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Violent Crimes Attorney Michael J. Skinner Discusses Pennsylvania Armed Bank Robbery Laws and Punishments

Lamont Laprade, of Huntington, W.Va., was found guilty of robbing a bank at gunpoint in western Pennsylvania, Friday.  Authorities arrested Lamont Laprade as the getaway driver during a robbery and shooting of a teller at the Westmoreland Community Federal Credit Union, in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in January 2010.  45-year-old David Mathis, of Crafton, was also accused of participating in the robbery and the violent crimes associated.  The accused crimes require a minimum of five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.  In Pennsylvania, a Judge may order restitution, and since it is an armed robbery case, he/she may rule that the criminal can no longer possess a firearm.

Sentencings for robberies vary greatly depending on several factors, particularly if the accused offended has a previous criminal record.  Robbery can be a felony of the first, second or third degree, and depending on severity of the degree, can result in maximum prison sentences of 20-25 year in federal prison. In this case, Laprade was found guilty of four counts of robbery; some of the charges are considered violent crimes in Pennsylvania.  Laprade was found guilty of several charges including bank robbery, armed robbery, conspiracy and using a firearm.  Crimes of violence, such as a weapons charge in West Chester, make the accused offender eligible for harsher sentencing.

Authorities say Laprade has a history of violent robberies with a weapon.  The armed robbery charge he faces could be a second degree felony offense under subsection (a)(1)(iv) of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701, which happens when the offender is accused of inflicting bodily injury upon another or threatens another with or intentionally puts him in fear.  He could also face a third degree robbery offenses under subsection (a)(1)(v) if the accused offender physically took or removed property from the person of another by force however slight.

Robbery, violent crimes, illegal possession of a weapon and/or a firearm are serious crimes that, if found guilty, could result in years of prison and damage a person’s future forever.  If you have been accused of one of these crimes or any other criminal offense in Pennsylvania, it is important to contact an experienced lawyer to help navigate you through the legal process and help you avoid the harshest punishments.  West Chester criminal defense attorney Michael J. Skinner of Skinner Law Firm, LLC has represented clients accused of misdemeanor and/or felony crimes since 2007.

Call (267) 388-3476 to set up a free detailed consultation discussing your case with an actual attorney.  The more information you have and getting an early start on creating a defense could ultimately help you reduce or even dismiss serious charges and aggressive sentencing; so, call now, even if you have not been charged but may be expecting a criminal charge.  Michael J. Skinner of Skinner Law Firm, LLC respects attorney-client confidentiality.  Skinner Law Firm, LLC accepts cases in Chester County, Lancaster County, Berks County, Delaware County and Montgomery County.

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West Chester Traffic Crimes Attorney Discusses Law Enforcement Traffic Stop Increases during 2011 Holiday Season

During this 2011 holiday season, Pennsylvania state police are out in full force.  The standard increase in sheer number of officers alone is a given as well as their low tolerance level for criminal traffic offenses.  We assume they are looking for speeders and drunk drivers, and they are; however, this year, Pennsylvania state police are also seriously cracking down on distracted drivers.

If you live in West Chester, there is a good chance you have discovered the increased enforcement detail on Thanksgiving weekend. Police’s main goal is to promote traffic safety by ticketing distracted driving habits such as cell phone use while driving, texting and failure to obey the “move over” law when passing a stopped emergency vehicle.  Police are also on the look-out for DWI, conducting DWI (driving while intoxicated) sobriety enforcement details more regularly during the holiday season, resulting in more DWIs and other West Chester traffic offenses in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

No doubt, once you are stopped for a violation, it’s much easier for a police officer to further investigate and charge a man, woman or minor with multiple, sometimes unrelated crimes.  Even what seems like a normal speeding traffic stop can turn into multiple tickets and even an arrest.  Just last week a West Chester man was pulled over when police smelled an odor of burnt marijuana in the car and after police searched the vehicle, the man was charged with drug paraphernalia, suspected marijuana and a weapons violation.  All of the charges were further heightened in severity as the man was also driving with a suspended license.

