What Is A Wrongful Death?

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If you’re confused by the term “wrongful death” you’re not alone.

Wrongful death is a legal term that’s used when a person’s death is believed to have been the direct result of a mistake, deliberate act or even neglect. In most cases, the term is only used when the deceased’s loved ones decide to file a legal claim in the person’s name.

Examples of wrongful death include:

  • Medical mistakes/misdiagnosis
  • Fatal car accidents
  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Murder

It’s important to note that a wrongful death civil case can be filed against a person even if no criminal charges are filed or the person is found not guilty of the criminal charges. The O.J. Simpson case is a perfect example of this. He was acquitted of criminal murder charges but found guilty of murder during the civil case.

California laws makes it impossible for anyone to file a wrongful death case on behalf of a late loved one. A best friend can’t file. Distance relatives can’t file. The way the law is currently set up, the only people who are able to file a wrongful death claim are spouses, parents and children.

It’s not unusual for a wrongful death case to be settled out of court. When this happens it’s not always clear how the settlement is divided.

If a settlement can’t be reached the case will go to trial. Two different amounts are discussed during the trial. The first is based on the economic damages the family sustained as a direct result of the wrongful death. This can include loss of the deceased’s wages, medical bills, funeral costs, court costs, etc.

The second part of the settlement is commonly referred to as “pain and suffering.” Determining how much pain and suffering the family suffered as a result of the wrongful death and what that computes to in financial terms is difficult and can vary greatly from one case to another.

In most wrongful death cases, it ultimately falls to the jury to first decide if a wrongful death occurred, and if so, how much the plaintiff is owed.

When it comes to a wrongful death case, the deceased’s loved ones have to decide relatively quickly how they want to proceed. California’s statute of limitations stipulates that the wrongful death case has to be filed with the court within two years of the incident.

 

Most Common Crimes In California

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The most common crimes in California vary from one county to the next. The stats can also change a great deal. Still, there are some crimes that are more prevalent than others.

Drug-Related Crimes

One of the interesting things about drug-related crimes in California is that the legalization of marijuana has reduced the number of drug-related arrests each year. It’s estimated that now that marijuana is legal, law enforcement agencies have an additional $200 million that is used to deal with other types of crime.

While legalizing marijuana has reduced the number of drug-related crimes the state deals with annually, drugs still take the biggest toll on California’s legal system.

Violent Crimes

The violent crime rate in California fluctuates. It increased in 2012 and decreased by 2.9% between 2018 and 2019. According to data collected in 2019, 60% of the violent crime arrests were aggravated assault only 1% involved homicides.

DUIs

Despite all the warnings about combining alcohol and driving, DUIs still represent a major crime problem in California. The good news is that people seem to be getting better about not drinking and driving. In 2008, there were 208,845 DUI arrests in the state. In 2013 there were only 155,599 reported DUI arrests.

Weapon Charges

Weapon charges represent a large chunk of California’s crime problem, though there is a wide assortment of charges which range from quite minor to extremely serious. Given the complexity of California’s laws regarding weapons, if you plan on carrying anything that could be considered a weapon it’s in your best interest to spend a great deal of time reading through all of the laws that pertain to that specific weapon. Don’t forget that weapon laws can change from one county to the next.

Property Crimes

A surprising number of property crimes take place each year in California. The good news is that they appear to be decreasing. Two major California cities, Ventura and Fresno reported an impressive 10% decrease in property crimes in 2019.

It will be interesting to see how crime rates change in a post-Covid-19 world.

 

Become Immune To Con Artists

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Looking back, it’s easy to see the early warning signs that you were dealing with a con artist who was running some type of scam. The problem is that while the con is going down, a good con artist not only makes everything seem legit, but they can also make it appear that not falling for their story would be downright silly.

The good thing is that there are some things you can do that will ensure you to never become the victim of a clever con artist.

Give Yourself Time To Think

No matter how well you know someone, no matter how urgent a situation/deal seems, never agree to anything at the spur of a moment. Always give yourself some time to step back so that you can think about the situation.

Most con artists know that triggering your emotions and convincing you to make a spur-of-the-moment decision is the best way to bilk you of money. That’s why they create scams that are designed to force you into making a spur-of-the-moment, emotional decision. A perfect example of this was a popular scam a few years ago where an elderly person would get a call from their “grandchild” who was in desperate need of bail money.

If the person refuses to leave you alone long enough to marshal your thoughts, it’s likely a scam, and you should immediately extract yourself from the situation.

Talk To Someone

Sometimes you’re simply too close to someone to see that they’re running a scam. When you aren’t sure if you’re being taken for a ride, the best thing you can do is talk to someone you trust and who has nothing to gain from the situation and get their impressions of the situation.

