Looting Penalties in California | San Diego Criminal Lawyer

April 18th, 2014


With some of the worst droughts in years this winter, Southern California will be facing a dangerous fire season when summer temperatures peak in late August until early October. While most residents fear the prospect of fires spreading throughout San Diego County, a handful consider the havoc and danger of the fires to be a unique opportunity to steal from evacuated shops and homes. So what happens to those caught looting during an emergency and what makes looting different from an ordinary theft? Vista criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss explains.

Essentially, looting is any type of theft that occurs during an emergency. It’s generally looked down upon as it is considered to be a form of taking advantage of the public’s fear for your own gain. In California though, the charge is only marginally worse than other theft charges. That is, in petty theft looting cases, for example, you will face mostly the same penalties as you would for petty theft. The only difference is that looting carries a minimum sentence unlike other theft crimes. In petty crimes, the minimum sentence is 90 days. For grand theft or burglary, the minimum sentence is 180 days. The judge still has the option to waive the mandatory minimum sentences and order community service instead of jail,  which is why you should always work with a top Vista criminal attorney.

There are a number of different defense strategies you can use to fight a looting charge. For example, if you looted a store for materials you needed to survive, your Vista criminal defense lawyers can argue that you were only doing what was necessary in a time of emergency. Additionally, because looting cases often occur during times of extreme chaos, mistaken identity is a common problem when it comes to identifying the person responsible for a crime. In cases involving San Diego’s notorious wildfires, it’s easy to see how a thick layer of smoke could impair someone’s ability to correctly identify the person who committed a crime.

Even if you are guilty and were even caught in the act though, a good Vista criminal defense attorney can still make a drastic difference in your case by negotiating a plea bargain, arguing that you did not steal more than $950, making the crime a petty theft, a misdemeanor. Alternatively, even grand theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony and your attorney may be able to ensure you are charged with a misdemeanor.

If you are accused of looting, or any form of theft, Vista criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.

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Understanding California’s Lynching Laws

April 14th, 2014

2163691046_ca21f66155_o When you hear the word lynching, you probably think of a horrific scene where someone takes the life of an innocent person merely due to his or her race or religion, but under California state law, the term actually refers to rioters working to take a person under police custody. Here’s what you should know about the crime, courtesy of San Diego criminal defense attorney Peter M. Liss. The reason for the confusing name goes back to the other historical definition of lynching, wherein an angry mob seizes a criminal from the local jail and hangs him before he has a chance to defend himself in court. But while historical lynchings were almost never beneficial for the person being taken from police custody, that’s not the case in modern times. In fact, a person can even be arrested and charged in their own lynching if they intentionally tried to get the public to help set them free. Because these arrests occur in a riot-like situation, it is critical anyone charged with this crime seek the help of a San Diego criminal defense lawyer. Even if the attempt to free the person in police custody fails or if an attempt to riot falls flat, those responsible can still be charged with attempted lynching. You may be curious how this crime is any different than the crime of “rescuing a prisoner,” which involves freeing someone from prison, jail or police custody and the main difference here is that lynching requires a riot to occur. Because a riot is considered much more dangerous to the public than a standard prisoner rescue, the crime is more serious and carries a maximum sentence of up to four years in prison. With such serious penalties at stake, it is easy to see how important it is to work with a top San Diego defense lawyer if you have been charged with lynching. In many cases like these, it is easy for a person just walking by to be swept up in the riot and arrested as part of the mob. Similarly, someone could be protesting an arrest of someone they believe to be innocent, but not trying to physically release the suspect and still get arrested and charged with lynching in the chaotic mess of this type of riot. If you have been accused of rioting, lynching or rescuing a prisoner, San Diego criminal lawyer Peter Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 OR (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Negligent Discharge of a Firearm in San Diego County

April 11th, 2014


Every Forth of July and New Year’s Eve, you’re bound to hear someone shoot off their firearm in celebration, but this activity isn’t just noisy, it’s also dangerous. And because it is dangerous, it’s also illegal. The charge of negligently discharging a firearm can even be a felony offense, which is why you should immediately contact a San Diego criminal lawyer if you are accused of this serious crime.

