Criminal Law

        Christmann & McConnell represents clients in all types of misdemeanor and felony cases. We know that confronting a criminal law matter can be extremely stressful, unsettling, and confusing. It is important that you are aware of your legal rights after you are charged with a crime. That is why the decision to hire an attorney, and which attorney to hire can be one of the most important decisions you will make throughout this process.

        Whether you or a loved one has already been arrested or if criminal charges have not yet been filed and you are under investigation for a criminal offense, we can help. Below you will find links with information regarding the different types of criminal law cases we handle. For further information or to discuss your matter, we invite you to schedule a free confidential consultation by calling us at (619) 325-0283, e-mailing us, visiting us, or filling out our intake form on our Contact page.


Areas of Practice

Aiding and AbettingBack to Top ↑

        The criminal defense attorneys at Christmann & McConnell are willing to fight the charges of aiding and abetting against you. Assisting anyone commit a crime is defined as “aiding and abetting” in the state of California. California’s legal principle allows prosecution of everyone who is “in on” a crime. This means that even if you do not perpetrate the crime directly, you may still be responsible by association.
        Aiding and abetting does not require planned action, but can also be an instantaneous crime if you become aware that a crime is being committed and then decide to aid, promote, or facilitate the crime. The jury may still find you guilty under an accomplice liability theory. Minor roles in a crime such as driving the “get away” vehicle, providing distraction(s) to law enforcement, or serving as a look out during a crime can lead to serious charges if you don’t have a skilled criminal defense lawyer.
        Although aiding and abetting may sound like a conspiracy crime, they are actually two separate offenses. The major difference is that conspiracy requires an agreement, where as aiding and abetting does not necessarily require consent.
        Aiding and abetting is the criminal offense of helping, advising, encouraging or otherwise assisting another in the commission of a crime. To aid means to help another with something. An abettor is a person who encourages or assists another. Examples of aiding and abetting may include helping a person plan a murder, advising in a scheme to commit fraud, or helping a person plan a robbery.
        Aiding and abetting may result in federal charges in some cases, when the offense is committed against the United States. The person charged with aiding and abetting would face the same penalties as the person who actually carried out the crime, as the accessory (the aider and abettor) would be treated as though he or she actually carried out the crime. A defendant may face aiding and abetting charges and may be convicted even if the principal (the person accused of carrying out the crime) is acquitted. For example, in the case of a robbery trial, the aider and abettor is likely to be charged with the same penalties as the person who actually carried out the robbery.

Defenses

        The attorneys at Christmann & McConnell practice legal defenses for persons charged with aiding or abetting. Some defenses that can be used against an aiding or abetting charge include: falsely accused individual; he or she did not encourage aid or facilitate in the crime’s commission; the individual withdrew from the criminal activity prior to completion; the person was a witness at the crime scene, or had knowledge about the crime but had no legal duty to try and prevent it from occurring; only facilitated the crime after it had already occurred, and therefore should face penalties as an accessory after the fact, if anything at all.

Being Charged as an “Accessory to a Crime”

        Even when an individual is not present at the actual commission of a crime or did not carry out the alleged offense, he or she may still face aiding and abetting charges. The prosecution will need to prove that the defendant willfully associated him or herself with the crime being committed and intended or wished for it to be carried out. Depending upon whether a defendant faces federal or state charges, penalties may include imprisonment, fines, and sometimes both.
        An “accessory after the fact” is when one assists him or her with avoiding or escaping arrest, trial, conviction, or sentencing after the crime has been committed. Accessories after the fact are viewed as “obstructers of justice.” The prosecutor can file it as a felony or misdemeanor. Conviction of an Accessory After The Fact (AATF) results in one year in San Diego County jail for a misdemeanor or up to three years in California state prison for a felony, as well as fines that can be as high as $5,000.

