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Understanding California’s Jury Duty

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U.S. citizens who reside in the United States can receive a letter in the mail that summons them to serve on a jury. This is called jury duty. If selected to serve on the jury you’ll listen to a court case and use what you learned during the trial to decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

Who is Eligible For Jury Duty?

In California, there are some people who aren’t required to respond to a jury duty summons. People who are exempt include:

  • Residents who aren’t U.S. citizens.
  • Anyone under the age of 18.
  • Anyone who demonstrates that they don’t have a strong enough grasp of the English language to adequately understand/discuss the details of the case.
  • Anyone who has been convicted of a felony and not yet had their civil rights restored.
  • Anyone who lacks the ability to care for themselves and is under a conservatorship.
  • Anyone who has received a jury duty summons within the last 12 months.

You can only be asked to serve on a jury that is taking place in the county you legally reside in.

How Long Does California Jury Duty Last?

California has what is called a one-day or one-trial policy for jury duty. This policy was adopted in 1999 in an attempt to make things simpler for jurors and their employers. The way this works is that a juror is not required to serve more than one day of on-call jury duty. This means that if the person is called into the courthouse for jury duty selection and isn’t selected, they have still fulfilled their one-year requirement and can’t be summoned for jury duty for a full twelve months.

If the juror is assigned to on-call or standby jury service they only have to remain on-call for five days. After that, they are released from jury duty for a year.

If you’re selected as a jury member for a trial case, you will have to sit through the entire trial. Once the trial is over, you’ll be released from jury duty for a full year.

Are You Paid For Jury Duty?

California does have a policy in place to make sure that anyone who responds to a jury duty summons is paid, but you won’t make enough to cover the cost of not going to work. The policy is that you’re paid $15 a day for jury duty. You’ll also receive a $0.34 reimbursement for each mile you have to commute to the courthouse. The mileage reimbursement only covers your commute to the courthouse, not home, and only kicks in if you’re assigned to a trial and have to make the commute more than one day. Some counties have a policy in place that covers the cost of public/mass transportation.

The exception to the $15 a day payment is government employees who receive their full pay plus their benefits.

What If You Neglect To Respond To A Jury Duty Summons?

While it’s easy to understand that urge to ignore a jury duty summons, it’s something you’ll later regret. You’re legally required to respond. A failure to respond to the summons will result in you potentially being fined up to $1,500 and possibly even have to serve some jail time.

If an emergency comes up, you can’t simply fail to show up for jury duty. In the event of an emergency, you have to contact the courthouse as quickly as possible. If the judge feels the emergency is valid and severe, they will excuse you. This is true even if you’re in the middle of a trial jury. Be prepared to provide proof of the emergency.

 

The Truth About Carpool Cheating

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The rules seem simple enough. If you are the only person in your vehicle, you must stick to a certain lane of traffic. If you’re carrying multiple people in your car, you’re free to use the carpool lane which typically travels at a significantly faster speed. The system is designed to encourage people to carpool whenever possible.

The problem with the system is that there are always a few people who decide the rules don’t apply to them and they zip along in the carpool lane even though they’re the only person in the vehicle. There are even people who go so far as to strap a mannequin into the passenger seat so that the cops think that they’re legally driving in the carpool lane.

In 2016, ABC 7 News reported that the Metropolitan Traffic Commission had conducted a study that revealed during afternoon and evening hours, 19% of the drivers in the carpool lane are carpool cheaters. The number of cheaters rose significantly during the morning rush hour when an estimated 24% of vehicles in the carpool lane only had a single driver.

The results of the study aren’t being taken lightly.

“Our fear is that the cheat level gets so high that everyone feels the only people not in the carpool lanes are chumps,” said Randy Rentschler, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The numbers indicate that highway patrol officers simply aren’t catching enough carpool cheaters. If enough of the cheaters got caught and issued the surprisingly heavy carpool cheating ticket they would decide that they’re better off sticking to the slow lane. Until the odds of getting caught cheating grow worse, people are going to continue to look for creative ways that they can drive in the faster carpool lane.

A perfect example of this is a gentleman who was recently busted cheating in the carpool lane. Bay Area police pulled over a Ford SUV that was zipping along in the carpool lane. Once the driver was pulled over, it became obvious that there was something strange about the passengers. A closer inspection revealed that they were nothing more than coats that had been stuffed with a variety of items. The driver was issued a ticket.

