It is not uncommon for a criminal case to end in dismissal without prejudice. But what exactly is dismissal without prejudice, when and why does a case end this way, and how does it impact one’s criminal record?   The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, specializes in criminal defense. We are glad to provide this brief overview, addressing those questions and more. Understanding Dismissal Without Prejudice Criminal cases end in convictions, plea bargains, or dismissals. The general public is least familiar with dismissal without prejudice. Here is an explanation of what dismissal without prejudice means and the reasons cases end in this method. Dismissal Without Prejudice Explained Dismissal without prejudice is when a criminal case is dismissed against the accused. However, the prosecutor retains the option to pursue the charge any time before the statute of limitations expires. The dismissal is a type of pause on the case that often, but not always, remains a dismissal forever.   Reasons for Dismissal Without Prejudice When the prosecutor requests a voluntary dismissal without prejudice, they usually have a plan regarding when or how to pursue the case later. They often ask for a dismissal without prejudice when: They intend to file a different or additional charges later, as they gather new information;  They have missing evidence they need to access; or They are considering permanently dismissing the case and have unanswered questions. As the dismissal without prejudice leaves the door open for pursuing the case later, the defendant must have an attorney. An experienced criminal lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor or present an argument to the judge to permanently dismiss the case (“dismissal with prejudice”) or lessen the charges. But if the prosecutor later pursues the case, that same attorney will already be familiar with the defendant and their case and be prepared to resume representation. Standard Dismissal Without Prejudice Case There is not a singular category of cases that end in voluntary dismissal without prejudice. However, the common theme is that a prosecutor is not ready or able to try the case right now but is not prepared to put it to bed.  Here is an example: A prosecutor files charges of arson against a suspect. The best evidence the prosecutor has is a witness who says they saw the suspect at the scene of the fire. However, the day before trial, the prosecutor cannot locate the witness. The prosecutor may request a dismissal without prejudice, intending to resume the arson case against the suspect when they find the witness. Voluntary dismissal without prejudice is a standard part of our criminal justice process. These dismissals can occur in both felony and misdemeanor cases. Criminal Record and Dismissal Without Prejudice California law allows a case file and arrest record to remain a public record following dismissal without prejudice. However, as there was no trial, there is no conviction on record if the final result was a voluntary dismissal without prejudice. While a dismissal without prejudice is almost always preferable to a conviction, legal representation is needed to reach that result and offer protection if the charges are refiled.  Contact the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC  The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, is a renowned legal defense firm in San Diego County, California. Our attorneys have a combined forty years of experience and have handled over 150 trials. They are strong advocates for anyone facing criminal charges in the San Diego County area. For a free consultation, contact us now.

Underage drivers in California are those drivers under the age of 21. California teenagers can apply for a learner’s permit when they reach the age of 15-and-a-half, but they must complete an approved driver’s education course. Such courses, with 25 hours of instruction, are offered by a state-licensed driver’s education school. Once teenagers reach the age of 16, they can apply for a provisional license that carries restrictions, but only after they have completed the driver’s education program. In other cases, 14-year-old teenagers with certain hardships can apply for a junior permit that allows them to drive to school, work, or to the family business, particularly if there is an illness in the family. Go here to find out more about getting your first license. California Vehicle Code § 23136 Underage drivers (under 21) cannot drive with any alcohol in their system.  They also cannot drive with either legal or illegal drugs in their system, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications.  Additionally, even though marijuana is legal in California for some people under the age of 21 if they have their parent’s permission, it is still not legal for them to drive while under the influence of marijuana.   If an underage driver is tested and found to have 0.01% (or more) of alcohol in his or her system, the driver may be charged with a criminal offense and have their driver’s license suspended for one year. Especially in a teenager’s life, having a suspended license for a year is a very long time. If subsequent violations occur before the underage driver reaches age 21, the driver will have a longer suspension term applied to their license. When Taking OTC Drugs Drivers of any age should always check the ingredients on over-the-counter drugs, such as cough syrup, cold and allergy pills, or any drug that could possibly register as alcohol in the breath or in the blood or could impair their driving in any way.   Some drugs will also make you drowsy, and you do not want to take those either. If you are going to drive anywhere, do not take any medication at all so you can stay safe and keep other drivers on the road safe. Underage drivers, by the very fact of obtaining a driver’s license, must always submit to whatever tests a peace officer requests of the driver. The tests given to an underage driver in California are either a breath test or a blood test.  Refusing to take either test if requested by law-enforcement could result in the driver losing their license for one year.   A Common Scenario Anthony Johnson (not his real name), 18, had been in school classes all day and had been suffering from the onset symptoms of a cold or flu. About three hours before leaving school, he found some of his cold pills he had taken last year for a head cold that had really affected him.   The pills were not in a box, so he could not check any warning labels.  But he was sure he would be okay with taking them anyway.   