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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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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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The Dangers of Distracted Driving in California

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Everyone always talks about how horrible drunk driving is but far less is mentioned about the dangers and repercussions of distracted driving, which is as dangerous and even more common than drunk driving.

Distracted driving in California isn’t a new thing. For as long as people have been getting behind the wheel of automobiles, there have been distracted drivers.

Examples of distracted driving include:

  • Daydreaming
  • Arguing with passengers
  • Rubbernecking
  • Trying to pick up a candy bar you’ve dropped
  • Changing radio stations
  • Using your cell phone

Distracted driving can result in a number of things going wrong. A single second of distracted driving can result in:

  • Weaving in and out of your lane
  • Striking another car/pedestrian
  • Missing a road sign
  • Running a red light

Over the past twenty years or so, distracted driving has become a much bigger problem. Data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association indicates that distracted driving results in approximately 1,000 injuries every single day and approximately 9 deaths a day. Many of these distracted driving accidents involved a cell phone.

In California, when someone is pulled over for distracted driving and issued a citation, the ticket usually doesn’t say distracted driving, even though that’s usually the cause of the incident. The ticket usually states the effect. For example, if you were playing with your dog who was in the shotgun seat and run a red light, the ticket will likely state reckless driving or failure to yield rather than distracted driving.

If your distracted driving results in an injury or death to another person, the citation may be the least of your worries. When someone is hurt or killed as a result of a distracted driving episode, you could find yourself acting as the defendant in a civil case.

In an effort to lower the number of distracted driving incidents in California, the state has introduced the Just Drive campaign. The idea of the Just Drive campaign is to educate/remind drivers about the dangers of using a cell phone while you’re behind the wheel. Everybody involved in the campaign hopes that the program will remind drivers about how deadly answering a single text or taking a long call can be.

California’s “Just Drive” campaign is quite similar to earlier efforts to reduce the number of drivers who use their cell phones while they’re behind the wheel, but this campaign is geared specifically towards younger drivers who are between the ages of 16 and 24.

In California, you’re not allowed to have your cell phone in your hand while you’re driving. While everyone would prefer it if you simply didn’t use your cell phone at all during your commute, you are allowed to use it provided it’s set to hands-free mode, mounted on your dash or windshield, and can be turned on and off by a single finger touch.

The best way to avoid being the cause of a distracted driving incident is to keep your eyes and mind on the road.


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Safe Hiking Tips for California’s Trails

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

Be Realistic About Your Fitness

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

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

Bring Water

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

Pack a First Aid Kit

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

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

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

Let Someone Know Where you Are

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

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

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


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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.