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When Does a Prank Go too Far?

when-does-a-prank-go-too-far
Most of us have been involved in pranks, both as the person pulling the prank on another and as someone who has been pranked. In most cases, the pranks are fun and no one is emotionally or physically hurt, but there is always an exception.

The best indicator that a prank has gone too far is that the police have gotten involved. In the eyes of the law, it doesn’t matter if you were pulling a prank or if you deliberately set about to hurt someone. If a law was broken, you could end up in jail.

Most pranks attract legal attention because someone has gotten seriously hurt or property was damaged during the prank.

Here is a small sample of the type of pranks that could potentially get you into hot legal water.

Making Prank Calls

Prank calls seem harmless. You make a simple phone call, you confuse the person on the other end of the line, you have a good laugh. You can’t possibly get into trouble, right?

Wrong. Making a prank phone call to a friend or family member usually isn’t a big deal, but if you start calling strangers, you could quickly learn that not everyone thinks your funny. Depending on what you say or how many times you call, the person on the other end of the line might decide to contact the police and report that you’re harassing them. If the person pranking is tired of your antics, you could be charged with everything from disorderly conduct to harassment.

Wet Willies

Given that we’re currently in the middle of a pandemic, you should realize that most people don’t have much of a sense of humor when it comes to bodily fluid, or even being touched, so you should already know that giving someone a wet willie, which involves sticking your saliva covered finger in their ear is a bad idea. What you probably didn’t realize is that it will remain a bad idea even after the pandemic ends. If the person whose ear you insert your finger into objects to the act, they can contact the police and file assault charges against you.

Trespassing

Sneaking across a buddy’s yard and playing a prank on them might seem like big fun, but make sure anyone else who lives in the house won’t mind your prank. If they don’t know it’s coming or they fail to be amused, they can file trespassing charges against you.

This is just a small sample of pranks that could go too far and result in you facing criminal and civil charges. If you’re planning on pulling a prank, it’s in your best interest and consider all the potential consequences of your actions and determine if the risk is still worthwhile.

Disorderly Conduct in California

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One of the problems with California’s legal system is that sometimes it’s difficult to know that you’re breaking the law. In many disorderly conduct cases, people think they’re just having a good time or being opinionated until the police show up. Sometimes people don’t even know what they’ve done until they hear the charges as the booking officer works through the paperwork.

What is considered disorderly conduct can vary from one state to another? Some cities even have different rules regarding what is and isn’t disorderly conduct.

In California, disorderly conduct is generally considered behavior that irritates, stresses, or alarms those around you. That doesn’t mean your little sister can file disorderly conduct charges against you each time you annoy her while you’re at home. However, if the pair of you are at a bar and you start shouting at her, the other bar patrons will likely call the police and you could be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

Most disorderly conduct cases in California involve at least one person who is publicly intoxicated.

In addition to getting too wild while at the bar, California considers the following activities to be forms of disorderly conduct:

  • Lewd/lascivious acts
  • Soliciting
  • Engaging in Prostitution
  • Loud public arguments
  • Invasion of privacy
  • “Peeping”

Sometimes loitering can be an instance of disorderly conduct.

The Consequences of Disorderly Conduct in California

Disorderly conduct in California is a misdemeanor. If you’re convicted and it’s a first offense, you could be sentenced to six months in jail and/or be charged a $1,000 fine. If you already have disorderly conduct charges on your record, the punishment could be more severe.

In some cases, disorderly conduct can be connected with additional charges, such as:

  • Simple assault
  • Trespassing
  • Public Intoxication

Disorderly Conduct Defenses in California

Putting together a good defense case in California when you’re dealing with a disorderly conduct charge isn’t always easy. Some defenses that have been successfully used in the past include:

  • Invoking Freedom of Speech
  • That you were acting in self-defense
  • That you were falsely accused
  • That it was a domestic dispute (this is a tricky defense if you were in a public building at the time)

If you know that you tend to get loud and do rash things when you’re having a good time and drinking, it’s in your best interest to either stay home or make sure you go out with someone who can stop your behavior and help you regain control before anyone calls the police.

