Monthly Archives

October 2020


Handling Hate Crimes in California

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Hate crimes are a far bigger problem than many people realize. Data collected by the Justice Department indicates that starting in 2013 and ending in 2017, there were approximately 55,000 gender-related hate crimes in the United States.

As if the number of hate crimes wasn’t already scary enough, recent stats indicate that there is a problem in how these crimes are documented by the authorities. A recent batch of statistics indicated that police departments around the country dealt with just 215 gender-related hate crimes. At first, that sounds great, the number has gone way down, but the number of problems the police reported is just 3% of the same type of hate crimes the FBI dealt with during that same period.

What are Hate Crimes

On the surface, hate crimes appear to be leveled at just one or a small group of people, but experts know that hate crimes are more. While only a few people might draw the actual anger and bias of the person who is dishing out the hate, it is a problem that impacts everyone. It’s an attack on an entire, large group of people and an attack that shakes the self-esteem of the entire country.

A hate crime is a nasty attack that is directed at someone because they represent a specific group of people. Examples of hate crimes include crimes that are initiated because the attackers are upset about their victim’s:

  • Nationality
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Sexuality
  • Disability
  • Race/ethnicity

There have also been hate crimes that were aimed at a person because that person was a member of an association their attacker didn’t like. Victims of hate crimes are usually people who are simply going about their day when they inadvertently attract their attackers.

Hate crimes typically escalate in violence. It’s not unusual for them to start with verbal threats and escalate into situations that involve property damage, bullying, assault, and even murder.

Charges Associated with Hate Crimes in California

The parameters the state has set for hate crimes include:

  • Injuring/intimidating someone so badly that they are no longer able to exercise their ability to live according to the California Constitution or United States Constitution
  • Damage someone’s property

Many people who are ultimately convicted of a hate crime are originally charged with assault or property damage.

One of the interesting things about California’s hate crime policy is that if the prosecutor involved with your case believes you acted out of hatred for another person’s race/gender/sexual orientation/etc. they are free to mount a criminal case against you, even if you didn’t commit any other type of crime.

In California, hate crimes are a misdemeanor offense. The penalties connected to hate crimes in California include:

  • A fine that can be up to $5,000
  • One year in a county jail
  • As much as 400 hours of community service

The best way to avoid being found guilty of a hate crime is to keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself while you’re around people who are different from yourself. Who knows. You might even learn that accepting other people’s differences actually improves the quality of your life.


Partying During a Pandemic

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The pandemic has been running our lives since March. There isn’t a single aspect of life that it hasn’t impacted. Many of us have grown tired of all the restrictions the virus has placed on our lives and are starting to rebel against the shutdown lifestyle. Many of us are starting to look at the upcoming holiday season and wondering, “what would happen if I hosted or attended a party during the pandemic?”

Is Partying During a Pandemic Legal?

If you’re wondering if it’s legal to party during a pandemic, you’re unlikely to get a clear response. Most people, including any police officers you speak to, will likely tell you it’s a bad idea. But just because somethings a bad idea, that doesn’t mean it’s illegal, right?

When the pandemic reached California, the governor made the tough decision to ban large gatherings. According to the order, any party that involved 250 or more people was strictly prohibited. Smaller gathering remained legal but only if participants agreed to adhere to social distancing guidelines which include maintaining a 6-foot gap between people who don’t live together.

Are People Partying During the Pandemic

If you’re wondering if people are throwing parties during the pandemic, the answer is yes. If you’re wondering if they are getting in trouble, the answer is also yes. How much trouble largely depends on where the party took place, how many people attended, and if the sight of the large gathering scared the neighbors who called the police.

You would be hard-pressed to find a city that’s more determined to prevent parties than Los Angeles. The strain COVID-19 has placed on the local health care system has been severe. Many city officials are determined to do everything they can to halt the virus in its tracks. This includes doing things like shutting off all the utilities to places where large parties are taking place.

It’s unclear if the city will take more drastic steps, such as arresting people who throw/attend parties if the partying during the pandemic trend continues.

