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Fall Camping Safety Tips in California

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The fall is a great time to go camping in California. Not only is the weather a little cooler, but the bugs aren’t as bad either. Another advantage is that since school is in session, there are usually fewer kids at the local campsites which means the campgrounds and trails are a little quieter.

There are a few things you need to keep in mind when it comes to safety and fall camping.

The first is that you have to be mindful of the weather. The biggest drawback to camping in the fall rather than the summer is that the weather changes faster and those changes can be more extreme. This is especially true if you’re going into the mountains. Not only will you want to watch the weather reports, but you’ll also want to pack some additional clothing that you can change into if the temperature suddenly drops.

Always let someone know where you are going, even if you are just going on a one-night hike/camping trip on your own. No matter how careful you are, there is a chance you’ll be hurt. Knowing when you’re supposed to be back and your last location drastically improves the chances of a quick rescue. The quicker the rescue, the better the odds of making a full recovery.

Keep your phone charged. Yes, you might crave solitude and escape, but that doesn’t mean you should leave your phone home. Before leaving make sure it’s fully charged so that you can use it if you get into trouble. While you want to keep your phone close at hand during the entire camping trip, you don’t have to keep it turned on if you don’t want to deal with texts and calls the entire time you’re camping. Feel free to turn it off and keep it in your pocket.

Be mindful of fire safety the entire time you’re camping. Fall wildfires are a serious concern in California. You don’t want to be the cause of one. Always have plenty of water on hand, create a fire ring, and keep the campfire as small as possible. Douse your fire before you leave the camp and make sure the ashes are cold and that there are no remaining embers that could start a wildfire.

Be realistic about your ability. Stick to trails that you are physically suited for and don’t push yourself too hard, especially if you’re on your own. Don’t take any chances that could end with you getting hurt or overwhelmed by exhaustion. If you’ve never gone camping before, bring an experienced camper with you so they can teach you how to camp properly.

The more mindful you are about safety, the more you’ll enjoy your fall camping adventure in California.


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Wet and Reckless in California

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If you’ve never heard of a wet and reckless charge in California, you’re not alone. Very few people are aware of them. Most of the people who do know about wet reckless driving offenses are lawyers who specialize in DUI cases.

What is a Wet Reckless Driving Charge in California

A patrol officer won’t write a wet reckless ticket. The only way you’ll ever get such a thing is if you’ve been arrested for a DUI in California and your lawyer can talk it down to a wet reckless charge. The fact that it’s not a traditional driving violation is the reason so few people have even heard of wet reckless driving.

A wet reckless charge is a plea agreement the California lawyers use in drunk driving cases. They usually only apply the first time a person is involved in a DUI. The biggest difference between a wet reckless charge and a traditional DUI conviction is that the consequences connected to a wet reckless charge are milder than those attached to a DUI. In many cases, people find that having a wet reckless charge on their file doesn’t create as many problems when employers run a background check.

In the past, some lawyers haven’t been fans of wet reckless charges, but changes made in 2021 have altered their stance.

How a Wet and Reckless Compares to a DUI

If you’re able to plea a DUI down to a wet reckless in California, there is no automatic suspension of your driver’s license, though there is an exception. If the DMV learns that your wet reckless charge resulted from a BAC of 0..08% they can still suspend your license, though the suspension might not last as long. It’s also important to understand that the charge will result in two points being added to your driving record.

A wet reckless charge doesn’t involve mandatory jail time. If the judge does sentence you to jail, the maximum amount of time you would serve is 90-days.

You’ll probably still be required to take a few DUI classes, but it’s normally far fewer than you’d have to take if you were charged with a formal DUI.

While there is still a probationary period connected to a wet reckless conviction, it’s significantly shorter. The probation for a wet reckless is generally one to two years, whereas for a DUI it’s three to five years long. This can have a huge impact on your life if you plan on moving out of state or doing much traveling.

Wet and reckless charges aren’t applicable in every single DUI situation. You’ll have to consult with a highly experienced DUI attorney to determine if this is the route you should take following a DUI arrest.


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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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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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Can You Get Into Trouble for Using a Computer That Doesn’t Belong to You?

