Understanding Felony Probation In California

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In some situations, when you’re convicted of a felony, a judge might decide that instead of spending time in prison, you can stay home and be placed on what is referred to as felony probation. While there are always exceptions, felony probation in lieu of prison time is usually only considered for what are regarded as mild felonies or in the case of first-time offenders.

Anyone who is convicted of a felony that involves a violent crime such as murder and felony sexual assault will not be eligible for felony probation. If you have a history of violence, even if those charges were misdemeanors and you’re currently being convicted of a non-violent felony, a judge will be unwilling to consider felony probation.

The key to felony probation in California is that you have to adhere to all of the rules connected to the probation. Failing to meet a single requirement or doing something you were told not to do while on probation will result in you being sent to prison.

If the judge decides that you’re a good candidate for felony probation, you’ll hear the term suspended sentence. This term is used to provide formal notice that should you violate the terms of your probation, you’ll be sent to prison. Should you get into trouble while you’re on felony probation, not only could the judge decide to chose to sentence you to jail, you could also face additional criminal charges.

Don’t expect felony probation to be something you can just breeze through. Most felony probation periods last from 3-5 years. During this time, your life will be under intense scrutiny and there will several terms and conditions you’ll have to meet.

Conditions that are attached to felony probation often include:

  • Regular meetings with your probation officer
  • Drug tests
  • Paying restitution to your victims
  • Mandatory community service
  • Submitting to home searches
  • Avoiding people who are specifically mentioned in the terms of your probation
  • Agreeing to not leave California

If you’re granted felony probation, it is in your best interest to pay careful attention to what the judge says. If you have any questions about the terms of your probation, you need to take those questions directly to your lawyer or probation officer. If you do make a mistake while you’re on felony probation, you should be honest about it, which could make a judge more tolerant and less likely to revoke your probation.

 

Non-Violent Crimes In California

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When the average person thinks about criminals, they assume that the jails are full of violent people. It’s easy to think that these people should be off the street.

The truth is that a vast majority of the people who make their way through California’s legal system and land in jails and prisons are actually accused of and convicted of non-violent crimes.

Examples of non-violent crimes in California include:

The bulk of California’s non-violent crimes are actually drug and alcohol-related. Examples of these include public intoxication, drug possession and driving with an open container.

The second most common types of non-violent crimes in California involve things like property damage and theft.

The high number of non-violent crimes in California deals with each year is why there are so many different types of prisons in the state. There simply isn’t any reason to have someone who was convicted of embezzlement but who has never shown any violent tendencies to be sharing a cell with someone who has been charged with multiple felony assaults. Not only would this pose some serious security concerns, but it would also potentially open the state up to lawsuits if the embezzler was hurt.

Minimum security prisons are a good choice for non-violent individuals who have been convicted of felonies and sentenced to prison time.

It is important to understand that there are serious consequences associated with non-violent crimes. In many situations, the time spent in jail and any fees attached to the sentencing are just the tip of the iceberg.

Many people who have been convicted of a serious non-violent crime in California have found that their criminal history made it difficult to enjoy what others consider basic rights. Examples of this include:

  • Loss of gun ownership rights.
  • The inability to obtain professional licenses.
  • Difficulty in finding employment and even being banned from certain industries/job opportunities.
  • Educational challenges and limitations.
  • Difficulties finding housing.
  • Financial limitations.

The good news is that not all hope is lost for individuals who have been convicted of felony non-violent crimes. Many people believe that the non-violent nature of these individuals makes them ideal candidates for recovery and rehabilitation programs. The hope is that by showing them how bad choices led to their current situation, they can avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

One of the mistakes that some people make is thinking that because they have been charged with a non-violent crime that their situation isn’t serious. It really is. As soon as you realize you’re going to be arrested, it’s important to start looking at all of your legal options so you can start putting together a plan that will minimize the damage the charges could potentially do to your future.

 

Safe Hiking Tips For California’s Trails

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California has some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world. California weather provides you with the perfect excuse to hit those trails and enjoy some high-quality hikes. Before you do, make sure you take a few minutes to consider your safety.

