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Williamsport Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Law Blog

FBI arrests 30 in alleged drug trafficking operation

Although many drug arrests come about as a result of traffic stops and other encounters when police say they find illegal drugs in the defendant's possession, the authorities are always looking for ways to break up drug distribution networks. State and federal law enforcement often spend months investigating suspected drug rings, and then try to arrest a large number of people at once.

Recently, the FBI announced three indictments against 33 Pennsylvania residents it identified as suspected members of a drug network. FBI agents conducted a large operation to arrest the suspects. According to news reports, agents were able to find and arrest 30 of the individuals. Three were said to be still at large.

What is the difference between state and federal crimes?

If you are facing criminal charges or are under investigation for crimes that may lead to charges, you may have many questions about how your case will transpire and what you can expect. You may already know the charges you are up against, but do you know if they are federal or state charges?

You may think there is not much difference except that your legal proceedings will take place in a different building if police charge you with a federal crime. However, the differences between charges by the state of Pennsylvania and those by the federal government can be significant, and you would be wise to prepare yourself by learning as much as you can about what lies ahead for you.

When drug crime prosecution makes a drug problem worse

For years now, public health officials, lawmakers and police have struggled with what they call an opioid crisis. As highly addictive prescription opioid drugs hit the market, they spurred a market for illegal drugs with similar chemistry and effects. Some of these drugs are very powerful, and it is easy for users to accidentally overdose, especially when they don't know exactly what they are taking. One result has been a sharp increase in drug-related deaths in Pennsylvania and many other states.

One way Pennsylvania has dealt with the problem is through prosecuting homicide charges against people who supply the drugs in fatal overdoses. These charges are sometime called "drug delivery resulting in death" or "drug-induced homicide." Pennsylvania reportedly prosecutes these cases more than any other state. Prosecutors say these charges will deter people from abusing drugs, or at least spur dealers to be more careful about the drugs they sell.

Nonprofit director accused of embezzling federal grant money

Embezzlement is a crime in which a person is entrusted with money or property and then fails to give it back, or uses it for unauthorized purposes. It comes up most commonly in the employment setting, when an employee entrusted with funds secretly keeps some of the money.

These employment-related embezzlement cases are typically heard at the state court level, but there are cases where people face federal embezzlement charges. Typically, these involve an accusation that the defendant took public funds or other government property.

Death penalty on the decline in Pennsylvania

The death penalty is not common in Pennsylvania, nor do Pennsylvania residents want it to be. One poll of Pennsylvanians in 2015 found that 54% support a life sentence, not capital punishment, as the preferred penalty for murder. The state has not carried out an execution since 1999.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a group opposed to capital punishment, Pennsylvania courts have imposed death sentences, on average, a little less than twice a year over the past five years. This represents a significant drop from where the numbers were not all that long ago. Statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections show that the average was nearly 16 death sentences per year in 1989-1993.

Lawsuit highlights problems with state's public defense system

Even people who have never been arrested and never worked in the criminal justice system are often familiar with the Miranda warning. As heard in countless TV shows and movies, the warning advises arrestees that they have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and that an attorney will be provided for them if they cannot afford one.

That last part of the warning refers to the appointment of a public defender, an issue that has been the subject of much legal argument in Pennsylvania in recent years.

Worried about your role in your child's college admission?

Before long, the school year will end, and your family may begin focusing on the matriculation process at the college or university of your child's choice. Like many parents, you want the best for your child, and you may have done whatever you could to give your child the best chances of gaining admission to a prestigious institution of higher learning. Perhaps you helped your child with the essay portion of the admission process, hired a tutor for the SATs or maybe pulled a few strings at your alma mater.

You may have watched with interest as the new stories unfolded related to the college admissions scandals across the country. Dozens of parents now face criminal charges because they wanted to give their own children certain advantages in the college admission process. Unfortunately, the federal government is not finished prosecuting those it suspects participated in criminal activity to get their children into elite colleges across the country.

The staggering statistics on wrongful convictions in America

America’s criminal justice system is supposed to be fair, impartial and above all, as accurate as possible. Unfortunately, the statistics on criminal justice accuracy are not promising. In recent decades, researchers and advocacy groups like the Innocence Project have been tracking (and desperately trying to correct) wrongful convictions in the United States.

What they have found is alarming. The National Registry of Exonerations has been tracking all U.S. exonerations dating back to 1989. According to the most recent report, wrongfully convicted prisoners have lost a combined 20,000 years behind bars.

Pennsylvania seems closer than ever to legalizing marijuana

Pennsylvania may be closer than ever to legalizing recreational marijuana, with two bills in the state Senate that would do just that if enacted. With medical marijuana already legal in the state since 2016 and 59 percent of Pennsylvanians in favor of full legalization, this is an interesting time for people seeking to end the practice of incarcerating individuals for possessing marijuana.

It is not clear if legalization will happen this year, but there is support for it at the top. Gov. Tom Wolf has promised to seriously consider signing a bill to legalize marijuana if one should reach his desk. And Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has been less ambiguous about his support for decriminalizing marijuana use in Pennsylvania. He is current engaged in a listening tour of the state to gauge the public’s view on the issue.

Study claims that drunk driving is on the rise among veterans

A recent study claims that both binge drinking and drunk driving have increased in recent years among veterans. Veterans in Pennsylvania should pay attention to the change in drinking habits and driving while intoxicated.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control, a substance addiction center reviewed records from 2013 to 2017. According to the research, binge drinking among vets increased by nearly 2 percentage points during that time. As a consequence, incidents of driving while intoxicated increased nearly a full percentage point.

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