UCLA Student Crystal T. Huynh Wins 2018 Spolin Law P.C. ScholarshipPublished on November 29, 2018
Spolin Law P.C. is pleased to announce the winner of their 2018 Spolin Law P.C. Civil Rights and Criminal Law Scholarship – Crystal T. Huynh. A student at the University of California – Los Angeles, Ms. Huynh will receive $1,000 towards her tuition and educational fees from Spolin Law P.C..
Ms. Huynh was chosen based on her application, academic record, essay, and commitment to and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution. As a first-generation American, Ms. Huynh recognizes that she is lucky to live in a country where she can express herself freely, and not live in fear of a government controlling or taking away her liberties. As she writes in her essay, “I am able to fully appreciate the way I am able to live my life because of this document. I can live in a society where my civil liberties are protected and not all people can say that. The Constitution is written proof of this and I am incredibly grateful for it.”
Ms. Huynh’s winning essay is listed below:
As stated in the Preamble, the U.S. Constitution was created to provide the people of the United States of America a government that would protect its citizens in both internal and external affairs for multiple generations. Americans would be able to live in a society where they had a set government that existed to serve them rather than take advantage of them. Throughout the years the Constitution has been amended to serve and protect every type of American. As a first generation American, I am no exception. If anything, the U.S. Constitution means more to me than Americans whose families have lived in this country for multiple generations because I get to see firsthand the difference between what this country provides for me and what my family’s birth country provides. I am able to have a better understanding of the Constitution because I know that I am both lucky and grateful to have it be the foundation of my country. For me, the U.S. Constitution means that I am able to live my life freely and equally because the government protects my civil liberties.
The Articles of the Constitution were written to establish the branches of government as well as to set guidelines for the states, for amending the Constitution, and for the country itself. To me, this means that I am represented in the government through my state’s representatives. My concerns are delivered all the way to the federal government to be heard. I have a say in who leads this country through elections. My liberties are preserved no matter which state I am in. I can influence change in the Constitution to fit current societal standards. These may seem like normal benefits that every American has, but to me they mean so much more because of the fact I am a first generation American.
My parents came from a country that controlled the people instead of protecting them. They had no voice and they were forced to live a life that they thought was wrong. The stories and lessons they told me made me realize how lucky I was to be in a country that put its citizens first. I do not have to live in fear of the government controlling the people because Articles 1 through 3 the Constitution established three branches that balance each other out. I do not have to worry about one state being more politically safe than another because Article 4 of the Constitution states that all states will honor the laws of all other states. I do not have to worry about living by past beliefs because Article 5 of the Constitution details guidelines on amending the Constitution. I do not have to think about my liberties being taken away because Article 6 states that the Constitution, along with all laws and treatise of the U.S., to be the supreme law of the land. If I was living in my parent’s birth country, these Articles would not exist and I would be living in constant fear. This part of the Constitution to me means that my parents sacrificed everything to come to this country to allow me to live freely without fear.
The Constitution also includes the many Amendments that details the civil liberties that every American has. I am allowed to freely speak, vote, and even protect myself against the government if officials improperly search my property or cruelly punish me thanks to the Amendments in the Bill of Rights, the Civil War Amendments, and the 26th Amendment. These Amendments are there to protect my liberties from being taken away from the government. They allow the people to retain some power so that the government cannot fully control them like in a dictatorship. Other Amendments such as the 17th Amendment give citizens more political power so that the government does not become corrupt. Not only do I have a voice in the government through someone who represents me, I get to help choose that representative. These Amendments give people the power to move society, and I am able to have a part in all this because of the Constitution.
The Amendments of the Constitution to me mean that I have the right to stand up for myself, something that my parents could not do in their birth country. I do not have to worry about saying the wrong thing in public or not being able to vote because of who I am. I do not have to worry about the government not caring about its citizens and staying in power because there is no way to vote them out. I do not have to be living a lifeless life filled with worry and fear of the government. Thanks to my parents, I get to live in a country whose Constitution protects its citizens, and I am reminded every day of how lucky I am compared to my parents. I do not have to face the hardships they did when they were younger because of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution means I can just live my life while being a part of society, and that is truly a gift for which I am grateful for.
