California law recognizes complicity or being an accomplice to a crime as having encouraged or aided in the commission of a misdemeanor or a felony. This is the case under federal law as well. Accomplice liability means that an accomplice could face the same penalties if convicted as the person who actually committed the crime.
Whether or not California defendants in a criminal proceeding have a court-appointed attorney or an attorney paid for with their own funds, they have a Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial and should expect to receive, at least, adequate legal representation. If the legal actions of an attorney during a trial reach a certain degree of negligence, a court could overturn a guilty verdict. However, the burden of proving the extent of legal negligence necessary to invalidate the outcome of a judicial process is very high.
Many Californians have heard of plea bargaining, but they may not understand why it is used or what benefits it might offer to each of the parties who are involved. Plea bargaining has been an accepted practice in the U.S. for decades as a way to resolve cases.
California residents who are facing criminal charges may also face a question about their state of mind at the time the incident allegedly happened. "Mens rea" is a Latin term that means "guilty mind" and that in a legal sense refers to whether or not a person intentionally committed an act.
The criminal justice system is designed primarily to protect the innocent rather than punish the guilty, but mistakes do happen and people who have done nothing wrong are sometimes convicted and sent to prison. While prominent civil rights attorneys working with groups like the Innocence Project often feature in media stories about people who have been freed from prison after spending many years behind bars, experts in the area say that prosecutors actually deserve much of the credit. A district attorney in California set up the nation's first conviction integrity unit in 2002, and experts say that the work of such units around the country played a significant role in exonerating a record number of prisoners in 2015.
Many California residents may have heard about the case of Brendan Dassey from watching the Netflix series "Making a Murderer." Dassey, then 16 years old, confessed to murdering a photographer in 2005. He was ultimately convicted. However, a Beloit College psychology professor noted that there were certain parallels to other cases he had been involved in that dealt with false confessions.
In some criminal cases, the defendant may assert intoxication as a defense to the alleged crime. While intoxication is not available as a defense to every alleged criminal act, voluntary intoxication may be used as a defense to crimes that involve an element of specific intent. Involuntary intoxication may be asserted as a defense to any criminal charge.
When people are charged with crimes, their spouses have certain privileges that protect the marriage from state intrusion. It is necessary to recognize that the marriage must be valid in order for these privileges to apply.
Recent reports indicate that officials in the California town of Riverside overstepped their prosecutorial authority and issued improper orders for wiretaps. These wiretaps were used for a large portion of the nation's internal surveillance and were used to gather evidence for at least 300 arrests nationwide.
People accused of selling drugs in California may find themselves receiving criminal charges for the overdose deaths of their alleged customers. New 'drug delivery resulting in death" laws are becoming more common in many states. In places like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, alleged drug dealers can face severe penalties for selling drugs to a person who goes on to fatally overdose