After school was over, Anthony ran to his car, eager to get home to take a quick nap before tackling his homework. He felt a little sleepy but did not think anything of it. He drove the car at what he thought was normal speed, but he was also eager to get home. He stopped at the light one block before he would be turning onto his home street. Then he noticed a police car with its lights on sitting behind him. Anthony turned right and pulled over, the police car right on his tail. After checking Anthony’s identification, the officer had him take a breathalyzer test, and his BAC percent was 0.02. Joseph could not understand why there was any percentage at all, but then he remembered he had taken a swig of cough syrup that he had stashed in his locker.   Joseph’s license was later unfortunately suspended for a year. What Happens If You Get an Under-21 DUI in California? An underage DUI in California has tremendous consequences. The severity of the consequences depends on the nature of the charges brought against the underage driver. The underage driver faces stiffer penalties than an adult would because of the driver’s age. However, a driver under 21 in California who gets a DUI still faces jail time, fines, probation, and a license suspension, just like an adult would face for a first-offense DUI.  The penalties for a first-offense DUI in California may include: Six months’ of incarceration in the county jail;  Three to five years of misdemeanor probation with driver education classes;  A fine between $390 and $1,000 (not counting much higher penalty assessments in most counties); and  License suspension. The penalties increase with the severity of the criminal act. The underage driver could face the same penalties an adult would face for driving with a BAC of 0.08 or greater, known as the “legal limit,” driving under the influence of alcohol, or driving under the influence of drugs. Additionally, an underage driver could face a prison sentence for injuring or killing another person while under the influence. What Is California’s Zero Tolerance Law? Section 23136 of California’s Vehicle Code is California’s zero tolerance law. Section 23136 is clear: a person under 21 shall not drive a motor vehicle after consuming any appreciable amount of alcohol as measured by a chemical test, such as a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test, or a preliminary alcohol screening test. An underage driver will receive an infraction for driving with a blood- or breath-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01 or more.  Subsection (b) of 23136 indicates that the underage driver is guilty of the offense if the driver consumed an alcoholic beverage that resulted in a positive result.  The rationale supporting the law makes legal sense. The legal drinking age in California is 21. Therefore, no person under 21 years of age should consume any alcoholic beverages whatsoever. Underage drivers who drink alcohol endanger…

Extortion, which is the legal term for blackmail, is a crime that occurs more frequently than one might believe. Extortion and blackmail occur every day in California.  Essentially, extortion is using an unlawful threat or force to get someone to give you something or do something out of fear.  California’s extortion law is highly complicated and nuanced. A San Diego County extortion and blackmail defense lawyer with extensive trial experience can protect your rights aggressively.  Contact us today if you face extortion charges or if you believe you are under investigation for extortion in California. California Extortion Law California Penal Code sections 518-527 is California’s extortion and blackmail law. According to section 518, extortion in California includes taking property, money, or something of value using a threat or force that does not amount to robbery. Using a position of authority to obtain something of value or threatening a public official to get them to perform an official act or refrain from performing an official act is also extortion.  Something of value under California extortion law can include a sexual favor or a picture of an intimate body part.  An extortion threat raises fear in the alleged victim to such a degree that the alleged victim complies with the demand. Section 519 of the California extortion law indicates that threats amounting to extortion or blackmail include threats to: Cause injury to the person threatened or a third-party; Accuse the person or the person’s family member of committing a crime; Impute to the alleged victim, or accuse the alleged victim, of an immoral act, crime, or deformity; Expose a secret; or Expose the immigration status of the victim. Extortion in California may be committed by sending a letter or obtaining a signature by an extortion method. The prosecutor has the exclusive burden to prove each element of extortion beyond a reasonable doubt. Penalties for Being Charged with Extortion Under California Law Extortion can be either a felony or misdemeanor under California law, depending on the circumstances of the crime. Section 520 indicates that committing extortion, which is not carjacking or robbery, is a felony. A person convicted of extortion using a threat specified in Section 519 faces incarceration in “local prison” for two, three, or four years, as indicated by Penal Code section 1170(h). However, Section 525 indicates that extortion committed against a disabled or elderly person is an aggravating sentencing factor. Committing extortion by abusing your official authority is a misdemeanor. An attempt to commit extortion, which is a lesser-included offense of extortion, is a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor extortion is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for one year and a fine not to exceed $1,000. How to Defend Charges Brought Under California Extortion and Blackmail Law Hiring a San Diego County criminal defense attorney who has defended hundreds of cases before California courts can protect your rights if you face extortion charges under California extortion and blackmail law. The most successful extortion defense depends on the unique circumstances of each case. Common defenses include: Arguing that the alleged victim was not coerced into performing an act; Showing that the force or fear did not compel the alleged victim to act; Attacking the alleged victim’s credibility; Entrapment; Arguing that the person who made the alleged threat had the legal right to do so; and Moving to suppress evidence or statements obtained by police in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. No two cases are identical. Some defenses might apply in one case but not others. Hire a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney There is no substitute for experience. Contact the California extortion and blackmail defense lawyers with the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, at 619-234-2300 now. We have the experience to aggressively defend your case to minimize the potential consequences of an extortion charge or avoid the prosecution altogether. You can rely on our attorneys to offer you the support you need to make it through this challenging time in your life. 