Just because it’s not a holiday doesn’t mean you can’t be charged with negligently discharging a firearm and even if it is a holiday, it doesn’t mean that anyone who shoots their gun or BB gun is acting in a negligent manner. Holidays are just the most common time for people to misuse their firearms. The thing that determines whether or not a firearm was negligently discharged is whether or not the weapon was handled in a grossly negligent manner that could result in death or injury to a person. As you can imagine, this definition often creates a legal gray area, which is left to interpretation by the judge. If you are charged with this crime, your San Diego criminal attorney can help argue that no negligent handling of the firearm took place and that no one was at risk due to your actions.

While this defense won’t work in cases where a person fired a handgun off into the air in a crowd of people, especially if one of the people in the crowd was injured or killed as a result, it is a common defense in these cases where negligence and danger are not so obvious. In more obvious cases, like the example above, your San Diego criminal lawyer might be better off negotiating with the prosecution to ensure you will be facing a misdemeanor charge and minimal sentence since as a felony offense, it carries a possible sentence of up to three years in prison and $10,000 fines. Additionally, while a misdemeanor will require you wait ten years before acquiring another firearm, a felony conviction will result in your permanent loss of your Second Amendment rights.

Of course, depending on the specifics of the situation, your San Diego criminal attorney could also argue that you were acting in self defense or that you had good reason to believe the weapon was empty and that the discharge was an accident.

There are many different defenses to the negligent discharge of a firearm, but you must talk to a San Diego criminal lawyer before speaking to the police or you could say something that may harm your case later on. If you have been charged with this or any related weapons crime, please call (760) 643-4050 OR (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss.

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Spousal Rape Is Still Rape Under California Law

April 7th, 2014


There was a time when a woman who was married to a man had no legal protections if the man refused to take “no” for an answer when it came to having sex. In fact, there are still some countries that abide by these rules, but in California, it doesn’t matter if a couple is married or not. If one person forces another to have sex, it is still rape although spousal rape charges are also often accompanied by charges of domestic violence. Spousal rape charges are rarely simple, which is why anyone accused of these crimes should immediately seek the assistance of a San Diego criminal lawyer.

The problem with spousal rape charges is that the victim and the defendant have such an intimate relationship with one another. It is easy to see how someone going through a major argument or even a divorce would have grounds to claim the other person raped them and while DNA evidence and a medical examination could show whether or not the couple had sex, it won’t be able to prove if the act was consensual. This is why it is so important to work with a San Diego sex crimes defense lawyer who has experience with these types of complex and emotionally devastating cases.

Like non-marital rape cases, these crimes do not need to be violent. If a husband takes advantage of his wife while she is passed out after a night of drinking, it is still considered rape. Unfortunately, these types of cases can be far more complex than other rape cases because the two people involved in the case usually live together. In some cases, the incident boils down to a simple misunderstanding. Because these cases are so emotionally-driven, it is critical you speak with a San Diego sex crimes attorney as soon as you find out you are being charged with this crime. Do not try to talk to your partner or the police as what you say or do could end up hurting your case later on.

The penalties for marital rape range from three to eight years in prison although that number could be increased by an additional three to five years if the rape resulted in great bodily harm to the victim. Additionally, those convicted for this crime will be forced to register as a sex offender if force or violence was used in the process of the rape.

There are ways to fight this charge, even if the physical evidence initially suggests you did have sex. If you have been accused of spousal rape, please call (760) 643-4050 OR (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with San Diego criminal attorney Peter M. Liss.

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Defending Bucky For His Role As The Winter Soldier

April 4th, 2014


Captain America: The Winter Soldier might not be out yet, but fans of the comics already know some of the key plot points. That’s why without releasing any spoilers, we can sagely assume that Captain America’s sidekick and best friend, Bucky, didn’t really die in the first movie, but instead lost an arm and was kept in suspended animation by the Soviets, who also provided Bucky with a bionic arm. When the Soviets wake him up periodically over the next 60 years, Bucky’s severe memory loss allows the Russians to reprogram him to become an assassin with the code name: Winter Soldier. As the Winter Soldier, Bucky kills a number of important political targets. Captain America must stop his friend, but he also feels he must rescue him from his brainwashed state. You’ll have to watch the movie to know the outcome, but assuming Captain America is successful, Bucky could likely be charged with espionage and treason. That’s where San Diego criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss comes in.

