Anyone who’s ever seen a crime show or courtroom drama is probably familiar with the phrase “You have the right to remain silent.” After an arrest occurs, it’s the first thing the fictional cop will tell the individual. But what you may not be familiar with is the other rights you have after an arrest. And surprisingly, real law enforcement officers aren’t always compliant with each one. That’s why it’s especially important that you do know all your rights after you’re arrested and have an experienced criminal defense attorney protecting them for you.
Miranda v. Arizona
In 1966’s Miranda v. Arizona, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals under arrest for suspicion of committing a crime have certain rights that must be explained to them before any questioning can occur. These “Miranda Rights” are designed to protect your Fifth Amendment Right to be free from self-incrimination and are as follows:
- You have the right to remain silent & refuse to answer questions
- Anything you say can be used against you in court
- You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police & have an attorney present during questioning
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you
- If you decide to answer questions without an attorney present, you still have the right to stop answering questions at any time
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
Silence cannot be used against you in court. In fact, the smartest thing you can do after an arrest is to not answer any questions until you have an attorney present. Nothing you say during this time is going to get you out of those handcuffs, but it can be used against you in court. The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from being compelled to give a testimony themselves and applies immediately after the arrest, as well as during court when prosecution calls a defendant to the stand.
But remaining silent still requires you to clearly and explicitly tell the arresting officer that you are utilizing the Fifth Amendment right and do not want to speak to the officer without your attorney present.
You Have the Right to a Lawyer
Thanks to the Sixth Amendment, any individual under criminal prosecution that may impede on their life or liberty is required to be granted the assistance of legal counsel through all phases of the criminal process – including interrogation, trial, sentencing, and initial appeal of any conviction.
Having an attorney present to defend your rights and protect you throughout the process is critical. They’re able to provide services for vital aspects that can dictate the outcome of the case. These include:
- Ensuring your rights are upheld and all law enforcement is in compliance during the initial investigation and court proceedings
- Advising and explaining proceedings
- Negotiating a plea deal
- Providing an aggressive defense through cross-examination of government witnesses, presenting all applicable defenses, and objecting to inappropriate questions or evidence.
If You Cannot Afford A Lawyer, One Will Be Appointed
If a defendant wishes to have a government-provided attorney, they must make the request at their arraignment (or first hearing after the arrest). According to the second half of the Sixth Amendment, any defendant that meets low-income criteria set forth by the state of Pennsylvania, or the state in which the proceedings are occurring, will receive a full-time public defender, or in certain cases, a private criminal defense lawyer.
Due to the number of defendants who require these services, many court-appointment lawyers are limited in their time and resources they can devote to each case. In many circumstances, you may have different lawyers at different aspects of the trial with varying levels of experience depending on the difficulty of that phase.
If You Agree to An Interview, You Are Free To Stop It At Anytime
Even if you’re initially willing to answer an officer’s questions during interrogation without an attorney present, you can still invoke your Miranda Rights at any time after. That means having the ability to refuse to answer any more questions without one. But you must know that any questions you have answered from the time the Miranda Rights were read until you request a lawyer, can be used as evidence against you in court.
If you or someone you know is arrested for a crime, call us before you do anything else. The best way to protect your rights and minimize anything that could be held against you in court is by having an experienced defense attorney helping advise and protect you throughout the process. Contact our criminal lawyers in Philadelphia today for a consultation.Read More
Most people facing criminal charges in Philadelphia for the first time have no idea what to do… and what not to do. A first offense can be scary, which is why having an experienced and knowledgeable attorney guiding you through the process is so important. But there are a few general guidelines to follow to give you and your lawyers the best chance to get you the outcome you deserve. Here are 6 do’s and don’ts for your criminal case from our team.
