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Understanding Background Checks and Your Criminal History

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Background checks are becoming routine. If you are interviewed for a job or fill in a rental application you can expect that the person handling the application will run a background check on you. Knowing that a background check is in the process always makes people curious about what kind of information the background check reveals.

The exact information that appears on the background check can vary a little depending on what filters the person running the check put into place. Most of the background checks are set up so that they show any criminal activity you’ve been involved with. Felony convictions should always appear on the background check. Misdemeanor and pending convictions don’t always appear on the report.

Different states take different approaches when it comes to pending charges and background checks. According to Criminal Watchdog, California has a policy that enables all pending charges to appear on a background check, this includes pending charges for misdemeanors as well as felonies. It is even possible for a person to set up a background check so that they receive an alert when/if the pending charge becomes a conviction.

According to I Prospect Check, California’s background checks for criminal convictions only go back seven years. The seven-year rule is regulated by the Civil Code 1786.10. The information that disappears from the background check after seven years includes indictments, misdemeanors, arrests, convictions, and police complaints. It’s worth noting that arrests that didn’t result in a conviction, pardons, and expungements are not supposed to appear on your background check.

You should also be aware that employers who run a background check are required to file and keep the background check for two full years after they’ve run it.

Don’t assume that just because more than seven years have passed since your last conviction or arrest you don’t have to worry about it impacting your ability to obtain a job or rent a place. It still can. While the information might not be on the background check your employers run, it could be mentioned when they check your references which will likely include former employers, friends, and family. It can also appear if they Google your name and find an old newspaper article, social media post, or police report.

Considering how easily criminal information can be uncovered even when it no longer appears on a formal background check, it’s in your best interest to reveal any unsavory parts of your past right away. This gives you a chance to appear forthright while also sharing your side of the story.

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The Legal Ins and Outs of Catfishing

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Catfishing isn’t the art of catching the bottom-dwelling fish that taste greatly fried. Catfishing actually refers to the act of using a false social network profile that allows you to pretend to be someone you’re not. This differs from a ghostwriter creating an account for their writing profile because the catfisher’s account exists purely for malicious purposes.

Each catfisher has their own reasons for creating the fake profile, some use the account to extort financial information, some use it for bullying purposes, some like to get compromising photos of their victims. The end result is that the catfisher almost leaves victims in their wake.

While it seems like catfishing should be considered fraud and illegal, at this point, there are no actual laws pertaining to the actual act of catfishing. But, in many cases, the catfisher uses their fake social media identity for some sort of illegal activity. In many cases, the catfisher knows that they’re engaged in illegal activity but assumes that since they’re using a fake profile, they won’t get caught. Catfishers also hope that their victims will be so embarrassed that they were taken in by the fake profile that they won’t even report the crimes. Another challenge victims who do report the crime face is that the catfisher may live in a different state, making it difficult to pursue legal action.

Examples of laws catfishers commonly break include:

✦ Copyright fraud
Computer hacking crimes
✦ Fraud (uses false pretenses to gain money/goods/services)
✦ Identity theft
✦ Soliciting minors
✦ Illegally recording or photographing someone without their consent

A catfisher can destroy your life so it’s important to know the steps you can take to avoid interacting with a catfisher.

If you’re contacted via social media by someone you don’t know, spend some time checking them out before you respond to their friend request or personal message. See if they have anything in common with you such as a mutual friend or shared interest. Explore their own profile and make sure it contains the type of content usually found on a social media account, this includes interactions with other people.

Even if you’re confident this new contact is a legit person, you still need to be very careful about the type of information you provide them. Keep all of your interactions impersonal.

The single best way to avoid falling victim to a catfisher is to pay attention to your instincts. If you get a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right, you should block them from your social.

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Do You Need Parental Consent to Share Pictures of Minors

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Social media has created some questions many people never really thought to ask before. One example of this has to do with pictures of minors.

While pictures of minors are posted all the time on various social media channels, some people can’t help wondering about the legality of doing so if they don’t have the parent’s consent.

First, if you are at all worried that posting that picture of a cute baby in the park or the young baseball star who is participating in a local ball game is legal, you should talk to the parents. You’ll feel better.

Even if you don’t talk to the parents, the law states that if a person is in a public place, they can’t expect full privacy. This means that to a certain extent you are legally allowed to post pictures of kids at sporting events, horse shows, and in the park. Where it gets confusing is that you can’t necessarily give the child’s identity away, you can’t be taking the photos in a way that makes the parents or child uncomfortable, and you can’t appear to be harassing or stalking the child.

What you’re not allowed to do is post a picture of a child who had a reasonable expectation of privacy without the parent’s consent. So while taking a picture of a child standing in front of an ice cream store is legal, taking a snapshot of a child playing in a fenced backyard would be viewed as suspicious activity and an invasion of privacy.

