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Philadelphia Civil Rights Legal Blog

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.

Why Is It So Hard For Police Departments To Get Rid Of Bad Cops?

In recent years, public trust in our country’s law enforcement agencies has plummeted as numerous incidents involving police brutality and misconduct have been reported in cities throughout the country. Philadelphia is among those cities to be known for having a police department that is plagued by systemic corruption and wrongdoing.

With public and political pressure growing, politicians and city officials throughout the country are grappling with how to regain public trust and weed out so-called bad cops. However, a recent article in The Washington Post provides insight into why it’s so difficult for police departments to implement reform.

Evictions And Understanding Your Rights As A Tenant

Philadelphia has an eviction problem. There were 22,573 cases filed in landlord-tenant court in 2016, and the majority of tenants are simply unable to hire legal counsel to represent them. In fact, 92 percent of tenants represented themselves – 6.7 percent received pro bono help from private attorneys and 1.5 percent were able to afford their own legal aid.

On the opposite end, 81 percent of landlords are represented by private attorneys.

Seeking Justice For Laquan McDonald

From the first day they put on their badges and many days thereafter, police officers throughout the United States recite the The Law Enforcement Oath of Honor. Key passages of the oath include a promise to "never betray my badge" and "always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions." Sadly, as many Philadelphia residents know, this oath is betrayed by some police officers on a daily basis.

One of the most blatant and egregious examples of police misconduct and corruption came to light after members of the Chicago Police Department attempted to cover up the unjustified shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Police Searches And Seizures And Your Rights

Regardless of sex, race, age or socio-economic class, as Americans, we all have basic civil rights. Among these rights is the right to be protected from unreasonable and unlawful searches and seizures by the government or governmental agency actors-- including police officers.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution is one of the most important protections that we, as U.S. citizens, have. Sadly, it's also one of the most violated. In some cases, an individual may not even know that his or her Fourth Amendment Rights were violated.

In Philadelphia, Widespread Use Of Police Body Cameras Remains Uncertain

They say that a picture is worth 1,000 words and this statement is particularly true when it comes to video recordings of police stops, encounters and arrests. In recent years, we've been reminded numerous times of just how beneficial these recordings can be when it comes to determining cases of alleged police misconduct and brutality.

The majority of these types of videos are captured by individual citizens who use cellphones to record what they see and hear. In other cases, footage from police car dashboard and body cameras has been used to dispute police accounts and justify the filing of criminal charges.

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