When Does a “Financial Interest” Disqualify a Judge

November 26, 2011

In Kern County, as in all other counties within the state, a judge who has a financial interest in the proceedings or in a party to the proceedings is disqualified. The judge is disqualified if the financial interest is held by the judge, the judge’s spouse, or a minor child who is living in the judge’s household, or if it is held by the judge or the judge’s spouse in a fiduciary capacity, i.e., as an executor, trustee, guardian, or administrator.  Most judges will exercise caution when presiding over a matter where they have a financial interest.

What constitues a “financial interest”?  According to one local Kern County Criminal Defense Lawyer, a “financial interest” can mean (1) ownership of more than a one percent legal or equitable interest in a party, (2) a legal or equitable interest in a party that has a fair market value of more than $1500, or (3) a relationship as a director, adviser, or other active participant in the affairs of a party. “Financial interest” does not include (1) ownership in a mutual or common investment fund that holds securities unless the judge participates in managing the fund, (2) holding an office in an educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization that holds securities, or (3) an interest as a policyholder of a mutual insurance company or as a depositor in a mutual savings association, or a similar proprietary interest, unless the outcome of the particular case could substantially affect the value of that interest.

When does a Kern County Judge have a duty to disqualify himself?  A judge may have a duty to disqualify himself or herself from hearing a case, based on ownership of bonds. Ownership of a corporate bond issued by a party is grounds for disqualification if the bond has a fair market value of more than $1500. Ownership of a government bond is considered grounds for disqualification only if the outcome of the proceeding could substantially affect the value of the judge’s bond. Ownership in a mutual or common investment fund that holds bonds is not a disqualifying financial interest.

Medical Marijuana-Proving You Are an Approved Patient

November 19, 2011

The ability to use marijuana legally can be a godsend for many critically ill medical patients in Kern County.  However, in order to prove your status as a qualified medical marijuana patient, you must receive a recommendation from a licensed physician who can certify that you have a medical condition that will benefit from medical marijuana.  The recommendation should be in writing and maintained in its original form on the person of the patient at anytime that they are in possession of any marijuana.  In California, the law provides for a voluntary, County issued, identification card that assists law enforcement in determining if an individual is in fact a qualified patient.  The cops are not going to call a doctor to verify if a doctor’s recommendation is valid.  For this reason, a County ID card provides the verification to the police out in the field and is the best protection for a patient who is attempting to establish his or her qualified status

In California, only the seriously ill may use medical marijuana. However, the definition extends to any chronic or persistent medical symptom that either: (A) substantially limits the ability of the person to conduct one or more major life activities as defined in the American with Disabilities Act of 1990; or (B) if not alleviated, may cause serious harm to the patient’s safety or physical or mental health.  See, California Health and Safety Code § 11362.7(h).  Be safe, get a medical doctor to assist you and carry proof of the recommendation on your person at all times.

The Right to have a Jury Comprised of a Cross Section of the Community

November 12, 2011

In a criminal case, a defendant’s right to a jury trial includes the right to a trial by a jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the community. This guarantee requires that the pools from which juries are drawn must not systematically exclude distinctive (cognizable) groups in the community. The “representative cross-section” requirement ensures the parties a trial by a jury selected without systematic or intentional exclusion of “cognizable” groups of people, i.e., groups defined by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.  This requirement is designed to protect the right to a trial by an impartial jury that is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and by Cal Const art I, Although the court’s compliance with the representative cross-section requirement is most often raised as an issue in criminal cases, the need for compliance applies with equal force in DUI and civil cases.

According to one California City DUI Attorney, the procedure for raising the issue of whether the jury pool complies with the representative cross-section requirement is governed by CCP §225(a), the procedure for challenging the panel for cause. The motion must be made to the Court before the jury is sworn, but it is usually raised in limine before the panel is assigned to your court.  A Judge is not required to grant a continuance to allow the defendant time to file a written motion except in an unusual case, such as when new information concerning the selection of potential jurors becomes available during voir dire.  In drunk driving cases in particular it is imperative to get jurors that have a good deal of life experience, drinkers and non-drinkers.

What a Speeding Ticket Costs

November 11, 2011

California drivers are among the top for what they pay in car insurance premiums, that cost gets even higher the more tickets you have. According to one Kern County Speeding Ticket lawyer the cost of a speeding ticket is just the beginning. Acquiring even one speeding ticket can result in a significant jump in your car insurance rates, in some cases causing your rate to double or triple, according to insurance experts.

The experts tell you to make sure you know how your insurance rates will be affected before you plead guilty to that speeding ticket and send in your fine payment. There are a plethora of ways to beat or reduce your violation. Evaluate the cost of the ticket, plus potential insurance costs to see if fighting the ticket or hiring a speeding ticket attorney is an option for you. According to current market data, the average yearly policy from GEICO, 21st Century, Esurance, and AAA for someone with a good driving record for three years was $1,535. With just one speeding ticket on your record, that rises $811 a year to $2,346. That means over three years your car insurance would cost an additional $2433 for having just one violation on your record.

The price of a speeding ticket is even higher for CDL commercial drivers’ license holders, even if they are ticketed in their private vehicles. In California, traffic school is not an option for CDL holders and every 1 point infraction is actu-ally worth 1.5 points on your record if you have a commercial license. Most employers will not tolerate the additional liability associated with having drivers with speeding tickets on their CDL. This is particulary troubling for CDL drivers when officers will write drivers up for multiple violations on the same ticket that could cause a license suspension. Even if there are no employment consequences commercial drivers would still have to pay the additional insur-ance for their private vehicles from receiving a speeding ticket on their record.

How Will Kern County Deal With Realignment?

November 6, 2011

Realignment is how the state is dealing with prison overcrowding.  The main features are (1) the creation of County Jail Felonies, including possible split sentences, (2) increased sentence reduction credits from almost all local county jail inmates, and (3) most persons released from California state prison will not be on parole but will be on post-release community supervision, pursuant to a local realignment plan.  Kern County has embraced the state’s plan.

Realignment’s biggest change is creating ‘County Jail Felonies’: felony sentences served in county jail through sentences of more than a year. The normal triad is used, e.g., 16 months or two or three years. Thus, a Kern County Jail Felony sentence can be longer then a year, often much longer. The kern county court can execute the entire selected County Jail Felony term, or can execute only part of the selected term, and for the remainder of the term place the person under the supervision of the probation officer.  Realignment’s second biggest change is that most people released from prison will be released not on parole, but on the new Kern County-supervised Postrelease Community Supervision.  Time will tell how the county will fare with the new statute.