holiday online scams

Avoid Donation Scams This Holiday Season

holiday online scams

The holidays are all about giving. Most people focus primarily on giving to their friends and family members. However, there are some people out there who give as much as they can to people they don’t even know. These people want to spread as much holiday cheer as they can with as many people as possible.

While many people out there are very kindhearted, there are unfortunately some who seek to take advantage of this good natured helping. They set up fake charities to scam kind people out of their hard earned money. That is why, if a person is looking to make donations this holiday season, they need to do so carefully. That way, they can be sure that their money is going where they intended it to.

Here are a few tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help you make safe and secure donations this holiday season:

  • Do your research. Choose a charity carefully, and use online searches to find any complaints about the specific charity.
  • Try to avoid charities that require donations to be paid solely with cash, gift cards, or wire transfers. These are all favorite methods of payments for scammers since once the money is handed over, it is gone forever.
  • Keep records of all donations. This is especially important for donations made with credit or debit cards. It will allow you to make sure that only the amount you promised was taken out of your account.
  • If donating through a website, make sure the donations are going to the right charity. This is especially true when clicking on links to donate. Scammers like to make their websites look like other popular sites. Always look for the padlock symbol and https in the web address.
  • Don’t be rushed into making a donation. Scammers always like to rush people because it causes them to make decisions without thinking things through.

There are plenty of good charities out there that need your help. If you do your research, then you will be able to help them, help make a difference this holiday season.

distracted driving with pet laws

Driving with Pets Can Be Distracting

distracted driving with pet laws

Just about everyone knows that driving while distracted can be a very dangerous practice. One second of not paying attention is all it takes for a driver to find himself in a bad accident. That is why a driver needs to constantly give their full attention to the road while driving.

In order to encourage drivers to remain focused, lawmakers usually enact laws that limit what drivers can do while driving. Some of the basics here in California include:

  • No texting while driving.
  • No talking on the phone while driving.
  • No using other electronic devices while driving.

California laws don’t cover all of the bases when it comes to distracted driving. For instance, eating while driving is not illegal in California, though it is considered to be a type of distracted driving. An Ohio town is taking distracted driving laws a step further in order to protect drivers and their furry companions.

Starting December 20th, drivers in Mantua, Ohio can be ticketed for distracted driving if they have an animal in their lap. The offense will only be a misdemeanor, which means a small fine and no possibility of jail time. However, any ticket price will be more than a driving pet owner really wants to pay.

Distracted driving is not something that any driver should do. Unfortunately, driving with a pet can be very distracting. For their safety, and the safety of the driver, the pet should remain in another section of the vehicle, away from the driver. This way, they cannot interfere with the driver’s task and inadvertently cause an accident.

preventing christmas tree fires

Tips for Preventing Christmas Tree Fires

preventing christmas tree fires

Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without an evergreen tree standing tall and proud in the living room. This is why thousands upon thousands of people will be getting cut evergreen trees for their homes this year. While the trees look stunning, especially when fully decorated, they can pose a bit of a problem. Pine and other evergreen trees can be very flammable, especially as they dry out.

If a person wants to avoid the possibility of a fire in their own home, then they need to follow these tips.

  • Choose a fresh tree. A person should be able to touch the tree and not see a bunch of needles fall from the branch.
  • Place the tree away from any sort of heat sources that could cause the tree to ignite.
  • Replace any light strands that are broken or damaged as they can cause a spark.
  • Never place candles on or near the tree.
  • Water the tree daily to keep it hydrated.
  • Turn the lights off when leaving home or going to bed.

Once Christmas has come and gone, the tree should be removed from the room as quickly as possible. Over the course of the month, the tree will dry out and become more and more of a fire hazard. It should be removed as soon as possible and kept away from the house until it is removed completely.

charges for stolen mail

Beware of Porch Pirates This Holiday Season

charges for stolen mail

The holiday season is here. This means that people all over will be flock to stores, both brick and mortar, and virtual alike as they search for the perfect gifts for their loved ones. While this is a very merry time of the year, there are unfortunately some Scrooges out there who like to take advantage of unsuspecting people.

Even when someone is shopping online, they need to be careful. If they aren’t then someone else could end up with their loved one’s Christmas gift. This can happen when the gift is eventually delivered. If it is left unattended for too long, then a passerby may decide to take for themselves. While most people wouldn’t do this, there are plenty of people out there who would.

