Ventura Arson Arrest
Ventura Arson Arrest
A Las Vegas woman was arrested and charged with arson after police say she set her former boyfriend’s car on fire. Police were called to a Ventura home in response to a disorderly conduct complaint, but when they arrived, the woman, identified as Jacqueline Zavala-Lopez was no longer at the home. While officers were talking to the former boyfriend, he received a text message from Zavala-Lopez, instructing him to check his car. At that time, officers discovered the car ablaze and contacted the Ventura Fire Department for assistance. Officers asked the boyfriend to attempt to convince Zavala-Lopez to meet him to discuss the situation, which he did. Officers spotted Zavala-Lopez near downtown Ventura and arrested her.

Arson charges can lead to long prison terms


Arson is a serious crime in California and can lead to long prison sentences. In addition, all forms of arson qualify as a “strike” in terms of California’s Three Strikes Law. Additional serious felony convictions can lead to lifetime imprisonment under this law. Because an arson conviction can lead to this consequence, it’s very important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side in court.

Robert Helfend is an experienced criminal defense attorney who takes arson defense cases in Ventura County. His first priority will be to get the charges against you reduced or dropped. If that’s not possible, he will work to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your arson case.

Mr. Helfend handles each case personally, so you will get the full benefit of his extensive criminal defense experience. He will not pass your arson case along to less experienced attorneys, as sometimes happens in larger criminal defense practices.
Don’t risk your freedom on inexperience. Contact Robert Helfend or call toll-free at (800) 834-6434, (805) 273-5611, (310) 456-3317 or (818) 591-2809 for an immediate consultation on your Ventura County arson case.

PhC Jeffery Vincent, via FreeImages.com

Ventura Violent Crimes Rising
Ventura Violent Crimes Rising
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office says that incidents of violent crimeswere up 30% in the first six months of 2015. In comparison, property crimes were up just 6%. According to officials, violent crimes in Camarillo, Ojai and Fillmore all rose, while Moorpark’s violent crimes rate was unchanged, and violent crimes in Thousand Oaks declined.

Violent crimes account for most of Ventura’s crime increase


The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office blamed the rise in property crimes on gangs from outside of Ventura County coming into the area and committing residential burglaries. The VCSO also said that commercial burglaries had risen in Camarillo, Fillmore and Moorpark. The incidence of property crimes in Thousand Oaks rose, noting that both petty theft and grand theft, including the number of stolen vehicles, had risen in that area.
While the Uniform Crime Statistics for the area noted that cases of sexual assault had declined, the number of sexual assaults more than doubled when FBI revisions to the crime statistics were taken into account. The number of murder cases rose from 1 to 3, representing a 200% increase over the same period in 2014. The total number of violent crimes in Ventura County rose from 191 in 2014 to 248 in 2015, accounting for the 30% overall increase.

If you’ve been arrested for murder, assault or violent crimes in Ventura County, you need the professional assistance of a Robert Helfend. Ventura criminal defense attorney. Robert Helfend has more than 30 years of experience in criminal defense, practices criminal defense exclusively and takes both misdemeanor and felony criminal defense work in Ventura County.

Mr. Helfend will aggressively defend your rights in court, and will begin work immediately to have the most serious charges against you dropped or reduced. Convictions for violent crimes like murder, rape and armed robbery can have a lifetime of consequences, and can trigger California’s Three Strikes Law.

Don’t rely on inexperienced criminal defense attorneys or court-appointed defenders if you’ve been accused of committing violent crimes in Ventura County. Contact Robert Helfend or call toll-free at (800) 834-6434, (805) 273-5611, (310) 456-3317 or (818) 591-2809 for an immediate consultation on your Ventura County violent crimes case.

Photo Credit: Christopher Bruno, via FreeImages.com

fireforestBurning over a quarter of a million square miles, the Rim Fire was one of the largest and most devastating wildfires ever recorded in the Sierra Nevada. It started on August 17, 2013 and burned until October 24, 2014, destroying 11 homes and 101 buildings. Well, authorities recently charged a bow hunter in connection with the Rim Fire.

A federal grand jury indicted 32-year-old Keith Matthew Emerald of Columbia, California for starting the devastating fire. Officials believe Emerald was on a solo bow hunting tip in the Clavey River basin, when he started a fire to cook some food. The ultra dry conditions and high wind gusts created a dangerous scenario, however, stirring the fire while sending burning embers uphill.

The fire quickly grew out of control, placing Emerald in direct danger. Thankfully, a rescue helicopter found the stranded bow hunter and was able to carry him off to safety about an hour after the fire was reported.

During the initial talks with investigators, Emerald said he started the fire on accident by slipping on some rocks which subsequently sparked nearby dry vegetation. In September, however, he changed his story, writing in a confession that he started the fire with some twigs and pine needles. He reported that some of the burning embers from his campfire blew uphill and started the fire.

