The Legal Issues of the Eric Frein Manhunt

As our viewers are likely aware, several of our recent blogs (mainly my own) regarding the Eric Frein manhunt have resulted in some controversy. Prince Law Offices has always stood by the rule of law and the Constitution. It is in that spirit that the blog articles at the heart of this controversy, and this response, were written.

At Prince Law Offices, we believe that our legal system, of which the Constitution is the heart, exists both to prosecute those who commit crimes and to protect the civil and natural rights of the citizens. Sometimes, those two goals come into conflict with one another, as they have here. The Pennsylvania State Police are operating to catch and prosecute the suspect of a capital crime. They should fully utilize the resources provided them under the law to pursue and arrest the suspect, who will then be afforded an opportunity to defend himself before a judge and jury. Let us not forget that, as of now, he is a suspect and no matter what evidence has been presented by the media or the police, the foundation of our criminal justice system is that everyone receives the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. It is for precisely situations such as this that the protections of the Constitution exist, and Prince Law Offices proudly stands by its dedication and commitment to protecting the Constitutional rights of all citizens.

While the State Police are clearly working to execute their mandate to enforce the criminal laws of the Commonwealth, our concern is they are neglecting the other side of the equation – the protection of all citizens’ Constitutional and natural rights. As one of the 13 colonies that would become the United States, Pennsylvanians have already lived in a society that authorized Writs of Assistance – that is, warrants that informed citizens what the government could look for, but authorized searches anywhere it would be possible for that person or item to be. These Writs of Assistance required no element of the probability of finding the particular item or person – it merely needed to be possible that the person or item sought could be in the location searched.

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that broad-based searches, based on nothing more than the possibility of recovering the suspect or evidence of a crime, is not constitutional. In the 1920’s, for example, when organized crime was rising due to Prohibition and violent gangsters like Al Capone were routinely avoiding jail time, the Supreme Court still held that “[i]t would be intolerable and unreasonable if a [police officer] were authorized to stop every automobile on the chance of finding liquor, and thus subject all persons lawfully using the highways to the inconvenience and indignity of such a search.” Later in that case – Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 153-54 (1925) – the Court stated that “those lawfully . . . entitled to use the public highways, have a right to free passage without interruption or search unless there is . . . probable cause for believing that their vehicles are carrying contraband[.]” Id., at 154.

It must be noted that the Court was concerned not only with inconveniences, but with the dignity of the individual citizen. While many commentators have pointed out that the residents of Monroe and Pike County are only encountering inconveniences, we feel that the greater issue concerns the dignity of the citizen. In America, we all have the right to be free from suspicion until probable cause arises to cast that light upon us. Allowing indiscriminate searches of citizens casts the shadow of suspicion upon us all and elevates the power of the government over the citizen. The State Police actions in their search for Eric Frein are by no means the only example of this, but it is our duty as citizens – and particularly attorneys – to ensure that the civil dignity of the individual citizen is preserved.

Many people have commented that this is an exigent circumstance, requiring such measures as roadblocks, random searches, curfews, etc. The law, however, says otherwise. An exigent circumstance is one in which the police do not have time to get a warrant. Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court held in 1978 that “a warrantless search must be strictly circumscribed by the exigencies which justify its initiation.” Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 393 (1978). A search cannot occur based on efficiency and convenience alone, for as the Supreme Court rightly held, “[t]he investigation of crime would always be simplified if warrants were unnecessary.” Id. The Court held that a “four-day search . . . can hardly be rationalized in terms of the legitimate concerns that justify an emergency search,” even when the investigation is for a homicide. Id., at 393-94.

The State Police have been searching this area for two weeks. And while we applaud the fact that many recent searches have been conducted pursuant to valid warrants, that fact does not excuse the warrantless searches without probable cause of individual cars and homes. The police do not have the authority to follow the law when it is convenient and to skirt it when inconvenient. Perhaps this hampers the investigation; but if so, this is how our legal system was designed. If we are to protect our rights and dignity as citizens, we must demand that all citizens respect the Constitution. It cannot be forgotten that the Constitution expressly limits the ability of the government to act and that the State Police is the agency of the government tasked with executing that action.

The urge can be great to say: “This is different. This is an emergency and the public safety is at risk.” We can certainly understand the fear with which people in the affected area are experiencing, and our intentions are not to interfere with a police investigation. Nor are they in any way supportive of Eric Frein, who, if it is determined by a court that he was responsible for the shooting, should be punished accordingly. Our intention is to ensure that while the police attempt to uphold one aspect of the law – finding and prosecuting a murder suspect – that they respect the other goal of the legal system – the protection of civil rights.

