What Happens If You Are Arrested For Protesting?

Posted on Tuesday, August 11th, 2020 at 3:47 pm    

Can You Be Arrested While Protesting?


While your right to protest is protected under the first amendment, there are certain restrictions as to where and how you may do so. Failing to comply with these restrictions can result in an unwanted arrest.

There are many reasons you can be arrested while protesting. For instance, you may be arrested for protesting on private property or for disrupting car or pedestrian traffic with your assembly. Law enforcement officers may also break up any violent protests and can arrest protesters who are engaging in violence or property destruction. Violating an order to disperse or neglecting state/country curfews can also put you in handcuffs.

What happens after you have been arrested for protesting?
If you are arrested at a protest, you will be searched and transported to a local police station for processing. There you will be fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell. At that point, you can either decide to post your bail or remain in custody until your court hearing, during which your bail amount may be adjusted.

Your first court appearance is known as an arraignment and is expected to occur within 48 hours of your arrest. During your arraignment, you are informed of the charges that have been filed against you and you are asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced right then, if you plead not guilty, you will go to trial. The court will then select a trial date and either set, modify, reinstate, or exonerate your bail.

If you chose to go to trial, you will have to return to court within a few weeks of your arraignment. You will plead your case to a judge and receive a final verdict.

What Are Some Common Punishments For Protesting?


Each case is different. While most offenders receive only minor penalties, certain crimes might warrant harsher and much larger punishments. Below is a list of common protest arrest charges and their respective penalties:

● Unlawful assembly: A majority of arrests made during protests are based on unlawful assembly. Unlawful assembly is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum 6-month jail sentence. Judges rarely assign 6-month sentences unless the circumstances require it.

● Trespassing: Protesters may also be arrested for protesting on private property. In California, trespassing can either be charged as an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony. Trespassing infractions carry only a small fine, while trespassing misdemeanors are punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a maximum $1000 fine. Trespassing felonies however call for a maximum 3-year jail sentence and a $2000 fine.

● Obstruction of pedestrian or vehicular traffic: If you are found guilty of blocking car or foot traffic with your protest, you may receive a fine of up to four $400 or maybe sentenced to up to 4 months in county jail.

If you were arrested while protesting and were unfairly convicted on any of these charges, you can always push to appeal the court’s decision. If you chose to do so, it is important that you chose a team of experienced and successful appeal lawyers to represent you. Call Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816, or reach out online to schedule a free case evaluation.


Governor Publicly Announces Commutation of Sentence for Spolin Law Client

Posted on Tuesday, July 14th, 2020 at 11:37 am    

California Governor Gavin Newsom has announced the commutation (reduction) of sentence for a Spolin Law client who was previously serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The decision was announced on June 26, 2020. A copy of the commutation, signed by Governor Newsom as well as Secretary of State Alex Padilla, was released to state and national media outlets shortly after the commutation.

James Heard Commutation

The Spolin Law client’s commutation was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom and Secretary of State Alex Padilla

A commutation of sentence is a method that state governors can use to cut short a person’s sentence. It is often used when someone has received an overly harsh sentence or has shown rehabilitation during his or her time in prison. A governor’s commutation is similar to the more well-known governor’s pardon. While a pardon erases a criminal conviction completely, a commutation simply cuts short the person’s sentence. State governors can commute or pardon for state crimes; the President can commute or pardon for federal crimes.

Governor Newsom explained his decision to commute the client’s sentence by describing the client’s excellent behavior, educational program participation, various certificates, and other noteworthy aspects of the client’s life.

In his commutation announcement, Governor Newsom said the following:

In 1998, James Heard, shot his romantic rival, Christopher Chessmar. Mr. Heard then directed his crime partner to shoot Mr. Chessmar. His crime partner complied, killing Mr. Chessmar. On March 20, 2000, the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, sentenced Mr. Heard to life without the possibility of parole for murder.

Mr. Heard was 22 years old at the time of the crime and is now 44. He has been incarcerated for more than 21 years. He has expressed sincere remorse for killing Mr. Chessmar.

While serving a sentence with no hope of release, Mr. Heard devoted himself to self-improvement. Mr. Heard has maintained an exemplary disciplinary record while in prison. He has completed self-help programming and earned an associate degree and art certificates.

Prison staff, including work supervisors and correctional staff, have commended Mr. Heard for his generosity and artistic talents, as well as his interpersonal and leadership skills. Mr. Heard has lived in an honor dorm since 2004. He has donated his artwork to various charitable causes. Mr. Heard has also volunteered his time to crochet hats and scarves for charity.

Mr. Heard committed a serious crime that took the life of Mr. Chessmar. Since then, Mr. Heard has dedicated himself to his rehabilitation and becoming a productive citizen. I have carefully considered and weighed the evidence of his positive conduct in prison, the fact that he was a youthful offender, his long­term confinement, and his good prospects for successful community reentry. I have concluded that Mr. Heard merits the opportunity to make his case to the Board of Parole Hearings so it can determine whether he is suitable for parole.

This act of clemency for Mr. Heard does not minimize or forgive his conduct or the harm it caused. It does recognize the work he has done since to transform himself.

The client’s family was extremely happy to hear this good news.

To learn more about commutations and other types of post-conviction relief, call one of the Spolin Law attorneys at (866) 716-2805.


CA Senate Bill 1437: You May Qualify for Resentencing?

Posted on Wednesday, June 24th, 2020 at 8:55 am    

In September 2018, the Governor of California signed legislation that reformed the state’s approach to accomplice liability in felony murder cases. Significantly, CA Senate Bill (SB) 1437 will have a retroactive effect.

Under SB 1437, people convicted under the old felony murder law can apply to have their sentences reduced. If you or a loved one has been convicted of murder for their role in a felony that resulted in someone’s death, it is likely that these reforms apply to you.

If you have questions about how CA SB 1437 might apply to your or a loved one’s case, call Spolin Law P.C. right away. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at (310) 424-5816.

California Changed the Old Felony Murder Law

Before CA SB 1437 went into effect, you could be convicted of felony murder if you committed, aided, or abetted to commit a felony, and any person died as a result. It would not matter if you did not actually kill the victim, or even if the death was accidental.

According to the new law, to convict you of felony murder, a prosecutor must demonstrate that you committed a felony, or aided or abetted a felony. Additionally, they will need to prove one of the following:

  • You killed a person
  • You aided or abetted the killing, which means proving your intent to kill
  • You were a major participant in the felony, and you acted with reckless indifference
  • Your actions caused the death of a peace officer who was exercising their duties

What’s Different Under the New Felony Murder Law?

The essential difference between the old law and the new law is that now, prosecutors have to prove your intent or state of mind – unless you actually killed someone, or the person who died was a peace officer. Previously, you could get convicted of felony murder as long as someone got killed in a felony that you were involved in. It didn’t matter what your state of mind was. Now, prosecutors may have to prove one of two kinds of state of mind:

Intent

The prosecutor may show that you intended for the victim to die in various ways. For example, a witness could testify that you told an accomplice “to get rid of him.” There may also be evidence that you provided the murder weapon to the killer shortly before the act.

Reckless Indifference

When proving recklessness, the prosecutor doesn’t need to show that you intended to kill. Instead, they need to show that you did not care if a death occurred. In this case, evidence that you were present and did nothing to stop a killing despite having some power to intervene may be enough to show reckless indifference.

Proving your “state of mind” adds an extra level of protection, which conforms to the general rule that someone can only get convicted for crimes that they intended to commit. The only time state of mind doesn’t matter is when an officer is killed, or you actually kill the victim. These aggravating circumstances make is so your state of mind doesn’t matter.

