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Standing Your Ground In California

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In California, you have the right to defend yourself, even if you’re not inside of your home at the time. The issue is dealt with in California’s self-defense laws which are more popularly referred to as Stand-Your-Ground laws.

What the Stand-Your-Ground laws do is provide you with a way to hold tight and defend yourself from an attack. They most commonly come into play when a person encounters a burglar inside their home, but they also come into play in parking lots, parks, lawns, public buildings and even on the road.

The idea behind the Stand-Your-Ground laws is that you should be able to defend yourself without having to worry about criminal prosecution.

It’s important to understand that the Stand-Your-Ground laws don’t give you free rein to do whatever you want. You are still expected to use some common sense and to not use unnecessary force in response to a minor concern.

In order to use the Stand-Your-Ground laws as self-defense, a few things have to happen.

  • You have to show that you could reasonably believe that your health, safety, or life was in danger during that specific moment.
  • You had to genuinely believe that the degree of force you used in response to the threat was appropriate in the situation.
  • You have to prove that you didn’t use an excessive amount of force given the nature of the threat.

There have been cases of people killing a perceived threat. Whenever this happens, there are always questions about whether the degree of force used was really necessary.

The way California’s self-defense laws are written, you have the right to used deadly force against anyone who you feel intends to kill or seriously harm you. Examples of this include:

It’s worth noting that you can only use the imminent danger and stand-your-ground defense if the threat was happening right at that moment. It had to be an actual threat, not just the perception of a threat. For example, you can legally use violence to defend yourself if someone is holding a knife to your throat, but you can’t go to a cyberstalker’s house and shoot them.

If you had to use violence to defend yourself, you want to contact the police immediately following the altercation. The sooner you contact them, the sooner they can interview witnesses and take your statement. Talking to the police while everything is fresh in everyone’s mind is the best way to prove that you acted in self-defense.

 

Riding A Noisy Motorcycle In California

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There was a time when riding a noisy motorcycle in California meant you might get issue a fix-it ticket. While the ticket was irritating, it was also easily correctable. All you had to do was take your motorcycle to a mechanic, have the noise adjusted, prove you changed things, and the ticket went away.

That changed in 2019 when lawmakers decided that there were too many noisy motorcycles on California’s highways. Since the law passed, if you’re motorcycle is considered too loud, you’ll still be issued a ticket, but adjusting the noise won’t make the fine disappear. Whether you have your bike repaired or not, you’ll have to pay a substantial amount of money to the court system.

While you might love a good loud rumbling exhaust while you’re zooming down California’s highways, that sound could really hurt your budget. If you’re issued an excessive noise ticket, the fine could be $1,000.

Don’t assume that as long as you pay the fine, you have nothing to worry about. It’s possible that you’ll be told that you need to do something to make your bike quieter. Plus, you’ll continue collecting tickets and fines until the noise issue is resolved.

Unless you’re riding a motorcycle that was made prior to 1985, the maximum amount of noise you’re bike can make while on public roads is 80 dB. To help you stay within this parameter, you’re not allowed to modify your exhaust with after-market parts which are often designed to exceed 80 dB. If you have to replace your bike’s exhaust system, you want to stick to parts that are EPA certified. Stay away from anything that says it’s for off-road or racing use as these are generally significantly louder than 80 dB.

If you are pulled over because the officer believes your bike is too loud and you disagree, it’s in your best interest to use the video function on your phone to record your bike right after the ticket is written. This will provide you with a way to verify exactly how loud your machine was at the time. If it was less than 80 dB, you can fight the ticket and likely get out of paying the excessive noise fine.

Whether you intend to fight the ticket or simply pay the fine, it’s in your best interest to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. If you wait too long to handle the situation, additional fees could be attached to the ticket and you may even lose your license.

 

Understanding Cyberstalking

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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.

 

Obstructing The Police In California

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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, obstructing the police is, “The offense of hindering a police officer who is in the course of doing his duty (Police Act 1996 s 89). “Obstruction” includes any intentional interference, e.g. by physical force, threats, telling lies or giving misleading information, refusing to cooperate in removing an obstruction or warning a person who has committed a crime so that he or she can escape detection (e.g. warning a speeding driver that there is a police trap ahead).

