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Philadelphia Civil Rights Legal Blog

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.

Police misconduct gets them on the naughty list

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office compiled a list last year. There was a noble purpose in mind for creating the list. They wanted to locally tackle a national problem: police misconduct in the form of falsifying evidence, framing suspects and lying about in the courtroom.

According to a recent news story, the District Attorney’s Office had asked the Police Misconduct Review Committee to assemble the list to keep certain officers from testifying in court. These officers had a history of lying, brutality or racial bias. The list has not been made public and was intended for internal use. Prosecutors did not want it released for privacy concerns.

Being behind bars does not mean you give up your rights

Almost seven years ago the Pennsylvania prison system was sued after allegations of officers physically abusing inmates surfaced at State Correctional Institution in Pittsburgh. Of the six officials charged in these incidents, all but one faced allegations of physically assaulting inmates. Guards and nurses among other prison staff are in complete control over the lives of people who are incarcerated. That power dynamic can often lead to the mistreatment of prisoners. It's often hard to see convicted criminals as victims in these situations.

Long-term prison homicide rate

America's correctional system houses 2.2 million people making it the fourth largest city in the nation. The brutality behind bars often goes unnoted. Unfortunately, the likelihood that someone will be investigated, charged and prosecuted for crimes committed in prison is very small.

Supreme Court to decide scope of privacy for rental cars

While driving, you can expect a degree of privacy during traffic stops. Police cannot search your car without probable cause. This protection might soon have some new exceptions, however. A traffic stop for one Pennsylvania man in a rental car could potentially lead to fewer 4th Amendment rights on the road.

The Supreme Court has yet to rule in Byrd v. United States, a case that concerns rental agreements and privacy rights across the country. The driver, Byrd, was pulled over for a minor violation in his fiancée’s rental car. His fiancée granted him permission to use the vehicle, which later became a key factor in this case. At the time of the traffic stop, the patrol officer conducted a search of the vehicle because the rental agreement made no mention of his name. Although the officer found contraband in the trunk, the judges must ask whether the search was constitutional at all.

NFL Players And Social Activism

It began during the 2016 football season when the former San Francisco 49er quarterback Collin Kaepernick sat on the bench as the national anthem played before the start of a game. When asked about his decision to stay seated during the nation’s national anthem, Kaepernick stated that he wasn’t “going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

When critics tried to brand Kaepernick’s actions as unpatriotic and disrespectful, he remained unapologetic in his stance that his protest was one rooted in social and racial inequality at the hands of police officers and had nothing to do with a lack of respect for members of the U.S. military.

Protesting In Philadelphia? Be Informed.

Ever since the death of David Jones in June 2017, protests by several activist groups in Philadelphia have encountered unwanted attention from law enforcement. In particular, the arrest of Black Lives Matter activist Asa Khalif in November highlights the recurrent theme of police officers arresting individuals who attempt to exercise their First Amendment rights.

A Growing Issue

Bring On The Heat – Your Rights As A Tennant

With temperatures hovering at or below freezing in Philadelphia, everyone, including tenants of rental units and homes, need to come home to a properly heated residence. The Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code states that landlords are responsible for ensuring that your heat is working properly from the first of October through the 30th of April. Let’s look at the particulars of the city rental housing code and how it supports your legal right to have working utilities in your rental housing.


Arrest Photos Of Nearly 70,000 In Bucks County Unlawfully Made Public

Every year, thousands of people are arrested in Bucks County, but a significant percentage of these individuals are never convicted of any criminal wrongdoing. Under the Pennsylvania Criminal History Record Information Act, if a person’s arrest doesn’t lead to a conviction, their personal information and the facts about their arrest cannot be shared with the public.

If you’ve ever been arrested, do you know if your arrest record was shared with others or made public? A Pennsylvania judge recently ruled to allow a class action lawsuit to proceed involving the arrest records of nearly 70,000 individuals whose photos were unlawfully published on the Bucks County Prison’s Inmate Lookup Tool. The class action suit originated with the filing of a lawsuit by a man named Daryoush Taha.

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