Hart of the Issue: Drink Drank, Drunk Tank 

By John M. Hart, III, Esq. 

March is a big month of celebration, so let’s start this issue off with a limerick. 

It’s that time of year when the streets get painted,
New dashes of green to cover the previous year’s fainted.
The bars are all stocked,
Corned beef in the crock,
But a DUI would cause the fest to be tainted.

With March comes green… green grass, green trees, green bushes, green flowers, (or at least historically, but who knows what the weather has in store for us anymore).  But one tradition in March that guarantees us the green is St. Patrick’s Day.  

There’s no denying that our community is rich with diversity. It’s what makes us unique and exceptional. And the Irish heritage in our region is just one of various cultures that is embraced with pride and celebration.  

This is clearly exhibited by simply checking our calendars. We don’t just celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  We stretch it out and throw parades and dinners.  We don our best green attire, march in our parades, get back to the basics of meat and potatoes, and, typically, consume plenty of alcohol.  However, while these fests are meant to be a celebration, they can also lead to dangerous behavior on the roads, such as driving under the influence (DUI).

We all like a good time during holidays, especially in March.  Well, most of us do at least…  I guess I can’t truly speak for everyone. But I can definitely vouch for the majority of us. I see this in the crowds that come out in March to watch people march. I see droves of diners assemble for dinners.  I see the masses attend masses. And I see piles of people pour out of the pubs. 

But while our March traditions are no doubt a good time, we have to be aware of the critical responsibilities that come with consuming alcohol. We all know the line… drink responsibly.  This is crucial. Because on St. Patrick’s Day, like other holidays, the number of DUI arrests and incidents tends to increase due to the high consumption of alcohol in the days before and after the big event.

DUI is a serious problem that can result in severe consequences, including fines, jail time, and loss of driving privileges, or even worse, serious bodily injury or death.  Additionally, if you’re charged, you better plan on spending the night in the proverbial drunk tank.  

Here in PA, and presumably most jurisdictions across the US, the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.08 percent.  But here’s the rub–that is different for each and every one of us. That could mean one drink for someone within an hour. It could mean three drinks within 30 minutes for a bigger brute such as myself. There are too many variables that go into that equation. 

And blood alcohol isn’t the only metric to gauge whether someone is driving under the influence.  If you are suspected of driving while impaired, a police officer can rely on his training and experience to detect signs of impairment. This includes observing your speech, your breath, your eyes, and your gait.  Additionally, an officer can request that you perform a Standardized Field Sobriety Test.  I’m sure many of you are familiar with this.  There are tons of videos out there with examples of this test, many of which are rather comical. (Check out drunk dancing cowboy DUI” online if you need a laugh.) 

And then there’s the blood test.  Do you volunteer for it?  Do you refuse? Do you refuse every test just mentioned above? Each decision you make will have various outcomes. And if you are actually intoxicated, do you really want to be making these types of decisions on the fly when the consequences are so severe?

The ramifications of a DUI can be far-reaching and long-lasting. In addition to the legal repercussions, a DUI can have a negative impact on one’s personal and professional life. A DUI conviction can result in a criminal record, which can make it difficult to find employment and housing in the future. It can also lead to higher insurance rates and increased financial strain.

The good news is that these decisions are extremely avoidable. Don’t take the chance. Don’t try to calculate your consumption.  

To avoid the dangers of DUI, it’s important to make responsible choices when celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and plan ahead. If you plan on drinking, designate a sober driver, or make arrangements for alternative transportation, such as a taxi, ride-sharing service, or public transportation. 

Heck, if on the off chance the weather is nice like it used to be in March, take a nice walk home. It may help clear your head.  It’s also important to pace yourself and drink plenty of water to avoid becoming too impaired in the first place. 

So please plan your celebration ahead of time. When you think about it, nothing should come as a surprise. St. Patrick’s Day is one of those easy holidays that is literally on the same calendar day each year, March 17th

But if you do end up in trouble or someone you know fails to read this article and makes a mistake by getting behind the wheel during these March festivities, remember that being charged with DUI is a serious matter that can have a significant impact on someone’s life. Given the severity of the consequences, it is essential to take the matter seriously and seek the help of an experienced DUI attorney. Hiring an experienced DUI attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case and can help you avoid the most drastic ramifications of a DUI conviction. 

Prior to representing individuals charged with DUIs, I prosecuted them.  While serving as an assistant district attorney in Lackawanna County I was a member of the DUI unit where I personally handled thousands of DUI cases. This background gives me a deep understanding of the strategies used by the prosecution and a comprehensive understanding of the laws and regulations related to DUI cases. 

Should you find yourself in need of a DUI defense attorney, remember to be smart, call Hart.

Our team’s knowledge of the legal system and the prosecution’s strategies, along with their negotiation skills, can be invaluable in achieving the best possible outcome in a DUI defense.

Hart of the Issue: A penny for your thoughts

By John M. Hart III, Esq.

