Posted On: September 9, 2009

United States Court of Appeals Rules Delaware’ Sports Betting Plan Violates Federal Law

A plan which would have allowed single-game betting on all major sporting events at Delaware’s three racetrack betting locations, beginning September 1st, was not allowed to take effect. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled the plan a violation of a 1992 Federal Law. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 outlawed sports betting nationwide, with the exception of a few states. The Act allowed Nevada to continue licensed sports betting and also exempted the sports lotteries conducted by Oregon, Montana, and Delaware. The Act also provided a one-year grace period for states, who had allowed sports betting over the previous ten-year period, to create legislation permitting sports wagering; a clause which was clearly crafted for the State of New Jersey, however the State chose rather to let the grace period lapse. The Act applies to all major sporting events, both professional and amateur, with exceptions for horse and dog racing, and also jai alai, a Spanish sport which has not gained much popularity in the United States.

Delaware wished to institute its sports betting plan in accordance with the PASPA’s exemption for Delaware’s sports lottery; the proceeds to help offset an $800 million state budget deficit. Attorneys for the four major professional sports (football, basketball, baseball, and hockey) argued that allowing betting on single game sporting events would compromise the integrity of the games by promoting game fixing. Attorney Kenneth Nachbar argued the Act’s exemption for the Delaware sports lottery does not allow the State to institute single-game betting, stating “the closer you get to single-game betting, the more you call into question the integrity of what happens on the field or on the court.” Rather, Delaware’s sports lottery, which has not been in existence since 1976, allowed for betting on multiple games via parlay bets. Attorneys for the State of Delaware argued the plan meets the definition of a lottery under the 1992 Act, but to no avail.

Last year, Tim Donaghy, a referee in the National Basketball Association, was charged with crimes relating to betting on single games and passing along inside information to bookies. It is still unknown for sure whether Donaghy, through his position as a referee, affected the outcome of any NBA games he worked. He pled guilty to Federal Fraud charges and was sentenced this summer to fifteen months in prison.

Fraud

Fraud is defined as an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual. Fraud can be committed in many forms, including tampering with sporting events or other events which invite legal betting. The penalties for committing fraud vary, depending on the type of fraud and the damage caused by the fraudulent activities. The Law Offices of Marc Neff have over 20-years of experience successfully defending clients charged with fraud and related offenses. If you are under investigation of fraud, or have been charged with a criminal offense, contact our offices immediately. There are defenses available to you, and the Law Offices of Marc Neff can assist in developing a successful defense.

Posted On: September 3, 2009

Supreme Court of the United States Holds Using Cellular Telephones to Arrange Misdemeanor Drug Purchases Does Not Constitute Facilitation

A case decided in the Supreme Court of the United States this past summer has held the use of cellular telephones between buyer and seller, to make misdemeanor drug purchases, does not constitute facilitating under United States statue; facilitation would otherwise constitute a felony. Federal Investigators suspected a man of trafficking and/or dealing drugs, and subsequently obtained a warrant to issue a wiretap on his cellular phone. While monitoring the wiretap, Investigators observed six phone calls between the man and a customer, some made by the man and some initiated by the customer. The six phone calls related to two transactions, each for one gram of cocaine. The sale of the cocaine is treated as a felony under United States statute; however the purchase of such minor quantities constitutes misdemeanor offenses.

Nevertheless, the buyer was arrested and charged with six felonies, one count for each phone call which took place between buyer and seller. The Government charged the buyer under 21 U.S.C. §843(b), a section of the Controlled Substances Act which makes it illegal to use any communication facility in facilitating felony distribution and other drug crimes. The Government argued that the communication between buyer and seller via cell phone facilitated the seller in his efforts to distribute controlled substances.

The Court held the Government’s interpretation of the statute was too broad, reversing the buyer’s felony convictions from the lower courts. The Court determined that the facilitation statue was not intended to increase the penalties of misdemeanor purchasers, rather to increase penalties of traffickers involved in the sale, purchase and distribution of larger quantities. The Court reasoned that in modern society, cellular telephones are prevalent and unfortunately are also used in making drug purchases. The use of a cellular phone in making a misdemeanor purchase does not facilitate the seller in making the sale, rather it creates a buyer-seller relationship which otherwise would not have existed. Punishing a purchaser under the felony statute, for making a purchase otherwise constituted as a misdemeanor, was not Congress’ intent in legislating the Controlled Substance Act.