If you are feeling alone and isolated, don’t run the risk of crossing the law by throwing a large party during the pandemic. Try touching base with your favorite people via Zoom, Facebook Live, or Skype. If you desperately need to see people in the flesh, host a small intimate gathering and be diligent about maintaining all social distancing standards.


The Reality of Prop. 25

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The November third election is a big one for California voters. Not only do they have to decide which candidate they want in the Oval Office, but they also must decide if they want to vote for or against, Proposal 25.

What is Proposal 25

The goal of Prop 25 is to end the current cash bail system. If it passes, California would be the first state to do away with this system. Instead of using a tried and true cash bail system, the state would create a system that would run a “risk-assessment” on suspects. Each suspect would be assigned a risk which would categorize them as:

  • Low-risk
  • Medium-risk
  • High-risk

Low-risk suspects would be individuals that, based solely on a generic test, would be determined a low-risk for not appearing in court and who have been deemed a minimal risk to society. They would be promptly released from jail.

On the other hand, someone who is considered high-risk might not show up for their court dates and they’re deemed a threat to society. These individuals would not be released. Eventually, high-risk individuals would get a few moments before a judge, at which point they’d be allowed to explain why the high-risk assessment is unfair.

Individuals who fall into the medium-risk category pose a problem. They might or might not appear in court. And they might, in the right circumstances, be a threat to society. It’s not entirely clear how the courts would be expected to deal with medium-risk individuals, other than some lawmakers stating that cases would depend on the local court’s rules.

Individuals who have been charged with misdemeanors would be exempt from the risk exceptions, though lawmakers are quick to point out that there will be exceptions.

The Problem with Prop 25

At first glance, Prop 25 doesn’t seem like a bad idea. It has the potential to provide individuals with limited income who have created minor offenses with the ability to get out of jail. That’s a good thing, right?

Maybe not.

First, even low-income individuals do have the opportunity to be released from jail. If they don’t have the money needed to bail themselves out, they can contact local family-owned businesses like Carl’s Bail Bonds where they can take advantage of flexible payment plans that include zero interest, 20% discounts, and low-payments.

The biggest problem with Prop 25 is that it doesn’t appear that anyone has a good way to run the risk assessments. Fans of Prop 25 haven’t been able to provide much information about how the assessments will be run or how they’ll be evaluated.

The current system provides the court to look closely at each person’s criminal and community history. This information is used to determine how much money is needed to convince the person to stay out of trouble and attend all of their court appearances. The fact that bail can be revoked if the person does violate the terms of their release by engaging with certain people, leaving town, or committing a crime provides further incentive for everyone to walk the straight and narrow path while they wait for their case to reach its conclusion.

The biggest concern with Prop 25 is that while fans of the proposed law are convinced it will work, they’re unable to provide any detailed information about how the risk assessment will be conducted. When you read the bill, all it says is that the risk assessment will use “tools shall be demonstrated by scientific research to be accurate and reliable.”

That sounds a lot like the type of system internet dating sites use, and everyone who has used one of those sites knows that while love matches are possible, most of the connections are massive duds. Does anyone really want to have a bail system that has the same kind of success rate as the average internet dating service?


The Long-Lasting Consequences of Drunk Driving in California

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Like all other states, California has taken a hard stance on drunk driving. It isn’t tolerated. If you’re caught behind the wheel after having just a little too much to drink, you’ll face steep consequences that will have a major impact on the overall quality of your life.

California’s Legal Limit

California has different legal limits for different types of drivers. For the average, adult driver in California, anything over a blood alcohol count (BAC) of 0.08% is considered too high to legally drive. For drivers under the age of 21, anything over 0.05% is considered a DUI. Commercial drivers as well as drivers who are involved with a ride-share program aren’t allowed to get behind the wheel if their BAC is above 0.04%

If you are pulled over and the officer believes you’ve been drinking, they’ll likely administer a breath test that measures your BAC. If the BAC is considered close, but not quite at the legal limit, it’s likely you’ll still be arrested. The reason for this is because it can take a little time for the true BAC to be accurate. You’ll receive a second test at the jail. By this point, the BAC level will be accurate. If it’s above the legal limit, the officer will go through with the arrest. Both of the BAC tests are admissible in court. In many cases, the first test is a breath test and the second test is taken via a blood draw.

