Juvenile Defense

Juvenile Defense

Juvenile defense of delinquents is a unique area of law, related to criminal defense. In juvenile delinquency cases, I have been defending minors for most of the time that I have been in practice. In the beginning of my practice, I had what is called a “conflict contract” to accept cases from a large law firm when their attorneys were unable to handle the cases due to conflicts of interest. As a consequence, for about eight years, more than 50% of my law practice involved the protection of juveniles.

As I mentioned, this is a unique area of law. When I speak to people seeking a juvenile defense attorney, I advise them to pay attention to how the lawyer discusses things with them during the initial interview. This will be your first clue as to the experience of the attorney in handling juvenile cases.

The reason for this is that the first different most people will notice about juvenile defense relates to the terminology, or language, used in discussing such cases. Juvenile cases don’t have “defendants,” or “co-defendants, but they have “participants,” and “co-participants.” [1]In addition to what I write here about differences between adult, and juvenile, courts, terminology may also differ somewhat from one county to the next.

An arraignment for a child does not have a “Complaint,” as in adult courts, but rather there is a “Petition.” This is usually going to be a “602 petition,” so-called because it is based on Welfare & Institutions Code section 602. The actual allegations (charges) of the 602 petition are taken from various other codes, such as the California Penal Code, or the California Vehicle Code. Allegations may be made of having violated other codes, as well, but these two codes are the most common from which allegations come.

Also, at arraignments, there is usually also a “detention hearing” to decide whether or not the child should be locked up like an animal, in order to show how inhumane we are—can you tell how I feel about this?—and, depending on the allegations (charges), the child may be taken away from his home, and family, and placed into local custody at a juvenile detention center. How long the child remains locked up depends on a number of factors, only some of which relate to the humanity, or inhumanity, of court officers and judges.

Back when I first started defending juveniles, children were routinely fully-shackled. Again, this was apparently meant to show just how animalistic our courts could be. Judges turned a blind eye to this, because bailiffs are allegedly responsible for courtroom safety. The whole thing was not only a sham—children were brought from the juvenile jail (detention center) in the shackles, into a completely enclosed, and locked environment. No one—not even lawyers—could get in, or out, without help from a bailiff, who had the key. I have written about this extensively in various blog articles from when I was fighting the shameful, and illegal, policy of (unnecessarily) shackling kids.

I fought to have this changed. Yes, there were some other attorneys who occasionally also ran motions—although after a while,

Weapons: Possession & Use

Weapons: Possession & Use

Even the most basic of weapons crimes can be quite serious. When police find, or see you — even on social media — with a gun, they will file a weapons charge. These can be difficult to defend. The idea of someone carrying a gun down the street scares the average juror. This is especially true if the prosecution accuses the person with the gun of being a gang member. But, to make it worse, many times the case seems open and shut. You either had the gun, or you didn’t.

And, yes, I’ve handled some cases where the District Attorney filed weapons charges based on finding a picture of someone holding a gun!

It’s Not Always Hopeless

While no one can guarantee particular results, it is not always hopeless.

I hired Mr. Horowitz after I was arrested and charged with knowingly violating a restraining order against owning a weapon. This was in Fresno County but the case it arose out of was in Santa Clara County. This complicated things because the Fresno DA’s office knew nothing of the circumstances of the Santa Clara County case. Rick stayed on this with me for over a year while the Fresno DA’s office fumbled around trying to figure out what to do. … Finally, after a year, he was successful and the case was dismissed.

— Michael [read full review on Avvo.com]

As you can see, it is not always hopeless.

I needed to find a criminal defense attorney for a negligent firearm discharge, a serious felony case. … I hired him to meet with the defendant at the County jail. … During the case, Rick was always responsive to our communication, and he would take ample time discussing the matter. He came prepared to the court hearings, he knew what was going on and what was the applicable law (very important!).

— Gilbert [read full review on Avvo.com]

“Weapons Crimes” Include Enhancements

But “weapons crimes” are not just crimes where police accuse you of having a gun. Sometimes, police arrest you for another crime (such as robbery), and they add a weapons enhancement. This can quickly elevate your “exposure”—the amount of time you could get in prison—from a few years for a crime without a gun to life in prison.

