Obstructing The Police In California

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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, obstructing the police is, “The offense of hindering a police officer who is in the course of doing his duty (Police Act 1996 s 89). “Obstruction” includes any intentional interference, e.g. by physical force, threats, telling lies or giving misleading information, refusing to cooperate in removing an obstruction or warning a person who has committed a crime so that he or she can escape detection (e.g. warning a speeding driver that there is a police trap ahead).

It is not, however, an offense merely not to answer or to advise someone not to answer, police questions that he does not have to answer. A police officer is acting in the course of his duty if he is preventing or detecting crime (in particular, breaches of the peace) or obeying the orders of his superiors. However, he is not acting in the course of his duty when he is merely assisting the public in some way unconnected with a crime. When the obstruction amounts to an assault, the offense is punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine.

One may be guilty of this offense even if the police officer was in plain clothes.”

The California legal system adheres closely to this definition.

Penal Code Section 148 deals with the legal ins and outs of obstructing the police. The purpose of the law is to make it possible for officers to investigate crimes without having to worry about outside influences having a potentially negative impact on the case.

If you take the time to read through Section 148(a)(1), you’ll discover that obstructing the police charges can be filed against you if you do anything that is considered resisting, delaying or willingly obstructing the police’s ability to conduct an investigation. While obstruction charges typically involve police matters, they can also be filed against anyone who interferes with an EMT, peace offices or firefighter.

Examples of obstruction include:

  • Resisting arrest
  • Deliberately delaying an officer from reaching the scene of a crime/accident/person of interest
  • Attempting to communicate with a suspect that is clearly in police custody
  • Actively giving the police wrong information

One of the interesting things about obstruction charges is that you have to willingly know you’re obstructing the police. Charges shouldn’t be filed against you if you didn’t know that an investigation was taking place or if you didn’t actually know the answer to a question a police officer asked you during the course of an investigation. The same is true if you inadvertently dispose of a piece of evidence that you didn’t know what part of a crime that was under investigation.

Obstructing the police in California is a wobbler defense. The exact circumstances of the case determine whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

If you’re convicted of felony obstruction in California, you could be sentenced to up to 3 years in a state prison and have to serve felony probation.

Obstruction cases are always complicated. Given the difficult nature of these cases, it’s in your best interest to quickly seek out a good lawyer and get the case cleared up as quickly as possible while the details remain fresh in everyone’s mind.

 

Understanding Statute Of Limitations In California

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Statute of limitations is a term that gets thrown around a lot on legal shows but not everyone fully understands what they are.

The truth is that the statute of limitations is a very important legal term that addresses whether or not you can be charged for an old crime. The problem is that different crimes have different statutes of limitations.

For example, in California, the statute of limitations on felony fraud, public official misconduct and embezzlement against dependents crimes is four years. In these types of cases, it’s important to understand that the four years don’t necessarily start when the crime is committed but rather when the crime is discovered or the completion of the offense. The prosecutor will look at which date is closer when determining if the statute of limitations has expired.

The statute of limitation for most felony sex offenses that require you to have your name placed on the sex offender registration is ten years. The exception is some felony sex crimes committed against a child which have a statute of limitations that’s determined by the victim’s 40th birthday.

Not all crimes are impacted by a statute of limitations. Crimes that don’t have a statute of limitations include:

  • First-degree murder
  • Rape (that involves force/violence)
  • Embezzlement of money that was drawn from public funds
  • Aggravated sexual assault of a child
  • Treason

A statute of limitations doesn’t just apply to criminal charges. It also impacts any civil cases you’re named in.

The problem with the statute of limitations is figuring out when they go into effect. In some situations it’s when the crime was committed, in others, it’s when the crime was first discovered. There are also cases where the date is determined by when the crime ended. The best way to determine how the statute of limitations works in a case you’re involved with is by contacting a good defense lawyer who has a solid understanding of cases like yours.

If you suspect that the statute of limitations is about to go into effect sooner rather than later, you’ll want to act quickly.

 

California’s Attitude Towards Hit And Run Accidents

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When it comes to hit and run accidents, California’s lawmakers don’t have a sense of humor. They created laws that deal with hit and run accidents that simply involve property damage, and for hit and run accidents that resulted in someone getting hurt. If you’re charged with a hit and run, you must understand the difference between the two types of incidents.

