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The Right to Remain Silent

the-right-to-remain-silent

We’re all familiar with the Miranda Rights, which basically grants us the ability to not tell the police anything if we’re arrested. While we’ve heard thousands of television cops recite the famous words “you have the right to remain silent” few of us actually know what that means.

The History of the Miranda Rights

The Miranda Rights take their name from Ernesto Arturo Miranda. He was arrested in 1963 and placed in a line-up. The victim selected Miranda. When the police questioned him, he confessed to the crime. It looked like an open and shut case, when in fact, it turned into a case that forever changed police procedures in the United States.

After Miranda was found guilty of raping and kidnapping, his attorney argued that the case should have been thrown out because Miranda was never told that he had the “right to remain silent.” Instead of ignoring the claims, the case, along with three similar cases, made it to the Supreme Court. In 1966, the Supreme Court ruled that in situations like the one Miranda found himself in, the police can’t use a confession unless the accused has first been advised of their right to remain silent and reminded that if they confess, the confession can be used against them during the court case.

What the Right to Remain Silent Really Means

The right to remain silent doesn’t mean that the police can’t question you. The right to remain silent is designed to provide you with a layer of protection in two different circumstances.

If you are in court and under oath, the right to remain silent means you aren’t legally required to say something that could incriminate you in criminal activity. If you do say something, the prosecution can use the confession, even an inadvertent one, against you. In this type of situation, the right to remain silent is commonly referred to as Taking the Fifth.

The second situation where the right to remain silent comes into play is if you’re being detained by the police. They’re allowed to question you, but you don’t have to say anything that could be considered a confession to a crime.

When do the Miranda Rights Come into Play?

The police are supposed to read you your Miranda Rights as soon as they make a move to take you into custody. Being taken into custody means that you don’t have the ability to leave when you decide that you’ve had enough. You’re right to remain silent kicks in as soon as the police put handcuffs on you, which is why it’s important to remain cool, calm, and collected while they drive you to the police station. You don’t want to lose your temper while you are in the back of the car that could be used against you.

The Reality of Unemployment Fraud

the-reality-of-unemployment-fraud

Unemployment fraud isn’t new. There have been instances of it dating all the way back to when the system for helping people stay financially solvent after they suddenly lost a job was first created.

The high number of people who were forced to claim unemployment benefits when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States, combined with some unexpected unemployment bonuses the government instituted in an attempt to keep the economy running has triggered an interest in unemployment fraud.

Loree Levy, a spokesperson for the California Employment Development Department, recently confirmed that the state is on the lookout for people who are committing unemployment fraud. “We certainly have legitimate PUA claims in California, but we do suspect that a big part of the unusual recent rise in PUA claims is linked to fraud.” (source)

Levy’s department released a press release the addressed the issue. “These perpetrators are often using stolen identity information from national and global data breaches, as well as exploiting expedited payment efforts in the federal PUA program,” the release stated. (source)

In California, you can be charged with unemployment fraud if it’s believed that you knowingly supplied inaccurate information to obtain unemployment benefits you aren’t entitled to. Even if you’re application isn’t approved, you can be charged with unemployment fraud.

Examples of unemployment fraud include:

  • Providing false identification information on the application
  • Failing to report earned income while collecting unemployment
  • Failing to report additional forms of compensation you’re collecting while also collecting unemployment
  • Not being a legal California resident
  • Falsifying employment information
  • Stealing another person’s unemployment check

The Legal Consequences of Public Fighting

the-legal-consequences-of-public-fighting

Street fighting, barroom brawls, and throwing a punch at a guy who steals your parking space. In the movies, these things never seem like a big deal. The worst thing that ever seems to happen to the characters who are involved in public fighting is that they spend a few hours in jail.

Sadly, real-life doesn’t mirror the movies. California has public fighting laws. If you’re busted for public fighting in California, you’ll face serious consequences.

What is Public Fighting?

California considers public fighting to be a disturbing the peace crime. The issue is addressed in the Penal Code 415. When you read PC 415 you’ll discover that it doesn’t take much for an officer to decide that you’re in violation of the law.

PC 415 states that you can be charged with disturbing the peace if you’ve:

  • Challenged another person to a fight while in a public place
  • If you get into a fight with a person while in a public place
  • If you’ve deliberately and maliciously used a loud noise to disturb someone
  • If you’re caught using malicious language or words that are designed to hurt or provoke someone while you were in a public place

What Happens When the Police Knock on Your Door

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There is nothing quite as gut-wrenching as opening your front door and finding the police standing on the other side. They never bring good news.

