Bakersfield 2020 virtual ‘Walk Like MADD’ – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – aims to raise funds to combat impaired driving during pandemic

September 9, 2020 | 11:16 am


To register for the 2020 Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, click here.

Like many nonprofits, MADD Kern County has severely been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, losing a large percentage of funding intended to fight against impaired driving in our community.

In fact, MADD California has lost over 80% of annual revenue, forcing drastic cuts that continue to disrupt grassroots programs and services, officials said. Meanwhile, impaired driving, unfortunately, continues to be one of the leading causes of fatalities and injuries on our roadways.

In a unifying event, MADD California is hosting a virtual Walk Like MADD this year, under the hashtag #OneMADDCalifornia, in an effort to continue fighting to end this 100% preventable crime. In Kern County, the 7th annual Bakersfield virtual “Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash” – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – will be held on Oct. 10, and is aimed to raise funds for Kern County’s local educational programs and prevention services, raise awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, and provide support to local victims and survivors of drunken driving crashes.

“Now more than ever, our community needs to come together in the fight against impaired driving,” said David Cohn, managing partner at attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “The pandemic has not put a stop to DUI crashes in Kern County, and victims still need help. Join us, surviving victims of DUI crashes, families and friends of deceased victims, local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, first responders, advocates, and other community leaders and members to march, rally and run for the cause.”

 

VIRTUAL ‘WALK LIKE MADD’

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with 4,300 DUI arrests in 2018, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s more than 11 DUI arrests per day. About 15 DUI drivers are on the road at any given moment, with a peak between midnight and 3 a.m., where there are nearly 80 DUI drivers in Kern County. Sadly, many impaired drivers weren’t stopped in time, and instead caused major damage to innocent lives through DUI crashes. In fact, for the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation.

Bakersfield’s Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash is our community’s chance to do something about impaired driving in our community, and proclaim, “No More Victims.” You can help by signing up for the 5K (walk or run), or as a team captain. You can even get involved if you aren’t able to attend by signing up as a “virtual walker,” or by asking a donation toward a participant or team who has been affected. All funds raised from this event stay in Kern County.

MADD California will host a weeklong impactful event from Oct. 3-10 streamed on each Walk Like MADD website and at @MADDCalifornia YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages. Live and pre-recorded videos will highlight stories from our families on “Why I Walk,” activities will include a mediation/yoga segment, bingo, and Law Enforcement Challenge, and speakers that are key stakeholders in our communities will be featured.

Registration is now open. After Sept. 10 the registration fee is $25 for adults and $20 for youth. The registration fee will go towards your participation, team fundraising goal, and a goodie bag that includes a MADD mask. A packet pick up drive thru will be held on Saturday, Oct. 3, at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, 1731 Chester Ave. (Time location is TBD).

For more information, to register and to donate, go to walklikemadd.org/bakersfield, or on Facebook at Bakersfield Virtual Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash.

 

PRESENTED BY CHAIN | COHN | STILES

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes, serving as a presenting sponsor. Since the law firm’s involvement with the first Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, MADD Kern County has raised nearly $400,000 to help local victims of impaired driving crashes. For its work, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • Attorney Matt Clark has been awarded the MADD “Pursuit of Justice” award. Clark is a founding board member and organizer for MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board and event planning committees, regularly speaks at local Victim Impact Panels intended to prevent repeat DUI offenses, and has done pro-bono legal work for victims of DUI crashes.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, has been awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by MADD California.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

MADD Kern County awards ceremony, sponsored by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, honor locals fighting against DUI crimes

August 19, 2020 | 5:00 am


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Kern County recently recognized and honored our local law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and other community members for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes during the past year. Chain | Cohn | Stiles was proud to be a key organizer, sponsor, and supporter of this event.

The 2020 MADD Kern County Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition was held July 30 during an online ceremony featuring guest speakers and award-winners. In all, more than 60 officers, personnel from the Kern County Prosecutor’s Office and others from throughout local agencies were awarded. Awards were also handed out to the investigator of the year, victim advocate, top probation officer, top law enforcement officers, and “Community Champion.”

“It’s important that we honor the people who are helping keep our streets safe from impaired drivers,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “These impaired drivers have shown to cause tremendous damage to our local community. It’s possible these award-winners have saved the lives of our own friends and family members who are driving on the same roadways.”

Watch the full virtual awards ceremony by clicking here.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with nearly 4,200 DUI arrests in 2019, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s more than 11 DUI arrests per day. For the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation.

The awards ceremony is organized by MADD Kern County volunteers, and made possible by the financial support of local sponsors: Clinica Sierra Vista, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Chain | Cohn | Stiles, and various media supporters. Additionally, everyone is encouraged to take the “$5 Challenge” to donate to MADD Kern County. All funds raised stay in Kern County to help innocent victims of DUI crashes free of charge, help raise awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and helps fund other MADD Kern County programs.

