Stay Safe During Wildfire Season

Stay Safe During Wildfire Season

No one who lives in California is ignorant of wildfires and the havoc they wreak. No matter what part of the state you live in, you should know how to take care of yourself if a wildfire is in your area.

Have an evacuation plan in mind. Wildfires move fast and can change suddenly. Don’t wait until you receive evacuation orders to get things in order. As soon as you know that there is even the slightest chance that a wildfire could pass near you, create an evacuation plan. This plan should map out the best way to leave your neighborhood, already having overnight bags stowed in your vehicle, filling up the car’s gas tank, and having everything needed to move pets at the ready.

Rather than calling the fire department every few minutes, listen to reports on the radio/news program as they come in. When there’s a wildfire in your area, you should always pay attention to official reports. These reports will let you know if there’s a chance that wildfire will come closer and even more importantly, let you know if you need to immediately evacuate.

Charge your phones and make sure you have plenty of working batteries on hand. There is a good chance the power will be turned off so you’ll want to be prepared in advance. 

Once you have your own situation in order, connect with family, friends, and neighbors and find out how they are doing. An approaching wildfire is one of those times when everyone needs to pull together and lend a helping hand. Make sure everyone has the ability to evacuate and enough supplies to get them through if they have to stay home while the power is out. If they don’t try to help them find what they need. Offering just a little assistance during this time is the best way to make sure everyone survives.

Once everything is taken care of in your community, reach out to relatives and friends who live in another area. The odds are good that they already know about the wildfire and are concerned about your welfare. Touching base, even if it’s only through a social media post will give them some peace of mind. 

Stay safe this wildfire season!

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Driving Despite the Fact that a DUI Resulted in a Suspended California Driver’s License

Driving Despite the Fact that a DUI Resulted in a Suspended California Driver’s License

One of the consequences of a California DUI conviction is that you’ll lose your driving privileges. The county courthouse where you were convicted usually doesn’t waste any time when it comes to contacting the DMV and letting them know that your license has been suspended.

For many of us, the loss of our driver’s license is about more than simply a loss of independence. In many cases, especially for those who live in rural areas, it means you can no longer earn an income. 

In a perfect world, you would be able to use public transportation in order to get back and forth to your job while you wait for your California driver’s license to be reinstated following your DUI conviction. While this plan works in the larger cities that have buses, in rural areas, public transportation isn’t available and many live too far from the workplace to easily walk to work.

Too often, individuals who have a suspended driver’s license because of a DUI conviction decide to ignore the fact that they’re not legally allowed to drive and continue driving themselves to work and to other places. While this seems like it may not be a bad idea, everything changes when you’re caught driving on a suspended license following a DUI conviction.

Many people assume that driving on a suspended license is a simple traffic violation. They assume that if they’re caught, they’ll get a ticket and have to pay a fine. That’s not the case at all. The truth is that driving on a suspended license in California is a misdemeanor, meaning that if you’re caught and convicted, you’ll have another criminal charge on your record. If you’re convicted, the judge could sentence you to spend anywhere from 10 days to six months in a county jail and order you to pay a fine that’s as large as $1,000.

That’s for the first time you’re convicted for driving with a suspended license following a DUI conviction. The second time you’re caught driving with a suspended license, the potential consequences include a fine as large as $2,000 and up to a full year in a county jail.

If your license has been suspended, it’s in your best interest to convince someone for a lift or to appeal to the court about the possibility of restricted driving privileges which would at least allow you to drive yourself to and from work.

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What Happens When you Forge Credit Card Information in California

What Happens When you Forge Credit Card Information in California

Credit cards make life easier. While it would be nice if we could live on our weekly earnings, most of the time that simply isn’t possible. The credit card allows us to cover emergencies and other purchases during that times when we simply don’t have enough money for those expenses. 

Credit cards can also get us into trouble. Not only do you have to worry about the high-interest rates, but there is also the fact that eventually, the bill does have to be paid off.

