The prisons are full of men and women who profess their innocence despite having been convicted on the weight of the evidence presented by the prosecution. Yet, each year many of those found guilty are exonerated after post-conviction testing of deoxyribonucleic acid (“DNA”) evidence proves that they are innocent. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project reports that 303 individuals have been exonerated through DNA testing, some posthumously. Studies conducted on the first 250 individuals exonerated have shown that in forty-five percent of the cases DNA testing helped to identify the actual assailant. Thus the question presents itself: if there exists even the slightest possibility that forensic testing could allow an innocent individual to be released from jail, why does the judicial system present such vigorous opposition to requests for post-conviction DNA testing, and why are there insurmountable threshold obstacles placed in the paths of those seeking such post- conviction relief? Take, for example, the cases of William Virgil and Hank Skinner.
A license is defined as any “right or permission granted in accordance with law . . . to engage in some business or occupation, to do some act, or to engage in some transaction which but for such license would be unlawful.”1 Generally, business licenses form a relatively benign background to state and local economies. Depending on the state, licensing may control everything from ability to hire to the permission to operate a business at all. Thus, licenses allow states to wield a tremendous amount of economic and political control.
SLAVE TO THE TRAFFIC LIGHT: A ROAD MAP TO RED LIGHT CAMERA LEGAL ISSUES
Matthew S. Maisel, Esquire
Today, nearly half of all states use automated traffic enforcement. In these states, cameras record vehicles as they run red lights or exceed the speed limit, and violation notices are later mailed to the registered owner. The use of cameras for automated traffic enforcement presents numerous legal issues.
First, the cameras are subject to highly inconsistent statutory and regulatory schemes: states vary widely in whether or how they regulate these cameras. Second, as more communities begin to install these cameras in more locations, courts will be confronted with more disputed citations generated by the cameras based upon federal, state, and local law, as well as the rules of evidence. Third, these cameras are vulnerable to political challenges as well, and successful challenges often engender additional litigation.
Imagine for a moment that you recently acquired a piece of undeveloped property. For whatever reason, you intend to improve the property by building a structure or otherwise developing the land. Wanting to do your due diligence and comply with all applicable laws, you hire a consultant of some sort to navigate the often-choppy regulatory waters. You learn that your plans will require several environmental permits to meet the provisions of the state’s land use laws. After hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars in permit fees and consultant costs, you learn from the state regulatory agency that, while two of the necessary permits have been approved, the final permit is still in the review process, and under the statute the state still has another thirty days before it is required to notify you of the result. It is now the end of fall and your window for beginning construction before winter, which makes excavation all but impossible, is rapidly closing. There is a real possibility that you will receive final approval that will be largely meaningless. This is just one example of the hardships developers, builders and private citizens face in the environmental permitting process, and it is one that can be prevented.