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Smoking And Driving



Somewhere along the way, a rumor started to spread. The rumor was that you couldn’t legally smoke and drive a car. This has alarmed many drivers who find that smoking helps them relax and pass the time while they’re stuck in traffic. It’s also likely resulted in the police fielding many calls from concerned motorists who report other drivers smoking while behind the wheel.

The Truth About Smoking And Driving

In California, there aren’t any current laws that prohibit you from smoking or vaping while you’re behind the wheel. That doesn’t mean that you won’t ever get into trouble for the act.

While a patrol officer can’t simply pull you over and issue a citation because you were smoking a cigarette, if you’re smoking causes you to weave all over the road, miss a traffic sign or do something dangerous, you will likely be pulled over and issued a distracted driving ticket.

If you get into an accident because you were distracted by your cigarette, you’ll be responsible and likely ticketed.

Littering is another way that you can get into trouble for smoking while driving. If you’re caught flicking your cigarette butt out of your window while driving, an officer could decide to issue a littering ticket. If the ash from the cigarette you flicked out the window lands on something flammable and starts a fire, you could face additional legal and civil charges.

You’re Cigarette Could Get You Into Trouble Even If You’re Not Driving

Yes, you’re allowed to drive and smoke a cigarette, however, that same cigarette could get you into trouble if you’re car is parked. If you’re parked in a parking lot of a building where smoking is prohibited, such as a school, you can be issued a substantial fine. If you see a no-smoking sign, it’s in your best interest to park somewhere else or to keep your cigarettes locked in your glove box until you’re back on the road.

You Can Legally Smoke Tobacco But Not Weed While Driving

While you’re legally allowed to enjoy tobacco products and vaping in your car, things change if you’re using marijuana. At the moment, lawmakers view weed much like they do alcohol. You’re allowed to use it, but you have to be sensible. That means you can’t drive after you’ve smoked weed. You’re also not allowed to smoke weed (or consume products laced with marijuana) while driving.

If you’re transporting marijuana, make sure it remains tightly packaged until you’ve reached your destination.


Understanding Cyberstalking



We’ve all turned to the internet when we’ve wanted to learn about a person we’re interested in. For most of us, this involves a quick Google search or reading through their social media posts. That’s fine. It’s not illegal.

However, when the interest goes deeper, it can turn into cyberstalking, which is illegal in California.

According to the Cyberbullying Association, cyberstalking, “involves the use of technology (most often, the internet!) to make someone else afraid or concerned about their safety [1]. Generally speaking, this conduct is threatening or otherwise fear-inducing, involves an invasion of a person’s relative right to privacy, and manifests in repeated actions over time [2]. Most of the time, those who cyberstalk use social media, internet databases, search engines and other online resources to intimidate, follow and cause anxiety or terror to others [3-5].”

California lawmakers opted to add cyberstalking to their stalking laws. Information about the state’s cyberstalking and stalking laws can be found in the California Penal Code section 646.9. When you read through the code, you’ll learn that the state considers stalker to be, “Any person who willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows or 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 part of the law that pertains specifically to cyberstalking states that incidents, “performed through the use of an electronic communication device, or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of verbal, written or electronically communicated statements and conduct, made with the intent to place the person that is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family, and made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat so as to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family.”

While the media sensationalizes situations that involve victims being stalked by superfans that they’ve never met, The Cyberbullying Association reports that cyberstalking rarely involves people who aren’t acquainted with one another. According to them, most cyberstalking incidents involve people who do know each other. The bulk of the cyberstalking cases usually involve things like former lovers, students, employees, etc.

There are several reasons people who are normally rational and law-abiding become cyberstalkers. The Tripwire reports that common cyberstalking motives include:

  • Anger
  • Control issues
  • Lust
  • Revenge
  • Envy

There have even been instances of individuals and groups using cyberstalking tactics to influence politics and business decisions.

The alarming thing about cyberstalking is that some victims don’t even realize it’s happening. Publicized cases of cyberstalking usually involve unwanted messages, threats and other bullying tactics, but there have been cases of cyberstalkers who remained silent, using their cyber skills to collect personal information about their victims with the intention of eventually using the information against the person they’re stalking.

In California, cyberstalking is a wobbler crime. One of the interesting things about cyberstalking is that a past history of domestic violence, including having past domestic violence restraining orders filed against you can impact the charges/penalties.

In cyberstalking cases where no prior convictions are present:

  • A misdemeanor conviction has a maximum sentence of 1 year in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • A felony conviction has a sentence of 16 months-3 years in state prison.

With prior convictions, cyberstalking convictions result in:

  • 1 year in county jail and a $1,000 fine for a misdemeanor conviction.
  • 2-5 years in state prison for felony convictions.