Penalties of Driving Drunk in California

California lawmakers aren’t playing around when it comes to drunk drivers. The penalties are steep and were designed to scare people into only getting behind the wheel while they’re sober. The penalties become more severe each time you’re charged with a DUI.

First Offense

The first time you’re caught driving while under the influence, the maximum amount of time you can spend in county jail is six months. You’ll also be charged fines that will range from $390-$1,000. Your license will be suspended and you won’t be able to drive for up to six months. Your ignition can be locked for 6 months to one full year, and you’ll only be allowed to drive on a restricted license during that time.

Second Offense

The second DUI charge means a minimum of 92 hours and a maximum of 1 full year in county jail. The court can charge you fines that range from $390-$1,000. You can lose your license for a full two years, making it difficult to work, especially if you live in a rural area. After you get a restricted license, the court can limit your driving with an ignition lock that will remain on your vehicle for up to one year.

Third Offense

The third offense you’re found guilty of DUI charges, you’ll be sentenced to as little as 120 days or as long as one year in jail. You’ll get charged at least $1,800 in fines. You’ll also lose your license for 3 years and potentially have an ignition lock installed on your vehicle for an additional 2 years.

California lawmakers have arranged things so that each DUI conviction remains on your record for a full 10 years.

In addition to actual DUI penalties, if you were in an accident while driving drunk, you will also face any charges that were incurred during the accident. This can include minor traffic offenses or vehicular manslaughter.

Medications Can Mess up Your Life

There are several medications that can play havoc on your body when you mix them with alcohol. The problem with many medications, even some over-the-counter allergy medications is that they alter the way your body absorbs alcohol. This means that if you go to the bar and have your normal amount of alcohol, and the amount that in most cases allows you to legally drive home, the medication could have created a significantly higher blood alcohol level and you’ll be arrested for DUI. Several people have had their lives destroyed because they didn’t realize how badly the medication and alcohol would react.

If you’re on medication, it’s in your best interest to not get behind the wheel if you have accidentally mixed the alcohol and the medication. Call a friend, get a room, hire a taxi. Do anything other than getting in your car.


Hitchhiking in California

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Signs warning drivers about the dangers of picking up hitchhikers the sides of California’s highways. Upon seeing these signs, most of us assume that we’re close to one of the state’s prisons and that cops are worried that a hitchhiker could be an escaped convict. Few of us know that the reason there are so many signs warning about hitchhikers scattered along California’s immense span network of highways is because hitchhiking is actually illegal.

The issue of hitchhiking is addressed in CA Veh Code § 21957 (2018) 21957. The law states that “No person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride from the driver of any vehicle.”

Clearly, the law doesn’t want anyone hitchhiking, but what if you’re vehicle has broken down and you need a ride into town? Are you supposed to walk the whole way? And what if you pick up a hitchhiker?

It’s obvious that the law was created to discourage hitchhiking, but it’s the language you want to pay particular attention to. It states that you can’t stand in the middle of the road and try to flag oncoming traffic down and asking for a ride. If one of California’s highway patrol officers catches you doing so, they’ll likely stop and ask you to move off the road. They might even issue a ticket.

However, according to the strict language of the law, you are free to stand on the shoulder of the road and attempt to flag down an approaching vehicle. The trick is, you have to do it in such a way that you’re not disrupting traffic.

If you are a driver who spots someone who wants a lift, you’re allowed to stop and offer them one, but not if you’re on one of the state’s massive freeways. Stopping on the shoulder of one of those could disrupt the flow of traffic and cause a serious accident. You’ll have to somehow signal to the hitchhiker that you’ll meet them at the next exit.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the person offering a hitchhiker a ride or if you’re the person accepting the ride, it’s important to remember that inviting a stranger into your car is a risk. Make sure you use sound judgment and are very careful.