- Do Be Honest with Your Lawyer
First things first, hire an experienced lawyer to handle your case. Defending yourself is an extremely risky idea while hiring just any lawyer can be just as unpredictable. You want an experienced criminal defense lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the practice and has the time to represent you properly. While your lawyer does their best to represent you, the best thing you can do to help yourself is being honest with them. Some people are hesitant to be completely truthful and leave parts of the story out because they’re embarrassed or afraid. Conversations between you and your attorney are strictly confidential, so make sure your information is honest and all-inclusive. In order to protect your constitutional and statutory rights to the best of our ability, we need the truth and nothing but the truth.
- Don’t Speak to Law Officials without Your Lawyer Present
When you’re arrested, a law enforcement officer should read you your Miranda Rights, starting with the most well-known you have the right to remain silent. And you should. There’s nothing you can say to talk your way out of the arrest or help your situation. You will need to provide your basic information, but other than that, what you should say: “I would like to speak with my lawyer first.” You also shouldn’t consent to any searches. If a police officer asks, you have the right to say no, giving you the opportunity to contact a criminal defense attorney first.
- Do Be Polite & Respectful
From the moment you get pulled over or questioned to your court day, this practice is a good idea. Again, you won’t be able to fight or negotiate your way out of the situation, so remain calm and be polite. Once in court, it’s important you understand that judges and jurors have immense power, so treating them with the utmost respect will only help you in the end. Dress in your “Sunday Best,” unless otherwise told by your lawyer, always stand when you speak to the judge and address them as “Sir,” “ma’am” or “Your Honor.” Your goal is to best portray yourself as a law abiding citizen so it’s important to act as such.
- Don’t Share or Talk about Your Case with Others
It’s ok to at least talk to family and close friends, right? Wrong. The more people you talk to, the more people the police have to interview and creates a new opportunity to find differences between your word and evidence of the case. By keeping quiet, you’ll not only help yourself but spare your loved ones as well. And posting information related to your case on social media is a big no, no. Anything you share can be held against you in court, and you never know who is watching or keeping track of your accounts.
- Do Comply with Pre-Trial Service Requirements
If at any point before your trial, you are released from custody, it’s imperative you follow the conditions of your release. Whether this includes mandatory check-ins or attending court-mandated programs, make sure you show up on time, every time. By remaining on your best behavior and avoiding any additional violations related to your sentencing, you can not only keep yourself out of further trouble but build a good character defense for yourself in court.
- Don’t Approach Victims or Witnesses in Your Case
Even if this doesn’t violate a restraining order or condition of your case, you could still be jeopardizing the results of your case. These victims or witnesses are most likely cooperating with authorities, so any interactions you have with them could be viewed as obstruction of justice or witness tampering. Keep your distance to give your attorney the best chance to use these individuals to help your case, instead of hurt it.
If you’ve been charged or arrested for a crime, like a DUI, Drug Possession, or Sexual Assault, our lawyers are here to help. Let our experience guide you through the do’s and don’ts of the process and fight for the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us to schedule a meeting today.Read More
Probable cause is one of the most important concepts in deciding when it’s appropriate for the police to arrest, search, or stop an individual for questioning. This Fourth Amendment law rooted in the Bill of Rights has continued to evolve through state and federal decisions over the years, so if you or someone you know if being charged with a crime, it’s important to understand what it means today. So what exactly is probable cause and who does it protect?
Probable Cause in Criminal Law
Probable cause refers to the requirement that police must have an adequate reason, based on supporting facts and circumstances, to make an arrest, search for evidence, or stop someone for questioning. The concept is based on the right of a person to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. It also further specifies that a search warrant cannot be issued unless there is a probable cause for doing so.
The Supreme Court has defined “seizure” as both the seizure of evidence and of a person during an arrest. The officer must be able to provide sufficient facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a particular crime has been committed by the suspected individual in order for a legal search, seizure or arrest to occur.
