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Fireworks and Safety

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Fireworks are a fun and memorable way to celebrate the Fourth of July, but they can also be dangerous and in some cases have even been deadly. If you plan on setting off your own fireworks this Fourth of July, you owe it to yourself and your family to use common sense and practice firework safety.

Pay Careful Attention to Your Kids

Kids love fireworks and setting off an elaborate display with them is a great way to make new memories, but you don’t want the memories to include tears and emergency room visits. Never lose sight of the fact that fireworks and kids don’t mix. Encourage your kids to stand back while your setting up the fireworks and don’t allow them to play with any of the firework paraphernalia. Never leave your children unattended when there is even the smallest chance they could get into the fireworks.

Have a Ready Supply of Water

One of the biggest problems with fireworks in California is that they contribute to the wildfire problem. If it’s extremely hot and dry, you should want to hold off on using your fireworks until after you’ve gotten some rain. If you really can’t resist setting off the fireworks, at least make sure you have an ample supply of water on hand. In addition to keeping buckets, hoses, and sprayers close, you should also thoroughly spray the area and get everything damp before lighting the fireworks.

Don’t Light Duds

Yes, fireworks are expensive and it’s frustrating to have one that doesn’t perform well, but don’t try to get your money’s worth out of it by relighting it. Leave the duds alone. Lighting duds is how many people lose fingers and suffer extensive burns. In addition to not relighting it, liberally soak it with water before disposing of the defective firework.

Keep Medical Supplies on Hand

In addition to always wearing eye protection while setting off fireworks, you should also keep a medical supply kit close at hand. Make sure that the kit is liberally stocked with medical supplies that are designed to treat burns. If you get burned while lighting your fireworks, treat the injury right away and then seek professional medical help.

By putting safety first, you and your family will enjoy a fun Fourth of July holiday!


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Keeping Your Kids Safe this Summer

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Summer is finally here which means long days and lots of freedom for your kids.

While you want your kids to have a great time and make lots of good memories this summer, you also want them to stay safe. The good news is that it’s possible to do both.

Preventing Heat Stroke

One of the summertime dangers parents don’t always think about is heatstroke. While heatstroke in kids is rare, it does happen and it can be deadly.

Most cases of heatstroke in kids occur in cars. The inside of a car can heat up quickly during the summer months and if a child is strapped into a car seat, they can quickly develop a case of fatal heatstroke. This usually happens when a guardian has completely forgotten the child is in the car.

The best way to make sure you never accidentally leave your child in the car while you run into the store is by creating a reminder. One grandmother puts her shoes near the car seat. Other parents stick a note on their steering wheel. Some put their purses or cell phones next to their infant. What you do isn’t important as long as it makes it impossible for you to accidentally leave your child in the car alone this summer.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that since you’re only going to be away from the car for a moment or two, that it’s okay to leave your child alone. It’s not. A single delay can be deadly. Even if your child is sleeping, take them with you.

If you don’t want to bring your child into the doctor/bank/grocery store. Have a responsible adult stay in the car with them. Make sure you leave the car running and the air conditioner parked. If possible, park in the shade. Make it clear that the person watching your child is not to leave the vehicle unless they take the child with them.

While Playing Outside

While it’s unusual for kids to suffer from heatstroke while playing outside, young bodies appear to have an easier time adapting to elevated temperatures than adult bodies, it can happen. The best way to prevent your child from suffering from heatstroke when they are outside playing is making sure they take frequent drinks of cool water and encouraging them to play in the shade during the warmest parts of the day.

Signs that your child is in danger of developing heat stroke are:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Skin is clammy and cool to the touch
  • Your child’s body temperature has surpassed 104˚ Fahrenheit.

If you suspect your child is suffering from heatstroke, the first thing you need to do is get them to sit down somewhere that is cool. Encourage them to drink something cool, preferably which contains electrolytes. Wipe them with a cool damp cloth.

If your child doesn’t start to recover quickly or frequently suffers from bouts of heatstroke, you should seek medical assistance.


