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Carbondale Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Law Blog

DUI criminal defense basics

Because serious potential penalties and consequences can arise related to drunk driving charges, an equally serious criminal defense response is important. DUI convictions can result in both criminal and administrative penalties. Criminal penalties can include possible jail time, fines and other potential penalties. Administrative penalties include the suspension or revocation of the accused individual's driver's license and other possible consequences.

Because of the far-reaching impact of DUI charges, when an individual has been arrested for DUI, it is important they understand their criminal defense options and how to form a strong criminal defense response. When procedural protections in place to ensure those accused of crimes are treated appropriately have been violated, it may form a basis for the accused individual's criminal defense. Accused individuals must be informed of their rights and those rights must also be protected.

Pennsylvania woman facing fraud charges and accusations

The criminal justice system provides important rights and protections for accused individuals to be familiar with. In a Pennsylvania community southwest of the Carbondale area a transportation supervisor was recently accused of stealing greater than $179,000 from a school district. According to authorities, the 38-year old woman is accused of submitting fraudulent invoices from a transportation company to the school district for payment and then keeping the checks without the transportation company's knowledge that the invoice was sent or the check was issued.

In addition, the woman is accused of altering invoices sent from the transportation company to the school district, thereby creating overcharges. The woman would then allegedly keep the money when the district remitted payment. She also allegedly added her name to some checks and forged the signature of a manager on others. Authorities allege that over a period of approximately a year and a half the woman altered 44 checks.

Defending those accused of violent crimes in Pennsylvania

Criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, the accused are often convicted in the court of public opinion long before being convicted in the court of law. This is especially true for those accused of violent crimes, such as murder, domestic assault and sex crimes. Attorney Bernard J. Brown is dedicated to protecting defendants' rights during the entire legal process and ensuring that they are informed of all their legal options.

The Pennsylvania legal system can be complicated and overwhelming, especially for those facing manslaughter or murder charges. These individuals are at risk of losing their freedom and even their lives. Those accused of sex crimes also face serious consequences. In addition to jail time and other penalties, those convicted of a child pornography or other sex crime may be required to register under Megan's Law. Personal information such as their name, address and place of work is then available to the public, sometimes for the person's lifetime.

District Attorney will not pursue cash bail for certain crimes

The Philadelphia district attorney recently announced that certain criminal defendants will no longer have to pay cash bail. The district attorney's office hopes that this new policy will address socioeconomic and racial inequalities caused by the present pre-trial system. The district attorney notes that the cash bail system disproportionately affects low-income people and people of color.

The new policy applies to people charged with 25 low-level offenses, including possession with intention to distribute five pounds or less of marijuana, providing false identification to law enforcement, prostitution, resisting arrest, fraud in obtaining food stamps and public assistance and identity theft. People are often kept in custody for months even though their cases were eventually dismissed because they could not afford to pay cash bail. According to the district attorney, the current legal system is a form of imprisonment for poverty, with people who committed non-violent offenses being held because they cannot afford to pay bail.

What is excluded under the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine?

A previous blog post discussed legal defenses to a child pornography offense in Pennsylvania. Defendants may avoid conviction if they accidentally viewed the prohibited material, if they possessed the material for a bona fide educational, scientific, governmental or judicial purpose or if the alleged victim was over the age of 18. The laws of criminal procedure, such as the exclusionary rule, apply to criminal defendants facing child pornography as well as other criminal charges.

The exclusionary rule and the related "fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine" were designed to deter police misconduct and ensure compliance with the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. The exclusionary rule was established when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Weeks v. United States that defendants may not be convicted based on evidence seized without constitutional justification. The fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine additionally allows any evidence that was obtained from an illegal search to be excluded from trial.

Defenses to a child pornography charge in Pennsylvania

A previous blog post discussed the Megan's Law registration requirement in Pennsylvania. Certain sex offenders who have been classified as sexually violent predators must register with the Pennsylvania Police Department for either ten years or for life, depending on the underlying offense. Although those convicted of a child pornography offense are not typically considered sexually violent predators, those who have multiple convictions for offenses related to sexual abuse of a child based on child pornography charges may be required to register and provide personal information to the public such as their names, home and employment addresses, photos and license plate numbers.

Failure to comply with registration requirements may result in a criminal punishment of up to ten years' imprisonment. However, there are some legal defenses available to those falsely accused of a child pornography offense in Pennsylvania, including evidence of age, accidental viewing and possession for a bona fide purpose.

Megan's Law registration in Pennsylvania

A previous blog post discussed the consequences of a child pornography conviction in Pennsylvania. Photographing, filming and possessing child pornography are prohibited by both federal and Pennsylvania state law. A conviction related to child pornography carries not only a social stigma but also serious legal consequences, including a prison sentence of up to ten years.

Pennsylvania law also requires certain sex offenders to comply with Megan's Law registration. Sex offenders must register with the Pennsylvania State Police Department for either ten years or for life. Those who must register for ten years have committed crimes such as the possession of obscene materials depicting a minor, child sexual abuse and luring a child into a motor vehicle. Life registration is reserved for offenders who have two or more convictions qualifying for ten-year registration, rape and those considered sexually violent predators.

Consequences of a child pornography conviction in Pennsylvania

Activities related to child pornography such as photographing, filming and possessing child pornography are prohibited by Pennsylvania state law and federal law. The mere accusation of a child pornography crime can cause the accused to live with a social stigma in addition to facing legal consequences. A conviction for a child pornography offense in Pennsylvania carries serious penalties and if it involves the internet, the convicted may face stiff federal penalties as well.

Pennsylvania prohibits the photographing, videotaping, depicting on a computer or filming of children under the age of 18 engaging in a prohibited sexual act or simulating such an act. Conviction for this offense constitutes a felony of the second degree and may carry a sentence of imprisonment for up to ten years.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement

A previous blog post discussed the scope of a valid search warrant. The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally, law enforcement must obtain permission from the court to search a person or their property. However, there are some exceptions to this requirement, including consent, emergency, searches incident to arrest and plain view.

If police ask for permission to search a person or their premises and they are given consent, they do not need a warrant to conduct their search. Anyone who has control over an area of the property may consent to a search of that area only. Thus, a roommate may give consent to a search of the shared common areas in the apartment, but may not consent to a search of the other roommate's bedroom. Landlords may also only give permission for law enforcement to search common areas of the building or complex and may not consent to searches of tenants' property.

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.

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