Q. I am planning a vacation to Sweden. I would like to buy some things over there, but I understand that California may be collecting some sort of tax on items tourists bring back.
A. Although California has a law that allows it to collect sales tax on purchases its residents make in foreign countries, it no longer collects this tax.
For a brief time, the State Board of Equalization used the declaration that California residents filled out for customs to determine the amount of sales tax the state would collect. This tax was in addition to any duty the buyer was required to pay to the federal government.
Q. I have two questions about our traffic laws. The first deals with bike lanes. I live in a city that has a great bike lane system. I ride my bike every morning as part of my workout. What really irritates me is the number of joggers and walkers who use the bike lane. They often run or walk two abreast and won't move even when they see a bicyclist approach. Bikers are often forced out into the lanes of traffic to avoid hitting these people. There is a sidewalk next to the bike lane that they can walk on. I think it's unsafe to allow pedestrians to use the bike lane. What does the law say?
The second question: Is hitchhiking allowed in California? I have a friend who is visiting from Europe and plans to hitchhike through California. Aside from the dangers it involves, should my friend be concerned about breaking the law?
A. Irvine Police Lt. Al Muir says the law forbids pedestrians from being in a bicycle lane when there is an adjacent sidewalk. When there is no sidewalk, they are allowed in the bike lane but must run or walk against oncoming traffic for safety reasons.
Enforcement of the law is left to the individual officer. In the case of an accident involving a pedestrian where there is an adjacent sidewalk, the police will frequently cite the pedestrian. Muir suggests that if you are concerned about this problem, write to the Irvine City Council and to the police chief.
As to your second question, California forbids hitchhikers to stand in the roadway. Each city also has the authority to pass laws regulating hitchhikers.
Q. I am a victim of a rape. I have been going through a counseling program to help me deal with it. I just received word that a person has been arrested for it. Although I am very frightened, I am determined to cooperate with the police so that he cannot do this kind of thing to anyone again.
My question deals with whether my counseling sessions are confidential. In trying to cope with this horrible experience, I have tried to be as honest as possible with my counselor. I am concerned that the things I have told her may be brought out in public at the trial. Does the law help rape victims by protecting what they say to their counselors?
A. Generally, the law does protect confidential communications made by a rape victim during counseling. This confidentiality or privilege depends upon with whom the victim shares the communication. Normally, communications between a victim and a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, a licensed family or child counselor, or a sexual assault victim counselor are privileged and cannot be disclosed without the victim's consent.
The law ordinarily does not extend this privilege to communications made by a rape victim to a physician.
B. Tam Nomoto, an Orange County Municipal Court judge, answers readers' questions about the law. Ask the Judge runs every other Saturday in Orange County Life.