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What is a Sex Offender?

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Archive: Sep 2019

What is a Sex Offender?

You may have heard the term “sex offender” but not quite understood what it means. Today, we want to discuss the sex offender registry in the United States.

It is important to point out that most sexual assaults and rapes are not committed by strangers. In eight out of ten cases, rape is perpetrated by a person known to the victim. Children are sexually assaulted by someone they know in 90% of sexual assaults. Perpetrators of rape and sexual assault can include family friends, teachers, mentors, members of the clergy, and even members of a victim’s family.

What is the Sex Offender Registry?

The sex offender registry is a list of all registered sex offenders in each state. There is a national sex offender database, but each state and local jurisdiction is responsible for ensuring those responsible for registering do so. The National Sex Offender Public Website contains a list of all sex offenders that can be browsed by the public.

The information available on this list varies depending on the offender’s level and each state’s requirements. Typically, it makes available the following offender information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Physical appearance
  • Criminal history

Registries can also include where the offender works and what vehicle they drive.

Who has to Register?

Any person convicted of a sex offense is generally required to register as a sex offender when they are convicted and released from jail/prison. All 50 states have varying requirements for which crimes require offenders to register. Some states require registry for life, while others allow offenders to be removed after a certain number of years for more minor offenses.

Can a Sex Offender Fail to Report?

Depending on the state and the level of offense, sex offenders generally have to report to their local sheriff’s office every 3, 6, or 12 months to update their photo and verify their information. However, any time an offender moves, there are requirements to report changes within 3 to 10 days. They are also often required to report when they buy a vehicle and even when they travel for short periods of time. Failing to report will result in a warrant being issued for the offender’s arrest, and they could face prison time.

How Does this Apply to Me?

If you have children, you should always encourage them not to talk or interact with strangers. You can check the sex offender registry and see if there are any living in your area. You can ask your children to stay away from an offender’s residence. However, we want you to know that 90% of sexual assaults of children are perpetrated by someone the child knows – a family friend, a member of the clergy, a coach, a teacher, or even a member of the family.

While it is important to know where registered sex offenders live in your area, it is also important to know that they could also face danger from people not registered at all. Open a dialogue with your children about what inappropriate behavior looks like. Make sure children know they can talk to you if anything uncomfortable happens to them. Always be on the lookout for signs of abuse.

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California Pool Laws

No one thinks a swimming pool accident could happen to him or her…until it does. A kid sneaking into your pool, someone slipping on your pool deck or a broken drain catching a swimmer’s hair could all lead to tragedy. Drowning is the fifth cause of unintentional injury death in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in five drowning deaths involves a child 14 or younger. California recently passed a new law in the hopes of reducing the number of swimming pool accidents, injuries and deaths in the state.

The California Pool Safety Act

In 1997, California lawmakers added the Swimming Pool Safety Act to the state’s Health and Safety Code. This act lists important safety efforts pool owners in the state must obey. The main rule is that pool owners must implement at least one of seven drowning prevention safety features. Drowning prevention features could mean the difference between life and death at a residential swimming pool.

  1. An enclosure that separates the pool from the home
  2. Removable mesh fencing with a self-closing, self-latching gate
  3. An approved pool cover
  4. Exit alarms on the doors that give access to the pool
  5. Self-closing-self latching devices on pool-access doors
  6. Pool or spa motion sensor alarms in the water
  7. Other features that offer equal or greater protection than those listed above

Adding proper drowning prevention features under California’s Pool Safety Act could keep children away from dangerous swimming pools and home spas.

Most swimming pool fatalities involving young children occur in residential pools rather than public bodies of water. Many parents and guardians assume their children know not to go into the pool unsupervised, or else they know how to swim. Making these assumptions could be fatal for children.

Never leave kids unsupervised in a home swimming pool. If you or a loved one was injured due to negligence or non-compliance at a pool, contact us. During a free consultation with our personal injury attorneys, you can explore your legal options.

