${site.data.firmName}${SEMFirmNameAlt}
Schedule an initial consultation with Lackawanna County criminal defense attorney Bernard J. Brown
570-281-8117
570-281-8117
View Our Practice Areas

Carbondale Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Law Blog

What is the scope of a valid search warrant?

Pennsylvanians and others across the country who are under reasonable suspicion of committing a crime may be subject to search and seizure. Criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty and are shielded from unreasonable searches and seizures by the Fourth Amendment. Any evidence that is obtained from an unlawful search and seizure is considered "fruit of the poisonous tree" and cannot be introduced in court.

Generally, law enforcement must obtain a search warrant to conduct a search of a person or premise without their consent. There are certain requirements that must be met in order to obtain a search warrant and there are limitations to the manner in which the search may be conducted.

Legal defenses to extortion in Pennsylvania

A previous blog post discussed the possible penalties for extortion in Pennsylvania. A conviction for extortion may result in a fine of up to $15,000 and up to seven years' imprisonment, depending on the value of the property that was extorted. There are some legal defenses to the crime of extortion in Pennsylvania which may be asserted depending on the circumstances of the case.

Defendants may claim that the prosecution has insufficient evidence to prove that they committed extortion. To prove extortion, it must be demonstrated that the defendant intentionally took or withheld another's property by threatening to: commit or accuse another of a criminal offense, expose a secret that would subject the person to hatred contempt or ridicule, use one's status as an official to take or withhold action, cause a strike or boycott, testify or withhold information in court or inflict other forms of harm if certain demands are not met. If each element of extortion cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant may not be convicted.

Possible penalties for extortion convictions in Pennsylvania

Extortion can be committed in person, over the phone, by mail and via text or email. If interstate commerce was used, federal investigations may lead to it being charged as a federal crime. Extortion is considered a theft-related offense in Pennsylvania. Therefore, to be found guilty, the elements of the underlying crime of theft must be met, in addition to the element of coercion or intimidation.

In this state, extortion is defined as the intentional taking or withholding of another's property by threatening to: commit or accuse another of a criminal offense, expose a secret that would subject the person to hatred contempt or ridicule, use one's status as an official to take or withhold action, cause a strike or boycott, testify or withhold information in court or inflict other forms of harm, if certain demands are not met. Property includes not only money, but also anything of value, such as real estate and contract rights.

City pays $1.25 million to alleged sexual assault victim

It was recently reported that Philadelphia settled a lawsuit involving a woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by a police commander. The city paid $1.25 million to the woman. However, the commander who allegedly committed the assault remains on the force eight months after the settlement. These are not the first allegations to surface against the commander, though. Another woman claimed he forced her into a sex act, but she later dropped her lawsuit.

The commander has not been criminally charged with a sex crime and maintains that he was falsely accused. Other Philadelphia Police Department officers have faced sexual harassment allegations as well.

What is alternative sentencing?

Criminal convictions may result in penalties other than incarceration. Those convicted of criminal charges in Pennsylvania and throughout the country may receive alternative sentences, such as a suspended sentence, probation, fines, restitution, community service or pretrial diversion. Judges have discretion whether to impose an alternative sentence based on the circumstances of the crime and the defendant's age, criminal history and degree of remorse.

Suspended sentences are typically given to first-time offenders or those convicted of less serious crimes. The alternative sentence may be conditioned upon the defendant's fulfillment of certain requirements, such as attending a substance abuse program and refraining from committing any crimes. Failure to complete such requirements may result in the imposition of a sentence.

Legal defenses to involuntary manslaughter

Previous blog posts explained the crimes of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter and discussed the legal defenses to voluntary manslaughter in Pennsylvania -- innocence, self-defense, insanity, accidental killing and involuntary intoxication. There are also several legal defenses available to defendants charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the prosecution must show that the victim was killed as a result of the inherently dangerous or reckless actions of the defendant. Intent is not an element of involuntary manslaughter. Therefore, malice is not needed to convict, but prosecutors must show that the defendant knew or should have known that his or her actions may have fatal consequences.

Legal defenses to voluntary manslaughter

A previous blog post discussed the penalties for voluntary and involuntary manslaughter in Pennsylvania. A conviction for voluntary manslaughter carries a sentence of up to 20 years, while being convicted for involuntary manslaughter may carry a sentence of up to 5 years in prison. Certain aggravating or mitigating factors may lead to harsher or lesser sentences, depending on the circumstances of the crime and the defendant's criminal history, particularly violent crimes. A defendant may also assert several legal defenses to voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.

The legal defenses to voluntary manslaughter are innocence, self-defense, insanity, accidental killing and involuntary intoxication. First, defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. If the prosecutor does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, the defendant may be found innocent of the crime and acquitted. Second, to prove self-defense, a defendant must show that there was a reasonable need to exert deadly force to protect their life. A defendant must not have been the aggressor in the situation in order to assert this defense.

Criminal copyright infringement carries serious penalties

Copyrighted works are protected by 17 U.S.C. subsection 506(a), which states that anyone who infringes a copyright willfully and for the purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain are guilty of criminal copyright infringement. Previously, Pennsylvania infringers could only be held liable if they actually made a profit, but an update to the statute in 1976 lowered the standard to allow those who intended to profit -- but did not -- to be held accountable for copyright infringement.

 

Penalties for voluntary and involuntary manslaughter

A previous blog post discussed the two types of manslaughter in Pennsylvania -- voluntary and involuntary. There is a different state of mind required for each.

Voluntary manslaughter is a homicide that took place in the heat of passion or under an unreasonable belief. Involuntary manslaughter requires that the killing was committed unintentionally, through the reckless or grossly negligent conduct of the defendant.

Several Pennsylvanians facing insurance fraud allegations

The Attorney General of Pennsylvania announced that 21 people from the western part of Pennsylvania are facing allegations of insurance fraud. This is just the latest step in a crackdown that the Attorney General's Insurance Fraud Section claims has led to 163 criminal charges and over $750,000 in restitution payments.

The charges, which include "insurance fraud" these people are facing are felonies, which, as Carbondale residents probably know, can spell prison time along with fines, probation and other penalties. Those charged with these crimes will, for example, probably have to come up with large amounts of money to pay restitution if they are convicted.

msg iconEmail Us For a Response

Contact Form

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy