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Author Archives: Matthew R. Zatko

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Restricts Vehicle Searches by Police

A recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision limits the power of police to search vehicles after pulling them over. Unless they have a warrant, officers must demonstrate both probable cause and “exigent circumstances,” such as that evidence will be lost or destroyed if a search of the vehicle is not performed. The new rule should provide… Read More »

Is Pennsylvania on the Cusp of Legalizing Recreational Marijuana?

It’s been less than five years since Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill that legalized medical marijuana and just over two years since the first Pennsylvania dispensaries opened. In that time, dispensaries have sold more than $1 billion worth of marijuana to approved patients. Marijuana has proven to be big business, which has some people… Read More »

Bill Cosby Case Focuses on Admissibility of “Prior Bad Acts” Testimony

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is deciding whether five witnesses in Bill Cosby’s 2018 sexual assault trial should have been barred from testifying about “prior bad acts” that may have influenced the jury verdict. The prosecutor used the testimony to establish that Cosby engaged in a long-term pattern of inappropriate sexual behavior. Cosby was ultimately convicted… Read More »

Federal Prosecutors Charging Protestors with Crimes Under Civil Rights-Era Law

Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia and other large cities around the country have revived a little-used criminal law from the 1960s civil rights era to charge protestors with obstructing law enforcement during the unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd. The Civil Disobedience Act of 1968 makes it a felony to “obstruct law enforcement in… Read More »

When Can Deadly Force Be Used in Defense of a Home or Other Place of Security?

One nightmare everyone dreads is being awakened by the sound of breaking glass or other unexpected noise coming from downstairs and encountering an intruder. In that scenario, what can you do to protect yourself, your family and your possessions? Pennsylvania follows the “castle doctrine,” a legal principle allowing you to use deadly force against someone… Read More »

Why Would the Police Pull You Over When You Didn’t Do Anything Wrong?

You are driving on a Pennsylvania highway and you notice a police car following you, even though you’re not speeding, driving erratically or otherwise violating traffic laws. Suddenly, the police car’s lights are flashing. As you’re pulling to the side of the road, you’re thinking, “What did I do wrong?” The answer may be nothing…. Read More »

What Types of Charges Can Get You on the Sex Offender Registry, and for How Long?

Pennsylvania’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), popularly known as Megan’s Law, has been on the books since 1995. SORNA requires that certain designated adult and juvenile sex offenders register with the Pennsylvania State Police. People on the registry must report periodically to the State Police and provide information about changes in employment or… Read More »

Good People Make Bad Decisions: Why ARD Is Designed for You

A person who has gone their entire life without getting into legal trouble might one day get behind the wheel after too many drinks, use recreational marijuana or make another poor decision that leads to a low-level criminal charge. Fortunately, Pennsylvania has a specific remedy. The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program offers people who make… Read More »

Guilt by Association in Drug Cases

If you’re like most people, hearing the phrase “drug possession” brings to mind someone caught with drugs in their hand, in their jacket pocket or even hidden in their shoes. It’s relatively easy to understand — the person had drugs on them when they were arrested. But did you know that a person can be… Read More »

Shut Up, Give Blood, Call a Lawyer: What To Do in a DUI Arrest

A charge of driving under the influence can negatively affect your life whether or not you’re convicted. If you are a first-time Pennsylvania DUI offender, the good news is you most likely won’t face felony charges. If you have a history of DUI, though, you could be looking at very heavy penalties. Whatever your history… Read More »