Thursday, September 25, 2008

What do I do if I get arrested?

First of all, don't think that it can't happen to you. There are volumes of laws out there that could get you arrested should you break one. Chances are, you don't even know all the things that are prohibited by law--you might even make a habit of doing something that could subject you to arrest and not know it.

For example, if you've ever had a yard sale, lost a dog, or organized an event, you've probably hung a sign somewhere in public. Well, many towns and cities have laws prohibiting "unlawful posting." During the Giuliani regime in New York City, the police where arresting old ladies for hanging signs on light poles. I've witnessed it personally. Moral of the story: what you don't know, can get you arrested.

So, what do you do if you get pinched?

It doesn't matter whether you think you did something wrong or not, you should do the same things:

1. If you find yourself in a situation where it seems like you are no longer free to leave, and you want to leave, you should ask: "Am I free to leave?" If the answer is "no," you should ask "why am I being detained?" If the officer cannot articulate a reason, you should again ask "am I free to leave?" If the answer is no, ask "am I under arrest?" If the answer is yes, the next words out of your mouth are: "I want a lawyer." Even if you are not under arrest, but are being detained, you are under no obligation to make any statements to the police whatsoever other than to provide ID. This is true no matter how the authorities may try to get you to talk. The more you talk, the more trouble you will probably get yourself into. No matter how solid you think your explanation is, you'll do yourself a favor if you stop talking.

2. If you are eventually arrested, do not resist or touch the officer. Some officers will charge a person with resisting arrest for something as small as a tug on the handcuffs.

3. Stay calm--anything you say or do can be used to prosecute you--and the police will write down all of their observations.

4. If the police continue to speak to you, repeat, "I want a lawyer." Do not make any statements at all about the incident that led you to get arrested--for that matter, do not make any statements at all about anything. The police are very good at getting people to talk. They are actually trained in the art of interrogation. The techniques that they are taught are modeled after those developed during the Spanish Inquisition (no joke).

5. Once at the police station, cooperate with the booking process (i.e. allow them to take your mug shot, fingerprints, and ID). Make no statements. It is possible that you are being videotaped or recorded. If you behave badly, you might end up watching the replay in court.

6. When asked to waive your rights to remain silent and have a lawyer, do not waive those rights. Again repeat, "respectfully officer, I want a lawyer." Do not sign a form waiving you rights no matter what may be promised or threatened.

7. You will be informed if bail has been set. Ask to make a phone call to have someone who can bail you out. Keep your phone conversation brief and to the point. Make no statements about why you are in jail. The police will be listening and writing everything down. Example: "I'm at the police station. I am being held on bail. The police require $__ in order to let me out. How soon can you be here?" Stay calm, and do not discuss the reason for your arrest.

8. If you are released, do not confess/discuss your case with anyone. It is possible that one of those people you talk to could become a witness against you if forced to take the stand. If you are unsure, ask your lawyer about what you can and cannot confide in your spouse.

9. Once in private, get a notebook and write down all the details that you can remember about the incident. On the front cover of the notebook write clearly: "To my attorney. Privileged."
Contact an attorney right away.

Remember: all hope is not lost just because you've been arrested! You haven't been convicted of anything. Get in touch with an attorney who practices criminal defense law and listen to what he or she has to say.

Attorney Rich Taylor

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lighten up, people

What happened to our sense of humor? Two high school kids in Texas were taken to jail after running across the field during a football game dressed as a gorilla and a banana. It started as a prank to get the crowd psyched up for the game. But everyone stopped laughing as soon as the school principal hopped the fence, tackled the kids, and turned them over to the cops who were waiting to shackle their hands together.

The kids spent 16 hours in jail only to see the charges ultimately dropped after public outcry. Jail, people. Jail. It's this type of overreacting that undermines the credibility of police authority. It's no wonder that many kids distrust and resent the police. While imperfect and subject to human flaws, many cops put themselves on the line every day to make a difference in the community. But crucial to their power is their ability to make decisions on the spot about who to arrest when called to the scene. To do this, they need to be free to use their common sense. When parents and school officials overreact, the result is to make a farce out of the state's authority. Over policing doesn't make us safer-- it makes our society, well . . . less fun. And you know what? It puts all of our individual liberties at risk.

Attorney Rich Taylor

Blogging and Copyright Law

In July 2006 the Pew Internet & American Life Project estimated that the US "blog population has grown to about 12 million American adults", some 8% of US adult internet users. The number of US blog readers was estimated as 57 million adults (39% of the US online population), although few of those people read widely or read often. David Sifry reported in April 2007 that growth in the number of blogs created had slowed - "matured" - with other observers noting that the percentage of active blogs are compared to the total number of blogs tracked by Technorati was declining, down from 36.71% in May 2006 to 20.93% in March 2007. (Source:

With more and more people blogging and even more reading these blogs, it is important to know and follow U.S. Copyright Law. It is way too easy for people to copy and paste material and make it their own. This material includes pictures, sound, video and text. If you are a blogger, KNOW YOUR COPYRIGHT LAW! The last thing you want to deal with is a cease and desist or takedown letter or better yet, a federal copyright infringement lawsuit.

Things You Should Do

Use stuff in the public domain. As an online publisher, you are free to use any work that is in public domain. This includes federal government documents, materials produced before 1923 and materials produced before 1977 without a copyright notice.

