Loitering laws in california

Loitering in California

Loitering laws in california

For the most part, loitering is harmless and doesn’t bother anyone, but there are times when someone will object to your behavior. When this happens, the irritated person may call the cops. It’s at this point that you learn the legal ins and outs of loitering in California.

Loitering in California is a little difficult to define. Loitering is essentially the act of hanging out somewhere when you don’t have any particular need to be in that place. Sitting in a restaurant and chatting with friends even though you are no longer eating, lingering at the bus stop so you can people watch, and soaking up the sun in a convenience store parking lot are all examples of loitering.

The issue of loitering in California became a legal aspect of interest in 1983 when the U.S. Supreme Court officially heard Edward Lawson’s case. Lawson was arrested a total of 15 times during 18 months when he started walking through the “white neighborhoods” of San Diego and Los Angeles. Lawson objected to the fact that when he was questioned, the police didn’t always tell him that they were police officers and that they seldom explained why they were questioning/arresting him.

After hearing Lawson’s case, the Supreme Court looked at California’s penal codes and made an important decision. They felt that the way the Penal Code was written in California gave the police too much freedom. This prompted the state to become more specific about loitering crimes.

There are several different ways a loitering charge can be written up. The type of loitering you’re charged with depends on why the police were called and why they believe you were hanging around in that area.

Most loitering charges involve:

  • Trespassing
  • Failing to dispense (this is often connected with attempting to incite a riot)
  • Loitering at a school
  • Loitering with the intent to commit prostitution
  • Loitering to solicit the purchase of alcohol
  • Loitering with the intent to commit a crime

While each type of charge is a little different, if charged with any of these types of loitering in California offenses, you’ll face misdemeanor charges. The top penalty for the first offense with most of the charges is up to a $1,000 fine, a six-month stay in a county jail, community service.

The second time you’re charged with the same offense, the penalties can double.

The best way to avoid gaining first-hand knowledge of how the legal system deals with loitering in California is by staying calm and making it very apparent to everyone who passes by that you’re not doing anything but enjoying the scenery and the fantastic California weather.


consequences of texting and driving

Texting and Driving in California

consequences of texting and driving

It doesn’t matter how many images of horrific wrecks insurance companies and auto agencies put out to warn drivers of the dangers of texting and driving, we still do it. Each of us has this weird impression that surely sending a quick response to the most recent incoming text won’t do anything wrong.

Since the warnings aren’t enough to convince the vast majority of us to stop texting while we’re behind the wheel, California lawmakers have decided to pass laws that they hope will discourage the dangerous habit.

The issue of texting and driving is covered by California’s distracted driving laws. These laws weren’t altered in 2021, but it’s always a good idea to review them. Especially if your budget and driving record can’t take the hit of another ticket.

At this point, the only time you can legally use your cell phone while you’re driving is when you have it set for hands-free mode. If you can’t dictate an outgoing text message or listen to an incoming text message, you will have to ignore your phone until you’re somewhere that you can safely pull over and deal with the issue.

If you’re under eighteen years old, you’re not allowed to use your cell phone, period, while you’re driving. The best way to avoid the temptation is powering the phone off until you reach your destination.

The issue of texting while you’re driving is covered in California Vehicle Code, Division 11: Rules of the Road, Chapter 12: Public Offenses, Article 1: Driving Offenses; Sections 23123 to 23125.

The first time you’re caught texting while driving in California, you’ll be issued a $20 fine. Each time you get a similar ticket after that first offense, the fine goes up to $50. Most drivers quickly learn that while that’s the base of a driving while texting ticket, there are also assessments that can be added to the ticket that typically drive the cost up until you’re looking at having to pay $15-250 for the infraction. If you were doing something else, such as speeding, the price will be even higher.

Starting July 1, 2021, you’ll get more than a simple fine when you’re caught driving and texting in California. On that date, the DMV will also add a single point for each infraction. The point will remain on your driving record for a full thirty-six months.

