Friday, August 18, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Do you really want to put THAT in writing? Internet Commuinication Safety

For some reason, most people that communicate via the Internet or text message often forget to use their common sense. Maybe it comes from the early days of the Internet when we could all sign on with relative anonymity and communicate with others all over the world with that same anonymity. But those days are over. When communicating via instant message, email or text message a simple subpoena can get your name, address and phone number in a relative short period of time. For some reason most people seem to take a more casual tone when communicating via instant message, email or text message; but forget their statements are now memorialized and writing. And that is exactly where the problem lies.

Statements made in writing can easily be printed out, taken out of context and used against you. Common statements once made in jest can now be used to incriminate you or used to support others' law suits against you. Sexual innuendo often used by many people as simple flirtation or punctuation is now open for interpretation by readers the message was never intended to reach. Over exaggerated statements like "I'd kill you if you did that again" or "yeah I'd 'do' him" can easily be taken out of context and used as the basis for civil and criminal legal action.

This warning not only applies to "personal" communication but is even more apt for communication that occurs in a business setting. Many criminal matters I handle as well as civil matters now include emails, electronic communication, and copies of websites and pictures posted used as evidence in the case that is pending.

Additionally, on July 27th, 2006, President Bush signed H.R. 4472, The Adam Walsh Child Protection And Safety Act Of 2006. I urge you all to google this very important legislation and make yourself familiar with its provisions. In short, among a few other provisions, any website that has "sexually explicit imagery" must maintain records of those individuals depicted that have their name, date of birth and address. So, in theory if you have naked pictures of yourself posted on a website you could possibly subject yourself to the provisions of this law. How is this to be implemented you ask, as there are probably millions of such images all over the net; to that question I have no idea how the government plans on enforcing this law? I would also think there may be some constitutional issues as to freedom of speech rights that this law may infringe upon. However, you stand warned that this law is out there.

Finally, I have warned people for years now, to be very careful when sending out naked pictures of yourselves or sexually suggestive statements out over the net. Remember you have no idea who is on the receiving end of that email. As any experienced Internet person knows, many times the person on the other end of your communication is not "exactly" who you thought them to be.

My advice before sending an instant message, email or text message: do not be so hasty to hit the send button. Write what you want to write, then put it aside for a few minutes, reread it and think to yourself: "Is there anything in here that I do not want ANYONE else seeing? 'Could anything in this email be taken out of context if read by the wrong person?" If the answers to these questions are "yes' perhaps it may be better for you to pick up the phone and talk to the person, before you commit yourself to put these statements in writing.

If you have questions about this or any other legal matter please do not hesitate to contact my office at (310) 749-4LAW. Additionally, I have posted most of my old articles at FREELEGALINFO4U.BLOGSPOT. COM.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Controling Road Rage --- LET IT GO

Last night, my partner and I were headed to one of our favorite post work out eateries here in LA. While patiently waiting for the person backing out of her parking space to leave, another individual came the opposite direction and grabbed the space we had been waiting for, for about 15 minutes.

My partner's and I first reactions, (as most people's would be...) was to get out of the car and tell the guy what we thought of his actions (and that's putting it mildly...). However, after numerous flashbacks in my head of clients who had been in similar situations and been arrested for their actions (one had punched the person and was arrested for battery; others had keyed the person's car and were arrested for vandalism; others exchanged nasty words, the individual then contacted the police and told them he was physically threatened) I tried to calm him and I down, and let the matter go.

We all know driving in LA can really suck at times. Many people are on their cell phones (which apparently soon may be against the law once this bill goes to the Govenator's desk), many do not pay attention to their driving, many do not have insurance or even have driver's licenses. However, I have witnessed and represented some pretty extreme behavior in order to retaliate for another's lack of courtesy while driving during my years on the road. The bottom line is, if someone does something to you that you feel was unwarranted, simply let it go. No, its not easy. But the consequences can be deadly.

A few weeks back, one of my favorite clients contacted me and told me about his recent road rage incident. I found the whole experience so bizarrely ironic, as road rage (which you will see was almost Justifiable in my book as you will see shortly) is what brought him to my office in the first place. "Mark" had originally, contacted me a few years back as he had seen my ads in IN LOS ANGELES, which his uncle had at his house. He was in the process of becoming a fireman with the LAFD. Unfortunately, he was recently arrested for battery which occurred during a road rage incident and now was not only facing this criminal charge, but if convicted would loose his job offer with LAFD.

Mark, although straight, was driving with his favorite Gay Uncle on Melrose Ave. when he was cut off a few times by 3 young guys in a truck. Each time they cut off Mark, they yelled "faggot" out the window at both Mark and his Uncle. Eventually this became too much for Mark, and he began following them and when they pulled into a parking lot; trapped them with his car and got out of his car and punched the driver in the mouth.

The individuals then copied down Mark's license plate number and contacted LAPD. Mark was arrested a few hours later he had left the scene. Luckily for Mark, after working with the district attorney's office and brokering a settlement, the matter was eventually dropped and Mark went on to become a firefighter with LAFD.

I found Mark's new situation all that bizarre as it was Him that was now the victim. Mark told me what had occurred the night before. He explained that while driving on the 110 Freeway, he had forgot to signal while making a lane change. The individual he had cut off, changed lanes, pulled next to him and fired 3 shoots into his car, narrowly missing his head and hitting the head rest on his car. He asked me if there was anything he could do to make sure these guys were prosecuted and I explained to him as a victim of a crime the best thing to do to ensure prosecution was to constantly be in touch with the district attorneys office and to go to the hearings in the case and make sure the Judge knew he was the victim.

The individual who shot at Mark explanation was simply that he shot at him because 'Mark had really pissed him off..." This individual is now being charged with attempted murder and will likely go to jail for a very very long time.

Simply put, if you are involved in a road rage situation, the best advice is to count to 10 and while counting, think of all the things that you could loose by your actions and reactions. Does it suck that people can be so uncourteous and selfish while driving? Yes, it does. But you have no idea how the other person will react to your reaction and in this day and age of such unpredictable behavior, its best to just walk away.