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10 Laws You Should Know If You're in California

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Moving to the Golden State? Just visiting? Or maybe you've been a California native all your life.

California has a rich legal history, and because of it, the state has a unique set of laws. So before you decide to join the Raider Nation and grab some In-N-Out on the way to the beach, check out these 10 laws you'll want to know if you're in California:

  1. DUI threshold. Like in every other state, the "per se" blood alcohol concentration limit for drivers is 0.08 percent, but the penalties for DUI are uniquely Californian.
  2. Cell phone use while driving. It is illegal to talk on the phone while driving (without a hands-free setup), but you can probably look at Google Maps on your phone.
  3. Divorce procedures. Californians must generally wait at least six months before being granted a standard divorce. There are many other California-specific divorce procedures you should know as well.
  4. Marital property division. California is a community property state, meaning that without some type of agreement in place (like a prenup, postnup, or divorce settlement agreement), each spouse is entitled to 50 percent of all marital assets.
  5. Comparative negligence for injuries. When a plaintiff is at fault for an accident or injury, he or she is never completely barred from recovery. California embraces a "pure" form of comparative negligence that assigns each party damages in proportion to his or her relative fault.
  6. Statutes of limitation. If you're planning on filing a personal injury suit, you should know that claims older than two years are likely to be barred; the time limit may be different for other types of civil claims. As far as California's criminal statutes of limitation are concerned, they vary by type of crime.
  7. Will requirements. Each state sets its own requirements for a valid will, and California is no exception. For example, oral wills (called "nuncupative wills") are not valid in the Golden State.
  8. Gambling laws. California has a state lottery, along with Indian casinos and horse racing. However, other forms of gambling may still be illegal.
  9. Employment laws. California's governor just signed a bill giving most workers the right to at least three paid sick days a year -- although it won't begin until 2015. Learn about minimum wage, holiday, and other California employment laws by clicking here.
  10. Age of majority & emancipation. Kids in California may enjoy more freedom than elsewhere, but the age of majority in the state is still 18. However, California minors can pursue emancipation when they turn 14.

Still California dreamin' of more state laws? Check out FindLaw's extensive section on California Law.

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