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Statute of Limitations on Rape by a Clergy Member

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Archive: Aug 2019

Statute of Limitations on Rape by a Clergy Member

Sexual abuse survivors suffer not just from the initial assault, but immediate and long-lasting emotional and psychological trauma. The news has been filled with survivors of child sexual abuse coming forward, many of them feeling empowered by the #MeToo movement that has become an umbrella for multiple modes of justice.

However, one of the main questions people have is – can the perpetrator be held criminally liable?

There are laws that determine the time frame that a person can face criminal charges for a crime. These are called the statute of limitations, and they vary state-by-state.

Does California Have a Statute of Limitations on Rape?

California has eliminated the statute of limitations for prosecuting rape cases. States across the country have grappled with how to handle allegations of child sex abuse by members of the clergy, but that was not the final straw that broke for the law to change in California. Shortly after comedian Bill Cosby accusers came forward about sexual assaults in the past, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that ended the statute of limitations on rape cases.

The bill stated “Existing law generally requires that the prosecution of a felony sex offense be commenced within 10 years after the commission of the offense.” As the LA Times reported that exceptions can be made if “new DNA evidence emerges later.”

Previous California Law

Under the old law, prosecution of felony sex offenses against minors had to begin before the survivors 40th birthday. That has now changed, and the text of the bills reads that “the prosecution of rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, oral copulation, and sexual penetration, that are committed under certain circumstances, as specified, to be commenced at any time.”

The new law will apply only to crimes committed after Jan. 1, 2017. Crimes that were committed before that date are still subject to the old laws in California.

What is the Punishment for Rape of a Minor in California?

The punishment for rape of a minor in California varies based on the age of the survivor:

  • If the child is under the age of 14, the rape is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for 9, 11, or 13 years.
  • If the child is over 14 years of age, the rape is punishable by imprisonment in state prison or 7, 9, or 11 years.

Punishment for other sex crimes against minors varies, again depending on the severity of the charge and the age of the survivor.

The Statutes of Limitations Matter

Statistics show that around one out of every 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. This includes:

  • One out of every seven girls
  • One out of every twenty-five boys

When we look at the statistics, we know that most of the survivors of sex abuse knew their perpetrator. Only around 20% of rapes are committed by a stranger. When we look at sex abuse of a minor, that drops to about 10%. All too often, we find that children are abused by the people they trust the most. If you or a loved one are a survivor of sexual abuse and would like to explore your legal options in the civil system, contact a personal injury lawyer to learn more.

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Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children

The sexual abuse of children is a problem far larger in scope than many people realize. The public is aware of the major news stories but never think it could happen to them and their families. However, it could happen.

Statistics show us that around 10% of children under the age of 18 will be sexually abused. This includes about one out of every seven girls and one out of every 25 boys. We also know that around 90% of sexually abused children know their abusers. The abusers can be friends, neighbors, family members, teachers, and mentors. More and more, we are discovering that the abusers are members of the clergy.

Only 10% of sexually abused children are abused by a stranger.

As parents and guardians, it is important to be able to recognize signs of sexual abuse in children. However, that is not as easy as it seems, as there are physical and behavioral signs that you need to look out for.There are various physical signs and behavioral signs you need to be aware of. Some signs are easier to see than others, but you should always act on any suspicious or odd behavior.

Physical Signs

Physical warning signs can include things like:

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STDs, STIs)
  • Signs of trauma to the genital area (bruising, unexplained bleeding, blood on the sheets, etc.)

Behavioral Signs

Behavioral warning signs can include:

  • Resuming old behaviors they had grown out of, such as thumb sucking or bedwetting
  • Sexual behavior that is inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Not wanting to be left alone with certain people (adults or other children)
  • Avoiding removing clothes to bathe or change
  • Suddenly closing and locking their bedroom door

Emotional Signs

Emotional warning signs can be harder to spot but can be just as telling that something is wrong. These signs can include:

  • Talking about sexual topics or knowledge of sexual topics
  • Nightmares or refusing to sleep alone at night
  • Newfound worrying or fear

Technological Signs

Technological warning signs are just as vital to be aware of. As our technology changes, predators are finding new ways to entice and abuse our children. You should always be on the lookout for:

  • Your child password protecting their phone to keep you out
  • Cleared browser history
  • Sexual photographs on their electronic devices
  • Chat apps that are outside of parental controls

When discussing electronics, you need to know that this extends beyond their phone. Children can be abused or solicited through their gaming systems, tablets, computers, and more.

