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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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Boating While Under the Influence in California

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Everyone knows about the dangers and legal consequences of driving while under the influence, but we have a tendency to get lax when it comes to other situations. For example, while most of us would never dream of getting behind the wheel of our car after we’ve had a few beers, we have no hesitation when it comes to steering a boat as we drink.

One of the reasons we don’t give boating under the influence a second thought is because very little is ever said about the legal repercussions of doing so. The truth is, that if you’re caught driving a boat while intoxicated, your immediate future could be ruined.

The issue of boating under the influence in California is dealt discussed in Harbors & Navigation Code 655. The law states that:

(b) No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug.

(c) No person shall operate any recreational vessel or manipulate any water skis, aquaplane, or similar device if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more in his or her blood.

(d) No person shall operate any vessel other than a recreational vessel if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or more in his or her blood.

(e) No person shall operate any vessel, or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device who is addicted to the use of any drug. This subdivision does not apply to a person who is participating in a narcotic treatment program approved pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 11875) of Chapter 1 of Part 3 of Division 10.5 of the Health and Safety Code.

(f) No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug, and while so operating, do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in the use of the vessel, water skis, aquaplane, or similar device, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than himself or herself.

Getting caught boating under the influence isn’t a joke. You will be charged and face legal consequences. The exact consequences will depend on if it’s your first offense and exactly which aspect of Harbors & Navigation Code 655 was violated.

In most situations, boating under the influence in California is a misdemeanor offense. The maximum sentence for a first-time offense is six months to one year in jail and/or a potential fine of up to $1,000. It’s also possible that the judge will include substance abuse counseling and community service into the sentence.

In the right circumstances, a boating under the influence charge can become a felony offense. This usually happens if your actions resulted in someone getting hurt or if you caused a boating accident that created substantial property damage. If convicted of felony boating under the influence in California, your sentence could include 16 months to three years in jail.

The best way to make sure you don’t have to deal with the hassle of a boating under the influence charge in California is making sure that a designated captain who agrees to not to drink is the only person who piolet the boat.

Your boating adventures should be handled the same way you handle nights out with friends.


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Distracted Walking in California

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Everyone is familiar with distracted driving, but few of us have ever heard of distracted walking laws. If you’re wondering if that’s even a real thing you’re not alone.

Rest assured, not only is distracted walking a viable concern, but one California city, Montclair, has already passed a distracted walking law. In April 2018, the city’s distracted walking law officially went into effect. Once that happened, anyone caught using their cell phone while walking across the street was subjected to a $100.

It seems like a silly rule, but if you take a few minutes watching people walking on the sidewalk and you can see why distracted walking is a concern. These days, people are completely glued to their phones and often unaware of what is happening around them. Some don’t even look up when they start crossing the street. This type of behavior has prompted more cities to explore the concept of distracted walking laws.

A team of researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark revealed that the number of medical emergencies that included head and neck injuries has substantially increased in the past 20 years.

Legally, drivers are supposed to be aware of pedestrians and do everything in their power to avoid hitting them with their vehicle. The problem that arises is how are drivers supposed to predict when a pedestrian who is texting will suddenly step into the path of oncoming traffic. What makes the issue even more challenging is that many of these pedestrians don’t even realize that they are now in the middle of the road and don’t behave rationally.

Do you think more cities should have distracted walking laws? If distracted laws became common and patrol cops started issuing tickets and fines, would you be more inclined to leave your phone in your pocket, or would you continue to talk and text?


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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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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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Leaving Pets in Hot Cars in California

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Dogs love their owners and want to be with them all the time. In an attempt to keep our dogs happy, many of us take them with us when we run errands. On cold days, this isn’t an issue, but now that we’re on the cusp of summer, it will be a while before Californians experience cool days which means it’s time to rethink taking your dog along on your grocery store runs.

California lawmakers passed laws that make it illegal to leave your pet in your vehicle at any time that there is a chance that they will be hurt before you get back. This includes when the temperatures soar to a point that your vehicle turns into an oven.

This means that even when the outdoor temperature is cool, you can’t leave your dog in the car all day if they don’t have access to fresh food and water. You also can’t leave them in the car if you have items in the vehicle, such a plastic shopping bags or heavy items that could topple.

The heat simply makes things works. The problem in the summertime is that many dog owners think that since they’re only running into the store for a minute or two, their dog will be fine. That’s not the case at all. It doesn’t take long for the car to get extremely hot. As the car heats up, your dog overheats, and heat stroke becomes a real threat. If you don’t return shortly, your dog will overheat to death.

As soon as the temp reaches 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you need to be careful. Studies indicate that on a sunny 70-degree day, the interior of your car can reach 115 degrees in less than 30 minutes. Dogs start to experience heat exhaustion when it gets to 103 degrees.

