criminal defense attorney

California’s Gang Enhancement Laws Explained

California is one of the three states in the West and North Central region of the United States that has the highest number of members who are reported to blame for 90% of crimes.


Because of this, legislators have enacted tough sentencing laws in order to curb gang activities and deter gang-related crimes. These California Gang Enhancement laws will have a huge impact on the prison terms of people convicted of gang-related felonies.


What is the “STEP Act”?


This refers to the “California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act” or the Penal Code 186.22 PC. The law is designed to enhance street gang sentencing. It has two main parts.


The Crime of Participation in a Gang (Penal Code 186.22(a) PC)


This part of the law makes it a crime to:

  • Actively participate in a criminal street gang
  • Assist in felonies perpetrated by gang members


This means participating in gang activities in a way that is not passive or in name only. A person can be considered an active participant, even if they are not an active member of the gang but has been frequently associated with known gang members.


The same is true even if that person did not devote a substantial part of their time to the gang. As long as they are proven to have “assisted, furthered or promoted” a criminal gang activity, they will be penalized for the crime of participation in a gang.


Penalties include:

  • 1 year in county jail or
  • A California felony sentence in a state prison for a period of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years.


The Gang Sentencing Enhancement (Penal Code 186.22(b) PC)


This part of the law states that a mandatory prison sentence will be provided to anyone who commits a felony for the gang’s benefit. The enhanced sentencing will be in addition and consecutive to the penalty an individual already served for the underlying felony.


This will affect crimes categorized as:

  • “Generic” felonies
  • “Serious” felonies
  • “Violent” felonies
  • Specific felonies
  • Misdemeanors
  • Other sentencing considerations


Under the gang enhancement laws, anyone convicted of “Generic” felonies will receive an additional person term that can run to 2, 3, or 4 years if the STEP Act applies. This is in addition and consecutive to the existing penalties and any additional charges.


As for “serious” felonies, if a person commits any of the 42 types of California’s “serious” felonies, including “shooting at an inhabited dwelling or occupied car,” 5 years will be added to the prison term if the STEP Act applies.


Murder, great bodily injury on a victim, and other felonies considered “Violent” felonies in California will have a 10-year prison term added to their existing sentence if committed in connection with a street gang and the STEP Act is applied.


How Kern Criminal Defense Can Help


Legal defenses are available for individuals charged with a street gang enhancement laws sentence. You just need a good criminal defense attorney in California.


Whether you violated Part A or Part B of the STEP Act, our criminal defense attorneys will provide the best legal defense.



Theft, Robbery, and Burglary

Under California law, theft, robbery and burglary are indeed distinct crimes. In fact, they are regulated by their own provision to the California Penal Code. Likewise, they have their own set of possible penalties.


Here are the notable differences of each crime, how each 1 differs from the other 2, and how they are classified.


  • Theft – In contrast to robbery, theft is the act of taking someone else’s property without any personal interaction.
  • Robbery – This crime differs from theft in the sense that this act is the taking of someone else’s property involving personal interaction with force, coercion, and intimidation.
  • Burglary – As opposed to both crimes, burglary is the act of entering a building or residential property with the intent to commit any felonious crime or theft. This crime, however, doesn’t require a property to be stolen or even personal interaction to take place.


Classification of Theft


Smaller acts of theft are called petty theft, which involves an amount of $950 or less. Acts that involve more than $950 are already considered grand theft. Such criminal activity can be charged as an infraction, a felony, or misdemeanor, depending on the crime’s circumstances or the defendant’s criminal record.


If you commit theft, you can be charged against someone else’s property. This can involve land, aside from other criminal charges that would apply. Likewise, it might involve physical goods, money, or any physical objects you can transport or move.


Theft also applies when you take somebody else’s object with the use of trickery or deceit in order to convince the owner to let you have control over certain items.