Convicted Under the Old Law? You May Qualify for Resentencing

CA SB 1437 makes you eligible for resentencing if all of the following applies:

  • You were prosecuted under the natural probable consequences theory. This means that you were charged with felony murder and did not directly kill the victim. Rather, the prosecutor argued that the victim’s death was the natural and probable result of the felony you committed.
  • You were convicted of first or second-degree murder. The conviction could have been entered after a guilty verdict from a jury, or a plea deal. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you were convicted after a trial or not.

Have Questions About CA SB 1437? Contact a Los Angeles Appeals Lawyer Now

If you think there is any chance that the above factors apply to your case or that of a loved one, you should speak to an experienced Southern California criminal appeals lawyer as soon as possible. You may be in a position to petition the court for a resentencing hearing.

This could result in receiving a lighter sentence or even your freedom. To find out more about sentencing options for felony murder, call Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816, or reach out online to schedule a free case evaluation.


Malcolm Alexander: Wrongful Conviction Vacated After 38 Years

Posted on Monday, April 13th, 2020 at 8:28 am    

Unfortunately, wrongful convictions occur in the United States quite often, and the process of vacating these false convictions can take many years. This was the case for Malcolm Alexander, who fell victim to an incorrect eyewitness identification, an incompetent defense attorney, and lost evidence.

In 1980 Malcolm Alexander was arrested and convicted for a rape he did not commit. The rape, which took place in 1979, was linked to Malcolm Alexander solely by eyewitness identification. The victim initially described the attacker as a 6ft tall male, but eventually, though somewhat uncertain, identified Alexander. The victim was attacked from behind and did not identify Malcolm Alexander until four months after the rape had occurred. Even then, the police incorrectly conducted the perpetrator line-ups and only regarded her identification as “tentative.”

This incorrect eyewitness fits a pattern in wrongful conviction cases. Eyewitness identification is the number one reason for wrongful convictions. Specifically, 71% of wrongful conviction cases are due to an incorrect eyewitness identification. In fact, in the legal profession, there is growing evidence against the accuracy of eyewitness identification; one in four is incorrect. (See criminal appeals attorney Aaron Spolin’s book, Witness Misidentification in Criminal Trials, to read about this topic in greater depth).

While most humans believe they can recognize those that have caused them or others harm, the misidentification stems from a variety of factors. Some of the most crucial factors are: witnesses being under high levels of stress, witnesses tending to concentrate more on weapons than the identity of the perpetrator, police or prosecutors using suggestive tactics to sway witnesses while they are in the identification process, and more.

In the case of Malcolm Alexander, the witness was both in an extremely high stress situation as she underwent a rape, and did not have a good line of sight to the attacker — both of which could have led to the misidentification. In spite of the victims uncertain identification, the trial for Malcolm Alexander was quick. The lawyer defending Mr. Alexander did not point out any of the inconsistencies with the witness identification, nor promote another narrative of his innocence. In fact, the lawyer defending Malcolm Alexander did not present neither opening nor closing arguments on behalf of his client, nor did he call any witnesses to defend Mr. Alexander. The entire trial of Mr. Alexander lasted one day. In spite of the existence of DNA evidence, including pubic hairs and semen, neither attorney requested that DNA testing be completed. Malcolm Alexander was 21 years old, and the father of a two year old, who was then given life without parole.

Malcolm Alexander advocated for his innocence while he was in prison, and eventually, the Innocence Project picked up the case. Unfortunately, the innocence project faced many challenges. Most notably, the evidence from the case had been destroyed by the New Orleans Police Department. However, after a continuous push from the Innocence Project, the pubic hairs from the scene were recovered.

After 38 years in prison in Louisiana, Malcolm Alexander was exonerated, thanks to the evidence found by the attorneys working on his case. A sample of his pubic hair did not match the pubic hair left by the perpetrator at the crime scene. Malcolm Alexander was released from prison on January 30th, 2018.

