What it is: Welcome to Subject to Review, your monthly dose of all things criminal defense! Subject to Review will bring you real case updates, trending news, and answer questions you submit about the criminal justice system.
How it started: Subject to Review is the offspring 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’ve 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’m here to round out the content produced by our practice group and give an option to scroll through if listening to the podcast isn’t 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 first edition of many.
August 2023 Edition
Did You Know? Did you know that even though the Medical Marijuana Act created a legal avenue for patients to purchase, possess, and consume medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, current DUI law hasn’t caught up. Drivers in Pennsylvania are still prohibited from having any amount of marijuana (or its metabolite) in their blood! Sound unfair? It sure is.
Promising change seems to be on the horizon, but misses the mark. In July, the Pennsylvania State Senate introduced two bills related to marijuana:
- Senate Bill 846 would permit possession of 30 grams of cannabis for personal use, but its proposed amendments to the DUI law still prohibits any amount of marijuana to be present in a driver’s blood.
- Senate Bill 869 would allow medical patients to grow up to six cannabis plants at home.
Although these proposed bills show some progress, they don’t exactly move the ball forward on the interplay between marijuana and DUI law. I’ll continue to keep you updated. In the meantime, be sure to follow all traffic laws and never drive impaired.
Case Law Update: The Superior Court had a busy month deciding 14 criminal appeals:
- Failure to groom your dog is now animal cruelty.
- If you’re on probation and start to make your probation officer suspicious that you’re violating probation or potentially committing a new crime, they can search you, your house, and sometimes even your computer.
- Medical marijuana is still illegal if present in your bloodstream (yes – even the inactive metabolites), and you can’t blame the police for your DUI even when they ask you to drive to the station.
National News: This month, Illinois Supreme Court voted to eliminate cash bail. Illinois is the first state in the country to take this monumental step towards criminal justice reform. The purpose of bail in Pennsylvania is to assure that the accused appears for court appearances and to provide safety to the community. Cash bail is a major problem because it impacts different groups of people differently. It has disparate impacts not only on low-income individuals, but also reinforces racial disparities. Read more about the unequal impacts of cash bail here.
What We’re Listening To: On Episode 32 of Subject to Cross, Pete and Caroline discuss civil asset forfeiture in Nebraska where local officials decided to use civil asset forfeiture as a revenue stream. In Pennsylvania, for the Fiscal Year 2020-2021, the Commonwealth seized over 4 million dollars in cash forfeitures alone. That’s quite a money grab.
Episode 33 of Subject to Cross made me laugh because I know the hosts well. Pete quizzes Caroline on her knowledge of obscure crimes and she does not make the honor roll. Below are some of my favorite obscure crimes Caroline was tested on:
- Selling or using a disabled horse – if they can’t work, they’re not for sale.
- Live animals as prizes prohibited – except for a fish you can win at the carnival.
- Cruelty to cow to enhance appearance of udder – who decides what the enhanced appearance of an udder looks like?
- Hours of labor of animals – animals are maxed out at 90 hours a week.
- Illegal taunting of police animals – this is a felony!
- Fortune telling – love potions included.
Would you have gotten any of these right?
What’s Next? If you have a topic that you want to see covered on Subject to Review, email me at [email protected].