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 the next edition.
October & November 2023 Edition
Did You Know? Did you know that any conviction for a crime graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree (“M1”) in Pennsylvania results in a federal lifetime ban on possessing firearms? This collateral consequence to a criminal conviction may see its end soon.
Currently, federal law prohibits any person convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, and provides an exclusion for state misdemeanors punishable by a term of imprisonment of two years or less.
So, what does that actually mean? Any person with a conviction, for any crime, that carries a potential maximum penalty of more than two years’ imprisonment is subject to a federal ban on possessing firearms. Convictions for crimes graded an M1 are subject to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment, which means that any M1 earns this federal lifetime ban on firearms. Crimes subject to this penalty include:
- 2nd Offense DUI at a BAC of 0.16%+
- Possession of an instrument of crime
- Library Theft of items worth $150 or more
- Terroristic Threats
- Endangering the welfare of children
- Firearms not to be carried without a license
This may soon change. In 2022, the United States Supreme Court ruled that in order to uphold any restriction related to firearms, the government must affirmatively prove that its firearms regulation is consistent with historical traditions that restrict a person’s right to keep and bear arms. This decision has made waves in courts across the country, and criminal defense attorneys are now brushing up on 18th Century law to best serve their clients.
Case Law Update: The Pennsylvania Superior Court decided 11 criminal appeals in September and 18 criminal appeals in October. Here is what I think is most important to know:
- DNA obtained as a result of an order for paternity testing in a family court case can be used as evidence in a subsequent criminal action.
- A conviction for indirect criminal contempt, a criminal conviction for violating a Protection from Abuse Order, is graded as a Misdemeanor of the 3rd degree.
- Requesting the Commonwealth to clarify how poison was “introduced” into a person’s body is a reasonable request from the accused in order to be fully apprised of the charges and to adequately prepare a defense.
- The act of driving through Pennsylvania to commit a robbery in New York is not an overt act in furtherance of a conspiracy.
- Repeated messages sent by a veterinarian to a dog owner regarding the vet’s opinion about the dog’s lack of care was harassment and not constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.
National News: Ohio passed new legislation legalizing adult recreational use of cannabis. This new law takes effect December 7, 2023. As the 24th state in the United States to legalize recreational use of marijuana, Pennsylvania is now surrounded on all borders by states that have legalized recreational cannabis.
What We’re Listening To: Caroline and Pete are back at it! Three new episodes of the podcast Subject to Cross were released in October and November:
- Episode 34: Pete in the Hot Seat is a fun episode where Caroline takes a turn asking Pete Kratsa questions about himself.
- Episode 35: “But Officer, I Have A Medical Marijuana Card” dives in to some of the nuances related to the per se DUI statutes I covered in the August 2023 Edition
- In Episode 36: Harbingers from the Supreme Court, Pete and Caroline discuss opinions from the Supreme Court that may impact constitutional protections the public now enjoys. And, Pete gets to use one of his favorite words. Can you guess what word that is?
- This Episode covers the Slate article: “The Supreme Court’s Right Flank Is Laying the Groundwork to Dismantle Defendant Rights”
What’s Next? If you have a topic that you want to see covered on Subject to Review, email me at [email protected].