Over the summer, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the existing law that imposes mandatory minimum sentencing for anyone charged with delivering or possessing with intent to deliver drugs near a school zone. Originally, the minimum sentence requirement was two years in jail for anyone caught within 1,000 feet of a school.
As a criminal defense attorney, I have represented countless people charged with crimes ranging from very minor offenses to violent felonies. In almost all cases, I will have to answer questions put to me by my clients about the way they were treated by the police. More often than not, my answers surprise my clients who typically have some serious misconceptions about what the police are and are not allowed to do. Not only have I devoted my professional career to understanding the permissible contours of a police-citizen encounter, I also had the privilege of teaching a class on this material at Tufts University , a prestigious school outside of Boston, Massachusetts. This article is the first in a series of articles discussing what police are and are not allowed to do.
If you have been charged with a crime in Pennsylvania the first major step in the process is called a preliminary hearing. All cases (except for summary offenses)-whether a person is charged with first degree murder or shoplifting-commence with what you will often hear attorneys refer to as a "prelim." But what is it? How does it work? Why is it important?