Violating a law in California can result in harsh punishments, such as jail and expensive fines. However, being charged with a criminal offense does not have to destroy your entire life. Robinson Sookdeo Law is here to ensure that you get your life back, your peace of mind and your freedom.
We do not prejudge any case. We are honest with our clients and advise them of their chances of total or partial victory in court. We have an excellent record of accomplishment because of attorney-client trust that demonstrates integrity.
Too often defendants that could not communicate with their lawyer had cases that suffered because of it. We make ourselves available to you throughout the entire representation because we believe in the accessibility in criminal defense. We use an aggressive defense, often convincing the prosecution to reduce the charges against you or, in some cases, dismissing them. Our main priority is to get a resolution that you can live with, without significantly affecting your lifestyle.
Robinson Sookdeo Law is committed to fighting for those individuals who are caught up in an overwhelming judicial system which threatens their reputation and who need professional help with the following:
- Assault & Battery
- Theft Crimes
- DUI Defense
- Probation Violation
- Record Expungements
Misdemeanors and the Law
Under the California Penal Code misdemeanors are crimes that are considered less serious than felonies but can bring jail time of up to one year and fines totaling $2000.
- In California, criminal offenses are classified as infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies.
- Infractions such as traffic violations are punishable by a fine and no jail time.
- Misdemeanors are, by definition, crimes that carry a less severe punishment than a felony.
- Felonies are serious offenses that generally carry a jail sentence of one year or more.
Felony vs. Misdemeanor
In California, a felony is a serious offense such as an assault & battery with bodily harm, domestic violence, murder, rape, kidnapping, certain sexual offenses, and other violent crimes. Felonies are punishable by a jail term in excess of one year.
A misdemeanor in California is a less serious crime carrying with it possible jail time of less than one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000 plus penalties and assessments. Although generally considered minor, a California misdemeanor should be taken seriously because, if convicted, it results with you having a criminal record.
Elevating Misdemeanors to Felonies
Under certain circumstances, a misdemeanor may be charged as a felony, depending on the following factors:
- Seriousness of the crime
- Injuries to the victim
- Defendant’s prior criminal record
In addition, when certain prior criminal offenses exist on the defendant’s record at the time of misdemeanor arrest, the chances of having the current offense elevated to a felony are much greater.
Prior criminal offenses that increase the risk of having your misdemeanor elevated to a felony, include:
- Petty Theft / Shoplifting
- Receipt of Stolen Property
- Domestic Violence
- Violation of a Domestic Violence Order
- Loaded Firearm in a Public Place
- Drunk Driving (DUI / DWI) with 3 prior charges in 10 years
- Indecent Exposure
Misdemeanor Sentencing and Punishment
For misdemeanor charges, the range of California sentencing may include jail time, probation, fines, and/or community service. A skilled criminal defense attorney can assist in an alternative or reduced sentence for the defendant.
California Theft Crimes and Theft Laws
The crime of theft is stealing. It is taking property from another person without their permission. There are various ways in which a person can steal, and each way is its own specific crime. Note that ‘larceny’ and ‘theft,’ for purposes of the California Penal Code, are the exact same thing. The term ‘theft’ is the more modern and common term.
California Grand Theft and Petty Theft Laws
Two categories of theft exist: grand theft and petit theft. Grand theft occurs if the value of the property or services that were wrongly taken is more than $400. There are some cases, such as some farm produce and shellfish, where it is considered grand theft if the value of those products is over $100. Any theft for property or services valued under $400 is considered petit theft. Often times a charge of petty theft with a prior theft on one’s record results in elevated punishments.
Grand theft of a firearm carries with it a possible punishment of up to three years in state prison. Grand theft of anything other than a firearm carries up to a one year sentence in county jail or state prison. Grand theft auto is yet another type of theft that involves some technicalities, and certainly, it requires the assistance of a criminal defense attorney.
California Embezzlement Laws
The California Penal Code’s definition of embezzlement is “the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.” Embezzlement is still charged as a theft, and the same standards regarding the value of the property that apply to grand theft and petty theft apply to embezzlement. A typical example of embezzlement would be if you gave your stock broker $10,000 and instead of him putting the money into stocks, he put it in his personal checking account. The punishment for embezzlement is the same as that which applies to general theft charges.
California Burglary Laws
Burglary is a crime that is always coupled with another crime. Burglary occurs when a person enters any house, room, apartment, shop, warehouse, store, tent, or floating home among other dwellings and storage facilities with the intent to commit petty or grand theft or to commit another felony. The issue of intent requires the skilled knowledge of a criminal defense attorney.