Experiencing a moment of panic and indecision when they ask to be let in is perfectly natural. Questions that will likely run through your mind at this point include:

  • Do they need a search warrant?
  • Should you call a lawyer?
  • Do you have to let them in?
  • Should you shut the door without saying a word?

First, Stay Calm

No matter what happens, it’s in your best interest to stay calm. Losing your temper doesn’t do any good and it could actually make things much more difficult for them.

If They Don’t Have a Warrant

If the police don’t have a warrant, they can ask to search your home, but you don’t have to let them in. California law also prohibits the police from forcing their way into your home if they don’t have a warrant. However, if an officer knocks on your door and you open it enough for them to see something suspicious, say on the table behind you, they are allowed to seize the item without a warrant. Anything that is in plain view is basically fair game. That’s why so many lawyers recommend only opening the door a crack when the police knock.

As long as your polite and don’t do anything rash, the police can’t arrest you for denying them entry into your home when they’re unable to produce a warrant.

If They Have a Search Warrant

Police can’t get a search warrant just because they feel like going through your home. They have to be able to provide a judge with enough probable cause for the judge to justify issuing a search warrant.

If the police have a search warrant for your home, you are legally required to let them into your residence. What they can’t do is say they have a warrant and not show it to you. If they can’t produce the physical warrant, you don’t have to grant them access. The search warrant should include information about where the police are allowed to search.

Things the police can’t legally do without a warrant include:

  • Taking a DNA swab
  • Searching outbuildings
  • Going through your car

California’s Spay Neuter Laws and How They Impact You

californias-spay-neuter-laws-and-how-they-impact-you

Most of the people impacted by California’s spay/neuter laws barely noticed a change. The reason for this is because the vast majority of the people who are mentioned in the law were already spaying and neutering their pets.

Why California Created Spay/Neuter Pet Laws

California lawmakers realized that there was a major pet problem in the state. The lawmakers didn’t mind that lots of people owned loved and well cared for pets. They were concerned about the sheer number of pets that were running around the streets and rural areas that were homeless. Lawmakers decided that it was time to step up and force people to do something about their pets.

Rescues Have to Spay/Neuter Pets

Most rescues had a spay/neuter policy in place before the official passing of the law, but there were some exceptions. The law specifically requires that any pet that is adopted from an animal shelter must be spayed or neutered. If there is a medical reason why the pet isn’t spayed or neutered, such as being too young, before it’s sent to live in its new home, correct documentation must be provided and steps should have been taken to ensure that the pet will get spayed/neutered at the earliest possible time.

In extreme cases where an animal’s health is simply too poor for the animal to go through the surgery, the rescue will have to contact local lawmakers and document the pet’s health problems and the steps both the shelter and new owner plan on taking to make sure the pet doesn’t reproduce.

Breeders will have to contact a local government agency and find out how they can get their breeding animals excused from the law.

Los Angeles Spay/Neuter Laws

For more than 10 years, Los Angeles has had the toughest spay/neuter laws of any city in the USA. The city provided pet owners who owned an unsterilized pet with documentation of subsidized sterilization services and said the owner had two months to have the surgery performed, or to provide a vet certificate stating why the pet was exempt from the sterilization laws. If the pet owner failed to have their pet sterilized, they were charged $100 and required to provide 8 hours of community service. The second offense resulted in a $500 fine and 40 hours of community service.

California’s spay/neuter law is just one of the laws that pet owners need to be aware of before they introduce a new pet to their family.

Watering your California Lawn

watering-your-california-lawn

All of us want the lush, gorgeous kind of lawn we see featured in landscaping ads and gardening magazines. Even with minimal landscaping, a beautiful, healthy lawn really showcases the home, giving it a great deal of curb appeal.

The problem many California homeowners encounter is that maintaining that stunning lawn takes a great deal of water. Using too much water on your lawn could create some serious legal headaches.

How Much Water Can You Use

There are some parts of the world where you can put as much water on your yard as you’d like. That’s not the situation in California. The entire state is always conscious of a potential water shortage. It’s something state and local lawmakers would like to avoid. Many places have limited the amount of water, the times, and even the places, you can water your California lawn.

It would be easy if you knew you could only water your lawn for an hour on odd days of the calendar month. That would be straightforward and easy to adhere to. The problem is that it’s not that straightforward. Each township/city has their own lawn watering rules. Further complicating the situation is that the rules can change from week to week depending on how much rain the area has received.

