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Masorti Law Group – Legal Blog

22 Jul
Centre County Judge Grine vacates order and grants suppression On June 23, Judge Jonathan D. Grine of the Centre County Court of Common Pleas vacated his earlier Order which denied a defendant’s suppression motion. The earlier Order was based on the ruling that the defendant lacked standing to bring a Fourth Amendment claim. Judge Grine vacated the Order just weeks after it was issued. Brock W. Breon was charged with drug-related offenses after a Spring Township Police Officer illegally searched his vehicle during a traffic stop. The officer removed Mr. Breon from the vehicle when he saw pill bottles inside...
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29 Aug
PA Superior Court: Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Statue Unconstitutional Last week, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that mandatory minimum sentencing statutes are unconstitutional. A mandatory minimum sentence is the minimum time a judge must sentence a defendant to serve if the defendant is found guilty. In 2013 the United States Supreme Court held in Alleyne v. United States that all facts that increase a mandatory minimum sentence must be submitted to a jury and found true beyond a reasonable doubt. After Alleyne, many state mandatory minimum sentencing procedures were rendered unconstitutional. Pennsylvania is one of those states. That is because Pennsylvania...
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18 Aug
Blockbuster Ruling From Third Circuit Regarding Admissibility of Prior Bad Acts Evidence The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided a significant case involving prior bad acts evidence under Rule 404(b) and the exclusion of prejudicial evidence under Rule 403. Although the case involves the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Pennsylvania counterparts to those rules are quite similar. Rule 404(b) prohibits introduction of evidence of prior bad acts for the purpose of showing that the defendant has a propensity to commit bad acts. The rule does allow such evidence to be admitted for other purposes, such as proving motive, opportunity,...
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31 Jul
DAVIS V. ALASKA – The Right To Cross-Examination Cross-Examination has been famously described as “the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” At trial, cross-examination is the primary way to test, inspect, and examine the reliability of a witness’ testimony. It is through cross-examination that a witness can be impeached, or shown to be untruthful, biased, or otherwise lacking credibility. For this reason, the United States Supreme Court has held that a key aspect of a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses is the right to question the witnesses on cross-examination in order to demonstrate to the...
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31 Jul
Pennsylvania Representative Introduces Federal Marijuana Bill Representative Scott Perry, a Republican from York County, Pennsylvania, recently introduced a bill to legalize certain strains of marijuana for therapeutic purposes. The legislation is named after Charlotte Figi, a young Colorado girl whose seizures were reduced from over 300 per week to about three over the course of an eight month period after using CBD, a marijuana-based oil that has been shown to reduce seizures in children who suffer from debilitating seizures. State legislation has changed in recent years in response to the significant change in the nation’s attitudes about marijuana. Twenty-three states...
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16 Jul
fter a Criminal Complaint has been filed, a preliminary hearing will take place. A preliminary hearing is not a trial where guilt or innocence is determined. At the preliminary hearing, the judge simply has to determine whether a crime has been committed and whether it is more likely than not that the defendant committed it. In other words, a preliminary hearing is to determine whether there is enough evidence to require a trial. At the end of the preliminary hearing, the charges are dismissed or held for court.  In Coleman v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court held that a preliminary...
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15 Jul
On July 15th, 2014 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court removes the ban on expert testimony about eyewitness unreliability. In an exciting development in criminal trial practice, a divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court has reversed its prior precedent and removed its 20 year prohibition on expert testimony regarding eyewitness identifications. Prior to this ruling, there was an absolute ban in this state on expert testimony about the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Following the lead of nearly all the federal circuit courts, 44 other states, and the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania will now allow an expert witness to tell jurors about the decades of...
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8 Jul
On June 4, 2014, the Centre County Court of Common Pleas decided a case regarding what it means for parties to live “separate and apart” for the purposes of Pennsylvania’s no-fault divorce statute. he case involved a Husband and Wife who were disputing the date on which the parties were actually separated. The Husband believed that the separation date was the day he filed his Complaint in Divorce. The Wife, on the other hand, believed that the separation did not begin until the date that the Wife moved out of the marital home. The date of the separation is important...
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