Criminal Defense Attorney and State Highway Patrol Officers Charged with Criminal Conspiracy

Last month, a California defense attorney and three state highway patrol officers were taken into custody for allegedly having connections with the murder of 26-year old Korey Kauffman in 2012. Kauffman’s body was found 18 months after he disappeared in Mariposa County. He was locally known for “scrapping” (stealing metal to sell). Prominent Modesto, CA criminal defense attorney Frank Carson was the suspected ringleader in an alleged conspiracy. Carson has been described as a “vengeful property owner trying to send a message to people allegedly stealing scrap metal and antiques from his property in Turlock.” On the night of Korey Kauffman’s disappearance, he was heading to steal irrigation pipes from Frank Carson’s property.

“The whole scrapper life, I didn’t approve of it,” Korey Kauffman’s father said of his late son. “You know how fathers are with their sons; we tend to be harder on them. But he chose his own path. He was a good kid with a good heart and he didn’t deserve what he got.”

Nine people were named and arrested in connection with the conspiracy, including Frank Carson, his wife, two business owners in Turlock, and three highway patrol officers. Carson faces potential charges of murder, criminal conspiracy, false imprisonment, solicitation, and lying in wait, which could qualify Carson for the death penalty. Authorities believe that Kauffman’s murder took place on March 30, 2012 in the Turlock area. They believe his body was then hidden in Mariposa County where it was discovered by hunters in August 2013.

The arrest warrant detailing probable cause to arrest Frank Carson described him as an easily angered person, without respect for authority and who hoped “to send a message to thieves targeting his belongings.” Carson had previously accused Korey Kauffman of stealing from his property in Turlock and had previously complained to authorities about Kauffman.

Walter Wells, Scott McFarlane, and Eduardo Quintanar Jr., all California Highway Patrol officers, also face charges connected to this conspiracy. Wells faces charges of murder, conspiracy, and false imprisonment. McFarlane and Quintanar Jr. face potential charges of criminal conspiracy and being an accessory. Wells’ seven years of employment as a highway patrol officer ended in June due to conduct unrelated to these charges. McFarlane and Quintanar Jr. were placed on administrative leave as a result of this investigation. The arrest documents conclude that Korey Kauffman’s body was dumped into the woods by a police car. “I am here saddened by this news. The California Highway Patrol is a very proud organization that values integrity,” Commissioner Joe Farrow said. “To hear news like this is devastating.” Farrow remarked that news of officers’ alleged involvement in a criminal conspiracy has a negative effect on all law enforcement agencies and “rips at the soul of an organization.”

Contact the Leslie Legal Group

If you or a loved one have been treated unfairly by the San Diego Police Department, it is essential that you retain an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The Leslie Legal Group has extensive experience helping clients. Contact us today for a free consultation.

New San Diego Police Training Places Focus on Community Engagement

The latest police academy training class for the San Diego Police Department will be the first to involve training dedicated to community engagement. The San Diego Police Department is encouraging officers to focus on policing the community in a culturally sensitive manner with this revamped training program.

The program is four weeks long and will teach the newly-minted officers ways to plug into the community. For example, they will be visiting various community groups and centers to attend neighborhood meetings and events. The SDPD’s community approach to policing is “about solving problems now that might lead to crime later. It’s more about prevention than response, and to do it well, officers need to work closely with the residents and merchants in their area. In the 1990s, few departments, if any, were better at it than San Diego’s.”

A yearlong audit that ended this past March revealed that community engagement has slipped in San Diego for a number of reasons, including staffing shortages. SDPD Lieutenant Natalie Stone said, “We’re doing some good work here but we’re not the problem solvers we used to be or engaging the community like we used to be.” In response to this slip in community engagement, the department has made a number of changes, notably the overhaul of the training of incoming officers. The SDPD has designed a training program that will immerse the new officers into the community. New Officers will now take part in a month-long observational period with a special focus on community engagement.

Officer Ivan Sablan, a field training coordinator explained that the SDPD is “helping them understand there’s a lot more to being an officer than answering the radio, writing tickets and putting people in jail. It’s about reaching out to the community. That’s part of being a cop, too.”

“It’s certainly good that the department is emphasizing relationships and a closer connection with communities…but I think the value or the impact will depend on what the trainees are doing. What are they observing and to what extent are they engaging community members?” Margaret Dooley- Sammuli, San Diego spokeswoman for the ACLU explained.