Understanding Statute Of Limitations In California



Statute of limitations is a term that gets thrown around a lot on legal shows but not everyone fully understands what they are.

The truth is that the statute of limitations is a very important legal term that addresses whether or not you can be charged for an old crime. The problem is that different crimes have different statutes of limitations.

For example, in California, the statute of limitations on felony fraud, public official misconduct and embezzlement against dependents crimes is four years. In these types of cases, it’s important to understand that the four years don’t necessarily start when the crime is committed but rather when the crime is discovered or the completion of the offense. The prosecutor will look at which date is closer when determining if the statute of limitations has expired.

The statute of limitation for most felony sex offenses that require you to have your name placed on the sex offender registration is ten years. The exception is some felony sex crimes committed against a child which have a statute of limitations that’s determined by the victim’s 40th birthday.

Not all crimes are impacted by a statute of limitations. Crimes that don’t have a statute of limitations include:

  • First-degree murder
  • Rape (that involves force/violence)
  • Embezzlement of money that was drawn from public funds
  • Aggravated sexual assault of a child
  • Treason

A statute of limitations doesn’t just apply to criminal charges. It also impacts any civil cases you’re named in.

The problem with the statute of limitations is figuring out when they go into effect. In some situations it’s when the crime was committed, in others, it’s when the crime was first discovered. There are also cases where the date is determined by when the crime ended. The best way to determine how the statute of limitations works in a case you’re involved with is by contacting a good defense lawyer who has a solid understanding of cases like yours.

If you suspect that the statute of limitations is about to go into effect sooner rather than later, you’ll want to act quickly.


Landscape Architects In California



Anyone who has ever tried to maintain a lawn or dabbled in landscaping knows that beautiful flower beds and breathtaking landscaping doesn’t simply happen. Many of the gorgeous lawns and pretty little landscaped areas within cities are the handiwork of people who are known as California’s landscape architects.

While most people assume that California’s landscape architects work in residential yards, the truth is that they handle a wide assortment of tasks, including:

  • Site revegetation and maintenance
  • Erosion control
  • Roadside aesthetic designs
  • Highway planting projects
  • Contour grading
  • Mitigation design

Landscape architects are also contacted when a community needs a visual impact assessment performed. This is often done when a community wishes to change the overall vibe of the area in an attempt to either gentrify or attract new residents/businesses.

It’s not uncommon for someone who has a green thumb and a decent eye for landscaping to decide to offer to take over someone’s yard in an effort to earn a little extra money. What some people don’t realize is that this little attempt at a side hustle can get them into legal trouble.

The reality is that before you start offering your skills in exchange for payment, you should take some time to review California’s Landscape Architecture laws which are covered by the California State Professional Licensing Laws. When you take the time to read over the laws that pertain to landscape architects, one of the first things you’ll learn is that you can’t beautify a person’s yard in exchange for money until you’ve obtained a special business license.

Loving beautiful outdoor spaces and maintaining a couple of nice flower beds isn’t enough for you to get a landscape architecture license. Before you can start landscaping for money, the California Landscape Architects Technical Committee requires that you obtain at least one year of education. In addition to the schooling, you also have to spend two years getting some practical training, usually in the form of working for an already fully qualified landscape architect. It looks like the practical training should be completed after you’ve taken the classes the committee requires for your educational credit.

If you fail to complete the requirements needed to become a fully licensed landscape architect and choose to run a business without a license, you could face:

  • The suspension of your business
  • Local lawmakers fining you for non-compliance
  • Liability lawsuits
  • Government-mandated closure of your business for non-compliance

You’ll also likely have a difficult time getting the insurance and loans needed to run a successful and safe landscaping business.

In many cases of a business operating without a license, the law protects the clients. Failing to meet the licensing requirements means that you won’t be able to sue a client who doesn’t honor their part of a contract, such as paying you for your service.

When all is said and done, it’s in your best interest to go through the proper channels and meet the education requirements needed to work as a fully licensed and insured landscape architect in California.


Riding A Moped In California



Mopeds are a great source of transportation, especially for doing things like commuting to work when you live in the city. They are small enough to be easily stored, even in areas where parking a regular car or motorcycle is difficult. They sip fuel. And they are easy to handle.

Many people have found that mopeds are cost-effective form of transportation.

If you’re thinking of using a moped as your daily commuter, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

If you’re planning on riding a moped in California, you have to be serious about protecting your brain. You don’t have to purchase an expensive motorcycle helmet, but state law requires that you do wear a bicycle helmet.

