CRIMINAL LAW SERVICES
Driving Under the Influence is one of the most common criminal offenses charged in Santa Cruz County.
You can be charged with driving under the influence of either alcohol, a drug or both. This includes drugs
for which you have a legal prescription. The question is did the substance(s) so impair your ability to drive
that you could no longer operate your vehicle with the caution of a sober person under similar
You can also be charged under a separate subsection of the vehicle code if you drive a vehicle with a
blood alcohol concentration of over .08%. If you are found guilty of driving with a blood alcohol
concentration of over .15% the penalty you face can, and likely will, be increased. DUIs can present
technically challenging cases that involve a great deal of science, chemistry and particularized police
procedures. Some cases are readily and clearly defensible and you are best served fighting the charges.
On the other hand, sometimes certain cases are less defensible and negotiating with the District Attorney
may be the most beneficial way to proceed. Sometimes DUIs can be reduced to other crimes such as
reckless driving which carry less severe penalties. I can help you evaluate your case and determine your
best plan of action.
Please contact my office to schedule a free and confidential appointment to discuss your DUI case.
Driving under the influence statute can be found at the following link: Penal Code section 23152
Associated with DUI charges is the parallel legal process that occurs with the Department of Motors
Vehicles regarding the status of your driver's license. If you do not request a DMV hearing within 10 days
of getting arrested for DUI, your license will be automatically suspended. For information regarding DMV
hearings, including how to schedule one, please visit the following link: DMV Disciplinary Hearing Info.
For assistance with DMV drivers' license suspensions, please contact my office to schedule a free and
confidential appointment to discuss your case.
Marijuana and other drug crimes are frequently charged offenses. The voters of California have
determined that people who simply use or possess small amounts of drugs should not go to jail. Voters of
California have also determined that the use of Marijuana as medicine, when sanctioned by a medical
professional, should not be a crime. I firmly believe that medical marijuana patients should have access to
their medical marijuana and not be subject to harassment by authorities.
The California state Medical Marijuana Program and the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 govern the state
medical marijuana programs. While the voters of California have spoken on the issue, law enforcement
has not necessarily listened. Users of medical marijuana can face substantial penalties. If marijuana is
considered to have been grown for sale, either by the quantity or otherwise, the accused may be charged
with a felony. Often seemingly innocent items such as zip lock bags or kitchen scales can be interpreted
by police as "indicia" of (or evidence indicating) sales. Santa Cruz County Medical Marijuana Guidelines
are some of the most permissive in the state. However, even being within the 3 pound or 100 square foot
canopy limits in Santa Cruz with a valid recommendation does not necessarily prevent you from being
charged with serious crimes including felonies.
For more information about Santa Cruz County guidelines for medical marijuana click the following link and
enter "marijuana" in the search section or go to chapters 7.122 and 7.124 of the code. Santa Cruz
Some people choose to use marijuana for various reasons other than medicinal purposes. If you do so,
you should be aware of the potential consequences. NORML publishes a helpful chart on marijuana
crimes and penalties that can be found at the following link: NORML California Marijuana Penalty Chart.
The war on drugs is a terrible tragedy that has caused our country to imprison more people than any other
nation in the world. I fight hard for people charged with marijuana and other drug offenses. Often such
charges do not hold up, especially as initially charged. Diversion or other programs have been
established to keep marijuana and personal use drug offenders out of jail. Drug evidence is often
obtained by the use of unconstitutional searches that can result in the evidence being suppressed.
Please contact my office and schedule a free and confidential consultation if you have been charged, or
think you may be charged, with a marijuana or other drug related offense. I can also assist in the return of
your marijuana and other property after your criminal process depending upon the outcome.
Misdemeanor charges are typically defined by a conviction not possibly resulting in a state prison
sentence. Sentences for individual misdemeanor charges are typically a maximum of one year or less in
county jail. For this reason, criminal misdemeanor defendants are provided slightly less process than
felony defendants. For example, one charged with a misdemeanor does not have the right to a preliminary
Examples of some common misdemeanors are: DUI, Petty Theft, Public Intoxication, Simple Assault,
Resisting Arrest, Domestic Violence, Certain Drug Offenses, Vandalism, Violating Court Orders
(Restraining Order Info Chart), etc.
The California Penal Code with links to specific crimes can be found at the following link: California Penal
Misdemeanor convictions can have a significant negative effect on your life going forward. Here are some
examples how: 1) If you are convicted of a crime of moral turpitude (crimes of deception of dishonesty) you
may be denied employment or be faced with that fact if you are ever called as a witness; 2) Some
misdemeanor "sex" crimes carry lifetime registration requirements that are mandatory; 3) If you are a
foreign citizen you may be denied the possibility of ever becoming a United States citizen when convicted
of any two misdemeanors or any one of a certain class of misdemeanor offenses.
In the current job market any competitive disadvantage can be a significant setback. Punishments for
misdemeanor offenses can include county jail, work release, electronic monitoring devices, and probation.
Convictions for certain non-driving charges such as vandalism can result in the suspension of your driver's
license. Misdemeanors are serious charges. You deserve an advocate that will fight hard to protect your
rights at every stage of the criminal process.
