West Chester Criminal Defense Blog Posts and Articles | Skinner Law Firm

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

Posted in Driver's License, Drunk Driving / DUI, Pennsylvania Statutes | Comments Off on Out of State DUI and the Impact in Pennsylvania

Lesser Known Consequences of Drug Convictions

 

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It is common knowledge that a conviction for a drug offense – even simple possession of marijuana – carries some type of penalty that limits freedom, such as incarceration or probation. However, a conviction for a drug offense may carry other lesser known penalties, some of which carry lifetime bans. Consider the following limitations placed on defendants with drug convictions:

Travel:

Even a simple possession of marijuana charge from your youthful years could affect any future international travel plans. Certain countries – including many Asian counties and Canada – treat drug and DUI convictions very seriously. In some cases, you will not be allowed to obtain a visa to enter. Even if you can obtain a visa and you try to enter one of these countries, you may be detained and deported. In other cases, your travel insurance may not cover such interruption due to a prior drug conviction.

 

Hefty Fines:

Although unlikely, certain drug convictions can carry a civil penalty of up to $250,000! Some fines may be doubled depending on certain aggravating factors of your case. You will be on the hook to pay off all fines and costs associated with your case. Money made from the sale of drugs will be confiscated and forfeited, so you won’t be able to use those funds to pay. Failure to pay could mean violation of the terms of your probation or parole. If your probation or parole expires and there are still fines and costs associated with your case, the balance may go to collections, thereby affecting your credit score.

 

Employment:

Some of the biggest nuisance categories for employment opportunities are alcohol, drug and sex-offense convictions. Depending on the type of job or license you wish to seek, you may be barred from consideration for a period of three years, five years or even permanently. Certain industries, such as banking and transportation, which are regulated by federal law, may prevent employment opportunities for drug convicts. In rare but serious circumstances, a person already employed who pleads guilty to a drug offense must be let go. In other particular categories, such as law enforcement or teaching, even after a time-barred period expires you may still have to prove rehabilitation in order to qualify. In addition, each branch of the military carries its own code regarding drug convictions, and the odds are always against convicted drug offenders.

 

License Suspension:

Alcohol and traffic offenses are not the only category of crimes that may suspend your license for up to a year. Most drug-related convictions carry some sort of license suspension. If caught driving while suspended, you may face a violation of any probation or parole and be subject to another one year suspension. Multiple driving while suspended tickets can deem a defendant a “repeat offender” and result in imprisonment of up to thirty (30) days.

 

Public Civil Service and Rights:

In Pennsylvania, if you are convicted of a felony drug offense, you will lose the right to own a firearm. There are severe penalties for felons unlawfully possessing firearms. You will also lose the right to vote while incarcerated and permanently lose the right to sit on a jury or hold public office.  While many people would rather not sit on a jury or vote/run for office, it is still a constitutional right you will forfeit upon a felony drug conviction. The only remedy is through a pardon.

 

Federal Benefits and Programs:

A drug conviction also affects everyday eligibility for federal benefits.  Certain benefits, such as student loans, Temporary Assistant to Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and public housing, carry mandatory rules where a person convicted of a drug offense is ineligible for a period of years, or until successful rehabilitation has been proven. In rare cases with repeat offenders, a person may be permanently banned.

 

As shown above, drug convictions are very serious, and can affect even minimal aspects of life. It is very important to speak to an attorney before pleading guilty to any offense.

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Child pornography charges carry great stigma, but can aim at the wrong person

Image of human hands doing some computer work

National news has turned its attention to Subway pitchman Jared Fogle, whose home was raided this week in a child pornography investigation. Fogle was the subject of much shaming and his employer severed its relationship with him.

Fogle was not charged, and the investigation was actually aimed at an employee. Child pornography investigations can be aggressive and the results of even an accusation can be devastating. However, they can be aimed at the wrong person. Unlike in the court of public opinion, the police and prosecutors must prove all elements of their case beyond reasonable doubt.