Works Cited:

“ MALCOLM ALEXANDER.” Malcolm Alexander – National Registry of Exonerations, University of Michigan Law, 6 Feb. 2018, www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=5274.
“Eyewitness Identification Reform.” Innocence Project, www.innocenceproject.org/eyewitness-identification-reform/.
“Malcolm Alexander.” Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO), 30 Jan. 2018, ip-no.org/what-we-do/free-innocent-prisoners/client-profiles/malcolm-alexander/.


Early Release of Prisoners Due to Coronavirus

Posted on Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 at 1:14 pm    

Coronavirus is spreading like wildfire, affecting every single industry and institution- including the criminal justice system. Due to overcrowding in prisons and jails, social distancing is nearly impossible. Many local governments are taking matters into their own hands. In hopes of decreasing the number of people who have contracted or could contract COVID-19, they are canceling all visitation rights and/or allowing for an early release of inmates who have committed low-level crimes.

According to the Boston Globe, prison populations are at a higher risk of contracting serious health issues compared to the general population. “Many [inmates] are elderly, and have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and cancer, conditions that, if they become infected with COVID-19, make them more likely to require intensive care and especially vulnerable to dying of the disease.” Specifically, about 40% of incarcerated people are already suffering from chronic health conditions, and therefore at higher risk of adverse outcomes if infected. If prisoners were to contract COVID-19 at the anticipated population rates, it would exacerbate the already overwhelmed health care staff and facilities.

As seen in South Korea at the Daenam Prison Hospital, Coronavirus will spread rapidly if appropriate measures are not taken. In Daenam prison, 101 inmates contracted coronavirus, resulting in 7 deaths, according to the New York Times. All but three people living in the prison at the time contracted Coronavirus. This is a prime example justifying the extreme measures being taken by governments regarding the criminal justice system.

In the United States, one specific county jail in Los Angeles, Alameda County, is taking precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. In early March, the county Sheriff’s Office announced their plan to modify sentences, and subsequently release about 250 inmates. Additionally, Sheriff Alex Villanueva from Los Angeles has directed police officers and deputies alike to cite and release people instead of arresting them. As a result, throughout the county of Los Angeles, arrests have dropped from 300 to 60 daily, and jail populations have decreased by over 600 inmates.

Simultaneously, various civil rights advocacy groups are fighting to get more prisoners released. According to the Los Angeles Times, some advocates called the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department asking to release inmates with 30 days or left on their sentences and to specifically take precautionary measures for vulnerable inmates- elderly or those with previous health conditions. For example, Senator Kamala Harris is strongly advocating for the release of low-risk inmates on Twitter. “She is pushing the Bureau of Prisons to release ‘all low-risk inmates, including those who are in pretrial detention because they can’t afford to make bail.’ She noted that people ‘in detention are especially vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus,’” according to NPR.

For all these reasons, the government is noticing it is vitally important that the criminal justice system take action immediately to reduce the number of people in confinement. One way this is being done is by reclassifying misdemeanors, such as low-level offenses that do not harm public safety, into non-jailable offenses. Additionally, people who have not yet been convicted, such as those in pretrial detention, can be released to prevent unnecessary prison crowding. While these controversial measures may seem extreme, they are essential in preventing the rapid spread of COVID-19.


Spolin Law Overturns Second Defective Murder Conviction Within Six-Month Span

Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2020 at 6:36 am    

Spolin Law attorneys Matthew Barhoma, Caitlin Dukes, and Aaron Spolin celebrate with client R.H. and case manager Hemi Tann

Some of the Spolin Law attorneys celebrate with the client days after he is released from prison. Pictured (left to right): Matthew Barhoma (Of Counsel attorney), Caitlin Dukes (attorney), Aaron Spolin (attorney), R.H. (client), Hemi Tann (Case Manager)

Spolin Law achieved justice on another case a few weeks ago when the firm’s attorneys successfully overturned a murder conviction for an innocent client who had been convicted of murder. This was the second overturned murder conviction the firm has achieved within the past six months for different clients. (To see info about previous successful cases, visit the Awards & Media section of the Spolin Law website).

