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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.

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Wrongful Termination in California

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It’s strange that more time isn’t dedicated to talking about California’s wrongful termination laws. Considering that the vast majority of California’s adult population is employed by someone other than themselves, there is a chance that a large portion of California’s population could potentially be the victims of wrongful termination.

Wrongful termination refers to an employer either firing or laying off an employee for an illegal reason. Examples of wrongful termination situations in California include:

✨ Firing for a reason that goes against public policy
✨ Letting an employee go because they are considered a whistleblower
✨ Firing an employee for notifying management about the violation of rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act
✨ A termination that violates either an actual or an implied contract

Very few wrongful termination cases make it into the criminal justice system, though there are always exceptions. What’s far more likely is that the employer and terminated employee will meet again in California’s Civil Court. If you decide to file a civil lawsuit for wrongful termination against your employer, you need to understand that the burden of proof rests on your shoulders. These cases aren’t easy because most employers will create a plausible excuse for letting you go, it’s up to you to prove the real reason they let you go.

In most successful wrongful termination cases, the plaintiff managed to provide documentation in the form of positive performance reviews, employee/employer email/text transcripts, and testimonials from co-workers that revealed the real reason the employer fired the plaintiff. Since getting copies of this documentation from the employer is virtually impossible employees should always protect themselves by saving everything, even if they think they’re in a positive employee/employer relationship.

When it comes to a wrongful termination case, it’s in your best interest to act as quickly as possible. The first reason for filing the lawsuit as quickly as possible is because it helps keep the situation fresh in the minds of witnesses which makes their testimonies more valuable.

The second reason to act quickly is that there is a statute of limitations on wrongful termination cases. The statute of limitations varies depending on why the wrongful termination happened. For example, if the termination violated an oral contract between the employer and employee, the statute of limitations is 2 years. If the termination was the result of a violation of the Whistleblower under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act a complaint has to be filed with the US Department of Labor within 180 of the termination. If the termination went against the WARN Act, the statute of limitations is a full 3 years.

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You’ve Finally Graduated! Don’t Forget to be Smart!

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It seems like you’ve been waiting your whole life to finish school. Many people consider the summer between high school and the time when they start college (or trade school, or simply start working full time) to be one of the most exciting and fun times of their life. While it’s okay to have fun and celebrate your accomplishments, it’s also important that you remember to play it safe during this time.

One of the biggest mistakes teens make after they graduate from high school is getting drunk, which is bad enough, and then compounding that mistake by getting behind the wheel. Don’t be the person in your group who spends the months following high school graduation dealing with the consequences of a drunk driving charge.

The first thing to remember as you celebrate your freedom from high school is that even though you’re legally an adult, you still aren’t old enough to legally drink. You should avoid alcohol as you celebrate your life. Getting caught with booze at this point in your life will result in you being charged with a “minor in possession.”

If convicted of minor in possession charges, your sentencing could include:

✦ Being required to do up to 32 hours of community service
✦ Having to pay a $250 fine

If you are convicted of minor in possession charges a second time, the sentencing includes:

✦ Up to a $500 fine
✦ As much as 48 hours of required community service

In addition to fines and community service, you will also lose your driver’s license for a full year after your MIP conviction. The conviction could also impact your acceptance into college and eligibility for some scholarships.

If you get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol as a minor, you are in even more legal trouble. Since you haven’t turned 21, any blood alcohol content that exceeds 0.01% is considered drunk driving. If your blood-alcohol level is 0.01% to 0.04% the officer who pulls you over will confiscate your driver’s license. The only way you can hope to get it back is by scheduling an Administrative Hearing during which you’ll learn how the county intends to handle the situation. You will likely be charged with minor-in-possession and may face additional consequences.

If your blood alcohol level is 0.05%-0.08%, you will be charged with a misdemeanor drunk driving charge. The first conviction results in:

✦ A one-year suspension of your driver’s license
✦ Mandatory attendance in an alcohol education program that lasts at least 3 months
✦ Mandatory attendance in a youth drunk driving program

In many cases, additional charges, such as reckless endangerment, distracted driving, and minor in possession charges are also filed against the young drunk driver.

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Leaving Kids in Hot Cars in California

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Kids and hot cars are never a good combination. Everyone knows that, yet there is still an average of 38 children who die each year after they’re locked into a hot car.

While accidents do happen, children overheating in the car something everyone would like to forget. If you’re traveling with a small child who can’t possibly let themselves out of the car, you need to figure out what steps you can take to make sure they aren’t accidentally forgotten. The hotter it gets, the more you’re going to have to worry.

One of the things that might help you remember that your child is in the backseat of your car is understanding that it’s illegal to leave your child there. California passed Kaitlyn’s Law in 2001. The law was created in memory of Kaitlyn Russel, who was only six months old when she died after her babysitter forgot her in a hot car for over two hours.

Kaitlyn’s Law not only makes it illegal to leave an infant in the car, but it also makes it illegal to leave an infant in the care of anyone who isn’t at least 12 years old if the vehicle is running or there are keys in the ignition and if there are unsafe conditions, such as overheating.

