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Workers’ Compensation Under Single-Payer System

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Archive: Aug 2017

Workers’ Compensation Under Single-Payer System

In the face of a changing political field, attacks on labor, and the issues with how the nation treats its injured and ill workers, California lawmakers believe they may have found a solution. Despite Washington pushing for a market approach to healthcare, Sen. Toni Atkins of San Diego and State Sen. Ricardo Lara are going in the opposite direction. Taking Canada’s current universal system as a model, they believe California is the perfect setting for a brand-new approach to healthcare – the single-payer system.

What Is the Single-Payer Healthcare System?

Canada operates under a “single-payer” healthcare system. This system started at the local level, then revolutionized healthcare from province to province. Under a single-payer system, the government pays healthcare bills, not individual insurance companies. Private healthcare facilities provide the care, without the need for deductibles or premiums. The money for this care in America could come from state governments, federal governments, and taxes on earnings for employers and workers, according to Lara.

The single-payer healthcare system operates in a way that’s very similar to Medicare. It has the potential to expand access to healthcare and make it more affordable for the average citizen. It could also improve the quality of care given. Parties against the single-payer system say that it could result in an extremely high level of taxation and longer wait lists for appointments. This isn’t the first-time lawmakers have tried to introduce such a system in California. This time, however, there are a few factors working in favor of single-payer healthcare.

A single-payer system would cost California an estimated $400 billion annually. As much as half of this money would come from a new payroll tax. It would be a state-run system that replaces public programs like Medicaid and Medicare, as well as existing health insurance coverage through employers. The current bill regarding implementation of this system, Senate Bill 562 (“The Healthy California Act”) underwent a vote in June 2017, with 23 “yes” votes and 14 “no” votes. It is now at Assembly.

How Would This Affect Workers’ Compensation?

Under a single-payer system, workers could benefit from universal, publicly-financed healthcare. The system would completely remove involvement by workers’ compensation insurance companies and employers in the administration of benefits. Proponents of the bill believe this will vastly improve injured workers’ access to high-quality healthcare services. A single-payer system could hold employers financially accountable for employee injuries and track injury events to improve worker safety.

With single-payer healthcare, workers would have a right to healthcare under the same terms as everyone else in the state. They would still have to fight for lost wages and disability benefits, but access to adequate and prompt healthcare would improve, according to supporters of the bill. Tax money, rather than insurance premiums, would pay for these services, eliminating healthcare delays and claim denials that have harmed injured workers in the past. Many believe that single-payer healthcare in California would ultimately strengthen the infrastructure around the country and spark a nationwide revolution. In the meantime, the bill must first pass through Senate in the state of California.

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LOS JUECES DEBEN EXPLICAR POR QUE NEGARON ORDENES DE RESTRICCION SOLICITADAS EN CASOS DE VIOLENCIA DOMESTICA

Artículo 17-29

¡No Se Deje! ®

Los casos de violencia doméstica son, y deben ser tratados como, emergencias peligrosas.  El público ha quedado impactado y triste al enterarse de los muchos casos de violencia doméstica que resultan en lesiones serias y/o muerte.  Aún cuando la violencia doméstica no resulte fatal, los niños en la casa generalmente quedan afectados emocionalmente de por vida.   La mayoría de las víctimas de violencia doméstica son mujeres, pero  también los hombres  pueden ser víctimas.

 

Las Ordenes de Restricción Temporales están entre los más importantes remedios legales disponibles para las víctimas de violencia doméstica.  Estas son ordenes de la corte contra un abusador denunciado que le prohíbe el contacto o la conducta abusiva o violenta contra la víctima.  Las cortes intencionalmente han hecho el proceso de aplicación simple y para ser utilizado sin necesidad de un abogado.   Las víctimas deben explicar por qué necesitan órdenes de restricción temporales de emergencia.  Esto se hace dando ejemplos del comportamiento violento o abusivo.  Las víctimas se han quejado que los jueces impropiamente les han negado las solicitudes de órdenes de restricción temporales con lo cual las exponen y en algunos casos a niños, a peligrosas lesiones físicas y emocionales.

