Legal Blog

Understanding California’s Three Strikes Law

Published on January 17, 2018

California’s Three Strikes Law was introduced in 1994 as a way of dealing with certain repeat felony offenders. The state’s criminal justice system considers repeat offenders to be challenging to deal with, since they can be difficult to reform. The Three Strikes Law significantly extends prison terms with the idea that offenders will work to modify their behavior to avoid spending so much time behind bars.

“Strikers,” as these offenders are known, are also taken off the streets for a longer period of time, which puts citizens at ease.

The California Three Strikes law only applies to certain offenders, but it can be significantly higher penalties. If you’ve been charged with a crime and are concerned about getting a strike, contact Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816.

Composition of the Three Strikes Law

The Three Strikes Law is so named because its core regulation puts three-time offenders already convicted of multiple serious felonies in prison for a minimum of 25 years to life. Not every felony has to be serious; for example, if you were convicted previously of a serious and a non-serious felony, and you’re sentenced for a third, serious felony, your prison term may still be dictated by the Three Strikes Law.

But there’s more to the law than just “three strikes and you’re out.” Other important factors to keep in mind include:

  • “Two Strikes.” If you have previously been convicted of a serious felony offense, and you are sentenced for a second felony (whether serious or not), your sentence may be twice as long as the legal timeframe for the new conviction.
  • Consecutive sentences required. The law requires that sentences for multiple felony offenses run consecutively, instead of concurrently. The number of felony convictions that can be added to a consecutive sentence is limitless.
  • Time period between felonies not considered. It doesn’t matter if your previous felony conviction is a year old or 25 years old. The amount of time that has passed in between felony convictions is not taken into consideration.
  • No probation, no suspension. You will not be eligible for probation, nor will you be able to receive a suspended sentence.
  • A limit on credits. Anyone serving under the Three Strikes Law may only reduce their time in prison by one-fifth through work or education credits, whereas other prisoners may reduce time by up to one-half.
  • Proposition 36. In 2012, California voters amended the Three Strikes Law in two ways. (1) The third strike must be a violent or serious felony (previously, offenders could be sentenced under the law even if their new felony was not serious). (2) Strikers could petition to have their sentence downgraded to Two Strikes if they qualify under the amendment.

What Is Considered a “Serious Felony”?

It’s important to understand what is considered a violent or serious felony offense, since these felonies affect strikers. Examples of these offenses include:

  • Violent Felony Offenses — Murder, robbery, rape, other types of violent sexual assault.
  • Serious Felony Offense — Serious felonies include all the same offenses under violent felonies, but also include a whole host of other crimes, such as assault with the intent to commit robbery or attempted murder.

Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Even with the amendments, the Three Strikes Law can spell serious trouble for anyone who is facing multiple felony charges. If you are in need of help with your felony charges, you should contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Spolin Law P.C.. Our team of highly qualified attorneys work hard to provide the best defense for our clients. Contact us today at (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Criminal Law

Spolin Law P.C. Gets Two Cases Dismissed in One Day

Published on December 20, 2017

Earlier today Spolin Law P.C. secured the dismissals of two separate cases in Van Nuys Courthouse.

The client had been charged with two drug-related crimes in 2014. At that time she had pled guilty on both cases, was granted probation, and had agreed to come back to court regularly for court-ordered updates. However, she then left the state of California without the court’s permission, seeking a better life for herself in Nevada. Because she had left California and did not show up in court on her check-in dates, the court had ordered a bench warrant for her arrest. A bench warrant is a warrant seeking a person’s arrest due to a failure to come to court.

Since that time—and despite the warrants—the client had rebuilt her life in Nevada. She opened a successful business and started a halfway house to help others recovering from drug addiction. She had turned her life around; nonetheless, she still worried about the open warrants.

The client hired Spolin Law P.C. to represent her on these cases. While the client remained in Nevada, attorney Aaron Spolin represented her in Van Nuys Superior Court. Mr. Spolin presented to the judge a number of documents showing the client’s successful rehabilitation and argued for the judge to not only remove the warrants but also to dismiss the two underlying cases. This client had proven that she overcame her addiction and deserved the chance to start over with a clean criminal record.

After considering the documents presented and hearing the arguments, the judge granted Mr. Spolin’s request. He “quashed” the warrants and dismissed both cases. Under the law used for the dismissals, the former convictions will now be completely removed from the client’s record. As Penal Code section 1210.1(e)(1) states: “the arrest and the conviction shall be deemed never to have occurred.”

