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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.

In the summer of 2014, Brandon Duncan and Aaron Harvey were arrested in connection to their rap lyrics and social media posts and were accused of violating an obscure California law making it illegal to promote gang activity. They were kept in detention for months, before their charges were ultimately dismissed.

Now the two are suing, alleging that their arrests violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights.

Therapists Must Report Child Porn Users

A state appeals court has upheld a law requiring therapists to report patients who view child porn online or in other digital forms.

California's Second District Court of Appeal said that society's interest in protecting children outweighs the privacy rights of patients who view child pornography. Under the Child Abuse Neglect and Reporting Act, the court said, therapists are mandated to report anyone who has accessed child pornography through electronic or digital media. Children are "sexually exploited" by the act of downloading, streaming or accessing child pornography, the court said.

"Not only is it illegal, the conduct is reprehensible, shameful and abhorred by any decent and normal standards of society," the unanimous panel said.

When much of America swung to the right on Election Night, the Bear Republic tacked left. California voters approved a host of progressive ballot propositions, legalizing recreational marijuana, taxing tobacco, and upholding a ban on plastic bags. Among the victorious state propositions was Prop 63, which requires background checks for ammunition purchases and closes loopholes to the state's large-capacity magazine ban.

Now, after running a muted opposition campaign, gun advocates, including the California affiliate of the National Rifle Association, are planning to take their battle to court.

Withholding or altering exculpatory evidence has long been considered an major violation of a prosecutor's duties. After all, "Society wins not only when the guilty are convicted, but when criminal trials are fair," as Justice William Douglas wrote in 1963's Brady v. Maryland. The consequences for violating that duty can include overturned convictions, mistrials, and damaged careers.

Soon, those consequences could include a felony conviction. Earlier this month, Governor Brown signed legislation that ups the penalties for prosecutors who alter or withhold evidence, making what was previously a misdemeanor a felony crime.

California's rape laws will change dramatically when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, thanks to a host of legislation signed by Governor Brown this week.

Earlier this week, the governor signed legislation that removes the statute of limitations for rape and other sexual offenses. Today, Brown signed two more bills, to expand the legal definition of rape and impose mandatory minimums for rape convictions. The new laws go in to effect on January 1st, 2017.

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill yesterday that eliminates the statute of limitations on rape and other sexual offenses. The new law, S.B. 813, adds rape and similar crimes to the list of criminal acts that can be prosecuted regardless of how long ago the criminal act occurred, such as first degree murder, treason, and embezzlement of public money.

The bill's passage "shows victims and survivors that California stands behind them, that we see rape as a serious crime, that victims can come forward and that justice now has no time limit," the bill's sponsor, State Sen. Connie Leyva, said. The push to remove the statute of limitations for rape was inspired in part by allegations against the comedian Bill Cosby. Cosby has been accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women over several decades, with most of the alleged acts having occurred too far in the past to be prosecuted.

Marijuana Legalization Campaign Sues Sen. Feinstein for 'No on 64'

The California's Voter Guide is set to be printed on August 15th. But supporters of Prop 64, the marijuana legalization initiative, have filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to take the bite out of various anti-marijuana ads.

With only days left before the law to legalize marijuana is brought before the people of California, both sides are gnashing their teeth.

Are Marijuana Businesses Legal in California?

Everyone can feel the changes taking place: marijuana, for better or worse, is gaining wider acceptance amongst the general public across the nation, despite its continued status as a controlled substance under the CSA. But where does this leave weed in the Golden State?

Or more importantly, where does this leave cannabis businesses in California? The law is shaky in this area. Maybe one of the best things lawyers can do is to become at least broadly familiar with the law and understand how we got here.

CA Revenge Porn Case Criminalizes Disclosure of Private Facts

There's a disturbing trend playing itself out in California courtrooms according to Eugene Volokh. The trend potentially criminalizes disclosure of private facts, even if the content disclosed isn't actually revenge porn.

Court applications of the Cal. Pen. Code sec. 530(a) should chill the public. Since when did the disclosure of some private facts of another become a full fledged crime?