Drug Possession

Possession of a controlled substance is a crime which carries many harsh penalties. Depending on the quantity of controlled substance you are found to possess, you may even be charged with intent to deliver or drug trafficking. Such charges carry even greater penalties. Larger quantities mandate longer minimum sentences as well.

Drug offenses are serious matters which involve serious penalties. If you have been charged with a drug offense, there are many defenses which may be available. Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately, so that your situation can be assessed and a defense to your charges can be developed.

Posted On: September 2, 2009

Superior Court of Pennsylvania Upholds Suppression Order Under Pennsylvania's Wiretap Act

A recent appellate decision affirmed a suppression of evidence order, granted due to a governmental violation of Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Act. Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Act criminalizes the intentional interception of wire, electronic, and oral communications and prohibits the use of any communication derived from such an interception. Accordingly, Police must strictly comply with the requirements of the Wiretap Act in order for the fruits of their investigation to be admissible at trial. Any non-compliance, even when in good faith, will cause the illegal interceptions to be suppressed.

Two individuals were stopped by Pennsylvania State Police while driving on a Pennsylvania highway when the officer noticed the vehicle was speeding. After citing the driver, the officer asked the individuals about their travel plans, as the vehicle was registered out-of-state. Two conflicting stories were given by the vehicle’s occupants, arising suspicion in the officer. The officer then asked if the individuals were transporting any firearms or narcotics to which the driver nervously responded that he had a weapon. The driver then consented to a search of the vehicle, upon which thirty-five pounds of marijuana, methamphetamine, paraphernalia, a handgun, and a cellular “tracfone” were found. The men were taken into custody; upon questioning, the passenger admitted he had been approached by a man named “Steve” who agreed to purchase thirty-five pounds of marijuana from him. The tracfone would be used to keep in contact and set-up the final meeting spot.

The officer, without first obtaining a warrant, began text-messaging Steve from the phone, to which Steve suspiciously responded with questions only his cohort would know. Obtaining the answers from the passenger, the officer responded and gained Steve’s trust. When a meeting place was established as a parking lot, Pennsylvania State Police began surveillance of the lot. Spotting a vehicle with New York license plates, and information that Steve was from New York, a uniformed officer in a marked car pulled-in behind the vehicle, asked if one of the occupants were named Steve, and after receiving an affirmative response, arrested the individual. At trial, the Court suppressed the evidence obtained, citing a violation of Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Act. The Commonwealth appealed this order.

The Commonwealth raised the issue of whether the trial court erred in finding the intercepted text-messages were obtained in violation of the Wiretap Act. The Commonwealth argued that the text-messages were not intercepted illegally and that the Act was not intended to prevent misrepresentation of identity; the Commonwealth argued that when the officer began sending the text-messages, he became the intended recipient. The Commonwealth also suggested that “interception” requires the use of a separate device and no expectation of privacy existed as the text message could have been shared once received.

The Superior Court examined the Wiretap Act on its face and ruled the Commonwealth’s arguments either wrong or irrelevant. Nowhere in the Act does it state interception requires the use of a separate police device. The Court further ruled that the facts of this case differed from cases cited by the Commonwealth in their brief, in that the phone was not voluntarily given to police, nor were the interceptions explicitly consented to by any of the parties. In a concurring decision, Justice Stevens opined that the state of Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Act gives narcotics dealers an enormous advantage over law enforcement; by the time the Act has been complied with by Police, the drug-dealers have long since completed their transactions. Nevertheless, he wrote that the majority opinion of the Court was correct based on the current state of the law.

Suppression of Evidence

In a criminal trial, the burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. The prosecution builds their case with evidence; some evidence stronger than other. There are rules regarding evidence, both State and Federal, which govern what evidence is admissible and what is not. Often, some or all of the evidence the prosecution wishes to use was obtained illegally, either by police or third party. An experienced criminal defense attorney is an expert in the field of evidence. Upon reviewing a defendant’s case, a criminal defense attorney will determine if some of the evidence can and should be suppressed.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff via phone at (215) 563-9800 or e-mail Marc@nefflawoffices.com for a confidential consultation.