Jerry L. Steering, Esq.
Jerry L. Steering was born in 1955 in Buffalo, N.Y. In 1977 he graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport with a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry. In 1984, Mr. Steering graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and practiced law for two years in Athens, Georgia. In 1986, Mr. Steering became a Member of the State Bar of California, and has been practicing law in California ever since.
Mr. Steering’s law practice primarily deals with the civil prosecution of police misconduct cases (i.e. false arrest, malicious prosecution and excessive force), and other government abuse civil rights cases.
Mr. Steering’s law practice also includes the defense of persons charged with crimes; especially bogus crimes such as resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer, and assault and battery on a peace officer; the crimes that persons are typically falsely prosecuted for, when they, in fact, were the victims of beatings and false arrests by police officers. He also represents criminal defendants in other criminal cases, such as drug cases, theft cases, homicide cases, drunk driving cases, duty to register cases, DUI cases, investor fraud cases, domestic violence cases, towing industry cases and other types of criminal actions.
Mr. Steering is married to Ruth C. Steering, who is the law firm’s office manager. They have three children: David, Elizabeth and Phillip.
Jerry L. Steering has been practicing criminal law since 1984 (in California since 1986.) He has tried and litigated hundreds of criminal cases, including murder cases, manslaughter cases, assault and battery cases, drug possession and drug manufacturing cases, DUI / Vehicular homicide cases, white-collar investor fraud cases, sex-offender or drug addict registration cases, violations of court orders, domestic violence cases, towing industry cases, and the entire spectrum of various criminal violations. He also specializes in police misconduct litigation; both bogus criminal cases (i.e. resisting arrest and assault and battery on peace officer) and civil lawsuits against peace officers.
Mr. Steering is also a published legal scholar, and has a published Law Review Article a logical quandary of federal evidentiary law: the disparity in the use of “accomplice accusations” between Fourth Amendment (accomplice accusations sufficiently reliable to establish probable cause for search warrant), and Sixth Amendment analysis (accomplice accusations are so inherently unreliable, that Congress could not have meant to have included them with the ambit of the Declaration Against Penal Interest exception to the hearsay rule.) As explained in the Law Review Article, a statement is either made under circumstances that we believe indicate that they are reliable, or not. Although the tests may be somewhat different, the statement is either reliable or not, and treating the statement as unreliable for Sixth Amendment purposes, but as reliable for Fourth Amendment purposes, is simply illogical. See, “The Application Of Sixth Amendment Tests For The Reliability Of Hearsay Evidence To Probable Cause Determinations, 16 Rutgers Law Journal 869 (1985.)
CRIMINAL LAW PRACTICE AND THE FIGHT FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE.
THE EARLY YEARS; CRIMINAL CASES IN GEORGIA
Martin v. Hardison; On His First Day As A Lawyer, Jerry L. Steering Invents The Use Of The Writ Of Habeas Corpus, For Vacating Traffic Offenses Convictions In Georgia, Resulting In The Return Of Hundreds Of Suspended And Revoked Driver Licenses.
Georgia Supreme Court Declares Right To Drive A Protected Liberty Interest; Hardison v. Martin
In Hardison v. Martin, 254 Ga. 719 (1985) the State of Georgia was turned upside down as a result of Mr. Steering’s invention of use of “The Great Writ” to obtain driver license reinstatement. In literally his first case as a lawyer (and literally his first day as a lawyer in court), Mr. Steering “invented” the use of the “Writ of Habeas Corpus” (the “Great Writ“), to vacate wrongful convictions of innocents for serious traffic offenses (misdemeanors and felonies), that result in driver license suspension or revocation. Prior to Hardison v. Martin, 254 Ga. 719 (1985), a motorist had no remedy for the suspension or revocation of his/her driver license, if he/she had plead guilty to the underlying traffic offense, and the motorist was neither in police custody (i.e. prison or jail), nor “constructive custody” (i.e. parole or probation.) Hardison v. Martin expanded Georgia’s definition of restraint of one’s liberty under the Georgia Habeas Corpus statute, from being in prison or jail, or being on probation or parole, to being entitled to a driver license. In other words, because of the widespread use of cars in today’s society to travel, there is a constitutionally protected “liberty interest” in being able to drive a vehicle; not a mere “privilege” that the state may revoke at its whim (a right, rather than a privilege.)