What you do want to be mindful of is providing identification information about the child in question. For example, if you’re taking a photo of your child and their best friend as they are playing with your dog, you want to check with the parents of your child’s friend before you attach their name to the image you post on social media.

You also want to be very mindful of how you are using the images. You could run into trouble if you use the image of a minor for advertising purposes. If you do want to use the image to promote a photography business, child’s fashion line, a daycare center, or something else, you really should get the parent’s permission. It’s also a good idea to research child exploitation and employment laws to make sure you haven’t inadvertently violated the law.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to posting pictures of children on social media is that there is nothing in the image that could in any way be considered pornographic or sexual in nature. Posting a single image that is flagged, could result in you facing serious charges including child pornography.

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Telemarketer Fraud

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If you hate telemarketers, you’re not alone. Legal Beagle reported that in 2017, Bank my Cell conducted a survey that revealed that out of 1,200 people, 75% of them actively avoided calls that they knew were from telemarketers. 85% of the people who responded to the survey reported that even the thought of dealing with telemarketers triggered anxiety-related issues.

The reason most of us loathe dealing with telemarketers is that the calls are time-consuming and the person on the other end of the line keeps pushing even though we’ve told them no several times. Most of us also hate feeling guilty when we have no option but to hang up on the irritating telemarketer.

It turns out, there’s another reason to avoid telemarketers. That reason is telemarketing fraud.

Cornell Law School defines telemarketing fraud as: “Phone and telemarketing fraud refers to any type of scheme in which a criminal communicates with the potential victim via the telephone. Because many reputable companies use telemarketing to conduct business, criminals can often effectively use the method as a way to obtain a victim’s credit card information or identity and then use this information to make unauthorized purchases elsewhere. Victims have difficulty distinguishing between reputable telemarketers and scam artists. Frequent victims of telemarketing scams include the poor, the elderly, and immigrants without strong English skills.”

Examples of common telemarketing fraud include:

✨ Selling a fake product via the telephone
✨ Telling you that for a seemingly nominal amount of money, you’re eligible for a free product/service/trip that the telemarketer has no intention of giving you
✨ Fake debt collection calls

Telemarketing fraud is illegal in California. Cases involving telemarketing fraud are covered by California’s general larceny statutes which are defined in California Penal Code Sections 484-490.

In California, if the amount of money/good gained through a telemarketing fraud case is less than $900, it’s considered a petty theft case. Sentencing can include six months in jail and a large fine.

If the telemarketing fraud case involves damages greater than $900, the accused will face felony charges. If convicted, they could be sentenced to a full year in prison, charged up to $10,000 in fines, and ordered to pay restitution to the victims.

One of the biggest challenges connected to telemarketing fraud is that many of the cases happen in different states or even different countries, which makes pursuing legal action difficult.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud is not agreeing to any offers or providing any financial information until you’ve had a chance to thoroughly research the offer/business.

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How Serious is Road Rage in California

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The recent death of a young boy following a road rage incident has triggered a surge of interest in how large a problem road rage in California is.

On May 21, a young passenger was killed when a man fired a gun at a passing car. The incident took place while the mother of the boy was driving her child to school. She was merging into traffic. Apparently, she flipped off the driver of the Volkswagen where the shot came from. The driver then pulled behind her vehicle. It’s believed that the passenger fired into the vehicle’s trunk and that the bullet passed through the trunk and into the boy who suffered fatal injuries.

Sadly, this is just one instance of road rage in California. According to one California traffic school, 50% of all drivers admit to feeling a sense of rage while driving and many of these have expressed that rage in the form of angry gestures, tailgating, or cutting off another driver. The problem with all of these scenarios is that the road rage instances quickly escalate and can result in serious accidents.

One of the interesting things about road rage is that according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) road rage legally differs from aggressive driving. A person can be an aggressive driver and never experience a bout of road rage and a cautious driver who is famous for their defensive driving can succumb to periods of road rage.

While road rage and aggressive driving aren’t the same thing, they are usually connected. Not only are aggressive drivers prone to bouts of road rage their aggressive driving style often triggers road rage in the drivers who share the road.

Road rage in California is more concerning than aggressive driving because road rage involves anger and often violent actions that are aimed directly at other drivers. While shooting incidents like the one that resulted in the death of a six-year-old child aren’t normal, it’s not uncommon for road rage to result in people getting pushed off the road, getting into serious accidents, and even lead to assault charges. According to The Best Online Traffic School, road rage is responsible for about 66% of all traffic-related fatalities. The same traffic school also reported that during the relatively short span of seven years, road rage was the cause of 12,610 injuries and 218 murders.

