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The Case For Taking California’s Sex Offender Registry Offline

Posted By admin 2018-03-29 20:04:53

As a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles who specializes in sex crimes, I have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects that California’s online sex offender registry has on offenders’ lives and reputations well after they served their sentences. California has long been one of the toughest states on the punishment of sex offenders. The state has over 105,000 designated sex offenders, and, until recently, California was just one of four states that mandated lifetime enrolment on the sex offender’s registry. The lack of discussion among California lawmakers about who should have access to California’s sex offender registry in the wake of reform is troublesome. Under the revised sex offender registry system, many sex offenders will continue to appear on California’s online public sex offender registry for one or more decades after completing their sentences. Public searches of registrants for improper purposes will continue to imperil offenders’ employment, housing and other opportunities vital to reintegration without any proven public safety benefit. California must next address the registry’s availability to the public online.

In October 2017, California passed a law that will end lifetime listings for lower-level sex offenders who pose little risk of committing new crimes. This law, formerly referred to as Senate Bill No. 384, is a sensible first step toward addressing the deleterious effects of California’s bloated sex offender registry. The bill creates a three-tiered system which lawmakers claim will allow sex crimes investigators to focus on those offenders who pose the greatest risk to public safety. Under the reformed system, low-level sex offenders can petition to be removed from California’s sex offender registry after ten to twenty years if they have not committed another serious of violent felony or sex crime. The highest level of offenders, tier three offenders, will remain on the list for life. If certain criteria are met, tier three offenders may petition to be reassigned as a tier two offender. Those who believe they may be eligible to have their tier three sentences reduced should discuss their options with a lawyer who specializes in sex crimes.

Lawmakers understandably streamlined the sex offender registry to make it a more refined law enforcement tool, but failed to measure or justify the purported public safety benefits of keeping the registry open to the public. This is probably because sex offender registries are not evidence-based approaches to deterring sex crimes.

As a criminal lawyer, I appreciate the sense of concern and urgency that has prompted these laws. Promoting public safety by holding offenders accountable and by instituting effective crime prevention measures is a core government function. At the same time, discussion surrounding the passing of Senate Bill No. 384 highlights that the registration laws are overbroad in scope and overlong in duration, requiring people to register who pose no safety risk. In addition, under community notification laws, anyone anywhere can access online sex offender registries for purposes that may have nothing to do with public safety, even though doing so is outlawed in California. Harassment of and violence against registrants have been the predictable result.

California’s next step in reforming our sex offender registry laws should be to assess whether the registry ought to be taken offline. If our state government will not respond to this issue, a constitutional challenge to the online availability of California’s sex offender registry could be fruitful. For instance, Colorado’s sex offender registry was recently challenged in federal court with success.

In Millard v. Rankin, United States District Court Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch, sitting in the District of Colorado, recently found that Colorado’s sex offender registry constituted cruel and unusual punishment in the case of three plaintiffs. The plaintiffs complained that the Colorado sex offender registry’s requirements made it difficult for them to find employment and housing and set them up for harassment long after they served their prison sentences. Judge Matsch held that the sex offender registry violated provisions of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. His Honour stopped short of granting an injunction in the case, only granting declaratory relief, but noted in his judgment that parties did not provide submissions regarding injunctive relief. A case for injunctive relief could reasonably be made in future litigation.

In September 2017, Montrose County in Colorado took its registry offline in response to the judgment. The action was taken despite the ruling’s narrow application to the applicants, showing that the ruling could have far-reaching implications. The possibility that Judge Matsch’s opinion could be applied statewide was no doubt a factor in the Colorado Attorney General’s appeal announcement. The case could go all the way to the United States Supreme Court and allow the Court to make updated rulings on sex offender registries across the country.

It is time for California to prevent unlimited dissemination of registry information by eliminating the state’s online sex offenders registry. Community notification should be undertaken only by law enforcement officers and only about those registrants who pose a significant risk of reoffending. Senate Bill No. 384 is promising because it shows that California lawmakers are willing to apply common sense when making laws pertaining to sex crimes, but now California must scrutinize the online sex offender registry with similar pragmatism and also an eye for civil rights and the importance of reintegrating offenders back into our neighbourhoods.

Attorney Karen L. Goldstein has been successfully defending people against sex crime charges for 14 years.

Call (888) 445-6313 for a free and confidential consultation to speak with an experienced sex crimes lawyer today.

