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Qualifications to be a California Juror

I was recently called for jury duty. For those of you wondering whether lawyers actually get called for jury duty, the answer is a most definite yes. I was ultimately not selected to be on the jury, but I did have to sit through two days of voir dire. Seeing it form the juror’s perspective was exciting given that I’m usually the one doing the voir dire in a setting like that. Anyway, the experience of having been through that gives rise to the topic of today’s post which is “What qualifications do you have to meet in California in order to be a juror?” Like with many things I go over on this blog, there’s an app for that… oops, sorry, what I actually meant to say was “There’s a statute for that.” In this case, the statute in question is Section 203 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, which states:  “(a) All persons are eligible and qualified to be prospective trial jurors, except the following: (1) Persons who are not citizens of the United States. (2) Persons who are less than 18 years of age. (3) Persons who are not domiciliaries of the State of California, as determined pursuant to Article 2 (commencing with Section 2020) of Chapter 1 of Division 2 of the Elections Code. (4) Persons who are not residents of the jurisdiction wherein they are summoned to serve. (5) Persons who have been convicted of malfeasance in office and whose civil rights have not been restored. (6) Persons who are not possessed of sufficient knowledge of the English language, provided that no person shall be deemed incompetent solely because of...

California Statute of Limitations – Wrongful Death

Today’s post is going to be another short one. In it, I’m going to go over the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit in California state court. As a reminder, a “statute of limitations” is the time period within which a plaintiff wanting to file a civil lawsuit (e.g. seeking money) must do it in. If the plaintiff waits too long (e.g. even by one day), they will lose their lawsuit simply because they waited too long. The topic of wrongful death litigation can get complicated when you look at questions such as (1) who is an acceptable plaintiff in a wrongful death suit?, and (2) what damages can be recovered in a wrongful death suit? I’ll go over these questions in future posts, but for today’s post, I’m going to look at just the time element involved, namely the statute of limitations the plaintiff has to file their civil suit within. In California, the answer is two years. Under Section 335.1 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit must file that suit within two years of the date the death in question occurs. Section 335.1 itself says the following: “Within two years: An action for assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.” Two years, however, is the general rule of thumb to remember. However, as with many things in law, exceptions can exist which may make the actual statute of limitations in your case shorter than two years. If that applies in your situation, you obviously...
California Firearms in Public Buildings

California Firearms in Public Buildings

I would have thought it common sense that you shouldn’t bring a weapon to court unless you’re a law enforcement officer, using the weapon as evidence in a case, etc. However, in case it isn’t common sense, there’s this sign at the entrance to the Criminal and Family courthouse in Modesto, California. If you look under the red wording that says “By Court Order, all persons entering this building are subject to search”, you’ll see that it’s a crime to bring any of a whole littany of weapons in to the courthouse, including but not limited to, firearms, stun guns, tasers, gas weapons, and mace. The statutory authority for that is California Penal Code section 171b which, in a nutshell, outlaws the bringing and possessing of weapons in to a state or local public building. Section 171b also lists out a whole bunch of exceptions to this prohibition, such as law enforcement officers, people using the weapon as evidence in a case, and people who have been specifically granted permission to bring the weapon in. The prohibition does, however, remain in effect (i.e. it’s an exception to the exception to the prohibition) as to those persons who are parties to a case. For instance, a law enforcement officer can carry their firearm if they are on-duty (e.g. a sheriff’s deputy working as a baliff at the courthouse), but if they are showing up for a child custody hearing in their own divorce, then they can’t. You can read over the entirety of Section 171b at your leisure, but I want to point out the section’s definition of a “state...