Identify High-Pressure Sales Tactics

Con artists and some salespeople use the same tactics. They take a high-pressure approach to marketing. Their favorite tactics include:

  • That the offer will only be available for a few minutes.
  • That it’s a one of a kind product/deal that’s in high demand.
  • That you’ll always regret not jumping at this opportunity.

In most cases, once you fail to fall for the high-pressure sales tactic, the con artist either drops the conversation altogether and starts looking for a new victim or becomes a bully and tries to force you into taking their deal.

If they start bullying you, calmly call the police and request their assistance.

Trust Your Gut

Your instincts are your best resource when it comes to identifying a con artist. If gut instinct is telling you that the person or situation isn’t good for you listen to it and remove yourself from the situation.

 

What Is Felony Stalking?

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While everyone knows that stalking is a crime, few realize that it can be a felony or a misdemeanor (and in some cases, the accused might be charged with both a felony and a misdemeanor).

Every single state has stalking laws. While the nuances of stalking laws vary from one state to another, for the most part, each state has the same description of what can be considered stalking. As a rule, any behavior that can be considered prolonged harassment, an obvious attempt to frighten someone, the unwanted monitoring of a person, using proximity to threaten a person or actions that lead to emotional distress is covered by stalking laws.

Anyone who engages in the following types of behavior will likely be charged and convicted of stalking in California:

  • Going out of your way to follow a person.
  • Frequently showing up at locations where you know a specific person will be.
  • Using GPS to monitor a person’s movements.
  • Constantly filming/photographing someone without their permission.
  • Obsessively monitoring someone’s social media accounts, phone calls/texts, reading their emails and studying their computer activities.
  • Going out of your way to gather as much information as you can about a specific person.
  • Leveling threats against a person or their loved ones (including pets) if they don’t spend time with you.
  • Instigating property damage.
  • Sending gifts and other forms of communication after you’ve been told to stop doing so.

The exact punishment a person receives following a stalking conviction in California often varies from one case to the next. When handing down a sentence, the judge looks at a variety of factors, including:

  • Your criminal history.
  • The type/intensity of the stalking episodes.
  • If the victim had a protective order that you ignored.
  • If anyone was hurt because of your actions.

The sentence for a misdemeanor stalking conviction can include spending a maximum of one year in county jail and being required to pay a fine that doesn’t exceed $1,000. In most cases, you’ll also be told that you’re legally required to stay away from your victim and that you’re also not allowed to contact them.

The sentence for a felony stalking conviction in California can include spending three years in state prison. If you have prior stalking convictions on your record, you could be sentenced to five years in prison.

While it’s true that it can sometimes be difficult to determine when stalking crosses the line from a misdemeanor and becomes a felony, the general rule of thumb is that anything that seems more intense than a simple harassment will likely be considered a case of felony stalking.

 

Keeping Lost Property In California

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There’s something about seeing a lost item, it doesn’t matter if it’s a pair of decent gloves, a wallet or an iPad, as soon as we see it, we face a dilemma. Should we keep it or should we turn it in? It can be a tough call and the more expensive the item, the harder the decision becomes.

It might help to know that California has a law that will clarify where you stand on keeping the lost property. Quite simply, the state of California considers it as theft.

The law is Penal Code 485 PC. It states that, “One who finds lost property under circumstances which give him knowledge of or means of inquiry as to the true owner, and who appropriates such property to his own use, or to the use of another person not entitled thereto, without first making reasonable and just efforts to find the owner and to restore the property to him, is guilty of theft.”

The truth is that in most cases, the lost property remains lost and the owner will never know you have whatever they misplaced. Normally the keeping of lost property only becomes an issue in situations where emotions are high. Examples of this include keeping a co-worker’s files, refusing to return your ex’s personal property, getting into an argument with your siblings about who actually owns your great-grandmother’s jewelry. The two other times this law comes up is when the found/misplaced item has some obvious value, such as a nice piece of jewelry, contains sensitive personal information such as a cell phone or computer or is alive, such as a pet.

The theft of lost property is one of California’s wobbler laws. In some situations, you will be charged with a misdemeanor and in other cases, it’s a felony. The value of the property is what usually determines what type of charge you’ll face.

If you’re convicted of misdemeanor theft of lost property, the maximum sentence is a six-month stay in the county jail. If you’re convicted of felony theft of lost property, you could be sentenced to as much as three years in a California state prison.

In many of these cases, the judge opts for misdemeanor or felony probation.

Possible defenses to a charge of theft of lost property in California include:

  • You are the item’s legal owner.
  • You did attempt to find the true owner.
  • You never intended to keep the item for your own purposes.

The best policy when you find an item that is lost is to simply turn it in, either at the nearest police station or government office. If you find the item near a business, you can also turn it into that business’s management team.

 

Safety Tips For College Students

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It’s the time of year when many young adults are preparing for their first semester of college. In most cases, this is the first time they have lived without the supervision and guidance of their parents. One of the things college-bound students should already be reviewing is how they can make sure that they have fun and manage to stay safe during their freshman year.