If you have been charged with, or believe you may be charged with, a misdemeanor, please contact my
office to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Felony charges are typically perceived as being more significant than misdemeanor charges because of
the potential for lengthy state prison sentences. Felony convictions can make finding or keeping a job
almost impossible. Felonies may involve such crimes as Drugs Sales or Being Under the Influence of
Narcotics, Gang Crimes, Robbery, Burglary, Kidnapping, Grand Theft, Assault Involving Serious Bodily
Injury, Certain Sex Offenses, Murder, etc. The California Penal Code with links to specific crimes can be
found at the following link: California Penal Code Index
Sentencing Enhancements- Many criminal charges can be enhanced or punished more severely by
circumstances that are alleged to have occurred during the act of the crime. Some of these enhancements
may involve the use of a weapon, committing the act for the benefit of a gang, causing great bodily injury,
committing new acts within a certain time of past acts or while on probation, etc. These and other
enhancements can significantly increase the punishment you could face and must be evaluated and
addressed very carefully by a skilled legal technician.
Three Strikes- Three strikes sentencing structure is an extreme form of punishment used in California in
cases that involve "Serious" Felonies. For a list of these offenses see Penal Code section 1192.7
Amongst other penalties, upon your second strike conviction your sentence can be doubled. If you are
convicted of two "strikes," upon a third conviction for ANY felony (including petty theft with a prior, etc) you
can be sentenced to a life sentence. Processes exist for petitioning a judge to use his discretion to "strike"
(or not count) prior strikes.
Gang Crimes- Street gangs are considered domestic terror organizations by the California Legislature.
Any criminal act (even misdemeanors) committed for the benefit of a gang can result in a separate felony
offense in addition to the originally charged offense. Because the punishment is so severe for gang
crimes, the government often uses the charge to force guilty pleas to lessor offenses. Police, especially
gang units, often identify accused persons with gangs because of the neighborhood in which they live, the
people with whom they associate, the clothing worn by the suspects, tattoos, etc. Often times, the gang
net is cast much wider than appropriate due to factors that are illegal, such as the person's race. Police
are also much more likely to be disrespectful of suspects' rights in the gang scenario. Being branded as a
gang member is a very hard stigma to overcome, especially considering the requirement of having to
register as a convicted gang crime offender.
The statute defining the gang enhancement can be found at Penal Code section 186.22 using the
following link: Gang Crime Law
If you have been charged with a felony it is critical that you contact an attorney as soon as possible to
begin fighting on your behalf. Any time lost can be critically damaging to your case in terms of finding
witnesses or conducting successful investigation. Please contact my office to schedule a free consultation
to discuss your options regarding any felony charges that have been filed or may be filed against you.
In any criminal case, after you are convicted you have the right to appeal your conviction. Some error may
have occurred during your criminal prosecution process that may have been improper. The results of a
criminal appeal can range from dismissal of the charges, a new trial or a new sentence, on the one hand,
to the court finding that any error may have been harmless on the other.
In misdemeanor and infraction cases, the appeal goes to a three judge panel in the same superior court
where you were convicted. The appellate court is called the Appellate Division of the Superior Court. If
you are unable to afford an attorney on appeal the court must appoint an attorney to represent you.
The rules for misdemeanor appeals start at page 278 of the following document: California Rules For
In felony cases all appeals go to the appropriate district court for the California Court of Appeals. In Santa
Cruz, Monterey, San Benito and Santa Clara Counties felony appeals go to the Sixth District Court of
Appeals. The Sixth District Appellate Program represents indigent persons on appeal and is a great
resource for information regarding felony appeals in the Sixth District. From the Court of Appeals, criminal
appeals go to the California Supreme Court and then to the federal system.
Included in the category of criminal appeals are petitions for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. These petitions can
be filed in state and federal courts depending on the circumstances. They typically involve issues
regarding ineffective assistance of counsel, newly discovered evidence or new laws that impact your
conviction retroactively. They can either be filed alone or in conjunction with a direct appeal. Petitions for
Writs of Habeas Corpus and other writs involve very complicated procedural rules, particularly where you
intend to proceed to federal court after state court review.
Appeals and writs are very complicated and highly technical. Strict time limits apply to the filing of any
appeal or writ. If you do not file a timely notice of appeal your right to any appeal can be lost forever. I
have worked as court appointed and private counsel on many appeals. I have brought several state and
federal writs of habeas corpus in both California and Pennsylvania. Please contact my office and schedule
a free and confidential consultation if you have been convicted of any crime and are considering filing an
appeal or a post conviction writ.
Pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4 a criminal conviction can be dismissed for all purposes after the
successful completion of probation.
Felonies and certain misdemeanors, particularly DUIs, can also be dismissed "upon the interests of justice"
at the discretion of the trial court that sentenced you. In order for one to qualify for dismissal a person
must have completed probation, paid all fines and restitution, not served a sentence in state prison for the
offense, and not currently be charged with a crime. These motions are almost always opposed by the
District Attorney's Office. So you will need a savvy advocate to help you rally the evidence and
presentation necessary for you to be successful. There are certain limitations to what it means to have a
charge dismissed pursuant to Penal Code Section 1203.4. For example, one limitation is that you must still
disclose the conviction to any state licencing board or if you run for public office.
For some misdemeanors, if you have obeyed all laws, then a year after your judgment has been
pronounced you may have an automatic right to the dismissal of your charges pursuant to Penal Code
section 1203.4(a). It is a violation of the California Code of Regulations for an employer to ask you about
misdemeanors that have been successfully dismissed pursuant to 1203.4.
Certain crimes can be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors. They are commonly referred to as
"wobblers." Pursuant to Penal Code Section 17, the court has the authority to reduce felonies to
misdemeanors even after a conviction. Used in conjunction with a Section 1203.4 motion, a "Section 17(b)
motion" can be a powerful tool to significantly improve your criminal record for employment and other
To learn more about this process please and for an evaluation of your potential for a successful outcome
please contact my office and schedule a free and confidential consultation.