All posts tagged: criminal defense

AG Sessions and the Emerging Cannabis Industry

With today’s bombshell announcement from Attorney General Sessions, what is the future for the medicinal and recreational cannabis industry?

To be candid, we just don’t know.

On January 4, 2018, AG Sessions announced he was rescinding the Cole Memorandum drafted by former Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2013.  The Cole Memo directed United States Attorneys to weigh a number of factors before exercising federal jurisdiction in states with medicinal or recreational cannabis programs.  The Cole Memo directed federal prosecutors to consider whether there is an increase in overall criminality, cannabis related DUI, increased use by minors and other factors.  In a recent federal prosecution the Court held that the United States must make a prima facie showing that the factors in the Cole Memo justified prosecution.

With the rescission of the Cole Memo, individual United States Attorneys are free to utilize their resources however they see fit without considering whether a state cannabis program was actually harmful.  The Department of Justice does not have unlimited funding, and issues such as the opioid crisis and wire fraud command significant federal law enforcement resources.

In addition to the Cole Memo, Congress attached the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment to the federal budget restricting the Department of Justice from utilizing Congressionally authorized funding to prosecute state cannabis programs.  AG Sessions sought relief from these restrictions in May, 2017, but was rebuffed.  Rohrabacher-Farr’s future is tenuous at best.  If it is not included in the final federal budget then there will be nothing stopping the Department of Justice from using its full weight against the emerging cannabis industry.

With over 60% of Americans polled supporting full legalization, it is difficult to understand why the Administration is on the apparent verge of a crackdown.  The cannabis industry is projected to be a 20 billion dollar industry employing tens of thousands.  Critically needed tax revenue is repairing Colorado’s schools and Washington’s infrastructure.  Countless Americans are no longer faced with arrest and prosecution for possession of a simple non-toxic plant.

What is the path forward?

Federal legalization is the only answer that will solve the push-pull between conflicting state and federal jurisdiction.  Rescheduling cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II may go far in protecting personal medicinal use, but cultivation facilities and dispensaries could still easily be targeted.  The “hands off” approach of the Obama Administration may not have been perfect, but it allowed the emerging industry to demonstrate it was a net benefit for the communities and state in which it operated.

Here in Pennsylvania we do not believe that the United States Attorney for any of our three federal districts will shift resources from investigating large scale heroin trafficking organizations to focus on our highly regulated medicinal cannabis program.  We expect our United States Representatives and Senators here in Pennsylvania to respect the will of 88% of Pennsylvanians who support medicinal cannabis.

Once, not too long ago, we were assured that the President is “a businessman.”  He had no intention of killing the goose that laid the green egg.  The President respected state’s rights and supported limited government.  Well, with the announcement by AG Sessions, that has apparently been proven false.

Patrick K. Nightingale, Esquire

Partner, Cannabis Legal Solutions

Executive Director, Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society.

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Vinni BelfioreAG Sessions and the Emerging Cannabis Industry
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Song Lyrics and the First Amendment

Cannabis Legal Solutions founding partner Patrick K. Nightingale, along with Magistrate-elect and attorney Mikhail Pappas, appeared before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday, November 28, 2017.

The case in question involves the lyrics to a rap song.

Jamal Knox, 23, and Rashee Beasley, 26, wrote and performed their song in 2012, and someone — they say it wasn’t them — uploaded it to YouTube in November of that year.

Shortly thereafter, they were charged by Pittsburgh police who construed the song’s lyrics as threats made specifically against Det. Daniel Zeltner and Officer Michael Kosko, both of whom had previously arrested the men.

“The song was artistic in nature. As a gangster rap artist, Knox considered himself a poet, musician, and entertainer,” Mr. Nightingale wrote in his brief, going on to say,   “Rap music served as his vehicle for self-expression, self-realization, economic gain, inspiring pride and respect from their peers, and speaking on public issues including police violence, on behalf of him and others who may lack the courage or ability to speak on such issues. Threatening police was not the intent of Knox’s expression.”

The ACLU has also weighed in on the case.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania wrote that artistic expression is often disturbing, offensive and shocking.