When a regular traffic stop turns into a more serious situation, such as being pulled over for speeding and arrested for a West Chester DUI, it’s important to understand your rights, options and the consequences of your choices, whether you enter a plea or go to trial. If you choose not to fight the charges against you, punishments vary depending on the offense(s) you are charged with.  For example, driving with a suspended or revoked license due to DUI in Pennsylvania charge can have associated fines up to $500 and imprisonment for 60 to 90 days, and multiple misdemeanor offenses may turn your case into a felony.

The holidays are supposed to be a time with family and friends, not locked away in a jail cell.  Please, if you have been arrested or charged with one or multiple criminal traffic offenses in West Chester, obtain a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to help you understand your options and go over the details of your case so you can.  It is the only way to begin building a defense that helps protect your driving privileges and other rights.  From Skinner Law Firm, drive safe and Happy Holidays!

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Sandusky Scandal Incites Pennsylvania Sex Crime Law Reform

The recent scandal behind Pen State’s former football coach, Jerry Sandusky, receiving 40 criminal counts of sexual molestation and the subsequent firing of his colleague, Joe Paterno, by the university’s Board of Trustees, has stirred legislatures to push for policy reform surrounding sexual crimes and child abuse.

After the Sandusky arrest, criticism quickly turned to Joe Paterno for failing to disclose to local authorities that he knew about the reported child abuse by Sandusky. Instead, Paterno reportedly told persons in charge of the institution. While people may continue to scrutinize his choice of disclosure, Paterno has taken the steps to protect his legal rights by seeking counsel of a Pennsylvania sex crime defense attorney, even though he has not been charged with a crime. Former Penn State senior executive Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley, were both formally charged with failing to report alleged abuse and lying to the grand jury. All three men say they are innocent.

According to Pennsylvania law, the general rule relating to persons required to report suspected child abuse, in the course of their employment, occupation or practice of their profession, shall report or cause a report to be made to the Department of Public Welfare when they have reasonable cause to suspect on the basis of their professional or other training or experience, that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is a victim of child abuse. The law continues to specify specific requirements for staff members of public or private agencies, institutions and facilities.

Employees who are staff members of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility or agency, and who, in the course of their employment, occupation or practice of their profession, come into contact with children shall immediately notify the person in charge of the institution, school, facility or agency or the designated agent of the person in charge when they have reasonable cause to suspect on the basis of their professional or other training or experience, that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is a victim of child abuse. Upon notification by the employee, the person in charge or the designated agent shall assume the responsibility and have the legal obligation to report or cause a report to be made.

Each state has separate rules concerning child abuse and sexual misconduct with a minor. Currently Pennsylvania’s Right-To-Know Law requires Pen State and other state funded universities to report only certain financial aspects in order to receive funding by the state. Laws surrounding the accusations against the former Pen State employees have created many people to question the law’s functionality and the Sandusky case has created activists lobbying for a more uniformed law among the states, for public or private institution employees to take more responsibility for their actions, or lack thereof.

Pennsylvania lawmaker State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Philadelphia) introduced House Bill 1990, that would change state law so that people who witness child abuse are required to report the details to law enforcement, rather than a supervisor. Also, State Rep. Eugene DePasquale (D-York) introduced a second piece of legislation that would remove Right-To-Know Law public record exemptions Penn State and other state-related universities have used to conceal their spending behaviors.

So, what does it mean if these laws go into effect? Perhaps, more harsh punishments for those who suspect sexual crimes and child abuse but not reporting immediately to authorities, even at public and private institutions. Any criminal accusation has the potential to cause reputational damage and must be made with extreme caution. With high profile clients such as the ones in the Sandusky case, defamatory remarks without probable cause can invite counter suits and irreversible damage to a person’s career, family and lifestyle. New laws should be made on logical realizations aimed to entice the truth and with precaution to rights of both the vicims and those accused of committing the crime.

Child abuse and sexual crimes are serious offenses. If you have been accused of a sex crime in Pennsylvania, your best defense is an early one. Just as Paterno retained an attorney due to the threat and/or anticipation of a criminal charge, it’s important to take a proactive approach when creating a defense that will protect your rights. Even if you have not been formally charged but are anticipating an arrest in West Chester or one the the surrounding areas, a knowledgeable West Chester criminal defense attorney can help protect your rights and reputation. Call Skinner Law Firm if you would like to discuss your case during a free detailed consultation and are in West Chester, PA or surrounding areas.

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