Philadelphia Non-Profit Founder Arrested for Obstruction of Justice & Resisting Arrest for Courtroom Antics.
Recently the co-founder and director of YEAH Philly, Philadelphia Youth Non-Profit, was arrested for obstruction of administration of law or other government functions along with resisting arrest. James Aye is the co-founder of an organization which has previously criticized Juvenile Court practices along with Juvenile Judges. Mr. Aye took his protest to a new level when he appeared in juvenile court allegedly on behalf of a Juvenile Defendant.
The Court, however, prohibits any member of the public from the proceedings with exception to obviously the Defendant, the Prosecutor, the defense lawyer, and Courtroom staff. Mr. Aye is not an attorney and disregarded the Judge’s Order to leave the Courtroom. He was subsequently taken into custody. Prior to his arrest, however, Mr. Aye allegedly argued with the Judge, Court staff, and refused at one point to comply with the Sheriff’s commands during his arrest.
Why non lawyers should NOT make arguments or try to act like lawyers?
This case brings with it a good opportunity to explain why non-attorneys should not attempt to interfere with Courtroom proceedings even if they believe that they have good intentions. Non-lawyers like Mr. Aye, while educated, are simply not permitted to interject themselves into these proceedings at either the juvenile or adult level.
Frequently clients and their families demand that I allow them to address the Court verbally or in writing without any preparation on my part or permission from the Court. While Mr. Aye may have believed that his “advocacy” would be beneficial to the Juvenile Defendant in the room, his behavior and comments could potentially negatively affect the outcome of the case.
While a Judge would not obviously hold Mr. Aye’s behavior against the Defendant, his statements could have led to further investigation from the Commonwealth and possibly even additional charges against the Defendant. Again, Mr. Aye isn’t lawyer and comments made by him in Court would not be considered argument and actually considered evidence! Further, any discussions that Mr. Aye may have had with the Defendant outside of Court are not subject to attorney/client privilege.
How serious are these criminal charge and could he go to jail or prison?
He now faces two (2) misdemeanor charges which will subject him to a possible State prison sentence. Obstruction of the administration of law or government functions is a misdemeanor of second degree. It is committed when a person initially obstructs, impairs, or attempts to block the administration of law or government function by force, violence, or any unlawful conduct.
In addition, Mr. Aye is charged with resisting arrest. This is also a misdemeanor in the second degree. It is committed when a person attempts to prevent a lawful arrest or discharge of any official duty by a Police Officer which requires force on the Police Officer’s part to overcome the resistance.
Here, Mr. Aye faces a maximum of four (4) years of State incarceration if a Court were to convict him on both counts and run sentences consecutively. It is unlikely, however, that Mr. Aye will face any jail time given his lack of criminal history, but a Court could sentence him to house arrest or as much as a four (4) year period of probation, which will require him to appear regularly before a Probation Officer, be subject to random drug testing, and substantially hinder his future professional opportunities. Mr. Aye would also have a criminal record, which he could not expunge in Pennsylvania.
What options are there in this case?
Obviously, Mr. Aye could proceed with a judge or jury trial but it does not appear his defense case is very strong. A trial is likely not in his best interest but a full review of the discovery may change his options. While there was a possibility that the District Attorney’s Office may offer some type of Accelerated Rehabilitated Disposition (ARD). ARD is a discretionary program and there is evidence that Mr. Aye and his organization have criticized the Justice System, the District Attorney’s Office, Judges, and the overall criminal justice system in Pennsylvania. Mr. Aye’s organization has even run public ads in various places in Philadelphia, in an attempt to embarrass the Court system and other members of the legal profession.
At this point, Mr. Aye has not retained counsel, but it would be in his best interest to do so given his lack of legal education and experience in these areas. A qualified criminal defense lawyer could advise Mr. Aye on his best course of action and improve his chances of a favorable non-trial disposition in this case.
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