There are two forms of burglary, burglary in the first degree and burglary in the second degree. Any burglary of an inhabited dwelling is considered burglary in the first degree, while any other burglary is of the second degree. Therefore, robbing a person’s home is first degree but robbing abandoned warehouse is burglary of the second degree.
California Robbery Laws
Robbery is a combination of assault and theft. It is the taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his or her person or immediate presence, and against his or her will, accomplished by means of force or fear. Robbery is a felony.
A person may be guilty of forgery if that person signs the name of another person on a document, without that person’s permission or authority. The person also has to sign the document with the intent to defraud or steal. Forgery can also occur when a person makes false identification cards or other fake documents. Forgery can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor so it is very important to consult with a qualified attorney if you are charged with forgery.
Fraud is crime that requires deceit on the part of the person charged. There are many types of frauds, ranging from business and insurance fraud to defrauding a government agency such as getting involved in worker’s compensation fraud and welfare fraud.
California Identity Theft Laws
Identity theft is a crime that has seen some publicity lately. People provide so much information on the Internet that it has created an incentive for others to steal that information and use it to obtain credit, merchandise, or almost anything else. It takes an experienced attorney to defend a person accused of identity fraud in many cases.
If you have been charged with a theft crime, do not hesitate to seek professional counsel from a criminal defense attorney. The law is complicated and trying to tackle it on your own could be detrimental in the long run.
California Vehicular Offenses
In addition to the hundreds of infractions listed in the California Vehicle Code, there are more serious offenses such as DUI/DWI, hit-and-run, and evading arrest. These are serious crimes with severe repercussions and require expert legal help. Robinson Sookdeo Law has the experience needed to effectively defend vehicle-related offenses in Southern California.
Driving Under the Influence/Driving While Intoxicated (DUI/DWI)
California’s drunk driving laws are among the strictest in the nation – a driver convicted of DUI/DWI faces consequences that include heavy fines, long driver’s license suspensions, probation, and even jail time. The severity of the driver’s case depends on many factors, such as whether the offense was charged as a misdemeanor or a felony and whether the motorist refused a chemical test to determine blood alcohol content (BAC). A driver with a BAC of .08 percent or greater may be convicted of DUI. However, it is possible to fight a driving under the influence charge and win with a skillful defense attorney at your side.
Hit-and-run is a serious offense under California law. Anyone who leaves the scene after being involved in or causing an accident can be charged with hit-and-run. The seriousness of the charges will depend on whether the accident involved property damage, injury, or death. If convicted, the driver faces fines, a license suspension, probation, and possibly even jail time. However, it is possible to avoid some or all of these repercussions. Sometimes a carefully negotiated plea bargain can reduce or eliminate punishment. In other cases, it may be possible to create reasonable doubt of the driver’s guilt and win an acquittal.
Evading arrest is a California offense with extremely serious repercussions. Anyone who fails to stop for police when requested to do so may be charged with this offense. Drivers who fail to stop for police are often charged with evading with reckless driving, a more serious offense. If someone other than the driver is hurt or killed during a police pursuit or other attempt to stop the driver, the motorist likely will be charged with evading causing injury or death, which is a very serious offense.
If a driver charged with hit-and-run or evading arrest is found to have a BAC of .08 percent or greater, or if alcohol or drugs were a factor in the incident, the motorist will also be charged with driving under the influence. These are complex cases that require skilled legal representation.
California Driving Under the Influence / Driving While Intoxicated (DUI / DWI) arrests occur unexpectedly, and the driver is rarely prepared for the complex legal issues that follow. However, drunk driving arrests require fast action. The most pressing issues are typically finding an experienced lawyer, locating someone in custody, finding a reputable bail bond firm, and requesting a DMV hearing to prevent the automatic suspension of a driver’s license.
Getting the driver released from jail is usually a top priority. Although some individuals arrested for driving under the influence are released on their own recognizance – also known as O.R. – others must post bail. Locating a bail bond provider is the first step in getting a suspected DUI / DWI driver released from jail.
A California DUI / DUI arrest actually generates two separate cases – a Department of Motor Vehicles case and a court case. An individual facing a driving while intoxicated charge has only 10 days from the date of arrest – including weekends and holidays – to request a DMV hearing, or risk having his or her license automatically suspended.
