A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

Capitol

House to meet Monday to decide whether to concur with Senate bills

The House has scheduled an additional voting session for Monday.  The House will have the opportunity to concur (approve) the following bills concerning criminal justice:

Standing To Challenge Local Firearms Ordinances: House Bill 80 (Metcalfe-R-Butler) was amended by by Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Adams) to give “membership organizations” (read the NRA) standing to challenge local ordinances regulating firearms.  The amendment passed 32 to 16.  The Senate passed the bill and it now returns to the House for a concurrence vote.

Sexual Predators: House Bill 1874 (Farry-R-Bucks) further providing for counseling of sexually violent predators was amended on the Senate Floor and passed by the Senate.  The bill returns to the House for a concurrence vote where the bill is in the House Rules Committee.

After Monday, the House is set to recess until November 12.  The Senate is in recess until November 12.  On that day, the General Assembly will organize for the next session and take care of administrative matters.  Any bills not passed by the House and Senate of October 20 are dead for the present session of the General Assembly.

On the Governor’s desk

The following bills are awaiting approval or veto by the Governor

Reporting Child Abuse: House Bill 435 (Moul-R-Adams) expanding the requirements for background checks for employees working with children.  A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.

Exchange Of Child Protection Information: Senate Bill 27 (Mensch-R-Montgomery) further providing for the exchange of information in child protective services. A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.

Public hearing
November 14– House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on Department of Corrections staffing levels. Bellefonte Courthouse Annex, Bellefonte. 10 a.m.

(Source:  Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest)

By Jonathan Adler, Washington Post, October 14

[On October 14] the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Jones v. United States.  At issue was whether a criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights are violated when a court imposes a sentence that, but-for a judge-found fact, would be unreasonable. Here the defendants were acquitted of a conspiracy to distribute drugs charge, but the judge nonetheless made a finding that the defendants had participated in such a conspiracy when determining their sentences for other drug offenses.

The Court’s denial of certiorari in Jones drew a dissent from three Justices — Scalia, Thomas and Ginsburg. This may seem like an odd lineup, but all three have adopted a fairly uncompromising approach to the Sixth Amendment, arguing repeatedly that the Amendment’s jury trial right requires that all elements of a crime and sentencing facts be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.  Thus all three were understandably troubled by the lower court’s decision in Jones.  Interestingly enough, they could not get a fourth justice to support a cert grant.

Click for entire report from the Washington Post

images

By Burt Rose

Click for Opinion

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, sitting en banc, has decided the case of Richard Coppolino versus Frank Noonan, commissioner of the PA state police. This case is docket number 214 MD 2013 and was filed on October 14, 2014. The opinion was issued without dissent from the other six judges on the panel.

The court found that the provisions of Megan’s law IV, also known as the sexual offender registration and notification act, 42 PA CS section 9799.10–.41, may be applied retroactively as they are not punitive in nature. However, section 9799.15(g), which requires that a registrant update changes in his registration information in person at an approved registration site within three business days, is disproportionate and therefore is punitive. Accordingly, applying this section to Coppolino would violate the ex post facto principle.

Therefore, the requirement that registrants promptly update the PSP with in person updates is stricken from section 9799.15(g) as to its retroactive application. The rest of the law remains in effect for Mr. Coppolino.

The attorney for Coppolino was ….. me. Expect a Petition for Allowance of Appeal.

seal_colorBy Burt Rose

Click for Opinion

A panel of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has decided the case of COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA v. K.S.F., Appellant, 3211 EDA 2013, 2014 WL 5018092, 2014 PA Super 225 (Oct. 8, 2014), an appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Criminal Division, CP–46–CR–0003335–2010 (Judge Branca). The case was before JudgesPANELLA, LAZARUS and JENKINS. Judge Lazarus wrote the Opinion with no dissent.