Use ideas and facts. Copyright law protects the expression of facts and ideas, not the facts and ideas themselves. You are free to use facts and ideas you find on websites and other blogs.
Use things that are not protected by Copyright law. Some examples of things not protected by Copyright law include names, symbol, short phrases, titles, slogans and procedures. Be wary of trademark issues however. Some of these things not protected by Copyright law ARE protected by Trademark law.

Quote things you find interesting. Under US Copyright law, short quotations for the purpose of criticism, commentary or news reporting are considered “fair use”. We are talking about a relatively speaking small part of the work and most certainly not the whole thing or even major parts.

You can use a company name or logo. You can use a company’s name or logo if you are talking about them. A fundamental purpose of Trademark law is to protect a company from people trying to use its name or logo to deceive customers. If you are being critical of a company or offering some commentary on a company, you can use their name and logo under the doctrine of Nominative Use (see

Things You Should Not Do

Just because there is no copyright © notice, does not mean you are free to use it. Don’t assume that the work is in the public domain just because it does not display the symbol. In fact, it's a good idea to assume something IS copyright protected unless you can prove that it is not. Up until 1977, the law required this symbol on all copyrighted works. Congress changed the laws in 1978 and abolished the requirement for copyright notice. Every published work (in print format, in digital format) automatically gets protection, whether it shows the symbol or not.

Just because you’re attributing or quoting the work of another, doesn’t mean you are not committing a no-no in Copyright law. This is a common misconception. You can ONLY use copyrighted material with express consent/permission from the author unless you are making Fair Use of the author’s work.

Not using something for commercial use is not a defense. Jimmy the Blogger who creates a blog for his own personal enjoyment and makes no money doing it can still be sued for copyright infringement. Certainly, making commercial use (e.g., money) of copyrighted material is more offensive to the original author and easier for wronged author to claim damages against Jimmy, such commercial use is not necessary to bring a copyright infringement actions against an offender who acts without permission.

“Creative Commons” stuff isn’t always a free-for-all. Check what kind of license the Creative Commons stuff is using. Some licenses are more restrictive than others. For example, a license may require you to credit the original author while others make you release modifications of the work under the same license. (see

What if you cannot find the Copyright owner to ask for permission? Just because you cannot find the rightful copyright owner does not mean you have done enough to avoid infringement. It is a good idea to pass on using the copyrighted material altogether. If you cannot find someone to get permission, you don’t have permission. And when you don’t have permission, see above.

Alex S. Yiokarinis, Esq.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Starbuck's Latest Black Eye

Ever since law school when my trademarks professor put a series of trademarks on the screen and asked us to identify the company, I realized I was addicted to logos. The professor’s visual quiz got harder and harder. As she went through the slides, I realized that less and less people in my class knew what the logos were for. Towards the end, no one was guessing (correctly) except me. An addiction was realized.

Is it because I am, for some strange reason, mesmerized by television commercials? Is it the creative part of my brain screaming for attention in an otherwise logical, rules-based mind of a lawyer?

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So here’s Starbuck’s latest black eye: The Rat City Rollergirls.

This past spring, a dispute arose after Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks asked Rat City (another Seattle-based company) to change its logo, claiming it looked to similar to its own.,%20LLC

Starbucks filed an inquiry with the USPTO. This inquiry asked for successive extensions of time to oppose the registration for the logo by Rat City. The USPTO terminated the opposition period and the Rat City logo was registered on September 9, 2008.

Yes, both logos are round. Both use the same sans-serif font. Both use two stars with an image of a woman in the center. But really, did Starbucks think they could put the kibosh on this one? This isn’t infringement. There’s not really even a chance for likelihood of confusion. Dilution of the mark? I suppose Starbucks has to do what it has to do to protect its mark, but c’mon. You decide. Was the USPTO right to deny further extension of the opposition period for Starbucks and register the trademark for Rat City?

Alex S. Yiokarinis, Esq.

What do I do if I'm stopped by the police?

Pound on your steering wheel and wish him that it didn't happen to you. Sound familiar? This has happened to all of us at least once and, for some, one to many times. Most people find themselves feeling intimidated, nervous, and generally fearful. Unfortunately, this is a very normal reaction to interacting with the police. I've met judges that say they get Elvis leg when stopped by the police. Cops can be scary. This is not by accident. In some states, they wear tall jackboots, bandolero style leather belts, and short brim hats that flop down to each side. These uniforms often invoke, the worst images associated with intimidation and aggression. Plus, most obviously, they represent "authority"--the people that can get you in trouble.

Here are some simple steps to take if you find yourself on the side of the road with blue lights flashing in your mirror:

  1. Put your hands on your steering wheel at "10 and 2" so the officer can clearly see them.
  2. Give your name, ID, and insurance card, if asked
  3. keep calm and keep your hands in plain view
  4. other than providing your identifying information, remember, you are never obligated to speak to the police. Many people find themselves in trouble when they start rambling and answering questions.
  5. Do not consent to a search of your person, car, or things.
If you have any questions about your rights or obligations if stopped by the police, contact a lawyer. Remember, it's up to you to claim and protect your rights. You can't count on the government to do it for you.

Attorney Rich Taylor