A California drunk driving court case begins with arraignment. The driver will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Attorneys will advise driver to plead not guilty at arraignment until the facts of the case can be examined and an appropriate defense strategy established.
There are many proven defense strategies available to effectively fight a drunk driving charge, and many good reasons to fight the charge in court. Some drivers fear that a DUI / DWI arrest means an automatic conviction, but that is simply not true. A driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher may be convicted of DUI. It is possible to fight and win a drunk driving case with the help of experienced legal counsel.
The next step in the court process is to submit pretrial motions. Pretrial motions may be submitted at the arraignment, but it is also customary for the pretrial motions to be heard at a later hearing date. Common pretrial motions include a motion to suppress evidence, discovery motions, motions to dismiss, and other motions in limine.
During this process, a prosecutor may offer the driver a plea bargain, which gives the defendant an opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge. Sometimes taking a plea bargain is a good idea, sometimes it is not. An experienced lawyer can evaluate an individual case to determine whether a plea bargain is a good deal.
The final stage of the court process is the trial. DUI trials usually last several days. At the trial, both the defense and the prosecution give opening statements, directly examine their own witnesses, cross-examine the opposing witnesses, and finally give closing arguments. The judge then gives the jury instructions on how to apply the facts of the case to the law.
It is possible to win both in court and at the DMV hearing to determine driver’s license status, but these procedures are extremely complex, and the cost of losing is high. An experienced criminal defense attorney can develop an aggressive strategy to attack both the court case and the DMV action (link here).
Requesting a DMV Hearing in a DUI / DWI Case
Motorists arrested for DUI / DWI in California must take fast action to protect their driver's licenses. The California Department of Motor Vehicles will automatically suspend a suspected drunk driver's license in an administrative action if the motorist does not request a hearing within 10 days of the arrest.
DMV administrative hearings are extremely complex and technical, and the odds are stacked against the driver, but it is possible to successfully fight the DMV administrative per se action. The best chance of saving an accused driver's license is to have a skilled attorney fighting for the motorist's rights.
The criminal courts have no authority to suspend a license because of a driving under the influence conviction. That authority rests solely with the California DMV. However, the DMV can suspend a driver's license both after a DUI / DWI arrest and as punishment for a conviction.
The standard of proof in a DMV hearing is also lower than in criminal court. In order to suspend the driver's license, the DMV hearing officer must establish three things – 1) that the arresting officer had reason to believe a crime occurred, 2) that the arrest was lawful, and 3) that the driver had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher.
The evidence presented by the DMV hearing officer typically consists of official reports such as the arrest report and the driver’s chemical test results. However, a defense attorney can effectively challenge this evidence and bring in witnesses to contradict the DMV's case.
Whether the driver was arrested for DUI / DWI for the first time or has one or more drunk driving convictions on the record, the best chance of succeeding at a DMV hearing is with the help of a lawyer.
Whether you or a loved one is arrested for a misdemeanor or a felony, one of the first priorities, as the accused, is to be released from custody.
Release may be by way of a simple promise to appear, also known as being released on one’s own recognizance, or O.R. However, for more serious misdemeanors or felonies, or where the accused has a prior record, posting bail may be required to obtain release.
The purpose of setting bail is two-fold: it is to ensure the one’s presence at future court proceedings, and to safeguard the community. There are many factors to consider: the bail schedule, seriousness of the offense, previous criminal record of the accused, whether the defendant has ties to the community, owns property, or is employed, and many others.
Most counties have a “bail schedule” based on a list of various Penal Code, Vehicle Code, and Health and Safety Code violations, and a corresponding bail amount. However, the actual amount of bail can be deviated either higher or lower, depending upon the facts of the case and the background of the accused.
Bail is a complex issue, and there are many special rules that apply to certain types of cases. In cases involving drugs, or criminal activities that were alleged to have made money for those accused, a source of bail hearing may be required. This is a hearing where the defendant must show that the money used for bail is not the fruit of criminal activities.
Once bail has been set, it may be posted in one of several ways: Cash bail; Government bonds or Real Property; or a Bail Bond. The last is the most widely used.
A good bail bondsman provides an invaluable service. A bail bondsman usually charges a fee which 10% of the amount of the bond. In exchange for the fee, a good bondsman will sacrifice sleep in favor of going to a police station or county jail, and doing what is necessary to get you or your loved one home.
Treatment for Drug or Alcohol Arrest
An arrest for drug possession or an alcohol related offense is very stressful and difficult. You might feel fearful, defeated, and perhaps even regretful. Often, when an individual is arrested for a drug or alcohol crime it is becomes the reason for them to seek drug or alcohol treatment.