Probable Cause to Search
Probable cause to search is based on the facts and circumstances provided leading a reasonable person to believe that the crime was committed at the location to be searched or the evidence exists within this location. In this case, a search warrant must specify the place to be searched, however, there are also cases in which a search warrant isn’t required. Some of which include:
● With the consent from the person in charge or ownership of the premises
● When conducting certain searches connected to a lawful arrest
● When the public safety or loss of the evidence is threatened
● If contraband is “in plain sight” when the officer has the right to be present
Probable Cause to Seize Property
A police officer has probable cause to seize a particular property when the facts and circumstances support the reasonable belief that the item is contraband, is stolen, or is considered evidence to a crime.
With a search warrant, the police may only search for items covered within the warrant. But if they discover any other evidence or contraband during their search, it may be seized as well. Conversely, If there is no warrant in play, and the search proves to be illegal, the evidence cannot be used against the defendant under the “exclusionary rule.” The judge will make the final decision on this based on arguments from both sides of the case.
Probable Cause to Arrest
If the facts and circumstances within the officer’s knowledge are enough for a reasonable person to believe the suspect has committed a crime, is committing a crime, or will commit a crime, then there is probable cause to arrest that individual.
However, short of arrests, there are “detentions,” which do not require probable cause. These temporary restraints, including car stops, pedestrian stops, and occupants while police obtain a search warrant, only require “reasonable suspicion.” While this term is often used interchangeably with probable cause, they are in fact very different.
What is Reasonable Suspicion?
Reasonable suspicion is the idea that a police officer must believe a crime has occurred or may occur using the facts and circumstances of the specific situation based on their professional skills and training. An example of this may include pulling over a car that swerves multiple lanes to see if the driver is under the influence.
If you or a family member were arrested or convicted of a crime, you have rights under The Fourth Amendment. If you are searching legal advice based on your detainment and whether or not your right to the probable cause was violated, contact our lawyers to discuss your case and get the protection you deserve.Read More
In many cases of a simple assault misdemeanor, a misunderstanding is to blame for the defendant’s conviction and now they have to live with a criminal record. If you’re wondering if it’s possible to have your criminal record expunged of your simple assault charge, the answer is, fortunately, yes. But like with any expungement, it depends on the specific factors of your case. The best first step is to consult an experienced assault lawyer in Philadelphia who knows what it takes to get your criminal charge expunged. Let us start by giving you a short overview on how to get a simple assault misdemeanor expunged from your record.
How Do I Qualify for Expungement?
In Pennsylvania, there are a few ways in which a person may qualify to have their criminal record expunged. Due to state law requirements, these possibilities aren’t necessarily beneficial to individuals who are seeking an expungement because of how it has affected their career or other areas of their life. For example, the first way to qualify for expungement is if you are at least 70 years old and have been free of any prosecutions or arrests for 10 years. However, this 10-year period only begins once the original probation or prison sentence has ended, which could add years to the process. Depending on your current stage of life and motivations for an expungement, such as applying for a new home or job, this exception may not benefit you.
Another way to have your record expunged is if you have not been arrested in the last five years. This option, however, only applies to summary offenses, or most non-violent crimes, which rules out simple assault crimes. Similarly, you can also have a crime expunged after the successful completion of an ARD program or Section 17 probation, which are both typically implemented for non-violent misdemeanors.
Finally, an expungement may be granted if the convicted has been deceased for three years. While this procedure is clearly not beneficial to the deceased, it could provide relief to the family of the decedent.
Pennsylvania’s New Expungement Law
The good news is that Pennsylvania recently passed a new expungement law in 2018 in order to expand the types of misdemeanors that qualify for expungement. While the Senate Bill 391 was primarily instated to expunge second and third-degree misdemeanors, there is an exception for a violent offense of the third degree.
If in the case of a third-degree misdemeanor, the defendant was involved in a mutual struggle or a fight with another willing participant, then the assault can be removed from his or her record. But the requirements for having a simple assault expunged are stricter than Pennsylvania’s standard expungement rules. For example, only after avoiding arrest or conviction for 10 years can you request that your record be sealed; which is different from expungement in that it is still accessible by law enforcement officials. The general public or an employer, however, will have a lot of difficulties viewing your criminal history, which offers the best case scenario in preventing the crime from affecting your everyday life.
