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Philadelphia Criminal Defense Blog

Broadcom co-founder Henry Nicholas busted for drug trafficking

Pennsylvania readers may be interested to learn that Broadcom co-founder Henry T. Nicholas III was arrested at a Las Vegas hotel on suspicion of drug trafficking on Aug. 7. The billionaire was taken into custody along with a female companion.

According to media reports, Nicholas was staying at a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip when hotel security notified police of suspected drug activity taking place in his suite. When officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department arrived at the scene, they allegedly found large amounts of cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and methamphetamine in the room. Both Nicholas and a woman who was with him were arrested and charged with drug trafficking. They were both released on their own recognizance and ordered to appear at a court hearing in September.

Rethinking drug policies may help reduce crime

Changing how drug crimes are handled by authorities in Pennsylvania and throughout the country could reduce racial disparities in the justice system. A research team led by a professor from the University of California in San Francisco came to this conclusion by researching the impact of Proposition 47. The team found that one month after it passed, the disparity between black and white individuals taken into custody for a felony monthly dropped from 81 to 44 per 100,000.

That team is now looking to see whether reclassifying drug crimes leads to changes in how people are charged or in how authorities treat cases after a person is taken into custody. Another study from the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco found that the recidivism rate dropped after Proposition 47 passed. However, a representative of University of California, San Diego acknowledged that legislation such as Proposition 47 doesn't end racial bias in society.

Talking to college students about underage DUI

Many young adults experiment with drinking before they reach age 21.  This can present two serious problems when your child drives.  A single drink can affect a driver’s reaction times and judgment.  Secondly, the legal limit is lower for minors than it is for adults.

In Pennsylvania, the legal limit for a driver under the age of 21 is 0.02 percent blood alcohol content. Depending on your child’s weight, that could be a single mixed drink, can of beer or glass of wine.  The legal limit for adults is 0.08 percent—four times higher. For drug DUI, there is no legal limit.

Changes to stop wrong eyewitness identifications

Even though there has long been research showing how unreliable eyewitness identifications can be, law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation have resisted instituting changes in the process. However, the wave of exonerations over the past 30 years has been spurred by DNA testing and provided undeniable evidence that the wrong individual had been found guilty.

Law enforcement in half of the states in the nation are adopting new eyewitness identification policies. The new policies that are being implemented take into account the research demonstrating that conventional police cues and practices often prompt witnesses to pinpoint an innocent person. According to an official at the Innocence Project, the objective of eyewitness identification is to identify the right person, not just someone.

Associates becoming criminal defendants in fatal overdoses

In Pennsylvania and elsewhere, acquaintances and friends of drug users who fatally overdose are increasingly facing legal consequences. The number of people facing certain charges, such as third-degree murder from an accidental overdose, rose to 205 in 2017 from just 15 in 2013.

One woman, for example, is facing third-degree murder charges and other offenses after reportedly getting some heroin for her neighbor. Unbeknownst to either the woman or the neighbor, the heroin had been laced with Fentanyl, a deadly synthetic drug. This caused the neighbor to overdose and die. The woman reportedly turned herself. The maximum punishment that she could face if she is convicted ranges from 20 to 40 years in prison.

Can you share or sell prescription drugs?

In your second year of college, you have your wisdom teeth removed. The doctor prescribes you some serious painkillers to take at home while you recover. Thankfully, you are young and healthy. You recover ahead of schedule, and the pain subsides long before you use up all of the medication.

You know you could take it until it is gone anyway, but you have read about people getting addicted to painkillers. You don't want to take any chances, so you just set the pill bottle aside in the back of your medicine cabinet and forget about it.

Drunk driving charges in Pennsylvania

In many places across the country, including Pennsylvania, legislation related to drunk driving has become stricter over the years. In 2003, Act 24 lowered the legal blood-alcohol content level from .10 to .08 and created a series of penalties that depend on the BAC level of the accused driver and their prior history with DUI charges. People in certain categories, including minors, truck drivers, school bus drivers or those involved in injury crashes, can be targeted for stricter enforcement.

The first and most basic level of drunk driving charges in Pennsylvania is general impairment. This is applied to those with .08 to .099 BAC levels. If the offender has not had a prior DUI offense, the charge is considered an ungraded misdemeanor. Nevertheless, the penalties can be significant -- a $300 fine and up to six months probation. The penalties, as well as the grade of misdemeanor, rise for subsequent offenses, which may be accompanied by one-year license suspensions, jail time, ignition interlock installation and significantly more costly fines. For a third or later offense, an offender could face up to two years in prison.

Radio personality avoids prison time at sentencing hearing

Pennsylvania fans of radio personality Artie Lange may be interested in knowing more about the comedian's unfolding drug case. Media sources report that Lange avoided jail time during a sentencing hearing in New Jersey on June 1. He had previously been charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and a controlled dangerous substance in May 2017.

A law enforcement official initially pulled Lange's Range Rover over on the Garden State Parkway for erratic driving. Reports indicate that the official observed a bag of heroin on Lange's lap during the subsequent investigation.

A criminal study finds errors in some convictions

One of the first studies to determine the rate of wrongful, non-murder convictions was recently conducted in Pennsylvania. The study found a slightly higher rate of mistaken convictions than in murder or capital crime cases.

The lead researcher, a criminologist from a Pennsylvania university, created the study to focus on crimes other than homicide and rape, which he believed to be covered in other research. Under his team's methodology, he determined that that conviction rate of innocent defendants was approximately 6 percent as opposed to 3 to 5 percent for the murder or rape cases previously studied.

Intoxicated man struggles with police after urinating on truck

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.

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