What Happens If I Make A Fake or Prank 911 Call

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Making a fake or prank phone call to 911 might seem like good fun but it’s not something you want to follow through with. Neither law enforcement offices nor court officials have a sense of humor.

To put it simply, making fake or prank 911 calls is illegal. In some situations, that single phone call could even result in felony charges.

The best way to learn just how much trouble making a fake or prank 911 call can land you in is by setting aside a few minutes to read California’s Penal Code 148.3. When you do, you’ll learn that you can’t:

  • Call 911 and make a fake report of a crime/injury/accident
  • You can’t make a 911 call that results in the dispatcher or a law enforcement offer making a 911 report
  • You can’t use 911 to report a fictional emergency
  • You can’t call 911 and make a report that you know is false

Law enforcement can choose to file charges against you if your fake/prank 911 call results:

  • In the deployment of emergency vehicles
  • A building/area is evacuated in response to your call
  • The call prompts the 911 dispatcher to activate the state or local Emergency Alert System

The law very clearly states that anyone who makes a fake/prank 911 call can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. What is less clear is how the decision to pursue a misdemeanor or felony case is made. The general rule of thumb is that if someone is hurt, the prosecutor will push for felony charges.

Making a single prank/fake 911 call in California can have a seriously negative impact on your budget. If you’re found guilty, you could be:

  • Spend a full year in a county jail
  • Be fined up to $1,000

The cost doesn’t stop with the court fines. Depending on how much effort local agencies made to respond to your fake 911 call, the emergency response team that was involved will likely send you a bill that includes all the expenses they incurred as a result of your call.

Fake/prank 911 calls officially became illegal in California in 2013. Local lawmakers choose to crack down on these types of calls because they were tired of the calls tying up local resources and making it impossible to respond to valid emergencies.

In Los Angeles, fake/prank 911are sometimes referred to as swatters because of the number of times a fake 911 call resulted in a swat team getting deployed to a celebrity’s house.

Considering how much a fake/prank 911 call in California could cost you, it’s in your best interest to avoid using the number for anything that isn’t a genuine emergency.

What is Exoneration in California

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Did you know that California leads the nation in exonerations? According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 120 people have been exonerated in California. Additional research reveals that in the past 30 years, California courts have dealt with over 200 wrongful conviction cases. It’s estimated that the amount of time the wrongfully convicted served for crimes they didn’t do adds up to 1,300 years. It’s also believed that the total cost of these wrongful convictions cost about $129 million.

That’s both incredible and alarming.

What is an Exoneration?

According to the legal dictionary, an exoneration is, “ The taking off a burden or duty.

    2. It is a rule in the distribution of an intestate’s estate that the debts which he himself contracted, and for which be mortgaged his land as security, shall be paid out of the personal estate in the exoneration of the real.

    3. But when the real estate is charged with the payment of a mortgage at the time the intestate buys it, and the purchase is made subject to it, the personal. is not, in that case, to be applied, in exoneration of the real estate. 2 Pow. Mortg. 780; 5 Hayw. 57; 3 Johns. Ch. R. 229.

    4. But the rule for exonerating the real estate out of the personal, does not apply against specific or pecuniary legatees, nor the widow’s right to paraphernalia, and with a reason not against the interest of creditors. 2 Ves. jr. 64; 1 P. Wms. 693; Id. 729; 2 Id. 120,335; 3 Id. 367. Vide Pow. Mortg. Index, h.t.”

How Exoneration Works

If you’ve been exonerated, it means that in the eyes of the law, you had nothing to do with a specific crime. You’re completely free of blame and guilt. Not only are you free of guilt, but you also can’t be tried for the same case a second time. In California, most exonerations occur because of DNA evidence.