If you have been arrested or are under investigation for drug possession, you may be wondering how long a potential charge may be hanging over your head. California imposes a statute of limitations on all crimes, including drug possession charges. This is a cap on the amount of time the prosecution could wait before filing criminal charges. A San Diego County law firm specializing in criminal defense could determine if the California statute of limitations for drug possession applies in your case. If so, the court might dismiss your case outright before it even proceeds to trial. California Statute of Limitations for Drug Possession California Penal Code section 801 indicates that the statute of limitations for a crime punishable by confinement in the state prison is three years. Drug possession, even of marijuana in most cases (if a large amount), remains punishable by imprisonment in California. Therefore, the statute of limitations for a drug possession charge is typically three years. For possession charges not punishable by imprisonment—primarily possession of small amounts of marijuana—the statute of limitations is one year. The purpose of a statute of limitations is to force the prosecution to file a criminal case within a reasonable period of time if they wish to bring charges against someone. If they do not file charges before the limitations period runs out, then a defendant cannot be prosecuted for the crime. The prosecution does not have to bring the case to trial within three years of the alleged crime; rather, the case must merely be filed with the court within three years of the date of the offense.  However, if a trial is unreasonably delayed for reasons not the fault of the defendant, a savvy and experienced San Diego County drug defense lawyer could argue that the prosecution or the court violated the defendant’s rights to a speedy trial. In some circumstances, the prosecution could argue that the three-year statute of limitations on drug possession in California was “tolled” or suspended, based on some action taken by the person suspected of drug possession. If the person under suspicion of drug possession leaves California, then the statute of limitations must toll for the amount of time the suspect left California. However, the tolling period is limited to three years. Therefore, the prosecution can have no more than six years to charge the individual with drug possession without violating the statute of limitations for possession of drugs in California. How Does the Statute of Limitations Work? The statute of limitations for drug possession in California does not begin until the crime is complete. Determining the date the “clock begins to tick” for ongoing crimes such as drug possession can be difficult. A seasoned criminal defense lawyer will know when the statute of limitations lapses, or ends, for your California drug possession charge. In most drug cases, the police will arrest a suspect on drug possession charges when they believe they have probable cause.  The police then hand the case over to the prosecution (usually the county District Attorney’s Office if it is a state crime).  The District Attorney’s Office then begins the prosecution at that time. Rarely do deputy district attorneys wait a long time to then press charges, but this does occur at times based on a variety of reasons.  Investigators might decline to arrest a person on drug charges if the police have set up a wide-sweeping investigation. In that instance, the law-enforcement investigators might have probable cause to arrest one or more individuals for drug possession charges but elect to wait in order to complete their investigation before making arrests. Arresting people before the police complete their inquiry might jeopardize the investigation. These long-term drug interdiction investigations could implicate the statute of limitations on drug possession. Penalties for Marijuana Possession in California  Many crimes related to the possession of cannabis are infractions and not technically criminal offenses. However, possessing 28.5 grams of cannabis or 8 grams of concentrated cannabis is a crime punishable by no more than six months in jail.  Hiring a Defense Attorney After a Drug Possession Arrest or Charge Drug possession convictions could have severe implications for a person’s life. Having every defense at your disposal is vital to limiting the disruption a San Diego drug charge could have on your life. Contact the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, today at 619-234-2300 today to speak with an aggressive criminal defense lawyer who understands the statute of limitations on drug charges in San Diego. We encourage you to call as soon as you learn about law-enforcement involvement in your life. We offer free and confidential consultations to discuss your case at length and we offer you compassion in this most troubling time.

