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November 30, 2012

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

Question: I'm not going to sugarcoat it: My neighbors are complete asses. This holiday season, can I put up lights shaped like a giant hand giving all of them "the finger?"

Answer: Sorry, but your proposed light display is likely in violation of state obscenity laws. (Daily Mail, Police force woman to take down middle-finger Christmas lights she set up as message to her neighbors)

Question: I am on my deathbed. Who will inherit my iTunes library upon my death?

Answer: Ownership of digital assets such as iTunes songs remains a very unclear "legal black hole," unfortunately. (The Wall Street Journal MarketWatch, Who inherits your iTunes library?)

Question: I am a police officer. Some fool fell off of a building during a summer music festival and landed right on me, fracturing my neck. Can I charge him with something?

Answer: Disorderly conduct. And really bad luck. (The Associated Press, Man charged with falling off building onto officer)

November 30, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (7)

November 29, 2012

'Parking Douche': From Russia With No Love for Bad Parkers

I still think there is a 5 percent chance that this is from The Onion, but I learned today (via AFP) that a Russian newspaper called The Village has developed an Android app called Parking Douche that allows citizens to photograph lousy parkers and shame them in that newspaper. It is somewhat similar to the Austin, Texas-based "Parking Mobility" app (discussed here) that allows citizens to report drivers who park in handicapped spots, except that instead of getting a ticket as in Austin, the "parking douches" in Russia get publicly shamed and embarrassed. 

Here's how Parking Douche works: When you see careless or irresponsible parking in Moscow, you use your Parking Douche app to take a photo of the car via your smartphone, enter the car's license plate number and details of the parking douchiness you have witnessed, and submit it to the newspaper through the app. 

The Village newspaper then causes the photo of the douche-car and its license plate to appear on the newspaper's website as a pop-up ad. The pop-up only appears on the screens of readers who are in the same vicinity as the location of the car, as determined by the GPS data sent in by the app. According to AFP, the pop-up of the car will not close "until the viewer has posted them to Facebook or shared them with others," thus "ensur[ing] its owner is suitably shamed and embarrassed."

While the app is currently only in use in Russia, requests to license it have reportedly begun to come in from the UK, US, Germany, Japan and Israel. Check out this video to see the Parking Douche app at work.

November 29, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (11)

November 28, 2012

Federal Court Orders Big Tobacco to Admit 'Truth' About Cigarettes in 'Corrective Statements'

Don't look for these any time soon as the tobacco companies will almost certainly appeal, but U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled Tuesday that tobacco companies sued by the Department of Justice back in 1999 must issue "corrective statements" to the public after decades of deception about the health hazards of smoking cigarettes.

In an order, Kessler stated that the defendant tobacco companies had made false and deceptive statements on five topics:

(a) the adverse health effects of smoking;

(b) the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine;

(c) the lack of any significant health benefit from smoking 'low tar,' 'light,' 'ultralight,' 'mild,' and 'natural' cigarettes;

(d) Defendants' manipulation of cigarette design and composition to ensure optimum nicotine delivery; and

(e) the adverse health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Elaborating on a 2006 order in which the court had mandated that the defendants publish corrective statements, Kessler laid out this week exactly how the blunt statements should read. For each of the five topics, the judge ruled, the defendants must preface the corrective statements by noting that 

A Federal Court has ruled that the Defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public about the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine, and has ordered those companies to make this statement. Here is the truth:

The various "truths" that the tobacco companies must admit to under Kessler's order include the following:

  • "Smoking kills, on average, 1200 Americans. Every day." 
  • "More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined." 
  • "Cigarette companies intentionally designed cigarettes with enough nicotine to create and sustain addiction."
  • "All cigarettes cause cancer, lung disease, heartattacks, and premature death - lights, low tar, ultra lights, and naturals. There is no safe cigarette."
  • "Defendant tobacco companies intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive."
  • "There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke."

And so on.

Reuters reports that the tobacco company defendants have been battling to avoid being forced to use words such as "deceived" in the corrective statements, but lost this free speech battle before Kessler. A spokesman for one defendant, Reynolds American, stated that the company was "reviewing the judge's ruling and considering next steps," but tobacco industry analysts are confident that the tobacco companies will "appeal absolutely everything."

November 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (5)

November 20, 2012

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

Question: I am going through a nasty divorce and custody battle. I think it might ease my pain if I could express my feelings, perhaps artistically or in writing. Does that sound like a good idea?