Drug Crimes and Drug CourtBack to Top ↑

DRUG CRIMES

About Controlled Substances and Drug Crimes

        A Drug Crime is a criminal offense that involves a controlled substance(s). These include various manmade and naturally occurring substances that are regulated by the government. Controlled substances include a great number of narcotics, such as: methamphetamine (meth), cocaine, heroin, marijuana, speed, ecstacy and opiates. Some drugs are created using substances or plants found in nature (such as marijuana or peyote) and others are created using chemical procedures (such as meth).
        Drug crimes are serious offenses which can result in misdemeanor and felony charges, and a conviction (depending upon the jurisdiction and the specific charges) may result in imprisonment in county jail or state prison, fines, drug rehabilitation, counseling, probation, community service and more. The serious nature of these crimes and the considerable impact they may have on all aspects of your life make seeking advice from a criminal defense attorney extremely important.
There are a number of different crimes that may be related to controlled substances. Most are governed by the California Health & Safety code (HSC); some of these include:

Possession:

        One may face criminal charges for possessing an illegal drug or for unlawfully possessing a prescription drug without a valid prescription. Penalties for this offense will vary greatly depending on the type of drug and the amount.
        Perhaps the most common drug offense, the California HSC §11377 is referred to as a “Simple Possession” case. This type of charge occurs when one is accused of having a controlled substance either on his person or under her dominion and control (eg: backpack, purse, car or apartment). The most common substance is methamphetamine or “meth” or “crystal”. These cases are known in the legal forum as “wobblers” in that they can be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
        If filed as a misdemeanor the maximum punishment is one year in jail. If the case is filed as a felony the punishment range is 16 months to 3 years in state prison. Fortunately, the attorneys at Christmann & McConnell can often keep his client from doing any jail or prison time in these types of cases. If the case is a first offense, the attorneys at Christmann & McConnell may be able to get the case dismissed after 18 months with good behavior. Whether or not a case is initially filed as a felony or a misdemeanor usually depends on two things: 1) the quantity or amount of controlled substance and; 2) whether the accused has any prior drug convictions.
        California HSC §11357 Commonly referred to as “Possession of Less than One Ounce of Marijuana”, this common drug offense may be charged as either an Infraction (which is a Non-Criminal Offense) or a Misdemeanor. The maximum punishment for this crime is one year in jail. The DMV may also suspend the defendant’s driver’s license if he or she was under 21 years old at the time the offense occurred.

Cultivation

        Except for in certain circumstances where it is recognized for its medicinal value, one may face arrest and felony charges for growing marijuana.
        California HSC § 11358 Commonly referred to as a “Cultivation” case, this drug offense is classified as a felony and is punishable by 16 months to 3 years in state prison. While the courts seem to be easing up on those persons who use or smoke marijuana, the courts treat those who cultivate or grow marijuana very severely with regards to punishment.

Manufacturing

        Certain drugs may be created through specific chemical processes, and offenses of this nature are referred to as manufacturing. This is one of the more serious drug crimes that a person may be accused of committing and is typically charged as a felony.
        California HSC §11383 addresses “Manufacturing cases” which usually involve a person possessing the chemicals used to produce methamphetamine. They are very serious cases and carry prison sentences of 2 to 6 years.

Sale and Distribution

        It is illegal to sell or distribute controlled substances. Drug crimes of this kind are often charged as felonies, and if committed within a certain distance of a school or church, a defendant may face increased penalties.
        California HSC §11359 Referred to as “Possession for Sales”; this offense may be charged by itself or in conjunction with HS 11358 (cultivation). As with cultivation cases, the courts treat persons accused of selling marijuana very seriously. These cases are considered to be felonies and carry a 16-month to 3-year prison sentence.
        It should be noted that a person accused of “Sales” is ineligible for certain alternatives such as: (1) Deferred Entry of Judgement (aka – DEOJ or PC1000) or (2) Proposition 36 (the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, also known as Proposition 36, was passed by 61% of California voters on November 7, 2000. This vote permanently changed state law to allow first- and second-time nonviolent, simple drug possession offenders the opportunity to receive substance abuse treatment instead of incarceration.)
        A person who does NOT sell drugs may be charged with “Sales” if he or she is caught with an amount of the drugs greater than the law would consider for personal use. In other words, the DA does not have to prove that you actually sell drugs in order to charge and convict you of “Sales”. The DA only has to prove that the amount of drugs in your possession exceeds the amount considered for personal use.