Classification of Robbery


The taking of property by applying fear or force, along with the involvement of person-to-person interaction, is considered robbery. Robbery is classified by degrees, namely 1st and 2nd degree classifications.


The first degree classification qualifies the act as robbery when it has been committed against people at ATM machines, drivers and passengers of public transport or taxi, or inhabited dwellings.


Under the Three Strikes Law of California, all robberies are classified as felonies, while all are strikes. However, this doesn’t mean that the victim would suffer any type of injury even if this is a violent crime.


Classification of Burglary


Burglary is the act of entering a building with the intent to commit any theft or felony. Just like thefts, burglaries are wobblers due to the fact that they can be charged depending on the incident’s circumstances, be it misdemeanors or felonies.


The first degree burglary can be charged if a perpetrator would enter an apartment, inhabited house or other structure. The first degree burglaries are charged as felonies.


The second degree burglary can be charged in all other instances, such as those done in an office building or store.


The case of burglary is now made broader than just breaking into somebody else’s home. This includes non-residential buildings, caves or natural formations, or temporary structures like tents. This can also be applied even if you don’t use force or violence as you enter a structure in order to commit burglary.


Contact Kern Criminal Defense today for more information from an experienced attorney.


criminal defense attorney

Criminal Defense Attorney: Felonies and Misdemeanors

Crimes in the US are classified into different categories depending on severity. It starts with an infraction then moves up to misdemeanors and then elevates to felonies. It’s important to know the differences, especially between the last two, because how a criminal charge proceeds will depend on how the crime was classified. If you are charged with a felony then the more likely you’ll need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.


While infractions (also called violations) are punishable by fines, misdemeanors and felonies require jail time. Although a defendant charged with an infraction has the right to an attorney, one is not appointed to them by the government. They don’t even have to face a jury trial. One of the most common forms of infractions are traffic violations, but can also be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity.


How can a misdemeanor be differentiated from a felony, then?


Misdemeanor vs Felony


A court trial is granted to whoever is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. An offender who can not afford a criminal defense attorney will be granted an attorney at the expense of the government.


The amount of time a convicted offender needs to spend in jail is what separates a misdemeanor from a felony. The former requires a one-year jail sentence while the latter can last longer than twelve months.


Another factor separating the two is the level of the crime’s severity. A crime can fall under one category but be divided in terms of how serious it was. Here are some examples:


  • Assault


If someone threatened harm to another person, but didn’t carry it out, can be charged with a misdemeanor. But if the threat was indeed carried out and resulted in physical injury or the use of a weapon, then a felony charge can be handed down.


  • Indecent exposure


This can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on who the crime was committed against. If someone shows their private parts in public thereby causing alarm, they will be charged with a misdemeanor. But exposing oneself to a child is considered a felony.


  • Traffic violations


Minor traffic offenses can be considered infractions, but other states would label them as a misdemeanor. When charged, the offender can expect to pay a fine or stay in jail for less than a year. A traffic felony is handed to someone who has caused harm to another person.


The following are considered traffic misdemeanors:

  • driving under the influence (drugs or alcohol)
  • not having a valid driver’s license
  • driving without insurance
  • speeding


Here are what would be considered traffic felonies:

  • vehicular homicide
  • leaving the scene of an accident
  • repeated DUI’s


Generally, a crime is considered a felony when it results in the harming of another person. Arson, kidnapping, murder, and rape are considered felonies and are divided into separate classes to indicate the level of punishment. For instance, a Class A felony carries a life sentence or the death penalty in some states.


Being charged with a misdemeanor or felony will result in fines, time spent in jail, loss of employment, and stress. Hiring a competent criminal defense attorney who specializes in such cases can help limit your risk. Contact us today!

private lawyer

Public Defenders vs Experienced Attorneys

A violation of the law demands punishment. If accused of a criminal offense, be it a misdemeanor case or a felony charge, you have the right to defend yourself. You can decide to go with a public or a private lawyer that specializes in criminal defense.