Answer: Sure -- unless your chosen method of expression involves spray-painting broken hearts and angry messages on a brand-new, $350 million courthouse. That will get you charged with criminal mischief. (, Police: Woman spray paints new courthouse)

Question: My company manufactures a product that is normally tested on machines, but we decided we'd rather hire some people to do the testing -- specifically, some "lively and good-looking women" between the ages of 18 to 25. Should we just post an ad and wait for the applications to roll in?

Answer: Is this company by chance a condom manufacturer? If so, you might want to investigate whether there's a legal distinction between "condom testing" and prostitution. (Jonathan Turley, Company Insists That It Is Not Guilty of Prostitution In Hiring "Condom Testers")

Question: The former attorney general of my state is under an ethics investigation, and I have some opinions about the case. I think I'll just fire off a couple of tweets about it. No big deal, right?

Answer: Right, unless you happen to be a lawyer for a state appeal court judge, in which case you should just step away from the Twitter (especially if you were thinking of calling the former AG a "douchebag"). (The Associated Press, Kansas appeals court lawyer fired after using foul language in tweet about ex-attorney general)

November 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (7)

November 16, 2012

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1. Question: My son is turning 16 years old this week. For his birthday, he has asked me to get some strippers to perform for him and his buddies at a birthday party. Is this going to be a problem?

Answer: Yes, it will be a problem. It is illegal for teens under the age of 17 to be subjected to sexual contact. Setting your son and his friends up with strippers could be considered "endangering their welfare." (UPI, Police: Mom hired strippers for teens; Post-Star, Photos of teen's stripper party pique police interest)

2. Question: I bought a house next to a golf course, so I guess I knew on some level that golf balls might land in my yard. But this past season 1,300 balls landed on my lawn. Unacceptable! Can I successfully sue the golf course for trespass, nuisance and breach of duty?

Answer: No. You had an "independent duty" to foresee this shower of golf balls based on the location of your home as relates to the golf course. (The Consumerist, If You Buy A House Next To A Golf Course, Don’t Be Surprised When Your Lawn Is Littered With Balls)

3. Question: Marijuana is now legal in my home state of Washington. The laws are clear on how high your blood-alcohol content must be before you will be charged with drunk driving, but how do I know how baked I can get before I must not drive?

Answer: That is the subject of much debate, as there is no consensus about the standard rate for THC impairment and no easily available way to determine whether someone is impaired from recent pot use. (CBS News, Marijuana initiatives prompt Colorado, Washington to focus on keeping stoned drivers off road)

November 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (5)

November 15, 2012

Man Protecting His House From Fire Gets Police Taser Shot in the Back

Through the years I have come across all kinds of unexpected reasons why people have found themselves on the wrong end of a police Taser (here and here, for example). This week's reason for an unexpected Tasering: trying to use a garden hose to fight a fire that is threatening your house.

Of course, the police would phrase that reason differently. Probably something like: "refusing to stop fighting a fire with a garden hose that is threatening your house after being ordered to do so by police."

Either way, Dan Jensen of Tampa Bay, Fla., took a Taser shot to the back last week after he awoke from a nap to find his next door neighbor's house on fire. Jensen saw that the flames were starting to approach his house, so he emptied a fire extinguisher and then began spraying the fire with his garden hose. The Daily Mail reports that the police arrived on the scene before firefighters did, and instructed Jensen to "back off." Jensen did, but lost patience waiting for the fire department while watching his house start to burn and decide to reengage with the garden hose. As he picked it up, "Jensen felt electricity run through his body and he collapsed to the ground."

Jensen says he never received a warning from police, which reportedly violates police procedure for issuing a warning before using a Taser. "It was wrong," he said. "I thought they were here to help me. Instead, they hurt me." The police say that Jensen was putting himself and officers in danger by not backing off, and that it only took six minutes for fire fighters to arrive on the scene.

November 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (9)

November 14, 2012

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1. Question: I'm hearing about people who have started petitions for their states to secede from the United States. Can I start a petition to "Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America?"

Answer: No problem. (We the People, Petition to Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America)

2. Question: I am the mother of a 13-year-old girl. She is demanding that I get her some meth but, of course, it is illegal and bad for her. On the other hand, if I do not get it for her, she will "throw a fit." I should probably get it for her, shouldn't I? Who wants to see their daughter throw a fit, right?

