Legal Blog

Innocent Spolin Law Client Charged with Murder Walks Free After All Charges Dropped

Published on July 19, 2019

This past Tuesday shortly before noon a Spolin Law client charged with murder walked free after a judge dismissed the charges against him.

The client — a high school senior — had been charged with murder based on his alleged participation in a street racing contest where another driver had struck and killed a pedestrian. The client had not in fact been participating in any street racing and was not the driver who struck the pedestrian. The case was heard by Judge William Wood of the San Diego County Superior Court, Juvenile Division. The client’s family had hired Spolin Law P.C. to write the motion to dismiss the case and had also hired attorney Carl Bradley Patton to represent the client in the “jurisdiction hearing” that resulted in the dismissal.

Spolin Law’s motion to dismiss argued that all charges against the client should be dismissed and that the prosecution had not in fact presented evidence showing the client’s participation in a car racing contest. In support of this argument, the motion cited numerous prior cases with similar fact patterns and highlighted that convictions in other courts for the same crime were not analogous; other cases had all involved significantly more evidence of actual racing. The arguments were enough to persuade the Superior Court judge to drop all charges—including the murder charge—and dismiss the case.

When the ruling was announced, a wave of relief swept through the client’s family seated in the courtroom. The client himself let out a deep sigh of relief and, with tears in his eyes, embraced his father and other family members who were in the court. At that moment he was a free man, and he walked out of the courthouse with his family moments later. He will now be able to return to his life, which will include completing high school, applying to colleges, playing sports, and being with his family.

For more information about Spolin Law P.C. and how our attorneys may be able to help on a criminal case, feel free to contact us at (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Criminal Law, Juvenile Court, Violent Crimes

Spolin Law Wins Key Stay Ruling on Federal Writ of Habeas Corpus in Federal District Court

Published on July 1, 2019

Early last week Spolin Law won a key stay ruling for a client on a writ of habeas corpus in the Federal District Court for the Central District of California.

The client had contacted the firm just weeks before the deadline for a federal writ of habeas corpus. Federal writs have extremely strict deadlines, and individuals who file writs after the deadline typically get an automatic denial regardless of the merits of their arguments.

Besides the deadline, federal writs also have another requirement: writs of habeas corpus based on state convictions require that the issue at stake be litigated in the county’s Superior Court, the Court of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court. Only after losing in all three courts is a litigant allowed to bring the argument to federal court in a writ of habeas corpus.

This requirement was the client’s essential problem: he had just a few weeks of time before the federal deadline but had not yet raised his key argument (ineffectiveness of counsel) in any of the state courts. Moreover, the process of raising his claim in all the state courts would have taken several months at the very least (and certainly not the mere weeks he had before his federal deadline). While federal courts typically “pause” the deadline period for state court litigation filed and litigated properly, there was no guarantee that the federal court would consider the client’s state filings to be properly filed and litigated.

Spolin Law, a criminal appeals law firm under the direction of Aaron Spolin, attempted to solve this problem by seeking a “stay” from the federal court. Essentially, the firm filed the client’s federal writ of habeas corpus in federal court along with a request that the federal court preemptively affirm that they would count the federal writ as having been filed within the one-year limitations period regardless of the length of the state court proceedings.

United States Magistrate Judge Kenly Kiya Kato issued the written opinion granting Mr. Spolin’s requested stay. She sympathized with the client’s desire to have a “‘protective’ petition in federal court to avoid the ‘predicament’ of ‘litigating in state court for years only to find out in the end’ the state court petition was never ‘properly filed’ and thus that his federal petition is time-barred.”

Spolin Law has also filed a state court writ regarding the same issues that are discussed in the federal writ. As the firm litigates this issue, it hopes to win in state court and thus negate the need to appeal any denial to federal court. Nonetheless, should the client not prevail in any of the three levels of state courts, the doors to federal court will be open as a result of Spolin Law’s diligent efforts to preserve every opportunity for the client to win his writ of habeas corpus and — ideally — secure his freedom.

Categories: Appeals, Criminal Law, Writs

Most Common Issues Raised on Appeal

Published on May 17, 2019

If you were convicted of a crime in California, you might have the opportunity to appeal. This means requesting that the next highest court review your case for a particular legal error and either confirm the decision, overturn the decision, or send the case back to the lower court for review or a new trial. Criminal appeals are an essential part of the criminal justice system. The courts recognize that lawyers, judges, and jurors can make mistakes the first time around. An appeal allows you to point out a specific mistake and have it corrected.

