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May 2014 Archives

Pennsylvania Categories for Prior Record Scores

In Pennsylvania, sentencing is largely based on a person's prior record score and the offense gravity score (or how serious the legislature has deemed a particular crime).  In Pennsylvania, a person's prior record score is based on the number of prior convictions that person has and the seriousness of those prior convictions.

Pennsylvania Rule for Joinder of Parties or Offenses

In cases involving either multiple offenses or multiple defendants, the Commonwealth may move to try all the offenses or co-defendants together in one trial.  In order to consolidate all the offenses or co-defendants into one trial, the Commonwealth must file written notice of its intention at or before the defendant's arraignment.  

Multiple Point Pennsylvania Offenses for Prior Record Score

In Pennsylvania, a person's prior record score is based on his prior convictions and the offense gravity score of the crime with which he is charged.  The general rule for prior record score is that a felony is graded as one point and a misdemeanor is graded as 1/2 point.  Under Pennsylvania law, however, certain offenses carry multiple points and can be relevant if someone is convicted of a crime in the future.

Pennsylvania adopts the Federal standard for the warrantless search of automobiles

A new Pennsylvania Supreme Court case has ruled on the proper standard to analyze warrantless searches of an automobile.  In this case, the PA Supreme Court has held that the proper standard is the standard the federal courts apply: namely if a police officer has probable cause to believe that an automobile may contain contraband, the probable cause plus the fact that an automobile is readily mobile, creates an exception to the warrant requirement.

Searches incident to arrests under the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions

The United States Supreme Court has held that a search incident to arrest may only include "the arrestee's person and the area 'within his immediate control'-construing that phrase to mean the area from within which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence."  That limitation, which continues to define the boundaries of the exception, ensures that the scope of a search incident to arrest is commensurate with its purposes of protecting arresting officers and safeguarding any evidence of the offense of arrest that an arrestee might conceal or destroy.  (noting that searches incident to arrest are reasonable " in order to remove any weapons [the arrestee] might seek to use" and " in order to prevent [the] concealment or destruction" of evidence (emphasis added)). If there is no possibility that an arrestee could reach into the area that law enforcement officers seek to search, both justifications for the search-incident-to-arrest exception are absent and the rule does not apply.

Effect of Intoxication in Criminal Defense

Even the most permissive society recognizes that voluntary intoxication will not be tolerated as an excuse or justification for anti-social behavior. Thus the law has consistently rejected as a defense the actor's assertion that "I would not have committed the deed if I had been sober." The cases are legion in this jurisdiction reaffirming the principle that voluntary intoxication neither exonerates nor excuses criminal conduct. Commonwealth v. Gordon, 490 Pa. 234, 416 A.2d 87 (1980)

Basics of a PCRA Petition under Pennsylvania law

A PCRA is a petition which a Defendant may challenge challenging his attorney's effectiveness.  42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9545(b) requires that a PCRA petition be filed within one year of the date judgment becomes final.  This requirement has three exceptions which would excuse an untimely filing:  (1) interference by government officials; (2) realization of facts previously unknown to the defendant, which could not have been determined with due diligence; or (3) the assertion of a constitutional right recognized by the United States Supreme Court or the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, after the time period provided by this section had expired, and has been held to apply retroactively by that same court.  42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9545(b);

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