MADD is celebrating its 40th year with #OneMADDCalifornia, a tribute to the grassroots organization that started the cultural revolution that made drunk and drugged driving unacceptable.

“We ask that you take a stand with #OneMADDCalifornia to envision a future with No More Victims,” MADD California officials said in a statement. “Each arrest is a life saved and MADD awards our officers’ service as they dedicate their own lives to keeping our roads safe.”

Drunk and drugged driving is America’s deadliest crime. In 2018, 10,511 people were killed in impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (29%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. More than 1,000 Californians alone lost their lives due to this 100% preventable crime.

The awards ceremony is one of two MADD Kern County signature events aimed to bring awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and fight toward ending DUI crimes locally. The second event is the Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, taking place virtually this year on Saturday, Oct. 10.

 

DRIVER SOBER

The high-visibility national enforcement campaign, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” runs from Aug. 21 through Sept. 7 (Labor Day) in an effort to spread the word about impaired driving dangers and to work together to get drunk drivers off the roads and help save lives.

During this period, local law enforcement will show zero tolerance for impaired driving as departments increase the amount of officers on ours roads. In Bakersfield, officers will be conducting saturation patrols, looking for drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, driving aggressively or distracted, and making sure drivers are properly licensed.

“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is supported by California Office of Traffic Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney awarded MADD Southern California ‘Pursuit of Justice Award’

November 27, 2019 | 6:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles senior partner and attorney Matt Clark was the recent recipient of the “Pursuit of Justice Award” by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Southern California. Below is the press release announcing the award. 

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Two Bakersfield-based institutions received awards during Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 2019 “Tie One On for Safety” Gala Awards Nov. 21 in Long Beach.

The “Pursuit of Justice Award” was given to attorney Matthew C. Clark of Chain | Cohn | Stiles, and the Chevron’s San Joaquin Valley Business Unit (SJVBU) received the “Corporate Champion Award.” The event annually recognizes supporters of MADD Southern California – the regional area for MADD Kern County – which also includes Los Angeles and San Diego chapters.

The awards gala also kicks off the “Tie One On for Safety” campaign during the holiday season, which is MADD’s longest running and most visible public awareness project combating impaired driving. MADD’s mission is to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support victims of these violent crimes, and prevent underage drinking.

“These two award recipients are community heroes who are dedicated to combating our area’s DUI epidemic,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “Simply, they are saving lives.”

Each year in Kern County, dozens of innocent lives are lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families affected – from this 100 percent preventable crime. Kern County is averaging nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States.

MADD Kern County hosts two local events, which are primarily volunteer-led. They include the Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognitions Awards luncheon and the “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash.” The Kern County chapter also hosts Victim Impact Panels to prevent repeat DUI offenses, and presents educational program at local schools, and more.

The award winners are helping combat Kern County’s DUI problem, raising awareness, and helping victims locally in a variety of ways.

  • Matt Clark, Chain | Cohn | Stiles: Clark is a founding board member and organizer for MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board and event planning committees, regularly speaks at local Victim Impact Panels intended to prevent repeat DUI offenses, and has done pro-bono legal work for victims of DUI crashes. He is a senior partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which annually serves as the presenting sponsor for the annual “Walk Like MADD” fundraising event. In addition, Jorge Barrientos, marketing director at the law firm, is also a past recipient of the “Volunteer of the Year” award for MADD California.
  • Chevron’s San Joaquin Valley Business Unit (SJVBU): Chevron’s SJVBU, whose main office is in Bakersfield, has been an annual sponsor, and its employees are key organizers, in the local “Walk Like MADD” event, as well as MADD Kern County’s Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognitions Awards luncheon, which honors locals for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes. The company communicates to its employees – who log thousands of miles each year on Kern County roads – through safety campaigns, including DUI-education efforts.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of an impaired driver, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Teen drivers, school buses the focus of safety awareness weeks

October 23, 2019 | 11:11 am


Our children’s safety can be one of the most important focuses in our lives, which makes two national observances this week especially vital. This week in the United States we are observing “School Bus Safety Week” and “Teen Driver Safety Week.”

Learn safety tips, statistics, and other important information about these observances below.

“Our children’s safety is a top concern always,” said David Cohn, managing partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Let’s all remember this week, and moving forward, to be extra careful around school buses, talk to teens about safe driving habits, and follow our laws always.”

 

Teen Driver Safety Week

This week and beyond, parents should speak with their teen children about how to stay as safe as possible behind the wheel. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading causes of death for teens (15 to 18 years old) in the United States, ahead of all other types of injuries, diseases, or violent acts. Teens are also 10 times more likely to be in a fatal car accident than adults.

