Poly-oly-bigamy

March 29, 2011 on 10:42 pm | In Could I be arrested?, Law, Logic | No Comments

A Michigander (yes, that’s what we call ourselves) is in trouble because his first wife found out that he remarried, despite still being married to her.

How did she find out? Well, he defriended her on Facebook and then posted the new wedding pictures there. Unfortunately for him, he had other “friends” in common with his wife and she ended up seeing the pictures anyway. (FYI, defriending your wife is not a legal equivalent to obtaining a divorce.)

A legal blogger noted that Michigan does not have a specific statute outlawing bigamy. He’s right, we actually have a statute outlawing polygamy, but we apply it to bigamists. As pointed out by the blogger,

Michigan’s anti-multiple-spouse law makes it “polygamy” to have two or more spouses, which is grammatically wrong but avoids the need to have separate statutes for bigamy and polygamy, I suppose.

Anyway, Michigan’s polygamy statute is also interesting because it contains two odd exceptions.

Of course there are the normal exceptions. Such as if you divorced your previous spouse. And there’s an exception if your spouse has left you for a period of five or more years.

However, they don’t all make sense. The first odd exception is this one:

The provisions of this section shall not extend to any person whose husband or wife shall have voluntarily remained beyond the sea.

There is no waiting period for this exception. If your spouse merely voluntarily remained beyond the sea, even for a second, apparently you’re free to marry someone else. And “remained” is in the past tense too, so you could remarry even after she came back. “She voluntarily remained beyond the Labrador Sea in Greenland for a whole week, your honor!”

The other exception is odd because it too lacks a waiting period along with any sort of objective proof.

The provisions of this section shall not extend… to any person who shall have good reason to believe such husband or wife to be dead.

Let me make this clear. All you need to be exempted from the polygamy statute is a “good reason” to think your spouse is dead. Not a great reason. Not a medically verified reason. Not a death certificate. Not a corpse. Nope, any mere “good reason” will do.

So if you’re at a hospital, and a nurse accidentally or negligently tells you your wife is dead, you’re free to get hitched to someone else. Because that sounds like a “good reason” to believe she’s dead to me.

Or what if your wife dies during surgery, but is immediately revived? It’s actually quite common. Because there is no waiting period, I think the husband is good to remarry anytime thereafter, because he had a “good reason” to believe she was dead. That’s because she was medically verified to be dead. Remember, the statute does not say how long she had to be dead, or even that she was dead at all, or that she didn’t come back to life. Only that you had a “good reason” to believe it.

Heck, why go through all of this divorce stuff? Simply give your wife a vacation across a sea or find a “good” reason to believe she’s dead. Then marry that other significant other in your life. You’ll be glad you did.

However, what I’m saying here is not legal advice. Always consult an attorney before and after committing a crime. And don’t try to tell me that you’ve relied on my post and got into trouble. Everything I’m saying in this post is completely and utterly wrong. And don’t try to tell me that you got in trouble because you did the opposite of everything I said, because even the opposite of everything I’m saying is completely and utterly wrong.

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If a KFC employee accidently gives you a bag of money, is it a crime to keep it?

March 18, 2011 on 7:24 pm | In Could I be arrested?, General, Law | 1 Comment

There’s a story going around about an employee at a KFC who mistakenly gave a customer a bag of money instead of his food. Apparently restaurants hide their money in sacks to avoid theft. If a criminal sees an employee entering or leaving a restaurant carrying a bank bag he might be easily robbed.

Anyway, the customer got home and found a couple grand in the bag instead of his food. He immediately called the police, then immediately returned the money to the restaurant.

People in the comments are talking about whether or not he should have returned the money. The discussion is all about what is considered moral, along with some speculation about what the law says.

I was curious. If the customer refused to return the money (assuming they could identify and locate him), could KFC send a cop over to arrest him?

First, what I’m saying here is not legal advice. Always consult an attorney before and after committing a crime. And don’t try to tell me that you’ve relied on my post and got into trouble. Everything I’m saying in this post is completely and utterly wrong. And don’t try to tell me that you got in trouble because you did the opposite of everything I said, because even the opposite of everything I’m saying is completely and utterly wrong. With that out of the way….

The first option I thought about was larceny. The elements of larceny are as follows:

First, that the defendant took someone else’s property.

Second, that the property was taken without consent.

Third, there was some movement of the property.

Fourth, that at the time the property was taken, the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

Fifth, that the property had a fair market value at the time it was taken.

There is a serious question about the second element. While the money was not intentionally given to the customer, it could be argued that the employee consented in giving the bag to the customer.

