Obstructing the Police in California

Obstructing the Police in California

Obstructing the Police in California

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 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 offence. 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.

Understanding Cyberstalking

Understanding Cyberstalking

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 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

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.

Child Endangerment in California

Child Endangerment in California

Child Endangerment in California

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 six 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.

Spring Break is Coming! Know What an Underage Drinking Charge Will Cost you

Spring Break is Coming! Know What an Underage Drinking Charge Will Cost you

Spring Break is Coming! 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)
✽ 2 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.

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.

Abandoned Cars in California

Abandoned Cars in California

Abandoned Cars in California

California law states that any “vehicle which has been left unattended, standing, parked upon or within 10 feet of the traveled portion of the highway for more than 48 hours, or a vehicle left standing or parked on private property more than 24 hours or upon other public property for more than 30 days,” is an abandoned vehicle. The same is true of a vehicle that’s been left on the side of the highway for 72 hours and hasn’t been reported by the owner.

If you are the owner of a piece of property that has an abandoned car on it, you’re not allowed to automatically assume ownership of the vehicle. Legally, you’re required to report it. The state will then process the vehicle and ultimately decide what to do with it. In many cases, the state will eventually hold an auction during which you have the opportunity to bid on the vehicle.

Once the vehicle reaches the impound lot, it will be inspected. If any illegal substances are found in the car or if there is evidence that the vehicle was used to commit a crime, the police will launch an investigation that will lead them to the vehicle’s owner.

In some cases, the owners have genuinely decided to abandon the vehicle, but in other situations, they would like to be reunited with their property. If you are the owner of a car that has been impounded and considered an abandoned vehicle, you are allowed to reclaim your vehicle, but it will cost you. You can expect the fee to include whatever the towing charge was, any penalties the department connects to the vehicle, and impound release fees. If you want the vehicle back, you’ll want to act quickly because the impound fees usually increase each day.

If the vehicle isn’t reclaimed, it’s sold at a public auction and the winning bidder gets the title to the vehicle.

If you have to abandon your vehicle for some reason, it’s in your best interest to alert either the owner of the property where the vehicle is parked or the police. Simply letting someone know that you intend to return for the vehicle can save you from the aggravation and expense of trying to reclaim a vehicle that is presumed abandoned.

What Happens if You’re Accused of Extortion in California

What Happens if You’re Accused of Extortion in California

What Happens if You’re Accused of Extortion in California

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.

The Cost of Ignoring School Zone Traffic Laws in California

The Cost of Ignoring School Zone Traffic Laws in California

The Cost of Ignoring School Zone Traffic Laws in California

Kids are finally starting to return to school in California which means it’s time for drivers to reacquaint themselves with school zone traffic laws. It’s extremely important that you not only know that the laws exist but also the consequences of breaking the school zone traffic laws.

School zones are designated areas where there periods of the day where there are multiple kids on foot, parents picking up kids, and school buses present. These things create additional driving hazards. Everyone has to be hypervigilant during these times, particularly if you’re in an area where there a lot of young kids who don’t always remember to look before they dart into traffic.

To keep things as safe as possible, the speed limits are decreased in school zones during key times of the day, usually when people are showing up for school and when they’re leaving.

In most school zones, the speed limit decreases to 25 MPH though there are places where it goes even lower, to 15 mph. Signs in the area not only alert you to the change in speed, but they will also have a note stating that the decreased speed limit goes into effect “when children are present.” Many also have a flashing light attached to the sign which blinks on and off when the police are enforcing the decreased speed limit.

In addition to having these speed limit zones near schools, some cities have also decided to create special speed limit zones near parks and playgrounds.

If you’re entering a school zone, you are expected to be on high alert for slow-moving traffic and lots of unpredictable foot traffic. You should also be prepared for the possibility of cops who have parked in strategic spots while they wait to pull over drivers who fail to obey the decreased speed limit.

If you’re pulled over for speeding in a school zone, don’t expect to talk your way out of the ticket. Patrol officers take the safety of children very seriously and are unlikely to let you off with a warning.

If you get a ticket for speeding in a school zone, you should expect to pay:

✨ $25 for 1-15 miles per hour over the limit
✨ $50 for 16-25 miles per hour over the limit
✨ $100 for 26 miles per hour the limit

It’s important to understand that these fines are the base amount. In most cases, there are additional costs attached to each ticket which will often bring it to over $100. It’s also possible that the officer will decide to attach additional charges to the ticket. These additional charges could include reckless driving, failing to yield, negligence, and even using a cell phone. It’s also possible that they will notice a problem with your insurance or registration.

When all is said and done, it’s best to keep both hands on the wheel, your eyes up, and your foot light on the accelerator while you’re driving through a California school zone. The few extra minutes slowing down adds to your commute will cost you far less than a failure to slow down in a school zone traffic ticket.

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 canceled 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 DD 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!