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Tips for Staying Safe While Camping

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Camping is a great way to enjoy both the fantastic summer weather and breathtaking beauty California has to offer. The great thing about camping is that it’s also affordable and usually something you can do at the spur of the moment.

The key to getting the maximum amount of enjoyment out of your camping adventure is making sure you are conscious the entire time you’re camping.

Be Knowledgeable About Basic First Aid

It doesn’t matter how careful you are, accidents do happen and anytime there’s an accident, there’s a risk of an injury. Before you embark on a camping adventure, set aside some time to acquaint yourself with basic first aid. Make sure you know how to tie a tourniquet to slow bleed, how to apply a pressure bandage, and how to manage a sprain.

While you’re learning how to treat common camping injuries, you should also learn how to identify and manage things like allergic reactions, head injuries, hypothermia, and heatstroke.

Knowing how to deal with a camping health crisis is great, but all that knowledge won’t do you any good if you don’t have the right supplies with you. Put together a first aid kit that has everything needed to deal with common camping injuries and make sure you have the kit with you at all times. Never go on a hike or boating adventure without your first aid kit.

Research the Area Where You’ll be Camping

Once you know where you’re going camping, take some time to familiarize yourself with the camping area. Know what dangers are in the area and learn the steps you can take to protect yourself. Most parks will let you know if there are plants, animals, and particular parts of the park you should avoid. If you learn that the park has bears, raccoons, and other forms of wildlife that have gotten comfortable with campers, take some time to make sure you have equipment that will protect your camping gear from these animals. You should also memorize the steps you should take if you find yourself in a face-to-face encounter with wildlife.

Pack a Dangerous Plants Book in Your Kit

You should always have a book that helps you identify dangerous plants that are native to the area where you’re camping. This book will not only help you identify which plants you shouldn’t touch but will also provide useful tips about what you should do if you accidentally brush against one. Knowing what types of dangerous plants are native to your campsite helps you determine what salves and lotions you should include in your first aid kit.

Make Sure you’re Equipment is in Good Repair

Before leaving on your camping trip, look over your equipment and make sure it’s in good repair. Having equipment that is in perfect working order not only makes your camping experience safer but also increases how much you enjoy your adventure.

Check-in With a Loved One

Always let someone know what your camping itinerary is and schedule regular check-ins. While this might seem like an inconvenience, knowing where to start searching for you if you don’t check-in can be a lifesaver if you fall and injure yourself so badly you can’t return to your campsite.

When it comes to camping safety, you can never be too cautious.


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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 Kids in Hot Cars in California

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Kids and hot cars are never a good combination. Everyone knows that, yet there is still an average of 38 children who die each year after they’re locked into a hot car.

In all fairness, nearly all of these cases are an accident. The child is strapped into their car seat in the back of the vehicle and the driver simply forgets that they’re there until it’s too late. There are even situations when the parent accidentally locked the car keys in the vehicle with the child.

While accidents do happen, children overheating in the car something everyone would like to forget. If you’re traveling with a small child who can’t possibly let themselves out of the car, you need to figure out what steps you can take to make sure they aren’t accidentally forgotten. The hotter it gets, the more you’re going to have to worry.

One of the things that might help you remember that your child is in the backseat of your car is understanding that it’s illegal to leave your child there. California passed Kaitlyn’s Law in 2001. The law was created in memory of Kaitlyn Russel, who was only six months old when she died after her babysitter forgot her in a hot car for over two hours.

Kaitlyn’s Law not only makes it illegal to leave an infant in the car, but it also makes it illegal to leave an infant in the care of anyone who isn’t at least 12 years old if the vehicle is running or there are keys in the ignition and if there are unsafe conditions, such as overheating.

Kaitlyn’s Law makes it illegal to leave your unsupervised infant in the car period. So even if there is no danger of them overheating, you still have to bring them into the store or appointment with you.

Leaving a child under the age of six in a vehicle when they have no supervision can result in a $100 fine. It’s not unusual for the judge to waive the fine after you’ve completed a community education program.

In many cases, leaving a young, unsupervised child in the car, especially on a hot day, will result in you being charged with child endangerment. It is one of California’s wobbler offenses. In felony cases, you could face up to six years in prison. In misdemeanor situations, you could be sentenced to a year in county jail. In both situations, the Child Welfare Service will likely become involved and decide if you should retain custody of your child.


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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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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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What is Felony Stalking

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While everyone knows that stalking is a crime, few realize that it can be a felony or a misdemeanor and in some cases, the accused might be charged with both a felony and a misdemeanor.

Every single state has stalking laws. While the nuances of stalking laws vary from one state to another, for the most part, each state has the same description of what can be considered stalking. As a rule, any behavior that can be considered prolonged harassment, an obvious attempt to frighten someone, the unwanted monitoring of a person, using proximity to threaten a person, or actions that lead to emotional distress is covered by stalking laws.

Anyone who engages in the following types of behavior will likely be charged and convicted of stalking in California:

  • Going out of your way to follow a person
  • Frequently showing up at locations where you know a specific person will be
  • Using GPS to monitor a person’s movements
  • Constantly filming/photographing someone without their permission
  • Obsessively monitoring someone’s social media accounts, phone calls/texts, reading their emails, and studying their computer activities
  • Going out of your way to gather as much information as you can about a specific person
  • Leveling threats against a person or their loved ones (including pets) if they don’t spend time with you
  • Instigating property damage
  • Sending gifts and other forms of communication after you’ve been told to stop doing so

While it’s true that it can sometimes be difficult to determine when stalking crosses the line from a misdemeanor and becomes a felony, the general rule of thumb is that anything that seems more intense than simple harassment will likely be considered a case of felony stalking.

The exact punishment a person receives following a stalking conviction in California often varies from one case to the next. When handing down a sentence, the judge looks at a variety of factors, including:

  • Your criminal history
  • The type/intensity of the stalking episodes
  • If the victim had a POP order that you ignored
  • If anyone was hurt because of your actions

The sentence for a misdemeanor conviction can include spending a maximum of one year in county jail and being required to pay a fine that doesn’t exceed $1,000. In most cases, you’ll also be told that you’re legally required to stay away from your victim and that you’re also not allowed to contact them.

The sentence for a felony stalking conviction in California can include spending three years in state prison. If you have prior stalking convictions on your record, you could be sentenced to five years in prison.


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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.