Hey, I can’t get enough of these werewolf/vampire TV dramas, call me out on it all you want. My latest favorite is a Netflix original series called “Hemlock Grove”. Season 2 was recently released and I couldn’t wait to start watching.
<<Spoiler Alert for the following>>
…but…they really need to hire a legal consultant. In season two the story line has Peter’s mother Lynda getting arrested during a police raid on a family funeral. The charges? Racketeering!
Wow, serious stuff Lynda. Racketeering is not really the type of thing the average person gets charged with. You definitely need an attorney, if you were in Utah, I’d suggest you call me (wink wink).
But wait, what is racketeering? Well, don’t ask the writers of Hemlock Grove, they seem to be confused. And for that matter, if you’re wondering about the legal particulars of warrants, don’t ask them about those either. But fear not, the Hemlock Grove writers’ questionable legal research provides a teaching moment. So, here’s how Hemlock Grove got it wrong:
“The statutes on some of the warrants are expired”
Meat expires, statutes do not
The first thing Peter does after his mother gets arrested is he gets a consultation with a criminal defense attorney, which is a really smart thing to do. He ultimately forks over a hefty retainer, and relays some good news about the case to his cousin over the phone, “the statutes on some of the warrants are expired.”
I’m not sure that statement makes any sense. As you probably know from your high school federal government class, the Fourth Amendment (my personal favorite) protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant based on probable cause. If you’re facing criminal charges involving a warrant (or a warrantless search for that matter), law enforcement’s failure to follow protocol according to fourth amendment constraints often provides some of the best material for your defense.
A good criminal defense lawyer should investigate the warrant in your case. But checking the deadlines on the statutes in the warrant is not really part of that investigation. Why? Well, it would be unusual for a statute to have an “expiration date”. While a statute can be “superseded” by new legislation, it does not normally “expire” on its own.
It is true that warrants are supposed to be fairly particular as to the persons, places and things to be searched. And they are fairly particular about how they are served. The warrant itself may well expire. But not the statutes it refers to.
Now it’s possible that this is some commonly used legal term of art in Pennsylvania, and if so, it might mean something like, “the statute of limitations have run on some of the crimes alleged in the warrant.”
But even giving them the benefit of the doubt, it still doesn’t make sense to me because if there were a problem with the statute of limitations for crimes Lynda was charged with, it wouldn’t be a problem with the warrant, the charges would be dismissed because the statutes had run, not because of anything having to do with a warrant. And while we’re at it, when you’re discussing statutes of limitation, the commonly used lawyerly phrase is that the “statute has run” not that the “statute has expired”. This has to do with what I mentioned earlier: although a period for filing an action under a statute might run out, statutes themselves don’t usually expire.
So the line of dialogue about statutes in the warrants expiring must have been pulled from the nether-regions of one of the creative writers on the show’s staff. Which is sad because it would have been easy enough to just ask an attorney that knows what they’re taking about how to explain that there may be a problem with the warrant in a case. There are several basic things that could be wrong with a warrant that are commonly contested, so there’s no need to invent strange things like statutory expiration dates.
“They’re trying to get your mother on RICO charges.”
Plainly: no they’re not. They can’t be, it would be ridiculous. Why? Because the RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) is used to charge large crime syndicate leaders who cannot necessarily be proved to have committed crimes themselves, but may have been involved in the overall organizing of lots of individual but related crimes.
Basically, it’s meant for mob bosses. And if you want to see a realistic treatment of RICO, check out another of my favorite TV shows, Sons of Anarchy. You have to respect SOA for taking the time to get the legal particulars right. Kudos!
As far as Peter’s mom is concerned, the charges had to do with various counts of receiving stolen property, and selling muskrat meat as USDA inspected beef (clever!). Yes, they may have been separate but related criminal acts, but there is no need for RICO because Linda is alleged to have committed the crimes herself.
So, come on guys, I love your show – but take 15 minutes to google “warrant defects” and “racketeering” next time. Really.
I’m Court Koehler, and I am a criminal defense and DUI lawyer in Salt Lake City, Utah. Contact me here if you’re facing criminal charges.