It would be appropriate to include here that police officers are not, contrary to many people’s expectations, required to protect any individual. The U.S. Supreme Court, in DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dep’t of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189, 195 (1989) held that the government is under absolutely no obligation to protect any individual citizen: “[N]othing in the Due Process Clause itself requires the State to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens against invasion by private actors.” Thus, there is “no affirmative right to governmental aid, even where such aid may be necessary to secure life, liberty, or property . . .” Id., at 196.

The end here (finding a murder suspect) is important. But the means must be within the boundaries of the law. For what is the purpose or strength of a legal system which allows the breaking of one law in order to enforce another? Who becomes the arbiter of what law may be broken in support of another? And when is that decision made? Are we to grant the individual police officers that power? The Chief of Police? The Governor? And, just as concerning, what does that say about the overall rule of law? If those in charge of upholding the law may decide the utility of any law in a given situation, then what strength does the law really have?

This brings us to the issue of the State Police’s authorization for troopers to kill the suspect if he refuses surrender. (Reported in The Morning Call Sept. 23). The language is important: the order is not “shoot Frein if he presents a danger to police or anyone else.” The order states that the only exception to the authorization of deadly force is if he is “actively surrendering.” This is not legal semantics at play – this is the difference between a legal system and a police state. Of course the police may use deadly force to protect against a deadly threat – so may any individual. But authorizing the police to shoot a suspect on sight, without any need to justify that by an imminent threat to officer safety, is truly frightening and justifies our concerns with the way this investigation and search is being handled.

From the larger perspective, this is perhaps the most concerning of all the developments. Eric Frein is believed to have murdered a police officer and seriously wounded another. Since then, there have been no allegations that he has injured anyone else. There is evidence, as reported by the UK Daily Mail, that Frein believed his sister-in-law was having an affair with the wounded trooper. The State Police has stated that an investigation turned up no evidence of the affair, but the important part is that Frein may very well have believed it to be the case. This is not to excuse, in any way, Frein’s alleged actions. This information is extremely important, however, in determining whether he is a threat to the community and the Police in particular. If he targeted an individual for personal revenge, then he is no more dangerous than any other wanted murderer, the search for whom entire communities are not cordoned off and randomly searched.

It is hard not to conclude that the State Police are conducting such an extensive search primarily because the murder victim was a fellow officer. Lehigh Valley Live admitted as much: “[I]t’s undeniable that state police and FBI wouldn’t be casting such an intrusive dragnet for a civilian wanted for murdering another civilian.” We can sympathize with the human desire to defend one’s family, and police officers certainly form a familial bond. But what is unique and exceptional about our Constitution and legal system is precisely that we do not place government authorities above other “civilians.” We are all citizens. Donning a uniform – while granting certain temporary powers prescribed by law – does not transform an individual into more than a civilian. The law applies to us all equally. The fact that the State Police feel a greater need to pursue a suspected murderer who killed a fellow officer than a suspected murderer who killed a mere “civilian” obliterates the objectivity with which much of the respect and authority of the police is based upon. Establishing respect for the law starts with those tasked with upholding it. Making exceptions because of one’s status as a police officer can only harm respect for the law.

Finally, I would like to address the allegations that our attorneys are only interested in exploiting a situation to make money. This is some distance from the truth. For example, I recently successfully represented the Sheriff of Perry County in a lawsuit brought by county auditors who sought confidential information. In addition, I provide pro-bono law enforcement firearms law seminars, so that law enforcement officers are informed of the firearms law in the Commonwealth, so to ensure that they do not end up a Defendant in a civil rights lawsuit. Every winter, the firm hosts an all-day event within the community to provide food and warmth to the indigent.

Indeed, if Prince Law was concerned primarily with financial gain, civil rights litigation would not be a primary focus. Rather, Prince Law is concerned with the protection of our Constitutional rights. This is why our attorneys conduct seminars on firearms and civil rights – frequently several hours long, on the weekend – without any form of compensation. Finally, the contention that Prince Law is only trying to “make a buck” necessarily implies that there are civil rights abuses occurring in Monroe and Pike County; for if Prince Law were to “greedily” work on a contingent basis, the firm would only make money by winning a claim. And Prince Law would only win the case if there were merit to the belief that the State Police have not followed the Constitution.

61 thoughts on “The Legal Issues of the Eric Frein Manhunt

  1. Another excellent blog post by Joshua Prince. Joshua, thank you for standing up for the rule of law – it is refreshing to see!

