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


Opponents of a House-passed bill say more people will remain behind bars since the legislation would make their bail money forfeitable to pay outstanding restitution, fines, fees and other costs a defendant owes. But its sponsor Rep. Sheryl Delozier said it improves the chances of crime victims being made whole. (File photo/PennLive.com)

By JAN MURPHY, PennLive, March 20, 2017

Crime victims will like this bill that won House passage on Monday but moms posting bail for their son or daughter who broke the law might not.

By a 146-51 bipartisan vote, legislation, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland County, was approved that would provide for bail money to be forfeited to pay outstanding restitution, fees, fines or other costs owed by the defendant. Any money leftover would be returned to them.

The same rules would apply regardless of who’s pocket the bail money came out of.

“The restitution in itself is bringing the victim who didn’t ask to be part of the criminal justice system back to whole,” Delozier told PennLive. “Many times, such a small percent of victim restitution is paid.”

Beyond that, she said she found it interesting that defendants often can find the money to post bail to avoid being held behind bars. Yet, after they are found guilty, she said, “all of a sudden they are broke and can’t pay the court fines and can’t pay the victim.”

So the goal of the legislation is to increase the chances for crime victims to recover restitution. It is a collection method that is used in other states.

But Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware County, saw an unfairness to this idea. He said a family member who posts bail “because they have this moral obligation to do it because it’s blood” could lose their money.

Further, he said, “it discourages people from putting up bail and that might encourage more people to remain in jail.”

Delozier said the legislation requires anyone who puts up bail money to receive a written notice about the possibility of their money being used to pay outstanding fees, fines, restitution or costs.

Additionally, she said a judge can be petitioned if this would impose a hardship.

Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery County, also voiced opposition to the bill, saying this is not the purpose of bail and could increase county incarceration costs.

A fiscal note for the bill anticipates it would not impose any cost on the commonwealth.

This is the third legislative session that Delozier has introduced the bill. It passed the House in 2015 by 154-39 vote but it failed to receive a final vote in the Senate before the two-year legislative session ended on Nov. 30.

Click for full report from PennLive.Com


When is it appropriate for a police department to identify an officer who used deadly force? The Pennsylvania Legislature has an idea. (PennLive file photo)

BY WALLACE McKELVIE, PennLive, March 20, 2017

House lawmakers advanced a bill Monday that would block the public identification of law enforcement officers involved in shootings or other uses of force that resulted in the death or serious injury to another.

Currently, Police chiefs and prosecutors use their own discretion when deciding when to release information about high-profile police incidents.

In Philadelphia, the policy is to release names within 72 hours unless there’s a credible threat, an approach backed by the U.S. Department of Justice. In Dauphin County, District Attorney Ed Marsico releases the names after the investigation is completed.

House Bill 27, which passed Monday in a 157-39 vote, would set a statutory requirement barring any public officials or employees from identifying police officers until 30 days after the use of force incident or after the completion of the investigation. Anyone who violates the proposed law would face a second-degree misdemeanor charge.

Last year, the same measure was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf after moving through both the House and Senate.

Supporters say the bill protects officers from harassment and possible reprisal during times of intense public scrutiny. Opponents say it protects bad cops and encroaches on the ability of local governments to make their own decisions.

Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, summed up many of the concerns about the bill: “Why must we create a law that overrides the local control many of my colleagues in this body hold so dear when it comes to further the protection of the violent few and not a peep for the victims of police violence?”

The number of incidents of retaliation against police, Rabb said, pales in comparison to the number of incidents of excessive force against black residents.

Rep. Donna Bullock, another Philadelphia Democrat, said she has family members in law enforcement but she also has two young sons who will one day be “grown black men in Philadelphia,” a demographic that could put them at risk of police brutality.

It’s a complicated issue, she said, but it’s one that’s already been wrestled with by local authorities.

“The question about whether to release a police officer’s name is not one this body should answer,” she said.

Previous iterations of the bill garnered the support of the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police and the State Troopers Association. It garnered opposition from the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the state Newspaper Association and various Philadelphia officials, including Mayor Jim Kenney.

HB27 will next move to the Senate.

Click for full report from PennLive.com


May 5 is deadline to comment on proposed Rules concerning detention of witnesses and bench warrants for persons under the age of 18

Click for proposed text and comment

Representative Chris Rabb (D-Philadelphia) to introduce Sanctuary Commonwealth bill

1804He says his bill would bar Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies from using agency or department funds, facilities, property, equipment or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes.


