Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

November 2017 Archives

If we've learned anything from A Christmas Story, you find "the Christmas tree emporium of the Midwest," avoid the balsas, bargain like an Arab trader, and get the salesman to throw in some rope and tie it to your car for you. But police in Sudbury, Massachusetts pulled over a driver who may have taken that advice a little too far.

In that case, a single tree seemed to swallow a minivan whole. But how do you transport a Christmas tree, legally?

You would think that, after decades of classification as an illegal Schedule I narcotic, marijuana plants would be pretty easily identifiable to law enforcement personnel. But it took three assault rifle-toting Buffalo Township police officers four hours to distinguish between some Cannabaceae, the cultivation of which is a felony under Pennsylvania state pot laws, and Malvaceae, the cultivation of which will result in some nice, trumpet-shaped flowers with five or more petals ranging from white, pink, and yellow to red, orange, peach, or even purple.

Yes, Buffalo Township cops mistook a couple's hibiscus plants for marijuana, leading to them being handcuffed in the back of a patrol car for hours while officers ransacked their house and backyard. Now the couple is suing the township (and the alleged tipster), claiming wrongful arrest.

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.