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 associate attorney to join 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.
February 2024 Edition
Did You Know? Did you know that a judge can issue a temporary Protection from Abuse order even when the person accused of abuse is not present to defend themselves? This Did You Know topic was inspired by Episode 39 of Subject to Cross where Pete and Caroline discuss Protection from Abuse (“PFA”) orders and the due process concerns they present for the accused.
Temporary PFA orders can last up to 10 days and have serious consequences including: eviction from the home, taking away child custody, ordering the surrender of any firearms, and sometimes even paying the accuser for their alleged financial losses.
So, what is abuse under the law? There are 5 definitions for what is considered abuse under the PFA statute, but at its broadest definition abuse includes repeated actions which places a person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.
Who can get a PFA? PFAs are limited to “family or household members” which include people who are spouses, former spouses, parents, relatives, current or former intimate partners, or people who share biological children. While a PFA itself is a civil order, allegations of violating a PFA are criminal allegations and can result in a minimum fine of $300 and imprisonment up to six months.
PFA’s were created as a shield to protect people from physical and sexual abuse, however in many circumstances, they are used as a weapon to manipulate divorce and child custody proceedings.
Case Law Update: The Pennsylvania Superior Court decided 14 criminal appeals in December and January. Here is what I think is most important to know:
- A person who advertises on an “adult” website and arranges to meet an anonymous stranger in a hotel room does not have an expectation of privacy if they invite the stranger into their room.
- Harassment requires a “course of conduct” which is more than one act. In a harassment trial, the conduct of driving by a neighbor, and then turning around and driving by the neighbor again and yelling “you should sell your F’ing house and move, this is only going to get worse for you and your family” is technically more than one act because the driver turned around and came back to communicate threats.
- A court cannot suspend a driver’s license as part of a sentence, only the Department of Transportation has the authority to issue suspensions.
National News: The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are children in a wrongful death suit where couples sued their IVF clinic after an intruder gained access to a fertility clinic, picked up the frozen embryos from a tank of liquid nitrogen and dropped them on the floor destroying them. Reproductive medicine scientists call this ruling “medically and scientifically unfounded” as the opinion treats fertilized frozen eggs as a legal equivalent to a fetus. The implications of this decision may limit access to IVF if fertility clinics run the risk of being brought up on civil or criminal charges.
What We’re Listening To: Caroline and Pete have been busy in the podcast studio! Four new episodes of the podcast Subject to Cross were released since January:
- Episode 38: Murder on the Mind covers the different kinds of murder allegations, and the value of plea negotiations.
- Episode 39: PFAs Nowadays sparked this month’s Did You Know topic as Pete presents an interesting alternative to satisfy due process.
- Episode 40: Criminal Cases in the News Pete and Caroline discuss Alec Baldwin’s re-indictment for manslaughter charges and charges of sexual assault in Canada against multiple National Hockey League players.
- Episode 41: The Real Deal with Child Abuse Appeals unpacks the administrative process following a report to ChildLine. I covered the basics back in the September Edition of S2R, and this episode ties in some real-life examples of this complicated process.
What’s Next? If you have a topic that you want to see covered on Subject to Review, email me at [email protected].