A gun charge is a serious crime in Pennsylvania. It will raise the stakes in any criminal case, and even a first-time offense can lead to significant jail time. There are a number of defenses the Bill Brennan team has successfully used in cases involving weapons and firearms, but it is important to understand your rights to help you avoid a criminal record and the serious consequences that follow a gun charge. Here are a few of the most common questions related to firearms and gun charges in PA.
Do I need a license to carry a firearm in PA?
Under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, every citizen is guaranteed the right “to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State.” And while the state does not require people to register their firearms, anyone who wants to carry a firearm must have a valid Pennsylvania license to do so. The only exceptions are:
- The firearm does not leave your home
- The firearm does not leave your fixed place of business
How do I obtain a license to carry in PA?
In order to obtain a license, you will have to go through an application process with your county sheriff’s office, involving the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS), which is managed by the Pennsylvania State Police and provides gun suppliers with relevant background checks of those who wish to purchase to determine if you are eligible.
Are there certain people who cannot carry a gun?
There are some cases where you will not be permitted to carry a gun – open or concealed – in the state of PA. These situations include an individual who:
- Has a reputation to likely act in a manner dangerous to public safety
- Has been adjudicated delinquent during a ten year period prior to carrying
- Is a convicted felon; primarily violent felonies such as murder, rape, robbery, etc.
- Has been convicted of certain domestic violence crimes
- Has been dishonorably discharged from any branch of the U.S. armed forces
- Is a fugitive from justice
- Has been convicted of certain drug or controlled substance crimes, or are addicted to, or have been convicted of unlawfully using illegal drugs
- Has been judged as mentally incompetent or has ever been involuntarily committed to a mental institution
- Has been convicted of a DUI/DWI on three or more separate occasions within a five year period of the time they are caught carrying
- Is not a U.S. citizen and is in the U.S. illegally
If you are also prohibited from carrying a weapon or firearm, it is a second-degree felony, which could result in up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
What are the consequences for carrying a firearm without a license?
It is a third-degree felony to carry a firearm without a valid license or specific permit – with the exceptions mentioned above. If you are caught, you could face up to 7 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. If you have a clean record and would have been eligible for a license, it is still punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
What is the Concealment of a weapon, and what are the consequences?
Pennsylvania is considered a relatively pro-gun state with limited restrictions on ownership and possession; however, any individual carrying a firearm concealed or in their vehicle can be charged with a serious offense – whether you have a license or not.
Pennsylvania law defines concealment of a firearm or weapon as “any person who carries a firearm in any vehicle, or any person who carries a firearm concealed on or about his person; except in his place of abode (residence) or fixed place of business, without a valid and lawfully issued license, commits a felony of the third degree.” A third-degree felony can carry a prison sentence of up to 7 years and/or fines of up to $15,000.
What are other charges related to gun and firearm possession?
Any individual in possession of a weapon with an altered, removed, or obliterated manufacturer’s serial number is a serious federal offense and punishable of up to 10 years of jail time, in addition to large fines.
The theft or sale of a stolen gun is also a serious crime in PA and is punishable as a felony of the second degree.
If there is proven intent to use the firearm during criminal activity, it is a first-degree misdemeanor, in which you could face up to 5 years in prison and 10,000 fine. Even if the gun is not loaded or you never actually used the weapon, these penalties still apply.
Minors, or anyone under the age of 18, is prohibited from possessing a gun, but there are a few exceptions to this law in Pennsylvania.
How can I protect my rights in a gun charge conviction?
There are exceptions to who can conceal and carry a gun in Pennsylvania, and a number of defenses that could help preserve your rights. Our gun charge attorneys have handled many of these violations by reviewing the evidence against the defendant and challenging the prosecution under reasonable suspicion, probable cause, and more. Don’t risk a criminal record by choosing anyone but the best gun charge attorneys in Philadelphia to represent you. Contact us to discuss your case.Read More
As one of the most disruptive events someone can experience, domestic violence often causes overwhelming feelings of uncertainty and fear. As the term “domestic” implies, your home, your relationships, and those closest to you are all affected, and without taking the proper steps after an arrest, the consequences can drastically change your life forever. If you or someone you know has been arrested for domestic violence, here is what you need to know about what happens next.