So, the next time you slide behind the wheel, be smart and set-up your phone’s hands-free system.


Community service

Community Service in Criminal Cases

Community service

Many people find that they have to complete a specific number of hours of community service as a part of their sentence. Some people love this because the community service can reduce fines and jail time. Others hate having to do so much work without getting paid.

Judges have the right to make community service a part of a sentence. Sometimes the community service replaces fines, jail time, and probation. In other cases, it’s used in tandem with the other consequences.

Community service has become so popular amongst judges that some large communities discovered that they had to hire another person and even create whole new county offices just to help with the community service portion of sentencing. These separate offices help people find promising community service opportunities, track hours, and make sure everything is properly reported to the sentencing judge.

The great thing about community service is that there are lots of different options. The only stipulation is that the work has to be done in connection with a non-profit organization and that you don’t get paid for it. You can choose to complete all of the hours by working with a single non-profit or you can divide your time up with multiple organizations.

Some communities also have government programs that qualify as community service.

When you find out that you need to complete X amount of hours of community service, the first thing you need to do is sit down and think about what you like. The entire process will be more enjoyable if you’re doing work you like or at least working for a cause you’re passionate about.

Popular community service choices include:

  • Helping out at animal rescues
  • Assisting at homeless shelters
  • Helping organize non-profit events, such as awareness runs and festivals
  • Community improvement/beautification projects
  • Speaking to school groups

Once you’ve identified the type of work you’d like to do, it’s time to contact the non-profits and find out their requirements. Make it clear that the volunteering work you’re doing is for the courts. Some non-profits choose not to track hours for the courts. Others require a background check that you won’t pass because you have a criminal record.

If the first non-profit you contact doesn’t work out, contact another one until you find one that’s happy to accept you.

Create a schedule and stick to it. You want to complete your community service hours as quickly as possible so that the judge doesn’t revisit your sentencing and decide you’re shirking your responsibilities. If for some reason, you do run into a problem and won’t be able to complete the required number of hours by the court-appointed deadline, you need to contact the court and let them know. It’s likely that as long as you can prove that you’re making a genuine effort they’ll choose to extend your deadline.

Be diligent about recording the number of hours you’ve worked at your community service project. Get the person who is supervising you to sign off on your time after each session. Turn the information to the court.

The great thing about community service is that you can sometimes use it to make important new connections, develop skills, and possibly even find a program you want to continue helping even after you’ve fulfilled your community service requirements.


California common felonies

3 Common California Felonies

California common felonies

The state and federal law books are full of felonies, but court officers, lawyers, and police officers will quickly tell you that some felonies are common while there are others they’ve never encountered.

Here is a list of the most common felony arrests and convictions.

Felony Drug Crimes

There are so many different drug-related felonies that it’s easier to lump them into one category than to sort them out. It’s worth noting that in many cases if a person is charged with a drug-related crime, it’s likely that they’ve been charged with multiple different drug offenses.

Examples of drug-related felonies include:

  • Possession
  • Possession with intent to sell
  • Distribution and Trafficking
  • Cultivation/Manufacturing

It’s important to note that many of these charges are wobbler offenses, meaning in the right circumstances they could actually be misdemeanor charges. The amount and type of drug involved is what usually determines if the charge is a misdemeanor or felony.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is an extremely common felony. If you’re charged with aggravated assault, it means you either paired the assault with a death threat, or your victim suffered a serious injury during the incident. California Penal Code Section 245 makes it clear that using a firearm or another type of item that could be considered deadly is also aggravated assault.

A guilty conviction for felony aggravated assault can mean:

  • Spending time in a state prison
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Losing the weapon you had during the assault
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Retribution

Aggravated assault is one of California’s three-strikes felonies.

  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Restitution
  • Confiscation of the weapon (if it is owned by the convicted individual)
  • Possible community service and/or a mandatory Anger Management course.

Arson

Arson is a surprising addition to the list. It simply doesn’t seem like it would be that common. However, a large bulk of arson cases are less about setting a fire and more about insurance fraud.