In the case of second-degree misdemeanor simple assault, there are no exceptions to having your criminal record expunged unless you receive a pardon from Pennsylvania’s governor. This also applies to all sex-related assault offenses.
In order to better understand the options for an expungement and how to proceed with your simple assault charge, contact our experienced assault attorneys for a consultation. With years of experience helping individuals get their criminal records expunged, our team can help you move on with your life.Read More
Swirling the recent news circuit is accusations from prosecutors that a North Philadelphia tow truck operator, Hooked Inc., and its owners have been using the vulnerability of drivers in serious car accidents as an opportunity to charge outrageous fees.
While District Attorney, Larry Krasner, claims the towing company is better named “Hooked on Greed” after an 18-month investigation, owners of Hooked Inc., Joseph Moreno, 40, and Dwight Williams, 29, deny the accusations, asserting that “nobody was taken advantage of.”
In an attempt to protect their business and defend their reputations throughout the community, the owners needed an aggressive criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia who would fight for their innocence. They contacted William Brennan, who is now defending Dwight Williams against charges of corrupt organization, deceptive or fraudulent business practices, insurance fraud, theft by deception, and conspiracy.
William Brennan, vowed to fight “each and every” allegation against Hooked Inc., saying the company has provided service “at a fair and reasonable cost.”
Even further in support of the company’s business practices, company lawyer, Aato Sanita states that the towing was always done with consent. “Hooked Inc. was acting in a legal fashion and a contractual fashion and in a matter that is consistent with standards in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Sanita commented.
While one incident in Roxborough states that an operator for the towing company allegedly approached a woman in an ambulance being treated after a car crash, and told her and her husband that they had to sign a slip to remove their damaged vehicle. After being assured that insurance would take care of the bill, the husband agreed to sign, as to which Hooked Inc. then allegedly billed All-State Insurance $1,221.25 for one-day storage.
On the contrary, many customers have raved on Yelp about their experiences with Hooked Inc., crediting them with being “very nice and polite,” providing a “wonderful experience,” and offering “the best service.” One of the company’s drivers also came to their defense, saying “everything we do here is completely legit.”
For the best chance at disproving the serious allegations they face, Hooked Inc. is trusting a defense attorney who is known for aggressively fighting for the rights of his clients and protecting their reputations until proven guilty. Brennan will join Williams and Moreno at their scheduled status hearing on April 29th in their defense.
To read more about the charges against Hooked Inc. and other recent cases in which Bill Brennan is fighting for the rights of his clients, check out our “In the News” section. Or if you’re facing charges of your own, contact us to speak to one of our attorneys today.Read More
When you’re arrested after committing a criminal offense, your best case scenario is having your charges dropped or dismissed. It’s the closest you can get to making the whole situation “go away.” In order to move on with your life, you’ll want an experienced criminal defense attorney helping you understand the possibility of dropped or dismissed charges in your specific case. So why would criminal charges be dropped or dismissed in Philadelphia?
Charges Dropped vs. Dismissed
First, let’s clarify the differences between the two. When charges are dropped, it can only be done by a prosecutor or arresting officer. This decision could be based on a number of circumstances such as the victim is no longer willing to cooperate, there is insufficient evidence, or new evidence is found contradicting the original arrest. In most cases where a charge is dismissed, there is an insufficient evidence to proceed with the trial. Unlike dropped charges, it can only be done after the case has already been filed.
Reasons Why Criminal Charges are Dropped:
When a prosecutor or arresting officer decides to drop criminal charges, it may be for one of the following reasons:
Constitutional Rights were Violated
This typically involves a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits law enforcement from conducting a search without paper justification. If a search occurs without probable cause or a warrant, the evidence is considered to be illegally seized and cannot be used in the case. If this evidence happens to be a essential to the case, it could be a reason to drop the charges.