Hardison v. Martin; The Problem; No Remedy To Right The Wrong.
In Hardison v. Martin, 254 Ga. 719 (1985), Randall Martin was a car salesman at an Athens, Georgia, Cadillac Dealership. He needed to have a valid Georgia driver license, to work as a car salesmen. Mr. Martin had a tough break-up with his girlfriend, and got drunk to deal with his mental anguish. Over a two day period, Mr. Martin got arrested twice for DUI. The second DUI arrest was prompted by a call to the police by Mr. Martin’s girlfriend, reporting that Mr. Martin had broken a window on her home (while knocking too hard; the product of ethanol and inadvertence, and being “jilted“), and that she just wanted him gone. When the police were driving Westbound on the Atlanta Highway (the B52′s “Love Shack’s” Atlanta Highway), Mr. Martin was driving Westbound. There was quite a large amount of lawn / grass that separated the Eastbound from the Westbound lanes. Mr. Martin correctly guessed that the police officer, who was traveling Eastbound, was looking for him. However, it took the officer about fifteen seconds to reach the next road to turn-around, to pursue Mr. Martin Westbound (this wasn’t life or death, when an officer might drive over a large grass median.) So, Mr. Martin immediately pulled his car over to the curb, parked on the shoulder of the Atlanta Highway, and ran into the woods; hiding from the police.
The officers simply waited for a few hours at Mr. Martin’s car, and he eventually came out of the woods and surrendered to the police. Over his two day drunken binge (from being “jilted”), Mr. Martin had been arrested for DUI for the first day, and for DUI and eluding an officer in a vehicle, on the second day. Mr. Martin pleaded guilty to all three misdemeanor traffic offenses, and was given three years probation and a $700.00 fine. However, the Clerk of the Clarke County, Georgia Superior Court neglected to send copies of Mr. Martin’s judgment of conviction for the three traffic misdemeanors to the Georgia Department of Public Safety (Georgia’s combo State Patrol and DMV) for over three years; only doing so in response to the Probation Office notifying the Superior Court Clerk’s Office that Mr. Martin had successfully completed his three years of probation.
After the Georgia Department of Public Safety received Mr. Martin’s judgment of conviction from the Clerk’s Office, they notified him that he was an “habitual violator” under Georgia law, for having three serious traffic convictions within five years. See, OCGA 40-5-58 . Under that law, it was a felony for Mr. Martin to drive for five years.
After being declared an habitual violator (OCGA 40-5-58 ), Mr. Martin lost his job as a car salesman, as he couldn’t drive. His lawyer (Mr. Steering’s old boss, Howard Scott) brought a motion to set-aside his guilty plea to the eluding an officer in a vehicle Count, on the ground that although Mr. Martin did flee the officer on foot, that he didn’t use his car to evade the police, and, therefore, cannot be guilty of the misdemeanor offense of eluding an officer in a vehicle, and deserves his driver license back. So, although Mr. Martin was guilty of a crime, he was not guilty of a traffic offense, and his right to drive should not have been revoked.
At the hearing on the motion to vacate Mr. Martin’s guilty plea, the arresting officer testified to the above and foregoing; that Mr. Martin eluded him, but on foot; not in his car. The Judge nonetheless denied the motion. The motion was written and orchestrated by Mr. Steering, for his then boss, Howard Tate Scott, during his last semester of law school. Thus, Mr. Martin had proof, based on the arresting officer’s own version of the events, that the he was innocent of the traffic misdemeanor that resulted in his being declared an habitual violator (eluding an officer in a vehicle), and the loss of his job. However, as one can’t appeal a guilty plea, as there is nothing to appeal from; there was no trial to complain was unfair. Also, because Mr. Martin was not in prison or jail, or on parole or probation, as the judgment of conviction was sent in after he was off probation, under the Georgia Habeas Corpus statute, there was not a sufficient restraint on liberty for Habeas Corpus relief to lie; or was it?
Hardison v. Martin; The Solution; For Every Wrong There Must Be A Remedy.