The California Highway Patrol isn’t fooling around when it comes to carpool cheaters. The ticked a first-time offender receives is a staggering $490. If you get caught again, the fine increases. This was the fourth time the Bay Area driver in the Ford SUV had been pulled over.

Carpool cheaters are a good source of income for the California Highway Patrol. In 2017, the state collected approximately $350,000 from carpool cheaters.

 

Is Being Homeless A Crime In California?

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In theory, California isn’t a bad place to be homeless. Sure, the high cost of living makes it difficult to get back on your feet, but at least the weather is nice all year round, so if you have to sleep outside a few nights a week, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Wrong!

California lawmakers have made being homeless in California, even temporarily, extremely difficult.

California’s homeless population reached an alarming number a few years back. According to data collected and released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development California’s homeless population had swelled to 151,278 individuals at the end of 2019. While state and local lawmakers are aware of the problem but aren’t sure how to resolve the issue.

One of the biggest rumors that comes out of California is that homelessness is illegal in the state. That’s not quite true. Strictly speaking, being homeless isn’t a crime, but as one man said, state and local laws make everything the homeless population does to survive a crime.

In 2018, Kimberly Sandoval, a member of Santa Ana’s homeless population summed up the problem. “Stop criminalizing us, because that’s what they’re doing. It’s not illegal to be homeless, but everything we do is illegal.” At the time Sandoval had been homeless for about 15 years and had just been ticketed for having spare bicycle parts.

At the time Sandoval was struggling to figure out how to survive when she’d been issued tickets for having everything from a tent to a lawn chair. The reason for the tickets was a city ordinance that Santa Ana lawmakers had passed the year before. Each ticket made Sandoval, who had no other options, life much harder.

Santa Ana isn’t the only city whose homeless population has drawn fire. It’s estimated that there are over one thousand different laws throughout the state that are popularly known as anti-homeless laws. These include laws that make it illegal to sit/sleep in public areas such as parks. In many cities, it is even illegal for someone to sleep in their car, something several people do during the summer to gain some relief from California’s excruciatingly high rent fees.

Many people feel that the anti-homeless laws aren’t working the way state and local lawmakers hope.

“California has a lot more laws than other states,” Professor Jeff Selbin, an employee of UC Berkeley’s Policy Advocacy Clinic, explained. “Unfortunately, what may be a good fix to move that person from your street or put boulders on your sidewalk for example, is not going to solve the [bigger] problem.”

Selbin’s thoughts were echoed by Jennifer Friedenbach, the Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness. “The laws that go after homeless people exacerbate homelessness typically everywhere that they’re used. People can’t get in touch with their social workers because they’re being moved from place to place.”

While it is becoming increasingly clear that the laws created to discourage homelessness aren’t working, at this point, lawmakers don’t appear to be in a big hurry to change anything. If you or someone you love is homeless in California, it’s in your best interest to find a good legal advocacy group that will advise you about how to proceed when you encounter legal problems connected to California’s various “anti-homeless” laws.

 

The Truth About Unemployment Fraud

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Unemployment fraud in California is hardly a new concept, but the pandemic has pushed it to new heights which have resulted in it overwhelming an already strained system.

What Is Unemployment Fraud In California?

The term unemployment fraud refers to the act of collecting unemployment benefits that you don’t really deserve.

Common examples of unemployment fraud include:

  • Continuing to collect unemployment benefits after you’ve returned to work.
  • Providing false information on your unemployment application.
  • Failing to report earnings from a part-time or freelance job.
  • Lying about how much you earned during an average workweek prior to applying for unemployment.
  • Using a false identity when applying for unemployment benefits.

The Impact Of Unemployment Fraud During The Pandemic

Since the pandemic hit, unemployment fraud cases have sky-rocketed. The Labor Department estimates that 10% of the unemployment benefits paid out during the pandemic have gone to people who don’t really need it and who are actually committing unemployment fraud. 10% doesn’t seem like much until you find out that it exceeds $63 billion.

While all states are struggling to deal with the reality of unemployment fraud, California has been hit particularly hard. Experts estimate that fraudulent scams have resulted in draining approximately $11 billion dollars of unemployment money in California. Another $19 billion has gone into suspicious-looking accounts that require additional investigation.

