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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.


Law enforcement agencies from across the state worked together to identify eight men who they believe to be connected to a string of burglaries in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. According to reports, the men are suspected to have committed as many as 20 burglaries. Evidence of the burglaries and other crimes, including stolen property, illegal drugs, and multiple firearms, were found in the homes of the suspects. At least seven of the men have been charged with multiple counts of first-degree burglary.

Understanding the Crime of Burglary

Burglary occurs when a person unlawfully enters a building or structure with the intent to commit larceny or any felony. Whether you are charged with first-degree burglary or second-degree burglary will depend on the type of building you enter.

First-Degree Burglary

First-degree burglary occurs when you enter a residence with the intent to commit a theft or felony. Residences can include any place that a person resides, as well as other structures on their land, including a:

  • House
  • Room
  • Barn
  • Stable
  • Outhouse
  • Camper
  • Garage
  • Tent, or
  • Apartment.

Since first-degree burglary involves a residence, it is often referred to as residential burglary. First-degree burglary is always a felony in Los Angeles.

Second-Degree Burglary

Second-degree burglary occurs when you enter any other kind of property with the intent to commit a theft or felony. This can include:

  • Shop
  • Warehouse
  • Store
  • Railroad car
  • Cargo container, or
  • Other commercial building.

Since second-degree burglary involves property other than a residence, it is often referred to as commercial burglary. Second-degree burglary can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Intent is King

California Penal Code 459 PC states that burglary is the crime of entering a building “with intent to commit grand or petit larceny or any felony.” This means that you do not actually have to commit a crime successfully (or even try) to be guilty of burglary. The most important phrase in 459 PC is “with intent.” If you entered property intending to commit a crime, you can be guilty of burglary.

How is intent proven? Whether or not you entered with the intent to commit a crime is a question of fact. It is a subjective issue that will depend on a thorough analysis of the factors and circumstances of each specific case. Indicators of intent may include:

  • Entering property for which you have no right of ownership or occupancy
  • Possession of tools commonly used for breaking and entering
  • Possession of items that do not belong to you
  • Monitoring the homeowner’s schedule, or
  • Possession of a firearm or weapon.

It is important to know that you can only be guilty of burglary if you enter a building with the intent to commit a crime. If you develop the intent to commit a crime once you are already inside you will face charges for a different crime.

Consequences of a First-Degree Burglary Conviction in Los Angeles

First-degree burglary is a felony in California. If you are convicted of first-degree burglary, penalties could include:

  • 2, 4, or 6 years in a California state prison
  • $10,000 in fines, and/or
  • Formal probation.

First-degree burglary is also a strike for the purposes of California’s Three Strikes Sentencing Law. You will face aggravated penalties if you have other strikes on your record or are ever convicted of another strike record.

How Can I Defend Burglary Charges in Los Angeles?

You have the right to defend yourself when you are accused of committing a crime. The best defenses will undermine the state’s case against you and/or help to excuse your behavior. Defenses that can be used in a Los Angeles burglary case include:

  • You have been falsely accused
  • You have been mistakenly identified
  • You did not enter the property with the intent to commit a theft or felony
  • You did not actually enter a building or structure, or
  • You had permission to enter the property.

The best way to defend yourself is by hiring an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to handle your case. Do not hesitate to contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Vince Vaughn Arrested at Los Angeles DUI Checkpoint

Drinking and driving will land you in serious legal trouble, even if you are one of Hollywood’s most notable stars. Wedding Crashers actor Vince Vaughn was recently arrested on suspicion of DUI in Los Angeles. The arrest reportedly occurred after Vaughn drove through a “zero tolerance” DUI checkpoint in Manhattan Beach shortly after 1 AM.

Are DUI Checkpoints Legal?

Yes. Getting behind the wheel and driving subjects you to laws of the state of California. California Vehicle Code Section 2814.2(a) VC explains that drivers “shall stop and submit to a sobriety checkpoint inspection conducted by a law enforcement agency when signs and displays are posted requiring that stop.”

How are these checkpoints legal? In most situations, police have to have reasonable suspicion to believe you’ve broken the law to pull you over. However, courts have held that dedicated sobriety checkpoints are an exception to this rule. As long as police follow strict state and federal guidelines and provide sufficient warning that a checkpoint in place, any stops they make are lawful.

In order to be legal, checkpoints must satisfy all of the following requirements:

  • Criteria for stopping motorists must be neutral
  • Checkpoints must be located in a reasonable place
  • Police must take proper safety precautions to reduce risk of injury
  • The duration of a stop must be in good judgment
  • Drivers cannot be detained for an excessive period of time
  • Supervisory officers are obligated to make all operational decisions
  • Checkpoints must be advertised to the public in advance, and
  • Checkpoints must appear official and professional.

As long as police follow these guidelines, traffic stops will be lawful.

What Evidence Can Be Used to Support a DUI Arrest?

You can be arrested on suspicion of DUI even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is not above the legal limit of .08 percent. California provides police with the authority to make DUI arrests if there is sufficient evidence to show that a driver is incapable of driving a vehicle safely.

Evidence that may be used to support a DUI arrest include:

Chemical Testing: Chemical testing results (e.g., breathalyzer, blood test) can be used to show that there are drugs or alcohol in your system. These results do not necessarily have to show that these levels exceed the legal limit. Any amount of a mind-altering substance in your system could prevent you from driving safely. These tests are often used in conjunction with circumstantial evidence.

Failed Field Sobriety Tests: Field sobriety tests are used to gauge a driver’s ability to perform tasks that a sober person should be able to do easily. If you do not perform these tasks well, an officer can use those results to show that you were under the influence.

Communication: The way you interact with an officer during your stop is important. If you do not make eye contact, slur your words, or have trouble following the conversation, police can point to that to prove that you were intoxicated.

Smell or Presence of Alcohol: If an officer smells alcohol on your breath or sees an open container in your vehicle, this could also be used as evidence against you in a DUI case.

Consequences of a DUI in Los Angeles

What kind of consequences will Vince Vaughn face if he is charged and convicted of DUI? The answer depends on how many prior DUIs he has.

First-Time DUI: Most first-time DUI offenses are misdemeanors, punishable by:

  • 3-5 years of probation
  • More than $2,000 in fines
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for 6 months
  • Mandatory completion of DUI school or alcohol counseling, and/or
  • Up to 6 months in jail.

Second DUI: Most second-time DUIs are also misdemeanors, punishable by:

  • No less than 96 hours, but no more than 1 year, in jail
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for 2 years
  • Probation; and/or
  • DUI school or counseling.

Third DUI: Third-time DUIs can also be charged as misdemeanors. Punishments can include:

  • No less than 120 days, but no more than 1 year, in jail
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for 3 years
  • Probation; and/or
  • DUI school or counseling.

Subsequent DUIs, or DUIs involving certain aggravating factors, will be charged as felonies. The consequences can include serious time in prison, the loss of your ability to drive, and staggering fines.

Get the Help of an Experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

Have you been arrested on suspicion of DUI? You need the help of an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will determine the best strategy for defending you against criminal charges. This may involve proving that the initial traffic stop was illegal or undermining the validity of the state’s evidence against you. Call the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center to schedule a free consultation.

Street Racers Facing Murder Charges for Deadly Accident

Street racing has become incredibly popular across Los Angeles. Since The Fast and the Furious hit theaters in 2001, more than 180 people have been killed in residential Los Angeles street racing accidents. Despite the known dangers of the practice, young drivers across the city continue to make Los Angeles roads more dangerous.

The drivers who decide to race are not the only ones who put their lives and safety on the line. Unfortunately, anyone else who happens to be on the road at the time of a race is in danger. Most recently, two young boys – ages 6 and 8 – lost their lives because two young men felt the urge to race one another down a street in Perris.

Deadly Perris Street Racing Crash

According to reports, two cousins, Ricardo Zuniga and Josue Leyva-Gallegos, were both stopped at a traffic light in Perris on May 15. The pair chatted through open windows and agreed to meet back at Zuniga’s home to hang out. As the light prepared to turn green, Gallegos turned to his cousin and said “you ready?”

As soon as the light changed, both men hit the gas and sped off down the road. Driving at high speeds is dangerous enough. Driving at high speeds on the wrong side of the road, which is what Zuniga was doing, is even more dangerous. As the men raced in one direction, a young man driving his two young brothers home from school in a Nissan Versa approached. Zuniga, who was driving against traffic on the wrong side of the road, was unable to avoid a collision. The two young boys were killed in the crash and the older brother was hospitalized with serious injuries.

Charges for Street Racing Fatalities

The two street racers fled the scene immediately. Police investigating the crash were ultimately able to locate both men and arrest them on suspicion of street racing. Zuniga was charged with two counts of murder, as well as driving without a license and proof of insurance, while Gallegos was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. The consequences of their actions may be more severe since they fled the scene.

Murder vs. Vehicular Manslaughter

One of the cousins was charged with murder, while the other was charged with vehicular manslaughter. Why? Both men are equally responsible for the deaths of two young boys, but the roles they played in the accident were not identical. As a result, they face unique criminal charges that are very specific to their actions.

Murder

Zuniga was driving a car against traffic on the wrong side of the road when he collided with the Nissan Versa. It is this specific crash that caused two young boys to lose their lives. Since Zuniga operated the vehicle that caused the fatal crash, he is facing criminal charges for murder.

In California, murder is defined in Penal Code 187 PC as the “unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” Murder charges are generally split into two different categories: first-degree and second-degree.

First-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 25-year-to-life in prison, generally involves willful and deliberate acts of murder that are planned in advance.

Second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 15-years-to-life in prison, generally involves willful acts that result in another person’s death, but that are not planned out or premeditated. In other words, another person is killed because of actions that are so incredibly reckless and dangerous that you should know that death is a likely consequence.

Zuniga will likely be charged with second-degree murder for this actions. He did not get into the car and drive it with the specific intent to kill those young boys. However, he did willfully drive a car at high speeds on the wrong side of the road. He should have known that this behavior was very dangerous and likely to result in death.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Gallegos was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. While he was not driving the specific car that was involved in the fatal crash, he played an important role in the accident. Had he not been racing his cousin, the crash would likely have never happened.

In California, vehicular manslaughter is defined in Penal Code 192(c) PC to mean causing the death of another person while “driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence.” If the unlawful act is a felony, murder charges can be substituted.

Since street racing is a misdemeanor offense in California, Gallegos can only face charges for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. If convicted, he can face up to 6 years in a California state prison.

Fighting Criminal Charges in Los Angeles

Street racing is incredibly dangerous and can have devastating consequences. While the act of street racing itself is only a misdemeanor offense in California, unintended accidents can have life-changing results.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a street racing accident, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as you can. You have the right to defend yourself, and the Los Angeles Criminal Law Center can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation with our skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys today.