The client had been convicted of first-degree murder (Penal Code 187), attempted murder (Penal Code 664/187) and robbery with a gun enhancement (Penal Code 211) in 2004 and had been in state custody since his arrest in 2002. Since that time, he has attempted to appeal his conviction multiple times and with different attorneys. He hired Spolin Law to handle the most recent (and successful) petition several months ago. The firm’s appeals attorneys who handled his case included former prosecutor Aaron Spolin, Of Counsel attorney Matthew Barhoma, and former prosecutor Caitlin Dukes. Ms. Dukes conducted the oral argument for Spolin Law based on the firm’s written submission. Attorney Winston McKesson, the client’s long-time personal lawyer, was also present and provided valuable assistance that aided the firm’s written submission and oral argument on the matter.

The client’s murder conviction was defective for a number of reasons. First, the client—who was 15 years old at the time—was not actually present at the scene of the crime. He was convicted due to his partial fingerprint being on the car at the scene of the crime and an eyewitness describing one of the teenage robbers having “an afro.” After the conviction occurred, the eyewitness clarified that she had not actually seen the client at the crime scene. The second fault in the murder conviction resulted from the fact that the client was convicted under the “felony murder” theory that has since been removed from the law books. Specifically, the client was convicted of “murder” because the old law stated that a person could be convicted of murder even if they participated in a felony and during the course of this felony a person unintentionally died. Under the old law, a person could have been guilty of murder even if they did not want to physically harm anyone and had no idea that a death would occur. The court relied on this second line of argument to strike the murder conviction.

Superior Court Judge James Otto, in overturning the murder conviction, determined that the client was not a “major participant who acted with reckless indifference to human life.” This determination was the primary point of argument for the lawyers on the case. (Please note that prior successful outcomes do not guarantee a similar result on a future case).

The above photo was taken at the Spolin Law office where some of the team members celebrated the client’s release and gave him a $300 Men’s Warehouse gift certificate (a firm tradition) to help his professional advancement. The client was present with his wife, who had never lost faith in him throughout the seventeen years, five months, and two days of his jail and prison time. She—and the client—had lost multiple other appeals, but they never gave up. In the end, the client won his freedom and can now start his life anew. He already has a job giving lectures and presentations about wrongful convictions and how to live a crime-free life.

To speak with one of the attorneys at Spolin Law about this case or any other criminal law matter, please call us at (866) 716-2805. The firm handles state and federal post-conviction matters.


California Appeals: How Long Does an Appeal Take?

Posted on Wednesday, February 19th, 2020 at 5:52 am    

If you are interested in appealing your criminal conviction, it is important to understand the timeline of the process. An appeal can take anywhere from a few months to years depending on the unique factors involved. But, in every case and appeal needs to be filed quickly. However, the decision will not be immediate.

You should talk with a Los Angeles appeals lawyer at Spolin Law P.C. regarding the California appeals timeline. This can give you realistic expectations of what to expect.

To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at (310) 424-5816.

Appeal Filing Deadline

The first step in a criminal appeal is determining if you are eligible. Immediately after a conviction sentencing, you should speak to an attorney about an appeal.

Your lawyer will carefully review your case for legal errors. If there is evidence that a mistake of law was made during your trial or sentencing, then you have a valid reason to file an appeal.

Next, you must determine if you want to appeal.

If so, you need to file a Notice to Appeal in the superior court. For felonies, you have 60 days to file a notice of appeal in a criminal case from the date the judgment was entered. For misdemeanors, this deadline is only 30 days.

There are other types of post-conviction relief that can be filed after the 60-day or 30-day window, including a California Writ of Habeas Corpus and an Application for Commutation of Sentence. However, traditional or “direct appeals” must be filed within this deadline.

Can You File an Appeal Late?

There are very few reasons why a California court will give you more time to file an appeal. There are possible extensions under the 2018 California Rules of Court, which allows for more time following public emergencies.