The best way to make sure you’re not accidentally violating one of the rules, it’s in your best interest to frequently check local government websites where any alterations to local ordinances about lawn watering will be listed. Violating the ordinances and overwatering your lawn will likely result in a citation and you’ll have to pay a fine.

New Restrictions Coming

All California residents need to review two recently passed California water laws that will eventually impact everyone living in California. The laws are Assembly Bill 1668 and Senate Bill 606. These Bills are designed to restrict the amount of water you use every single day. Starting in 2022 each person in your home will only be allowed to use 55 gallons of water per day. By 2030, the amount decreases to 50 gallons. Using too much water will result in additional penalties being added to your water bill.

It is fully expected that as some point in 2020, the California Department of Water Resources, will present lawmakers with a list of guidelines that also suggests restricting how much water each California property owner can use outside their home for purposes like washing vehicles and watering the lawn.

If lawmakers approve the California Department of Water Resources’ recommendations, it could make it harder for you to enjoy a stunning lawn.

Attending School During the Pandemic

attending-school-during-the-pandemic

Never before have so many parents been confused about how their child’s education will take place during the upcoming school year. Concern about COVID-19 spreading through the schools has caused a great deal of confusion regarding how education will work during the 2020/2021 school year.

The Governor’s Thoughts About School This Year

One of the things making this school year so difficult is that California’s lawmakers seem to second guess themselves every single day. One day the governor announces that schools won’t open and all schooling will be done virtually. A few weeks later, an elementary school opens its doors and starts welcoming students.

The problem this poses for parents is figuring out how they’ll help their child get the education they need this year. Many aren’t even sure if the government has a plan in place to make sure that no child is left behind this school year.

The best thing parents can do is pay attention to any formal information their child’s school is passing on. As of right now, the governor has decreed that most of the schools will be going exclusively to virtual learning. There are some exceptions. Some schools have been issued waivers that allow them to open, provided they have measures in place to keep kids healthy this school year. Safety measures the schools who have received waivers are taking include:

Decoding the Difference Between a Domestic Violence Restraining Order and a Civil Harassment Restraining Order

decoding-the-difference-between-a-domestic-violence-restraining-order-and-a-civil-harassment-restraining-order

Feeling threatened and worrying about your physical/mental safety is an incredibly frightening and stressful situation. The one bright spot is that California’s lawmakers fully understand just how much danger you are in. Laws and protective orders are in place, each one is designed to keep you safe.

When you go to the police because you’re afraid of someone it’s important to understand that there is a difference between civil harassment and domestic violence.

Contrary to popular belief, in the eyes of the law, domestic violence is not a subcategory crime that’s connected to civil harassment.

The Difference Between Domestic Violence and Civil Harassment

The biggest difference between a domestic violence case and a civil harassment case is your relationship with the person you’re filing the restraining order against. If the person you’re afraid of is someone you have a relationship with, the case is a domestic violence case. The law considers a relationship close if the restraining order is filed against a parent, sibling, child, grandparent, lover, spouse. The idea of the domestic violence restraining order is that the close relationship you’ve shared with the person increases the amount of danger you’re in.

If you don’t have a personal relationship with the person you’re naming in the restraining order, you’re dealing with a civil harassment situation. In many cases, the other party mentioned in the restraining order is a co-worker, neighbor, friend of a friend, social media follower, or a member of a political/social party who has taken a personal and nasty dislike to your lifestyle/actions/viewpoints.

Getting a Restraining Order

It is far easier to request and obtain a domestic violence restraining order than it is a civil harassment restraining order. Police, prosecutors, and judges understand just how quickly domestic situations can turn deadly and are quick to issue a restraining order against one of your loved ones.

When you petition the court for a domestic violence restraining order, you need evidence of abuse (medical records, witness statements, written threats, police reports.)

Getting a civil harassment restraining order is much more complicated. The biggest challenge is establishing that the harassment has reached a point where you feel threatened. The court won’t accept that the person you want to be named in the restraining order is simply verbally harassing you. You’re going to have to submit some sort of proof that they are having a detrimental impact on your life. Getting this proof isn’t always easy. In the case of a civil harassment restraining order, you’ll likely need video, phone, witness, or written evidence. Strong witness statements, particularly by people who aren’t closely connected to you, will also help you obtain the civil harassment lawsuit.

The most important thing to remember when appealing for either domestic violence or civil harassment restraining order is that you must have proof that you are worried about your safety. The more evidence you have, the quicker the court will grant your request.

