Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog


When most people hear of a defendant 'getting off on a technicality,' they think of it in a pejorative sense, assuming a criminal is going unpunished because of some fancy lawyering or a quirk in the law. But those technicalities are there for a reason.

"It's really important for us to be fair," Jeffrey Shear, New York City's Deputy Department of Finance Commissioner for Treasury and Payment Service told 1010 WINS. Shear was announcing the dismissal of over 500,000 parking tickets -- costing the city around $26 million -- all on a technicality.

We've noted before that, while Reddit's legal advice section was a decent source of humor, it's not such a great source of legal advice. So when we saw one humorous looking post, we couldn't resist taking a look at the ensuing legal advice.

"[M]y mom has power of attorney for me (im in my mid twenties) [sic] and now because I haven't cleaned my room I'm on the verge of being kicked out of the house, sent to a group home, and having my phone turned off," wrote one user. "She locks the refrigerator and freezers up because 'she can't trust me to not eat everything in the house.'" So what did the legal experts on Reddit have to say?

The First Law of Holes states that 'if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.' Case in point: If you hired a hit man to kill your wife, and that hit man turned out to be a cop, you probably don't want to hire another hit man to kill the first. Chances are, that hit man is a cop too, and you've just added another count of "using facilities of interstate commerce in connection with the hiring of a person to commit a murder" to your record.

So when that happens, we have no choice but to wonder whether all hit men are actually undercover cops.

There are all kinds of scams out there: the omnipresent grandparent scam; the finger-painting scam, so popular in the posh kindergartens these days; and, of course, the fake baby funeral scam.

And there's the classic, shoot yourself and your significant other in a faked home invasion to get settlement money from the property manager scam; an oldie, but a goodie.

There's an old saying about your life being over once you have kids. It's a joke most already-parents like to bestow on soon-to-be-parents; a joke with just a hint of truth. Many parents long for their pre-children social lives, and try to combine the two, dragging the kids along to restaurants, bars, and even beer gardens.

Of course the majority of parents do this responsibly and without incident. But it's always the irresponsible few that ruin it for the many. Such was the case at Hampton Station, a Seminole Heights, Florida craft beer and pizza spot, where a few recent incidents meant an end to the beer garden's kid-friendly atmosphere.

If you were a prisoner in upstate New York looking for help with your parole case, the NYS Prisoner Assistance Center and an attorney named Mario Vrendenburg might've looked like a good option. Over 400 other prisoners and their families thought the same, handing over more than $23,000 to have the firm handle administrative parole appeals and other legal matters.

The only problem, according to the New York Attorney General's office, is that there was no NYS Prisoner Assistance Center, Mario Vrendenburg was actually Antonia Barrone, and the fake firm was run out of Barrone's home. Now Barrone is facing at least three years in state prison.

Parody, especially of public figures, is protected speech under the First Amendment. Parody Twitter accounts are a fact of life, as ubiquitous on that platform as fake news is on Facebook. There are over 50 parody Donald Trump accounts alone. While most people don't take parody accounts too seriously, most people are not the Miami Beach Police Department.

Officers from that department arrested Ernesto Orsetti after they discovered he was behind a parody Twitter account impersonating MBPD spokesperson Ernesto Rodriguez. Orsetti was charged with impersonating a police officer, and could be looking at 5 years in prison if convicted.

In the inimitable wisdom of Indiana lawmakers, 16 and 17 year olds can consent to have sex with adults, but they cannot receive texts with naked images of those adults. And in the inimitable wisdom of the Indiana Supreme Court, the absurdity of these conflicting laws can't save a teacher from a sexting conviction.

It's just the latest example of sexting legislation gone wrong.

Fruity fraud. Ripened rip-off. Peeled pretender. Banana sham?

When a company called Rasta Imposta sues Kmart, accusing the store of selling carbon copies of its copyrighted banana costume, the puns will follow, so we'll get them out of the way here. And while this may sound like an open-and-shut case of an object so ubiquitous as to defy copyright protection, wait until you hear what the Supreme Court said about cheerleading uniforms.

Velcro's marketing department scored a huge victory this week, as their heavily bleeped music video featuring actual in-house attorneys imploring consumers to say "hook and loop" rather than "Velcro" went viral. If not, these company lawyers explain, Velcro may "lose our circle R," or trademark on their own company name.

Known in intellectual property law circles as "genericide," a trademark can be deemed to be abandoned if the mark becomes the generic name for the goods or services on or in connection with which it is used. While that fate has befallen brands like Hoover, Jacuzzi, and Frisbee, Velcro is hoping to avoid being the next victim. But is it really up to consumers to protect a company's trademark?