Kaitlyn’s Law makes it illegal to leave your unsupervised infant in the car period. So even if there is no danger of them overheating, you still have to bring them into the store or appointment with you.

Leaving a child under the age of six in a vehicle when they have no supervision can result in a $100 fine. It’s not unusual for the judge to waive the fine after you’ve completed a community education program.

In many cases, leaving a young, unsupervised child in the car, especially on a hot day, will result in you being charged with child endangerment. It is one of California’s wobbler offenses. In felony cases, you could face up to six years in prison. In misdemeanor situations, you could be sentenced to a year in county jail. In both situations, the Child Welfare Service will likely become involved and decide if you should retain custody of your child.

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Resisting Arrest in California

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No one wants to be arrested. For many, resisting arrest is almost a knee-jerk reaction. The problem with the reaction is that it can make any legal issues you’re already dealing with much worse.

California’s Penal Code 148 PC deals with the issue of resisting arrest. When you read through the penal code you’ll discover that simply running or throwing a temper tantrum when an officer is trying to arrest you isn’t the only way you can be charged with resisting arrest. If you do anything that is a blatant attempt to delay or obstruct the arrest process you will face resisting arrest charges in California. You can also be charged with resisting arrest if you interfere with a peace officer or an emergency medical tech.

There aren’t many valid defenses against a resisting arrest in California charge. Some that have been successfully used include:

✦ The resistance wasn’t willful
✦ The resistance charges were false accusations
✦ That there wasn’t probable cause for the arrest

The good news is that resisting arrest in California is only a misdemeanor charge, not a felony.

If you’re convicted, the judge could order you to serve a year-long sentence in a county jail. They can also require that you pay a $1,000 fine. Most judges consider all the circumstances surrounding the case as well as your criminal history before deciding if they should lighten the sentence. It’s not unusual for a judge to decide that probation should be used instead of actual jail time.

When all is said and done, it’s usually in your best interest to stay calm, cool, and collected while you’re being arrested.

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Who Can Own a Gun in California?

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It’s no secret that the U.S. Constitution contains a statement about the right to bear arms. When the Constitution was originally drafted, men were allowed to own a gun, but over time that has changed. For various reasons, laws and attitudes have shifted, and now some people simply aren’t allowed to own a firearm.

If you live in California and plan on purchasing a gun, you should know that California has some of the toughest gun laws in the United States. It’s worth noting that California’s most restrictive gun laws are constantly being challenged in Federal court and are subject to change so it’s in your best interest to routinely check the state’s current gun laws.

One of California’s gun laws is that to purchase a handgun, you must be at least 21 years old. Be prepared to provide proof of both your identity and your age when you purchase the handgun. If the identification is outdated or the person selling the gun feels it doesn’t look legit, they will stop the sale.

You also must earn your Handgun Safety Certificate. The written portion of this exam is designed to prove that you have a solid understanding of handguns and that you won’t misuse them. The test questions are designed to test how well you understand how to handle your gun, how it operates, and to make sure you’ll use the gun responsibly.

Not every person who lives in California is allowed to own a gun. Several people are explicitly forbidden from owning guns, including:

✦ Anyone who is currently involved in a probation program that prohibits gun ownership
✦ Anyone named in either a permanent or a temporary restraining order
✦ Anyone who has been dishonorably discharged from the military
✦ Anyone who is a registered sex offender
✦ Anyone with a diagnosed mental illness that the court believes indicates that they could be a danger to others and themselves
✦ Anyone who is currently addicted to drugs
✦ Anyone with a history of violent crimes
✦ Anyone with a past that includes a felony conviction
✦ Illegal residents
✦ Anyone who has been convicted of a type of misdemeanor named in Penal Code section 29805
✦ Sex offenders who have been diagnosed with mental disorders

If you are convicted of a violent crime or do something else that causes the state to revoke your privileges regarding gun ownership, you’ll have to get rid of any guns you currently own. The police are legally allowed to confiscate any weapons they find after your ownership rights have been revoked.

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Leaving Pets in Hot Cars in California

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Dogs love their owners and want to be with them all the time. In an attempt to keep our dogs happy, many of us take them with us when we run errands. On cold days, this isn’t an issue, but now that we’re on the cusp of summer, it will be a while before Californians experience cool days which means it’s time to rethink taking your dog along on your grocery store runs.

California lawmakers passed laws that make it illegal to leave your pet in your vehicle at any time that there is a chance that they will be hurt before you get back. This includes when the temperatures soar to a point that your vehicle turns into an oven.

This means that even when the outdoor temperature is cool, you can’t leave your dog in the car all day if they don’t have access to fresh food and water. You also can’t leave them in the car if you have items in the vehicle, such a plastic shopping bags or heavy items that could topple.

