Legal Grounds - The FindLaw Legal News with an Attitude Blog


Icons from Steve Jobs to Mike Ditka have done it; perhaps Johnny Cash did it best. There is something primeval about flipping the bird, like it was the first, finest, and most simple and complete insult we ever learned and we have yet to find one better. The middle finger's wordless punch transcends linguistic barriers and leaves no doubt as to its intent. It is speech, perfected. Does that make it perfectly legal?

In most cases, flipping the bird is considered free speech protected by the First Amendment. But the limits to that protection might surprise you:

We often warn people going on vacation to not be so busy on social media, for fear of tipping off potential burglars. Well, the same advice might apply to criminals on the run from Johnny Law.

Texas police tracked down a man on their most-wanted list, all thanks to an Instagram post.

So we all like to vent online, and Twitter provides a worldwide platform for some epic rants. Look no further than our Commander in Chief for evidence of that. Given that the targets of those rants are people, and that when we're venting we tend to invent or at least exaggerate some negative aspects of those people, we run the risk of libel.

And anywhere there is risk, insurance is sure to follow. While libel insurance was once standard practice only among journalists, more and more laytweeters are looking into Twitter libel insurance policies.

"Sugardaddy seeking his sugarbaby ... Ask me about your monthly allowance." Seems innocuous enough, right? After all, it's 2017 -- alternative relationship are accepted, if not celebrated, and some legal experts are even recommending sugar daddies as an alternative means to fund a law school education.

But putting that message on a business card and handing it out to underage girls at the beach is altogether something different. So say goodbye to your prospects of landing a sugar baby, Richard Basaraba, and say hello to a six-month ban from al the beaches in Volusia County, Florida.

If I told you a man was captured on cell phone video circling two AT&T service trucks and calmly firing round after round from a revolver into the trucks' tires, then asked you to name the state, I doubt you'd need all 50 guesses before you got to Florida.

Retired Miami-Dade firefighter Jorge Jove wasn't too pleased about the trucks being parked near his house. To be fair, who among us is? But most of us don't walk back into the house, emerge with a hand cannon, and open fire. The 64-year-old proved himself to be a crack shot, up close at least, and earned some criminal charges for his trouble.

Every relationship has its ups and downs, and sometimes we just need a little break from a loved one to get some relief and some perspective. And other times we tell our wife we'd "rather be in jail than at home," walk into a bank, hand a teller a note that reads "I have a gun, give me money," and wait to be arrested.

That was 70-year-old Lawrence John Ripple's domestic situation when he robbed the Bank of Labor in Kansas City earlier this year. But the unhappy thief might not have received the punishment he wanted. Last week, a U.S. District Court judge sentenced Ripple to six months of home confinement. Congratulations, Mrs. Ripple!

Remember Judge Arnold Ogden Jones II of Wayne County, North Carolina? Maybe not. As a reminder, he was the esteemed jurist who tried to obtain his wife's text messages by offering an FBI agent "a couple cases of beer" and $100. Now-former Judge Jones was arrested, indicted on three federal charges, convicted, had the convictions overturned, subsequently pleaded guilty to paying gratuities to a public official, and has now been sentenced to two years probation, $5,000 in fines, and 100 hours of community service.

There are many reasons why a judge, even the one sitting as chairman of the state's Innocence Inquiry Commission, would seek to avoid incarceration. And there are many judges out there who might deserve to be behind bars. Here's a look at both.

Probably. And you might get your friend arrested, too.

Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, Friendswood Police announced they arrested Marissa Ann Sluss and her friend, Hannah Marie Webb after Sluss called the police on herself and admitted to being too drunk to drive. The main problem is that she was behind the wheel when she made the call.

Yes! If you're an inmate in the medium security wing of Chicago's Cook County Jail, that is. But don't expect one of the city's iconic deep dish pies -- it's thin crust only on the menu. And you better trust your cellmate because he might be in charge of toppings -- all of the delivery pizzas are cooked by inmates in the jail's brick oven.

So the only question is: Are the guards partaking in prisoner-made pepperoni pizzas as well?

It's no R2-D2, but the Knightscope Autonomous Data Machine is a pretty cool droid. According to its manufacturer and this dubstep-soundtracked trailer, the K5 can use 360-degree video, thermal imaging sensors, a laser range finder and radar, and even air quality sensors to detect and prevent crime. The K5 can contact law enforcement and even scare off sexual predators prowling around your Tesla in the parking lot.

But the K5 has one apparent vulnerability: 40-something drunk dudes in Silicon Valley shopping mall parking lots.