Anyone who is arrested for a serious crime wants to imagine the best possible outcome if they’re convicted. But few actually know what factors are taken into consideration to determine a criminal sentence. Fortunately, Pennsylvania law requires judges to recognize various facts and situations unrelated to whether or not the defendant is actually guilty of a crime, but that could be grounds for a more lenient punishment.
Mitigating vs. Aggravating Factors
Judges are required to consider two types of factors while determining a convicted person’s criminal charges in PA: mitigating and aggravating. Mitigating factors include any evidence provided regarding the defendant’s character or the circumstances of the specific crime that could support leniency. In opposition, aggravating factors are any relevant circumstances that were presented throughout the trial which would warrant the harshest penalty appropriate.
While some circumstances simply don’t permit consideration, a good criminal defense attorney will present all the relevant facts of the case, no matter how small or minor they may be, as it is ultimately up to the judge to decide which factors will have an impact on the sentence. This may mean that very personal aspects of the defendant’s life will be revealed in court, but any admissible detail could affect the outcome.
What Mitigation Factors Can Help Reduce My Charges?
It’s up to the defendant and their criminal defense lawyer to provide convincing facts if they hope to achieve mitigation. This data is typically viewed in two categories: information about the offense and information about the offender.
Some of these mitigating factors include:
Role in the Crime
If the defendant played a relatively minor role in the crime, such as accepting compensation to transport illegal drugs verses engaging in drug trafficking in Philadelphia, this may be a mitigating factor.
Victim culpability refers to the participation or initiation of a crime. Whether someone started a fight in a domestic violence attack or reacted in defense with more force than necessary could impact the sentence.
A crime was committed while acting out due to emotional distress or substantial provocation is considered an unusual circumstance. This may include a DUI charge for choosing to drink and drive on the same day the defendant lost their job and broke up with their significant other.
Level of Harm
If no one was hurt as a result of the crime, this could also serve as a mitigating factor. An example being a carjacking was committed or property was stolen without harming the victim or anyone else in the process.
The motive of a crime may also be worthy of mitigation depending on the situation and relative facts. This would apply to a situation like a defendant stealing food from a grocery or convenience store in order to feel his starving family.
Drug or Alcohol Addiction
If drugs or alcohol were involved, it must have contributed to the crime, not just serve as a motive or excuse. The defendant would likely need to show a concerted effort in rehabilitation before a relapse resulted in the illegal action while under the influence for it to be a considerable factor.
There are a number of other mitigating factors that a judge will analyze during sentencing, which is why it’s so important to have the best criminal defense attorney to advise you on the exact information and circumstances that will reduce your charges and protect your future. Contact our experienced attorneys today to discuss your case through a free consultation.Read More
When you hear the term “harassment,” many people think of calling someone incessantly or using defamatory words. And while these certainly qualifies under the legal definition of harassment in PA, there are many more types of conduct that constitutes harassment which you may not realize. Or if you are aware and want to learn how to file harassment charges in PA, then you’ve also come to the right place. Here’s what you need to know about criminal harassment penalties and charges for your case.
In Pennsylvania, harassment is either considered a summary offense or a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree, depending on the conduct that occurred. While both classifications are considered minor criminal acts (summary offenses being less serious than a misdemeanor), it certainly does not negate the emotional impact the situation may have on a victim or even the accused.
What are the harassment laws in PA?
The first component of a harassment charge in Pennsylvania is proving that something was said or communicated. While in the past, this was based on verbal communication and phone conversations, today’s use of technology have led many statutes to now cover email, social media sites, texts and other telecommunications as well.
Secondly, the communication must provide evidence of intent to harass, annoy, torment or embarrass the victim. Each state provides examples of what may constitute as harassment under the law. In Pennsylvania, the following are sufficient for a misdemeanor conviction:
- Engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which serve no legitimate purpose
- Communicating to or about such other person any lewd, lascivious, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings or caricatures
- Communicating repeatedly in an anonymous manner
- Communicates repeatedly at extremely inconvenient hours
While the first example could possibly be graded as a summary offense depending on the extent of the situation, the following are explicit examples of a summary offense:
- Violent striking, hitting or kicking of a person, or threatens to do the same
- Following the other person in or about a public place or places
It’s important to note that this list is not all-inclusive. Threatening physical harm, making obscene proposals, stalking or any unwanted, repeated communication or actions all fall under the PA crimes code for harassment and could result in criminal harassment penalties.