Click for full report from PennLive


The information below is from Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest

Session Schedule


March 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29

April 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26

May 8, 9, 10, 22, 23, 24

June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30


March 20, 21, & 22.

April 3, 4, 5 , 18, 19, 24, 25, & 26.

May 8, 9, 10, 22, 23, & 24.

June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, & 30

Bills Moving


Epinephrine Auto-Injectors: House Bill 224 (Simmons-R-Lehigh) providing for the administration of epinephrine auto-injectors by school bus drivers (sponsor summary) was reported from the House Appropriations Committee and was passed by the House.  The bill now goes to the Senate for action.

Criminal Restitution: House Bill 285 (Stephens-R-Montgomery) requiring criminals to pay restitution to crime victims (sponsor summary) was referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

Collection Of Fines: House Bill 234 (Costa-D-Allegheny) further providing for collection of restitution and fines (sponsor summary) was referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

Bail Forfeiture: House Bill 280 (Delozier-R-Cumberland) further providing for forfeiture and allocation of bail monies was referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

Law Enforcement Officer Information: House Bill 27 (White-R-Philadelphia) further providing for the release of law enforcement information in the event of a officers involved in a shooting (sponsor summary) was referred to the House Appropriations Committee after a series of amendments were voted down on the Floor.

Epilepsy Drug Exemption: House Bill 395 (DiGirolamo-R-Bucks) epilepsy drug exemption from ABC-MAP (sponsor summary) was reported from the House Human Services Committee and Tabled.

Epinephrine Auto-Injectors: House Bill 126 (Baker-R-Tioga) further authorizing the use of epinephrine auto-injectors (sponsor summary) was Tabled.

Six bills to curb illegal immigration are introduced in House

House State Government Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), along with Representatives Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon), Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin), Jerry Knowles (R-Schuylkill) and Ryan Warner (R-Fayette) Monday announced the introduction of six pieces of bipartisan legislation to curb illegal immigration throughout the Commonwealth.

“Article 4, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that our government ‘shall guarantee to every state in this Union a Republican form of government and shall protect each of them against INVASION,’” said Rep. Metcalfe. “With several signed executive orders that will enhance border security, properly resource enforcement efforts and compel illegal alien sanctuary cities to comply with the law, clearly there is a new sheriff in the Oval Office who is serious about exercising his rightful authority to keep our nation safe from the illegal alien invasion. Now with the executive branch of the federal government no longer AWOL, it has never been more urgent for state lawmakers to actively do their part by advancing legislation to ensure that the economic and national security interests of law-abiding citizens and legal immigrants always come first.”

Modeled after the Legal Arizona Workers Act that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Rep. Metcalfe’s legislation would require all Commonwealth employers and government entities to enroll in the federal government’s free E-Verify program to confirm the validity of Social Security numbers for prospective employees.

Under House Bill 856, failure to comply would result in the suspension of all state licenses, permits, registrations or certificates held by any private business caught employing illegal aliens.

“As long as illegal aliens know that that there are unscrupulous employers waiting to hire them and sustain their unlawful presence they will continue to infiltrate our borders in order to steal American jobs,” said Rep. Metcalfe. “Fast, free, safe, secure and simple to use, E-Verify provides participating employers with one of the most proven means available for accurately determining employment eligibility. There is no excuse for failing to comply, and there needs to be tough penalties for anyone who refuses to do so or for any unpatriotic business that operates with a ‘wink and a nod’ test to knowingly put illegal aliens on their payroll.”

Working with Rep. Dom Costa (D-Allegheny), who is the first co-sponsor of House Bill 856, passage of this legislation would further enhance a 2012 state law that requires all state contractors and subcontractors to confirm the working status of their employees through E-Verify.

If enacted, Rep. Kauffman’s Professional Licensees Illegal Employment Act would revoke the license of any licensed professional, such as a nursing home administrator or a landscape architect, who knowingly employed or permitted the employment of an unauthorized alien.

“The business community needs to be doing their part and making sure those they hire are United States citizens or have a permit to work here,” said Rep. Kauffman. “Employers who circumnavigate the law and knowingly employ illegal immigrants would be penalized under my bill.”

On January 25, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney publicly stated that he has no intention of complying with President Donald Trump’s executive order which would strip away federal funding from more than 300 known sanctuary jurisdictions across the nation, including Philadelphia, that refuse to turn over illegal aliens to federal officials.

If enacted, House Bill 28 (not online yet) would establish criminal and economic sanctions against any illegal alien sanctuary city within the Commonwealth.

