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Should You Open Your Door When Someone Knocks?

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There is a knock on your door. You stand beside the door for several seconds torn between the urge to open it and find out who is on the other side and a genuine concern that opening the door could jeopardize your safety.

Knocks in the Middle of the Night

The general rule of thumb is that if a stranger knocks on your door in the middle of the night, you shouldn’t let them in. Even if the person says that they are in trouble, keep your door locked. That does not mean you have to walk away from the situation. You can continue to speak to the individual through your locked door and you can also call for help.

The reason you should not open your door to a stranger in the middle of the night is that claiming to need help is an old con that thieves use to gain access to a home. Many people who were acting as Good Samaritans have been injured or killed after letting an allegedly injured person into their home.

Kids and Door Knocks

If you have children in your home, teach them that they should never open the door, no matter who claims to be knocking on it. Kids have a trusting nature and are excited to find out who is knocking on the door. This can lead to all sorts of trouble. Advise your child to inquire about the name of the person on the other side of the door and then to alert the responsible adult who is in the home.

If someone you know is coming to your home, ask them to use their cell phone and call you when they reach your home rather than knocking on your door and temping your child to open the door.

Use a Door Bell Camera

It’s a good idea to get a doorbell camera. These are great inventions. Even better than peepholes because you can view the footage on your smartphone, well away from the front door. Not only does the doorbell camera allow you to see exactly who is on the other side of the door, but it turns out to be a threatening or suspicious individual, you can show the footage to the police.

When it comes to people knocking on your door, especially people you don’t know, it pays to be cautious.


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Evacuating from Wildfires

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Wildfires are terrifying. Not only do they happen unexpectedly but they leave a path of total destruction in their wake. If there is a wildfire in your area, you should start preparing for evacuation as soon as you hear the news. Getting started early means you’ll be ready to go if the police do issue a formal evacuation notice.

Fill Up Your Gas Tank

When there is a wildfire in the vicinity, the last thing most people want to think about is gasoline, but taking a trip to the nearest gas station should be your first priority. Fill up your car’s gas tank so that it’s ready to go if there’s an ordered evacuation. The full gas tank allows you to quickly put a safe amount of space between you and the wildfire.

Secure Your Pets

If you have pets, you should plan on bringing them with you. The problem is that the smell of smoke and your anxiety changes their behavior. This makes it difficult to catch them. Rather than run the risk of them getting lose or you being unable to load them into the car, catch them as soon as possible.

Pack Your Vehicle

The next thing you need to do is pack your vehicle. The idea is to have everything ready to go so that as soon as the police issue an evacuation order, you can jump in your vehicle and hit the road. Items you should pack include water, some quick snacks, money, important papers, pet supplies, and enough clothing to get you through a few days.

Fireproof Your Home

Once you’ve prepared for a possible wildfire evacuation, you can go around your home and prepare it for a wildfire. While there isn’t a lot you can do to save your home if the wildfire reaches your property, you can do things that lower the risk. Simple things that can be done include moving anything flammable, such as gas cans, bags of leaves, and paint can at least 30 feet from your home’s foundation. Clear dead leaves from your gutters. Make sure there isn’t anything in your yard that could make it difficult for firefighters to reach your home.

Good luck and stay safe!


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Will Your California Driver’s License Automatically Be Suspended After a DUI?

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Getting a DUI is a traumatic event. One of the hardest things is that it impacts your life for a long time. For most people, the biggest challenge is losing their driving privileges. Many people assume that as soon as they’re convicted of a DUI they will lose their license for several months, but that’s no longer the case. Traditionally, a first-time DUI conviction resulted in a 6-10 month license suspension.

Yes, many people in California do have their license suspended following a DUI arrest, but some don’t realize that there is another option.

Few people know that it’s the California DMV, not the sitting judge, who determines what your driving privileges are following a DUI. Many people are surprised to learn that there will also be a DUI hearing that’s conducted by the DMV and it is during this hearing that post-DUI driving privileges are discussed.

The purpose of the DUI hearing is to decide what should be done with your driver’s license. One of the interesting things about current DUI DMV hearings is that the panel doesn’t always instantly order a license suspension. Starting in 2019, the DMV ruled that some drivers who were dealing with their first DUI charge would be allowed to continue driving, with restrictions, provided they were willing to have an ignition interlock device fitted to their vehicle. The reason for this decision is so that the person doesn’t have to worry about losing their job because they can’t get to work without a license. The other advantage of not automatically suspending a license was that it enabled parents to continue transporting their children to school and other activities. Currently, the DMV installs the IID on cars for about four months in first-time DUI cases. Second/third-time offenders will usually have to deal with the IID for one to two years.

To ask for the IID rather than a full license suspension, you have to contact the DMV and request a hearing. This request has to be placed within 10 days of your DUI arrest. Failing to do so will result in the automatic suspension of your license.

If you miss the 10-day window, the DMV will suspend your license and let you know how long the suspension will be in place.

The process of getting your license reinstated will involve:

  • Completing California’s DUI school
  • Providing the DMV with an SR-22 Insurance form
  • Paying a $125 reinstatement fee

All things considered, it really is in your best interest to contact the DMV shortly after you’ve been arrested for a DUI and booking a formal hearing.