The client, who remained outside of California throughout Spolin Law P.C.’s representation, is now free of these former convictions and associated bench warrants.

If you’re accused or charged with a crime in California, call one of our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Criminal Law, Defenses

Benjamin Carew-Gonzales Wins 2017 Spolin Law P.C. Scholarship

Published on October 31, 2017

Benjamin Carew-Gonzales has won the 2017 Spolin Law P.C. Civil Rights and Criminal Law Scholarship. Mr. Carew-Gonzales is a student at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas. As a result of his selection, Spolin Law P.C. will pay $1,000 towards his college tuition and fees.

Mr. Carew-Gonzales was selected based on his essay, academic achievement, and personal background of continuing his family’s commitment to service. Mr. Carew-Gonzales is an example of the type of person whose personal goals involve the protection of others. As he notes in his essay, one of Mr. Carew-Gonzales’s earliest memories was that of his father instructing him to “defend those who cannot defend themselves, speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Four other students were selected as honorable mentions in recognition of their outstanding essays and personal achievements. Below is a list of all those recognized in this year’s scholarship season:

  • Winner: Benjamin Carew-Gonzales (Austin Community College; Austin, Texas)
  • Honorable Mention: Courtney Smith (Augustana College; Rock Island, Illinois)
  • Honorable Mention: Jeremiah Taylor (Louisiana Tech University; Ruston, Louisiana)
  • Honorable Mention: Stefan Pinkston (University of Scranton; Scranton, Pennsylvania)
  • Honorable Mention: Amber Banks (Alabama A&M University; Huntsville, Alabama)

Spolin Law P.C. would like to thank everyone who applied this season. For those interested in applying for next year’s scholarship, the application deadline is October 1, 2018.

Mr. Carew-Gonzales’s winning essay submission is posted below:

The Constitution means me everything to me and my family. I will give a little background to my family life and then you will see how things have shaped my life.

I guess I should start from the beginning. I was born and raised in a small affluent town in the inner city of San Antonio where my family was far from affluent. I come from a family that values an education and effort put forth to be greater than any expectations set. My grandfather barely completed the second grade, while his wife, my grandmother started over with nothing after her family was run out of Mexico by Emiliano Zapata in the early 1900’s and was forced to work in the fields as a little girl. My mother’s parents barely completed high school. These figures in my parent’s life influenced them to at all costs graduate with a college degree. They did. They didn’t stop there, they understood the value of an education so well they planned for the future by buying a small two bedroom one bath house in Alamo Heights School District so that my brother and I would be prepared for college when the time came. Following the purchase of a house, my parents applied for the drawing of the Spanish Immersion Program at Alamo Heights Elementary School. Luckily, we were selected. This monumental moment in my life has bettered my education and life experience by giving me the ability to speak another language fluently and communicate with a wide variety of people, as well the ability to immerse myself in another heritage and culture.

My parents instilled the mindset of hard work and determination into my life at a very young age. To be myself and not to be afraid to go against the crowd if I know that’s what is right. That perseverance, knowledge, and a little bit of sweat can go a long way. To respect my elders and always reply with yes/no ma’am, yes/no sir no matter the situation. To hold my ground and not only defend myself, but also protect those who cannot protect themselves. To love and be loved and not to be afraid to show your emotions at times. Tell the truth no matter the circumstance and before bed each night thank God for the opportunity and blessing of another day.

One of my first memories was my father telling me “You’re going to be a leader of men someday, defend those who cannot defend themselves, speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, and be a person that others will turn to for guidance and direction” being so young it was hard to comprehend, but it is something that has shaped me into the man I am today. Throughout my years my father’s words have rung true. I have led a diverse group of men and women, from the football field on Friday night to 6AM ROTC land navigation and PT (Physical Training) in college. Then this past summer where I worked at a Christian summer camp (Laity Lodge Youth Camp) and led a large group of men, women, and children in high ropes activities, as well as worship where I encouraged these individuals to go outside their comfort zones and become vulnerable to trust. My second language of Spanish has also only helped me with that leadership and ability to communicate and help those who cannot communicate with others.

With all of this being said you can start to get the idea that my family was very grateful to come to the United States back in early 1900’s and to start over. My grandparents as well as my parents have always instilled what it means to be proud to be an American and what the Constitution allows every American the basic freedoms. We respect the Constitution, the American flag and our Country.