Answer: You should not provide your daughter with meth, fit or no fit. (News-LeaderPolice say Springfield mother gave meth to 13-year-old daughter multiple times)

3. Question: I have been called for jury duty. One of my fellow potential jurors has arrived for jury selection today wearing hair curlers and mismatched reindeer socks. Should she be excused from consideration on account of her, um, possible mental illness?

Answer: Yes, if she is truly mentally ill. But sometimes people who are not mentally ill wear hair curlers and mismatched reindeer socks to court to try to get out of jury duty, and get themselves charged with the felony of attempting to influence a public servant. (ABA JournalWoman Who Faked Mental Illness to Get Out of Jury Duty Pleads to Felony, Gets Deferred Adjudication)

November 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 13, 2012

'Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other' Pilot Program Underway in Delaware

As promised back in June 2012, the state of Delaware launched a two-week pilot program last week that targets distracted driving. In June, the U.S. Department of Transportation authorized $2.4 million in federal support for California and Delaware to vigorously pursue the department's "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" pilot enforcement campaign. Through these pilot programs, California and Delaware will help the DoT test the effect of increased law enforcement and high-profile public education campaign on distracted driving, trying to duplicate the success of the 'Click It or Ticket' campaign that promoted the use of seatbelts. 

The Delaware campaign kicked off on November 7 and will continue through November 20. Using the DoT funds, Delaware will have participating officers from 42 law enforcement agencies working overtime shifts to enforce Delaware's laws prohibiting the use of handheld cellphones while driving and texting while driving. According to the Delaware Office of Highway Safety, law enforcement officers "will show zero-tolerance for distracted driving. If they see you talking on your cell phone or texting while driving, they will give you a ticket."

The federal grant to Delaware of $900,000 will allow for three waves of enforcement. The second and third waves will come in 2013 (April 9-22 and June 4-17, 2013).

November 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1. Question: Is it grounds for divorce that my husband will not spice up our love life by recreating scenarios from "Fifty Shades of Grey" with me? 

Answer: It worked in the U.K.! (Dealbreaker, Husband's Lack Of Interest In Recreating 50 Shades Of Grey Scenarios Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back For British Banker)

2. Question: I think I can get into Epcot Center for free if I just flash a badge and (falsely) tell the cashier I am a federal agent. That's a $100 savings! Should I go for it?

Answer: That can also get you charged with unlawful use of a police badge, falsely impersonating an officer and petty theft. Just save up the $100. (Daily MailFather arrested after 'pretending to be federal agent to get free entry into Epcot')

3. Question: I found a pre-World War II grenade in a flowerpot. Should I just bring it straight to the police station? 

Answer: No!!! Past episodes of this kind have caused police stations to put up signs reading, "NO WEAPONS ALLOWED OF ANY KIND, (including, Hand Grenades)." If you take it to the police station that will just require them to evacuate their building and move all of their prisoners until the bomb squad arrives. (The Detroit News, Man with grenade walks into Detroit police station, says, 'Look what I found')

November 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 12, 2012

LBW Brain-Teaser of the Day: Two Drunk Driving Arrests at Same Exact Time?

Here is your LBW brain-teaser of the day:

Question: On November 4, 2012, a man was arrested for two separate drunk driving incidents at two completely different locations, by the same officer. Both incidents occurred at 1:08 a.m. The man did not have a time machine -- how did this happen?

... waiting for your head to explode ...

Answer: (scroll down)


The incidents occurred exactly one hour apart, on the day that daylight saving time kicked in and we turned the clocks back.

According to The Smoking Gun, at 1:08 a.m. on November 4, Niles Gammons was pulled over by Urbana, Ill., police officer Dave Reese for driving the wrong way in an alley. A Breathalyzer test measured Reese's blood alcohol content at .116, and he was charged with drunk driving. Gammons was released from police headquarters after an adult arrived to pick him up.

As Reese later wrote, "At 2:00 AM, the time changed from daylight savings time to standard time and 2:00 AM became 1:00 AM." Eight minutes later, at 1:08 a.m., Reese says a vehicle "backed out of a spot rapidly and nearly collided with my cruiser." The vehicle was driven by none other than Gammons, who told Reese that the "friend that picked him up dropped him off and refused to take him home." Gammons said that he then decided to drive because was "afraid of getting arrested for public intoxication."

November 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (4)

November 09, 2012

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1. Question: I ran for a spot on the County Commission but lost -- to a person who had died a few weeks before the election. Does that mean that I am now the winner? 

