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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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California Public Intoxication Laws

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MMany people assume that as long as they don’t get behind the wheel and try driving home they don’t have to worry about how much they drink when they go out. While the decision to never drive after you’ve been drinking is always wise, that doesn’t mean you can get a plastered as you want. There is always a chance that your night of heavy drinking at the bar could result in you getting arrested for public intoxication in California.

The good news is that if you simply have one too many while you’re at the bar, you probably don’t have too much to worry about. California lawmakers have made it obvious that the only time legal concerns and public intoxication combine is when you’re so heavily under the influence of drugs or alcohol that you’re unable to keep yourself and others safe.

For example, if you’re so drunk that you aren’t aware of traffic and start walking down the middle of the road, you’ll be arrested and charged with public intoxication. The same is true if you get so drunk while you’re at the bar that your normal mild-mannered nature abandons you and you start making threats or behaving in a lewd manner.

Public intoxication in California is a misdemeanor. If you’re convicted, the maximum sentence is six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. In many cases, the individual must perform a specified number of community service hours.

The good news about public intoxication is that it won’t impact your driving record. The bad news is that the charge could hurt your future. It’s possible that the charge will make it harder to qualify for scholarships, land your dream job, and be approved for an apartment rental.

The only way you can be charged with public intoxication is if you’re in a public area. That means the best way to avoid the charge is staying home when you decide you want to spend the evening drinking.


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Crosswalk Safety in California

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Walking to work means you don’t have to worry about getting caught in a traffic jam. It’s a great way to build some stamina while also burning a few calories. It also provides you with the means to start slowing down and develop a connection with the world you live in.

Just don’t think that walking to work is safer than driving yourself. A surprising number of California pedestrians are killed annually. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, there were 972 pedestrian deaths in 2019. Approximately 22% of fatal traffic episodes in California involve a pedestrian. These alarming statistics prompted California lawmakers to pass the “Right-of-Way at Crosswalks” law.

The Right-of-Way law is written up in Code, Section 21950(a). When you read through the formal law, you’ll learn that drivers are legally required to yield to a pedestrian who is strolling through a crosswalk. The law requires that drivers yield to the pedestrian in both marked and unmarked crosswalks. The implementation of the law also requires that drivers use a little additional care when approaching a crosswalk and be on the lookout for pedestrians who may be about to step onto the street. If a pedestrian is stepping onto the street, the driver will have to stop to allow the pedestrian to safely cross the road.

Another issue that’s dealt with in the Right-of-Way law is passing while driving through a crosswalk. Passing while driving through a crosswalk is dangerous for several reasons, including that the passing driver may not see a pedestrian until it’s too late.

The interesting thing about California’s Right-of-Way law is that it’s designed to protect the rights of both pedestrians and drivers. Drivers do have the right away at crosswalks that are controlled with signals, provided the signal indicates that the driver can go. In this situation, the pedestrians are supposed to yield for drivers. However, drivers do have to wait for slow-moving pedestrians who may be struggling to reach the opposite side in a timely fashion, and the driver must be prepared to take safe and evasive action if a distracted pedestrian fails to notice the sign.

Drivers who are caught failing to adhere to California’s Right-of-Way law will likely receive a traffic citation which will involve a steep fine, points, and the possibility of having the state consider revoking their driving privileges.


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Think Before Posting those Vacation Photos

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One of the best things about social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter is the ability to quickly post all of your photos so that your friends and family can admire them.

Those same pictures can also make you an easy and attractive target to anyone who is looking for a home to break into.

The problem with posting vacation pictures on your social media account is that if you’re posting those pictures while you’re still on vacation, you are literally telling any would-be burglar that your house is standing empty. This is especially true if you happen to answer a question about how long you’re going to be gone.

Don’t assume that posting vacation pictures is the only way you can get into trouble. The same is true if you make a comment about waiting for a flight, discuss an out-of-town business trip, or even a routine lunch date. Most importantly, don’t take advantage of the option some social media sites provide allow you to share your precise location with all of your friends and family.

Most people feel comfortable sharing vacation photos on social media accounts because they reason that they are all friends and that their friends would never steal from them. But take a moment to go through your current friend’s list. How many of those people do you really know and how many are people who you’ve simply met a few times at different events or through other friends?

The first thing you should do is change your account settings so that the only people who can see your posts are your friends and family. If you also use social media for a business, then create a separate account for your business and make sure you don’t include any of your travel plans on it.

The next thing you need to do is refrain from sharing information about vacation plans, weekend getaways, and more on social media. When it comes to posting the pictures, wait until you get home. When you do decide it’s time to post those holiday snaps, make it very clear that you’re already home and that life has returned to normal.

