Spolin Law Client Walks Free Hours After DA George Gascon Dismisses Murder ChargesPublished on February 2, 2021
Yesterday a Spolin Law client tearfully reunited with his mother after a long period of imprisonment for a murder he did not commit. The dismissal was formally handed down by Judge Shellie Samuels of Department 112 in Van Nuys Courthouse.
The murder dismissal came about in great part because of the newly-elected District Attorney, George Gascon. Mr. Gascon had campaigned on a promise of criminal justice reform, and he has been quick to implement a series of “special directives” that show increased compassion for inmates and criminal defendants.
This case had already received significant media coverage for Judge Samuels’ earlier decision to reject the DA’s attempt to dismiss the gang enhancements. (See media coverage: Judge Opposes Gascon’s Reforms, Los Angeles Daily News, 12/17/20. Gascon Blacklists Judge for Policy Noncompliance, Fox 11 Los Angeles, 12/16/20). The judge eventually gave in on the dismissal of the gang enhancements and then, yesterday, agreed to dismiss the entire case.
The client owes a great deal to his mother, who was an absolute fighter and never gave up on him. She had retained Spolin Law for her son’s case and encouraged the firm’s aggressive practice of filing extensive legal motions in court.
As attorney Jeremy Cutcher pointed out: “I’ve never seen a mother so involved in her adult-son’s case. And in the end, she got what she was fighting for. It’s wonderful to see.”
To speak with Mr. Cutcher, Mr. Spolin, or any attorney at Spolin Law about your own case, call us at (866) 716-2805.
What is a Certificate of Rehabilitation?Published on December 14, 2020
A criminal record simply makes your life harder. It may prevent you from being hired, getting an apartment, obtaining a professional license, qualifying for government programs, and receiving student loans. Criminal records usually are publicly available and easily found.
There are some ways to improve your situation. If you are eligible, Spolin Law P.C. can assist you in obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation. It’s one of the few ways you can limit the harm caused by your criminal record in California, New York, or Texas. Call (310) 424-5816 or contact us online for a free consultation.
A Certificate of Rehabilitation Can Help You Get Your Life Back
A Certificate of Rehabilitation won’t expunge or seal your record, but it may be your best option if expungement or other post-conviction remedies aren’t available.
Under California law, it’s illegal for an employer with five or more employees to fail to hire someone because of their convictions if they have a certificate of rehabilitation. The certificate also functions as an automatic pardon application.
Under California law, the certificate is issued by a court and attests to your rehabilitation after a conviction. Texas and New York have their own versions. With this certificate, you can recover some of your legal rights. It should also be easier to find a job.
The process involves filling out a form, gathering evidence to support your application, and a court hearing. If you receive a certificate:
- Your civil rights are restored, except your 2nd Amendment rights concerning firearms
- You can’t be denied public licensing or employment (with some limits) due to your conviction
- Depending on the crime, you may no longer need to register as a sex offender
Do You Qualify for a Certificate of Rehabilitation?
The certificate won’t erase your felony conviction or seal the criminal record. If you served time in either state prison or county jail, you might qualify if you:
- Haven’t been re-incarcerated after your release
- Continuously lived in California for at least five years since your release. Some violent and sex-related crimes have longer waiting periods
- Have proof of your rehabilitation since your release
- Aren’t on probation for another felony
- Were convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison, another California state penal institution or agency, or
- Were convicted of a felony and sentenced to probation, and your conviction has been expunged, or
- Were convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense in Penal Code 290 (the Sex Offender Registration Act), and your conviction has been expunged
Proof of rehabilitation can be shown by:
- A record of consistent employment
- Getting drug, alcohol, or domestic abuse counseling
- Engaging in community events and affairs
- Volunteering for non-profit organizations
- Not having an arrest record
- Active involvement in your children’s lives
- Positive letters from employers, clergy, neighbors, community leaders, or volunteer agencies
After filing your application, a hearing is held. You or your attorney will make your case and evidence that you qualify for the certificate. If the court issues the certificate, it’s reviewed by the Board of Parole Hearings. It will later issue a recommendation as to whether the Governor should pardon you.
Take the Next Step. Contact Spolin Law P.C.
A Certificate of Rehabilitation can help get your life back after serving your sentence and successfully returning to society. To learn more about how you can obtain one or to get our help in the process, call Spolin Law P.C. at (310) 424-5816 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
New LA District Attorney George Gascon Promises to Re-Open Thousands of Old CasesPublished on December 9, 2020
The new Los Angeles District Attorney, George Gascon, has promised to re-open thousands of old cases for California prison inmates with Los Angeles County convictions.
George Gascon defeated the prior District Attorney (Jackey Lacey) in the November election last month. He was sworn into office this past Monday, December 7th, 2020. Mr. Gascon then shocked the legal community by announcing a wide array of sweeping reforms and a retroactive application of most of these reforms.
“Retroactive” means that the many of the new changes will affect convictions in the past, whether they are from 25 years ago or from the day before Mr. Gascon took office.
This article was written by one of the criminal appeals lawyers at Spolin Law P.C. To find out more about how George Gascon’s election can affect your case, call our firm at (866) 716-2805.
TYPES OF CASES AFFECTED
The new policies issued by the Gascon administration are listed in a series of special directives that were published on December 7, 2020. They affect the following cases:
Cases with Sentence Enhancements
Special Directive 20-08 commands all prosecutors to abolish sentence enhancements (including gang enhancements, strikes, three-strike penalties).
Juveniles Tried in Adult Court
Special Directive 20-09 orders the abolition of the use of adult court for juveniles. Special Directive 20-14 also orders the re-opening and re-sentencing of “all cases where the defendant was a minor at the time of the offense.”
Writs of Habeas Corpus
Special Directive 20-10 stops the prior practice of automatically opposing all writs of habeas corpus. Now, the DA Habeas Unit “shall not simply oppose the petitioner’s claim” when the inmate’s claims are “supported by reasonably available evidence.”
Special Directive 20-13 completely changes the practices of the Conviction Integrity Unit so that the DA’s Office is tasked with helping prove the innocence of inmates where there are “avenues of investigation that have the potential to substantiate the applicant’s claim(s).”
Inmates with Overly-Long Sentences
As Mr. Gascon said himself: “the sentences we impose in this country, in this state, and in Los Angeles County are far too long…. [and I] campaigned on stopping the practice of imposing excessive sentences.” (Special Directive 20-14, 12/7/2020, page 2, italics added). Special Directive 20-14 orders the DA’s Office to allow a review of old sentences and use all available legal methods to fairly resentence inmates who received overly-long sentences.
HOW AN INMATE CAN BENEFIT
The election of George Gascon is great news for California inmates with Los Angeles County cases. However, not every inmate will benefit from the new DA’s changes. Here are some steps that may help you in winning a reduced sentence for yourself or a loved one.
Find a Skilled Appeals Lawyer
While Mr. Gascon is clearly an ally in reducing inmate sentences, he is limited by the laws that currently exist. Spolin Law P.C. handles post-conviction matters for clients throughout California and has experience reaching out to the DA’s Office through some of the legal methods described below.
Learn About New Laws AB 2942 / PC 1170d1
One way to get Mr. Gascon’s DA Office to reconsider a case is to apply under the new law AB 2942, which went into effect in 2019. AB 2942 allows each District Attorney’s Office in California to recommend resentencing for old convictions that occurred in that county. The law, written into the Penal Code, is one way to seek the new DA’s help in reducing an overly long sentence.
As one local attorney recently said, “It’s like the DA’s Office is now being run by a true-believer defense attorney.” Nonetheless, there are tens of thousands of unfair sentences that have been handed down in Los Angeles County over the last several decades. In order to benefit from these new policy changes, you will have to take some type of action so that your case gets noticed. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Speak to your lawyer (or find a lawyer) so that you can begin this process. The appeals lawyers at Spolin Law P.C. are available to review cases and make recommendations.
To speak with a criminal law attorney at Spolin Law P.C., call us at (866) 716-2805.
Attorney at Law Magazine Features Spolin Law P.C. in a Cover Story About the Firm’s Successes and Mission StatementPublished on December 9, 2020
The October 2020 New York edition of Attorney at Law Magazine profiled Spolin Law P.C. in a wide-ranging article about the firm’s successful advocacy and its mission statement of treating all clients with respect.