What is considered illegal?

Laws prohibiting child pornography can be found under state law at 18 Penn. Cons. Stat. § 6312, titled “Sexual Abuse of Children.” The law prohibits any person from intentionally viewing or knowingly possessing material, including digital photos and videos, that depict a child younger than 18 engaged in a sexual act or simulating a sexual act.

It is also illegal to produce such material and to disseminate it. Disseminating could be as simple as forwarding an email or text message.

What is the punishment for these crimes?

Producing child pornography is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Disseminating, intentionally viewing or knowingly possessing child pornography is a third degree felony for a first offense, punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. A second or subsequent offense is a second degree felony.

At a minimum, a person also must register as a sex offender for 15 years if convicted of possessing child pornography or for 25 years if convicted of producing or disseminating it.

What are possible defense if I am facing child pornography charges?

A critical part of the law is the state of mind, called the mens rea. Prosecutors must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant viewed the material intentionally or knew they possessed material with young people engaged in sexual acts.

The mens rea often comes into play because, especially in an era where most prohibited material is digital, circumstances can easily arise where a person does not know he or she possesses the material. For instance, it could be attached to an email that the accused downloaded onto his or her computer without knowing. A person who trafficks in child pornography could hack into a person’s server or cloud to store files there for distribution, unbeknownst to the owner.

It’s important to keep in mind that the defense does not have to prove these scenarios occurred. It is the prosecutor’s job to prove they did not occur. If any reasonable doubt exists that any of these circumstances existed, though, the accused’s child pornography defense lawyer could raise the possibility to show the jury the reasonable doubt that exists.

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Two For the Price of One: B2 Visitor Visa Information Ahead of Pope Francis’ Visit

Capri Nations

TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE:

B2 VISITOR VISA INFORMATION AHEAD OF POPE FRANCIS’ VISIT

With the upcoming September 2015 World Meeting of Families set to take place in Philadelphia, it will be the first (and likely last) time most Americans will be able to see Pope Francis.  Considering the excitement of the event, it is not uncommon that people wish to use this event to invite foreign relatives to the United States. Inviting relatives to visit the United States is not as simple as boarding a plane and passing through customs. A majority of foreign nationals need a tourist visa to travel to the United States. Only a small population of nationals from mostly European and a few South Asian countries may apply for a visa waiver program.[1]

Any person wishing to tour the United States must obtain a B2 Tourist Visa from a nearby American Embassy or Consulate. Generally, a foreigner submits an electronic application, pays the filing fee and schedules and attends an interview. Each Consulate may require additional local rules, so it is important to call or go to the consulate’s website beforehand. In addition, the interview and processing times vary from city to city. Some cities can see a B2 applicant interviewed and processed within a week; other countries require at least a month for each. Interview and processing times can be checked through the State Department website here.

Shortly after the interview, he or she will receive an approval or denial. Even with an approval, a tourist visa only guarantees a person is allowed to get to the United States. Once at Customs, depending on certain grounds of inadmissibility, entry may still be denied. There are many reasons why an otherwise eligible applicant’s tourist visa could be denied.  The application asks many questions regarding personal, criminal, previous immigration and familial information. A single mistake could result in a denial. Consider the following:

Luiz, a Brazilian national, applies for a tourist visa. On his application, Luiz lists his purpose as travel for two months, and lists a four-star hotel in New York City as his location. However, in reviewing his occupation, immigration officials notice he has a low to moderate income and little to no documents showing how he will pay and support himself in New York City. At his interview, Luiz is shocked to almost immediately be given a denial.

In this scenario, Luiz may have mistakenly forgotten to indicate that his parents were paying for his trip out as a gift for his recent graduation. He also may have forgotten to submit documents to support this. These documents could have included receipts, a letter from his parents’ credit card company confirming his authorization on their card and even affidavits from his parents. Unfortunately, he will have to apply again, hopefully in time for his travel.

