Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

After an Arrest in Pennsylvania, You Get a Free Phone Call, Right? Well, Not Exactly…

Having watched a lot of Law & Order, most individuals believe that upon arrest, they will be provided at least one free phone call but that isn’t exactly true in Pennsylvania.

Upon arrest, there is no immediate right to a phone call in Pennsylvania. Within a reasonable time of being arrested, the Police officer must either release the defendant or bring the defendant before a Magisterial District Judge to be preliminarily arraigned on charges.

What is a reasonable time? Unfortunately, this is has never been strictly defined in PA and has varied on a case by case basis. One day is generally accepted to be the longest acceptable time to be held without being arraigned.

Moreover, the police do have the authority to arrest people and then release them to be charged later by citation or summons. This type of arrest and release is only allowed in public drunkenness and DUI cases, or in cases in which the individual cannot immediately verify their identity.

There is no right to call anyone during that period of time.

If the police do choose to question a defendant, the individual’s Miranda Rights are implicated. The police must advise a defendant of those rights, including the right to counsel. If a defendant invokes his right to counsel (which you should ALWAYS do IMMEDIATELY, regardless of what the police threaten you with or promised to you), questioning must cease, although there are plenty of examples where the police or a different police officer continues asking questions. In our experience, in most instances, the police will simply end questioning upon invocation of counsel and will not give a defendant an opportunity to obtain counsel.

After the police prepare the charges, a defendant will be brought before a Magisterial District Judge for preliminary arraignment. A defendant does not have a right to contact anyone, including counsel, before or at arraignment. Some judges have also made it difficult for lawyers who know that their client has been arrested to appear at preliminary arraignment (we believe that this a violation of the 6th amendment but have never had a chance to litigate it).

However, after preliminary arraignment, a defendant does have a right to contact individuals, including his/her attorney. The Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 540 states:

 (H)  After the preliminary arraignment, if the defendant is detained, the defendant shall be given an immediate and reasonable opportunity to post bail, secure counsel, and notify others of the arrest. Thereafter, if the defendant does not post bail, he or she shall be committed to jail as provided by law.

There is no case law interpreting this provision.

At this point, depending on the county, the defendant may be held in custody by the police, the sheriff or a constable. In our experience, the magisterial district judge will normally allow for multiple phone calls.

But, what if my attorney’s phone number is in my wallet or on my phone? Generally, a Judge will allow a defendant to review his/her cell phone or wallet for any phone numbers. We have also seen cases in which the Judge will allow a defendant to use a phone book or will direct court staff to do an internet search to get a phone number. We’ve also seen judges put a defendant in a room with a phone and tell them that they have 15 minutes to call whoever they want.

The only time that we have seen a defendant not be allowed to check their cell phone is if the phone may constitute or contain evidence of a crime. For example, drug dealers often exchange text messages about drug deals. A court would not give a defendant the chance to delete text messages.

So, while there is no obligation to allow a defendant to have access to a wallet or cell phone, the arraigning court does regularly allow it. Even if a defendant is not given that access, they can certainly use a phone book to look up their attorney’s number, or they can call a family member or have a family member call their attorney.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, contact Prince Law Offices, P.C. today to discuss YOUR rights and legal options.


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Filed under Criminal Law, Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

With a Stroke of a Pen, PA Governor Wolf Limits Firearm Rights by Proclaiming State of Emergency

Today, Pennsylvania Governor Wolf issued a proclamation declaring Pennsylvania’s heroin and opioid epidemic a statewide disaster emergency, seemingly triggering the firearm prohibitions found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6107 during declared emergencies.

Specifically, Section 6107 provides:

(a) General rule.–No person shall carry a firearm upon the public streets or upon any public property during an emergency proclaimed by a State or municipal governmental executive unless that person is:
(1) Actively engaged in a defense of that person’s life or property from peril or threat.
(2) Licensed to carry firearms under section 6109 (relating to licenses) or is exempt from licensing under section 6106(b) (relating to firearms not to be carried without a license).
(b) Seizure, taking and confiscation.–Except as otherwise provided under subsection (a) and notwithstanding the provisions of 35 Pa.C.S. Ch. 73 (relating to Commonwealth services) or any other provision of law to the contrary, no firearm, accessory or ammunition may be seized, taken or confiscated during an emergency unless the seizure, taking or confiscation would be authorized absent the emergency.
(c) Definitions.–As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:
“Accessory.” Any scope, sight, bipod, sling, light, magazine, clip or other related item that is attached to or necessary for the operation of a firearm.
“Firearm.” The term includes any weapon that is designed to or may readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive or the frame or receiver of any weapon.