In particular, there are six dangers that are especially important for teens to understand: alcohol, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, and number of passengers. Learn more about them below, courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

  • Alcohol and Drugs: All teens are too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol.  However, nationally in 2017, 15% of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system. But alcohol isn’t the only substance that can keep teens from driving safely.  According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.5% of adolescents 12 to 17 years old reported using marijuana. Like other drugs, marijuana affects a driver’s ability to react to their surroundings. Remind teens that driving under the influence of any impairing substance could have deadly consequences.
  • Seat Belts: Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle. A total of 539 passengers died in passenger vehicles driven by teen drivers and more than half (60%) of those passengers who died were NOT buckled up at the time of the fatal crash. Even more troubling, in 87% of cases when the teen driver was unbuckled, the passengers were also unbuckled. The chances of surviving a traffic crash are 45% higher when properly restrained in a seat belt.
  • Distracted Driving: Distractions while driving are more than just risky—they can be deadly. In 2017, among teen drivers involved in fatal crashes, 9 percent were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. The use of mobile devices while driving is a big problem, but there are other causes of teen distracted driving which pose dangers as well. They include adjusting the radio, applying makeup, eating or drinking, or distractions from other passengers in the vehicle.
  • Speeding: In 2017, almost one-quarter (27%) of all teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash, and males were more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than females.
  • Passengers: Teen drivers transporting passengers can lead to disastrous results.  Research shows the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of passengers in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.
  • Drowsy Driving: Teens are busier than ever: studying, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and spending time with friends are among the long list of things they do to fill their time. However, with all of these activities, teens tend to compromise something very important—sleep. This is a dangerous habit that can lead to drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel.

 

School Bus Safety Week

Every school day in this country, 25 million children ride in a bus. The good news: School buses are among the safest modes of transportation. In fact, students are 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car, according to NHTSA. Why? They’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries.

But it’s not inside of the bus we should be most concerned about in terms of safety, but what happens outside. The real risks is in walking to the bus stop, and getting on and off the bus.

Here are some tips to keep students safe, as well as those walking and driving around school buses.

Tips for Drivers

  • Watch out for children walking or bicycling to school when backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage.
  • Be on the lookout when driving through neighborhoods. Drive slowly and watch for children walking in the street.
  • Learn the school bus laws in California.
    • Yellow flashing lights indicate that a bus is preparing to stop to pick up or drop off children. Drivers should slow down and prepare to stop.
    • Red flashing lights and an extended stop-arm signal indicate that the bus has stopped and that children are getting on or off. Cars must stop a safe distance away and not start again until the red lights stop flashing, the stop sign has been folded back, and the bus begins to continue on its way.

Tips for Students

  • Be at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
  • Stand at least 6 feet away from the curb when the bus approaches, and keep the line away from the street.
  • Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says it’s okay to step onto the bus.
  • Remain visible to the bus driver at all times.
  • Never walk behind the bus. You should always make sure that you’re in the driver’s line of sight.
  • Use the handrails to avoid falling.
  • If seat belts are available on the bus, buckle up.
  • Don’t speak loudly or make loud noises that could distract the driver.
  • Stay in your seat.
  • Don’t put your head, arms, or hands out the window.
  • Keep the aisle clear of books, bags, and other objects.
  • Wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat.
  • If you have to cross in front of the bus after you get off, first walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the driver.
  • When the driver signals, look left, right, then left again. Walk across the road and keep an eye out for sudden traffic changes.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Driving while high on THC? Here’s what you should know

October 16, 2019 | 6:00 am


Marijuana today has become mainstream as voters across the United States approve ballot measures for legalization and medical use. In fact, cannabis is now legal for recreational use in 10 states (including California) and the District of Columbia, and nearly three dozen states have cleared the use of medical cannabis.

As legalization continues to expand, safety officials across the country are more concerned than ever about stoned drivers taking to the nation’s roads and freeways, potentially endangering lives. But while there’s general agreement that driving while high is bad, there is not yet a linear relationship between THC levels and degree of impairment.

Read below to learn about the current state of marijuana laws as they relate to driving, ongoing studies, and what you can do to make sure we are all safe on the roadways.

 

CALIFORNIA LAW

Under California law, marijuana use and driving is still in the works. California DMV states that “the use of any drug which impairs your ability to drive safely is illegal.” The law does not distinguish between prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs.

California also does not have a legal blood concentration limit for THC, unlike for alcohol. That is, there is no stated level at which a person is presumed to be under the influence as a result of marijuana use.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed AB 127 into law, which provides funding and authorization for the California Highway Patrol, and other law enforcement agencies, to study the effects of marijuana-impaired driving.

“One of the open-ended questions (about legal, recreational cannabis), that is a legitimate question, is public safety on the roads,” Newsom said in a statement before signing the bill. ”

 

DRIVING WHILE STONED

Government agencies are now testing ways to ensure the legalization of cannabis doesn’t create new public health risks, including answering the question, “at what point is someone too high to get behind the wheel?” The answer is complicated.