A hit-and-run accident that simply results in property damage isn’t the end of the world. It doesn’t matter if you hit someone’s mailbox and knocked it over or if you rear-ended their car and fled the scene of the accident. As long as only property was damaged, you’ll only face misdemeanor charges.

That changes if someone was hurt during the accident. If someone was hurt, you’ll be facing felony charges.

What Is A Hit And Run Accident?

When you were first learning how to drive a car, you should have learned that California law states that if you were involved in an accident, you’re legally required to move your vehicle into a spot where it’s not going to cause additional accidents and report the accident to the police. You’re supposed to stay at the scene until the police tell you that you’re free to go. The only exception is if you don’t have a working phone and need to go to a nearby house/business and use their phone to report the accident. Once you’ve reported the accident, you need to return to the accident scene.

You’re legally involved in a hit and run accident if:

  • You leave the scene of an accident.
  • Fail to report the accident.
  • Neglect to provide all involved parties with your identity and insurance information.

One Important Fact About Hit And Run Accidents In California

When most people hear that the police are looking for a person/vehicle involved in a hit-and-run accident, they assume that they are looking for the driver who caused the accident. That’s not always the case. In California, you are required to stay at the scene even if you were the victim of another person’s driving. If you leave, the police will start looking for you.

There have even been cases of a driver getting involved in a hit and run even though they weren’t actually involved in the accident. They became involved because it was their driving that triggered the accident. If you even suspect you were involved in the accident, you need to remain on the scene.

What If The Property Owner Isn’t There?

There are some situations where you might not be able to talk to the property owner. Examples of this would be bumping into a parked car or hitting a mailbox. Don’t assume that because the property owner isn’t there that you’re off the hook. The best response is to call the police and get them involved in the situation. Another option is to leave a note that provides the property owner with your contact information.

What Happens If You’re Convicted Of A Hit And Run Accident?

If you’re convicted of a hit-and-run accident a few different things will happen. The first is that you’ll be responsible for the traffic ticket and other consequences related to the accident. If the accident only involved property damage, you only face misdemeanor charges which includes a maximum sentence of six months in jail, probation, two points getting added to your driving record, and a $1,000 fine. You’ll also have to make restitution.

If someone is hurt during the accident, you’ll be convicted of a felony. The maximum sentence includes a fine that can be as high as $10,000, three years in a state prison, and restitution.

There have been multiple cases where the hit and run driver was convicted of both misdemeanor and felony hit and run charges.

No matter how bad things might seem following an accident, the situation will only get worse if you drive away. If you think that no one will notice, remember that between traffic cameras, cell phones, and dashboard cameras, it’s likely that there will be a great deal of footage of your vehicle, including your license plate so it won’t be difficult for the police to track you down.

 

Landscape Architects In California

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Anyone who has ever tried to maintain a lawn or dabbled in landscaping knows that beautiful flower beds and breathtaking landscaping doesn’t simply happen. Many of the gorgeous lawns and pretty little landscaped areas within cities are the handiwork of people who are known as California’s landscape architects.

While most people assume that California’s landscape architects work in residential yards, the truth is that they handle a wide assortment of tasks, including:

  • Site revegetation and maintenance
  • Erosion control
  • Roadside aesthetic designs
  • Highway planting projects
  • Contour grading
  • Mitigation design

Landscape architects are also contacted when a community needs a visual impact assessment performed. This is often done when a community wishes to change the overall vibe of the area in an attempt to either gentrify or attract new residents/businesses.

It’s not uncommon for someone who has a green thumb and a decent eye for landscaping to decide to offer to take over someone’s yard in an effort to earn a little extra money. What some people don’t realize is that this little attempt at a side hustle can get them into legal trouble.

The reality is that before you start offering your skills in exchange for payment, you should take some time to review California’s Landscape Architecture laws which are covered by the California State Professional Licensing Laws. When you take the time to read over the laws that pertain to landscape architects, one of the first things you’ll learn is that you can’t beautify a person’s yard in exchange for money until you’ve obtained a special business license.

Loving beautiful outdoor spaces and maintaining a couple of nice flower beds isn’t enough for you to get a landscape architecture license. Before you can start landscaping for money, the California Landscape Architects Technical Committee requires that you obtain at least one year of education. In addition to the schooling, you also have to spend two years getting some practical training, usually in the form of working for an already fully qualified landscape architect. It looks like the practical training should be completed after you’ve taken the classes the committee requires for your educational credit.