And while some phrases like “I’m going to kill you” or “Do this or else” are used more casually today than they were in the past, they can be interpreted in different ways based on the intent and context of the comment. During a friendly soccer game where no other comments were made is one thing, while in the parking lot during a one-on-one confrontation after the game is another. In either situation, the state would have to present evidence that the comment was meant to harass ror alarm the victim and was likely to do so.
Punishment for harassment in PA
While most summary offenses do not result in jail time, not all misdemeanor charges do do either. However, if the judge finds the behavior particularly hateful or there is an existing criminal record involved, it is possible. Even so, the collateral damage of a charge on your record is more commonly the outcome. They can negatively impact your ability to secure employment, professional certifications, financial aid or legal immigration status.
If you’ve been charged, it’s vital that you speak to our experienced criminal lawyers in Philadelphia to determine and achieve the best possible outcome for you.
How to file harassment charges in PA
The first step is to call your local police, and let them know you would like to file a report for harassment. You can provide them with any text messages, emails or other evidence you may have. Some police departments will allow you to file a report through their website, but you should follow up in-person or over the phone as well.
If you have been a victim of harassment or are on the receiving end of false allegations, it’s imperative to have experienced criminal defense attorneys to help you through the legal process and get you the justice you deserve. Contact us to speak to one of our knowledgeable lawyers about your case today.Read More
From intensive supervision and shock probation to unsupervised probation, there are so many different types of probation that one can serve, but each state has their own specific consequences when you violate your probation. If you’re currently on Philadelphia probation, you should know what’s specifically at risk if you violate your probation in PA.
So what is probation?
Probation can be defined as an alternative to imprisonment for someone who is convicted of or pleads guilty to a criminal offense. This type of consequence allows you to remain in the community, but under specific conditions and the supervision of a local probation officer. It sounds a lot less daunting than the alternative, but the situation can easily get a lot worse if you’re not on your best behavior during this time.
How do you violate probation?
Every state is different, as is every probation. In many cases, the judge will assign additional provisions specific to the individual sentencing, but overall Pennsylvania has general rules for what happens if you break your violation, and what qualifies as doing so.
To start, there are two types of probation violations in PA: technical violations and criminal offenses.
These violations occur when the terms and conditions that the judge has put in the probation agreement are not followed. By accepting your probation, you’re agreeing to abide by certain terms in order to stay out of jail. Some of these terms may include the following:
- Contacting your officer as scheduled
- Passing drug tests
- Notifying probation officers about a move or job change
- Remaining employed or in school
- Completing mandatory drug or alcohol counseling
- Paying fines, fees and restitution
If you commit another crime while on probation, it’s an automatic violation of the probation agreement and your probation officer has the right to arrest you immediately. You’re guaranteed a probation hearing under state law, as well as the presence of an attorney to represent you. As a result of the hearing, the judge can modify your probation, add stricter terms or determine another course of action.
What happens if you violate your probation for the first time in PA?
Consequences for first-time probation violations tend to result in less serious consequences than for subsequent violations, but there are many factors that determine this for each case. They include:
- Whether or not your probation officer reports the violation
- The seriousness and nature of the violation
- If you face new criminal charges
A judge has a lot of discretion in terms of the penalties that may follow. From a strict warning to possible jail time, there are varying degrees of probation violation sentencing. While he or she may try to revoke your probation all together, an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can help review the facts of your case and fight for modified terms or an alternative penalty. Possible outcomes of a violation may be:
- Revocation of your probation, resulting in jail time for the rest of the original sentence
- Revocation of your probation and another sentence, up to the legal maximum for your original crime
- Mandatory enrollment in drug or alcohol rehabilitation or counseling program
- Probation extension
- Modified probation terms
- Additional community service
Let’s not forget that any violations to your probation could also have personal ramifications as well. The resulting charges or jail time could cost you a job, the pursuit of your degree or affect your family life.