Scientists and pharmacologists don’t know how to measure if and to what extent marijuana causes impairment. The reason is existing blood and urine tests can detect marijuana use, but those tests can’t specify whether the use occurred in the day or month. They also don’t indicate the level at which a driver would be considered “under the influence.”

For alcohol, there is a clear, national standard. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher, you’re considered cognitively impaired at a level that is unsafe to drive. Extensive research supports this determination, and the clarity makes enforcement of drunken driving laws easier, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But setting a marijuana-related impairment level is a murkier proposition.

Eaze, an online cannabis marketplace, recently surveyed licensed Californian drivers who used cannabis within 30 days of responding, and here’s what they found:

  • Nearly half, 46%, who responded were unable to answer whether there exists a legal bloodstream concentration limit for THC, as there is for alcohol.
  • 81% were aware that it is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis.
  • 62% also were unaware of the legal penalties that come with it. Like a DUI involving alcohol, they can include fines, jail time and license suspensions.
  • 82% stated that driving is the primary method by which most marijuana consumers buy cannabis
  • Almost half, 45%, reported driving after consuming the drug.
  • Of adults who consume and drive, 77% believe it doesn’t affect their driving, and 16% believe it improves their driving.
  • A vast majority said they would not do so if low- or no-cost ride-share options, or delivery, were available.

In the end, the study showed that “few know critical details about cannabis consumption and driving.”

 

BREATHALYZERS?

Breathalyzer tests for alcohol are a quick and non-invasive way to tell if a driver is drunk. Testing for stoned drivers isn’t as straightforward. And there is no known correlation between blood THC concentration and impairment, and testing requires a blood or saliva sample. These complications have made it a challenge to gauge whether legalization makes the roads more hazardous. Some areas have laws that define a predetermined concentration of THC in the blood as illegal whether or not the driver appears impaired.

One company, called Hound Labs, is working on a breakthrough in creating a marijuana breathalyzer.

The company says its device can accurately detect whether a person has smoked pot in the last two hours. The device also doubles as an alcohol breathalyzer, giving police an easy-to-use roadside for both intoxicants.

Other tools now on the market to determine marijuana test blood, saliva or urine can take days for a result.

For now, law enforcement agencies rely mostly on roadside sobriety tests by officers to make an initial determination on impairment. In California, every highway patrol member learns to administer “field sobriety tests” — undergoing an extra 16 hours of training to recognize the influence of different drugs, including marijuana.

 

RESEARCH

Studies do show that marijuana does, in fact, weaken a driver’s ability to maintain focus, and it slows reflexes. But more research is still needed, experts say.

Research by the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University showed that half of young drivers, age 16 to 25, who died in car crashes were under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or both. In 2015, 43 percent of all drivers killed in vehicle crashes who were tested, tested positive for legal or illegal drugs, according to the NHTSA. In California, 19 percent of all drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes who were tested, tested positive for legal or illegal drugs. And those percentages have been increasing each year.

Drugged driving is known as “a silent epidemic,” because there is a misconception that it’s OK and is safe to drive after smoking pot, as NPR reported. And the public — especially teenage drivers — are not well aware of some of the hazards of drugs such as marijuana on driving.

A major study underway on driving impairment at University of California San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research is scheduled to wrap up next year. Other groups, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., are working on creating standards for a marijuana DUI detection test.

 

STAYING SAFE

The advice for pot users and driving is the same for all substances that cause impairment: never drive while under the influence!

Just like drunk driving, driving under the influence of drugs is a crime – even if impairment is due to prescribed medications, illicit drugs, over-the-counter medications or marijuana – medical or recreational. The dangers and legal consequences are the same.

Here’s what you need to know about driving while under the influence of marijuana:

  • Marijuana slows your reaction time and ability to make decisions. Marijuana affects the part of the brain that controls body movement, balance and coordination and can impair judgment and memory. Studies show that driving while under the influence of marijuana negatively impacts attentiveness, perception of time and speed. Impaired memory can affect the ability to draw from past driving experiences, especially in emergency situations.
  •  The higher you are, the more risks you take while driving. Studies show that drivers with only a small amount of THC in their blood can feel the effects. They often try to be more cautious, driving slower than normal, even sometimes too slow. However, greater problems arise when increasingly larger doses of THC are present in the blood. These drivers tend to weave in and out of lanes more, react slower to traffic lights and unexpected obstacles and are less aware of their speed. Overall, higher doses of marijuana tend to cause greater impairment when it comes to driving.
  • The effect of marijuana is strongest during the first 30 minutes after consumption. People who drive immediately after using marijuana may increase their risk of getting into a crash by 25 to 35 percent. The impairing effect rises rapidly and remains for some time. These affects can be delayed if the marijuana is ingested rather than smoked.
  • Combining alcohol with marijuana or impairing medications is even more dangerous than any used alone. Alcohol is a depressant and works by slowing down the central nervous system, which means that normal brain functions are delayed. It also impairs hand-eye coordination and how you process information. When marijuana or the long list of impairing prescription medications and illicit drugs are mixed with alcohol, the combination can heighten the effects of both on the body and brain.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

Sixth Bakersfield ‘Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash’ presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles

September 18, 2019 | 6:00 am


Each year, too many innocent people die in Kern County from crashes caused by people who choose to get behind the wheel while under the influence. Those local lives lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families – are affected from this 100 percent preventable crime.

