Practice Areas

In General

If you are arrested, request to speak to a lawyer before making a statement that can be construed as incriminating to the police. While it is important to cooperate with the police, remember they are building a case against you. Do not help them by providing evidence or statements about your case, even if you are innocent. Asking to speak to a lawyer does not admit guilt. It only shows you are aware of your rights.

Assault and Battery

Facing charges of assault or battery requires the counsel of an experienced, competent and aggressive attorney. R.M. Hessling defends California residents charged with:

  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual assault
  • Aggravated assault
  • Simple assault
  • Motor vehicle assault

A battery charge requires the intentional use of force to harm a person intentionally, but an assault charge does not require physical touching. There are many things considered with an assault or battery charge, including: verbal, emotional, and physical abuse; intimidation and threat; as well as touching or harassment.

If you are convicted, the penalties for assault and battery depend upon the circumstances of the crime and your prior record. Under California’s “Three Strikes And You’re Out” law, each serious felony conviction that is received serves as a strike against a record. If you are convicted of a crime equating to your third strike, the sentence can be anywhere from 25 years to life in prison. R.M. Hessling has worked on three-strikes cases and can provide the best defense against this harsh sentencing scheme.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

Domestic violence and sexual assault is taken very seriously in California. The State has a policy, which asks the police to almost always arrest an individual, rightly or wrongfully, accused of spousal abuse. A misdemeanor conviction for spousal abuse could result in a year in the county jail. A felony conviction can result in up to three years in state prison. Either conviction triggers a 52-week anger management program, which can cost $1500. Even when it appears obvious that the crime was not committed, the State will often vigorously pursue a conviction. Sentences can vary from volunteer work to serious jail time. Conversely, when the facts appear against, a good defense attorney can often reduce to a lesser charge such as disturbing the peace or trespassing. Sentences can usually be negotiated to avoid jail time.

It is also important to consider the consequences of a conviction for a non-citizen. If you are not a citizen, a spousal and child abuse case can, if not carefully negotiated, result in serious immigration consequences including exclusion from the U.S., denial of status or citizenship and denial of re-entry into the country. R.M. Hessling works closely with immigration attorneys to craft settlements, which will reduce or eliminate consequences in these situations.


There are both Criminal and DMV issues at play when it comes to a DUI/DWI charge. The criminal case begins when you are arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated. This also initiates the DMV litigation. The arresting officers will confiscate your driver’s license and you will receive a Notice of Suspension. This provides temporary driving privilege for 30 days and must be challenged within ten days or the suspension is automatic. After the arrest you will be given either a mandatory breath test or a blood test. You will be arraigned and usually sent home.

This is often when R.M. Hessling will get involved. She makes the prosecution work for the convictions. She often files motions with the court to determine the validity of the stop and the record of the arresting officer. Additionally, she works with the prosecuting attorney to see if a plea agreement can be reached. When all else fails, she is prepared to bring a case to court, challenging every aspect of the case from the initial stop to the validity of breath tests.

While the criminal case is moving through the system, the case involving the driver’s license is usually moving forward. There is a hearing before the Driver Safety Office Hearing Officer. During this hearing the DMV must show that the suspension is justified. Often the arresting officer must appear to make the case, and if the officer does not appear the chances are good that the license will not be suspended. Any testimony offered by the officer can be later used in a criminal proceeding.

Drug-Related Offenses

If you have been arrested on a drug-related offense, it is important to speak to an attorney that will help you avoid serious consequences like jail or prison. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you may be charged with the following:

  • Cultivation
  • Distribution of narcotics
  • Drug trafficking
  • Manufacturing
  • Possession of a controlled substance
  • Possession with intent to distribute
  • Transportation and importation of narcotics
  • Under the influence

R.M. Hessling will determine eligibility for available drug programs including Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) and/or the Proposition 36 Program, which can avoid jail time and perhaps result in a dismissal.

Recent laws, including The Patriot Act, have made it easier for law enforcement to search anyone they choose. It is imperative that an aggressive and compassionate attorney is on your side. R.M. Hessling will fight to have drug cases dismissed due to illegal search and seizure, lack of probable cause to stop, or ultimately by trial.

However, jail or prison sentences are only part of the problem. Issues regarding addiction and the law are relevant to the defense of DUI and drug offense charges. R.M. Hessling will make referrals to a program that will often be accepted by the court in lieu of a jail sentence. These outpatient or inpatient programs often allow a client to go to work and continue to support their families.