Staying Safe During California’s Wildfire Season

staying-safe-during-californias-wildfire-season

Each year, California has wildfires that attract national and sometimes even international media attention. The various media channels like to talk about what might have caused the wildfire, how big it’s gotten, and how teams are desperately working to fight it, as someone who lives in California, you’re first priority is doing everything possible to keep yourself and your loved ones safe during this year’s wildfire season.

Prepare Early

Don’t wait until you can hear the roar of the wildfire bearing down on you to start preparing. Wildfires spread quickly and they can also start quickly. Don’t wait until you’re in a high-risk area to start preparing for a wildfire. As soon as you move to California, you need to create start preparing for the possibility of a fire.

Early California fire preparations include:

• Turning your property into a defensible space
• Having an evacuation plan in place
• Keeping your vehicle prepped in case you have to evacuate
• Having a bag packed with life essentials in case you need to evacuate
• Making sure your personal property is covered by property insurance

Creating a Defensible Space

You want to surround your property with defensible space. This space serves as a buffer between an approaching fire and your home. The space shouldn’t have any items or vegetation that’s likely to burn.

The defensible space should extend at 30 feet past your house.

Packing Evacuation Supplies

You don’t have enough room in your car for all of your personal belongings. Limit what you need to one bag per person. Most of the time you can keep his bag in your closet, but if it looks like there is a chance that you’ll have to evacuate, stow the emergency fire bag in your car. Fire moves quickly so each second you save is important.

Items you should have in your emergency fire evacuation bag include:

• A change of clothing
• Cash/credit cards
• An extra charger for your cell phone
• The contact information for your insurance company
• A first aid kit
• Any medication you take
• Water
• Food
• A flashlight

Keep Tabs on your Neighbors

Fire doesn’t care who it hurts. It’s up to you to keep in touch with your neighbors and make sure that they’re able to protect themselves from a wildfire. Whenever possible, offer to help them evacuate. Taking a few seconds to contact your neighbor’s emergency contact, or helping load up their car helps save lives.

Prepare your Pets

You can’t afford to forget about your pets during an emergency fire evacuation. They can’t fend for themselves. You should also be prepared for even the most docile pet to become stressed as you evacuate. They might not understand exactly what is going on, but they do know that a fire is approaching and that you’re stressed.

Lock your pets in a different part of the house while you prepare to evacuate. This prevents them from bolting out the door and getting lost while you’re packing up your vehicle. When you’re ready to load your pets in the car keep them leashed or in a carrier. Don’t assume they will just follow you. Each time you stop the car for gas, make sure your pets are restrained before you get out of your car.

It’s a good idea to get your pet microchipped and to write its name and your phone number on their collar before you evacuate. Before you drive away from your home, take a couple of seconds to double-check that all people and pets are loaded in your car. Even though it’s hard to stay calm when you’re evacuating, you really need to. The calmer you can keep yourself in this situation, the smoother the evacuation will go.

Laws Every California Pet Owner Should Know

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Owning a pet is a wonderful experience. In exchange for providing for their physical needs, your pet gives you unconditional love and great joy. Pet owners are usually healthier and happier than California residents who don’t own pets.

While there are lots of perks associated with owning a pet, there are also several California pet laws all pet owners need to know.

Your Dog Must Be Properly Licensed

If you own a dog, it has to be licensed. Failing to stay on top of your dog’s license could result in your county charging you a fine. The only dogs who are exempt from the state’s licensing laws are puppies who haven’t turned four months old.

All Dogs Have to be Up to Date With Their Rabies Vaccination

If you own a dog, you’re responsible for making sure it has had a rabies vaccination. In some areas, they have to get a rabies vaccination every year. In other areas, you can go for three years between the vaccine. The vaccine has to be given by a certified vet. Without proof of the rabies vaccination, you can’t purchase a dog license.

You Can’t Abandon Your Pet

Once you accept responsibility for your pet, you are expected to keep the pet for the rest of its life. If you can’t you need to rehome it. You’re not allowed to simply abandon it. If you’re caught abandoning an animal, you will face animal cruelty charges.

You’re Responsible for your Pet

You’re expected to be in control of your pet at all times. If your dog ruins someone’s personal property or bites someone, it’s your fault. Civil charges can be brought against you.

California’s Spay/Neuter Laws are Changing

California lawmakers have become increasingly aware of the pet overpopulation problem in their state. They hope that tougher spay/neuter laws will reduce the number of strays animal control deals with each year. All shelters are required to provide proof that the animals they’re putting up for adoption have been spayed or neutered.

California’s pet laws are constantly changing. If you own any type of pet, it’s in your best interest to routinely review both local and state pet ownership laws.