Wednesday, May 01, 2013
The Department of Justice recently announced new national guidelines for medical forensic medical examinations after a sex crime. The new recommendations effectively review the guidelines that were issued back in 2004.
The new recommendations are aimed at establishing voluntary care standards, when persons who have been raped contact hospitals and other healthcare facilities. The same standards will be made mandatory for practitioners who work in the military or in prisons.
Under the new guidelines, the Department of Justice recommends that the victim's physical as well as emotional needs should be prioritized over the need to preserve evidence for criminal justice. According to the Justice Department's Office on Violence against Women which issued the new guidelines, the earlier guidelines of 2004 placed more stress on getting the victim to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.
However, according to the Office of Violence against Women, it's recent research has shown that when women are given emotional support after they have been raped or sexually assaulted, they're much more likely to support law-enforcement efforts, and are more likely to cooperate with the criminal justice system.
Another way, in which the new guidelines deviate from the 2004 protocols, is that they recommend that victims of sex crimes be offered emergency contraception. In those cases where health officials object to providing victims with emergency contraception due to moral objections, it is recommended that the victim be pointed in the right direction so that they can get emergency birth control. However, the 2004 guidelines were not so specifically focused on preventing an unintended pregnancy.
What is even more interesting to Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers is that the new guidelines recommend that victims who are reluctant to report the matter to law enforcement, also be encouraged to take a forensic medical examination, so that they can preserve evidence.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
As someone who handles a lot of sex crimes and murder cases, I find the “tidbits” of testimony I hear from the Jody Arias trial quite fascinating. As a sex crimes and violent crimes attorney, I frequently use the assistance of psychological experts in trial as I find they may be crucial to a jury “seeing the big picture” and understanding my client as a human being and not just as an accused.
The most recent news involves the testimony of a psychological defense expert, Alyce LaViolette, and her opinion that Ms. Arias suffered as a victim of domestic violence and sexual abuse and therefore did not intend to kill the victim but instead responded in self-defense after years of abuse. Apparently, this expert has repeatedly “talked back” to the prosecutor including telling him to “take a time out.” On the one hand, I think that sometimes amidst a very serious trial that involves murder, alleged sexually deviant behavior, and serious consequences, a bit of laughter in the courtroom can be an important release for the jury, on the other hand, too much defensiveness on the expert’s part may also result in a discrediting, by the jury, of the expert.
Furthermore, I have also heard news stories that the defense expert admitted she was uncomfortable with asking Ms. Arias extensively about her sexual history and sexual predilections. As a sex crimes defense attorney, this admission by the expert seems to be problematic. In particular, because the defendant is accused of many deviant sexual behaviors, and also claiming to be a victim of sexual abuse, there should be no tiptoeing around sexual history and sex in general.
Only time will tell what happens to Ms. Arias, but her defense team certainly does have its work cut out for it with the alleged 30 + stabbing wounds and slashed throat.
Monday, April 22, 2013
The United State Supreme Court dealt a strong decision in favor of the rights of persons arrested for DUI recently. In the ruling that Los Angeles DUI lawyers applaud, the Court ruled that police officers must try to get a warrant before forcing an uncooperative suspect to be submitted to a blood alcohol test.
According to Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing for the majority, the process of dissemination of alcohol in a person's blood cannot be considered a sufficient reason for rushing an uncooperative suspect to a blood test, without obtaining a warrant. According to the Justice, in such cases, officers must decide on their course of action on a case-by-case basis. She rejected the argument that officers very often face extreme urgency in such situations.
According to the ruling, in those situations where police officers can reasonably manage to find a judge to issue a warrant, they should delay drawing the blood sample until they manage to obtain the warrant. According to the ruling, the 4th Amendment absolutely mandates that police officers administer tests only after they get a warrant.
The case involved the arrest of a man for DUI in Missouri. A state trooper came across the man driving at excessive speeds, and ordered him to pull over. The man was then asked to submit to a breath test, which he refused. The man had earlier been convicted twice for DUI. He also failed several field sobriety tests.
The officer stated that the man's speech was slurred, and he showed other signs of intoxication. According to the officer, he had all the evidence he needed to get a warrant for a blood test, but decided not to do so, because there was no time.