Consequences Of Unemployment Fraud In California

If you’re currently collecting unemployment benefits that you’re not technically entitled to, don’t assume that you’ll get away with it forever. Even if no one has looked too closely at your situation right now, it’s reasonable to assume that once the pandemic is over, steps will be taken to crack down on unemployment fraud. It’s likely that many cases that were filed during the pandemic will be investigated and charges will be filed.

California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) is responsible for investigating unemployment fraud cases. They are experts at this type of white-collar crime and are meticulous about combing through unemployment applications, tax records, and financial histories and looking for signs of unemployment fraud. If they feel that they’ve collected enough evidence to mount a solid case against you, they work with the local prosecutor and file charges.

Unemployment fraud is one of California’s wobbler offenses. If you collected less than $950, you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor. If the amount is more than $950, you face felony charges.

If you’re found guilty of misdemeanor unemployment fraud, you face:

  • Having to make full restitution
  • Six months in jail
  • A $1,000 fine

If you’re convicted of felony unemployment fraud, you’ll face:

  • Having to make full restitution
  • A $10,000 fine
  • Spending a year in prison

The best way to avoid an unemployment fraud charge is to be completely honest about your work, income, and job application history. If you discover that you made a mistake on your unemployment application, report the issue right away.

 

The Difference Between Manslaughter And Involuntary Manslaughter

The Difference Between Manslaughter And Involuntary Manslaughter

The Difference Between Manslaughter And Involuntary Manslaughter

From a legal standpoint, manslaughter is, “the unlawful killing of a human being without any malice aforethought.”

What that means is that something you did resulted in the death of someone else. What separates it from other types of murder charges is that you didn’t actively think you were going to do something that would trigger their death. There was zero premeditation.

What Is Manslaughter?

Manslaughter, which is sometimes referred to as voluntary manslaughter, happens when the court rules that the victim provoked you. A perfect example of this is if you’re at a bar and someone is harassing you. If you decide you’ve had enough and punch your heckler and they die, that’s manslaughter.

You didn’t plan on murdering the person and their actions provoked the attack, but at the same time, you knew when you threw the punch, there was a chance it could end with a fatality.

Manslaughter is often considered an event that takes place in the “heat of passion.” In most cases of voluntary manslaughter, the defendant realizes that they could have and should have walked away from the situation rather than engaging with the victim.

What Is Involuntary Manslaughter?

Involuntary manslaughter is a little more confusing. It happens when your actions directly led to the death of another, but you didn’t act maliciously. Examples of involuntary manslaughter often involve cars. Examples include getting into a fatal accident because you were speeding, texting, driving under the influence, or failed to properly maintain your vehicle.

Consequences Of Manslaughter

If you’re convicted of voluntary manslaughter in California, the potential legal consequences include:

  • Up to a $10,000 fine
  • Anywhere from 3-11 years in prison
  • Community service
  • Mandatory anger management counseling
  • Losing the ability to own a firearm

Voluntary manslaughter is one of California’s three-strikes law.

The legal consequence of involuntary manslaughter in California include:

  • 2-4 year in jail
  • Up to a $10,000 fine
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Probation

You may also face additional charges such as reckless endangerment, DUI, etc.

 

Spring Break Is Here! Know What An Underage Drinking Charge Will Cost You

Spring Break Is Here! Know What An Underage Drinking Charge Will Cost You

Spring Break Is Here! Know What An Underage Drinking Charge Will Cost You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Planning A Flight? Make Sure You’re On Your Best Behavior!

Planning A Flight? Make Sure You're On Your Best Behavior!

Planning A Flight? Make Sure You're On Your Best Behavior!

Most of us have been on a flight where at least one passenger seemed to go out of their way to be difficult. They were loud, overly active, got sassy with the flight attendants, etc. In some cases, the passenger’s bad behavior was amusing. In other situations, it was irritating. Sometimes it even becomes concerning.

The airlines have decided that enough is enough and they are no longer going to tolerate unruly passengers on flights.

Federal safety officials announced last January that they are no longer tolerating bad behavior on flights. The decision was made after multiple airline workers reported that they’d had confrontations with individuals and groups who were flying into Washington D.C. with the intention of joining the protests/riots that shook the U.S. Capitol.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), flights throughout the country experienced, “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior. These incidents have stemmed both from passengers’ refusals to wear masks and from recent violence at the U.S. Capitol.”

This is not the first time this issue has come up. Bad behavior on flights has been an ongoing concern since passenger flights first became popular. In 2001, the issue was finally addressed following the 9/11 attacks. Since then, the FAA has continuously explored different methods for identifying and quelling disruptive issues that occur both while in the air and in the actual airport.