As a first generation American, I grew up listening to the childhood stories of my parents who lived in a different country. Comparing life in their birth country to the U.S., I did not realize how powerful a document like the U.S. Constitution could be in creating the foundation of a society where the government serves to protect its citizens rather than harm them. I am able to fully appreciate the way I am able to live my life because of this document. I can live in a society where my civil liberties are protected and not all people can say that. The Constitution is written proof of this and I am incredibly grateful for it. It means the world to me that I get to live my life freely and it is all because of the U.S. Constitution.
Spolin Law P.C. selected a second student as an honorable mention in acknowledgment of her application and supplemental material:
- Honorable Mention – Chloe Stoddard, Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
We sincerely appreciate all of this year’s applicants and the hard work they put into their applications. If you have an interest in applying for next year’s scholarship, the deadline is October 1, 2019.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Appeals and Civil Rights Attorney
If you’ve been accused of committing a criminal offense in Southern California, or already convicted, don’t try to handle the situation on your own. Contact a lawyer from Spolin Law P.C. for help. The Los Angeles criminal law attorneys at our firm have years of experience handling a wide variety of cases, and we are dedicated to ensuring our clients’ rights remain protected throughout the entire criminal justice process. To schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case, contact us today at (310) 424-5816.
What You Should Know About the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention ActPublished on November 28, 2018
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime and the prosecutor is accusing you of being a gang member, you need to contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney right away. Contact our award-winning criminal attorneys by calling 310-424-5816 to schedule a free consultation today.
In California, it is illegal to be a member of a gang because of the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (also known as the STEP Act). Outlined in Penal Code §186.22, the STEP Act makes it a substantive crime to be an active participant in any criminal street gang. It also creates a sentencing enhancement for felonies committed for the benefit of the gang.
If you can be connected to any street gang in California, then you face harsh charges and penalties. You need to work with an experienced and aggressive Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. To schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case, contact us today at 310-424-5816.
The Crime of Being a Gang Member
To combat street terrorism in California in the 1980s, the state legislature enacted the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. From the Act, lawmakers decided to punish someone for being a member of a gang in addition to any crime that person may have committed.
Under Penal Code (PC) §186.22(a), if you actively participate in any criminal street gang, with knowledge of its criminal, and who promotes criminal conduct by the gang members, you can a criminal conviction. Street terrorism is a wobbler offense, meaning it can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. As such, you can be punished with up to one year in a county jail or 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison.
What is a Street Gang?
The Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act definition of a criminal street gang is vital when it comes to whether you can be charged with an offense under the law or face a sentence enhancement.
Under PC §186.22(f), a criminal street gang is any continuous, formal (or informal) group with three or more people whose main activity is “committing one or more of the predicate crimes,” who have a common name/symbol, and who participate in criminal activities on a regular basis.
Listed in PC §186.22(e)(1)-(33), predicate crimes include, but are not limited to:
- Homicide and manslaughter
- Drug crimes
- Gun crimes
- Money laundering
- Credit card crimes
Many of these offenses are considered common street gang offenses. If you face accusations of assaulting someone with a deadly weapon, causing great bodily harm, sexual battery or rape, illegal possession of a firearm, illegally discharging a gun, or trafficking drugs, the prosecutor may try to connect you to a gang so that they can punish you more severely.
Sentencing Enhancements for Gang-Related Crimes
Under Penal Code §186.22(b)(1), if you committed a crime in relation to a gang, and did so because you are in a gang, then the prosecutor is going to seek a sentence enhancement. At the court’s discretion, you can face an additional two, three, or four years in prison. Depending on the severity of your offense, the sentence could even increase by five to 10 years.
Alternative Sentencing for Public Offenses Committed to Benefit a Gang
In 2000, California passed Proposition 21. This proposition created an alternative sentencing scheme for certain gang-related offenses. Now, under PC §186.22(d), if you are convicted of a public offense, whether it is a misdemeanor or felony, and said crime was committed for a gang, you can face a felony punishment and additional incarceration. You can then face one year in county jail, or one, two, or three years in prison. However, if a misdemeanor public offense becomes a felony crime under the law, then the prosecutor cannot also add a gang-related sentencing enhancement.