In fact, Kern County is averaging nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. In addition, Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States. This year alone (as of Sept. 10), CHP-Bakersfield officers have reported 288 DUI traffic collisions, with 11 resulting in fatalities.

MADD Kern County – together with victims, local businesses and community supporters – are coming together to say, “Enough is enough!” and “No More Victims!”

The sixth annual Bakersfield Walk Like MADD and MADD Dash – presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles – will be held Saturday, Sept. 28, at Park at River Walk. It’s aimed to raise awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, raise funds for local MADD Kern County educational programs, and provide support to local victims and survivors of drunk and drugged driving crashes.

Since the first Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash in 2014, thousands of local residents have made their voices heard while raising more than $300,000 for MADD Kern County. In what has become one of the largest fundraising walks and runs in town, the event brings together people from our community – surviving victims of crashes, families and friends of injured and deceased victims, law enforcement and prosecutors, first responders, advocates, and other community leaders and members – to march, rally and run for the cause.

It’s also supported this year by Chevron, Kern High School District, STEPS, Sally Herald Accountancy Inc., UBS Financial, Clinica Sierra Vista, Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Strata Credit Union, Wells Fargo, and more. A kid’s fun run is presented by Adventist Health and Bakersfield Active 20-30 Club.

“Kern County has a serious DUI problem, and it’s going to take every single one of us to make an impact,” said Carla Pearson, MADD Kern County’s Victim Service Specialist. “We can come together to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ prevent future DUI arrests and crashes, and see a day with no more victims.”

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Attorney Matt Clark sits on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board and regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and law firm marketing director is the planning committee chairman for the annual. Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash. For its work has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles joins MADD Kern County in honoring locals fighting against DUI crimes

June 12, 2019 | 2:48 pm


Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Kern County recognized and honored our local law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and other community members on Wednesday at Hodel’s Country Dining for their valiant efforts in helping stop DUI crimes.

In all, 67 officers from throughout Kern County agencies were awarded during the 2019 MADD Kern County Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon, as well as a prosecutor from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.  Awards were handed out to the top prosecutor, top probation officer, and the top law enforcement officer, among others.

“There are numerous ways we as a community can come together to fight against DUI crimes, whether it’s through law enforcement and prosecution, serving as a designated driver, or helping raise awareness of the DUI epidemic in Kern County,” said Carla Pearson, victim services specialist for MADD Kern County. “It’s important we acknowledge and award the special efforts made here. Simply, these people are saving lives.”

The award recipients were as follows (for a full awards list, scroll to the bottom of this post):

  • Top DUI Arresting Officer: Officer Robert Tyo, Bakersfield Police Department, 223 DUI arrests
  • Prosecutor of the Year: Kim Richardson, Kern County District Attorney’s Office
  • Probation Department Award: Brian Mara, DUI Program Supervisor
  • Community Champion Award: Jeff Platt, Eyewitness News
  • Top CHP Officer: Officer Rodney Black (Bakersfield), 117 DUI arrests

The awards ceremony was organized by MADD Kern County volunteers, and made possible by the financial support of local sponsors: Chain | Cohn | Stiles, Chevron, Ira and Carole Cohen with UBS Financial, Kern County Prosecutors Association, and Michael Yraceburn and Sally Herald CPA.

Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with nearly 4,400 DUI arrests in 2018, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s 12 DUI arrests per day. For the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation.

The awards luncheon is one of two MADD Kern County signature events aimed to bring awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and fight toward ending DUI crimes here. The second event, Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, will take place this year on Saturday, Sept. 28, at Park at River Walk.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Attorney Matt Clark sits on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board and regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and law firm marketing director is the planning committee chairman for the annual. Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash. For its work has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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2019 MADD KERN COUNTY LAW ENFORCEMENT & PROSECUTOR

RECOGNITION AWARDS LUNCHEON

 

TOP DUI ARRESTING OFFICER OF KERN COUNTY

Officer Robert Tyo – 223 DUI Arrests: Bakersfield Police Department                       

 

PROSECUTOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Kim Richardson: Prosecutor, Kern County District Attorney’s Office     

 

PROBATION DEPARTMENT AWARD

Brian Mara: DUI Program Supervisor, Kern County Probation Department                     

 

COMMUNITY CHAMPION AWARD

Jeffrey Platt: Eyewitness News

 

TOP ARRESTING OFFICER PER DEPARTMENT

Taft Police Department                                                Officer Andrew Avila              8

Shafter Police Department                               Officer Janet Fernandez                       9