Just a few examples of this include a couple who were arrested after they got into an altercation about a bag dispute in the Detroit Metro Airport. Another famous incident involved Alec Baldwin who refused to power off his electronics, despite being asked to do so by a flight attendant.

Stephen Dickson who serves as the administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) listened to recent complaints about unruly behavior on flights and signed what is basically a zero-tolerance policy. It’s a one-strike and you’re out policy. If you are accused of being unruly and disturbing the peace while you’re on an airplane, you’ll face serious legal consequences. These extend well beyond being asked to get off the plane.

If you behave badly while in flight, it’s likely you’ll be arrested right after the plane lands. You could be charged up to $35,000 in fines and even serve jail time.

At this point, the FAA considers assaulting or threatening your fellow passengers or the staff who is serving on the plane a disruption of peace. At this point, the order is in effect through March 30. It’s unclear if the FAA will move to extend the order following that date.

If you intend on flying in the next few weeks or months, it is in your best interest to be quiet and be on your best behavior until you reach your destination.

 

Stay Out Of Jail This Saint Patrick’s Day

Stay Out Of Jail This Saint Patrick’s Day

Stay Out Of Jail This Saint Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick’s Day is a great holiday. It’s one of those fun holidays where you’re encouraged to cut loose and have a good time. The problem with Saint Patrick’s Day is that it’s also a time when many people get a little too relaxed and end up in jail. Happily, there are things you can do to make sure you enjoy the holiday and also stay on the right side of the law.

Check Out Current Pandemic Restrictions

Last year, Saint Patrick’s Day was interrupted and virtually cancelLed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year it doesn’t look like things will be quite as restricted but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do whatever you want. Before heading out, check both state and local restrictions and know exactly what you can and can’t do. Also, make sure you adhere to social distancing guidelines and wear your face mask while you’re in public areas.

Have A Designated Driver

Saint Patrick’s Day is one of the biggest drinking nights of the year. Expect that the cops will be out and that they will be looking for drunk drivers. If you plan on drinking, do the smart thing and have a designated driver on hand. If none of your friends want to be the designated driver, at least arrange for a rideshare program or cab to take you wherever you want to go.

The best way to avoid the temptation of getting behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking is leaving your car at home and getting a ride both to and from your favorite bar.

Don’t Lose Your Head

While drunk driving makes up the bulk of Saint Patrick’s Day arrests, it’s not the only thing that can result in your spending a night in jail. Other common arrests during the holiday include drunk and disorderly, assault, and public intoxication charges. If you’re prone to drinking to the point where you lose all your inhibitions and do things you’ll regret, either bring a friend along who will remain levelheaded and prevent you from doing something you shouldn’t or restrict your celebrating to your home.

Stay safe and use good judgment this Saint Patrick’s Day!

 

What Is The “Bait And Switch” And When Is It Illegal?

What Is The “Bait And Switch” And When Is It Illegal?

What Is The “Bait And Switch” And When Is It Illegal?

Bait and switch is a cute term that refers to a nasty con game. If you’re the victim of a bait and switch scam you’ve purchased one item only to be given something that doesn’t match the description of what you purchased. Bait and switch typically involve businesses who use the tactic to lure customers in by advertising a great product at a fantastic price only to provide something that’s quite different.

Identifying That You Were A Victim Of Bait And Switch

The FTC has done an excellent job of creating guidelines that clarify when a “bait and switch” situation has happened.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you weren’t a victim of a bait and switch con if you:

  • Were convinced to buy something different.
  • If the seller simply runs out of whatever item they were promoting, especially when the business clearly stated that they only had limited quantities of the promoted item.

The only way you are a true victim of bait and switch is when the seller clearly had no intention of selling the promoted product.

Bait and switch occurs when:

  • The seller had no intention of parting with the promoted item.
  • They fail to be honest about warranties, availability, repairs, description, etc.
  • The do something that actively discourages their sales team from selling the promoted item.
  • Simply refuses to sell the bait.
  • Fails to honor the terms of the promotion (such as failing to ship the item in a reasonable amount of time causing you to cancel the item or replace it with something else).

Is Bait And Switch Illegal?

