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Visalia Criminal Law Blog

Police question the value of THC testing devices

Police officers in California and around the country may soon be issued with portable devices that are able to detect the compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties in a breath sample, but legal experts and scientists are not convinced that the results of these tests will be of any real value. One of the THC breath-testing devices currently being tested uses nanotubes thousands of times smaller than a human hair to detect THC. Its developers say that it will only return a positive result when marijuana has been consumed recently, but even that may not be enough to support an impaired driving charge.

This is because scientists are not able to link specific THC levels with degrees of impairment. Any driver with a blood alcohol level higher than the .08% driving limit is considered legally intoxicated, but no such measurement exists for THC. Casual marijuana users could be dangerously impaired with levels of THC in their bloodstreams that a habitual smoker would barely even notice, which means that the results of a THC breath test alone would not be enough to establish impairment beyond reasonable doubt.

Narcotics agents seize 20 pounds of meth

Prosecutors in California say that a 35-year-old man taken into custody following a traffic stop during the early morning hours of Aug. 31 was a leading figure in a narcotics trafficking organization that distributed methamphetamine throughout Humboldt County. The man is being held without bond at the Humboldt County Correctional Facility pending a court hearing that will examine the legitimacy of the funds proffered to pay his bail. He has been charged with possessing and transporting illegal drugs.

Agents from the Humboldt County Drug Task Force took the man into custody without incident after pulling his vehicle over near Phillipsville at approximately 12:30 a.m. According to media reports, agents obtained search warrants for the man's car and Eureka residence after identifying him as a key suspect during a year-long narcotics investigation. A search of the vehicle was ordered after a K-9 unit allegedly alerted during an air sniff. Agents say that they discovered 20 pounds of methamphetamine inside the car that had been packaged in a way that suggested it was for sale.

California man pleads guilty to Bitcoin laundering

A 25-year-old man has admitted to using an unlicensed Bitcoin kiosk to launder money. Federal prosecutors say the Westwood resident exchanged approximately $25 million in U.S. currency and Bitcoin between May 2015 and October 2017. His list of clients is said to have included criminal organizations selling narcotics and other illegal items on what is known as the dark web. The man is expected to make his first court appearance in September in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The man entered guilty pleas to felony counts of distributing methamphetamine, money laundering, failing to implement an adequate anti-money laundering program and operating an unlicensed money exchange business as part of an agreement negotiated with U.S. attorneys. The man is alleged to have concealed his activities by setting up bank accounts in the name of fake businesses. His customers reportedly exchanged Bitcoin for U.S. currency and vice versa using a kiosk that was not equipped with a camera and did not verify identities.

California residents arrested for drugs after neighbor complaints

Deputies from the Lake Elsinore police department in Southern California arrested two residents on drug charges after neighbors complained of suspected narcotics activity. According to a statement from the police, the deputies conducted a search of the residence and found methamphetamine, packaging, digital scale and other items often associated with the sale of narcotics. The evidence might lead to a conviction for the distribution of narcotics.

The two suspects arrested at the Lake Elsinore home were an elderly woman and a middle-aged man who was on parole. The woman was on probation for possession of stolen firearms and narcotics offenses. The man had a previous conviction for assault with a deadly weapon. Both suspects were booked at the Cois Byrd Detention Center. Police encouraged people with additional information about the case to contact the Lake Elsinore Police Department.

California man accused of distributing drugs

A 48-year-old California man suspected of distributing drugs in Ventura County was taken into custody on Aug. 14 by deputies from the Ventura County Sheriff's Office Narcotics Unit. The Los Angeles County resident has been charged with felony counts of conspiracy, marijuana possession, cocaine possession and possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute. He is being held at the Ventura County Pre-trial Detention Facility, and his bail has been set at $300,000.

The investigation that led to the man's arrest began when investigators at the county jail turned over information about a suspected drug distribution network to the VCSO. Initial accounts do not make clear how the investigators acquired this information. The man was quickly identified as a suspect according to media accounts, but initial reports do not reveal what alerted deputies to his alleged involvement in the scheme. After taking the man into custody without incident, deputies obtained search warrants for two addresses in Littlerock he was associated with.

Bank manager could face 30 years in jail

A 34-year-old man who worked at a Wells Fargo branch in California chose to plead guilty to a charge of felony bank fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 18 and could face of up to 30 years in prison. Authorities say that the man laundered money that was obtained by deceiving the IRS. Specifically, he unfroze bank accounts that Wells Fargo had put on hold because of suspected fraud despite lacking the authority to do so.

According to authorities, the investigation into the tax scam has resulted in 12 prosecutions. Furthermore, roughly $700,000 as well as four homes have been seized. The money was said to have been obtained by using fake identities as well as fake passports claiming to belong to people from Armenia.

Police in California destroy 11,000 marijuana plants

The recreational use of marijuana is now legal in California, but criminal organizations in the state still cultivate large amounts of the drug. One such operation was raided on July 31 in Plumas County. During the operation, one man was taken into custody and approximately 11,000 marijuana plants were destroyed. A Plumas County Sheriff's Office representative said the facility bore all the hallmarks of a large-scale narcotics operation run by a Mexican drug cartel.

The drug raid was carried out by members of the PCSO SWAT team supported by agents from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service. Individuals representing the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting in Plumas County were also on hand. Local farmers often assist law enforcement in these operations as illegal marijuana growing operations deprive them of water and pollute the land.

2 charged with drug possession, vehicle theft in Vacaville

On July 21, California authorities arrested two people on a variety of charges, including drug possession, after they were accused of shoplifting at a retail store. The incident took place in Vacaville.

The Vacaville Police Department said that employees at a local Target called them to report a man who had taken merchandise into a fitting room. Officers responded to the scene and waited for the individual to exit the store. When he did, officers searched him and found he had heroin and methamphetamine in his possession. They also discovered that authorities in Sonoma County had issued a warrant for his arrest.

Man sentenced in workers' compensation embezzlement

A 64-year-old California financial advisor was sentenced to 10 years and four months in prison on July 18 for embezzling funds from 12 people. They were all workers' compensation funds for injured workers.

Legally, settlements related to workers' compensation are supposed to be safeguarded for future medical expenses. However, the financial advisor convinced his clients to deposit their checks with him and then spent them on his own personal and business expenses. In 2017, he was charged for embezzling from two people, but other victims continued to come forward. In all, the insurance department says he took $995,118. Although ordered by the judge to repay it, there was no money in the man's bank accounts at the time he was taken into custody. Therefore, the victims might never see their money.

Two arrested in Wasco drug bust

In early July, California authorities arrested a man and a woman for allegedly dealing drugs in Wasco. The arrests were the result of a one-month investigation.

In June, a Wasco County Sheriff's Office deputy reportedly began investigating the source of methamphetamine sales taking place in the county. During the course of the investigation, he determined that a 34-year-old woman might be involved in the case and obtained a warrant to search her property. At approximately 10 p.m. on July 8, deputies pulled the woman over near the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Highway 43 and performed a search of her vehicle. The search allegedly yielded 1.3 grams of methamphetamine and various drug paraphernalia. Deputies then took the woman to her house, located on the 1000 block of Cypress Avenue, to continue their search. While inside the home, they allegedly uncovered 4 grams of methamphetamine, 10 pounds of marijuana, 74 prescription pills, 17 firearms and a significant amount of ammunition. They also found signs that drug sales were being conducted in the home.

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