Answer: No, the party that won will select the deceased winner's replacement. (Daily MailTwo lawmakers elected to office … despite both DYING weeks before voters went to the polls)

2. Question: I am a stripper and when I came down the pole I landed on a man who was visiting the club and ruptured his bladder. Am I liable for this?

Answer: There is not a lot of strip club injury precedent to go on, but one customer did get a $650,000 settlement after a stripper hit him in the eye with her heel. (CBS News, Man's lawsuit claims stripper ruptured his bladder)

3. Question: If I try to rob a Chinese restaurant, but none of the employees speak English and they cannot understand that I'm trying to rob them and I leave empty-handed, can I be charged with attempted robbery?

Answer: That sounds like a solid criminal law exam question. I'm going with "yes" even though the only example of this I've seen resulted in three unsuccessful robbers being "detained, but not officially arrested." (UPI, Police: Language barrier foiled robbery)

November 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 08, 2012

L.A. County Passes Ordinance Requiring Porn Stars to Wear Condoms

Here is the difference between Virginia and California: When I went to vote here in Fairfax County, Va., I had to decide "yes or no" on boring stuff like the "Virginia Eminent Domain Amendment," which was Question 1 on the ballot. Question 1 read:

Shall Section 11 of Article I (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended (i) to require that eminent domain only be exercised where the property taken or damaged is for public use and, except for utilities or the elimination of a public nuisance, not where the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development; (ii) to define what is included in just compensation for such taking or damaging of property; and (iii) to prohibit the taking or damaging of more private property than is necessary for the public use?


I read that a couple of times, never quite understood it (despite having gone to law school and practiced law for a decade), and then just took a guess at it and moved on to some equally boring questions on bond issuances. Meanwhile, across the country in Los Angeles County, voters were considering way much more interesting topics such as Measure B ("Safer Sex In the Adult Film Industry Act"), i.e., the issue of whether porn actors should be required to wear condoms when filming in L.A. County. I can say that in all my years of voting in Virginia we have never once had a porn question on our ballot. Unfair!

According to a Bloomberg report today, Measure B passed with 56 percent of the vote, meaning adult-movie actors will need to wear condoms during shoots. Critics of the measure such as Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, say that the new law won't have the desired impact, however, because adult entertainment companies will simply vote with their feet and film elsewhere. "It doesn't change anything -- we'll simply shoot in Hawaii, Mexico or the desert," he said. "We'll fly to Cabo for a week or 10 days. It's not a big deal."

November 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (6)

November 07, 2012

Wednesday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1. Question: I am a lawyer. A bartender and a bouncer from a bar I was in have falsely accused me of stealing $6.95 worth of chicken wings. Can I sue them for slander?

Answer: No, chicken wing theft is not a serious enough crime for the tort of slander. (New York Law JournalAttorney Accused of Stealing Chicken Wings Loses Bid to Sue Bar)

2. Question: I routinely drive on the sidewalk to avoid stopped school buses. I was finally caught doing this and the judge is saying that in addition to having my license suspended for 30 days and having to pay $250 in court costs, I must stand at an intersection wearing a sign for two days saying: "Only an idiot drives on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus." That's harsh! Can the judge do this?

Answer: Yep! (Jonathan Turley, Cleveland Judge Orders Woman To Wear Sign Calling Herself An "Idiot" In Latest Shaming Punishment)

3. Question: Oh yes! My state of Colorado has legalized marijuana. W00t!!! Is it time for me to break out the Cheetos and Goldfish, if you know what I'm saying?

Answer: As Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper stated on election night, "federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly." (WaPo Election 2012 Blog, Hickenlooper on Colorado pot vote: 'Don't break out the Cheetos')

November 7, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 06, 2012

Tuesday's Three Burning Legal Questions: Election Edition

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1. Question: I am a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Do I need to wait in line to vote today like the rest of you flunkies? 

Answer: Heck no! (DCist, Wanna Cut the Line to Vote? Just Become a Supreme Court Justice)

2. Question: On this national election day, can you remind me what the "B" in Susan B. Anthony stands for? 

Answer: Badass. (Lowering the Bar, Woman Arrested for Voting)

3. Question: So, what happens if the presidential election ends in a tie in Electoral College votes? 

Answer: How do you feel about a Romney-Biden administration? (Bloomberg Law, What If The Presidential Election Is A Tie?)

