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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Red light cameras constitutional or not

California Court of Appeal Throws Out Red Light Camera Ticket
California Court of Appeal overturns red light camera ticket evidence as hearsay.
The Newspaper,  12/31/12
Borzakian, a former deputy public defender, decided to fight the citation. During her January 2010 trial, Officer Mike Butkus provided the standard testimony that introduces Redflex evidence in all jurisdictions. Commissioner Carol J. Hallowitz ignored Borzakian’s objections, admitted the evidence and found Borzakian guilty, imposing a $435 fine plus a twelve-hour traffic school. Borzakian immediately appealed, citing the US Supreme Court case Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, which the traffic camera industry has feared since it was decided in 2009.

See California v. Borzakian (Court of Appeal, State of California, 1/26/2012)

US Supreme Court DecisionsThese cases can be cited as precedent in other cases.   Melendez-Diaz (2009) 557 U.S. 305 (2009), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that it was a violation of the Sixth Amendment right of confrontation without the testimony of the person whoof submitted these reports without testimony was unconstitutional.
In the Melendez-Diaz case, the high court ruled that merely producing such a certificate in court is insufficient. Defendants have the right to cross-examine any individual who claims to have certified evidence.

"Violators often object that they cannot challenge their accuser if it is a camera," Leslie Blakey, executive director of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running said. "This new ruling may spur more court cases and lawsuits on the basis of the right to challenge the human elements of the evidentiary chain."

Blakey is principal of the Blakey and Agnew public relations firm that five of the top photo enforcement companies -- Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), CMA Consulting, Gatso of the Netherlands, Lasercraft of the UK and Redflex of Australia -- paid to create the National Campaign to lobby on their behalf. Each of these firms could face a tremendous challenge if their methods are brought into closer scrutiny, although Blakey believes that this constitutional protections may not apply in states where photo tickets have been made "civil" violations.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion in Melendez-Diaz, a 5-4 majority agreed that despite the possible hassle involved in confirming each fact at trial, it is essential to the integrity of the court system that questioning of the evidence be allowed under the ruling, it becomes the burden of the state or local authority to ensure photo enforcement company employees show up to testify in court

 KANSAS CITY, Mo. —A ruling from the Missouri Court of Appeals has put the brakes on Kansas City's red-light camera program, at least for the time being.
Kansas City's program is similar enough to the one in Ellisville that leaders said they will hold back on enforcing it.
Kansas City will keep the cameras rolling, but it won't issue any tickets to violators.
One driver told KMBC 9 News that he supports the ruling, but he can see the need for cameras at some intersections.
"I can see in, like, high-traffic areas with a lot of foot traffic, where people run through red lights, like on 71 Highway, it's kind of good to have them because it encourages people and slows them down," he said. "But for the most part, a lot of times, I just try to avoid those intersections."
Many experts believe the issue will eventually be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court. If the high court affirms the appeals court ruling, the city said it will determine whether to change or eliminate the red-light camera program.
In 2012, Kansas City issued 34,000 tickets from red-light camera violations. Police statistics indicate that crashes at intersections with those cameras were down 54 percent last year.

The Washington Times
Monday, August 30, 2010
A Supreme Court ruling last year requiring that scientists be made available to testify in court cases about lab evidence they prepare may have the added effect of curtailing the use of automated traffic-enforcement cameras to assess criminal penalties.
California is one of 23 states and the District of Columbia that operate red-light camera programs, but in 21 of those jurisdictions — including Maryland, Virginia and the District — violations generated by the cameras are civil infractions, like a parking ticket, issued to the vehicle’s owner instead of criminal violations levied against the driver. Making it a violation of Constitutional law since the owner of the vehicle is not the one who committed the violation but the person who drove the vehicle.The absence of the camera technicians in criminal cases, the judges said, violates the 6th Amendment’s Confrontation Clause of the Bill of Rights, which guarantees criminal defendants the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against them.” The Confrontation Clause — and the court decision — only applies to criminal cases. Which is incurred by the driver and not the owner unless the owner was the one driving.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

14 year old boy killed in Richmond, California can be seen on Google Earth

The father of Kevin Barrera is livid. His son was murdered four years ago at the age of 14 in Richmond, California. Shockingly, his dead body can be seen near railroad tracks when using Google Maps.
Scroll down to see 7 pictures of an uncensored look at Kevin Barrera’s remains. His dad is currently asking the billion dollar company to remove the shots from Google Earth.
This is just an unfortunate situation all around. The murder is still yet to be solved. And the fluke occurrence that satellite imagery would pick it up is just adding salt to the wound. I’m sure Google will do the right thing and at least blur out the body.