What some drivers don’t realize is that an episode of road rage in California can cost them their driver’s license. When an officer responds to a traffic incident that involves road rage they can choose to report the road rage episode to the California DMV who then identifies the driver as a negligent operator and can start the process of revoking their driving privileges.

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Assault with a Deadly Weapon in California

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If you’ve been charged with assault with a deadly weapon in California, it means the police believe that you not only attacked another person, but you used a weapon that’s capable of deadly force while you did so. Many people assume that this means that something like a gun or knife was used at the time of the assault, but that’s not always the case. There have been instances of people being charged with assault with a deadly weapon in California because they used a car, broken bottle, baseball bat, etc.

California’s Penal Code 240 PC deals with assault with a deadly weapon charge. It’s a surprisingly short penal code that simply states, “an assault is an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.”

It’s a Wobbler Law

Assault with a deadly weapon in California sounds like it should be a felony. In a vast majority of the cases, it is a felony, but there are some instances when it’s a misdemeanor charge. In most cases, it becomes a misdemeanor if no one was hurt during the altercation.

What Happens if You’re Convicted of Assault with a Deadly Weapon in California?

Many things will impact your sentencing if you’re convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in California. Factors that are usually taken into consideration include:

✨ Your criminal history
✨ How badly the other person was injured
✨ If you appear contrite
✨ If you had the weapon on you or if you grabbed something convenient
✨ If additional charges were filed against you at the same time

The maximum sentence for assault with a deadly weapon in California is up to 4 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If you are convicted of additional charges at the same time, both the fine and amount of time you are confined to prison could increase.

If someone was seriously injured during the assault, a guilty conviction could be just the start of your legal troubles. In many cases, your victim could also decide to file a civil lawsuit against you. If you’re found guilty of the civil lawsuit, the court could order you to pay all of your victim’s medical bills, make up for any wages they lost while they were healing, and also pay for their pain and suffering.

Considering the severe financial impact a single assault with a deadly weapon charge could have on your future, the next time you’re angry, it’s in your best interest to take several deep breaths and calm yourself rather than acting on impulse.

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Fireworks and Safety

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Fireworks are a fun and memorable way to celebrate the Fourth of July, but they can also be dangerous and in some cases have even been deadly. If you plan on setting off your own fireworks this Fourth of July, you owe it to yourself and your family to use common sense and practice firework safety.

Pay Careful Attention to Your Kids

Kids love fireworks and setting off an elaborate display with them is a great way to make new memories, but you don’t want the memories to include tears and emergency room visits. Never lose sight of the fact that fireworks and kids don’t mix. Encourage your kids to stand back while your setting up the fireworks and don’t allow them to play with any of the firework paraphernalia. Never leave your children unattended when there is even the smallest chance they could get into the fireworks.

Have a Ready Supply of Water

One of the biggest problems with fireworks in California is that they contribute to the wildfire problem. If it’s extremely hot and dry, you should want to hold off on using your fireworks until after you’ve gotten some rain. If you really can’t resist setting off the fireworks, at least make sure you have an ample supply of water on hand. In addition to keeping buckets, hoses, and sprayers close, you should also thoroughly spray the area and get everything damp before lighting the fireworks.

Don’t Light Duds

Yes, fireworks are expensive and it’s frustrating to have one that doesn’t perform well, but don’t try to get your money’s worth out of it by relighting it. Leave the duds alone. Lighting duds is how many people lose fingers and suffer extensive burns. In addition to not relighting it, liberally soak it with water before disposing of the defective firework.

Keep Medical Supplies on Hand

In addition to always wearing eye protection while setting off fireworks, you should also keep a medical supply kit close at hand. Make sure that the kit is liberally stocked with medical supplies that are designed to treat burns. If you get burned while lighting your fireworks, treat the injury right away and then seek professional medical help.

By putting safety first, you and your family will enjoy a fun Fourth of July holiday!

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Prepare Your Pets for Fireworks

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The Fourth of July is right around the corner which means people are going to set off fireworks. Even if you have no intention of being around fireworks, you need to take steps to protect your pets from them. Don’t assume that just because your neighbors have never set off fireworks in the past that you don’t have to worry about them.

The first thing you need to do to prepare your pet for the possibility of Fourth of July fireworks is to plan on the loud noises scaring your pet. Most pets hate fireworks. Consider getting a tight coat for your pet to wear which will help ease their anxiety. If you know that your pet is already sound sensitive and it suffers from anxiety, you should talk to your veterinarian about getting some calming medications.