But the story doesn’t end there. Just weeks later, Emerald said he was coerced into writing the confession. Court documents reveal that he even blamed the fire on marijuana growers in the region, who he said encroached on the national property.

Although no one died as a result of the fire, it destroyed over $127 million worth of property and injured dozens of residents and firefighters.

The Rim Fire was one of the largest in California history and caused tremendous economic and environmental harm. While those harms cannot be undone, today we have brought criminal charges relating to the cause of that fire. I want to commend the Forest Service agents for their diligent and extensive investigation,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, whose eastern district includes the Sierra.

Emerald is being charged with one felony count of starting a forest fire while a ban is in place, one felony count of lying to  investigators about the incident, and a misdemeanor count of leaving a fire unattended. If convicted, Emerald faces up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

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AMC Theater photo courtesy of Wally Gobetz via Flickr Creative Commons.

Authorities have arrested 20-year-old Manuel Joyne of Bowie Maryland for allegedly setting off half a dozen so-called “bottle bombs” at half a dozen movie theaters in Maryland and Virginia.

A bottle bomb is exactly what it sounds like: an improvised explosive device that consists of an acid and a base liquid stored inside a sealed container. When the two liquids are combined, it creates pressure that gradually builds up to the point where the plastic bottle can no longer sustain it; thus, creating an explosion that sends bits and pieces of plastic shrapnel and chemicals flying into the air.

Over a two-month period, Joyner allegedly placed bottle bombs at 5 different theaters on 6 occasions, resulting in costly evacuations that prompted local police and fire departments. Authorities captured whom they believe is a “person of interest” on one of the theater’s video surveillance cameras. It’s unknown if the person was Joyner.

Joyner was arrested in his home state of Maryland and charged with the manufacturing, possession and detonation of an explosive device. If convicted, Joyner faces a maximum 25-year prison sentence. A PG County judge had initially set Joyner’s bond for $50 million. At a later hearing, however, the judge denied bail altogether.

Following his arrest in Maryland, Joyner was arrested and charged by Virginia authorities for a string of bottle bombs which occurred in movie theaters throughout Va. One of the incidents occurred on May 18, when the remains of two bottles were discovered, both of which contained acid and metal.

When we come to these places, you think about being safe and you don’t think about stuff happening like that,” said Bruce Le, of Largo.

In a statement to the press, authorities said that Joyner had admitted to setting off the bottle bombs in all six movie theater incidents. There’s been no word yet on a motive behind the attack or whether or not Joyner has sought legal representation.

He admitted to his responsibility and involvement in all six incidents,” said Brian Radinsky, PG County fire marshal.

Authorities have also searched Joyner’s home, confiscating evidence which they believe is relevant to the case; however, they did not reveal exactly what was taken during the search. There’s still some belief that Joyner may have been working with an accomplice, so authorities aren’t ruling out the possibility of further arrests being made in connection with the theater bottle bombing incidents.

A 40-year-old man was arrested recently in Oxnard, after police witnessed him starting a fire near a set of railroad tracks. The arresting officer noticed the man stoking a fire, but when the officer approached the man, he became argumentative and attempted to leave the area. The officer called in a K-9 unit, which subdued the suspect. The suspect was recently arrested in connection with another arson, also in Oxnard.  In addition to being charged with arson, the suspect will also face charges of resisting arrest and threatening a police officer.

The Courts treat arson charges in California seriously.  Arson and other fire-related crimes are defined under the California Penal Code in Sections 451 through 457. According to the law, a person commits arson when he (or she) “willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of, any structure, forest land, or property.”

When many people think of arson, they think of a fire set for the purpose of committing insurance fraud on a property they own.  Although those types of fires are included in the arson statutes, it is possible to be convicted of arson when the accused does not stand to receive any material benefit from having set the fire.

An arson conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to nine years, depending upon the circumstances of the fire, and whether or not the arson resulted in substantial injury to a person, involved an inhabited structure, or resulted in damage to a structure or land.  Special enhancements can be applied to persons previously convicted of arson, circumstances where firefighters or other emergency personnel were injured, multiple people were injured, multiple buildings were burned, or accelerants or delay devices were used to start or encourage the fire.

Persons convicted of arson are also required under state law to register with local law enforcement agencies, in some cases, for the rest of their lives. Courts can also require persons convicted of arson to undergo psychiatric evaluations as part of preparation for sentencing.

If you are facing an arson charge in Ventura County, you need the experience of a dedicated criminal defense attorney in Court. Robert M. Helfend is a criminal defense attorney in Ventura County, and has successfully defended clients facing California criminal charges for 30 years. Mr. Helfend provides aggressive criminal defense in Ventura County. For a consultation on your case involving arson, contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Helfend toll-free at (800) 834-6434 or locally at (805) 273-5611, (310) 456-3317, or (818) 591-2809. Robert M. Helfend is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you!