Read more:

Friday, November 8, 2013

Your right to remain silent is no more

As most of us know, we have the right to remain silent once read our Miranda rights by law enforcement officers, in the event we are arrested and/or under suspicion for a shooting or a crime. However, a recent major U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 17th, 2013 changed this based on theSalinas v. Texas Case. Here is the general issue: what if we have not been arrested and haven’t been read our Miranda rights and we are merely being questioned? Can we remain silent? What this 5-4 Supreme Court decision means to this lay, non-attorney person is that in order to invoke your right to remain silent you have to initially speak up first. Confusing?Hopefully, we will never have to be involved in a shooting or crime investigation, but if we are there are some new things we must understand. It now seems that we have to invoke our 5th Amendment rights in our U.S. Constitution immediately when the Police begin to question us. The Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law and outlines basic constitutional limits on police procedure. It is a prohibition against required self-incrimination and applies to states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.If we do not invoke the 5th, our silence now can be used against us. As a result of this Salinas Supreme Court decision, silence can now be more solidly construed as meaning we have something to hide or are trying to be deceitful. So, if that terrible situation occurs where there is much uncertainty of facts and circumstances, where someone is injured or dies, or a crime or shooting has occurred, and we are being questioned, we have to be very cautious, even as an innocent person, about the statements we make.A complex issue that arises is do prosecutors violate an accused criminal’s Fifth Amendment right against forced self-incrimination when they use evidence of his silence against him, even when the evidence comes fromquestioning conducted before he was taken into police custody?Here is a summary of the facts of the Salinas v. Texas case. Police in Houston, Texas questioned Genovevo Salinas during a murder investigation. Salinas answered all of their questions until the police asked whether he thought that casings found at the murder scene would match the shotgun the police found in his house. In response, Salinas remained silent. He looked down at the floor, shuffled his feet, bit his bottom lip, clenched his hands in his lap, and began to tighten up. After a few moments of silence, the officer asked additional questions, which Salinas answered. Later, he was charged with murder, tried, and convicted partially on the basis of evidence that he had remained silent during police questioning before he was arrested and given his Miranda warnings.Salinas claims that the Texas trial court should not have admitted evidence of his silence because of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. He argued that allowing evidence of his silence would violate the Fifth Amendment by forcing him to speak or have his silence used against him. The State of Texas argued that the evidence was appropriately admitted and outside the protection of Fifth Amendment privilege because Salinas’s silence was non-testimonial and the police questioning was non-coercive. The Supreme Court’s decision determined the scope of the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and, more specifically, whether it extends to the protection of a defendant’s pre-arrest, pre-Miranda statements to the police. Mr. Salinas’ silence was used against him in court. and the court sided with the prosecution. In essence, the Supreme Court is saying that you must speak up or silence will be used against you. So it seems according to the Supreme Court, the Fifth Amendment is now a privilege and not a right.Click Here for the 6-17-13 full legal version of the decision.Click Here for the U.S. Supreme Court Blog about the Case:If this non-attorney with very limited legal background is involved in any way with a highly unlikely shooting or any crime investigation, I want to minimize any possible personal risks. So, the only initial statement I will probably make is:“I want to cooperate fully with law enforcement, but I do not want to make a statement or answer any questions until I talk to my attorney.”Understand this is not legal advice or a legal opinion, but just this lay person thinking out loud. Thus, I am communicating to the police that:I am willing to cooperate and have nothing to hide: “I want to cooperate fully with law enforcement”;I do not want to talk at all at this time for the official record: “I do not want to make a statement”; andI do not want to be questioned at all nor provide any answers or information until I speak with my lawyer: “or answer any questions.”This case affects the Miranda Warning and we probably should consider adding this statement to protect ourselves from any further questioning by police. Without adding this, law enforcement can still ask us questions and if we answer any of those questions, it can be used against us.Another consideration is to NOT initiate a conversation with law enforcement after invoking your Miranda rights. If you do initiate a conversation, it could possibly be interpreted that you revoked your rights under Miranda. Without a doubt, this decision will significantly impact law enforcement practices, including how police question individuals and advise them of their Miranda rights. It will also influence the way prosecutors introduce evidence and attempt to prove defendants’ guilt.The Constitution was created to protect all of us, even the person like me who is not legally trained and doesn’t deeply understand the law. It is supposed to be the basis for fair justice for everyone. Because the Court on the surface seemingly disagreed in this situation, some might think it is best to not talk to the police at all and strictly invoke all their Constitutional rights. However, this can hinder justice. So if you are involved in a shooting or criminal investigation, perhaps the best approach is to think positive and only make the initial statement… and wait for your attorney to arrive. What are your thoughts about this?Continued Success!

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry in your state. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.