(It must be noted that the definition of a firearm is specific to this section of the code and not the general definition of a firearm found in Section 6102. The definition of a firearm in this section is far more broad than the definition in Section 6102)

While neither Section 6102 nor Section 6107 define what constitutes an “emergency proclaimed by a State…governmental executive,” it is clear that Governor Wolf is the state governmental executive. Moreover, the language utilized in the proclamation seems to trigger the prohibition since it is a proclamation of an emergency, pursuant to 35 Pa.C.S. § 7301.

Specifically, the Proclamation provides:

Disaster Declaration.jpg Disaster Declaration 2.jpg

So what does this mean?

This means that an individual, who could generally carry a firearm in public without a license to carry firearms (LTCF) (with the exception of in the City of Philadelphia as a city of the first class), cannot do so during a state of emergency. However, as the above exceptions reflect, this does not include when the individual is using the firearm for self-defense or if the individual has a license to carry firearms. This is another reason why I always recommend that any individual, regardless of whether he/she desires to conceal carry a firearm, procure an LTCF.

What about confiscation of firearms?

Since Katrina and the confiscation of firearms that occurred during the state of emergency there, individuals are generally concerned about the Government using a state of emergency to confiscate firearms. That is why Section 6107 specifically prevents any form of confiscation of firearms, accessory or ammunition from occurring solely as a result of a state of emergency.

What should you do?

As it is anticipated that this proclamation of a state of emergency will not be terminated for an extended period of time, I would highly recommend that anyone eligible obtain his/her LTCF.

EDIT 1/11/18: For those interested in the impact of this Proclamation on the Great American Outdoors Show and hunting on state game land, please see this follow up article – Are the Great American Outdoors Show (GAOS) and State Game Land Hunting in Jeopardy as a Result of Governor Wolf’s Proclamation of Emergency?

EDIT 1/12/18: As a result of the Office of Governor issuing a statement that Senator Wagner and I are “flat-out wrong,” I have published a third article on this topic and am requesting that Governor Wolf either apologize to Senator Wagner and myself or debate me on the issues – Governor Wolf’s “Interpretive Jiggery-Pokery” on his Proclamation’s Impact on Firearm Rights in Pennsylvania

EDIT 1/16/18: As a result of Philly.com implying that the Governor’s Office has claimed that a violation of Section 6107 is “a citation,” I have published a fourth article on this issue so that the public is not misinformed – Lose Your Second Amendment Rights if You Violate Section 6107 as a Result of Governor Wolf’s Opioid Proclamation

If you or someone you know has had their right to keep and bear arms infringed as a result of this state of emergency, contact Firearms Industry Consulting Group today to discuss YOUR rights and legal options.


Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.


Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

Major Pennsylvania Firearm Law Cases from 2017

As the year is coming to a close, I thought it important to document some of the monumental court decisions and issues that Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®), a division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., was involved in or obtained in 2017.

  1. Franklin v. Sessions, et al. – in a monumental federal case of first impression, Judge Kim Gibson of the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled that an involuntary commitment under Section 302 of Pennsylvania’s Mental Health and Procedures Act (“MHPA”) is insufficient to trigger a federal firearms and ammunition disability under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4).
  2. Keyes v. Sessions, et al., – in another federal case of monumental importance, Judge John Jones of the Middle District of Pennsylvania held that it was unconstitutional, under a Second Amendment as-applied challenge, to strip Mr. Keyes of his right to keep and bear arms in perpetuity as a result of a single, isolated involuntary commitment. Additionally, in the beginning of 2017, Mr. Keyes’ co-plaintiff, Mr. Yox, learned that the new Administration declined to appeal his grant of relief and withdrew the protective appeal that had been filed in relation to Judge Jones’ grant of his Second Amendment as-applied challenge.
  3. Commonwealth v. Goslin – in another case of significant importance, the Superior Court, en banc, held that an individual may claim the defense of “other lawful purpose” when possessing a weapon on school property. As a result, Attorney Prince did an extensive article on the impact of this decision.
  4. Commonwealth v. Hicks – Attorney Prince filed an Amici Curiae brief before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on behalf of members of the General Assembly, Firearms Owners Against Crime, Firearms Policy Coalition and Firearms Policy Foundation in relation to whether the mere open or concealed carrying of a firearm constitutes reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
  5. Firearms Owners Against Crime, et al. v. Lower Merion Township – after a December 2016 ruling by the Commonwealth Court that Lower Merion Township was precluded from regulating possession and discharge of firearms in their parks, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined Lower Merion Township’s request for review of the decision.  We also found out that the taxpayer in Lower Merion have paid more than $30,000 in relation to this litigation.
  6. While not a case in and of itself (although related to the settlement of the class action of John Doe, et al. v. City of Philadelphia, et al.), we found out that the City of Philadelphia was generally making decisions on licenses to carry firearms in under 30 days!
  7. We also saw Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman issue a letter regarding firearm and ammunition preemption to all law enforcement agencies in Lancaster County.
  8. We also saw ATF (again) change its position on firearm braces and begin the process of entering into rulemaking regarding bumpstocks.