You might have grounds for an extension if your trial attorney failed to perform a duty related to a possible appeal. A common example is if your attorney neglected to inform you of your right to appeal. Basically, if you were not informed of your right to appeal, and did not learn of the right until after the filing deadline, call a Los Angeles appeals lawyer right away.

Another possible failure is not filing a timely notice of appeal after you asked your attorney to do so. In this situation, contact Spolin Law P.C. right away to get new representation.

You may also consider an extension for constructive filing. This occurs when you make a good faith attempt to file your notice of appeal, but it is not received in time. For instance, you may represent yourself initially and file in the wrong court. Or, you may ask your jail or prison officials to mail your notice of appeal, and it was mailed or arrived late.

You May Need a Certificate of Probable Cause

If you entered a guilty or nolo contendere plea, admitted to a probation violation, or convicted after an unlawful search and seizure, then you must also file a certificate of probable cause. This states that the trial was unlawful in some way. This is a written statement that you or your attorney provide under oath.

You must deliver the statement to the trial court, which issues the certificate. The trial court has 20 days to deny or approve your request for a certificate of probable cause.

What Happens After Filing a Notice to Appeal

Once you file the Notice to Appeal, the other parties must be notified. The superior court clerk will send a notification of the filing to each parties’ attorney, any unrepresented defendant, the reviewing court clerk, and to each court reporter.

Within 10 days of filing the Notice of Appeal, you must file a Notice of Designating Record on Appeal.

The court reporter is notified because they must prepare the transcript. If there was not a court reporter, the court creates a transcript from the electronic records of the proceedings. Additionally, you may obtain a clerk’s transcript. This encompasses all of the materials collected and placed in the case file during the proceeding.

Filing Your Opening Brief

After the initial appeal paperwork is filed and the trial court record is compiled, you must submit an opening brief. This brief is prepared by your appeals lawyer and can be lengthy.

The brief provides a summary of the trial, asks for a certain outcome, and provides a supporting argument.

For cases in the Court of Appeal, your opening brief must be filed within 40 days after the record is filed. The respondent’s brief must be filed within 30 days of your opening brief. Then, you have 20 days to file a reply brief to the respondent’s brief.

Oral Arguments for the Appeal

After the briefs are filed, the next step is oral arguments. The court will notify you of the hearing date. This may be weeks after the briefs are filed. It depends on the court’s schedule.

Oral arguments allow your lawyer to argue your grounds for an appeal to the judge in person. Depending on the court in which your appeal takes place, your attorney may have up to 30 minutes to make your case. During this time, your attorney may also answer questions from the appellate court judge.

Have Questions About an Appeal in CA? Contact Spolin Law P.C.

Interested in appealing your criminal case? Contact Spolin Law P.C. right away. Aaron Spolin was previously a prosecutor and an award-winning criminal defense and appeals attorney.

Contact us online or call (310) 424-5816 to schedule a free, initial consultation.


Criminal Appeals: Can I Appeal a Juvenile Verdict?

Posted on Thursday, February 6th, 2020 at 8:36 am    

California has an alternative criminal justice system for minors. While the proceedings still take place in court, they are not the same as in a criminal trial.

Juveniles charged with crimes must go through several hearings. The last of these hearings is called a disposition hearing. That is when the judge makes the final decision about a juvenile’s fate. It’s a lot like the sentencing phase of a criminal trial.

Similar adults, a juvenile can appeal this final decision.

For more information about appealing a juvenile verdict, call Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816 for a free consultation. You can also reach out online.

When Should Juveniles Appeal?

Since the juvenile justice system’s goal is rehabilitation rather than punishment, juvenile offenders do not have the same incentives to appeal.

However, there are scenarios when a judge’s disposition should be reversed. If the young offender is innocent, if their rights were violated, or if the court order is unacceptable, a criminal appeals lawyer can and should appeal the judge’s decision.