When you decide to drive a moped, you don’t have to worry about insuring the moped. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about a driver’s license. In order to use the moped on public property, such as city streets, you do need an M1 or M2 class license. You also need to have a special license plate for your moped. The good news is that the license will only cost you $23 and it’s a one-time expense for as long as you own the moped.

Don’t assume that you’ll be able to drive your moped wherever you want. Legally, you’re only allowed to operate a moped on streets that have a speed limit of 25 mph or lower. That makes using the moped in rural settings difficult. You’re also usually allowed to use the moped on trails lanes that are designated for bike traffic. You’re not allowed to ride your moped on sidewalks.

Don’t assume that because you’re on a moped which is significantly less powerful than a car or motorcycle, that you can let down your guard and stop paying attention. It’s extremely important that you pay careful attention and drive defensively while astride your moped. Not only do you want to be aware of what everyone around you is doing so that you can avoid getting injured, but you also want to take care and make sure your actions don’t result in damaged property or in someone getting seriously hurt.

Never forget that while mopeds are small and cute, they’re still motorized vehicles and capable of a great deal of damage.


How To Get Free Legal Assistance In California



Nearly everyone has a point in their life where they need some sort of legal advice. If you’re lucky, you have enough money that you can pay a lawyer for their time. Sadly, not everyone is in this position. The good news is that whether you need answers to a few legal questions involving how to care for an elderly parent or need a good defense lawyer for an upcoming trial, California does have free legal assistance programs.

Public Defenders

Every American should know that if they find themselves on the wrong side of the law, they’re entitled to a defense attorney. There’s a well-known line in the Miranda Rights that states, “If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” The reason the line is in the Miranda Rights is so that you understand that getting a good lawyer on your side is an extremely good idea.

It doesn’t matter if you are or aren’t guilty of the crime you’ve been charged with, you should have a lawyer in your corner. Even if you plan on pleading guilty they can advise you of your rights and even help negotiate a plea bargain. A court-appointed lawyer is better than no lawyer at all.

Legal Assistance And Advice

While the courts are required to assign a court-appointed lawyer to you if you’re charged with a crime, no one is obligated to provide you with free legal assistance. The good news is that there are several organizations scattered throughout California that have created programs that will provide you with either free or low-cost legal advice and assistance. If you contact an organization that doesn’t have the experience needed to help with your specific issue, they’ll likely provide you with the contact information of a group that does.

The biggest problem with using free legal aid programs is that they are usually only found in cities. Individuals who live in rural areas and small towns will usually have to look in more heavily developed areas when they need free legal counseling.

Don’t ever think that a lack of money makes it impossible for you to get your legal questions answered. There are resources out there that are far more reliable than posting your questions on social media sites and hoping for the best.


The Truth About Carpool Cheating



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.


Laws Every Californian Should Know About



If you call California your home, there are a few laws you should familiarize yourself with.

DUI Threshold Laws

Everyone knows that getting arrested for DUI is a serious, life-altering problem. The problem is that few people know what when they have crossed over the threshold from legally able to drive and become too drunk to drive.

It doesn’t matter if you are the kind of person who gets buzzed after a few sips or someone who really can hold their liquor, if you’re pulled over and your blood alcohol level is 0.08% or higher you will be charged with a DUI.

Data Privacy Laws In California

One of the great things about calling California your home is knowing that you have a legal right to know exactly what type of data businesses collect about you and what they’re using it for. The California Consumer Privacy Act went into effect on January 1, 2020.

The California Consumer Privacy Act is written in such a way that you:

  • Can delete personal data a business has collected.
  • Block the sale of personal data.
  • Have the ability to learn exactly what data is collected/sold/shared/etc.

Comparative Negligence For Injuries

Don’t assume that just because you believe that someone is 99% for injuries they sustained during an accident, that they’ll be responsible for the bulk of their medical bills. That’s not quite how the law sees things in California.

California lawmakers created a comparative fault law that basically states that if you are in any way responsible for a person’s injuries, they (or their insurance company) can sue you for a portion of the expenses the individual incurred because of the accident. The good news is that once the court decides how much your actions contributed to the accident, that will be the amount you have to owe.

For example, if a guest comes to your home while they are drunk and trips over a hose that you left stretched across the driveway and breaks their nose, the court might decide that the hose was only 20% of the reason they were injured. The other 80% of the injuries were connected to their intoxication. In this situation, you’d only be responsible for 20% of the medical bills.

Cell Phones And Cars

As a society, we’ve become addicted to our cell phones. They rarely leave our sight. We love how they provide us with a way to constantly be connected to everyone we care about. While no one has taken steps to separate us from our phones, California lawmakers have passed laws that are designed to keep you off your phone while you’re behind the wheel.