He drove the man to the hospital, and obtained the blood sample while the man was handcuffed. The blood test showed that the man's alcohol content level was .154%. The state high court held that the blood test violated unreasonable search laws, while the Missouri Supreme Court disagreed.
Monday, April 01, 2013
Well this isn’t a criminal defense case you see every day and if it didn’t involve a victim who was badly assaulted, the story might almost appear comical. Apparently in Virginia, James Watson, awoke and saw that his roommate had drawn a penis on his face with a permanent marker. Any possibly related sex crimes type tone to this story ends here. In response to seeing this drawing, Mr. Watson allegedly viciously and repeatedly assaulted his roommate causing severe injuries to his face.
As a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, I have handled my fair share of violent crime cases ranging from simple assault to robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and murder. I have never had to defend an alleged attack based on rage due to a drawing of a penis. I am not sure this would really amount to legally adequate provocation or any other type of justifiable defense but his criminal defense lawyer will certainly have some mitigating facts to work with.
In California, this type of attack could be charged as assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury or possibly mayhem or aggravated mayhem depending on what the evidence demonstrates Mr. Watson’s intent was during the alleged crime (i.e.; to disfigure the roommate or to harm him generally). In California, unfortunately for Mr. Watson, this type of vicious assault, unless justified by some type of self-defense, also carries with it the possibility of jail or prison time.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
The issue of police access to cell phones and text messages of persons who are taken into custody without a warrant has been an extremely contentious one, and Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys have strongly opposed the California government’s strong support for such arbitrary measures. The American Civil Liberties Union is now adding its voice to the growing clamor against the unauthorized confiscation of cell phones and text messages after a person's arrest, by filing a lawsuit. The lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union has been filed on behalf of Robert Offer-Westort who was arrested after a protest in January 2012.
Offer-Westort was arrested after pitching his tent in a Castro park, and according to him, the police handcuffed him, and took him to the station. There, officers confiscated his mobile phone, and read his text messages. Some of those text messages had been unread at the time. Some of the texts were also included in the police report. The police retained the phone for 4 to 5 months, and by the time, he got his cell phone, it was quite obvious that all the text messages had been read.
The American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit claims that San Francisco police violated Offer-Westort’s privacy by reading all his text messages after his arrest.
According to the lawsuit, cell phones carry a lot of important personal information including e-mails, text messages, details about a person’s health and finances as well as other sensitive information that should not be easily accessible to police without a warrant.
This kind of issue has been raised before, and in January 2011, the California Supreme Court ruled that police did not need a search warrant to search cell phones at the time of an arrest. The California legislature overturned that ruling, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the measure. Another similar such legislation that was passed last year was also vetoed by the governor.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
There’s no doubt that the Catholic Church has been severely battered by the wave of sexual abuse scandals that have swept through the organization. It's now the turn of the United Nations to jump in, and criticize the United States for failure to prosecute clergymen who are found to sexually abuse little children.
The criticism came from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which released a report on January 25, urging the United States to take all necessary measures to investigate cases of sexual abuse involving clergy members. Not much attention has been paid to the report, and the Department of Justice has not officially commented on the report.
It is clear to Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers that pressure is building on the Church and the federal administration to prosecute not just individual priests accused of these crimes, but also Church leaders, who were in charge at the time of these alleged abuses. Sex crime prosecutions are left to local and state prosecutors, and the federal administration does not get involved. However, many sex abuse survivors’ organizations have been calling for the federal administration to get more involved in the prosecution of these cases.
These survivor groups are also calling for prosecutions of bishops and other high-ranking Church officials, in these cases. According to them, if even a few of these bishops or other high-ranking Church officials are prosecuted successfully, convicted and sent to prison, it would send a strong message out, and trigger massive Church reform.
It's not unheard of for high-ranking Church officials to be prosecuted and convicted. Last year, a Kansas City bishop was convicted for his failure to report ongoing sex abuse by priests under his charge.
Archdiocese of Los Angeles will release names of priests allegedly involved in Child Molestation Scandal
Friday, February 01, 2013
This ongoing story has been garnering a lot of attention given that it involves alleged cover-ups by those in the Catholic Church pertaining to countless sex abuse accusations involving children.
My criminal defense firm in Los Angeles personally handles a large number of sex abuse and child molestation cases and some do involve members of the Church. Therefore, I am fully aware of the stigma that the every day person attaches to a defendant, accused of a sex crime such as child molestation, who is also affiliated with the Catholic Church.