If you’d like to learn more about what happens if you violate your probation in Pennsylvania or have already received a violation of probation charge and need a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer, we can help you understand your rights and fight to minimize your sentence and protect your future. Contact us today.Read More
When you’re charged with a crime, you can only hope that it will all just go away. The truth is there’s an actual possibility this could happen before ever going to trial. You’re thinking the only way to get things back to normal and move forward is if your felony charges are dropped or dismissed, and while this is true, you may not realize the different legal meanings the two words have. So what’s the difference between charges dismissed vs. dropped?
Meaning of Charges Dropped
When criminal charges are filed by a prosecutor, it’s because they believe they can prove their case. That doesn’t necessarily mean a judge or jury will agree with them, but they feel confident that their evidence is strong enough to convince others of their argument. If at any point throughout the process, even before the charges have been officially filed, the prosecutor or arresting officer feels their case is not strong enough to hold up in court, they are able to drop the charges all together. But only the prosecuting party is able to do so.
Other reasons felony charges may be dropped:
- The victim around who the case was built decides not to cooperate
- The attorney of the prosecuting party is responsible for multiple cases at the time, causing them to allocate their time and resources to other cases of high priority.
- The defendant is willing to cooperate with prosecutors to help resolve other crimes or in another situation that enables the attorney to work out a deal or get the charge dropped altogether
Meaning of Charges Dismissed
In a criminal case, the defendant is assumed innocent until proven guilty. This means that the prosecutors must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant in fact committed the crime. By choosing to move for dismissal, the defendant is arguing that the accusing party does not have enough evidence to meet this standard for the jury to find him guilty. The motion is then taken into the judge’s hands, and if he agrees, the case will be dismissed.
A case can also be dismissed if the prosecutor has made a fundamental or procedural legal error during the time of the arrest, booking, interrogating, etc. by the prosecuting party or the evidence was obtained unlawfully in any way. In either case, charges can only be dismissed by the court and only after charges have been filed. Working with a skilled defense attorney is your best chance to ensure the protection of your rights and get your case dismissed.
What about Reducing a Charge?
It’s also possible to have a charge reduced. This is typically an option if there’s not enough evidence to support the initial charge, but enough to convict the defendant of a lesser charge.
In this case, the prosecutor will agree to dismiss the original charge with the offer of a “plea bargain agreement,” which requires the defendant to plead guilty or no contest to the lesser charge.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, you’ll want a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney working to protect your rights and fight for the best outcome possible. With a number of reasons for cases to be dropped or dismissed, make sure you have the best team on your side to defend your freedom and reputation, so you can move on with your life.
For more information on how to get a case dropped or how to get a case dismissed, contact us to discuss your specific legal situation today.Read More
While some states would regard driving under the influence as a mere traffic violation, leaving the convicted with just a slap on the wrist, in Pennsylvania, you won’t be so lucky. With DUI penalties in PA considered a criminal offense, you’re looking at serious consequences for both first and second time convictions.
Choosing to drive under the influence not only puts you and others at risk on the road, but it puts you at risk of consequences you’ll suffer for years to come. However, sometimes these laws are overly prosecuted or unfairly charged, and you may not know what to expect in order to protect yourself. So here’s what you need to understand about the actual cost of a drink when it comes to a PA DUI.
General Information on DUI Charges in Pennsylvania
About 15 years ago, the legal limit of alcohol was lowered from .10 to .08 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. From this benchmark, there are three levels of a DUI.
- .08 to .099% BAC = General Impairment
- .10 to .159% BAC = High BAC
- .16% & up = Highest BAC
While these levels certainly impact the severity of a punishment, certain classifications may also play a role in your sentencing. Underage drivers, school vehicles and buses, commercial drivers, drivers who refuse a breathalyzer and drivers who cause injury or property damage to others could face harsher punishments under PA law.