If you fail to complete the requirements needed to become a fully licensed landscape architect and choose to run a business without a license, you could face:

  • The suspension of your business
  • Local lawmakers fining you for non-compliance
  • Liability lawsuits
  • Government-mandated closure of your business for non-compliance

You’ll also likely have a difficult time getting the insurance and loans needed to run a successful and safe landscaping business.

In many cases of a business operating without a license, the law protects the clients. Failing to meet the licensing requirements means that you won’t be able to sue a client who doesn’t honor their part of a contract, such as paying you for your service.

When all is said and done, it’s in your best interest to go through the proper channels and meet the education requirements needed to work as a fully licensed and insured landscape architect in California.

 

Child Endangerment In California

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California’s lawmakers believe that adults have a moral and legal responsibility to protect children. Failing to do so can put you on the wrong side of the law.

The California Penal Code 273a PC deals with the issue of child endangerment.

The interesting thing about Penal Code 273a PC is that while it deals with child endangerment, it isn’t the same law that defines child abuse.

The idea behind child endangerment is that the episode is often a single episode. It doesn’t always involve a child getting hurt, but rather addresses the fact that a child, which according to the California legal system is anyone under the age of 18, could have been hurt or killed as a direct result of your actions. Getting behind the wheel and driving drunk while your passenger is a minor, is a good example of a child endangerment case.

Additional examples of child endangerment include:

  • Hiring the services of a babysitter who has an abusive past.
  • Exposing your child to a dangerous animal.
  • Failing to notice that your child is playing in the middle of a busy road.
  • Leaving a firearm laying around the house while a child is present.

Many parents don’t realize that in extreme cases, failing to seek medical assistance for a child who is for an extremely sick or badly injured child can be considered child endangerment.

Just because you’ve been accused of child abuse and the case has gone to trial, it doesn’t mean you’ll be sent to jail.

In order to be convicted of child endangerment in California, the prosecutor has to effectively prove that you knew there was a chance that your actions (or lack of action) created a situation where the child was in danger.

Defenses that have been successfully used in child endangerment cases include:

  • You couldn’t have known that the child was potentially in danger.
  • The child wasn’t your responsibility.
  • You were falsely accused (false accusations of child endangerment aren’t uncommon in cases that also involve a custody dispute).
  • The endangerment was completely accidental.

You’ll be surprised to learn that child endangerment is one of California’s wobbler laws. The details of the case determine if you’re charged/convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony.

If there was a chance that the situation could have resulted in death or extreme injuries to the child, you should expect the prosecutor to pursue felony child endangerment charges.

If you’re convicted, the potential consequences could include:

  • A fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000.
  • Getting sentenced to anywhere from 2 to 6 years on a state prison.

If it doesn’t appear that the child could have been severely injured or died as a result of your actions, the prosecutor will go after a misdemeanor charge.

If you’re convicted, you could:

  • Be sentenced to up to one year in the county jail.
  • Be charged a fine that doesn’t exceed $1,000.

The best way to avoid child endangerment charges in California is using common sense and avoid dangerous situations whenever possible.

 

Riding A Moped In California

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Mopeds are a great source of transportation, especially for doing things like commuting to work when you live in the city. They are small enough to be easily stored, even in areas where parking a regular car or motorcycle is difficult. They sip fuel. And they are easy to handle.

Many people have found that mopeds are cost-effective form of transportation.

If you’re thinking of using a moped as your daily commuter, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

If you’re planning on riding a moped in California, you have to be serious about protecting your brain. You don’t have to purchase an expensive motorcycle helmet, but state law requires that you do wear a bicycle helmet.

When you decide to drive a moped, you don’t have to worry about insuring the moped. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about a driver’s license. In order to use the moped on public property, such as city streets, you do need an M1 or M2 class license. You also need to have a special license plate for your moped. The good news is that the license will only cost you $23 and it’s a one-time expense for as long as you own the moped.

Don’t assume that you’ll be able to drive your moped wherever you want. Legally, you’re only allowed to operate a moped on streets that have a speed limit of 25 mph or lower. That makes using the moped in rural settings difficult. You’re also usually allowed to use the moped on trails lanes that are designated for bike traffic. You’re not allowed to ride your moped on sidewalks.