“This is especially true of rap, Knox’s musical genre,” attorneys wrote. “As scholars of the genre have described it, rap is a form of political expression that gives voice to urban poverty, street crime, and limited life options, and a criminal justice system that sweeps up young men of color.”

Read more about the case in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

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Vinni BelfioreSong Lyrics and the First Amendment
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Medical Cannabis and the Second Amendment – What are a patient’s firearms rights?

Patrick Nightingale testifying at the Pennsylvania State House.

Medical Cannabis and the Second Amendment – what are a patient’s firearms rights?
By Patrick K. Nightingale, partner Cannabis Legal Solutions

The issue of a medical cannabis patient’s Second Amendment rights is of great concern here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where we have a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen.  Now that physicians are registered and patients can seek recommendations many are wondering whether they will lose their Second Amendment rights or be required to surrender their firearms.

The answers are not entirely straightforward.  Under PA law a medical cannabis patient is not prejudiced relative to firearms ownership.  Under federal law, however, that same patient risks a felony prosecution under federal firearms law.  Any patient purchasing a firearm from a licensed firearms dealer is required to execute ATF Form 4473 which, as will be discussed below, does not acknowledge medical cannabis.

Does Pennsylvania law prohibit a registered Pennsylvania patient from owning a firearm?

No.  Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis law is silent on the issue of firearm possession.  Title 18, section 6105 of the Pennsylvania Criminal Code sets forth that certain persons may not possess a firearm.  Section 6105 requires a criminal conviction.  Simple possession does not trigger the prohibitions under section 6105 unless the individual has a prior drug possession conviction.  The majority of the offenses that are set forth in section 6105 are felony level offenses.  Certain misdemeanors are also included such as second or subsequent drug possession conviction, Prohibited Offensive Weapon, Corruption of the Morals of a Minor and three or more DUI convictions.  A person subject to a Protection From Abuse order or an individual with a prior mental health commitment is also prohibited.

Does Federal law prohibit a registered Pennsylvania patient from owning a firearm?

Yes.  Title 18, section 922(g)(3) of the United States Code prohibits any individual who is an unlawful user of controlled substances from possessing a firearm.  Cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance and the DEA and ATF have made clear that federal law does not recognize an exception for state medicinal cannabis patients.  A violation of section 922(g)(3) is a felony with a maximum period of incarceration of 10 years.  At present the Rohrbacher-Blumenaeur budget amendment prohibits the Department of Justice from using its Congressionally authorized budget to prosecute state cannabis programs.  Even if the amendment is not included in the final budget it is highly unlikely that the Department of Justice will utilize its limited resources to prosecute individual patients under this section unless the patient is otherwise involved in a more significant violation of federal law.

Can I apply for my Concealed Carry Permit/Must I surrender my Concealed Carry Permit?

No/No.  The right to carry a concealed firearm in Pennsylvania is regulated by Pennsylvania state law.  The authority to issue a Concealed Carry Permit is vested in the County Sheriff of the county in which the individual resides.  18 Pa.C.S.A. §6109 sets forth the process for a concealed carry application and the responsibilities of the County Sheriff in reviewing applications.

One of the criteria is whether the applicant is an “unlawful user of marijuana.”  A registered patient would be a lawful user of marijuana under PA law.  Section 6109(e)(xiv) however, acts as a “catch all” and prohibits issuing a concealed carry permit to anyone otherwise prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm.  Since any user of cannabis, whether pursuant to state law or not, violates 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(3) an application for a concealed carry permit will be denied.

At the time of writing I am unaware of any mechanism to try and revoke concealed carry permits merely because a patient is registered with the Department of Health.

Can I purchase a firearm lawfully if I am a registered PA patient?

No.  Any firearm purchase from a federally licensed firearms dealer involves the execution of ATF Form 4473. In 2016 the ATF modified the form to include the following language in question 11(e):

“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any other depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?  Warning:  the use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under federal law regardless or whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”  (Emphasis in original).

If a registered patient answers this truthfully the sale will be denied after a Pennsylvania State Police review of the form.  If the patient lies on the form in order to purchase the firearm the patient risks felony prosecution by the Pennsylvania State Police.

An ATF Form 4473 is not required for the purchase of a rifle or shotgun, but a patient would nonetheless be considered a prohibited person.