 

LA LEY obliga a los jueces a dar las razones por las cuales niegan solicitudes de órdenes de restricción temporal en los casos de violencia doméstica. Quienes respaldan esta  ley indicaron que sin una explicación por escrito de la negativa, no podemos saber las razones del juez para rehusarse a emitir la orden.  Cuando los jueces expresan sus razones, las víctimas y sus abogados pueden determinar si fue negada impropiamente y pueden considerar una apelación.   La ley también da a las víctimas el derecho a tener una audiencia dentro de los 20 días después  de negarse la orden de restricción temporal y pedir una orden prohibiendo que el abusador contacte a la víctima.

 

Algunos críticos de esta ley dicen que las personas involucradas en disputas familiares acaloradas y  en disputas domésticas legales frecuentemente usan  las órdenes de restricción temporales cuando no son necesarias simplemente para castigar a la otra parte.   Dicen que las partes frecuentemente mienten para convencer al juez que conceda las órdenes de restricción que después pueden utilizar en procesos de divorcio o custodia de menores.   Los críticos también indican que las Ordenes de Restricción Temporal de Emergencia son emitidas y tienen efecto de inmediato sin darle a la otra parte la oportunidad de responder por 20 días.   Durante ese tiempo, su libertad de actuar en ciertas actividades incluyendo regresar al hogar familiar o tener contacto con un cónyuge y/o niños queda limitada o prohibida.

 

Los críticos temen que si se les pide a los ocupados jueces que escriban las razones para negar Ordenes de Restricción Temporal, muchos jueces en vez de eso simplemente concederán la mayoría de tales solicitudes.  Dicen además que conceder Ordenes de Restricción Temporales innecesarias o injustificadas injustamente requiere que la persona restringida sea incluida en los Registros Estatales y Federales de Violencia Familiar.  Es casi imposible ser borrado de esos registros aún si más tarde se determina que la información que apoyaba la Orden de Restricción Temporal no era correcta o cierta.

 

Como pueden ver, la decisión de conceder o negar una Orden de Restricción Temporal puede ser muy difícil de tomar.  Los Jueces tienen la poderosa autoridad y la enorme responsabilidad de tomar estas decisiones.   Ahora, bajo la ley, tendrán que dejarnos saber las razones para negar  una Orden solicitada  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ABOGADO

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JUDGES MUST EXPLAIN WHY THEY DENIED REQUESTS FOR RESTRAINING ORDERS IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES

Article 17-29

¡No Se Deje!

Domestic violence cases are, and must be treated as, dangerous emergencies.  The public has been shocked and saddened to learn of the many domestic violence cases that result in serious injuries and/or death.  Even when the domestic violence is not fatal, children in the home are often scarred for life emotionally.  Most of the victims of domestic violence are women, but men can also be victims.

 

Temporary Restraining Orders are among the most important legal remedies available to victims of domestic violence.  They are court orders against a reported abuser that prohibit contact or violent or abusive conduct against the victim.  The courts have deliberately made the application process simple and designed to be used without the need for an attorney.  Victims must explain why they need a temporary emergency restraining order.  This is done by giving examples of violent or abusive past behavior.  Victims have complained that judges have improperly denied requests for temporary restraining orders thereby exposing them and, in some cases children, to dangerous physical and emotional injuries.

 

THE LAW obligates judges to give their reasons for denying requests for temporary restraining orders in domestic violence cases.  Supporters of this law point out that without a written explanation for a denial, we cannot know the judge’s reasons for refusing to issue the order.  When judges state their reasons, victims and their attorneys can determine if it was improperly denied and can consider an appeal.  The law also gives the victim the right to have a hearing within 20 days after a denial of a temporary restraining order and to ask for an order prohibiting the abuser to contact the victim.

