Criminal Defense Cases

LAX Gun Search & Seizure
Defendant was stopped for a random search at Los Angeles International Airport. He was picking up a friend and intended to go directly from the airport to a local shooting range. Police seized his truck, 16 firearms, and about a thousand rounds of ammunition. Days later LAPD raided Defendant’s home in the early morning hours, forcing his wife and daughters into the street in their pajamas. Defendant was charged with eight felony and three misdemeanor violations. The case settled with a misdemeanor charge and fine. The story garnered significant local media attention:

Arrest Angers O.C. Man Found At LAX With Truck Full Of Guns, O.C. Register (Jan. 10, 2009)
LAX Vehicle Search Yields Cache of Guns and Ammunition, L.A. Times (Jan. 10, 2009)
Man With 21 Guns At Airport: I’m Law-Abiding, MSNBC (Jan. 10, 2009)

Glendale Gun Show Sting
The LAPD Gun Unit conducted a sting at the Glendale Gun Show and arrested Defendant for participating in an illegal gun transaction. Charges were dismissed by the Court because the LAPD misinterpreted the law. LAPD then pushed the Ventura District Attorney’s office to file charges for illegally possessing an “unconventional pistol” which was in fact a tear gas dispenser. After three years of litigation, the charges were finally dismissed.

Alleged Illegal Gun Sale by Informant
Co-authored a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court for a Section 1983 civil rights action based on illegal Fourth Amendment search and seizure claims. The unique issue raised for review was whether the damages sought by the convicted defendants were necessarily barred by the fact of the criminal conviction.

Octogenarian Love Triangle
Represented a 78 year old man who was amorously involved with an  82 year old woman. She began seeing another octogenarian man at the same time. The jealous defendant confronted the suitor, which lead to a fist-fight, and ultimately a shot fired into the suitor’s dwelling.  The defendant was charged with pre-mediated first-degree murder, assault, and illegally discharging a firearm.  He faced a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. We negotiated a probationary sentence. This case made national headlines.

Hazardous Waste Disposal
Intricate criminal prosecution involving the designation of “hazardous waste” as a commercial substitute for explosives. Clients owned and operated a transfer storage and disposal facility in California the Mojave Desert which accepted the materials and produced explosives. Criminal felony charges were brouht against the parent corporation, President, Vice President, and aligned companies. Successful negotiation resulted in a civil settlement and the criminal charges being dismissed.

Hazardous Waste Smuggling
Case stemmed from investigation alleging company and four company officers participated in a smuggling operation to transport hazardous waste to Mexico. Fifty combined counts of conspiracy, illegal disposal of hazardous waste, illegal transportation of hazardous waste were filed. The matter was settled prior to trial in the federal court. All company officers were exonerated.

Naval Shipyard Hazardous Waste
Client owned and operated Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, the largest shipyard on the West Coast. The company and five individuals were accused of illegal disposal of hazardous waste over a multi-year period. Related civil litigation was stayed pending the outcome of the criminal matter. After conducting a month long preliminary hearing, 11 of the 16 counts were dismissed, and all the charges against individuals were dropped.

Gun Collector Sting
Client was falsely accused by the LAPD Gun Unit of being a “black market gun dealer.” He was enticed into selling a hunting rifle to a persistent undercover LAPD officer without conducting the sale through a licensed firearms dealer. Over 400 rare and collectible firearms were seized. Several of the firearms seized were incorrectly alleged to be unregistered “assault weapons” or otherwise prohibited. Client faced a potential sentence of over 20 years in the state prison. Proved that he was not involved in illegal gun trafficking as the LAPD falsely claimed in a press conference, and negotiated a probationary sentence on a misdemeanor offense.

Politically Incorrect Gun Possession by Army Cop
Defendant was a decorated military police officer who was attending Los Angeles City College in 2007 while on injured reserve leave from the Army before being reactivated to serve in Iraq. An anonymous caller told police that numerous pictures of firearms, as well as videos of Mr. Corwin shooting, a semi-automatic firearm which law enforcement believed to be fully – automatic, were posted on his Myspace page. Police mistakenly believed the depicted firearms were illegal “assault weapons” and claimed they thought Corwin might be a “threat” to the school. A search of Mr. Corwin’s house turned up allegedly illegal firearms and other items. Twelve felony criminal charges were filed. Established that the firearms were not illegal. The District Attorney’s Office then dismissed all of the criminal charges. This case received significant media coverage:

