Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

February 2015 Archives

What Color Is #TheDress? Why Eyewitnesses Can Be Unreliable

Within a day, a single Tumblr post about the color of a dress had been viewed over 28 million times. Caitlin McNeill, who attended a wedding in Scotland, asked an innocent-enough question: Is this dress white and gold or black and blue?

With all the strong opinions floating around social media (using the hashtag #TheDress), you'd think she asked if it was OK to strangle a puppy. But, no, war broke out over how people perceive the color of a dress (your author thinks it looks white and gold, by the way, though my editor disagrees).

People can perceive things in wildly different ways, which isn't just a problem for a woman trying to buy a dress. It also influences our criminal justice system.

The owners of a Bering Sea crab boat turned sea-faring strip club are facing federal charges for allegedly dumping sewage into an Alaska harbor.

Darren Byler and Kimberly Riedel Byler, proprietors of The Wild Alaskan, have been indicted on three counts of piping human waste from the floating bar's bathrooms into St. Herman Harbor in Kodiak, violating the federal Refuse Act.

Sandy Kane, a.k.a. The Naked Cowgirl, is suing the city in which she performs after an alleged wrongful arrest last year. She may have "rebuilt Times Square ... and made Manhattan and Times Square history," as she told the New York Post, but the guitar-toting, pastie-sporting performer is now seeking $2 million in damages from the City of New York.

Kane is representing herself in her civil suit against the city.

No Charges for 92-Year-Old Driver Who Hit 9 Parked Cars in Wis.

Have you seen the viral video of a car hitting about nine other vehicles in a Wisconsin parking lot? Thankfully, no one was injured, and bystanders were able to get the driver to stop.

It turns out the driver, Russell Kerr, was a 92-year-old man whose foot became stuck on the gas pedal, Milwaukee's WISN-TV reports. The man panicked and lost control of the car. Police said Kerr wouldn't be charged with a crime, as they considered his actions accidental.

But will he be sued by the cars' owners? And will the state DMV let him keep his license?

With so much of the country blanketed in cold, it got us thinking about the weirdest stories of snow-related shenanigans, and the legal trouble their protagonists might be in.

So let's take a look at some recent winter news and whether these folks took the weather a bit too far:

A New Jersey man allegedly poured water in the middle of an intersection to create a black ice slick as an excuse for (also allegedly) drunkenly crashing his car into a nearby guard rail. Another New Jersey man is accused of attempting to aid in the plan.

Both were arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated.

Teacher With Fear of Children Loses Discrimination Lawsuit Appeal

It appears that the long struggle of one former Ohio schoolteacher to avoid discrimination is at an end. In 2013, we blogged about Maria Waltherr-Willard, who worked as a school teacher in Cincinnati for 35 years but eventually was diagnosed with anxiety.

On Wednesday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the school district in Willard's Americans With Disabilities Act claim.

Willard claimed she was forced into early retirement due to her debilitating fear of children.

'Upskirting' Photographer Gets Charges Dismissed in Ore.

Guess what's legal in Oregon? Snapping upskirt photos of a 13-year-old girl in a Target store.

That's what 61-year-old Patrick Buono of Portland was accused of doing. And even though a trial judge said his actions were "lewd" and "appalling," he didn't actually do anything illegal.

How can it be that snapping such pictures isn't illegal? It turns out that Oregon's law is too specific as to what it prohibits.

After being ticketed and told by an officer, "You can't just go down the road eating a hamburger," it turns out an Alabama man won't be charged with eating while driving after all.

An officer in Cobb County, Georgia, originally ticketed Madison Turner under the state's distracted driving law after observing Turner eating a McDonald's double quarter pounder with cheese for two miles. But a county solicitor dismissed the charge, believing the state did not have enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, The Associated Press reports.

So what evidence did the county have, and why didn't they think it was enough?

Fla. Man Builds Shooting Range in His Yard, and It's Legal

A man from St. Petersburg, Florida, appeared to be in trouble after he told his neighbors he was building a shooting range in his front yard. The neighbors were outraged and called police. But believe it or not, police said Joseph Carannante, 21, wasn't breaking any laws.

The local code enforcement authority also said building a shooting range in Carannante's front yard didn't violate any local zoning or building codes, WTSP-TV reports.

Oh Florida, you so crazy.

Man Pleads Guilty to Selling Fake Urine to Circumvent Drug Tests

For some people, their business is stocks. For others, it's cars. Teaching, science, acting -- everyone has a different job.

For David Neal, it's urine. And not just any urine. Fake urine. Neal, of Middletown, Ohio, dabbles in selling fake pee to help people pass drug tests. Unfortunately, he meddled with the wrong people: the U.S. government.