So what can we expect for next year?

  1. A decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Hicks.
  2. ATF to enter into rulemaking regarding bumpstocks.
  3. Hopefully, the enactment of H.R. 38 -Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017.

If you or someone you know has had their right to keep and bear arms infringed, contact Firearms Industry Consulting Group today to discuss YOUR rights and legal options.


Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.

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PRESS RELEASE: Amici Curiae Brief of Members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Firearms Owners Against Crime, Firearms Policy Coalition, and Firearms Policy Foundation Filed in Pennsylvania Supreme Court!

Today, in a case that will have a major impact on firearm rights in the Commonwealth, Joshua Prince, Esq., Chief Counsel of the Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (“FICG®”), a division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., filed an amici curiae brief (or friends of the court brief) before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on behalf of numerous members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Firearm Owners Against Crime (“FOAC”), Firearms Policy Coalition (“FPC”) and Firearms Policy Foundation (“FPF”) in support of Mr. Michael Hicks in the matter of Commonwealth v. Hicks, 56 MAP 2017. You can find a copy of the Amici Curiae brief here.

In this case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will be deciding whether the mere open or concealed carrying of a firearm – in the absence of any criminal conduct – is sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct. Simply put, the PA Supreme Court intends to decide whether law-abiding citizens can be harassed and interrogated by police for merely open or conceal carrying a firearm.

In the event the Court finds that the mere open or concealed carrying of a firearm is sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion of a crime, all conduct, which can be lawful or unlawful, would be sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion – i.e. Pandora’s box would be opened. For example, police would have reasonable suspicion to stop a boy merely walking down the street with a baseball bat, because that baseball bat could be used for either a lawful or unlawful purpose. Even more abhorrent, the police would have reasonable suspicion to stop someone walking down the street with a wallet, because that wallet may have counterfeit bills within it. Maybe the best example is that the police would have reasonable suspicion to stop EVERY motorist, because the motorist may not have a driver’s license, proof of insurance or proof of inspection. We simply cannot permit this ongoing erosion of our inalienable rights.

It is for these reasons and their steadfast devotion to the Second Amendment and Article 1, Section 21 that a number of members of the General Assembly, Firearms Owners Against Crime, Firearms Policy Coalition and Firearms Policy Foundation decided that it was imperative that an amici curiae brief be filed.

Unfortunately, the cost to prepare this brief was monumental, since it required review of all relevant state and federal court decisions across the United States; thus, if you are in a position to be able to support the preparation of this brief, Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C. would greatly appreciate donations, which can be made online through the Firm’s escrow account here – https://secure.lawpay.com/pages/civilrightsdefensefirm/trust. Simply place Hicks Appeal in the reference box.


Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.


Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

Pennsylvania consumers protections under the Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act

In previous blogs, I have discussed the protections provided consumers under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). The FDCPA is a powerful deterrence to unscrupulous debt collectors and unlawful debt collection practices. The FDCPA is a comprehensive and reticulated statutory scheme, involving clear definitions, precise requirements, and particularized remedies. The validity of the underlying debt is not relevant or an issue under the FDCPA. There is no exception to liability for violating the FDCPA as a result of fraud on the part of the consumer. As long as the underlying obligation is a “debt” as defined b the FDCPA, the method of collections is irrelevant. The validity of the underlying debt is irrelevant as well.

The FDCPA “provides a remedy for consumers who are subjected to abusive, deceptive, or unfair trade collection practices by debt collectors.” A single violation of the Act triggers statutory liability and remedies. Under the FDCPA, a plaintiff may collect statutory damages even if he has suffered no actual damages. The FDCPA is essentially a strict liability statute, where the degree of the defendant’s culpability is relevant only in computing damages, not in determining liability.