It is not, however, an offense merely not to answer or to advise someone not to answer, police questions that he does not have to answer. A police officer is acting in the course of his duty if he is preventing or detecting crime (in particular, breaches of the peace) or obeying the orders of his superiors. However, he is not acting in the course of his duty when he is merely assisting the public in some way unconnected with a crime. When the obstruction amounts to an assault, the offense is punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine.

One may be guilty of this offense even if the police officer was in plain clothes.”

The California legal system adheres closely to this definition.

Penal Code Section 148 deals with the legal ins and outs of obstructing the police. The purpose of the law is to make it possible for officers to investigate crimes without having to worry about outside influences having a potentially negative impact on the case.

If you take the time to read through Section 148(a)(1), you’ll discover that obstructing the police charges can be filed against you if you do anything that is considered resisting, delaying or willingly obstructing the police’s ability to conduct an investigation. While obstruction charges typically involve police matters, they can also be filed against anyone who interferes with an EMT, peace offices or firefighter.

Examples of obstruction include:

  • Resisting arrest
  • Deliberately delaying an officer from reaching the scene of a crime/accident/person of interest
  • Attempting to communicate with a suspect that is clearly in police custody
  • Actively giving the police wrong information

One of the interesting things about obstruction charges is that you have to willingly know you’re obstructing the police. Charges shouldn’t be filed against you if you didn’t know that an investigation was taking place or if you didn’t actually know the answer to a question a police officer asked you during the course of an investigation. The same is true if you inadvertently dispose of a piece of evidence that you didn’t know what part of a crime that was under investigation.

Obstructing the police in California is a wobbler defense. The exact circumstances of the case determine whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

If you’re convicted of felony obstruction in California, you could be sentenced to up to 3 years in a state prison and have to serve felony probation.

Obstruction cases are always complicated. Given the difficult nature of these cases, it’s in your best interest to quickly seek out a good lawyer and get the case cleared up as quickly as possible while the details remain fresh in everyone’s mind.

 

Child Endangerment In California

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California’s lawmakers believe that adults have a moral and legal responsibility to protect children. Failing to do so can put you on the wrong side of the law.

The California Penal Code 273a PC deals with the issue of child endangerment.

The interesting thing about Penal Code 273a PC is that while it deals with child endangerment, it isn’t the same law that defines child abuse.

The idea behind child endangerment is that the episode is often a single episode. It doesn’t always involve a child getting hurt, but rather addresses the fact that a child, which according to the California legal system is anyone under the age of 18, could have been hurt or killed as a direct result of your actions. Getting behind the wheel and driving drunk while your passenger is a minor, is a good example of a child endangerment case.

Additional examples of child endangerment include:

  • Hiring the services of a babysitter who has an abusive past.
  • Exposing your child to a dangerous animal.
  • Failing to notice that your child is playing in the middle of a busy road.
  • Leaving a firearm laying around the house while a child is present.

Many parents don’t realize that in extreme cases, failing to seek medical assistance for a child who is for an extremely sick or badly injured child can be considered child endangerment.

Just because you’ve been accused of child abuse and the case has gone to trial, it doesn’t mean you’ll be sent to jail.

In order to be convicted of child endangerment in California, the prosecutor has to effectively prove that you knew there was a chance that your actions (or lack of action) created a situation where the child was in danger.

Defenses that have been successfully used in child endangerment cases include:

  • You couldn’t have known that the child was potentially in danger.
  • The child wasn’t your responsibility.
  • You were falsely accused (false accusations of child endangerment aren’t uncommon in cases that also involve a custody dispute).
  • The endangerment was completely accidental.

You’ll be surprised to learn that child endangerment is one of California’s wobbler laws. The details of the case determine if you’re charged/convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony.

If there was a chance that the situation could have resulted in death or extreme injuries to the child, you should expect the prosecutor to pursue felony child endangerment charges.

If you’re convicted, the potential consequences could include:

  • A fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000.
  • Getting sentenced to anywhere from 2 to 6 years on a state prison.

