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5 Crimes That You Didn’t Know You Were Committing…. That Could Lead to Bigger Problems


One of the most common problems we see with our clients at The Nieves Law Firm, is that they have violated a law without realizing it.  There are many small violations that can lead to a traffic stop, which can then lead to bigger problems if you are not in compliance the law. Some of these laws can seem like common sense, but when we find ourselves in violation, we may not realize that we are actually committing a crime.  Getting a fine could potentially be the least of your worries if you are stopped for a broken light while riding your bicycle.

Below is a list of laws that many people are not aware they are breaking.


An expired license plate is usually the result of not having enough time to pay the required fees, and it is important to note that California does not offer a grace period once your vehicle’s registration has expired. The day after you tag has expired, you are in violation of the law, and you will incur penalty fees, which grow the longer you wait. If you are stopped for an expired tag, you could also be investigated for other violations. Visit the California DMV’s website for more information on vehicle registration rules and regulations.


In California, Cyclists must adhere to the same road rules as motor vehicles. Cyclists must ride with traffic, ride on the right side of the road, use bike lanes, yield to pedestrians, stop at (not in) the crosswalk, and ride with lights and reflectors at night. If you are seen not adhering to any of these laws, you can be pulled over.  During your stop, if a police officer finds that you are biking under the influence, or you are found to be carrying an illegal weapon or substance, what was once a lesser incident, can become a violation that can land you in jail.


This sounds a little outrageous right? First you may be thinking, well why would I have a knife in my pocket? Secondly, you may think, well even if I have a knife on me, I could be intending to go camping or cut my steak for lunch! And you would be right to think that, but what you may not know is that this is in fact, illegal. We once dealt with the case of a client who was stopped for a cycling violation, and it was discovered that our client had a knife in their backpack.  The knife carry laws in California can be tricky, as there are some knives that are legal and some that are not.  Also due to the lack of clarity, you may find yourself getting arrested for a knife that is found to actually be legal.


If you’re like most licensed drivers, chances are you’ve at least once or twice found yourself waiting in a long line at the DMV.  It can be frustrating and a time-suck that you put off until the last possible moment.  It’s one of those things that can sneak up on you, causing you to drive without a valid drivers’ license, and thus find yourself behind the wheel illegally.  In California, driving without a valid license can be misdemeanor offense that could land you in jail. If you do have a valid drivers’ license, but you fail to present it during a traffic stop, you can be charged with a minor infraction. Driving without a license can start as a minor nuisance based on forgetfulness or time crunches that can quickly become a criminal offense that could land you behind bars.


Not drinking (alcohol) and driving has been drilled into most of us by now, and we are all pretty aware that it is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but did you know that you could be found on the wrong side of the law for eating while driving?! Depending on the officer who spots you, eating while operating your car could be considered distracted driving.  While there is no explicit law that says you cannot eat and drive, you could be found in violation of California’s Vehicle Code, if you are swerving, or otherwise partaking in an activity that demonstrates that you are distracted behind the wheel of your vehicle.

Typically, no one violates the law in the above ways on purpose, and certainly, no one wants to go to jail for the reasons listed in this blog post—but the reality is, many do.  If you, or someone you know, is facing criminal charges in Oakland for violating the law when you didn’t know you were, give our offices a call today.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of The Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2012. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, motions to vacate, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star the past 8 years, the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019, and one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc 5000 in 2023.

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