Kern County Sheriff (Wasco)                          Deputy Brandon Routh                        9

Ridgecrest Police Department                          Officer Laura Kenney              13

California Highway Patrol (Fort Tejon)                        Officer Jason Lachaussee        10

California Highway Patrol (Mojave)                Officer Bryan Lombardi          29

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Rodney Black              117

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Robert Tyo                  223

 

CENTURY AWARDS

More than 100 DUI arrests in 2018

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Adrian Tait                  103

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Dallas Plotner              114

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Rodney Black              117

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Robert Tyo                  223

 

DEUCE AWARDS

Between 1 and 49 DUI arrests in 2018

Taft Police Department                                                Sargent Corey Beilby               5

Taft Police Department                                                Officer Moises Martinez          5

California Highway Patrol (Fort Tejon)                        Officer Pablo Hinojosa                        6

Kern County Sheriff (Wasco)                          Senior Deputy Steve Davis      6

Shafter Police Department                               Officer William Draucker        7

Shafter Police Department                               Officer Eric Diaz                      7

Taft Police Department                                                Officer Andrew Avila              8

Shafter Police Department                               Officer Janet Fernandez                       9

Kern County Sheriff (Wasco)                          Deputy Brandon Routh                        9

Ridgecrest Police Department                          Officer Corey Rinaldi              10

California Highway Patrol (Fort Tejon)                        Officer Jason Lachaussee        10

Ridgecrest Police Department                          Officer Laura Kenney              13

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Victor Swall                 20

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Thomas Wahl              20

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Christopher Denman    23

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Jacqueline Smith          23

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Adam Clayton             24

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Tyler Olson                  25

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Michael Galvez                        26

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Michael Livesay          26

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Luis Ballesteros                       26

California Highway Patrol (Mojave)                Officer Donald Mulligan          26

California Highway Patrol (Mojave)                Officer Alejandro Zuniga         26

California Highway Patrol (Mojave)                Officer Jason Carroll                27

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Richard Robles                        27

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Jeremiah Holt              29

California Highway Patrol (Mojave)                Officer Bryan Lombardi          29

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Johnny Moreno                       35

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Kurtis Caid                  37

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Jordaon Hokit              38

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Bernabe Mejia             38

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Francisco Chavez        41

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Jose Bravo                   41

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Kasey Knott                 42

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Hector Organista          43

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Ryan Grant                  44

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Jason Wood                 45

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Brett Otto                     45

 

 

MADD AWARDS

Between 50 and 99 DUI arrests in 2018

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Freddie Garcia             52

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Chad Smithson                        53

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Brandon Carey                        59

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Michael Reynolds        59

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Andrew Marquez         61

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Brianna Pace                66

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Eric Medrano               67

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Ahearn Luca                70

Bakersfield Police Department                                    Officer Jose M. Diaz                72

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Daniel Dinsing             73

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Jessie Velasquez          74

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Michael Ramos                        77

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Matthew Iturriria          80

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Julio Villalobos                        80

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Jaime Cervantes           81

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Jarrod Bone                 82

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Jeff Geer                     83

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Victor Valadez             84

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Arturo Aldrete             92

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Tomas Martinez           92

California Highway Patrol (Bakersfield)                      Officer Gregory Jorgensen       96

‘100 Deadliest Days’: Summer period especially dangerous time for young drivers

May 29, 2019 | 5:04 pm


Did you know that the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is known as the “100 Deadliest Days” in the United States?

During this time span, which largely includes the summertime, our country’s roadways see a sharp increase in automobile fatalities, many involving teen drivers, according to AAA.

For example, in 2016 during this time period more than 1,050 people were killed in crashes involving a teen driver. That’s an average of 10 people per day – a 14 percent increase compared to the rest of the year, according to the AAA.

What are the reasons for the sharp increase?

It’s not that more teens are driving for longer periods in the summer with school out. In fact, driving behavior greatly increases the risk of a crash, AAA states. Distracted driving, inexperience, driving under the influence, not using safety belts, and driving in adverse conditions are the primary reasons.

Bakersfield’s 23ABC News reporter Lezly Gooden examined this annual issue, and discussed what we can do to decrease the numbers. The report also featured Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury Matt Clark, representing MADD Kern County as a board member regarding the alarming DUI-rates in Kern County, which sees more than 4,000 DUI arrests per year. Additionally, Kern County’s rate of DUI-related fatal crashes is the second highest in the country, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.

“The statistics are frankly embarrassing for our county,” said Matt Clark in the 23ABC News report. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is deeply involved with MADD Kern County efforts to raise awareness of the local DUI epidemic, and ways to combat the crimes. “It’s embarrassing that we live in a county in California where you are likely to die in a drunk driving accident than almost any other county in the country.”

Additionally, research shows that when a teen driver has only teen passengers in their vehicle, the fatality rate for all people increased 51 percent. Speed and nighttime driving are also factors, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration.