Not taking “No” for an answer, on the first day that Mr. Steering was an attorney, June 25, 1984, a hearing was held on the Writ of Habeas Corpus against Colonel Hugh Hardison, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of public safety. While still a law clerk, Mr. Steering ghostwrote a Habeas Corpus Petition for Mr. Martin, contending that Colonel Hugh Hardison was restraining Mr. Martin’s liberty by revoking his driver license, and requesting that Clarke County Superior Court Judge Joseph P. Gaines order Colonel Hardison to give Mr. Martin his driver license back. After ruling that modern American cases and the change in modern society should recognize other forms of restraints on one’s liberty other than prison, jail, parole and probation, and that “mere technicalities of law” should not permit the scales of justice to be tipped in favor of punishing the indisputably innocent, Clarke County Superior Court Judge Joseph P. Gaines ordered Colonel Hardison to give Mr. Martin his driver license back. Judge Gaines granted the Writ of Habeas Corpus on the ground that driver license revocation qualified as a sufficient restraint on one’s liberty upon which Habeas Corpus relief may lie.
Because Mr. Martin was indisputably innocent, the Georgia Supreme Court was not going to leave him without remedy, for the Clerk’s belated delivery of the judgment of his conviction to the Georgia Department of Public Safety. When the Georgia Attorney General’s Office appealed Judge Gaine’s granting of the Writ of Habeas corpus for Mr. Martin, a unanimous Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Judge Gaines’ order; creating the right to use the remedy of Habeas Corpus to vacate traffic offense convictions in Georgia.
Hardison v. Martin; The Political Fallout
Because in the State of Georgia, there were no “infractions” or “violations”, just misdemeanors or felonies (i.e. DUI misdemeanor; bald tires ticket misdemeanor, and robbery and murder, felonies), the ruling in the Martin case had dramatic consequences in the State of Georgia. In none, or almost none, of the guilty pleas in Georgia traffic cases, did the Judge obtain either written or oral (and reported / recorded) waivers of the certain fundamental Constitutional rights that Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1969.) guarantees. However, in order to withstand attack upon conviction, even a misdemeanor traffic violation, by way of a Writ of Habeas Corpus, a guilty plea (or no contest / nolo contendre plea) must include some sort of record (i.e. a written waiver of rights form, or a transcript of an oral in-court waiver of rights) of a knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver of certain basic Constitutional rights, such as: 1) the right to counsel; 2) the right to remain silent; 3) the right to a public trial by jury: 4) the right to use the compulsory process of the court; and 5) the right to confront (cross-examine) one’s accusers. See, Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1969.)
Therefore, because the majority of traffic convictions in Georgia were the result of guilty pleas, and all of them were at least misdemeanors, almost all of them in the state were now subject to being set aside via Habeas Corpus. Many of them were.
The State v. Susan Jones; Everyone Needs To Start Sometime; Mr. Steering’s First Jury Trial; Let’s Convict the Obviously Innocent
Mr. Steering’s first criminal jury trial was the case of The State of Georgia v. Susan Jones; Clarke County (Georgia) State Court. In that case, defendant Susan Jones was being prosecuted for misdemeanor criminal utterance of a bad check. OCGA 16-9-20 (uttering a check for present consideration, knowing that the check will not be honored by the bank.) On the same day that Mrs. Jones had paid her $380.00 monthly rent for her apartment by check, she had also made a $400.00 bank deposit into her checking account (before she paid her rent.) However, the landlord didn’t deposit the check for about a month. When the check was presented to Ms. Jones’ bank for payment, the bank denied the payment, as her account had dipped a few dollars below the $380.00 check amount, due to miscellaneous bank charges.
On the day before the Jones “bad-check” trial, the Clarke County Solicitor, Ken Stula, received Susan Jones’ bank records. It was apparent from the bank account records that she had no intent to defraud her landlord, and that she was innocent. On the morning of the trial, Susan Jones, represented by then young attorney Jerry L. Steering, answered ready for trial. The prosecution, represented by Clarke County Solicitor, Ken Stula, told the Clarke County State Court (Judge Grady C. Pittard, Jr.), that his office had obtained Ms. Jones’ bank records yesterday, that the records show that she was innocent, and that The State would like to dismiss the case. Judge Pittard scolded Mr. Stula for filing cases without first properly investigating them, and for waiting to the last minute to investigate them. However, Judge Pittard refused to dismiss the case, and told Mr. Stula not to worry; that he would “help” him. When Mr. Steering asked the Court what that was supposed to mean, Judge Pittard threatened Mr. Steering with jail for even asking.