In theory, now that the science surrounding DNA has gotten so much better, we should see a reduction of exonerations, primarily because the evidence should prove that there is no point in taking a suspect to court at all. As soon as the DNA evidence is processed, and everyone knows it doesn’t belong to the suspect, they should be freed.

What About Life Following Exoneration

Life isn’t always easy for someone who has been exonerated after spending a significant time in jail for a crime they didn’t commit. Not only do they have to deal with the psychological toll the experience took on them, but they also have to adjust to living in a world that has changed a great deal. Most don’t have many financial assets and are forced to rely on charitable organizations that provide the exonerated citizen with the tools they need to eventually rebuild their life.

Tips to Help you Get Ready to File your 2020 Tax Return

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Yes, it’s only January and your 2020 tax return isn’t due until mid-April, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore that tax season is officially here. The last thing you want to do is wait until a few days before the deadline to file. Turning your thoughts to your tax return now and creating a plan to help you prepare them reduces a great deal of tax season stress.

The key to keeping your stress levels low during tax season is creating a plan of attack. Create a list of specific tasks that need to be completed and determine when you’ll do them. You’ll be amazed how much a solid plan of attack smooths out the process of filing your 2020 tax return.

Gather Your Paperwork

Spend the second half of January and the first half of February gathering up all the paperwork you need to complete your 2020 tax return. The paperwork you need to have on hand before you’re ready to start preparing your tax return includes:

  • W2s
  • Documents that indicate itemized expenses such as child care, medical insurance, and educational costs
  • Any 1099s connected to freelance contractors you hired throughout the year
  • Donation receipts
  • Mortgage interest payment documents
  • An itemized list of business expenses (if relevant)
  • Investment statements
  • Receipts for any tax-deductible purchases you made throughout the year

Understanding Slander in California

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Most Americans know that the First Amendment grants the right to free speech. The problem that many of us encounter is we don’t fully grasp the differences between free speech and slander.

What is Free Speech?

Many of us interpret the First Amendment to mean that we’re free to say whatever we want, to whomever we want, whenever we want. That’s not the way free speech works. The purpose of free speech is to provide Americans with the ability to openly speak against the government without fear of legal ramifications.

What freedom of speech doesn’t do is allow you to say whatever you want about neighbors, family, and businesses you don’t like.

What is Slander?

The legal definition of slander is, “oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed. Slander is a civil wrong (tort) and can be the basis for a lawsuit. Damages (payoff for worth) for slander may be limited to actual (special) damages unless there is malicious intent, since such damages are usually difficult to specify and harder to prove. Some statements such as an untrue accusation of having committed a crime, having a loathsome disease, or being unable to perform one’s occupation are treated as slander per se since the harm and malice are obvious, and therefore usually result in general and even punitive damage recovery by the person harmed. Words spoken over the air on television or radio are treated as libel (written defamation) and not slander on the theory that broadcasting reaches a large audience as much if not more than printed publications.”

In California, slander legally takes place when:

  • You say something that you know is untrue
  • When you make a statement that you know isn’t privileged
  • When you make a statement that is said with the intent to do harm or cause an injury

The Legal Consequences of Slander

In California, slander is a civil, not a legal matter. It’s also a case that’s tricky to defend. In this case, the individual who filed the charges has to prove their case. In order to convince a judge to rule against you, they have to prove without a shadow of a doubt that you knew that whatever you said was untrue and that you made the statement knowing that it would harm the individual’s emotions, reputation, or business.

In addition to proving that you did in fact deliberately make slanderous comments, the person who files the charges against you also has to prove to the court that they sustained damages that you should reimburse them for. In addition to actual damages, the filer will also likely seek money to cover their emotional trauma.

The best way to avoid getting into a slander dispute with someone is to make sure you never say anything that you aren’t able to prove. If you’re unsure about the validity of a statement, it’s in your best interest to keep it to yourself.

Planning a Flight? Make Sure You’re on Your Best Behavior!

