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Carbondale Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Law Blog

Defenses to robbery in Pennsylvania

A previous blog post discussed robbery in Pennsylvania. Robbery is charged as a first, second or third-degree felony, depending on whether force was used and whether an injury was threatened or inflicted.

There are several defenses that one charged with robbery can assert. First, one may assert that no theft was committed. Theft is a requisite element, and one cannot be convicted of robbery if no theft occurred.

Failed robbery attempt by armed woman leads to arrest

A one-armed Pennsylvania woman allegedly attempted to rob a bank. The 51-year-old entered a Key Bank branch last Tuesday armed with a knife. She demanded money from the teller, but when the teller refused, she ran out of the bank and drove away.

A witness was able to obtain the woman's license plate number, which was used to track the woman to her home. Police found a knife in her purse, and she admitted to the robbery attempt, claiming that she did not know why she did it. The woman is now in custody at Allegheny County jail facing several charges including robbery.

Pennsylvania's forcible rape laws

A previous blog post discussed the state's statutory rape laws. Anyone under 16 is legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse with an adult. Therefore, force and lack of consent are not elements required to prove statutory rape. However, force and lack of consent are key elements of rape.

Rape is a first-degree felony. An individual may be convicted of rape, if he or she engaged in sexual intercourse with a victim by forcible compulsion; threat of forcible compulsion that would prevent a reasonable person from resisting; drugging the victim; rendering the victim unable to control his or her conduct; and engaging in sexual intercourse with a victim who is unconscious or unaware of what is going on or who suffers from a mental disability, which makes him or her incapable of consent. Individuals convicted of rape may be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $25,000.

Pennsylvania's statutory rape laws

Statutory rape is defined as sexual intercourse with a person who is legally unable to consent to such activity. This age of consent is statutorily determined by state law and typically varies from 16 to 18 years old. Pennsylvania's age of consent is 16 years old, therefore anyone age 15 and younger is legally incapable of giving consent to engage in sexual intercourse with an adult.

Unlike the crime of rape, force and lack of consent are not required to be convicted of statutory rape. Even if the minor consented to sex and force was not used, the defendant may still be convicted of statutory rape. Statutory rape is generally considered a strict liability offense, therefore it is irrelevant whether the defendant believed that the victim was old enough to engage in sexual intercourse.

DUI arrests in Pennsylvania on the rise

The Pennsylvania State Police recently released statistics on driving under the influence incidents in for the previous year. These statistics reveal that troopers investigated over 4,000 driving under the influence-related crashes and that over 19,500 DUI arrests were made in 2016. These numbers only include instances investigated by state police and do not account for statistics from other law enforcement agencies.

The state police commissioner notes that in addition to alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription medication can negatively affect a person's driving. Drug recognition experts are state troopers who receive specialized classroom and field training to recognize the signs of impairment caused by many controlled substances. These experts conducted over 1,000 drug inference evaluations in 2016.

Helping Pennsylvania residents defend drug charges

Individuals charged with drug crimes face many possible criminal penalties, including fines, probation and incarceration. Although, drug crimes no longer have mandatory minimums in state court, those convicted of weapons offenses or second drug offenses may still be sentenced to lengthy jail time. Depending on the amount of a controlled substance, those accused of possession may also face years of incarceration, as well as large fines.

Other consequences of drug charge convictions include the loss of employment opportunities, federal financial student aid and the right to possess a firearm. Those convicted may also face non-judicial consequences, such as losing their jobs and living with a stigma. It is therefore imperative for those accused of drug crimes to obtain skilled legal representation to help them defend their serious charges.

Murder conviction affirmed for driver who inhaled dust remover

A Pennsylvania woman now faces up to 20 years in prison after the Supreme Court upheld her third-degree murder conviction. On the day of the incident, the woman and her boyfriend inhaled aerosol dust remover while sitting in a parking lot and again while sitting at a red light. The woman then veered into oncoming traffic and killed a 25-year-old father in a head-on crash. On appeal, the state Superior Court affirmed her third-degree murder conviction and recently, the state Supreme Court upheld that decision.

Normally, DUI cases involving fatalities do not result in murder charges because, although intoxicated drivers may have behaved recklessly by driving under the influence, their actions do not rise to the level of malice necessary to establish murder. In this case, though, the woman's actions went beyond the ordinary level of recklessness because she knew that the dust cleaner would likely cause her to lose consciousness.

Penalties for violating Pennsylvania's Ignition Interlock Law

A previous blog post discussed the exemptions to Pennsylvania's Ignition Interlock Law. Those who can prove that installing ignition interlock devices in each of their motor vehicles would present an undue hardship may be allowed to install an ignition interlock system in only one vehicle, provided they do not drive any motor vehicle not equipped with an ignition interlock system.

Offenders who are required to drive in the course and scope of their employment may be allowed to drive vehicles owned by their employers -- without ignition interlock systems -- if the employer is properly notified of the employee's restriction. But, if an offender does not qualify for either of these exemptions, a violation of the Ignition Interlock Law can result in several penalties.

Who is protected by the Pennsylvania Good Samaritan Law?

Those who witness someone experiencing alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose are often hesitant to call for help. They fear being arrested and being prosecuted for drug crimes. But, Pennsylvania Act 139 provides immunity from prosecution under certain circumstances to those responding to and reporting overdoses. Additionally, first responders, friends or family members may administer naloxone, an opioid reversal medicine, to those experiencing opioid overdoses.

Act 139 originally pertained only to underage drinking violations. This Good Samaritan provision aims to reduce alcohol poisoning deaths by providing immunity to those who report that someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning. The Act was subsequently extended to include drug overdoses in response to the recent increase in deaths from opioids.

Exemptions to Ignition Interlock Law

A previous blog post discussed Pennsylvania's Ignition Interlock Law. Typically, those with more than one conviction for driving under the influence are subject to the law which requires an ignition interlock system to be installed in every motor vehicle that the repeat offender owns, operates or leases. However, there are certain exemptions, including the economic hardship exemption and the employment exemption which may, under certain circumstances, allow some repeat DUI offenders to operate motor vehicles without an ignition interlock system.

The economic hardship exemption is available to those who can prove that the requirement to have an ignition interlock system installed in each of their motor vehicles presents an undue financial hardship for them. If the department determines that the offender's situation constitutes an undue hardship, it may permit the applicant to install an ignition interlock system in only one of their motor vehicles. The offender is still prohibited from driving or operating any motor vehicle that is not equipped with an ignition interlock system.

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