November 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Things You Can't Do on a Plane: Vol. 26

You might think that after Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6Volume 7Volume 8Volume 9Volume 10Volume 11Volume 12Volume 13Volume 14Volume 15Volume 16Volume 17Volume 18Volume 19Volume 20Volume 21Volume 22Volume 23Volume 24 and Volume 25 of Things You Can't Do on a Plane, that we'd have exhausted the list of things you can't do on a plane. Nope! The list grows daily.

Here are three more things I've recently learned that you cannot do on a plane:

  • Disrupt the flight and try to open the plane door mid-flight (while on Day 50 of a drinking binge). Passengers on a 50-day drinking binge may not wake up during the plane's descent, start yelling in Russian, try to open the rear door and then offer federal agents $6,534 to let them go. CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be charged with damaging and disabling an aircraft, interfering with a flight crew, bribing a public official, and assaulting and resisting officers.
  • Get drunk and carjack someone in the airport parking lot (for pilots). Pilots with 12 hours to kill before their next flight may not get drunk and enter the backseat of an occupied rental car, get into a fight with the occupant and then drive away in that person's car. CONSEQUENCE: Pilot will be arrested and charged with car theft and DUI.
  • Pace the airplane aisles verbally and physically harassing female passengers. Passengers may not get drunk and walk about the plane behaving aggressively and grabbing women. CONSEQUENCE: Passenger will be tackled by fellow passengers and then held down with their belts for nearly three hours until the plane lands and police arrive.

November 6, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 05, 2012

Monday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1. Question: I am at the bus terminal here in Zvishavane, Zimbabwe and I'm "having some unusual funny feelings in my private parts." Can I get this man who is staring at me arrested for having sex with me using only his mind?

Answer: Yes, it sounds like he may be practicing a type of black magic on you called 'mubobobo,' a voodoo spell by which a man can be intimate with a woman using only his mind and without any physical contact. He can be arrested for that. (Planet Ivy, Man arrested for having sex with women (using his mind))

2. Question: I am a woman and I charge men (and some women!) to cuddle with me in my home. That is it though -- just cuddling and no hanky-panky. Does that make me a prostitiute?

Answer: It looks like the jury is still out on this question for now. (Mail OnlineNo holds barred: The professional 'cuddler' who makes $260 a day by inviting strangers to take a nap with her at home)

3. Question: I have 168 dogs. Does that mean I am technically running an animal shelter or a kennel at my home in Kern County, Calif.? 

Answer: There appears to be no clear law that defines how many dogs comprise a kennel or shelter, so it will be up to your county supervisor to decide this. (, County official says Kern woman has an illegal animal shelter) (via Legal Juice)

November 5, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 02, 2012

Friday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1. Question: I am a lawyer and, after a dispute and argument with a client, I beat him with a baseball bat. Can I keep my law license?

Answer: Sorry, but no. (The Charleston GazetteLawyer stripped of license for beating client with bat)

2. Question: I am blind. Will that prevent me from getting a California drivers license?

Answer: Nope! (UPI, Calif. DMV renews blind man's license)

3. Question: I am the father of a 1-year-old boy with a woman with whom I am no longer involved. She named the boy using her last name, but I would like him to be re-named to have my last name. Can I get a court order requiring that? 

Answer: No problem. (The Volokh Conspiracy, When Parents Disagree, Should Child Bear the Mother's Last Name or the Father's?)

November 2, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 01, 2012

Thursday's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1. Question: I work in the mortgage business. I read your post about the guy at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage who was fired over a 50-year-old conviction for putting a cardboard cutout of a dime in a laundromat's washing machine under the new federal background check policy for banks. I guess that means I'm completely hosed for my 14-year-old conviction for accidentally not paying for an omelet at Denny's, right?

Answer: Correct. (The Consumerist, Bank Of America Fires Investment Banker Over 1998 Dine & Dash At Denny’s)

2. Question: Suddenly, Siri won't answer my questions on where I can find hookers in China. Is my iPhone broken?

Answer: No, your iPhone still works but Apple has reprogrammed Siri not to answer that question as that information violates Chinese law. (China DailyApple blocks Siri's prostitute-finder function) (via Legal Juice)

3. Question: I am a 10-year-old boy and I'm at the police station for career day. A police officer just asked a group of us to clean his police car. We don't have to do that, do we?

Answer: You should not have to do that, no, but just realize you might get shot with the Taser if you refuse. (RT, Cop shoots 10-year-old boy with Taser for refusing to clean patrol car)

November 1, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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