.

 

Another Statement on the Legality of Rachel Lange's Case

A legal explication of Rachel's case.

Leah Macia is a civil rights, criminal, and environmental attorney in West Virginia. Every day when she goes to work she asks herself, “What would Joe Strummer do?” Her greatest joy in life was going under cover as a bomb throwing socialist in the most conservative circuit in the country when I was a judicial clerk.

Regarding Mike Kabakoff's concerns about the veracity of Rachel's account: The lengthy sentences for a misdemeanors were red flags to me as well. As an attorney, I have handled a few cases similar to this, and as a federal judicial clerk, I wrote an opinion for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case where simlar disturbance-of-the-peace-type statutes were used to to badger people peacably going about their business. In writing that opinion, I had to research several states' laws on such things.

Thus, while sharing Mike's concerns, I realized that the various statutes can be quite different from state to state. I checked Westlaw to find out the relevant Pennsylvania statutes, and I am happy (sorry?) to say that Rachel's story checks out, at least regrading the charges and the fines. (I would note that, in a courtroom, the fact that Rachel's story checks out on those fronts would lend significant credibility to the rest of her account.) I have attached the relevant statutes below for your reference. I know everyone hates lawyers, but I hope this is helpful.

Also, at first glance, the obstruction statute doesn't necessarily look like one pertaining to blocking traffic, but I can tell you that the language in there about "obstruct[ing]...the administration of law" is routinely used to cover obstructing traffic.

PA ST 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5101

§ 5101.M Obstructing administration of law or other governmental § 5101. Obstructing administration of law or other governmental function ...
Current through Act 2002-237

§ 5101. Obstructing administration of law or other governmental function

A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he intentionally obstructs, impairs or perverts the administration of law or other governmental function by force, violence, physical interference or obstacle, breach of official duty, or any other unlawful act, except that this section does not apply to flight by a person charged with crime, refusal to submit to arrest, failure to perform a legal duty other than an official duty, or any other means of avoiding compliance with law without affirmative interference with governmental functions.

PA ST 18 Pa. .S.A. § 5502

§ 5502. Failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official § 5502. Failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official order ...
Current through Act 2002-237 (End)

§ 5502. Failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official order

Where three or more persons are participating in a course of disorderly conduct which causes or may reasonably be expected to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, a peace officer or other public servant engaged in executing or enforcing the law may order the participants and others in the immediate vicinity to disperse. A person who refuses or knowingly fails to obey such an order commits a misdemeanor of the second degree.

PA ST 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 1104

§ 1104. Sentence of imprisonment for misdemeanors
Current through Act 2002-237 (End)

§ 1104. Sentence of imprisonment for misdemeanors

A person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor may be sentenced to imprisonment for a definite term which shall be fixed by the court and shall be not more than:

(1) Five years in the case of a misdemeanor of the first degree.

(2) Two years in the case of a misdemeanor of the second degree.

(3) One year in the case of a misdemeanor of the third degree.

PA ST 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 1101

§ 1101. Fines

A person who has been convicted of an offense may be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding
(5) $5,000, when the conviction is of a misdemeanor of the second degree

§ 5101.M Obstructing administration of law or other governmental § 5101. Obstructing administration of law or other governmental function ...
Current through Act 2002-237

§ 5101. Obstructing administration of law or other governmental function

A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he intentionally obstructs, impairs or perverts the administration of law or other governmental function by force, violence, physical interference or obstacle, breach of official duty, or any other unlawful act, except that this section does not apply to flight by a person charged with crime, refusal to submit to arrest, failure to perform a legal duty other than an official duty, or any other means of avoiding compliance with law without affirmative interference with governmental functions.

PA ST 18 Pa. .S.A. § 5502

§ 5502. Failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official § 5502. Failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official order ...
Current through Act 2002-237 (End)

§ 5502. Failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official order

Where three or more persons are participating in a course of disorderly conduct which causes or may reasonably be expected to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, a peace officer or other public servant engaged in executing or enforcing the law may order the participants and others in the immediate vicinity to disperse. A person who refuses or knowingly fails to obey such an order commits a misdemeanor of the second degree.

PA ST 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 1104

§ 1104. Sentence of imprisonment for misdemeanors
Current through Act 2002-237 (End)

§ 1104. Sentence of imprisonment for misdemeanors

A person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor may be sentenced to imprisonment for a definite term which shall be fixed by the court and shall be not more than:

(1) Five years in the case of a misdemeanor of the first degree.

(2) Two years in the case of a misdemeanor of the second degree.

(3) One year in the case of a misdemeanor of the third degree.

PA ST 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 1101

§ 1101. Fines

A person who has been convicted of an offense may be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding
(5) $5,000, when the conviction is of a misdemeanor of the second degree


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