Bait and switch isn’t just an immoral marketing tactic, it is illegal. If you have recently found yourself caught in the middle of a bait and switch scam, there are steps you can take to resolve the situation. The first thing you need to do is contact the FTC and file a formal complaint. This alerts them to the situation and triggers an investigation.

While you’re waiting for the FTC to respond to your complaint, find an experienced lawyer who will not only help you understand all the legal terms but who will also do everything in their power to make sure you get the compensation you deserve. If your lawyer decides you have a strong case, they’ll likely encourage you to file a lawsuit and seek out damages.

What you shouldn’t do, is share your experience on social media or leave scathing reviews on the business website. Saying the wrong thing not only could cost you your bait and switch case, but it could also cause the business to file a slander lawsuit against you. It’s in your best interest to stay quiet until the case has been resolved.

 

Getting Pulled Over In An Automatous Car

Getting Pulled Over In An Automatous Car

We’re getting closer to finally having fully automated cars that are capable of handling our daily commute without much input from us. While the idea is exciting, many are already asking some interesting questions. One such question is what happens if the police pull you over while you’re in an automatous car?

Theoretically, if you’re pulled over for a moving violation while you’re letting an automatous car handle the commute, you shouldn’t be responsible. Right?

Law enforcement agencies are already aware that they could have problems once automatous cars hit the streets. They also know that it’s likely that the issue will come up sooner rather than later which is why they’ve already started discussing the potential issues surrounding these smart vehicles and how to deal with moving violations and accidents.

The issue has brought some of the finest minds together. Members of the state and the federal government have met with bright law enforcement agents, scientists, and automotive manufactures. During their meetings, they’ve discussed issues like what will happen if the smart vehicle’s computer system is hacked, who is responsible when accidents happen, and how to handle ticketing drivers who are responsible for automaton vehicles.

If the technology is approved and you are lucky enough to own a vehicle that’s capable of handling our commute, it’s likely that the vehicle’s capabilities will play a role in whether or not you’re ticketed. If you shut off specific safety features, programmed the car to speed, or did something else that resulted in your violating a moving violation, you’ll likely receive a ticket.

No one really knows what will happen if a programmed car is pulled over for a moving violation that is determined to be the fault of the computer rather than the human driver.

What To Do If You Are Pulled Over

There’s nothing fun about getting pulled over. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done something serious, like running a red light and causing an accident or it’s a minor deal, like the police pulling you over to alert you to a burned-out taillight. The moment you see the lights flashing in your rear view mirror, you start worrying about what you’ve done wrong and how serious the consequences will be.

What You Shouldn’t Do When You’re Pulled Over

What you should do when you’re pulled over isn’t nearly as important as knowing what you shouldn’t do.

Don’t Run

The instinct to step on the gas and go into evasive driving mode as soon as you see the red and blue lights flashing in your rear view mirror is perfectly natural. It’s an instinct you need to squash. Even if you’re lucky enough to evade the car that’s currently trying to pull you over, the officers will radio for help and someone will find you.

The only thing trying to run will accomplish is making the situation worse. In addition to whatever you were originally being pulled over for, you’ll also face leading a police chase and possibly resisting arrest charges.

Don’t Get Aggressive

Getting aggressive with the police officer who pulled you over won’t do you any good. It creates a tense situation. Not only does getting aggressive with the police officer increase the chances that they’ll issue a ticket rather than simply give a verbal warning, but it’s also likely they’ll get so irritated by your behavior that they find a valid reason to arrest you.

What You Should Do When You’re Pulled Over

When you see the red and blue lights flashing in your rear view mirror, you should start looking for a safe place where you can pull over. The place you choose should be wide enough for your car, well lit, and if possible, dry. Make sure you pull your car well off the road.

Get your license, proof of insurance, and registration out while the officer walks to your car. By the time they reach your window, you should have everything you need and your hands should be visible. Make sure you keep your hands visible at all times.

You don’t have to be cheerful, but you should at least strive to be polite. Answer all of the officer’s questions honestly and in an even tone. The calmer you are, the calmer they’ll be. While staying cool, calm, and collected might not be easy, maintaining your composure increases the likelihood of you getting off with a warning rather than a ticket.

While you’re allowed to accept the ticket with good grace, you shouldn’t admit to doing anything wrong. As long as you don’t agree that you screwed up, you can always choose to fight the ticket and have it dropped from your driving record.

If you’re ticketed, make sure you pay the fine right away. Delaying payment means the California DMV could choose to suspend your driver’s license.

 

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