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Vehicular Manslaughter in California

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Vehicular manslaughter in California can be a little confusing.

The first thing to note is that vehicular manslaughter is an accident. The driver responsible for the incident didn’t plan on getting into an accident and they certainly didn’t want anyone to get hurt. Vehicular manslaughter is not a malicious act.

Vehicular manslaughter charges are usually brought against a driver when a momentary lapse in judgment causes that driver to break a traffic law and that incident directly leads to a fatality.

Examples of vehicular manslaughter include:

✦ A driver striking a pedestrian who is in the crosswalk because that driver was texting their spouse.
✦ A driver striking a cyclist as the driver takes a blind curve too fast, making it impossible for the driver or cyclist to take evasive action.
✦ A driver spills coffee on their lap, swerves and hits another car, killing the other driver

None of these acts involve malicious but all could have been easily prevented if the driver had simply been paying better attention or driving more defensively. Because the driver’s negligent or reckless actions resulted in a death, they can be charged with vehicular manslaughter and also be named as the defendant in a wrongful death claim.

Additional information about vehicular manslaughter in California is found in Penal Code 192(c) PC. It states that vehicular manslaughter is:

“Except as provided in subdivision (a) of Section 191.5, driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and with gross negligence; or driving a vehicle in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, and with gross negligence.
(2) Driving a vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, but without gross negligence; or driving a vehicle in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.
(3) Driving a vehicle in connection with a violation of paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) of Section 550, where the vehicular collision or vehicular accident was knowingly caused for financial gain and proximately resulted in the death of any person. This paragraph does not prevent prosecution of a defendant for the crime of murder.
(d) This section shall not be construed as making any homicide in the driving of a vehicle punishable that is not a proximate result of the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, or of the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner.”

Vehicular manslaughter is one of California’s wobbler offenses. In some situations, it’s a misdemeanor. In others, it will be handled as a felony. In most situations, the traffic offense that led to the incident determines is you’re charged with a felony or misdemeanor. For example, if you were speeding but only driving a few miles over the posted limit at the time of the accident, you’ll likely be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in California which carries a maximum sentence of a single year in a county jail.

On the other hand, if you were driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident, you’ll not only face DUI charges but also felony vehicular manslaughter. The maximum sentence for a felony vehicular manslaughter conviction in California is six years in one of California’s state prisons.

The best way to avoid vehicular manslaughter charges is to never drive while under the influence of anything, leaving your cell phone in your car’s cupholder, and obeying all traffic laws.

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Obstruction of Justice Laws in California

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A surprising number of people think that obstruction of justice is something the writers of procedural shows made up in order to correct plot holes. While it’s true, obstruction of justice is an overused plot device, it is also a real thing. If you live in California, there are a few things you should know about the state’s obstruction of justice laws.

One of the interesting things about obstruction of justice in California is that the state doesn’t have a specific obstruction of justice crime. Instead, it’s a blanket term that’s used to describe a variety of offenses that are commonly referred to as California’s obstruction of justice laws.

Official offenses that are considered forms of obstruction of justice include:

✨ Destruction of evidence
✨ Withholding evidence
Resisting arrest
✨ Preparing false evidence
✨ Providing a false statement
✨ Hiding a witness/suspect
✨ Interfering with an arrest
✨ Lying to police officers
✨ Failing to report a crime
✨ Tampering with evidence
✨ Intimidating/threatening a witness

The exact consequences of breaking one of California’s obstruction of justice laws varies from case to case. One of the reasons so many different “crimes” fall under the label of obstruction of justice is so that prosecutors have the option of choosing the one that best matches the exact scenario where justice was obstructed.

For example, if you’re convicted of preparing false evidence, your sentence could include 16 months to three years in prison plus as much as $10,000 in fines. In this particular case, you’ll also likely be convicted of felony forgery.

On the other hand, if you are convicted of destroying evidence, you’ll only be convicted of a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence for destroying evidence is six months in a county jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

If you interfere with an arrest which is also called obstructing a police officer, your sentence could be convicted of a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence is a year in a county jail and up o a $1,000 fine.

If you’re charged with one of California’s obstruction of justice laws, don’t automatically confess. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution and making their case often isn’t as easy as they make it sound in the interrogation room. Not only do they have to prove that you did something that made it difficult for the prosecution to make a case or for the police to investigate the crime, but the prosecution also has to prove that at the time of your actions, you knew that you were doing something that obstructed the natural course of justice.

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Things You Should Know About Receiving Stolen Property in California

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Don’t assume that just because you didn’t actively participate in a burglary that the items taken during the burglary won’t get you into trouble. They likely will.

It doesn’t really matter if you hold stolen items in your garage while your friend finds a fence, if you’re gifted a stolen television, or if you purchase stolen goods, if those items are found in your possession, you could find yourself facing a charge of receiving stolen property in California.