During the trial, young attorney Jerry Steering found out what the “help” was. Judge Pittard refused to allow Mr. Steering to have the manager of Ms. Jones’ bank, identify or authenticate her bank account records, that proved her innocence. Mr. Steering could not believe that in his first trial, that the Judge and the prosecutor, were making a game out of attempting to convict a woman who they both knew was truly innocent. The Judge was “teaching the prosecutor a lesson”, and the prosecutor was going through the motions; almost struggling to keep a straight face. Mr. Steering doesn’t believe that Judge Pittard would had let a conviction of Ms. Jones stand. He was just having fun with the whole situation, at Mrs. Jones’ expense.
Notwithstanding the little game between the court and the prosecution, the jury saw right through it, and acquitted Ms. Jones in five minutes; literally five minutes. The fastest verdict that Mr. Steering has ever received.
This case was exceptionally “novel”, in the sense that once the prosecution moves to dismiss a criminal action, the court has no choice other than to dismiss it. It comes from the American doctrine of “separation of powers“. The judicial branch of government (the courts) cannot order the executive branch of government to prosecute anyone; ever. Only the executive branch of government (i.e. the President, a Governor, an Attorney General or a District Attorney, City Attorney, United States Attorney; in this case the State misdemeanor prosecutor; the Solicitor) can decide to criminally prosecute a person or corporation. So, although what Judge Pittard was doing was exceptionally unlawful, the defendant ultimately prevailed.
The State of Georgia v. Katie Mae Wilson; Mr. Steering’s First Murder Case
Mr. Steering tried a murder case in Athens, Georgia; several months after graduation from law school in 1984. It was defending that case that gave Mr. Steering his first taste of police perjury (something that he has experienced in most of his cases thereafter.) The main investigating officer lied on the witness stand at the murder trial, about a discussion that he had with Mr. Steering, so Mr. Steering knew that the police officer was lying. Although the defendant did kill her husband, Curtis Wilson, with a boiling pot (smashed it over his head), Mr. Steering was still able to pull-off a manslaughter conviction out of the jury, and a six month jail sentence for his client; Katie Mae Wilson.
Mr. Steering got plenty of trial experience in Clarke County and Oconee County State Court, before the Hon. Grady C. Pittard, Jr. In Georgia, the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes felony cases, but the County Solicitor’s Office prosecute misdemeanors. Similarly, in Georgia, felonies are handled in the Superior Court, but misdemeanors are handled in the “State Court” (both of the Courts are courts of the State of Georgia.)
CRIMINAL CASES AFTER MR. STEERING MOVES TO CALIFORNIA – APPELLATE PRACTICE
- STEERING IS APPOINTED BY CALIFORNIA COURT OF APPEALS TO REPRESENT INDIGENT CRIMINAL DEFENDANTS ON MAJOR FELONY APPEALS
Based on the high quality of his legal writing, when Mr. Steering first moved to California in 1986, he applied to the Fourth District Court of Appeal (that includes Imperial County, San Diego County, Orange County, Riverside County and San Bernardino County) for appointments for serious felony convictions for those in prison, and without sufficient resources to pay for an appellate attorney.
First Appointed Appeal; San Diego Man Chops-Up Wife With Axe
In his first appointed appeal, Mr. Steering represented a Polish immigrant who chopped-up his wife with an axe in San Diego (he caught her in bed with another, and waited for her paramour to leave. He left their wedding photos on her chopped-up body, and called the police to turn himself in. The jury gave him Second Degree Murder, and Mr. Steering was trying for a reduction to manslaughter.
Second Appointed Appeal; Wear A Thick Sweater
In his next appointed appeal, he represented a man who had attempted to hold-up a liquor store by draping a sweater over his hand with his finger pointed to attempt to look like a gun barrel. The store clerk immediately recognized the items underneath the sweater as a hand, hit the alarm, walked around the corner and beat-up the defendant / appellant. Mr. Steering tried to appeal on theory of the impossibility defense, but the Court of Appeal wouldn’t go for it. Under the impossibility defense to crime, one does an act that no reasonable person would think would result in the desired result of the action. The classic example is the Voodoo Witch Doctor who casts a spell and sticks pins in a Voodoo doll in an attempt to kill another. Under the impossibility defense, no reasonable person would believe that their actions, in that case, casting a death spell and sticking pins in a Voodoo doll, would result in death or any harm; yet the mental element of most crimes, the mens rea, is the same in such a case as if one believe that home made bomb would work, when it wouldn’t as assembled; when it would have been impossible for that home made bomb to explode.This was the case with the sweater. It was so obvious from the look of a flimsy sweater draped over the defendant’s / appellant’s hand with pointing finger that there was no gun, only a finger, that no reasonable person would have believed that the result (i.e. making the store clerk believe that he had a gun under the sweater) would have resulted from the defendant’s / appellant’s conduct. Again, however, this is a criminal case, and the Court of Appeal ignored the Voodoo Doctor’s pin-sticking, and affirmed the conviction.