Don’t assume that just because you’re not actively posting your vacation photos while you’re away from home that you don’t have to worry. Make it very clear to anyone you’re traveling with that you don’t want to be tagged in any of their vacation photos.


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What to Do if You’re Being Stalked

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Every single year, approximately 7.5 million Americans become the victims of a stalker. If you suspect that you’ve attracted the attention of a stalker you must remain calm while simultaneously taking steps to protect yourself.

Don’t Dismiss the Threat

One of the biggest mistakes many stalking victims make is deciding that they are imagining things or that the situation isn’t all that serious. When it comes to a stalker, it’s best to be over-cautious. Being the victim of a stalker not only puts your mental health at risk, but it can also be life-threatening. The University of Gloucestershire conducted a six-month study that revealed that stalking was a component in 94% of the studied homicides.

As soon as you even suspect you’ve attracted the attention of a stalker, you need to take steps to protect yourself.

Block Your Social Media Accounts

Social media has made stalking easier than ever before. Routing posts provide an incredible amount of information that a stalker will use against you. When you feel that you’ve attracted the attention of a stalker, set all of your online profiles to private and stop posting updates, particularly updates that a stalker could use to figure out where you’re going and your routine.

Alert Loved Ones to the Situation

Even if you only have a funny feeling about someone, you should talk to your loved ones about the situation. Not only will they help you decide if you’re imagining things, but they can also take steps to make sure you’re protected. A perfect example of how alerting a loved one to the situation will help you out is that they’ll be willing to accompany you on errands. Not only is there safety in numbers, but the second pair of eyes means you will have a witness to the stalking which will strengthen your case if you have to press charges.

Start Keeping a Record

Pull out a notebook and start recording everything that relates to your stalker. This record should include gifts you’ve received, any time they’ve been in the same location as you, and all virtual and in-person conversations you’ve had with them. It’s a good idea to keep copies of these records in different locations. The data you collect will be a key piece of evidence against your stalker.

Get Serious About Personal Protection

You can’t afford to get casual with your personal protection. As soon as you feel that you’re becoming the victim of a stalker, you need to take a long look at your current situation and evaluate how you can make it safer. You need to lock your doors. You need to alert loved ones about where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Consider taking a self-defense class. Get into the habit of frequently checking in with loved ones. You may even want to consider staying with a friend or loved one until you can figure out how to resolve the situation.

Talk to the Police

As soon as you start to feel threatened by the stalker, it’s time to contact the police. The amount of protection they can provide will depend on your exact circumstances. Even if the situation hasn’t escalated to the point of you being able to obtain a restraining order or file charges against your stalker, contacting the authorities is always a good idea since it officially shows that you’re concerned about the situation and creates yet another record that strengthens your case. The police will also likely have some advice about additional steps you can take to protect yourself.

The most important thing to remember when you’ve attracted the attention of a stalker is to cut your ties with them and to trust your instincts.


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Tips for Kids Going Back to School

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The threat of your young child disappearing when they go back to school is far greater than you imagine. According to Child Find of America, approximately 2,300 children are abducted every single day in the United States. The National Center of Exploited and Missing Children reported that in 2020, an estimated 1 in 6 missing children were victims of sex trafficking.

Stranger danger and abduction prevention lessons are something you and your children should always be working on. With the start of school just around the corner, now is the time to sit down with your child and review everything they know about stranger danger and staying safe.

While you’re shopping for school supplies, use this time with your child to review the rules you should already have in place regarding accepting rides from strangers.

The rules your child should already be familiar with include:

  • Never get into a stranger’s vehicle
  • Always staying several feet away from a stranger’s vehicle
  • Knowing that if a person makes them feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable, that they should immediately seek out the assistance of a trusted adult

Abductors usually don’t bother with children who are traveling in packs, which is why it’s important to teach your child that they should always have a friend or two with them wherever they go. The more friends they have with them while walking home from school, playing in the back, and riding bikes, the safer they will be.

Now is the perfect time to teach your child how to be aware of their surroundings. This is something you should do by example. Put your phone in your pocket and actively survey your surroundings when you walk to and from buildings. Teach your child to notices is strange people are hanging around places like the playground. Teach them to be particularly aware if they notice that the same person shows up in multiple locations your child is at and to let you know about this person.

Make it very clear that it doesn’t matter if a stranger has candy, is saying they are lost/hurt, or has kittens/puppies to play with that your child is not to approach them. That their best course of action is leaving the immediate area and finding a trusted, familiar adult.

Teach your child to scream. If the worse does happen and a stranger approaches your child, the screams will cause the adult to quickly decide that your child isn’t worth the effort and they will flee the scene.

Don’t assume that just because your child is older that you no longer have to worry about abductions. According to the Missouri Child Identification and Protection Program, 81% of abducted minors were 12 years old or older.


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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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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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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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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.