Have you or a loved one recently been arrested? Are you currently charged for a crime you did not commit? Did you make a bad decision which has now resulted in criminal charges? If so, do not plead guilty and call the Law Offices of Sylvia V. Gonzalez for a free consultation. Sylvia V. Gonzalez understands how a criminal charge and conviction can emotionally, personally and financially affect your life. A criminal conviction can also make it difficult for you to find or keep your job.

If you or someone you know was arrested and charged with a crime or currently has a criminal case pending and wants to hire a private attorney, call the Law Offices of Sylvia V. Gonzalez for a free consultation. When I represent you, I go to court and I speak to the judge. I negotiate with the District Attorney/City Attorney and try to get you the best outcome. I will personally keep you updated on your case, answer any questions you may have, and give you the legal advice necessary to make informed decisions. The Law Offices of Sylvia V. Gonzalez will fight for your legal rights.

DUI

When charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) there are two Vehicle Code violations of which you can be charged.

  1. Vehicle Code § 23152(a) which is driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  2. Vehicle Code § 23152(b) which is driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or greater.

In addition to the DUI charges, there may be additional charges known as “sentence enhancements.” “Sentence enhancements” increase the penalties and punishment if found guilty of those additional charges. The following are examples of “sentence enhancements”:

Prior DUI Convictions – If you have a prior DUI conviction and within 10 years you are charged with another DUI, the punishment and sentence will increase. Three prior DUI convictions within 10 years will result in felony charges which is punishable by state prison.

High Blood-Alcohol Concentration – California increases the penalties and punishment for those whose test results show a blood-alcohol content of 0.15% or higher.

Accident with Injuries – If the defendant injures another person, the DUI is enhanced to a felony.

Refusal to Take a Chemical Test – This may result in increased jail time in addition to a Driver’s License suspension.

Child Endangerment – The punishment may be increased if there is a minor passenger at the time of the alleged DUI.

Speeding and/or Reckless Driving – This enhancement involves driving over the speed limit while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. California imposes an enhancement if the defendant is driving 20 mph over the speed limit on a surface street or 30 mph over the speed limit on a freeway.

Penalties for a DUI conviction vary depending on the circumstances. Remember that the burden of proof lays upon the prosecutor. This means that the prosecutor must prove that you are guilty of either DUI or driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.

Shoplifting, Petty Theft & Grand Theft

Shoplifting is popular term used to describe a theft of goods from a retail establishment. To prove the crime of shoplifting, California Penal Code § 459.5 PC requires the District Attorney to prove that the defendant (1) Entered a commercial establishment while it was open during regular business hours; (2) With the intention of taking items worth $950 or less.

Petty theft, under California Penal Code § 484 PC, differs from shoplifting because it only requires the unlawful taking of someone else’s property valued at $950 or less. For petty theft, there is no requirement that the property is stolen from a commercial establishment.

The following are examples of Shoplifting or Petty Theft:

  • Taking a candy bar from a store and not paying for it;
  • Borrowing a $500 laptop from a friend with no intention of returning it;
  • Taking a $700 iPad Mini from a shipment of iPads you are delivering for your employer.

Petty theft and shoplifting are misdemeanors so for most first time offenses, the maximum punishment are a fine up to $1,000, six months in county jail, or both. However, this punishment may be enhanced if the defendant is on probation for another offense at the time of the shoplifting/petty theft or if the defendant has prior shoplifting/petty theft convictions.

Legal Defenses to Petty Theft and Shoplifting are:

  • Defendant did not have intent to steal or shoplift the item;
  • Defendant is the actual owner of the item;
  • Defendant had the owner’s consent to take the item;
  • Accusations are false.

Grand Theft under California Penal Code § 487 PC has the same requirements as Petty Theft, however the item or items taken must be worth more than $950. Grand Theft is a felony so, if convicted, the minimum punishment is one year in state prison.

Embezzlement

To be found guilty of Embezzlement under California Penal Code § 503 PC, the following elements must be proven:

  1. The owner of the property entrusted the property to the defendant;
  2. The defendant fraudulently took or used that property to his/her own benefit; and
  3. When the defendant took or used that property, he/she intended to deprive the owner of that property.

Embezzlement is also known as employee theft because most crimes of Embezzlement involve an employee and employer. Theft is the taking of one’s property without their permission. Embezzlement is different because there is an element of trust. When someone commits the crime of Embezzlement, he/she initially possessed the property legally, but then took or used that property without the owner’s permission.

The following are examples of Embezzlement:

  • A cashier at a store returns items she never purchased and has the refund deposited into her credit card account.
  • An accountant at a law firm secretly issues law firm checks to herself, but falsifies the books so the partner attorneys think the checks are paying business expenses to other companies.
  • The manager of a payroll department at Widget Co. had paychecks issued to his children, who are not employees of Widget Co., so he can deposit those paychecks into his personal bank account.
  • Daisy, an hourly employee at a manufacturing company, punches-in at 8:30 am and leaves after working eight hours, but does not punch-out. She returns three hours later claiming to have forgotten her wallet and secretly punches-out and falsifies her time card so it seems she worked overtime.

The following are legal defenses to Embezzlement:

  1. The defendant did not have the intent to commit a theft;
  2. The victim gave the defendant permission to take or use the property;
  3. The defendant believed he/she had a right to take or use the property;
  4. Mistaken identity.

Embezzlement, like Petty Theft and Grand Theft, can be punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the stolen property.

Drug Possession

California places Drug Possession in two categories:

  1. Simple possession; and
  2. Possession with intent to sell.

Drug Possession offenses are separated by the California Health & Safety Code according to controlled substances classified as narcotics and the drug known as marijuana. Additionally, there are separate offenses related to PCP and methamphetamine.

Simple possession is charged when the defendant possessed one of the substances listed in the California Health & Safety Code. However, if the prosecutor believes that the defendant intended to deal the drugs, the defendant will be charged with “possession for sale” or “purchase for the purpose of sale.” California also has laws that criminalizes the possession of specific ingredients used to manufacture controlled substances, such as PCP and methamphetamine.

The following are examples of legal defenses to a drug possession charge:

  • The defendant needs the controlled substance for medical reasons;
  • The controlled substance was prescribed to the defendant by a doctor;
  • Unlawful search and seizure;
  • Tainted lab analysis.

Drug possession may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Penalties depend on the amount and type of drug as well as the defendant’s purposes for possessing the drug (i.e., personal use or to sell). Punishment and fines may also be increased if the defendant is charged with possession and transporting the drug from one county to another county and if the possession of the drug occurred near a school.

Additionally, possession of ingredients used to make PCP or methamphetamine can be charged as a felony if the defendant had the intent to manufacture those drugs. The punishment can range from two to six years in state prison.

Prostitution & Solicitation

Under California Penal Code § 647(b) PC, a prostitute, customer or “john,” and the middleman or “pimp” can be arrested and criminally charged if:

  1. He/she engaged in the act of prostitution; or
  2. He/she offered or agreed to engage in the act of prostitution.

Prostitution is defined as engaging in sexual intercourse or any lewd act in exchange for money or any other type of consideration. A lewd act includes fondling another person’s genitals, buttocks, or breasts with the intent of sexually arousing someone.

Soliciting prostitution requires the defendant to lure or try to induce or elicit another person to engage in prostitution with the specific intent to engage in an act of prostitution.

The following are examples of solicitation or prostitution:

  • The defendant accepts a woman’s offer to have sex in exchange for $100.
  • The defendant offers drugs to an undercover cop in exchange for a “hand job.” Even though the undercover cop is not an actual prostitute and has no intention of engaging in sexual intercourse.
  • A woman allows a man to fondle her breasts in exchange for a ride to the store.

Legal defenses to Solicitation and Prostitution are mistake, insufficient evidence and entrapment.

Solicitation and prostitution under California Penal Code § 647(b) PC is a misdemeanor.

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