Penal Code 12022.53 adds a consecutive sentence to a felony, and impacts nearly 20 crimes in this way:

  • 10 years in prison for “using” a gun,
  • 20 years for firing a gun, or
  • 25 years to life for killing or seriously injuring another person with a gun.

Think about that: commit a crime without a gun and your exposure may be, say, five years, but the same crime involving a gun and resulting in a death suddenly becomes 30-years-to-life. And that’s just for that crime plus the gun. That’s even if you don’t get charged with murder!

Throw in some gang charges, and you don’t even have to be the one who personally used the gun. Another person used the gun—you don’t even know who did it.

Sex Crimes

Sex Crimes

Some of the hardest crimes to defend are sex crimes. Even though sex crimes often include very little evidence, juries are often impacted by the so-called “ick” factor. Not long ago, I was talking to a client who had been charged with a serious felony which was not a sex crime. In the course of the conversation, we happened to discuss a story about someone accused of a sex crime. My client’s response was interesting: “Ick!” and he immediately wanted to hurt the person who allegedly did the crime. Now, mind you, this client to whom I was speaking believed he was innocent of his charges and thought jurors should not automatically assume he was guilty just because he was accused, but here he was with this reaction. I pointed out to him that his was a perfect case demonstrating that just because someone is accused of a crime doesn’t mean they did it. “Yeah, but…ick!,” he said.

Juries will often react the same way. And, unlike the client mentioned above, they won’t even have the fact of being accused of a crime themselves to be able to compare it to.

For these same reasons, some criminal defense attorneys refuse to accept cases where sex crimes are charged. This is especially true when the crimes alleged include children, such as child molestation, child pornography, etc. I don’t shy away from such clients accused of such crimes for one very good reason: an accusation is not a conviction. That’s why you should consider hiring me as your criminal defense lawyer. Unless someone arrives in my office already convicted of a sex crime, they are in fact not guilty of any sex crimes.

Even if they do arrive with a conviction, there may be a reason for me to want to fight for them. I remember one particular person who was convicted of an alleged “sex crime” in another state for apparently swatting someone’s behind in a bar while flirting. You might find this behavior offensive—the person who’s behind was swatted certainly did—but do you think that justifies charging someone with a felony, and forcing them to register as a sex offender for the rest of their life, making it virtually impossible to get a job, or find a decent place to live? Because that’s exactly what happened to this gentleman.

Just because someone has been accused of a “sex crime” does not mean they should not be allowed to have a defense attorney who is willing to fight for them. Accusations of “sex” crimes can, after all, include such things as:

  • Peeing in public
  • Walking around your house naked, and forgetting windows are open
  • Stopping to pick up a hitchhiker, who turns out to be a cop on a prostitution sting
  • An angry girlfriend, or soon-to-be-ex-wife, who needs a little leverage in family court
  • A child of a girlfriend who wants you to stop seeing his or her mom (or dad)
  • Someone who wants to get even for some other reason, including school kids mad at a teacher, or janitor, because the teacher, or janitor, got them in trouble for doing something wrong

Just as there can be a variety of false accusations,

Theft Crimes: Home Invasion, Robbery, & Burglary

Theft Crimes: Home Invasion, Robbery, & Burglary

“Theft” is a more general term that can refer to a family of crimes including embezzlement, shoplifting, purse-snatching, fraud (including welfare fraud), as well as looting, robbery, and burglary. Larceny is sometimes considered a theft crime, as well; in fact, in California, the once-separate concepts of larceny and theft have essentially merged.

These crimes involve the taking of property from another person, with the intent to permanently deprive them of their property.

California Penal Code sections 484 (general larceny/theft statute), 486 (difference between petty theft and grand theft), 487 (grand theft), 488 (petty theft), 489 (punishment for grand theft), and 490 (punishment for petty theft) deal with the basic larceny/theft crimes.

