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

This year’s budget battle enters into its home stretch as the House and Senate return to session on June 4, 5, and 6.   Legislative leaders hope to pass the budget by June 13.  The deadline for passage is June 30.  The Governor is seeking a budget of $27.1 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.  The Senate passed a budget for $27.6 billion.  The House majority leader says that $27.6 billion would be acceptable to him.

House Judiciary Committee meets Tuesday on Wiretapping Bill

The House Judiciary Committee meets Tuesday consider House Bill 2400 (Marsico-R-Dauphin) which would strengthen the State’s wiretap law.  According to a news release issued January 18 by Representative Marisco, the bill would be the first change to the Wiretap Act since 1998.  The bill would:

        • Permit the use of law enforcement’s interception and recordings which are voluntarily

• Allow law enforcement officers to have access to properly obtained inmate

• Allow audio taping on school buses. Currently videotaping is permitted on school
buses; however, there is some debate regarding audio taping. This would settle the
debate and permit both audio and videotaping on school buses for student security
and discipline purposes.

• Allow information obtained through illegal civilian wiretap interceptions to be used but
only in criminal investigations and prosecutions. The creation of this new section
would not make it legal for civilians to tap each other. The prohibition and penalties for
illegal wiretapping by civilians would remain unchanged; however, law enforcement
would not be prohibited from using then in investigations.

• Permit a person who obtains knowledge of an oral communication by means
authorized by the laws of another state or federal government to disclose information
from that communication to law enforcement officers for use in its investigation or at

• Permit target-specific wiretaps when additional specificity, such as location or a
precise phone number, is lacking because of the criminals’ intention to thwart
interception by changing locations and phones. With the advent of prepaid cell
phones, this update to the existing law is imperative and mirrors the current federal
law. The wire would simply follow the suspect and not a particular location or phone
number. To obtain a Target Specific wiretap order, the court requires law
enforcement to prove why specificity is not feasible, who the target is and the stated
purpose. A court must then make a judicial finding that specification is not practical.
This is a much heavier burden than is required for an ordinary order under existing

• Properly extend the permissible range of certain tracking devices, as long as the
court issuing the orders approving their use has jurisdiction over the offense under
investigation and that the devices are monitored within the Commonwealth. This
change would recognize the reality that the world as we know it has grown smaller
and that criminals can easily take their nefarious activities across jurisdictional

Also on the House Judiciary Committee agenda

The House Judiciary Committee will consider  House Bill 1815 (Cutler-R- Lancaster) providing for merit selection of appellate judges.  The House Judiciary Committee will consider Senate Bill 100 (Greenleaf-R-Montgomery) providing for parole and sentencing reform and amendments to the burglary statute.  The House Judiciary Committee will consider Senate Bill 273 (Alloway-R- Franklin) will extend the “Castle Doctrine” to provide for the right to use deadly force in self defense on a porch, deck or patio or inside a vehicle.

Senate Judiciary Committee meets Tuesday

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets to consider Senate Bill 1535 (Greenleaf-R- Montgomery) increasing the allowable charges for copying of health care records pursuant to a subpoena.   The Senate Judiciary Committee will also meet to consider House Bill 75 (Marsico-R-Dauphin) providing for registration of transients who are convicted sex offenders.

Governor Approves bill banning restraints on juveniles in court.  

The Governor has signed Senate Bill 817 (Baker-R-Luzerne) into law as Act 55.  The act limits the circumstances under which a child could be restrained by shackles, handcuffs or straitjacket during a hearing.  Restraints could be used only after the court conducts a hearing in which the child is able to speak.  Restraints would be allowed (1) to protect the child or another; (2) to prevent disruptive behavior where there is a likelihood based on previous conduct; and (3) where there is a likelihood of escape.  Click for summary and fiscal note.

New training video for attorneys representing abused and neglected children

Click for news release

The Free Student Research Center is now OPEN. It will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9AM to 3PM. The Free Student Research Center is available for use by attorneys who are current members of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section and who are court-appointed to the case for which they seek research (either state or CJA!). The Free Student Research Center is located in the Jack Myers Memorial Lounge on the Third Floor of the CJC.

You may make a research request in person or via the Criminal Justice Section website at http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/CJResearch?appNum=1


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