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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.

Can you Stay Open for Business Even Though the California Governor Says Otherwise

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COVID-19 has done more than simply worry that we’re dying each time we cough. It has also triggered some pretty intense discussions about how much power the government has when it comes to shutting down your business. Most business owners never imagined that a day would come when the Governor would saw what businesses could and couldn’t stay open, how many people were allowed into the businesses that were allowed to operate, and even the items you’re allowed to sell. Yet that’s exactly the type of world we’re currently dealing with.

Business owners, particularly small business owners that rely on in-person sales are in a tough spot. On one hand, following the governor’s orders and staying closed means losing their business to the bank. On the other hand, ignoring the governor and opening up means losing their business license, or worse.

If you’re a small business owner who is wondering if you can skirt the governor’s orders and stay open, here are a few things you should know.

No One Really Knows Anything

One of the biggest problems is that no one really knows how much power state governors have when it comes to telling business owners that they have to close the doors. As a result, some business owners have opted to defy closure orders and stay open. Others have opted to change their inventory just enough so they can qualify their business as an essential business. Others are toeing the law and praying that the pandemic lightens up enough for them to eventually reopen their doors.

Are Police Enforcing Business Closure Orders During the Pandemic

While there have been reports of some business owners being arrested for defying shut down orders, the most famous cases involve a pair of New Jersey gym owners and a Michigan barber. There’s been little information about California business owners who have defied the shutdown orders being arrested… yet.

It’s difficult to say if the lack of arrests stems from business owners obeying the order, police turning a blind eye to businesses who are operating but staying low key despite the shutdown order, or if there simply hasn’t been much press coverage.

Something to Consider

As a small business owner, it is up to you to decide if you want to defy the shutdown order and stay open even though you know that there is a risk you’ll lose your business license or even be arrested for your act of defiance. If you’re considering opening, one thing you should stop to consider is your liability if someone contracts COVID-19 and are able to trace the infection point to your business.

Currently, it’s unclear how insurance companies plan to handle such claims, but there is a chance that they could say that since you defied the shutdown orders, they don’t have to intervene on your behalf, leaving you vulnerable to a costly civil lawsuit.

Hopefully, something will happen so that pandemic worries decrease and everyone can return to a normal life where they don’t have to weigh the pros and cons of maintaining their livelihood and breaking the law.

What to do When the Police Ask for Camera Footage

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Over the past 10 or 15 years, cameras have become a major part of our daily lives. They’re on our phones, in our homes, built into doorbells, and even mounted on the dashboards of our cars. We usually don’t give them a second thought until the police request the footage. That’s when we suddenly start to wonder exactly what our rights are.

Can the Police Request Camera Footage Without a Warrant?

If you’re wondering if the police can ask to see the footage one of your cameras has captured even when they don’t have a warrant, the answer is yes. Where things get murkier is when you’re trying to figure out if you have to grant their request.

Do You Have to Hand Your Cameras to the Police?

If the police suspect that the camera on your phone, dashboard, or home security system contains information that pertains to a crime they’re investigating, they are allowed to take it, even if you don’t willingly hand it over. They are required to provide you with a receipt. What the police aren’t allowed to do is simply flip through the phone or watch any of the videos without permission. There are two ways they can obtain this permission. The first is if you tell them that you don’t mind. The second is by getting a warrant to inspect the camera.

The problem with camera footage is that if the police find incriminating evidence, they can use it against you.

RING Doorbells and the Police

If you have a RING doorbell, you should know that it’s possible the police may already have access to the footage the camera has captured. The brand is actively marketed to the police and some police stations have even been given the doorbells which they hand out to citizens. Amazon, who owns the company that manufactures RING doorbell does this because they are trying to cut down on delivery package thefts. It’s a good idea unless the police suspect you of a crime. Footage that is less than 60 days old and has been uploaded to a network cloud can easily fall into the police’s hands, even without your permission or a warrant.

Tony Botti, who is a Public Information Officer with the Fresno County Sheriff’s office spoke about this issue. “If we ask within 60 days of the recording and as long as it’s been uploaded to the cloud, then Ring can take it out of the cloud and send it to us legally so that we can use it as part of our investigation,” Tony said. “The consumer knows what they’re getting into. If you’re a good upstanding person who is doing things lawfully, nobody has concerns.”

When it comes to camera footage and the police, it’s in your best interest to delete any potentially damaging photos or videos that you’ve already recorded and to turn your camera off if you’re worried that it can ever be used against you during a criminal investigation.

Yellow Traffic Lights in California

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On paper, it’s a simple concept. When you see a flashing yellow traffic light it means you have the right of way, but that you should stay alert and use caution while going through an intersection. A solid yellow light means that the light is about to change to red and you should plan on stopping. That’s the idea but we all know drivers who seem to think that the solid yellow light is a challenge. Instead of slowing down, they mash the accelerator to the floor and barrel through the intersection, often just as the light changes from yellow to green.

