be sentenced to life in prison for a first-degree murder conviction, even though the individual did not actually murder someone. In fact, California prisons are filled with inmates facing life behind bars for murders they didn’t actually commit. Doesn’t make sense, but here is a possible scenario that could leave someone facing a life prison term for felony murder without actually having committed the crime.

The Felony Murder Rule applies when a crime that is considered “inherently dangerous” such as burglary, arson, rape, kidnapping, or robbery occurs and a person is killed – the defendant does not have to be the one who committed the act, or even have to act with reckless indifference or intent to be convicted of felony murder. Is it fair for someone who may have taken part in an “inherently dangerous” crime but who did not actually commit murder to face the exact same punishment as the person who did actually commit murder? For most, it doesn’t seem fair.

On August 20, six people were injured and one killed as the result of a crash that took place in Coronado. According to reports, two of the injured victims were children. The accident occurred on Silver Strand State Highway after a Jeep crossed the center line near Pomona Avenue, crashing into two vehicles driving in a southbound direction. One of those involved died at the scene before first responders arrived.

News reports claim police believe alcohol was a factor in the deadly crash. The driver of the Jeep who crossed the center line was said to be in critical condition at an area hospital at the time of reports.

Driving under the influence, or DUI, is a serious offense in California. However, when someone operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes a wreck in which someone sustains injuries or loses his or her life, the situation becomes far more serious. In this case, an individual may be charged with DUI causing injury according to California Vehicle Code 23153 VC. The prosecutor may charge this offense as a misdemeanor or felony; felony charges leave those found guilty facing harsher punishment.

Many people are curious about a commutation of sentence, and what it actually means. Basically, there is no impact on whether a defendant is guilty; it is simply a reduction in the sentence given a defendant by the governor of the state. A type of clemency, a state’s governor may reduce a defendant’s sentence, for example from 20 years to 10 years, however the governor must receive a recommendation from the state parole board before he or she can grant a commutation of sentence.

When the imprisonment is the result of a federal conviction, the only person who may commute the sentence is the President.

In addition to a reduced prison term, a commutation of sentence may also result in court-ordered fines being reduced.

Lawsuits involving potentially dangerous or defective drugs are extremely common today. One example that’s been in the news recently is Risperdal, a drug manufactured by Johnson & Johnson for the treatment of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and the irritability that can result in those with autism.

Countless lawsuits have been filed against the pharmaceutical giant in recent months after young male patients taking Risperdal have reportedly developed female breasts, according to an article at Bloomberg.  In fact, last year Johnson & Johnson had to pay $70 million in damages after a Philadelphia jury sided with a teen from Tennessee, the largest amount ever awarded in a case involving Risperdal.

Earlier this month there were some 18,500 pending lawsuits across the U.S. and Canada involving injury from taking the drug, a condition known as gynecomastia (breast growth in males) against J & J and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, its subsidiary. The majority of the cases at that time were filed in Missouri, Pennsylvania, and California however other claims were still pending in numerous courts in both countries. While Johnson & Johnson faced many lawsuits in 2016 involving pelvic mesh, talcum powder, and hip implants, cases involving Risperdal and gynecomastia continue to evolve.

Just over a week ago, Vermont Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted a sad Thanksgiving message reminding voters that thanks to immigration policies in the U.S., not all families get to spend Thanksgiving together. Sanders had just released an immigration plan two days prior to the tweet, which calls for policies that reform detention programs and deportation, welcome immigrants into our country, and provide a “legislative roadmap to citizenship” for immigrants. According to the article at, there are currently 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Sanders’ plan supports uniting families instead of tearing them apart. According to his website, Sanders believes we are a nation of immigrants. As the son of an immigrant, Sanders’ father came to the U.S. from Poland, completely broke. Sanders says that his family’s story is an example of the story of America, one in which families come to the U.S. to work hard and provide a better future and freedom for their children. In his plan, Sanders wants to bring back undocumented immigrants who have been deported if they have immediate family living in the country; this is according to USA Today.

Sanders’ plan includes six specific reforms designed to assist immigrants, which some have called radical. Among these reforms Sanders wants to respect local communities while making certain our border remains secure, dismantle detention centers and deportation programs which he calls “inhumane,” help the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. obtain citizenship via a fair and swift legislative roadmap, and reverse the criminalization of immigrants while making access to justice easier.

On Wednesday November 18, a 29-year-old Downey police officer was shot to death while sitting in his own car. According to news reports at Fox News, Officer Ricardo “Ricky” Galvez, a former Marine, was in plain clothes and sitting in his own vehicle when two men ran up and opened fire on Galvez.

News reports state that in all, three attackers were arrested within hours of the shooting, which authorities believe occurred as the result of a botched robbery. The three attackers were 16, 18, and 21 and were reportedly on the lookout for someone to rob when they saw the officer sitting in his car.

Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. said that Galvez had just ended his shift when the attack happened, and that he believed the attackers did not know he was a police officer when they attempted to rob him. Corina did not believe Galvez saw the young men coming toward him. The gunshots were heard by another officer who chased the suspects as they fled into Montebello. SWAT officers swept surrounding neighborhoods in their attempt to capture the three men; the getaway driver was arrested a short time later, and a gun found that was believed to be the one used in the shooting.