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August 2016 Archives

sex crimes, aggravated indecent assault

In Pennsylvania, sex crimes are very serious charges.  Sex crimes such as aggravated indecent assault occur when a person forces a person to let him penetrate the anus or genitals of another person without their consent. In order for sex crimes such as aggravated indecent assault to occur, there are specific circumstances that must be met. These circumstances are that the offender uses force or threat of force; corruption of minors  there was no medical, hygiene or law enforcement reason for the penetration; the alleged victim was unconscious or unaware; the victim might have a mental disability that makes them unable to consent; the victim was younger than 13, or the victim was younger than 16 and the offender was 20 or older and not married to them.

Criminal Defense, Disorderly Conduct

In Criminal Defense law in Pennsylvania, disorderly conduct charges are fairly common. Disorderly Conduct charges are common in Criminal Defense due to the fact that the disorderly conduct statute in PA covers a variety of different behaviors. It is a broad statute that allows law enforcement to gain control over situations that involve large crowds of people. According to the PA Crimes Code, "a person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he: engages is fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior; makes unreasonable noise;  preliminary hearings uses obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor". The purpose of the statute is not to punish any behavior deemed obnoxious or annoying, but rather to protect society from behavior that disrupts peace.

Suppression Motions: seizure

One of the primary issues in Suppression Motions is whether the police action against the defendant constitutes a seizure.  If a seizure occurs, then a court should grant a defendant's suppression motion and exclude evidence seized by the police.  The threshold issue for this Court to determine is whether the encounter rose to the level of a seizure. A seizure has legally occurred when an officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has restrained the liberty of an individual. Id at 623. "To decide whether a seizure has occurred, a court must consider all the circumstances surrounding the encounter to determine whether the police conduct would have communicated to a reasonable person that the person was not free to decline the officers' requests or otherwise terminate the encounter. Stated differently, we ask whether a reasonable person, innocent of any crime, would have thought he was being restrained if he had been in the defendant's shoes." Important circumstances to consider include, but are not limited to, the following: the number of officers present during the interaction;  Miranda Rights whether the officer informs the citizen they are suspected of criminal activity; the officer's demeanor and tone of voice; the location and timing of the interaction; the visible presence of weapons on the officer; and the questions asked.

Vehicle searches and stops

A motor vehicle stop enacted without the proper level of suspicion violates the United States Constitution, and the Pennsylvania Constitution. Vehicle searches and stops in criminal cases may trigger violations of an accused's rights under the US constitution.  Vehicle searches and stops generally require that the police possess probable cause.  Generally, in order to effectuate a motor vehicle stop a police officer must have reasonable suspicion that a violation of Title 75 is or has occurred. 75 Pa.C.S. § 6308(b). Suppression motions  However, where an officer merely has reasonable suspicion that a violation of the motor vehicle code has occurred, and more cannot be gained by investigation during a seizure, then it cannot be a valid stop. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in a case named Chase explained that before a police officer may stop a single vehicle to determine whether or not the vehicle is being operated in compliance with the Motor Vehicle Code, he must have probable cause based on specific facts which indicate to him either the vehicle or the driver are in violation of the vehicle code.

DUI and the admissibility of the PBT test

One issue that comes up in DUI cases concerns the admissibility of PBT tests.  Generally speaking, in DUI cases the results of a PBT test are not admissible.  However, sometimes the PBT test might help the defense.  In those instances, is the PBT admissible under Pennsylvania law?  Defending DUI casesThe portion of the Vehicle Code dealing with chemical testing to determine the alcoholic content of blood provides in pertinent part:

Appeals sufficiency of the evidence

If a case is lost then various appeals may be filed to higher courts to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence.   Appeals challenging the sufficiency of the evidence challenge whether the government presented sufficient evidence to a jury or judge to win at trial.   In Pennsylvania, citizens are protected from being retried for the same crime due to the double jeopardy clause. There are special circumstances in which a retrial is permitted. Motions  One circumstance in which a retrial is permitted is when an appellate court reverses a defendant's conviction because of an error that occurred in the trial proceedings. There are two main components that could ultimately determine whether a defendant will have a retrial or not. They are known as the sufficiency of the evidence and the weight of the evidence.

Theft: Bribery

Bribery cases and other public corruptions cases such as theft can cause quite a commotion in the media and attract a lot of unwanted attention. Bribery is a type of theft crime and typically involves bribing public officials with large amounts of money or something of value in exchange for some sort of decision or action that will benefit the person making the bribe. There have been several different bribery cases that have gained major media attention over past years. One well-known case in Pennsylvania is known as "kids for cash". Identity Theft  This case involved President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael Conahan receiving large amounts of money from Robert Mericle, builder of private for-profit youth detention centers, in return for imposing harsh penalties on juveniles in order to fill more beds at his detention centers. Ciavarella and Conahan were ultimately found guilty on several charges.

Violent Crimes Simple Assault

In Pennsylvania, Violent Crimes such as simple assault are treated seriously. Violent Crimes statutes such as simple assault exist for the purpose of keeping you safe from being attacked. While some laws protect your property, simple assault statutes protect your well-being and keep you safe from unwanted attacks.  the Castle Doctrine You commit simple assault when you attempt or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to another, when you negligently cause bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon, attempt by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury, or conceal or attempt to conceal a hypodermic needle on your person and intentionally or knowingly penetrate a law enforcement officer or an officer or an employee of a correctional institution, county jail or prison, detention facility or mental hospital during the course of an arrest or any search of a person. Simple assault is a second degree misdemeanor. If simple assault is committed in a fight or scuffle that was entered into by mutual consent, it is a misdemeanor of the third degree. If simple assault is committed against a child under 12 years old, committed by someone who is 18 years of age or older, it is then a first degree misdemeanor.

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