The Risk of Trying to Beat the Red

No one likes to wait at stoplights. It’s easy to understand the desire to want to beat the red light, but it’s important to understand just how deadly this desire is. During 2017, 927 of California’s traffic accident fatalities were caused by someone trying to beat a red light. Each of those deaths could have been prevented.

The Legalities of Rushing a Yellow Light

Remember back when you were taking driver’s training and your instructor advised you to slow down for yellow lights. That’s not just good advice. It’s the law. When you take the time to read through the California Vehicle Code Section 21453, you’ll discover that the state considers it the, “driver’s responsibility to slow down at a yellow light, to come to a stop at the line in for the red.”

What does that mean?

The only time you’re technically allowed to go through a yellow light is when the light changes after you’ve passed the point of no return. That point happens when even if you slammed on your brakes, you’d still blast through the intersection.

While it doesn’t happen often if a cop sees you speed up for a yellow light, they can give you a ticket and you’ll have a difficult time fighting it.

There are times when you’re legally allowed to turn when the light is yellow. If you’re sitting in the middle of the intersection waiting for a break in traffic so you can make a left turn, you’re legally allowed to turn when the light is yellow. You’re even allowed to turn left when the light is red, provided your car is in the intersection.

You’re also allowed to turn right on a yellow provided there aren’t any oncoming vehicles. If this is something you plan on doing, keep in mind that the approaching traffic might be going even faster than you expect because they are trying to beat the red light.

What Happens If You Take Prescription Drugs without a Prescription?

what-happens-if-you-take-perscription-drugs-without-a-prescription

Most of us have done it. We’ve had a splitting headache or strained something. When an over the counter medication doesn’t seem to touch the pain, rather than going to the doctor, we usually scrounge in our medicine cabinet until we find some old prescription pain medication. If we don’t find anything in our own cupboard, we often ask a friend or family member for something.

Most of us don’t give this type of thing a second thought even though we’re technically breaking the law.

The good news is that most of us only do this once, maybe twice in our lives. If the pain persists, we usually got ourselves to the doctor who checks us out, diagnosis the problem, and writes a prescription for pain killers. Just like that, our little stint on the wrong side of the law is forgotten.

While people seldom get caught taking a prescription drug without a prescription, you should know that doing so has the potential to create all kinds of legal problems for you.

The first thing to consider is drug testing. An increasing number of employers have made random drug tests mandatory. If you take a prescription drug that you don’t have a prescription for it could show up in your drug test. This could result in your losing your job, and depending on who you work for, they could even turn you into the police.

The reason there is a zero-tolerance policy for taking any type of prescription drug without a prescription dates back to the opioid epidemic. The high volume of people who became addicted to opioids triggered new laws that led to a tight crackdown on who is issued a prescription for pain killers, how many prescription drugs are prescribed, and how high a dose a person can take.

Don’t assume that just because you were issued a prescription for the drugs that you’re free to take them years later. You’re not. Unless you have a new prescription, you’re no longer allowed to take those drugs.

Even if you haven’t actually taken the prescription drugs that weren’t actually prescribed to you but are caught with them on you, for example, when you’re pulled over for a traffic infraction, drug charges could be filed against you. The only exception is if you’re transporting the prescription from the pharmacy for someone, in which case, the drugs should still be sealed in the pharmacy packaging and you should have proof in the form of a receipt that you were in the authorized pickup person.

If you feel you need a prescription drug to manage your pain, it is in your best interest to visit your doctor and have them officially prescribe the medication you need.

Found a Lost Pet? Here’s What you Have to Do

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It happens all the time. A dog appears in your yard or you find a cat while your out on a walk. Even though the animal isn’t yours, you invite it into your home. At this point, you find yourself in the crossroads of an ethical decision. Do you keep the lost pet or do you make an effort to track down the owners?

Protocol for Finding Lost Pets

While you might think it’s up to you to decide if you want to keep the pet or find it’s owner, California lawmakers think differently. Many lawmakers are animal lovers who have gone through the agony of having a cherished pet disappear. In an effort to help lost pets reunite with their devastated owners, the lawmakers passed legislation that requires that you report the found animal within 48 hours of finding them.

You can report the lost animal to animal control, the local police, or a local vet clinic. This gives the owner a chance to contact the same organizations as they attempt to track down the missing pet. In most cases, as soon as you contact animal control or the vet clinic, you’ll find the owner has already reported the missing animal. At that point, the only thing left for you to do is arrange for the owner to pick up their missing pet.

Don’t be surprised if you’re told that you have to bring the pet in and have it scanned for a microchip.

What Happens if you Don’t Report a Found Pet

Not reporting that you’ve found a pet within 48 hours means you’re facing a misdemeanor charge. The good news is that if you have reported the found pet and no one claims them, you are free to keep the pet.

Tips for Reuniting Found Pets with their Owners

It’s is always in your best interest to reunite a found pet with its owner. This can be a problem if it doesn’t have a microchip. The good news is that you’re not out of options. In addition to contacting the local shelters, animal control, and vet clinics about the animal, you should also post it in local social media groups. These groups are often the first place devastated owners go when they’re trying to find their missing pet.