Tips for Avoiding Package Theft

One of the simplest ways to avoid package theft is for a person to do all of their shopping at brick and mortar stores. This completely eliminates the chances of some thief stealing the items off the front porch. Of course, this method is incredibly tedious and inconvenient. Shopping online is so much simpler.

Luckily for online shoppers, there are ways of keeping their packages safe, thereby ensuring they get to the intended recipient. Many shipping companies have come to recognize the problem of package theft, and provide their clients with options to protect their shipments. A person is much more likely to get their package if they take advantage of these options accordingly.

First and foremost, get the tracking number for the shipment. This simple number allows a person to monitor their package and have a more accurate idea of when it will be delivered. From there, a person will either be able to get the package themselves, or possibly have a neighbor pick it up for them.

FedEx and the United States Postal Service (USPS) both allow customers to schedule their shipments in advanced. This helps a person make sure that they, or someone they trust, will be at home when the delivery arrives. Then the package will be able to be taken off the porch before some wannabe thief strolls by and gets a bright idea.

Some shipping companies, such as FedEx, also allow customers to require a signature for the delivery. This way, the package won’t be left at the house unless someone signs for it.

Another option that is available with some shippers, is the ability to make special requests with the delivery. A person can leave special instructions that the delivery person will follow, such as leaving the package at the back door or hidden in the bushes.

Another simple option that is available with all shipping companies is to have the package delivered to a different address. A person could have the package shipped to a trusted neighbor who is always home, or if their work allows it, ship it to their office.

Many stores allow their customers to use in-store pickup. The person orders the item online, and then can pick it up at a local store. Amazon offers a similar service called Amazon Locker where they will ship items to a local locker and giver the customer a code to open said locker. Even UPS has a service like this, where a person can request that the item be sent to a nearby UPS store where the item can then be picked up. These options eliminate any chances of the item being left in the open where a thief could take it. A person just needs to look into what the shipper or retailer offers.

Penalties of Porch Piracy

Package theft from front doors, or package piracy as it is commonly called, is typically a crime of opportunity. More often than not, the thief was simply strolling or driving by when they saw the package and decided to take the unclaimed item for themselves. To them, it seems so simple. They only see it as taking a package, and so they don’t expect to get into any real trouble. However, that is not the case.

After all, the stealing of a package is theft. This can get a person charged with theft, petty or grand depending on the value of the contents of the package. A person could also face charges of mail theft.

Petty theft (Penal Code 484a & 488) and mail theft (Penal Code 530.5e) are misdemeanors that can earn a person:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail.
  • A max fine of $1,000.
  • Some combination fine and jail time.

Grand theft (Penal Code 487) involves the theft of any items that have a value greater than $950. The crime of grand theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony in California. The consequences for committing misdemeanor grand theft in California are similar to the ones above. Felony Grand theft can earn a person 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in prison, plus hefty fines.

Practice Safe Shipping

If a person wants to keep their shipments safe this holiday season, then they need to practice safe shipping. This means taking advantage of the above tips to ensure that either someone is there to pick-up the package, or it is put in a safe place for the person to pick-up later. So long as a person does that, they guarantee that they will get their packages safely. In turn, this means that their loved ones will all get the perfect gifts this holiday season. Who doesn’t want that?

eporting crimes in california

Do You Report Crimes?

reporting crimes in california

Most people are able to go through their days without having to worry about too much. They get to go through their day as normal without any interruptions. Unfortunately, there are times when that can’t happen for whatever reason. This is typically the result of some sort of emergency.

One such example of something like this would be if a person were to witness a crime happen. Actually witnessing a crime can be a very scary and shocking experience for any number of reasons. After the moment of the crime has passed, some people are left wondering what they should do. Do they call the police, or just pretend that they didn’t see anything? They often don’t know what to do because this is not something that people deal with on a regular basis.

Who to Report Crimes To

When people witness a crime being committed, they should report it to the local police or sheriff’s department. They will be able to handle the situation and bring the perpetrators to justice. If a crime is something very serious, a person may also want to consider reporting it to other appropriate agencies after alerting the police.

Unfortunately, many people will not report crimes because they feel like local law enforcement agencies either won’t help them, or decide that the case is too unimportant. This isn’t something that should stop a person from reporting a crime. If they need help, they should report it.

Is There a Legal Obligation?

Despite common belief, a person is not legally required to report crimes in most instances.

Some of the instances when a person has to report crimes in California are when certain professions, such as teachers, school administrators, and doctors, suspect that a child may be suffering from abuse. When a person reports cases like this, their information is legally required to be kept confidential.