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Safety Tips for College Students

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

Always Be Mindful of Your Safety

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

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

Establish the Buddy System

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

Keep Your Phone Charged

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

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

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

Get Your Own Drinks

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

Don’t be Afraid to Contact Campus Security

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

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

Establish Patterns for Contacting Loved Ones

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


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Off-roading in California’s 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.

Have fun on all of your off-road adventures this summer!


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Can You Go to Jail for Online Scams?

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If you’re wondering if you can go to jail for instigating an online scam, the answer is yes.

If your wondering if you will go to jail for an online scam you’ve run, the answer isn’t as clear.

The first thing you need to understand is that it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, if you’re using a dishonest method for getting money out of people, you’re running a scam and that is always illegal. It doesn’t matter if you managed to acquire $20 or $20,000, the scam was still illegal. If the police catch on to what you’re doing and have enough evidence, you will be charged.

The types of internet crimes individuals have been charged with in California include:

  • Phishing
  • Online credit card fraud
  • Romance scams
  • Ponzi schemes
  • Greeting card scams
  • Bank loan scams
  • Identity theft scams
  • Craigslist scams

The amount of money you collected via the online scam will influence whether you’ll go to jail if you’re convicted and also how long you’ll be imprisoned.

If the scam had minimal financial consequences, it’s likely that you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor. While the sentencing could include a year in jail, the judge may decide that you only have to pay a fine or do community service. You could also be placed on probation.

If you acquired a larger sum of money, it’s likely you’ll be charged with a felony. In that case the likelihood of you being sent to jail increases. If you’re convicted, the consequences could include being sentenced to time in a state prison, massive fines, and felony probation. The number of victims involved in the scam as well as your criminal history can also play a huge role in how much time you spend in jail as a result of internet crimes.

A stint in jail will likely be only one of the hardships you face following a guilty conviction for perpetrating an online scam. It’s likely that your victims will decide to file civil suits against you as well.


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Criminal Trespassing in California

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When you read through California Penal Code Section 602 you’ll learn that it’s illegal to come onto someone’s property without the owner’s permission. While this doesn’t mean you’ll face criminal charges each time you have to use someone’s driveway to turn around or when you stop in at a neighbor’s home to inquire about a lost pet, it does give the property owner the right to tell you that you’re not welcome on the property.

The other thing to keep in mind is that if you’re on someone else’s property and they request that you leave, failing to do so right away gives the property owner the right to call the police and file trespassing charges against you.

Refusing to leave a hotel or restaurant is another way trespassing charges can be filed against you.

Don’t assume that just because a person’s property is a business, that you can’t potentially be charged with trespassing. There have been cases of people who have gotten into a dispute with business owners/employees/other customers being arrested for trespassing after they entered the business and did things like harass people or refused to leave.

The majority of the trespassing cases that make their way through the California court system or considered misdemeanors. The maximum sentence for a guilty conviction is six months in a county jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

It’s important to understand that it’s not uncommon for trespassing to be added to a list of additional charges that can include violating a personal protection order, property damage, assault, etc. When a judge looks at the additional charges they could decide to hand out a maximum sentence. If the trespassing charges look relatively minor and nothing indicates that you’re a habitual offender, the sentence could be minimal.

Aggravated Trespassing in California

Aggravated trespassing is an exception to the idea that all California trespassing cases are misdemeanors. Aggravated trespassing in California is one of California’s wobbler crimes.

According to Penal Code Section 602, aggravated trespassing in California takes place when a trespasser, “makes a credible threat to cause serious bodily injury to someone else with intent to place them in reasonable fear of their own safety or safety of their family, and who within 30 days of the threat, unlawfully enters their residence, property, or workplace with the intent to carry out the threat.”

If you’re convicted of felony aggravated trespassing, the sentence could include 16-21 months in prison, felony probation, and a $10,000 fine.


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California Stalking Laws

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In California, you can be convicted of stalking even if you have never engaged in actively pursuing a victim as they went about their daily activities. It’s even possible to be found guilty of California’s stalking laws if you’ve never had a face-to-face encounter with the victim. The reason for this is because California lawmakers have written the state’s stalking laws in such a way that they encompass a variety of acts that include harassment, even if that harassment only takes place in the form of letters, social media posts, or phone calls.

The issue of stalking in California is addressed in Penal Code 646.9 PC. The laws states, “Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking.”

The interesting thing about California’s stalking laws is that contacting someone via social media posts, making phone calls, and following them around isn’t always considered stalking. While these things may result in a police report getting filed, to convict you of stalking, the prosecution must prove that your actions/words threatened the victim so that they feared for either their life or their safety.

One of the interesting things about California’s stalking laws is that they are wobbler offenses. That means you could be charged with misdemeanor or felony stalking. There have even been instances where a person was charged with both misdemeanor and felony stalking. The bulk of stalking convictions in California are misdemeanors.

If you’re convicted of one count of misdemeanor stalking in California, the judge can sentence you to a full year in county jail, fine you up to $1,000, and misdemeanor probation. If convicted of felony stalking, your sentence can include up to five years in a state prison, felony probation, and a fine.

While stalking charges involve threatening a victim, if that victim is hurt as a result of your actions, you’ll likely be charged with assault and intimidation in addition to stalking.

Criminal charges could represent one of the problems you face following a California stalking case. Many stalking victims also decide to file a civil case against their stalker. The purpose of the civil case is to gain financial compensation for the mental anguish they suffered as a result of the stalking episode.