Figuring out how to cover your monthly credit card bill is just one of the ways credit cards can get you into trouble in California. Engaging in credit card fraud is far more serious than having to skip a payment. Instead of simply messing with your credit rating, a credit card fraud charge could destroy your reputation and future.

California lawmakers created Penal Code 484f PC  to deal with the issue of credit card fraud. The code clearly states that: 

“(a) Every person who, with the intent to defraud, designs, makes, alters, or embosses a counterfeit access card or utters or otherwise attempts to use a counterfeit access card is guilty of forgery.

(b) A person other than the cardholder or a person authorized by him or her who, with the intent to defraud, signs the name of another or of a fictitious person to an access card, sales slip, sales draft, or instrument for the payment of money which evidences an access card transaction, is guilty of forgery.”

There are many different types of credit card fraud. Examples of different things that are considered credit card fraud include:

• Using a friend’s credit card without their permission
• Falsifying information on a credit card application
• Altering the numbers of an existing credit card
• Creating a fake credit card
• Stealing someone else information when applying for a credit card (which is also indemnity theft and could result in your being charged with both identity theft and credit card fraud)

 
Credit card fraud in California is one of the state’s wobbler offenses. That means the facts surrounding your case determine if you’re charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. 

When a credit card fraud case reaches the California court system, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant knew that they were engaged in an act of credit card fraud and that there was a probable cause to arrest them. 

For example, if someone routinely has access and permission to their parent’s credit card and accidentally uses it to make a purchase that wasn’t authorized by the parents, they simply made a mistake but didn’t knowingly commit credit card fraud. The same is true if a person accidentally types the wrong credit card number while shopping online. As long as it was an honest mistake, they won’t face criminal charges. 

If the prosecution does make a solid case and the defendant is charged with credit card fraud in California, the maximum sentence they face for misdemeanor credit card fraud is a year in a county jail. The maximum sentence for felony credit card fraud in California is three years in a state prison.

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Getting Caught With Explosive Materials in California

Getting Caught With Explosive Materials in California

There’s something so interesting about explosions and explosives. Some of us are simply fascinated by them. This fascination can get us into trouble.

If you’re the kind of person who likes explosives, you’ve probably already dealt with the temptation of looking up how to make different kinds of explosives. Maybe you’ve even tried a couple of different things, not because you wanted to do anything bad, but because you were curious and decided that there wasn’t anything wrong with building something on a small scale and setting it off in your backyard.

While you might not see how there can be anything wrong with satisfying your curiosity in a seemingly harmless matter, you should know that California lawmakers won’t agree with you. They’re anti-explosives, no matter how innocent your reasons for having explosive material may be.

The issue of explosives in California is addressed in Health and Safety Code 12085 HS.

The code states, “No person shall make, possess, or transport any explosive in a manner prohibited by this part or prohibited by any ordinance of a city, county, or city and county, or prohibited by the laws or regulations governing a harbor in those areas where such ordinance, laws, or regulations apply.

The easiest way to look at the law is that unless you have been given special permission by the proper authorities, you can’t make, possess, or transport anything that could be considered explosive in nature. If you aren’t sure if something is considered explosive, you should consider it illegal. In this situation, it’s in your best interest to err on the side of caution.

Getting charged with making, possessing, or transporting an illegal explosive in California isn’t a laughing matter. It’s a misdemeanor, not an infraction, which means that while you don’t have to worry about a guilty conviction impacting your rights to own a firearm or causing you to fail felony background checks, the conviction will leave you with a criminal record that could harm some areas of your life.

There aren’t a ton of defenses you can use when it comes to fighting a making, possessing, or transporting an illegal explosive in California charge, there are some you and your lawyer will want to explore. Some defenses that have been successfully used in the past include:

• False accusations
• That you complied with all local and state ordinances
• That you’d received permission from someone you could reasonably believe could grant you permission
• That you were arrested without probable cause 
• Entrapment

 
If you’re convicted of making, possessing, or transporting an illegal explosive in California, the maximum sentence you’d receive is up to six months in a county jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Additional charges could result in a longer sentence.

