Who Can Own A Gun In California?

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It’s no secret that the U.S. Constitution contains a statement about the right to bear arms. When the Constitution was originally drafted, men were allowed to own a gun, but over time that has changed. For various reasons, laws and attitudes have shifted, and now some people simply aren’t allowed to own a firearm.

If you live in California and plan on purchasing a gun, you should know that California has some of the toughest gun laws in the United States. It’s worth noting that California’s most restrictive gun laws are constantly being challenged in Federal court and are subject to change so it’s in your best interest to routinely check the state’s current gun laws.

One of California’s gun laws is that to purchase a handgun, you must be at least 21 years old. Be prepared to provide proof of both your identity and your age when you purchase the handgun. If the identification is outdated or the person selling the gun feels it doesn’t look legit, they will stop the sale.

You also must earn your Handgun Safety Certificate. The written portion of this exam is designed to prove that you have a solid understanding of handguns and that you won’t misuse them. The test questions are designed to test how well you understand how to handle your gun, how it operates and to make sure you’ll use the gun responsibly.

Not every person who lives in California is allowed to own a gun. Several people are explicitly forbidden from owning guns, including:

  • Anyone who is currently involved in a probation program that prohibits gun ownership.
  • Anyone named in either a permanent or a temporary restraining order.
  • Anyone who has been dishonorably discharged from the military.
  • Anyone who is a registered sex offender.
  • Anyone with a diagnosed mental illness that the court believes indicates that they could be a danger to others and themselves.
  • Anyone who is currently addicted to drugs.
  • Anyone with a history of violent crimes.
  • Anyone with a past that includes a felony conviction.
  • Illegal residents.
  • Anyone who has been convicted of a type of misdemeanor named in Penal Code Section 29805.
  • Sex offenders who have been diagnosed with mental disorders.

If you are convicted of a violent crime or do something else that causes the state to revoke your privileges regarding gun ownership, you’ll have to get rid of any guns you currently own. The police are legally allowed to confiscate any weapons they find after your ownership rights have been revoked.

 

Leaving Your Pet Inside Your Hot Car In California

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Dogs love their owners and want to be with them all the time. In an attempt to keep our dogs happy, many of us take them with us when we run errands. On cold days, this isn’t an issue, but now that it’s summertime, it will be a while before Californians experience cool days which means it’s time to rethink taking your dog along on your grocery store runs.

California lawmakers passed laws that make it illegal to leave your pet in your vehicle at any time that there is a chance that they will be hurt before you get back. This includes when the temperatures soar to a point that your vehicle turns into an oven.

This means that even when the outdoor temperature is cool, you can’t leave your dog in the car all day if they don’t have access to fresh food and water. You also can’t leave them in the car if you have items in the vehicle, such a plastic shopping bags or heavy items that could topple.

The heat simply makes things works. The problem in the summertime is that many dog owners think that since they’re only running into the store for a minute or two, their dog will be fine. That’s not the case at all. It doesn’t take long for the car to get extremely hot. As the car heats up, your dog overheats, and heat stroke becomes a real threat. If you don’t return shortly, your dog will overheat to death.

As soon as the temperature reaches 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you need to be careful. Studies indicate that on a sunny 70-degree day, the interior of your car can reach 115 degrees in less than 30 minutes. Dogs start to experience heat exhaustion when it gets to 103 degrees.

If it’s warm out and someone spots your dog in the car, they’re legally allowed to break your vehicle’s windows and rescue your pet.

The broken car window will likely be the least of your concerns. If the police get involved, you can be charged with a $100 fine per each animal that was in the car. The amount will be higher if it’s not your first offense. If the pet needs medical attention, the maximum sentence increases to a $500 fine and six months in jail. In many cases, you’ll also face animal cruelty charges.

Now that the temperatures are consistently staying above 70 degrees, it is in your best interest to leave your dog home when you’re running errands.

 

Leaving Kids In Hot Cars In California

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Kids and hot cars are never a good combination. Everyone knows that, yet there is still an average of 38 children who die each year after they’re locked into a hot car.

In all fairness, nearly all of these cases are an accident. The child is strapped into their car seat in the back of the vehicle and the driver simply forgets that they’re there until it’s too late. There are even situations when the parent accidentally locked the car keys in the vehicle with the child.

While accidents do happen, children overheating in the car is something everyone would like to forget. If you’re traveling with a small child who can’t possibly let themselves out of the car, you need to figure out what steps you can take to make sure they aren’t accidentally forgotten. The hotter it gets, the more you’re going to have to worry.

One of the things that might help you remember that your child is in the backseat of your car is understanding that it’s illegal to leave your child there. California passed Kaitlyn’s Law in 2001. The law was created in memory of Kaitlyn Russel, who was only six months old when she died after her babysitter forgot her in a hot car for over two hours.

Kaitlyn’s Law not only makes it illegal to leave an infant in the car, but it also makes it illegal to leave an infant in the care of anyone who isn’t at least 12 years old if the vehicle is running or there are keys in the ignition and if there are unsafe conditions, such as overheating.

Kaitlyn’s Law makes it illegal to leave your unsupervised infant in the car period. So even if there is no danger of them overheating, you still have to bring them into the store or appointment with you.

Leaving a child under the age of six in a vehicle when they have no supervision can result in a $100 fine. It’s not unusual for the judge to waive the fine after you’ve completed a community education program.

In many cases, leaving a young, unsupervised child in the car, especially on a hot day, will result in you being charged with child endangerment. It is one of California’s wobbler offenses. In felony cases, you could face up to six years in prison. In misdemeanor situations, you could be sentenced to a year in county jail. In both situations, the Child Welfare Service will likely become involved and decide if you should retain custody of your child.