However, most B2 Visas are denied because the applicant can’t prove he or she intends to enter and stay only as a visitor, with the intent to actually leave the United States sometime in the future. This requirement is mandated by immigration law and immigration officers must consider it when reviewing an application. The reason tourist visas are carefully scrutinized is because of the potential for abuse: anyone who could easily obtain a tourist visa could enter, overstay and remain in the United States illegally with little to no effort. Immigration officers have carefully selected ways of detecting who truly intends to enter as a visitor.  Consider the following:

Bo, a Chinese national, wants to travel to the west coast of the United States for a tour of national parks. Only wanting to visit a few big parks, but not knowing exactly which ones, she applies for a tourist visa for 2 weeks. Unlike Luiz, Bo submits B2 supplemental documentation that she believes proves she is only staying in the United States temporarily, and will actually leave: a letter from her employer granting vacation leave, bank accounts showing sufficient funds in Chinese banks, affidavits from her boyfriend, her apartment lease contract, and even submits proof that she has previously visited other countries’ national parks as a token of her hobby. After processing, her visa is approved.

Many tourist visas are used to visit relatives, and as a result, an applicant can’t provide receipts from hotels. In these situations, it may not be clear to immigration officials how a foreigner will support himself or herself while in the United States. In these situations, an applicant may need to dig deeper for documents from relatives or have his or her relatives submit an Affidavit of Support, which is an official immigration form. It is very important to prepare and file these documents truthfully and correctly, as a relative may be liable in the event a foreign national becomes a public charge.

If you reside in the United States and wish to invite a foreign relative to visit, including the upcoming Meeting of the Families event in Philadelphia, preparation and presentation is vital. In some cases, your relative may be ineligible to apply for a tourist visa based on a past immigration violation or current condition. In these cases, it is important to save time, money and effort by contacting an attorney beforehand for assistance. Call us today at (267) 388-3476 to inquire about obtaining a tourist visa for your loved ones.

 

[1] As of June 2015, these countries include only: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Irelan, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. See Here for more guidance.

 

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Effects of 5th Circuit’s Decision On Expanded DACA And DAPA Executive Actions

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 EFFECTS OF 5TH CIRCUIT’S DECISION ON EXPANDED DACA AND DAPA  EXECUTIVE ACTIONS

On May 26, 2015, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the government’s request to lift an injunction currently placed on President Obama’s expanded executive action programs known as DACA/DAPA. Essentially, this means removal proceedings will still continue against people otherwise eligible for the expanded programs’ benefits. Most of these people include undocumented parents of United States citizen-children. At this point, the future of the program is unknown. More importantly, its overall constitutionality is called into question.

Background

In June 2012, under the directive of President Obama, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum in which immigration officials must refrain from deporting certain undocumented aliens. The process, known as deferred action (or DACA) would not – and has – granted any immigration status to those who apply. Rather, it simply prevents immigration officials from initiating removal proceedings against these people. In essence, these people are on a hiatus from any immigration action. So long as a qualified person submitted an application and was granted deferred action, he or she could apply for a work permit and remain in the United States. A qualified DACA recipient must meet the following:

  1. Came to the United States under the age of 16;
  2. Is currently under the age of 30;
  3. Continuously resided in the United States for at least 5 years prior to June 15, 2012 and currently present in the United States;
  4. Graduated high school, obtained a GED, is currently in school or has served honorably in the United States military; and
  5. Has not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, multiple misdemeanor offenses or otherwise be a threat to national security.

As of to date, hundreds of thousands of young men and women have applied for DACA, and most have been accepted. Accepted applicants can reapply every two years, so long as they stay out of serious trouble. This has allowed many young people to obtain lawful work status and live without a constant fear of deportation.