Matt Corwin FREE!, The Packing Rat (Dec. 17, 2007)
Student Pleads Not Guilty in Weapons Case, L.A. Times (May 30, 2007)
Student Is Held on Weapon Charges, L.A. Times (May 1, 2007)
Student Busted for Silly Stuff,The Packing Rat (Apr. 30, 2007)

San Diego Gun Seizure
Police were called to defendant’s home after receiving reports of an argument between parents and their son. When police arrived, the son was no longer at the home. Police seized the son’s firearms. Police never took the son into custody under Welfare & Institutions Code section 5150 (evaluation for mental instability), yet ordered the firearms forfeited under Welfare & Institutions Code section 8102. In a published opinion, City of San Diego v. Kevin B., 118 Cal. App. 4th 933 (Ct. App. 2004), the Appellate Court found that the government could not forfeit the firearms since they failed to comply with the Welfare and Institutions Code section 8102.

Preempted Los Angeles Local Magazine Ordinance
A gun dealer was charged under a Los Angeles municipal code section with illegally selling a magazine capable of holding over ten rounds. Case dismissed.

SKS Type 56 Seizure and Unprecedented DOJ Amicus for Defendant
Defendant was prosecuted for possessing an SKS “Type 56” rifle that had been modified to accept a detachable magazine. Since 1991, the DOJ had represented that such modification was perfectly legal and that an SKS rifle so modified was not an “assault weapon.” Unfortunately, the Santa Clara District Attorney nonetheless prosecuted the Defendant, who was convicted. On appeal we convinced the DOJ to file an unprecedented amicus brief on behalf of this criminal defendant, something DOJ had never done before. The California Supreme Court accepted the case, but when Attorney General Lockyer was elected, he withdrew the amicus brief for political reasons, and the Supreme Court dropped the case. Nonetheless, the firm successfully got Defendant’s conviction reduced to a misdemeanor and his gun possession rights restored. (47 Cal. App. 4th 1068 (Ct. App. 1996), review dismissed and cause remanded, 100 Cal. Rptr. 2d 547 (Ct. App. 2000).)

SKS Sporter Rifle Mischaracterization
Defendantwas charged in Downey Municpal Court with a felony of possessing an SKS “assault weapon” and a second “assault weapon.” The SKS was a “Sporter” model that had been bought legally from a gun store in 1993. The SKS charge was dismissed, the other firearm was registered, and the felony charge was reduced to an infraction with a small fine.

SKS Type 56 Rifle Entrapment
Defendant was prosecuted for possessing an SKS “Type 56” rifle. When DOJ Firearms Program staff who had represented that this make and model firearm was not illegal were placed under subpoena for the preliminary hearing, the case was dismissed.

Pomona “Saturday Night Special” Ordinance
Firearm retailer who exhibited the Great Western gun Show was charged with a misdemeanor violation of a Pomona municipal ordinance for selling a Jennings J-22 handgun at the Great Western Gun Show at the Pomona Fairgrounds. Pomona failed to notify the gun show and dealers in the City that an ordinance was going to be enforced at the County-owned fairgrounds, over which the City had no jurisdiction. The case was dismissed, and the guns were returned. The case received significant media attention.

Out of Business FFL Inventory Liquidation
The LAPD falsely dubbed this client a “gun runner.” He was charged with multiple felonies and faced a possible 32-year prison sentence. Successfully proved that the client was a federal licensed firearms dealer who was merely selling off his on-hand excess inventory after the recent closing of his retail firearm store. Negotiated a probationary sentence.

People v. Masters
Mr. Masters was dubbed the “Bernard Goetz of the West” by the national media when he shot two graffiti vandals and armed robbers trying to rob him, killing one. Protesters hung him in effigy outside the courthouse. Masters was only prosecuted for illegal possession of a firearm. Argued that the LAPD had unconstitutionally refused to give Mr. Masters a concealed weapon permit. Masters received a probationary sentence. The case received significant media attention.

Vandal’s Slayer Sentenced to Clean Graffiti: Controversy, L.A. Times (Nov. 9, 1995)
Killer of Vandal Claims City Gun Policy Violated His Rights, L.A. Times (Aug. 8, 1995)
Not-Guilty Plea Is Entered for Masters, L.A. Times (Apr. 11, 1995)
Praise and Insults for Man Who Killed Tagger, L.A. Times (Feb. 4, 1995)