Pennsylvania Statutes

You can get in trouble for WHAT?! A description of some lesser known (but actually punishable) crimes in Pennsylvania.

arrested man hands close up

         In light of the recent ACLU lawsuit in Allegheny Township, where a PA man was charged for hanging the American flag upside down with the letters A.I.M. on it, many readers were probably surprised to learn flag desecration is an actual criminal offense in Pennsylvania. Under the Criminal and Vehicle Code, certain criminal acts are obvious: driving under the influence (DUI), possession of marijuana, assault, theft, etc. With almost all crimes, there is intent – or a mens rea – to commit these offenses. Most people know they are breaking the law when committing any one of these punishable offenses.

         With some situations, an individual may try to avoid breaking the law, but is still committing a crime. For example, a person can be arrested for DUI without driving, so long as he or she was “in actual physical control of the movement” of a car. This would include a scenario where an individual leaves a party and falls asleep in the front seat of a car to sleep off the alcohol rather than drive home.  While this person isn’t technically driving, he or she is still breaking the law and can be found guilty of DUI. In this situation, similar to the flag desecrator, ignorance of the law is not a defense.

          Below is a list of crimes punishable in Pennsylvania (sometimes up to TWO years in prison!) that most people probably don’t know exist:

          18 PA.C.S. 7104: Fortune Telling. This statute punishes a number of genie-like acts, including using cards or tokens to predict future events, using charms, spells and necromancy, administering love potions, putting bad luck on a person or animal, and even “consulting the movements of the heavenly bodies.”  There is a reason that spiritual businesses will put up signs that read For Entertainment Purposes Only: otherwise, fortune tellers face up to one year in jail!

          18 PA.C.S. 2904: Interfering with Child Custody. Custody matters are civil, and judges have the ability to sanction/find contempt against parents in Family Court. However, at times custody disputes can be criminal. Any person who knowingly or recklessly takes a child away from the child’s parent’s custody for less than 24 hours and (1) the child is subject to a valid custody order; (2) the person has some form of custody under said order, and (3) the parties do not leave the state, commits a Second Degree Misdemeanor. Under this scenario, a parent who disregards a custody order and fails to return a child to the other parent can face charges, including two years in prison and hefty fines.

          18 PA.C.S. 5103: Unlawfully Listening to Jury Deliberations. In keeping with the sanctity of jury secrecy, Pennsylvania punishes any person who, in any manner and for any purpose, intentionally listens to jury deliberations. With the manner and purpose irrelevant, this “curiosity killed the cat” crime is punishable by up to one year in jail.

          18 PA.C.S. 3015: Nonpayment of wages. A defense to prostitution is trafficking or sexual coercion. But, that doesn’t mean a victim can’t get paid for what he or she is owed. This law specifically prohibits human traffickers from not paying their trafficked victims. In this context, a pimp who fails to pay his or her prostitute for “services” rendered commits a Third Degree misdemeanor if the amount owed is less than $2,000 or a Third Degree Felony if the amount owed is more than $2,000.

          18 PA.C.S. 7509: Furnishing Drug Free Urine. Got a probation meeting coming up and need to get a clean sample? Selling, giving, or dealing in clean urine, and subsequently attempting to pass off clean urine during a drug test, is a Third Degree Misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. The statute doesn’t limit punishment of clean urine sellers/users to criminal contexts only – thus, whether the urine is used to avoid probation violation or employment eligibility, it’s illegal.

          18 PA.C.S. 5904: Public Exhibition of Insane or Deformed Person. Although circus freaks were a popular source of entertainment in the past and states elsewhere, they’re likely criminal in Pennsylvania. Any person who publicly exhibits “an insane, idiotic or deformed person, or imbecile” for money or other reward is guilty of a Second Degree Misdemeanor. The terms “insane, idiotic and imbecile” are not defined under the law, and to this day remain open to interpretation.

          18 PA.C.S. 6708: Failing to Return Library Book. Pennsylvania takes its education seriously – serious enough that any person who retains public library material after being given written notice commits a summary offense. Since a summary offense is punishable up to 90 days in jail, any person willfully committing this offense better chose a book they literally can’t put down!