Procedure Violations were Committed
From the time of the arrest to the prosecution, there are strict procedures that must be followed by law enforcement and prosecutors. For example, under the Sixth Amendment, if a suspect asks for an attorney but continues to be interrogated by the prosecution, then a procedural violation has occurred which could be grounds for dropping the charges.
Evidence is Destroyed or Lost
In some cases, evidence is destroyed or lost before the case goes to trial. It is common in these situations that important documents or files have been misplaced, which make it difficult for the prosecutors to prove their case.
There are Insufficient Resources
Criminal cases are an extremely common occurrence in big cities. A lot of prosecutors in Philadelphia will deal with multiple cases every single day. For this reason, many of them will choose to drop specific charges for trivial or summary offenses, such as traffic violations or disorderly conduct. But keep in mind, that also means if you’re facing charges for a much more serious offense, your case will be a prosecutor’s priority.
Victim is Uncooperative
Contrary to popular belief, a victim doesn’t actually have the authority to drop charges. But while the decision is one the prosecutor must make, it could also be based on the victim’s unwillingness to cooperate. If this is the case, it becomes more difficult for the prosecution to prove their case effectively, so they may consider dropping the charges as a result.
If you or someone you know has been arrested in Philadelphia, you’ll want an experienced defense attorney who will review the details of your case and know how to leverage this information to have your criminal charges dropped. Contact our lawyers to discuss your case today.Read More
If you’ve been convicted of a federal crime, the scariest thing is awaiting the sentence you’ll have to serve. The differences between state and federal crimes depend on a variety of factors like what offenses were involved and where the prosecution occurs, all of which will determine the length of the resulting sentence. In most cases, federal offenses will receive much harsher penalties than PA state crimes, from decades of jail time to tens of thousands of dollars in fines. So if you or someone you know needs to know if and how you can reduce your federal sentence, our team of experienced defense lawyers are here to help.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines
When you’re being sentenced in court, the judge will determine the necessary sentencing range for your crime based on the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Assuming there is no mandatory minimum, which in most cases means the judge is required sentence you to that term of imprisonment, a criminal defense lawyer can argue a number of provisions (over 100 exist, but not all will apply to your specific case) on your behalf to reduce your federal sentence. Most of these arguments will need to be made during the sentencing, so don’t wait until it’s too late to have an experienced attorney fighting for you.
How to Get a Federal Sentence Reduced?
Offenders who can offer aid to the federal government in the prosecution of criminals may be presented the opportunity to reduce their sentence; this is known as Rule 35 Reduction. There are two common ways to reduce a federal sentence based on this rule: a method known as “substantial assistance motion,” which is filed before the offender is sentenced and presented during the sentencing trial and a method from the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure, which requires re-sentencing after the initial sentence is made.
Substantial assistance motion makes the request that the court “departs downward,” or consider granting a shorter sentence, based on a number of determining factors, including the value of the defendant’s assistance to the government based on government’s assessment, the truth and dependability of the information received from the defendant, and whether the defendant’s information is immediately helpful. If the court believes the defendant has provided a sufficient amount of help, a motion can then be filed to reduce their sentence. Rule 35 is one case in which a judge has the authority to disregard a mandatory minimum for the sentence.
If substantial assistance doesn’t apply to your case, there are other ways to reduce a federal sentence, some of which include:
- Criminal History: If you have older prior convictions or prior convictions that are not as serious as your criminal history suggests, allowing you to have a sentence based on a lower criminal history level than you actually fall.
- Fast Track: Based on the notion that if you plead guilty in an expedient manner, you’re alleviating the government of having to litigate the case, saving them time and resources.
- Coercion or Duress: Committing a crime under serious coercion or duress could qualify as a legitimate defense during trial, but you must be able to prove that you had reasonable fear of immediate or serious harm or death if the offense was not committed.
- General Mitigation: If any mitigating circumstances were not properly taken into consideration that could potentially offer reason that the crime was not as serious as the guideline range reflects or is appropriate to the history of the defendant.