Squatting in California

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There is a housing problem in California. The state has more people who need a home than there are affordable rental options available. The shortage of available housing is likely why there seems to have been an increase in “squatting” cases.

What is Squatting?

Squatting is a slang term that’s used to describe the practice of moving into a living space, such as an empty apartment, and using it as a residence. Squatting is the common term. The formal term the California court system likes to use is adverse possession.

While it’s usually easy to determine that the person who has taken up residence is a squatter, figuring out both the squatter’s and property owner’s actual legal rights is complicated.

The interesting thing about squatting is that it’s not an actual crime. Legal charges are filed against the squatter only if the property owner can prove that the squatters are guilty of trespassing.

A property owner can file a civil lawsuit against a squatter, which they can use to recoup lost rent, property damage, and even some legal fees.

Squatters can Claim Ownership

The last thing a property owner wants to do is ignore anyone who is squatting on their property. The sooner the owner acts, the better. In California, if a person has taken “adverse possession” of a property and the legal owner does nothing to remove them from the property, the squatter becomes the new legal owner. In California, five years is the length of time a squatter has to stay on the property before they can own it.

Moving a Squatter Off Your Property

Moving a squatter, especially if the squatter is a tenant who simply refused to move out after their lease ran out, isn’t easy.

The first thing you’ll want to do is to file an eviction notice. While the squatter might ignore the order, it does establish legal documentation that shows you don’t want the person residing on your property.

If the date listed on the eviction notice has passed but the squatters are still in residence on your property, you will have to file a civil lawsuit. The burden of proof will rest on you. You’ll have to prove that you didn’t want them residing on your property and that they’ve failed to pay rent or adhere to a rental contract. The judge will want to see a copy of the eviction notice you filed.

Once you’ve won the civil lawsuit, you’ll be able to have the police help you remove the squatter from your property.It’s very important to enlist the experience of a good lawyer through every step of this process.


California Earthquake Survival Tips

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California is known for its earthquakes. Unlike wildfires which can be somewhat predictable and avoidable, there’s never much warning before an earthquake occurs. Even with the surprisingly accurate MyShake earthquake phone app you usually have less than a minute to prepare yourself for the tremor.

Early preparation and common sense is your best line of defense when it comes to surviving a California earthquake.

Keep Your Home in Good Repair

Routinely go through your home and any outbuildings and make sure that they are earthquake ready. The house met the current earthquake building guidelines when it was constructed, but it’s up to you to make sure that it stays earthquake ready. The best way to make sure your home remains standing during an earthquake is by staying on top of all home repairs.

Secure Your Space

At least once a week, go through your entire house and make sure it’s earthquake-proof. Make sure there is enough room in closets for you to fit into the small space during an earthquake. Double-check that you haven’t placed anything on a high shelf where it could fall off and hit you during an earthquake.

Create a Disaster Plan

Creating a disaster plan for an earthquake isn’t easy. You have no way of knowing where you or the rest of your family will be when an earthquake takes place. What you can do is arrange a place where everyone will meet following a large earthquake. You can also make sure that your entire family has a communication plan in place that will allow you to connect with one another after the earthquake.

Have Emergency Supplies on Hand

Create small emergency packs and store them throughout your home. The packs should contain non-perishable food, first aid supplies, a flashlight, batteries, and water. You should keep at least one of these packs in each of your rooms as well as in your car.

Purchase Earthquake Protection

Make sure you’re insured against an earthquake. This insurance means you’ll get reimbursed if your home is destroyed during the earthquake, making it possible for you to start over.

Lend a Helping Hand

Once you’ve successively survived a California earthquake, it’s time to help others. Check on your neighbors and make sure they’re okay. Offer shelter to those who need it. Volunteer with earthquake survival groups. The sooner everyone pitches in to help, the sooner the state will recover from the earthquake.


