Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Recent Data Shows California's Realignment Doesn't Harm Public Safety

A few years ago, California passed a number of bills related to criminal justice reform. Due to prison overcrowding, and constitutional concerns, Governor Brown led the charge to reduce the bloated prison population. Propositions 36 and 47, which dealt with the punitive three-strikes law and over-sentencing of non-violent theft/drug crimes respectively, were passed with overwhelming majorities.

An older law, passed in 2011, also helped reverse the rapid increase of state inmates. "Realignment" put non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenders in county jail rather than state prisons. Instead of being put into the care of parole, these non-violent inmates were placed into the custody of county-based probation programs. This helped the overloaded parole board. Also, violations resulted in county jail terms, rather than prison terms.

The opposition to Realignment had rational arguments, but so far their fears and concerns have been proven wrong. Despite their claims that crime would surge, citizens of California knew that the status quo was hurting their state and took the purported risk. It was worth it.

Now, the San Diego Tribune is reporting that Realignment does not harm safety. Since Realignment, crime has remained relatively low. Both in 2013 and 2014, crime rates dropped. Property and violent crimes are now at historic lows. Some experts believe that it is too early to make judgments, but overall, the data shows a trend downwards in violent crimes.

Reduction in crime rates is not exclusive to Los Angeles or California. Throughout the United States, crime has been down. The FBI data shows crime rates at 1960 levels. All of this is good news for those who advocate for criminal justice reform. Reducing prison populations will save money, combat recidivism, and put convicts in a position where they can re-assimilate.

Communities have been damaged enough from aggressive policies of over-incarceration. Let's hope that the data continues to reflect the benefits of changing how we, as a state, handle crime.
most "non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenders" (as defined by the California's Penal Code) have been sentenced to county jails or put in locally-run probation programs. The program shifts a huge amount of criminal justice responsibility and power from the state to the local level. Prior to last October, every county came up with it's own individualized plan for how it would handle a potential increase in inmates and parolees. Each county then received an allotment of state funding based on its specific plan and the projected number of new inmates. - See more at:
most "non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenders" (as defined by the California's Penal Code) have been sentenced to county jails or put in locally-run probation programs. The program shifts a huge amount of criminal justice responsibility and power from the state to the local level. Prior to last October, every county came up with it's own individualized plan for how it would handle a potential increase in inmates and parolees. Each county then received an allotment of state funding based on its specific plan and the projected number of new inmates. - See more at:

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Motorcycle Accidents Have Become More Frequent and More Dangerous

An article from the Inland Empire pointed out that motorcycle accidents are occurring more often. It is obviously very dangerous for those who ride motorcycles, but it is also dangerous for everyone on the road. Incidents have occurred where drivers of regular cars suddenly swerve lanes to try to avoid a disabled motorcycle.

Motorcycles are smaller, lighter in weight, and afford less protection, i.e. airbags, seat-belts, protective engineering. People involved in motorcycle accidents die at a much larger rate than people involved in a motor vehicle accident. Cars are larger and safer. It goes without saying that motorcycle helmets are a must. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) provided interesting statistics:

(1) Helmets, when worn, reduce the risk of death by 29 percent;

(2) Helmets, when worn, are 67 percent effective in preventing traumatic brain injury; and

(3) From 1984 to 1995, helmets saved the lives of more than 7,400 motorcyclists.

Besides wearing helmets, motorcyclists can remain cautious and attentive. Indeed, a lot of accidents involving motorcycles are caused by sleeping motorcyclists! The same laws for motor vehicles are applicable to motorcycles. Use common sense and be careful.

But what should you do if you, a motorcycle rider, are involved in an accident because of the fault of a motor vehicle? You should contact a personal injury attorney and open a claim immediately. It is important that everything is documented properly. Take pictures, make sure that the police are called to write a report, and be mindful of your pain.

Moreover, some bikes are custom, meaning that it is important for the owner to collect evidence of the value of the motorcycle if it is damaged. The property damage claim that will be made usually is disposed of prior to the bodily injury claim. Also, do not hesitate to contact your attorney with questions; it is important to communicate on a regular basis.

Like all accidents, motorcycle accidents are potentially harmful, inconvenient, and time-consuming. Motorcyclists should be ready to seek the advice of the attorney if necessary. But remember: wear a helmet, it can save your life.

Friday, September 4, 2015

DUI Checkpoints Are Legal

The other day an individual challenged his DUI in court without the representation of an attorney. In open court, in front of the other defendants and attorneys, he started to yell at the presiding judge. "They violated my constitutional rights!" The judge was annoyed but let the man finish. "A DUI checkpoint is unconstitutional! There was no probable cause to stop me!" After he was done, the judge responded: "This is an arraignment. All you need to do is enter a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty."