Don’t assume that because you’re on a moped which is significantly less powerful than a car or motorcycle, that you can let down your guard and stop paying attention. It’s extremely important that you pay careful attention and drive defensively while astride your moped. Not only do you want to be aware of what everyone around you is doing so that you can avoid getting injured, but you also want to take care and make sure you’re actions don’t result in damaged property or in someone getting seriously hurt.

Never forget that while mopeds are small and cute, they’re still motorized vehicles and capable of a great deal of damage.

 

How To Dress Properly For Court

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It doesn’t matter if you’re in civil or legal court, you want to make sure you’ve dressed appropriately. The good news is that getting dressed for court isn’t difficult. It’s also likely that you have most of the items needed to make a good impression so you don’t have to worry about the expense of a shopping trip.

The first thing to consider is the color of the clothing you’re going to wear. It’s suggested that you stick to conservative, neutral colors. Most people opt for dark colors.

It’s a good idea to layer. Some courtrooms run hot and some are cold. While you’re in court you want to be paying attention. You don’t want to worry about freezing or overheating. Layers allow you to peel off a jacket or cardigan if the courtroom is warmer than expected.

Choose clean clothing. In addition to making sure that everything you wear to the courtroom is clean, take a few minutes to check for stains and tears. Depending on the type of material your court clothes are made out of, you might have to give yourself enough time to iron them before leaving court.

You want to appear nicely dressed while you’re in court, but since you could be sitting for a long time, you also want to choose comfortable clothing. Avoid anything that bunches, twists, is too tight, or that tends to pinch. You want to pay attention to the judge and the lawyers, you don’t want to be playing with your clothing.

When dressing for court, you should strive for a professional look. If you don’t own a suit, at least consider a nice button-down shirt and a pair of slacks. If you don’t own slacks look for a dark pair of jeans that fits well.

If you must wear jewelry, keep it simple, tasteful, and minimal. There are two reasons for this. Clunky and jangly jewelry is distracting in a courtroom setting. It can also make you look less serious. The second reason to wear as little jewelry as possible is so that you have less to remove when going through metal detectors.

It’s likely that you’re supposed to be in court relatively early in the morning and you don’t want to be late. Decide what you’re planning on wearing to the court the night before and lay everything out. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready and still arrive in the courtroom on time.

 

How To Get Free Legal Assistance In California

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Nearly everyone has a point in their life where they need some sort of legal advice. If you’re lucky, you have enough money that you can pay a lawyer for their time. Sadly, not everyone is in this position. The good news is that whether you need answers to a few legal questions involving how to care for an elderly parent or need a good defense lawyer for an upcoming trial, California does have free legal assistance programs.

Public Defenders

Every American should know that if they find themselves on the wrong side of the law, they’re entitled to a defense attorney. There’s a well-known line in the Miranda Rights that states, “If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” The reason the line is in the Miranda Rights is so that you understand that getting a good lawyer on your side is an extremely good idea.

It doesn’t matter if you are or aren’t guilty of the crime you’ve been charged with, you should have a lawyer in your corner. Even if you plan on pleading guilty they can advise you of your rights and even help negotiate a plea bargain. A court-appointed lawyer is better than no lawyer at all.

Legal Assistance And Advice

While the courts are required to assign a court-appointed lawyer to you if you’re charged with a crime, no one is obligated to provide you with free legal assistance. The good news is that there are several organizations scattered throughout California that have created programs that will provide you with either free or low-cost legal advice and assistance. If you contact an organization that doesn’t have the experience needed to help with your specific issue, they’ll likely provide you with the contact information of a group that does.

The biggest problem with using free legal aid programs is that they are usually only found in cities. Individuals who live in rural areas and small towns will usually have to look in more heavily developed areas when they need free legal counseling.

Don’t ever think that a lack of money makes it impossible for you to get your legal questions answered. There are resources out there that are far more reliable than posting your questions on social media sites and hoping for the best.

 

Understanding California’s Jury Duty

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U.S. citizens who reside in the United States can receive a letter in the mail that summons them to serve on a jury. This is called jury duty. If selected to serve on the jury you’ll listen to a court case and use what you learned during the trial to decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

Who is Eligible For Jury Duty?