As the evening grows long, don’t let your pet out of your house. The Fourth of July is one of those dates when you should complete your evening walk early in the evening. You want your pets to be tucked inside your home before the light show begins. If your pet has to go outside during, or even after the firework display, take them out on a leash. Animal shelters throughout California and the rest of the United States report that they get more reports of lost pets in the days following The Fourth. Almost all of these pets involve an animal who never runs off so their owner got too casual.

It wouldn’t hurt to take a current photo or two of your pet in the days leading up to the Fourth of July. Having a current photo that you can show local animal shelters, vet clinics, and post on lost pet social media sites drastically increases the odds of someone identifying your pet and returning them to you.

If you haven’t already gotten your pet microchipped, now is an excellent time to do so. The microchip makes it possible for animal shelters to quickly reunite you and your lost pet.

If possible, stay home so that you can comfort your pet. Even if they appear to be ignoring you, your presence really will make them feel better and it will also help them recover more quickly.

If you leave the house during the fireworks display, be careful while going through the doors. Expect your pet to want to bolt through the door with you.

When it comes to fireworks and pets, it’s in everyone’s best interest to prepare for the worst.

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Understanding Felony Probation in California

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In some situations, when you’re convicted of a felony, a judge might decide that instead of spending time in prison, you can stay home and be placed on what is referred to as felony probation. While there are always exceptions, felony probation in lieu of prison time is usually only considered for what are considered s mild felonies or in the case of first-time offenders.

Anyone who is convicted of a felony that involves a violent crime such as murder and felony sexual assault will not be eligible for felony probation. If you have a history of violence, even if those charges were misdemeanors and you’re currently being convicted of a non-violent felony, a judge will be unwilling to consider felony probation.

The key to felony probation in California is that you have to adhere to all of the rules connected to the probation. Failing to meet a single requirement or doing something you were told not to do while on probation will result in you being sent to prison.

If the judge decides that you’re a good candidate for felony probation, you’ll hear the term suspended sentence. This term is used to provide formal notice that should you violate the terms of your probation, you’ll be sent to prison. Should you get into trouble while you’re on felony probation, not only could the judge decide to chose to sentence you to jail, you could also face additional criminal charges.

Don’t expect felony probation to be something you can just breeze through. Most felony probation periods last from 3-5 years. During this time, your life will be under intense scrutiny and there will several terms and conditions you’ll have to meet.

Conditions that are attached to felony probation often include:

✦ Regular meetings with your probation officer
✦ Drug tests
✦ Paying restitution to your victims
✦ Mandatory community service
✦ Submitting to home searches
✦ Avoiding people who are specifically mentioned in the terms of your probation
✦ Agreeing to not leave California

If you’re granted felony probation, it is in your best interest to pay careful attention to what the judge says. If you have any questions about the terms of your probation, you need to take those questions directly to your lawyer or probation officer. If you do make a mistake while you’re on felony probation, you should be honest about it, which could make a judge more tolerant and less likely to revoke your probation.

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Failing to Use Your Blinker in California

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It’s such an easy thing to do. You hit the little switch on the side of your steering wheel, which activates your blinker light so that all the other drivers on the road understand that you’re about to make a turn. Even though using your blinker is one of the easiest things most of us do during the course of our day, there are still drivers who don’t fail to signal that they’re about to make a turn.

Common reasons drivers give for not using their blinker include:

✨ They were in a designated turn lane so they shouldn’t have to use a blinker
✨ Other drivers should be driving defensively and therefore be prepared for them to do anything
✨ They forgot to activate their blinker

Whatever excuse you use for not using your blinker when you decided to make a turn, you should know that by neglecting your blinker, you’re putting yourself in a position to get a traffic ticket, or even worse, getting into a serious accident.

In 2012, the Autoblog reported that the Society of Automotive Engineers conducted a study that explored just how dangerous failing to use a blinker really was. The results surprised everyone. According to the collected data, failing to use a blinker resulted in even more accidents than distracted driving.

The Society of Automotive Engineers reported that they observed that approximately 25 percent of drivers failed to signal that they were either turning, changing lanes, or while passing. Based on this data, the ground determined that there are 750 billion instances of drivers failing to use their turn signal each year which means that approximately 1-2 million accidents each year could have been avoided had the driver taken the split second needed to signal their intentions.

During the period of time that the study of blinkers was underway, they reported that there had been 950,000 vehicle crashes that were the result of distracted driving situations.

If a police officer catches you in a moment when you’ve failed to use your blinker, the consequences could be severe. While there’s a chance they’ll let you off with a warning, there’s an equally good chance they’ll issue you a ticket that comes with a $238 fine and will also result in a point being added to your driving record. That point is particularly troubling since 4 points in a 12-month span or 8 points in a 36-month span can result in the state suspending your driver’s license.

When all is said and done, using your blinker each and every time you make a turn or change lanes is the best way to prove that you’re a good and responsible driver.