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Defending Against A Federal Search Warrant for Your Computers: What Now?

Posted By admin 2017-06-10 00:13:46

Many of my clients get that dreaded, aggressive knock on the door. It’s the FBI and they have a search warrant to take all your forensic devices in the house. So what do you do now?

Well first, if they have a valid search warrant, you need to let them in. And yes, the FBI and other federal investigative agencies like DHS, ICE and USPS have a bad reputation for doing things like bringing an army of agents with them, in uniform with guns, and demanding that everyone exit the house while the execute the warrant.

Second, remain calm and do not make any statements about your forensic devices without a lawyer present. Usually, an agent will try to ask you questions about who has access to which computers in the house and will then try to get as much information from you as possible about your internet usage.  You simply do not have to talk to the FBI or any other law enforcement agency.  You can firmly but politely inform them that you would like to be cooperative but you have been advised by an attorney that you must not speak with them without an attorney present in these situations.

Third, make sure you receive a detailed property receipt for all the devices they take before they leave.  This will be important once the investigation and case has ended so you can potentially retrieve some or all of the seized devices.

If the FBI, or any other federal agency has issued a search warrant, it means that some kind of federal or state investigation has already occurred—usually an undercover agent online checking out different peer-to-peer (P2P) software, such as Emule, or Gnutella, or BitTorrent, skulking around and searching for what users appear to be downloading or sharing inappropriate content such as child pornography.  Most people who have their account in default settings have the ability for other users to see an index of what images they have and to download them.  Sometimes, it could be the result of a large take-down of an entire website that was posting or permitting images of child pornography to be shared or viewed, and the Feds have obtained the IP addressed for all the user who went to that website.

No matter how the FBI ended up at your door, you need to not give them any additional statements of evidence that can be used against you.  And yes, it’s time to call an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to fight against federal and state child pornography charges to handle your case.

Call (888) 445-6313, and speak with Ms. Goldstein today, if a federal search warrant has been issued at your house, or you are currently facing allegations of child pornography in state or federal court.


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Domestic Violence Defense: The Modern Criminal Justice Approach

Posted By admin 2017-05-24 19:55:39

In an era of newfangled statutes, complex appellate holdings, and specialized prosecution units and courtrooms, domestic violence cases have become extremely complex. In California, these cases are prosecuted aggressively and with increasing frequency, even when there are no visible injuries and/or no history of violence between the parties. Unfortunately, misinformation about the realities of domestic violence investigations and prosecutions abounds in our culture, and prevents those accused of this crime from protecting themselves and their rights.

The thinking about domestic violence has changed substantially in recent years. Just a couple of decades ago suspected abuse within an adult relationship or family unit was largely viewed as a private issue. However, in contemporary American society, domestic violence is considered a matter of public concern that is to be dealt with through the use of social service organizations and through criminal prosecution. Several high-profile instances of domestic violence involving celebrities and other public figures, such as Whitney Houston and Ray Rice, and have added to a growing concern over this delicate issue.

Perhaps the most significant change in criminal justice practice, as it relates to domestic violence, is the so called “mandatory arrest policy.” This rule, which is adhered to by many local sheriff’s offices and police departments throughout the country, mandates that when officers respond to a domestic situation, usually a 911 call, and have a reasonable belief that one or more parties has engaged in domestic violence, they must make an arrest.

In California, while LAPD and LASD do not refer to their protocol as a mandatory arrest policy, when an officer is called to a scene for a domestic violence dispute, the responding officer will always attempt to determine who he/she believes to be the “primary aggressor” and then arrest him/her. If it is difficult to decipher who was the primary aggressor (i.e. both parties have injuries and are pointing the finger at the other), both parties may be arrested.

In years past officers would sometimes act as referees and mediators who would simply separate and calm down intimate partners who were engaged in a heated dispute. They might have even offered a boyfriend or girlfriend a ride to their friend’s house to spend the night. However, officers did not always make arrests unless they suspected that a serious risk of harm existed to someone involved with the alleged incident.

There were, unfortunately, a few situations in which officers made repeated responses to a particular couple, without ever making an arrest, and ultimately one of the intimate partners was badly injured or killed. In an attempt to prevent this from happening in the future, and to protect themselves against negligence lawsuits, officers who receive 911 calls related to a domestic dispute, frequently make an arrest of one or both parties. Similarly, prosecutors who are in doubt about what may have really happened, file domestic violence charges most of the time to avoid a situation escalating later and resulting in more violence or death.