SDPD officers are enthusiastic about this new focus on community interaction. Officer Richard Valenzuela, another officer who helps coordinate training, says that people are excited and wondering why they did not focus on community engagement before. As part of the training, the new officers visited the Islamic Center of San Diego, and those involved with the center seem enthusiastic and optimistic about the change. Basheer Yadwi, an education and outreach coordinator at the Islamic Center, is hopeful that with more engagement by officers, the relationship between police and Arab-Americans will improve and will encourage dialogue around important issues, such as racial profiling. “We have a long way to go in terms of having an open dialogue in terms of these issues that are on the back burner. We want to bring them to the front burner, so to speak,” he said.

Contact the Leslie Legal Group

If you or a loved one have been treated unfairly by the San Diego Police Department, it is essential that you retain an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The Leslie Legal Group has extensive experience helping clients. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Hackers Find Vulnerability In Jeep’s Uconnect System

“I was driving 70 mph on the edge of downtown St. Louis when the exploit began to take hold. Though I hadn’t touched the dashboard, the vents in the Jeep Cherokee started blasting cold air in the maximum setting, chilling the sweat on my back through the in-seat-climate control system. Next the radio switched to the local hip hop station and began blaring Skee-lo at full volume. I spun the control knob left and hit the power button, to no avail. Then the windshield wipers turned on, and wiper fluid blurred the glass.”

Can you imagine something similar happening to you while you drive your car? Andy Greenberg participated in a study in which cybersecurity researchers attempted to find vulnerability in Jeep’s Uconnect system, the computer system inside the vehicle. What’s scary is that they were able to find it and hack into the system.

Security breaches at stores like Target and Home Depot have become commonplace, but now researchers have discovered it is possible for hackers to control individual vehicle computer systems. Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, cybersecurity researchers, discovered a hacking technique called a “zero-day exploit” that targets Jeep Cherokees and allows the attacker to have wireless control of thousands of cars. The software lets hackers send commands through a laptop to the Jeep’s Uconnect system that can alter steering, music, brakes, transmission, etc.

Such hacking is made possible by the fact that the vast majority of car manufacturers strive to turn vehicles into smartphones and ensure that you are connected at all times. Chrysler’s way of doing this is via the Uconnect system. Uconnect is an internet-connected computer in most Fiat Chrysler vehicles. The system controls entertainment, navigation, phone calls, and includes wi-fi hotspot capability. The system’s connection also allows “anyone who knows the car’s IP address to gain access from anywhere in the country. From an attacker’s perspective, it is a super nice vulnerability.”

Affected Chrysler Vehicles include:

  • 2013-2015 MY Dodge Viper specialty vehicles
  • 2013-2015 Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickups
  • 2013-2015 Ram 3500, 4500, 5500 Chassis Cabs
  • 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Cherokee SUVs
  • 2014-2015 Dodge Durango SUVs
  • 2015 MY Chrysler 200, Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans
  • 2015 Dodge Challenger sports coupes

Researchers Miller and Valasek have been sharing their research with Chrysler, which has allowed for Chrysler to release a software update in response to the potential threat. Last month, owners of Chrysler vehicles with the Uconnect feature were notified of the update’s release to secure vehicles against vulnerability. The software update must be manually downloaded to a USB and updated, which means many vulnerable vehicle owners are unlikely to update in a timely manner, if at all. “If consumers don’t realize this is an issue, they should, and they should start complaining to carmakers. This might be the kind of software bug most likely to kill someone,” Charlie Miller explained.

Contact the Leslie Legal Group Today

If you are experiencing trouble with your vehicle’s computer system, contact the experienced attorneys at the Leslie Legal Group. We can help determine the right solution for you and your case.

What Happens When a Sex Offender Fails to Register?

If you have been convicted of a sex crime in the state of California, you are almost always required to register as a sex offender according to the California Penal Code – oftentimes for the remainder of your life. You must register as a sex offender within five days of your initial release from prison. If you fail to register within that time period, you could face additional charges. Your registration must also be renewed every year within five business days of your birthday as well as any time that you relocate to a new residence. If you fail to renew your registration willfully or knowingly, you could face additional misdemeanor or felony charges. The severity of these additional charges usually depends upon the severity of the crime you were originally charged with, as well as whether or not it was a first offense.

If you have been accused of failing to register your sex offender status, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Sean F. Leslie can help mitigate your charges, or dismiss them altogether. Contact us today for a consultation.

Rules for Sex Offender Registration

An offender must register every year on his or her birthday. Whenever a registered sex offender moves to a new location, they must set up an appointment with their new local law enforcement agency to re-register/notify of new location. Those that are homeless/have no permanent residence must notify local law enforcement of their whereabouts every ten days. If the offender has moved to a new location, he or she must notify local law enforcement.

Failure to Register Under California Penal Code Section 290

If the offender fails to register and is on probation, that would be a violation of probation terms. The offender could face prison time.