What to do if you Suspect Your Child has Been Sexually Abused

If you suspect a child is being abused, whether it is your child, a family member’s child, or any other child, you need to step in. Take to someone you trust about your concerns and figure out if you need to report what you suspect has happened to the child. If you are sure that abuse has taken place, contact law enforcement immediately to ensure that the abuse of the child no longer takes place.

If your child was abused by a member of the clergy, or you suspect abuse, you may need to secure a priest abuse attorney to help with your case. These situations can become complicated and are emotionally difficult, but your personal injury attorney will be able to guide you through the entire process.

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California Helmet Laws

You may understand the importance of wearing a helmet, but not the exact laws in California regarding them. Jumping on an electric scooter or bicycle, for example, may involve different helmet laws than a motorcycle. Knowing when the law requires the use of helmets for riders and passengers can help keep you out of legal trouble. Safety organizations recommend always wearing a helmet, even if the law does not require doing so, to protect from serious head injuries.

Why Wear a Helmet?

Helmets are extremely important safety devices on motorcycles, bicycles, mopeds, electric scooters and motorized bicycles. Wearing a helmet can decrease the risk of serious head injuries by almost 70% and fatal injuries by 37%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Helmets can prevent deaths in motorcycle and bicycle collisions in California. In 2016, if every motorcyclist in the U.S. had worn a helmet, an estimated 1,860 people would not have lost their lives. Even in states where laws do not require riders to wear helmets, doing so could save lives.

Motorcycle and Bicycle Helmet Laws

According to California Vehicle Code 21212, anyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or roller skates. This rule also applies to underage passengers. The helmet must meet the federal safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission or American Society for Testing and Materials. It should fit the wearer snugly.

Regardless of age, every rider and passenger on a motorcycle must wear a helmet in the state of California. Riding a motorcycle or bicycle without following the state’s helmet laws could result in a traffic citation. This infraction typically comes with a fine of $25 for a first offense. The fine could increase with subsequent offenses. It does not matter if you come from another state; once you cross into California, you must obey the state’s motorcycle and bicycle helmet laws. Getting into a bicycle or motorcycle crash without a helmet could lead to life-threatening head or brain injuries.

What About Motorized Bicycles?

A motorized bicycle is a unique vehicle class. It is not a typical bicycle, but it uses similar laws. If you operate an electric or motorized bicycle, the need to wear a helmet depends on the class of the vehicle. You will only need to wear a helmet on a Class 1 or Class 2 electric/motorized bicycle if you are under the age of 18. If you operate a Class 3 bicycle (one that can achieve speeds of 28 miles per hour), however, you must use a helmet regardless of your age.

Do You Need To Wear a Helmet on an E-Scooter?

On a regular scooter, only riders under 18 must wear helmets. For a time, California law required the use of helmets for riders of all ages on electric scooters. These laws, however, recently changed. Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that went into effect on January 1st, 2019. This bill removed the helmet requirement for e-scooter users 18 and older. Now, adults can rent electric scooters and ride them around the state without wearing helmets or worrying about tickets. Failure to wear a helmet on a Bird, Lime, Spin or another e-scooter will not result in a traffic infraction unless the rider is under the age of 18. Most rentable e-scooter companies do not allow riders under the age of 18, anyway.

Moped Helmet Laws

A moped is separate from a motorcycle or scooter in California. It is a two- or three-wheeled vehicle that may or may not have pedals. Mopeds do not exceed 30 miles per hour. An operator needs a driver or motorcycle license to use a moped in California. Riders must also register their mopeds and attach license plates. Drivers and their passengers – regardless of age – must wear helmets on mopeds when riding on public roads. No matter what the laws say in your state, wearing a helmet could help you prevent a serious personal injury. If you sustained a personal injury due to the negligence of another, our Orange County injury lawyers can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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Sexual Assault Myths

We have a crisis when it comes to sexual assault in the United States. Over the last few years, a spotlight has been on survivors coming forward in a range of circumstances. The #MeToo movement has finally allowed us to glimpse the extent of the problems concerning:

However, we are also aware of rape culture, which is a “complex set of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women.”

Myths that Surround Sexual Assault

1. Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers

This is not true. Statistics show that eight out of every ten rapes are committed by someone the survivor knows. This number increases to nine out of every ten when discussing cases of child sexual abuse. Abusers can be an acquaintance, current or former intimate partner, family member, etc.