Here are a few tips for parents of teens and young adult drivers:

  • Evaluate your teen’s readiness. Talk with your teen about personal responsibility, ability to follow rules and any other concerns before beginning the learning-to-drive process.
  • Get informed. Graduated driver licensing, driver education, license restrictions and supervised practice driving are all part of today’s licensing process. And the state of California sets parameters throughout a multi-stage licensing process for young drivers, such as times of day they can drive and how many passengers they can carry.
  • Start talking now. Share any insight that could save your child from having to learn things the hard way. Talk about what it takes to be a safe driver, the rules and responsibilities once they start driving.
  • Focus on passenger safety. Talk to your teen about always buckling up, not riding with a teen driver without your advance permission, and being a safe passenger with teen and adult drivers.
  • Be involved. When you’re behind the wheel, talk about what you see (road signs, pedestrians, other vehicles) that could result in the need to change speed, direction or both. Maintain an ongoing dialogue about your teen’s driving, appropriately restrict driving privileges and conduct plenty of supervised practice driving. California requires that parents and their teens conduct 50 hours of supervised practice driving, including 10 hours at night.
  • Be a good role model. Make changes in your driving to prevent any poor driving habits from being passed on. Show you take driving seriously by always wearing your seat belt, obeying traffic laws, not using a cell phone while driving, watching your speed, not tailgating, using your turn signals, and not driving when angry or tired.
  • Responsible drivers never drive under the influence. As a parent, you can reinforce that message and help steer clear of dangers, including being a passenger of friends who have been drinking. Preventing underage drinking also helps avoid exposure to violence, risky sexual behavior, alcoholism and other serious concerns.

And, as always, share the road with pedestrian, scooter riders, bicyclists and motorcyclists. For more driving safety tips, go to chainlawblog.com.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

‘Kern Under the Influence’: Series highlights local DUI epidemic

February 20, 2019 | 6:00 am


UPDATE: Eyewitness News recently presented a special half-hour program focused on the series highlighted below titled “Under the Influence & On the Road,” sponsored by Chain | Cohn | Stiles. To watch the entire program, click here

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You are more likely to die of a DUI related crime in Kern County than any other county in the state of California.

It’s with that startling fact that Eyewitness News (KBAK-KBFX) recently presented a five-part, in-depth investigation into Kern County’s DUI epidemic titled “Kern Under the Influence.” The series, by reporter Jeff Platt, highlights how deadly Kern County’s roads truly are, how difficult it is to keep repeat DUI drivers off our roadways, how officers try to keep our streets safe, how crash victims are affected, and how we can prevent future DUI crimes.

The series also features Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury lawyer Matt Clark, who shares his experience in representing DUI crash victims, and the suffering that they incur. Clark is a board member on MADD Kern County’s Advisory Board, and his law firm serves annually as the presenting sponsor for the Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash, which raises funds to help innocent victims of DUI crashes, helps raise awareness of the DUI epidemic in our community, and helps fund MADD Kern County programs.

Clark also serves as a speaker for the MADD Victim Impact Panel, a program that has victims and other DUI crime experts speak to first-time DUI offenders in an effort to prevent future and repeat DUI offenders. Clark also took part in a special Eyewitness News Victim Impact Panel segment that followed the five-part series.

To view each of the five parts in the Eyewitness News series and the special Victim Impact Panel segment, scroll down to “Media Coverage” section at the bottom of this post. Here is a breakdown of each of the parts:

 

Part I: Drunk Drivers in Kern County

Every day, drivers in Kern County are sharing the roads with drunk drivers. In fact, local officers arrested nearly 4,300 DUI drivers last year. And that’s just “a drop in the bucket” in terms of how many DUI drivers are actually driving on local streets, local officials say.

According to Eyewitness News, there are 15 DUI drivers on the road at any given moment, with a peak between midnight and 3 a.m., where are nearly 80 DUI drivers in Kern County. And each one of them is a tragedy waiting to happen.

 

Part II: Repeat offenders hardly punished

One of biggest problems involving DUI drivers is that state laws force our county to let them drive drunk over and over again.

In California, drunk drivers get a second chance, a third chance, and in many cases a fourth chance after they are caught before getting any real jail time. As Eyewitness News shows, in between those chances, they’re driving on Kern County’s roadways, and sometimes they claim lives.

Victims are left with little trust in the system, but want lawmakers to address and fix this problem.

 

Part III: Busting drunk drivers

For police, catching DUI drivers sometimes is like finding a needle in a haystack, and other times it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The worry always is how many they are not able to catch.

The fact is, drunk drivers outnumber the police and officers can’t be everywhere at once. But local police use such strategies as check points, saturation patrols, and having every officer DUI-trained to catch DUI drivers. They also hope other motorists look out for DUI drivers and report them to police to keep other drivers safe. A 9-1-1 call with a location and partial plate could be the difference between a fatal crash, or a driver under the influence ending up behind bars.