In California, there are some people who aren’t required to respond to a jury duty summons. People who are exempt include:

  • Residents who aren’t U.S. citizens.
  • Anyone under the age of 18.
  • Anyone who demonstrates that they don’t have a strong enough grasp of the English language to adequately understand/discuss the details of the case.
  • Anyone who has been convicted of a felony and not yet had their civil rights restored.
  • Anyone who lacks the ability to care for themselves and is under a conservatorship.
  • Anyone who has received a jury duty summons within the last 12 months.

You can only be asked to serve on a jury that is taking place in the county you legally reside in.

How Long Does California Jury Duty Last?

California has what is called a one-day or one-trial policy for jury duty. This policy was adopted in 1999 in an attempt to make things simpler for jurors and their employers. The way this works is that a juror is not required to serve more than one day of on-call jury duty. This means that if the person is called into the courthouse for jury duty selection and isn’t selected, they have still fulfilled their one-year requirement and can’t be summoned for jury duty for a full twelve months.

If the juror is assigned to on-call or standby jury service they only have to remain on-call for five days. After that, they are released from jury duty for a year.
If you’re selected as a jury member for a trial case, you will have to sit through the entire trial. Once the trial is over, you’ll be released from jury duty for a full year.

Are You Paid For Jury Duty?

California does have a policy in place to make sure that anyone who responds to a jury duty summons is paid, but you won’t make enough to cover the cost of not going to work. The policy is that you’re paid $15 a day for jury duty. You’ll also receive a $0.34 reimbursement for each mile you have to commute to the courthouse. The mileage reimbursement only covers your commute to the courthouse, not home, and only kicks in if you’re assigned to a trial and have to make the commute more than one day. Some counties have a policy in place that covers the cost of public/mass transportation.

The exception to the $15 a day payment is government employees who receive their full pay plus their benefits.

What If You Neglect To Respond To A Jury Duty Summons?

While it’s easy to understand that urge to ignore a jury duty summons, it’s something you’ll later regret. You’re legally required to respond. A failure to respond to the summons will result in you potentially being fined up to $1,500 and possibly even have to serve some jail time.

If an emergency comes up, you can’t simply fail to show up for jury duty. In the event of an emergency, you have to contact the courthouse as quickly as possible. If the judge feels the emergency is valid and severe, they will excuse you. This is true even if you’re in the middle of a trial jury. Be prepared to provide proof of the emergency.

 

What Happens If You’re Accused Of Extortion In California

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California lawmakers consider the act of using a threat or force to compel someone into giving you something, usually money or property, that they’d prefer to keep for themselves. In California, extortion and blackmail are considered the same thing.

In California, extortion is considered an extreme situation. It is a felony with none of the wiggle room that’s connected to California’s wobbler laws.

Over the years, several extortion cases have made their way through the California court system. Some of these cases involved a burglar threatening the life or physical safety of the homeowner unless the owner revealed the location of valuables. There have been cases of public officials being blackmailed in an attempt to influence their vote. Some athletes have found themselves involved in extortion cases after someone placed a large bet that hinged on a certain team winning or losing. Eldercare extortion cases are also common. In these cases, care is withheld until the elder provides money to the caretaker.

The problem with extortion cases is that it’s not easy to put together a good defense. The most commonly used defenses are that the extortion didn’t happen and that the defendant was falsely accused. There have occasionally been people who’ve beaten extortion charges when it was revealed that the person or victim who filed the charges ultimately didn’t give in to the extortion.

If you’re charged with extortion, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced defense attorney right away and start preparing your case. If you want to argue mistaken identity or false accusations, you’ll have to find witnesses and prepare documented proof that there is no way you benefited from the alleged extortion. In the case of false accusations, it’s a good idea to have proof that the individual who filed the charges stand to gain in some way if you’re convicted or that they have a history of making your life difficult.

Because extortion in California is a felony offense, if you’re convicted, you’ll serve time in a state prison.

If convicted you could be forced to:

  • Serve a maximum of a four-year prison sentence
  • Be required to pay a $10,000 fine
  • Have to make restitution

In some cases, particularly first-time extortion offenses, the judge has opted to allow the defendant to serve felony probation rather than prison time.

If you’re convicted of extortion, the felony record not only damages your reputation, but it can also make everything from getting a job, to acquiring a house, and even securing a line of credit difficult.