Search and seizure can happen to you under certain conditions in California, and you should know your rights under these circumstances. If you find yourself in a situation with police that you do not understand, do not answer questions until you can call a defense attorney to help you. California State Law for Search and Seizure  Each person in the United States receives the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. By its plain language and as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by government officials. It is important to remember that Fourth Amendment restrictions on searches and seizures do not apply to private citizens in most instances. The constitutional protections bind both federal and state law-enforcement agents. The Constitution’s framers wanted to create a society free from government interference, where the people ruled and not governmental officials. The framers found the general warrants used in England oppressive. Thus, they created the requirement that law-enforcement can obtain a search warrant based on probable cause from the evidence supplied by a government official given under oath from a neutral and detached magistrate.  States are free to provide greater constitutional protection than the U.S. Constitution, but not less. Section 13 of Article 1 of the California Constitution is nearly identical to the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment requires that the search warrant specify the places to be searched and the things to be seized. A search warrant in California can only issue on the same grounds.  The Fourth Amendment and Section 13 of the California Constitution guarantee people in San Diego, and in the rest of California, freedom from excessive governmental intrusion into their lives.  Searches Without a Warrant in California Courts ruling on Fourth Amendment issues have found that any search or seizure by police without a warrant is unreasonable and therefore unlawful, except in rare circumstances. The government, meaning the police, could justify its actions if one of the recognized exceptions to the search warrant requirement applies. Recognized exceptions to the search warrant requirement include: Search with consent; “Stop and frisk” to protect officer safety when questioning a suspect; Search of someone when they are arrested; Search of a vehicle based on probable cause; Seizure of items that are in plain view of the officer; Searches based on probable cause coupled with exigent circumstances; Inventory searches of an impounded vehicle; Emergency searches; Administrative searches, such as at an International border or airport; and Search or seizure in a place where there is no expectation of privacy. The police and the prosecution bear the burden of proof to show that a valid exception to the search warrant requirement applies to any particular case.  When Your Car May be Searched The police officer may stop you for a traffic issue, such as speeding, a broken tail light, or some other Vehicle Code infraction. The officer is entitled to ask you to get out of the car after the officer has checked your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of valid insurance. If there is someone else in the car with you, the officer may request the same thing from your passenger. There are reasons why a police officer may want to check the inside of your car.  While you are innocent and unaware of the circumstances, the officer may ask first for your permission to search the car. You, without thinking that anything could be wrong, give the officer permission to search the car. You should remember that you have the right to withhold consent to search your vehicle.   If the officer, while searching the car, finds illegal drugs, unlawfully possessed firearms, stolen goods, or other contraband, you and anyone else in the vehicle may be detained or arrested and then taken down to the police station. You should not answer any questions until you can discuss your situation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. You have a right to speak with your attorney privately before you answer any questions asked by the police. Neither the police nor the prosecution can hold your silence against you in court and especially in front of a jury should your case proceed to trial. At Your Home In most cases, the police at your doorstep must have a warrant to search your home.  If police have a valid search warrant, then they can enter your home and search the places described in the warrant.  All items the police remove, such as illicit narcotics or illegally-owned firearms and associated ammunition, must be specified on the warrant.  Other items that you legally own cannot be removed unless these items are specified on the warrant. The police may seize items such as cell phones, computers, and all other items that may contain evidence against you, provided that the items are specified in the search warrant. The police may not need a warrant in an emergency situation that threatens public safety and possible loss of evidence. For example, if someone observed a shooting suspect run into the home with a gun, a warrant would likely be unnecessary based on the exigent circumstances doctrine. What Happens If Evidence Was Illegally Obtained? The U.S Supreme Court has created a remedy for unconstitutional searches called the “exclusionary rule.” The exclusionary rule applies when: Police obtained a search warrant without probable cause;  There was a defect with the warrant, or  The police were not justified in their search based on one of the exceptions to the search warrant requirement.  The exclusionary rule states that the prosecution cannot enter evidence into court (including at trial) if it was the product of an unlawful search or seizure.  To take advantage of the exclusionary rule, the defense must file a motion to suppress. What constitutes an illegal search in San Diego County will depend on the facts of the case. If there was a warrant, the accused bears the burden to show that a search warrant was invalid. If there…