DACA Expansion

In February 2015, two expansions to the current DACA program were supposed to go into effect. The expansions were thereafter referred to as expanded DACA and DAPA. First, the expanded DACA bumped up the continuous residency date to January 1, 2010, authorized 3 year work permits and eliminated the 30 year old age cap. Second, the DAPA expansions allowed certain undocumented aliens to apply for a new program if they met the following:

  1. Be the parent of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  2. Continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2010 and physically present as of November 20, 2014;
  3. Have no lawful status;
  4. Are not an enforcement priority; and
  5. Present no other factors that, in the exercise of discretion, make the grant of deferred action inappropriate.

The expanded DACA/DAPA was supposed to address the inequities under immigration laws which discourage family unification. Just as it was unfair to punish young men and women who were brought to the United States as children when it was not their choice, so was it unfair to punish United States citizen-children by deporting their otherwise lawfully-acting undocumented parents.

At the same time, the expanded DACA/DAPA program was supposed to prioritize detaining and deporting the most serious criminal and immigration violators. This new enforcement policy was meant to save time and resources of CPB and ICE officials. Surprisingly, the expanded DACA/DAPA’s new enforcement priorities still remain in effect, despite the 5th Circuit’s ruling. Thus, the government’s new guidelines for detaining and deporting certain undocumented aliens will continue. This means that people otherwise eligible for the new programs who have been convicted of crimes such as DUI may be deported unless they qualify for a very limited form of immigration relief or discretion.

 

Federal Lawsuits

To date, 26 states have filed federal lawsuits to prevent the programs from going into effect. The states argued that the expanded programs were illegal and imposed a significant burden on them. One of the most pivoted states to fight the original and expanded program(s) has been Texas. Right before applications under the expansions were supposed to take place, an injunction was ordered by a federal judge in Texas. The government appealed the decision and as of May 26, 2015, the injunction has been upheld. Even conservative estimates show that up to 3-4 million undocumented aliens could have benefited from the expanded policies. Most of these people reside in the southern states, like Texas.

It is important to note that the current ruling does not affect the old DACA program. Those eligible under the old DACA program can still apply and receive deferred action. If you believe you qualify for the old DACA program, or have concerns regarding eligibility for the new programs – should the injunction be lifted – be sure to consult an attorney immediately before immigration officials contact you.

 

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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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The Second Amendment and Weapons Charges

American citizens have the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, some people do not realize there still are restrictions on who can possess firearms and what types of weapons are considered legal. People who violate these laws still could face weapons charges.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution says “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Citizens and legislators often debate the intent behind the amendment, which says the purpose of bearing arms is to create a “well regulated militia” for self defense.

A 2008 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case changed the way some firearms and weapons are handled. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court determined handguns are “arms” for the purposes of the Second Amendment and struck down portions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975.

Local, state and federal legislative bodies, however, still possess the authority to regulate firearms without implicating a constitutional right. This means certain people may not be allowed to own firearms and other weapons still could be considered illegal.

Weapons offenses and penalties in Pennsylvania are classified under the Uniform Firearms Act, codified in the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 18 § 6101 – 6187. These offenses could include possession of a prohibited weapon, prohibited firearm possession and unlawful sale or transfer of a firearm.

For instance, a person could be charged with possession of a prohibited weapon if he or she is found to be in possession of a bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, firearm made for concealment or silent discharge, metal knuckles or stun gun.

The charge generally is a first-degree misdemeanor, which could carry up to five years in prison, fines up to $10,000 or both.  There are some exceptions to the offense, such as if the defendant is a police firearms expert who is operating in the course of business.

Additionally, some people in Pennsylvania may not be allowed to legally possess firearms, including those who have been convicted of driving under the influence, according to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 18 § 6105. A person also could be restricted if he or she is convicted of:

  • Murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Aggravated assault
  • Stalking
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Robbery
  • Possessing prohibited weapons

If a person is convicted of one of those offenses, he or she would not be able to own or possess a firearm. Doing so could lead to second-degree felony charging with up to 10 years in prison, $25,000 in fines or both.

