In 2014, Los Angeles saw a significant jump in violent crime; in fact, it was up 14.3%, according to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti in a January 12 news report at NBC4.

According to Beck and Garcetti, the biggest factor in the increase in violent crime was the rise in domestic violence cases. The mayor claims Los Angeles is safer than it has ever been, and that part of the reason for the unflattering statistics and increase in certain violent crimes is the fact that LA is growing. Property crime was down nearly 5% in 2014, and is the most common offense in the Los Angeles area.

The primary drivers for increases in violent crime include not only an increase in situations involving domestic violence, but the switch of some misdemeanor assaults to aggravated.

As experienced Los Angeles white collar crime defense attorneys, we know that regardless of career or social standing, anyone can be accused of or indicted for a white collar crime. These offenses are generally those that are financially motivated, and typically do not involve violence. Still, the criminal penalties if convicted are often extremely harsh, and even life changing.

Anyone who is familiar with the reality show “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” is probably well aware of the fact that Joe and Teresa Giudice have been indicted in nearly 40 federal charges including wire and bankruptcy fraud, conspiracy to defraud lenders, and more. Charges like these can result in decades behind bars for those found guilty. Unfortunately, there are white collar crimes they may be unknowingly or at least not intentionally committed, such as failure to file a tax return. We are all humans, and mistakes can be made!

Various white collar crimes include:

Five days ago, a fiery three car collision ended with the tragic loss of five lives in Chino. According to a news article at CBS Los Angeles, four of the deceased victims were friends who graduated from Roosevelt High School.

Crews were dispatched to the scene at Pine Avenue between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. on Friday, according to the Chino Police Dept. The vehicles involved included a 2013 Honda Accord, a 2002 Honda Civic, and a 2000 extended cab Chevy truck; authorities reported that two of the vehicles were engulfed in flames.

The speed limit in the area is 25 mph. News reports indicate that the roadway in the area where the accident occurred is rough, narrow, and extremely busy. Police stated that there were four men in the Chevy truck, and that it crashed into the k-rail before catching fire and causing a chain reaction with the other two vehicles.

On May 21 of this year, an accident involving a truck carrying steel pipes triggered a bus accident that left four people dead. According to a report at U.S. News & World Report,  a flatbed truck was hauling steel pipes on a remote stretch of Interstate 10 that links Arizona and Southern California when it drifted into the dirt median causing it to jackknife.

When the truck jackknifed, its load of steel pipes scattered across the highway in an area that is not adequately lit. According to California Highway Patrol Lt. Cmdr. Gustavo Guzman, the driver of the truck was driving on a section of highway where the speed limit is 70 mph when he attempted to pass vehicles that were moving at a slower speed. He lost control when his truck drifted onto the dirt.

A bus traveling from El Paso, Texas to Los Angeles carrying 33 passengers struck a load of the steel pipes, which caused it to overturn after sliding down an embankment. Four passengers of the bus were killed; at least seven others were seriously injured, according to news reports. The steel pipes were scattered across all east and west bound lanes. Two other vehicles struck the pipes, however there were no injuries reported in those incidents. The driver of the truck was not identified; neither he nor the driver of the bus was injured.

On Monday April 28, a San Clemente man was arrested after being viewed in surveillance footage and recognized by an Orange County sheriff’s deputy.  The man was allegedly attempting to rob a CVS Pharmacy just before 5 p.m. in the 600 block of Camino De Los Mares, according to a news article at the Orange County Register. The man, whose name was not revealed in news reports, allegedly had a handgun in his waistband as he attempted to get the pharmacist to give him drugs, according to Lt. Steve Gill of the OC Sheriff’s Department.  Instead, the pharmacist and suspected robber became involved in an argument, which led to the suspect leaving the store empty handed. A deputy who was later viewing surveillance footage of the CVS attempted robbery recognized the suspect as someone he had encountered in the past, according to Gill.  Authorities went to the suspect’s home; after positively identifying the man through witnesses, he was arrested.  Deputies also recovered the handgun that was believed to be the gun used in the attempted robbery.  The suspect was booked into jail on Monday evening. What will the suspect likely be charged with, if anything?  It really hinges on whether the man has a prior criminal history, and the decision of the district attorney.  Robbery is a felony offense that if convicted, will leave the defendant facing between two and nine years in prison.  In the majority of cases, the penalties a defendant will face for attempting to commit the crime of robbery are approximately half of the penalties for actually committing robbery, so the suspect could fact between one and 4 1/2 years in prison.  Of course there are exceptions, and the outcome of this case will depend on additional details not made public. The crime of robbery in California, according to CA Penal Code  211, involves using force or fear to take another individual’s property from his or her presence or person.  Because robbery generally involves threats, violence, or force, it is considered a violent criminal offense.  Increased penalties may be applicable in cases where the defendant is accused of possessing or using a weapon or firearm either in the attempt or actual commission of the crime. Anyone who is accused of robbery or attempted robbery should consult with a capable criminal defense attorney early on; in fact, this is one of the most vital steps a suspect can take to protect his or her freedom and future. Although the suspect in this case was identified by an Orange County sheriff’s deputy and others, it does not presume his guilt.  In fact, the U.S. Constitution protects individuals who are suspected of crimes by presuming all who are accused are innocent until proven guilty.  In order to be found guilty of attempted robbery, the prosecutor will have to prove all elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Be sure your legal rights are not violated and that you have the best possible chance of obtaining good results by contacting a highly experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer.  Regardless of the evidence, there are legal options that can minimize the damage to a defendant’s reputation, career, and future.