Update to the Law as of 2018

Twenty years after the Swimming Pool Safety Act first went into effect, lawmakers added to the measure. As of January 1st, 2018, pool owners in California must install two drowning prevention features, not just one. Adding an extra prevention feature could potentially lower the state’s high number of drowning incidents. In 2017, 51 children five and younger died in drowning incidents throughout California. Twenty-three of these deaths occurred in swimming pools.

A pool owner in California must have a fence and a pool alarm, a pool cover and gate, removable mesh fencing and a door alarm or any combination of two safety features to prevent drowning. Law enforcement did not give a grace period to comply with the new law. As of the law’s effective date, all pool owners in the state must have at least two drowning prevention measures, or else they could face legal repercussions for noncompliance.

The two safety measures must meet the state’s requirements. For example, a pool enclosure must have a self-closing and self-latching gate that opens away from the swimming pool. The minimum height for a valid enclosure is 60 inches. The gate, fence or barrier cannot have any gaps greater than four inches, and cannot have any physical traits that could make the enclosure easy to climb for a child under age five. All seven California pool safety features have similar requirements for owners to follow.

Special Daycare Pool Laws

Daycares and other infant care centers have specific pool laws they must obey in California. The law states there must be at least one staff member for every four infants during activities involving bodies of water. These can include swimming pools, ponds, basins, bathtubs and other sources of water children can climb into unassisted. Near other bodies of water, the mandatory ratio changes to one staff member per every two infants. A daycare center that is negligent in providing adequate supervision to infants around bodies of water could be liable for water-related accidents, including unintentional drowning.

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What is a Rape Kit?

If you have been sexually assaulted, one of the main priorities needs to be finding out who did it, ensuring there is evidence to convict them, and getting the perpetrator sentenced. This is not always easy, but there are tools that can be used to help ensure that justice is served.

A sexual assault forensic exam, commonly called a “rape kit,” is one of the tools available that can help preserve DNA evidence after a sexual assault. Today, we want to discuss what these kits are, how they are used, and why you may need to consider having one completed.

What Goes in a Rape Kit?

The rape kit itself contains the tools that qualified test administrators can give to victims of sexual assault. The kit includes:

  • Bags and paper sheets for collecting evidence
  • Documentation forms
  • Envelopes
  • Instructions
  • Comb
  • Tubes for blood and urine samples
  • Dental floss
  • Wooden sticks for fingernail scrapings
  • Swabs to collect evidence
  • Sterile water and saline

Preparing to Have a Rape Kit Completed

The length of the exam varies but can take a few hours. It is recommended that victims of sexual assault avoid activities that could damage the evidence. This includes things like:

  • Bathing or showering
  • Using the restroom
  • Combing their hair
  • Changing clothes
  • Cleaning up the area

In most cases, rape kits need to be conducted within 72 hours of the assault in order for the DNA evidence to have maximum impact on a case. However, a forensic exam can still yield useful evidence beyond that time frame.

Not every hospital or doctor’s office has someone on staff specifically trained to administer these sexual assault forensic exams. You can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 and they will guide you to a facility with a sexual assault nurse examiner or a sexual assault forensic examiner in your area.

What Happens During a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam?

While these exams are important to ensure justice is served, you have the right to stop, pause, or skip any of the steps we are going to mention below:

  • Immediate medical needs are taken care of first. Any emergency medical care needs will be dealt with first.
  • Questions about your medical history. It is important that healthcare providers know your current medical conditions/medications, pre-existing conditions, and other pertinent health issues. This will include questions about recent consensual sexual activity.
  • Head-to-toe examination. This is the part of the exam where the qualified specialist will conduct a full examination of your body to collect evidence of the sexual assault. These trained professionals will examine all relevant areas of your body as they collect blood, urine, and swabs from the surface of your body. Any physical evidence, such as clothing fibers or hairs, will be collected and put into envelopes to be used as evidence.
  • Possible mandatory reporting requirements. In some jurisdictions, the person providing the examination may be required to report the incident if the victim is a minor. You can check the RAINN database to see if your state requires reporting.
  • Follow up care with a doctor. You will be asked to follow up with your doctor after a rape. This could be to check for STIs as well as other forms of care related to what happened to you.