          18 PA.C.S. 3303: Failing to Prevent a Catastrophe. Negligent and reckless acts by landlords, construction companies, business owners, nightclubs and homeowners are some of the most litigious areas of law. These acts can also be punished criminally. A person who recklessly fails to take reasonable measures to prevent or mitigate a catastrophe is guilty of a Second Degree Misdemeanor. A common example includes business owners blatantly disregarding dangerous structural or other defects on their premises. Thus, while a business owner knows he can face civil litigation, he probably doesn’t know he can face criminal prosecution as well.

          18 PA.C.S. 6503: Posting Advertisements on Property of Another. If you ever noticed utility poles, highway fences or bridges plastered with stickers, ads, or other signs, you’ve likely witnessed a crime. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to post, paint, stick or stamp an ad, sign, card or poster on any property belonging to the state, local government or property of another without permission, and is punishable as a summary offense. While trying to promote a local art show or selling your bike, if you want to avoid being a criminal, don’t even think about posting without permission!

          As you can see, fortune tellers and library thieves are not too welcomed into the state of Pennsylvania. Although these crimes are rarely prosecuted, they are still illegal acts. Until the Legislature repeals or the Courts strike down these statutes, the law remains. In the surprising, yet still possible, event you or a relative have been arrested for any of the above, be sure to consult an attorney at Skinner Law Firm to discuss your options. Contact us today at (610) 436-1410 or (610) 565-3320.

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Sexual Offender Registration Requirements Under Recently Expanded Meghan’s Law

Crimes

In 2006, President Bush signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. As an update to “Meghan’s laws,” the Act created a national sex offender registry and greatly expanded the government’s and public’s ability to monitor sex offenders. The most restrictive part of the law is commonly known as SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act). Under SORNA, a state must implement a program in which defendants convicted of certain offenses must register with the database for a certain period of years.

As of 2012, Pennsylvania has complied with these stringent SORNA requirements. But what does it really mean to be a sex offender under this new law? More specifically, what are the consequences of being convicted of a SORNA offense? Below is an outline of the law’s requirements.

CRIMES

Under the law, the term sex offender is actually broader than its common meaning. Anyone convicted of a sex-related offense such as rape, sexual assault, incest or involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, must register under SORNA. In addition, the law covers many crimes against children, such as child pornography, luring a child into a vehicle, corruption of minors (certain sections of the statute) and child prostitution/exploitation.

However, violent offenses are not the only crimes covered by SORNA. A defendant convicted of unlawfully restraining, kidnaping, falsely imprisoning or trafficking a minor must register. A defendant convicted of invasion of privacy, video voyeurism or certain online offenses must also register. In addition, institutional sexual assault includes not only the commonly-cited student/teacher relationship, but also extends to guards/inmates, youth counselors/juveniles, and sexual conduct within mental health facilities. These defendants must also register under SORNA.

REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS

Depending on the specific statute and prior criminal history, a defendant must register for a certain period of time. Offenders are classified as either Tier I offenders (15 year registration – must register and be photographed once a year), Tier II offenders (25 year registration – must register and be photographed twice a year), or Tier III offenders (lifetime registration – must register and be photographed every 3 months).

All offenders must register in each state he or she resides, works or goes to school. If an offender does not have a personal residence or is in transient, he or she must register once a month and provide a description of where he or she frequents. When registering, defendants must have new photographs taken and supply all biographic information, including telephone numbers, email accounts, social security number, social media accounts, licenses, passports, DNA, fingerprints and any changes in the above. If an offender wishes to travel outside the United States, he or she must notify the registrant.  All this must be done in person and within a specific period of time, although there are mailing exceptions. Natural disasters and personal problems do not allow a sexual offender to miss a deadline to register. A violation or misrepresentation of the registration or photograph requirements is a felony, punishable by mandatory jail time.

Under SORNA, the following information is publicly available online: an offender’s name, photograph, primary address, employment address, date of birth, physical description including tattoos and scars, vehicle information including make, model and license plate number, offense information, and compliance status. The public can access this information for as long as an offender’s registration period remains.

SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATORS

In very serious circumstances, an offender may be deemed a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP). After an evaluation by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board (SOAB), a court may find an offender is likely to engage in predatory behavior. SOAB allows for the monitoring and community notification of these potentially dangerous individuals. When an SVP moves to a new residence or is released from prison, written notice must be provided to neighbors, HOA boards, schools, day care centers, colleges and universities, and CYS departments within a certain radius of his or her residence. The notice includes a photograph of the offender.

 

As one can see from above, sexual and child offenses are serious crimes. If you have been charged with a SORNA offense, you will likely have to register as a sex offender even if the offense did not involve sex. Be sure to contact a qualified attorney regarding the specifics of your case.

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Out of State DUI and the Impact in Pennsylvania

 

DLC

This past June, the irk of Philadelphians was felt far out west as former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb – a dual resident of Pennsylvania and Arizona – was arrested  in Arizona for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). This was his second offense in Arizona for DUI and now likely faces at least 30 days in jail and a period of a license suspension.

Many people may wonder: would Pennsylvania find out about the DUI? How would this affect his ability to drive in PA? More importantly, if subsequently arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania, would it be a first or third offense? The answer to these questions rests in the Driver License Compact (DLC).

 

What is the DLC?

The DLC is a compact between 45[1] states, the goal of which is to share traffic information in order to have an across-the-board “one driver license” concept. It prevents individuals with suspended licenses from simply going across state lines and obtaining a new license. It also allows a resident’s home-state to consider certain out-of-state traffic related offenses, such as DUI, and suspend a home-state license accordingly. Each state has its own rules.

In Pennsylvania, under 75 Pa.C.S. § 1581, PennDOT considers only serious traffic offenses, and will not assess points for minor traffic infractions. Your license will be suspended for one year if you are convicted of any of the following out-of-state traffic-related offense:

  • Manslaughter in connection with the use of a motor vehicle
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs if the statute is substantially similar in nature to PA’s DUI laws under 75 Pa.C.S. 3802 (see below)
  • A felony conviction in connection with the use of a motor vehicle
  • Failure to stop and render aid in the event of a motor vehicle accident results in death or personal injury

 

How does Pennsylvania treat out of state DUIs?

If you are convicted of DUI in another state and it is your first offense ever, Pennsylvania will not suspend your license. Under the PA DUI penalty statute, an out-of-state DUI conviction is treated as if it had occurred in PA under subsection 3802(a). Under this subsection, there is no driving license suspension. However, if it is your second offense or more, PennDOT will suspend your license for one year. This is in addition to any license suspension penalties from the DLC state.

 

If my PA license is suspended, can I go to another state and obtain a new one?

No. If your license in your home-state is suspended and you attempt to obtain a license from any of the DLC states using a DLC residence, you will not be able to obtain a driver’s license. Under the information-sharing agreement clause of the DLC, notice of an applicant’s license suspension will be shared among the states.

This same concept is true for out of state residents trying to obtain a PA driver’s license. PennDOT will not issue a driver’s license for any out of state driver who has a suspended license. 75 Pa.C.S. § 1503.

 

If I received ARD for a DUI in PA, and then got a DUI in another state, will my license be suspended?

PennDOT has a 10 year look-back period. In addition, ARD is considered a conviction for subsequent sentencing and licensing purposes. If you received ARD for a DUI within the past 10 years, and are subsequently convicted of DUI in any DLC state, your license will be suspended for at least one year.

 

If I got a DUI in another state, then got a DUI in PA, is it a first or second offense?

If you have a conviction for DUI in a DLC state, and are subsequently convicted of DUI in PA within the next 10 years, you will be sentenced as a second offender. Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 1581, Article III and IV, a conviction from a DLC state will  have the same effect as if it occurred in PA. For example, if you were convicted of DUI in Florida, and subsequently convicted of DUI: Highest Tier (.16+) in PA, you will be subject to the second-offender penalties, which include a minimum incarceration of 90 days, minimum $1,500 fine, and 18 month license suspension.

 

Thus, to answer the McNabb dilemma: if Donavan McNabb is convicted of a second offense DUI in Arizona and holds a PA driver license, then his PA driver’s license will be suspended for one year. In addition, if he is subsequently arrested and convicted of DUI in PA, he will not be a first or second offender; he will be a third time offended. A third offense DUI in PA carries severe penalties.