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California’s Stance on Battery of a Police Officer

California’s Stance on Battery of a Police Officer

Many people assume that assaulting an officer and the battery of a police officer are the same thing. They’re not. While the two terms are becoming increasingly interchangeable, when many of California’s laws were drafted, the term battery referred to a physical act that resulted in the victim sustaining an injury. 

As time passed, California’s legal system tightened up the laws, especially ones that involved police officers. Today, you can be charged and convicted of battery of a police officer even if that officer didn’t sustain an injury. Simply touching a peace officer in a manner that’s designed to be threatening, physically harmful, or offensive is enough for you to face battery of a police officer charges.

The topic of battery of a police officer is addressed in Penal Code 243c2 PC.

It’s important to note that while battery is typically connected to assaults on police officers, the law is written in such a way that all on-duty peace officers are included. Physically threatening a fireman or EMT has the same consequences as physically assaulting a police officer.

Battery of a police officer is one of California’s wobbler offenses. The circumstances surrounding the incident determine if you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. It’s in your best interest to seek a misdemeanor charge since the potential sentence is considerably milder. If you’re convicted of misdemeanor battery of a peace officer, the judge could sentence you to a year in a county jail. If you’re convicted of felony battery of a police officer in California, the judge could order you to spend as much as three years in a state prison.

There are some defenses that can be used in cases involving battery against a police officer. The best defenses are:

• Proving that you acted in self-defense
• Proving that you didn’t mean to assault the officer, that the touch was in fact accidental
• Proving that you had no way of knowing that your victim was a peace officer

 
The single best way to avoid a battery of a police officer in California charges is to always work hard at keeping your cool in tense situations, and always keeping your hands to yourself when you’re dealing with a peace officer. If you think you’re being treated unfairly, your best course of action is seeking legal advice rather than taking matters into your own hands.

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Felonies and the Rights of Californians to Own Firearms

Felonies and the Rights of Californians to Own Firearms

Theoretically, you have the right to bear arms in California. Where things get sticky is that the state has lots of laws that prohibit people from owning a gun. One group that isn’t allowed to purchase or even own a gun in California is felons.

The general rule of thumb in California is that anyone who has a felony conviction on their criminal record isn’t allowed to own a gun. That’s the rule of thumb, but there are some exceptions.

There are actually three different ways some felons are able to restore their gun rights in California.

They can:

• Appeal for a charge reduction
• Have their record expunged
• Seek and obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation and a Governor’s pardon.

 
These processes take time to complete and there is no guarantee the appeal will be accepted. If the appeal is denied, the individual’s felony record remains in place and they won’t be legally allowed to own a firearm.

Anyone who lives in California and has a felony record that hasn’t yet been changed must be aware that owning a gun is a serious situation. If the police find out that you own a gun, they will arrest you and you’ll be charged with yet another felony. If you’re convicted of owning/possessing a gun while you have a felony record, you could be sentenced to 3 years in a California state prison.
 
Even if you don’t have a current felony on your criminal record, you still may be prohibited from owning a firearm. In addition to some medical conditions and having a felony record, other things that can eliminate your right to own a firearm in California include:

• A prior conviction for a crime that includes the use of a violent firearm, even if that conviction was for a misdemeanor
• Having an outstanding felony arrest warrant
• Having a known addiction to narcotics

 
Don’t assume that just because your felony arrest and conviction took place in a different state that your felony record won’t impact your ability to own a gun in California. Those felonies are still felonies and will be discovered in a background search. Once the dealer sees you have a felony, no matter what state you lived in at the time, they will refuse to sell to you.