My family also has a sense of duty to preserve our Constitution and defend it. My father served our country in the United States Army for 8 years. I have enrolled into ROTC to follow in my father’s footsteps. My younger brother just enlisted into the Marine Corp and will ship out at the end of the year. We take pride in our Constitution and what it means to live in a country where we are free.

With this past weekend’s events with the President and the NFL controversy just shows that our country’s Constitution allows for freedom of expression. It does not matter your political views or if you see the protest as right or wrong – it just shows that we as Americans have the privilege to express our views freely. For this we all should be grateful for our Constitution.

Our founding fathers had amazing insight to allow us to live protected with certain fundamental rights. When I think of the Constitution I think of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches. These branches mean that there will be laws to protect our citizens. The checks and balances mean that no one person will take over the county. The Constitution along with the Bill of Rights protect us in many ways that most do not truly appreciate.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Scholarship

California Supreme Court Sides with Spolin Law Client

Published on October 20, 2017

The California Supreme Court sided with a Spolin Law client earlier this month, effectively saving the client from a potential 50-year-to-life sentence.

Spolin Law represented the client throughout the appeals court process. Earlier this year, attorney Aaron Spolin had won the client’s matter in the California Court of Appeal. When the prosecutor appealed the Court of Appeal’s ruling, the California Supreme Court sided with the Spolin Law client by denying the prosecutor’s petition for further review and thereby settling the matter in the client’s favor.

This is the conclusion of a months-long appellate battle that began when Spolin Law won a hearing in May, which situated the client in juvenile court for a double-murder trial involving elements of self-defense.

After Mr. Spolin won the hearing that would allow the client to be retained in juvenile court, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office appealed the finding to the California Court of Appeal. They argued that the lower-court judge had abused her discretion in ruling for the Spolin Law client and had improperly applied the law. In the defense response, Mr. Spolin argued that the lower court had ruled properly due to (1) new changes in the law enacted by Proposition 57, (2) the intent of the recent proposition coupled with clear legislative intent, and (3) the client’s lack of sophistication, prior trauma, clean record, and ability to be rehabilitated.

To view the table of contents outlining Spolin Law’s appellate arguments, click here.

After Spolin Law won in the California Court of Appeal, the California Supreme Court effectively sided with the Spolin Law client by rejecting the prosecution’s attempt to overturn the lower court’s finding. Because the California Supreme Court is the highest court with regard to California law, there is no further court to which the prosecution can appeal. Therefore, this appellate issue is finally and permanently resolved in favor of the Spolin Law client.

Speak to a Criminal Appeals Lawyer at Spolin Law P.C.

Spolin Law founder and former prosecutor Aaron Spolin is ranked in the top 1% of criminal law attorneys in the state of California. He is an award-winning Los Angeles criminal appeals attorney and, along with the other attorneys at Spolin Law, has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. For questions regarding how a criminal appeals attorney may help you appeal your case today, please call (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Appeals, Criminal Law

Spolin Law P.C. Wins Case in California Court of Appeal

Published on September 7, 2017

Earlier today the California Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Spolin Law P.C. on an appeal that will have lasting positive effects on one of the firm’s clients.


A Spolin Law client was accused of a homicide crime based on a killing that occurred when the 17-year-old female client was confronted by an adult gang member. The prosecution filed a motion seeking to move the case to adult court. Aaron Spolin, representing the minor, opposed the motion. After an approximately two-week hearing, the juvenile court judge ruled in favor of the Spolin Law client and found her “fit” for juvenile court.

The ruling was significant because the client would have faced a maximum sentence of life in prison in adult court. Instead, now in juvenile court, the client faces a maximum sentence of seven years in a juvenile rehabilitative facility. Juvenile court is also focused primarily on rehabilitation.

To read about the original juvenile judge’s decision, click here: “Minor Charged with Homicide Crime Found ‘Fit’ for Juvenile Court.”


The prosecution appealed the judge’s decision to the California Court of Appeal. Specifically, they filed a “petition for a writ of mandate” asking the court to overturn the original juvenile judge’s decision. Prosecution appeals are extremely rare because juveniles charged with homicide crimes are almost always sent to adult court; this case was a rare exception.

The Court of Appeal was faced with two legal issues.