A jury convicted K.S.F. of multiple sexual crimes against his stepdaughter, including four counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child. Prior to trial, K.S.F. filed a motion to access the stepdaughter’s two profiles on the social networking website Facebook. K.S.F. alleged one of Stepdaughter’s profiles contained impeachable material in which the stepdaughter described herself as a “virgin.” At that time, K.S.F. could not access the stepdaughter’s postings due to privacy settings. The trial court ruled the evidence inadmissible, stating that evidence that the stepdaughter posted she was a “virgin,” fell within the ambit of the Rape Shield Law and that a teenage girl posting that she was a “virgin,” despite being sexually abused by her stepfather, was a self-characterization that did not have significant enough probative value as to the credibility of her claimed abuse by K.S.F. to overcome the Rape Shield Law barrier under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3104. At a subsequent hearing, the stepdaughter testified that when she wrote on Facebook that she had never had sex before, she meant she had never had consensual sex.

Judge Lazarus wrote that evidence that tends to impeach a witness’ credibility is not necessarily inadmissible because of the Rape Shield Law. When determining the admissibility of evidence that the Rape Shield Law may bar, trial courts hold anin camera hearing and conduct a balancing test consisting of the following factors: (1) whether the proposed evidence is relevant to show bias or motive or to attack credibility; (2) whether the probative value of the evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect; and (3) whether there are alternative means of proving bias or motive or to challenge credibility.

The trial court failed to address the fact that were K.S.F. able to convince the jury of the stepdaughter’s lack of credibility, the Commonwealth’s case would be seriously undermined. Accordingly, the probative value of a prior inconsistent statement in which the stepdaughter purports to deny prior sexual conduct was critical.

Furthermore, a statement in which a victim claims to be a virgin cannot reasonably be understood to prejudice her by smearing her reputation for virtue and chastity, nor is it inflammatory. The Rape Shield Law was passed to prevent a specific class of attacks against the character of victims in rape prosecutions. It is not a bar against the admission of relevant evidence, the disclosure of which invades a victim’s privacy, provided it does not involve “past sexual conduct.”

The stepdaughter’s statement that she was a virgin could be interpreted to mean that she had never had consensual sex. This was, in fact, the way the stepdaughter explained the Facebook posting at the hearing. However, the Facebook posting could also be interpreted to mean that she had never had any sex, including with K.S.F. Whether the stepdaughter’s narrative was to be believed was a credibility determination that should properly have been put before a jury.

Since the trial court abused its discretion in its application of the test, the Court reversed the judgment of sentence and remanded for a new trial.

Elizabeth Louise Lippy of Fairlie & Lippy, PC represented the Appellant.

Washington Post, October 14 at 1:30 PM
.

The Justice Department said Tuesday that it will no longer ask criminal defendants who plead guilty to waive their right to claim that their attorney was ineffective and deprived them of their constitutional right to a competent counsel.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the new policy, his latest effort to reform the criminal justice system, is an attempt to ensure that all individuals who face criminal charges are ably represented.

“Everyone in this country who faces criminal legal action deserves the opportunity to make decisions with the assistance of effective legal counsel,” Holder said in a statement. “Under this policy, no defendant will have to forego their right to able representation in the course of pleading guilty to a crime.”

Washington Post, Published on October 11, 2014
.

Police agencies have used hundreds of millions of dollars taken from Americans under federal civil forfeiture law in recent years to buy guns, armored cars and electronic surveillance gear. They have also spent money on luxury vehicles, travel and a clown named Sparkles.

The details are contained in thousands of annual reports submitted by local and state agencies to the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, an initiative that allows local and state police to keep up to 80 percent of the assets they seize. The Washington Post obtained 43,000 of the reports dating from 2008 through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Click for entire report

PaCapitol

Session schedule

The House and Senate meet Tuesday and Wednesday and then recess until after the election.   The House and Senate meet on November 12  to elect leaders for the next General Assembly and take care of administrative business.