Be Realistic About Your Fitness

Let’s face it. Most of us aren’t as in shape as we’d like to be. Overdoing it and getting exhausted while on one of California’s hiking trails differs from getting too tired while working out at the gym. It’s far more dangerous. When hiking it’s better to underestimate your stamina and fitness than to overestimate it.

Don’t assume that being out of shape means you shouldn’t go hiking, it just means you need to do a little more planning. Consider both the length of the hike, if there are places to sit, how shaded the trail is, if the terrain is rough or smooth and the site’s overall elevation before starting your hike. Make sure you’re going to have enough energy to return to your car.

Bring Water

You’re going to get hot quickly. The heat and exertion increase the odds of your dehydrating so make sure you have plenty of water in your pack. Frequently take small sips, even if you don’t think you’re thirsty. Dehydration is something that sometimes catches people by surprise.

Pack A First Aid Kit

When you’re putting together your hiking pack, make sure there is a small, well-stocked first aid kit tucked into it. The first aid kit should include some topical antibiotics, band-aids and a wrap.

Be Aware Of Your Surroundings

While you’re hiking, keep your head up and your eyes off your phone. You need to be aware of your surroundings. Know what people are around you, be ready for wildlife and dogs that are off-leash. Don’t forget to pay attention to any stinging insects.

Let Someone Know Where You Are

Even though you might prefer hiking by yourself, you should at least make sure someone knows what trails you’re going to be on and when you intend to be done hiking. Letting someone in on your itinerary helps them know if you don’t return on time and helps them direct people to the area where they should start looking for you.

Don’t assume that just because all of your past hikes have been successful that you won’t get lost or hurt on your next one.

When it comes to hiking, you always want to make safety your priority.

 

Is Drug Possession A California Felony?

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It might surprise you to learn that the bulk of the drug possession charges that make their way through the California legal system are actually misdemeanors.

For the most part, the type and amount of drug a person is in possession of when they’re arrested determine whether they’re charged with misdemeanor or felony drug possession in California.

California has divided drugs into different “Schedules” which helps determine how a person who is in possession of certain drugs will be charged and what the consequences will be if they’re convicted. Schedule V drugs are prescription drugs that have few addictive properties and are rarely abused. In comparison, Schedule I drugs are drugs that have little to no medicinal value and have a high risk of addiction and abuse. Examples of Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, peyote and ecstasy.

A guilty conviction of first offense misdemeanor drug possession in California can result in a maximum sentence of one year in jail, up to a $1,000 fine and community service. The sentence can double if the convicted has a history of drug possession charges on their record.

The sentencing becomes significantly more severe when a person is found guilty of felony drug possession in California. A guilty conviction can have a sentence that ranges from 16 months to 3 full years in a state prison. The sentence will also often include large fines, community service and felony probation.

It’s important to note that additional charges can be added to simple drug possession charges in California. A guilty conviction of a possession with intent to sell has a much more severe sentence and long-term implication than a simple drug possession conviction.

Other things that can make a drug possession charge worse include getting caught with drugs while committing another crime, such as burglary. Having the drugs on you when you assault another person. Having drugs and a weapon in your possession at the same time.

Getting caught with drugs, even a small amount of a relatively minor drug when a person is within 1,000 feet of a posted, no-drug zone, is even more severe. When you’re caught with drugs in a drug-free zone, you violate a federal law that very clearly states that the sentence will be twice the maximum punishment you’d normally face when convicted of a drug possession charge. That applies to both drug possession misdemeanors and felonies.

 

What’s The Difference Between An Accomplice And An Accessory?

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If you think an accessory and an accomplice are the same thing, you’re not alone. Lots of people think that way. However, in the eyes of the law, they are actually two very different people.

Both accessory and accomplice are terms the legal system uses to refer to people who were involved in a crime. The difference is how much knowledge and participation the person had.