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We’ve all done it from time to time. Grabbed a friend or family member’s laptop to check our email or update our social media accounts. Most of us ask for permission first. But what if you don’t ask for permission? What happens if you simply boot up someone else’s computer and start using it.

While each situation is different, in legal terms, if you use someone’s computer without getting their permission first, you can be charged with a crime. You’d be charged with violating Penal Code 502 PC. This law states that:

“It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this section to expand the degree of protection afforded to individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies from tampering, interference, damage, and unauthorized access to lawfully created computer data and computer systems. The Legislature finds and declares that the proliferation of computer technology has resulted in a concomitant proliferation of computer crime and other forms of unauthorized access to computers, computer systems, and computer data.

The Legislature further finds and declares that protection of the integrity of all types and forms of lawfully created computers, computer systems, and computer data is vital to the protection of the privacy of individuals as well as to the well-being of financial institutions, business concerns, governmental agencies, and others within this state that lawfully utilize those computers, computer systems, and data.”

This means that not only are you not allowed to boot up another person’s computer without their permission, you’re also not allowed to use their computer network or any of their software. You should also be aware that in most situations using another person’s cell phone without their permission would also be covered by the same law.

Most of California’s unauthorized use of a computer cases involve additional charges which frequently include fraud, identity theft, and trespassing.

At this point, unauthorized computer access is one of California’s wobbler laws. The exact circumstances of the situation determine if you face misdemeanor or felony charges.

If you are convicted of misdemeanor unauthorized computer use, the maximum sentence is twelve months in county jail and a fine that doesn’t exceed $5,000. Felony convictions can include a three-year stint in state prison and as much as $10,000. Probation is an option in both felony and misdemeanor cases.

While there are defenses you can use in an unauthorized use of a computer case, putting one together isn’t easy. In order to win, you’ll have to prove that you were actually given permission or that you didn’t realize it wasn’t your computer or cell phone.

The best way to avoid an unauthorized use of computer charge is trying to use your own electronics’ as much as possible.


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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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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.


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California Laws Ride Share Drivers Need to Understand

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Rideshare programs like Uber and Lyft are a great way for some people to supplement their income. The programs are designed so that you get to choose your hours. In some cities, people have found that they were able to live a respectful living as a rideshare driver.

The problem some people encounter is that they aren’t properly prepared for the reality of becoming part of a rideshare program. There are some legal issues you should review before you pick up your first customer.

As rideshare programs gained popularity, California lawmakers realized that they needed to step in and start regulating the practice. This led to the creation of several state laws. It’s important to understand that these state laws pertain to anyone who is part of a rideshare program, it doesn’t matter if you’re a full-time driver or if you’re picking up your first passenger.

California state laws rideshare drivers must familiarize themselves with include:

  • A sticker that identifies you as a rideshare driver has to be prominently displayed on your vehicle. One sticker on the windshield, one on the rear window.
  • You must consent to an annual background check
  • The vehicle you use for rideshares must be inspected every 12 months or every 50,000 miles
  • You must pick up and transport customers who have service dogs
  • Vehicles used for rideshares must adhere to California’s current climate emission levels

Rideshare drivers are impacted by Assembly Bill NO. 5 which went into law on January 1, 2020. The law officially changed your status from that of a freelance contractor who simply provided work for Uber or Lyft to that of an employee.

Issues concerning Assembly Bill NO. 5 resulted in a case appearing in the California Superior Court where a judge ruled that both Uber and Lyft were legally responsible for paying drivers a mandated benefit, over time, business-expenses, and minimum wage.

Personal safety and liability issues have been raised by both drivers and passengers. At this point, there aren’t any laws that require rideshare drivers to install a dashboard camera in their vehicle, which would prevent false claims from being filed against drivers, but it is still a good idea.

The most important thing to remember is that you will have to claim any money you make as a rideshare driver and pay taxes on it. Get into the habit of keeping detailed rideshare financial records so that if you’re ever audited, you won’t have to worry about getting a bill for back taxes and unclaimed income from the IRS.


Underage drinking consequences

Spring Break is Coming! Know What an Underage Drinking Charge Will Cost you

Underage drinking consequences

Spring break is finally here! It’s time to cut loose, forget all about your studies, and have a good time.

