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Williamsport Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Blog

Changes urged to Pennsylvania's marijuana DUI standards

As medical marijuana has been legalized in Pennsylvania for over a year, Pennsylvania state police are calling for updates to the drunk driving and DUI laws to reflect the current situation. Throughout the state, dispensaries will soon be operating to provide medical marijuana to people with a prescription. Police have expressed their concerns that people with legitimate cannabis prescriptions could get DUI charges, even if they are not intoxicated or unsafe to drive.

In York County, drunk driving charges for alcohol are down significantly; however, DUI charges based on being under the influence of drugs have gone up. Because marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, this ostensibly means that there is no medical purpose for the drug's use; someone with any amount of cannabis in their system could be charged with DUI rather than only those people who are too intoxicated to drive. Police spokespeople emphasized that even in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, the amount given for the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is extremely small. Driving with more than 1 nanogram of THC per milliliter of blood is considered DUI.

Report finds drop in drinking among young teens in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup has identified a significant drop in alcohol use among young people ages 12 to 17. The researchers looked at data about drinking, drunk driving accidents and arrests for alcohol offenses. Between 2011 and 2015, alcohol consumption among this age group dropped by a minimum of 18 percent.

The workgroup surveyed young people about their alcohol use for the previous 30 days. Researchers collected additional information about vehicle crashes that involved underage drinkers from 2010 to 2016. These accidents declined sharply by 41 percent during that period. Criminal records from those same years about arrests produced a similar decline of 39 percent for driving under the influence or public intoxication. Arrests for other alcohol offenses among young teenagers went down by 60 percent.

Study links pretrial detention with higher conviction rates

Individuals facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania and around the country who are unable to afford bail are far more likely to be found guilty, according to a team of researchers from Harvard, Stanford and Princeton universities. After studying administrative court and tax data, the researchers found that criminal defendants who are granted pretrial release are 14 percent less likely to get convicted and 10.8 percent less likely to enter into negotiated plea arrangements.

While some defendants are denied bail because they are considered flight risks or pose a threat to the community, the research team determined that poverty was the most common reason for pretrial detention. The typical offender earned less than $7,000 in the year before they were arrested, according to the study. Many of these defendants cannot post bail even when the sums are lowered.

Football player charged with DUI

Pennsylvania pro football fans might be interested to learn that cornerback Jeremy Lane was taken into custody on charges of driving under the influence on Jan. 14. Lane plays for the Seattle Seahawks, and the incident occurred in King County.

The player was released on his own recognizance that morning a few hours after being booked. The Seahawks have not commented on the matter. According to a tweet that Lane posted the following day and later deleted, when he took a Breathalyzer test, his blood alcohol content was .03 percent.

3 common types of corporate fraud

Business owners must take risks and work hard to bring their companies to success, but sometimes the motivation for success goes too far. If the desire for success at any cost consumes a business owner, he or she may partake in an illegal activity to achieve that goal. 

When company management participates in illegal activities to boost their success, they may be committing corporate fraud. However, there are many different types of corporate crimes that are important to know about.

Scientists have recommended lower legal limit for DUI

Pennsylvania motorists might be seeing stricter drunk driving laws in the future if lawmakers follow recommendations from scientists. Every state has a legal blood alcohol limit of .08 percent, but a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends that the limit be lowered to .05 percent. The report makes several other recommendations towards the goal of lowering drunk driving fatalities. They include increasing taxes on alcohol, cutting hours that alcohol is available for purchase, cracking down on sales to minors and limiting alcohol advertising.

The proposals are expected to be challenged by the alcohol and hospitality industries. In Utah, where the legal limit is already set to be lowered to .05 percent at the end of 2018, the American Beverage Institute has opposed the lowered limit in newspaper ads. The Distilled Spirits Council says that lowering the legal limit won't deter repeat DUI offenders, and those are the drivers who represent the majority of drunk driving fatalities.

TV star Bam Margera charged with DUI

Pennsylvania fans of "Jackass" may be interested to learn that Bam Margera was taken into custody and charged with DUI on Jan. 7. Authorities with the California Highway Patrol said that officers were conducting another traffic stop when the TV star drove by slowly while on his cellphone.

When authorities told him to pull over, they reported that they detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle. He was given a field sobriety test and a Breathalyzer. Ultimately he was taken into custody where he was temporarily held on a $15,000 bail. However, he was eventually released on his own recognizance. While this is Margera's first DUI charge, he has reportedly been suffering from alcohol abuse for many years.

Preliminary hearings and DUIs

Some people in Pennsylvania who are facing DUI charges and who have pleaded not guilty might wonder what will happen next. What follows is known as a "preliminary hearing".

The purpose of this hearing is for the judge to decide if there is sufficient evidence for a trial. The judge will listen to arguments from both the prosecution and defense to determine whether there is enough evidence. The prosecution can introduce evidence and call witnesses. The defense can cross-examine these witnesses. The defense can also raise doubts about the strength of the evidence in order to try to convince the judge to dismiss the case.

Understanding the appeals process

If a Pennsylvania resident or any other American receives an unfavorable ruling in a criminal case, it may be appealed. The number of appeals that can be made depends on how many courts are higher than the one a case is currently being heard in. Depending on where the case is being heard, a defendant may have as many as four opportunities at the state level for a ruling to be overturned.

However, a defendant does have to meet certain criteria for an appeal to be heard. A notice of appeal must generally be sent to the court that made the decision within 10 days. The clock generally starts from the date of a court's final decision. An attorney may file this document, and an attorney may also need to file an appellate brief. The notice of appeal is generally a shorter document while the appellate brief is longer with citations from the trial transcript.

Important facts about motorcycles and alcohol

It is common to bar-hop or get drinks while at a rider festival, but riding a motorcycle after drinking alcohol is a dangerous act. Operating a motorcycle while under the influence can result in serious damage to your ride and serious injury or even death for you or others. 

You may be wondering about the consequences of motorcycling while drunk and how to avoid it. Read below for some sobering statistics and how you can stop yourself from getting on your bike after drinking. 

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