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Philadelphia Civil Rights Legal Blog

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.

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.

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