A recent Ninth Circuit case addressed the issue of an Arizona patient attempting to purchase a firearm.  The licensed firearm dealer knew the individual was a medical cannabis patient and denied the sale.  The issue went before the federal appellate court and the court held that the Second Amendment does not protect the patient where cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.  The Ninth Circuit is not law here in the Third Circuit, but I do not anticipate a holding from out Court of Appeals that would grant Second Amendment rights without a change in federal law.

Unfortunately, federal law does not appear to be on the side of Pennsylvania patients.  A patient who owns firearms and/or possesses a concealed carry permit is unaffected by Pennsylvania state law but can easily run afoul of federal law if making a new firearms purchase.

For more information please contact Patrick K. Nightingale of Cannabis Legal Solutions at Patrick@cannabislegalsolutions.net

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Vinni BelfioreMedical Cannabis and the Second Amendment – What are a patient’s firearms rights?
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The Real Marijuana Problem: The Law. Part 1, “Tom”

The US Stance on Medical Marijuana is Confusing at BestThe legal status of Marijuana does far more harm to citizens than using it ever could.

The following story is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

“Tom” goes boating with friends over the holiday weekend on the river in Middleofnowhere County.  He was excited because he had saved up his money and bought a new boat, which he was taking on it’s maiden voyage.

Pennsylvania Fish and Game officers show up and pull him over — we’re still not clear on what their initial reason was– but they end up searching “Tom” and find a whopping gram of weed and a small pipe.

Fish and Game officers policing marijuana instead of protecting Bambi and Thumper is a mystery to me, but instead of just issuing a citation on what should be a simple matter, they arrest “Tom” and the floodgates of potential life-long repercussions open wide.

Just getting arrested, let alone convicted of a crime, has immediate negative ramifications. Family, friends, and more problematic, employers, are all suddenly sources of stress.

Hiring legal representation, missing time for court dates, which are often rescheduled, further dragging out the process and the emotional stress for the accused and their loved ones.

Employers in particular are not likely to ignore an arrest, especially if there are security and safety issues at play.

A marijuana possession conviction automatically results in suspension of driving privileges and can carry substantial fines, as well as a period of probation. Worst of all, it stays on your record.  This can adversely affect employment options and even restrict one’s ability to travel abroad.

Suddenly “Tom” goes from enjoying a holiday on his new boat to facing a complete disruption of his life. All over a gram of weed.

All because of the law.

Does that sound like Justice to you?

In Part 2, we’ll talk about a young lady who could — with the help of the police– graduate from marijuana to heroin in a most unexpected way.

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleThe Real Marijuana Problem: The Law. Part 1, “Tom”
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Flag on the Play: Illegal Procedure

The legal system– justice– is built on the twin pillars of precedent and procedure.

This is why attorneys look to ‘preserve the record’ by filing various motions, even when they know they will likely be ruled against in the current trial. They are preserving points on the record that may in fact be incredibly important in any appeals that may be filed.

Procedure and Precedent.

The procedure part can often be frustrating for everyone involved, but the truth is, what you say in court proceedings is only as relevant as how–and when– you say it.

Court scheduling can often be a source of frustration for client and attorney alike. The courts in various counties throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania do not all operate on the same schedule, and the procedures can vary from county to county.

Courts schedule hearings without reference to each other, or attorney schedules, and they certainly don’t recognize the convenience of the accused. This is why there are often delays, motions for a continuance, etc.

This can be very frustrating for someone with a court date hanging over their heads. We hear it again and again: “I just want to get it over with.”

The wheels of justice often turn slow, but that is far better than hastily running over the innocent in the name of efficiency.

Of course there are always extenuating circumstances that the court will recognize– a death in the family, severe illness, scheduling conflicts for the defense or prosecution– and the courts are usually pretty accommodating with a reasonable excuse.

Recently, I was scheduled to appear in court at 9:00 am and later that day in a different court at 1:30 pm. Normally, that would not be an issue, but on this day, morning court was running way behind schedule, and it became obvious I would not be able to make my 1:30 appearance. This is where good relations with various courts can be a big help. The Judge in my early case had his clerk contact the Judge in the afternoon case to resolve the issue successfully (much appreciated, btw).