The topic of receiving stolen property in California is dealt with in PC 496. It states that:

“Every person who buys or receives any property that has been stolen or that has been obtained in any manner constituting theft or extortion, knowing the property to be so stolen or obtained, or who conceals, sells, withholds, or aids in concealing, selling, or withholding any property from the owner, knowing the property to be so stolen or obtained, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.”

That sounds pretty serious, doesn’t it? It also sounds like you could be charged with receiving stolen property in California even if you knew nothing about the crime or the history of the items you’re purchasing or accepting as a gift.

This is one of those situations where reading the law doesn’t really provide you with the full picture. Yes, if you purchase items that were involved in a robbery, you could be charged with receiving stolen goods in California, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be convicted.

To secure a conviction the prosecutor has to prove two things. The first two are usually relatively easy for them to prove. They have to show that:

✨ The items involved in your case really were stolen
✨ That you received the stolen items in some manner

The third thing is more challenging. The final thing the prosecutor has to prove to convict you is that you knew the items were stolen and that you still accepted them. If you genuinely didn’t know that you were accepting stolen property and that you had no reason to suspect that the items had a dark past, you should be okay.

If you did know the property was stolen, the repercussions will be serious. If you’re convicted of misdemeanor receipt of stolen property in California, the maximum sentence is a year in a county jail, a $1,000 fine, misdemeanor probation. The only way you’ll be charged with misdemeanor receipt of stolen property in California is if the property in question is less than $950. If it exceeds that amount, you’ll face felony charges. The sentence for felony receipt of stolen goods could include as long as three years in prison, a $10,000 fine, felony probation.

The best way to make sure you never face receiving stolen property in California charges is by always getting a detailed history on any item you purchase from places like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and eBay.

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What Happens if You Drive on the Wrong Side of the Road in California

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Everyone knows what side of the road you’re supposed to drive on. We also know that there are a few times, such as when we’re passing a slower moving vehicle, that we’re allowed to temporarily move to the other side but that we’re supposed to return to the correct lane as quickly and safely as possible.

What you might not know is that you can get a ticket for driving on the wrong side of the road for making an illegal U-turn, passing in a no-passing zone, or for simply failing to pay attention and drifting into the other lane. Don’t assume that just because the road is divided by solid yellow lines painted on the asphalt rather than a concrete barrier that you can’t be ticketed for driving on the wrong side of the road, you can be.

The issue of driving on the wrong side of the road is addressed in California Vehicle Code Section 21651.

California lawmakers take driving on the wrong side of California roads very seriously. It’s not just a traffic ticket, it’s a misdemeanor. At best you’ll be charged a fine and have 2 points added to your driving record. At worse, you could be charged up to a $10,000 fine and have to spend a year in jail.

If someone is injured or killed because you were driving on the wrong side things can quickly go from bad to worse. In this situation, you could face felony charges. If convicted, your sentence could include up to three years in prison. In cases of death and injury, additional charges such as vehicular manslaughter and reckless endangerment can be added to the original charge. You’ll also likely find yourself named as the defendant in a civil case.

Considering the very serious consequences connected to driving on the wrong side of the road in California, it’s in your best interest to make sure you always keep your vehicle between the yellow lines and the road’s shoulder.

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Crosswalk Safety in California

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Walking to work means you don’t have to worry about getting caught in a traffic jam. It’s a great way to build some stamina while also burning a few calories. It also provides you with the means to start slowing down and develop a connection with the world you live in.

Just don’t think that walking to work is safer than driving yourself. A surprising number of California pedestrians are killed annually. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, there were 972 pedestrian deaths in 2019. Approximately 22% of fatal traffic episodes in California involve a pedestrian. These alarming statistics prompted California lawmakers to pass the “Right-of-Way at Crosswalks” law.

The Right-of-Way law is written up in Code, Section 21950(a). When you read through the formal law, you’ll learn that drivers are legally required to yield to a pedestrian who is strolling through a crosswalk. The law requires that drivers yield to the pedestrian in both marked and unmarked crosswalks. The implementation of the law also requires that drivers use a little additional care when approaching a crosswalk and be on the lookout for pedestrians who may be about to step onto the street. If a pedestrian is stepping onto the street, the driver will have to stop to allow the pedestrian to safely cross the road.

Another issue that’s dealt with in the Right-of-Way law is passing while driving through a crosswalk. Passing while driving through a crosswalk is dangerous for several reasons, including that the passing driver may not see a pedestrian until it’s too late.

The interesting thing about California’s Right-of-Way law is that it’s designed to protect the rights of both pedestrians and drivers. Drivers do have the right away at crosswalks that are controlled with signals, provided the signal indicates that the driver can go. In this situation, the pedestrians are supposed to yield for drivers. However, drivers do have to wait for slow-moving pedestrians who may be struggling to reach the opposite side in a timely fashion, and the driver must be prepared to take safe and evasive action if a distracted pedestrian fails to notice the sign.

