Ernenwein & Johnson, LLP

Torrance, California Criminal Defense Blog

Can designated drivers get a DUI?

Before you volunteer to be a designated driver, you may want to think twice about whether you can fully abstain from drinking while having a night out with your friends. A designated driver is one who goes out, but promises to not drink alcohol in order to stay sober and drive everyone home safely once the night is over. Yet a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs discovered that nearly 40% of designated drivers had alcohol at some point during the evening. 

During the study, researchers conducted breath tests on designated drivers before they hopped behind the wheel of a vehicle to take their friends home. WHile 40% had not refrained from drinking, a surprising 18% had a blood alcohol content level of 0.05 or higher. Although the level limit is 0.08, BAC levels below that can have major effects on a person's ability to drive. 

Errors in forensic testing can lead to wrongful convictions

Forensic science is a major part of many criminal cases in California and across the nation. Evidence gathered at the scene of the crime is often tested using various methods and the findings are submitted to the court for use in the trial. Yet, in some cases, the scientific results that are sent to the court are not reliable and could be obtained using bad methods. People may be wrongfully convicted of a crime because of this poor evidence. According to the Innocence Project, 45% of cases that were later overturned after DNA evidence proved the innocence of the convicted victim, involved misapplication of forensic science

The misapplication of scientific testing can include any of the following errors:

What are field sobriety tests used for?

If you or someone you know has been arrested for and charged with a drunk driving offense in California, it will be important to learn as much as possible about the investigation and defense process. People in this situation should always remember than an arrest and a criminal charge does not guarantee that they will be convicted of a crime. One thing that can be important at this time is the type of testing used during the arrest process.

Most people are asked to take field sobriety tests before they may even be asked to submit to any type of chemical testing. As explained by, these tests cannot prove that you are intoxicated. In fact, that are not even intended to do so. Instead, field sobriety tests are designed to collect enough evidence to allow an officer to legally place you under arrest and charge you with driving under the influence.

How a DUI can impact your professional license

A DUI arrest can dramatically influence the way you live your life. It is a mistake that can affect you both personally and professionally. The extremely strict penalties can result in significant fines and potentially even a jail sentence depending on the circumstances.

Many would argue that the legal penalties alone are enough to assure that you will never make the same mistake again. For some professions, however, the legal penalties for a DUI are only the beginning. If you are in a career field that requires a professional license, you may face discipline from the licensing board as well.

What counts as concealed carry in California?

Police in Los Angeles, and throughout the state of California, could potentially charge you with carrying a concealed firearm under a variety of circumstances. These types of weapons crimes could carry serious consequences if you were convicted. 

To be clear, this law would probably not apply to any obvious weapons. A court would likely dismiss any charge of carrying a concealed firearm that involves open carry on a belt holster. Regardless of that fact, you would probably not want to argue with law enforcement about this charge until you secure a legal opinion on your case. California's gun laws are nuanced at best and complicated at worst.

Your silence protects your rights

At Ernenwein & Johnson, LLP, we understand that there are at least two sides to every story. Our clients trust us to tell their side. However, this type of trust is most effective when it is complete.

Simply put, you have a legal right to remain silent in California in nearly every situation. You also have a right to legal representation. Combined, these two rights allow you to name a competent person to speak for you. Exercising these rights to the greatest extent possible would probably be one of the most beneficial things you could do if you were charged with or under investigation for a crime.

Man found innocent after 22 years of prison

It may be hard to think of innocent people being convicted of crimes they did not commit. The entire justice system is built around the belief that criminals are found guilty of crimes, while innocent people will be set free. Those who did not actually commit a crime should feel rest assured that the justice system will do its job to prove their innocence. Sadly, cases do not always work out this way and those who are innocent are sometimes found guilty. 

This is what happened to a man who spent 22 years locked up in prison for a murder he was accused of committing but had no part in. In fact, DNA evidence processed before the man went to trial in 1997 showed that he had no connection to the crime. Yet, using coerced statements from law enforcement as evidence, the jury found him guilty of murder. Studies show that false confessions can be produced using psychological tactics, such as sleep deprivation. In this case, law enforcement interrogated the man for more than 30 hours, threatening him with execution and told him that if he admitted to the crime, they would seek leniency in his case.

Limitations of eyewitness identification

Eyewitness identification is a tool often used by law enforcement to help identify a suspect of a crime. Departments may use an eyewitness lineup or a photograph lineup to ask witnesses who they believe committed the crime. Yet, a multitude of studies show that this form of identification may not always provide accurate and reliable results. In some cases, eyewitness identification may contribute to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person. 

Of all of the cases where DNA evidence showed people were erroneously convicted of a crime, approximately 71% involved eyewitness misidentification. When an eyewitness chooses the wrong suspect from a lineup, officers may waste their time investigating the wrong person while the actual perpetrator goes free. There are a myriad of factors that can lead to misidentification. First, the way the lineup is organized can lead to the wrong person being chosen. If the perpetrator has a beard and tattoo, the lineup should contain more than person that matches those characteristics. The lineup administrator should have no prior knowledge regarding the crime, and should let the witness know the suspect may or may not be present in the lineup. Finally, all lineups should be taped so the judge and attorneys may watch the procedure to ensure there was no leading of the witness. 

Penalties for white collar crimes against elders, the disabled

White-collar crimes can bring with them serious penalties, and if you are among those currently facing a white-collar criminal charge in California, you may have concerns about what may happen to you, should that charge lead to a conviction. At Ernenwein & Johnson, LLP, we understand that the courts may be particularly tough on offenders who commit white-collar crimes against older Americans, and we have helped many people facing these circumstances work to protect their best interests.

According to the California Department of Justice’s Office of the Attorney General, California Penal Code 368 sets the guidelines governing the penalties faced by offenders who commit white-collar crimes against the elderly. As you might imagine, the penalties you can expect to face for a white-collar crime against an older adult will vary based on certain factors, such as the severity of your crime and the relationship you had with the person you committed the crime against.

Money laundering makes money hard to follow

There’s a good reason why it can be hard to understand what money laundering is and how it works. News stories about money laundering are usually hard to follow, and that’s exactly the point of money laundering. Typically, the harder it is to follow, the better the money has been laundered.

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