 

Failing To Properly Register Your Vehicle

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To legally operate a car in the State of California, you need a few things. You need a valid driver’s license, you need to have the car properly insured and the vehicle’s state registration needs to be complete. Both the insurance and registration can be expensive, especially when money is already tight. While most motorists try to scrape up enough to cover their insurance premium, many will look for creative ways to avoid the registration fee.

If you’re looking at the current cost of registering your vehicle and trying to figure out if the expense is worthwhile, you should know that if you don’t, you could face misdemeanor charges.

The issue of fake vehicle registration is addressed in California’s Vehicle Code 4462.5 VC.

If you’re pulled over and your vehicle registration is out-of-date, you’ll likely get a ticket for the infraction. You’ll also be ticketed for anything else you’ve done wrong, which could include speeding, failing to yield for a stop sign or driving without insurance. The officer also has the option to have your vehicle towed to the police impound lot. If the vehicle is towed, you’ll have to pay the towing fees and the impound fee before you can get it back. Most police impound lots charge a daily fee for each day that your car is there.

While all of those fees hurt, your bank balance isn’t done taking a hit. The DMV will also add additional late fees to your total when you do get your car registered, something you’ll likely have to do before the police will release it from impound.

If you try to hide the fact that your vehicle isn’t properly registered by doing things like:

  • Putting a different plate on the vehicle.
  • Presenting a fake registration to the police officer.

The situation becomes much worse. Not only will the police tow your vehicle, but you’ll also be charged with false vehicle registration which is a misdemeanor. If you’re convicted you could be sentenced to six months in jail and issued a $1,000 fine. The judge does have the option of using misdemeanor probation instead of jail time for your sentence.

When all is said and done, it’s in your best interest to hitch a ride with friends until you can get your car properly registered.

 

Are You An Accessory After The Fact In California?

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One of the more confusing criminal charges California has is the accessory after the fact. Many people don’t know that it’s possible to get into trouble for a crime that they weren’t involved with until well after the crime happened.

California law stipulates that anyone who basically takes steps to hinder a criminal investigation could be charged with accessory after the fact. This means that if you help or conceal a loved one who has committed a crime, you will likely find yourself in hot legal water.

An accessory after the fact charge isn’t something you should joke about. It’s a felony that comes with a potential sentencing that includes a three-year stay in one of California’s state prisons.

Accessory after the fact charges are touched on in California’s Penal Code 32 PC. It states that: “Every person who, after a felony has been committed, harbors, conceals or aids a principal in such felony, with the intent that said principal may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction or punishment, having knowledge that said principal has committed such felony or has been charged with such felony or convicted thereof, is an accessory to such felony.”

What it doesn’t get into is how serious a charge is or how to prepare to defend yourself against the charge.

Examples of things that could result in your being charged with accessory of the fact include:

  • Giving a person of interest a ride so they can evade law enforcement.
  • Providing a person of interest with a place to stay and failing to let the authorities know.
  • Giving someone money so they can run from criminal charges.
  • Knowing that someone has committed a crime and failing to tell the police.

One of the key components to being convicted of accessory after the fact is that you must know that the person you’re aiding was involved in a crime and/or that the police are actively looking for them. You can’t be charged with anything if you didn’t realize the friend who is sleeping on your couch was wanted in connection with the crime.

On the other hand, if the friend on your couch tells you that they committed a crime and you do nothing, the police and DA could decide to file accessory after the fact charges against you.

The best way to avoid accessory after the fact charges is to be upfront and honest with the police if they knock on your front door and start asking you questions about a recent crime.

 

Wildfire Prevention In California

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Wildfires have become a serious concern for anyone who lives in California. While lawmakers explore ways to help prevent wildfires, anyone who lives in or visits California is urged to take steps to prevent leaving a wildfire in their wake.

Don’t Set Off Fireworks

Yes, fireworks are a lot of fun, but they can also be incredibly dangerous. Even worse, they’re a fire hazard, which is why it’s best not to set them off, especially during California’s dry spells when a single spark can trigger a massive wildfire.

Don’t Smoke While Camping/Hiking

A surprising number of wildfires are started because someone just got a little careless while smoking. While they were hiking or camping, the individual didn’t think about the fact that the tiny bit of ash from their cigarette had the power to set the entire area on fire. All it needed was a few dry leaves.

If you’re going out hiking or camping, leave your cigarettes at home. If you’re smoking at home, make sure you always properly dispose of the ash/butts. It’s also a good idea to use a hose to thoroughly soak the area where you’re smoking. Damp grass isn’t likely to catch on fire.

Curb Your Off-Road Adventures

During the dry season, when the odds of a wildfire are high, you should put your plans to go off-roading on hold. There is too high a risk that your vehicle will somehow set off a spark that will ignite a wildfire. It’s safer to wait until the rainy season.

When the timing and conditions are right for off-roading, make sure you have your exhaust checked by a good mechanic. The purpose of this inspection is to make sure that your exhaust won’t throw any sparks that could leave a wildfire in your wake.

Be Smart While Camping

If you’re camping, you need to be smart and make sure you’re not doing anything that could result in a wildfire. Ideally, you should avoid starting a campfire, but if you do need a fire, keep it small, build the fire ring on the sand and have plenty of water on hand. When it’s time to put the fire out, completely soak the ashes. Keep the campfire small and make sure you’re not building it under any trees. Don’t build a campfire if there is a strong wind. Don’t leave the campfire unattended, not even for a minute.

What steps are you taking to prevent wildfires in California this fire season?

 

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.