    Like

  2. Josh – your comments and concerns are spot on. We need to watch how this situation plays out very cautiously. Due process is a critical concept that protects ALL of our constitutional rights.

    Like

  3. One must question the sincerity of any lawyer when facing the denial of constitutionally protected rights when the lawyer is mandated to maintain confidentiality even in the face of denial of civil rights, loss of property, and no protection under the law.

    These are the deliberate effects when the ABA provided an unconstitutional rule to the state supreme court to enact into law. Enacted 1987, effective 1988.

    Kids for Cash affected over 4000 children and their families.
    The National Foreclosure Crisis affect over 40 million families

    In 1983, the ABA had removed two provisions from Rule 1.6 Confidentiality which permitted a lawyer to speak where silence would conceal or permit “substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another”;
    and
    where the lawyer was seeking “to rectify the consequences of a client’s criminal or fraudulent act in the furtherance of which the lawyer’s services have been used.”

    Yep, the American Bar Association planned ahead for foreclosure fraud and more… no one went to jail.

    http://work2bdone.com/live/2014/10/ethics-becomes-no-ethics-at-all/

    Like

    1. The American Bar Association is NOT part of either State or Federal government. Associations are well known to place the interests of all their
      members–even if not all members concur–ahead of clients’ legal interests.
      Further, ABA membership roles have suffered severe shrinkage over time
      given those attorneys who don’t concur to wit giving up their membership.
      (As an aside, similar membership shrinkage has affected the AMA …)

      There are those truly constitutionally-minded attorneys who might even view court action against the ABA as an appropriate remedy to counter
      the ethics changes as specified in the attorney’s blog above. However,
      Law Judges nationwide have managed to “join the ABA” by requiring ABA
      membership of all attorneys coming before the bar in their venue. This
      is just as–nay, MORE–egregious than the ABA’s internal “throwing away”
      of CONSTITUTIONAL CONSCIONCE”.

      While most Judges are attorneys & have every right to join the ABA, ALL
      Judges DO NOT HAVE & should not try to wrongly wield ANY SUCH
      “OUTLAWING OF CONSTITUTIONAL CONCIOUS” before their court.

      JUSTICE IS NOT REALLY BLIND: but it does turn it’s blind eye to the
      corruption brought about threw unjust wealth flows in our legal system.

      HONEST TO GOD, we truly need a few GOD-FEARING PATRIOTS who
      are also attorneys and judges to step up and initiate corruption eradication.

      About five percent of the world’s population are counting on the continuing
      tearing down of the very core principles of our U.S. Constitution.

      It remains for the rest of the world’s population to follow the lead of those American Patriots who are charged near-now by God to turn the “pyramid” upside down. We have seen such ramifications before in this country.
      True American Patriots are Citizens with the SPIRITUAL backbone to act:
      Again and again, as many times as necessary to restore our LIBERTY.

      Let the “games” begin.
      May the “cleansing” commence,.
      AMEN.

      Like

  4. A court order should be obtained forcing the State Police to abandon it’s shoot to kill policy. This same order was given by FBI at Ruby Ridge with disastrous consequences. The wrong people died, or went to jail, after Ruby Ridge. Stop the BS now!

    Like

    1. Mr. Prince,

      Well done.

      As I do not condone violence or the violation of any law it is our duty as citizens to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Rapidly fluid and emotional circumstances sometimes cause a visual and intellectual haze and obscurity prohibiting the proper application of the due process and related constitutional protections.

      Mr. Prince should be recognized as the “Consummate Officer of the Court.”

      Like

  5. Still losers chumming for business. Sad when the police have to spend valuable time responding to your bull, and it should be informative that the citizens in the area (of which you are NOT local) have decried your idiocy.

    Like

    1. Seriously? These guys are saying what must/should be said and the coproaches should be respecting people’s individual rights–which they long ago ceased to do. Sounds like you wear a badge & costume and/or you have no idea what the rule of law means.

      Like

    2. LISA>>>The USA is turning into a nation of cowards. Can’t you see the importance of the 2nd Amendment? What is happening in “your?” area is as important to me in so far as how are my personal liberties being affected, not only now but for the long run!

      The really sad part is that the real losers in the “the land of the free and the home of the brave” are dragging everyone else down with them.

      Like

  6. Thank You Attorney Joshua Prince and Staff: For bringing intellectual insight, into the forefront of these matters, pertaining to the Constitution & Case Law. Keep up the good work. Regards,

    Like

  7. IF I EVER NEED A CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER IN THIS POLICE STATE THEY CALL PENNSYLVANIA, I AM CALLING YOU!!