Another time a person has to report a crime is when officers who are investigating a federal felony offense ask if the person knows anything about it. If a person doesn’t answer honestly, then they could face misprision of a felony, which is a form of obstruction of justice. However this, does not require a person to make a report of a crime after witnessing it.

What can get a person into trouble is if they knowingly helped a person hide from authorities after that person committed a crime. Doing this makes the person an accomplice and they could be charged with aiding and abetting a criminal.

An Anonymous Alternative

For those people who are afraid to report a crime to the police for fear of repercussions, either from the police themselves or the accused person, they can always report the crime anonymously. Most law enforcement agencies have places on their websites where a person can report crimes anonymously. This way, the crime can still be reported but the person doesn’t have to worry about any repercussions.
There are also hotlines and other websites that people can use to leave anonymous tips for crimes.

It is important to note that a person can try to remain anonymous when they dial 911, but many law enforcement agencies are able to track phone numbers.

There Is Nothing to Fear

Law enforcement officers do not go after people who report crimes, so a person should never feel afraid to report a crime. However, a person is not legally obligated to report any criminal activity that they may have witnessed. Only in certain instances are people legally required to report a crime to the proper authorities. So long as a person isn’t omitting information when being questioned by the police, or working in a profession that is required to report suspected cases of child abuse, they have nothing to fear.

By reporting a crime, a person will be able to clear their conscious and get back to their normal, daily routine.

consequences for stealing mail

How Bad Is Stealing Mail?

consequences for stealing mail

Even in today’s digital world, there is still a high demand for physical shipping. After all, how else would people be able to get something that they ordered online? This means that mail is still a pretty big deal, even if it may not seem like.

Something that at first seems like no big deal, but actually becomes pretty bad when looking deeper, is stealing someone else’s mail. At first, people might think it’s no big deal, since most of the mail they get is junk mail. However, that is not the case. A lot of important things are sent in envelopes from one person to another, which is why it is illegal to steal and/or open someone else’s mail.

What Gets Shipped?

A better question would be what doesn’t get shipped in today’s world? In the age of the internet and online retailers such as Amazon, people can buy just about whatever they want online. This means that whatever they purchased needs to be shipped as well. This leads to just about anything you can imagine being shipped by mail.

However, mail goes beyond material possessions. Think about all of the birthday and holiday cards that get shipped. Many of those often contain money or gift cards in them.

Another important thing that is shipped in the mail is people’s identities. Sensitive papers that can contain important information about a person, such as medical, legal, or financial documents. These bits of paper can contain social security numbers, and other private bits of information.

All of this is stuff that a person doesn’t want falling into the wrong hands, which is why it is a crime to steal someone’s mail at both the state and federal level.

What Is Considered Mail Theft?

Due to what can be found in mail, stealing it is a very serious offense. Add on to that the fact that the USPS is a federal agency, and the consequences become even more severe. Here in the state of California, the crime and its consequences are considered to be more closely related to identity theft than to actual theft. This isn’t to say that stealing a package from amazon is not as bad as stealing a letter from a bank. Both crimes will land a person in very serious trouble.

Stealing mail is defined as taking someone else’s mail from a mailbox, mail receptacle, post office, or mail carrier. It is also illegal to obtain mail by lying to or deceiving someone. Opening someone else’s mail and taking its contents without the addressed person’s consent is also illegal. Destroying stolen mail in an attempt to hide is illegal as well. Lastly, buying or receiving mail that a person knows to be stolen is illegal.

Basically, if a person’s name is not on the address, than they shouldn’t be taking or opening the mail without permission from the person who the letter or package is addressed to.

Penalties for Stealing Mail

Stealing someone else’s mail is a crime under California Penal Code 530.5 and 18 United States Code 1708.

Here in California, the theft of mail is considered a misdemeanor offense. This means that it can earn a person:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail.
  • A fine no larger than $1,000.
  • Some combination of the above fine and jail time.

At the federal level, the consequences of stealing someone else’s mail are much more severe. If a person is charged with federal mail theft, they could face:

  • Up to 5 years in federal prison.
  • Fines up to $250,000.
  • Some combination of the above fine and prison time.

This is all just for the offense of stealing the mail. A person can also potentially be charged with breaking and entering or even identity theft. Both of these charges would have their penalties added onto those of the mail theft.