 

Some critics of this law say that people involved in heated family and domestic legal disputes often use unnecessary temporary restraining orders merely to punish the other party.  They say that parties often lie to convince judges to grant the restraining orders which they can later use in divorce or child custody proceedings.  Critics also point out that Emergency Temporary Restraining Orders are issued and effective immediately without giving the other party an opportunity to respond for 20 days.  During that time, their freedom to engage in certain activities including returning to the family home or having contact with a spouse and/or children is limited or prohibited.

 

These critics fear that if busy judges are required to write the reasons for denying Temporary Restraining Orders, many judges will simply grant most or all such requests instead.  They say that granting unnecessary or unjustified Temporary Restraining Orders unfairly requires the restrained person to be listed in State and Federal Family Violence Registries.  It is almost impossible to be removed from these registries even if it is later determined that the information supporting the Temporary Restraining Order was not true.

 

As you can see, the decision to grant or deny a Temporary Restraining Order can be a very difficult one to make.  Judges have the powerful authority and the enormous responsibility to make these decisions.  Now, under the law, they will have to let us know the reasons for denying a request to issue one.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.  

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Overview of 2016 CA Workers’ Comp Losses and Expenses

Annual reports regarding the California Workers’ Compensation Program’s losses and expenses can help the state see where the greatest payments occur in the system. These reports keep track of yearly program spending and compare data across different financial categories to see where the state could make improvements. The 2016 Report by the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB) shows fascinating statistics that could inform employers and workers’ comp insurers in the state in the next year.

Key Findings in the June 28, 2017 Report

The WCIRB report collected data from insured employer experiences. It also took into account payments the California Insurance Guarantee Association (CIGA) made when calculating statewide loss payments. Taking a look at the latest report can highlight a few trends in insurance company losses and claim costs, such as:

  • The program spent a total of $4.8 billion on medical services. This expense accounted for 57% of total loss payments for 2016. This amount is a slight drop from 2015, which displayed $4.9 billion (59%) in analogous medical services.
  • The greatest medical service expense in 2016 was “payments made directly to injured workers,” with $1.3 billion (28%), followed by “physician services” at $1.2 billion (26%). Other top expenses include hospital costs (12%), medical-legal evaluations (7%), and pharmaceuticals (6%).
  • The average cost of a single medical-legal evaluation was $1,663, while psychiatric evaluations were more expensive – they averaged $3,420 each. Orthopedic evaluations were the most common type of medical-legal evaluation, accounting for about 54% of the total cost.
  • Indemnity benefits cost almost $3.6 billion, or 43% of total loss payments. This loss amount includes an estimate of payments CIGA made for indemnity benefits. Indemnity benefit amounts increased by 2% from 2015, which saw $3.5 billion (41%) total.
  • The greatest indemnity cost was for temporary disability benefits, at $1,783,620 in thousands (49.6%). Permanent partial disability accounted for $1,470,126 in thousands, or 40.9%. Other indemnity costs were permanent total disability (3.4%), life pensions (2.5%), vocational rehabilitation (1.8%), death (1.7%), and funeral expenses (0.1%).
  • There were 9,796 workers’ compensation claims for permanent disability for back injuries, 8,208 claims for slip and falls, 3,632 for repetitive motion injuries, 680 for psychiatric and mental stress injuries, and 5,609 for other cumulative injuries.
  • The average cost for a back injury permanent disability claim was $51,882 total – $28,084 for medical and $23,798 for indemnity. The average cost for a slip and fall was higher, at $72,843 total ($44,163 medical, $28,680 indemnity).

The data includes detailed information from the 2016 year, with limited information on 2017. The report suggests that the percentage of earned premiums for insurers has dropped since 2015. In 2015, insurers saw 62% losses and 36% premiums for a total of 98% in earned premium. In 2015, these totals were 60% in losses and 34% in expenses for a total of 94%. Insurers lost the most on “strain by lifting” as the cause of injury, with $448,236,847 (10.5%) in total incurred losses.

Workers’ compensation data can help insurers establish premium costs and employers enhance the safety of workers. Being proactive about using the data can benefit all parties involved.