If you believe a legal error occurred during your criminal case, you should talk reach out to Spolin Law P.C. to speak with a California appeals lawyer or staff member. We can review your case record, determine whether a legal mistake occurred, and if so — whether appealing that mistake may make a difference in the outcome of your case.

To schedule a free and confidential evaluation of your case, contact us today at (310) 424-5816.

The Nine Most Common Issues Raised on Appeal

To appeal your case, you must have a more specific argument than “the jury was wrong.” You can disagree with the judge or jury’s decision all you want. If you cannot establish that a legal error took place during the case, then your appeal will likely be dismissed, or your conviction will simply be affirmed.

However, many legal mistakes can occur during litigation. Some of the most common errors raised on appeal include:

Incorrect Evidentiary Ruling

Whether or not evidence can be admitted in court is based on the California Evidence Code. At the very least, the evidence presented at trial must be relevant, not create undue prejudice, have a reliable foundation in fact, and not be hearsay. You may argue on appeal that certain evidence was admitted when it should have been excluded, or that certain evidence was deemed inadmissible when it should have been introduced to the court.

Motion to Suppress Evidence

A common issue at trial is seeking to suppress certain evidence, such as evidence that was unlawfully obtained by the police, and having the trial judge deny that motion. On appeal, you may argue the trial judge erred in not suppressing that evidence.

Motion to Suppress a Statement

During your initial criminal trial, your attorney may have fought to have certain statements you made suppressed and not introduced in court. If the trial judge denied that motion and allowed the statements, you can ask for this decision to be reviewed on appeal.

Lack of Sufficient Evidence

When you face criminal charges, the prosecutor must prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. You may argue on appeal that the prosecution failed to sufficiently establish one or more elements of the crime.

Prosecutorial Misconduct

As legal professionals, prosecutors are bound by both law and professional ethics. If you believe the prosecutor broke a rule or law to obtain your conviction, you can raise this issue on appeal.

Inadequate Representation

When you work with a lawyer, you have the right to adequate representation. However, you may realize that your trial lawyer failed to properly investigate the charges against you, failed to put forth evidence that would have supported an acquittal, failed to suppress inadmissible evidence, and/or failed to develop an appropriate defense strategy.

Incorrect Jury Instructions

Once both the defense and prosecution rest, and before the jury can deliberate, the judge provides the jury with instructions regarding what to consider and how to determine if you are guilty or not guilty of the offense. You may argue that the judge did not provide the jury with the correct instructions, or that they failed to include relevant instructions.

Juror Misconduct

Jurors are subject to strict rules throughout a trial. You may find out after your conviction that one or more jurors violated those rules, which may have affected the outcome of your case. An example of juror misconduct is speaking with other jurors, witnesses, lawyers, or the judge outside of the courtroom.

Excessive or Unlawful Sentence

You may argue the legal error occurred at the point of sentencing. You may argue that the sentence the judge handed down is excessive, based on the law or public policy. You may also argue that the sentence is outside of the law.

Contact Us to Discuss Criminal Appeals

If you believe a serious mistake was made during your criminal trial, do not hesitate to take action, as your rights and freedom could be on the line. Reach out to Spolin Law P.C. at (310) 424-5816, or contact us through our online form to schedule a free case consultation.

Categories: Appeals, Criminal Law

CA Police Use Gang Members to Illicit Illegal Jailhouse Confessions

Published on April 24, 2019

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office and other Southern California law enforcement agencies have been hiring gang members to obtain confessions from suspects in detention. The practice, unfortunately, is lawful and widespread throughout the United States. But in this case, the Orange County police and prosecutors allegedly stood by as their gang member informants used death threats to obtain some confessions. This type of coerced confession is unconstitutional and is now the subject of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit against the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Many criminal cases are won – or lost – during the pretrial stage. Suspects are at their most vulnerable, usually shaken by the arrest experience and without the benefit of legal representation. The police know this is the best time to extract illegal jailhouse confessions, or incriminating statements from suspects. For this reason, you should always exercise your right to remain silent and request the assistance of a Los Angeles criminal appeals lawyer for help with your case. To schedule a free consultation with an attorney or staff member at Spolin Law, contact us today at (310) 424-5816.