What Happens After the Exam?

The evidence from a rape kit is stored for varying lengths of time and depends on what jurisdiction you are in. Please know that there are often statutes of limitation on how long a victim has to bring charges against a perpetrator.

In many cases, such as clergy sexual abuse, the victim knows the perpetrator and is nervous about coming forward. You should speak with law enforcement and an injury attorney to ensure justice is served.

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What are Date Rape Drugs?

You may have heard of “date rape drugs” before but not quite understood what they are. Date rape drugs are any drug that is used to make sexual assault and rape easier for the perpetrator to commit.

Drugs and alcohol can make victims less able to fight back and confuse them about what is happening. In many cases, date rape drugs render the victims of sexual assault unconscious. Nearly 11 million women in the US have been raped while drugged, drunk, or high.

We need to point out that just because these drugs care called “date” rape drugs does not mean they happen only to people on dates. These drugs can be used by intimate partners, acquaintances, members of the clergy, or someone you just met.

What are the Most Common Date Rape Drugs?

There is no single date rape drug. Any type of drug that can be used to overpower a victim or make them not remember the assault can be considered a date rape drug, including:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Prescription or over-the-counter drugs such as:
    • Antidepressants
    • Tranquilizers
    • Sleeping aids

There are also more powerful drugs used for these purposes, such as:

  • Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol)
  • Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB)
  • Gamma-butyrolactone (GBL)
  • Ketamine

This set of drugs is commonly referred to as “club drugs” because they are often used at bars, clubs, parties, etc. In most cases, these drugs are used in conjunction with alcohol, making their effects even more pronounced.

How are Date Rape Drugs Used?

There are various ways people use date rape drug. In many cases, they are slipped into a person’s drink without them knowing. In other cases, a person is given a drink that is stronger than they realize or a drug that is not the one they think they are taking.

What Happens to the Body After Ingesting Date Rape Drugs?

Different drugs affect people in different ways, and not everyone’s body reacts to them in the same way. The effects of these drugs can be powerful and happen quickly. How long the effects last depends on the dosage and whether or not it was mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Date rape drugs and alcohol can make a person:

  • Dizzy
  • Slur their speech
  • Have trouble moving
  • Have muscle control problems
  • Feel nauseous or vomit
  • Have a very fast or slow heartbeat
  • Feel sleepy
  • Have trouble breathing
  • Unconscious

People who have been given date rape drugs often have trouble thinking and making decisions. In many cases, they cannot recall what happened while they were on the drug.

What Should I do if I Think I’ve been Drugged and Raped?

If you suspect that you were given drugs and raped, you need to get medical care as soon as possible. Call 911 or have someone you trust to take you to the hospital or doctor. Do not try to bathe, douche, urinate, wash your hands, change clothes, brush your hair or teeth, eat, or drink before you go to the doctor. You want to preserve any evidence of a sexual assault that can be collected through a rape kit.

Ask the hospital or doctor to test you specifically for date rape drugs. Some date rape drugs leave the body very quickly, so the sooner you can get tested, the better. You can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline confidentially at 1-800-656-4673. If you are curious to explore your legal options under civil law and the possibility of recovering damages, contact us. Our personal injury lawyers in Orange County offer free consultations.

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How to Talk to Your Kids About Sexual Assault

If you have children, you do everything you can to keep them safe. This includes having discussions with them about not talking to strangers. However, we know that most cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by someone the child knows.

  • Over 90% of all perpetrators of child sexual abuse are known by their abusers.
  • This can include coaches, teachers, member of the church or clergy, family members, or other close acquaintance.

Knowing this information, it is important to have a discussion with your child about sexual abuse. This can be a difficult topic to discuss, and you may not know where to start. Today, we want to discuss some of the steps you can take to protect your kids from child abuse.