Always Be Mindful Of Your Safety

The great thing about living in a dorm is that the close living quarters means forming a tight bond with many of the people living on your floor. The downside to living in a dorm is that the sense of family and friendship can cause you to become lax when it comes to your safety. The biggest problem many students encounter while living in the dorm is that they become so comfortable that they start neglecting to lock their doors.

From day one, get into the habit of locking your door and double-checking the lock each time you enter and leave your dorm room.

Establish The Buddy System

While staying in your dorm and only going to classes will keep you safe, it’s not much fun. Rather than locking yourself away, get into the habit of creating a buddy system when you go out. Make a deal with a few different friends that no one goes home without the others and to keep an eye on one another the entire time you’re out and having a good time.

Keep Your Phone Charged

Each time you leave your dorm room make sure your phone is fully charged and that it’s easily accessible. It’s your first line of defense if you get into trouble while you’re out.

Pay Attention To Your Surroundings

When you’re out and about, pay attention to your surroundings. Stay in brightly lit areas. Stick to areas that are populated and heavily patrolled by campus security. Keep your eyes on the environment rather than on your phone.

Get Your Own Drinks

It doesn’t matter if you’re at a party, relaxing in your own room or at a local pizza place, always get your own drinks. You should also never leave your drink unattended. If for some reason you do have to walk away from your drink, discard the unfinished portion and get yourself a new one.

Don’t Be Afraid To Contact Campus Security

If your friends leave without you, it’s better to contact campus security and have them give you a ride back to your dorm than to try to walk home alone. Remember, that they’re paid to protect you.

Establish Patterns For Contacting Loved Ones

While you don’t necessarily want to always use the same route for going to classes and parties, you do want to establish good patterns when it comes to checking in with friends and family. Checking in on a specific day of the week and close to the same time each time is a good warning system if something goes wrong. If you don’t check-in, they know that they should contact the authorities and have someone do a physical check on you.

Following these safety tips and using common sense provides you with the tools needed to stay safe while also enjoying your first year of college life.

 

Can You Get Into Trouble For Using A Computer That Doesn’t Belong To You?

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We’ve all done it from time to time. Grabbed a friend or family member’s laptop to check our email or update our social media accounts. Most of us ask for permission first. But what if you don’t ask for permission? What happens if you simply boot up someone else’s computer and start using it.

While each situation is different, in legal terms, if you use someone’s computer without getting their permission first, you can be charged with a crime. You’d be charged with violating Penal Code 502 PC. This law states that: “It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this section to expand the degree of protection afforded to individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies from tampering, interference, damage, and unauthorized access to lawfully created computer data and computer systems. The Legislature finds and declares that the proliferation of computer technology has resulted in a concomitant proliferation of computer crime and other forms of unauthorized access to computers, computer systems, and computer data.

The Legislature further finds and declares that protection of the integrity of all types and forms of lawfully created computers, computer systems, and computer data is vital to the protection of the privacy of individuals as well as to the well-being of financial institutions, business concerns, governmental agencies, and others within this state that lawfully utilize those computers, computer systems, and data.”

This means that not only are you not allowed to boot up another person’s computer without their permission, you’re also not allowed to use their computer network or any of their software. You should also be aware that in most situations using another person’s cell phone without their permission would also be covered by the same law.

Most of California’s unauthorized use of a computer cases involve additional charges which frequently include fraud, identity theft and trespassing.

At this point, unauthorized computer access is one of California’s wobbler laws. The exact circumstances of the situation determine if you face misdemeanor or felony charges.

If you are convicted of misdemeanor unauthorized computer use, the maximum sentence is twelve months in county jail and a fine that doesn’t exceed $5,000. Felony convictions can include a three-year stint in state prison and as much as $10,000. Probation is an option in both felony and misdemeanor cases.

While there are defenses you can use in an unauthorized use of a computer case, putting one together isn’t easy. In order to win, you’ll have to prove that you were actually given permission or that you didn’t realize it wasn’t your computer (or cell phone).

The best way to avoid unauthorized use of computer charge is by trying to use your own as much as possible.

 

What Happens If You’re Caught Illegally Dumping Waste In California?

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It is becoming increasingly uncommon to find piles of waste on both private and public land. One of the main reasons for the trend of simply dumping unwanted waste on abandoned lots or the far corner of private property is because of illegal waste dumping laws in California.

California’s California Penal Code 374.3 PC deals with the issue of illegal dumping in the state. The law clearly states that: “(a) It is unlawful to dump or cause to be dumped waste matter in or upon a public or private highway or road, including any portion of the right-of-way thereof, or in or upon private property into or upon which the public is admitted by easement or license, or upon private property without the consent of the owner, or in or upon a public park or other public property other than property designated or set aside for that purpose by the governing board or body having charge of that property.