The Case for a Public Defender

If you cannot afford to hire a private attorney to defend you on criminal charges, a public defender will be appointed to you. This right to counsel is provided for by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. While there are certain benefits to being assigned a public defender, there are disadvantages as well.


A public defender is familiar with many criminal cases, and may have even worked on a few or more of them. Their line of work also puts them in touch with prosecutors, whom they might have a good working relationship, thus allowing them to agree on a favorable plea bargain.


While getting legal services without having to pay a single penny has its benefits, the very nature of the aid being provided for free brings with it certain consequences. Not everyone can afford to hire a lawyer to defend them and as such, public defenders have to take on lots of cases at once. Plus, they are notoriously underpaid.


With lots of clients to attend to, public defenders are pressed for time and as such, this limits the amount of time to formulate a legal defense that could potentially prevent or minimize the impact of a conviction.


It’s also worth keeping in mind that the court appoints your lawyer. This can inherently have serious consequences, especially if you find the defender assigned to you wholly unsatisfactory.


The Case for a Private Criminal Defense Lawyer

Hiring a private lawyer can be seen as the answer to most of the issues encountered with a public defender. For one, you are in charge of choosing your own criminal defense lawyer. You can choose to maintain your attorney if you’re satisfied with their performance, otherwise you can always break ties with them.


Time is one of the biggest benefits of hiring a private lawyer. The more time that a lawyer has dedicated to your case, the more likely it is to find the best possible solution. They can argue for your sentence to be reduced or have the case dismissed.


A private lawyer also has the benefit of having associates, paralegals, and staff to help with the case. You are also more likely to get a hold of a private lawyer on the phone because it’s unusual for them to be juggling tons of cases at one time.


There are good lawyers working for the state and federal government, and they usually get handed the big cases with minor ones given to entry level public defenders. If you don’t want to take any chances with your defense – or want the best possible outcome – get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney. The Law Office of Joel E. Lueck can help you with offenses such as DUI, possession and sale of narcotics, theft, domestic violence, and other criminal offenses.


dui charge

Why an Experienced Attorney is Essential for DUI Charges

Being accused of driving under the influence (DUI) should not be taken lightly. Each state has varying laws when it comes to a DUI charge, and the consequences can vary. Punishment can include paying a large fine or spending time in jail.


But it doesn’t just end there. Being charged for driving while intoxicated will be reflected in your criminal record and have consequences with the DMV and your insurance. Your employment can also be affected when charged.


Be it your first offense or not, you would most definitely want a light sentence or have the charges dropped entirely. For any of those situations to happen, you need to hire an experienced attorney with a specialization with handling DUI cases.


Why is it important to hire an experienced attorney?

A DUI charge is serious and can have various ramifications, including your employment. Some first time offenders don’t usually seek legal assistance and would most likely plead guilty.


However, the DUI laws per state vary and it helps to be informed about them to make the best possible decision. An attorney with years of experience in handling DUI cases can provide advice or counsel that could change the severity of your sentence.


Plea bargaining

A DUI charge will depend on the testimony of the arresting officer and your blood alcohol content (BAC). Conviction is less certain when BAC is between .08 and .11 and an attorney can plea bargain your case. For instance, the charge can be lessened from a DUI to reckless driving.


Criminal law and procedure

DUI attorneys have a deep understanding of criminal law and procedure which enables them to provide sound advice, whether a DUI charge is your first offense or not. Experienced attorneys also know how to evaluate individual cases accurately at the very early stages. As a result, the chances are high for a case – even one severe in nature – to be dismissed.


Sentence bargaining

You can plead guilty to DUI charges only if you know the exact nature of your sentence. Both the defense and the prosecution need to be in agreement on the sentence.


There are instances when you wouldn’t want to plead guilty, especially when drink driving was associated with the injury or death of another person. You would most likely want to know exactly what your sentence will be before pleading guilty. This is where having an experienced attorney is important to help you get the least severe punishment possible.


