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California Right to Counsel in Criminal Cases (CA Penal Code section 19.6)

Today’s post will be short. I’m going to go over the right to have a lawyer appointed for you in a criminal case and how that is handled in California state court. Most of you — at least I hope it is most of you — have heard of the 6th amendment to the US Constitution which says the following: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” (emphasis added) The part I’ve bolded and underlined is where a criminal defendant’s right to an attorney comes from. If you’re familiar with the Miranda Warning — or at least seen it on TV before — that also mentions a criminal defendant’s right to have an attorney. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?” (emphasis added) What this right to counsel means in the real-world, though, can be quite involved. Some...

California Gang Database (CalGang) Removal (CA Penal Code sections 186.34 and 186.35)

Over the last several months, the Los Angeles Police Department has been involved in a scandal where several of its officers have been accused of adding people to California’s CalGang database without sufficient cause. The Los Angeles Times has reported on this extensively. Some officers have been criminally charged with falsifying the evidence and documentation needed to justify adding someone to CalGang. Allegedly, these officers were fabricating this evidence in order to meet quotas instituted by LAPD’s data-driven culture about how many people they needed to add to CalGang. Failure to meet those numbers would presumably have been used as evidence individual patrol officers were not doing their jobs, not being productive, etc. The LAPD has now been sued civilly for this scandal by people who allege that they suffered injuries (e.g. job loss) as a result of being improperly included in CalGang. In this post, I’m going to go over two sections of California’s Penal Code — sections 186.34 and 186.35 — pertaining to how individuals who have been added to CalGang can challenge their inclusion. These two statutes, obviously, are not specific to the city or county of Los Angeles. If you have a problem with CalGang elsewhere in California, these statutes might be helpful for you as well so read on. What is CalGang? Let’s start from the basics. CalGang is a statewide database maintained by the California Department of Justice. Like any database, it is meant to provide a single source for accurate information about a particular subject that multiple parties can draw upon. According to the CalGang website, CalGang’s purpose is to “provide law...

California Mechanics Liens and Contractor Licenses

In a prior post, I went over the Preliminary Notice (aka “20-Day Notice”) as the first step in pursuing a Mechanics Lien in California. In another post, I went over the importance of having a construction contractor’s license in California. If you don’t have such a license, you’re forbidden from suing if a client doesn’t pay you. You’re also vulnerable to being sued for disgorgement of all compensation you earned while unlicensed. In this post, I’m going to address a question posed by a hybrid of these two posts: can you pursue a mechanics lien if you’re a construction contractor working without the required license? The short answer here is no. If you work in the construction trades and you don’t have the license that California requires you to have, you cannot pursue a mechanics lien against a client/customer who doesn’t pay you. The reason is the same statute I went over in my prior post, section 7031 of California’s Business and Professions Code. Section 7031(a) says: “Except as provided in subdivision (e), no person engaged in the business or acting in the capacity of a contractor, may bring or maintain any action, or recover in law or equity in any action, in any court of this state for the collection of compensation for the performance of any act or contract where a license is required by this chapter without alleging that he or she was a duly licensed contractor at all times during the performance of that act or contract regardless of the merits of the cause of action brought by the person, except that this prohibition shall...
Using An Unlicensed Construction Contractor in California

Using An Unlicensed Construction Contractor in California

Many people, at some point in their lives, hire a construction professional — such as an electrician or general contractor — to do some sort of project, such as a home remodel or addition. California has licensing requirements for many professions (e.g. attorneys), including for those employed in the construction trades. For the construction trades, the main licensing agency in California is the Contractors State Licensing Board run by the California Department of Consumer Affairs. California has too many construction-related licenses for me to go over in this post. What I am going to describe in this post, though, is one important statute that applies when a consumer hires a contractor or other construction professional who is unlicensed. That statute is section 7031(b) of California’s Business and Professions Code, which provides: “Except as provided in subdivision (e), a person who utilizes the services of an unlicensed contractor may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction in this state to recover all compensation paid to the unlicensed contractor for performance of any act or contract.” In other words, the mere fact that a contractor is unlicensed can allow his/her customer to sue for a full refund of compensation paid. For full context, however, we have to also look at section 7031(e) because that section provides some exceptions: “The judicial doctrine of substantial compliance shall not apply under this section where the person who engaged in the business or acted in the capacity of a contractor has never been a duly licensed contractor in this state. However, notwithstanding subdivision (b) of Section 143, the court may determine that there...

California Child Caregiver’s Authorization (CA Family Code section 6550)

Most people are probably familiar with child custody in the context of a divorce. For example, one parent has the child (or children) these days and these times while the other parent has them these other days and other times. In California, child custody can also be described via another option, namely the Caregiver’s Authorization under section 6550 of the California Family Code. What a Caregiver’s Authorization allows another adult — called the “Caregiver” — to assume certain  authority over a minor child without court involvement. This authority, however, is limited to that related to the child’s schooling and medical care. All that’s required is that the Caregiver sign a declaration stating, among other things, that the minor child is now living with them for whatever reason. The amount of authority the Caregiver gets is dependent on factors such as their relationship to the minor child and the contents of the declaration signed. A sample declaration is provided in section 6552 of the California Family Code. For instance, if you’re the Caregiver and you only fill in sections 1 through 4 on the sample declaration provided in section 6552, section 6550(a) only allows you to “enroll a minor in school and consent to school-related medical care on behalf of the minor.” If you’re interested — as I was when I saw the term — “school-related medical care” is defined in section 6550(h)(3) to be “medical care that is required by state or local governmental authority as a condition for school enrollment, including immunizations, physical examinations, and medical examinations conducted in schools for pupils.” On the other hand, if you’re...

Can A Corporation Represent Itself in California?

Years ago, it was probably fairly difficult for the average person to form a legal entity like a corporation or limited liability company (LLC). Nowadays, however, it’s much easier and can often be done with a few clicks online and a credit card. The result I’ve seen is that entities like corporations and LLCs are much more common now with people who have small business or are otherwise self-employed. Because an entity like a corporation or LLC is its own distinct entity, however, problems can sometimes arise. One of the problems I see by virtue of what I do is when the entity needs to go to court. For example, the entity might need to sue to collect from a customer or client who is refusing to pay their bill. Or, the entity might be sued by someone else for breaching a contract, for instance. If an actual person needed to file a lawsuit or defend against a lawsuit, they can hire a lawyer, but they can also represent themselves in court. If your business is the same as yourself (i.e. a sole proprietorship), you can represent your business also because the two of you are one and the same. However, if you have a legal entity of some kind — for example, a corporation or LLC — that ability goes away. In other words, if you have a legal entity for your business, you can’t represent that entity in California unless you’re also a California-licensed attorney. Phrased another way: legal entities must be represented by attorneys in court in California. In most situations, the cost of hiring an...