In California, arson is covered under California Penal Code Section 451 and California Penal Code Section 452 .

California law enforcement agencies have special task forces that deal with arson cases. These teams look at the fire and all of the circumstances surrounding the arson case. The process is often slow, prompting some people to think they got away with the fire, only to be charged years after the event.

If you’re convicted of an arson-related felony, the amount of time you serve in a state prison depends on where the fire happened, if anyone was hurt/killed, if the fire involved a knowingly inhabited structure.


public decency laws

Avoid Inappropriate Public Display Of Affection This Valentines Day

public decency laws

One of the great things about Valentine’s Day is it provides you with an opportunity to look at your current relationship. Many people use the holiday as an excuse to try to inject some added spice into a relationship that has fallen into a comfortable rut. For some couples, this involves experimenting with public sex.

Here’s the thing about public sex. It can be exciting. It can make your relationship feel new and risky (in a fun way.) A little round of public Valentine’s Day sex is just the kind of thing you and your partner will reminisce about for years.

In books and movies, public sex is always hot and romantic. If the couple gets caught, they’re generally either embarrassed or laugh it off. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a romance novel. Here in the real world, a round of public Valentine’s Day sex (or public sex on any other day) can get you tossed in jail.

The issue of public sex is addressed in California’s Penal Code 647. The code clearly states that “An individual who solicits anyone to engage in or who engages in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view,” violates the law.

In California, you can’t have sex in any public area, or even on private property if there is a reasonable chance of innocent passersby viewing you.

If you’re found guilty of Valentine’s Day public sex, you’ll be convicted of lewd or dissolute conduct. It’s a misdemeanor.

The sentence can include:

  • Six months in county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000

The one good thing is that as long as the charges don’t include indecent exposure, you won’t have to register as a sex offender.

A possible defense to a Valentine’s Day public sex charge is that you had reasonable expectations that no one would see you.


What is a civil charge

Criminal Charges Vs. Civil Charges

What is a civil charge

One of the things that makes the American legal system confusing is that we have both criminal charges and civil charges.

Criminal charges are a straightforward part of the legal process. If you break the law, you’re arrested and criminal charges are filed against you. You have the option of pleading guilty to these charges. If you don’t plead guilty, the case goes to trial and a jury will decide if you’re guilty.

Civil charges are more complicated. Civil charges involve the victims of the crime. The civil court provides victims with an opportunity to do two things. First, they can face the person who they believe impacted the quality of their life. The second thing civil charges do is provide the victims with an opportunity to seek financial retribution.

If you’re unlucky enough to be hit with both criminal and civil charges, you’ll quickly notice that the two cases are handled quite differently.

  • The punishment in criminal cases usually involves fines/jail time/community service/probation
  • The punishment in civil cases is always financial
  • There is a different standard of proof in civil and criminal cases
  • Defendants in criminal cases have different guaranteed protections
  • Juries are only used in very specific civil cases, most of the time it’s the judge who makes the final civil case ruling

One of the things the O.J. Simpson case proved was that even if you’re not found guilty of the crime in a criminal case, you can be found guilty during a civil case. The reason Simpson was found guilty during the civil case even though he’d been found not-guilty during the criminal case is that a different standard of proof is required in the cases.

One of the first things criminal juries are told is that they can only find the defendant guilty if the prosecutor has proven that the defendant committed the crimes “beyond a reasonable doubt”. That means that if there is any question in the jury’s mind that someone else committed the crime, they must find the defendant not guilty. In the O.J Simpson criminal trial, the jury voted not-guilty because there was evidence that suggested someone else could have committed the murders. In his civil case, there was enough evidence to suggest he had.

The “beyond a reasonable doubt” concept disappears in civil cases. In those cases, if the judge (and in rare situations, a jury) looks for a “preponderance of the evidence”. This means that if all the evidence suggests that the defendant committed the crime, they’ll be found guilty of the civil charges.