The laws concerning DUI are always changing. As such, it helps to have a criminal defense lawyer who is well versed in DUI law on your side. Hiring an experienced attorney is the first step to ensuring all your legal rights are protected.


Your lawyer will review your case thoroughly and can contest the legality of the charge or challenge the technical aspects of BAC testing. An experienced DUI attorney will help you make informed decisions on pleading a DUI case. With their help, you can get the lightest sentence possible or have your case dismissed.


criminal defense attorney

Criminal Defense Attorney: A Look at Wrongful Conviction Cases and What Causes Them

According to the results of a conducted study on wrongful convictions, about 4.1% of people given the death sentence in the United States are later discovered to be not guilty of the offenses they allegedly committed. While there are no exact figures on all criminal cases with errors in convictions, reports show that the numbers are high for several reasons. An experienced criminal defense attorney is often the difference in many cases.


As early as the 16th century, people have been accused, convicted, executed, and then afterward found innocent of the serious crimes they were tried for. The list includes twenty people accused of witchcraft and executed by hanging in the Salem witch trials in 1692 as well as a man named Charles Hudspeth who was also sentenced to hanging for the alleged murder of George Watkins who was later found to be alive and well.


One of the most recent cases of exoneration from wrongful convictions involve that of a rogue lab chemist from a state-operated drug testing laboratory in Massachusetts, Annie Dookhan. She was found guilty of perjury and tampering of evidence for about 24,000 criminal convictions.


During her trial, she admitted the offenses she committed which include tampering of drug samples, falsification of test results and deliberately misleading case investigators. These practices were done in the nine years she was employed by the drug laboratory she was working for.


What Factors Lead to Wrongful Convictions?


Weak Legal Defense

Proving the innocence of a defendant largely depends on how a defense team collects the pieces of evidence to show the accused is not guilty of the crime or crimes in question. A reliable and effective criminal defense attorney has the skills and knowledge to ask the right questions and come up with a strong legal defense for his or her client.


Failure to present the case properly and insufficient legal defense can get a guilty verdict even if the truth is exactly the opposite.


Forensic Misconduct

As in the case of the Dookhan who admitted and served prison time for meddling with forensics, thousands of people were convicted wrongly and suffered agonizing years in incarceration for crimes they did not take part of.


There was also the case of FBI agent Matthew Lowry who was able to steal drug evidence from the FBI lab which he took for personal use and consequently compromised more than 150 cases and sent drug offenders to serve prison time.


Wrongful Identification

This is another factor that contributes to the staggering increase in wrongful convictions. Eye witnesses are vital to the solving of criminal cases such as rape, murder and robbery. While there are credible witnesses, there are those who also fail to identify the right suspect and end up pointing out the wrong person.


It is not unusual for some victims to falsely accuse people of committing crimes or violations without really intending to. There was a case of a rape victim, Ann Meng who identified Julius Earl Ruffin as her assailant. After twenty years, DNA evidence exonerated the accused.


If you or a member of your family has been wrongfully accused of a civil or criminal offense, a reliable criminal defense attorney can represent you in court and help clear your name or that of a loved one. Do not let a wrongful conviction damage your reputation and that of the people you love. Talk to a criminal defense attorney who understands criminal law and the justice system.


DUI Charges Require An Experienced Attorney

If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, you could be facing serious repercussions, including fines, a long suspension of your driver’s license, and even jail time is possible. The penalties can be even more severe if you’ve been arrested for DUI twice, three times, or more.

With such serious consequence, you definitely need a skilled DUI Attorney to help with your case, it makes sense to have one on your side, especially retaining a DUI attorney who specializes in DUI cases. Having helped thousands of people in the same situation as you, DUI attorneys not only know the law, they know how the system works, and can use that knowledge to help protect your rights and fight for you, hoping to achieve the best possible outcome.

