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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Charges dropped against man who brought gun to school

Last week, charges were dropped against a man who brought a handgun into a Pennsylvania middle school. The Delaware County District Attorney withdrew the charges because of what he describes as a quirk in the law. Bringing weapons on school grounds is permitted by state law so long as the weapon is being used for a lawful purpose. According to the District Attorney, this broad definition,as set forth by the Pennsylvania Superior Court in a case earlier this year, would have prevented him from being able to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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