One of the interesting things about civil cases is that the people who filed the charges against the defendant not only seek financial restitution for actual costs, such as medical bills following a DUI accident but can also seek punitive costs which include pain and suffering.

Considering the extremely high cost of both criminal and civil cases, it’s in your best interest to think twice before you commit a criminal act that could result in you facing both criminal and civil charges.


prank calling

What Happens If I Make A Fake or Prank 911 Call

prank calling

Making a fake or prank phone call to 911 might seem like good fun but it’s not something you want to follow through with. Neither law enforcement offices nor court officials have a sense of humor.

To put it simply, making fake or prank 911 calls is illegal. In some situations, that single phone call could even result in felony charges.

The best way to learn just how much trouble making a fake or prank 911 call can land you in is by setting aside a few minutes to read California’s Penal Code 148.3. When you do, you’ll learn that you can’t:

  • Call 911 and make a fake report of a crime/injury/accident
  • You can’t make a 911 call that results in the dispatcher or a law enforcement offer making a 911 report
  • You can’t use 911 to report a fictional emergency
  • You can’t call 911 and make a report that you know is false

Law enforcement can choose to file charges against you if your fake/prank 911 call results:

  • In the deployment of emergency vehicles
  • A building/area is evacuated in response to your call
  • The call prompts the 911 dispatcher to activate the state or local Emergency Alert System

The law very clearly states that anyone who makes a fake/prank 911 call can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. What is less clear is how the decision to pursue a misdemeanor or felony case is made. The general rule of thumb is that if someone is hurt, the prosecutor will push for felony charges.

Making a single prank/fake 911 call in California can have a seriously negative impact on your budget. If you’re found guilty, you could be:

  • Spend a full year in a county jail
  • Be fined up to $1,000

The cost doesn’t stop with the court fines. Depending on how much effort local agencies made to respond to your 911 prank call, the emergency response team that was involved will likely send you a bill that includes all the expenses they incurred as a result of your call.

Fake/prank 911 calls officially became illegal in California in 2013. Local lawmakers choose to crack down on these types of calls because they were tired of the calls tying up local resources and making it impossible to respond to valid emergencies.

In Los Angeles, fake/prank 911are sometimes referred to as swatters because of the number of times a fake 911 call resulted in a swat team getting deployed to a celebrity’s house.

Considering how much a fake/prank 911 call in California could cost you, it’s in your best interest to avoid using the number for anything that isn’t a genuine emergency.


Valentines day during the pandemic

Celebrating Valentine’s Day During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Valentines day during the pandemic

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. It’s the biggest date night of the year. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic means getting a little creative. Coming in contact with the potentially deadly virus is the last thing you want to do this Valentine’s Day.

Here are few tips that will allow you to enjoy a lovely Valentine’s Day and also stay safe. All of these ideas will work for both first dates and for couples who committed to one another a long time ago.

Plan an Outdoor Date

One of the few things everybody agrees on is that being outdoors is far safer than being indoors. So, instead of going to your favorite restaurant for a long romantic dinner, look for fun outdoor activities you can do with your Valentine’s Day date. Some great options include hiking, kayaking, fishing, golfing, and bike riding.

Order Take-Out

While going out to your favorite restaurant isn’t the best option this Valentine’s Day, that doesn’t mean you have to face yet another night of your own cooking. The odds are pretty good that your favorite restaurant is offering take out. Place an order. Invite your date to go on a long romantic drive with you that ends when you pick up your meal. Turning the drive into an interesting adventure helps make the take-out Valentine’s Day meal a romantic and happy memory that will live in both of your minds for a long time.

Plan a Picnic

Picnics can be incredibly romantic. You can choose to have a picnic in your favorite park, on your front porch, or on the beach. Just make sure you have a backup plan in case the weather becomes uncooperative. Also, make a list and double-check it while packing your picnic basket. You don’t want to forget anything.