Besides the procedural mistake (one does not argue the merits of a case at an arraignment), the pro per defendant was wrong on the law. DUI checkpoints are not unconstitutional. To the contrary, both the United States and California Constitutions' allow DUI checkpoints.

The rationale behind "mobile" or "roadblock" DUI checkpoints lies in public safety. Due to the state's strong interest in preventing injury from DUI accidents, minor inconveniences are allowed. This does not mean that law enforcement can use checkpoints as an excuse to perform general or broad investigations. Police officers must follow strict guidelines when conducting a DUI checkpoint.

California has enacted legislation with respect to checkpoints. California Vehicle Code section 2814.2, subsection (a) states: "[a] driver of a motor vehicle shall stop and submit to a sobriety checkpoint inspection conducted by a law enforcement agency when signs and displays are posted requiring that stop."

Nevertheless, a California Supreme Court case in 1987 (Ingersoll v. Palmer), enumerated the guidelines that must be followed by officers executing a DUI checkpoint. They are as follows:

     a) Supervising officers must make all operational decisions;
     b) Criteria for stops must be neutral;
     c) Checkpoint must be reasonably located;
     d) Adequate safety measures must be taken;
     e) Good judgment must be used when determining the checkpoint's time and duration;
     f) There must be sufficient notice to drivers that the checkpoint is for official purposes;
     g) Drivers must only be stopped for a minimal amount of time; and
     h) Checkpoints should be publicly advertised in advance of execution.

If these guidelines are not followed, it is possible that a DUI charge, arising from a checkpoint, could be challenged. There are never guarantees, however.

A checkpoint also does not mean officers' can perform an extensive investigation without probable cause. A brief stop can lead to an investigation when there is evidence, sufficient probable cause, of intoxication --for example, when a person has alcohol on his breath, blurred eyes, or slurred speech.

In summary, on holiday weekends, like Labor Day Weekend, make sure that you avoid situations where you will have to drink and drive. Use a designated driver or taxi service if you drink. It is not only against the law, it is extremely dangerous. With that, have a good weekend!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Subrogation in Third Party Accident Cases

"Good news: your case has settled." The client asks in response, "When do you think I will get my portion of the settlement?" There is a pause over the phone. The personal injury attorney -- experienced and familiar with post-settlement -- was expecting the question. "We cannot disburse any funds until the liens are satisfied." "When will that be?" The lawyer's answer did not satisfy the client: "it depends..."

The general public is unfamiliar with the term, "subrogation." However, it is an important concept to attorneys and insurers. Subrogation allows insurers to recover costs that they may have expended on  behalf of their insureds. Simply put, when there is a third party accident, the first party's insurance carrier is able to recover monies from the third party who is at fault. The insurer steps into the shoes of the insured and gets the right to be paid what it has lost.

An example may help. Let's say Frank, the first party who was injured, retained Adam the attorney. Frank was hurt in an accident, so he needed medical treatment. Frank went to his primary care provider for help. All of the medical bills from his primary care provider were sent to Frank's health insurance carrier, "HealthIns."  HealthIns was made aware by Adam, Frank's attorney, that the treatment was related to a motor vehicle accident.

Meanwhile, Adam was able to prove that Tom, the third party, was at fault for the accident. Tom's insurance policy had a liability limit of $15,000. Due to the extent of injuries to Frank, Tom's liability insurer offered to settle Frank's claim for the full amount of $15,000. Adam relays the offer to Frank, and Frank accepts.

There is now $15,000 in settlement funds. Before the funds are disbursed, however, HealthIns reminds Adam that it will enforce its right to subrogation. HealthIns paid $5,000 to Frank's medical provider. Adam and HealthIns must now settle the subrogation lien prior to the disbursement of funds to Frank.

Sometimes it can take months for a case to be closed after it has been settled. It is frustrating but it is the law. In some circumstances, the insurer will not be able entitled to subrogation.

A health insurer may not be entitled to subrogation if the insured was "not made whole." The "made whole doctrine" is an equitable principle that states, absent an agreement to the contrary, an insurance company may not subrogate until the insured has been fully compensated for his or her injuries, or "made whole." See Sapiano v. Williamsburg Natl. Ins. Co. (1994) 28 Cal.App.4th 533. This principle will sometimes apply when there is a catastrophic injury and a low liability policy.

Needless to say it is obvious that personal injury law is complex. It is best to retain, or consult, with an experienced personal injury attorney after an accident. Not only should the attorney be able to recover a settlement or judgment, he or she will be able to advise on the intricacies of subrogation, liens, and rights to reimbursement.