An accomplice is someone who knows about the crime and voluntarily helps. This can be someone who signals that a building is open, provides a person with someone’s banking information or drives the car that’s used to make a fast getaway from a crime. There are situations when an accessory can be charged as both an accomplice and an accessory. Accomplice charges are usually written up as aiding and abetting.

From a legal standpoint, an accessory is someone who gets involved with the crime after the fact. Typically, they learn about the crime and work to help misdirect the police with the idea that it will help the actual perpetrator evade charges. A person can be charged as an accessory without also being an accomplice.

When trying to decide if an individual should be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, the prosecutor has to look at the individual’s history and the type of crime that was committed. In many cases, the deciding factor is whether the original crime is a felony or misdemeanor.

The maximum sentence attached to a misdemeanor accessory conviction is a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The maximum sentence for a felony accessory conviction is a $5,000 fine and three years in a state prison.

The way that California’s aiding and abetting laws are written means that an accomplice can face the exact same consequences for the crime as the person who actually committed the act. For example, the getaway driver of a bank is technically an accomplice, they didn’t rob the bank, they simply drove a car. However, as an accomplice, they will still face bank robbery charges. Whether they face as severe of charges as the individual who actually broke into the bank will depend on several different factors.

To convict someone as an accomplice, the prosecution has to prove that they had knowledge of the crime, knew they were assisting in the crime and that they were doing so voluntarily.

 

How To Handle A False Accusation Of A Crime

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One of the biggest fears most people have is that they will be falsely accused of a crime and the accusation will destroy their life.

It’s difficult to get a handle on how big a problem false accusations are for the judicial system, but the one thing everybody agrees on is that false accusations do happen. One lawyer estimates that about 30-40% of the cases they handled throughout their career involved a client who had either been falsely accused of a crime or had been over-charged for crimes.

Avoid the temptation to rant and rave and yell about false accusations. It is in your best interest to remain calm and listen to what the police have to say. While being upset is perfectly understandable, losing your temper will likely only result in you missing important details that you can use in your defense and could even lead to additional charges.

The second thing you need to do is forget any idea that you can resolve the matter by yourself. You need to contact an experienced criminal law lawyer and hire them as quickly as possible. Once you’ve hired your lawyer, make sure they are always present whenever you speak to the police. Let them know that you were falsely accused of the crime you’ve been charged with. Not only will your lawyer help you prepare a solid defense and navigate the complicated process, but they also have the tools and resources needed to get to the heart of the false accusations and will use the information they gain to get the charges dropped.

When it comes to false accusations, your first priority is proving your innocence. Once, you’ve done that, you and your lawyer can decide how you want to handle the person who made the false claims.

You can choose to press both criminal and civil charges against the person who filed false charges against you, but there is one thing you must keep in mind, the burden of proof is on you. Proving that they were the person behind the accusations that led to charges against you is usually the easy part. The difficult part is proving that they knew they were falsely accusing you and did so with malice.

The most important thing to remember when you’re dealing with a false allegations case is that any communications between you and the person who falsely accused you must be handled by your lawyer. Any direct contact between you could jeopardize your case.

 

Off-Roading In California State And National Parks

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Off-roading isn’t just a lot of fun, it’s also a great way to see parts of California’s state and national parks you wouldn’t otherwise get to see. Off-roading provides you with the means to visit more remote areas than the traditional roads take you to, while also allowing you to cover more ground than you would if you were hiking or biking.

While there are many benefits connected to off-roading through California’s state and national parks, going off-road also means you have some additional responsibilities you must adhere to.

Make Sure Your Permit Is Current

You’re not allowed to hop into your ATV and start tooling around California’s state and national parks. The only people who are allowed to enjoy off-road adventures are those who have the proper permits.

If you’re going on an off-road adventure in one of California’s state parks, you need to fill out an application with California’s Department of Parks and Recreation. The vehicle you are using must comply with current state environmental codes, and your off-highway vehicle permit must be kept current. The OHV permit is $25 if you’re purchasing a season-long pass. You only have to pay $5 for a day pass.