If it doesn’t appear that the child could have been severely injured or died as a result of your actions, the prosecutor will go after a misdemeanor charge.

If you’re convicted, you could:

  • Be sentenced to up to one year in the county jail.
  • Be charged a fine that doesn’t exceed $1,000.

The best way to avoid child endangerment charges in California is using common sense and avoid dangerous situations whenever possible.

 

How To Dress Properly For Court

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It doesn’t matter if you’re in civil or legal court, you want to make sure you’ve dressed appropriately. The good news is that getting dressed for court isn’t difficult. It’s also likely that you have most of the items needed to make a good impression so you don’t have to worry about the expense of a shopping trip.

The first thing to consider is the color of the clothing you’re going to wear. It’s suggested that you stick to conservative, neutral colors. Most people opt for dark colors.

It’s a good idea to layer. Some courtrooms run hot and some are cold. While you’re in court you want to be paying attention. You don’t want to worry about freezing or overheating. Layers allow you to peel off a jacket or cardigan if the courtroom is warmer than expected.

Choose clean clothing. In addition to making sure that everything you wear to the courtroom is clean, take a few minutes to check for stains and tears. Depending on the type of material your court clothes are made out of, you might have to give yourself enough time to iron them before leaving court.

You want to appear nicely dressed while you’re in court, but since you could be sitting for a long time, you also want to choose comfortable clothing. Avoid anything that bunches, twists, is too tight, or that tends to pinch. You want to pay attention to the judge and the lawyers, you don’t want to be playing with your clothing.

When dressing for court, you should strive for a professional look. If you don’t own a suit, at least consider a nice button-down shirt and a pair of slacks. If you don’t own slacks look for a dark pair of jeans that fits well.

If you must wear jewelry, keep it simple, tasteful, and minimal. There are two reasons for this. Clunky and jangly jewelry is distracting in a courtroom setting. It can also make you look less serious. The second reason to wear as little jewelry as possible is so that you have less to remove when going through metal detectors.

It’s likely that you’re supposed to be in court relatively early in the morning and you don’t want to be late. Decide what you’re planning on wearing to the court the night before and lay everything out. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready and still arrive in the courtroom on time.

 

What Happens If You’re Accused Of Extortion In California

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California lawmakers consider the act of using a threat or force to compel someone into giving you something, usually money or property, that they’d prefer to keep for themselves. In California, extortion and blackmail are considered the same thing.

In California, extortion is considered an extreme situation. It is a felony with none of the wiggle room that’s connected to California’s wobbler laws.

Over the years, several extortion cases have made their way through the California court system. Some of these cases involved a burglar threatening the life or physical safety of the homeowner unless the owner revealed the location of valuables. There have been cases of public officials being blackmailed in an attempt to influence their vote. Some athletes have found themselves involved in extortion cases after someone placed a large bet that hinged on a certain team winning or losing. Eldercare extortion cases are also common. In these cases, care is withheld until the elder provides money to the caretaker.

The problem with extortion cases is that it’s not easy to put together a good defense. The most commonly used defenses are that the extortion didn’t happen and that the defendant was falsely accused. There have occasionally been people who’ve beaten extortion charges when it was revealed that the person or victim who filed the charges ultimately didn’t give in to the extortion.

If you’re charged with extortion, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced defense attorney right away and start preparing your case. If you want to argue mistaken identity or false accusations, you’ll have to find witnesses and prepare documented proof that there is no way you benefited from the alleged extortion. In the case of false accusations, it’s a good idea to have proof that the individual who filed the charges stand to gain in some way if you’re convicted or that they have a history of making your life difficult.

Because extortion in California is a felony offense, if you’re convicted, you’ll serve time in a state prison.

If convicted you could be forced to:

  • Serve a maximum of a four-year prison sentence
  • Be required to pay a $10,000 fine
  • Have to make restitution

In some cases, particularly first-time extortion offenses, the judge has opted to allow the defendant to serve felony probation rather than prison time.

If you’re convicted of extortion, the felony record not only damages your reputation, but it can also make everything from getting a job, to acquiring a house, and even securing a line of credit difficult.