False Allegations of Child Abuse in California

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Child abuse laws are designed to protect children from being hurt. They’re good laws that make a lot of sense. Unfortunately, they are also laws that can be used against people, particularly parents who are engaged in a child custody dispute. It’s not unheard of for one parent to accuse the other parent of child abuse in order to obtain full custody of the children. It’s an accusation that can deal a lasting blow to both sides.

While there have been instances of men lodging false child abuse claims against women, it’s far more common for a woman to falsely accuse a man of child abuse. Data collected by the Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) indicates that 85% of all child abuse protective orders are filed by men and issued against men. One lawyer estimates that approximately 90% of those that are filed during a divorce and that mention child abuse are a tactical move to gain custody of the children.

California’s family court judges are legally obligated to take all child abuse accusations seriously. The last thing anyone wants is for a child to be hurt because the court failed to act. As soon as one parent accuses the other of child abuse, the court will take action, usually siding with the parent who made the accusation. If you are the one accused of abusing children, you shouldn’t assume that you’re promptly out of luck. You do have to be willing to take a defensive stance.

It’s in your best interest to demand that the court investigate the accusations. Be prepared for this to involve an in-depth and invasive investigation into your background. Court-appointed experts will interview several people which can include:

  • Your children
  • Family
  • Friendly
  • Doctors
  • Teachers

The process is time-consuming and often frustrating. When you feel impatient, remind yourself that you’re doing this for the good of your child.

The topic of false child abuse accusations in California is addressed in Family Code section 3027. According to the code, once it’s proven that the allegations filed against you were knowingly false, you have the right to seek monetary compensation for your court fees and additional costs that were connected to proving your innocence. The result of the investigation could lead to a significant change in which parent is granted custody of the children.


California Lemon Laws For Dogs

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When you bring a dog into your family, you assume that you’re getting a healthy animal who will be a buddy and best friend for several years. Unfortunately, sometimes things don’t work out the way you hope. Instead of a pet who will go on hikes and give you comfort, your new dog develops health problems that ruin your financial stability.

If you find yourself in this situation, you might want to look into California’s dog lemon laws.

California is one of 22 states that currently have lemon laws in place that are designed to protect pet owners. They are surprisingly similar to vehicular lemon laws.

What are California’s Lemon Dog Laws?

The purpose of California’s lemon dog laws is to protect you from the financial headaches that go hand in hand with inadvertently acquiring a dog that has health problems. The lemon dog law says that you can reasonably expect the dog to be healthy and free of illness and disease for the first fifteen days they live in your home.

In order to take advantage of this law, you have to obtain written certification from your veterinarian that the dog developed some type of illness that had previously existed in the dog prior to you acquire it. It could also apply if the seller lied about vaccinating the dog prior to you taking possession of the animal.

The second aspect of California’s lemon dog law deals with congenital and hereditary problems. If the dog develops a health problem that makes it impossible for you to use the dog in the way you intended or means taking on veterinary bills you didn’t anticipate, you have the ability to contact the breeder and discuss reimbursement. These health problems have to appear within the first year of the dog’s life.

If the dog passes away as a result of congenital or hereditary health problems during the first year of its life, you are also protected by California’s lemon dog laws.

The Seller’s Responsibility Under the Lemon Dog Laws

The purpose of California’s lemon dog laws is to encourage breeders to breed responsibly. The hope is that the laws will encourage breeders to get a full genetic workup on their breeding dogs prior to mating them. It also encourages sellers to disclose known health problems in all sales contracts.

  • If your dog develops health problems that are covered by California’s lemon dog laws, the seller has a few choices.
  • They can reimburse your vet bills that are related to the health issue until that amount matches the purchase price of the dog
  • They can offer a replacement puppy

Some breeders choose to reimburse vet bills and offer a replacement puppy.

In some cases, breeders will ask for the unhealthy puppy back so that they can see it receives the health care it needs for the rest of its life.

Lemon Laws Don’t Apply to Pet Shelters

It’s important to understand that you’re only protected by California’s lemon dog laws if you purchase your dog from a breeder. If you adopt your dog from a shelter, you do so at your own risk.