Bills moving

House

Mobile Tracking Information: Senate Bill 1290 (Vulakovich-R-Allegheny) providing for disclosure of wireless device location was referred into and out of the House Appropriations Committee and passed by the House. The Senate concurred in House amendments and the bill now goes to the Governor for his action.  A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.

Child Protective Services: Senate Bill 27 (Mensch-R-Montgomery) further providing for the exchange of information in child protective services was removed from the Table, amended on the House Floor, referred into and out of the House Appropriations Committee and passed by the House.  The bill now goes back to the Senate for a concurrence vote.  A summary and House Fiscal Note are available

Sexual Offenders: House Bill 2465 (Marsico-R- Dauphin) further providing for mandatory period of probation for certain sexual offenders was passed by the House and now goes to the Senate for consideration.  A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.

Crime Victims: House Bill 2464 (Hackett-R-Delaware) further providing for victims rights was passed by the House and now goes to the Senate for consideration.  A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.

Collection Of Restitution: House Bill 2384 (Costa-D-Allegheny) further providing for the collection of restitution, reparation, fees, costs and penalties was passed by the House and now goes to the Senate for action.  A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.

Payment Of Restitution: House Bill 2383 (Toepel-R-  further providing for payment of court costs, restitution and fines was passed by the House and now goes to the Senate for consideration.  A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.

Jury Duty Exemption: House Bill 2102 (Tobash-R-Berks) exempting persons 75 years of age and older from jury duty was passed by the House and now goes to the Senate for consideration.  A summary andHouse Fiscal Note are available.

Firearms: House Bill 1091 (Taylor-R-Philadelphia) relating to the offense of carrying firearms on public streets in Philadelphia (A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.) and House Bill 1243 (Stephens-R- Montgomery) relating to the sale or transfer of firearms background checks related to mental illness (A summary and House Fiscal Note are available.) were passed by the House and now goes to the Senate for action.

NewsClips:

House Votes To Advance 2 Gun Bills

Op-Ed: Let Communities Deal With Guns

Ethnic Intimidation: House Bill 177 (Boyle-D-Montgomery) further providing for the offense of ethnic intimidation related to sexual orientation- sponsor summary– was reported from the House Judiciary Committee and Tabled.

NewsClip: Bill Broadening Hate Crimes Advances In House

Senate

Reporting Child Abuse: House Bill 435 (Moul-R-Adams) expanding the requirements for background checks for employees working with children was amended by the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, referred into and out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and was passed by the Senate.  The bill returns to the House for a concurrence vote.

Online Impersonation: House Bill 764 (Watson-R-Bucks) relating to online impersonation was amended and reported from the Senate Appropriations Committee and passed by the Senate.  The bill now returns to the House for a concurrence vote.

Regulating Bondsmen: Senate Bill 1441 (Alloway-R-Franklin) providing for the regulation of the bail bondsman industry was referred into and out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and was passed by the Senate.  The bill now goes to the House for consideration.  A summary and Senate Fiscal Note are available.

Community Service Sentencing: Senate Bill 1367 (Gordner-R-Columbia) providing for sentence of community service- sponsor summary– was passed by the Senate and now goes to the House for consideration.

NewsClip: Senate Axes Practice Of Buying Out Of Community Service

Sexual Predators: House Bill 1874 (Farry-R-Bucks) further providing for counseling of sexually violent predators was amended on the Senate Floor and remains on the Senate Calendar for action.

Autopsies: House Bill 207 (Godshall-R- Montgomery) providing for autopsies- summary House Fiscal Note was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Public hearings

October 14--  Senate Rules Committee meets to consider Senate Bill 27 (Mensch-R-Montgomery) further providing for the exchange of information in child protective services. Rules Room.  Off the Floor.

October 14– House Human Services Committee holds a public hearing on mental health courts.  Room 60 East Wing. 9 a.m.

November 14–  House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on Department of Corrections staffing levels. Bellefonte Courthouse Annex, Bellefounte. 10 a.m.

Source:  Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest

 

Tag Cloud

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: