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Flash mob planner gives advice on legalities of events

Flash mobs can be lots of fun and the craze is growing.

For the uninitiated, a flash mob is a group of people who plan to descend on a store, shopping mall or other public place with an impromptu song and/ or dance.

Phoenix attorney Ruth Carter says if you're planning a flash mob, you might want to check with a legal representative to make sure that what you have planned doesn't put you on the wrong side of the law.

A trespassing charge or injury to a stranger often become possibilities in flash mob gatherings.

Carter is a flash mob fan herself. She joined her first one in 2009 -- the "Drop Your Pants" mob on the Valley Metro light rail.

"I went and rode the light rail in my underwear with about 90 other people," Carter said. "That was the first time I did a flash mob, and I fell in love with them instantly."

Now she plans flash mobs with a group called ImprovAz. She's even written a book called "Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No-Pant Rides, and Other Shenanigans."

Carter said that a lot of things can go wrong with flash mobs.

"If you're being active, you might be at risk for committing assault or some kind of trespassing, depending on where you are," she explained.

She said her group always looks at the possible legal implications before it plans a flash mob.

"For every event," she went on, "we look at what we think we want to do, and react with, 'What might we be accused of doing wrong and what might we actually be doing wrong?'"

Carter said checking with your attorney before you plan a flash mob could, indeed, save you from getting into trouble.

About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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