2. Children are not often the victims of assault

Statistics show us that one out of every ten children will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18. Over 90% of the victims of child sexual abuse know the perpetrator. This could be a teacher, coach, mentor, member of the clergy, or even a family member.

3. Consent cannot be taken back

Many people believe that once consent is given that it cannot be taken back. That is not true. Consent can be revoked in any sexual situation at any time for any reason. No means no – no matter when it is said. Consent cannot be obtained from someone who is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs.

4. Men cannot control their behavior once sexually aroused

Rape cannot be condoned because a man was aroused and says they could not control their behavior. Men can control their behavior when they are aroused.

5. Flirting and wearing revealing clothing provokes assault

If someone is flirting or wearing revealing clothing, that is not an invitation to sexual activity. No victims of sexual assault should be accused of provoking the assault. While certain behaviors may arouse a person, sexual activity should never be commenced without gaining consent first.

6. Men cannot be the victims of sexual assault

While the vast majority of reported sexual assaults do happen to women, men can certainly be the victims as well. In fact, the number of sexual assaults against men is vastly underreported. Many men do not come forward about assaults for a variety of reasons:

  • They feel shame about what happened
  • They do not want to feel like “less of a man”
  • They think they won’t be believed

Women offenders are more likely to abuse children than they are adults. Women are the abusers in an estimated 14% of all cases among boys and 6% of all cases among girls.

Never Blame the Survivors of Sexual Assault

All too often, we hear people blaming the survivors of sexual assault. People may say things like:

  • “Well, they shouldn’t have dressed like that.”
  • “Why did they dress so provocatively?”
  • “They knew better than to walk alone.”
  • “That’s what happens in college.”

The survivors of sexual assault are never to blame for what happened to them. This is especially true for child victims of clergy sexual abuse or any other kind of sexual abuse.

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What Does Consent Mean?

When discussing sexual assault and abuse, you will hear the word “consent” come up over and over again. Defining consent is not easy, and the laws vary state-by-state. The general definition of consent when it comes to sexual activity is “an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity.”

Consent can be given both verbally and non-verbally, but the main thing to remember is that two people should have clear communication about the activities that are taking place.

Types of Consent

It is fine to say that two people must agree to sexual activity for it to be legal. However, in practice, consent is not as straightforward as asking for permission to do something.

Consent should be asked for and given in all cases of sexual activity. This include:

  • Asking a person if what you are doing is okay or if they wish to engage in sexual activity
  • Using physical cues to let the other person know you are okay with continuing activity

Consent Can be Taken Away

Either party to sexual activity can take away consent if they begin to feel uncomfortable. Consent can be revoked anytime after sexual activity has started and for any reason. If a person says no, that means no.

Intimate Partner Consent

Sexual abuse by intimate partners is unfortunately common. Just because two people are in a relationship, does not mean that consent is no longer needed. Consent is always needed before intimate partners engage in sexual activity, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Members of the LGBTQ community face obstacles when it comes to defining intimate partner abuse, largely due to the fact the domestic violence and sexual assault laws were designed around opposite-sex partnerships. However, intimate partner consent covers all intimate relationships.

What Consent Does Not Look Like

Consent should not be confusing. If a person says no, the other person must acknowledge their response. If they don’t, they are committing rape by continuing. Some other important points to make include:

  • Wearing revealing clothing does not give consent
  • Flirting or kissing is not an invitation for more sexual activity
  • Anyone incapacitated by alcohol or drugs cannot give consent
  • Pressuring or intimidating someone into sex is illegal

Just because you have had a sexual relationship with someone before does not mean you have permission to do so again. It does not matter how many times you have engaged in sexual activity with someone – you always need consent for sexual activity.

Consent Between an Adult and a Child

A minor child is not able to give their consent to sexual activity. Laws vary state-by-state as to the legal age of consent. In some cases, minors can engage in sexual activity with younger adults if the minor has reached the age of consent and the adult is only one or two years older. However, in almost all cases, a minor cannot consent to sexual activity.

Child sex abuse survivors have been coming forward about abuses they experienced at the hands of trusted adults. In many cases, members of the clergy were the perpetrators. If you or a loved one is a survivor of sexual abuse by a religious leader, contact us. Our clergy abuse lawyers in Southern California can help you secure compensation to continue your healing process.

Under no circumstances can a child give consent to sexual activity with a member of the clergy. Perpetrators of such crimes should be held accountable for their actions, either in criminal courts, civil courts, or both.

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How Can I Lessen the Impact of Child Sexual Abuse?