Additionally, certain accusatory hearsay is frequently allowed at trial in domestic cases. For example, if a person calls 911 and screams, “Help! My girlfriend won’t stop punching me,” this statement may be introduced to a criminal jury whether or not the accuser ever takes the witness stand, subject to certain evidentiary limitations. This principle obviously runs directly counter to the constitutional notion that a defendant has right to confront his accusers which is enshrined in the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause. However, The United States Supreme Court in the case of Davis v. Washington has said that accusatory hearsay statements may be admitted without violating the defendant’s due process rights as long as the exclamations were “non-testimonial.” That is to say: were the statements made under circumstances objectively indicating a purpose to assist law enforcement with an ongoing emergency? or were the statements made under circumstances objectively indicating a purpose to assist with a later criminal prosecution?

A frequent modern day debate in domestic violence cases tends to center around what statements qualify as testimonial and therefore under what circumstances may a case proceed to trial, and statements be admitted, where the accuser refuses to testify or is otherwise unavailable to testify .

State Governments have also enacted some very innovative laws aimed at detecting domestic violence. In Illinois, for example, the state legislator passed a new law for 2017 that requires salon workers to undergo an hour of domestic violence training when obtaining their professional license to practice. The idea is that abused women may show signs of abuse, like bruises and lacerations, when receiving salon services, and that women make intimate disclosures about their relationships to their favorite salon workers.

Prosecution offices around the country are creating specialized units to go after domestic offenders aggressively. In California, there is a family violence unit within both the District Attorney and the City Attorney Offices. The general rule of thumb is that the DA or CA will not dismiss a domestic violence case, once filed, even if the alleged victim no longer wishes to prosecute the case. The principle here is that no matter what the alleged victims want, the state will go forward with the criminal charges. Contrary to popular belief, once domestic violence charges have been filed, the alleged victim cannot “drop the charges.” It is only the state prosecutorial agency who can choose to dismiss the case or to pursue the case.

Moreover, many jurisdictions have created domestic violence courts that deal only with crimes involving intimate partners. In these newfangled courts, the Judge, probation officers, and prosecutors all deal especially with domestic violence offenders. These courts are designed to immediately stop ongoing violence, provide support to victims, and to rehabilitate offenders through intensive counseling services. One of the most startling developments in these courts are strict bond condition orders that require family and household members to stay away from each other and even, at times, stay away from their own homes while their criminal case pends in court.   In California, there are not separate domestic violence courts; however, a criminal protective order is issued in all domestic violence case at the very first court appearance which prohibits the defendant from having contact with the alleged victim.

As one can see, the criminal justice response to suspected domestic violence situations has changed dramatically over the last several years. Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, legislators, and Judges are dealing with allegations of domestic violence far more harshly than in decades past. If you or a loved one have been accused of a domestic violence related crime it is absolutely imperative that you employ the services of a qualified attorney immediately who has experience in navigating these murky waters.

Attorney Karen L. Goldstein has been successfully defending people against domestic violence charges for 14 years.

Call (888) 445-6313 for a free and confidential consultation to speak with an experienced domestic violence lawyer today.


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A Tiered Sex Offender Registry Senate Bill 695—Changes in Sex Registration Law Coming to California and Implications for Sex Crime Attorneys

Posted By admin 2017-05-17 23:22:07

California has some of the strictest sex offender laws in the nation.   Whether a person has been convicted of misdemeanor indecent exposure, felony possession of child pornography, rape, or felony child molestation, all convictions which carry sex registration, require registration for life.

This means theoretically that someone convicted of sexually assaulting a small child, or producing thousands of images of child pornography, would be required to register for the same length of time as someone who ran through a park and exposed himself inappropriately to another person.

California Penal Code 290 contains the current version of California sex registration laws.

Under a new proposed bill, Senate Bill 695, three tiers of sex registration, requiring a different time period of minimum registration, would be created depending on the type of sex conviction.

Tier 1 registration would last for a minimum of 10 years and apply to certain specified sexually-related misdemeanor offenses and non-violent, non-serious sexually-related felonies.

Tier 2 registration would last for a minimum of 20 years and apply to certain specified felonies enumerated as a serious or violent felony (Cal Penal Code 667.5(a) or 1192.7(c)) or otherwise specifically enumerated in the new bill.