As the article notes, the firm’s fights to win its cases while also treating clients and family members with respect and dignity.
To learn more about Spolin Law and how its criminal appeals lawyers can help on your case, call us at (866) 716-2805.
What is a Wobbler Offense?Published on December 8, 2020
A wobbler offense, also called an “alternative felony/misdemeanor offense,” is a crime that can be charged or punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor in California. Usually the prosecutor decides whether to charge a wobbler as a felony or as a misdemeanor. In some cases judges will decide how to punish a wobbler offense. In addition, a defendant convicted of a wobbler felony may choose to file a petition with the court to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor. In California there are hundreds of crimes that qualify as wobblers. These include sex crimes, domestic violence, and fraud crimes.
When can the wobbler offense be reduced to a misdemeanor?
There exist four times when a wobbler crime can be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor:
- When the prosecution first charges the offense;
- At a felony preliminary hearing when the defendant is held to answer;
- During sentencing; or
- If the defendant was not sentenced to prison, after the defendant has done California’s felony probation and filed a petition to reduce the charge.
How do prosecutors decide how to charge a crime?
California does not mandate how a prosecutor should charge a wobbler crime, it remains at the discretion of the prosecutor. In California prosecutors often follow the crime charging standards put out by the California District Attorneys Association. They suggest prosecutors look at the following factors to inform their decision:
- The defendant’s cooperation with law enforcement;
- The age of the defendant;
- The severity of the crime;
- The defendant’s criminal record;
- The chances of defendant continuing to commit crimes;
- If the defendant is eligible for probation;
- How strong the prosecution’s case is.
When do judges reduce a wobbler felony to a misdemeanor?
Judges, like prosecutors, have the discretion to reduce wobblers to misdemeanors from Penal Code 17. The judge can make this choice at either:
- The preliminary hearing,
- The time of sentencing, or
- Following the defendant’s petition to reduce a wobbler felony to a misdemeanor, for cases where the defendant was sentenced to and already completed California’s felony probation.
Judges are not bound by the prosecutor’s decision on how to charge the crime. If there are mitigating circumstances of the crime, judges are able to reduce a wobbler felony down to a misdemeanor. These mitigating circumstances are circumstances that argue in the favor of the judge being more lenient in sentencing. These mitigating factors include, among many others,
- The defendant not having any priors or an insignificant criminal record,
- The defendant played only a minor role in the crime
- The defendant’s acknowledgement of the wrongdoing and/or restitution to the victim early on in the criminal process
- The defendants earlier behavior on probation or parole was satisfactory.
How does one get a wobbler conviction expunged?
Expungement is a type of post-conviction relief in California that is available to most wobblers. For wobblers it does not matter if the charge ended up as a felony or as a misdemeanor conviction. Eligible defendants can petition for an expungement following a completed probation. If the court grants the expungement, the case is to be dismissed with no conviction. In addition, the defendant does not have to tell any employers in the future about the case. Those not eligible for expungement are people convicted of certain sex crimes involving children. Additionally, in order for the defendant to qualify they must also have not served time in California State Prison for their offense, or had served jail time in a state prison for a crime that would be now served in county jail following Proposition 47’s new legislation.
Contact Spolin Law for Help
If you have any questions about wobbler offenses, you can call Spolin Law PC at (866) 716-2805. We have offices in Los Angeles, CA, Austin, TX, and Manhattan, NY.
Spolin Law P.C. Awards 2020 Civil Rights & Criminal Law Scholarship WinnerPublished on November 5, 2020
Spolin Law P.C. is proud to announce the winner of our 2020 Civil Rights and Criminal Law Scholarship. This year, Spolin Law P.C. has chosen Javier Nicholas Ordieres who will receive a $1,000 scholarship to use toward tuition and other educational expenses.
Created in 2017, the Spolin Law P.C. Civil Rights and Criminal Law Scholarship was developed to support students whose work brings awareness to civil rights issues. This falls in line with the firm’s overarching goals of representing individuals whose rights have been violated and protecting each person’s right to be treated with dignity.
Mr. Ordieres was selected based on his impressive scholastic achievements, combined with his essay, which spoke to the heart of the US Constitution, as more than words on a page. Mr. Ordieres not only captured the faults of our government, but the enduring hope the document imparts, to citizens and immigrants alike – our promised inheritance as Americans.