Stealing Mail Is a Big Deal

All in all, stealing mail is not a crime that is taken lightly. It may seem like stealing mail is no big deal, but that is not the case. If a person is caught stealing mail from anywhere, they will face criminal charges. Here in California, that means at both the state and federal level. This means that those penalties can add up quick. Basically, a person should never take someone else’s mail or packages. It is stealing, and will land a person behind bars.

running over animal on road

Should You Stop After Hitting an Animal?

running over animal on road

As people drive, they are prone to encounter all sorts of things as they steer their vehicle down the road. Just about every driver has watched with horror as a creature decides to cross the road at the very last minute. As this happens, there is often a moment of panic in the driver, since there is not much they can do other than hope the critter made it across in time.

Most drivers hope that they never end up hitting an animal, but unfortunately, it is bound to happen at some point. The more time a person spends behind the wheel of a vehicle, the more likely they are to hit an animal.

Even then it is still pretty rare for a driver to hit an animal, at least rare enough that most people don’t know what to do if they do hit one. Some people just keep driving, doing their best not to look back at what they left in the road. Others are a little more caring, especially when there’s a possibility that they hit someone’s pet. Still, these people don’t know what they should do in this kind of situation. This article is meant to help change that.

What Type of Animal?

When it comes to animals, they can be classified as either domesticated or wild. What a driver is required to do after hitting an animal with their car is dependent on what type of animal in question. Was the animal something that could be considered a pet, such as a cat, dog, horse, or even cow? If so, the driver has to act differently than they would if they had hit a squirrel or skunk.

If the animal is was a wild animal, creatures such as skunks, raccoons, and deer, then the driver should pull over. This is especially true for larger animals such as deer and elk. Not only does the driver need to report the incident to the proper authorities, such as highway patrol or animal control, the collision could have done some serious damage to the vehicle or even the driver. This would make it unsafe to drive.

Not only does calling the authorities alert them to a dangerous road condition, it can lead to a police report being filed. While this may not sound like a good thing, it actually is. The police aren’t going to arrest an individual for hitting a wild animal. They will simply file a report, which will give the driver documented proof of the accident. This can then be used to file an insurance claim if need be.

Domesticated Animals: Household Pets

A domesticated animal is any animal that a person might normally own. This includes the obvious cat and dog, but also the less obvious creatures, such as most farm animals. Basically, if the animal might have an owner it is domesticated and the driver will need to stop and deal with the situation.

Hitting an animal, especially one that might be someone’s pet, can be a very disturbing experience. However, regardless of how the driver may feel, they need to immediately pull over and alert the proper authorities. This can be either the local police or sheriffs. This holds true no matter where the animal was hit, whether on a public road or a private parking lot.

Once the driver has stopped and alerted the proper authorities, they need to wait at the scene until help arrives. It is recommended that the driver keep a safe distance from the animal, since it will likely be scared and in pain. This can cause it to lash out at anyone who goes near it. However, if the driver feels that they need to move the animal in order to ensure its safety, they should do so with caution by wearing gloves or using a blanket to touch the animal and carefully move it to safety.

The driver should not panic or worry about being held liable for hurting the animal. Most cities have ordinances that require pet owners to keep their animals under control. This means the critter cannot be free roaming, especially in the street. If that were the case, the pet owner will likely be the one to get into trouble for the accident, not the driver. The only times the driver would be liable is if their own negligence led to the accident, or they assumed possession of the animal by moving it into their car. Once they have done that, the driver is now responsible for making sure the animal is taken care of. This is another reason why it is best to wait until the authorities arrive before doing anything.

Another important mention is the fact that in the state of California, failing to immediately stop and deal with the scene of an automobile accident can result in hit and run charges. In California, this is applicable anytime someone else’s property is damaged, including someone’s pet or livestock.

Do the Right Thing

Hitting an animal in the road is not something any driver wants to do, but is something that is bound to happen at some point. The best way to avoid this sort of thing is by being vigilant, but even then, that will not always work. Sometimes an animal will just decide to dart out in front of the vehicle.

If a crash with an animal is inevitable, it is important for a driver not to swerve. In doing so, the driver could swerve into another vehicle or send their vehicle careening off the road. The best thing to do is for the driver to remain in control of the vehicle as best as they can. This means no sudden jerks to the side or slamming of the brakes. Also try honking the horn or flashing headlights in an attempt to scare the animal into moving.