    ELAINE KENO
    FORMER ANCHOR/REPORTER
    KYW NEWS RADIO
    PHILADELPHIA

    Like

  8. Nice.

    Re: shoot upon sight if not surrendering, it’s important that this be challenged strongly. Are any other voices such as ACLU joining you in this?

    I cannot believe such rules of engagement are constitutional. And the fact that hunters may soon be in the area make this a tragedy waiting to happen, for which no one will be held accountable.

    Like

  9. It’s now been weeks that several communities are under siege by Law Enforcement. It’s getting ridiculous. When will the residents get their communities back? The press writes stories about how the residents are supportive of this action, quoting the same handful of people, but most residents I’ve spoken with, including myself, have had enough. People need to start making some noise…

    Like

  10. Sure,
    Keep the “Pro-You responses” and delete the educated response showing CASE PRECEDENT that proves you have no legal ground to stand on. Well, Newswatch 16 will be very interested to hear that. Have fun with more negative media attention!

    Take Care,
    The Marine You Shouldn’t Have Ignored.

    Like

  11. Seems to me that these over reaching fascist types wouldn’t go to a tenth of the actions to catch someone who shot and killed some other poor bloke living in the town. From what I read about this in the article, these rampaging thugs care not a whit about the citizenry whose rights and property they are trampling. Shame on them ! BTW, I have a small yard sign in the front of my house that says “Hang the Traitors to the US Constitution, after a fair trial and a good tar and feathering, of course.” And maybe these goons should be reminded about what happened to Hitlers Brownshirts after they secured power for him.

    Like

  12. Dear sirs,

    As a marine, combat veteran, I would like to personally thank you for your efforts to protect and preserve our Constitution. I personally know what it is like to personally defend freedom and our way of life. People like you are becoming more and more scarce. I pray God blesses your efforts. Please know that there are in fact those of us that believe the same way you do and are willing to do whatever it takes to preserve our liberty! I have been telling my father for several years now that as a combat Marine I personally believe that it should be illegal for any veteran to serve as a police or law enforcement officer in our republic. We are trained starting in boot camp that the enemy is always guilty. Kill or be killed. There is never any though to constitutional rights for the enemy because they don’t fall under it. The whole idea of Innocent until proven guilty is not an option, or you pay with your life. Veterans never lose that thought process. Ever. Once they transition into law enforcement stateside they tend to continue this thought process. Not all, but still many of them cannot break away from the thought processes that are brainwashed into us from the time we start boot camp. Because of this we have a law enforcement full of combat veterans that want to relive their combat days, or veterans that still have something to prove because they never saw “action”. This is the reason it is so easy for the powers that be to “militarize our police force”. I hope these gross displays of military action against the citizens of this Republic quickly disposed of through the most peaceful means possible. Long live the republic and long live liberty!
    God bless,
    Craig Miller

    Like

  13. I concur with the blog’s contentions regarding violations of Constitutional Law, and court precedent. I do however, disagree with the comment, ““[I]t’s undeniable that state police and FBI wouldn’t be casting such an intrusive dragnet for a civilian wanted for murdering another civilian.” We can sympathize with the human desire to defend one’s family, and police officers certainly form a familial bond. But what is unique and exceptional about our Constitution and legal system is precisely that we do not place government authorities above other “civilians.”

    The police, while they do have the stated “familial bond,” the reason they ALWAYS go after a cop killer with extra effort is beyond that. The reasoning is that, if a person kills an ARMED POLICEMAN, he/she would hardly hesitate to kill an innocent non-police person. Cop killers have always been viewed as more dangerous to everyone; especially innocent bystanders.

    If my wife/family were within the search area, the police would literally have to arrest me to keep me from going home … not that I would use any force against them, but to stop me, they would have to physically do so. Not just for Constitutional reasons as important as that is, but also because no person should be forcibly separated from their family in the manner that they have been.

    Like

    1. You took that out of context. The author stated that it’s believed the suspect thought his sister in law was having an affair with the wounded trooper. It seems that if this is the case then anyone other than law enforcement is not in immediate danger. If this suspect was off his rocker it would be reasonable to also assume that in two weeks he would have either engaged the search parties or assaulted citizens.

      Like

  14. The American Bar Association is NOT part of either State or Federal government. Associations are well known to place the interests of all their
    members–even if not all members concur–ahead of clients’ legal interests.
    Further, ABA membership roles have suffered severe shrinkage over time
    given those attorneys who don’t concur to wit giving up their membership.
    (As an aside, similar membership shrinkage has affected the AMA …)

    There are those truly constitutionally-minded attorneys who might even view court action against the ABA as an appropriate remedy to counter
    the ethics changes as specified in the attorney’s blog above. However,
    Law Judges nationwide have managed to “join the ABA” by requiring ABA
    membership of all attorneys coming before the bar in their venue. This
    is just as–nay, MORE–egregious than the ABA’s internal “throwing away”
    of CONSTITUTIONAL CONSCIONCE”.