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You’ve Finally Graduated! Don’t Forget to be Smart!

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It seems like you’ve been waiting your whole life to finish school. Many people consider the summer between high school and the time when they start college (or trade school, or simply start working full time) to be one of the most exciting and fun times of their life. While it’s okay to have fun and celebrate your accomplishments, it’s also important that you remember to play it safe during this time.

One of the biggest mistakes teens make after they graduate from high school is getting drunk, which is bad enough, and then compounding that mistake by getting behind the wheel. Don’t be the person in your group who spends the months following high school graduation dealing with the consequences of a drunk driving charge.

The first thing to remember as you celebrate your freedom from high school is that even though you’re legally an adult, you still aren’t old enough to legally drink. You should avoid alcohol as you celebrate your life. Getting caught with booze at this point in your life will result in you being charged with a “minor in possession.”

If convicted of minor in possession charges, your sentencing could include:

  • Being required to do up to 32 hours of community service
  • Having to pay a $250 fine

If you are convicted of minor in possession charges a second time, the sentencing includes:

  • Up to a $500 fine
  • As much as 48 hours of required community service

In addition to fines and community service, you will also lose your driver’s license for a full year after your MIP conviction. The conviction could also impact your acceptance into college and eligibility for some scholarships.

If you get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol as a minor, you are in even more legal trouble. Since you haven’t turned 21, any blood alcohol content that exceeds 0.01% is considered drunk driving. If your blood-alcohol level is 0.01% to 0.04% the officer who pulls you over will confiscate your driver’s license. The only way you can hope to get it back is by scheduling an Administrative Hearing during which you’ll learn how the county intends to handle the situation. You will likely be charged with minor-in-possession and may face additional consequences.

If your blood alcohol level is 0.05%-0.08%, you will be charged with a misdemeanor drunk driving charge.

The first conviction results in:

  • A one-year suspension of your driver’s license
  • Mandatory attendance in an alcohol education program that lasts at least 3 months
  • Mandatory attendance in a youth drunk driving program

In many cases, additional charges, such as reckless endangerment, distracted driving, and minor in possession charges are also filed against the young drunk driver.


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The Legal Ins and Outs of Catfishing

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Catfishing isn’t the art of catching the bottom-dwelling fish that taste greatly fried. Catfishing actually refers to the act of using a false social network profile that allows you to pretend to be someone you’re not. This differs from a ghostwriter creating an account for their writing profile because the catfisher’s account exists purely for malicious purposes.

Each catfisher has their own reasons for creating the fake profile, some use the account to extort financial information, some use it for bullying purposes, some like to get compromising photos of their victims. The end result is that the catfisher almost leaves victims in their wake.

While it seems like catfishing should be considered fraud and illegal, at this point, there are no actual laws pertaining to the actual act of catfishing. But, in many cases, the catfisher uses their fake social media identity for some sort of illegal activity. In many cases, the catfisher knows that they’re engaged in illegal activity but assumes that since they’re using a fake profile, they won’t get caught. Catfishers also hope that their victims will be so embarrassed that they were taken in by the fake profile that they won’t even report the crimes. Another challenge victims who do report the crime face is that the catfisher may live in a different state, making it difficult to pursue legal action.

Examples of laws catfishers commonly break include:

  • Copyright fraud
  • Computer hacking crimes
  • Fraud (uses false pretenses to gain money/goods/services)
  • Identity theft
  • Soliciting minors
  • Illegally recording or photographing someone without their consent

A catfisher can destroy your life so it’s important to know the steps you can take to avoid interacting with a catfisher.

If you’re contacted via social media by someone you don’t know, spend some time checking them out before you respond to their friend request or personal message. See if they have anything in common with you such as a mutual friend or shared interest. Explore their own profile and make sure it contains the type of content usually found on a social media account, this includes interactions with other people.

Even if you’re confident this new contact is a legit person, you still need to be very careful about the type of information you provide them. Keep all of your interactions impersonal.