Penalties for First Offense DUI in PA
General Impairment: Up to 6 months of probation and fines of approx. $300
High BAC: 48 hours to 6 months in jail and fines of $500- $5,000; license suspension for 12 months
Highest BAC: 72 hours to 6 months in jail and fines of $1,000- $5,000; license suspension for 12 months
If you’re experiencing a first-time DUI offense, you’re not typically looking at jail time, simply based on your BAC, but there are stipulations. If your BAC is higher than .099, jail time should now be a concern, while being under 21 years of age could mean up to 6 months of jail time, regardless of your BAC level.
Penalties for Second DUI in PA
While some may deem the punishments for a first-time offense as rather extreme, the ultimate goal is to prevent repeat offenders. If you’ve received a 2nd DUI in PA, you’re automatically facing jail time of 5 days to 5 years.
General Impairment: 5 days to 6 months in jail and fines of $300- $2,500; license suspension for 12 months
High BAC: 30 days to 6 months in jail and fines of $750- $5,000; license suspension for 12 months
Highest BAC: 90 days to 5 years in jail and fines of $1,500- $10,000; license suspension for 18 months
All BACs: Up to 150 hours of community service and ignition interlock device installed for 1 year; Enrollment in Alcohol Highway Safety School and an Alcohol and Drug treatment program
Whether you’ve been charged with a first or second offense DUI in Pennsylvania, there’s a lot at stake for your future, and it’s important to make sure you aren’t fighting the battle alone. As Philly’s DUI Lawyer, we’ll help you review all aspects of your case to protect your rights, ensure a fair hearing and help you move forward.
Contact us to set up a free consultation today.Read More
Questions: Do I have to take the Breathalyzer test in Pennsylvania?
Answer: You have the right to refuse, but doing so will leave you with a host of legal complications, including loss of driving privileges for one year.
At Brennan Law Offices in Philadelphia, we have over 25 years of experience defending people against charges of drunk driving.
A concept called “Implied consent” comes into play in DUI arrests in Pennsylvania. Implied consent means that if you are driving a vehicle on a Pennsylvania road, it is implied that you automatically consent to take the Breathalyzer test or blood alcohol test in the event you are arrested. If you refuse to take the test, you automatically lose your driver’s license for 12 months.
Refusing to take the Breathalyzer test is a legal issue played out in civil courts, as opposed to criminal courts. A knowledgeable defense lawyer can help you with the criminal defense aspects of a DUI arrest as well as the civil charges you will face for refusal. Our attorneys are equipped to help you fight back against criminal charges and make the strongest case possible for keeping your driver’s license.Read More
Pennsylvania authorities cited two men for drug charges on April 2 following a traffic stop in Perry Township. Local police said they seized various items, including marijuana, cash, drug paraphernalia and an as-yet unidentified white powdery substance. The alleged offenders were a 35-year-old man and a 21-year-old man.
The driver was accused of possession of marijuana, a minor misdemeanor, while the passenger was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia, also a minor misdemeanor. The paraphernalia in question was a glass pipe found in a shoe. Police were waiting on U.S. Route 62 for a tan van with three men inside and Pennsylvania license plates. A man in the area had reported that three men in such a van were purporting to sell home entertainment systems door to door that were actually empty boxes.
When police looked in the van, they saw that there was equipment in the boxes being sold, but also claimed to smell the odor of marijuana. After the driver and two passengers were asked to step outside the vehicle for a search, the drugs and paraphernalia were found. Authorities said that they found the items, including $700 in cash, in a backpack in a concealed compartment of the van. Only two of the three van occupants were charged.
People facing drug charges in Pennsylvania could be at risk of life-altering consequences, including costly fines, mandatory probation check-ins and even jail or prison time. Convictions can mean a loss of a license or even a job as well as a permanent criminal record.
However, a criminal defense lawyer can help an alleged offender. For example, legal counsel could challenge police actions such as improper or illegal searches.Read More
On April 17, a 29-year-old Pennsylvania man was taken into custody after police raided his Centre Township home and allegedly found drugs, firearms and an improvised explosive device, or IED. The raid took place at approximately 7:30 a.m.