Additionally, it is a criminal offense in Pennsylvania to sell or transfer a firearm to a purchaser if the person has not properly applied, before the statutory waiting period has ended or to a person who is prohibited from purchasing or owning a firearm. If you are facing weapons charges, contact a West Chester criminal defense attorney at Skinner Law Firm.

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What Happens in a Protective Order Hearing?

When a person is a victim of domestic violence, he or she may be able to protect themselves with a protective order. The protective order, also known as a restraining order, limits the interaction between people, which is seen as an essential way to keep victims safe. A judge also could impose other restrictions if he or she determines it necessary.

The intent of the protective order is defined for Pennsylvania in 18 Pa.C.S §4954, stating that any court with criminal jurisdiction may issue protective orders with provisions such as:

  • Defendant may not violate any provision of stalking or harassment
  • Defendant must maintain a prescribed geographic distance from any specified witness or victim
  • Defendant must have no communication whatsoever with the specified person unless it is through an attorney

A temporary order with these restrictions could be issued if a judge believes the allege victim is in immediate danger. However, other steps must be taken for an extended order to be put in place. Each side has the opportunity to plead its case at the protective order hearing.

After a person files a petition for a protective order, a hearing will be scheduled within seven to 10 days. The procedure for the hearing is formal and often is like a regular trial. During the hearing each side — the alleged victim and the accused — can present evidence, witnesses and testimonies before the judge.

This hearing is considered vital because it is when each person essentially can present their side of the story. In these hearings, the burden of proof is lighter than in a criminal trial.  The alleged victim only has to prove need for a protection by a preponderance of evidence instead of beyond a reasonable doubt.

Once the evidence is heard, the judge then will decide if he or she thinks the protective order is necessary. A judge could grant a 60 to 90 day continuance instead of a protective order if the concerns are nonviolent. However, a protection from abuse order could have steep requirements.

If a protection from abuse order is placed against you, you could be prevented from seeing your children, siblings or other family members, depending on who was involved in the alleged incident.  This could have a serious impact on cases in the future, including custody cases or even child abuse cases.

Defending yourself against a protective order is important because although it seems minor, the restraining order could have a serious affect on your life. Domestic violence cases and protective orders carry a stigma and could make a person appear as dangerous, even if that is not the case. Additionally, violating the order could mean criminal consequences.

If a person is convicted for violating a protection from abuse order he or she could face a fine of between $300 and $1,000, in addition to imprisonment or supervised probation. The court also could extend the protective order for an additional term.  Any firearms or other weapons that were used or threatened to be used also could be confiscated.

If a protective order from abuse has been filed against you, it is important you defend yourself. You have the right to an attorney for a hearing, and a skilled Pennsylvania attorney can help protect your future. Call (267) 388-3476 to discuss you case with Michael Skinner.

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Keeping Your License After a DUI Arrest

When a person is arrested for driving under the influence, he or she could face immediate consequences, such as having driving privileges suspended or revoked. This often is one of the hardest parts of a DUI arrest because it could create issues with employment and education. However, there are options and ways you can fight to keep your license.

When a person is arrested for a DUI, law enforcement officers often ask they submit to a chemical test. Under Pennsylvania law, the Department of Transportation Driver and Vehicle Services can suspend or revoke your driving privilege for many reasons, including violating the implied consent law.

Implied consent is a legal concept related to DUI that has been adopted in several states. Under implied consent, any time a person drives, operates or is in actual physical control of a vehicle, he or she agrees to a chemical test of his or her blood, alcohol or urine.

When a person refuses to take the test, the officer then will document the refusal and send it to the Department of Transportation. From that point, you driver’s license will be suspended 30 days after the correspondence. The suspension for a first refusal could last up to a year.

It is important to understand the process of reinstating your driving privileges because drivers only are allowed 30 days to request a license suspension hearing. It is at the hearing the driver and his or her attorney can make a case as to why he or she should retain driving privileges.