If the unfortunate hit occurs, the driver should do the right thing and take responsibility for the accident. That means pulling over and alerting the proper authorities.

door to door warrantless searches

Are Door-to-Door Warrantless Searches Legal?

door to door warrantless searches

In 2013, during the aftermath that followed the bombing of the Boston Marathon, many Boston residents responded to knocks on their door. On the other side were angry and armed members of Boston’s SWAT team. They were engaged in massive manhunt for the suspects and wanted to go through the homes and make sure that the individuals involved with the bombing weren’t hiding in any of the nearby homes or holding anyone hostage.

The situation raised in interesting question. In situations like this, are members of law enforcement really allowed to barge into a person’s home and start searching through it even when they don’t have a warrant? After all, the Fourth Amendment was designed to protect you from being bothered by the police while you’re in your home, which means that if they don’t have a warrant, they can’t come in.

Lawyers who specialize in constitutional law believe that the Fourth Amendment is worded in such as way that to gain access to a house, law enforcement officers must knock on the door, announce who they are, and show that they have a search warrant before starting to search the premises. However, many lawyers also agree that in emergency situations, such as in the hours following the Boston Marathon shooting, there are exigent circumstances that allows law enforcement to enter and search a home without a warrant. Lawyers feel that in order for this exception to the Fourth Amendment to be valid, the police have to prove that the general public’s safety is at risk.

Another legal exception is if cops believe that someone in the house is in immediate danger and by entering the house the cops can prevent the situation from escalating. This particular exception to the Fourth Amendment is frequently used as a plot tool during fictional police dramas.

Where things get trickier is when the police seize property during an unwarranted search. Most people assume that they can’t take anything from the house, or use it to build a case against the resident, but that’s not strictly true. The rule of thumb when an officer is in a house, even when they don’t have a warrant, is that they can take anything that’s illegal/contraband that is in plain view while they’re there. Not only can they take it, they can also use it to bring charges against you.

Do You Hate DUI Checkpoints? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t

Do You Hate DUI Checkpoints? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t

Do You Hate DUI Checkpoints? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t

Whenever a holiday that involves a lot of drinking rolls around, you can bet that there will be an increase in DUI checkpoints. With Saint Patrick’s Day right around the corner, you will definitely be seeing more of these checkpoints.

Most people do not like DUI checkpoints, and for obvious reasons. Checkpoints like these slow the flow of traffic and can cause gridlock. When a person has somewhere they want to be, getting stuck at a checkpoint can be understandably frustrating. However, while DUI checkpoints can be annoying, the police officers create them for a reason.

Roughly 800 people are injured by drunk driving accidents every single day, and that is without the excuse of a holiday to start drinking. In an effort to reduce the amount of accidents that could occur around a holiday, local police setup DUI checkpoints to catch people who are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Going through a checkpoint may be slow going, but it is incredibly easy if you have not been drinking. When you arrive at a checkpoint, an officer will wave you forward. The officer will then ask a few questions such as:

  • Where are you going?
  • Where are you coming from?
  • Have you been drinking?

After all of the questions have been answered, if everything checks out, the officer will send you on your way. However, if the officer suspects that you have been drinking, they will ask you to pull over to the side where another officer will perform a more thorough investigation. If it is determined that you have been drinking, then you will be arrested for DUI.

Driving while under the influence of any substance is never a good idea. Substances like alcohol affect a person’s abilities to make good decisions and their control over their motor skills.

Getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while drunk endangers the driver’s life, as well as the lives of every person that they pass on the road. DUI checkpoints help catch drunk drivers before they have a chance to hurt anyone, thereby making the roads safer for everyone around any day where people will be consuming more alcohol than usual.

upland bail bonds

How to Recover from Identity Theft


We all only have one identity, and for most people that is enough. However, some bad people out there like to steal other people’s identities to gain access to funds they normally wouldn’t have. This is called identity theft and can be very damaging to the person whose identity was stolen.

Most people learn about identity theft after some damage has already been done. They discover the theft when strange bills start coming in, or when they try to apply for a loan. That is when they find out their identity was stolen, and their credit ruined.

Thankfully, this is not the end for them. It is possible for a person to recover from identity theft. The first thing they need to do after discovering the theft, is contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and file a report of the identity theft. The FTC will ask questions about the theft, and inform the person on how they can recover from the theft.

After that has been done, the person will then need to contact the companies where they know fraud from the identity theft occurred, and alert them to the problem. The person should also issue a fraud alert and get a credit report, which will allow the person to check for any other incidents of fraud. Lastly, a person can file a report with their local police department.

Learning of identity theft can be startling and upsetting, but it is possible to recover. The most important part of recovering from identity theft is remaining calm. This will help the person make good, clear decisions while on the road to recovery.