Have You Been Charged With a Crime Under the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act? Contact Us for Help
If you or a loved one have been accused of committing a gang crime or are facing a sentencing enhancement for an alleged street terrorism offense, you need an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to represent you. At Spolin Law P.C., we are experienced with charges under the STEP Act. Let us defend you. We will fight for you to not face gang-related charges. We will also strive to mitigate the consequences of any possible conviction.
How Long Do Prosecutors Have to File Criminal Charges?Published on November 7, 2018
How Long Do Prosecutors Have To File Charges in California?
If you or a loved one are under investigation for a crime in California, you likely want to ask a lot of questions. One of these may be how long Los Angeles prosecutors have to file criminal charges against you. The answer to that question depends on several factors. Most criminal cases have a statute of limitations, which is the period of time a prosecutor has to file charges or to seek a felony indictment against you from a grand jury. The specific statute of limitations depends on the crime you allegedly committed.
To learn more about criminal statutes of limitations and how long a prosecutor has to file charges, call a Los Angeles criminal lawyer from Spolin Law P.C. at 310-424-5816 to schedule a free consultation. You can also contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
California’s Criminal Statute of Limitations
California’s law regarding statutes of limitations for criminal cases can be found in California Penal Code (PC), Part 2, Title 3, Chapter 2, §§799-805: Time of Commending Criminal Actions.
In general, the law states:
- For felony crimes punishable by eight years or more in prison, charges must be commenced within six years of when the crime was committed.
- For felony crimes punishable by less than eight years in prison, prosecutors have three years from when the offense was committed to file charges.
- For misdemeanor crimes, charges must be brought within three years, two years, or one of the offense, depending on the specific details of the crime.
There are several statutes of limitations that address specific offenses and give Los Angeles prosecutors a longer period of time to file charges, so it’s important to retain the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney right away if someone alleges you committed an offense.
When the Statute of Limitations May be Paused, Delayed, or Extended
The statute of limitations is like a clock. On the date the crime was committed, the clock begins to run. The prosecutor has to learn of the crime, investigate, gather evidence, and file charges before the clock runs out of time.
However, there are many circumstances in which the clock does not start right away, the clock starts but it is paused in the middle, or the deadline extends.
For certain offenses in California, the clock does not begin to run until the crime is discovered or could reasonably be discovered. Law enforcement may not find out about a crime for months or years after it was committed, and in some cases, that is when the clock begins to run.
The statute of limitations on a crime may not begin until law enforcement have a suspect. This often happens with cold cases. A crime may have been committed years ago, but there were no viable leads at the time. Years later, new DNA information may be relevant to the closed case. This re-opens the file and may start the clock for the statute of limitations years after the date the crime was actually committed. In California, prosecutors have one year to file charges from the date DNA is used to establish a suspect. However, cold cases can be complicated. If you or a loved one are implicated in a cold case, call a criminal defense lawyer immediately.
When the defendant is out of the state, this allows the statute of limitations to be “tolled” for three years. In other words, it pauses. If the defendant is actively evading arrest, the statute of limitations is tolled indefinitely. Additionally, for certain felony sex crimes that are committed against minors, prosecutors have 10 years after the minor’s 18th birthday to file charges. The time to file charges is then extended until the victim’s 28th birthday.
There are many ways in which prosecutors can get a longer period of time before they file charges. If you are unsure of your rights, contact a Los Angeles criminal lawyer to review your situation.
Crimes Without a Statute of Limitations
Crimes that are punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole or death do not have a time limit, under PC §799(a). If you are accused of committing one of these types of crimes, then there is no limit to when Los Angeles prosecutors may bring a criminal case against you. This statute also says there is no statute of limitations for embezzlement of public money.
Under PC §799(b), there is no statute of limitations for certain sex crimes, such as child molestation, if it was committed on or after January 1, 2017, and for offenses for which the original statute of limitations had not run by January 1, 2017.
Are You Under Investigation? Call a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for Help
Los Angeles prosecutors have varying periods of time in which they can file criminal charges for cases committed within the state. If you or a loved one are under investigation for a crime, and you feel like the issue is handing over your heads, call the criminal defense lawyers at Spolin Law P.C. for help. We will thoroughly review your situation and advise you of the relevant statute of limitations.