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Safety Tips for College Students

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It’s the time of year when many young adults are preparing for their first semester of college. In most cases, this is the first time they have lived without the supervision and guidance of their parents. One of the things collegebound students should already be reviewing is how they can make sure that they have fun and manage to stay safe during their freshman year.

Always Be Mindful of Your Safety

The great thing about living in a dorm is that the close living quarters means forming a tight bond with many of the people living on your floor. The downside to living in a dorm is that the sense of family and friendship can cause you to become lax when it comes to your safety. The biggest problem many students encounter while living in the dorm is that they become so comfortable that they start neglecting to lock their doors.

From day one, get into the habit of locking your door and double-checking the lock each time you enter and leave your dorm room.

Establish the Buddy System

While staying in your dorm and only going to classes will keep you safe, it’s not much fun. Rather than locking yourself away, get into the habit of creating a buddy program when you go out. Make a deal with a few different friends that no one goes home without the others and to keep an eye on one another the entire time you’re out and having a good time.

Keep Your Phone Charged

Each time you leave your dorm room make sure your phone is fully charged and that it’s easily accessible. It’s your first line of defense if you get into trouble while you’re out.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

When you’re out and about, pay attention to your surroundings. Stay in brightly lit areas. Stick to areas that are populated and heavily patrolled by campus security. Keep your eyes on the environment rather than on your phone.

Get Your Own Drinks

It doesn’t matter if you’re at a party, relaxing in your own room, or at a local pizza place, always get your own drinks. You should also never leave your drink unattended. If for some reason you do have to walk away from your drink, discard the unfinished portion and get yourself a new one.

Don’t be Afraid to Contact Campus Security

If your friends leave without you, it’s better to contact campus security and have them give you a ride back to your dorm than to try to walk home alone. Remember, that they’re paid to protect you.

Following these safety tips and using common sense provides you with the tools needed to stay safe while also enjoying your first year of college life.

Establish Patterns for Contacting Loved Ones

While you don’t necessarily want to always use the same route for going to classes and parties, you do want to establish good patterns when it comes to checking in with friends and family. Checking in on a specific day of the week and close to the same time each time is a good warning system if something goes wrong. If you don’t check-in, they know that they should contact the authorities and have someone do a physical check on you.


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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.


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California Stalking Laws

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In California, you can be convicted of stalking even if you have never engaged in actively pursuing a victim as they went about their daily activities. It’s even possible to be found guilty of California’s stalking laws if you’ve never had a face-to-face encounter with the victim. The reason for this is because California lawmakers have written the state’s stalking laws in such a way that they encompass a variety of acts that include harassment, even if that harassment only takes place in the form of letters, social media posts, or phone calls.

The issue of stalking in California is addressed in Penal Code 646.9 PC. The laws states, “Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking.”

The interesting thing about California’s stalking laws is that contacting someone via social media posts, making phone calls, and following them around isn’t always considered stalking. While these things may result in a police report getting filed, to convict you of stalking, the prosecution must prove that your actions/words threatened the victim so that they feared for either their life or their safety.

One of the interesting things about California’s stalking laws is that they are wobbler offenses. That means you could be charged with misdemeanor or felony stalking. There have even been instances where a person was charged with both misdemeanor and felony stalking. The bulk of stalking convictions in California are misdemeanors.

If you’re convicted of one count of misdemeanor stalking in California, the judge can sentence you to a full year in county jail, fine you up to $1,000, and misdemeanor probation. If convicted of felony stalking, your sentence can include up to five years in a state prison, felony probation, and a fine.

While stalking charges involve threatening a victim, if that victim is hurt as a result of your actions, you’ll likely be charged with assault and intimidation in addition to stalking.

Criminal charges could represent one of the problems you face following a California stalking case. Many stalking victims also decide to file a civil case against their stalker. The purpose of the civil case is to gain financial compensation for the mental anguish they suffered as a result of the stalking episode.


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Drinking on California’s Beaches

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Summer is finally here. For many of us, that means long, lazy weekends and evenings at our favorite beaches. We can’t get enough sun, sand, and surf. The big question is, can you bring a cooler full of beer to your favorite California beach?

The answer varies depending on which beach you’re going to.

If you’re in San Diego, the answer is no. The beaches have a strict, no-alcohol policy. Many state park beaches also prohibit alcohol, though some will allow you to pop a top.

The California state beaches where you can drink are:

  • Carmel Beach, Monterey County
  • Descanso Beach Club
  • Doheny State Beach, Orange County
  • Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County
  • Paradise Cove, Malibu, Los Angeles County

If you are going to one of those beaches and plan on bringing your favorite alcoholic beverages along, double-check the beach rules. Some have specific times when alcohol is prohibited.

Even on beaches where alcohol is allowed, you need to use extreme caution and make sure you don’t overindulge. If you get drunk and the police come by, you could be charged with public intoxication or even disturbing the peace.

