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Williamsport Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Blog

Supreme Court makes landmark Fourth Amendment ruling

The Fourth Amendment protects Pennsylvania residents against unreasonable search and seizure, but the courts have long held that this protection does not apply to information that is willingly shared with third parties such as banks or telephone companies. The digital age has radically changed the way that data is gathered and stored, and the Supreme Court was recently tasked with deciding whether or not the third-party doctrine should be applied to cell site location information.

This is information that is gathered by wireless service providers that can reveal in great detail where cellphones have been used. Under the provisions of the Stored Communications Act, police officers are able to access this data without first obtaining a search warrant provided that they have reasonable grounds to believe that it would provide evidence of criminal activity. However, in a narrow 5-4 decision on June 22, the Supreme Court rejected the third-party doctrine and ruled that CSLI was covered by the Fourth Amendment.

How the FBI deals with hate crimes

In Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the U.S., hate crimes are a punishable offense. Hate crimes are defined as traditional offenses that range from arson and vandalism to murder, with the exception that there is an additional element of bias. For example, if a person vandalized a piece of property due to the owner's race, disability, religion, gender or sexual orientation, that person may be charged with a hate crime.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations considers hate crimes to be of high priority due to the fact that hatred and intolerance could potentially turn violent and encourage terrorism on domestic soil. In fact, the FBI has been investigating these claims since World War I. The role of the FBI increased even further after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

Man facing DUI charges following high-speed car chase

A Pennsylvania man was taken into custody on June 17 after he allegedly fled from police, resulting in a high-speed chase. The incident occurred at about 1:38 a.m. in the eastbound lanes of U.S. 30 in the area of Franklin Farm Lane.

Authorities said that the man was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee when he was clocked at speeds of 70 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone. A trooper, who was driving in an unmarked police vehicle, turned on his emergency lights and siren to conduct a traffic stop. The Jeep reportedly sped up to 90 miles an hour until it got stuck behind another vehicle and was stopped.

Can you go to jail for tax evasion?

If you are currently facing charges related to tax evasion, you may have concerns about the potential penalties you may face and whether you may have to spend time behind bars. Maybe you honestly forgot to file taxes one year and your finances have spiraled in the time since, or perhaps you understated the amount you owe, and you are wondering whether it will come back to haunt you. While tax crimes are undeniably serious in nature, in reality, the chance of you having to serve time for tax evasion are relatively slim.

It is, however, not impossible, and there are certain actions you may take that can make the Internal Revenue Service more likely to consider filing criminal tax charges against you.

Types of Pennsylvania assault charges

A person who causes bodily harm to another person in Pennsylvania may face assault charges. Depending on the severity of the charge, the penalties can range from time in prison and fines. There are two types of assault charges: simple assault and aggravated assault.

A person may be charged with simple assault, which may either be a second or third degree misdemeanor, if he or she causes bodily harm to another person. This harm may be caused intentionally or knowingly. Further, a person may also be charged with simple assault if negligent or reckless behavior involving a deadly weapon also causes bodily harm to another person. Finally, using physical menace in an attempt to intimidate another person may also result in a simple assault accusation.

Eyewitness errors involved in wrongful convictions

For many people in Pennsylvania who maintain their innocence despite being convicted of a crime, mistaken identity and wrongful identification could be a critical issue. DNA testing has helped to prove the innocence of a number of people across the country who were convicted of serious crimes like rape and murder in which modern-day technologies have allowed new discoveries to be made in old cases. In a number of the convictions overturned through DNA tests, eyewitness misidentification of the person responsible has been a significant factor.

Eyewitness identification, while a staple of crime shows and even many actual courtroom criminal trials and police identification processes, can often be problematic according to many experts. There are some reforms to help alleviate issues that have arisen repeatedly when relying on eyewitness information. Studies show that when presented with six photos, witnesses will generally choose the person who looks closest to what they remember. However, the sight of the photos can further influence the witness' recollection so that their identification in a live lineup can be affected by the earlier photos.

Federal law applies serious penalties to carjacking crimes

Motorists in Pennsylvania typically watch out for traffic hazards, but sometimes a thief directly tries to steal a vehicle from a driver. The thief usually uses some type of weapon to intimidate the driver into giving up the vehicle. Since 1992, federal criminal law has established potentially harsh penalties for people convicted of this form of automobile theft known as carjacking.

According to the Criminal Resource Manual for U.S. Attorneys, carjacking arises when a person threatens with bodily harm or death a person in control of a vehicle for the purpose of taking the vehicle. If no bodily harm resulted from a carjacking crime, a convicted person could be fined and sentenced to serve up to 15 years in prison. When serious bodily injuries occur during the commission of the crime, then a convicted person will face fines and a prison sentence that could last as long as 25 years.

Pennsylvania's SCRAM bracelet program

The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole is one dozens of state agencies around the country to have adopted the use of electronic monitoring bracelets to combat drunk driving. Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring, or SCRAM, bracelets detect even trace amounts of alcohol in an offender's bloodstream, and they offer a number of benefits to both law enforcement and the individuals who wear them.

In addition to monitoring offenders for alcohol consumption every 30 minutes, the SCRAM bracelets used in Pennsylvania send out alerts when efforts are made to tamper with them and keep track of curfew compliance. This information is stored in a database that is accessible by the state's parole officers around the clock. Judges often consider SCRAM bracelets appropriate when they do not feel that offenders are dangerous but are concerned about their history of substance abuse problems.

Criminal offenses associated with alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and drugs play a significant role in criminal activities. People who consume alcohol or use drugs may experience judgment impairment, lower inhibitions and aggressive behaviors. These side effects contribute to various types of crimes.

Here are statistics that indicate how many criminals are under the influence while committing certain criminal acts:

  • Sexual assault - 30 percent
  • Aggravated assault - 26.2 percent
  • Violent crime - 24.2 percent
  • Robbery - 23.3 percent

Factors that could trigger a DUI charge

Pennsylvania residents who are taken into custody after a DUI are likely going to be charged with a misdemeanor offense. However, there are some cases in which a DUI could be upgraded to a felony, which comes with enhanced penalties and long-term ramifications. A DUI is sometimes considered a felony based on a driver's blood alcohol content at the time he or she is pulled over.

The legal blood alcohol limit in all states is .08 percent. If a driver's BAC is roughly .16 percent or higher, a DUI charge could be upgraded to a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor. Those who have prior convictions for drunk or impaired driving or who caused bodily harm while impaired may also see an enhanced charge. However, prosecutors generally have to show that a drunk driver was at fault for causing those injuries.

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