Burglaries are covered by Penal Code sections 459 (defining burglary) and 460 (degrees of burglary). Proposition 47 created the new code section, Penal Code section 459.5, which now covers shoplifting. Prior to Proposition 47, shoplifting, along with several other theft-related crimes, were charged as felonies.

Robbery, covered by Penal Code section 211 and 213, can be a first-degree crime punishable by up to 6 years in prison, or a second-degree crime, with a maximum punishment of 5 years. What makes them different includes things like the location (inhabited dwelling, home, boat or trailer where someone lives), the activity of the person being robbed (using, or being near an ATM when robbed is first-degree robbery), or the status of the alleged victim (for example, a bus or taxi driver).

Mr. Horowitz was honest from the first meeting I had with him. They say the truth hurts, and indeed it does. He was straight forward and didn’t sugar coat anything. HE NEVER MAKES ANY PROMISES!! Everything he said could happen, happened. It was tough and very stressful at times. Things didn’t always go the way “I” planned but the end result was what I wanted. … I recommend this attorney to all my family and friends. — Identify theft client [read full review on Avvo.com]

Sometimes people rob or commit burglaries in order to support self-medication needs, which can add the problem of drug crimes being charged. Other times weapons crimes may be charged, particularly if a gun was used in a robbery, or home invasion.

Home invasion robberies are robberies that come with very serious consequences. Robbery, as you may know, always involves the use of force or fear to take something from someone. In California, home invasion is a form of first-degree robbery that includes the additional “elements”—or separate facts about a crime that must be present—that the robbery occurred inside an inhabited place and the robbery was committed by two or more people working together. This can boost the maximum penalty from 6 years for the typical first-degree robbery to 9 years. Home invasions also frequently include the use of guns, and other weapons, which can potentially result in a term of life-in-prison.

While a home invasion robbery requires that you take something from someone inside an inhabited place through force or fear, a burglary does not require this.

Marijuana Defense

Marijuana Defense

There are two primary areas of Marijuana Defense where I can help you, and I have a proven track record in both areas, as the following testimonials show.

Just finished a medical marijuana case. We were able to get it dropped before prelim. which saved time and money. Rick has a thorough understanding of prop 215 and sb420 and deployed it immediately in the court room.  [read full review on Avvo.com]

From another dismissed case, which involved medical marijuana:

I want to thank Rick Horowitz for representing me over the last year, in my Medical Marijuana criminal case. This has been the worst time of my life… Having your representation brought a tremendous feeling of peace to both my wife and I. Facing 3 Felony charges for cultivation, intent to distribute, Your positive attitude and wise council, along with your intervention with the district attorneys, relieved us of a great deal of anxiety. [read full review on Avvo.com]

Medical Marijuana Defense

A number of Fresno-area criminal defense attorneys will be willing to take your medical marijuana case, mistakenly believing that it’s just like any other kind of criminal defense case.

It’s not.

Medical marijuana is rightly considered to be a specialized type of criminal defense. Partly, this is because unlike other areas of criminal defense, the best defense here is an offense. Many criminal defense attorneys believe they can sleep-walk through the preliminary examination in a medical marijuana case, just as so many of them do in a “regular” criminal defense case. It’s no secret that a majority of preliminary examinations result in a holding order; in other words, you lose the prelim, and start prepping for trial.

Medical marijuana isn’t like that. With medical marijuana cases, you will almost always want to put on what is called “an affirmative defense” at the preliminary examination. This is because the California Supreme Court has said that “in view of his or her status as a qualified patient or primary caregiver, the grand jury or the magistrate should not indict or commit the defendant in the first place, but instead should bring the prosecution to an end at that point.”

I know how to put on a medical marijuana defense. I won’t sleep-walk you through the preliminary hearing. And if — as happens because judges don’t follow the laws on medical marijuana much better than law enforcement — we still lose at prelim, I know how to keep fighting. I’ve won medical marijuana cases at prelim; I’ve won them after prelim (but still before trial).

I know medical marijuana law, and I’ve written the following articles on the topic.

