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New California Laws Ease Fines, Punishment for Juveniles

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed 11 crime bills aimed at lowering fines and punishments for juveniles and other offenders.

Most of the legislation helps young people charged with crimes, including one bill that limits counties and cities from collecting fees from families with children in juvenile detention. Parents and guardians will no longer be charged for juvenile hall expenses, such as housing, food, drugs, tests and transportation.

Lawmakers said juvenile penalties and fines have mostly affected low-income and minority families. The legislation follows a recent pattern in the Golden State to help people who are "paying more for being poor."

Police License Plate Scans May Be Disclosed

Did you hear the one about the guy who was caught cheating when a traffic cam snapped his photo with another woman in the car?

That's not this case, but it has a cross-over issue. Los Angeles police use high-speed cameras to scan license plates and then catch drivers who are involved in crimes. They scan about 1.8 million license plates a week.

But what to do about the privacy of all those people who are not criminals? That's the question the state Supreme Court sent to a trial judge to consider.

Foie Gras Banned in California -- Again

Unless you are a specialty chef, you may not care whether the liver pate you prepare comes from a duck or a goose.

The ducks and the geese certainly don't have an opinion on the subject of "foie gras," which is the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened.

But the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say foie gras comes from force-feeding the birds to make their livers swell up to 10 times their normal size. A federal appeals court said that's against the law in California.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal for the state of California has issued a ruling that, at first blush, appears to disregard the recent ruling of the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on a nearly identical issue. At issue in the People v. Sandee case is whether a warrantless search of a probationer's cell phone is valid under the Fourth Amendment waiver that probationers consent to as a prerequisite to being granted probation.

The California appellate court explained that under California law, and precedent set by the California supreme court, probationers should expect that their Fourth Amendment waiver will allow a cell phone to be searched attendant to a probation search.

In November 2016, California voters passed Proposition 66 which sought to speed up the time between a death penalty conviction and sentence and the actual execution. Most notably, Prop. 66 imposed a mandatory five-year deadline for the California courts to finish a capital appeal. Almost immediately after passing, opponents filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the proposition, and specifically, that five-year deadline.

After reviewing the challenge, the California Supreme Court issued their ruling, in Briggs v. Brown, effectively striking down the five-year deadline (at least for the time being), while upholding other portions of the proposition.

One mother's disturbing discovery has led a California appellate court to distinguish the rules on when secret recordings are permissible. Although California is one of the few "all party consent" states, meaning everyone who is audio recorded must consent to being recorded, there are a few exceptions to that rule.

One of the main exceptions to the "all party consent" rule allows a person to obtain evidence of a violent felony, extortion, bribery, or kidnapping via a secret recording. However, at issue in the In Re: Trever P. case isn't whether a person involved in the conversation can make a secret recording, but rather, whether a parent can consent on behalf of their child and make a secret recording of the child and a babysitter.

Rap Lyrics Condemn Murder Defendant

It's bad enough when a rapper talks about killing people, but when a rapper actually kills somebody ...

Ravinseh Singh, more a killer than a rapper, murdered Joe Montoya when he shot him point-blank in the face. Singh added three more shots to make sure: twice in the stomach and once in the groin.

Appealing his conviction, Singh argued the trial judge should not have allowed jurors to hear rap lyrics he wrote, including "two to the gut, watch you shut your eyes slow." The appeals court called any mistake "harmless" and affirmed in People v. Singh.

CA Supreme Court: Voters Did Not Amend 3 Strikes Law

Californians approved Prop. 47 to reduce sentences for certain drug and theft crimes and to allow some prisoners to petition for lesser sentences after convictions.

But that proposition did not change the Three Strikes Reform Act under Prop. 36, which voters enacted two years earlier to reduce sentences when a defendant's third strike was not serious or violent.

That's the last ruling from the California Supreme Court in People v. Valencia. But it was a hard-fought decision as the justices split 4-3 in their interpretation of the voter-approved laws.

Judge Blocks Law Against High-Capacity Gun Magazines in California

A federal judge has stopped a voter-approved law that would have forced gun owners to surrender magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.

Californians voted Prop. 63 into law last year, outlawing the high-capacity magazines, requiring background checks of people who buy ammunition and imposing other gun restrictions. Judge Roger Benitez said the bullet ban went too far.

"The State of California's desire to criminalize simple possession of a firearm magazine able to hold more than 10 rounds is precisely the type of policy choice that the Constitution takes off the table," he said in granting a preliminary injunction against the law.

State Supreme Court Expands Shoplifting, Reducing Penalties

Applying a voter-approved initiative designed to ease prison overcrowding, the California Supreme Court effectively reduced a felon's crime to a misdemeanor by expanding the definition of shoplifting.

The high court said that shoplifting does not apply only to taking merchandise from stores. Under Proposition 47, the court said, it also means taking property worth less than $950 in other ways.

"Here we hold the electorate similarly intended that the shoplifting statute apply to an entry to commit a nonlarcenous act," Justice Carol Corrigan said for the 5-2 majority.