CRIMINAL CASES AFTER MR. STEERING MOVES TO CALIFORNIA – TRIAL PRACTICE
Bill L. Harbert v. United States of America; “The King Can Do No Wrong”; “Sovereign Immunity” Trumps “Justice For All”
Mr. Steering has even filed a civil action for a Declaratory Judgment in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (that got transferred to the Northern District of Alabama) Bill L. Harbert v. United States of America; District Court Case No. 05-00173 CV-LSC-S. Mr. Harbert, was essentially “extorted” by the United States government to guarantee a $54,000,000.00 fine for a Sherman Act violation by a Liechtenstein company owned by him. He was neither a defendant to the criminal Sherman Act case against Bilhar International Construction, nor accused in any way in the Indictment of his company, and its London based President; Roy Anderson. The Declaratory Judgment action sought to relieve Mr. Harbert from having to pay that fine, based on the ground that he was extorted into signing the personal guarantee for the $54,000,000.00 fine imposed against Bilhar International Construction in said Sherman Act case.
Bill L. Harbert International Construction, one of the largest international construction companies in the world, and its affiliate company; Bilhar International Construction, a Lichtenstein company, was awarded a contract to rebuild the water delivery system for Cairo, Egypt by the United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”.) The $285,000.00 contract was a product of the 1979 Camp David Peace Accords, where President Carter negotiated permanent peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Although President Carter may have been a persuasive fellow, the United States had to provide and to pay for large construction projects in Egypt, to get Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to sign the peace treaty.
After being awarded the contract and completing the Cairo water delivery project, the United States government indicted Bill L. Harbert International Construction, Bilhar Company, and it’s London-based President, Roy Hill, for violation of the Sherman Act and making a false claim for payment to “Uncle Sam“; claiming that the Bill Harbert companies had “rigged the bidding” on the water delivery project, via a group of several international construction companies, called “The Frankfort Club.” The Sherman Act is a federal law that prohibits “anti-competitive business practices”, and nothing is more anti-competitive than bid-rigging.
Although the government Indicted Bilhar and an affiliate company, along with its President, Elmore Roy Hill, the government never claimed that Bill L. Harbert even knew about the bid-rigging. However, in order to settle the criminal action against Bilhar, Mr. Harbert was forced to (extorted) sign a personal guarantee of the criminal fine against Bilhar; a $54,000,000.00 fine. The fine terms called for an immediate payment of $10,000,000.00, and payments of approximately $740,000.00 per month. The personal guarantee also provided for the estate of Mr. Harbert to continue to be liable for the fine, even after his death.
Since he was never Indicted, the government couldn’t collect any monies from Mr. Harbert, other than via his personal guarantee. Moreover, Bilhar company, the actual defendant, only had $34,000,000.00 in total assets. Therefore, Mr. Harbert was being forced to pay $20,000,000.00 more than the total assets of the defendant company. Something had to be done. Although Mr. Harbert’s personal guarantee was negotiated by Nashville, Tennessee attorney Jim Neal (the man who put Jimmy Hoffa in prison), and his companies were represented by, among others, Charles F. (“Rick”) Rule (lead counsel for Microsoft in USA v. Microsoft), no one had a solution for Mr. Harbert’s problem; getting out of paying the remained of the $54,000,000.00 fine, and at least not having to pay the extra $20,000,000.00.
In 2002, Mr. Steering was hired by the Harbert legal team to solve the problem. Mr. Steering came-up with the idea of filing an action for a Declaratory Judgment; ordering that Mr. Harbert is excused from paying any of the fine, as being the product of extortion by Uncle Sam himself. While this case was going on, former United States Senator Bob Dole (R-Kansas) was escorting Mr. Steering around Capitol Hill, and introducing him to Senators and United States Representatives (Members of the House of Representatives) to sign-off on a Congressional letter of support for Mr. Harbert’s cause. On June 19, 2003, Sen. Dole even wrote to Attorney General Ashcroft, and accused the United States Department of Justice of extorting the personal guarantee from Mr. Harbert. See, June 19, 2003 letter from Bob Dole to Attorney General Ashcroft.
The Eleventh Circuit ultimately held that whether or not Mr. Harbert was “extorted” by Uncle Same, that “The King Can Do No Wrong“; that notwithstanding any such oppressive conduct by the government toward Mr. Harbert, that the federal government had “Sovereign Immunity” from being sued; even notwithstanding a 14th Amendment (“shocking to the conscience” standard for 14th Amendment Substantive Due Process Violation. It is true; “The King Can Do No Wrong“.
PEOPLE v. MARK EDWIN TAYLOR; NO SECOND DEGREE MURDER LIABILITY FOR PCP DISTRIBUTION
In 1986, John Belushi died from an overdose of a combination of various narcotics, in Los Angeles. Also that year, Len Bias, the first round pick of the Boston Celtics, died from a cocaine overdose. Nancy Reagan was trumpeting her “Just Say No” (to drugs) campaign, and a very large portion of the American population was snorting cocaine; just about everyone (President George W. Bush (admitted to coke use during 2000 campaign.) Cops, Judges, lawyers, doctors; just about everybody was snorting coke. There was drug madness about, and the “drug dealer” replaced the “Commies” as the enemy.
In that same year, 1986, Mark Edwin Taylor was passing around a “sherm” (a PCP laced cigarette) at Huntington Beach. An 18 year old young man from Montabello paid $2.00 for a puff of the sherm. After puffing, the young man walked-down to the surf line, fully clothed, wearing his Sony Walkman headphones, sat down on the beach, and a big wave took him to Davy Jones locker. The autopsy of the young man showed that he had a subdural hematoma. Since “dead men don’t bleed”, the evidence showed that the young man’s head was apparently slammed on the beach (perhaps a rock) when the big wave came, and, that disabled the young man to the point where he was rendered unconscious and drowned. In other words, the PCP didn’t kill the young man. The subdural hematoma did. This was the first case in the English speaking world in which a person was criminally prosecuted for homicide for drug distribution, when the dead person didn’t die of an overdose; only possibly the behavioral effects of the PCP (i.e. sitting at the surf line, while fully dressed and listening to music.) During the first trial, Mr. Steering came close to being held in contempt of court for continuing to argue that there must be a better reason for the continued use of the felony murder rule, than it has been around since the time of Lord Coke.
In addition, Mr. Steering proved that although PCP had bizzare psychological effects, he also proved that illicit PCP use does not carry with it a “high probability of death”; the requirement for a felony to serve as the predicate felony for Second Degree Felony Murder in California. Therefore, in Reversing Mr. Taylor’s Second Degree Murder conviction, the Fourth District Court of Appeal (Division Three) held that a person could not be held liable for murder in California for PCP distribution, as PCP is not drug that carries with it, “a high probability of death” when used illicitly (See, People v. Taylor, 6 Cal.App.4th 1084 (1992).)
THE FIGHT FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE; CONTEMPT OF COP CASES
Mr. Steering is an expert in “Contempt Of Cop“ type cases, and has litigated, consulted, advised or has otherwise been involved in thousands of these type of bogus criminal cases; usually for fabricated charges of either: 1) resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of his duties, 2) assault and battery on a peace officer, 3) using / threatening use of force or violence to deter or prevent a public officer from performing their duty, 4) assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, or, 5) attempted murder of a peace officer.
Unfortunately, the natural American reaction to hearing that you are accused of a crime, is to presume that you actually committed some crime, or otherwise acted unlawfully, anti-socially dishonorably or despicably. These, “Contempt Of Cop” cases, typical involve the police using force upon persons (i.e. beating them) and/or falsely arresting them, and then inventing bogus allegations of violations various “Contempt Of Cop” statutes, such as violations of: 1) Cal. Penal Code 148(a)(1) (resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer; the most abused statute in the Penal Code; 2) Cal. Penal Code 240/241(b)(assault on a peace officer); 3) Cal. Penal Code 242 / 243(b) (battery on a peace officer); and 4) Cal. Penal Code 69 (interfering with public officer via actual or threatened use of force or violence.) Cal. Penal Code 69 is a “wobbler”; a California public offense that may be filed by the District Attorney’s Office as either a felony or a misdemeanor. In Orange County, Riverside County and Los Angeles County, allegations of violation of Penal Code 69 are usually filed as misdemeanors. In San Bernardino County, however, allegations of violation of Cal. Penal Code 69 are filed as felonies much more often than her sister counties.