There are also several programs that can help reduce a federal sentence after the defendant has is sentenced. If you’ve been convicted of a federal crime, it’s important to have an experienced defense attorney who knows all the possible provisions and will fight for you to provide the best chance at reducing your sentence. Contact us to schedule a free consultation today.Read More
In many states, the terms “rape” and “sexual assault” are used interchangeably, but in Pennsylvania, there are important differences between the two. The one thing both crimes do have in common, however, is that they can lead to several years behind bars. That’s why it’s important to know how both offenses are classified, so you can handle your case in the most effective way possible. Our experienced attorneys are here to help you fight your sexual offense charges. To start, we’ll help you understand the difference between rape and sexual assault in Pennsylvania.
Sexual Assault vs. Rape
Sex crimes include any acts involving unlawful sex, sexual stimulation, sexual assault or having a sexual motive, while ranging from felony offenses to misdemeanor offenses. In Pennsylvania, sexual assault encompasses more than rape, while rape is the more serious crime. As a result, there are a number of different situations and additional nuances in which a person could be arrested for rape.
Sexual Assault in Pennsylvania
To be arrested for a sexual assault, an offender has had sexual intercourse or “deviate sexual intercourse” with a victim who has not given explicit consent. Deviate sexual intercourse, or involuntary deviate sexual intercourse (IDSI), is where an offender offers unwanted touching of a body part; for example, penetrating the genitals or anus of a person with an object or performing oral penetration without the person’s consent.
Statutory sexual assault is one of the various types of sexual assault crimes. In this case, the offender has sex with someone who is 16 years old or younger, and at the time the sexual assault or abuse occurred, the offender is at least four years older than the victim. If the offender is as much as 11+ years older than the victim, their statutory sexual assault charge could be upgraded to a first degree felony, where they’ll face up to 20 years in prison. These offenses do not apply for married couples, regardless of age.
Rape in Pennsylvania
Rape refers to forced and non-consensual sexual penetration of a body part by another body part or object. The offender will use physical restraint, violence, or threats of violence against the victim to exert power and control. For example, if a victim feels endangered by the unwelcome sexual acts and unable to prevent them from happening through force of their own, the offender can be charged with rape, regardless of whether or not the victim consented to other physical contact. There are three other situations in which a rape arrest could be made:
- The suspect has sexual intercourse with a person is unconscious or unaware the sexual activity is occurring (ie. the victim is intoxicated)
- The suspect used drugs or other intoxicants to make the victim less likely to resist sexual harassment or unwanted penetration
- The victim is mentally incapacitated and unable to consent to the sexual activity suspect
As a first-degree felony, rape offenders face up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 in criminal fines, while most sexual assault charges result in up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines as a second-degree felony. In addition to these penalties, those convicted can expect a tarnished reputation for a lifetime. When it comes to sex crimes, it’s crucial to find an experienced lawyer who understands your case and the complex criminal proceedings to fight for you. Contact our criminal law attorneys today for a free consultation.Read More
Most people know that Pennsylvania’s Sex Offender Registry is available to the public online. Thanks to Megan’s Law, law enforcement authorities are required to identify sex offenders to the general public, tracking their whereabouts to protect individuals from victimization within their community. But with this information accessible to anyone at any time, are sex offenders required to notify their neighbors and employers of their criminal history directly? We’ll explain the disclosure requirements for your community and employment.
What Community Disclosure is Required for Sex Offenders?
Megan’s Law refers to a collection of laws that mandate the notification of sex offenders in a particular community to the people that live there. This registry was designed to help provide the public and area law enforcement with the information they need to develop constructive plans, safety programs and more to protect their local residents.
In Pennsylvania, the state categorizes registrants in two ways: sexual offenders or sexually violent predators. Sexually violent predators are offenders who “have a [court-determined] abnormality or personality disorder that makes that person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses.” Unlike other sexual offenders who may be released from registration requirements after a minimum of 15 years, offenders designated as sexually violent must register for life.
These offenders are also subject to “active community notification.” While this requires no action from the offender himself, local law enforcement authorities are obligated to post notification flyers within the community in which the offender lives.