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LOS MITOS LEGALES PUEDEN RESULTAR COSTOSOS

 

Artículo 17-27

¡No Se Deje! ®

Consulte la ley aplicable antes de firmar un contrato

 

(Este Artículo fue publicado en la semana del miércoles 5 al martes 11 de Julio de 2017)

 

Nadie, ni siquiera los más experimentados abogados o jueces, conoce toda ley en efecto en algún momento dado.  Pero los abogados saben que es importante determinar cuáles leyes aplican a una transacción antes de aconsejarle actuar a sus clientes.  Infortunadamente, muchos mitos generalmente aceptados acerca de la ley hacen que las personas cometan costosos errores en las transacciones legales.

 

DERECHO A 3 DIAS PARA CANCELAR UN CONTRATO

 

La ley Federal y las leyes de cada estado sí disponen del derecho a cancelar ciertos tipos de contratos o transacciones; sin embargo, existen condiciones que aplican.  Y, la cantidad de tiempo disponible para ejercer el derecho de cancelación varía, así como la forma de perfeccionar este derecho.  Asumir que usted siempre tiene derecho a cancelar un contrato dentro de 3 días puede ser un gran error y muy costoso.  Una señora que había firmado un contrato para comprar  un carro nuevo me llamó para hacer una consulta.  Me dijo que quería saber cómo notificar al concesionario del vehículo que iba a cancelar el contrato de compra del carro.  Me dijo que tenía que hacerlo inmediatamente porque ya era el tercer día después de la firma del contrato.

 

Le expliqué que en California, los contratos de arrendamiento y de compra de carro nuevo no están incluidos en la ley de Derecho Absoluto a Cancelar Contratos en 3 Días.  Se quedó sorprendida y muy decepcionada.  Ella podría tener otras bases para cancelar el contrato si el concesionario brindó información falsa o si de alguna manera no cumplió con otras leyes, pero simplemente cambiar de opinión dentro de 3 días no es suficiente en California.  Si ella hubiera hecho una llamada telefónica de 5 minutos a un abogado para verificar su errónea creencia, se podría haber evitado una compra muy cara y ahora indeseada.

 

 

En California, muchos tipos de contratos pueden ser cancelados dentro de un período corto de tiempo después de ser firmados.  El período de tiempo para la cancelación varía dependiendo del tipo de contrato.

 

La siguiente lista explica solo unos cuantos de los contratos y los períodos de tiempo aplicables para cancelarlos sin motivo:

 

Contratos de Mejoramiento de Casa                          3  días si la casa es la prenda

Solicitud de Ventas en el Hogar                                 3  días

Contratos de Salud o Gimnasios                                5  días

Contratos de Consultores de Inmigración                   3  días

Ventas por Internet (hasta que se llene la orden)        30 días

Consultores sobre Embargos de Casas                       3   días

Ventas por teléfono (hasta que se llene la orden)       30 días

Contratos de Servicios para Perder Peso                    3   días

 

Existen muchas otras leyes para cancelaciones específicas para otros bienes y servicios.  Las leyes de cancelación son mejor utilizadas como último recurso.  En primer lugar el mejor concejo es no entrar en malos contratos.  Los contratos que están sujetos a un período con derecho de cancelación exigen que el vendedor le informe al comprador y le entregue una forma para cancelar el contrato.   Los consumidores pueden cancelar dichos contrato dentro del período de “Derecho de Cancelación” por cualquier razón o por ninguna razón en absoluto. Después que el período de derecho a cancelar ha expirado, para salirse del contrato los consumidores deben establecer un motivo legal. Un motivo legal puede incluir fraude, falsa representación, error, coacción o ilegalidad. ¡NO SE DEJE!®

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ABOGADO

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LEGAL MYTHS CAN BE COSTLY

Article 17-27

¡No Se Deje!

 

 Verify applicable law before you sign a contract

 

No one, not even the most experienced lawyers or judges, knows every law in effect at any moment in time.  But lawyers know that it is important to determine which laws apply to a transaction before they advise their clients to act.  Unfortunately, many generally accepted myths about the law cause people to make costly mistakes in legal transactions.