If you’re a pet owner, it’s in your best interest to get your pet microchipped. It drastically increases the chances of you enjoying a happy reunion if the worst happens and your pet somehow escapes.

California’s Videotaping Laws

californias-videotaping-laws

There was a time when no one worried about what would happen if they videotaped someone. Prior to cell phone cameras, it was nearly impossible for the average person to videotape someone without the person being taped knowing about it. Now that everyone has a video camera on their cell phone, many people have accidentally broken California’s laws regarding videotaping people without their consent.

Cell phone cameras made it possible to videotape people without that person’s consent. Social media makes it possible for us to share these tapes. The combination has created legal problems for many people.

According to the current laws, you are allowed to record a video of people without their consent, but only if you don’t pick up any bits of their conversation. The state doesn’t have a problem with you capturing their image, just their words. If you want to record the conversation, you’ll have to get their consent. This consent should be written so that if the person does decide to sue, you can prove your case.

The one exception to this is if you’re in a busy place, such as a coffee shop. If you’re recording something and accidentally pick up bits of a conversation, you aren’t breaking any laws. The idea is that the person involved in the conversation was in a public area and therefore shouldn’t have expected complete privacy. The trick is proving that you weren’t deliberately trying to capture the snippet of conversation.

You do not want to be accused of recording someone’s conversation in California. The state is very serious when it comes to punishing people who don’t first get consent. The issue is addressed in California Penal Code § 632(a).

The worst thing about taking an audio recording of someone without their consent is that you can’t use it as part of your defense. For example, if you recorded the person because you wanted to prove to your boss that they were bullying you, not only can you not use the recording, but you’ll also find yourself in the middle of a legal battle that you likely won’t win.

The penalty for violating California Penal Code § 632 can include a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

It is important to note that using your camera to take a quick video of someone in a public setting is completely different than conducting video surveillance on them.

Falling Asleep Behind the Wheel in California

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We’ve all done it. Gotten behind the wheel and driven when we were tired. Most of the time rolling down the window, cranking up the radio, and indulging in a massive amount of caffeine is enough to get us safely where we need to be. The problem is that some people don’t make it to their destination. Some people fall asleep while they’re behind the wheel and find themselves in serious legal trouble.

The Dangers of Falling Asleep While Driving

People constantly warn us about driving while intoxicated. We know it’s dangerous and know that it’s a serious traffic offense. People rarely discuss the fact that driving while fatigued is equally dangerous. In most cases driving is monotonous. It’s so easy to let your eyes close for a second. That’s all it takes for us to fall asleep and get into a bad accident.

If you’ve ever driven while drowsy you’re not alone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that approximately 100,000 police-reported car accidents involved drowsy driving. It’s estimated that 72,000 of those accidents led to severe injuries and that 1,600 involved fatalities.

How California Handles Drowsy Driving Cases

Each time you get behind the wheel of your car, you’re entering into an unspoken, but legally binding contract with everyone that you’re fit for driving. Getting behind the wheel means that you plan on following all posted traffic laws, that you’ll stay alert, and that you’ll drive defensively. This means you won’t be distracted, you’re not intoxicated, and you’re not fatigued.

Failing to keep up your end of the agreement results in traffic tickets and possibly jail time.

If you’re caught driving while drowsy in California, at best, you’ll get a ticket for reckless driving. According to the state, you’re driving recklessly any time you, “drive any vehicle in a manner that exhibits willful or wanton disregard for the well-being of others on the roadway.” The state considers falling asleep and an example of willful or wanton disregard.

If you’re caught driving while drowsy, the best you can hope for is a traffic ticket that will cost you $145. That’s the best-case scenario. If you caused an accident, injured someone, created an intensely dangerous situation, or did a great deal of damage to someone else’s property, the consequences will be much more severe. The state has the option of sentencing you to 90 days in jail and charging you with a $1,000 fine.

Depending on your driving record, the driving while drowsy episode could result in you losing your license. If you injured or killed someone, you could face both manslaughter charges and a civil lawsuit.

The next time you think about driving while exhausted, you should reconsider and take a nap instead.

California’s Attitude Toward Vandalism

californias-attitude-toward-vandalism

Vandalism is often an act of passion. Most of us are angry or hurt. We want to strike back at the person we believe treated us badly. We might choose to do this by smashing their mailbox, spray painting a crude message on the side of their house, or slashing their tires.

Normally, we feel better about the vandalism… until the police knock on our door.

The problem with vandalism is that the victim almost always has a pretty good idea of who was responsible. If they’ve recently argued with, broken up with, or aggravated someone they usually tell the police about the incident. The personal nature of the crime means that you’re likely to get caught.

What California Considers Vandalism

You might think that smashing someone’s mailbox is an act of just revenge. The state disagrees. They consider an act of property damage that was triggered by malicious intent to be vandalism. That includes:

  • Keying someone’s car
  • Smashing a window with a baseball bat
  • Painting graffiti on a building
  • Covering someone’s front door with bumper stickers