You can read Mr. Ordieres’ entire essay here.
Javier will be attending the University of Georgia in Athens in the fall, and our team of Los Angeles criminal appeals attorneys looks forward to seeing how leaders like him will preserve and advance the values of the Constitution and support human rights in coming years. We firmly believe that the future of America will be built by compassionate individuals and civil rights leaders.
The Spolin Law P.C. Civil Rights and Criminal Law Scholarship aims to encourage students from different fields to apply.
Cliente Celebra Junto A Sus Abogados Su Libertad Después De La Modificación De Una Sentencia A Cadena PerpetuaPublished on October 9, 2020
Al inicio de esta semana, uno de los clientes de Spolin Law, visitó la oficina de la firma para celebrar su nueva libertad. Después de que la firma trabajara durante dos años en este caso, la sentencia a cadena perpetua del cliente fue desestimada y finalmente, fue liberado días antes de que ocurriera la reunión.
La prometida del cliente, así como su padre y su madre, estuvieron presentes en la feliz ocasión. Los empleados de Spolin Law que también estuvieron presentes fueron el abogado Aaron Spolin; la abogada Caitlin Dukes; la manager del caso, Hemi Tann y el director de sala de expediciones de la firma, Michael Alfi.
Originalmente, el cliente había sido condenado por el delito de homicidio, debido a que una persona falleció al momento en que ocurría un robo en el cual el cliente participó. Sin embargo, el cliente no estuvo involucrado en lo absoluto con el fallecimiento de esa persona, tampoco quería que sucediera y de ninguna forma pudo evitar que sucediera la serie de eventos que eventualmente condujeron a la muerte de una persona. A pesar de este hecho, la Oficina del Fiscal de Distrito había acusado al cliente de asesinato. Con base en los cambios que la ley estatal ha tenido desde que fue condenado, el juez estuvo de acuerdo con los abogados de Spolin Law acerca de que la condena por homicidio del cliente tenía que ser desechada, arrojando como resultado la resentencia que eliminó la cadena perpetua.
La firma había ganado el caso varios meses atrás (ver la anterior liga); sin embargo, tanto el Departamento de Correcciones y Rehabilitación de California (CDCR, por sus siglas en inglés) como la prisión, mantuvieron inapropiadamente bajo custodia al cliente, debido interpretación inexacta del tiempo que el cliente ya tenía acreditado. La abogada de Spolin Law, Caitlin Dukes, contactó insistentemente al CDCR para resolver este asunto y conseguir que el centro liberara al cliente. El cliente ahora está considerando establecer una demanda por daños y perjuicios, por haber sido indebidamente confinado durante los meses extra que pasó en prisión.
“Fue hermoso ver a toda la familia reunida”, dijo Hemi Tann, quien es manager de casos dentro de la firma. “Me sentí muy bien al saber que ayudamos a esta familia a recuperar a su hijo”.
Al cliente ya le han ofrecido un trabajo como mecánico automotriz y espera pronto empezar a trabajar. Finalmente tendrá la oportunidad de recuperar los años que perdió y podrá empezar de nuevo su vida junto a su prometida, quien lo apoyó durante todo el proceso.
Para conocer más sobre este caso o cualquier otro asunto de apelación con un abogado de Spolin Law, llámenos al (310) 424-5816.
Client Celebrates Freedom with His Lawyers After Life Sentence Is OverturnedPublished on October 9, 2020
Earlier this week a Spolin Law client visited the firm’s office to celebrate his newfound freedom. After two years of work by the firm, the client’s life sentence was dismissed, and he was finally released shortly before the office meeting.
The client and his family celebrated with Spolin Law attorneys and staff. Pictured, right to left, are Aaron Spolin (attorney), C.T. Jr. (client), Caitlin Dukes (attorney), Hemi Tann (case manager), C.T. Sr. (client’s father), Michael Alfi (firm mailroom manager), D.T. (mother), and T.A. (fiancé).
The client’s fiancé, father, and mother were present at the happy occasion. Spolin Law employees present also included attorney Aaron Spolin, attorney Caitlin Dukes, case manager Hemi Tann, and mailroom manager Michael Alfi.