While the Winter Soldier undoubtedly would be guilty of espionage and treason, Bucky would have a strong insanity defense against the charges given that his higher brain function was destroyed in the accident that led everyone to believe he had died.

In order for a San Diego criminal attorney to prove that a person was legally insane, the person must have a mental disease or defect that resulted in him or her being incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of his or her act and of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the offense. Suffering brain damage severe enough that someone can reprogram you to become an assassin who is completely unaware of your past undoubtedly falls under this definition of legal insanity, which means Bucky should be able to escape these charges.

In a major case like this that involved treason and espionage, it might be more difficult for a San Diego criminal lawyer to prove their defendant was suffering from insanity at the time of his or her crimes, especially if his or her mental faculties were restored by the time of the trial. But Bucky would have two distinct advantages on his side when it comes to swaying a jury. First, he was a decorated WWII veteran known for his heroic acts at the side of one of America’s greatest and most trusted heroes. Second, that hero, Captain America, would likely be there to testify for his friend at the trial in order to corroborate Bucky’s tale of brainwashing and recovery.

Obviously, Bucky’s situation is a particularly unique one, but it does show how versatile the insanity defense is for all types of crimes and mental illnesses. If you aren’t sure if you can use the insanity defense in a case you have been accused of, San Diego criminal attorney Peter M. Liss can evaluate your case to help you work out the best defense for your specific situation. If you are ready to schedule a free initial consultation, please call (760) 643-4050 OR (858) 486-3024.

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Exigent Circumstances And Warrant Law In California

March 19th, 2014


Everyone knows that the police can’t enter your home without a warrant in most cases, but there are always exceptions. Obviously, if you invite the police into your home or if she sees someone being held hostage over your shoulder when you answer your door, she can then act without a warrant, but there are many more exceptions as well. If you aren’t sure if your rights were violated during a warrantless search of your property, Vista criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss can help you fight to have the evidence uncovered during the search suppressed from your case.

Under federal law, police are given permission to search a property without a warrant if exigent circumstances apply. The problem with these types of situations is that there is no hard and fast rule about what does or does not qualify as such a situation. That’s where your Vista criminal attorney comes in.

Exigent circumstances are, essentially, pressing situations in which the police must act immediately. If, for example, an officer hears a chainsaw and a woman screaming, she can act immediately, because waiting to get a warrant could result in a woman being injured or even murdered. While that’s an extreme example, even this situation could be questionable. If it turns out that someone was chopping down a tree in the backyard while someone else was watching a horror movie with a woman screaming, then the officer did not actually need to act immediately. Even so, if something illegal was found in the home, the prosecution would likely argue that the officer still was acting under exigent circumstances. It would still be up to the Vista defense lawyer to explain that the police officer acted without a valid reason and that an average person would recognize that no one was actually in danger.

A far more common situation arrises when police knock on a suspect’s door and believe they hear a paper shredder or toilet flushing. In these situations, the police may act if they believe paper evidence is being shredded or drugs are being flushed down the toilet. This is when the exigent circumstances area of the law becomes very complex as there are ample legal reasons for a person to be shredding paper or flushing a toilet. Even if the police did find something during these searches, a Vista defense attorney can often prove that their reason for entering the home was not within the scope of the law and, thus, any evidence uncovered during the search cannot be used against the defendant.

If the police request to enter or search your residence, person or property without a warrant, you should politely decline. Do not struggle with them if the police insist on searching, just make sure you tell them it is over your objection.

As you can tell, these cases can become incredibly complex and it is ultimately up to the judge to determine whether the evidence was procured in a legal manner. That’s why it is so important you always work with a top defense lawyer in Vista, such as Peter M. Liss. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free initial consultation with Mr. Liss, please call (760) 643-4050.

