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Comfort Dogs in Criminal Court

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Oct 30, 2021 | 0 Comments

Emotional support animals are everywhere: From coffee shops to cross-country flights, it seems there is almost no place a comfort dog can't go. As of late, comfort dogs have even shown up in the PA criminal courts. As reported by The Morning Call, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that witnesses in a criminal trial can use comfort dogs to help calm them during their testimony.

In this particular instance, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard the case on appeal after the jury found the defendant guilty of murder in the earlier trial. The defendant appealed the guilty verdict, arguing that the use of a comfort dog prejudiced the jury against the defendant by evoking sympathy for the prosecution's witness.

The Decision Limits the Use of Comfort Dogs

Ultimately, the PA Supreme Court held that the use of the comfort dog was appropriate in this scenario, but it may not be in others. It's important to note in this case that the prosecution's witness was a young autistic girl, and the dog was kept inside the witness box during her testimony. It wasn't paraded in front of the jury and instead was walked in and out of the courtroom before and then after the jury's arrival/exit.

The Supreme Court Judge noted that so long as a comfort dog does not jeopardize a defendant's right to a fair trial, then it could be allowed. Going forward, lower courts will need to review the presence of a comfort dog on a case-by-case basis and weigh the benefit of the comfort dog with possible prejudice against the defendant.

Protecting Your Constitutional Rights

Under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, criminal defendants are guaranteed the right to a fair trial, which includes the right to an impartial jury. One of the most important jobs your criminal defense attorney has is defending your rights under the United States Constitution.

These rights are often violated as early as the initial arrest, as is the case with illegal searches prohibited under the Fourth Amendment. Even after a ruling in your case, your defense attorney will be on the lookout for constitutional violations of your rights, and many times, these issues are leveraged on appeal. All too often, police, prosecutors, and even judges are apt to overlook a defendant's basic rights. The defense attorney's job is to stand in the way of these constitutional violations.

At the end of the day, the rule that comfort dogs can be allowed in courtrooms can benefit the defense team, too. You never know when a witness called on a defendant's behalf will need the comfort of a canine in order to effectively give their testimony. The ultimate point is that an experienced criminal defense attorney like Joseph D. Lento is constantly on the lookout for anything and everything that could jeopardize a client's rights under the United States Constitution. If you're facing criminal prosecution and need an attorney, call attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.

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