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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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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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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California’s Air Pollution Laws

California’s Air Pollution Laws

Air pollution is a serious concern in California. Information collected by the American Lung Association five of the ten worse cities for air pollution are located in California. KVPR’s Karrie Klien reports that 75% of California’s residents routinely inhale air that’s extremely polluted. The Center of Public Integrity recently revealed that in Southern California, approximately 5,000 deaths are premature and can be linked to diesel exhaust fumes.

In an attempt to minimize the damage caused by air pollution, California has some of the strictest air pollution laws in the country. You should expect these laws to become strictly enforced as society becomes increasingly more concerned about the potential impact of air pollution and climate change.

California has more than one law dealing with the issue of air pollution. They have several. Laws designed specifically to minimize the damage done by air pollution in California are 42400, 42400.1, 42400.2, 42400.3, 42400.3.5, and 42400.4.

Individuals and businesses who violate California’s air pollution laws are often surprised to find that these violations aren’t infractions but are in fact actual misdemeanors. This means that if you’re convicted of violating any of the state’s air pollution laws, you will end up with an actual criminal record. It’s even possible that you’ll spend some time in jail.

While all of California’s air pollution laws are part of 42400 and all are misdemeanors, the legal consequences can vary from one law to the next. For example, if you’re convicted of violating HS42400.4, you could be fined up to $10,000 but not face any jail time. On the other hand, if you’re convicted of breaking HS 42400.3, the sentence could include a year in jail as well as a $75,000 fine. 

One of the interesting things about California’s air pollution laws is that they were designed in a manner that allows the prosecution and judges to determine the accused exact level of blame for the air pollution offense. This was done primarily for people who are involved in a business that’s connected to an air pollution offense. The amount of knowledge a person connected to the business had of the air pollution the business generated as well as if they had any real ability to do anything about the situation must be considered both when issuing charges and issuing sentences.

Considering how severe California’s air pollution laws are and the possibility of them becoming even stricter in the future, it’s in your best interest to take a step back and make sure that everything you use that emits carbon emissions is working properly. You should also make sure you stay on top of your vehicle’s emissions tests.

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Gun Violence in California and Ghost Guns

Gun Violence in California and Ghost Guns

Gun violence is an increasing concern throughout the United States. California isn’t an exception. In 2019, guns were connected to 2,945 deaths in California. About 1,600 of these deaths were ruled suicides while the remainder were connected to gun violence. In 2020, the number of gun-related homicides increased to 2,161 which represented a 30.3% increase.

While California lawmakers understand the importance of gun rights, they are also dedicated to decreasing the number of gun-related crimes that take place every single day. The determination to reduce gun violence has resulted in the state having some of the toughest gun laws in the country.

One of the newest ways California lawmakers are attempting to reduce gun violence is by cracking down on ghost guns. These are guns that are not purchased, but rather made with legally purchased parts. Once the various parts of put together, the gun is unregistered. It is also illegal in California. 

Technically, you are allowed to build a gun in California, but you have to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops first. In order to legally build a gun in the state, you have to contact the California Department of Justice and go through a strict application process that includes:

• Present legal proof of your identity
• Show proof of age
• A firearms eligibility check (If you can’t legally purchase a gun in California, you can’t legally build one)
• Provide detailed information about the type of gun you’re planning on building
• Have a current firearm safety certificate for California

 
If the DOJ approves the application, they’ll issue a registration for the homemade firearm.

The process doesn’t stop with the application’s approval.

Within 10 days of the applicant completing the weapon, they must prove that they’ve either engraved or otherwise created a way to permanently affix the registration number the DOJ issued to the firearm. Failing to submit this proof means they own a ghost gun which is illegal in California.

Getting caught carrying an unregistered or ghost gun in public has very serious consequences. Not only is having an unregistered gun a felony, if you’re convicted but you could also be sentenced to three years in a state prison. If you were trying to conceal the unregistered weapon while you don’t have a license to carry concealed, could add an additional three years to the sentence. If the gun has enhancements and has been used to commit a crime means additional charges and the strong possibility of a longer sentence.

Don’t assume that you can escape the charges by saying that you built the gun less than 10 days before you were caught with it and simply haven’t had time to engrave a serial number onto the weapon. This excuse won’t work unless the DOJ has an application to build the gun on file.

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Unlawful Imprisonment in California

Unlawful Imprisonment in California

Despite what some people think, unlawful imprisonment in California doesn’t refer to someone who has been convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. Legally speaking, unlawful imprisonment is a charge that is filed against someone who is accused of holding another person against their will. It’s not unusual for an unlawful imprisonment charge to accompany kidnapping, domestic abuse, assault, human trafficking, and even attempted murder charges.

The topic of unlawful imprisonment in California is addressed in Penal Code 236 PC. When you read through the law you’ll discover that unlawful imprisonment is the act of depriving another person of their personal liberty. Based on the way the law is written, you could theorectically be charged with unlawful imprisonment if you force someone to remain in their car for five minutes or if you restrict them to a house for a year. Where the duration of the imprisonment will have an impact is during the sentencing.