EXCESSIVE FORCE, FALSE ARREST AND MALICIOUS PROSECUTION CASES
Mr. Steering has been suing police officers, and defending bogus criminal cases of crimes against police officers, for over 28 years. The majority of our firm’s law practice, is suing police officers and other government officials, for claims such as false arrest, police brutality / excessive force, malicious prosecution, and other “Constitutional Torts“, and defending bogus criminal cases against the victims of such abuse by the police.
The United States Supreme Court has defined “Excessive Force” as follows:
“Where, as here, the excessive force claim arises in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most properly characterized as one invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right “to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable . . . seizures” of the person . . . . . . . Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of ” ‘the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests’ ” against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Id., at 8, 105 S.Ct., at 1699, quoting United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 703, 103 S.Ct. 2637, 2642, 77 L.Ed.2d 110 (1983). Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S., at 22-27, 88 S.Ct., at 1880-1883. Because “the test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mecha ical application,” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1884, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), however, its proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S., at 8-9, 105 S.Ct., at 1699-1700 (the question is “whether the totality of the circumstances justifies a particular sort of . . . seizure”).” (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989.)
“The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 20-22, 88 S.Ct., at 1879-1881. The Fourth Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause, even though the wrong person is arrested, Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797, 91 S.Ct. 1106, 28 L.Ed.2d 484 (1971), nor by the mistaken execution of a valid search warrant on the wrong premises, Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 107 S.Ct. 1013, 94 L.Ed.2d 72 (1987). With respect to a claim of excessive force, the same standard of reasonableness at the moment applies: “Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge’s chambers,” Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d, at 1033, violates the Fourth Amendment. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.
As in other Fourth Amendment contexts, however, the “reasonableness” inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. See Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 137-139, 98 S.Ct. 1717, 1723-1724, 56 L.Ed.2d 168 (1978); see also Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 21, 88 S.Ct., at 1879(in analyzing the reasonableness of a particular search or seizure, “it is imperative that the facts be judged against an objective standard”). An officer’s evil intentions will not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively reasonable use of force; nor will an officer’s good intentions make an objectively unreasonable use of force constitutional. See, Scott v. United States, supra, 436 U.S., at 138, 98 S.Ct., at 1723, citing United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427 (1973).”
In Graham, we held that claims of excessive force in the context of arrests or investigatory stops should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendments objective reasonableness standard, not under substantive due process principles. 490 U.S., at 388, 394. Because police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation, id., at 397, the reasonableness of the officers belief as to the appropriate level of force should be judged from that on-scene perspective. Id., at 396. We set out a test that cautioned against the 20/20 vision of hindsight in favor of deference to the judgment of reasonable officers on the scene. Id., at 393, 396. Graham sets forth a list of factors relevant to the merits of the constitutional excessive force claim, requir[ing] careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Id., at 396. If an officer reasonably, but mistakenly, believed that a suspect was likely to fight back, for instance, the officer would be justified in using more force than in fact was needed. (See, Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001).)
THE PROBLEM WITH GRAHAM’S “REASONABLE OFFICER STANDARD”IN THE REAL WORLD – THE WATCHMAN GETS TO MAKE HIS OWN RULES THAT REGULATE HIS OWN CONDUCT
The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Court’s strong emphasis on the officer’s conduct being based on an “objective” standard; they hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is “reasonable” or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on conduct and judicially created “exclusionary rule”.) The conduct of “the objectively reasonable officer”; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. O’Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (“objectively reasonable officer”) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.