Although not a separate violation from other crimes of violence under Pennsylvania law, domestic abuse does make these charges more complicated. The person who makes the call to the police is automatically in a stronger position, since the police do not need to witness an act of violence in order to make an arrest. They will simply need to see the injury or other evidence of the victim’s claim.
And once the charges are filed, the alleged victim can not make the decision to have them dropped. If you are arrested for domestic violence, you will not be released until you go before a judge, as they will determine whether or not you present a danger to the alleged victims or others.
It’s also extremely important to remember that everything you say during an arrest can be held against you in court, so it is crucial that during this emotional time, you invoke your right to remain silent until you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side.
What Happens Next?
In all domestic violence cases, you will be required to attend a First Appearance, or Advisory Hearing, shortly after your arrest. To avoid making mistakes or implicating yourself of harsher penalties, you will want an attorney present with you during this hearing so do not delay in calling our offices after our arrest.
Before the hearing the prosecutor will conduct an investigation of your criminal history and other charges in your past to present before the judge. Reversely, your defense attorneys will review how the arrest took place and the injury or evidence in which the arrest occurred to then argue that the police lacked probable cause and ask the court to release your or that the judge set a bond.
The next step is an arraignment in where you will be required to enter an informal ‘not guilty’ plea. In many cases, your attorney will be present to do this on your behalf. A pre-trial conference will then occur, discussing the details of the claims to establish pre-trial offers by the government to resolve the case.
Our experienced domestic violence attorneys are often able to resolve the case before going to trial, but in some cases, you will have the right to elect to be tried by a judge and jury. Based on the outcome of this trial, there are options to pursue post-trial appeals through the Superior supreme courts in PA. At Bill Brennan law offices, our team will not stop fighting to protect your rights until you receive the outcome you deserve.
Protection From Abuse Order
An alleged victim may also apply for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order in which there are various degrees of restrictions placed on the accused, such as entering the home of the victim or going places where the victim may be – similar to a restraining order. If there is a threat of immediate danger felt by the victim, they could pursue a temporary PFA, which would be granted at a hearing without the defendant present until another hearing with the defendant will occur.
The other option is a PFA with a hearing within 10 days of the filing of a petition in which the accused is welcome to attend and present a defense. If unsuccessful, the judge may grant a final protection from abuse order that could last up to three years.
Why Should You Fight a Domestic Violence Charge?
1. Your Freedom – you may be facing possible jail time if convicted of a felony charge
2. Your Relationships – you may lose the ability to have a relationship with your children, including loss of custody or limited visitation rights
3. Job & Housing Opportunities – many employers and landlords will conduct background checks and deny you the ability to work or live where you want
4. Employment Security – you could lose your existing job if you are in a field that involves the caretaking of others or the possession of firearms
5. Your Second Amendment Rights – likewise, your right to legally purchase firearms or ammunition in PA could be invalidated for life
6. Costs – fines and penalties can be very expensive and if the victim gets a PFA, you may also be responsible for losses they claim occurred from the abuse
If you or a loved one has been arrested for domestic violence, do not jeopardize your freedom, relationships or reputation by waiting to get the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia. Our legal team will help you build a strong defense to fight for your rights. Contact us today.Read More
Domestic violence in Pennsylvania is unique in that there are no separate charges for these crimes. Instead, based on the acts committed, they are charged as other offenses under state law. So just like with any abuse or sexual assault crime, the penalties can be very severe. This is why knowing what qualifies as domestic violence in Pennsylvania is so important in getting the legal help you need to defend and protect your freedom.
What is Considered a Domestic Relationship in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania law, domestic violence applies to cases where those involved are “family or household members,” people who have parented a child together, or current/former intimate dating partners. The terms family or household members more specifically constitutes spouses – whether current or divorced/separated – parents and children, brothers and sisters, and others related by blood or “affinity.”