Under the FDCPA, consumers are enforcing the FDCPA essentially acting as private attorney generals. Because consumers are acting as private attorney generals, an award of attorney fees is mandatory in an FDCPA case. That means that the FDCPA is essentially a fee shifting statute. If a consumer can demonstrates that the FDCPA has been violated, the consumer may recover actual damages, statutory, costs and attorney’s fees. The longer the lawsuit goes, the more the consumer can recover in attorney’s fees. The threat of an award of attorney’s fees is a very effective deterrent and leads to mean settlements early in litigation.

The FDCPA is not without its limitations. One of the biggest limitations of the FDCPA is that it only applies to debt collectors as defined by the FDCPA. It does not apply to creditors or assignees of the creditor when the assignment has occurred prior to the consumer’s default on the debt obligation. Attorneys acting as debt collectors are also included in the definition of debt collector under the FDCPA.

Typically when bringing a suit under the FDCPA, a consumer will name the debt collectors, and possible law firm and individual attorney hired by the creditor to collect on the debt for any violations of the FDCPA. However the creditor may not be named under the FDCPA.

From the perspective of obtaining the greatest recovery in a lawsuit, a consumer’s best option is to target the creditor as they usually have the deepest pockets. Under Pennsylvania’s Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (“FCEUA”), a consumer may also sue the creditor.

The FCEUA is Pennsylvania’s analogue to the FDCPA and applies to both debt collectors and creditors. A debt collector’s violation of any provision of the FDCPA constitutes a violation of the FCEUA which in turn constitutes a violation of Pennsylvania’s consumer protection law, the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”). The FCEUA allows a consumer to sue the original creditor as well as the debt collector for any violations of the FCEUA. The FCEUA protections mirror the FDCPA’s protections.

The FCEUA also has a two year statute of limitations as opposed to the FDCPA’s one year statute of limitations. Finally, as the FCEUA is also a violation of the UTPCPL, a consumer may recover actual damages or statutory damages whichever is greater, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. Under the UTPCPL, a court may also award treble damages. Again a very effective deterrent which can lead to early settlements.

Any action by a consumer for unlawful debt collection practices must include claims for violations of the FDCPA as well as the FCEUA. It allows the consumer to sue the creditor as well as include older violations.

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Filed under Consumer Advocacy, Uncategorized

Endorsement – Craig Stedman for Superior Court Judge

Today, I am formally announcing my endorsement of Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman for the Pennsylvania Superior Court. While some may be surprised with my endorsement of District Attorney Stedman – as I have been critical of him in relation to two specific matters – candidate Stedman provided me the unique opportunity to speak with him extensively about his positions and those matters, where I learned that my original criticism was misplaced, based upon a misunderstanding of his awareness of the situation, and which has resulted in me truly believing that he would be a phenomenal addition to the Superior Court.

In a conversation that lasted over an hour, we discussed everything from how his Office handles prosecutions of individuals who putatively make false statements on the ATF 4473 forms to preemption violations to self-defense claims and his ardent support for the Second Amendment and Article 1, Section 21. In relation to the one matter where I previously criticized him, I learned that he was not aware of the prosecution and as soon as he became aware, he immediately and personally reviewed all the evidence, sat down with Assistant District Attorneys in his Office that were involved and explained to them how it would be a manifest injustice for the prosecution to continue. As a result, he directed that the charges be immediately dismissed.

We also discussed numerous cases and decisions that he made, which clearly reflect his steadfast devotion to the Second Amendment and Article 1, Section 21. In this vein, I was genuinely surprised to leave our conversation with one overarching feeling – he sincerely cares about the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. I cannot honestly state the last time, in speaking with an appellate judicial candidate, that I left with anywhere close to that feeling.

While many of you are aware that I do not take the endorsement of candidates – especially judicial candidates – lightly, as I truly believe that District Attorney Stedman respects and will continue to honor the Second Amendment, as well as, our other constitutional rights, I am proud to endorse him for the Superior Court. As it is imperative that we only elect judges that respect the Constitution, which I wholeheartedly believe District Attorney Stedman does, I am respectfully asking that you vote for him in November. Together, we can ensure that our inalienable rights are protected.

To learn more about Craig Stedman for Superior Court, check out his website and Facebook page. Obviously, if you are in a financial position to be able to donate to his campaign, I am sure he would greatly appreciate support!