Two surprising examples of unlawful imprisonment include:

A police officer arresting a person when they lack a warrant A spouse grabbing onto their partner’s arm, making it impossible for the partner to leave the room

False imprisonment charges are quite serious so you’ll want to mount a solid defense. Defenses that have been successfully used in unlawful imprisonment cases include:

• The defendant had the victim’s consent
• Legal authority was in place
• Parental rights were being enforced
• Shopkeeper’s privilege

 
If the defendant is using consent as their defense, they should know that it’s not as easy as saying they had the victim’s consent. They’ll actually have to show consent or at least that there was a pattern of consensual behavior in similar situations. The best evidence of consent includes written/audio/video recordings and or witness testimonies. Most cases that involve permission and unlawful imprisonment have a sexual aspect that often includes bondage.

Considering how serious unlawful imprisonment seems, many people are surprised to find that it’s often a misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face up to a year in a county jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Where things get considerably more serious is if the investigation indicates that violence was used during the unlawful imprisonment. For example, if the accused attacked the prisoner with a knife/firearm/fists, they will be charged with felony unlawful imprisonment and could be sentenced to up to three years in a state prison. They will also likely face charges of aggravated assault, battery, etc.

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Smash n Grab Robberies

Smash n Grab Robberies

A type of robbery that has been dubbed smash n grab has started to plaque the United States, but it has become especially common in California

In November 2021 witnesses became alarmed when they noticed a large group of about 40 to 50 people swarm into a Bay Area mall. Members of the mob were armed with a variety of tools, including hammers which they used to break cases and threaten bystanders and mall employees. This was not an isolated incident.

Also in November, a San Francisco shopping center was hit by about 80 smash n grab robbers who swarmed into the plaza, quickly destroyed the interior, and took whatever merchandise caught their eye.

The alarming thing about the wave of smash n grab robberies that’s been plaguing California is how difficult it’s been for the police to do anything about the crimes. It’s not that local law enforcement agencies don’t want to put a stop to the smash n grab robberies, it’s just that they are overwhelmed. According to CNN, police statistics, there has been an alarming increase in crime rates since the start of 2020. In San Francisco, cases involving larceny and theft have increased by a staggering 88% while the overall crime rate has risen 52%. Local law enforcement agencies simply don’t have the resources available to handle the surge in criminal activity.

The big problem with the current string of smash n grab robberies is that they happen fast. It’s amazing how quickly a large group of people can swarm into a building, completely loot it, and disappear. They are usually able to accomplish their mission before the police have an opportunity to arrive on the scene. The sheer number of people involved in the robberies makes it dangerous for both bystanders and the police to interfere.

While the smash n grab robberies are a problem for the police, it’s important to note that not everyone walks away from the scene. When a Nordstrom was hit by a group of smash n dahs robbers, the police were able to apprehend 14 suspects. It’s possible that as time passes and the suspects arrange plea deals they will implicate more people which will lead to additional arrests.

Anyone who is considering becoming involved in a smash n grab robbery should note that if they are caught, they could face some extremely serious charges which include armed robbery, intimidation, and possibly even organizing a robbery. 

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Can you Sleep in Your Car in California?

Can you Sleep in Your Car in California?

The increasingly rising cost of renting an apartment in California has created an unusual trend. Instead of spending more than half their paycheck on rent each month, some people have taken to living in their cars. This is particularly common in the summer when the weather is warm enough to make life without a heater pleasant.

The increasing number of people who are sleeping in their cars has prompted many cities to start enforcing laws. Some California cities have laws that specifically address the issue of sleeping in your car.

In San Francisco, you’re not allowed to sleep in your car overnight. If you’re caught sleeping in your car, you could be fined up to $1,000. Despite the steep fine, many people continue to live out of their cars in the city. They can skirt the law by parking in a different location each night, making sure they aren’t parked in a place that’s going to attract attention and prompt people to call the police, and they don’t announce that they’re living in their car.

Los Angeles has a law that prohibits people from dwelling in their cars. When you read through the law, you’ll see that it specifically mentions living in your car between the hours of 9 pm and 6 am when your car is parked in a residential neighborhood or when it’s within 500 feet of a school, park, or government building.

If you’re interested in saving money by living in your car, there are a few things you should know. 

First, safety is important. Don’t advertise that you’re living in your car. Always park in areas with a low crime rate. Keep your doors locked. Be prepared to defend yourself if you hear someone trying to break into your vehicle.

Before moving into your car, set up a PO box so that you have a place for your mail. You should also consider joining a gym since that will provide you with shower facilities.

Since there is always a chance you could be caught living in your car and fined, make sure you set aside enough money to cover the fine and still have enough money left to live on.

Have you ever spent time living in your car? If so what are your tips and suggestions for making it a successful living situation?

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