With major institutions of higher learning across the nation also announcing the adoption of campus-wide sanctuary policies for illegal aliens, including Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania, both located in southeastern Pennsylvania, Knowles has introduced new legislation that would prohibit any sanctuary campuses from receiving state funding– House Bill 14.

“The issue of illegal immigration is very controversial in our country right now, but this bill is very simple,” Rep. Knowles said. “It would prohibit any sanctuary university from receiving state dollars until such time as those policies are rescinded. We cannot choose which laws we’ll obey and which laws we’ll ignore. It’s just plain wrong to turn a blind eye to the issue of illegal immigration for the sake of making a political statement, which I feel is the motive behind these campuses declaring themselves sanctuary campuses.”

From the perspective of apprehending and detaining illegal aliens, Rep. Warner’s legislation would require state and local law enforcement agencies to fully comply with federal law and cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the capture and detainment of illegal aliens.

“Detainers are issued when the federal government has decided that illegal aliens should not be returned to the community,” Rep. Warner said. “State and local law enforcement should not have the power to overrule the federal government, which has many more resources to draw upon to make these informed decisions.”

Federal law already grants individual states the authority to require an applicant for state and local public benefits to provide valid proof of identity and/or eligibility, and in recent years, several states have enacted such laws.

Under House Bill 826, sponsored by Rep. Heffley, any Commonwealth agency that administers public benefits must verify that those benefits are being paid to only those who are eligible through the Systematic Alien Verification of Entitlement (SAVE) program operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Our public resources are not limitless, and my legislation would ensure that our hard-earned tax dollars are spent helping our legal residents. We are morally obligated to provide assistance to those who are legally residing in Pennsylvania, not illegal immigrants,” said Rep. Heffley.

The other bill numbers were not announced.

Each of these bills either has been or is expected to be referred to Metcalfe’s House State Government Committee for consideration.

Legislative Hearings

March 21– House Judiciary Committee meets to consider House Bill 594 (Benninghoff-R-Mifflin) prohibit persons charged with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse or assault against a child from being placed into Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (sponsor summary), House Bill 631 (Marsico-R-Dauphin) further providing for probation for sex offenders (sponsor summary), House Bill 741 (Stephens-R-Montgomery) further providing mandatory minimum sentences for certain firearms violations, Senate Bill 261 (Scarnati-R-Jefferson) further providing for civil action in cases of sexual assault (Senate Fiscal Note and summary). Room 140 Main Capitol.  10:00.

March 21– Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider Senate Bill 222 (Greenleaf-R-Montgomery) providing for additional Common Pleas Court judges  for Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery Counties (sponsor summary), Senate Bill 298 (Alloway-R-Franklin) enacting the Libre’s animal abuse law (sponsor summary).  Room 8E-B East Wing. 11:30.




Hours after a Florida prosecutor announced Thursday that she would not seek the death penalty in any cases, the state’s governor said he was removing her from the high-profile prosecution of a man charged with killing an Orlando police officer.

The intersection of two fraught topics — the shooting death of a police officer and capital punishment — gave way to a remarkably public showdown involving an elected state’s attorney, Republican state officials and law enforcement leaders.

Click for entire report from the Washington Post

imgres.jpgOn  March 7, Representative Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) introduced House Bill 741, which would restore mandatory sentences for drug offenses.   The bill would require that enhancement provisions be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to the fact finder (jury or in a bench trial).

Click for text of bill.   The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Prior enhancement provisions were nullified by the Courts because the judge at sentencing–rather than a jury–determined whether enhancements would apply.

State Capitol Complex

Session Schedule


March 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29

April 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26

May 8, 9, 10, 22, 23, 24

June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30


March 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, & 22.

April 3, 4, 5 , 18, 19, 24, 25, & 26.

May 8, 9, 10, 22, 23, & 24.

June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, & 30

Bill Introduced

Senate Bill 477 (Killion-R-Delaware) providing for the expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania.

Public Hearings

March 13— House Human Services Committee meets to considering House Bill 45 (Godshall-R- Montgomery) providing for the use of investigational drugs, biological products and devices by terminally ill patients– Right To Try legislation (sponsor summary). Room G-50 Irvis Building. 11:15.

March 14House Bill 594 (Benninghoff-R-Mifflin) prohibit persons charged with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse or assault against a child from being placed into Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (sponsor summary), House Bill 631 (Marsico-R-Dauphin) further providing for probation for sex offenders (sponsor summary). Room 140 Main Capitol Building. 10:00.

March 22— House Human Services Committee meets to consider House Bill 396 (DiGirolamo-R-Bucks) requiring prescribers to check the drug database when prescribing opioids (sponsor summary). Room B-31 Main Capitol. 8:30.