Police Obtained Confessions Through Threats of Violence

First exposed by Assistant Orange County Public Defender Scott Sanders, the practice of using gang members to obtain confessions in the Los Angeles area has been described at length in the Orange County Weekly, the Orange County Register, and a report on authored by former Los Angeles Times staff writer Ted Rohrlich.

Six Southern California counties hired two gang members to extract confessions in around 300 undercover jail operations between 2010 and 2016. The authorities gave the informants preferential treatment in jail, paid them over $300,000, and then released them into a witness protection program. Every so often, they were given wires and placed in the same cells as criminal suspects. The recordings helped with the prosecution of several hard-to-solve murder cases, most of which involved street gangs.

As Mexican Mafia shot callers, the informants knew that killings had to be carried out in a specific way. For example, drive-by shootings were forbidden, and corrections officers were no longer permissible targets. The informants would tell suspects that their killings had broken gang rules, and that gang leaders had added them to the “green list” for assassination. Under fear of death, the suspect would then explain to the informants how the killings had been “legally” carried out under gang rules — thus unknowingly confessing their crime to the police.

Orange County Sheriff’s Office May Have Broken the Law

When the police arrest you, you become a suspect. As such, you benefit from the right to be free of coercion. This is why police officers must give you a Miranda warning informing you that you have the right to remain silent, and that anything you say can be used against you. This warning often encourages suspects to stop talking. For this reason, the police try as much as possible to question potential suspects before a Miranda warning has been given. One way is to have a consensual conversation with a person before they officially become a suspect. Another is to trick a suspect into willingly confessing once they are in custody.

The Supreme Court does not consider your rights to be violated when the police pose as an inmate to obtain a confession from you. In the 1990 case of Illinois v. Perkins, the court stated, “that coercive atmosphere is not present when an incarcerated person speaks freely to someone whom he believes to be a fellow inmate and whom he assumes is not an officer having official power over him.”

Southern California authorities stepped over the line, because their informants essentially used death threats against questioned suspects. The United States Constitution forbids the use or threats of violence to obtain confessions. For this reason, the ACLU has sued the Orange County Sheriff and Orange County District Attorney, claiming that “the threats these informants made and continue to make are plain, they are explicit, and they are unconstitutional.” But their civil rights case will succeed only if they can demonstrate that the authorities knew that their informants were using death threats.

Call Spolin Law for Help Today

When your rights are violated in pretrial detention, an appeals lawyer may be able to obtain the dismissal of your case. Alternatively, any evidence the police obtained through the violation of your rights may be removed from the prosecution’s case, making it unlikely that you will be convicted. If you or a family member was threatened into confessing, you need to act now to maximize your chances of a positive case outcome. Call Spolin Law today at (310) 424-5816, or reach out through the online form to schedule a free consultation of your case.

Categories: Appeals, Criminal Law

Spolin Law P.C. Attorneys Win Ruling on Constitutionality of SB 1437

Published on April 11, 2019

This Monday, a team of Spolin Law P.C. attorneys representing one of the firm’s clients won an important ruling on the constitutionality of SB 1437. Senate Bill (SB) 1437 is a new and retroactive law that drastically reduces sentences for inmates who had been convicted of “felony-murder” in circumstances where they had not actually intended to cause a death. The law was passed in September, 2018, and went into effect on January 1, 2019. (To learn more about SB 1437, read the firm’s recent article about the law.)

Spolin Law attorneys Aaron Spolin and Matthew Delgado represented the client, whose case was before Judge Mark R. Forcum in San Mateo Superior Court, Department 8.

San Mateo Superior Court

San Mateo Superior Court

The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office had argued that the client’s SB 1437 petition should be dismissed because the law itself was unconstitutional. The DA’s Office alleged that SB 1437 (1) improperly amended prior voter-passed initiatives, (2) violated the separation of powers doctrine by retroactively modifying sentences, and (3) diminished victims’ rights. The argument in response successfully rebutted these assertions by showing how the new law (1) does not contravene prior initiatives when analyzed under the proper legal standard used for analyzing initiative modifications, (2) comports with current standards of continuing judicial oversight of criminal convictions, and (3) does not modify any constitutional or statutory right of victims.

At the end of the Monday hearing and after reading all written submissions, Judge Forcum ruled in favor of the Spolin Law client and upheld the constitutionality of SB 1437. The case will now proceed to a re-sentencing hearing.

To learn more about SB 1437 or any other criminal appeal or post-conviction matter, contact Spolin Law for a free consultation. The firm can be reached at (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Appeals, Criminal Law

How Long Will My Appeal Take?

Published on April 3, 2019

Many people who are in a position to successfully appeal their case are unable or unwilling to start the process. At Spolin Law, we are dedicated to fighting for positive case outcomes for our clients through the appeals process. To schedule a free consultation of your case, contact our award-winning criminal appeals lawyers or staff members today at (310) 424-5816.

How Long Will Your Criminal Appeal Take in California?

The exact length of an appeal in California depends on the complexity and merit of your case, as well as the court that hears your appeal. One important and often overlooked fact is that there are two parallel appeals systems in California: one for federal cases, and one for state cases. In the California system, appeals usually take 6 to 18 months, whereas a federal appeal often takes more than two years. During this time, your criminal appeals lawyer will be advocating on your behalf throughout several stages of the process.

Understanding Appeals Deadlines

If the appeals process takes a long time, it’s because your case must go through several stages. And at each stage after you file, you have to wait behind other cases that have been filed before yours. The first step, which is the fastest, is starting the appeals process. If you were convicted in a California state court, you have as little as 30 days to file a Notice of Appeal, 60 days in felony cases. But if you want to appeal a federal conviction, you have only 14 days to file your notice after the trial court’s judgment. When considering deadlines to file Notices of Appeal, however, it’s important to note that this is not your only avenue for post-conviction relief. To learn more, contact an attorney at our firm right away.

Once a Notice of Appeal is filed, your legal team must obtain and review the record (which includes all the transcripts from your hearings) along with copies of all of the evidence that was considered. This is one of the most crucial stages of the process, because there is a lot to do, and very little time to do it. Your lawyers must turn over each stone in your case, consider every possible argument in your favor, and then select and present the best ones in a well-reasoned and researched brief.

A brief is a legal argument that is submitted to the court, in which you ask for relief from your judgment and explain the reasons why it should be granted. In federal and in-state cases, the brief must follow strict (and different) rules governing both the content and the form of the document. The court in which you have filed the appeal will tell you exactly when you have to submit your brief. In both federal and state courts, the brief must generally be submitted within 40 days of you obtaining the record.

All of the briefs will usually be filed around three to five months after the original judgment you are appealing. The next stage, which can take several months or even years more, is for the appeals judges to read the briefs, and for the court to schedule an oral argument. The oral argument is an opportunity to convince the judges that your interpretation of the law is correct. In both federal and state appeals, the hearing is very short, meaning that it’s essential to have a lawyer with experience in this type of advocacy.

After the oral argument, it can take a few weeks for the court to issue its opinion. If they rule in your favor, your conviction might be vacated. But more commonly, they will order a new trial.

For example, if the judge at your first trial didn’t allow you to present a certain piece of evidence in your defense. A successful appeal will give you the ability to present that evidence in your defense at your new trial. If the appeals court rules against you, you can request that the Supreme Court (of California or the United States) review your case.

How Can a California Criminal Appeals Lawyer Help?

The appeals process is vastly different from a trial. Your lawyer doesn’t present evidence or cross-examine witnesses. Instead, they research and write lengthy legal briefs and present their best arguments at a short hearing. For this reason, you need to ensure that your appeal is handled by an experienced appellate lawyer. At Spolin Law, we have a successful track record in California’s courts of appeals. Call us today at (310) 424-5816, or reach out online if you are considering an appeal of your criminal conviction.

Categories: Appeals, Criminal Law

What You Need to Know About Appellate Briefs in California

Published on March 27, 2019

If you have been convicted of a crime, you may be able to avoid criminal penalties by appealing the conviction. The appeal is essentially a request for a higher court to review your trial, and to reverse any errors that may have resulted in a wrongful conviction or excessively harsh sentencing. The appeals process is costly and may not get the results you intend, but you should not rule out this option before speaking with a knowledgeable Los Angeles criminal appeals lawyer.

You owe it to yourself and to your family to make every effort to avoid the devastating consequences of a criminal conviction. If you have questions about the appeals process in CA and what it entails — including appellate briefs — contact Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816 to schedule a free consultation of your case.

What Does a Successful Appellate Brief Look Like?

An appellate brief must be filed in time, and with the appropriate court. There are several district courts of appeals in California, each with its unique territorial jurisdiction. Your lawyer must first file a notice of appeal within 30 to 60 days of the final judgment in your criminal case. It is important to note, however, that there are possibilities for post-conviction relief beyond these deadlines, including a CA Writ of Habeas Corpus, and an Application for Communication of Sentence.

Assuming these deadlines are met, your lawyer will be able to submit a brief outlining the reasons why your conviction or sentencing was wrongful. California has stringent requirements about briefs that apply both to the content and appearance of the document. Title 8 of the California Rules of Court lays out these requirements in detail.

A good appellate brief will contain the following:

  • Cover page — In this part of your brief, your attorney should identify the case, the parties, and their legal counsel with appropriate formatting. The party who files the appeal is called “appellant,” and the answering party is called the “respondent.”
  • Table of authorities — This section will list of the court cases, statutes, and regulations that are cited as authority in the argument section.
  • Introduction — The introduction of your brief should include a quick review of the facts of the case, and why there is an appealable error.
  • Statement of the case — This should include a detailed description of the procedural steps that your case traveled through. An accurate account of the procedural history is essential, because this often shows where the trial court made mistakes.
  • Statement of appealability — Your appeals lawyer should write a description of why the lower court’s judgment is appealable, and cite all relevant articles of the Code of Procedure.
  • Statements of facts — Your attorney should include an in-depth account of all of the relevant facts of the case.
  • Argument — This section will connect the facts of the case with established legal precedent and legislative authority. It will show that what occurred in your case match other cases where an appeal was granted in favor of the convicted. This section will also anticipate the arguments of the respondent, and provide counter-arguments.
  • Conclusion — Here, the brief should clearly state why the court should grant an appeal, and concisely repeat the strongest arguments in favor of this outcome.

Sometimes, the respondent’s answer brief may contain arguments or cite authority that your appellate lawyer did not anticipate in the initial brief. For this reason, California law allows the appellant to file a reply brief to address any unanticipated issues. A good brief should be so in-depth that it leaves no stone unturned, and adequately covers any potential arguments that the government could make.

Do You Have Questions About Appellate Briefs? Call Us Today

If the appeals court accepts your attorney’s arguments, it may cancel the judgment of the trial court and order a new trial. If sentencing issues were on appeal, the court might order a new sentencing hearing. These outcomes can result in your freedom being restored. If you have been convicted of a crime, you may still have time to appeal. Call Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816, or reach out online to schedule a free, initial evaluation of your case.

Categories: Appeals, Criminal Law

Common Pleadings in California Appeals Cases

Published on February 27, 2019

If you lose your criminal trial, you may still be able to avoid a conviction if you successfully appeal the judgment of the court that heard your case. California appeals cases are heard by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court if the offense was a misdemeanor, or the California Court of Appeals if the crime was a felony. These appeals courts will not give you a new trial. Instead, they will hear your defense lawyer’s arguments about legal errors that wrongfully resulted in your conviction or affected your sentencing.

If your appeal is successful, the court may cancel the judgment of the trial court, and then order the trial court to give you a new trial or sentencing hearing that follows the appeals court’s instructions. If you believe you were wrongly convicted of a crime, call a Los Angeles criminal appeals lawyer or staff member from Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816, or reach out online to schedule a free consultation of your case.

What Can My Lawyer Argue on Appeal?

Within 30 to 60 days of the judgment, you’ll need to send in the “Notice of Appeal.” During this timeframe, your lawyer will need to carefully review what happened at trial and determine what arguments to make. After all, it is the party who appeals who bears the burden of proving that the trial court made a mistake.

It is important to note, however, that there are other types of post-conviction relief that do not have as stringent of the deadlines as the traditional direct appeals. For questions regarding these options, contact an appeals attorney or staff member from Spolin Law P.C. right away.

