Get the latest crime news in Los Angeles County

Request a Free Consultation

About Los Angeles Criminal Law Center

Los Angeles Criminal Law Center is sponsored by The Rodriguez Law Group, a criminal defense firm serving Los Angeles, CA and the surrounding areas. The Rodriguez Law Group was founded by Ambrosio E. Rodriguez, a former prosecutor with over 18 years experience. During his time as a prosecutor, Mr. Rodriguez handled serious criminal matters including sex crimes and death penalty cases. The information on this site is intended to assist anyone going through the criminal justice process.

Lady Justice

Have you recently been arrested and are facing criminal charges in Los Angeles? You should not hesitate to contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. There are thousands of criminal defense attorneys to choose from…so how can you know which one is right for you? Most criminal lawyers offer a free consultation, which can be a great way to learn about an attorney and determine if they best suited to handle your case. We have compiled a list of seven questions that you need to ask when you hiring a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles.

How long have you been practicing law?

Some attorneys will have been practicing law for decades, while others will be fresh out of law school and just getting used to the job. Some clients may be more comfortable hiring an experienced attorney who has established relationships with judges, prosecutors, and investigators and has proven to be a successful advocate in the past.

Other clients may want to invest their hope and future in a younger attorney who is full of energy and has a limited number of cases. The experience an attorney has will generally be reflected in their legal fees. A more experienced attorney may charge a higher rate than an attorney who is still making a name for himself or herself.

How long have you been a criminal defense attorney?

Just because an attorney has been practicing law for years does not necessarily mean that they have spent their entire careers in criminal defense. Many attorneys begin working in different fields as prosecutors, corporate lawyers, and personal injury lawyers, and then transition to criminal defense later in their careers.

If you would prefer to hire a lawyer who has years of experience working as a criminal defense attorney, it is important to ask specific questions about their legal background.

How many jury trials have you handled?

If you think that your case may go to trial it is important to know if your attorney has any trial experience. You may find that many attorneys lack significant experience working in front of a jury.

This is because the majority of misdemeanor cases – and many felony cases – conclude before the set trial date. However, some attorneys will have a significant amount of jury experience and success, which can be comforting when you are not inclined to take a plea bargain.

How many jury trials have you won?

One of the best ways to get the state prosecutor to the negotiating table is by hiring an attorney they don’t want to see in court. When you hire an attorney who has established a track record of success in the courtroom, a prosecutor will be more inclined to negotiate the charges (and penalties) in your case.

How many cases have you handled in front of the judge in my case?

When charges are formally filed against you a specific judge will be assigned to your case. Some attorneys have better relationships and experiences with some judges, rather than others. Find out if the attorney you’re speaking with has direct experience arguing before the judge that is assigned to your case.

Who else in your office will be working on my case?

You may feel entirely confident putting your future in the hands of the attorney you meet with. However, many law firms use secretaries, paralegals, and less-experienced attorneys to handle a large percentage of the cases they handle. You may not want your attorney to pass off your case to someone you don’t know and trust.

If the attorney you meet with routinely delegates work to others, you may want to consider a smaller firm. At a smaller firm, more of the work will generally be done by the attorney you meet with and a very small staff. You will have to gauge what kind of situation you will be comfortable with.

Do you have any experience handling cases like mine?

Many criminal defense attorneys are comfortable handling a specific type of criminal case. Some attorneys may specialize in cases involving domestic violence, while others will routinely handle cases involving driving under the influence (DUI). Ask the attorney you meet with about any prior experience they have dealing with cases like yours. The more experience they have handling your specific type of criminal case, the better equipped they will be to help you.

Are you facing criminal charges in Los Angeles? Contact the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center today for immediate legal assistance. Our legal team, led by criminal defense attorney Ambrosio Rodriguez, has more than 18 years of experience handling complex criminal matters. We will intervene early on in the criminal proceedings and fight to get the charges in your case reduced or dismissed. When you call, we will review your case, explain your rights, and answer any of the questions you may have.

What Is The Three Strikes Law?

