San Fernando Valley Criminal & DUI Defense Lawyers

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Innocent Unless and Until Proven Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

I have been working in and around the criminal justice system for well over 25 years. I started out working for a small state police agency, I worked for a local prosecutor, and I sat as a volunteer judge and have been practicing law for just short of 20 years now. Working in the criminal justice system, we see a lot of really bad stuff. This has an effect over time of making us someone hardened to the serious conduct that we deal with and the real world effects that the conduct has on its victims. I often find myself and my colleagues making jokes about very serious allegations and very serious situations. I believe this is a human effort to try to avoid the seriousness of what I am doing and try to protect myself from the potential long-term effects that my job and what I see doing my job could actually have on me.

All this being said, sometimes things really bother me in my job. An area of my job that truly bothers me regards not only what happens to people in the criminal justice system when they are arrested, but what happens to people outside of the criminal justice system when they get arrested. Earlier today I read an article about a UCLA football player that was arrested based upon allegations of rape and/or other sexual offenses. Law enforcement conducted an investigation and based upon their determination of probable cause, the player was arrested. He thereafter posted bail and was released from jail with a date to go back to court.

On Tuesday, police will forward their investigation to the Los Angeles County District Attorney for a determination of what, if any, charges they may file. In the mean time, UCLA has already suspended the young man from the team. The man, Adam Searl, a punter for UCLA has yet to be charged with a crime, much less convicted. However, UCLA says they take these allegations seriously. I take these allegations very seriously also. But every person is innocent unless and until proven guilty at trial. UCLA didn’t give Searl a trial, or even some kind of Mickey Mouse administrative hearing, they just suspended him pending the outcome of the investigation.

Because Searl or any person gets arrested, this does not mean they will be convicted of a crime. Because Searl or any person gets arrested, this does not mean they will be charged with a crime.

Because Searl or any persons gets arrested, they may be subjected to public humiliation, ridicule, and other adverse effects that could haunt them for life. This is especially true in sex offenses that seem to carry a more significant negative stigma than other case.

Why then can’t we hold off on judging people until they have their day in court, or their day in a school administrative hearing or their opportunity to be heard? I expect because that would not be politically correct. I expect we feel like public figures and sports figures which are in the public are subject to great scrutiny and publicity and we feel we must publicly take action to create the appearance that we are doing the right thing.

Similarly, when we get arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, the arrest itself, regardless of whether or not there is a criminal prosecution, triggers an automatic license suspension. If an arrestee wishes to contest the automatic suspension he or she must immediately request an administrative hearing. Failure to request the hearing will give rise to the automatic license suspension. And again, this is before and regardless of whether or not one is ultimately either charged with or convicted of a crime.

The Department of Motor Vehicles Administrative Per Se hearing, once set, is conducted by a DMV employee who acts as both the judge and the prosecutor. The “hearing officer”, as they are called, is neither a judge nor a lawyer. The hearing officers have no legal training. They are not law school graduates or even paralegals. The hearing officers, although they have no legal training are expected to follow legal rules of evidence which they have never learned and normally do not understand. This kind of mockery of the legal system is akin to no hearing at all.

When this kangaroo court process is questioned by someone like me, the response is simply that driving is a privilege and not a right. And this fallacy of a hearing is a joke, it makes me sick to my stomach and this is why, whenever any of my clients get arrested for DUI, I encourage them to let me set and conduct the hearing in an effort to try even the odds for the client and either win the hearing or obtain some sort of evidence that could benefit the client in their separate court action.

Amongst other things, the Fifth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution says that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property with due process of law. The University of California is a public and state funded school. The DMV is a government agency. What’s wrong here? Please don’t take this the wrong way. I do not condone breaking the law. In fact, I am very much against drunk driving and I think sex offenders should be punished swiftly and severely – once they have been convicted of a crime! And by the way, the accused shall enjoy a trial which is speedy and public, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law. The accused should be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation. He should have the right to confront the witnesses against him; He should have access to compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense. Sound familiar? It should, it’s most of the Sixth Amendment.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a sex offense or any other crime including driving under the influence or DUI, call me: Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (888) 764-4340 or (818) 783-5700 or email me.