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Philadelphia Civil Rights Legal Blog

What qualifies as a false arrest?

A police officer stops you while you are walking down a Philadelphia street. The officer claims he saw you steal something from the store you just left and places you under arrest. Would that be a false arrest?

A false arrest occurs when someone is illegally restrained from freedom of movement. It does not necessarily have to include a jail cell or handcuffs. A storeowner that accuses you of shoplifting and then refuses to let you leave the store could be accused of false arrest.

What are the risks of the police using Tasers?

In the early 2000’s, an innovation from the 1970’s gained increasing popularity with police departments all over the country that is still in use today. A Taser, also known as a stun gun, is primarily used to incapacitate someone who either poses a threat or needs to be immobilized to have handcuffs put on.

A Taser has two wires with probes and when it enters a body it will overload a person’s nerves with an electric shock. This will cause a person to fall to the ground with no ability to control movement.

Can the police search your car without a warrant?

If the police want to search your property, they will generally need a search warrant to do so. But what if they want to search your car during a traffic stop?

If you are pulled over by a police officer and they want to search your vehicle, they only need to have probable cause to legally do the search. A police officer is not allowed to search a car based on a hunch. Probable cause does need to be backed up by evidence that illegal activity is taking place. Examples of evidence that could constitute a search would be the smell of contraband or an officer receives an admission of guilt from someone in the car. It is important to know that any minor traffic violation that was the cause of being pulled over does not fall under probable cause.

Black men arrested at Starbucks suggest profiling and racial bias

Two black men arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks in April provoked nationwide outrage as a viral video of the incident circulated. The men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were waiting on another man for a business meeting at the coffee chain. They asked to use the bathroom, but an employee refused because they had not purchased anything. The employee then asked the men to leave, but they did not, and a staff member called the police.

According to CNN, the police arrived at Starbucks, and asked the men to leave three times because the employee had accused the men of trespassing. When the men refused, the officers handcuffed the men and took them to the police station. The man they were waiting to meet, Andrew Yaffe, arrived as the officers were placing the men in cuffs. The men were released, after it was determined that Starbucks did not want to press charges.

What is the eviction process for tenants?

You have been living in a rented home for a while now, but suddenly you find out you are being evicted. It may come as a shock to you and your family and you might not know what to do.

You might wonder what the process is. It is important to be sure your landlord is following appropriate eviction procedure to ensure that the process is legal. Following, are two procedures your landlord must abide by in order to make your eviction legal.

Can you film the police in Philadelphia?

Under the First Amendment to the Constitution, you generally have the right to engage in expressive freedom of speech in a public place. The evolution of what constitutes "speech" has expanded to include videos, so long as they are expressive (intended to communicate a message to an audience).

So, is recording video footage of police interactions covered under your First Amendment rights?

More than just a furry friend, police dogs can be dangerous

Police dogs are great for the kids and the press. They're adorable and obedient. But when they are working, they are quite a different sight.

This is one of those situations where TV captures reality pretty well. Giant dogs prepared to take people down with subtle cues from their handlers is precisely what happens when it is time for a police dog to go into action.

What’s lawful and unlawful when getting a security deposit back?

Few things grab our attention and make us research our legal rights as when it negatively impacts the amount in our bank account. Withheld money from a landlord can significantly throw off your ability to secure your next home or pay other vital expenses. Holding a person or a business legally accountable starts by knowing your rights as a tenant.

Unfortunately, landlords have been guilty of withholding security deposits many times in the past. What landlords fail to understand or perhaps genuinely care about is how detrimental this may be to your wellbeing and stability in life. Not getting an amount that you are expecting or deserving of can make a difficult circumstance even worse.

Rental control laws: More on the horizon?

In Philadelphia and many other cities across the country, the rising cost of rent is outstripping the cost of living index, meaning that affordable housing is a dream instead of a reality for many people. Affordable housing advocates cite the growing need for controls that keep renters from becoming exploited by landlords. Here are the current situation and a promising possibility for renters in Philadelphia.

No Rent Cap

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