March 29— Joint Hearing By Senate Aging and Youth; Health and Human Services and Intergovernmental Operations Committees on proposal to consolidate the departments of Health, Human Services, Aging and Drug and Alcohol Programs. Hearing Room 1 North Office Building. 1:00.

(Source:  Crisci Associates PA Capitol Digest)

Attorney General Shapiro appoints two local prosecutors to lead Office of Public Engagement

Robert Reed, a former federal prosecutor in Philadelphia, and Pearl Kim, a former Delaware County prosecutor, will lead Shapiro’s new Office of Public Engagement, which will handle all outreach and constituent-related inquiries.   Click for full report from philly.com

News release:  Women in Pennsylvania Judiciary

Click for text and graphics from Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts




A major player in law enforcement says it will no longer use a method linked to false confessions.

By ELI HAGER, The Marshall Project March 7, 2017 (click for full report)

You may have never heard of the Reid technique, but chances are you know how it works. For more than half a century, it has been the go-to police interrogation method for squeezing confessions out of suspects. Its tropes are familiar from any cop show: the claustrophobic room, the repeated accusations of guilt, the presentation of evidence — real or invented — and the slow build-up of pressure that makes admitting a crime seem like the easiest way out.

That’s why it jolted the investigative world this week when one of the nation’s largest police consulting firms — one that has trained hundreds of thousands of cops from Chicago to New York and federal agents at almost every major agency — said it is tossing out the Reid technique because of the risk of false confessions.

Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates, a consulting group that says it has worked with a majority of U.S. police departments, said Monday it will stop training detectives in the method it has taught since 1984.

“Confrontation is not an effective way of getting truthful information,” said Shane Sturman, the company’s president and CEO. “This was a big move for us, but it’s a decision that’s been coming for quite some time. More and more of our law enforcement clients have asked us to remove it from their training based on all the academic research showing other interrogation styles to be much less risky.”

Research and a spate of exonerations have shown for years that Reid interrogation tactics and similar methods can lead to false confessions. But the admission by such a prominent player in law enforcement was seismic.

“This is big news in the interrogation world,” said Steven A. Drizin, a law professor at Northwestern University and an expert on police interviews.

John E. Reid & Associates, the consulting group that licenses the Reid method, did not respond to a request for comment. The firm often answers to criticism by saying that false confessions are caused not by the technique but rather by detectives who have not been properly trained or do not use it correctly.

“At some point, the technique itself has to take responsibility,” said Saul Kassin, a professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an expert on police interviews. “What Wicklander-Zulawski has realized is that once you start down the road of using trickery and deception, the misuses are inherent in that. There are no clear lines of, ‘This is a good amount of trickery, and this isn’t.’

Wicklander-Zulawski said it would continue to focus on less confrontational methods of interviewing suspects and use the Reid technique only to educate police on the risk and reality of false confessions.

The method, the company said, “has remained relatively unchanged since the 1970s, and it… does not reflect updates in our legal system.”

The technique was first introduced in the 1940s and 50s by polygraph expert John Reid, who intended it to be a modern-era reform — replacing the beatings that police frequently used to elicit information. His tactics soon became dogma in police departments and were considered so successful in garnering confessions that, in its famous 1966 Miranda decision, the U.S. Supreme Court cited it as a reason why suspects must be warned of their right against self-incrimination.

But the advent of DNA evidence and advocacy by the Innocence Project in the 1990s showed that about one-third of exonerations involve confessions, once believed to be an absolute sign of guilt. Academics have theories why someone would falsely confess to a crime, including having a mental disability, being interviewed without a lawyer or parent in the room, or suffering through hours or days in jail before questioning.

But the most common factor is the Reid method and its imitators, experts say, since it can create confirmation bias in the minds of investigators while overwhelming a suspect to such an extent that the truth no longer seems like the best option.

Experts are cautiously hopeful that Wicklander-Zulawski’s decision will mark a turning point for interrogation tactics around the country and hope in-house police training shops will follow suit.

“We don’t know yet how much of the old methods they are going to shed. Will they also stop teaching police officers that they can detect liars from truth-tellers based on body language and verbal cues, which study after study shows are unreliable?” Drizin said.

To Maurice Possley, a journalist who helps maintain a comprehensive registry of exonerations at the University of Michigan and has written for The Marshall Project, it’s a big deal either way. “This is not defense attorneys or wrongly convicted defendants saying it,” he said. “A major player in the field of law enforcement has stated that this method leads to false confessions.”

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: