Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

December 2016 Archives

The popular digital home assistant, the Amazon Echo, affectionately known as Alexa, is being asked by law enforcement to help solve the murder of a Bentonville, Arkansas man. Well, Alexa isn't really being asked anything. Rather, police have obtained a warrant requesting Amazon to turn over information and data that the murder suspect's device may contain regarding the murder.

Police believe that the device may have collected some critical data as a result of the device's "always listening" programming. The Amazon Echo is equipped with several microphones that are always on (so long as the device is on). Those microphones are constantly listening for commands. When the device hears one of the commands, it sends an audio recording to a server where it is transcribed and saved, and data is sent back confirming the response or action the device should take.

Criminals often get nicknamed by police as a result of unique methods of committing their crimes. In Wyoming, a burglar left a distinctive calling card: a half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The sandwich, along with a cup of coffee, contained DNA evidence, which linked the burglary suspect to the repeated robberies of a hardware/equipment store and a JC Penny store.

The DNA found on the sandwich and coffee cup linked the suspected burglar to six different burglaries, three at the same hardware store and three at JC Penny. The half-eaten sandwich was found at the scene of the first burglary and ever since the police had been calling the burglar the PB&J burglar. At the scene of one of the JC Penny burglaries, police found a coffee cup which linked the suspect to the scene of the crime.

Working at a company like Google must be one heck of an experience. Unfortunately for Googlers and the rest of us, the tech giant prohibits its employees from sharing their experiences, either aloud or in novelized form.

A recent lawsuit claims Google employees are barred from writing "a novel about someone working at a tech company in Silicon Valley," without the company signing off on the final draft. So don't look for the definitive insider's view of the internet company on the New York Times best-seller list any time soon.

Recently, on the way home from some educational conference in Canada, a small group of travelers got quite a surprise when they reached the border. The group appeared to be in good spirits, and while making witty banter with the border control agent at the US-Canada border, explained that they had bought a lot of those Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs. No one in the group knew that those fun chocolate eggs were illegal in the US.

Needless to say, the border control agent was less than thrilled with the ordeal. Fortunately for the chocolate smugglers, and one random Canadian, rather than do the paperwork, the customs agent let one of the group members walk back over to Canada and give all the Kinder chocolates to someone, and then cross back over.

While the silver screen may glorify international jewelry thieves, the story plays out much differently in real life. Eighty-six-year-old Doris Payne, an international jewelry thief whose career has spanned six decades, was recently arrested in a Von Maur department store in Atlanta, Georgia trying to pocket a $2,000 bracelet.

Payne's arrest record dates back to the 1950s. Since 2010, she has been arrested seven times for various theft charges, all but one involving jewelry items. However, she gained international repute when she was alleged to have stolen a 10-carat diamond in Monte Carlo in the 1970s. Fortunately for Payne, the stone could not be recovered, which resulted in her release.

A Christmas Carol: Was It Legal to Scare Scrooge? (Part II)

Welcome to Part II of this year's review of great Christmas traditions that actually break a lot of laws. In case you missed Part I, this year we examine Ebenezer Scrooge, that " ... grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner" and his brush with a clutch of law-breaking ghosts.

In Part I, we discussed Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Past. Now without further ado, let us pick up where we left of, with the next legally challenged ghost to visit Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas present.

A Christmas Carol: Was It Legal to Scare Scrooge? (Part I)

Each year I take time out of my busy schedule of haranguing my team about Oxford commas, calls to action, and proper tone to write about the legal issues found lurking in our most beloved Christmas traditions. First it was the Grinch, the fuzzy green Christmas anti-hero of all time. Then it was the 12 Days of Christmas -- the law breaking in that seemingly innocent song is rather breathtaking. But really, I have always wanted to take on Dickens and his master creation, Ebenezer Scrooge; I just never could find a way.

Scrooge was "a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner" but to date, I never could figure what laws he might have broken on his journey through Christmas past, present, and future to become less of a pain in Victorian London's collective bum. Maybe I just wasn't trying hard enough. Maybe it was a lack of knowledge of English commercial law. Then, I had an idea ... an awful, wonderful idea. Maybe it isn't Scrooge I needed to look at, maybe it was those darn ghosts.

The dog's name was Tony Montana. This guy. That should've been the vet's first clue that Malorie Ruiz might be more than just a concerned pet owner looking to chill her dog out on some Alpazolam, a form of Xanax.

The second clue? Calling back right after getting the prescription and demanding a refill. "She called and said that she was going out of town and they dropped the drugs in the toilet or something," Park Animal Hospital owner Rachel McGlamery told WFLA. "Oh no, she couldn't find the key ... The key to the safe or some sort of crap."

One New York City attorney has had enough of his neighbor's Christmas display and has filed a lawsuit. While some might think he is going overboard, the display includes speakers that play Christmas music from 7 a.m. to midnight, daily. The plaintiff has grown rather tired of hearing the same songs over and over again.

While there is no shortage of neighbors that enjoy the display, the man who filed the lawsuit lives right across the street. The attorney, Nick Wilder, who is representing himself, is seeking an injunction to force his neighbor, socialite Lisa Maria Falcone, to turn off the music.

Good people of the country looking to mix their love of the virgin birth and The Walking Dead are under attack this holiday season. Jasen Dixon, of Sycamore Township, Ohio, claims vandals trashed his "Zombie Nativity" scene, as the AP put it, "beheading the ghoulish-looking Mary figure and flipping the greenish baby Jesus into the yard."

This attack on religious freedom should be unsettling for any American who believes in both the impending zombie apocalypse and the inevitable rapture.

It's rare that deaths by natural causes make the headlines, but one Miami man's death recently garnered some attention. Jacob Morpeau, aged 62, died of natural causes while parked in his car a few blocks from the county courthouse. What makes his death legally weird is that for four days, city parking officials continued to issue citations to Morpeau's vehicle, presumably with him dead inside, sometimes two tickets at a time.

One concerned citizen, who was curious about how a car could rack up so many parking ticket went to take a closer look at Morpeau's vehicle. That's when she discovered that Morpeau was in his SUV slumped over, and dead. County officials have dismissed the $160 in parking citations, but have not issued a statement as to how parking enforcement could have missed the dead body in the car. The good Samaritan however explained that Morpeau was slumped beneath the steering wheel out of sight.

One New York man is making headlines after his arrest for first degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle. Darwin Barnes, of Rochester, New York, has somehow managed to have his driver's license suspended 46 times. What makes this even more shocking is that Barnes is only 51 years old. Hold off on doing the math for a minute.

On Monday, Barnes was pulled over doing 30 mph over the speed limit. When officers ran his information, not only did they discover that Barnes' license was currently under suspension, but that his license had been suspended 45 other times over 17 different occasions. Assuming he started driving at 16, he is averaging 1 occasion of suspension every 2 years (with each occasion averaging 3 license suspensions). Believe it or not, Barnes still has 20+ suspensions to go before he catches up to the thirty-something year old Paul Wheeler from Indiana.