The Juvenile Appeals Process

Before filing a formal appeal in a juvenile case, it’s necessary to outline the different stages of the juvenile criminal justice process. At each stage, there are opportunities to contest. And in some cases, ask for a new hearing on certain issues.

The California juvenile justice process involves the following:

Intake

When a minor is arrested, their fate is initially decided by a probation officer. Depending on the crimes’ severity, a juvenile may simply be released on probation. The officer may also order the youth to be detained and recommend that the District Attorney (DA) file formal charges.

Detention Hearing

When the minor his detained, or when the DA files criminal charges, a hearing will determine whether detention should continue, or if the juvenile should be detained until the next hearing.

At this stage, a Los Angeles juvenile defense lawyer can contest the the DA’s petition and present evidence. If they are unsatisfied with the result, they can request a new hearing.

Fitness Hearing

In some cases, the DA may request that the juvenile be tried as an adult. For very serious crimes, there is no need for a fitness hearing because adult charges are mandatory.

During this hearing, the DA will present evidence as to why the minor should be treated as an adult. Of course, the defense can argue why the case should stay in the juvenile system. This is an extremely important stage of the process because appealing this decision is very difficult.

Jurisdiction Hearing

If the case stays within the juvenile system, the next stage is the jurisdiction hearing. Like in a criminal trial, this hearing’s purpose is to determine what actually happened. Both sides are allowed to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. However, the facts will not be decided by a jury. If the judge determines that the available evidence points to the juvenile’s guilt, the case will move to the next stage.

Disposition Hearing

During this part of the process, the focus is not only on how to punish a juvenile but also on how to treat or rehabilitate them. Another important difference is that a judge can decide to “set aside” or cancel the decision about jurisdiction. In other words, the verdict can be canceled if their legal team is successful at this stage. If not, the judge will determine the conditions of detention and probation.

How Can I Appeal My Child’s Verdict?

There are three ways to appeal a juvenile case. First, and while it’s not a formal appeal, your lawyer should try to get a new hearing if the judge rules against your child at the detention phase.

Second, if the judge rules that your child should be treated like an adult, you may file a writ with the Court of Appeals. This isn’t a formal appeal either, but it can delay the process and keep the case in the juvenile system.

Third, you can file an official appeal within 60 days of the disposition hearing. As with a criminal case, your appeal must show that a legal mistake hurt your son’s or daughter’s case.

There are many possible arguments to make in favor of an appeal. A lawyer may argue that evidence was improperly included or rejected, or that the authorities violated your child’s rights at any point during the process.

A California Juvenile Lawyer Can Help

When a minor faces criminal charges, their future hangs in the balance. With so much at stake, these cases require quick, thorough, and aggressive action from the defense.

If you or a loved one received a bad result after a juvenile disposition hearing, you must act fast if you want to appeal.

Call Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816, or reach out online for help appealing a juvenile criminal verdict.


Firm Files Petition with United States Supreme Court on Noteworthy Case

Posted on Thursday, December 12th, 2019 at 8:00 am    

Spolin Law has filed a petition in the United States Supreme Court, in Washington D.C., on a noteworthy case that implicates major Constitutional issues.

The October 2019 filing, termed a petition for writ of certiorari, seeks to have the court accept the case and overturn the conviction of the firm’s client, whose rights were violated in the course of his trial. If the court rules on the side of client, the decision will affect criminal defendants throughout the United States in both state and federal courts.

United States Supreme Court

Spolin Law’s petition to the United States Supreme Court discusses the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. Interior photo of the court is courtesy of uscourts.gov

The primary issue presented to the United States Supreme Court was whether an attorney for a criminal defendant may subsequently represent a witness against his former client. The issue relates to the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The Sixth Amendment, as interpreted by prior case law, guarantees criminal defendants the right to the “effective” assistance of a lawyer. An attorney whose representation falls below the standards articulated by the courts will be considered ineffective, thus violating the client’s Constitutional rights.