Picture yourself walking down an English street almost a century ago and you want to get in touch with a friend.  You wouldn’t reach into your pocket and pull out a phone, rather you’d walk to the nearest red telephone kiosk, topped with a dome made of segmented curves, a national icon that anyone can quickly identify with Great Britain.  

While the famous British Phone Booth we picture today isn’t the original design, it has been the main design, for the better part of its iterations, since the early 1920s, after Sir Giles Gilbert Scott submitted his winning design for an architecture competition. The phone booth remained in service for decades until the need for phone booths dwindled due to technological advancements. 

It’s clear that English phone booths were stylish, particularly compared to the ones I remember here in the States when I was growing up.  But they also served a bigger purpose besides the convenience of placing a call when you were nowhere near a “landline” in a building. They also provided privacy.  

The newest version of the Hart Free Library is in the offices of Hart Law, East Grove Street, Dunmore.

The telephone booth is a particularly interesting, yet overlooked, device in our society.  It even came up in a landmark case while I was studying in law school.  In Katz v. United States, 389 US 347 (1967), a gentleman was using a phone booth that federal agents had previously planted an eavesdropping device to the outside of… without a warrant. 

Based on his phone conversations, the agents charged him with several counts of illegal transmission of wagering to various cities across the country and he was found guilty based upon that evidence. He appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that he was entitled to Fourth Amendment protection and that the wiretap on the phone booth was an unreasonable search and seizure.  He won.

The need for a phone booth was even taken into consideration with the design of our footwear.  Did you ever wonder why they call them “penny loafers”?  I did, so I looked it up.  In the 1930s, a phone call at a phone booth cost two cents.  The penny loafer was designed specifically with just enough space to fit a penny in each shoe, so whenever you were out and about town, you could always place an emergency phone call.  (https://magazine.brooksbrothers.com/penny-thoughts/)

Speaking of the cost of a phone call, have you ever heard the phrase “drop a dime”? At some point in the phone booth’s history, a phone call cost 10 cents. And due to the anonymity of using a phone booth, if someone wanted to “snitch” or “rat” on someone, they’d drop a dime in the phone, and call in to the police to report a crime.  

But much like the passage of time, the intended use of the phone booth, and its interesting idioms that came with them, has come and gone. Yet while the intended uses are no more, those landmark monuments remain, particularly the British-styled booths, and we are left to repurpose them because we can’t get over their nostalgic charm.  And because of that iconic charm, we don’t just repurpose them, but even replicate them.  I know, because we did.  

For those that don’t know, Maureen Hart, (the editor/publisher of the Dunmorean), is an avid book reader.  And when she learned of an organization called littlefreelibrary.org, a nonprofit organization in St. Paul, Minnesota, whose vision is to have a little free library in every community and a book for every reader, she wanted in.  

So, she set to planning to build one in the Green Ridge neighborhood of Scranton.  The typical style of a library for this program is small–think breadbox on a mailbox post–and can hold maybe a dozen books at most.  The idea is that anyone can walk by, drop off a book, pick up a book, swap a book, whatever they want to do.  The goal is to just promote reading and make books accessible to all.  

John Hart Jr. poses with the Hart Free Library prior to the ribbon-cutting on Sept. 28, 2013.

But when Maureen discussed the plans with her husband, she didn’t get a bread box.  Her husband, the founder of the Dunmorean, and my father, John M. Hart, Jr., doesn’t do anything small. Everything he does requires a parade, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, or a speech.  

For this scheme, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a few speeches, and a couple of past mayors were added for good measure.  Instead of a 12-book library, he envisioned a British-style phone booth.  At first, he wanted an official, decommissioned British phone booth, as discussed in detail above.  But the cost would have been astronomical to ship, let alone purchase.  So, he had a replica designed and built to house the new neighborhood book collection.  

When I learned of this endeavor, I was a skeptic.  I figured it would attract vandalism, among other things.  But it still stands to this day, albeit it’s seen better days. I was amazed to see the community’s reception.  People of all ages visit the library round the clock.  Children come with their parents to pick out a book, teens come to get books or even get their photos taken near it, or in it. Elderly come often and treasure the ease of access to books. And people periodically drop off books for a new owner to discover.  

Sure, some of those donors tend to treat it like a book dumpster, and leave cardboard boxes outside, (which we aren’t keen about) but for the most part, it’s a wonderful place and an incredible landmark in our neighborhood. 

The “little” free library is still in service today and can be seen and used at 1175 Morel Street, Scranton, PA 18509.  It’s located near Park Gardens, in Green Ridge, just a block away from Marywood University.  

As mentioned earlier, it’s getting a little worse for wear, but it is now a registered non-profit, and has a GoFundMe account. (Scan the QR Code to donate!)  If you get a chance to check it out, please do, and consider contributing.  

And if that location is a bit out of the way for you, we’d like to welcome you to stop by Hart Law, (134 E. Grove Street, Dunmore, PA 18510) where we started up our own Little Free Library.  It may not be as grandiose as our British Phone Booth location, but it’s convenient, and we welcome anyone to stop by for a visit and talk about their favorite book!