The client had originally been convicted of murder because a person had died during the course of a robbery in which the client participated. However, the client had absolutely nothing to do with the death, did not want it to happen, and had been powerless to stop the unfortunate chain of events that eventually lead to the death. Notwithstanding this fact, the District Attorney’s Office had charged the client with murder. Based on changes in state law since the conviction, the judge agreed with the Spolin Law attorneys that the client’s murder conviction had to be dismissed, resulting in a re-sentencing that eliminated the life sentence.
The firm had won the client’s case several month ago (see earlier link); however, the CDCR and prison facility had improperly kept the client in custody due to an inaccurate interpretation of the client’s time credits. Spolin Law attorney Caitlin Dukes repeatedly contacted the CDCR to resolve this issue and get the facility to actually release the client. The client is now considering a money-damages lawsuit for improper confinement during the extra months he spent in prison.
“It was beautiful to see their whole family together,” said Hemi Tann, who is a case manager at the firm. “I felt wonderful knowing that we had helped this family get their son back.”
The client has already been offered a job as an auto mechanic and hopes to begin work shortly. He will finally have a chance to make up for the years he lost and start his life over with his fiancé, who supported him throughout the process.
How to Choose a Law Firm for a Criminal AppealPublished on September 21, 2020
If you have been convicted of and sentenced for a crime, you have the right to appeal that conviction or sentence. Numerous complex rules set the time and manner in which you must file your appeal. You have a limited window to find a criminal appeals lawyer to take your case. With so many criminal law firms out there, how do you choose the one that can handle your particular case? Your appeal is one of the few ways to have your conviction or sentence overturned, so you have a lot at stake. Choosing the wrong firm may prevent a successful appeal.
Factors To Consider When Picking a Appeal Law Firm
Below are factors to consider in choosing the right law firm for you. No one factor is determinative, and the factors overlap in some instances. The list provides guidance in selecting the firm that can best represent you in a challenging appeal.
- Knowledge: are the attorneys at the firm knowledgeable of the area of law relating to your case? Some lawyers practice in many areas of the law, criminal law included. For simple criminal cases at the trial court level, hiring such a lawyer might make sense. For a criminal appeal, however, you want a firm that has in-depth knowledge of the procedural and substantive law related to criminal appeals. The timelines, rules, and standards of judicial review are significantly different for an appeal than for a trial. Look for a law firm whose attorneys are schooled in criminal appellate law to obtain the best representation.
- Experience: do the attorneys at the firm have experience in representing clients in your situation? Experience in criminal appeals is key to a successful outcome. Many excellent trial lawyers are available, and some do appeals. However, you want a law firm or an attorney who has significant experience specifically in appellate work. Such experience shows that the attorney or law firm knows what works and what doesn’t in a criminal appeal and helps to provide the most efficient, effective representation.
- Expertise: do the attorneys at the firm have the expertise to achieve success in criminal appeals? The next factor to consider is the firm’s success in appealing criminal convictions. All the knowledge and experience that an attorney may possess does not always equal success. You want an attorney or law firm whose strategies and arguments result in positive outcomes.
Such success may be reflected in an attorney’s status within the profession. Being a top lawyer in the field or being a speaker or leader in the criminal appeals area of law indicates an expertise that other attorneys or firms may not have. Attorneys are named top lawyers for a reason; their dedication to and success in criminal appeals mean that they provide extraordinary representation.
- Resources: does the firm have the resources to investigate, research, and pursue the appeal? A criminal appeals law firm, large or small, should have an arsenal of resources to investigate your case to maximize the likelihood of success on appeal.
Besides attorneys, look at whether the firm has paralegals, dedicated legal research personnel, and private investigators to handle your appeal. Many facets make up an appeal, and specialized personnel dedicated to handle those different facets help the attorneys to prepare a thorough, well-reasoned appeal that is supported by law and fact.
- Dedication: is the firm dedicated to your case, rather than treating you like just another case in a revolving door? If the law firm takes on every criminal appeal that comes through its doors, your case might fall through the cracks or be handled without the thorough, careful treatment that an appeal warrants. Hiring a firm that represents only select cases increases the firm’s focus on you and your case.