If it’s warm out and someone spots your dog in the car, they’re legally allowed to break your vehicle’s windows and rescue your pet.

The broken car window will likely be the least of your concerns. If the police get involved, you can be charged with a $100 fine per each animal that was in the car. The amount will be higher if it’s not your first offense. If the pet needs medical attention, the maximum sentence increases to a $500 fine and six months in jail. In many cases, you’ll also face animal cruelty charges.

Now that the temperatures are consistently staying above 70 degrees, it is in your best interest to leave your dog home when you’re running errands.


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You’ve Been Arrested for DUI… Again

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Getting arrested and charged for DUI once in California is terrifying and life-altering. The second time you’re arrested for the same thing is even worse.

Like many states, California lawmakers have decided that to take a hard stance on drunk drivers. One of the ways they’ve done this is by creating laws that make a second (and each additional offense) significantly worse than the first. The reason for this is because while a single DUI could be the result of a bad judgment and an honest mistake, additional arrests indicate that you have a habit of driving while under the influence and a menace to society.

DUIs are addressed in California Vehicle Code Section 23152. The second time you’re convicted of a DUI in California, the result will include losing your ability to drive, fines, mandatory enrollment in substance abuse programs, and jail time.

When you’re convicted of a second DUI in California, you will be required to spend at least 96 hours in the county jail. That’s the minimum amount of jail time connected to a second DUI. The maximum amount of time you can serve is 12 months.

You should expect to pay a higher fine than you did for the first offense. Typically, the fine for a second DUI is between $390 and $1,000, but that might not be all you’ll have to pay. Most courts add penalty assessments to the DUI fine. These assessments can multiply the fine to five times the anticipated amount. In some situations, the judge will allow you to choose to extend the amount of time you serve in jail or do a great deal of community service in exchange for paying the fine.

Since January 1, 2019, a guilty conviction of a second DUI in California requires that the judge order an ignition interlock device be attached to your vehicle. This only happens if the two convictions are less than 10 years apart.

The second DUI means you’ll lose your driving privileges. The good news is that the loss of your license probably won’t be permanent. In California, the current license suspension for a second DUI is a 1-year suspension (administrative per se) or a 2-year suspension if you are convicted.

It’s worth noting that in some situations, the judge will grant you a restricted license. This doesn’t mean you’ll be allowed to drive wherever you want. By if you’re able to present a compelling case to the judge, they’ll allow you to drive to work and to manage things like transporting your children. If you’re caught driving to places that aren’t specified in the paperwork connected to your suspended license or you’re driving at a time when you’re not supposed to, the restricted driving privileges will be taken away.

The only way you’ll be granted a restricted license is if you didn’t refuse to take a blood or urine test when you were originally arrested for the second DUI.

In addition to dealing with the actual criminal consequences of a second DUI, if you damaged property or injured/killed someone while driving drunk, it’s likely you’ll also find yourself engaged in a civil case as well.

The best way to avoid all of these consequences is making sure you never get behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking or using drugs.


Community service

Community Service in Criminal Cases

Community service

Many people find that they have to complete a specific number of hours of community service as a part of their sentence. Some people love this because the community service can reduce fines and jail time. Others hate having to do so much work without getting paid.

Judges have the right to make community service a part of a sentence. Sometimes the community service replaces fines, jail time, and probation. In other cases, it’s used in tandem with the other consequences.

Community service has become so popular amongst judges that some large communities discovered that they had to hire another person and even create whole new county offices just to help with the community service portion of sentencing. These separate offices help people find promising community service opportunities, track hours, and make sure everything is properly reported to the sentencing judge.

The great thing about community service is that there are lots of different options. The only stipulation is that the work has to be done in connection with a non-profit organization and that you don’t get paid for it. You can choose to complete all of the hours by working with a single non-profit or you can divide your time up with multiple organizations.

Some communities also have government programs that qualify as community service.

When you find out that you need to complete X amount of hours of community service, the first thing you need to do is sit down and think about what you like. The entire process will be more enjoyable if you’re doing work you like or at least working for a cause you’re passionate about.

Popular community service choices include:

  • Helping out at animal rescues
  • Assisting at homeless shelters
  • Helping organize non-profit events, such as awareness runs and festivals
  • Community improvement/beautification projects
  • Speaking to school groups

Once you’ve identified the type of work you’d like to do, it’s time to contact the non-profits and find out their requirements. Make it clear that the volunteering work you’re doing is for the courts. Some non-profits choose not to track hours for the courts. Others require a background check that you won’t pass because you have a criminal record.

If the first non-profit you contact doesn’t work out, contact another one until you find one that’s happy to accept you.

