November 8, 2008
Air freight gets tighter screening
Airlines began checking air freight on single-aisle airplanes such as 737s and 757s as of Oct. 1, the TSA said. Air freight often includes products sent from manufacturing plants to stores and is carried on planes along with passenger luggage.
Cargo carried on wide-body planes such as 747s is still not checked for bombs but will be by early 2010, the TSA said.
"This is a very significant step for security," TSA spokesman Christopher White said. Single-aisle planes account for more than 90% of domestic flights, he said, though they hold only 25% of the cargo carried by passenger planes.
The TSA has been under pressure for several years to do a better job ensuring that there are no bombs hidden in the 250 million freight packages that passenger planes carry each year. Freight includes anything from flowers and fish to computers and auto parts that require quick delivery. [Mark Godsey]
November 7, 2008
UAB students uncover links to Obama speech used to commit fraud
Sen. Barack Obama's election night acceptance speech was intended to be a call for a renewed spirit of national unity, but the president-elect also unknowingly provided criminals with a new tool for perpetrating Internet fraud. 4591111
Computer science and criminal justice students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham uncovered a series of fraudulent e-mails that claim to link to video of that speech, but could put a visitor's personal information in the hands of criminals.
According to Gary Warner, UAB's director of research in computer forensics, the spam links to Web sites registered Tuesday in China.
Visiting the Web site requires the user to install an Adobe Flash Player to watch the speech. Installing it will cause all user IDs and passwords, whether for online banking, online stores, e-mail or even chat programs, to be sent to the criminal's computer. Adobe Flash Player is a regularly used computer program that has been co-opted by those running the scam.
"We've already seen more than 300 copies of this spam e-mail," Warner said, "and we're very concerned that people who missed Tuesday night's speech may follow the link and infect their computer." [Mark Godsey]
Take the Handcuffs Off the Economic Recovery
A month ago, who would have thought that the Bush Administration would order the partial nationalization of the nation's banks to fix credit markets and support the economy? Maybe other innovative, even "radical," ideas are in order. Unless we come up with new ideas to sell cars and durable goods to fire up the economy, collapsing domestic auto sales threaten tens of thousands of jobs.
In addition, the recession will cause shrinking government revenue at every level. Even last spring 18 states were predicting reduced budgets in FY 2009. Unless new revenues are found, we will soon see the furloughs and wholesale firing of teachers, nurses, and emergency first responders; closed schools, libraries and hospitals; crumbling roads unfixed; and broken bridges closed to traffic.
Cliches about the auto industry's problems blame workers' and retirees' health care costs and management for making the wrong kinds of cars. But to sell cars we need to abandon cliches, old myths, and the blame game.
Consider these facts. Last year we had 2.3 million Americans in prison and jail. How many American cars did these men and women buy last year? That's right, none. That 2.3 million is about ten times greater than the 250,000 prisoners in America during the auto industry's glory days of the 1960s and 1970s. There are another 8 million Americans who got a felony conviction for possessing or selling drugs in the last twenty years. With their convictions, these people rarely have jobs. They don't have a legal income and they don't have credit.
The economic effect of more than ten million American adults who can't buy cars, houses, furniture, appliances, or other durable goods is like 9-11, Katrina, and every other hurricane combined. Even with a job, many are without a credit card and are shut out of the marketplace. From Ticketmaster to Amazon.com to the local shore store, American businesses are losing sales. Economically, our criminal justice policies are cutting our throat. [Mark Godsey]
California voters all over the map on propositions
Voters may have banned same-sex marriage, but they rejected a measure that would have required parents to be notified before a girl could obtain an abortion. And they turned down several big-ticket funding initiatives while backing the most expensive of them, a nearly $10-billion bond to build a bullet train.
Was it the clutter of TV ads? The plethora of first-time voters? The phases of the moon?
"This is just one of those times you say, hey, voters are unpredictable," said Ken Khachigian, a Republican strategist. [Mark Godsey]
November 6, 2008
No Federal Charges for Eliot Spitzer
The announcement was made by the office of Michael J. Garcia, the United States attorney in Manhattan. Mr. Spitzer announced his resignation in March two days after The New York Times reported his involvement in a high-priced prostitution ring, the Emperors Club V.I.P.
