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CA Governor Wants to Move Juveniles Out of Corrections Department

Gov. Gavin Newsom took a step forward in his campaign for juvenile justice reform by visiting a juvenile detention center.

Speaking to officials, reporters, and young inmates, the governor said he hopes to bring changes as early as July. The first change, if approved by the legislature, will be to transfer the care of some 660 offenders from corrections to health and human services.

It is a small step, given there are tens of thousands of youth in the juvenile justice system. But it marks a change that is already working throughout the United States.

Court: Fining California's Poor Is Unconstitutional

A California appeals court ruled that court fines against poor defendants are unconstitutional.

In People v. Duenas, the Second District Court of Appeals reversed a $220 fee imposed on a woman for misdemeanor driving offenses. Velia Duenas was homeless and disabled, and didn't have the money.

She served over 50 days in jail because she could not afford the fine. The appeals court said that was unjust.

When it comes to criminal convictions, society has a real need for those convictions to be just. As the saying goes, it's better to let however many guilty people free than to let one innocent person be incarcerated.

However, as the California Supreme Court recently explained, in People v. Rodas, questions of a defendant's competency to stand trial need to be handled with the utmost scrutiny. In short, simply having questions or well-founded concerns should be enough to put a stop to the proceedings until those are resolved.

While most butter knives may barely be able to qualify as knives, the California Supreme Court has just heard arguments on whether a butter knife should be considered a deadly weapon.

The In Re: B.M. case may finally, definitively answer whether a butter knife, if poorly wielded by an angry teenage girl against her own sister, can be considered a "deadly weapon." On appeal, it was held that the non-sharp butter knife, despite being used ineffectively, nevertheless qualified as deadly. After all, it's a knife.

No More Pre-Trial Bail in California, Just Jail or No Jail

California bailed on bail.

Actually, it's not that simple. After a 40-year campaign to end cash bail in the state, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that gives judges discretion to release defendants pending trial without bail.

But reports make it sound like there's a get-out-jail free card in California. Actually, that's basically true.

While it is often difficult to blame a convicted anything for filing any appeal, the California Sixth Appellate District Court didn't waste the opportunity to tell Brock Turner that he has no one to blame but himself. The court also pointed out in the order that he only got six months in county.

On appeal, Turner was arguing that the evidence was insufficient to show he had intent to rape because he only wanted to have 'outercourse' or 'dry-hump' his victim. The court dismissed this argument by carefully explaining that it didn't matter that his evidence at trial didn't point to intent to rape because a jury had enough of a record to not believe his evidence.

Social Media Companies Must Comply With Subpoenas for User Communications

In a significant social media case, the California Supreme Court said Facebook and other social media companies must comply with subpoenas for information that users make public.

Facebook v. Superior Court of the City and County of San Francisco is actually based on a criminal case, but it reaches beyond criminal law or procedure. In the underlying matter, Derrick D. Hunter and Lee Sullivan subpoenaed social media communications of a homicide victim and a witness.

The state Supreme Court said the defendants are entitled to social media posts and messages that the users made public. The judges remanded the case to the trial court to sort out which communications were public at the time.

Police Can Be Disciplined for Racist, Homophobic Texts, Court Rules

A California appeals court cleared the way for disciplinary proceedings against San Francisco police officers for sending homophobic and racist text messages in 2012.

A trial judge had dismissed the case, saying the department filed charges after the statute of limitations period. But the First District Court of Appeal said the department was cooperating with a federal criminal investigation at the time, which extended the deadline.

The decision, holding that the statute of limitations was stayed during a criminal trial, is legally interesting. But the backstory is the stuff of police corruption movies.

New Ethics Rules: What's Changing, What's Interesting?

Somewhere in the Bible or the movies, there are Seven Deadly Sins -- not 70.

But that's how many new ethics rules will be imposed on California lawyers this year. Technically, it's only 69 but that would make the first sentence really wrong.

Actually, it would have been 70 but the state Supreme Court rejected one. It means attorneys can get away with at least one thing.

There's no doubt that a good criminal defense attorney is worth their weight in cold hard cash, payable in large lump sums, up front of course. Keeping calm in the face of a criminal prosecution is no simple task.

However, some criminal defense attorneys may need a little help when it comes to turning down the bravado. Confidence is an important part of an attorney's presentation, but in court, you need more than just words and swagger, you need evidence. Sadly, one California attorney just learned that his swagger didn't make a lasting impression on the appellate court that removed him from his client's case. Not too surprisingly, what he actually said in court will probably make you chuckle too.