Charges Associated with Domestic Violence
In Pennsylvania, domestic violence is typically associated with the following acts:
- Assault – knowingly, intentionally, or negligently causing bodily harm or attempting to cause bodily harm
- Child Abuse – physical or sexual assault of a child, molestation
- Endangering a Child’s Welfare – violating the duty of protection, care, and support that parents legally owe their children
- Weapon Charges – threat or use of weapons, unlawful possession or use
- False Imprisonment/Kidnapping – interfering with someone’s liberty through physical restraint or threats
- Stalking – engaging in a course of conduct or repeated acts in a way that places another person in reasonable fear of danger
Consequences of Domestic Violence Charges
The consequences associated with domestic violence are very serious. Offenders often face mandatory incarceration, significant fines, probation, or are required to take counseling or anger management courses. While these charges are significant and troublesome enough, the side effects can be even more disruptive. Domestic violence convictions become part of public record, which can lead to long-term consequences in many aspects of your life.
According to HR.com, 96% of employers conduct at least one type of background check on a new hire. If you have a criminal history involving violence, you may be at a significant disadvantage to a candidate who doesn’t. And in some fields, you will be completely ineligible for employment – like healthcare and education.
Landlords want to know that their tenants are trustworthy, respectful, and won’t be a problem. For this reason, many will request a criminal background check prior to renting and may be hesitant to choose someone posing a risk of violence occurring in their property.
- Professional Licensing
For regulated professions in fields such as law, medicine, or education, a background check and explanation of any legal activity in your past will be required. In most cases, domestic violence will make it much more difficult to obtain a professional license.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
If you are facing accusations of domestic violence, a criminal defense attorney with experience in all kinds of domestic abuse cases can help prevent your allegations from becoming a conviction. Most cases involve complicated, personal dynamics between family and household members, which present an opportunity for you to present the best possible argument.
A criminal defense attorney will be by your side during any questioning that law enforcement my conduct to prevent anything you say from being used against you in court. They can also help determine if and when self-defense applies in your situation, which is often a very convoluted question. Your lawyer will also have the skills to negotiate a plea bargain with the most favorable terms while representing you throughout a possibly complicated trial proceeding.
To discuss your specific situation or learn more about domestic violence charges, our criminal defense attorneys have unrivaled experience in domestic violence charges to help you obtain the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us for a free consultation and get the strong defense you deserve.Read More
Going to court can be intimidating. And the idea of facing judges, juries, and prosecutors may tempt you to just not show up altogether. But if you’ve been summoned to court and fail to appear, the case won’t resolve itself and it certainly won’t be forgotten. In fact, it will only make things worse. That’s why we’re here to answer all the questions you have regarding the consequences of not showing up to court.
What Happens If I Don’t Show Up?
When you receive a summons or notice to appear in court as a criminal defendant, it is a court order. Violating a court order is a crime itself under federal law, so failing to appear could result in additional charges.
According to 231 Pa. Code Rule 1910.13-1, “If a party fails to appear at a conference and/or hearing as directed by order of the court, the court may issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the party.”
What is a Bench Warrant?
A bench warrant is a warrant for your arrest, named aptly due to the fact that it is issued by the judge from “the bench.” It permits that law enforcement can take you into custody at any time. For example, if you fail to follow a simple traffic law like running a stop sign, the officer that pulls you over is entitled to arrest you on the spot. In a more serious case, the judge may request that police go to your home or place of work to hold you in custody until your hearing.
There are two different types of bench warrants that can be issued in Pennsylvania: Normal and Judge-Only.
Normal Bench Warrant: Warrant issued by the judge that is serving bench warrants on that particular day.
Judge-Only Bench Warrant: Warrant that can only be handled by the judge that issued it.
Bench warrants can also be issued for violating your probation or missing a probation interview, so if you’re unsure of whether or not your failure to appear in court resulted in a bench warrant, it’s crucial you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your options before your situation gets worse.
What Do I Do if I Have a Bench Warrant?
From a judge’s perspective, a failure to avoid your court hearing doesn’t reflect well on your character or intentions. First, you should contact a criminal lawyer in Philadelphia to help advise you of the best course of action. If you missed your court date for a justifiable reason, such as a medical emergency, you’ll want to gather any documentation you can find to prove you received medical care at the time of your hearing.
In any other case, you’ll likely have to turn yourself into law enforcement. Once you do, the court will arrange a date for your bench warrant hearing. There is a chance you could be held in custody for up to 72 hours while waiting for a hearing, or even longer depending on timing with weekends or federal holidays.