Homicide, Manslaughter & Murder

Homicide, Manslaughter & Murder

You’ll often hear people talk about “homicide” and “murder” as being the same thing. Technically, though, a homicide is the killing of a person. A murder is a kind of homicide. Manslaughter is another kind of homicide.


Just as there are different kinds of homicides, there are also different kinds of murder.

In fact, the reason I have titled this page “Homicide, Manslaughter & Murder,” and not just “Murder,” is that they are different. Homicides involve someone being killed, just as murders do, but they aren’t the same. A homicide may be justifiable, including self-defense, or the defense of someone else. A homicide may also be excusable, meaning that it resulted from an accident, or some other kind of misfortune.

Murders fall into different categories, including various types of first-degree, second-degree, and felony murders.

First-degree murders require the killing of a person which is both intentional and unlawful. It requires what the law calls “malice aforetought.” In other words, for first-degree murder, you must 1) do the killing of another person on purpose, 2) the killing must be illegal, and 3) you had to think about having wanted to do the murder ahead of time (also called “premeditation”). One reason cops frequently get away with what we consider “deliberate first-degree murder” is that someone — usually a police agency investigating itself, and then a prosecutor, but sometimes (if it gets that far) a jury — decides that while 1 and 3 were present, 2 was not. Somehow, the cop murdering someone was lawful.

For most human beings — that is, people who are not cops — a different determination is made. However, self-defense may still be an option.

First-degree murders can also involve what are called “special circumstances.” A special circumstances case can result in the death penalty, rather than just life in prison.

Murders which are not first-degree murders are second degree murders. At least, that’s California. Some other states may have different levels, and different requirements. But I only practice right now in California.


Manslaughter is the killing of a person which might be done “in the heat of passion,” or because of some kind of reckless or negligent act. In California, it comes in three forms: voluntary, involuntary, and “vehicular.”

Manslaughter can include the mistaken belief that you needed to defend yourself, or someone else.

Voluntary manslaughter resulting from “heat of passion,” means someone’s emotions got the best of them. Involuntary manslaughter usually involves a disregard for the consequences of your action, but without the deliberate intent to kill, and without “malice aforethought.”

And “vehicular” manslaughter, as the name implies, usually involves a car, or some other vehicle. This happens when someone drives drunk, or in a grossly-negligent manner, and as a result another person is killed. Though drunk driving can also result in a murder charge in some circumstances. (This is called a Watson murder.)

Vehicular manslaughter can be charged as either a felony, or a misdemeanor.

My Experience with Murder & Vehicular Manslaughter

Special Circumstances Murder &

Drug Crimes

Drug Crimes

Drug crimes include charges for possessing, transporting, or selling marijuana, or other controlled substances, such as methamphetamine, cocaine and cocaine base, and even prescription drugs. For more on medical marijuana specifically, see my Marijuana Defense page.

Drug charges are devastating in that they frequently result from a person who is struggling with an illness, or some other neurophysiological problem. Some people will say, “Drug addiction is not an illness.” These people are ignorant and need to be educated.

But drug addiction is not the only neurophysiological problem that can lead to drug charges. The American Addiction Centers points this out.

Different types of psychoactive substances may be used for various reasons when self-medicating. Examples include:

  • Stimulant drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, medications (Adderall, Ritalin): to increase focus, attention, and energy levels, as well as for combating depression and increasing pleasure
  • Central nervous system depressants like alcohol, benzodiazepines (Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Xanax), and prescription sleep aids (Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata): to elevate mood, escape reality, increase sociability, help a person sleep, and decrease anxiety
  • Opioid drugs like heroin and prescription pain relievers (OxyContin, Vicodin, fentanyl, morphine): to relieve pain, depression, and anxiety, and to enhance relaxation
  • Marijuana: to elevate mood, enhance relaxation, and create a break from reality

Both prescription and illicit drugs may be abused for the purposes of self-medication, and anyone who suffers any form of physical or emotional discomfort may do so.

When you face drug charges, you need an attorney who understand these things, and is able to stick to the task of educating the prosecution, the judge, and—if things go that far—the jury.