Law School Help: California Criminal – Identity Theft

In today’s post, I’m going to go over the California crime of Identity Theft. In this series of posts that I’ve, apparently, labeled “Law School Help,” I’m going to try and go over terms (e.g. common criminal offenses) that ordinary people might have heard and provide a basic description of the legal authority (e.g. the particular statute section), the elements involved, and any sentence that the offense in question might carry. In prior posts, I’ve gone over questions like “What is Consideration?” and “What is a Common Carrier?” If you’re a law school student and you’re reading this, hopefully this series of posts provides you more real-world or practical knowledge compared to the more abstract or theoretical concepts you’re learning about in the classroom. Anyway, the topic today is the criminal offense of Identity Theft. Identity Theft is, unfortunately, extremely common. Some of you reading this have probably been the victims of it yourself. In California, Identity Theft is a crime and it’s covered under Section 530.5 of the California Penal Code. Section 530.5 goes over several different flavors of identity theft which I’ll go over in a moment, but the underlying offense of Identity Theft consists of: Willfully obtaining Personal Identifying information of another person Using that Personal Identifying information for any unlawful purpose. “Unlawful purpose” includes, but is not limited to, obtaining or attempting to obtain credit, goods, service, real property, or medical information This use of the Personal Identifying information is done without the consent of this other person. If you want to look it up, this is all in Section 530.5(a) of the California Penal...

California Statute of Limitations – Conversion

Here’s another installment of my series of posts on the Statute of Limitations. Today, I’m going to go over the tort of Conversion under California law. As background, “conversion” is a fancy way of saying that a person (i.e. the defendant) has interfered without consent with the plaintiff’s ability to use their property by, for instance, (1) preventing plaintiff from having access to it, or (2) destroying it. The term arises because the defendant has taken plaintiff’s property and converted it — hence, “conversion” — to the defendant’s own use. If that definition makes sense, you might be asking “Andy, how is this different from theft?” There are at least two answers to that question: First, in California, “theft” is a crime. See, for example, Sections 484 and 487 of the California Penal Code. California further divides “theft” into two degrees based on the dollar value of what was taken. Under Section 486 of the California Penal Code, if it’s under $950, then it’s “petty theft,” but if it’s over $950, then it’s “grand theft”. Second, the crime of theft fundamentally involves the taking of property. This taking may involve fraud or deception, but it doesn’t have to. Taking property, though, is only one way in which conversion can be done. Conversion fundamentally involves interference of some kind with the owner’s ability to use the property. It is possible to interfere without actually taking the property from the lawful owner. Phrased another way, theft would be a kind of conversion, but there are other types of conversion besides theft. Anyway, definitions and theft aside, the question I was trying...

Burden of Proof? (CA Evidence Code Section 500)

In this post, I’m going to go over something that might strike some of you as being extremely pedantic. My intent is not to be pedantic simply because I can, but instead, I’m hoping to illustrate a more nuanced point that hopefully will be of help to you. Many people have heard the term “burden of proof”. The term is used widely, including in many statutes such as Section 500 of the California Evidence Code. Section 500 states: “Except as otherwise provided by law, a party has the burden of proof as to each fact the existence or nonexistence of which is essential to the claim for relief or defense that he is asserting.” In other words, you bear the burden to prove whatever it is you’re asserting, be that a claim, defense, etc. When I was in law school, however, I had a professor who absolutely hated that term because he considered it complete nonsense. Instead, he said, the “burden of proof” is actually two separate independent burdens. The first is the burden of the party to produce evidence that supports the claim for relief, defense, or whatever else they are asserting. This evidence, obviously, has to meet various criteria. At a minimum, it needs to be relevant to the issues at hand, properly authenticated, and non-privileged. Once it clears those hurdles, then it might still not be admissible because the court you’re in has, for example, exercised it’s discretion to exclude it because it is more unduly prejudicial than it is probative. As an aside, the authority that allows courts in California to do this is Section 352...

Law School Help: Criminal – False Imprisonment

In today’s installment of my “Law School Help” series, I’m going to go over the California crime of False Imprisonment. As with my other posts in this series, my intent is to basically translate terms (e.g. specific criminal offenses) that the average layperson might have heard before into specific code sections that can be googled. If you’re a law school student, hopefully these posts provide you a more real-world or practical perspective of the subjects you’re learning about in the abstract/theoretical environment of your classroom. For completeness, California also has a civil cause of action for False Imprisonment (i.e. where the victim can sue the perpetrator for money). I wrote a post about the California civil cause of action in 2017. You can view that here. New York also has a civil cause of action for False Imprisonment. I wrote about that in 2017 as well. You can view that here. Anyway, that said, the underlying crime of False Imprisonment in California is defined in Section 236 of the California Penal Code. Section 236 is surprisingly short and says: “False imprisonment is the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another.” Thus when it comes to elements or criteria, the underlying basic or vanilla offense of False Imprisonment involves: Defendant intentionally and unlawfully restraining, detaining, or confining a person, and Defendant’s action caused the victim to stay or go somewhere against their will The possible sentences for False Imprisonment are described in Section 237 of the California Penal Code, which states the following: “(a) False imprisonment is punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by...