After all, DUI is a community issue, which will take a community effort to stop it.

 

Part VI: The insurance myth

There is a myth that many victims of DUI crashes get rich in court. In fact, the opposite is true.

A combination of old insurance laws, minimal enforcement of those laws, and rising costs of medical care has created a new normal where DUI crash victims who live end up smothered in debt. In cases of death, victims’ families are sometimes left with nothing.

“Defendants in drunk driving cases often times have no insurance or far too little insurance to cover an injury or God forbid a death,” attorney Matt Clark explained.

Two major issues are at play. One, insurance companies and the DMV don’t communicate, making it too easy to drive without insurance. The second issue is the minimum coverage rates in California barely cover an ambulance ride to the hospital.

Clark suggests increasing your uninsured/under-insured-driver coverage on your policy.

 

Part V: Your choice

Many of the solutions to end DUI driving would take huge government action, including stiffer penalties. But one solution is in our hands: every single one of us deciding to make the right choice and help others make the right choice, too. Impaired driving, after all, is 100-percent preventable.

 

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MEDIA COVERAGE: KERN COUNTY UNDER THE INFLUENCE

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If you or someone you know is injured in a crash due to the fault of a DUI driver, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

New year, new laws for California drivers, bicyclist, scooter riders

January 2, 2019 | 11:10 am


As usual, the New Year brings about new laws to California. And for 2019, several new laws involve measures that affect most of us in the state: driving safety, civil rights, sexual harassment in the workplace, and more. Here are short descriptions of some of these new laws, many of which are a focus for us at Chain | Cohn | Stiles:

 

TRAFFIC SAFETY

DUI Devices (SB 1046): Drivers who have been convicted of two DUIs will have to install breathalyzers, or ignition interlock devices, in order to start their vehicles. This allows drivers to keep their driving privileges instead of having their licenses suspended. Industry experts say ignition interlocks show a 74 percent reduction in repeat DUIs.

Motor Scooters (AB 2989): Helmets are no longer required for motorized scooter riders over 18 or older. Motorized scooters are also allowed on Class IV and Class II bike paths. It is still illegal to ride a motorized scooter on a sidewalk. The law also allows scooters to ride on roads with speed limits up to 35 mph. Learn more about scooter safety by clicking here.

Bike Hit & Run (AB 1755): Hit-and-run laws will be expanded to include bicyclists on bike paths. That means, if a bicyclist hits a person, resulting in a death or injury, the bicyclist must stay at the scene. The bicyclist can be held accountable, CHP said. Learn more about bicycle safety here.

Helmet Safety (AB 3077): Anyone younger than 18 not wearing a helmet on a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or skates will be issued a “fix-it” citation. If the minor can show they took a bicycle safety course and has a helmet that meets safety standards within 120 days, the citation will be non-punishable.

Loud Vehicles (AB 1824): Drivers in a vehicle or motorcycle with an excessively loud exhaust will be fined. Previously, they would have been cited with a “fix-it” ticket.

 

CIVIL RIGHTS & POLICE TRANSPARENCY

Body Cameras (AB 748): Requires that body camera footage be released within 45 days of a police shooting, or when an officer’s use of force causes death or great bodily harm.

Police Records (SB 1421): Allows public access to police records in use-of-force cases, as well as investigations that confirmed on-the-job dishonesty or sexual misconduct.

 

EMPLOYMENT LAW & SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Reporting Harassment (AB 2770): Protects employees who report sexual harassment allegations without malice from liability for defamation of the people they accuse. Also, allows employers to indicate during reference checks whether an individual has been determined to have engaged in sexual harassment.

Nondisclosure (SB 820): Bans nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment, assault and discrimination cases that were signed on or after Jan. 1, 2019.

Settlement Agreements (AB 3109): The law invalidates any provision in a contract or settlement agreement that waives a person’s right to testify in an administrative, legislative or judicial proceeding concerning alleged criminal conduct or sexual harassment.

Harassment Protections (SB 224): Expands employee harassment protections to include those who are not only employers but who could help establish a business, service or professional relationship. This could include doctors, lawyers, landlords, elected officials and more.

Burden of Proof (SB 1300): Expands liability under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA. It lowers the burden of proof to establish harassment and provides stricter guidance on what is or isn’t unlawful harassment. It also expands protections from harassment by contractors, rather than just sexual harassment. Defendants can’t be awarded attorney’s costs unless the action was frivolous. It prohibits release of claims under FEHA in exchange for a raise, a bonus or as a condition of employment or continued employment.

Harassment Training (SB 1343): Requires employers with five or more employees to provide two hours of sexual harassment prevention to all supervisory employees and at least one hour of sexual harassment training to nonsupervisory employees by Jan. 1, 2020. Training should take place every two years after that. Employers also need to make the training available in multiple languages.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident in an accident at the fault of a DUI driver, sexually assaulted, or had their civil rights violated, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.