However, this left my client in the second hearing in the unhappy position of having to appear on a later date.

At times like that, I feel awful knowing my client is frustrated, but it was truly a situation completely out of my control.  The courts reign supreme when it comes to scheduling. In this instance, the early case was time sensitive. Our backs were against the wall, therefor the afternoon case would have been delayed regardless.

Procedure.

“The Cop Didn’t Show”.

Television shows have absolutely no bearing on the reality of the legal process. On TV, if the arresting officer doesn’t show up for court, the accused goes free. Not so in real life. (The same is true of, “They didn’t read me my rights”.)

Judges are extremely reluctant to rule against police officers in general, and an officer who calls in sick on court day is hardly thwarting justice. The presumption of the court is the officer is too ill to come to work. Period. They are extremely unlikely to throw out the charges, at least on the first occurrence. A subsequent failure to appear is a different matter. The Judge has a responsibility to maintain a fair process for the accused, and a second incident undermines the authority of the court to do that.

This is one of those times when a good attorney makes ‘procedure’ work in their client’s favor, citing for example an individual’s right to a speedy trial and moving to dismiss the charges.

Asset seizure and forfeiture is probably the single most frustrating part of a criminal investigation for everyone involved.

Authorities have the right to seize assets even without a guilty verdict. In cases involving illegal gambling, drug dealing, etc., the authorities will freeze bank accounts and seize property that they deem was either used in the commission of a crime, or was purchased or obtained as a result of criminal activity. Cars, boats, computers and of course cash can be seized with little or no recourse for the accused.

Even in the event of a Not Guilty verdict, the procedures for getting property back are extremely limited in scope and are often not worth the effort and cost. For example, a seized car was stored by the authorities for a year, and they charge storage fees that are often so high, it’s cheaper to just buy a new car.

This is an area that needs some reform. The authorities should bear the cost of storing a vehicle when the verdict is Not Guilty. An innocent person should not be penalized any more than the trauma of facing criminal charges and the costs of defending themselves.

These are just some instances of the preceedural part of the court system and are examples of why an experienced attorney who maintains good relations with the court system can be invaluable to someone facing criminal charges.

PKN Law pride ourselves on our knowledge of the court system from both sides of the aisle, as well as our good working relationships with court staff from counties across the Commonwealth.

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleFlag on the Play: Illegal Procedure
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Jeff Sessions Thumbs His Nose at Judge, Jury and Justice

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a giant leap backwards in time by issuing a memo instructing Federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” in drug related crimes, reversing the policies of his predecessor, Eric Holder.

Holder took a more progressive and humane approach, especially concerning non-violent and low-level offenders. It was also a more pragmatic and fiscally responsible approach aimed at correcting over 40 years of damage done by the harsh policies of the past and the failed War on Drugs.

If Mr. Sessions wants to address the spike in opiate use, he needs to look at the alarming statistics showing the rise in heroin addiction is increasingly the result of using legally obtained prescription drugs like Oxycontin, and other synthetic pharmaceutical products designed to mimic the effects of morphine, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.

Maybe it’s time the Justice Department investigates Big Pharma.

Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed. — Article III, Section II, United States Constitution

Most people get their knowledge of the judicial system from TV shows like “Law and Order”, which bear little resemblance to real life. The ‘justice’ part is much easier to see when it’s laid out for you in a snazzy hour long drama. It’s a much more involved process for a jury in real life to reach a verdict. And it’s expensive. A jury trial can set the taxpayers back quite a bit, and the time involved can really back up an already overloaded justice system.

The ability of prosecutors to hold incredibly harsh sentences over the heads of the accused goes a long way to alleviating the expense of jury trials. It is a threat, not unlike holding a gun to someone’s head: Plead or else.

The above cited Section of the Constitution is a sham. An estimated ninety-seven percent of people in Federal prisons never had a trial by a jury of their peers.

This has increasingly reduced the role of a Criminal Defense Attorney from defender seeking justice and arguing his client’s case before a jury, to negotiator in a hostage crisis, trying to get the best deal possible for their client. We are literally forced to make our case to the Prosecution without ever going before a Judge and Jury. The deck is already stacked in favor of the Prosecution, and what Sessions is doing will simply make it worse and more likely to trigger mandatory minimum sentences–  rules that limit a Judge’s discretion.