- Edge: does the firm have that “X Factor”? Look for a firm that has something unique to offer, something that gives it an edge over other firms and over the opposition. An attorney’s background can provide this factor. It may seem counterintuitive to select an attorney who was once a prosecutor, for example, but such an attorney would have valuable insight into the strategies of the other side on appeal. Being able to predict and undermine the opposition’s arguments on appeal increases the chances of success.
Contact Spolin Law for Help
With so much at stake, choosing an attorney for your appeal may seem overwhelming. The above factors may help you in selecting an attorney who can maximize your chance of success on appeal. As stated, no one factor is determinative; you want to consider all of them in making the crucial choice of an appellate attorney.
Criminal Appeals News – Wrongfully Convicted Frances Choy ReleasedPublished on September 14, 2020
In 2003, 17-year-old Frances Choy was arrested in Brockton, Mass. for pouring gasoline around her home and setting a fire that killed her parents. After two trials where the jury failed to reach a verdict, in 2011 she was on murder and arson charges and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Kenneth Choy, Ms. Choy’s 16-year-old nephew, who also lived in the home, was tried on murder charges but was aquitted shortly after Ms. Choy’s first mistrial and quickly after fled to Hong Kong in 2008.
This September, Judge Linda E. Giles vacated the convictions following Ms. Choy’s lawyers’ discovery of multiple issues that occurred at her third trial, when she was indicted. In addition, Judge Giles also ruled that emails that recently emerged proved the trial prosecutors showed “racial animus” against Ms. Choy and members of her family. These emails include exchanges of images of Asian people, some with derogatory comments, ‘jokes’ about Asian stereotypes, and cartoons mocking Asian people speaking imperfect Asian. The prosecutors’ disturbing emails went even further and made jokes insinuating Ms. Choy committed incest with Kenneth Choy, who now, with new evidence, is thought to be the one who had actually set the fire and blamed Ms. Choy.
The numerous problems that occurred at Ms. Choy’s third trial are now revealed, which, in combination with the discriminatory emails, led to Judge Giles overturning the conviction. At her trial the prosecutors made Ms. Choy out to be an emotionless killer who wanted her parents’ life insurance and to spend more time with her boyfriend. Prosecutors presented Ms. Choy’s sweatpants that she was wearing after the fire as evidence from a State Police chemist, claiming the sweatpants tested positive for gasoline residue. Yet, following her conviction, Ms. Choy’s legal team hired an analytical chemist who concluded that no gasoline residue was on her sweatpants. Although Kenneth had already been suspected in setting the fire, after he testified against Ms. Choy, her attorney did not bother to call an expert witness or interview others about Kenneth’s role in the fire. The key witness, who Ms. Choy’s trial lawyer did not contact, was a friend of Kenneth’s, who later put in a sworn statement that Kenneth admitted he started the fire. The key witness said Kenneth did so out of revenge, and even bragged about being found not guilty. Prosecutors also withheld the knowledge of two other fires at the home while Ms. Choy was incarcerated.
The prosecutors involved were Karen O’Sullivan and John Bradley. O’Sullivan left the Plymouth County’s district attorney’s office years ago and now works in the Bristol County’s DA office, while Bradley was fired from the Plymouth office in 2012. While incarcerated, Ms. Choy pursued a bachelor’s degree from Boston University, and graduated magna cum laude. Her Attorney John Barter said, in a statement from People magazine, that “This may be the first case in the U.S. where a murder conviction has been thrown out because of racism on the part of prosecutors.” Her other Attorney Sharon Beckman agreed and shared, “Frances can never get back the 17 years the criminal legal system took from her, but we are overjoyed at her exoneration and hope her case will inspire meaningful reform,” according to the New York Times.
We too hope this case will lead to reform, in not just the realm of wrongful convictions, but the racism that exists that often leads to them. The racially degrading comments of the prosecutors in this case, and more subtly in many others, caused both the prosecutors and the jury to view Ms. Choy as a stereotype and disregards her humanity. Thanks to Ms. Choy’s persistence and the support and work of her attorney’s, Ms. Choy was able to achieve justice that is long overdue. With her attorneys she was able to fight back against the system, and hopefully will inspire others to do the same. We are glad to see Ms. Choy win back her life, and hope to help others do the same.