 

3 DAY RIGHT TO CANCEL CONTRACT

 

Federal law and the laws of every state do provide for a right to cancel certain types of contracts or transactions, however, there are conditions that apply.  And, the amount of time provided to exercise the right to cancel varies, as does the manner of perfecting this right.  Assuming that you have a right to cancel a contract within 3 days can be a big and very costly mistake.  I was called by a lady that had signed a contract to buy a new car.  She told me that she wanted to know how to notify the car dealer that she was canceling the contract to buy the car.  She told me that she had to do it immediately because it was already the third day after signing the contract.

 

I explained that in California, new car purchase and lease contracts are not included in the 3 Day Right to Cancel law.  She was shocked and very disappointed.  She may have other grounds for canceling the contract if the dealer misrepresented information or otherwise failed to comply with other laws, but merely changing her mind within 3 days is not enough in California.  If she had made a 5 minute phone call to an attorney to verify her mistaken belief, she could have avoided a very expensive and now unwanted purchase.

 

In California, many types of contracts can be cancelled within a short period of time after being signed.  The time period for cancellation varies depending on the type of contract.

The following list explains just a few of the contracts and the applicable time period for cancellation without cause:

 

Home Improvement Contracts                              3  days if the house is security

Home Solicitation Sales                                        3  days

Health or Gym Contracts                                      5  days

Immigration Consultant Contracts                        3  days

Internet Sales (until order filled)                           30 days

Home Foreclosure Consultants                             3   days

Telephone sales (until order filled)                       30 days

Weight Loss Service Contracts                             3   days

 

There are many other specific cancellation laws for other goods or services.  Cancellation laws are best used as a last resort.  The best advice is to not enter into bad contracts in the first place.  Contracts that are subject to a right to cancel period require the seller to inform the buyer and to provide a form to cancel the contract.  Consumers can cancel within the “Right to Cancel” period for any reason or no reason at all.  After the right to cancel period has expired, consumers must establish a legal cause to get out of the contract.  Legal cause may include fraud, misrepresentation, mistake, duress or illegality. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.

 

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Common Workers’ Compensation Acronyms

The California Workers’ Compensation Program is an excellent resource for injured employees throughout the state. It provides an outlet for financial recovery to any employee injured during job-related activities – without requiring the employee to prove anyone else’s negligence or go to court. To file a claim under the workers’ comp system for a recent workplace injury, you should learn the common acronyms used in the system. Understanding the language can make the claims process simpler for injured employees.

TPD (Temporary Partial Disability)

If a workplace accident results in temporary partial disability (TPD) to the worker, such as a broken limb, he or she can apply for TPD payments. These benefits will cover lost wages while the employee can only perform reduced duty or part-time work. TPD payments can bridge the gap between what the worker used to make and what he/she is now making because of reduced duty work. The insurance company must pay two-thirds of the gross wages the employee loses while in recovery from an injury.

TTD (Temporary Total Disability)

TTD payments come into play when the workplace injury results in total temporary disability, such as bed rest. In these situations, the employee cannot return to work at all during recovery, even to perform light work. The insurance company will issue TTD payments to cover two-thirds of the amount of total lost wages from missed time at work. The employee does not have to pay any income taxes on workers’ comp disability benefits. Determining TPD and TTD amounts can be difficult if the worker had more than one job, a seasonal job, or earned other income such as tips.

PPD (Permanent Partial Disability)

Workers who suffer permanent, but not complete, disabilities are those who may be able to return to work performing light duty or in a different position than he/she previously held. Permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits use a ranking system to determine the severity of the partial disability. Those with more severe injuries generally receive higher benefit amounts.

PTD (Permanent Total Disability)

If an employee suffers an injury that leaves him or her permanently and totally disabled, he or she can receive permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. The worker will fill out a permanent and stationary (P&S) report that describes the medical problems, extent of disability, and future medical costs. The workers’ comp system will give you a rating depending on your P&S report, which will then determine the amount of compensation benefits.