A DUI attorney can help you by looking for flaws and mistakes in the state’s case against you. This includes looking at the reasons the police pulled you over in the first place. In order for a traffic stop to be valid, the police must be able to show that you broke at least one traffic law or that they had some other logical reason for stopping you. An experienced DUI attorney can help determine if the traffic stop was valid or not.

A DUI attorney will also help you by looking for any errors made by the police while they conducting tests to determine if you were impaired or not. These tests can include field sobriety tests, breathalyzer tests, and the testing of blood samples if you refused to take a breathalyzer. A DUI attorney can help verify whether the testing was performed properly and according to the state’s guidelines, and if the testing equipment used was properly calibrated to prevent inaccurate and false readings. An experienced DUI attorney will also review other circumstances regarding your arrest, such as making sure you have been read your Miranda rights and that police respected those rights.

A DUI attorney will help you if you choose to go to court and fight the charges against you. They can formulate an effective and comprehensive legal strategy for your case, including jury selection, to make sure you receive a fair and impartial trial. They will also make sure that any evidence brought against you in the case is valid and admissible, and will work to suppress, or keep out any evidence that was improperly obtained or otherwise invalid.

If you’ve been arrested for DUI, Contact the Law Office of Joel E. Lueck immediately! I will fight to protect you rights and work with you to make sure your case has the best possible outcome.

Hiring a qualified DUI DWI lawyer is your best defense. Your lawyer will explain the potential consequences that could stem from a conviction. He can also explain penalties and programs that the court might order you to enter.

Risks Inherent When Relying on Public Defender’s Office

Kern County’s Public Defender’s Office appears to be pushed to the brink in terms of their ability to competently handle their caseload.

It is no secret that, over the past couple of years, a huge number of experienced and highly competent attorneys have left the Kern County Public Defender’s Office for private practice. And that Office has responded by repeatedly hiring fresh batches of new attorneys, usually straight out of law school, or with very little criminal defense experience. While this mentality certainly saves money, it leaves clients who depend on the service of the Public Defender (mainly for relatively minor offenses such as DUI, narcotics possession and sales, theft, spousal abuse or domestic violence, etc.) with added risks in their criminal cases that are already fraught with inherent potential pitfalls. Let me refer to two cases that I have handled just within the past week that prove my point:

Late last week a new client came in with a very straightforward possession of narcotics (H&S 11379 and H&S 11377) case. The case had been filed with the court in November. The client had been to court at least three separate times and each time the case was continued because she had not yet spoken with her assigned public defender, despite making numerous attempts and leaving several un-returned voice mail messages.

Another case that I inherited from the Public Defender’s Office in November when it was set for jury trial was dismissed today after only my third appearance. Not because of any magic trick or loophole that I was able to find, but rather simply because I had the time to take the extra step that the Public Defender did not.

The point is, when caseloads get so big that individual clients and cases are neglected, either in terms of client contact or preparation, it is the clients who suffer. Having an attorney who doesn’t have time to return calls and can only speak to you in court is nearly akin to having no attorney at all. Likewise, pushing a case to the brink of trial because even an experienced attorney doesn’t have the time or resources to “turn over every stone” is an unnecessary addition of risk to an already inherently risky situation.

To be fair though, the Kern County Public Defender’s Office does have a small core of dedicated and HIGHLY professional, experienced, and competent criminal defense attorneys and support staff; however, those attorneys are almost always assigned only the most serious and complex criminal cases.  If you or someone you know has been charged with a relatively minor offense (DUI, narcotics possession and sales, theft, spousal abuse or domestic violence, etc.), there can still be some very serious consequences.  Don’t take chances if you don’t have too! Hire an experienced and respected criminal defense attorney.  CALL THE LAW OFFICE OF JOEL E. LUECK TODAY

Hiring the Best DUI Attorney for You

If you are charged with DUI, finding the right attorney to handle your case will be all important. This professional can assist you in making decisions, provide answers to the questions your are bound to have related to appearing in court, and represent you there as well.

