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Brian J. White, Attorney at Law
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Prop. 47 Passes
On Tuesday, November 5, 2014, California voters passed proposition 47. Those who have been convicted of certain felony offenses are immediately entitled to have their felonies reduced to misdemeanors. Felonies which are now misdemeanors include: commercial burglary not exceeding $950; numerous forgery crimes, unless the defendant is also convicted of identity theft; checks with nonsufficient funds not exceeding $950 if the defendant does not also have three or more prior convictions for Penal Code sections 470, 475, or 476; grand theft not exceeding $950 is now considered petty theft; receiving stolen property whose value does not exceed $950; petty theft with a prior; and certain specified categories of drug possession are now misdemeanors.
The reduction from felony to misdemeanor under Proposition 47 does not apply to those who have been convicted for any offense listed in Penal Code section 667 (e)(2)(C)(iv), which includes numerous registrable sex offenses, homicide, crimes for which the defendant has been sentenced to life in prison or death, or to any offense requiring registration under Penal Code section 290.
Proposition 47 promises to free up significant tax revenue which will be directly used to finance K-12 schools, mental health treatment, and victim services.
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Last week's shooting of 18 year old Michael Brown by the St. Louis Police Department immediately brought to mind the shooting of death of 17 Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.  Both both boys were young, unarmed, and black.  The residents of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, have taken to the streets, and rightfully so.  Ferguson is a community that is two-thirds black, yet a full 50 of its 53 police officers are white., with only three black officers.   

As a criminal defense lawyer, I see the effects of racism on a daily basis. The overwhelming majority of our prison population is comprised of people of color, and most often poor.  Until we address the reality that race plays a role in our criminal justice system, we will continue to have a two-tiered (at least) system of democracy.   
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Christi Mack, an adult entertainer, was allegedly badly beaten by her former boyfriend, the MMA fighter, Jon Koppenhaver, aka War Machine.  Kppenhaver remains at large.  

This case has generated a significant amount of media attention and public comments.  Some blame Mack for engaging in a line of work that puts her at risk for abuse.  Others excoriating Koppenhaver as a ruthless woman beater.  

While no woman--or man for that matter--deserves to be beaten at the hands of another, I caution against taking media accounts at face value.   In situations like this, the media can only report what has been told to reporters.  In virtually all high profile, media intensive, cases I have handled, the media reports have been well off the mark of what really happened.  

If Koppenhaver is arrested and prosecuted, the true facts will come out, albeit slowly.  Until then, we should suspend judgment.  And, of course, we should wish Mack a full and speedy recovery. 
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I just returned from a fabulous experience with the Trial Lawyers College in Du Bois, Wyoming.   For the past 20 years, TLC has trained trial lawyers--lawyers who represent people and not the government or corporations, but real people--to become more effective in the courtroom. The program lasted three weeks, running from 9 am to 9 pm every day.  I gained new insights that will allow me better represent my clients.  I've confirmed three cases for trial after having been home for less than a week.   
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New Law: Penal Code section 4019.4 was added effective January 1, 2014.  This section allows County jail inmates to earn from one to six weeks of additional credit in any given 12 month period of incarceration.  To qualify for these additional credits, inmates but participate in Approved Rehabilitation Programming, which includes academic programs, vocational programs vocational training, substance abuse programs, anger management programs, or social life skills training.
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New Law: Sealing of Records for Pre-Filing Diversion Cases.  Penal Code section 851.87 has been added effective January 1, 2014.  This new law allows for sealing of court record where a defendant participates in and completes a diversion program offered to him before the filing of an accusatory pleading.
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New Drug Law.  California's Health and Safety Code sections 11352 and 11379 have been amended effective January 1, 2014.  The amendments allow transportation of controlled substance offenses to be sentenced as either felonies or misdemeanors.  But if the drugs were being transported for purposes of sales the offenses are felonies and cannot be reduced to misdemeanors.   
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