In the present case, a lawyer represented a criminal defendant while simultaneously representing a witness who was slated to testify against the defendant. Once the lawyer realized that he was representing both parties, he withdrew from representation of the defendant but continued to represent the witness. By that time the attorney had received hundreds of pages of discovery and had numerous confidential conversations with the defendant, including material that the witness could have used to conform his testimony to other evidence in order to make it more believable. The witness—a convict himself—had agreed to testify against the defendant in exchange for the prosecution’s dismissal of a separate attempted murder charge against the witness.

Aaron Spolin, who is admitted to practice in front of the United States Supreme Court, submitted the petition and is the primary attorney on the case.

To contact the firm about a criminal appeals or post-conviction matter, call us at (310) 424-5816.


The Essentials of the Appellant’s Brief

Posted on Friday, October 18th, 2019 at 6:34 am    

After a criminal conviction, you don’t have to give up. You have the right to appeal the judgment, and if successful, you may get your conviction overturned. But, keep in mind that the appeals process is difficult, and many who attempt it on their own fail–or miss critical deadlines. An appeal is not a new trial. You don’t present new evidence, the judges don’t hear testimony, and they don’t retry the case. Instead, the judges are there only to decide if some legal error occurred and if that legal error resulted in your unjust conviction or sentence.

For these reasons, you should seek the assistance of an experienced appellate lawyer. Reviewing trial transcripts, searching for potential errors, researching legal technicalities, and writing a convincing brief are skills best gained through consistent appeals experience. At Spolin Law P.C., our track record of success in the appeals process speaks for itself.

Call us today at (310) 424-5816 to schedule your consultation.

An Appellant’s Brief Must Show Harm by Error

At your trial, you were the defendant. But when you appeal your case, you become the appellant. The state becomes the respondent.

As the appellant, you are responsible for showing that your conviction or sentencing was negatively affected by a legal error, either during or before your trial. Your appeals lawyer will write a brief on your behalf to convince the appeals court that your trial was unfair.

The appellant’s brief must be thoroughly researched, clearly written, and meticulously presented. It should give the appellate court an overview of the case, single out the issues that harmed you, and provide reasons why these issues amounted to legal error.

Common grounds for appealing a criminal conviction include:

  • The judge allowed the jury to hear evidence that it should not have
  • The judge wrongly denied a pretrial motion to suppress evidence or to dismiss the charges
  • The judge did not follow the sentencing guidelines or abused their discretion
  • The jury considered factors other than those presented in reaching their verdict
  • The jury convicted you even though the prosecution did not meet its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime
  • The jury engaged in misconduct during the trial or its deliberations
  • The defense lawyer provided ineffective counsel
  • The prosecutor acted unethically, such as hiding exculpatory evidence from the defense

If one of these errors applies to your case, but you can’t prove that it was prejudicial to you, the court will consider it a harmless error and deny your appeal. For example, you can’t get your conviction overturned just because the judge wrongly allowed one small piece of evidence into the case. You would need to show that this evidence was crucial to the jury’s decision to find you guilty.

The state, or respondent, will file their own brief to attack the arguments your lawyer raised in the appellant brief. Your lawyer has the option of filing a reply brief to address the respondent’s arguments. After an oral argument, where your lawyer and a lawyer for the state will answer questions from the appeals judges, the court will hand down a decision.

If the court grants your appeal, they may reverse the conviction, order a new trial, or schedule a new sentencing hearing. If the appeals court decides against you, you may still appeal to the California Supreme Court. But only cases that present novel or significant issues of law generally make it onto the Supreme Court’s docket.

A Southern California Appeals Lawyer Can Help

If you or a loved one have been unfairly convicted of a crime, it is time to consult with an appeals lawyer. But time is of the essence because you generally cannot file an appeal more than 60 days after the judgment.

At Spolin Law P.C., we will swiftly review your case file to determine if your conviction should be appealed. To schedule your consultation, call us today at (310) 424-5816.