  1. What effect did the recent Proposition 57 have on how juveniles should be evaluated in deciding whether to send them to adult court?
  2. Did the juvenile court judge “abuse her discretion” in keeping the minor in juvenile court?

The prosecution argued that Proposition 57 (passed by California voters in November of 2016) did not change the criteria for evaluating minors and that the juvenile court judge, in this case, had abused her discretion. Spolin Law’s opposition brief argued that Proposition 57 had substantively changed the law in key areas and that the judge’s decision was supported by the defense evidence presented.

The stakes were high for the Spolin Law client. If the prosecution had won the appeal, the client would have been sent to adult court where she would have faced a maximum sentence of life in prison (instead of the current juvenile court maximum of effectively seven years).

Announcing their decision this morning, the California Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the Spolin Law client. They denied the prosecution’s petition and are allowing the case to proceed in juvenile court. This means that the client will remain in juvenile court.

Given the circumstances of the case and the unique background of the client, this was an eminently fair outcome. The client will now be in the juvenile court system, which has a primary focus on rehabilitation.

(Update 1/1/2019: The prosecution ended up appealing this issue to the California Supreme Court. The California Supreme Court eventually denied the prosecution’s petition and thereby effectively ruled in favor of the Spolin Law client. To read about the subsequent events in this case, read the updated article posted here.)

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Appeals Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal appeals attorney, has a track record of success handling criminal cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron or any of the other appeals attorneys at Spolin Law P.C., please call this number: (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Appeals, Criminal Law

The Criminal Bail Reform Movement’s Next Steps

Published on August 10, 2017

On July 20, 2017, Senators Kamala Harris (CA-D) and Rand Paul (KY-R) announced that they had teamed up to write a bipartisan bill on bail reform. Bail systems across the country have been subjects of contention for many years. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that the Constitution prohibits “punishing a person for his poverty,” many U.S. states currently have policies in place which keep those who cannot afford bail in jail for extended periods of time before their trial. Oftentimes, the amount of bail money required greatly exceeds the means of an average American citizen – even for petty crimes, like shoplifting. Those who are wealthy, however, are able to avoid pretrial incarceration, even if they pose greater flight risks for more severe crimes. Additionally, Senators Harris and Rand highlight some of the other consequences of our current bail system in their article, such as the disparate impact on black and Latino defendants, many of whom are required to pay significantly larger sums for bail. In order to solve this problem, the senators have introduced the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act. Under the bill, each state would receive a grant from the Department of Justice, in order to “carry out the most effective policies, tailored for its needs.” In return, the states will have to provide better data collection on the pretrial process, as well as progress reports, in order to ensure that the practices are not discriminatory in nature.

These senators are not the only legislators who have attempted to overhaul the bail system. In Maryland, the Court of Appeals determined that it is unconstitutional to hold a defendant in jail for no reason other than an inability to afford bail. While this does not eliminate the use of money bail, it does make it necessary to first take into account the individual flight risk. In Texas, the State Supreme Court determined that money bail should only be used in the “narrowest of cases” for people charged with misdemeanors. Instead, judges can order supervision tools, such as GPS monitoring or drug testing. In the California State Legislature, Assembly Bill 42 has been proposed, which would end the use of money bail schedules, instead of requiring the use of pretrial services agencies. This has been met with opposition from Republican lawmakers, however, who have asserted that the state would have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to reimburse counties for establishing these new pretrial services. In addition to Republican lawmakers, several interest groups, such as bail bond agents, have been staunchly opposed to the measures passing across the country. In New Jersey, where voters supported a measure which nearly eliminated cash bail, bail bondsmen are planning to sue Gov. Chris Christie.

California is in particular need of a solution, as the state’s median bail rate is five times higher than that of the rest of the country. The Human Rights Watch has analyzed California data and has found many troubling statistics. Over 63 percent of prisoners in county jails have not been sentenced, but are serving time because they cannot afford to pay bail. Racial disparities are common as well – for example, black people are nine times as likely to suffer pretrial incarceration than white people in San Francisco. This standard of pretrial incarceration is costing the Californian taxpayer, as well. According to Human Rights Watch analysis from 2014-2015, California spent $37.5 million in six counties jailing people whose cases were dismissed or never filed. Of the almost 1.5 million felony arrests in California from 2011-2015, 459,847 were not guilty of a crime. Currently, most defendants rely on bail bondsmen to be released. The system allows defendants to pay bail in one of three ways: They can pay the full amount, 10 percent of the actual bail amount, or they can schedule a payment plan in order to get out of detention. The bail bond payment is not refundable, however – even if the case is dismissed. These numbers make a compelling argument for why bail reform must be pushed forward.

