Houman Fakhimi

San Bernardino Criminal Defense: Watch for Camera Phones

San Bernardino Criminal Defense attorneys watched, with the rest of the country, last year as ecstatic Laker's fans took to the street following their June 2010 win at the NBA Championship.

We knew that a strong San Bernardino criminal defense would be needed for the individuals who were filmed committing arson and other property damage and vandalism. Fans were seen hopping on top of cars, shattering windshields and then setting fires.

In one clip, a man was seen sitting in his taxi that was parked on Flower Street. More than a dozen people crowded around the vehicle, trying to tip it over. The driver got out. The revelers weren't successful in tipping the vehicle over, but they proceeded to smash the windows. They can then be heard on the video chanting, "Burn it up," at which point a man in a video sparks a lighter and then throws a fire-soaked cloth piece into the cab.

Some were seen celebrating the whole scene by grinning for pictures in front of the blazing vehicle.

However, it has taken police nearly a year to identify just one of the individuals in the photo. They are still asking for the public's help in identifying five more.

The one suspect has been arrested on suspicion of arson, which is a violation of California Penal Codes 451 and 452 PC.

San Bernardino Trial Attorney Houman Fakhimi knows that the penalty for violation of these statutes is going to depend on the type of property set on fire, to whom it belonged, and whether anyone was hurt or killed.

Both of these laws are very similar, except that one deals with "malicious" fire-setting, while the other refers to "unlawful or reckless" fire-setting.

In many arson cases, investigators put a large amount of resources into finding and arresting the suspected arsonists. Usually, this is because of the great collateral damage that can result from this crime. For example, when someone sets an unlawful fire in the woods, it can spark a brush fire which then can damage countless homes and put people's livelihoods and lives at risk.

This case appears to have involved just one incident involving one vehicle. However, there were multiple acts of arson and vandalism reported throughout the city that night.

The fact that police weren't actually there at the time of the incident is probably why it's taken so long to make an arrest. News crews and those with camera phones captured the incidents on film. The investigation involved tracking down video copies of the incident, and then employing a forensic photographer to show enhanced images of the suspects.

While they have made one arrest, they are asking for the public's help in identifying more.

This incident should serve as a warning to those who commit crimes in public places. It used to be that the larger the crowd, the less likely you were to get caught or for the charges to stick. That may still be true in some cases - and it's certainly an approach your San Bernardino criminal defense lawyer can explore. However, these days, almost everyone has a cell phone and almost everyone's cell phone has photo and video capabilities. That means that even if you don't see photo lights flashing, your actions may still be recorded. This doesn't make it impossible for you to mount a defense - but it certainly presents more challenges.