As seasoned Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys, we understand that many people do not really know the difference between a misdemeanor and felony offense.  In California, there are also criminal offenses that are classified as “wobblers,” which simply means that the crime may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, at the prosecutor’s discretion.

Generally speaking, misdemeanors are crimes that would be considered less serious than felonies, and are punishable by a maximum of one year in a county jail.  Felony offenses are those that are more serious, and incur penalties which include one year or more in state prison.

What are the most common crimes which are usually charged as misdemeanors?  There are really two categories of misdemeanor crimes, standard and aggravated.  Examples of standard misdemeanors include public intoxication and petty theft.  Aggravated misdemeanor offenses include simple assault, simple battery, and DUI (driving under the influence).  The criminal penalties for a conviction on a standard misdemeanor offense include fines of up to $1,000 and a maximum of 6 months in county jail.

Mary Virginia Jones, a 74-year-old Los Angeles woman who has been incarcerated for 32 years in connection with a 1981 murder, was scheduled to be released from prison on March 25, according to a news article at CBS Los Angeles.  A judge ruled on Monday that she would be released for a murder which was committed by her abusive boyfriend, Mose Willis, who died while on death row.

Jones was convicted in 1981 on charges of kidnapping, robbery, and first-degree murder in a shooting death related to dealing drugs, according to the report.  Law students at USC’s Post-Conviction Justice Project worked to free Jones, who they say would not have been found guilty had the jury been allowed to hear testimony on the effects of battered women’s syndrome, now known as “intimate partner battery.”  The project claims that Mose Willis, Jones’ boyfriend at the time, forced her to drive to an alley after he kidnapped two drug dealers; he then shot both, and one of the men died.  Supervising defense attorney Heidi Rummel, who is co-director of the USC justice project, said that Jones ran after Willis shot at the men, expecting that Willis would shoot her and possibly kill her, too.

One week before Willis shot at the two drug dealers, he allegedly shot at Jones’  daughter and threatened that if police were contacted, he would kill them both.  Jones said before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Ryan on Monday that she believed entering a no contest plea to voluntary manslaughter was in her best interest in regards to getting out of custody, but that she did not participate in the crime willingly.  Judge Ryan gave her credit for time served, setting aside her convictions and ordering that she be set free.

In California as in every state, the judicial system’s integrity hinges on honest actions by participants, without fear of reprisals; when a participant does not act honestly, he or she may be charged with obstruction of justice.  Basically, obstruction of justice is the interfering with proper or legitimate operations of either a court or officers of the court through either actions or words.  A few examples of this criminal offense include threatening a judge, encouraging someone to destroy evidence, or attempting to bribe a witness.  Obstructing justice is a crime under both state and federal laws.

Insufficient evidence to secure a conviction

Even when there is not sufficient evidence to convict, prosecutors may charge an individual with obstruction of justice based on suspicions that he or she is refusing to provide information or withholds information vital to continuing an investigation.  When someone is arrested for obstructing justice, or even charged with the crime, law enforcement officials are highly focused on putting that person in prison, even without substantial evidence supporting the original crime being investigated.  Ultimately, prosecutors know that a conviction for obstruction of justice can result in the defendant spending up to 5 years in state prison, and therefore see this as a way to secure a meaningful conviction.

On Wednesday March 5, 29-year-old Jose Angel Perez Jr. was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the death of 20-year-old Nath Ouch, who was eight months pregnant at the time she was gunned down in southeast Fresno in February of 2006.  According to the Los Angeles Times, Ouch’s husband was so despondent over his wife’s death he took his own life a short time later.

Ouch was struck by a bullet in the early morning hours as Perez and another gang member opened fire at an apartment complex where rival gang members lived.  Perez fled to Mexico after the shooting, and was not tracked down for some five years before being located and arrested by the FBI.  Sokmorn Chea is the other gang member who was allegedly involved in the fatal shooting; he is serving life without parole following his 2007 conviction.

Prior to sentencing, Perez spoke to Ouch’s family, apologizing for his actions and saying “I’m here as a man today to accept responsibility for my actions.”

In October of 2012, Brian Irwin of Oakland was arrested for allegedly setting a fire in a trash bin during the celebration following the San Francisco Giants’ World Series win.  Irwin was charged with arson and battery on an officer according to news reports at the San Jose Mercury News.  Now Irwin, who is 22 years old, has been acquitted of the charges.

Following the win of the World Series by the Giants, Irwin was one of at least nine people charged in vandalism cases.  At trial, prosecutors allege that Irwin extended his middle finger and shouted an expletive at police before lighting the contents of a Dumpster on fire.  A chase then ensued with police officers ultimately tackling Irwin in bushes in Yerba Buena Gardens.  Upon being apprehended, Irwin allegedly spat blood in the face of one of the officers.

The trial lasted two weeks with the testimony of three police officers giving conflicting accounts of the events according to the public defender’s office.  Because of the conflicting testimony, it was unclear whether Irwin did light the fire in the Dumpster.  Peter Santina, Deputy Public Defender, claimed that following Irwin’s arrest his clothes did not smell like smoke, and that he was not in possession of matches or a lighter.  A friend of the defendant’s also testified that while Irwin jumped on the Dumpster in celebration, he did not set the fire.  Ultimately, the jury found Irwin not guilty of arson.