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What Should I Do If Police Come to My Door? And More Free Legal Advice – Free Joe 5/18/12

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On Tuesdays and Fridays, attorney Joe Escalante answers legal questions for free on the LegalZoom Facebook Page. Did you miss the last Free Joe? Don’t worry. We’ve got it all right here.

Stephen: Joe, what should I do if law enforcement agents come to my door?

Joe Escalante: ‎”Hi guys. How can I help you? Oh, you want to come in? I’d rather you didn’t. The place is a mess. Oh, all you have to do is get a warrant and you’ll come back and it will be worse for me? OK, you guys go do that. I’ll straighten up in the mean time.”
This way, if they come in anyway, which they can do, they wont be able to use any of the evidence they find against you in court, because they asked to come in, and you said no. They can still ransack the place, but it sounds to me like it already maybe self-ransacked.

Jessica: Follow-up question from Tuesday about Pumpkin Stencils…what if I just use some of the celebrities characteristics to make a face for a jack o’ lantern and not actually put their face on the pumpkin?

Joe Escalante: I understand Jessica, but the celebrities theoretically have the right to decide who makes money from their images, unless it’s some kind of journalism we’re talking about here (Fair Use exceptions to U.S. copyright law.)
If the characteristics are recognizable, you may have violated their right of publicity. If they are not recognizable, you wont get the value of their celebrity.
That value is worth something, so that’s why they demand royalties.
I don’t know why you are fighting the “Joe Escalante Pumpkin Stencil” opportunity I threw your way last time. I might change my mind and give it to a rival pumpkin stencilor if you don’t jump on it.

Barbara: I own some mineral rights in OK. A company has been taking natural gas from the property for years. My interest is very small (about $25 every 3 or so months) a couple of weeks ago I received a document in the mail that says “BEFORE THE CORPORATION COMMISSION OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA”. It has the Applicants name and “RELIEF SOUGHT: VACATE DRILLING AND SPACING UNITS; AND ESTABLISH HORIZONTAL DRILLING AND SPACING UNITS.” My question is…What is this document intended for and is there any action I need to take?

Joe Escalante: It sounds like they are changing their drilling process and that needs to be cleared with the state and everyone needs to be notified that is affected, in case they want to object. That’s just a guess, having not read the entire document. With those kinds of dollars involved. I’d probably stick it in a drawer, to be found after I pass.
Safe bet is to take it to a local attorney with some mineral rights experience, but he’ll eat up your royalties for years to come. So now I’m back to the drawer, if you know what I mean.

Boyd: Joe, I’m a small business owner who needs to incorporate. But I don’t know whether an S-Corp or an LLC would be best. I’ve read a TON of information over a period of years and have spoken with countless alleged “experts” (attorneys, accountants, etc.) who’ve not been able to answer my questions definitively.

Bottom line: As the CEO & Founder of my own corporation, which one will allow me, my wife and our five children to keep more of the money that belongs to us instead of the thieves in DC taking it away? IE: How can I keep more of my own money as an employee of my corporation? Is S-Corp or LLC the way to go?

Joe Escalante: This is 100% a tax question. You need to get a tax pro on board with your business. Get one highly recommended and trusted by people you trust and stay with that person while you build your business.

Rusty: Hi, I heard you may be able to help me with a legal question. Recently my house was entered by police while I wasn’t home and they took several of my things as well as searched though my personal belongings. I’m wondering if this was legal. Here was the situation. I personally have never been in trouble for anything. My mom lives with me. She told her councilor over the phone that she felt like killing herself so the councilor called the cops. When the cops showed up my mom was at the back of the property in a camper. Long story short she had this crazy standoff with them where she threatened to kill herself. She did have a gun on her. She eventually gave up and went peacefully. My question being, she wasn’t in the house, the doors were shut. The backdoor was unlocked so they went in that way. Can they do this or should I see legal aid?

Joe Escalante: So they came to rescue your mom and you think they went too far in rescuing your mom, so you think you should sue them? Go take care of your mom and forget about this foolishness.

Rusty: My mom is a burden on society that doesn’t deserve to be rescued. I have no intent to sue anyone and I want to take no personal gain from this. My desire is for those individuals who abuse a position of power and chose to violate the civil rights of myself and others to be bright forward so that we can work to prevent future injustice. I only ask because I believe here in America I shouldn’t have to worry about someone coming into my home and taking what they want and neither should anyone else.

Joe Escalante: Point taken, but these officers don’t have all that info so they are acting on the assumption that people want their mother’s rescued. I had that same mistaken assumption, but it was reasonable.
To sue someone, and prevail, you need “certain and provable” damages. If you can articulate them, and come up with a number, then you could hire an attorney to help you recover your losses. Considering your mom was on the property with a gun pointed to her head, it would be hard to convince a jury that these officers acted unreasonable in their effort to clear and secure the main house.

DeLyla: My soon-to-be “insignificant” other kicked me out of our house last year. While the divorce is taking place, can they move other people into my house with my stuff before the judge decides who gets it? With out asking? In fact, they are TRYING to keep it a secret …. the judge said I can go get my stuff anytime I want …

Joe Escalante: If you disagree with what’s going on in the divorce, you are always welcome to petition the court to change things more to your liking if you can establish a legal basis for what you are asking. So tell the judge what’s going on. This is hard to do without an attorney, but it can be done.