The interesting thing is that a federal felony may not prohibit you from owning a gun. The only way a Federal felony will strip you of your gun ownership privileges is if the federal felony:
 
The same conviction would be considered a felony in California

The sentence included spending thirty or more days in a federal prison or you were issued a fine that exceeded $1,000.

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Brandishing a Weapon in California

Brandishing a Weapon in California

Just a few days ago, a case involving brandishing a weapon in California cropped up in San Jose. At this point, very little is known about the case other than the police responded and the legal phrase “brandishing a weapon” was used.

If brandishing a weapon charges are filed against the person, it means that there’s evidence to support the idea that they violated California Penal Code 417 PC. This law reads:

“Every person who, except in self-defense, in the presence of any other person, draws or exhibits any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, in a rude, angry, or threatening manner, or who in any manner, unlawfully uses a firearm in any fight or quarrel is punishable.”

It’s important to understand that there is a big difference between getting a legally owned weapon out and showing it to your friends and family. As long as this is done in a safe manner that everyone is comfortable with, you have no worries. However, you do have to be careful about how you handle things. You must make the entire situation very harmless. If you’re in your yard or anywhere else where you could be casually observed by a passerby, you don’t want that person to think you’re brandishing a weapon. 

It’s also important to note that if you’re using the weapon because you’re afraid for your safety, you can’t be accused of brandishing a weapon in California, though you will likely have to prove that you did feel that you were being threatened. 

Brandishing a weapon in California is a misdemeanor. If you’re convicted you could be sentenced to a full year in a county jail. The good news is that once you have successfully completed the sentence, you can arrange to have the matter expunged from your criminal record.

If you are brandishing a firearm it’s possible that the guilty verdict will impact your immigration status and your ability to own a gun.

It is rare for a brandishing a weapon charge to be the only thing a person is charged with. Most of the time other charges such as blackmail, endangerment, and kidnapping, are connected to the case.

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What Happens if You Hurt Someone in a Drunk Driving Accident?

What Happens if You Hurt Someone in a Drunk Driving Accident?

Driving while drunk isn’t just frowned upon in California, it’s illegal. While you’re allowed to go out and have a good time, if that good time involves drinking alcohol, you need to pay careful attention to how much you consume. As soon as your blood alcohol level reaches 0.08%, you’re no longer legally allowed to drive. 

What Happens if You Get Caught Drunk Driving in California?

Don’t assume that just because you’ve never had a drunk driving offense that you have nothing to worry about the first time you’re charged with drunk driving in California. Even though it’s your first offense, it’s still going to have a massive impact on your immediate future.

First the fines. California law is written in such a way that in addition to being required to pay anywhere from $390-$1,000 in fines, you can also pay something that’s called penalty assessments. 

Once you’re convicted of first-time drunk driving the judge has the option of sentencing you to jail time. This is in addition to the fines. While there’s no mandatory jail time for a first-time drunk driving conviction, the judge could decide that you need to spend 48 hours to 6 months in jail.

Plan on losing your driving privileges. As soon as you’ve been officially convicted of your first DUI, your license will be suspended for six months. If you refused to submit to a bloc alcohol concentration test, an administrative license suspension could also be enforced which would mean losing your license for a full year.

What Happens if Someone is Injured Because you Were Driving Drunk in California

There’s no way of getting around the fact that if you injure someone while you’re driving drunk, you’ll face far more serious consequences for your actions than if you’re simply pulled over. How severe those additional consequences depends on several different factors including:

• If you have a previous history of DUI
• How severely injured the victim is
• Additional circumstances surrounding the incident

 
In California, DUIs that involve injuries are treated as wobblers, meaning they can be handled as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If the circumstances surrounding the incident indicate that your case is a felony, you could be sentenced to up to four years in prison and be required to pay a maximum fine of $5,000.

In addition to facing criminal charges, you’ll also likely be named the defendant in a civil case. During the civil case, your victim will seek financial compensation for both their medical expenses and their emotional/physical pain and suffering.

