Collaborative Post

10 Laws to Know If You’re In California


No one is perfect. Who among us hasn’t bent the rules just a tiny bit to suit own needs? We often do things that are illegal without even realising it, be it something as simple as jaywalking to a more serious offence like motorcycling without a helmet.

However, when you’re outside the UK, it is imperative that you stay informed about the local rules and regulations.

Sunny California, for example, is one state where you’re likely to get in trouble with the Boys in Blue if you break the law.

So, unless you want a one-way ticket to a California prison cell while your folks back home scramble for details on sites like PrisonFinder, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

The Golden Gate Bridge one of the most iconic structures in California

Avoid earning a ticket or taking a ride in a squad car by knowing the 10 laws mentioned below:

  1. Avoid Single-Use Plastic Bags

Shopping for knickknacks from a small business near your place of residence?

Avoid carrying your goods in plastic bags. Since 2016, distribution of single-use plastic bags has been banned by the state government under Senate Bill 270.

However, the law makes an exception for bags being used to carry meats, fruits, or vegetables.

2. Educational Stipulations

If you’re in California to pursue higher education, know that students receiving state financial aid will now receive notifications about their grants lasting only four years.

Plus, if you’re planning to graduate within that period, you must take 15 units each semester.

3. Imbibing Cannabis in a Vehicle

According to this law, smoking or ingesting marijuana in any form is illegal inside a vehicle.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re the driver or merely a passenger – you cannot consume marijuana or products containing this substance.

If you get caught in the act while riding or driving, you will be penalized heavily by the DMV, especially in the form of negligent operator counts.

So, even if you’re not a pothead yourself, this law gives you one more reason to discuss the dangers of driving under influence with your Californian friends

4. Sharing Other People’s Private Messages

There has been a lot of debate and speculation surrounding California Penal Code section 637.2(a)5.

Some claim it protects the privacy of residents, others argue it misappropriates the concept of digital protection.

As per this law, any person found disclosing the contents of phone messages not addressed to them could face invasion of privacy charges.

So, gossip hounds beware! Reading text messages on someone else’s phone or listening to their private voicemails can land you in jail for up to a year as well as a fine up to $5,000.

5. Wi-Fi Piracy

Are you hooked to the Internet 24×7? Do you want a stable Wi-Fi network?

Well, we hope you spring for your own connection, because pirating a wireless Internet signal is punishable by the law in California.

Under Penal Code Section 487, you could rack up a larceny charge, $5,000 in fines, and up to one year of jail time for this minor infraction. So, the next time you think about sneaking free Wi-Fi in a California coffee shop without purchasing a coffee or latte, think again!

An aerial view of San Fransico Bay taken on NASA’s Hubble telescope

6. HOV Decal Program

Thanks to this program, specific low emission models are now eligible for accessing high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

The HOV decal program will allow certain automobiles, irrespective of the occupancy level for a four-year period.

But if your vehicle has green and white decals, you will no longer be permitted to access high-occupancy lanes. In this case, you must once more reapply for a red decal that provides access to the high occupancy lanes.

7. Vehicular Smog Checks

Did you invest in a used vehicle as soon as you arrived in California?

Well, then you should be glad to know that cars up to eight years old are now exempt from smog checks – up from the earlier limit of six years.

However, keep in mind that you will still have to shell out $25 on a yearly basis for smog abatement fees.

8. Rubbernecking

Let’s face it – all of us have been tempted to stare at something interesting by the side of the road one time or the other.

Whether it’s a tragic occurrence like a car crash or a squabble amongst drivers, we often slow down our cars to a crawl just to see the events unfold before our eyes.

However, the passing of California Penal Code Section 402(a)3 means that anyone stopping or slowing down at an accident site may be slapped with a misdemeanor charge for hindering the activities of emergency service workers.

Even those attempting to help in the situation will not be exempt from this law. Also, it’s also a crime to not slow down or switch lanes for emergency vehicles.

9. Handing Spray Paint to Youngsters

This is a weird one but it’s worth knowing nonetheless – don’t hand over more than six ounces of spray paint to a minor. Punishable with fines, community service or jail time, California Penal Code Section 594.1(a)(1)4 intends to curb inhalant abuse and youth vandalism.

10. Backup for Garage Doors

One of the stranger laws to have been passed in California in 2019, it is mandatory for new garage doors to have battery backup. Residents should have no trouble lifting the door during a power outage.

California laws are intended to have a positive impact on the citizens’ lives. So, it’s a good idea to follow the rules if you wish to avoid prison time during your stay in this area.