If you’re under 18 and driving, you’re not allowed to use your cell phone at all while commuting. Even the hands-free system is off-limits. If you do have to make a call or respond to a text, you’ll have to pull over and deal with the situation while your car is completely stopped.

If you’re over 18, you’re allowed to use the hands-free system of your choice, but you can’t have your phone in your hand. The first time you’re caught holding the phone while driving, you’ll be issued a ticket that will cost at least $76.

The one exception to using a handheld phone while driving is if you’re reporting an emergency to the police or fire department.


What Happens If You Give A Police Officer False Information



It doesn’t matter if you’re pulled over for a routine traffic violation or if the police knock on your front door and ask to talk to you, there’s something about face-to-face interactions that causes most of us to panic. This panic can result in us making some bad choices. A perfect example of this is not thinking before providing the officer with false information.

It doesn’t matter if you give the officer the wrong home address or if you pretend to be your younger sibling. If the officer finds out that you have provided them with false information, they will likely arrest you for violating California’s Penal Code 148.9. This is a misdemeanor offense. If you’re convicted, the judge can sentence you to six months in jail and charge a $1,000 fine. Since this charge will be on your permanent record, if the police ever question you again, they’ll likely be very suspicious of any information they get from you.

The good news is that Penal Code 148.6 clearly states that you have to knowingly give the officers the false information. That word “knowingly,” could be the key component to your defense, particularly if you made an honest mistake, such as forgetting your current home address and providing the police with a previous address. The same is true if you have given them the wrong information regarding your work history, or answered a question wrong during an interview.

If you realize that you’ve provided the police with the wrong information, it’s important to correct the situation as quickly as possible. The faster you alert the police to the mistake, the more the incident looks like a casual mistake as opposed to a deliberate attempt to mislead the police.

Another interesting thing about California’s Penal Code 148.9 is that you can only be charged with providing the police officer with false information if you provide the false information after you’ve been legally detained or arrested.

Don’t assume that just because you gave the police officer some false information before them formally detaining or arresting you that you have nothing to worry about. Giving false information before the arrest/detaining creates an opportunity for the police to charge you with interfering with an investigation and obstructing justice.

A guilty conviction for those charges results in getting fined up to $1,000, as well as spending up to 12 months in a county jail.

When it comes to the police, it’s in your best interest to be honest.


What Is Exoneration In California?



Did you know that California leads the nation in exonerations? According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 120 people have been exonerated in California. Additional research reveals that in the past 30 years, California courts have dealt with over 200 wrongful conviction cases. It’s estimated that the amount of time the wrongfully convicted served for crimes they didn’t do adds up to 1,300 years. It’s also believed that the total cost of these wrongful convictions cost about $129 million.

That’s both incredible and alarming.

What Is An Exoneration?

  1. According to the legal dictionary, an exoneration is, “The taking off a burden or duty.
  2. It is a rule in the distribution of an intestate’s estate that the debts which he himself contracted, and for which be mortgaged his land as security, shall be paid out of the personal estate in the exoneration of the real.
  3. But when the real estate is charged with the payment of a mortgage at the time the intestate buys it, and the purchase is made subject to it, the personal is not, in that case, to be applied, in exoneration of the real estate. 2 Pow. Mortg. 780; 5 Hayw. 57; 3 Johns. Ch. R. 229.
  4. But the rule for exonerating the real estate out of the personal, does not apply against specific or pecuniary legatees, nor the widow’s right to paraphernalia, and with a reason not against the interest of creditors. 2 Ves. jr. 64; 1 P. Wms. 693; Id. 729; 2 Id. 120,335; 3 Id. 367. Vide Pow. Mortg. Index, h.t.”

How Exoneration Works

If you’ve been exonerated, it means that in the eyes of the law, you had nothing to do with a specific crime. You’re completely free of blame and guilt.

Not only are you free of guilt, but you also can’t be tried for the same case a second time. In California, most exonerations occur because of DNA evidence.

In theory, now that the science surrounding DNA has gotten so much better, we should see a reduction of exonerations, primarily because the evidence should prove that there is no point in taking a suspect to court at all. As soon as the DNA evidence is processed, and everyone knows it doesn’t belong to the suspect, they should be freed.

What About Life Following Exoneration?

Life isn’t always easy for someone who has been exonerated after spending a significant time in jail for a crime they didn’t commit. Not only do they have to deal with the psychological toll the experience took on them, but they also have to adjust to living in a world that has changed a great deal. Most don’t have many financial assets and are forced to rely on charitable organizations that provide the exonerated citizen with the tools they need to eventually rebuild their life.


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