If the offender is not on probation, the District Attorney has the option of filing the failure to register as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The likelihood of felony charges is high. That person could be subject to up to three years in state prison for willful violation of registration.

Forgetting is NOT a defense to failing to register as a sex offender. The person in question is strictly liable for the responsibility to keep their registration current.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

At the Leslie Legal Group, we understand the stress involved when facing criminal charges, and we can help you understand the process of sex offender registration. Let us put our criminal defense experience to work for you. Contact us today for a consultation

Potential California Initiative Would Bar Transgender People from the “Wrong” Bathroom

A proposed ballot measure called the Personal Privacy Protection Act was submitted to Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office in April by Privacy for All that would require people to “use facilities in accordance with their biological sex in government-owned buildings, including public schools and universities.” The proposal would not apply to family or single-occupancy bathrooms. Privacy for All is the same group that attempted to repeal California law that requires public schools to allow transgender students to play on the sports teams of the gender that they identify with and allows transgender students to use school bathrooms.

If the proposal passes, those who feel their privacy had been violated by a transgender person “unlawfully” using the restroom or those who refrain from entering a restroom or locker room because they knew a transgender person was inside could sue either that person or the government entity and recover a minimum of $4,000. The initiative also seeks to protect private sector businesses that require people to use bathrooms in compliance with their birth gender.

To see this proposal on the ballot in November 2016, over 365,000 signatures must be collected. “We have great compassion for any person that is uncomfortable in traditional, sex-separated facilities,” said Gina Gleason, a proponent of the initiative, in a Privacy for All statement circulated by Christian Newswire. “But we also want to protect the privacy that most of us expect when we are in public restrooms, showers and dressing areas.”

The transgender community sees this initiative as “unconstitutional and unenforceable,” and “would dangerously single out Californians who don’t meet people’s stereotypes of what it’s like to be male or what it looks like to be female, putting everyone at greater risk of harassment and opening the state up to costly lawsuits,” Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center explained.

Does this law sound a little extreme? Well, citizens of California are allowed to submit any ballot proposal to the Attorney General’s office for a fee of $200. The Attorney General’s Office is legally obligated to give every potential proposal a name to put on the ballot, summarize the effects of every initiative, and allow time for proponents of the initiative to petition for signatures. California officials must put even the craziest ideas on the ballot if the required amount of signatures is collected. It remains to be seen whether the Personal Privacy Protection Act will make its way onto our ballots next November.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in California

A wrongful death claim arises when someone dies due to the negligence of another person or entity. Survivors, typically relatives or spouses, may be able to initiate a lawsuit to recover damages. A wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation for the survivor’s loss resulting from the death of the loved one, i.e., lost wages, loss of companionship, or medical or funeral expenses. A wrongful death claim can involve almost any type of accident resulting in death, including product liability, medical malpractice, auto accidents, or on-the-job injuries. California allows a time limit of two years from the date of the decedent’s death to file a wrongful death claim.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The California Wrongful Death Statute specifies those who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Specifically, the following parties may bring a wrongful death lawsuit – the surviving spouse or domestic partner, any surviving children, or if there is no surviving descendant or partner, then a wrongful death suit may be initiated by anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession” (i.e., parents, or siblings of the deceased). Also, if the following parties can demonstrate financial dependence on the deceased, they are also entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California:

  • The deceased person’s common law spouse and their children
  • Any stepchildren of the deceased
  • The parents of the deceased

Damages Available for Recovery

In a wrongful death lawsuit, damages are typically apportioned between compensating the estate for losses associated with the death of the deceased and the surviving family members for their losses suffered. Damages that are typically allocated to the estate include funeral/burial costs, medical expenses for the deceased’s final injury, and any lost income (including any income the deceased person would have been reasonably expected to earn in their future). Damages typically allocated to the surviving family include the loss of financial support, value of household services, loss of love, community, guidance, and affection.

Contact Leslie Legal Group

It is the legal responsibility of every single company and individual to ensure the safety of their employees or clients. A breach of this responsibility can occur when the same companies or individuals act in a negligent or reckless manner. If your loved one suffered a severe injury or illness resulting in their untimely death, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. The Leslie Legal Group is committed to excellence in the representation of every single client. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.

Importance of Wills and Trusts

Have you created a Will yet? Or a trust? How about a Living Will? Many people today don’t realize the importance of having a plan in place in case of unforeseen circumstances, and many put off creating one for a variety of other reasons. More often than not, individuals are more focused on the here-and-now and don’t think about the end of the road; after all, one’s own death is not a pleasant thought. However, if you care about those who would be left behind if the unthinkable occurs, it’s best to plan ahead. At the very least, doing some research into what your options are can help you determine what, if anything, you need to plan for.