Start Conversations with your Children when They are Young

Kids can learn the language they need to discuss their bodies and about boundaries when they are young. You can help them understand what is appropriate and what is not appropriate.

Teach Children About Their Body

Teach them about their body and make sure they know what everything is called. Having a label for everything and opening the discussion makes a child more comfortable and less confused about “wrong” behavior. Make sure they know that some parts of the body are private and should not be looked at or touched by other people.

It’s Okay to Say No

Let them know that it’s okay to say no. Children should learn to say “no” to anything that makes them uncomfortable.

Discuss Secrets

Perpetrators of sexual abuse will often tell kids that what happened is a secret. Let your child know they can always talk to you, especially if someone else tells them to keep a secret. Make sure they know they won’t be in trouble. Fear of getting in trouble or getting their abuser in trouble often keeps children from discussing abuse. Let them know they will not be in trouble if something happens to them.

Make Time for your Kids

Always make time for your kids. They are not going to talk to you if you don’t give them time to talk. It may take some time for them to be comfortable saying anything to you, so give them your undivided attention and let them know you take what they say seriously.

Identify Trusted Adults

Parents can also identify “trusted adults” in their child’s life. Ask them what other family members, adult friends, teachers, coaches, etc. they feel comfortable going to when they need help. Yes, in many cases of sexual abuse, the perpetrator seems like a “trusted adult,” but the more people your child can go to for help, the better. Understand that perpetrators of child abuse will often attempt to isolate a child from their friends and other adults to gain more control over them. By having multiple people a child can turn to, this isolation is less likely to occur.

Use the News as a Guide

In an age where everything is accessed through the Internet and social media, your kids will likely hear stories of sexual abuse in the news. You can use these stories to open a discussion with your child. Ask them if they understand what they have heard or seen. Depending on their age, you can explain various aspects of the story, tell them what happened, and let them know why what happened was wrong. This will help them be more likely to recognize an abusive situation in their lives or in the lives of their friends.

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Child Sexual Abuse Statistics

Over the last few years, many high profile instances of child sexual abuse have come to light. The allegations have come against many people and organizations, including:

  • Members of the clergy and religious organizations
  • The Boy Scouts of America mentors
  • USA Gymnastics trainers and coaches

However, it is important to know that the problem is much more widespread than the stories that make the news. Child sexual abuse happens every day and in many communities. In many cases, the abusers are known to the victims – they are friends and family.

Today, we want to bring you some statistics. We want to arm you with the tools you need to keep your kids safe, and we want you to know where to turn if you suspect your child has been abused.

The Scope of the Problem

Every nine minutes in this country, child protective services finds evidence that child sexual abuse has occurred. Did you know that nearly one out of every ten children will be sexually abused before they reach their 18th birthday?

  • One out of every five girls and one in every 20 boys is a victim of sexual abuse.
  • In 2016 alone, child protective services found strong evidence to indicate that 57,329 children were victims of sexual abuse.

Those numbers are likely lower than the actual number of instances. In many cases, victims of child sexual abuse never report what has happened to them. In some cases, they may not even realize they have been abused in the first place.

According to RAINN, 93% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are known to their victims. Sexual assault is rarely perpetrated by strangers.

  • 59% of perpetrators are acquaintances, such as coaches, mentors, family friends, teachers, clergy members, etc.
  • 34% of perpetrators are family members of the victim.

What does Sexual Abuse Look Like?

Many people think that sexual abuse of children only includes penetration of the vagina or anus. However, that is only one aspect of sexual abuse. It can also include:

  • Forced oral sex
  • Mutual masturbation
  • Fondling
  • Exposing a child to pornography
  • A child being forced to watch an adult masturbate
  • Any other sexual activity between a child and an adult
  • Sexual communication between a child and an adult through the Internet or other electronic means

It needs to be stated that children cannot consent to sexual activity with adults, even if they willingly go along with the activity or initiate sexual contact. Adults have the responsibility to stop any and all sexual activity that arises with a child.