Hart of the Issue: We’re Movin’ on Up

By John M. Hart, III, Esq.

It’s finally Autumn, a time when our beautiful Northeastern Pennsylvania outdoors start to captivate its audience with its vibrant array of colors, its stunning collection of harvested pumpkins (are they fruit, squash or gourds?), and its cooler temperatures that invite flannel shirts, comfortable sweaters, and enticing firepits. 

We tend to welcome the move from season-to-season in our neck of the woods because we have been raised to appreciate the change in climate throughout the years.  It adds variation and, more importantly, tradition to our otherwise mundane routines.

Another type of move that is less welcomed is the physical moving of a location, in my instance, a business.  Hart Law was established in 2013 immediately upon my passing the bar exam.  We got our exam results on a Friday afternoon and on Monday morning, I was in a courtroom after I was given a file for a landlord/tenant dispute from a mentor of mine.  

After my first case, I continued to advance my career in multiple areas of practice, in addition to landlord/tenant matters. Over the course of almost 10 years, I “hung my shingle” in downtown Scranton.  But like the seasons that come and go throughout the year, it was time that I move on as well.  It was time for a change to advance my footprint in the legal world. 

As of October 2022, Hart Law has a new home. We have moved to 134 E. Grove Street in where-else but DUNMORE!

While we’re very excited about this move to a bigger, more individualized location, the move itself is less than thrilling.  I’ve noticed that as I get older, the moves get worse and worse. 

I’ll never forget the worst move I ever endured. Without question, moving out of my law school apartment was a memory I wish I could wipe from my history.  Not only was it physically daunting, but it occurred during a time when I was mentally drained.  

Timing was the issue. I had to move out of my apartment one da–as in 24 hours–after I finished the bar examination. After persevering through  the 16-hour exam that spanned the course of two days, my brain could barely process simple math.  

But fortunately, I had a brother-in-law and best friend take the drive down to Harrisburg with a box truck to help me move.  Surprisingly, they still talk to me to this day.  As I studied for the exam leading up to the morning of the test, I couldn’t even consider the idea of packing for a move out of my apartment.  So that all had to wait until after the exam.  

Not only did I have to move furniture, but I had to pack everything, drawers, closets, cabinets, cupboards, every nook and cranny, all in one night, because time was of the essence.  

For reasons unbeknownst to me, my landlord (property management company to be more precise) would not budge when I asked for even one more day so I could move out properly, even given my current circumstances.  This level of unreasonableness caused an even more frustrating process of packing/moving/cleaning that evening.

Once midnight rolled around, the good graces of my friends wore thin, and they had had enough.  They filled the last available square foot of the box truck and left for Scranton.  I had dozed off by then, only to awaken a half-hour later to find  myself curled up on my dog’s bed, the only semblance of a piece of furniture that remained.  

But then I sprung up, realizing that I still had to clean the apartment and continue to load up my SUV with remaining odds-and-ends. As the morning hours rolled by, I was down to my last box and realized it wouldn’t fit in my vehicle.  It was filled with dispensable items, such as cleaning supplies and knickknacks, so they were gifted to my friends who lived next door to me. I left the surprise box on their patio table. 

Once I got in my vehicle, my poor pup Killian barely fit on the seat.  But being a trooper, he shared it with a box and a vacuum cleaner and enjoyed the ride back home. 

Likewise, the move into our new office was difficult for several reasons. For one, I’m older, and I’m sure many of you know the hardships that come with age.  

Another difference from my law school move is that my office was open for almost a decade in downtown Scranton. And I didn’t realize until this week how much stuff a man can accumulate over the course of a decade. But as the body weakens over the years, the mind strengthens, and I finally got smart and hired professional movers. And I’ll never do a move again without them!  

The moving company did it all in a day.  Desks, conference tables, couches, computers, bookcases, books (most legal research is done online so the books are more or less for aesthetics these days) were all carried out of Scranton and placed in the new home of Hart Law at 134 E. Grove Street.  Our office is much bigger now as we intend to expand and become a landmark in this great neighborhood by Schultz Stadium.  

As the move from law school back to Scranton was not my fondest memory, it was a necessary move to start my career as a lawyer.  Now the move of my law office from Scranton to Dunmore marks another major milestone and is necessary to further advance my legal career.

While I hope none of you have to move anytime soon, I hope that if you do, it is less painful than my move from law school, and more fulfilling like my move to Dunmore.  As mentioned earlier, my very first case was a landlord-tenant dispute and now years later, I still welcome a good fight in court whether you’re a landlord or a tenant who needs competent representation.  

I certainly wanted to put up a legal fight against my landlord back in law school for not being reasonable during a monumental time of my life, but I put it behind me and focused on the future.  Having said that, I can always conjure up that feeling and put it to good use when someone else finds themselves dealing with a landlord, or even a tenant, who is being unreasonable!

So with all of that said, just like the change of seasons, we appreciate this move and hope you all do, too. We’re in, we’re open, and we’re ready to service all of Dunmore’s legal needs.