In the time of the coronavirus, is coughing or spitting on someone simple assault?

There’s been reports in recent days like this one—State police cite 2 people in Westmoreland County for ‘purposely coughing’ on workers—which raise the question of whether coughing or spitting on someone is enough to rise to the level of simple assault.  Under normal circumstances, the answer may generally be no, but we’re not living in normal circumstances, and the answer … Read More

“There’s no evidence. There’s no proof.”

For people involved in the American justice system for the first time—be it civil or criminal—there’s a prevailing belief that if the opposing side doesn’t have pictures, video, DNA, or some other sort of physical evidence, then, well, “there’s no proof.”  I hear this frequently from clients, and it’s a common misconception.  In fact, in a majority of cases the … Read More

That’s hearsay!: The excited-utterance exception

This short post is the third installment on the topic of hearsay.  Specifically, addressed here is the second of the 16 hearsay exceptions known as the excited-utterance exception.  The exception is defined as follows: A statement relating to a startling event or condition, made while the declarant was under the stress of excitement that it caused.  Pa.R.Evid. 803(2). The underlying … Read More

That’s hearsay!: The present-sense-impression exception

This post follows up to my initial post of March 30, 2017 on the topic of hearsay.  In this short post, I discuss the first of what Pennsylvania recognizes as 16 exceptions to hearsay.  That is, in Pennsylvania, 16 different scenarios may technically qualify as a “hearsay statement”—a statement made outside of court being offered in court to prove the … Read More

That’s hearsay!

Chances are we’ve all heard someone say, “That’s hearsay!”  Perhaps we’re guilty ourselves of expressing an opinion on the matter.  But frequently what “hearsay” really is is misunderstood—even by some lawyers. Hearsay has a specific meaning in the law.  You might call it a “term of art.”  Generally, hearsay is defined as an out-of-court statement offered in court to prove … Read More

Character Evidence: Not to be taken lightly

“‘Evidence of good character is substantive and positive evidence, not a mere make weight to be considered in a doubtful case, and, . . . is an independent factor which may of itself engender reasonable doubt or produce a conclusion of innocence.’” Commonwealth v. Luther, 463 A.2d 1073 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1983). Character evidence: it’s powerful stuff.  Too often criminal … Read More

Jury bias sees the light of day

The verdict has come down.  Guilty!  The accused is in disbelief.  The question arises: why did the jury decide this way?  How can this be? As is typical, defense counsel speaks to the jury afterward.  Some jurors stay behind to discuss the case while others go on their way.  But of those who stick around some reveal heart-sickening details: another … Read More

Anything You “Type” Can Be Used Against You

Social media is increasingly becoming a larger component of our lives. Because more of us are preserving our daily activities on various social media platforms, there is a concern that access to those postings could have drastic effects upon the outcome of legal proceedings.  Fortunately, an attorney’s subpoena power is not sufficient to produce that information, however there are procedures … Read More

Protecting You From Your Past

Your past can haunt you!  That’s true in life, and it can be true in the courtroom.  Take Bill Cosby as an example. Bill Cosby is facing trial on sexual-assault charges related to one alleged victim.  As part of that case, the prosecution wants to call 13 other women as witnesses who allege that Cosby also assaulted them before the … Read More