(b) It is unlawful to place, deposit, or dump, or cause to be placed, deposited, or dumped, rocks, concrete, asphalt, or dirt in or upon a private highway or road, including any portion of the right-of-way of the private highway or road, or private property, without the consent of the owner or a contractor under a contract with the owner for the materials, or in or upon a public park or other public property, without the consent of the state or local agency having jurisdiction over the highway, road, or property.”

The good news is that if you’re caught dumping illegal waste, you likely won’t be arrested, however, you will be fined. At best, the fine will only be $250 though it can be as much as $3,000. It’s important to note that every single day that the waste is left, it’s considered a separate infraction, so if you’re issued a $1,000 fine and the waste is there for five days, you’ll owe $5,000.

Fines are determined by both the size of the illegal waste dump and how many times you’ve been caught dumping illegal waste.

  • For a first offense, you’ll be charged $250-$1,000
  • The fines for a second offense are $500-$1,500
  • For a third offense, the fines are $750-$3,000

Don’t assume that just because you’ve been issued an illegal dumping fine that your option is paying the fine. There are some lines of defense that you can use when charged with this particular infraction. Examples of possible defenses include:

  • That you weren’t actually responsible for the waste.
  • That you made an effort to clean up the dumpsite, but were let down by the company you hired.
  • That the waste dump was an accident, for example, not knowing that a bag of trash had fallen off your truck.

Whether the waste was dumped intentionally or as part of an accident, it’s in your best interest to deal with the matter as quickly as possible.

 

Domestic Violence In California

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Domestic violence is a complex crime so it shouldn’t come as surprise to learn that the laws dealing with domestic violence are equally complicated.

The first step in unraveling this complex system is knowing exactly what domestic violence is. California defines domestic violence as actions that either harm or threaten to harm an intimate partner.

It’s important to understand that there are sub-categories of domestic violence which include:

  • Domestic battery (actual physical abuse).
  • Domestic assault (the use of words or actions to threaten physical abuse).

It’s not unusual for domestic violence cases to involve both domestic battery and domestic assault.

California law is written in such a way that only a limited number of people can file domestic violence charges. At this point, domestic violence charges can only be filed by:

  • Spouses
  • Registered domestic partners
  • Live-in lovers (also considered a cohabitant)
  • Someone who shares a child with the accused
  • Fiancées
  • Someone who has been in a steady romantic relationship with the accused

California law states that both current and former domestic partners can file domestic violence charges.

Many people are surprised to learn that domestic violence is one of California’s wobbler crimes. That means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. When the prosecutor is looking at the case, they consider many variables when deciding if they want to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges.

Considerations include:

  • Circumstances surrounding the incident
  • How badly the victim was injured
  • The accused’s criminal past
  • The couple’s history (have there been numerous reports of domestic violence)

If convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault, the accused could spend the next year in county jail. If convicted of felony domestic assault, they could be sentenced to four years in state prison. The punishment for misdemeanor domestic battery includes a year in county jail and a $2,000 fine.

 

Documenting A Car Accident

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If you haven’t been in a car accident yet, you should consider yourself lucky. Considering how much time we spend behind the wheel, the odds are good that sooner or later you’ll be involved in one. Because of the likelihood of getting into a car accident, it’s important to know what the proper protocol is during an accident.

The first thing you need to do is make sure neither you nor anyone else is hurt. If there are injuries, call for medical help and do as much first aid as possible. During this, you should also contact the police.

When there are injuries, dealing with those should always be your first priority. Let the police handle writing up the details of the accident.

If there aren’t any injuries, you should still call the police, but while you’re waiting for them to arrive on the scene, take some time to create your own documentation of the accident. Thanks to the installed camera inside your smartphone this is easier than ever. All you have to do is whip it out and start snapping photos.

Having clear accident scene photos is extremely important. Unlike a police report that can be dismissed by a judge as hearsay, the photos you snap at the accident can be used during a civil trial. Your insurance company might even use them as they try to determine how the accident happened and who is at fault. The photos also help provide proof of who actually witnessed the accident.

When you’re snapping photos, you’ll want to take pictures of both vehicles, anyone who is standing nearby and the local landscape. Make sure you include shots of road signs, objects that could have helped cause the accidents, intersections and traffic lights.

As soon as you can, sit down and write your own account of what happened in the moments leading up to the car accident. You should do this even if you believe the accident was your fault. Once you’ve completed writing your own report, save it and the photos you snapped somewhere safe. It’s really in your best interest to store copies in multiple places, such as one set in a cloud storage unit, a few more saved to various email locations and maybe a hard copy in your filing cabinet.

You need to keep the photos and your account of the accident for a full two years. After two years, California’s statute of limitations for car accidents kicks in and you’ll no longer have to worry about a civil lawsuit.