Create a schedule and stick to it. You want to complete your community service hours as quickly as possible so that the judge doesn’t revisit your sentencing and decide you’re shirking your responsibilities. If for some reason, you do run into a problem and won’t be able to complete the required number of hours by the court-appointed deadline, you need to contact the court and let them know. It’s likely that as long as you can prove that you’re making a genuine effort they’ll choose to extend your deadline.

Be diligent about recording the number of hours you’ve worked at your community service project. Get the person who is supervising you to sign off on your time after each session. Turn the information to the court.

The great thing about community service is that you can sometimes use it to make important new connections, develop skills, and possibly even find a program you want to continue helping even after you’ve fulfilled your community service requirements.


California common felonies

3 Common California Felonies

California common felonies

The state and federal law books are full of felonies, but court officers, lawyers, and police officers will quickly tell you that some felonies are common while there are others they’ve never encountered.

Here is a list of the most common felony arrests and convictions.

Felony Drug Crimes

There are so many different drug-related felonies that it’s easier to lump them into one category than to sort them out. It’s worth noting that in many cases if a person is charged with a drug-related crime, it’s likely that they’ve been charged with multiple different drug offenses.

Examples of drug-related felonies include:

  • Possession
  • Possession with intent to sell
  • Distribution and Trafficking
  • Cultivation/Manufacturing

It’s important to note that many of these charges are wobbler offenses, meaning in the right circumstances they could actually be misdemeanor charges. The amount and type of drug involved is what usually determines if the charge is a misdemeanor or felony.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is an extremely common felony. If you’re charged with aggravated assault, it means you either paired the assault with a death threat, or your victim suffered a serious injury during the incident. California Penal Code Section 245 makes it clear that using a firearm or another type of item that could be considered deadly is also aggravated assault.

A guilty conviction for felony aggravated assault can mean:

  • Spending time in a state prison
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Losing the weapon you had during the assault
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Retribution

Aggravated assault is one of California’s three-strikes felonies.

  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Restitution
  • Confiscation of the weapon (if it is owned by the convicted individual)
  • Possible community service and/or a mandatory Anger Management course.

Arson

Arson is a surprising addition to the list. It simply doesn’t seem like it would be that common. However, a large bulk of arson cases are less about setting a fire and more about insurance fraud.

In California, arson is covered under California Penal Code Section 451 and California Penal Code Section 452 .

California law enforcement agencies have special task forces that deal with arson cases. These teams look at the fire and all of the circumstances surrounding the arson case. The process is often slow, prompting some people to think they got away with the fire, only to be charged years after the event.

If you’re convicted of an arson-related felony, the amount of time you serve in a state prison depends on where the fire happened, if anyone was hurt/killed, if the fire involved a knowingly inhabited structure.


Slander consequences

Understanding Slander in California

Slander consequences

Most Americans know that the First Amendment grants the right to free speech. The problem that many of us encounter is we don’t fully grasp the differences between free speech and slander.

What is Free Speech?

Many of us interpret the First Amendment to mean that we’re free to say whatever we want, to whomever we want, whenever we want. That’s not the way free speech works. The purpose of free speech is to provide Americans with the ability to openly speak against the government without fear of legal ramifications.

What freedom of speech doesn’t do is allow you to say whatever you want about neighbors, family, and businesses you don’t like.

What is Slander?

The legal definition of slander is, “oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed. Slander is a civil wrong (tort) and can be the basis for a lawsuit. Damages (payoff for worth) for slander may be limited to actual (special) damages unless there is malicious intent, since such damages are usually difficult to specify and harder to prove. Some statements such as an untrue accusation of having committed a crime, having a loathsome disease, or being unable to perform one’s occupation are treated as slander per se since the harm and malice are obvious, and therefore usually result in general and even punitive damage recovery by the person harmed. Words spoken over the air on television or radio are treated as libel (written defamation) and not slander on the theory that broadcasting reaches a large audience as much if not more than printed publications.”

In California, slander legally takes place when:

  • You say something that you know is untrue
  • When you make a statement that you know isn’t privileged
  • When you make a statement that is said with the intent to do harm or cause an injury

The Legal Consequences of Slander

In California, slander is a civil, not a legal matter. It’s also a case that’s tricky to defend. In this case, the individual who filed the charges has to prove their case. In order to convince a judge to rule against you, they have to prove without a shadow of a doubt that you knew that whatever you said was untrue and that you made the statement knowing that it would harm the individual’s emotions, reputation, or business.

In addition to proving that you did in fact deliberately make slanderous comments, the person who files the charges against you also has to prove to the court that they sustained damages that you should reimburse them for. In addition to actual damages, the filer will also likely seek money to cover their emotional trauma.

The best way to avoid getting into a slander dispute with someone is to make sure you never say anything that you aren’t able to prove. If you’re unsure about the validity of a statement, it’s in your best interest to keep it to yourself.