The single best way to avoid falling victim to a catfisher is to pay attention to your instincts. If you get a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right, you should block them from your social media accounts and stop all interactions. In this day and age, it’s better to play it safe than to be sorry.


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Leaving Pets in Hot Cars in California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Failing to Properly Register Your Vehicle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Most Common Crimes in California

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The most common crimes in California vary from one county to the next. The stats can also change a great deal. Still, there are some crimes that are more prevalent than others.

Drug Related Crimes

One of the interesting things about drug-related crimes in California is that the legalization of marijuana has reduced the number of drug-related arrests each year. It’s estimated that now that marijuana is legal law enforcement agencies have an additional $200 million that is used to deal with other types of crime.

While legalizing marijuana has reduced the number of drug-related crimes the state deals with annually, drugs still take the biggest toll on California’s legal system.

Violent Crimes

The violent crime rate in California fluctuates. It increased in 2012 and decreased by 2.9% between 2018 and 2019. According to data collected in 2019, 60% of the violent crime arrests were aggravated assault only 1% involved homicides.

DUIs

Despite all the warnings about combining alcohol and driving, DUIs still represent a major crime problem in California. The good news is that people seem to be getting better about not drinking and driving. In 2008, there were 208,845 DUI arrests in the state. In 2013 there were only 155,599 reported DUI arrests.

Weapons Charges

Weapons charges represent a large chunk of California’s crime problem, though there is a wide assortment of charges which range from quite minor to extremely serious. Given the complexity of California’s laws regarding weapons, if you plan on carrying anything that could be considered a weapon it’s in your best interest to spend a great deal of time reading through all of the laws that pertain to that specific weapon. Don’t forget that weapon laws can change from one county to the next.

Property Crimes

A surprising number of property crimes take place each year in California. The good news is that they appear to be decreasing. Two major California cities, Ventura and Fresno reported an impressive 10% decrease in property crimes in 2019.

It will be interesting to see how crime rates change in a post-Covid-19 world.


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Documenting a Car Accident

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If you haven’t been in a car accident yet, you should consider yourself lucky. Considering how much time we spend behind the wheel, the odds are good that sooner or later you’ll be involved in one. Because of the likelihood of getting into a car accident, it’s important to know what the proper protocol is during an accident.

The first thing you need to do is make sure neither you nor anyone else is hurt. If there are injuries, call for medical help and do as much first aid as possible. During this, you should also contact the police.

When there are injuries, dealing with those should always be your first priority. Let the police handle writing up the details of the accident.

If there aren’t any injuries, you should still call the police, but while you’re waiting for them to arrive on the scene, take some time to create your own documentation of the accident. Thanks to the installed camera inside your smartphone this is easier than ever. All you have to do is whip it out and start snapping photos.

Having clear accident scene photos is extremely important. Unlike a police report that can be dismissed by a judge as hearsay, the photos you snap at the accident can be used during a civil trial. Your insurance company might even use them as they try to determine how the accident happened and who is at fault. The photos also help provide proof of who actually witnessed the accident.

When you’re snapping photos, you’ll want to take pictures of both vehicles, anyone who is standing nearby, and the local landscape. Make sure you include shots of road signs, objects that could have helped cause the accidents, intersections, and traffic lights.

As soon as you can, sit down and write your own account of what happened in the moments leading up to the car accident. You should do this even if you believe the accident was your fault. Once you’ve completed writing your own report, save it and the photos you snapped somewhere safe. It’s really in your best interest to store copies in multiple places, such as one set in a cloud storage unit, a few more saved to various email locations, and maybe a hard copy in your filing cabinet.

You need to keep the photos and your account of the accident for a full two years. After two years, California’s statute of limitations for car accidents kicks in and you’ll no longer have to worry about a civil lawsuit.


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Laws Every Californian Should Know About

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If you call California home, there are a few laws you should familiarize yourself with.