To appeal, drivers must file an appeal with the Civil Trials Division of the Court of Common Pleas in the county in which the refusal occurred. The appeals process will require forms and a filing fee, much like a criminal court. If your hearing is granted, PennDOT will need to prove:

  • The officer had reasonable cause for a stop
  • The officer had reasonable cause to believe the driver was intoxicated
  • You refused a chemical test after an officer asked you submit to one
  • The officer read your O’Connell warnings
  • The arrest was valid

Your administrative suspension could be revoked if these things cannot be proven. If they are, there still may be defenses to argue your defense. However, even if your administrative suspension is overturned, you still could face criminal penalties.

DUI convictions carry severe penalties, including a driver’s license suspension. If it is a first offense, a person only may be faced with an administrative suspension. A second or third DUI could mean a one-year suspension, plus administrative penalties.

In certain cases, a person convicted of a first-time DUI may be eligible for an Occupational Limited Licenses after serving 60 days of his or her suspension. Those sixty days are sometimes called the “hard suspension,” meaning the individual cannot drive for any reason. This license would allow a person to commute only for an occupation, work, trade, medical treatment or study

However, the best way to avoid having your driving privileges revoked is to avoid a DUI conviction. A skilled Chester County DUI defense attorney can work with you at the beginning of the case and help you build a strong defense against the charges. Protecting your future is important, and the attorneys at Skinner Law Firm understand that. Call (267) 388-3476 for a free consultation.

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When is Registration as a Sex Offender Required?

When a person is convicted of a sexually based offense, he or she could face severe and long-term consequences, including being required to register as a sex offender. This could mean difficulty finding a job, restrictions on housing and a reputation as a potentially dangerous person.

If a Pennsylvania resident has been convicted of one or more Tier I, II or III offenses, he or she may be required to register as a sex offender in the state. Additionally, if a person previously convicted of one or more offenses works in the state, but resides in another, or attends a university in the state, he or she could be required to register in Pennsylvania.

Certain out-of-state offenders and some juveniles adjudicated of specific crimes also are subject to the registration requirements of Megan’s Law, a state law designed to protect the public from sexual offenders.

In Pennsylvania, there are several offenses that, if convicted, a person could be required to register. The offenses are categorized by tiers based on the severity of the crime. The tiers designate the appropriate penalties, including the length of time in which a person must be on the registry.

Those convicted of Tier I offenses in Pennsylvania are required to register for 15 years. Some of these could include certain offenses relating to the sexual exploitation of minors, offenses relating to possession of child pornography, indecent assault and sexual abuse of children.

A Tier II conviction in Pennsylvania could mean being placed on the state’s sex offender registry for 25 years. Offenses such as trafficking in individuals, statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor and sexual exploitation of children are considered Tier II offenses.

If a person is convicted of a Tier III offense, he or she could be forced to register as a sex offender for life. These offenses often are considered some of the harshest. These offenses could include kidnapping, rape, incest, sexual abuse, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault and statutory sexual assault.

A juvenile could be required to register if he or she was adjudicated of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault or any attempt, conspiracy or solicitation of the offenses. A child in Tier III previously was required to register for life, but the state Supreme Court ruled last month the requirement was unconstitutional.

Sexual offenders are required to register at the time of sentencing. Out-of-state offenders who are subject to registration must report to an approved Registration Site and register within three business days of establishing a residence, becoming employed or attending school in the state.

Additionally, offenders are required to appear in-person throughout the year at an approved registration and verification site according to their assigned Tier classification. Appearances could include:

  • Tier I offenders — Annually
  • Tier II offenders — Twice a year
  • Tier III offenders —Four times a year
  • Transient offenders —Monthly
  • Juvenile offenders — Four times a year

All sexual offenders are required to report any changes, such as a change in residence, name or employment, within three business days. Failing to do so could mean additional penalties. Fighting a conviction for a sexual offense is critical. An attorney at Skinner Law Firm can help you through the process. Call (267) 388-3476 for a free consultation.

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