Mr. Garcia said in a statement that his office had found no evidence that Mr. Spitzer had used public money or campaign funds to pay for his encounters with prostitutes.
“We have determined that there is insufficient evidence to bring charges against Mr. Spitzer,” Mr. Garcia said in the statement. “In light of the policy of the Department of Justice with respect to prostitution offenses and the longstanding practice of this office, as well as Mr. Spitzer’s acceptance of responsibility for his conduct, we have concluded that the public interest would not be further advanced by filing criminal charges in this matter.”
Yusill Scribner, a spokeswoman for Mr. Garcia’s office, would not say whether the decision not to bring charges signaled an end to the investigation, which began late last year, or whether prosecutors would focus on other clients of the Emperors Club V.I.P. or others who had dealings with the people who operated it.
In a statement released on Thursday minutes after the United States attorney’s announcement, Mr. Spitzer said: “I appreciate the impartiality and thoroughness of the investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office, and I acknowledge and accept responsibility for the conduct it disclosed.
“I resigned my position as governor because I recognized that conduct was unworthy of an elected official.”
“I once again apologize for my actions,” he said in the statement, “and for the pain and disappointment those actions caused my family and the many people who supported me during my career in public life.”
Mr. Spitzer, reached on his cellphone, said that he would have no comment beyond the statement.
Don D. Buchwald, the court-appointed lawyer for Ashley Alexandra Dupré, a prostitute Mr. Spitzer met in Washington on Feb. 13, said, “Ashley is pleased that this matter is behind her.”
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
Voters ban traffic-light cameras
Cincinnatians - the first voters in the country to decide whether their municipality should be able to use cameras to catch drivers running red lights - favor a camera ban.
Issue 7, which would prohibit the city from installing cameras, passed 51 percent to 49 percent.
City Council in August rejected a proposal by the city manager to begin contract negotiations with a camera company. Mayor Mark Mallory had said he would veto the ordinance if it had passed.
Still, Councilman Cecil Thomas, chairman of council's Law & Public Safety committee, said he would consider resurrecting the issue in his committee - with a safety emphasis this time rather than a budgetary one. The camera plan came up late last year when council approved the current budget, which included $1 million in planned revenue from camera tickets.
Thomas said, however, that it only made sense to wait until after the election to see what voters think of the cameras before bringing the issue up again.
Proponents of the measure, including NAACP President Christopher Smitherman and lawyer Chris Finney of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, said they wanted to push for the ban now so future councils could never put forth another camera proposal.
They believe the cameras erode civil liberties, circumvent a driver's right to face his accuser and were put forth by city officials as a way to make money, not to improve safety. [Mark Godsey]
Stem cell, medical marijuana props approved
Michigan voters easily approved a law Tuesday to allow the seriously ill to smoke marijuana, while a proposal to ease restrictions on stem cell research research won by a tighter margin.
Michigan became the 13th state -- and first in the Midwest -- to legalize medical marijuana. While backers said it would help as many as 50,000 residents ease the pain of cancer, Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS and other illnesses, Proposal 1 drew widespread opposition from law enforcement, business groups and health organizations.
Dianne Byrum, spokeswoman for Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care which championed the proposal, said the opposition ads didn't work.
"This is a victory for the patients and their stories resonated with voters," she said. "The scare tactics from the opposition were over the top and not believable."
Said Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Bill Schuette, spokesman for the group opposed to medical marijuana: "We waged a good fight and talked about the unintended consequences. But we were underfunded and came up short."
Mike Chaffee, 48, an accountant from Troy , said medical marijuana is an "alternative to high-cost drugs" and allows patients to "decide what's best for them." [Mark Godsey]
Do Guns Reduce Crime?
The Supreme Court's ruling this summer that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to bear arms has added fuel to the ongoing national debate about guns. Recently, a panel of six experts took on the proposition "Guns Reduce Crime" in an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate.
The series is based on a program that began in London in 2002. It pits experts on either side of an issue against each other in Oxford-style debates.
At the beginning of the Oct. 28 debate, moderated by John Donvan of ABC News, 13 percent of the audience voted in favor of the motion, while 60 percent voted against; 27 percent were undecided. By the evening's conclusion, those voting in favor of the motion increased to 27 percent. However, 63 percent disagreed that "Guns Reduce Crime," and 10 percent were still undecided. [Mark Godsey]
November 5, 2008
City: No 'patterns of abuse' in obstruction arrests
Accidentally caught in an after-midnight clash between police and revelers, Richardson was doused with pepper spray, punched in the head and shot with a stun gun in the parking lot of the McDonald's near Seattle Center.