Seeking substance abuse treatment at this time is usually an excellent idea. The drug or alcohol situation, which led to the arrest, has already caused significant problems in a person's life ahead of the actual legal problem. The treatment you will receive will do more than just aim to keep you off substances; it helps improve your life, and can be a powerful tool in your legal defense.
Judges tend to look very favorably upon people who take the initiative to get a counseling or treatment plan in place ahead of their initial court appearances. It shows the judge that you sincerely see the problems that your substance abuse is causing you and society and that you want to change. Judges look for remorse; they look for the willingness to admit fault and are taking the steps to prevent a repeating your mistake in the future.
By going to drug treatment, instead of serving jail time, judges know that you will have a much lower repeat offender rate and save their state or municipality money in the long term. Treatment is much less expensive for society than a drawn out trial and period of incarceration.
In treatment, you will learn how substance abuse affects you. The counselors and fellowship around you will help you understand whether you are an addict, abuser or casual user who went over the edge. You will also find ways to cope with substance abuse; you will learn how to stay clean, sober and out of trouble and also how to enjoy your life without the use of mind altering chemicals. Usually, your family life, work performance, and personal struggles will get much better, almost immediately. This is good for you, for society, and for those who love you. Treatment is an excellent option, and one the courts will look upon favorably.
Immigration Consequences of Criminal Cases
A California criminal conviction is a serious, but can be especially devastating for legal or undocumented immigrants. You can be deported or have your visa or green card revoked if you are convicted of a crime. Because the consequences of a conviction are especially severe for immigrants, it is critical to have a dedicated defense attorney on your side ensuring that your rights are protected.
Not all criminal convictions result in deportation or revocation of a visa or green card. This is why it is critical for your defense lawyer to thoroughly research the charges you face and your options to determine the best course of action. In some cases, it may be possible for your defense attorney to negotiate a plea bargain that allows you to plead guilty to a lesser charge that does not carry immigration consequences.
Preventing a criminal conviction in the first place is the best way to avoid any type of immigration action as a result of a California criminal charge.
If you have already pleaded guilty to a California criminal charge and learned that it will lead to your deportation, it may be possible to withdraw your guilty plea based on the argument that you did not understand the consequences of your guilty plea. This gives you a second chance to defend yourself against the charges you face.
More crimes are falling into the category of deportable offenses, and deportation hearings are taking place regularly. Given the current national security climate, it is important to hire an attorney who can stand up for you and illustrate that you are not the person or the type of person that should suffer deportation.
Sentencing often includes probation, either summary probation or formal probation. Summary probation is mostly restricted to simply staying out of trouble, while formal probation includes mandatory meetings with a probation officer. A probation violation occurs when someone who is sentenced to probation violates any of the rules imposed upon him or her during the probationary period of the sentence. Consequently, his or her probation can be revoked and jail time can be a result. Robinson Sookdeo Law will fight on your behalf to ensure that the consequences of your probation violation are minimized.
Examples of probation violations include,
- Committing new crimes (new criminal cases)
- Being arrested even if no criminal charges are pending
- Failure to pay a fine
- Failure to pay restitution to the victim
- Failure to enroll in or complete rehabilitation community service
- Failure to appear in court for a progress report
- Violation of probation rules
- Possession of illegal drugs or weapons
- Association with known criminals
A violation of your probationary terms can be very serious. If you are on probation it is because you have committed a crime and have been given a second chance.
If your probation violation is of the same nature as your original crime, it is more serious than an un-related offense. For example, if you are on probation for a violent crime, such as assault, and violate with charges of domestic violence it shows the court that you are still a violent person, and likely need to go to jail. The situation may not be as clear as even you consider it to be. There are several details that can end up being the bottom line of your case such as your state of mind, the actions of any police officers involved, lack of evidence, the likelihood that a reasonable person would have acted the same way you did, etc.
Other relevant factors include the seriousness of your violation, the number of times you have violated in the past, aggravating circumstances, how far along you are in your probation period, etc. We will look into every detail of your case to develop the strongest possible defenses. The most important thing to us is building our case around your main concerns. Whenever possible we aim to prevent you from being jailed and ensure that the consequences of your probation violation are minimized.
While past convictions cannot be completely erased, the law provides important ways to limit the impact that a prior arrest and/or conviction may have on an individual’s future. It is possible that a prior conviction can be relieved – and sometimes destroyed altogether.