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Philadelphia Civil Rights Legal Blog

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

Your fundamental rights when questioned by the police

Let’s say that you have been detained by police officers and are taken to the police station for questioning. For most people, this is frightening, confusing and intimidating. It may seem as if the odds are stacked against you.

There are crucial rights to which you are entitled, and you have the right to use them if you are ever taken into police custody. You should know that in a situation like this, you are not powerless. When interrogated by the police, you are ensured three fundamental rights by the criminal justice system.

Disclosure of misconduct and complaints is critical

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Police finally made public the full list of complaints against officers. But in so doing, they shrouded the names of the officers with either initials or a blank field. We now know something about the complaints against police as a unit, but not about specific officers.

Shortly afterwards the District Attorney’s “Do not call” list of police officers it considered unreliable was also published. We are making progress towards full transparency. But it is still difficult to find information necessary to show a pattern of misconduct by any one officer, often a critical part of a trial. It still takes unique knowledge and skill to bring that to the light of day.

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