What are Sex Offenders Required to Disclose to Employers?
Here’s the short answer: If you are still on probation, parole or in treatment, your probation/parole officer or treatment provider may require you to inform your employer. If you are not under any type of supervision, there is no legal obligation requiring you to disclose this information.
However, in many cities across Pennsylvania, employers are generally permitted to ask about criminal convictions on their job applications. While offenders must answer truthfully, several other state and federal laws are in place to protect against hiring discrimination. One of these laws is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, requiring employers to consider how the offense relates to the functions of the actual job, as well as the severity of the offense and how long ago it occurred. If the conviction does not impact the applicant’s ability to adequately and safely perform the tasks of the job, they cannot reject that applicant solely on the basis of their criminal record.
If you’re living or working in Philadelphia, the rules are a little different. As a result of the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance, employers are prohibited from asking about criminal records on job applications all together. This statute, also known as the “Ban the Box” Ordinance, applies to all employers with at least 10 employees, except for criminal justice agencies (ie. police departments).
If you or someone you know was convicted of a sex crime in Pennsylvania, you’ll want an experienced criminal defense attorney guiding you through the process. Contact us for a legal consultation to discuss what is required of you legally and the recommended next steps to help you move on.Read More
It’s not unusual two young adults or teens to become sexually active, but an adult molesting a child is reprehensible. A distinction between the two situations seems obvious, but in many states across the US, there’s a fine line legally between a mutual decision and abusive actions. In many cases, Romeo and Juliet Laws reduce or eliminate the penalty of statutory offenses. If you or someone you know have been accused of statutory sexual assault or rape, here’s a better understanding of Romeo and Juliet laws in Pennsylvania.
What are Romeo and Juliet Laws?
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the epic love between two young protagonists has a tragic ending. But in our justice system, Romeo and Juliet laws were created as an exception to a serious criminal offense to help prevent a dreadful outcome for young star crossed lovers in real life.
By definition, Romeo and Juliet laws are provisions to statutory laws that pertain to individuals under the age of consent who engage in sexual intercourse when there is a minor age difference. Each state law has a specific age difference permitted, as well as its own determination of which criminal charges apply to each situation.
In order to understand these provisions, it’s important to understand the ground rules of statutory law. In Pennsylvania, the age of consent, or legal age in which an individual can agree to sexual intercourse, is 16 years old. Anyone under that age is considered a minor, while anyone 18 years of age or older is considered an adult is considered.
Statutory laws were created on the premise that minors are incapable of giving informed consent to sexual activities. Reversely, Romeo and Juliet laws were designed to protect the relationships of minors and adults who are less than four years apart. For example, a high school senior and a high school sophomore who are intimately involved bridge the age of consent but are safeguarded within a 3-year age gap. However, if the minor is under the age of 13, the older individual will be charged with statutory rape regardless of their age. So even a 14 year old who has a sexual relationship with 12 year old is in violation of this law.
What are the Penalties for Statutory Sexual Assault and Rape?
Penalties for Statutory Sexual Assault and Rape will vary based on the specific circumstances, but below is a general guideline of what to expect.
Statutory Rape- Sexual intercourse with a minor under 13 years old is considered a first degree felony and could involve up to a $25,000 fine, 40 years in prison, or both.
Statutory Sexual Assault- Sexual intercourse between an adult and a minor, ages 13-15, when:
- The defendant is between 4 and 10 years older than the victim (second degree felony)
- The defendant is at least 11 years older than the victim (first degree felony)
A first degree conviction can result in up to a $25,000 fine, 20 years of prison, or both.
When it comes to statutory offenses, there’s little distinction between an innocent relationship and a reprehensible crime. If you’re involved in a statutory sexual assault or rape conviction, it’s important you have an experienced sex offense attorney with a full understanding of Romeo and Juliet laws fighting for you. Contact our team of Philadelphia lawyers to schedule a consultation today.Read More