It’s letting the regulated enact their own regulations. It’s like letting the local power company, set the rate of profit that they should make; set the formula for how the amount of profit is determined; set how much they can spend on public relations (since they’re a monopoly), and how, when, by whom and in what manner, they should be inspected, what they can and can’t do in their industry, and every other aspect of the business. If they want to all use tasers on civilians, then that’s reasonable. If they all want to pepper-spray persons because their hands in their pockets, then that’s reasonable. If they want to prone-out everyone at gun point that they detain, then that’s reasonable. At the end of the day, in the real world police world, if the technique, method, procedure, policy or practice reduces the danger level to the officer, you can bet that, eventually, they will find a way to justify such technique, method, procedure, policy or practice , and make such otherwise unreasonable behavior, “reasonable”, for no other reason than the police would prefer to act that way; Constitutional or not. You see the problem. The police have an old slogan: “It’s better to be judged by 12, then carried by 6.” It’s another way of saying, I’ll act in a way that is in my self interest; not yours, and if I happen to trample your Constitutional rights, so be it.
THE PROBLEM OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY, COMPOUNDS THE PROBLEM CREATED BY GRAHAM
In a nutshell, the Qualified Immunity is an immunity from a lawsuit for violation of a civilian’s Constitutional rights, when those rights were actually violated, but a reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that his conduct did not constitute such Constitutional violation. So, even if the police officer actually violated your Constitutional Rights, he may be immune from suit, because the law was not clearly established enough at the time of the violation, to hold a police officer liable for his conduct. This is a doctrine “contrived” by the conservative members of the Supreme Court (since 1981), to ensure that you can’t do anything about (or at least do a whole lot less about) your Constitutional Rights being trampled by the government.
So, for example, if the police come-up with a whole new technique to restrain people, such as a with a taser, or pepper-spray, or pepper-balls, or water-balls, or hobbling (police hog tying), or a shock-belting, or stun-gunning, the officer may very well be entitled to qualified immunity from being sued for the misuse of any of the above-mentioned devices; not because its “reasonable”, but because the police just use those devices in such manners; thereby giving the Courts an excused to relieve the police officer from liability for the damage caused by his violation of the Constitutional Rights of civilians:
“Qualified immunity is an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200 (2001) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)) . . . Accordingly, we must resolve immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation. Pearson, 129, S.Ct. at 815.
An officer will be denied qualified immunity in a 1983 action only if (1) the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting injury, show that the officers conduct violated a constitutional right, and (2) the right at issue was clearly established at the time of the incident such that a reasonable officer would have understood her conduct to be unlawful in that situation. Saucier, 533 at 201-02; Liberal v. Estrada, 632 F.3d 1064, 1076 (9th Cir. 2011.) To assist the development of constitutional precedent, we exercise our sound discretion to follow Saucier’s conventional two-step procedure and address first whether the Torres Family has alleged the violation of a constitutional right. See, Pearson, 129 S.Ct. at 818.
The qualified immunity analysis involves two separate steps. First, the court determines whether the facts show the officers conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001.) If the alleged violate a constitutional right, then the defendants are entitled to immunity and the claim must be dismissed. However, if the alleged conduct did violate such a right, then the court must determine whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged unlawful action. Id.
A right is clearly established if a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. Id., at 202. If the right is not clearly established, then the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. While the order in which these questions are addressed is left to the courts sound discretion, it is often beneficial to perform the analysis in the sequence outlined above. Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009.) Of course, where a claim of qualified immunity is to be denied, both questions must be answered.
When determining whether there are any genuine issues of material fact at the summary judgment stage, the court must take all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In the context of qualified immunity, determinations that turn on questions of law, such as whether the officers had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to support their actions, are appropriately decided by the court. Act Up!/Portland v. Bagley, 988 F.2d 868, 873 (9th Cir. 1993.)
However, a trial court should not grant summary judgment when there is a genuine dispute as to the facts and circumstances within an officers knowledge or what the officer and claimant did or failed to do. Id.” (Saucier v. Katz, supra.)
WHY THE POLICE CRIMINALLY PROSECUTE THEIR VICTIMS
Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame” others) of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated; to justify what they did, and to act in conformity with that justification. The excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal § Code 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 240 / 241), “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b) (which is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”), and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal Code § 69.) Section 69 is a “wobbler” under California law; a crime that the government can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This charge is usually reserved for cases in which the police use substantial force on the innocent arrestee (the real “victim”), and need to falsely claim more violent / serious conduct by the “victim” to justify their outrages.
So, for example, the crime of “battery on a peace officer” (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, “battery by a peace officer”; otherwise known as “Excessive Force”; an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).)