    While most Judges are attorneys & have every right to join the ABA, ALL
    Judges DO NOT HAVE & should not try to wrongly wield ANY SUCH
    “OUTLAWING OF CONSTITUTIONAL CONCIOUS” before their court.

    JUSTICE IS NOT REALLY BLIND: but it does turn it’s blind eye to the
    corruption brought about threw unjust wealth flows in our legal system.

    HONEST TO GOD, we truly need a few GOD-FEARING PATRIOTS who
    are also attorneys and judges to step up and initiate corruption eradication.

    About five percent of the world’s population are counting on the continuing
    tearing down of the very core principles of our U.S. Constitution.

    It remains for the rest of the world’s population to follow the lead of those American Patriots who are charged near-now by God to turn the “pyramid” upside down. We have seen such ramifications before in this country.
    True American Patriots are Citizens with the SPIRITUAL backbone to act:
    Again and again, as many times as necessary to restore our LIBERTY.

    Let the “games” begin.
    May the “cleansing” commence,.
    AMEN.

    Like

  15. Do you TRULY not understand this is merely standard operating procedure for “Law Enforcement” officers across this entire country? Their actions in the manhunt are the RULE, not the exception.

    Special times are coming, and the Blue Wall would do well to understand what will come of them acting as Only Ones.

    Like

  16. Pocono resident mistaken for Frein says he was assaulted

    http://citizensvoice.com/news/pocono-resident-mistaken-for-frein-says-he-was-assaulted-1.1775336

    And the thought police are monitoring, harassing and threatening people on internet forums as well. Trooper Kelly said they were monitoring everything being said about Frein but being threatened with death for talking about things they are clearly hiding is going WAY too far.

    I want to sue personally and I know others being directly harassed that do as well.

    Like

  17. It’s also worth noting that the media was not allowed at the last press conference due to “safety reasons” and Anthony Antonello, a former Ron Paul delegate is being harassed for reporting things about the Frein case that the main stream media refuses to address.

    They keep saying Frein wants to commit acts of mass murder but he has been seen by 3 people since they said that and he hasn’t harmed a single one of them , one of whom was a police officer.

    When are they going to stop fear mongering the public with a story that is clearly falling apart?

    Like

    1. Is their Frein story any more “clearly falling apart” than their Global Warming story? Why would you expect them to act any differently?

      A lie told often enough becomes the truth.

      That has been their motto for years. And that of their Media enablers as well. Or do you REALLY believe it is “All the news that’s fit to print“???

      Like

  18. The balloon they are now using will also store people’s private information…

    “Police would not address potential privacy concerns or how long the information gathered by the balloon would be stored”

    Like

  19. Josh – Exactly does it feel to be chief counsel to the tinfoil hat brigade? Is this really what you hoped for sitting in class at the KMart of law schools? You must be devastated that Eric surrendered so easily. That means you go back to insignificance.

    I hear bus advertising works.

    Like

  20. My “own level of intelligent”? Proves the point. Actually went to the same law school as The Chief Counsel. Did a little better then and now.

    Like

  21. Pocono Crime ‏@PoconoCrime · 12h12 hours ago
    #Freingate 2 fires broke out at the Birchwood Resort last night, where Frein was captured Thursday. Highly… http://fb.me/717m18eMX

    #‎Freingate‬ 2 fires broke out at the Birchwood Resort last night, where Frein was captured Thursday. Highly suspicious, according to the Fire Marshall. Police and investigators were there all day yesterday with the roads closed. How do 2 fires happen??!?!

    http://fb.me/717m18eMX

    Like

  22. Two Pike County public defenders to represent Frein

    http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/two-pike-county-public-defenders-to-represent-frein-1.1782140

    SmokeNMirrors11 • 10 minutes ago

    “This should sit real well with Frein. Mike Weinstein is the former District Attorney in Pike County. I am sure he worked closely with the State Police over the years. Let’s complicate it further. Robert Bernathys dad was a State Police criminal investigator who sat in the same building as the Victims. Certainly as attorneys they have an obligation to represent Frein, however I can’t see Frein being satisfied with their appointments. I suspect their representation will be short lived”.

    How could they not know this information upon appointment of attorneys?!

    Like

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