Sadly, the belief that Catholic priests and high up clergy members are also sex offenders and child molests has become commonplace all over California and throughout the country. The prejudice against Catholic priests and clergy is so strong that as criminal defense attorneys who go to trial on sex crimes cases, we have to fight hard to keep this information excluded during trials in front of a jury, or the trial may be lost before it is ever started.
As of today, it appears that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to release the names of the church leaders who made pivotal decisions about how to handle allegations of sexual abuse involving priests.
One thing remains clear: it will be very difficult for anyone associated with the Catholic Church to get a fair trial on molestation or sexual abuse charges without a zealous defense attorney to fight to exclude all references or mentions to the person’s religious affiliation and/or religious employment.
Monday, January 14, 2013
A former lab technician, who is at the center of a scandal involving errors made while handling evidence from rape cases, denies that she ever made any mistakes, and that she resigned under pressure.
The scandal involves an investigation by the New York City Medical Examiner's Office, which employed the technician Serrita Mitchell between 2000 and 2011. The Medical Examiner's Office has confirmed that it is currently reviewing as many as 843 rape cases handled by a lab technician. The Medical Examiner's Office has reason to believe that important and critical evidence might have been missed in these cases.
The Office has already reviewed as many as 50% of the cases. So far, it has found at least 26 cases, in which evidence was missed. It has also found 19 cases, in which the evidence became mixed with evidence from another case. The Medical Examiner's Office has not identified the lab technician, believed to have been responsible for these mistakes. At least one New York City official has confirmed that Mitchell was the technician who made these mistakes.
Mitchell resigned her job in November 2011, but has now denied that the resignation came under pressure. She also denies that there was any pressure to resign, and denies ever making any mistakes. According to her, there was no chance of making mistakes in the lab, because the supervisors were constantly watching over her.
The mishandling of these rape cases has caused a huge outcry, and there has been pressure to conduct an external review of the Medical Examiner's Office. What Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys find even more concerning is that there is enough reason to be worried that many of these DNA samples may have been contaminated, and possibly even led to wrongful convictions.
Friday, January 11, 2013
Karen L. Goldstein has been selected as a “Top 40 Criminal Defense Lawyer under 40” in the State of California, for 2013, by The American Society of Legal Advocates [“ASLA.”]
ASLA is an exclusive legal society which consists of less than 2% of all licensed lawyers nationwide. ASLA is extremely selective in extending invitations and in determining which specialties to include for each state. ASLA’s selection process is conducted by a team of lawyers and consists of a comprehensive, rigorous, multi-stage review.
After the initial nominee list is compiled, new, independent lawyers review all the compiled data and confirm the proposed attorney nominations. In the last and final stage, finalist attorneys are again reviewed and the attorney candidates are either confirmed for invitation or placed on a holding list for reconsideration the following year.
Karen L. Goldstein is thrilled to be acknowledged as a "Top 40 Criminal Defense Lawyer under 40" in California.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Over the next 2 weeks, Los Angeles DUI lawyers expect to hear from many people who have been arrested for driving under the influence. Law-enforcement agencies have announced a two-week enforcement initiative, which is expected to last over the New Year holiday.
Officially, the initiative will last till January 1, 2013, and will include at least 72 DUI checkpoints and driver’s license checkpoints, as well as 153 saturation patrols. There will also be 25 DUI warrant checkpoints conducted as part of this initiative.
All officers with the California Highway Patrol will be stationed during this major enforcement over the Christmas holiday, as well as the New Year's weekend. The enforcement will continue between December 14 and January 1, 2013.
For the next couple of weeks, your chances of being arrested for DUI will increase dramatically. Don't be under the assumption that a couple of alcoholic beverages will make no difference to your alcohol level, and that you will easily ace a breathalyzer test. Every year, people find themselves facing hefty fines, as well as the prospect of jail time after a conviction for driving under the influence during the holiday season. Enforcement is much tougher during this time of year.
If you are convicted of DUI this holiday, you may not just be penalized with a hefty fine, but you may also have your license suspended for a certain period of time.
This season, ensure that you avoid a DUI arrest by designating a driver for the evening, or hailing a taxi service. Ask your host to hire a safe ride home for you. If you are hosting a party, be a responsible host, and make sure that everyone has a sober ride home.