Prosecutors followed with charges of obstruction of justice and resisting arrest -- so-called contempt of cop charges that some defense lawyers say are filed to justify otherwise unwarranted arrests.
A Seattle P-I investigation earlier this year showed that nearly half of those arrested by Seattle police officers on obstruction charges from 2002 to 2007 were freed without conviction.
Richardson's case was similarly resolved, with prosecutors agreeing last month to drop the charges so long as he stays clear of legal trouble for six months.
Drawing a conclusion disputed by Richardson's attorney, the Police Department's civilian auditor found in a recently released review that "no pattern of abuse" was evident in obstruction arrests.
But the auditor, former U.S. Attorney Kate Pflaumer, did note that bar fights or large disturbances -- like the post-New Year's crowd Richardson found himself in -- are among the most problematic situations because officers must make quick decisions as people flee.
"While some of the reports described situations that, in retrospect, could have been handled differently, the reports reflected good faith efforts to maintain order at the time," Pflaumer wrote in her report, which was prompted by the P-I investigation. [Mark Godsey]
Organized-crime act targets drug gangs
Looking tired and resigned, Shaneka Penix stood before U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles in his Baltimore courtroom yesterday morning and quietly asked for mercy. "I believe I deserve a second chance," she said.
Penix was caught selling crack cocaine in August and September of last year. It was her first serious infraction. But because of her affiliation with the Maryland division of a drug gang known as the Tree Top Piru Bloods, she was charged and convicted of conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act, or RICO. At 23, Penix, the mother of a 3-year-old girl, was facing a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 10 years.
"When you're convicted under RICO, the sentences are a lot longer than they are for the base offenses," said Frank Razzano, an adjunct law professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and an editor of a RICO law journal.
That is among the reasons prosecutors like it. The law was enacted nearly 40 years ago to take down traditional, Godfather-style Mafia members, though it is rarely used for that anymore. Instead, it has become a widely used tool against more contemporary mobsters, the drug gangs terrorizing U.S. cities. [Mark Godsey]
False results put drug tests under microscope
"We were dumbfounded," Artemis says. Police told them they could be facing years in prison for exporting narcotics, because 2.5 pounds of material found in their carry-on bag tested positive for hashish. "All we knew was that we didn't have drugs."
They were telling the truth. They didn't have drugs. They had chocolate.
The couple were caught up in what civil libertarians, public defenders and some narcotics experts say is a growing problem: the use of unreliable field drug-test kits as the basis to arrest innocent people on illegal drug charges.
The inexpensive test kits are used by virtually every police department in the country and by federal agents, including Customs officers at the nation's borders. The kits test suspicious materials, and a positive result generally leads to an arrest and court date, pending more sophisticated tests done after the sample is sent to a lab. [Mark Godsey]
November 4, 2008
Ninth Circuit Upholds Border Searches of International Mail
The Fourth Amendment's border search doctrine permits customs agents acting without a warrant or particularized suspicion to read letters mailed to overseas addresses, the en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held Oct. 23 (United States v. Seljan, 9th Cir. (en banc), No. 05-50236, 10/23/08).
Under 19 U.S.C. §1583, customs inspectors are generally required to have reasonable suspicion before opening and reading outbound mail. However, individuals sending more than $10,000 in currency or “negotiable instruments” abroad must file forms declaring that they are doing so, and 19 U.S.C. §5317(b) authorizes inspectors to conduct suspicionless searches for illegally exported currency in “any envelope or other container.”
The opinion by Judge Richard R. Clifton explained that such inspections may reasonably include scanning the contents of letters in express mail packages to make sure the letters are not promissory notes or other negotiable instruments. Any evidence of other crimes revealed during these scans is admissible at trial under the plain-view doctrine, the opinion said.