Drivers who are caught failing to adhere to California’s Right-of-Way law will likely receive a traffic citation which will involve a steep fine, points, and the possibility of having the state consider revoking their driving privileges.

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Pickpocketing in California

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When you think about it, you don’t often hear about pick pocketers these days. It’s not because pickpocketing is no longer a problem, but because crimes involving pick pocketers are either given different names and because they seldom generate any media attention.

According to the CBS affiliate in San Francisco, pickpocketing is still a common occurrence. They reported that on Muni in San Francisco, the number of reported pickpocketing incidents increased by 8 percent in 2018.

Most pickpocketing incidents in California fall into the category of petty theft, which means that the thief’s adventures involved an amount that was less than $400. It’s actually in a pickpocket’s best interest to specifically target people who have less than $400 on them because if the thief is caught and eventually convicted the maximum sentence they ace is six months in a local jail and a fine that won’t exceed $1,000.

Depending on the pickpocket’s criminal history and the exact details surrounding the pickpocketing event, the judge could decide that a sentence of misdemeanor probation is sufficient.

On the other hand, if the pickpocket manages to lift more than $400 from a pocket and is eventually convicted of grand theft, the potential sentence is a maximum of three years in a state prison.

It is worth noting that if a pickpocket accidentally removes a gun rather than a wallet from its target’s pocket, it could be in more serious trouble than they anticipated. The involvement of the gun changes things. It doesn’t matter if the pickpocket knew about the gun or not, the fact that they attempted to steal it automatically means they will face a charge of grand theft in California.

Other factors that can quickly change things for a pickpocket is if they are armed when they picked a pocket if they got into a physical argument during the incident and if they made any verbal threats.

If a gun or knife was on the pickpocket’s person during the incident, the pickpocket will likely be charged with armed robbery. If blows/kicks/bites/etc were exchanged during the incident, assault charges will likely be filed against the pickpocket. If verbal threats were used during the incident, the pickpocket could face intimidation charges.

The best way to avoid pickpocketing charges and accusations is to keep to yourself whenever you find yourself in a crowded situation.

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What is Assault with the Intent to Commit a Felony?

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Legally speaking, assault isn’t simple. California has multiple assault laws on the books and each one is just a little different from the others. Assault with the intent to commit a felony is just one of California’s assault laws.

What is Assault with the Intent to Commit a Felony?

An assault with the intent to commit a felony in California describes an assault that was committed while the defendant was in the act of committing a felony. For example, if you are engaged in a felony burglary, are surprised but the homeowner, and shove them against the wall, you can be charged with assault with the intent to commit a felony.

This particular charge is usually attached to whatever felony you are accused of committing at the time of the assault. It doesn’t matter if you managed to pull off the felony or were caught in the middle of it. If an assault happened during what you intended to be a felony crime, you will be charged.

Consequences of an Assault With the Intent to Commit a Felony Conviction

If you’re convicted of assault with the intent to commit a felony, the maximum sentence includes up to six years in prison.

If you decide to not accept a plea bargain and take the case before a jury, the prosecution must prove that you willfully and knowingly applied force on the victim and that you were fully aware of the felonious crime you were also in the middle of committing.

It’s important to know that assault can mean more than simply punching a person. Assault is a blanket term that can also refer to:

✨ Punching
✨ Hitting
✨ Tripping
✨ Dropping

The best way to avoid ever having to face an assault charge is always keeping your hands and feet to yourself.

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Boating While Under the Influence in California

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Everyone knows about the dangers and legal consequences of driving while under the influence, but we have a tendency to get lax when it comes to other situations. For example, while most of us would never dream of getting behind the wheel of our car after we’ve had a few beers, we have no hesitation when it comes to steering a boat as we drink.

One of the reasons we don’t give boating under the influence a second thought is because very little is ever said about the legal repercussions of doing so. The truth is, that if you’re caught driving a boat while intoxicated, your immediate future could be ruined.

The issue of boating under the influence in California is dealt discussed in Harbors & Navigation Code 655. The law states that:

(b) No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug.

(c) No person shall operate any recreational vessel or manipulate any water skis, aquaplane, or similar device if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more in his or her blood.

(d) No person shall operate any vessel other than a recreational vessel if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or more in his or her blood.

(e) No person shall operate any vessel, or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device who is addicted to the use of any drug. This subdivision does not apply to a person who is participating in a narcotic treatment program approved pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 11875) of Chapter 1 of Part 3 of Division 10.5 of the Health and Safety Code.

(f) No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug, and while so operating, do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in the use of the vessel, water skis, aquaplane, or similar device, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than himself or herself.

Getting caught boating under the influence isn’t a joke. You will be charged and face legal consequences. The exact consequences will depend on if it’s your first offense and exactly which aspect of Harbors & Navigation Code 655 was violated.