If you have discovered that your child has been sexually abused, you will want to know what you can do to lessen the impact of what has happened to them. If you are an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, you also may want to take steps to lessen the symptoms you are experiencing.

All too often, children are abused by the people they know. In fact, that is the case in more than 90% of all instances of child sexual abuse. Many times, the abuser is a member of the clergy or religious group.

Young Survivors

If the abuse victims is still young, then you as the parent or guardian have a valuable role to play. First, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Immediately acknowledge what your child has told you and believe what they are saying. It is rare for a child to make false allegations of sexual abuse.
  • Let them know that they did nothing wrong. A child is never to blame for sexual abuse that occurs to them, regardless of their age.
  • Stay calm at all times. Yes, this is stressful and upsetting for you as a parent, but your child needs you to be calm. This will ensure they know they did nothing wrong and encourage them to continue talking to you about the abuse.
  • Children need to feel loved, valued, and protected at all times.
  • Be with them throughout the reporting process. Be patient at all times. Your child may experience night trauma. They may cry and scream. Do not get angry. Just be there to reassure them that you are not going anywhere.
  • Recognize that healing can take years, and there will be advances and setbacks.

After you make a report to authorities, you should find a qualified child counselor or psychologist who specializes in treating survivors of child sexual abuse. Because so many survivors of childhood sexual abuse experience emotional and psychological problems into adulthood, the sooner they receive counseling, the better.

Your child should have an environment where they can discuss and explore what happened to them on their own terms. Early treatment will lead to better adulthood outcomes.

Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

If you are a childhood sexual abuse survivor and are now an adult, you also need to know where to turn for help. Every case is different, and no two sexual abuse survivors go through the same range of symptoms at the same time in their lives. Some childhood sexual abuse victims experience emotional and psychological trauma from the moment the abuse occurs throughout their entire lives. Others may not experience any symptoms until much later in life.

Some of the most common symptoms of abuse that occur in adulthood include:

  • Fear and anxiety towards anyone who bears characteristics to the abuser
  • Difficulty in adult/intimate relationships
  • Difficulty in sexual functions
  • Eating and body disorders
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Feelings of powerlessness

Many victims of childhood sexual abuse do not even realize they have been abused until much later in life. This could be because they were so young when the abuse happened that they forgot. It could also be because their brain pushed the traumatic experience to the deepest recesses of their minds. Regardless of when a person discovers they have been abused, or whether they never forgot the abuse, adult survivors should seek counseling to work through the experience.

Adult child sexual abuse survivors should also consider securing an injury attorney about their options for seeking justice. While nothing can erase what happened, holding the abuser accountable could bring some closure to the situation.

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Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

We have a crisis in the United States when it comes to child sexual abuse. Nearly one out of every ten children will be sexually abused before they reach their 18th birthday. We also know that as many as 93% of child sexual abuse survivors knew the person who abused them. Their abusers often include teachers, mentors, and members of the clergy. Around 30% of abuse survivors are abused by members of their own families.

survivors of child sexual abuse suffer from both immediate and long-lasting consequences. Today, we want to briefly discuss how child abuse survivors are affected and why it is so important for those responsible for the abuse to be held accountable for their actions.

Short Term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse

Short term effects of child sexual abuse can last up to two years. Survivors of child sexual abuse may exhibit a range of symptoms, including:

  • Regressive behaviors (thumb-sucking and bedwetting they had outgrown)
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Eating disorders
  • Behavioral and/or performance problems in school
  • Unwillingness to participate in social activities
  • Lose self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness
  • Distorted views about sex

Children who have experienced rape or attempted rape in their adolescent years are 13.7 times more likely to be re-victimized by approximately 1,000%.

Longer-Term Effects

Longer-term effects can follow a childhood sexual abuse survivor for their entire life.

Depression has been found to be the most common symptom amongst childhood sexual abuse survivors. They often think negatively about themselves, developing feelings of worthlessness. This can lead to them avoiding social situations altogether. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse often isolate themselves later in life.

Child sexual abuse survivors tend to display more self-destructive behaviors and have higher rates of suicide than those who have not been abused.

Other long-term symptoms displayed in childhood sexual abuse victims include:

  • Fear and anxiety towards anyone or any situation that shares characteristics to the abuser or the abuse circumstances
  • Difficulty in adult/intimate relationships
  • Difficulty in sexual functions
  • Eating and body disorders
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Feelings of powerlessness

These signs and symptoms will vary from person to person and can occur at any age.