A customs inspector, exercising his authority under Section 5317(b), opened a FedEx package that the defendant had mailed to the Philippines. Among the items in the package were envelopes containing a $100 bill and a letter. Agency protocol permitted the inspector to open and “scan” the contents of the letter as part of a currency-interdiction inspection. The inspector later testified that when he glanced over some of the comments in the letter he immediately suspected that it contained evidence of pedophilia. A thorough reading of the letter confirmed that the defendant had written a sexually suggestive letter to an 8-year-old girl.
Further investigation resulted in searches of additional packages that the defendant mailed to the Philippines. The evidence uncovered in the investigation was used to convict the defendant of traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct, producing child pornography, and other offenses.
Reading Mail Not Particularly Offensive.
The Ninth Circuit decided that reading a letter in an express mail package is not a “particularly offensive” way of inspecting for undeclared currency. The defendant had contended that the inspection was unreasonably intrusive in its scope because it entailed reading his personal correspondence. The court, however, stressed that most of the prior cases in which it or the U.S. Supreme Court has expressed concern about the offensiveness of border searches have involved searches of individuals' persons or destruction of their property.
“An envelope containing personal correspondence is not uniquely protected from search at the border,” the court said, citing United States v. Ramsey, 431 U.S. 606 (1977), which held that border searches of international mail do not require probable cause and a warrant. The court also emphasized that the defendant's reasonable expectation of privacy in the letter was “necessarily tempered” when he “voluntarily gave the package containing the letter to FedEx for delivery to someone in the Philippines, with knowledge that it would have to cross the border and clear customs.”
“Even assuming that there are limits to the government's right to search packages at the border, those limits were not transgressed in this case,” it said.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
Dismissed Stevens Juror Lied to Go to the Racetrack
On Monday, Ms. Hinnant stunned a courtroom when she confessed she had concocted a story about her father’s death to be let off the jury that would, a day later, convict Mr. Stevens of Alaska on ethics violations.
Ms. Hinnant said she had lied to attend the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita racetrack in California.
Just hours before the jury delivered the guilty verdict on Oct. 27, a new juror was seated to replace Ms. Hinnant. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of Federal District Court was sympathetic when he learned of Ms. Hinnant’s apparent loss but he was troubled that she failed to return phone calls to his chamber and ordered her to appear in court.
Ms. Hinnant, 52, was accompanied Monday by A. J. Kramer, the federal public defender, who said she had lied about the death. “She used that as an excuse,” Mr. Kramer said, according to witnesses. Ms. Hinnant then began rambling about horse breeding and other topics, people in court said.
Judge Sullivan interrupted her, saying: “I am thoroughly convinced you would not have been able to deliberate” and dismissed her.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
Study Links Violent Video Games, Hostility
Children and teenagers who play violent video games show increased physical aggression months afterward, according to new research that adds another layer of evidence to the continuing debate over the video-game habits of the youngest generation.
The research, published today in the journal Pediatrics, brings together three longitudinal studies, one from the United States and two from Japan, examining the content of games, how often they are played and aggressive behaviors later in a school year.
The U.S. research was the first in the nation to look at the effects of violent video games over time, said lead author Craig A. Anderson, a psychology professor at Iowa State University and director of its Center for the Study of Violence.
Anderson said the collaboration with Japanese researchers was particularly telling because video games are popular there and crime and aggression are less prevalent. Some gamers have cited Japan's example as evidence that violent games are not harmful.
Yet the studies produced similar findings in both countries, Anderson said. "When you find consistent effects across two very different cultures, you're looking at a pretty powerful phenomenon," he said. "One can no longer claim this is somehow a uniquely American phenomenon. This is a general phenomenon that occurs across cultures."
The study in the United States showed an increased likelihood of getting into a fight at school or being identified by a teacher or peer as being physically aggressive five to six months later in the same school year. It focused on 364 children ages 9 to 12 in Minnesota and was first included in a 2007 book, "Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents." [Mark Godsey]
From 1951 to 1987, the Dallas County district attorney's office was the domain of Henry Wade, a legendary prosecutor who personally never lost a case — and who rarely missed an opportunity to seek the maximum punishment for criminals. But in impoverished, predominantly African-American South Dallas, Wade's hardball tactics created resentment and distrust.
"Affluent people, people accepted by society, loved law enforcement. All of the other people who were economically disadvantaged, they didn't trust it — and I think rightly so," says Watkins. So in 2002, Watkins ran for D.A. Despite having no name recognition outside of South Dallas, Watkins came within 10,000 votes of winning. Four years later, he tried again and won, in the process becoming Texas's first elected African-American district attorney.