You also need to be mindful of how much you drink before you go swimming, diving, or surfing. Getting into the water after you have been drinking slows your reflexes and dulls your judgment, increasing the likelihood of you getting hurt and drowning. The unspoken rule of thumb is that if you plan to go into the water at all, you should do so before you start drinking.

You should also expect the police to be patrolling the roads that lead to and from the beach, so you’ll want to make sure you’re sober before you slide behind the wheel. Before heading home, make sure that any remaining alcohol is properly stored in your cooler so that you don’t get caught with an open container in the car.

The other thing to keep in mind when you head to the beach is that littering is a crime. In addition to picking up all of your trash, make sure you collect your bottle tops, empty cans, and other alcohol-related paraphernalia before you leave.

Have fun and stay safe!


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Keep Your Car Running Smoothly This Summer

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For many of us, the long days of summer means a chance to take long and scenic road trips. We use the time to drive to beaches, visit out-of-the-way hiking trails, and drive to distant relative’s homes for long weekends. We love the sun and warm weather but seldom stop to think about the toll the heat takes on our vehicles.

The good news is that as long as you follow these summer car maintenance tips, your car will be ready and able to accompany you on all of your summertime adventures.

Check Your Battery’s Attachment

Most people only think that they have to worry about their battery during the winter because the cold weather forces the battery to work harder when starting the car. While the battery doesn’t work as hard during the summer months, the combination of heat and constant vibrations can cause it to steadily break down. The best way to preserve your battery during the summer is to make sure it’s securely attached so that it experiences minimal vibrations.

Another thing to look for is corrosion. Summer heat leads to excessive evaporation which can cause the battery connections to corrode. Routinely checking and cleaning the connections helps keep the battery in perfect operating order.

If your battery is three years old, bring your car to a mechanic so they can check the battery and see if it’s time to replace it.

Get Into the Habit of Checking the Coolant

The warmer it is outside, the harder your car has to work. It’s going to go through more coolant. Each month, take a few minutes to check and top off both the coolant and the oil. Keeping these topped off spares you the headache of being stranded on the side of the highway and will ultimately extend the life of our car. If either the coolant or oil is low each time you check, bring your car in so your mechanic can check for leaks.

Keep an Eye on the Tire Pressure

Asphalt gets extremely hot in the summer which is hard on your tires. In addition to checking the tire pressure about once a week and keeping them properly inflated, you also need to keep an eye on their condition. At the start and end of summer, you should consider getting them rotated and balanced. The more diligent you are about the health of your tires, the better your vehicle’s fuel economy will be this summer.


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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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Prepare Your Pets for Fireworks

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The Fourth of July is right around the corner which means people are going to set off fireworks. Even if you have no intention of being around fireworks, you need to take steps to protect your pets from them. Don’t assume that just because your neighbors have never set off fireworks in the past that you don’t have to worry about them.

The first thing you need to do to prepare your pet for the possibility of Fourth of July fireworks is to plan on the loud noises scaring your pet. Most pets hate fireworks. Consider getting a tight coat for your pet to wear which will help ease their anxiety. If you know that your pet is already sound sensitive and it suffers from anxiety, you should talk to your veterinarian about getting some calming medications.

As the evening grows long, don’t let your pet out of your house. The Fourth of July is one of those dates when you should complete your evening walk early in the evening. You want your pets to be tucked inside your home before the light show begins. If your pet has to go outside during, or even after the firework display, take them out on a leash. Animal shelters throughout California and the rest of the United States report that they get more reports of lost pets in the days following The Fourth. Almost all of these pets involve an animal who never runs off so their owner got too casual.

It wouldn’t hurt to take a current photo or two of your pet in the days leading up to the Fourth of July. Having a current photo that you can show local animal shelters, vet clinics, and post on lost pet social media sites drastically increases the odds of someone identifying your pet and returning them to you.

If you haven’t already gotten your pet microchipped, now is an excellent time to do so. The microchip makes it possible for animal shelters to quickly reunite you and your lost pet.

If possible, stay home so that you can comfort your pet. Even if they appear to be ignoring you, your presence really will make them feel better and it will also help them recover more quickly.

If you leave the house during the fireworks display, be careful while going through the doors. Expect your pet to want to bolt through the door with you.

When it comes to fireworks and pets, it’s in everyone’s best interest to prepare for the worst.


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California Background Checks

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Background checks are becoming routine. If you are interviewed for a job or fill in a rental application you can expect that the person handling the application will run a background check on you. Knowing that a background check is in the process always makes people curious about what kind of information the background check reveals.

The exact information that appears on the background check can vary a little depending on what filters the person running the check put into place. Most of the background checks are set up so that they show any criminal activity you’ve been involved with. Felony convictions should always appear on the background check. Misdemeanor and pending convictions don’t always appear on the report.

Different states take different approaches when it comes to pending charges and background checks. According to Criminal Watchdog, California has a policy that enables all pending charges to appear on a background check, this includes pending charges for misdemeanors as well as felonies. It is even possible for a person to set up a background check so that they receive an alert when/if the pending charge becomes a conviction.