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Understanding Statutory Rape Charges In California

March 19th, 2014



Statutory rape laws vary drastically from state to state, but in California, if a person has sex with someone under the age of 18, he or she has committed statutory rape. The law is that basic, which is why it is critical anyone accused of statutory rape speak with a San Diego sex crimes attorney before answering any questions for the police.

In cases involving statutory rape, it does not matter if the minor initiated the act or if both parties are under the age of 18, it is still a crime. In cases involving two underage persons though, the prosecution will rarely press charges. The only time it is legal for a minor to have sex is if he or she is married to that person. It’s important to note that it is legal for a minor to date someone and then have sex with him or her, as long as the actual intercourse occurred after the minor turns 18.

Fortunately, while the law defining statutory rape is pretty cut and dry, prosecuting it is often more complex. That’s because the prosecution must prove that the parties were not married, did have sex and that the alleged victim was under 18 at the time the intercourse occurred. In many cases, finding sufficient evidence to prove sex occurred is difficult, especially if the minor is uncooperative with the police and prosecutors, or if the minor or their parents have something to gain by charging the other party with statutory rape. In these cases, a San Diego criminal lawyer can help show the accusers have reason to make such claims, and may be willing to lie or bend the truth in order to get their way.

Statutory rape can be either a misdemeanor or felony. In cases involving people who are no more than three years apart in age, the charges will be a misdemeanor. If the age difference is greater than three years, the proseuctor will decide whether to charge the crime as a misdemeanor or felony based on the defendant’s criminal background and the specifics of the case. A San Diego criminal lawyer may be able to convince the prosecutor to charge the crime as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Misdemeanor statutory rape charges carry a penalty of up to one year of jail time and $1,000 in fines while felonies carry a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment although it could be as long as four years if the defendant was over 21 and the alleged victim was under 16 when the intercourse was said to take place. While statutory rape is a sex crime, it does not require mandatory registration as a sex offender although this could still be added as part of the sentence. In cases where you may be at risk of being labeled a sex offender, your San Diego criminal attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that will ensure this does not happen.

The most common defense to statutory rape is simple, but effective -the honest belief that the person involved in the sexual activity was over 18. It is hard for the prosecution to prove that you knew someone was under 18 in most cases, particularly if you met him or her at a bar or club where people must be over 18 or even 21 to gain access.

Consent is not a defense in these crimes, though many defendants try to excuse themselves by arguing this point. That is why it is critical you speak with a San Diego sex crimes attorney before you speak to the police and risk saying something that could hurt your case. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free initial consultation with San Diego defense lawyer Peter M. Liss, please call (760) 643-4050 OR (858) 486-3024.

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Pornography Vs. Prostitution In California

March 12th, 2014


One of the biggest arguments used by both those against pornography and those in favor of legalized prostitution is that it is illegal to pay someone for sex, but as long as you film it, it becomes a porno and is then legal. So, is this entirely true? Can you hire a prostitute, film the encounter and then avoid the risk of being charged for solicitation? Or, could a prostitute set up a camera in her room and avoid any legal convictions? Here’s what Vista criminal attorney Peter M. Liss has to say on the matter.

First, the base logic behind this argument is sound. It is legal to film pornographic material in San Diego, though prostitution is illegal. The courts have upheld this opinion since it was first established in the 1987 case of California vs. Freeman, where the state accused pornographic film producer Harold Freeman with pimping. Because putting something on film brings into question the matter of free speech, the judges concluded that as long as the film was not being made for the purpose of pleasuring the director or the actors, and thus, did not involve prostitution.

On the other hand, a Vista criminal lawyer will advise you that merely hiring a prostitute off the street, filming the encounter and then claiming you were making a porno will not clear you from any risk of prostitution charges. The biggest thing preventing anyone and everyone interested in prostitution from merely placing a camera in front of them while they have sex is that pornographic films have a number of laws they must follow in order to comply with the law. You may need a business license, you will need the consent of all people who appear on camera, you need sufficent paperwork to prove that anyone on camera was over 18 and you need to show that all the people performing in the film were tested for STDs within the last 30 days.