Filed under Firearms Law, News & Events, Pennsylvania Firearms Law

Absent Additional Amendments, Oppose Senate Bill 383 Permitting Teachers To Carry Firearms In Pennsylvania

As our viewers are aware, I previously blogged about some of the issues with SB 383 in relation to permitting Pennsylvania teachers to carry firearms in schools. While some minor amendments have been offered in relation to it, there are still a plethora of issues, which preclude me from supporting it, even though I am highly in favor of arming our teachers. Since SB 383 will be up for a vote this week and some are attempting to preclude Senators from being fully aware of the issues with the Bill, I am setting forth all the issues with the bill below and asking that you please contact your Senator and demand that the Bill either be amended to address the below issues or that they vote nay on the Bill.

First, it requires the school official to have a license to carry firearms (“LTCF”). Why is this of concern? Well, SB 383 fails to consider that LTCF applicant information is confidential and not subject to disclosure; whereby, the disclosure of such information is a felony of the 3rd degree and permits civil penalties. Specifically, 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(g)(3.1) provides:

Any person, licensed dealer, licensed manufacturer or licensed importer who knowingly and intentionally obtains or furnishes information collected or maintained pursuant to section 6109 for any purpose other than compliance with this chapter or who knowingly or intentionally disseminates, publishes or otherwise makes available such information to any person other than the subject of the information commits a felony of the third degree.

Section 6111(i) then provides, in pertinent part:

Confidentiality.  All information provided by the … applicant, including, but not limited to, the … applicant’s name or identity, furnished by … any applicant for a license to carry a firearm as provided by section 6109 shall be confidential and not subject to public disclosure. In addition to any other sanction or penalty imposed by this chapter, any person, licensed dealer, State or local governmental agency or department that violates this subsection shall be liable in civil damages in the amount of $ 1,000 per occurrence or three times the actual damages incurred as a result of the violation, whichever is greater, as well as reasonable attorney fees.

Second, the original bill did nothing to address the confidentiality of this information and how a school district is to protect the disclosure of this information. How is a school official to prove compliance with the provision requiring a license to carry? Will he/she be required to provide a copy of his/her LTCF? If so, to whom? Who will have access to that photocopy? Clearly, not all school personnel should have access to this and in fact, those who should have access should be an EXTREMELY shall group. Will there be logs maintained of who accesses the information? What training about the confidentiality of this information is to be provided to those who are authorized to have access? What logs will be maintained of the training provided to them and certifications by the school official that he/she received the training and that he/she shall keep the information confidential, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(g)(3.1) and (i)? Who will have access to those logs and certifications? What is to happen where a school official discloses information in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(g)(3.1) and (i)? Shouldn’t that person be immediately removed from having access to that information?

There are other tangential issues that aren’t addressed in the Bill. What about revocation of the school employee’s privilege to carry pursuant to this Bill, if some issue arises with the employee? Obviously, any such action must comport with due process protections. What about where the school employee’s license to carry is revoked or renewal denied or it just expires? How frequently will checks be done to see if the school official is still in compliance with the requirements of the bill? And these are only some of the concerns…

Based on the concern I raised, an amendment to the Bill modified this issue slightly, but still misses the mark and reflects the lack of comprehension of the issues involved. Amended SB 383 merely provides that the information regarding specific school personnel permitted access to firearms in a school “may not be disclosed during a meeting open to the public.” Well great, now what about access to the information at all other times, ensuring that it remains confidential and all the other issues raised above?

Third, and as I addressed as previously being the most concerning is the fact that without the confidentiality of this information being addressed in SB 383, one wonders whether such information will be disclosed to the public, including through Right To Know Law (“RTKL”) requests. Specifically, under the original bill, an individual intent on harming our children, including a potential terrorist or terrorist group, could seemingly learn, in advance, whether a school district has any armed personnel. If so, the criminal/terrorist is likely to target those school personnel first. If, on the other hand, a RTKL request comes back stating that there are no relevant records, such would highlight that there are no armed personnel and that the school is an extremely soft target.

Again, based on the concern I raised, amended SB 383 now specifically provides that none of the information is subject to the RTKL.

I also question why an LTCF is the determining criteria instead of the person being Act 235 certified. It would seem to be far more logical to me to remove the LTCF requirement and replace it with an Act 235 requirement.

While some are astonished that I would take this position, I think it is important to point out that teacher can ALREADY carry on school grounds, based on the Superior Court’s en banc decision in Commonwealth v. Goslin and even prior to it, I am aware of several school districts that petitioned several different courts of common pleas for orders approving individual teachers to possess firearms on school grounds.

For all of the above reasons, I am asking you to contact your State Senator and tell him/her to either demand amendments to SB 383 that address the above or that vote nay on the Bill.



Filed under Firearms Law, Pennsylvania Firearms Law, Uncategorized