Tier 3 would last for life and would apply to repeat offenders who were convicted of a subsequent violent sexually-related felony as specified under 667.5 (c) (after being required to register for a prior conviction) or after the person was deemed a sexually violent predatory and committed to a hospital.

Defense attorneys, and District Attorney’s alike, have long advocated for a more nuanced and tiered sex registration system in California to account for the seriousness of the alleged conduct.   This legislation seems like a step on the right direction. However, it is unclear whether this bill will pass in whole, in part, or with substantial modifications.

Organizations such as the California Sex Offender Management Board CASOMB have weighed in with proposed changes to the bill. Undoubtedly, given the sensitive nature of this topic, it will be long road ahead before any real change is realized.

Perhaps, just perhaps, California will be moving towards a slightly more reasonable, and less draconian, penalty structure for those convicted of sexually-related offenses.

Here is a link to the proposed legislation:

The Law Offices of Karen L Goldstein dedicated a substantial portion of its practice to defending against sexual offenses. If you would like to speak with an aggressive and compassionate sexual assault lawyer, please call (888) 445-6313 for more information.


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Computer Hacking & The Law: A Basic Introduction to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Posted By admin 2017-05-08 00:05:19

In the wake of the Russian computer hacking scandal, there is a renewed concern amongst the American people and the federal government over the issue of unauthorized invasions into exclusive computer servers. Both the CIA and the FBI have confirmed that intelligence agencies of the Russian government illegally intruded into the digital networks of the Democratic National Committee with the aim of improperly influencing the 2016 presidential election in favor of their preferred candidate, Donald Trump. Computer crimes are becoming increasingly common in America as the vast majority of commerce is transacted at some stage through the use of a computer. Large amounts of valuable personal and financial data, both public and private, are stored digitally as well. Moreover, the ability to conduct illegal activities through the use of digital means is now frighteningly easy as even very young or otherwise unskilled persons can simply download and effortlessly navigate basic hacking applications online.

The federal criminal statute pertaining to hacking is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) which was enacted by congress in 1984. The statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, has since been amended numerous times over the last three decades including a significant expansion under the Patriot Act in 2001. The CFAA criminalizes several types of digital behaviors. For example, under the CFAA, it is a crime for an individual to knowingly: 1) accesses a computer without authorization; 2) to obtain information that has been determined by law to require protection against disclosure for national defense or foreign relations; and 3) to willfully transmit this information to a person who is not unauthorized to receive it; or (4) to fail to deliver it to the intended officer or employee.


Other examples of criminalized behavior include: accessing confidential financial records such as bank statements or credit reports with a computer, interfering with the Government’s ability to use their various computer networks, and re-configuring or re-programming of a system to function in ways not facilitated by the owner, administrator, or designer. The CFAA also criminalizes accessing the private computer networks of individuals, companies, or other organizations, and then extorting these individuals/companies for money by threatening to disable the network or destroy the data contained within. All of the above examples are generally prosecuted as federal felonies.


The penalties for engaging in the computer hacking activities described above can be very severe. Most of the hacking crimes carry a federal prison sentence of one, five, ten, or even twenty years depending upon the severity of the individual facts. Large fines and orders for restitution are also imposed on computers hackers convicted in federal criminal court. Obviously anyone accused of committing a computer hacking related offenses should employ the services of a qualified defense attorney immediately.


Although in the past, federal authorities have only prosecuted hackers when their activities substantially impact foreign affairs, interstate commerce, or federal government computer systems, under the new administration it is unclear how these crimes will be prosecuted


State authorities have also enacted anti-hacking legislation. For example, California has enacted the California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act. Under California Penal Code § 502, a person can be prosecuted for “hacking” or any type of unauthorized computer access and fraud and face up to three years in state prison. Further, if a computer network is hacked in California, not only can the attackers be criminally prosecuted by the state, but the alleged victim can sue the alleged perpetrators for a monetary judgment.
As more and more of our political, financial, and social lives are conducted on computers the danger for unauthorized invasion into these realms by hackers has increased proportionally and also the danger of false accusations pertaining to digital behaviors. While, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act combined with state and local laws against hacking provide a substantial deterrent to potential cyber criminals, there are still a myriad of easily downloadable hacking tools that can be found and used by anyone with an internet connection. Moreover, if you are being investigated or accused of accessing data in violation of state or federal law, you should speak with a qualified attorney as soon as possible to best protect your rights against any type of alleged cyber crime.

By: Law Offices of Karen L. Goldstein, (888) 445-6313.



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