Volunteer

Many people’s first love language is acts of service. You can use this to your advantage by combining your Valentine’s Day date with a volunteering experience. Many non-profit organizations are suffering from a serious lack of volunteers due to the pandemic and will welcome your assistance. The only thing you have to do is identify a non-profit both you and your Valentine’s Day date are passionate about. Contact the organization and find out what volunteering roles they need to be filled on February 14. Who knows, this might turn into the start of a brand new Valentine’s Day tradition.


Slander consequences

Understanding Slander in California

Slander consequences

Most Americans know that the First Amendment grants the right to free speech. The problem that many of us encounter is we don’t fully grasp the differences between free speech and slander.

What is Free Speech?

Many of us interpret the First Amendment to mean that we’re free to say whatever we want, to whomever we want, whenever we want. That’s not the way free speech works. The purpose of free speech is to provide Americans with the ability to openly speak against the government without fear of legal ramifications.

What freedom of speech doesn’t do is allow you to say whatever you want about neighbors, family, and businesses you don’t like.

What is Slander?

The legal definition of slander is, “oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed. Slander is a civil wrong (tort) and can be the basis for a lawsuit. Damages (payoff for worth) for slander may be limited to actual (special) damages unless there is malicious intent, since such damages are usually difficult to specify and harder to prove. Some statements such as an untrue accusation of having committed a crime, having a loathsome disease, or being unable to perform one’s occupation are treated as slander per se since the harm and malice are obvious, and therefore usually result in general and even punitive damage recovery by the person harmed. Words spoken over the air on television or radio are treated as libel (written defamation) and not slander on the theory that broadcasting reaches a large audience as much if not more than printed publications.”

In California, slander legally takes place when:

  • You say something that you know is untrue
  • When you make a statement that you know isn’t privileged
  • When you make a statement that is said with the intent to do harm or cause an injury

The Legal Consequences of Slander

In California, slander is a civil, not a legal matter. It’s also a case that’s tricky to defend. In this case, the individual who filed the charges has to prove their case. In order to convince a judge to rule against you, they have to prove without a shadow of a doubt that you knew that whatever you said was untrue and that you made the statement knowing that it would harm the individual’s emotions, reputation, or business.

In addition to proving that you did in fact deliberately make slanderous comments, the person who files the charges against you also has to prove to the court that they sustained damages that you should reimburse them for. In addition to actual damages, the filer will also likely seek money to cover their emotional trauma.

The best way to avoid getting into a slander dispute with someone is to make sure you never say anything that you aren’t able to prove. If you’re unsure about the validity of a statement, it’s in your best interest to keep it to yourself.


public intoxication laws in california

Public Intoxication Laws in California

public intoxication laws in california

Everyone knows that if you get behind the wheel and drive your car after you’ve had too much to drink that you’ll be arrested and have to deal with some serious legal consequences. What you might not know is that alcohol can get you into trouble even if you don’t plan on driving.

If you’re severely drunk or (under the influence of drugs) while in public, you could be charged with public intoxication in California.

The good news is that the police probably won’t arrest you just because you’ve had one too many and are walking home. However, if you’re the type of person who makes strange choices when you’re drunk, you’re night out could end with you getting locked in a jail cell.

In California, the police can arrest you if you for public intoxication if you’re in public and behaving in a way that could harm either yourself or others. Examples of this include darting into traffic, thinking you can use the side of a bridge as a balance beam, are standing in front of your ex’s place, and shouting.

In many cases, a public intoxication charge is paired with a disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct charges.

Public intoxication in California is a misdemeanor. If you’re convicted, you could be sentenced to six months in a county jail and/or charged up to $1,000 in fines. If you did any damage while you were publicly intoxicated, you’ll have to pay for the damages.

Everyone responds differently to alcohol. If you’re the type of person who handles it well and doesn’t get crazy after a night of drinking you probably don’t have to worry about getting arrested for public intoxication. However, if you do make poor choices after drinking, you should stay at home when you’re drinking or you should make sure you only go out with people who stay level-headed and will get you home before you get into too much trouble.