Considering the negative impact a DUI has on your life, it’s in your best interest to always have a designated driver whenever you go out and drink.

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Taking Alcohol to a California Prison/Jail

Taking Alcohol to a California Prison/Jail

Visting a loved one who is incarcerated is never easy, but you’re not allowed to attempt to numb the experience by bringing a bottle of alcohol to the jail/prison with you. Bringing alcohol to a California jail or prison is in direct violation of Business and Professions Code 25603 BPC.

It doesn’t matter if you intend on consuming the alcohol yourself or if you think it will make a nice present for your incarcerated loved one, simply having the alcohol with you can result in you getting into serious trouble. You’re not allowed to bring any alcohol to:

• California state prisons
• City jails
• County jails
• California reformatories

 
Don’t assume that getting caught bringing alcohol to a California jail or prison will simply result in it getting taken away. California lawmakers are serious about not wanting any alcohol in the jail system and have taken an extreme step to discourage anyone from bringing it into the buildings. 

Losing the bottle of alcohol will quickly become the least of your concerns. If you’re caught, you find yourself facing felony charges. The maximum sentence if you’re convicted is up to three years in a county jail and/or a $10,000 fine. You’ll also have a felony charge on your criminal history that could negatively impact several different aspects of your future, including your ability to find housing, qualify for assistance programs, and even find a job. And it will all be because of one mistake.

While there is a definite chance that the conviction could result in you spending some time locked in a cell, it’s also possible that instead of ordering jail time, the judge will sentence you to felony probation.

It’s difficult to mount a successful defense against a bringing alcohol into a prison charge. Difficult, but not impossible. Successful defenses that have been used in the past include:

• Coercion
• False accusation

 
You probably won’t be able to successfully use ignorance of the law as your defense unless you can prove that someone tricked you by saying that you were allowed to bring the alcohol to the jail, and even then, the odds probably won’t be in your favor.

Since ignorance of the law is unlikely to be a solid defense in a bringing alcohol to a jail charge, it’s in your best interest to get a copy of the rules that deal with prison and jail visitations. Pay careful attention to what you are and aren’t allowed to bring with you. You’ll find that there are several things you should plan on leaving at home.

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Misusing a Disability Placard in California

Misusing a Disability Placard in California

Disability placards aren’t something everyone in California can appropriate and use for their own purposes. Getting caught misusing a disability placard in California can land you on the wrong side of the law.

If you think you can misuse a disability placard and not get caught, you should think again. It’s easy for police to spot placard misuse. When they discover someone is misusing the placards, the police are usually quick to take action.

Disability placard misuse is dealt with in Vehicle Code 4461 VC. The law has multiple examples of how disability placards are not to be used. One such example is, “A person shall not lend a certificate of ownership, registration card, license plate, special plate, validation tab, or permit issued to him or her if the person desiring to borrow it would not be entitled to its use, and a person shall not knowingly permit its use by one not entitled to it.”

Other ways a disability placard can be misused include:

• Continuing to use a disability placard that has expired or that has been revoked
• Borrowing someone’s vehicle and using their placard even though you’re not disabled and they aren’t in the vehicle with you.

 
One could consider California’s Vehicle Code 4461 VC to be one of California’s wobbler laws, but instead of shifting between a felony and a misdemeanor, it could be handled as an infraction or a misdemeanor. 

A majority of cases involving the misuse of a disability placard are handled as an infraction. This is good news since there is no jail time, only a fine. That being said the fine can be really steep. The amount can range from $250 to $1,000.

If the case is handled as a misdemeanor, jail will be one of the possible consequences. The maximum sentence is six months in jail and/or a fine that could be as large as $1,000. In some situations, the judge will order misdemeanor probation rather than sending the defendant to jail. It’s also possible that the defendant will have to perform some type of community service and/or seek counseling.

The good news is that you’ll have nothing to worry about provided you are in legal possession of a disability placard and are good about making sure it never expires.

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