According to a press release issued by authorities, officers from the Pennsylvania State Police and the Berks County Probation Office executed an arrest warrant at the defendant’s home on the 800 block of River Road in Mohrsville. They obtained the warrant because the probation office was informed the man was in possession of a gun. During the arrest, officers claim they saw drugs, two long guns and an IED sitting in plain view. The IED was reportedly 3 inches thick and around 10 inches long. Officers from the Hazardous Device and Explosive Section of the Pennsylvania State Police were called to the residence to dispose of the device.
The defendant is facing multiple charges, including drug possession with the intent to deliver, possession of prohibited offensive weapons and reckless endangerment. The investigation has not yet been completed.
Individuals facing drug charges can be subject to serious consequences. For example, defendants could be sentenced to lengthy prison terms and assessed steep fines if they are convicted. However, a defendant may be able to obtain a better outcome by working with a criminal defense attorney. An attorney may be able to investigate the case and build a defense against the allegations to get the charges dropped. Under certain circumstances, legal counsel might arrange for a defendant to complete a substance abuse program instead of going to prison.Read More
Breath tests are one way that the authorities determine if a driver or pedestrian is under the influence of alcohol. They are simple tests that require only a few deep breaths and for you to blow into the testing instrument.
A breath test isn’t always accurate, but, for the most part, they are and can be used in court. Given this, the results of such tests can play a significant part in DUI cases. Also, refusing to take a breath test could cost a person their driver’s license immediately.
So, there are some things it can be important to understand about breath tests.
4 facts about breath tests you need to know
- A breath test shows the total alcohol in your blood by testing the amount exhaled in your breath. That doesn’t mean that any test you have is going to be accurate. To start with, certain factors, like if you’ve had a drink recently or used mouthwash containing alcohol, could throw off the test. That’s why the officer should take two tests for verification. If the tests aren’t within .02 percent of one another, there could be a problem with the breathalyzer or how the test is being given.
- Another thing to keep in mind is that Breathalyzers have to be calibrated. One that hasn’t gone through calibration is likely not working appropriately and could give a poor reading. When your BAC is close to the legal limit, it is all the more important that the Breathalyzer is working accurately, since it could register too high otherwise and lead to a charge you don’t deserve.
- Breath tests aren’t the only evidence in DUI cases. Officers may collect other evidence, like roadside sobriety test results, to use against you in court as well.
- Breath tests aren’t always entered in court. As evidence, breath tests are risky at best. If they have a variance in readings, a person’s .07 percent BAC could come up as .08 or .09 percent, leading to charges the individual doesn’t deserve. Normally, a breath test is not the only evidence used, but it is used to help confirm an officer’s suspicions. It may in your best interests to try to get the results of the test thrown out when circumstance were present such being pulled over without cause or being given the test incorrectly.
With help, DUI charges can be fought. A breath test doesn’t guarantee a conviction for the authorities.Read More
A long struggle resulted when Pennsylvania State Police troopers encountered a man urinating on a running truck next to East Queen Street in Chambersburg. Court documents detailed the encounter that began when troopers questioned the 24-year-old that they described as stumbling with bloodshot eyes.
At first, the suspect walked away from the troopers before eventually stopping for them. He then put up a fight when they tried to handcuff him. A trooper used a stun gun on the suspect but it did not subdue him. According to their report, troopers spent several minutes wrestling him into submission.
Upon being taken into custody, the man told police that he had been driving the truck before he stopped to urinate on it. About 25 minutes after detaining him, the troopers took him to Chambersburg Hospital, where medical staff took a blood sample. The laboratory results showed that he had a blood alcohol concentration of .114 percent, which is over the legal limit for operating a vehicle. Authorities placed the man in Franklin County Jail and set his bail at $35,000.
An arrest that results in drunk driving charges could produce heavy fines, loss of a driver’s license and even jail time. A criminal defense attorney could guide an alleged offender through the criminal justice system and potentially provide defense. Legal counsel might be able to challenge the validity of evidence if mistakes occurred during the administration of a field sobriety test. Alternatively, an attorney might arrange for a plea deal that replaces jail time with an alcohol education program.Read More