There are many different paths to a successful appeal in a criminal case. Below are some of the more common issues that defense lawyers may plead in their briefs:

Wrongly Admitting or Rejecting Evidence

California has complex rules that govern what kind of evidence may be introduced at trial. In criminal cases, the defense and the prosecution often argue over whether a piece of evidence should be shown to the jury or not. Hearsay, unduly prejudicial evidence, and any fruits of an unlawful search or seizure usually cannot be introduced into a trial. If you believe a judge misapplied the rules of evidence, you can appeal on this basis.

Improper Jury Instructions

After the prosecution and the defense have presented their cases, the jury must decide whether the defendant is guilty. Before sending the jury away to deliberate, the judge will give them instructions on how to consider the evidence they’ve received during the trial. Improper instructions — which give the jury a confusing definition of the offense, or that would encourage the improper consideration of certain pieces of evidence — may form the basis of an appeal.

Abuse of Discretion and Other Issues at Sentencing

Sentencing hearings are opportunities for the defense and the prosecution to present evidence and make arguments. When the judge improperly applies the law at a sentencing hearing, or abuses their discretion in handing down an especially harsh sentence, the defense may appeal. If successful, this appeal may result in a more lenient sentence, but it will not alter your guilty verdict.

The above issues that may be raised at appeal are part of the category of prejudicial error. It means that the appeal identifies a mistake of law which substantially harmed you at trial or during sentencing. If an error was made, but didn’t meaningfully affect the outcome of the trial, this error may not form the basis of a valid appeal.

Are There Alternatives to the Appeals Process?

Sometimes, exculpatory evidence emerges after the trial is said and done. However, appeals courts are not allowed to consider new evidence when hearing an appeal – their decision is made exclusively on the record of the initial trial. Fortunately, there is an alternative to filing an appeal in this kind of scenario. Your lawyer may request a higher court to issue a writ, such as a habeas corpus, which is a challenge of illegal incarceration. For example, if another suspect confesses to the crime after you’ve been convicted, your lawyer may get you freed by filing a writ of habeas corpus.

Call Spolin Law P.C. for Help With Your Criminal Appeals Case

At Spolin Law P.C., we believe that each and every one of our clients deserves an aggressive and thorough defense strategy. When a trial court makes erroneous rulings that affect our clients’ rights, we will not hesitate to file an appeal. If you or a loved one has been wrongly convicted of a crime, contact us today at (310) 424-5816 to schedule a free and case evaluation.

Categories: Appeals, Criminal Law

How to Look Up the Location of a California State Prison Inmate

Published on January 29, 2019

You can find just about any type of information online these days, and even public records are available for viewing if you’ve got an electronic device and an internet connection. It’s possible to find out where a California state prison inmate is held with just a few clicks and a promise to not use the details for an unlawful purpose. You start by conducting a search via the Inmate Locator website run by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

However, the location may not be up-to-date if the individual was recently incarcerated or is being transferred between institutions. Because of the complicated intake process in California, which ultimately determines location, the internet won’t help you in this situation. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys and staff members at Spolin Law P.C. can explain the process of locating an inmate in more detail, so contact our office at (310) 424-5816 to schedule a free consultation.

Reception into the California State Prison Inmate System

The first step after an inmate is ordered for incarceration is reception, which involves multiple stages.

Inmate Placement

During this phase, the state’s Unit Classification Committee (UCC) reviews details of the inmate’s case history and other relevant factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Type of crime
  • Whether the offense involved violence
  • Prior criminal history
  • Gang involvement

An inmate accumulates points for every factor that applies to them, and others for the circumstances surrounding the crime. The UCC tallies the points to come up with a placement score.

How Placement Scores Affect the Location of a California State Prison Inmate

The goal of assigning points is to provide an Inmate Placement Security Level, which will determine the type of facility and accommodation arrangements that are necessary under the circumstances.

A Level I security level means an inmate will be placed in a facility that features low security and a mostly open, dormitory-style living arrangement. Individuals with scores ranging from 0-18 may qualify for this security level. When an inmate scores between 19-35 points, Level II applies. The institution is also mostly open, but there is armed coverage in certain areas. Level III describes a facility with a highly secure perimeter, protected by armed guards. Inmate cells are adjacent to exterior walls. The scoring range for this level is 36-59. Top security arrangements fall under Level IV, which applies to inmates that score at 60 points and above. The institution’s perimeter is extremely secure, and there are armed guards at the interior and exterior. Because it’s the highest security level, there is an interior gap between inmate cells and the exterior.