And therein lies another slap in the face for justice: Intentionally limiting the role of Judges in the judicial process.

Having had the privilege of appearing before many Judges over the years, I can tell you they are completely competent to render a just decision without handcuffing them to arbitrary rules, doled out and overseen by a small group of people in Washington, DC., who are completely removed from, and literally oblivious to, the facts and circumstances of any individual case.

Mandatory Minimums essentially say the Federal Government has no faith in the ability of Judges to render just decisions. But that’s what Mr. Sessions wants.

Everyone in the Justice System should be concerned that Mr. Sessions is taking us backwards by instituting policies and guidelines that have proven to be a failure, going back to Prohibition.

Add the reality of a corporate controlled, for-profit prison system, and we have a recipe for disaster.

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Patrick NightingaleJeff Sessions Thumbs His Nose at Judge, Jury and Justice
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Prison For Profit: A Protest Gone Wrong

The Media circus surrounding those individuals who took part in the protest of conditions in the Allegheny County Jail has made the facts in this case difficult to sort out in the extreme.

Tuesday was one of those days when we go to court and have the opportunity to talk about much more than an individual client accused of a crime. We are in fact debating a far larger issue, one of Constitutional import, in which the accused have Constitutional rights.

The right to protest. The right to a fair trial. The right to be innocent until proven guilty.

While there were many people involved, eleven protesters face a variety of charges ranging from inciting a riot to assaulting a police officer. The evidence at this time is very unclear as to who might have done what. This is why the court proceeding has been postponed to a special session.

“Obviously, there is going to be a lot of evidence the Commonwealth will seek to introduce in this matter, we have rescheduled everything,” said attorney Patrick Nightingale, who represents Tyler Kobel. –KDKA-TV2

http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2017/04/04/allegheny-county-jail-protest-suspects-hearing-delayed/

Someone who has been accused of a crime does not have to prove their innocence. It is the burden of the Commonwealth to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

In this instance, we believe–due to the actions of a few individuals– the situation escalated to a point of chaos in which individual accounts could be inflated or confused, due to the emotional state of everyone involved.

Actions may have been perceived as aggressive when in fact they were defensive on an instinctive level. Individuals who were exercising their right to protest may have been misidentified regarding their involvement in any criminal activity that occurred.

In short, it’s going to take some time to sort all this out.

An unfortunate side-effect of all this confusion is that we have lost sight of the validity of the concerns the protesters were trying to bring to light: The sad state of affairs in a for-profit prison system that treats people as numbers to be added up by corporate accountants, with little regard for justice.

Caging people for non-violent crimes often creates far more hardship than actual justice for not just those incarcerated, but for their families as well.

Example:

Items like clean underwear, socks, etc., must now be purchased from a prison store. Even phone calls must be paid for by prisoners. 

Where once a family could bring these items to an incarcerated individual from home, families must now deposit money in prisoner accounts to purchase those items, adding an additional financial burden that has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with the bottom line of their corporate overseers. Collect calls are a thing of the past.

And those prisoner accounts earn interest for the corporations, adding yet another layer of profit motive that has nothing to do with justice.

And what does all this mean for those who have no money to deposit? No clean underwear because their family doesn’t have the money to buy more, even though they could bring them from home?

A prison system based on profitability needs customers, which has very little to do with a fair dispensation of justice.

It’s time we as a society decide whether we are trying rehabilitate non-violent incarcerated people for re-entry into society, or simply cage them like animals so politicians can use them to prove they are tough on crime, and turn a profit to boot.

 

 

 

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Patrick NightingalePrison For Profit: A Protest Gone Wrong
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Police Encounters Are Not A Courtroom– Even When You’re A Pittsburgh Steeler

There is a show on Netflix, “House of Cards”.  It follows a congressman and his wife on their rise to power and the Presidency.

One of the characters, Remy Danton,  is African American and the Presidents Chief of Staff.  There is a scene where he gets pulled over by the DC police for speeding, and he doesn’t have his wallet, which is where his license, registration and insurance card are.  At this point, the police officer is OBLIGATED to investigate further and search the subject for weapons.

