October 27, 2022 By Paul Wallin

District Attorney’s Dirty Trick Violates the Constitution, Says U.S. Department of Justice

Recently, the Orange County District Attorney’s (DA) Office and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department were found to have violated the constitutional rights of inmates in the Orange County jail due to their use of a custodial informant program. The Department of Justice (DOJ) conducted an investigation and released a report on its findings, including many suggested reforms for Orange County. 

The DOJ’s Investigation and Findings 

The DOJ’s six-year investigation revealed that Orange County prosecutors and deputy sheriffs have been using jail informants in order to collect information from defendants who had previously exercised their right not to speak to law enforcement. The investigation began in 2007 after Public Defender Scott Sanders turned the informant program into a national controversy. Sanders showed that his client Scott Dekraai was a victim of the program when an informant was put into his cell to gather incriminating comments to ensure a death sentence. 

Upon reviewing extensive case files, conducting site visits, and interviewing dozens of witnesses, the DOJ ruled that the informant program systematically violated criminal defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law. According to Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, “all persons who are accused of a crime are guaranteed basic constitutional protections that are intended to ensure fairness in criminal proceedings and due process of law”. She further added that “prosecutors and law enforcement officers have an obligation to uphold these rights in their fights against crime and in their pursuit of justice, including in the way that they use custodial informants against criminal defendants.” 

Reforms for the DA’s Office and Sheriff’s Department 

In its 63-page report, the DOJ made many recommendations on reforms for the Orange County DA’s Office to undertake, including developing and implementing formal training for supervisors that reflects its policies on informants. The Orange County DA Todd Spitzer was elected after the case of Scott Dekraai and campaigned on the promise of cleaning up the misdeeds of his predecessor. In a recent press release, he affirmed his cooperation with and support for the DOJ over the past few years. He stated that much of the activity in the DOJ’s report was being hidden from prosecutors, denouncing the prevention of proper disclosure of informant information. Spitzer stated he will continue to work with the agency to implement reforms. 

Similarly, the DOJ report also provided reform suggestions for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, such as maintaining and auditing comprehensive files on informants. Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, in his statement, claimed to be taking seriously the issue of protecting the constitutional rights of those in custody. He said, “I look forward to the DOJ reviewing our current policies, processes, and procedures regarding custodial informants. I am confident they will find our current practices have addressed many of their recommendations and anticipate a prompt and complete resolution to this matter.” Whether the Sheriff is correct remains to be seen. Hopefully, these new reforms will prevent more constitutional violations from occurring in the future.

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

When you are facing a criminal charge you are facing all of the power that the District Attorney’s office has to throw at you. This makes it tough enough to successfully defend yourself.  However, when prosecutors resort to unlawful and unconstitutional tactics you need an experienced criminal defense law firm fighting for you or your loved one.

You should contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help you properly defend yourself or your loved one.  With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich will be there to help you when you call. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients successfully resolve their criminal cases. We work hard so that our clients can “clear up” their criminal records and restore their reputations. When you are facing the loss of your freedom and more you need a law firm like Wallin and Klarich fighting for you and your family. 

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego to serve you, we will be there in your time of need. 

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation and evaluation of your case. We will be there when you call.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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