Seeking Help from Qualified Professionals

It is important to note that every victim of childhood sexual abuse experiences symptoms differently. In some cases, the symptoms develop as soon as the abuse occurs and continues into adulthood. On other cases, the symptoms of childhood sexual abuse do not appear until later in life.

Many abuse survivors dissociate from the abuse as a coping mechanism. Sometimes, they may even forget that the abuse took place, particularly if they were very young when the abuse occurred. However, these symptoms can appear at any time.

It is important that survivors of childhood sexual abuse seek assistance in the form of counseling to work through what has happened to them. Survivors can use counseling and therapy as a safe way to explore what happened to them and work to diminish the symptoms they are experiencing.

Reporting abuse

If you are a parent or guardian and you discover that your child had been abused, seek assistance from law enforcement. If you are an adult who was abused as a minor, you may need to speak with a person injury attorney about your options. While an arrest or a lawsuit will not erase the trauma you experienced, it can help bring some closure to the situation. Contact DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo today to speak with qualified lawyer during a free consultation.

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Types of Sexual Assault

We have been overwhelmed the last few years as new allegations of sexual abuse come to light. It seems we have reached a watershed moment where victims of child sexual abuse are being empowered to come forward. We have seen this with USA Gymnastics athletes, the Boy Scouts of America, with sexual abuse by members of the clergy, and more.

However, when we see the news, we hear phrases like “victim says they were sexually abused” or “victim was sexually assaulted.”

Defining sexual assault is not easy because that is an umbrella term for all of the illegal abuses that take place against minors. Today, we want to define the different types of sexual assault that can happen to adults and minors alike.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the consent of the victim and can include:

  • Attempted rape
  • Unwanted sexual touching or fondling
  • Forcing a victim to perform sex acts (oral copulation or penetration)
  • Penetrating the victim’s body (rape)

Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse refers to any sexual activity with a minor. A child cannot consent to any sexual activity. As many as 93% of victims of child sexual abuse know the perpetrator. Child sexual abuse includes both physical and non-physical activity such as:

  • Exposing oneself to a minor
  • Fondling
  • Intercourse with a minor (vaginal, oral, anal)
  • Masturbation in the presence of a minor
  • Lewd phone calls and text messages
  • Producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or videos of children
  • Sex trafficking

Intimate Partner Sexual Violence

Intimate partner sexual violence refers to those who are abused by those a person is in an intimate relationship with (regardless of gender identities or sexual orientation).

Incest

Incest refers to sexual contact between family members. This is important to remember because approximately 34% of all perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members of the child.

Drug-facilitated Sexual Assault

Drug-facilitated sexual assault occurs when alcohol and/or drugs are used to make a person more vulnerable to sexual assault. Alcohol and drugs compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity.

Sexual Assault of Men and Boys

Sexual assault of men and boys is vastly underreported. Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted experience the same traumatic effects as anyone who is sexually abused but they can feel they should be strong enough to handle it. These cases are particularly difficult because the assault of men and boys can take place even if they experienced arousal. A physiological response does not negate the fact that assault occurred.

What are the Numbers?

We know that around 10% of all children under the age of 18 will be sexually abused. Chances are, you know someone who was sexually abused as a child or you know a child who has been abused. The worst part of this is that a child is sexually abused by someone they know in more than 90% of all sexual abuse cases.

As you read above, sexual assault takes many forms. However, each type of child sexual assault will follow that child for the rest of their lives. In many instances, the abuse was committed by a member of the clergy, a faith leader the child should have been able to trust. If you suspect your child has been abused by anyone, please seek assistance from law enforcement. If you were abused as a child and are now an adult, contact a personal injury attorney who can guide you through the next steps.

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What do I do if My Child has been Sexually Abused?

The thought of your child being harmed is terrifying. While we hope this never happens to your child, statistics tell us that 10% of all children under the age of 18 will be the victims of child abuse. Understanding what to do if this happens to your child is important.

Responding to Sexual Abuse Allegations

If your child comes to you and says they have been sexually abused, or that something odd has happened, listen to them. The most important thing you can do for your child is to believe what they are telling you. There has been little evidence to show that children make false allegations in these cases.

Tell your child that you believe what they are saying.

When you do find out about alleged abuse, you need to stay calm. Even though you feel upset and angry, your calmness will reassure your child that they have not done anything wrong and it will encourage them to continue talking about what happened.

Reassure your child that the abuse is not their fault. In many cases, children are hesitant to report sexual abuse because they think what happened to them is their fault. Tell them that in no way is what happened their fault. They may not believe you right away, but that is okay. You can continue to reassure them of this.