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Most of us have been on a flight where at least one passenger seemed to go out of their way to be difficult. They were loud, overly active, got sassy with the flight attendants, etc. In some cases, the passenger’s bad behavior was amusing. In other situations, it was irritating. Sometimes it even becomes concerning.

The airlines have decided that enough is enough and they are no longer going to tolerate unruly passengers on flights.

Federal safety officials recently announced that they are no longer tolerating bad behavior on flights. The decision was made after multiple airline workers reported that they’d had confrontations with individuals and groups who were flying into Washington D.C. with the intention of joining the protests/riots that shook the U.S. Capitol.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, flights throughout the country experienced, “a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior. These incidents have stemmed both from passengers’ refusals to wear masks and from recent violence at the U.S. Capitol.”

This is not the first time this issue has come up. Bad behavior on flights has been an ongoing concern since passenger flights first became popular. In 2001, the issue was finally addressed following the 9/11 attacks. Since then, the FAA has continuously explored different methods for identifying and quelling disruptive issues that occur both while in the air and in the actual airport.

Just a few examples of this include a couple who were arrested after they got into an altercation about a bag dispute in the Detroit Metro Airport. Another famous incident involved Alec Baldwin who refused to power off his electronics, despite being asked to do so by a flight attendant.

Stephen Dickson who serves as the administrator for the FAA listened to recent complaints about unruly behavior on flights and signed what is basically a zero-tolerance policy. It’s a one-strike and you’re out policy. If you are accused of being unruly and disturbing the peace while you’re on an airplane, you’ll face serious legal consequences. These extend well beyond being asked to get off the plane.

If you behave badly while in flight, it’s likely you’ll be arrested right after the plane lands. You could be charged up to $35,000 in fines and even serve jail time.

At this point, the FAA considers assaulting or threatening your fellow passengers or the staff who is serving on the plane a disruption of peace. At this point, the order is in effect through March 30. It’s unclear if the FAA will move to extend the order following that date.

If you intend on flying in the next few months, it’s in your best interest to be quiet and on your best behavior until your reach your destination.

What Should I Do if My Family Fights?

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Families fight. Some just happen to fight more than others. The trick to weathering family fights is recognizing the signs that the fight is starting to escalate into something that won’t simply blow over and taking steps to diffuse the situation.

Remove Yourself From the Situation

When a fight is starting to get too loud or you sense comments are about to be made that can’t be taken back, removing yourself from the situation is one of the best things you can do. Go for a walk, take a drive, disappear into your bedroom. Take at least a half-hour which gives everyone a chance to cool down. If you’re in a situation where you can’t walk away, you need to do the next best thing which is taking a deep breath, counting backward from ten, and work to mentally calm yourself down. Even this short mini-break gives you a chance to clear your head and reassess the situation. Don’t assume the family member you’re arguing with will be the person who backs down. When it comes to diffusing family fights, you need to be proactive.

Remove Your Emotions from the Drama

You can’t hope to diffuse a family fight if you let your emotions get the best of you. The better you are at staying cool, calm, and collected during the fight, the sooner the situation will resolve itself. Don’t get caught up in the heat of the moment. Count to three before you respond to each comment. Consider two or three different responses and choose the one that is least likely to infuriate the family member you’re arguing with. Removing your emotions during a family fight accomplishes two things. One, it prevents the fight from escalating. It also lays the groundwork for an honest discussion that clears the air and generates results.

Look for a Compromise

Most family fights break out because one person is irritated by something another did. It could be something simple, like leaving dirty socks on the floor, or something major, like failing to pay the electric bill. The best way to diffuse a family fight that revolves around an irritating habit is by looking for a compromise. Once you learn the true issue behind the fight, take a deep breath, acknowledge the issue, and look for a solution that makes both you and the family member you’re arguing with happy. Make sure you honor the agreement. Once everything has calmed down and you’re by yourself, take some time and review the fight as well as what led up to it. Doing this helps you identify the early warning signs of a family fight and will help you nip the problem in the bud the next time you’re in a similar situation.

