May 18, 2021
| Read Time: 2 minutes
What happens if you don’t show up for jury duty in California? If you ignore jury duty, you will likely get away with it at first, even though every citizen is obligated to serve on a jury when called upon to do so. Sooner or later, however, you will be penalized—you might even be incarcerated. Don’t ignore jury duty in California. Your Obligations Theoretically, California residents must serve on a jury once every twelve months. In actual practice, however, the odds are long that California will not call you for jury duty more than a few times in your lifetime. In fact, some people go through their entire life without ever being called for jury duty even once. Legal Excuses for Skipping Jury Duty Just because the state calls you for jury duty doesn’t mean you will serve on one. A multitude of legal exemptions exist, including the following: You are not a U.S. citizen; You are under eighteen years old; You lack a basic understanding of the English language; You are on active military duty; Your roundtrip commute to the courthouse would exceed ninety minutes; Serving on a jury would impose a significant financial burden on you; Serving on a jury would impose a risk of physical or mental hardship on you; You are a daytime caregiver for another person; You have already served on a jury within the past eighteen months; You are currently serving as a grand juror; You are a peace officer; or You lost your rights (the right to vote, etc.) due to a felony conviction and the state has not yet restored them. If you believe you have a valid excuse, write your reason on the jury summons and mail it back to the court. Even without a legal excuse, you can request a postponement of your jury duty. What Happens If You Do not Go to Jury Duty in California? A court can treat ignoring a jury summons as contempt of court, which is a criminal offense in California. If you forgot about jury duty, though, a San Diego County court will probably give you the benefit of the doubt the first time. Ignoring a jury summons in California is also likely to be ignored even if you did it intentionally. Instead, the court will send you a second summons for a new case. If you ignore a second jury summons, however, California will likely charge you with contempt of court. In San Diego County, the penalties for contempt of court include: Up to five days in jail; and A fine of up to $1,000. Do not forget that a contempt of court conviction will show up on your permanent criminal record. Aggressive San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyers at Your Service If the State of California has charged you with contempt of court or any other criminal charge, let us know the details so that we can help. Call the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, at 619-900-6902 or contact us online for a free, confidential consultation. A California criminal prosecution is adversarial to the core—in other words, it is a war. We know how to fight for you.
May 7, 2021
| Read Time: 2 minutes
Does California have a “stand your ground” law? Well, yes and no (mostly yes). The stand your ground law in California is not codified in any criminal statute. Nevertheless, California court decisions have essentially written “stand your ground” into California criminal law. Most importantly, California jury instructions include a clear statement of the stand your ground concept. Self-Defense and the Use of Force in California Stand your ground is an expansive interpretation of California’s long-standing right to self-defense in homicide and violent crime cases. Normally it is against the law for you to use force against someone. Self-defense and defense of others, however, are affirmative defenses that can get your charges dropped. To defeat a criminal charge, such as a homicide charge, that arises from your use of force (even deadly force), you must prove the following: You reasonably believed that you or someone else was in immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death; You reasonably believed that the use of force was necessary to protect yourself or someone else; and You used only the degree of force necessary to prevent the harm you feared. You do not have to prove self-defense or defense of others under a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, or any other standard for that matter. Rather, in California, once the defendant raises the defense, the burden then is borne by the prosecution to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant did NOT use reasonable self-defense. The Stand Your Ground Law in California Does California have stand your ground laws? As stated above, yes it does, at least for all practical purposes. Suppose that someone threatens you with bodily harm and you consider whether to use force in self-defense. Without a stand your ground law, you would have a legal duty to back away from the confrontation if that was the safest choice, even if that meant retreating from room to room in your own home. A stand your ground law allows you to–just as it sounds–stand your ground. You are legally entitled to fight back with reasonable force. There is no duty to retreat, even if retreat is the safest option. The stand your ground law applies both in your own home and in public places, as long as you are not trespassing at the time and as long as you did not initiate the altercation. The older “castle doctrine,” by contrast, allows you to stand your ground only inside your own home. Aggressive San Diego County Criminal Defense Lawyers The stand your ground law in California can be applied in a variety of different ways, depending on your particular circumstances. A skilled California criminal lawyer will not allow the prosecutor to dictate how this concept is applied to your case. What’s more, we will not push you into a plea deal that is not in your best interests. We stand ready to fight to protect you. We have been to jury trial well over 100 times, and we understand every nuance of the San Diego County criminal justice system. If you have been charged with a serious crime, especially a violent crime, you have no time to waste. Call the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, at 619-234-2300 or contact us online for a free, confidential consultation.