When you are talking to your child, do not interrogate them about the event. Let them tell you what happened as much as they feel comfortable doing so, but keep in mind that retelling the story numerous times can be traumatic for them.

Report the abuse to law enforcement and proper authorities. In as many as 93% of child sexual abuse cases, the survivor knows the person who abused them. If it was a teacher, let the school leaders know what happened. If the abuser is a member of the clergy or religious group, report to the supervising institutions.

What Information Needs to be Reported?

When you are making your report, you should include as much of the following information that you can:

  • Name, age, and address of the suspected perpetrator
  • The nature and extent of the injuries
  • Any past incidences or evidence of abuse

As the parent, your continued support for your child is important. A qualified child psychologist will likely need to speak to your child about what happened as the police build their case.

You may feel blame, fear, disbelief, guilt, and anger about what has happened to your child. You need to understand that this is not your fault, either.

Explore Counseling for Your Child

Survivors of child sexual abuse often have both short- and long-term symptoms. These symptoms can include behavioral and emotional as well as physical. The quicker that a child can receive counseling for what has happened to them, the better. Adult survivors of child sexual abuse can experience significant difficulties in their lives, especially when it comes to their relationships with other adults. If a survivor receives counseling while they are still young, it will help to work through what has happened to them in a controlled and positive way.

As the parent, you should also consider receiving counseling to deal with the emotions you are experiencing.

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California Moped Laws

California is ideal for vehicles such as mopeds, with blue skies and warm weather year-round in some parts of the state. If a moped is your vehicle of choice, however, you must obey specific traffic laws to avoid a ticket or other legal troubles. Causing a traffic accident while breaking one of California’s moped laws could lead to financial responsibility for victims’ damages. You could also receive a criminal conviction for misconduct such as riding a moped while intoxicated. Protect yourself from liability, prevent accidents and avoid tickets by obeying all state moped regulations in 2019.

Definition of Moped

A moped is not a motorcycle, motor scooter or electric bicycle. It is a distinct vehicle class under California legislation. California classifies a moped as a vehicle that is fully electric or uses a motor with two to three wheels. A moped may have pedals and cannot exceed 30 miles per hour. The state has two types of mopeds, each with separate rules and regulations. The first type of moped can exceed 20 miles per hour, but not 30. If the moped cannot drive faster than 20 miles per hour, it is the second type.

Do You Need a License for a Moped in California?

Riders need driver’s licenses to operate any type of moped in California. To obtain an operator’s license, a moped rider must pass a written and performance test. If the rider wishes to operate the first class of moped, which can exceed 20 miles per hour, he or she must obtain a special type of license. It is the same license as a motorcyclist: an M1 or M2 operator’s license.

This rule changed from a requirement to have a Class C license to operate a moped or motorized scooter that applied to riders in 2005 and earlier. Obtaining an M1 or M2 license is similar to a standard driver’s license. It requires a written and driving test. Riders can skip the driving test, however, if they pass a motorcycle basic rider course instead.

Registering Your Moped in California

Mopeds in California require registrations. You will need to register your moped as you would a standard passenger vehicle. Mopeds differ from scooters and bicycles in this way. You can register your moped at your local California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You can complete your moped registration the same time you receive your license. The DMV will give you a license plate to display on your moped. You will also receive a moped registration or identification card as proof of vehicle ownership. Keep your registration card on you or your vehicle when you ride.

Moped Helmet Rules

When operating a moped on public roads, California’s universal helmet law applies. You must wear a safety-approved helmet on a moped, motorcycle or motorized bicycle. An approved helmet will have a seal from the American Society for Testing and Materials or the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The helmet must fit correctly and snugly on your head. If you carry any passengers on your moped, they must wear helmets as well. Helmets are extremely important in preventing head and brain injuries in moped accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states wearing a helmet reduces the risk of a head injury by almost 70%.

Where Can You Ride a Moped?

As long as you have registered your moped and carry adequate vehicle insurance, you can ride it on roads in California. You cannot take a moped on sidewalks. This could lead to a traffic infraction. You also cannot drive a moped on a highway. You may only operate a moped on public and private roads. A vehicle must have a motor and at least five braking horsepower to take it on the highway. Obeying all of California’s moped rules could help you stay on the right side of the law. If you or a loved one was injured due to another’s negligence while riding a moped, contact us. Our personal injury lawyers in Orange County can help you explore your legal options during a free consultation.

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