DeLyla: Since we had our last “mediation” attempt before the actual hearing, how do I contact the judge/court with my concerns?

Joe Escalante: You call the clerk and tell him/her your concerns and ask for the process to get those concerns in front of a judge. Is it a hearing? A petition? That kind of a thing.

Jeffrey: Good Morning Joe; How hard is it to prove collusion, unfair competition, restraint of trade? What are the standards that must be met? Thank you

Joe Escalante: There are many standards. There’s the federal ones based on the Sherman Anti-Trust act. This deals with price fixing and unfair market entry barriers. If two or more competitors get together to fix prices or collude to make it hard for others to enter the market place, for the purpose of reducing competition, you have a problem.
Then there are state claims that are based on general principles of fairness like preventing people from trading off the name or good will of another, corporate espionage, etc.

Scott: My wife and i just got married in nov 2011 in erie county ny. Do to her meds and job and not coming home, i left her. She filed for an annulment i guess. I have received any papers yet…. she txt me last night and asked me to send a copy of my tax returns…. we did. have a prenup. Why would she need this and should i send them?

Joe Escalante: She sounds nuts. Let’s send her the tax returns since her names on them anyway and they’re not secret. She’s looking for an annulment so she’s not trying to get money out of you. Lets get out of this as quickly and as cleanly as possible. Then open up a match.com account and get weird.

Chris: 1ST OFF..JUST HAVE TO SAY THANK YOU…Secondly…I have a question as far as copyrights concern…I hear many different ways to copyright things. . .from ascap to the library of congress…Me as a musician and angel investor/capitalist. . .What is the best route to ensure total Ownership of my lyrics and other intellectual Property?

Joe Escalante: Forget everything else other than simple Copyright Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. If you haven’t done it before, it’s a great idea to use Legalzoom’s services so you don’t blow it. Trust me, it can be blown. This is all you need to do to get any protection that is available to you (like through the courts) in our present system. Don’t register it with the WGA. Don’t Mail it to yourself. ASCAP is not a copyright registration process, it’s a royalty distribution alliance. Good luck.

Adam: What are the requirements for running for either president or supreme court?

Joe Escalante: I believe the Article II of the Constitution requires that you are 35 yrs old and born in this country to be president. Article III doesn’t say a lot about Supreme Court Justice eligibility. In fact, you don’t even have to be a lawyer. You can be a Actor/Juggler/Mime, born in Guatemala, and “naturalized” as a U.S. Citizen.
But this is a nomination process, not an election. Few Guatemalan jugglers would ever get confirmed by the congress after being nominated by the president.

Elizabeth: My husband bought a house and had his best friend sign to help him get the mortgage. The best friend has since moved back to CA (we live in PA) and has never helped with any type of money toward the house not even a dime for closing. What is the cheapest and easiest way to get him off both the mortgage and off the deed to the house?

Joe Escalante: The cheapest and easiest would be for him to execute a “quit-claim deed” transferring all his interest to your husband. If he’s willing, fine. If not, you could sue him for a set amount of damages for not contributing to the upkeep of the jointly held property and the treat of that lawsuit will probably change his attitude.

Jay: Hi I wanted to know what options does a comercial buisness owner have if the landloard gives them a month notice to vacate the buisness, there is a few buisness in one block in manhattan ny that recieved a notice. What can we do

Joe Escalante: Your options are dictated by the language of the lease agreement. The first thing to do is to read this document very carefully and make sure what they are doing is allowed, and that they are following the negotiated process. Then get together with others and pitch in for an attorney to advise you guys of your rights.

Michael: How do I go about getting my music label legal and copyrighted…

Joe Escalante: Trademark the name of your label. Every time you release a product, copyright the product. It may be artwork, it maybe recorded music, whatever.
Listen to my radio show for a lot more on this topic. It starts in 25 minutes on http://www.indie1031.com/. “Barely Legal Radio.” There are a lot of searchable podcasts on itunes as well.

Gilbert: GOOD Morning Joe In a oral agreement is it good to follow conversations by e mail after

Joe Escalante: Yes. This is an excellent way to protect yourself. A simple follow-up recapping the conversation can create a valid indisputable contract, if the other side did not object to your description of the conversation, and then acted as if there was a deal. This is more than enough evidence needed to establish a binding contract.

Dirk: Where & how can i protect a phrase or expression that i created. Lets say i want to protect “sdfasd asdfkasd” so that people will have to ask my permision if they want to use it. How can i do that?

Joe Escalante: The scenario you described is not legally possible and makes you sound like you are a jerk or something. There has to be a commercial reason for the government to step in and protect something of yours. It is usually tied to how unfair it would be, considering your hard work, and all the employees depending on the protection of your efforts, if someone started using your phrase in a way that harmed your business or product to which it is associated.
Society has no interest in a process that allows you to charge people to say something just because you though of it first.

LegalZoom: Thanks for joining us for Free Joe Friday! More free legal advice coming up next week: http://zoo.mn/bFreeJoe

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May 22nd, 2012 at 6:10 am