There are many benefits to having an estate plan in place, and it can often protect your family and loved ones from experiencing unnecessary financial burdens and heartache. The documents within an estate plan can satisfy any number of your wishes: outline a distribution of assets, determine who will look after your children (if minors), name your health care agents and health care preferences, protect your minor children from overspending (and third parties), protect distribution of investment and retirement assets, etc.

So how do you know what is right for you?

For those with minor children, you’ll want to think about setting up a Declaration of Guardianship Nomination for your minor children. This will allow you to legally declare who should have legal and physical custody of your minor children if something happens to you. Without declaring your wishes, the court cannot take what you want into consideration. Instead, it will be up to a combination of your relatives and the court system to fight it out and determine the best guardian for your children, without your say.

If you own a home, you may want to consider putting a Living Trust into place. A Living Trust can do wonders for your estate. It can help you avoid probate fees and court costs, maximize your tax exemptions, provide your children with property tax benefits, and much more. It also allows you to determine who will receive distributions in the manner you want, all while keeping it personal and out of the court system.

If you do not have children and do not own a home, a Will may be all you need to outline your wishes. A Last Will and Testament can outline you who want to receive your assets upon your death, and in what manner. Wills go through the probate process in the court system, which can be very expensive (it can cost anywhere form 3-7% of your total estate) and time-consuming, and must follow a number of rules. Because of this, anyone with a large estate, or complicated distribution issues might consider drafting a trust instead. However, those without substantial assets, or a home, may only need a Will to outline their wishes. If your total assets are under a certain amount, even a Will can outline your distribution requests without necessarily needing to go through the probate court. If you’re not sure of your situation, this is a good time to consider consulting with an attorney to outline a plan that best suits your needs.

With investments, bank accounts and retirement assets, there are ways to avoid probate altogether, but be wary of these methods and do your research. Avoid actions such as “Transfer on Death” (TOD) or “Pay on Death” (POD) which may avoid probate, but can have other repercussions relating to gift taxes, loss of assets and more. These methods can be beneficial for specific instances, but can be harmful more often than not.

Finally, don’t forget about a Living Will, which in California is referred to as an Advance Health Care Directive. This is a legal document appointing your health care agents – those you want to make health care decisions for you if you are unable. It also allows you to state your preferences for other health care wishes, such as end-of-life decisions and organ donation.

The best option is usually to find a good lawyer to consult with and go from there – feel free to contact our office for any assistance you may need!

A little talk about Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in San Diego

Let’s talk a little bit about bankruptcy. In today’s economy, it is extremely easy to get consumed in debt, and more and more individuals are resorting to bankruptcy for a second chance at financial freedom. If you don’t fully understand or know what the term bankruptcy means, it can be described as a monetary “clean slate” – hitting the reset button on life. slide4-new

Before making the decision to actually file for bankruptcy assistance, those considering it should think long and hard about whether they actually need to do it. The process isn’t to be taken lightly and can only be repeated once every eight years, and remains on your credit history for seven to ten years, thus making it important to weigh the decision carefully. Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the “cookie-cutter” version of it, is the most common type and is a relatively simple and effective process to get started. The actual process generally takes only a few months to complete, essentially wiping out some of society’s most crippling of debts. However, it is important to note that not all debts are forgiven through bankruptcy, as there are some which are nearly inescapable. The process is effective at releasing the tension and suffocation from unsecured debts such as credit cards, medical bills, etc. – but does NOT generally render the debtor exempt from obligations such as child support, student loans, taxes, or criminal restitution (although there are circumstances in which some of these may be discharged). Someone who is considering filing for bankruptcy often fits a familiar scenario – an individual who may already be suffering from financial hardship and excessive amounts of debt then encounters an added problem such as unemployment, divorce, injury, loss of insurance, etc. The law defining bankruptcy was designed originally to help people in such circumstances, providing an opportunity to live their lives again without the burden of debt and collection agencies hounding their every move. In the state of California, even before filing bankruptcy, it is possible for a person to protect their assets from being taken away. Under the Exemption Laws of California, it is possible to be “judgement-proof,” preventing unsecured creditors from taking claim of your belongings. although this may not be the best long-term solution. It is even possible to cease their harassing phone calls and letters by contacting the creditors directly, although you must be careful when doing so as offering to pay the debt, or even acknowledging that it is your debt and your intent to pay it can have drastic and negative effects. If you have been experiencing paralyzing financial difficulty and feel as if one of these options may benefit you, make sure to talk to a California bankruptcy lawyer to get some answers and find out what the best option is for you; your financial freedom awaits!