While some lawmakers may be troubled by the initial cost of implementing pretrial service agencies, the eventual savings should lead to long-term benefits. By incorporating a model for pretrial risk assessment, we can better identify those who pose an actual flight risk, as well as a danger to others, and allow the rest to go free. GPS monitoring could also be incorporated as an alternative measure, in order to allow those who pose no real threat to continue caring for their families and paying their bills. Senator Harris and Senator Rand have come up with a promising alternative to the controversial bail system. The Pretrial Safety and Integrity Act allows each state to tailor its system as it sees fit, whether that be by implementing a risk assessment model or limiting pretrial incarceration to felons. This bill is the right step in the direction of eliminating discriminatory practices and unconstitutionally expensive bail.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Appeals, Criminal Law

Los Angeles County Bail Schedules — Felony and Misdemeanor

Published on July 17, 2017

Los Angeles County maintains a “schedule” (i.e., a list) of the amount of bail recommended for various criminal charges. You can use these lists to look up how much bail your judge will likely offer. You should also know that bail is not always set at the amount listed in the schedule; sometimes the judge will set a higher or lower bail amount and may offer “OR release” without bail. Spolin Law P.C.’s Complete Guide to Bail explains how bail is set and how to fight for a lower bail amount.

Los Angeles County Felony Bail Schedule PDF:

Los Angeles County Felony Bail Schedule

Los Angeles County Misdemeanor and Infraction Bail Schedule PDF:

Los Angeles County Infraction and Misdemeanor Bail Schedule

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Civil Rights, Criminal Law

Los Angeles Times Discusses Spolin Law P.C. Advocacy in Front-Page Article

Published on June 7, 2017

The Los Angeles Times discussed Spolin Law P.C.’s advocacy for a former client in an article published on May 31, 2017.

The article, featured on the front page of the newspaper and continued on page A9, described criminal proceedings initiated against a former Spolin Law P.C. client. The newspaper described accusations against the client levied by law enforcement, what occurred at the client’s arraignment, and Aaron Spolin’s in-court advocacy. Mr. Spolin’s goal in the representation of this client was to ensure that the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” was upheld and that the client’s Constitutional rights were protected.

Due to the sensitive nature of the case and the client’s privacy interest, more information cannot be shared at this time. A back-issue of the full May 31, 2017 Los Angeles Times can be ordered at the LA Times Store.

Contacting Spolin Law P.C.

Spolin Law P.C. provides free consultations on criminal cases. To speak with one of the attorneys at Spolin Law P.C., call us at (310) 424-5816 or email

Categories: Arraignment, Criminal Law

Minor Charged With Homicide Found “Fit” for Juvenile Court

Published on June 2, 2017

After an approximately two-week court hearing in Inglewood Juvenile Courthouse, a 17-year-old Spolin Law P.C. client facing homicide charges has been found “fit” to remain in juvenile court. While she could have faced life in prison in adult court, in juvenile court her maximum period of confinement is now eight years.

When a minor is charged with a crime, the prosecutor may petition the juvenile court to transfer the case to adult court. The vast majority of minors facing homicide charges end up transferred to adult court, where a finding of guilt routinely results in a lifetime behind bars. Minors kept in juvenile court are confined in Juvenile Hall, which must release them by the age of 25. While adult court is focused on retribution and punishment, juvenile court focuses on rehabilitation, and the educational and extracurricular activities offered in Juvenile Hall reflect this.

The minor was represented by Aaron Spolin throughout the proceeding. Further details of the case and applicable legal defenses cannot be disclosed due to the strict confidentiality rules associated with juvenile court. After the minor is arraigned in the juvenile court, the case will proceed to the pre-trial phase.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Criminal Law, Juvenile Court, Violent Crimes