If you fail to follow these laws, you could still be charged with prostitution as the prosecution may show you only filmed the act to attempt to skirt the law and had no intent to make an adult film or to express your first ammendment rights. You could also be charged with breaking these laws as well. In fact, if you didn’t tell the other party that you were filming the encounter, you could even be charged with wiretapping, which can be a felony crime. While you don’t want to get charged with prostitution or solicitation, getting charged with wiretapping and prostitution is a whole lot worse. That’s why you should always consult with a Vista criminal lawyer when you want to do something and you aren’t sure if it could be considered illegal.

Remember, it’s a lot easier to discuss something with your Vista defense attorney before you break the law than it is to fight criminal charges after they have been filed. If you have any questions, you can always call Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with one of the top sex crime defense lawyers in Vista.

Obtaining A Restricted License After Getting A DUI in San Diego

March 12th, 2014


Losing your driving privileges is never easy, but in a car-centric city like San Diego, it can be a major problem. Unfortunately, if you are convicted for driving under the influence, you will lose your license. But there is hope. A restricted license can allow you to drive to and from school, work, and your court-mandated alcohol treatment classes. Not everyone can qualify for these licenses and the rules can be a bit complex, which is why you should speak to your San Diego DUI attorney if you have any questions about obtaining a restricted license after a drunk driving conviction.

Minors generally cannot receive a restricted license unless they can show they have hardships that require them to obtain a “critical need” restrictes license. A San Diego DUI lawyer can help you prove hardship if you believe you may qualify. If you won at the DMV hearing and have not had another DUI conviction in the last 10 years, you can obtain a restricted license immediately, if you lost at the DMV hearing or did not schedule one, you will need to wait through the 30 day hard suspension before you can obtain your restricted license. If you had a previous DUI in the last 10 years and have had no probation violations, you will need to install an ignition interlock device in your car and wait 90 days before you can apply for a restricted license.

The fee for the license is $125 and anyone who wants get one will need to get SR-22 insurance and enroll in a DUI program before applying.   No matter what, you cannot get a restricted license if you refused to take a chemical test at the time of your arrest. It is important to note that obtaining a restricted license is not mandatory and in some cases, it may lengthen the amount of time your regular license suspension will apply.

It is advisable to discuss the process with your San Diego DUI attorney so you can understand how the restricted driver’s license will affect you. If you have any questions, please call (760) 643-4050 OR (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with top San Diego DUI lawyer Peter M. Liss.

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Judge Rules An IP Address Is Not Proof of Your Identity

March 5th, 2014


One of the biggest problems with computer crimes is that it is incredibly difficult to prove who was actually comitting a crime behind the screen. Merely identifying the specific machine used in a computer crime is hard enough, but proving who was, or was not, using the computer when the crime actually occurred is even more challenging -especially if the computer is frequently used by more than one person. That’s why it is so important to only hire a Vista criminal lawyer who has knowledge and experience fighting these types of serious and complex charges.

Recently, Washington District Judge Robert Lasnik helped further secure the rights of those accused of computer crimes by determining that an IP address alone is not enough evidence to pursue legal action against a person. He explained that merely having the name of the person associated with a particular IP address says very little about the person who actually committed the crime using that IP address, noting that “While it is possible that the subscriber is the one who participated… it is also possible that a family member, guest, or freeloader engaged in the infringing conduct.”

While this particular case took place in Washington and specifically applied to copyright infringement, it can still be useful for criminal lawyers in Vista as it helps set a legal precedent that could apply to all types of crimes involving computers and in areas outside of Washington -especially since Lasnik is a federal judge and not just operating at a local level.

Cases like this provide yet another reason why it is so important to work with a top Vista criminal attorney. When someone keeps up on current news in the legal field, it can directly affect your case and, ultimately could mean the difference between your freedom and imprisonment.

If you have been accused of any type of crime related to computer usage, please call Vista criminal attorneyPeter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.

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