However, the real problem with larceny is the fourth element. At the time the bag was taken, the customer clearly did not intend to deprive KFC of the property. So that’s out.

Another option is larceny by conversion. The elements of larceny by conversion are:

(1) The property at issue must have some value,
(2) the property belonged to someone other than the defendant,
(3) someone delivered the property to the defendant, irrespective of whether that delivery was by legal or illegal means,
(4) the defendant embezzled, converted to his own use, or hid the property with the intent to embezzle or fraudulently use it, and
(5) at the time the property was embezzled, converted, or hidden, the defendant intended to defraud or cheat the owner permanently of that property.

Here (3) is interesting. It simply does not matter how the customer got the money. Even if you receive something under completely legal means, (5) could still make it illegal.

Under simple larceny, the intent is formed at the time of the taking. Under larceny by conversion, however, the intent is formed at the time of the conversion. In this instance, the conversion of the sack of money would occur when the customer thinks, “Wow, 2 grand. I’m not giving this money back, I’m keeping it for myself.”

There is still no intent of the customer to embezzle, fraudulently use, defraud. All of those are all clearly defined legal terms which are not applicable to this situation. However, there’s the use of the layman’s term “cheat.”

Since “cheat” is not defined in the statute, we use a dictionary. To cheat means to deceive or to defraud. “Cheat” is pretty broad. Cheating could be construed if you intended to keep the money, which you know is not yours and you know who it really belongs to, hidden from the real owner.

However, you can get around this. To avoid any cheating or deception, you could simply call the restaurant and tell them who you are, where you live, and that you have the money, but you’ve decided to keep it. Bam, that eliminates larceny by conversion.

Based on the above, it is my likely incorrect opinion that it would not be against the criminal law to keep the money if you did not try to cheat them out of it, at least in my state.

Now in the real world the police could show up and arrest you merely because they’re pricks. Cops have been known to shoot and kill completely innocent and unarmed people and not even lose a single day’s pay over it. So, if the owner of the KFC was sufficiently connected, the police would probably drag your ass to jail, taser you, shoot you, and then take the money out of your cold dead hands. But in the ivory tower which is hypothetical law, they would not be able to have any charges stick.

And one more caveat, even if the restaurant could not have you arrested, it could still sue you in civil court under unjust enrichment theories to get its money back.

Update – 12/4/13: It’s happened again. This time it was a McDonalds that gave away a bag of loot to a customer.

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Taking Taco Bell’s Gold

March 18, 2011 on 5:58 pm | In Could I be arrested?, General, Law | 2 Comments

First, what I’m saying here is not legal advice. Always consult an attorney before and after committing a crime. And don’t try to tell me that you’ve relied on my post and got into trouble. Everything I’m saying in this post is completely and utterly wrong. And don’t try to tell me that you got in trouble because you did the opposite of everything I said, because even the opposite of everything I’m saying is completely and utterly wrong. With that out of the way….

You might have heard about the story of some guy who tried to buy a taco at Taco Bell using a gold coin worth about $1,428. The clerk refused to accept the coin. The guy posted a video of the attempted exchange on YouTube. The joke being that the clerk was so stupid to not take the gold. Because everyone knows no one ever tries to scam businesses.

I don’t know if this was real or some sort of set up. I find it hard to believe someone would risk $1,428 to carry out a joke.

Anyway, the question I have is not whether or not it was real. My question is this: Could the clerk have been arrested for taking and keeping the gold and paying for the taco out of his own money?

That was my first thought. I’m working at Taco Bell and someone wants to pay with a gold coin. Why couldn’t I keep the coin and pay for the damn taco myself? But would that be some sort of crime involving conversion or embezzlement?

Both of those crimes depend on whether you’re taking your employee’s property.

So if the customer asked whether Taco Bell would accept a gold coin in exchange for a taco, and if as an agent of Taco Bell you agreed that it would, then the gold coin belongs to your employer.

However, the clerk could have finagled the gold for himself. He could have quickly asked his manager,

“Does Taco Bell accept bartering for food? This guy doesn’t want to pay in US currency, he wants to barter.”

Of course the manager would have said something along the lines of,

“No, we do not accept bartering. Tell him he has to pay cash.”

After hearing that response. The clerk could then tell the customer,

Tell you what, if you give me the coin, I’ll buy you a taco with cash.

If the guy accepted the deal, the clerk would have a gold coin and the guy would have his taco.

Now the clerk might be fired for conducting business on his employer’s time. But I don’t see how he could be arrested for it.

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