In most situations, boating under the influence in California is a misdemeanor offense. The maximum sentence for a first-time offense is six months to one year in jail and/or a potential fine of up to $1,000. It’s also possible that the judge will include substance abuse counseling and community service into the sentence.

In the right circumstances, a boating under the influence charge can become a felony offense. This usually happens if your actions resulted in someone getting hurt or if you caused a boating accident that created substantial property damage. If convicted of felony boating under the influence in California, your sentence could include 16 months to three years in jail.

The best way to make sure you don’t have to deal with the hassle of a boating under the influence charge in California is making sure that a designated captain who agrees to not to drink is the only person who piolet the boat.

Your boating adventures should be handled the same way you handle nights out with friends.

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Car Theft in California

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Car theft is a serious problem in California. Data collected by the California Highway Patrol revealed that in 2019, 151,244 California vehicles were stolen. That means that someone had a vehicle stolen in California every 3.5 minutes. The accumulated value of these vehicles was about $1.2 billion. What is really alarming is that those figures indicate a shocking 8.2 percent increase in auto thefts from the year before.

Things got even worse in 2020 when 180,939 vehicles were reported stolen. The accumulated value of the stolen vehicles was $1.6 billion. This represents a 19.6% car theft increase from 2019.

Law enforcement would like to turn that trend around.

The issue of car theft in California is addressed in Penal Code 487(d)(1) which is where the topic is formally referred to as grand theft auto. When you read through the law, you’ll find that taking any vehicle without the owner’s permission when that vehicle has a value that exceeds $950, is considered grand theft auto. If you’re caught, the prosecutor will decide if they want to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges.

The consequences of a car theft conviction in California are severe.

If felony charges are pursued, you face a sentence that includes:

✨ Sixteen months to three years in prison
✨ Up to $5,000 in fines
✨ Restitution

In many cases, grand theft auto in California is combined with other crimes, such as burglary, assault, reckless endangerment, and traffic violations.

If you are borrowing someone’s vehicle, it’s in your best interest to make sure they write down that they gave you permission to drive it or at the very least, have a few people witness them saying that you were welcome to use the vehicle. Treating the loan of a vehicle as a business deal reduces the chances of a communication breakdown resulting in car theft charges. When borrowing a vehicle, it’s always best to be extremely cautious and to make sure everybody connected to the car understands the situation.

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Consequences of High-Speed Chases in California

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High-speed car chases happen all over the country, yet whenever people hear about a high-speed chase, they automatically assume it took place in California. That’s because California, and more specifically, Los Angeles, is considered the Car Chase Capital of the World.

There are a few reasons that California and high-speed chases go together. The first is that there are a lot of people in California and an extensive highway system. That combination means more opportunity. In 2002, there were over 700 car chases just in Los Angeles.

The second is that there is more media coverage, specifically helicopter film coverage, in the L.A. area, which means that rather than being a single paragraph buried in the bottom of an online newspaper column, the California chase makes it onto television and attracts a lot of attention.

The problem with high-speed car chases is that while they look fun on television, they are actually extremely dangerous, and often it’s the bystanders who get hurt and even killed as a result of the car chase.

It doesn’t matter how good a driver you think you are, you will never be able to outrun the police, who will use radios to stay on top of your exact location. Engaging in a high-speed car chase will simply get you in even more legal trouble than you faced prior to trying to flee the police. Even worse, there will be elements of the chase you simply can’t control.

A recent California car chase illustrated just how badly things can go when you attempt to flee the police. In June, a driver in a flatbed truck attempted to evade the police. At one point he was driving on the wrong side of the road. He lost control of his vehicle when the police deployed a spike strip and crashed his vehicle. The wreck was so severe the 10 Freeway was shut down while debris was removed.

California lawmakers call fleeing the police reckless evasion, a wobbler offense that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Reckless evasion is addressed in the California Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC.

If you’re convicted of misdemeanor reckless evasion, you could be sentenced to:

✨ Up to one year in jail Fined $1,000

If you’re convicted of felony reckless evasion, the sentence can include:

✨ Up to 3 years in prison
✨ A fine that’s as large as $10,000
The judge could order that the vehicle you used to flee from the police be impounded for thirty days, which will make you responsible for impound fees as well as towing.
In order to convict you of reckless evasion, the prosecution has to prove that:

✨ You intentionally evaded the police
✨ That it was clear both the vehicle the officer was in and the officer was a member of the police force

It doesn’t matter if you’re worried about getting a ticket or if you’re about to be arrested for a serious crime, trying to evade the police and leading them on a high-speed chase will only make the situation much worse. Not only will the evasion lead to additional charges, but if your actions lead to property damage or if someone gets hurt, you could also find yourself as the defendant in a costly civil lawsuit.