At the hearing, the judge will lift the warrant, but it’s likely you’ll have other penalties issued as well. This may include being held in contempt or facing jail time of up to six months. Other repercussions may include:
- Forfeiting your bond
- Charges for any future crimes you commit will likely worsen
- Without an experienced attorney, anything you say at your bench warrant arrest could exacerbate your original charges
- Jail time, fines and suspension of your driver’s license may also occur
If you’ve been convicted for not appearing in court, our attorneys are skilled and ready to help you explore all the viable options to receive the best possible outcome. Don’t wait another day to schedule your free consultation. Contact our experienced criminal defense lawyers so we can fight for you.Read More
If you’re a suspect in an investigation, there’s a good chance you’ll be contacted by a detective to discuss the allegations against you. Most likely, a lot of questions will start running through the head. Do I have to talk to them? What will they ask me? If I have nothing to hide, I should go in to clear the air, right? It’s not that simple. Willingly talking to a detective gives them the opportunity to use anything you say – and maybe didn’t mean to say – against you. Before you’re questioned by the police, it’s important to be prepared. So, here’s what you need to know.
Know the Situation You’re In
There are actually 3 types of police questioning. Each provide the accused with different rights and obligations from the officers.
- Voluntary Encounters – consensual questioning that can end at any time and don’t permit a search by an officer
- Investigative Detentions – brief 20-minute questionings in which the accused cannot leave immediately and can be frisked by an officer
- Arrests – when arrested, the accused’s rights are very limited; they may be frisked, forced to show ID, or even taken to jail under certain circumstances.
Both investigative detentions and arrests require a certain amount of evidence from the officer, beyond “reasonable suspicion.” In order to arrest or search your you, they must have “probable cause,” but knowing the amount of evidence the officer has against you isn’t always obvious, so it’s important to ask why you are being questioned before anything else.
Remember the Numbers 4, 5 & 6
Law school prepares a defense lawyer to defend against actions. Defending against certain comments that were made during a “friendly chat” with a detective is a lot harder. That’s why when you’re contacted by an officer, it’s crucial to remember you Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights; you’re protected from unreasonable search and seizure, you don’t have to be subject to criminal prosecution and punishment without due process with the right to remain silent, and you have the right to a speedy trial by a jury of your peers.
By saying you want to contact an attorney, you’re not admitting guilt, but simply exercising your rights protected under the Constitution.
There’s No Such Thing as a Casual Chat
Nothing good will come from a friendly conversation with an officer. If you’re called in “just to talk,” it’s more than likely you are a suspect in the crime, and they’re seeking a way to find evidence against you. These investigators and detectives are trained and very skilled in techniques that elicit a confession. They don’t have your best interest in mind and will do and say what they can to get the information they can use against you in court.
You Have to Tell the Truth, But They Don’t
First and foremost, if a detective tells you that by refusing to answer their questions will hurt your case, it’s not true. In fact, police are experts in manipulation and will even lie about having certain evidence against you or an eyewitness in order to scare you into a half-baked confession. Repetitive questions and incriminating statements, even facial expressions and body language, are all persuasion tactics they’ll use to wear you down.
Under that type of pressure, it’s easy to say something you may regret. You’re familiar with the saying, “anything you say can be used against you in a court of law,” and that is one thing an officer will tell you that is absolutely true. So, don’t fall for the other stuff. Ask to speak to your lawyer before anything else, so they can prepare you for the best defense strategy and get you out of the situation sooner.
Reduce Your Risk of Suspicion
There are so many reasons why an accused person would ask to speak to a lawyer. So don’t be afraid of making yourself seem more suspicious by doing so. It’s your best chance at avoiding the worst possible scenario. There are some other questions you can do as well to help reduce your exposure to suspicion while under investigation.
- Ask if you are free to leave
- Ask why they are questioning you
- Be polite and respectful
- Keep your hands in plain sight
That first one is most important. By not asking if you are free to go, police will assume you want to stay and keep the investigation going.
We really can’t stress enough the importance of contacting an experienced defense lawyer before answering any questions under interrogation. An attorney has the knowledge and expertise to get you out of a high-pressure situation and prepare you for what’s to come. Contact our criminal defense attorneys before you talk to the police to get the experience and skills you need to protect your rights and negotiate the best possible outcome for you.Read More
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