My son was looking at four years in prison for posses[s]ion, violating his probation for a drug charge. My son was in a lot of trouble but Rick said in the beginning that he would do all that he could to keep him out of prison. He did. The result was reinstatement of his probation and six months in an out patient rehab program. But equally important was Rick’s advice to my son during the ordeal. To remain positive, to look to the future, that one can’t dwell on past actions but focus on how to improve on the future. His words made a difference as my son has a whole new positive outlook on life. Rick was also there for me too… — Randy [read full review on Avvo.com]

In addition to facing drug charges for self-medication, many people suffering from mental and other illnesses which they are trying to treat themselves for will be unable to work a steady job. To obtain the medication—and, let’s face it, these drugs are medications, even when not recognized as such—they may resort to the commission of other crimes, including robbery, and burglary. If a weapon is used in those crimes, things get even worse, sometimes eliminating the possibility of getting the help so desperately needed to break the drug cycle.

Some self-medicators may decide to attempt to supplement their income through manufacturing and selling the same drugs with which they self-medicate.

Defending Veterans: Veterans Treatment Court

Defending Veterans: Veterans Treatment Court

One of the more enjoyable areas of criminal defense practice for me involves the defense of veterans. There are 700,000 vets in the criminal justice system right now. A lot of this is because of the fact that these veterans have returned from serving their country with significant injuries, including traumatic brain injury (TBI), as well as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Some who have served in the military have also been the victims of sex crimes, which has resulted in Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Many have attempted to treat themselves via self-medication, leading to criminal charges for violating the Health & Safety Code, and suffering, or being subjected to convictions for drug crimes.

As of March 2017, approximately 20 of California’s 58 counties have established VTCs. Among the counties with Veterans Treatment Courts are several counties in which I practice veteran defense, including Fresno County, Kings County, and Tulare County. Merced County is said to be working on establishing a VTC, as are several other California counties that don’t already have them.

Each VTC works somewhat differently, but all have the same basic requirements and goals, which are governed by the legislative enactment of Penal Code section 1170.9. That section applies, as stated in subparagraph (a), as follows:

In the case of any person convicted of a criminal offense who could otherwise be sentenced to county jail or state prison and who alleges that he or she committed the offense as a result of sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems stemming from service in the United States military, the court shall, prior to sentencing, make a determination as to whether the defendant was, or currently is, a member of the United States military and whether the defendant may be suffering from sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems as a result of his or her service.

Before and during participation by a veteran accused of a crime in a VTC, the court may collaborate with, or make use of services from, Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. One of the goals is to assist veterans in maximizing benefits and services. As you might imagine, the primary goal of the Veterans Treatment Courts, as the name suggests, is the rehabilitation of veterans. Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) has approximately 98% success rate on helping return vets to the life they fought to protect in such situations where their criminal charges have what is called a “nexus” to sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems stemming from service in the United States military.

“Nexus” simply means that there is some connection between the sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems stemming from service in the United States military, and the charged crimes. This might be the result of an arrest for possession of drugs, or even possibly the sale of drugs to sustain a habit. It could be the result of aggressive acts that due to the traumatic brain injury, or PTSD.

Many veterans have histories,

Criminal Street Gang Defense

Criminal Street Gang Defense

I have earned a solid reputation among other lawyers both generally as a criminal defense lawyer, and specifically with criminal street gang defense.

He is an excellent attorney and is very good at gang and juvenile defense. He is an excellent writer and he wrote a writ for me that was excellent, which resulted in a dismissal for my client. I would recommend Rick to anyone that has a very serious case because he has an excellent reputation in the community and is willing to work extremely hard for his clients.

— Fresno area attorney, Tina Barberi [read full endorsement on Avvo.com]

And it’s not just attorneys who speak well of me.

Rick was an amazing lawyer…He really cared for My Son an never gave up on Him.. — anonymous (for obvious reasons) [read full review on Avvo.com]

I have defended numerous people just like you accused of crimes involving gang enhancements (Penal Code §§ 186.22(b), 190.2(a)(22), 12022.53(e)(1)) and gang substantive crimes (Penal Code § 186.22(a)).

I have lectured and taught other attorneys about gang defense and the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act. It is both by watching me defend cases in the courtroom, and by sitting in on when I have taught about gang defense, that other attorneys have come to value what I say about defending gangs from laws that are outrageous.

He truly devotes himself to his client and will seek to expose every flaw in the government’s case in order to obtain justice for his client. He is exceptionally knowledgeable about so-called “street gang” cases, a remarkably thorough litigator in every area of the criminal law, and a passionate and effective advocate: he is really one of those guys you always want on your side.

— Fresno area attorney Jack Revvill [read full endorsement on Avvo.com]

I own gangdefense.com, which I created because of my interest and emphasis on defending gang cases. (Note: Eventually, as my practice expanded, I pointed gangdefense.com to this website: the one you’re reading now, which is the site for my criminal defense practice.)

Some gang cases I have successfully resolved include murder, attempted murder and assault. All with gang enhancements. I have also helped defend people who are charged with violating gang injunctions. And, as of March 2017, in every gang injunction case I took one of two things happened. The cases were either dismissed, or the injunction ruled unconstitutional, or both. (Please note that this is not a guarantee of the same result happening in your case. Each case is different. And I do not own any crystal balls. I wouldn’t know how to use them even if I did. So I cannot guarantee what will happen in the future.)

I don’t see gang injunctions these days. That’s why I wrote “as of March 2017.”

My experience with gang cases goes back to before I was a lawyer. As a law student, I interned for a criminal law specialist. He said he wanted me to become his “gang expert.” I researched, and wrote, all his motions, appeals,

Crimes of Violence: Assault

Crimes of Violence: Assault

Frankly, I’ve lost track of the number of cases involving assault with a deadly weapon, assault with great bodily injury, and other assault cases I’ve defended through the years. I’ve probably done more of these types of cases than all other types combined. Some of my clients haven’t always believed that I would be able to give them the best fight, because assault cases usually involve a lot of evidence, including frequently a number of eyewitnesses. My testimonials page shows that I have sometimes surprised my clients by not only fighting harder than they expected, but winning.

I would like to apologize for not having as much confidence in Rick. We got off to a rocky start and when I look back it was me and I was nervous and second guessed the way my case was going to end and wow…not only did I get no time at all. I also got a second chance at having a felony free record.

—Benjamin [read full review on Avvo.com]

I routinely handle cases involving assault crimes. In 2010, in one case there were 14 charges, including four charges of attempted murder, four charges of assault with a deadly weapon, and shooting at an occupied vehicle, among others. Even before putting on a single defense witness, the judge was convinced to dismiss several charges, including all the attempted murder charges. At the end of the defense portion of the case, my client was acquitted of all charges. While no attorney can make promises about the outcome in a particular case — neither I nor any other attorney I know can read the future — I have a proven track record of success.

TOP DOG…Rick took my case and when he steps in the court room He takes full charge & doesn’t play around, He means Businesses! Rick Beat my case & I walked away a Free man.

— Ortega [read full review on Avvo.com]

In another case that involved two minors on charges that included assault and gang charges—well, I’ll let you see what local attorney Ron Smith had to say about it:

In one particular trial I recall, we represented co-defendants. During the trial, the court began to make a ruling which would have been harmful to both our clients. Rick’s quick thinking stopped that in its tracks, with the end result that the charges against his client were found not true.

— Fresno area attorney Ronald Smith [read his endorsement of me on Avvo.com]

Whether the charges you are facing are for simple assault, including fist-fights that got out of hand, to assault with a deadly weapon where you are accused of hitting someone with a bat, or shooting at them with a gun, I know how to defend your case.

Some crimes of assault are complicated by involving a specific type of person, like an accusation of assaulting a police officer, firefighter, or school employee. Other assaults come with increased penalties because of being done at a specific location, like a school, or park.

Regardless of your circumstances, if you find yourself in trouble for an assault crime,

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