From start to finish, the reception process can take up to 120 days. Once completed, the inmate is transferred to an appropriate institution that can provide accommodations and suitable programs. The information is entered into the Inmate Locator website, which you can search to find their location.

Determining Location After Initial Placement

Every year, the UCC also conducts a review on every California State Prison inmate to determine whether there’s any reason to adjust the placement score. It’s possible to reduce the score for good behavior and avoiding any trouble while incarcerated. Of course, an inmate can also increase their score through misconduct and disciplinary actions.

Depending on how officials rule on placement scores, the location of an inmate may change. An inmate may be transferred within the prison system to the appropriate security Levels I through IV.

Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer to Learn More

Regardless of your reasons for looking up a California state prison inmate, it’s important to understand the factors that determine where they end up, and where they could be going. If you’d like more information on inmate location and how the state prison system works, call Spolin Law P.C. at (310) 424-5816, or reach out via our online form to schedule a free, initial evaluation of your case.

Categories: Criminal Law

Can I Appeal a DUI Conviction?

Published on January 15, 2019

Things may seem hopeless if you’ve been convicted of a DUI in California, but a guilty verdict doesn’t necessarily mean that your case is over. You may be able to appeal the ruling, which is a request to have a higher court review the trial proceedings and correct certain types of mistakes. There are strict rules established for appeals, especially as they relate to how and why you can appeal a DUI conviction.

At Spolin Law P.C., our Los Angeles appeals attorneys are well-versed on the grounds for taking a DUI conviction to an appellate court. Our team has in-depth knowledge of the appeals process, which involves drafting briefs and presenting arguments to appeals judges. To learn about how we fight for the rights of clients who were wrongfully convicted of DUI, contact us today at (310) 424-5816.

Grounds for Appealing a DUI in California

There’s a common misconception that an appeal is similar to a second trial, where the court reconsiders the facts and circumstances of a conviction. However, appellate courts can only hear cases in which a legal error occurred during trial proceedings. Some of the familiar elements of a trial are noticeably missing, such as:


Neither your attorney nor the prosecutor can bring in witnesses to testify before the appellate court. You cannot have someone testify again, nor can you introduce a new witness that was not available for your trial.


No evidence will be presented during an appeal, so you cannot present any information or documents that weren’t introduced during your trial.

Both of these components relate to the facts of the case, and it’s not the job of the appellate court to assess any factual issues. The only item the judges will review on appeal is the record of the trial proceedings, which is a document describing everything that happened during your trial.

Factors an Appeals Court Will Consider

Since appellate courts focus on legal errors, the judges will review the trial record to assess issues raised by your appeals lawyer. Examples include:

  • Misconduct by your defense lawyer or the prosecutor
  • Illegally-obtained evidence was allowed in violation of your civil rights
  • Members of the jury disregarded the instructions of the judge
  • Evidence in your favor was erroneously suppressed
  • Other circumstances involving a legal mistake, as opposed to a factual error

What an Appellate Court Decision Means for Your DUI Case

The appeals process doesn’t result in your DUI conviction automatically being reversed. Even after you convince a judge that there was a legal error, you still need to show that the mistake was instrumental in the outcome in your case. For instance:

Example #1

You discovered that the prosecutor is close friends with the police officer that arrested you and testified at your DUI trial. The prosecution often gives the officer extravagant gifts under circumstances that suggest payment for the officer’s testimony. However, the jury also heard evidence that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was over the legal limit, according to an official breathalyzer test and a blood test. Though there may have been prosecutorial misconduct, there was still enough evidence to convict you on DUI charges.

Example #2

At trial, the prosecution introduced BAC test results showing that you were over the legal limit. Your criminal defense attorney objected on the grounds that the breathalyzer test was administered by an individual who had no training, so the results weren’t accurate. The judge allowed the false BAC test, which was the only evidence presented by the prosecutor.

Contact a Los Angeles Appeals Lawyer for Help

Though this overview of DUI appeals in California may be helpful, it’s no substitute for the assistance an experienced lawyer can provide. For more information on your appeals options, call Spolin Law P.C. right away to schedule a free case consultation. You can reach our firm by calling at (310) 424-5816, or via our website.

Categories: Appeals, DUI


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