AME (Agreed Medical Evaluation)

An agreed medical evaluation (AME) is one that takes place under a provider that the injured workers’ attorney and claims administrator agrees upon. The purpose of an AME is to obtain a medical examination and report from an unbiased, agreed-upon party to help settle a claims dispute. The AME can determine how the work injury led to disability and potential causes of the injury. California law does not allow healthcare providers to advertise as AME centers.

ADW (Average Daily Wage) and AWW (Average Weekly Wage)

The workers’ comp program will calculate an injured worker’s average earnings to determine the individual’s wage loss benefits. Most cases abide by the average weekly wage (AWW) method, which looks at a worker’s average earnings by week for a certain period of time. However, in some cases, an AWW is not an accurate representation of the employee’s earnings. In these situations, the program will calculate benefits based on average daily wage (ADW), or the average daily earnings. The professional overseeing the case will then use either the AWW or ADW amount to compute wage loss benefits.

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EL SISTEMA DE JUSTICIA PUEDE PRODUCIR INJUSTICIAS

 

Artículo 17-26

¡No Se Deje! ®

Los pensadores más brillantes en la historia han concordado con el principio legal “ES MEJOR QUE 10 HOMBRES CULPABLES SIGAN LIBRES QUE UN HOMBRE INOCENTE VAYA A PRISIÓN”.  El sistema legal Americano ha establecido ciertas reglas para evitar condenar a personas inocentes.  La “presunción de inocencia” requiere que jueces y jurados presuman que los acusados son inocentes a menos que se pruebe su culpabilidad “Mas allá de la Duda Razonable”.  A pesar de éstas y otras reglas, los registros oficiales revelan que un número incalculable de personas erróneamente han sido condenadas, enviadas a prisión y aún ejecutadas.

 

MAS DE 200 HOMBRES Y MUJERES HAN SIDO ERRÓNEAMENTE CONDENADOS EN CALIFORNIA DESDE 1990 según los registros del Proyecto “Rostros de la Errónea Culpabilidad” (en inglés “Faces of Wrongful Conviction Project”).  No hay forma de compensar adecuadamente a estas víctimas y sus familias por haber pasado años y aún décadas, en prisión o haber sido ejecutadas.

 

Solo 22 estados tienen leyes que disponen compensación por condena y prisión erróneas.  La ley de California dispone $100 por cada día que alguien erróneamente sentenciado pasa en cárcel o prisión si puede comprobar que en realidad es inocente.  No basta sólo argumentar que el jurado se equivocó.  Frecuentemente una inocencia real se prueba usando evidencia de ADN que muestre que no es posible que el acusado haya sido el infractor.  Algunas veces la inocencia real se establece cuando la persona verdaderamente culpable confiesa el crimen.

 

Expertos legales han identificado varias causas que se repiten en las condenas erróneas.

 

  1. Los testigos a veces erróneamente identifican al sospechoso como el infractor. Este error ocurre más seguido cuando el testigo y el sospechoso son de diferente raza o grupo étnico.
  2. La mala conducta intencional en algunos oficiales de Policía, fiscales, testigos, y expertos como técnicos en sangre y huellas digitales han originado muchas condenas erróneas. Aún los jueces han sido culpables de mala conducta o por dar instrucciones improvisadas incorrectas.
  3. Los sospechosos son amenazados o presionados a confesar crímenes que no cometieron.
  4. Algunos abogados defensores no están calificados o dispuestos a representar a sus clientes agresiva y competentemente.

 

Los Latinos son frecuentemente víctimas de estas violaciones. Los testigos No-Latinos frecuentemente tienen dificultad para identificar correctamente a los Latinos.  Como resultado, estos testigos frecuentemente identifican al que no es.  Esto le pasó a Arthur Carmona, de 16 años de edad acusado de robo en el Condado de Orange, California; pasó dos años en prisión antes que su abogado pudiera mostrar que el mal proceder de la policía causó que el testigo lo identificara equivocadamente.

