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September 17, 2014

Government Must Present Evidence of File Sharing for Distribution of Child Pornography

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has recently reviewed the case of United States of America v. David George Husmann. The case involved the distribution of child pornography. The defendant had allegedly placed various images of child pornography in a shared computer folder connected to a file sharing network. At trial, a jury convicted the defendant of three counts of distributing child pornography. The jury reached the verdict...

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September 11, 2014

Third Circuit Court of Appeals Finds Probable Cause to Search Fugitive’s Vehicle

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has recently decided the case of United States v. Donohue. The case was a result of a government appeal from the grant of a motion to suppress physical evidence. Mr. Donohue was a fugitive and was apprehended while he entered his son’s automobile. The police proceeded to conduct an extensive and lengthy search of the vehicle, ultimately finding a firearm and other evidence. In the District Court, a motion to suppress the physical evidence was presented. The Court suppressed the evidence because the police had no information...

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September 9, 2014

Pennsylvania Superior Court Declares Mandatory Minimum Statutes Unconstitutional

The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently sent shockwaves throughout the criminal justice system by declaring the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing statutes unconstitutional. The court declared that a 5 year mandatory sentence imposed for possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, where a firearm was in the vicinity, was unconstitutional. The sentencing law only required the Commonwealth to prove that a gun was in “close proximity” to the drug sales, to a judge at sentencing by a preponderance of the evidence, rather than to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The...

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Posted in: Drug Crimes

August 8, 2014

When Child Pornography is Not Child Pornography

There has been an increase in crackdowns on alleged child pornography, especially on the Internet. One must consider the ramifications of assigning the label “child pornography” to distasteful, yet perfectly legal, photos, films or digital renderings. Earlier this year, the Huffington Post published a poll concerning 13 year old French model Thylane Loubry Blondeau. Blondeau was in the news not because of her young...

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Posted in: Child Pornography

July 2, 2014

Supreme Court Says Phones Can’t Be Searched Without a Warrant

The Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cell phones of people they arrest after having reviewed two separate cases. Traditionally, the courts have long allowed warrantless searches in connection with arrests, saying they are justified by the need to protect police officers and to prevent the destruction of evidence. However, in the digital age, the court noted the vast amount of data contained on modern cellphones must be protected from routine inspection. Specifically, “Modern cellphones are not just another technological...

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