When the Situation Got Out of Control

It’s the phone call you never want to get: a friend or family member has been arrested and taken to jail. While this can be an emotional time, it’s crucial to stay clear-headed while you figure out your first steps. Of course, your priority is getting the individual released from jail as quickly as possible; however, several things must take place before that can happen. It is extremely important for everyone to remain calm collected during these moments.

Stay Calm and Don’t Divulge Information

First, remind both yourself and the arrested individual to stay calm. It’s important to think clearly as you proceed with the next steps. If your loved one is speaking to you by phone, remind them not to say anything incriminating. The phone call is most likely being monitored and/or recorded and can be used against them later. They have the right to remain silent, and they should not divulge any unnecessary information before speaking with a lawyer. You can find out where the person is being held and what the charges are, but don’t ask for details.

Contact Us Immediately

If someone you love has been arrested and you need help now, contact Bail Bonds in Santa Clara to determine how to proceed. We’ll work with you to ensure your loved one is released as quickly and painlessly as possible. Family helps family, and that is what you get when you come to us for help. We are a family-owned company and we understand the importance of family. Our bail agents will treat you like one of the family, and provide you with the best bail help available in the state of California. We will work quickly and do our very best to make the bail bond affordable for you. After all, we want to help you and your family get through this stressful time as quickly and easily as possible.

What Is “Bait and Switch” When Is It Illegal?

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Bait and switch is a cute term that refers to a nasty con game. If you’re the victim of a bait and switch scam you’ve purchased one item only to be given something that doesn’t match the description of what you purchased. Bait and switch typically involve businesses who use the tactic to lure customers in by advertising a great product at a fantastic price only to provide something that’s quite different.

Identifying That you Were a Victim of Bait and Switch

The FTC has done an excellent job of creating guidelines that clarify when a “bait and switch” situation has happened.

According to the FTC, you weren’t a victim of a bait and switch con if you:

  • Were convinced to buy something different
  • If the seller simply runs out of whatever item they were promoting, especially when the business clearly stated that they only had limited quantities of the promoted item
  • The only way you are a true victim of bait and switch is when the seller clearly had no intention of selling the promoted product.

Most Common Crimes in California during Covid-19

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One of the more fascinating aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is watching how it has impacted the crime rates. Not only has the number of arrests changed since COVID-19 was discovered in the United States, but the types of crimes are also different.

When the government first started to shut down, many of us tensed, positive that the changes would trigger a surge in crime. That didn’t happen. During the first few months of the pandemic, crime rates dropped.

It’s difficult to track down just how much crime rates decreased during the early months of the pandemic. The main metric used to determine the crime rate in most areas is the number of 911 calls dispatchers receive. From March 16 through April 22, 2020, nearly every major city reported that 911 calls had decreased. In Chicago, 911 calls decreased by an impressive 25%. In California, there was a noticeable decrease in jail bookings.

Why did the crime rate decrease?

Many suspect that the big issue is that most of the crimes that didn’t happen involved peer groups who got into trouble together. There are two working theories as to why the police weren’t getting called out to investigate these types of crimes. The first is that the gangs were actually adhering to social distancing suggestions. The second is that the people who normally noticed the crimes and reported them simply weren’t out and about.

There are always exceptions to the rules and in the case of crime decreasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, San Jose was an exception. Not only did San Jose’s crime rate increase, but the crimes that were committed were also violent. For example, in 2019 San Jose had a total of 34 homicides. That number climbed to 44 in 2020. Experts are confident that when the numbers are tallied, San Jose commercial property crimes will have increased by a minimum of 4%.

Other California police departments have noticed that the crime rates are starting to increase. They’ve noticed a particular increase in violent crimes.

According to the Los Angeles police department, the most common crimes in California during COVID-19 are:

  • Car thefts increased by 25% during the pandemic
  • Homicides increased by 36% during the pandemic