The heat simply makes things works. The problem in the summertime is that many dog owners think that since they’re only running into the store for a minute or two, their dog will be fine. That’s not the case at all. It doesn’t take long for the car to get extremely hot. As the car heats up, your dog overheats, and heat stroke becomes a real threat. If you don’t return shortly, your dog will overheat to death.

As soon as the temp reaches 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you need to be careful. Studies indicate that on a sunny 70-degree day, the interior of your car can reach 115 degrees in less than 30 minutes. Dogs start to experience heat exhaustion when it gets to 103 degrees.

If it’s warm out and someone spots your dog in the car, they’re legally allowed to break your vehicle’s windows and rescue your pet.

The broken car window will likely be the least of your concerns. If the police get involved, you can be charged with a $100 fine per each animal that was in the car. The amount will be higher if it’s not your first offense. If the pet needs medical attention, the maximum sentence increases to a $500 fine and six months in jail. In many cases, you’ll also face animal cruelty charges.

Now that the temperatures are consistently staying above 70 degrees, it is in your best interest to leave your dog home when you’re running errands.

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What is a Bench Warrant?

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California has three different types of warrants. Each one serves a different purpose. Search warrants and arrest warrants are the ones that most people are familiar with, mostly because they play huge roles in various procedural shows. The third type of warrant is called a bench warrant.

The majority of the warrants currently active in California are bench warrants.

While a bench warrant means you can be arrested if the police find you, they aren’t the same as an arrest warrant. An arrest warrant typically means you’re suspected of committing a crime or wanted for questioning in regard to a crime.

Bench warrants are typically issued because you failed to do something you were supposed to take care of. Common reasons bench warrants are sworn out include:

✽ You failed to report to a court date (a bench warrant can be issued even if you were supposed to be on the jury or serve as a witness)
✽ Failed to pay a court fine/traffic ticket
✽ Fell behind on court-ordered child support
✽ Failed to follow an order that demanded you vacate a property
✽ Broke the terms of your probation
✽ Etc.

Once a bench warrant has been sworn out for you, the police can choose to go to the last address they have on file for you. If you’re home, they can arrest you.

While there are instances where the police will show up at a person’s front door with a bench warrant in hand, a surprising number of bench warrant arrests happen because of traffic stops. When the police run a background check on the driver, information about the bench warrant pops up, and the police take the driver directly to jail.

It’s important to note that there’s no expiration date on bench warrants. They remain in effect until the person named on the warrant is arrested or they die.

In the long run, it’s in your best interest to deal with the bench warrant and the legal matter it involves on your time rather than waiting until you get arrested. The first step is finding out if a bench warrant has been issued for you.

Different ways to learn if you’ve been named on a bench warrant include:

✽Checking the sheriff’s or court’s website in the county where you think the warrant would have been issued
✽ Checking the Superior Court of California’s website
✽ Running a criminal background check on yourself
✽ Using the California Arrests Website

If a bench warrant has been sworn out for you, it’s in your best interest to contact a good lawyer and have them guide you through the process of dealing with the legal matter that led to the issuing of the bench warrant.

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Penalties of Stealing Pets and Holding Them for Ransom

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You love your pets and would do anything for them. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who know how much you value your pets and they want to benefit from your devotion. This isn’t about pet stores charging ridiculously high prices for toys, or breeders selling badly bred animals, or even dog clubs raising their training fees. This is about people who have no reservations about stealing a pet and holding them for ransom.

The issue recently came to light following the dognapping of Lady Gaga’s pet dogs. There is speculation that the dogs were deliberately targeted and that the end goal was to use them for ransom. It’s likely that thieves think that the police aren’t likely to become involved in these types of cases and that people will pay a great deal to have their pets returned.

It’s even likely that dognappers don’t plan on demanding a ransom. In most cases, the distraught owners promptly offer a sizeable reward for the return of their pets. In Lady Gaga’s case, she is offering a $500,000 reward in an effort to get her dogs back. While most dog owners can’t afford to offer that type of reward, a reward of a few hundred dollars can still be enough to convince someone that grabbing an unattended dog is worthwhile.

While you might think of your dog as a child, California’s legal system doesn’t. If your dog is stolen, and the dog is value exceeds $950, it’s considered Grand Theft.

According to Cal. Penal Code § 487e, 487f, 487g, 491, felony grand theft animal involves, “a person who feloniously steals, takes, or carries away a dog of another where the dog’s value exceeds $950.”

It goes on to state that, “If a person steals or maliciously takes an animal for purposes of sale, medical research, slaughter, or other commercial use, he or she commits a public offense punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding 1 year or in a state prison.”

If the stolen dog isn’t worth at least $950, the individual who stole the animal can be charged with petty theft. A guilty conviction can include a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.

As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to keep your pets healthy and safe. This includes taking steps to make them less appealing to thieves. Ways of doing this includes never leaving them outside unattended, not walking the same route each time you take them out, and getting them microchipped. As soon as your pet goes missing, you need to contact local vets, animal shelters, and the police.

At this point, there aren’t any clear penalties that would be associated with holding a pet for ransom.