Claimed Civil Rights Violations by City of Oakland

Published on May 25, 2017

Earthjustice, purportedly the largest nonprofit environmental law organization in the nation, is representing a historically African American West Oakland community in a case that claims their civil rights have been violated by the City and Port of Oakland. For more than a decade, the City and Port of Oakland have allowed for numerous expansions in pollution-emitting activities. In response, the citizens of Oakland have described their experiences in decreasing health due to increased diesel emissions. The Pacific Institute, in conjunction with the Coalition for West Oakland Revitalization, found in a recent report that Oakland has diesel emissions 90 times higher than the California average.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a pillar civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or nationality, the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project has filed a complaint in opposition to the city’s systemic neglect of its residents’ well-being. As 80% of West Oakland city is populated with minorities, the Project alleges that the community is suffering at the hands of racial discrimination from the City and Port. Margaret Gordon, a team member on the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and community member for over 20 years, recalls how difficult and unjust it is to live with toxic pollution. The community’s struggle due to the City and Port’s approval for industrial expansion has increased unhealthy vapors that infiltrate both the lungs and homes of community residence. Yana Garcia, an attorney who focuses on environmental justice issues with Earthjustice, states that the City and Port have, “consistently ignored federal protections against discrimination,” and adds how the city’s administration does not plague other parts of Oakland, where the [racial] demographics are different.

The US National Library of Medicine lists in a 2001 medical journal how an “association between different levels of air pollution and various health outcomes including mortality, exacerbation of asthma, chronic bronchitis, respiratory tract infections, heart disease, and stroke” have been correlated. The seniors and children in the West Oakland community have experienced “gasping asthma attacks.” The residents have been reported twice as likely to be sent to the emergency room than the Alameda country average. A release from the Alameda County Department of Public Health notes that the residents of West Oakland can expect to live nine years less than those in other parts of Oakland. This does not sit well with the community.

The City and Port of Oakland receive federal funds. This means that Earthjustice can use Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, a section that declares that “any agency receiving federal money cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin.” Because the City any and Port allegedly utilize these grants to fund projects that increase dangerous health hazards for the community, Earthjustice argues that the City and Port have a responsibility and obligation to ensure the safety and equal opportunity between Oakland districts. The complaint has been sent to the Department of Transportation as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If Earthjustice’s complaint is accepted, a full-scale investigation into the City and Port of Oakland’s engagements will be examined. The EPA determines if a complaint warrants an investigation within 20 days, with 180 to reach a conclusion. If the City and Port of Oakland are found to have committed the acts outlined in the complaint, the administration is given a chance to fix the issue. If the city’s administration chooses not to, the EPA has the ability to withhold federal funds. The withholding of federal funding does not equate to factories having to shut down. If they have the financial means, these factories have the chance to continue their operations, no matter the pollution emissions. Additionally, a possible conflict of interest between Earthjustice and their submitted complaint to the EPA may warrant more obstacles. With a political shift and a transitioning EPA, there may not be as much tenacity within the EPA to resolve the issue as there once was in previous years. Whether the political climate will affect this specific case is unknown. Nonetheless, Earthjustice highlights that communities with complaints under Title VI have been awaiting a response for more than a decade.

In October of 2016, Prologis, a major developer, was given permission by the City and Port to build an Oakland Army Base warehouse. What they did not include in their plan was an air quality improvement strategy. The community apparently expects 55 truck docks and 78 truck trailer stalls. The amount of construction vehicles that number of parking stalls amounts to is unknown. Presumptively, the West Oakland community can expect a drastic increase in the poor quality of air with the addition of this new project. Even if the EPA accepts West Oakland’s complaint, with viable evidence against the construction of the Army Base warehouse, the EPA has never formally reported a violation of civil rights in the plethora of cases they’ve investigated. It is with this information that Earthjustice has made the additional move of simultaneously filing cases with the federal courts in California.

While there are laws to protect the environment, there are limitations inherent in the organizations tasked with enforcing these laws. Although California is at the forefront of environment protectionist laws, and Earthjustice is doing everything in its organizational power to defend the City of Oakland’s community, advocates argue that time is of the essence. With an increase in hospital visits in conjunction with an increase in construction and pollution-emitting activities, there is no resolution in sight. It will be up to Earthjustice and their push in the federal courts to yield results. In utilizing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect a community comprised of 49% African Americans, 17% Latinos, and 13% Asians, one may see how Earthjustice has a suitable case that may even be powerful enough to reach the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the health of the community is expected to continue its decline. The daunting odds and difficult path ahead will not stop West Oakland’s citizens and activist organizations from pressing forward in the fight for an improved quality of life.

Talk to a Los Angeles Civil Rights Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.

Categories: Civil Rights


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