Watkins had a lot to prove. More than 200 of the 267 attorneys Watkins began managing had actively campaigned for his opponent because they didn't think Watkins had enough trial experience. At the same time, he believed he had a mandate to rectify past injustices. In February 2007, a mere one month after taking office, Watkins found himself face to face with a momentous decision.
The occasion was a court hearing for James Giles, who had spent 10 years in prison for a rape that subsequent DNA testing showed he did not commit. Giles was released. Afterwards, attorneys Barry Scheck and Jeff Blackburn — nonprofit leaders who work to free the wrongfully convicted from prison — presented Watkins with an unprecedented proposal. They volunteered to help Watkins' office review the files of more than 350 inmates, some dating back to as early as 1970, where physical evidence existed that could either confirm the inmate's guilt or establish his innocence. [Mark Godsey]
Prop. A backers say now is the time to fund anti-gang efforts
In the wake of those tragedies, the city's elected officials began work on a tax measure that would raise $30 million for anti-gang initiatives, including after-school programs and city-run recreation activities.
But with crime rates steadily falling and the region's economic picture growing dire, backers of Proposition A are finding it difficult to remind voters of those tragedies -- and of the need to avoid future ones. So they are also arguing that the proposed tax hike, on the Nov. 4 ballot, has come at a perfect time, just as the city's anti-gang programs have been revamped and moved into the office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
"With the progress we've made in the last year, we're going to use these funds in a better way than we would have even a year ago," said Deputy Mayor Jeff Carr, the man tapped to be Villaraigosa's gang czar.
The debate over anti-gang programs also comes as the Los Angeles Police Department is seeing notable successes. Since the hiring of Police Chief William J. Bratton, the number of killings citywide has decreased 38%, from 641 in 2002 to 394 in 2007. If this year's trends hold, that number could fall as low as 350.
Still, some neighborhood leaders say they are tired of being hit up for more money to fund the city's public safety initiatives. In just two years, Villaraigosa and the City Council have more than tripled the trash fee for homeowners, raising it from $132 per year to $436 per year to pay for LAPD pay raises, new equipment and the hiring of 1,000 officers. [Mark Godsey]
November 3, 2008
New Advancements in "Big Brother" Technology
From Inventhelp.com: Anyone who’s ever watched an episode of the thousand “CSI” or similar crime shows on CBS knows that, often times, crimes are solved with cell phones. Many criminals forget that data left on cell phones (e.g. - text messages, voicemails, call logs) can leave a trail a mile long. And investigators follow those trails using technology like the Cellebrite Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED).
The Cellebrite UFED (pictured) is a tool that can be used to extract vital data such as contacts, pictures, videos, text messages, call logs and electronic serial numbers from over 1600 different cell-phone models - or 95 percent of the phones on the market today.
The UFED actually works pretty simply (requiring no PC for field operation): an investigator simply connects a cell phone to the device (which is somewhat similar in appearance to a credit-card reader), identifies the handset type via the onscreen menu, inserts a USB flash drive and hits “start” to extract information. As noted by Cellebrite: “field extraction of data insures that a suspect’s phone can be examined before the individual has a chance to destroy or erase data.”
The device can be used in covert operations or in the forensic lab for review and verification using the reporting/analysis tool. Cellebrite also notes that, since they work with most of the major service providers worldwide - including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Sprint – the majority of future cell phones models will be compatible with the device.
In addition to the UFED, which is designed primarily for use in law enforcement, Cellebrite has introduced a new device for the mobile-phone industry. It should be mentioned that this device is intended for professional use – not to turn everyday Janes and Joes into amateur spies and P.I.s. The Cellebrite Universal Memory Exchanger (UME) 36Pro is a “phone memory transfer and backup solution”, which, like the UFED, transfers all forms of content - including pictures, videos, ringtones, MP3s and phonebook contacts - between a wide range of mobile phones, smart phones and PDAs. The UME-36Pro works as an intermediary between one cell phone (the “source” phone) and another (the “target” phone) – copying data from of the source and pasting it on the target (or a “complete phone brain transplant” as Cellebrite refers to it).
