What it is: Welcome to Subject to Review, your monthly dose of all things criminal defense! Subject to Review brings you real case updates, trending news, and answers questions you submit about the criminal justice system.
How it started: Subject to Review is the spinoff of Subject to Cross, the criminal defense podcast hosted by criminal defense attorneys and my fellow colleagues, Caroline G. Donato and Peter E. Kratsa.
So who am I? I’m Mary E. Lawrence, the newest attorney and addition to MacElree Harvey’s Criminal Defense Practice Group. You might have heard me as a guest on Subject to Cross Episodes 25, 27, and 28 or seen me in action in the courtroom. Either way, I am here to round out the content produced by our practice group and give an option to scroll through if listening to the podcast is not doable (like while waiting in court!)
Why a monthly update: Criminal law is constantly evolving. Staying on top of news, case updates, and information can be time consuming. Subject to Review will keep you informed, answer your questions, and explain complicated issues in uncomplicated terms efficiently. Stay tuned for more and see below for this month’s edition.
September 2023 Edition
When a mandated reporter such as a teacher, therapist, or doctor makes a Childline referral, the Department of Children Youth and Families (CYF) has 30-60 days to investigate this report and determine if it is Unfounded or Indicated.
- An “Unfounded” report means that there is either not enough evidence to support a finding of abuse or the conduct alleged is not abuse.
- An “Indicated” report means that CYF determined there is “substantial evidence” of child abuse and that the alleged perpetrator should be added to the Childline Registry.
CYF caseworkers tend to err on the side of caution by finding abuse when making these determinations. Only after a report of child abuse is “Indicated” and listed on the Childline Registry can a person request a hearing by filing an appeal to have their day in court. The procedure and consequence are not always clear to an alleged perpetrator.
How would you fight a case like this?
- Be proactive – if you know a report was made, contact a lawyer ASAP.
- Do not agree to a CYF interview without first consulting counsel.
- If you get a letter stating that there is an Indicated report of child abuse, appeal that decision within 90 days and consult with counsel to prepare for a hearing.
It is important to pay attention to notices of child abuse. Did you know that in 2019 the state ran 368,649 child-abuse clearances and about 1 in 11 clearances returned some finding of abuse? The 90-day appeal deadline is the only chance to challenge an Indicated finding. If you miss that deadline, the label sticks.
Case Law Update: The Superior Court decided 9 criminal appeals this month. Here is what I think is most important to know:
- Even if a crime was committed while a person was in active psychosis, they will not qualify for a legal insanity defense if they had some awareness that their actions were wrong.
- A person who trades drugs for a gun probably knows that the gun they are receiving is stolen.
- Time spent serving a state sentence will not count towards a federal sentence unless the feds agree, and a plea bargain based on this false promise is invalid.
National News: A Kansas Federal Judge has had enough of police “strategy” targeting out-of-state drivers from states where recreational marijuana is legal and exploiting their lack of legal knowledge to convince them to allow police to search their vehicle. In Pennsylvania, our neighbors in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware have all legalized recreational use of marijuana.
Out-of-state drivers beware! Pennsylvania remains the regional outlier. Recreational use of marijuana is still illegal here, we are patiently waiting for some much-needed change.
What We’re Listening To: To stay on topic with this month’s Did You Know? We’re listening to Episode 20 of Subject to Cross where Caroline and Pete discuss how they handle CYF investigations and the due process issues that come up for those accused of child abuse. In Pennsylvania, every person has an inherent indefeasible right to protect their reputation, and yet they can be added to a child abuse registry without due process. Do you think that sounds unconstitutional? We sure do.
Stay on the lookout for new episodes as Caroline and Pete will be back in the studio soon!
What’s Next? If you have a topic that you want to see covered on Subject to Review, email me at [email protected].