Trafficking

        Typically the most serious type of drug offense a person may be accused of committing, drug trafficking may involve a number of different actions related to importing, exporting, smuggling, selling and manufacturing narcotics.
        California HSC § 11360 is commonly referred to as “Transportion” or “Transportation of Marijuana” cases; this felony usually involves the use of a motor vehicle to transport very large quantities of marijuana. Typically, these cases occur at the U.S.- Mexican border. If the case is filed in state court, the sentence range is 2 to 4 years in state prison. If the quantity of marijuana is extremely large and the DEA makes the arrest it becomes a federal offense. Federal sentencing laws are extremely complex because there are specific federal sentencing guidelines; but as a general rule, the sentences are much longer and harsher in federal court than in state court.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

        Though most people associate DUI with alcohol, a driver may face criminal charges for driving under the influence of drugs as well. This may apply to prescription drugs, over-the-counter medication and illegal narcotics. Click here to read more about DUI and drugs…

Drug Court

        “Drug Court” is a special program that has been given the responsibility of select misdemeanor and felony cases that involve non-violent drug-users. Those assigned to Drug Court are frequently drug tested, given drug treatment counseling, judicial and probation supervision, and the use of sanctions and incentives. A Judge rather than an unsupervised drug treatment program oversees the program. Once the offender completes the 12 month long drug court program, the drug charge is dismissed.
Drug Court requires a minimal fee that will be made to the treatment provider to help offset costs.
        Drug court has a number of benefits for individual offenders who qualify for the program. The statistics support the connection between drug addiction and crime. Nearly 3/4 of all state and local crimes are drug-related. Under the current legal system, the cycle of drug use and criminal offenses cannot be stopped. Offenders are never treated for their drug addiction and they will continually rotate through the judicial system as repeat offenders until their addiction has been curbed. Unfortunately, this system is very expensive for the taxpayers and doesn’t work.
        Only non-violent offenders can qualify for Drug Court. Violent and serious offenders are excluded from the program. The funding for the Crime Bill states that offenders that are charged with a violent offense or a prior crime with the exception of domestic violence are not allowed to participate. Drug Courts primary goal is to help offenders stay clean and sober to prevent them from becoming repeat offenders as a result of their addiction.
        Following completion of the Drug Court Program, the defendant will have their case dismissed. The participant’s accomplishments will be recognized during a graduation ceremony.
        If you have been charged with a drug related crime (misdemeanor or felony) please let the skillful attorneys at Christmann & McConnell help you with your case. Please contact our office for a free initial consultation.

DUIBack to Top ↑

        Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is one of the most common criminal charges in our society today. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony DUI, depending upon your record and/or whether serious injuries occurred.
        If you are arrested for a DUI in San Diego, you have the right to refuse to do the field sobriety tests and the portable breath test that the police want you to take during their field investigation. However, California law requires that you take a blood or breath test after you are arrested and brought down to the police station. Refusal to perform a field sobriety tests is in your best interests, because most police officers look for every possible admission of guilt and then draft an arrest report that grossly exaggerates any potential admission(s) of guilt they may have observed.
        It is always better to take a blood test rather then the breath test because the breath specimens are never preserved where as blood specimens are preserved and can later be retested. The blood specimens can be retested for purposes of determining whether the arrest violated your 4th amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, whether the police executed the proper steps in the chain of custody, whether the equipment used to test the blood alcohol levels accurately calibrated, and whether arresting officer committed any type of misconduct during the arrest. Additionally, many times police don’t properly explain your right to be silent before being questioned, or execute the field sobriety test correctly. Many people who believed themselves guilty have been able to avoid serious penalties when the court decided one or more of these issues in their favor.
        Losing your driving privileges in today’s society is a serious matter and will undoubtedly have an adverse affect on your personal, and potentially professional life. Our attorneys take this very seriously and take every action to try to prevent your license from being suspended. Of course, our ideal goal is to achieve a complete dismissal of your DUI case. However, if this cannot be achieved, we will do everything in our power to reduce the Drunk Driving charges against you and to limit the consequences of your drunk driving arrest.
        California DUI laws are some of the toughest in the nation. For any DUI offense you will more then likely have to attend mandatory alcohol education and treatment. First time offenders typically lose their licenses for 4 months. Second time offenders usually have their licenses suspended for 1 year. Third time offenders have their licenses suspended for a year and potentially confiscation of their vehicle. Additionally, any DUI offender may be required to install an ignition interlock device that requires to driver to pass a breath test prior to turning the ignition of the vehicle on.

Legal Consequences of a DUI:

However depending on the facts of your case some of the possible penalties that a first time offender could receive could include:

  • The suspension of your license for a year;
  • Enrollment and completion of a drunk driving class that could last between six weeks and nine months;
  • A jail term of between 48 hours and 6 months;
  • A fine of $1,000;
  • Court costs the judge could add on that usually end up being more then the $1000 fine;
  • Being placed on probation, meaning you will have to check in with a probation officer periodically and comply with court-imposed terms and conditions that could prohibit you from drinking and limit your driving privileges (typically only allowing driving for work related activities) and potentially subject you to random searches;
  • Installation an ignition interlock device that requires to driver to pass a breath test prior to turning the ignition of the vehicle on.

Second time offenders could also face the following penalties, depending on the facts surrounding their case:

  • A jail term of between four days and six months;
  • A 2-year suspension of their driver’s license;
  • A significantly higher fine and higher court costs;
  • Formal probation, which means that you will have to regularly check in with a probation officer and face even stricter terms and conditions that also allow authorities to search you at any time;
  • Enrollment and completion of drunk driving classes that could range from 18 to 30 months;
  • Installation an ignition interlock device that requires to driver to pass a breath test prior to turning the ignition of the vehicle on.

Third time offenders could face even stricter penalties depending on the facts surrounding their case, which include:

  • A jail term that will be at least 120 days but could be as long as 1 year;
  • Significantly higher fines and court costs than for a first or second-time offense;
  • Enrollment and completion of a drunk driving class that could range from 18 months to 30 months;
  • The suspension of the driver’s license for 3 years;
  • Formal probation, which means that you will have to regularly check in with a probation officer and face even stricter terms and conditions that also allow authorities to search you at any time;
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device that requires to driver to pass a breath test prior to turning the ignition of the vehicle on.

Forth time offenders could face severe penalties depending on the facts surrounding their case, which could include:

  • A jail or prison term ranging between 180 days up to 3 years;
  • Suspension of the driver’s license for 4 years.
  • Significantly higher fines and court costs.
  • Enrollment and completion of a drunk driving class that could range from 18 months to 30 months.

        Our firm is often asked how long a DUI will stay on a drivers record. The violation is considered a “prior-able” offense for 10 years. This means that if you are convicted of a second DUI and the date of the second DUI violation is within 10 years of the first DUI charge, then the second DUI will be charged and punished as a DUI with a prior.
        After your probation period has terminated (which lasts for 5 years) you can usually obtain an expungement. It should be noted that an expungement does not actually remove the DUI conviction from your record. Rather, it simply allows you to withdraw your guilty plea and later obtain a dismissal.
        An Expungement removes the criminal charges against the individual from the public record. Most states permit access to court records to the public; some even have the records available online for public access. An expungement prevents an individual’s criminal charges from coming up in a search of these records.

Sealing and ExpungementBack to Top ↑

What is “Sealing”?

        Sealing is the process of removing or erasing arrests and convictions from a person’s criminal record. A criminal record is a copy of a person’s criminal history, arrests, criminal charges, and convictions. A person may apply to have his/her arrest or conviction sealed if he/she meets certain legal requirements.
        Before a person can have his/her arrest or conviction sealed, he/she must be 18 years of age. A person can have their arrest sealed if their case was rejected, dismissed, or charges were never filed. The process of getting an arrest record sealed requires the individual to first file a petition which can take several months before it will be reviewed/approved.

What is Expungement?

        Expungement is the process of having convictions or arrests removed from the public record. Unlike sealing, law enforcement will still have access to a person’s criminal history, even if an arrest or conviction is expunged. A person may file an application to have their arrest conviction expunged if they meet certain legal requirements.
Before a person can have his/her arrest or conviction expunged, he/she must: have met probation criteria, must have obeyed all issued court orders, and must not have any subsequent criminal offenses. If all of these requirements are met, the person may file a petition for expungement.

Advantages of having records Sealed or your Record Expunged

        Criminal records contain information that is easily accessible to the general public; as a result it is always to a person’s advantage to consider expungement or sealing. When a person has a negative mark on his/her criminal record, it can greatly limit their employment, educational, and housing options. A person’s criminal record may also prohibit him/her from obtaining student loans or lines of credit through local banks. For this reason, it is in the person’s best interest to file for sealing or expungement. If you would like any further information please contact our office for a free consultation.