If you’re not a California resident, you still have to purchase an OHV permit before you can embark on an off-road adventure through the truly stunning state parks. The cost of the permit for non-residents is $30.

Off-Roading In National Parks

Some people make the mistake of thinking that because they got an OHV permit from the state, that they can also go off-roading in California’s national parks. That’s not the case. The National Park Service manages the National Parks and has its own permit. You’ll have to contact the National Park Service to learn about the application process and cost of the off-road permit.

Follow The Rules

Don’t assume that your off-road permit allows you to go anywhere and do whatever you want. That’s not the case at all. The National Park Service in particular is diligent about enforcing rules that pertain to what you can and can’t do while off-roading. Breaking one of the rules could end up costing you a lot of money.

If you’re going off-roading it’s important to find out exactly where you can and can’t go. Most parks have maps and even post the areas where you’re not allowed to take your off-road vehicle.

Simply getting caught off-roading in a section of a National Park, where off-roading is prohibited, is considered a violation of Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations. If you’re convicted of the violation, you could be sentenced to as much as 6 months in prison and also fined $5,000. Additional charges that are often added to this violation include violating an endangered species, littering, wildlife, plants, and natural or cultural features violations, and damaging archeological resources.

 

What Are Romance Scams?

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Romance scams don’t get as much media attention as they probably should. This probably stems from the fact that many victims are embarrassed or ashamed that they fell for the con, that they rarely report the matter to the police and are even less likely to discuss the situation with the media or even alert their friends and family member to what had happened.

The problem with the victim’s reluctance to discuss the situation is that it encourages the perpetrators of romance scams to continue running the con on other people. The unwillingness to talk about the matter also makes it difficult for the scammer’s next victim to know what they need to be on the lookout for.

The FBI is trying to build awareness of romance scams and provide people with the education needed to identify the early signs of trouble, so they can avoid getting drawn into a scam. The FBI states that, “romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.”

The perpetrators of romance scams are extremely good at what they do. Not only do they excel at identifying and creating a strong connection with individuals who are in a mental/emotional space that makes them prone to falling for the scam, but the perpetrator also usually presents a strong case for why it’s natural to send them money, even though the perpetrator and victim have likely never met face-to-face.

Romance scammers can make a great deal of money from a single victim. In 2016, a man who claimed to be a US Army captain who was stationed far from home in Syria created an account on a digital pen pal site. He connected with a young woman and quickly became a romantic interest. By the time the relationship ended, he had managed to con his victim out of about $200,000.

When she realized that she was being conned, the victim was hurt, frustrated, broke and furious. Knowing that she had been conned, she filed charges against her perpetrator. During the course of the investigation, the authorities discovered that she’d actually been in contact with two men who were living in California and had planned an elaborate scheme.

“FK estimates that she made 35 to 40 payments over the 10 months that she had a relationship with Garcia. During that time, the fraudster(s) emailed her as many as 10 to 15 times each day, and Garcia was asking her to make the payments, so she kept paying to accounts in Turkey, the UK and the US,” the federal criminal complaint says.

When she filed charges, the case became a part of an investigation of an international online scam. Details uncovered during the investigation led to US prosecutors deciding to file charges against 80 people. The prosecutors claimed that the individuals who were charged had managed to make $6 million (or more) from their various cons, most of which involved elderly women or businesses. “We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in US history,” US Attorney Nick Hanna said when asked about the case.

While romance scams were a big part of the investigation, Hanna is quick to point out that the fraud didn’t stop with romance. Investigators discovered that the same group of people also hacked escrow company email systems and skimmed money, they created accounts that allowed themselves to impersonate employees and would steal direct deposit paychecks, and more.

Cases like this are a perfect example of why both women and men need to understand what romance scams are, learn how to identify the early warning signs that they’re about to become involved in a romance scam and learn how to extract themselves from the situation before it costs them everything they’ve worked so hard for.