 

Los Latinos, especialmente los inmigrantes indocumentados, frecuentemente son presionados a declararse culpables de crímenes que no cometieron. Aceptan porque es menos costoso. No tienen que pagar abogado y no tendrán que perder de trabajar para participar en un juicio.  A veces el castigo es “crédito por el tiempo servido” es decir que el tiempo en cárcel antes de ir a la corte es el castigo completo.  En estos casos, al declararse culpable puede irse inmediatamente y el caso queda terminado.  Y, los inmigrantes indocumentados que no están en custodia frecuentemente se declaran culpables para terminar el caso rápidamente para evitar ser identificados por autoridades de inmigración.

 

Esta realidad revela grandes imperfecciones en nuestro sistema de justicia.  Y mientras todavía podemos sentir la confianza que tenemos uno de los mejores sistemas legales en el mundo, es imposible justificar a tantas personas que se declaran culpables o que son erróneamente condenadas de cometer crímenes, enviadas a prisión y aún ejecutadas.  ¡NO SE DEJE!â

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ABOGADO

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THE JUSTICE SYSTEM CAN PRODUCE INJUSTICE

Article 17-26

¡No Se Deje!

The most brilliant legal minds in history have agreed with and repeated the famous legal principle “IT IS BETTER THAT 10 GUILTY MEN GO FREE THAN ONE INNOCENT MAN BE IMPRISONED”.  That is why the American legal system has established certain rules designed to avoid convicting innocent people.  The “presumption of innocence” requires judges and juries to presume that people accused of having committed a crime are innocent unless guilt is proved “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt”.  In spite of these and other rules, the official records reveal that an incalculable number of people have been wrongly convicted, imprisoned, and even executed.

 

MORE THAN 200 MEN AND WOMEN HAVE BEEN WRONGFULLY CONVICTED IN CALIFORNIA SINCE 1990 according to the records of the “Faces of Wrongful Conviction Project”.  There is no way to adequately compensate these victims and their families for having spent years, and even decades, in prison or having been executed.

 

Only 22 states have laws that provide compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment.  California law provides $100 for each day that a wrongfully convicted person spends in jail or prison if he can prove that he is in fact innocent.  It is not enough to argue that the jury just got it wrong.  Usually proving actual innocence is done by using DNA evidence which shows that the accused could not possibly have been the perpetrator.  Sometimes actual innocence is established when the guilty person later confesses to committing the crime.

 

Legal experts have identified several recurring causes for wrongful convictions.

  1. Witnesses often mistakenly identify the wrong person as the perpetrator. This mistake occurs more often when the witness and the suspect are from different racial or ethnic groups.
  2. Willful misconduct by Police officers, prosecutors, witnesses and experts such as blood and fingerprint technicians have produced many unlawful convictions. Even judges have been guilty of misconduct or of giving improper jury instructions.
  3. Suspects are threatened or pressured into confessing to crimes that they did not commit.
  4. Some defense attorneys are not qualified or willing to competently represent their clients.

 

Latinos are too often the victims of these violations.  Non-Latinos witnesses often have a difficult time accurately identifying Latinos.  As a result, these witnesses often identify the wrong Latino.  This is what happened to Arthur Carmona, a 16 year old accused of robbery in Orange County, California.  He spent two years in prison before his lawyer was able to show that police misconduct caused the witness to mistakenly identify him.

 

Latinos, especially undocumented immigrants, are often pressured to plead guilty to crimes that they did not commit.  They do this because it is less expensive. They do not have to pay an attorney and they will not have to miss work to participate in a trial.  And, sometimes the penalty is “credit for time served” which means that the time in jail before going to court is the entire penalty.  If he pleads guilty he can leave immediately and the case is over.  And, undocumented immigrants that are not in custody often plead guilty to end the case quickly to avoid the possibility of being identified by immigration authorities.

 

This reality reveals major imperfections in our system of justice.  And while we can still feel confident that we have one of the best legal systems in the world, it is impossible to justify so many innocent people pleading guilty or being wrongfully convicted of committing crimes, sent to prison, and even being executed. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

  

JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.  

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LEY SOBRE BEBES ENTREGADOS SEGURAMENTE SALVA VIDAS

Artículo 17-25

¡No Se Deje! ®

El abandono de niños es un problema trágico que por años ha ido empeorando. Los reportajes sobre recién nacidos que son encontrados en basureros escasamente revelan la gravedad del problema.  Cientos de recién nacidos son abandonados cada año y demasiados mueren a causa de ello.  Expertos han identificado muchas causas recurrentes del abandono paternal incluyendo niños que nacen de una aventura extra marital o por violación.  Otros lo hacen porque el niño es “ilegítimo” o porque sienten que un niño interferirá con la planificación de sus carreras o manera de vivir.

 

En 2001, California puso en vigencia la SAFELY SURRENDERED BABY LAW, (en español Ley sobre Bebés Entregados Seguramente) convirtiéndose en uno de los primeros estados en hacerlo.  Hoy todos los 50 estados tienen leyes similares que permiten que madres desesperadas que no quieren o no pueden conservar a sus bebés los entreguen segura y legalmente sin temor a ser procesadas como criminales.

 

Infortunadamente, los recién nacidos todavía hoy son abandonados.  En un caso de estos se anunció que una mujer del Condado de Orange, estaba siendo procesada por intento de asesinado y abuso infantil tras abandonar a su recién nacido en un basurero de su complejo de apartamentos.  La sentencia por culpabilidad en este tipo de casos podría incluir prisión de por vida.  La entrega del bebé bajo la Safely Surrendered Baby Law le habría permitido alejarse legalmente del niño sin más responsabilidad paternal.

 

INFORMACION SOBRE “SAFELY SURRENDERED BABY LAW” DE CALIFORNIA

 

Un padre, o persona que tenga custodia legal de un recién nacido, tiene permiso legal y seguro de entregarlo si lo hace dentro de 72 horas de nacido.

 

El infante debe ser entregado a un hospital público o privado, a una estación de bomberos designada o a otro sitio seguro de entrega.  La entrega es confidencial y no se le pedirá a la persona que entrega al bebé que se identifique personalmente, a los padres, o al bebé.  Luego la persona es libre de irse.

 

Al bebé se le coloca en el tobillo un brazalete de identificación confidencialmente codificado y un brazalete que hace juego se le ofrece a la persona que lo entrega.  Esto hace posible identificar al bebé si los padres eligen reclamarlo dentro del período de 14 días permitido por la ley. La persona que entrega al bebé tiene una oportunidad de voluntariamente proporcionar alguna información médica básica que pueda ser necesaria para proveerle cuidado médico en el futuro.  El cuestionario médico provee la siguiente declaración:

 

NOTA: EL BEBE QUE USTED HA TRAIDO HOY PODRIA TENER NECESIDADES MEDICAS SERIAS EN EL FUTURO, LAS CUALES NO SE CONOCEN  EN ESTE MOMENTO.  ALGUNAS ENFERMEDADES, INCLUYENDO EL CANCER, SON TRATADAS MEJOR CUANDO SABEMOS ACERCA DE LOS HISTORIALES MEDICOS FAMILIARES. ADEMAS, ALGUNAS VECES SE NECESITAN A FAMILIARES PARA TRATAMIENTOS QUE  SALVAN LA VIDA. PARA ASEGURAR QUE ESTE BEBE TENDRA UN FUTURO SALUDABLE, SU ASISTENCIA EN LLENAR ESTE CUESTIONARIO POR COMPLETO ES ESENCIAL. GRACIAS.

 

La persona puede declinar proveer la información, proveerla antes de irse o llevarse el cuestionario y decidir después.  Entregar un bebé bajo esta ley es seguro y legal.  Abandonar un bebé en cualquier otra forma puede ser peligroso o fatal y es un crimen que se castiga con prisión.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ABOGADO

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