Searching for Your Attorney

You can begin your search for a DUI lawyer in Bakersfield by asking your family and friends if they can recommend an attorney who represents clients charged with driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence. In addition, doing an online search will certainly point you in the right direction for finding someone to take your case.

Working with the Public Defender

If you cannot afford to hire a DUI attorney, a public defender can be assigned to represent you. Note that public defenders do not specialize, and they often handle an assortment of criminal cases at the same time. Also, the time he or she has to devote to your case will be limited because they generally carry extremely large case loads. Consequently, both of you will have to make the best of an unfortunate situation.

As you try to choose a DUI lawyer in Bakersfield, consider the following factors:

  • the amount of experience your attorney should have, and
  • whether you want an attorney with a well-known partnership with impressive credentials.

In order to practice law, every attorney must be a member of the State Bar Association. The DUI lawyer you hire may also belong to the American Bar Association’s (ABA’s) Criminal Justice Section, the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys or your State Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. Any attorney you consider hiring should be able to provide you with a detailed list of criminal cases that they have successfully handled in the past.

What You Should Do

Prior to selecting your DUI lawyer  in Bakersfield, be sure to have all of your questions answered. For example, you can ask for references and information about your attorney’s educational background, rather than being overwhelmed by advertising that is meant to grab your attention as you make your choice. You will also want to know how much time will be devoted to your case and what fee scale applies.

Remember that if you spend the right amount of time and effort in choosing the DUI attorney who is right for you, you should be able to find one who inspires your confidence, someone you feel you can work with. This professional should answer your questions to your satisfaction and be well-equipped to defend you in court.

You Deserve to be Represented by Bakersfield’s Premier Criminal Defense Attorney

When individuals in Bakersfield are charged with any form of crime, they will need competent and professional assistance from an expert criminal attorney. The legal process is daunting to navigate, particularly for the criminal justice system.

Just as doctors specialize in medical areas, lawyers concentrate in various aspects of the law. Professional criminal attorneys know how the justice system works so that they can handle your case most effectively.

Regardless of the charge, only a professional criminal lawyer is prepared to ensure that your best interests are represented. This is why it is so important to select a defense lawyer that has experience with your particular type of case.

One place to begin your search for a competent Bakersfield criminal attorney is from the local Bar Associations. Most of these legal organizations have processes in place where people can call for a list of possible names or look for attorneys by specialty.

Another means of finding a criminal lawyer are online search databases such as those with the state bar. These databases usually have a way to enter information for location and specialty. For example, for a drunk driving charge, it is essential that you find an attorney who has experience in defending DUI cases. While family law experts are certainly competent, they usually have no trial experience, let alone the ability to handle a criminal case.

Before you contact a few attorneys to speak with, first think about the the type of outcome you wish to have. For example, if you would like to be cleared of all charges, you probably should choose a criminal attorney who has a good courtroom record of trial victories. However, if your goal is simply to negotiate the dismissal of certain charges and the best possile sentence on others, many attorneys specialize in attaining very favorable plea bargains for their clients. Any criminal defense lawyer you consider hiring should be able to show you a proven track record of both favorable negotiations and trial outcomes.

When you speak with a few lawyers, be sure to find out how long they have practiced law and how many years of experience he or she has with your particular type of case. In addition, be sure to understand the fee structure and what it includes. Many times, a criminal attorneys in Bakersfield will offer a free consultation, during which many of your questions should be answered.

Also find out who exactly will handle your case. For example, he or she may have a staff of lawyers that your case might be delegated to. The best Bakersfield criminal attorneys will handle your cases personally and provide the level of personal contact that you deserve.

For a free consultation with the premier criminal defense attorney in Bakersfield, Call the Law Office of Joel E. Lueck at (661)776-5879 and speak to a criminal defense attorney immediately!