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Carbondale Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Law Blog

Horror movie provides inspiration but no justification for theft

Movies can have powerful impacts on their audiences. Some movies make people laugh, some movies entertain people, and some movies frighten people. Two teenagers in Scranton recently confused the fictional world in the movie "The Purge" with real life and are now facing several criminal charges.

The movie depicts a world where crime is legal for 12 hours on a given day. Apparently believing they were living in the world, the two teenagers allegedly donned masks similar to the masks worn by characters in the movie and began following two women as they walked along Mulberry Street after leaving Granteed's Pizza. The two women noticed that that they were being followed, but because the bars were closing and patrons were filling the sidewalks, the women felt safe. In the 200 block of Adams Street, the two men ran at the women and snatched their purses. The men allegedly cursed the women and told them that they were in "the purge." The two men then fled.

Understanding how extradition works

Police in Lackawanna County recently arrested a woman who had been accused of selling a controlled substance in Cortland, N.Y. According to news reports, the woman was extradited from Pennsylvania to New York to stand trial. Such occurrences are common - a person is accused of committing a crime in State A and flees to State B, where the person is arrested. Soon after the arrest, the suspect is physically transported to State A and incarcerated pending a trial. How does this process work?

The initial answer lies in Article IV Section 2 of the United States Constitution, which provides that

Police arrest three men in $100k debit card fraud

The proliferation of credit cards and debit cards has, not surprisingly, led to the proliferation of crimes involving these cash substitutes. Police in South Abington Township in Lackawanna County recently arrested three men who are alleged to have operated a widespread network of fraud that was reliant on stolen credit card and debit card numbers.

The three men are alleged to have used card skimmers to clone a number of false debit and credit cards that provided access to real bank accounts. An employee of the Penn East Bank in South Abington happened to drive by the bank when it was closed. She saw a man in the vestibule where the ATM machine was located, but she did not see a car nearby. The employee called police, but they missed the suspects by less than 10 minutes.

New DUI law stiffens penalties and includes felony charges

Pennsylvania has long been unique as one of only four states whose drunk driving laws did not make any form of DUI violation a felony. The legislature has now shed that questionable distinction by passing a bill that makes certain repeat offenders guilty of a felony.

The bill received final votes on October 17, 2018 in both chambers of the legislature. The new law makes a third conviction for drunk driving a felony if the driver has more than twice the legal concentration of alcohol in the blood stream. A fourth DUI conviction, regardless of the driver's blood alcohol content, was also made a felony. One of the groups that supported the bill, Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving, said that repeat DUI offenders are responsible for approximately 40% of all DUI-related fatalities.

Two Lackawanna County insurance agents charged with fraud

Most insurance agents who deal with residents of Lackawanna County are willing to help their customers submit claims to their insurers, and some even act as advocates for the customer if the claim is rejected. Rarely, however, do these agents attempt to persuade their clients to submit false claims. Two agents in Lackawanna County were recently arrested and charged with insurance fraud.

The fraud arose from the situation of a homeowner whose basement was supposedly inundated by floodwaters but who did not have coverage for this kind of loss. Two insurance agents from Lackawanna are alleged to have coached the homeowner on how to submit a claim for a blocked sewer line instead of flood damage. Damage from a blocked sewer line was covered by the homeowner's existing insurance policy.

Weapons and hate crime charge raises mental health issues

The line between expressing forbidden criminal intent and aberrant mental health can be quite vague. The case of a man currently in the Lackawanna County Prison demonstrates the difficulties of distinguishing between expressions of intent to commit hate crimes and statements resulting from an emotional disturbance.

The defendant in this case is a 22-year-old man who was arrested by federal officers on weapons charges, including possessing an illegal machine gun. The arrest came after the officers became aware of the defendant's expression of white supremacist views on social media. After the man's arrest, federal prosecutors filed a motion to detain him pending trial because he is a public danger. The man's attorney said that he had posted "stupid stuff" on social media without realizing how the posts would reflect on him. The suspect served three months in the Navy before being discharged for medical reasons. The exact reasons for the discharge have not been specified. Court papers filed by the United States Attorney's office refer to a "depressive disorder" that require psychiatric evaluation.

Understanding Pennsylvania's implied consent law

Many residents of Lackawanna County have heard of "Breathalyzer tests" or "implied consent," but few understand the law behind the names. The Pennsylvania Legislature, like legislatures in the other 49 states, has passed a law that requires all persons driving on the state's roads to consent to a test of their blood alcohol content when requested to do so by a police officer. The consequences of refusal can be severe.

The statute states that individuals who drive a vehicle in the state are presumed to have consented to one or more tests to determine the level of alcohol in their blood stream. The imposition of the consent requirement has been held by the state Supreme Court to be a constitutional exercise of the state's power to regulate the safety of its highways. If a person is stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, the officer can make the request that the person submit to the blood test. In the field, officers ordinarily use a device called a breathalyzer that can indirectly determine a person's BAC by taking a sample of the person's breath.

DUI victims group pushes for stronger penalties

As the Pennsylvania legislative session nears adjournment, people who consider themselves victims of drunk drivers are pushing for stronger penalties. The draft legislation is aimed at repeat drunk drivers, and its principal goal is to make a third DUI offense a felony.

One of the leading advocates for the legislation is an organization called Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving. The founder of the group lost his daughter four years ago when her car was struck by a driver whose blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit. He had also taken heroin and was driving on a suspended license. The girl's father says that the pain from losing a child never goes away.

Arson investigation in Weatherly leads to other charges

Police investigations of major crimes often lead to the discovery of other crimes involving the same suspects. The two-year investigation of a suspected arson in Weatherly, has led local police to other crimes as well, including crimes related to drugs and explosives.

The fire in question occurred two years ago on a residential street in Weatherly. A surveillance camera captured images of two individuals setting a fire in a vacant house. The police suspected arson as the cause almost immediately, primarily because the fire spread so quickly.

How does a Breathalyzer work?

Most residents of Lackawanna County are aware that local police departments use a device called a "Breathalyzer" to measure the blood alcohol content of persons believed to be driving under the influence of alcohol, but very few understand how such devices work. While details vary depending on the model, most Breathalyzers operate on the principles outlined below.

Contrary to the expectations of most people, Breathalyzers do not directly measure the amount of alcohol in a person's bloodstream. That can only be done by taking a blood sample and subjecting it to laboratory analysis. Instead breathalyzers perform a chemical analysis of the person's breath and use that result to calculate the person's BAC.

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