While there’s nothing wrong with relaxing and enjoying yourself, don’t forget that you’re not allowed to drink alcohol until you’re twenty-one years old. If you choose to ignore this, an underage drinking charge won’t just ruin your spring break, it will also have a negative impact on your life over the next few years.

It doesn’t matter if you’re pulled over for speeding or if the cops show up at a party, if your blood alcohol content is over .05 and you’re under twenty-one, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

For the record, a single beer is all it takes to put you over .05.

The days when an underage drinking charge resulted in a difficult phone call to your parents and some community service time are long over. California lawmakers have decided to crackdown on underage drinking during spring break.

The first time you get caught drinking while you’re underage, the potential consequences are:

  • Serving 24-32 hours of community service
  • A $250 fine
  • Attending an alcohol education program

Each time you’re caught drinking while underage after the first conviction, the consequences are:

  • 36-48 hours of community service
  • A $500 fine
  • A one-year drivers license suspension

The very first time you’re caught drinking and driving while underage, the potential consequences can include:

  • Spending at least 48 hours in jail
  • Spending 3 years on probation
  • Lowing your good driver status for 10 full years (this will lead to significantly higher insurance premiums)
  • 2 points getting added to your current driving record

Some California counties will also install an ignition lock on any vehicles that are registered in your name.

It’s important to remember that minors aren’t the only ones who can get into trouble for underage drinking. Anyone who allows minors to drink will also find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Parents who allow their children to consume alcohol while at home can get into serious trouble if that child is caught behind the wheel while under the influence. A guilty conviction of letting a minor drive while intoxicated includes a one-year jail sentence and a $1,000.

If the court decides that you’ve contributed to the delinquency of a minor, they can hit you with a one-year jail sentence and a $2,500 fine.

Businesses that serve alcohol to minors face a misdemeanor charge that can include a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The charge can also jeopardize their business license.

It is in everyone’s best interest to remember that alcohol and minors shouldn’t mix this spring break.


School zone traffic laws

The Cost of Ignoring School Zone Traffic Laws in California

School zone traffic laws

Kids are finally starting to return to school in California which means it’s time for drivers to reacquaint themselves with school zone traffic laws. It’s extremely important that you not only know that the laws exist but also the consequences of breaking the school zone traffic laws.

School zones are designated areas where there periods of the day where there are multiple kids on foot, parents picking up kids, and school buses present. These things create additional driving hazards. Everyone has to be hypervigilant during these times, particularly if you’re in an area where there a lot of young kids who don’t always remember to look before they dart into traffic.

To keep things as safe as possible, the speed limits are decreased in school zones during key times of the day, usually when people are showing up for school and when they’re leaving.

In most school zones, the speed limit decreases to 25 MPH though there are places where it goes even lower, to 15 mph. Signs in the area not only alert you to the change in speed, but they will also have a note stating that the decreased speed limit goes into effect “when children are present.” Many also have a flashing light attached to the sign which blinks on and off when the police are enforcing the decreased speed limit.

In addition to having these speed limit zones near schools, some cities have also decided to create special speed limit zones near parks and playgrounds.

If you’re entering a school zone, you are expected to be on high alert for slow-moving traffic and lots of unpredictable foot traffic. You should also be prepared for the possibility of cops who have parked in strategic spots while they wait to pull over drivers who fail to obey the decreased speed limit.

If you’re pulled over for speeding in a school zone, don’t expect to talk your way out of the ticket. Patrol officers take the safety of children very seriously and are unlikely to let you off with a warning.

If you get a ticket for speeding in a school zone, you should expect to pay:

  • $25 for 1-15 miles per hour over the limit
  • $50 for 16-25 miles per hour over the limit
  • $100 for 26 miles per hour the limit

It’s important to understand that these fines are the base amount. In most cases, there are additional costs attached to each ticket which will often bring it to over $100. It’s also possible that the officer will decide to attach additional charges to the ticket. These additional charges could include reckless driving, failing to yield, negligence, and even using a cell phone. It’s also possible that they will notice a problem with your insurance or registration.

When all is said and done, it’s best to keep both hands on the wheel, your eyes up, and your foot light on the accelerator while you’re driving through a California school zone. The few extra minutes slowing down adds to your commute will cost you far less than a failure to slow down in a school zone traffic ticket.