While devices like the ones currently being produced by Cellebrite for phone-service professionals and law-enforcement agents offer a number of benefits in those respective fields, they also indirectly point to the lack of security on most cell phones. If data can be extracted so quickly and easily via the UFED and UME, what’s to stop anyone from snagging private information from a cell phone at any time. Personal devices have proliferated to the point where they have become yet another fingerprint a person leaves behind – making them a useful component in identity theft.
The evolution of technology, while making us stronger in some ways, has also made us more vulnerable in others. Information on cell phones, much like information on computers, now needs to be safeguarded – not to avoid ace CBS crime squads but identity thieves on the lookout for any advantage they can get. These days, it’s not just big brother whose watching (or listening to) us – it could be anyone.
Full Article. . . [Bobbi Madonna]
SCOTUS Grants Cert. in DNA Testing Case
In a case of obvious importance to the innocence movement, the U.S. Supreme Court today granted review in a case that raises the question whether 42 U.S.C. s. 1983 provides a cause of action to have DNA testing performed in order to prove actual innocence. In District Attorney's Office v. Osborne, the respondent was convicted of rape, kidnapping, and related crimes. He later attempted to have DNA testing performed on genetic materials found near the scene of the attack in order to prove his innocence but he was thwarted in his efforts in state court. The question raised is whether section 1983 can be used essentially as a discovery device in order to support further litigation once the conviction has become final. A subsidiary issue is the thorny question, likely to be dodged by the high Court once again, whether a freestanding innocence claim is cognizable under the Due Pocess Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Courtesy of Scotus Blog, you can read the petition for certiorari here, the brief in opposition here, the reply brief here, and the Ninth Circuit decision here. [Mike Mannheimer]
Law Enforcement and Civil Rights Groups Divided Over California Ballot Measures
LOS ANGELES — On Tuesday, California voters will consider three ballot measures that propose wide-ranging changes to the state’s criminal justice system but also pit law enforcement officials against civil rights advocates.
One initiative, Proposition 5, would increase financing for drug rehabilitation programs and reduce penalties for some drug- and addiction-related crimes. Another, Proposition 6, would increase financing for law enforcement and increase penalties for drug- and gang-related offenses. And a third, Proposition 9, would expand victims’ roles in criminal and parole proceedings, prioritize restitution payments to victims and reduce the frequency of parole hearings for offenders.
By financing alternatives for drug treatment, Proposition 5 would supplement a 2000 measure, Proposition 36, which mandated drug courts and rehabilitation for most people convicted of drug possession. The initiative would expand the kinds of offenders eligible for drug treatment to include those who committed non-drug-related crimes because of addiction. For example, someone convicted of burglary could claim he was trying to feed his drug habit and so would be eligible for treatment instead of jail.
Proposition 5 would dismiss certain felony drug violations and seal the records of some drug offenders after probation. The initiative would also shorten parole for most drug offenses, reduce penalties for marijuana possession and limit judges’ discretion to imprison certain parole and probation violators.
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance Network, a nonprofit organization that works to ease drug penalties and has contributed $400,000 to push Proposition 5, said the measure would help reduce overcrowding in California prisons, which are facing a federal takeover. [Mark Godsey]
State Supreme Court passes on reviewing speedy trial ruling
An opinion that says Riverside County judges don't have to send criminal cases facing speedy trial dismissals to family law and probate courts has survived its latest challenge.
The state Supreme Court on Oct. 22 passed on a bid by the Riverside County district attorney's office to review the decision issued earlier this year by a panel of Orange County Superior Court judges.
Riverside County judges say the protection to minors and vulnerable people offered by family law and probate courts should not be disrupted by criminal cases. They have said those courts and others also deal with issues of public safety.
Prosecutors said a state law giving criminal cases facing speedy trial dismissal precedence over civil matters includes not only civil trial courts, where business disputes and malpractice cases are heard.
They believe the law means such criminal cases should also be sent to family law and probate court, as well as traffic court.
The upheld Orange County decision means criminal cases that have run out of constitutionally guaranteed time limits can be dismissed, if criminal and civil trial courts are not available. Judges do not have to send them to the specialized courts.
Records also show the ruling remains "published" -- binding on Riverside County courts. The two challenged dismissals were misdemeanors, one for vandalism and the other for illegal dumping. [Mark Godsey]