No identification, no proof the car is his– he could claim he was the Pope and it wouldn’t matter.  This is standard procedure and within the confines of the law.

Operating a motor vehicle without a license is illegal, and it’s perfectly reasonable for the officer to follow established procedure to investigate further.

As much as I hate to say it, this is one of those times when, if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t be worried or react with undue emotionalism.

It is ALWAYS desirable from a legal view to cooperate with police during a traffic stop, but in the scene, Danton overreacts and in the process, elevates the nature of the encounter, which in turn escalates the police response.

“I have a right to know why you pulled me over!” he shouts while disobeying the order to keep his hands on the car in plain sight.

This type of adversarial behavior constitutes a legitimate safety concern for the police.

In this instance, the responding officer is also African American, so when Danton makes a snide remark about impressing his fellow white officers, it just adds fuel to the fire.

Danton ends up in cuffs in the back of a patrol car, until a Lieutenant shows up and having ascertained Danton’s identity,  apologizes for the inconvenience and takes off the cuffs.

There is an implication in the way the scene is presented that since Danton is a well known political figure, the policeman’s response must be because he is African American, but this is simply not the case when applied to real life.  The fact is, Danton overplayed his hand. He could claim to be anyone, but the police don’t know that.

Under these circumstances, anyone without a license, registration, etc., regardless of race or status, would be subject to standard police procedure if pulled over.   The police had probable cause and followed the rules.

Which brings us to Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker Coach, Joey Porter.

Porter was arrested Sunday night at a nightclub, and although we don’t know all the details, we do know that the police were called after Porter’s behavior towards the officer working security at the club became threatening.   It’s been reported that Porter may have put his hands on the officer– a major no no.  NEVER initiate any kind of physical contact with the police, especially when you’re a physically imposing presence like, say, a former NFL linebacker.

Don’t say things like, “I know my rights” or “Don’t you know who I am?”

If you are pulled over or otherwise have a police encounter, remain calm and speak in even, measured tones.  Keep your hands in plain sight and make no sudden movements.

If you have to reach into your jacket for your wallet, or the glove compartment for paperwork, ask the officer first.  “Officer, my wallet is in my jacket, is it okay for me to get it?”

Don’t tell them how to do their job.  No one likes that.  Cooperate with their instructions.  YOU know you don’t have a gun in your jacket, but they don’t.

If they ask you to get out of the car, move slowly and deliberately.  When they say, “Place your hands on the car and spread your legs” so they can search you, cooperate.  Even if the search turns out to be something that can later be suppressed in court, this is not a courtroom.

Police have a very dangerous job where any encounter can, in the blink of an eye, go from routine traffic stop to life threatening situation.  Of course they are going to be hyper-sensitive to anything suspicious, or worse, aggressive behavior.

Conversely, someone who is being stopped by the police– even if they have nothing to hide– is going to be nervous and anxious.  This can be a volatile mix that often results in misunderstanding that can escalate the situation far beyond the original offense.

The worst thing anyone can do in a police encounter is to become combative and or verbally abusive when addressing the police.

Even if they’re a Pittsburgh Steeler.

 

 

 

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Patrick NightingalePolice Encounters Are Not A Courtroom– Even When You’re A Pittsburgh Steeler
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The Trials and Tribulations of a Legal Assistant.

Pennsylvania criminal justiceHello.

I am the legal assistant at PKN Law.

Translation: I’m a glorified gopher with some limited knowledge of the law who acts as a cushion between the ,legal system and real people, but I am not a Lawyer.

The legal assistant is there to take up the slack, and fill in the gaps, so the Lawyers can do their job.

Lawyers are like surgeons. They won’t raise expectations or coddle you. They won’t commit to an answer they are not 100% certain of, and that is rare.

(If your attorney says they are 100% certain, then for Gods sake, listen to them!)

Lawyers are there to deal with a legal system that is incredibly complex and represent their clients in such a way as to produce the best possible outcome. Period.

Having spent over a year as the legal assistant at PKN Law, I can honestly say they actually care about clients. The fact that I’m there proves it.