 

If you feel your situation is similar to any of the above DUI or  PA driver’s license issues, it is in your best interests to contact an attorney immediately. Contact the Skinner Law Firm at (267) 388-3476 to discuss your case.

[1] The following states are not part of the Compact: Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Tennessee, and Wisconsin

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Possible Changes to Pennsylvania’s Expungement Statute

Old Courthouse

On January 15, 2015, Pennsylvania Senate bill SB 166 was introduced, which would allow persons with certain misdemeanor convictions to expunge their records. This is an updated version of a similar bill that was proposed in 2013, but never voted upon. Currently, the law allows for expungement of convictions only in the following limited circumstances:

  • A person who was convicted of a summary offense (non-traffic citation) may seek an expungement if he or she has been free of arrest or prosecution for five years after the conviction. Common summary offenses include disorderly conduct, trespassing, criminal mischief, retail theft, harassment, and public intoxication.
  • An adult (over 18 years old) who was convicted of 18 Pa.C.S. 6308 (underage drinking) may seek an expungement if he or she reaches 21 years old and has satisfied all penalties from the case, including license suspension.
  • A person may seek an expungement of his or her criminal record when he or she reaches 70 years old and has been free of arrest for at least 10 years since release from incarceration, parole or probation.
  • An individual has been dead for 3 years.

As indicated above, expungements of convictions are very limited. Misdemeanors will always be part of your criminal history record and are accessible by employers, family members, schools and even the public. It does not matter how much time has passed, or whether you have been successfully rehabilitated.  If you were convicted of any misdemeanor, you cannot currently seek an expungement unless you are old or dead. SB 166 seeks to change this unfairness of the current law.

Under SB 166, persons with ungraded misdemeanor, third degree misdemeanor and/or second degree misdemeanor convictions will be allowed to expungement their record once a certain amount of time has passed. For ungraded and third degree misdemeanors, a person must wait 7 years. For second degree misdemeanors that occurred when a person was under the age of 25, he or she must wait 10 years. The bill would not allow expungement of any of the following misdemeanors:

  • An offense punishable by imprisonment of two years or more
  • Four or more offenses punishable by imprisonment of one year or more
  • Firearm offenses
  • Simple assault graded as a second degree misdemeanor
  • Animal abuses until section 3129
  • An offense of impersonating a public officer
  • An offense of intimidating or retaliating against a witness
  • An offense of cruelty to animals
  • Meghan’s law registration offenses

At this point, the status of the bill is unclear. However, there is much to be addressed. Unfortunately, the bill does not include first degree misdemeanor convictions, even for first time offenders. In addition, the bill distinguishes between those under 25 years old and those over 25 years old who have second degree misdemeanors. This type of distinction is fundamentally unfair to people who otherwise become successful members of society many years down the line. Hopefully, the current hiatus status of the bill means there will be changes to the final version.

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Controversial New Pennsylvania Wiretapping Bill Discussed by West Chester Criminal Defense Attorney

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives recently passed a revised wiretapping bill that would expand on the ability for law enforcement agencies to track suspected criminals. House Bill 2400 was voted through with overwhelming support, 145 to 52 on June 13, 2012. The bill contains some helpful provisions that would aid in developing a more effective law enforcement system, but also contains wording that is a direct assault on the privacy and individual rights of Pennsylvania citizens.

The bill amends Act 18 of the original 1989 wiretapping law through a dozen new provisions and updates, and will move to the state Senate in the fall. Among the changes, HB2400 broadens the legal circumstances under which civilians and law enforcement can record oral communication without consent and how recordings can be used as evidence in the criminal court system.

The most glaring examples of this includes the expansion on a resident’s capacity to make secret recordings of alleged criminal activity, the new capacity for police to open and respond to messages on a cell phone if they suspect the communications relate to crime, and the ability to wiretap a person as opposed to just a phone line.

These provisions, while singularly beneficial from a law enforcement perspective, have the potential to seriously infringe on the rights and privacy of free citizens while also creating an environment of fear, distrust and paranoia within communities. HB2400 gives law enforcement unprecedented power to spy on individuals who they suspect are engaging in criminal activity, such as drug trafficking or possession with an intent to distribute.

For example, under HB 2400, only one party would need to be aware of a wiretap or recording for it to be legal, if they believed that the other party would speak about committing a crime, or confess to one. This can also include a “third party” which means that telephone companies, internet providers or computer technicians could be used as interception agents without a warrant. In the bill’s wording, it is legal for “Any individual to intercept the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication if that person is under a reasonable suspicion that the intercepted party is committing, about to commit or has committed a serious crime.”

This Orwellian provision may help in certain cases where crime victims need to gather evidence of wrongdoing, such as sexual assault, but it is a near certainty that there will be exponentially more situations where privacy is improperly invaded. This will likely produce a climate of distrust that degrades the ability for our society and community to operate without fear of privacy invasions.

The other primary source of contention is the ability to now wiretap a person as opposed to just the phone. The bill also allows for what is known as “target-specific wiretaps,” which prosecutors say will allow them to track drug dealers and criminal suspects who allegedly use more than one pre-paid mobile phone to throw off law enforcement. This presents many issues that could complicate matters in a criminal investigation and defense of the charges, by allowing for inter-jurisdictional surveillance and interception of communications without a warrant, even if the individual had not yet committed a crime and the judge has not been notified of the activity.

This bill presents specific privacy and individual rights abuses for those being investigated for drug crimes, while also hampering the ability for a West Chester drug defense attorney to effectively and fairly do their job and protect the rights of their clients. This precedent will lead to a major advantage to the prosecution while the defense will have to compete with intrusive and constitutionally ambiguous evidence presented.

With this erosion of constitutional rights, there is greater possibility for individuals accused of drug crimes having to deal with the already harsh penalties in Pennsylvania law. An example would be the sentencing for possession with intent to distribute, which according to §7508 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, could bring up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. With stakes this high, it is dangerous to give one party such expansive liberties during criminal investigations.

It is justified and expected for legislators to help police keep pace with suspected criminal activity, but not to hasten the attack on privacy that has already begun through to the proliferation of visual and audio recording devices. This bill is bad news for citizens of the state, as it legalizes total surveillance without any specific crime, without court orders, without a warrant, all while throwing out constitutional protections. This will bring undue burden to suspected criminals, particularly those accused of drug crimes. The Senate should strip the unnecessarily invasive aspects of the bill and focus on strengthening our justice system without it being at the expense of the citizens of Pennsylvania.

 

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West Chester Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses Supreme Court Argument Regarding Life Sentences Without Parole for Juvenile Offenders

The topic of juvenile offender sentencing has received national attention recently when the United States Supreme Court held arguments regarding the prospect of limiting the harshest of these juvenile punishments. This is particularly important to those in Pennsylvania, considering the state has the largest concentration of juvenile offenders who have been sentenced to life without parole in the nation. The eventual decision has implications that extend to not only juvenile offenders, but also those that provide legal counsel to them.

On March 20, 2012, the Court heard oral arguments in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, two cases involving lifers who were fourteen when they committed murder. A majority of the justices seemed ready to move this argument forward, but it is still unclear how far they are willing to go regarding setting limits of such punishments.

This revisiting of juvenile laws could have a profound effect on the approximately 470 prisoners in Pennsylvania serving life without parole for crimes they committed as teenagers. In forty years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has gone from holding a small handful of juvenile lifers with no possibility of release to holding the highest number in the country. Nationwide, the number stands at around 2,589. A reversal of current laws will allow for many of these inmates to be entitled to a resentencing hearing.

Even with having committed horrendous crimes, the prospect of a lifetime in prison for a juvenile, who may or may not have understood the severity of his/her actions, seems to be unjust and antithetical to the intentions of our justice system.  One example is that of a Pennsylvania juvenile, who at fourteen years-old, set fire to the house of friends whose mom would not let them play with her, killing two boys in the process. Homicide may not have been the intention, but the crime was so serious that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania tried her as an adult, where her charges would come with mandatory sentencing. She was eventually found guilty of arson, two counts of second-degree murder and causing or risking a catastrophe. That was in 1976, and the offender is still in prison to this day for the crimes she committed at fourteen years old.

Had the young fourteen year-old been facing the death penalty, she would have had the right to introduce mitigating evidence, according to a Supreme Court ruling the previous year, striking down mandatory death sentences as cruel and unusual punishment. However, no such right is given to defendants facing mandatory life sentences. In Pennsylvania, this meant that her age, severe mental problems, history of abuse and neglect, and, most critically, rehabilitative potential were not up for discussion.

At the heart of the Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs defense is the argument that regardless of the crime, fourteen is too young to be discarded as beyond help. Teenagers are impulsive, prone to risky actions and highly vulnerable to peer pressure, and the younger ones are still quite far from mental maturity. “At fourteen,” the Miller appeal argues, “the major transformation in brain structure that will result in a sophisticated system of circuitry between the frontal lobe and the rest of the brain, enabling adults to exercise cognitive control over their behavior, is barely underway.”

With this scientific understanding of the situation, the Supreme Court has made strides. In the recent hearings, the majority opinion in both cases were written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who said teenagers deserved more lenient treatment than adults because they are immature, impulsive, susceptible to peer pressure and able to change for the better over time. Bryan A. Stevenson, a lawyer with the Equal Justice Initiative, which represented both defendants in Tuesday’s arguments, said that logic should apply in at least some cases involving killings.

The United States Supreme Court should take the pragmatic and fair stance of not only prohibiting sentences of life without parole for offenders younger than fifteen, but barring the punishment for all juvenile offenders. This would allow both the juvenile in question and their juvenile criminal defense attorney to find a solution that allows for the offender an opportunity to prove that he/she may eventually be deemed fit to re-enter society, rather than just tossed in jail for life.

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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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How Gun Licensing May Curb Violence in Pennsylvania

Gun violence is a very real issue in the state of Pennsylvania. As recently as early October, State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159 of Chester spoke to the community about gun violence and the possible solutions to the growing problem. Although gun violence is a serious issue, going through the proper channels to obtain a legal license to carry a firearm may curb gun violence. The process of applying for a gun license can weed out individuals who are unfit to carry a gun such as convicted felons or the mentally incompetent.

One of the most commonly charged gun crimes in Pennsylvania is the possession of a prohibited weapon, like a gun or firearm. Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute Title 18 § 908, a person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree when he possesses any offensive weapon such as a firearm or gun. If charged a person can be convicted of a misdemeanor of the first degree, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

To obtain a license to carry a firearm there are certain guidelines that must be met.  First and foremost, a person must be 21 years of age and a resident of Chester County in order to obtain license to carry a firearm in Chester County. An individual must complete an application and return it in person to the Chester County Sheriff’s Office, provide two character references and provide proper identification. Identification that is acceptable includes a Pennsylvania driver’s license with a current address and photo or a Pennsylvania non-driver’s identification card that has a current photo and current Chester County address.

A person who is not a US citizen is allowed to apply for and obtain a license to carry a firearm. Non US citizens must present their current immigration card and the last three months of utility bills that show a current address.

After applying for a license to carry a firearm, it may take up to 45 days for approval, which is mandated by law. After an individual has been approved, the license will be sent via mail. If an individual has been denied, they will be notified by mail and a portion of the $20 application fee will be returned.  Some reasons a person could be denied a license to carry could include, a prior felony conviction, a prior conviction for a drug offense, a history of drug or alcohol use, or a mental health disorder that would deem an individual incompetent.

A license to carry a firearm is valid for five (5) years and upon expiration it must be renewed. Pennsylvania does not require firearms to be registered and a valid firearm license is good for any firearm owned by an individual.

Gun licensing may not be the cure-all for firearm violence in Pennsylvania but it is a start towards weeding out the individuals who are unfit to carry a gun. Additionally, obtaining a license to carry a firearm in can potentially prevent the possibility of being charged with possession of a prohibited weapon in West Chester. However, if you find yourself facing a charge for a gun crime in Pennsylvania, an experienced gun crime attorney in West Chester can help you in your defense against such a serious offense. A good criminal defense lawyer will examine your case closely and come up with the best defense possible to increase your chances of a favorable outcome regarding your particular circumstance.

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