DUI Threshold Laws

Everyone knows that getting arrested for DUI is a serious, life-altering problem. The problem is that few people know what when they have crossed over the threshold from legally able to drive and become too drunk to drive.

It doesn’t matter if you are the kind of person who gets buzzed after a few sips or someone who really can hold their liquor, if you’re pulled over and your blood alcohol level is 0.08% or higher you will be charged with a DUI.

Data Privacy Laws in California

One of the great things about calling California home is knowing that you have a legal right to know exactly what type of data businesses collect about you and what they’re using it for. The California Consumer Privacy Act went into effect on January 1, 2020.

The California Consumer Privacy Act is written in such a way that you:

  • Can delete personal data a business has collected
  • Block the sale of personal data
  • Have the ability to learn exactly what data is collected/sold/shared/etc.

Comparative Negligence for Injuries

Don’t assume that just because you believe that someone is 99% for injuries they sustained during an accident, that they’ll be responsible for the bulk of their medical bills. That’s not quite how the law sees things in California.

California lawmakers created a comparative fault law that basically states that if you are in any way responsible for a person’s injuries, they (or their insurance company) can sue you for a portion of the expenses the individual incurred because of the accident. The good news is that once the court decides how much your actions contributed to the accident, that will be the amount you have to owe.

For example, if a guest comes to your home while they are drunk and trips over a hose that you left stretched across the driveway and breaks their nose, the court might decide that the hose was only 20% of the reason they were injured. The other 80% of the injuries were connected to their intoxication. In this situation, you’d only be responsible for 20% of the medical bills.

Cell Phones and Cars

As a society, we’ve become addicted to our cell phones. They rarely leave our sight. We love how they provide us with a way to constantly be connected to everyone we care about. While no one has taken steps to separate us from our phones, California lawmakers have passed laws that are designed to keep you off your phone while you’re behind the wheel.

If you’re under 18 and driving, you’re not allowed to use your cell phone at all while commuting. Even the hands-free system is off-limits. If you do have to make a call or respond to a text, you’ll have to pull over and deal with the situation while your car is completely stopped.

If you’re over 18, you’re allowed to use the hands-free system of your choice, but you can’t have your phone in your hand. The first time you’re caught holding the phone while driving, you’ll be issued a ticket that will cost at least $76.

The one exception to using a handheld phone while driving is if you’re reporting an emergency to the police or fire department.


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Oops, I Opened my Neighbor’s Mail!!

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The postal service isn’t infallible. They’re prone to making human mistakes. One of the most common mistakes the postal service does is occasionally putting your neighbor’s mail in your mailbox.

Most of us don’t really look at the mail before we open it. Since it’s in our mailbox, we automatically assume it’s for us. As a result, occasionally we open a piece of mail that belongs to our neighbor.

This can instantly lead to a sense of panic because most of us know that opening other people’s mail is a federal offense.

If you’ve accidentally opened a piece of mail that isn’t yours, the first thing you need to do is take a deep breath and relax. Unfortunately, these things happen.

The best way to deal with the situation is to return the mail to the envelope, seal it with a piece of tape, and let your neighbor know what happened. If you don’t see your neighbor, either slide the mail under their front door with a note of explanation or return the mail to the post office.

You want to take a proactive stance on the situation. The quicker you are to admit to the mistake, the less likely your neighbor will be to press charges.

If you got as far as reading whatever was sent to your neighbor, you don’t want to discuss the contents with anyone. Not with your neighbor (unless they bring it up,) not your spouse, and not your friends. Talking about the mail you accidentally opened could be considered an invasion of privacy and may cause your neighbor to consider filing charges against you.

The issue of mail theft is dealt covered by PC 530.5(E). In California, opening someone’s mail is a misdemeanor offense. A guilty conviction could result in being sentenced to a single year in jail. The good news is that to secure a conviction, the prosecution has to prove that you knowingly accepted the mail (or took it out of someone’s mailbox) and opened it. That’s why it’s so important to admit what you’ve done and alert both the post office and the actual owner of the mail to the situation.