 

Telemarketer Fraud

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If you hate telemarketers, you’re not alone. Legal Beagle reported that in 2017, Bank my Cell conducted a survey that revealed that out of 1,200 people, 75% of them actively avoided calls that they knew were from telemarketers. 85% of the people who responded to the survey reported that even the thought of dealing with telemarketers triggered anxiety-related issues.

The reason most of us loathe dealing with telemarketers is that the calls are time-consuming and the person on the other end of the line keeps pushing even though we’ve told them no several times. Most of us also hate feeling guilty when we have no option but to hang up on the irritating telemarketer.

It turns out, there’s another reason to avoid telemarketers. That reason is telemarketing fraud.

Cornell Law School defines telemarketing fraud as: “Phone and telemarketing fraud refers to any type of scheme in which a criminal communicates with the potential victim via the telephone. Because many reputable companies use telemarketing to conduct business, criminals can often effectively use the method as a way to obtain a victim’s credit card information or identity and then use this information to make unauthorized purchases elsewhere. Victims have difficulty distinguishing between reputable telemarketers and scam artists. Frequent victims of telemarketing scams include the poor, the elderly, and immigrants without strong English skills.”

Examples of common telemarketing fraud include:

  • Selling a fake product via the telephone.
  • Telling you that for a seemingly nominal amount of money, you’re eligible for a free product/service/trip that the telemarketer has no intention of giving you.
  • Fake debt collection calls.

Telemarketing fraud is illegal in California. Cases involving telemarketing fraud are covered by California’s general larceny statutes which are defined in California Penal Code Sections 484-490.

In California, if the amount of money/good gained through a telemarketing fraud case is less than $900, it’s considered a petty theft case. Sentencing can include six months in jail and a large fine.

If the telemarketing fraud case involves damages greater than $900, the accused will face felony charges. If convicted, they could be sentenced to a full year in prison, charged up to $10,000 in fines, and ordered to pay restitution to the victims.

One of the biggest challenges connected to telemarketing fraud is that many of the cases happen in different states or even different countries, which makes pursuing legal action difficult.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud is not agreeing to any offers or providing any financial information until you’ve had a chance to thoroughly research the offer/business.

 

Racketeering In California

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If you’ve ever gotten hooked on one of TV’s procedural crime shows, it’s likely you’ve heard the word, RICO, thrown around in a few episodes. The word refers to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, which was passed over fifty years ago in 1970. The purpose of the act was to crack down on racketeering.

Investopedia defines racketeering as, “criminal acts, typically those involving extortion.” Investopedia goes on to say that most racketeering charges involve the use of corrupt and illegal methods for acquiring businesses.

While racketeering is most commonly associated with business dealings, it’s not unusual for racketeering charges to also involve additional criminal activities such as:

Most people associate racketeering with organized crime though there have been several cases that involved an individual or a single business.

California’s lawmakers are serious when it comes to racketeering charges. In addition to federal laws that are designed to discourage racketeering, the state also has individual laws which are covered in the California Penal Code Section 186.

If the police and prosecutors are able to put together a case that indicates that you were involved in two or more related crimes that fall into the category of racketeering, that involved the acquisition of property valued at $100,000 or more, the two crimes can be folded into a single criminal proceeding and you can face consecutive punishments for the felony offenses.

Basically what that means is that while the court can handle the separate racketeering charges as a single case, if you’re convicted, you could be sentenced as two separate cases.

It’s worth noting, that in this situation, by two separate crimes, the prosecution has to prove that you used “racketeering” methods on two different victims, or on the same victim but in two different situations/instances.

While the exact sentencing in racketeering cases varies based on the defendant’s history, the value of the property they acquired, and the exact circumstances of the event, possible sentencings include:

  • 20 years in prison
  • Felony probation
  • Felony parole
  • Being detained in your home
  • Large fines
  • Restitution (which can be up to three times the amount of the actual damages)
  • Court ordered forfeiture of assets
  • Court-ordered counseling

Mounting a defense against racketeering charges isn’t easy. It’s something you shouldn’t do without the assistance of an experienced lawyer.