It is important to keep an open line of communications, and that is where I come in. I bridge that gap. It’s not easy, but I am proud to do it, because I recognize the importance of what we do as a team. We are the last stand between justice and injustice. We are the defense, relied on by people in very serious trouble.

I often have to communicate with family members of clients. They can be emotional, to say the least. They are scared. They are looking for reassurance that their loved one is going to be okay.

I wish I could tell everyone that, but I can’t.

What I can promise is, PKN Law will explore and utilize every possible way to defend their  clients in order to produce an overall defense strategy that results in the best possible outcome.

This is an unsolicited testimonial. No one asked me to write this.

The truth is, I had a rough week, and it occurred to me that we actually care about our clients, which is why I had a rough week.  We are fighting every single day, even though it seems like things are moving slow. The system is slow. It is frustrating, to say the least.

I’m here to make sure the Lawyers can do their job while maintaining communications with not just those we represent (our legal obligation), but also their family members (our commitment to service), who have very real concerns for the welfare of our  respective clients.

PKN Law is committed to providing the best legal defense and best service to every single client, every day. We’ll fight through the paperwork and legal jargon to provide the best defense possible.

I know because I’m in the trenches every day. I wish it was all smooth sailing, but it’s not, and I can promise you that we will be there to weather it all with our clients. That’s what I do.

Legal Assistant, PKN Law.

 

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleThe Trials and Tribulations of a Legal Assistant.
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Illegal Procedure: Football and the Legal System

jury or bench trialThere are many similarities between the legal system and the game of football.

Strategy, both short and long term, is an obvious example. Another is following the rules, even the ‘abstract’ rules.

“Illegal Procedure” in the game of football is a kind of catch-all penalty. It might be anything from a formation, to the position of a particular player in said formation.

The infraction itself may have little or even no impact on the game– except for the fact that it’s a penalty. Suddenly, this small mistake, this matter of procedure, can affect the outcome of the game.

The same is true in the legal system. Everything must be done in the proper order, with corresponding, and documented, interactions between the various components of the judicial system.

If that last paragraph left you somewhat confused, welcome to the legal system.

It’s a system that sets the ground rules, and those rules always seem slightly tilted in favor of the State.  It’s a reality of the system.

Within that system are Judges, District Attorneys, Clerks, Police… there are a lot of people who will be involved in any criminal court case. Those people, (yes, they are people), may be compassionate or hard-boiled, generous or vindictive. They are people,with personal feelings, unique perspectives… and the system, in it’s wisdom, attempts to account for that, with legal procedure.

No matter how anyone feels, from Judge to defendant, there are established procedures that MUST be followed. Period.

Failure to do so can wreck a case– prosecution or defense– either directly or ultimately through the appeals process.

And all of this takes time. It is an involved process because if the wheels of justice turned too fast, it would run over the innocent, instead of protect them.

Those procedures, which admittedly can be frustrating in the extreme, are also the the bedrock of our legal system.

This is why people need to retain attorneys. We are trained to handle the maze of procedure that is our legal system, in ways an average citizen could never navigate.

There has been more than one instance of someone attempting to, “go it alone” in court, and defend themselves, only to end up being led out in handcuffs with a contempt of court charge added to their existing charges. Failure to follow proper procedure in court, especially when it disrespects the court, can have serious consequences. And Heaven help them if they offend the Judge.

Of course, all of this procedure takes time. It involves many people handling the various aspects of the process, and it all has to be respected, because any one of those people in the chain can make things difficult. By respecting the process, and following procedure, attorneys remove the uncertainty from the equation of procedure. Everything is handled properly, and the flow of information– Transcripts, Discovery, Motions– all are readily accessible and presented in the correct order.

Patience with the process is the only way to survive the process, and the best way to survive the process is to retain the best counsel available.

At PKN Law, we strive to maintain a standard of integrity and performance that meets and exceeds our clients needs. And we understand the emotional dynamic of facing criminal charges, and always extend a level of compassion that our clients need to get through the process.

Whether it’s a DUI,  drug possession or something more serious, we are here to fight for the people we represent, and ensure every procedure is fully followed to maximize the benefits to our clients.

 

 

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