Apr 8, 2021
| Read Time: 4 minutes
When the criminal justice system accuses or convicts a person of a crime they did not commit, it is a horrible miscarriage of justice. These famous wrongful conviction cases are horrific and cause an innocent person and their loved ones immense harm, psychologically, financially, and physically. Most importantly, they may strip the innocent of their freedom, sometimes forever. Here are five situations involving the wrongfully convicted—cases that demonstrate the worst of these situations. The Central Park 5 The Central Park jogger case, also known as the Central Park Five case, resulted in the wrongful convictions of five young men of color from underprivileged backgrounds. Their alleged crime was attacking and sexually assaulting a white woman who was jogging in New York City’s Central Park. The nature and location of the crime catapulted this case into the headlines. The media and city leaders placed immense pressure on the judicial system to hold someone accountable. The police soon arrested five young men and charged them with the crime despite a lack of concrete evidence. Scared and, at times, threatened, most confessed. One young man later said he never spoke to his father again as his father told him to confess so the police could help him, even though he told him he was innocent. Ultimately the scenarios turned to wrongfully convicted cases. The boys served sentences of many years before the judicial system finally exonerated them after someone else confessed to the crimes. In later years, the men spoke of their harrowing ordeals, the trauma and abuse they suffered during the process and in prison, and the toll being part of famous wrongful conviction cases still takes on them. Henry and Leon McCollum Henry McCollum was 19 years old, and his brother Leon 15 when law enforcement wrongfully charged them with a gruesome crime ending in the death of an 11-year-old. The police interrogated them with no lawyer present for hours on end. The case never received the notoriety of some others, but many in the legal community consider it one of the worst wrongful conviction cases because it: Contained apparent police misconduct; Involved two young brothers; Failed to find the true killer of a child at the time; and Took three decades of life away from two very young men. In 2014, after nearly 31 years in prison, the court exonerated the two brothers based on DNA evidence. Duke University Lacrosse Team The third spot on this troubling list goes to the Duke University Lacrosse Team. Duke University is an elite private institution know for a student body filled with students who are: Academically strong, From well-off families, and Great athletes. In the early 2000s, members of the men’s lacrosse team at the university were riding high. The team had been incredibly successful. But the 2006 season was cut short when several Duke players were falsely accused of rape. Like the Central Park 5, the Duke students were all teens or young men. The media coverage of the case was massive, and the public early on turned against the Duke athletes. But the similarities between the cases ends there. The Duke players were primarily members of well-connected families, and all immediately denied the allegations. Their families hired strong defense attorneys right away and fought back in the media. While there clearly was evidence that a crime took place in the Central Park 5 case, there was no immediate definitive evidence of an assault in the Duke case. As a result of solid legal representation and eventual scrutiny of the cases’ validity, the prosecutor dropped all charges against the young men. But the players had already been convicted in the court of public opinion, and the loss of their lacrosse season was the least of the impacts of these wrongfully accused cases. The Duke accused suffered ongoing public censure and doubt, emotional trauma, notoriety they did not ask for or deserve, and, for some, the inability to continue with their education at Duke. The trauma to them remains. Wrongful Conviction Cases in California With nearly 40 million residents, the most populated state in the United States is California. It is also a popular state for tourists with wonderful beaches, movie stars, the golden gate bridge, and beautiful cities such as San Diego. However, like all states, California has its dark moments, including wrongful conviction cases. Our 4th and 5th famous wrongful conviction cases perpetrated by the US justice system occurred in California. Kimberly Long It really does happen. A person can know the victim, find them injured or dead, report the crime, and then become the suspect of a murder investigation. In Kimberly Long’s story, things then got even worse. In 2003, Kimberly arrived home and discovered her boyfriend bludgeoned to death in the living room of the home they shared. She immediately called 911. Then, the police charged her with the crime. She pleaded that the police were wrongfully accusing her. The police did not believe her. They had a witness putting her at the scene, they said, and the case went to a California court. The first jury hung, and nine jurors were in favor of acquittal. The second jury, after allowed a break from deliberations to celebrate Christmas, returned a guilty verdict. Fast forward 11 years. The justice system found that testimony from the prosecution’s star witness was unreliable. And thanks to forensic pathology evidence, the corrections system released her from prison after a wrongful conviction. Kimberly lost her partner and a decade of her life before justice was served. Suzanne Johnson Our fifth case involves a child who died while in the San Diego home daycare of Suzanne Johnson. The law did not believe Suzanne’s version of an accidental fall causing the death or her calls for help. Instead, the police turned the home into a crime scene, and the justice system wrongfully accused and then convicted Suzzane of killing the baby. The court sentenced her to 25 years to life. She served 21 years before Governor Newsom...