Children who have been victims of sexual abuse are more likely to have long-lasting mental health impacts:

  • They are four times as likely to experience PTSD as adults.
  • They are four times as likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse.
  • They are three times as likely to experience major depression as adults.

A person who experienced rape or attempted rape when they were adolescents is 13.7 times more likely to experience rape or attempted rape when they are in their first year of college.

If you suspect abuse

If you suspect that your child has been sexually abused, you need to contact the police immediately and remove your child from an abusive situation. Seek help from a counselor who is specially trained to help victims of child sexual abuse and consider scheduling a consultation with an injury lawyer to explore what damages may be recoverable.

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Car Inspection Laws in California

Vehicle upkeep is one of your responsibilities as a car owner in California. California takes roadway safely seriously. To bring down the number of unfit and un-roadworthy vehicles on the road, the state enacted car inspection laws. The law requires certain types of vehicle inspections and car maintenance – particularly related to vehicle emissions.

Inspections Before Registration

It is against the law to drive an unregistered vehicle in the state of California. If you purchase a new car in California or come from out of state, you must register your vehicle within 10 days. This takes submitting a title application, showing the vehicle’s title to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), paying a fee and providing a valid smog certificate. Other requirements may apply to out-of-state drivers. If you purchase a car from a dealership, it will typically take care of vehicle registration for you.

Emissions Inspections

One of the registration requirements in California is a smog certificate. A smog certificate is a piece of paper certifying that you took your vehicle to an approved emissions inspection center and the mechanics believe your vehicle complies with the county’s smog requirements. Many counties in California require regular smog checks for almost all registered vehicles. Renewal periods are typically once every two years. The DMV will mail you a notice stating your vehicle requires smog recertification before renewing your registration.

Not all counties in California require emissions inspections. Search for your zip code in the state database to find out if you need a smog check where you live. Your smog check requirements may also vary based on location. California requires smog and emissions inspections to help keep the air we breathe cleaner. These inspections flag vehicles that are emitting an unreasonable amount of smog. Vehicle owners are responsible for repairing vehicles to prevent excess emissions before they may take them on the road.

Although 30 other states require emissions tests, California has the toughest smog standards in the country. California lawmakers are serious about protecting the public and the environment from vehicle-related air pollution. It is up to you to obey the smog inspection law by paying for the costs of smog checks once every two years. A smog check can cost between $30 and $70 depending on your location and vehicle type.

Exceptions to the Rule

Not all vehicles in California require emissions inspections. The state has exceptions for heavy diesel vehicles manufactured in 1997 and earlier. A diesel-powered vehicle must weigh over 14,000 pounds in Gross Vehicle Weight to qualify as an exception. Vehicles that use natural gas are also exempt if they weigh over 14,000 pounds. Any motorcycle, trailer or gas-powered vehicle model year 1975 or older also does not need to get a smog inspection.

Newer vehicles (six years old and younger) may not need smog inspections, in some cases. Owners of new vehicles will have to pay a $20 emission inspection abatement fee rather than paying for a smog check. The $20 fee may also apply to other exempt vehicles. If you own one of these vehicles, you must still keep up with vehicle maintenance and registration; however, you will not need to get smog checks.

Penalties for Breaking the Car Inspection Laws

If your vehicle fails an emissions test, you must pay for repairs until your car passes the check – or else retire your vehicle from the road. It is against the law to operate a vehicle that does not pass an emissions test in most counties in California. The DMV will not allow you to renew your registration unless you can pass an inspection. If you cannot afford repairs, you can apply for statewide assistance programs that could provide up to $500 for related repairs. Refusing to comply with California’s vehicle inspection laws could lead to traffic tickets and fines.

If you were injured in a car accident due to another’s negligence, contact us. Our injury attorneys in Orange County can help you explore your legal options during a free consultation.

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