According to I Prospect Check, California’s background checks for criminal convictions only go back seven years. The seven-year rule is regulated by the Civil Code 1786.10. The information that disappears from the background check after seven years includes indictments, misdemeanors, arrests, convictions, and police complaints. It’s worth noting that arrests that didn’t result in a conviction, pardons, and expungements are not supposed to appear on your background check.

You should also be aware that employers who run a background check are required to file and keep the background check for two full years after they’ve run it.

Don’t assume that just because more than seven years have passed since your last conviction or arrest you don’t have to worry about it impacting your ability to obtain a job or rent a place. It still can. While the information might not be on the background check your employers run, it could be mentioned when they check your references which will likely include former employers, friends, and family. It can also appear if they Google your name and find an old newspaper article, social media post, or police report.

Considering how easily criminal information can be uncovered even when it no longer appears on a formal background check, it’s in your best interest to reveal any unsavory parts of your past right away. This gives you a chance to appear forthright while also sharing your side of the story.


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Updating Your California Driver’s License

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Your driver’s license not only proves that you’re legally allowed to drive in California, but it also serves as your main source of identification. It’s important that all the information that appears on your driver’s license is current.

You should already know that you’re not allowed to drive on an expired driver’s license in California.

According to the California DMV, changing your address on your driver’s license should be one of the first things on our agenda following your move. It doesn’t matter if you’re moving to California from another state or if you’ve simply moved across the street, you have 10 days to contact the DMV about the change in residence. That really isn’t much time, so it’s in your best interest to pencil it into your schedule as one of the things you should do before you start unpacking.

Even though the California DMV doesn’t give you much time to change the address on your driver’s license, they have taken steps to make it as simple as possible.

In most California counties, you have three options for changing your address on your license:

  • You can visit your local DMV office
  • You can mail in a change of residence form to the DMV
  • You can go online and fill out a virtual form which the DMV will file

While all options are good and legal, the benefit connected to going to the actual DMV office is that they will give you a temporary license that will have your new address on it. That way, if you do get pulled over and ticketed, the ticket information will go to your new address rather than your old one.

If you fail to contact the DMV about the change of address on your driver’s license in a timely manner, you may face a small, additional fee when you finally get around to completing the chore. While it’s unlikely that you’ll get a ticket for having the wrong address on your license (assuming it’s not expired) if mail concerning the ticket is sent to the wrong address, it could result in some substantial late fees getting attached to any ticket for moving violations the officer did issue.

The biggest risk connected to not updating your address on your driver’s license could be that it causes problems with your insurance company, which may use the failure to change the information as a reason to delay paying when you file a claim. They may even decide to drop your policy altogether.

When all is said and done, it’s best to simply take a few minutes and update your address.


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Telemarketer Fraud

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If you hate telemarketers, you’re not alone. Legal Beagle reported that in 2017, Bank my Cell conducted a survey that revealed that out of 1,200 people, 75% of them actively avoided calls that they knew were from telemarketers. 85% of the people who responded to the survey reported that even the thought of dealing with telemarketers triggered anxiety-related issues.

The reason most of us loathe dealing with telemarketers is that the calls are time-consuming and the person on the other end of the line keeps pushing even though we’ve told them no several times. Most of us also hate feeling guilty when we have no option but to hang up on the irritating telemarketer.

It turns out, there’s another reason to avoid telemarketers. That reason is telemarketing fraud.

Cornell Law School defines telemarketing fraud as: “Phone and telemarketing fraud refers to any type of scheme in which a criminal communicates with the potential victim via the telephone. Because many reputable companies use telemarketing to conduct business, criminals can often effectively use the method as a way to obtain a victim’s credit card information or identity and then use this information to make unauthorized purchases elsewhere. Victims have difficulty distinguishing between reputable telemarketers and scam artists. Frequent victims of telemarketing scams include the poor, the elderly, and immigrants without strong English skills.”

Examples of common telemarketing fraud include:

  • Selling a fake product via the telephone
  • Telling you that for a seemingly nominal amount of money, you’re eligible for a free product/service/trip that the telemarketer has no intention of giving you
  • Fake debt collection calls

Telemarketing fraud is illegal in California. Cases involving telemarketing fraud are covered by California’s general larceny statutes which are defined in California Penal Code Sections 484-490.

In California, if the amount of money/good gained through a telemarketing fraud case is less than $900, it’s considered a petty theft case. Sentencing can include six months in jail and a large fine.

If the telemarketing fraud case involves damages greater than $900, the accused will face felony charges. If convicted, they could be sentenced to a full year in prison, charged up to $10,000 in fines, and ordered to pay restitution to the victims.

One of the biggest challenges connected to telemarketing fraud is that many of the cases happen in different states or even different countries, which makes pursuing legal action difficult.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud is not agreeing to any offers or providing any financial information until you’ve had a chance to thoroughly research the offer/business.