 

Streaking In California

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Streaking is one of those things that happens sometimes. It most often takes place at sporting events, but sometimes also happens at political rallies, school graduation, and even completely random.

Streaking involves someone stripping off their clothing and, usually running, past a group of people. Most people consider it funny and will share stories and even pictures all over social media.

There is one group of people who don’t think that streaking is funny: California’s lawmakers. They prefer that everyone remain fully clothed while in public. If you’re caught streaking, the police will arrest you and charge you with indecent exposure. That is when the incident stops seeming like a fun prank and becomes an issue that could have a seriously negative impact on your future.

In California, streaking and indecent exposure is dealt with in California Penal Code 314 PC. It’s a misdemeanor charge which doesn’t sound so bad until you realize that in addition to a six-month jail sentence, a guilty conviction will result in your name being placed on the sex-offender registration for a full ten years. You’ll be registered as a Tier-One offender. Having your name on the sex offender list, even for something as harmless as streaking, can have a severely negative impact on your ability to find a job, secure housing, and participate in community events. You can also be charged up to $1,000 in fines.

Getting caught streaking once is bad. Getting caught a second time is far worse. The second time you’re charged with indecent exposure, you’ll face felony charges.

If your second streaking episode results in a felony indecent exposure conviction, the penalties are steep. They include:

  • Spending up to three years in a state prison.
  • Lifelong registration on the sex offender list.
  • Being required to pay up to $10,000 in fines.

Before you decide to go streaking, consider that there aren’t all that many good defenses you can use in indecent exposure cases. The two best defenses are that you didn’t intend to expose yourself to anyone, a difficult argument to make when after a streaking episode. The second most plausible defense is that it’s a case of mistaken identity, which will be a tricky argument if half the crowd you streaked in front of used their cell phone cameras to catch the event.

Considering the potential fall out from a single streaking episode, it’s in your best interest to stay fully dressed and let someone else do the streaking.

 

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 Impact Of The COVID-19 Pandemic On Crime Rates

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Whenever you turn to your preferred source of news, you’re likely slammed with information about the toll COVID-19 is taking on healthcare and the economy. Everyone is happy to share information about how overrun the hospitals are, how people’s mental health is suffering, and how the economy will never recover.

What hasn’t been talked about much is the impact COVID-19 is having on the crime.

When the pandemic first struck the United States, the crime rates dropped. That has changed. Today it’s obvious that the pandemic has triggered a surge in crime, particularly homicides.

NPR reported that in 2020, there had been over 750 homicides in Chicago, that’s an increase of over 50% from the year before. Chicago wasn’t the only city where homicide rates spiked. Los Angeles police dealt with 30% more homicide investigations. The increase in New York City exceeded 40%.

Experts agree that the spike is directly connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeff Asher, who works as a data consultant, studied the crime rates in 50 major cities and concluded. “We have good data that the rise in murder was happening in the early stages of the pandemic. We have good data that the rise in murder picked up in the early stages of the summer,” Asher explained to NPR, “and we also have good data that the rise of murder picked up again in September and October as some of the financial assistance started to wear off.”

Not everyone agrees that economic struggles are the sole reason homicide rates are climbing.

“It’s clearly related, in part, to the coronavirus and to the fact that people are cooped up,” New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio hypothesized. “And it’s certainly related to the fact that the criminal justice system is on pause and that’s causing a lot of problems.”

COVID-19 didn’t simply result in a spike in homicides. Experts have noted that other types of crimes have also risen sharply since the pandemic.

Data collected by the COVID-19 Council revealed that:

  • Aggravated assault cases jumped 6%.
  • Domestic violence reports increased at the start of the pandemic.
  • Gun assault charges increased by 8%.
  • Robbery reports spiked by 9%.
  • There were 30% more drug-related offenses.
  • Vehicle theft increased by 13%.

While these numbers are bleak, it isn’t all bad news:

  • Non-residential burglary decreased by 7%.
  • Residential burglary decreased by a staggering 24%.
  • Drug-related offenses dropped 30%.

Hopefully, the pandemic will end soon and life, as well as crime rates, will return to normal.

 

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