R.M. Hessling is licensed to practice in both state and federal courts and can litigate the following charges:

  • Cocaine
  • Prescription drugs
  • Heroin
  • Marijuana
  • MDMA (Ecstasy)
  • Methamphetamine
  • Rohypnol
  • Club drugs
  • Crack
  • Hallucinogens

Gang Crime

California has enacted gang enhancement statutes that punish individuals for committing crimes that relate to gang activity. Thus, an individual may have to serve more time for committing a robbery if that robbery is considered to be in furtherance of a gang objective. These harsh laws place defendants in a tricky situation because they may not actually be part of a gang. However, police may label you as such if you have been in photos with known gang members, wear clothing of a certain color or have been in contact with a gang member. When seeking to defend yourself against alleged gang crimes, you do not have to accept the gang member label that may be placed on you. You have the right to present evidence that you are not affiliated with the gang even if some of your acquaintances might be. This can be important to avoid the enhanced penalties many gang members receive.


Solicitation is against the law in California and most of the United States. Additionally, prostitution, solicitation, pandering, and loitering are against the law. These are serious offenses that carry life-changing consequences. Prostitution laws makes it a crime to offer, agree to, or engage in sexual activity for money. In California, the “John,” as well as the prostitute, is aggressively prosecuted. First time offenses are usually charged as misdemeanors, while subsequent offenses can be charged as felonies.

Thanks to sting operations, many prostitution arrests are made in large cities like San Francisco or San Jose. At any given moment, innocent citizens with no criminal history often find themselves accused and arrested for solicitation for prostitution for being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Massage parlors and escort services are under high scrutiny because of the long companionship encounters and temptation to cross the line.

Your life can radically change with a prostitution, solicitation, pandering, or loitering offense. For final sentencing other factors are considered, such as your criminal history, prior convictions, and current criminal status, including probation or parole.

The penalties and consequences for these types of sexual offenses can be serious and include the following:

  • Jail
  • Probation
  • Fines & Fees
  • Court-Enforced Counseling
  • AIDS Testing
  • Community Service
  • Cal Trans (physical labor)
  • Public humiliation
  • Loss of employment (for those with licenses or security clearances)

Record Expungement

Many people have made mistakes in their past. Unfortunately, in our criminal justice system those mistakes can continue to haunt you even after you’ve changed your life. Expunging one’s record is valuable in that it allows people to put the past behind them, as well as help with future employment. After an expungement, an individual can tell a potential employer that they have NOT been convicted of a crime. An expungement is fairly basic with misdemeanors. However, a felony can also be expunged. It must be reduced to a misdemeanor and then expunged. While the process sounds confusing, it allows defendants to improve their standing and truly move on with their lives.

  • It’s important that you learn exactly what is on your criminal record and what a potential employer might see.
  • With a record expungement, you will be able to answer “no” when asked about past con victions.
  • R.M. Hessling has experience reducing felony to misdemeanor convictions and subsequently having them dismissed. She has experience sealing juvenile records and clearing arrest records.
  • Another approach is to make an application for a Certificate of Rehabilitation to ask the Governor to pardon all felonies that cannot be reduced to misdemeanors.


There are several types of theft and it is important to vigorously fight theft charges because they can look particularly bad when applying for employment. Theft is considered a crime of “moral turpitude” and is assumed to reflect poorly on the defendant’s character. Therefore, it is critically important to your future that you fight theft charges.

Petty Theft

Under Penal Code 484 and 488, this is the stealing of property valued up to $400. Although the offense is a misdemeanor, a second offense can be charged as a felony under Penal Code 666 (Petty Theft with a Prior).


Entering a structure with the intent to commit a felony or any theft inside constitutes burglary in California. If the structure is a home or “inhabited dwelling,” residential burglary may be charged (which counts as a “strike” pursuant to California Three Strikes Law).

Auto Burglary

Breaking into a locked vehicle for the purpose of stealing it constitutes “auto burglary” under California law.

Grand Theft

Under Penal Code 487, this is the stealing of property valued at more than $400. It may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Grand Theft Auto

California law treats any theft of an automobile as “grand theft,” regardless of the value of the vehicle.

Grand Theft of a Firearm

Any theft of a firearm counts as “grand theft,” regardless of the value of the gun. This offense is always a felony.


A person who wrongfully steals or misappropriates property entrusted to him by the rightful owner may be charged with embezzlement.

Receiving Stolen Property

This occurs when someone purchases or receives property that he/she knows (or reasonably should know) is stolen.


A person commits a Robbery in California if he uses violence, force or threats to take property from someone’s immediate possession. This counts as a strike under California Three Strikes Laws.


This is basically robbery of a vehicle. If one uses force or fear to take a vehicle from someone’s immediate possession, a Carjacking may be charged.

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