In baseball, “three strikes and you’re out” is a common phrase. It lets players know that that the third strike is their last chance to hit the ball. Players who fail to get a hit on their third try are sent back to the dugout and, in some cases, this means game over.

The Three Strikes Law has a similar but much grimmer meaning for habitual felons in California. 

Essentially, the Three Strikes Law is a set of sentencing guidelines for felony convictions. Its purpose is to deter individuals with prior serious felonies from committing any further felonies.

The original law achieved this by having severe penalties for the third felony, with a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

The law wasn’t without its critics. They argued that the law was too severe. Particularly, that non-violent felonies shouldn’t count as a third strike as these crimes don’t warrant the possibility of receiving life in prison without the chance for parole.

Since its enactment in 1994, the law has been relaxed, especially in regard to third-time felons. But, the sentencing guidelines are still strict.

History Of The Three Strikes Law

The original Three Strikes Law gave harsh sentencing guidelines to habitual felony offenders. The first serious felony conviction was the first strike on their record. On the first strike, the individual was sentenced normally. 

The Three Strikes Law starts making changes to regular sentencing guidelines at the second felony. If the felon was convicted of a serious felony for the second time, the amount of time they spent in jail was doubled. This was the second strike on their record.

After the second conviction for a serious felony (the second strike) a subsequent conviction for any felony–whether serious or not–was the third strike on their record. This meant that even non-violent felonies counted as a third strike. Under the Three Strikes Law sentencing guidelines, the mandatory penalty for the third felony was 25 years to life in prison without parole.

In 2012, Proposition 36 was passed. It made two substantial changes to the Three Strikes Law sentencing guidelines:

  1. If a third-time felon was currently serving 25 years-to-life as a mandatory sentence under the old law, the new law allows them to petition the court to be re-sentenced under the new second-strike guidelines if they are eligible; and
  2. Instead of any felony counting as a third strike, now the third strike sentencing would only be triggered if that felony was a serious felony.

Proposition 36 was a substantial step towards relaxing the Three Strikes Law sentencing guidelines. However, California law still gives harsh penalties to habitual felons and further changes are currently being considered. 

What Is The Difference Between A Felony And A Serious Felony?

The Three Strikes Law makes an important distinction between a felony and a serious felony. In California, a felony is broadly defined as any crime that carries a sentence of more than one year in jail or prison. This includes non-violent offenses, like drug charges.

A serious felony, on the other hand, has a much narrower definition. The term serious felony is reserved for the gravest crimes. Examples of a serious felony include:

  • Murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child
  • Burglary
  • Carjacking
  • Any robbery

By distinguishing between a felony and a serious felony, Proposition 36 prevents individuals committed of two prior serious felonies from automatically serving 25 years to life in prison for a subsequent non-violent felony, such as the sale of a controlled substance.

How Can A Criminal Defense Attorney Help Me?

Although the Three Strikes Law has been revised, any felony conviction in California can have serious long-term consequences, including incarceration and monetary fines.

If you have a felony criminal record and are facing new charges, or if this is your first possible conviction, it’s important to seek legal help as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help protect you from the Three Strikes Law, including negotiating plea bargains

If I Plan on Pleading Guilty, Do I Still Need A Lawyer?

Whether you committed the crime or not, you know the facts look bad and you just want the case to go away. You plan on pleading guilty. Do you still need an attorney?

97% of criminal cases in California are settled before trial with a plea bargain. Plea bargains save the court time and resources. In a plea bargain, you agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge in order to receive a less severe punishment. Of course, this means you don’t go to trial.

There are many reasons to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney, even if you are going to plead guilty. Prosecutors will try to rush things along and take advantage of your inexperience in legal matters. There is still a complicated court process even when you are taking a plea bargain. An experienced criminal attorney can make sure things are handled correctly and ensure that you aren’t opening yourself up to further legal troubles by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time during this process.

An Attorney Can Protect Your Rights and Your Best Interests

Your attorney will make sure that your rights are protected during the plea process. During a plea deal, the prosecution needs to present the case they have against you and share the evidence that will be used. If there was a problem with the way evidence was obtained, an attorney can identify the problem and move to have the evidence thrown out.

Without an attorney, you have no one looking out for your best interests. During the plea process, an attorney may be able to spot weaknesses in the prosecution’s case that could lead to a reduced sentence or even the case being dismissed.

You Need A Properly Negotiated Plea Deal

A seasoned attorney will understand the implications of the charges against you. They will know the strengthens and weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case and help you understand the reasons why a plea deal may be in your best interest. If that is the case, an attorney will secure the right plea deal.

An experienced attorney may have dealt with your prosecutor in the past and have a good sense of how to negotiate with them. Every county, every judge and every courtroom plays by their own unofficial rules. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows how a courtroom and the prosecutor operates; this is useful in creating a strategy for your case. 

An attorney experienced with negotiating a plea deal can make sure that you get a less severe punishment than what may be initially offered. You may even be able to negotiate a plea deal with no jail time at all. Your attorney can even negotiate a plea bargain that doesn’t leave you with a criminal conviction.

A plea bargain is nearly impossible to undo. This is something that needs to be negotiated correctly the first time. You want to make sure that a criminal defense attorney reviews all the terms of the plea bargain.

Even a simple matter can quickly get complicated without the insight of an experienced criminal defense attorney.  

A Santa Ana woman is facing charges for attempted kidnapping after she was recorded trying to separate a newborn child from its mother. According to the police, the 38-year-old tried to convince the new mother that she had to give up the baby to comply with a protective custody order. The mother was told that the police would have been called if she wasn’t willing to cooperate.

The family contacted the police and coordinated with the local media. Television stations showed the video on air and asked for help identifying the suspect. The woman surrendered herself to police shortly after seeing the footage.

An Attempt to Commit a Crime is Still a Crime

The woman never took custody of the newborn. She was never successful in separating the mother from her child. Despite this, she is still facing criminal charges. Why? It’s a crime to attempt to commit a crime.

The crime of attempt is defined in California Penal Code 21a PC. You can be convicted of an attempted crime if you:

  • Have the intent to commit a specific crime, AND
  • Perform a direct, but ineffective act toward committing that crime.

In other words, you have to try to commit a crime, but fail. You have to do more than plan or prepare. You must take a direct step toward putting your plan to commit the crime into motion. Once you take that step, your intent to commit the crime is crystal clear.

Abandoning Your Crime Won’t Get You Off the Hook

What if the Santa Ana woman never tried to kidnap the woman again? What if she gave up sooner and walked away? It wouldn’t matter. She’d still face charges for attempted kidnapping.

Why? In California, you’re guilty of attempt once you take that direct step. The fact that you weren’t successful, abandoned “further efforts to complete the crime,” or were interrupted while trying to commit the crime don’t matter.

Penalties for Attempt Depend On the Underlying Offense

There’s no one penalty for attempted crimes. Instead, the punishment for an attempted offense simply mirrors the punishment for the intended crime.  According to Penal Code Section 664 PC, a person convicted of attempt should be sentenced to half of whatever the jail time is for the intended crime.

Here, the woman is accused of attempted to kidnap a child. If convicted, she’ll face half of the time in prison that she’d face if she was successful in taking the child.

Kidnapping a Newborn is a Felony

Kidnapping, as defined in Penal Code Section 207 PC, involves using force or fear to take or detain another person without their consent. The crime becomes aggravated when a child under the age of 14 is involved.

In California, kidnapping a newborn child is a felony punishable by up to 11 years in a state prison. So, the attempted kidnapping of a newborn is punishable by a maximum of five-and-one-half years in a California prison.

Someone convicted of an attempted crime can also face other penalties, including fines, probation, and restraining orders.

Defending Charges For an Attempted Crime

Everyone accused of a crime has the right to offer a legal defense. A defense can explain or excuse alleged criminal behavior. A person accused of an attempted crime can offer the following defenses:

  • There was no intent to commit a specific crime
  • No direct steps toward committing the crime were ever taken, or
  • Criminal behavior never went beyond planning or preparing.

It can also be helpful to consider whether your rights were violated in any way. If you were arrested illegally or subject to an unlawful search, you might be able to escape all of your criminal charges.