2020 Update – California Prenuptial Agreement 7-Day Waiting Period (CA Family Code section 1615)

On my Youtube channel, I have some videos in which I go over how prenuptial agreements in California work. In one of those videos, I go over how an unrepresented party to a prenuptial agreement has to have at least 7 calendar days to review the agreement prior to signing the agreement. In addition to the 7 days, the unrepresented person also has to be told to go get legal counsel. Failure to provide this admonition or provide the unrepresented spouse the 7 days means that the prenuptial agreement can be invalidated on that basis alone. The goal, of course, is to not force or coerce any person in to a prenuptial agreement that they would other wise not agree to freely. If you need California legal authority for that, it’s section 1615 of the California Family Code. In the real world, this 7-day waiting period often poses a problem if you have a wedding date set and you’re rushing to get a prenuptial agreement done before that and at least one of the parties to the prenuptial agreement is not represented by an attorney. The purpose of this blog post is to describe at least one major update to Section 1615 of the California Family Code that took place for calendar year 2020. The update is found in section 1615(c)(2) (B) of the California Family Code which states: “For an agreement executed on or after January 1, 2020, the party against whom enforcement is sought had not less than seven calendar days between the time that party was first presented with the final agreement and the time the...

Law School Help: California Criminal – Burglary

In today’s post, I’m going to go over the California crime of Burglary. In this series of posts that I’ve, apparently, labeled “Law School Help,” I’m going to try and go over terms (e.g. common criminal offenses) that ordinary people might have heard and provide a basic description of the legal authority (e.g. the particular statute section), the elements involved, and any sentence that the offense in question might carry. In prior posts, I’ve gone over questions like “What is Consideration?” and “What is a Common Carrier?” If you’re a law school student and you’re reading this, hopefully this series of posts provides you more real-world or practical knowledge compared to the more abstract or theoretical concepts you’re learning about in the classroom. In California, the crime of burglary is defined in Section 459 of the Penal Code. Section 459 is a bit long, but it says the following: “Every person who enters any house, room, apartment, tenement, shop, warehouse, store, mill, barn, stable, outhouse or other building, tent, vessel, as defined in Section 21 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, floating home, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 18075.55 of the Health and Safety Code, railroad car, locked or sealed cargo container, whether or not mounted on a vehicle, trailer coach, as defined in Section 635 of the Vehicle Code, any house car, as defined in Section 362 of the Vehicle Code, inhabited camper, as defined in Section 243 of the Vehicle Code, vehicle as defined by the Vehicle Code, when the doors are locked, aircraft as defined by Section 21012 of the Public Utilities Code, or...

California Statute of Limitations – Negligence

For a change of pace, I’m going to do a short post. (I can hear all of you now collectively going “Finally!”) The topic of today’s post is the statute of limitations for a negligence action in California. As a reminder, a statute of limitations is the time period within which a plaintiff has to file their civil suit seeking redress from the defendant. As a general rule of thumb, this proverbial clock starts to run when the last criteria that needs to be met in order to prove the lawsuit occurs. Phrased another way, if you need to prove 5 criteria in order to win your lawsuit, your statute of limitations clock doesn’t start to run until the 5th and final criteria occurs. In California, the negligence statute of limitations is 2 years under Section 335.1 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure. Section 335.1 states “Within two years: An action for assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.” An example where this might apply would be a car accident where the plaintiff suffered injuries of some kind to their body. There are many exceptions to this two-year rule, however. For example, if your case involves asbestos exposure of some kind, the statute of limitations could be as short as one year under Section 340.2 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure. If you have a situation involving negligence in California, the best way to know what statute of limitations applies to you is to find a lawyer with whom you can discuss the details of...