Can You Leave the Scene of an Accident

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You’ve just been involved in an accident. As far as you can tell, it’s not a big deal. You barely bumped the other car’s back bumper. There can’t possibly be any damage to their car so surely it’s perfectly acceptable for you to simply drive around their car and get on with your day.


Leaving the scene of an accident is a very bad move that can land you in serious legal trouble.

As soon as you decide to leave the scene of an accident, you’re considered a hit and run driver. California lawmakers have little patience for hit and run drivers. It doesn’t matter how severe or minor the accident is, if you were involved, you’re legally required to stop your vehicle, survey the damage, and exchange name, contact information, and insurance information with the other driver. In most cases, it’s in your best interest to have the police investigate the accident. If you and the other driver decide that the accident doesn’t justify a police investigation, you’re still required to report the accident. You have 24 hours to notify the police.

If the accident involved someone getting hurt, you’re expected to provide assistance with the injury.

But What if You Weren’t at Fault?

Most people don’t realize that even if you’re not at fault for the accident, you can still be charged for a hit and run if you flee the scene of the accident. California law requires that all drivers involved in the accident remain on the scene.

What Happens if You’re Found Guilty of Hit and Run

Hit and Run accidents are one of California’s many wobbler laws. If the accident only involved property damage, you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor. If someone was killed or sustained an injury that required medical attention, you’ll be charged with felony hit and run driving.

The penalties for misdemeanor hit and run include:

  • Up to 180 days in a county jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • 3-years informal probation
  • Restitution
  • A 1-year suspension of your driver’s license
  • 2 points added to your driving record

The penalties for felony hit and run include:

  • Up to 3 years on a state prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Restitution
  • A 1-year suspension of your driver’s license
  • 2 points added to your driving record

It’s important to understand that in addition to being found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident, you will also be ticketed for whatever driving offense triggered the accident.


California’s Noise Protection Laws

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There’s nothing worse than noisy neighbors. Without fail, neighbors only seem to get noisy after you’ve had a long day and only want to crawl into bed and sleep for twelve straight hours. The more exhausted you are, the louder they seem to get.

Figuring out how to handle your noisy neighbors isn’t easy. Yes, California does have noise protection laws, but it can be difficult to know if they apply to your situation.

What are the Noise Protection Laws

Noise protection laws are designed to keep neighborhoods quiet. There are a few reasons for this. First, when the entire neighborhood is quiet, neighbors are less likely to get on one another’s nerves which in turn decreases the odds of neighbors committing petty crimes against one another. Another thing noise protection laws do is make it more obvious when there is a domestic dispute in the community, increasing the odds of the shouts getting reported, which in turn increases the odds of the police being able to step in before the situation escalates.

In addition to preventing your neighbors from blaring their radio in the middle of the night or mowing their law, noise protection laws also restrict the hours that commercial activities such as concerts, garbage collection, and construction projects can take place.

California’s noise protection laws are addressed in the Health and Safety Code 46000.

Who Enforces Noise Protection Laws

Different California cities have different organizations that are responsible for resolving noise-related disputes. In L.A., the Bureau of Street Services is sent to investigate noise complaints. In other cities, the local police force might handle the situation.

When a noise complaint is filed, the goal isn’t to bring your neighbor to court. The goal is to get both sides talking and try to come up with a compromise. In a surprising number of situations, the neighbors honestly didn’t realize that they were being loud and were happy to tone things down.

Should you Report Your Neighbors for Excessive Noise

Only you can decide if you should report your neighbors for excessive noise. Before you pick up the phone and file the complaint, you need to consider that the issue might drive a wedge between you and your neighbor, creating a strained relationship that could have a direct impact on the overall quality of your life.

In most situations, it’s best to talk to your neighbor and discuss the situation before getting the neighbors involved.


Evading Police in California

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Police chases might look exciting on television, but the reality is much different. Evading the police in California is dangerous, especially if the event takes place in a place that is heavily populated by either other drivers or pedestrians.

Fleeing from the police, even if they only want to question you, can result in serious legal consequences.

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