Should You Blog About Your Crimes?

Crime Scene by Alan Cleaver from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Crime Scene by Alan Cleaver from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Recently I had an interesting conversation with my friend Joe Manna. He wanted to write a blog pot about his experience driving a Prius and he had concerns about disclosing the fact that he was speeding – not just a little over the limit, but driving over 100 mph.

Luckily under the law the burden is on the prosecution to build a case against you. As far as we know, no one from law enforcement saw him speeding and we really don’t know which city/county he was in when this occurred, or even if he was in California or Arizona. Frankly all we have is his claim that he was speeding and anyone who’s ever heard a fishing story knows how much someone’s word can be taken at face value. As far as I know there’s no physical evidence of what actually happened.

Joe’s question brought up a good point – be careful about what you post online and aware of what others post about you. If you disclose that you committed a crime and post videos or pictures from it, that could be evidence that could be used against you.

Think about all the stories you’ve heard about burglars that were caught after they took pictures of themselves with their loot and high school pranksters who took pictures of themselves doing their senior prank or stealing their rival’s mascot.  They were busted in part due to their own stupidity.

This is one of the risks we take in the flash mob world. After each event, we post the blog, photos, and video from the flash mob so people can enjoy our shenanigans. If we did anything illegal during the flash mob, we just admitted it and probably gave law enforcement the evidence they need to prosecute us.

So does Joe have anything to worry about? Probably not. The worst thing he probably has to worry about is he’s put the police on notice that he speeds so maybe the cops in his neighborhood might pay a bit more attention to him when they see him out and about.

Can you blog about your crimes? Of course! Should you? That’s a different question. Think hard about the potential consequences of the post before you tell the internet-accessible world about your wrongdoings. You never know where that information will end up and what those people will do with it.

If you want more information on this topic, please check out my books The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed and Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.

You can connect with me on TwitterGoogle+FacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me.
You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm monthly newsletter.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

Police Arrest Would-Be Prankster for Conspiracy

Jumping Jacks by Flabber DeGasky

Jumping Jacks by Flabber DeGasky

I recently read a news story out of Buffalo, NY about a 17 year-old being charged for conspiracy, criminal nuisance, and disorderly conduct for posting an event on Facebook that invited people to assemble at the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga, NY. The reporter called the planned event a “flash mob,” but given that the article said that organizer’s “intent was to cause damage and create chaos,” I doubt that this was a plan constituted a real flash mob. It sounds like an invitation to commit a crime such as disorderly conduct or rioting. I could not find the event on Facebook, so I can’t say for certain what the planned activity was.

Either way the lesson is the same: If you plan an event which involves a crime, you’re asking to be charged with conspiracy and solicitation. Even if you only meant to do something fun, you could still be charged. Even if you cancel the event and nothing bad happens, you could still be charged. Let’s look at what it takes to get charged with each crime.

Conspiracy
In Arizona, you need three things to be commit conspiracy:

  1. Two or more people,
  2. A plan between them that involves committing a crime, and
  3. One overt action in furtherance of that crime, even if that act is not a crime.

So if you and your friend planned to kill someone and one of you bought a shovel to bury the body, you could be charged with conspiracy. Likewise, if your plan was more innocent, like planning a pillow fight where the rules say you can hit anyone in the vicinity with your pillow whether they have a pillow or not and you buy a new pillow for the event, that could also be conspiracy.

Solicitation
It’s also very easy to commit solicitation in Arizona. All you have to do is ask or encourage someone to commit a crime. Even if the person declines the invitation, it’s still solicitation. Asking someone to kill your spouse, regardless of their answer, is solicitation. Likewise, inviting people to participate in a prank that involves touching people in any way without their consent might be solicitation to commit assault. Putting up a Facebook event and making it public could be enough for a solicitation charge.

These types of crimes are easy to commit, especially if you don’t realize that what you’re planning to do is illegal. Your ignorance of the law will generally not protect you from the consequences of your actions. It’s because of this that it’s imperative that you contact a flash mob attorney (like me) when you are beginning to plan your event. Even if the illegality of your event is brought to your attention and you cancel it before anything bad happens, you could still face serious criminal charges.

If you want to know more about committing conspiracy and solicitation by planning a flash mob, I made a video about it. You can also view it here.

Feel free to connect with me via TwitterGoogle+Facebook, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

I’m an ABA Legal Rebel!

Photo by Don McPhee Photography

I’m excited to share the news that I’ve been named a 2012 American Bar Association Legal Rebel! The ABA acknowledges 10 members of the legal community each year for being innovative leaders. I am humbled and honored to be added to this illustrious group.

Photo by Don McPhee Photography

I learned about the Legal Rebels when I was in law school at Arizona State University. Every year they invite a panel of Legal Rebels to the school to talk to students about non-traditional career paths. I’m so grateful they hold this event for people like me who need role models who embody the idea that there’s more than one way to be a successful lawyer. I really admire people like Stephanie Kimbro, Niki Black, and Jeffrey Hughes who created some of the roads less traveled in the legal profession.

I had a wonderful conversation with Legal Rebel Mark Britton at the ABA TechShow this year. I met him the year before when he visited my law school when I was a 3L. In one year, I had gone from sitting in the audience listening to him speak to sharing the stage with him at LexThink.1. At the end of the event he was very encouraging of me and my firm and said I was “doing everything right” with my career.

The ABA selected me to be a Legal Rebel for my work in flash mob law. Even though I’ve been a lawyer for less than a year, I’ve examined the legal issues surrounding flash mobs since 2009 when I participated in my first flash mob – the No Pants Light Rail Ride. A group of us from that event decided we wanted to keep doing these events so we co-founded Improv AZ. Before  every event, I think through the criminal, First Amendment, tort, property, and intellectual property issues and try to ensure that we aren’t setting ourselves or our participants up to get arrested or sued.

Photo by Don McPhee Photography

I’m also an advocate for the real flash mob community. I try to correct the media when they call group criminal activities or any protest or demonstration organized through social media a “flash mob.” I want to maintain our reputation for organizing surprise events that entertain an unsuspecting audience.

I never would have pursued flash mob law without the support of some very special people.  I especially want to thank Ari Kaplan who encouraged me to pursue this niche, my fellow Improv AZ co-founders, and my family and friends who encouraged me to follow my dream of being a flash mob lawyer. Thank you again to the ABA for bestowing this honor upon me and for my awesome Legal Rebel Converse sneakers!

Feel free to connect with me via TwitterGoogle+Facebook, and LinkedIn, or you can email me.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.