Archive for October, 2010

Berks County ARD Program for Felony Charges

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I recently represented a client in Berks County who was charged with several felony charges, including theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, identify theft, and forgery.  My client was accused of opening several “credit accounts” using another individual’s name and information and proceeding to make purchases using those accounts.  There were quite a few purchases made over a period of time, and the total value of the items purchased was over $7,000.00.

My client adamantly denied the charges.  Interestingly, my client did not deny making the purchases of these items.  My client did, however, deny that any “credit accounts” were opened or that any purchases were made without the consent of the actual owner of the accounts.  Under no circumstances did my client want to be labeled a “felon”, nor could my client even begin to consider the possibility of serving a prison sentence.

Although my client and I discussed the pros and cons of taking this matter to a jury trial, ultimately a jury would simply have to decide who to believe, my client or the alleged victim.  In essence, it was a classic case of “he said / she said”, and I could not guarantee my client any particular outcome.  Additionally, I could not eliminate the threat of jail time for my client.

I ultimately decided to make an attempt to get my client placed on the ARD Program, which would have to be approved by the Berks County District Attorney’s Office.  Although it is rare for felony charges to qualify for the ARD Program, it is done under certain circumstances.  In this case, I was able to successfully negotiate with the assistant district attorney based one two (2) main factors.  First, the alleged victim in the case was elderly and not in the best health.  Second, my client had enough assets to make a large payment towards the restitution in the case.  Therefore, in order to spare the alleged victim the stress of a trial, my client was approved for the ARD Program.  Additionally, my client made a $5,000.00 payment towards the total amount of restitution in the case prior to being placed on the program.

My client will be under a period of informal supervision for 24 months, during which time the remaining amount of the restitution will be paid off.  Once the ARD Program is complete, my client will have no record of any type of conviction related to this case, and my client’s record will be expunged.  Additionally, by successfully getting my client on the ARD Program, there was no chance of my client serving any jail time.  Finally, my client will be eligible for early termination of ARD after only 12 months, assuming all other program criteria are complete.

In the end, my client was very happy with the outcome and extremely satisfied with my services.  Please call to setup a no-cost consultation if you are facing criminal charges in Berks or the surrounding counties.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a First Offense DUI / ARD in Berks County?

Friday, October 15th, 2010

I have been asked this question many different times by people who come into my office.  I strongly believe the answer to this question is “Yes”.  Although nobody needs a lawyer for a first offense DUI / ARD case, legal representation is highly recommended for several reasons.

Before I get to those reasons, though, let me give a little bit of background information on the Berks County DUI ARD Program.  Driving under the influence, otherwise referred to as DUI, is probably the most common criminal offense in Berks County.  Additionally, a DUI case knows no social or economic bounds.  People from all walks of life, who simply had a little too much to drink one evening, routinely get arrested and charged with driving under the influence.  As a result, the Pennsylvania Legislature created a special program, to be implemented in the court system, to deal specifically with certain types of first offense DUI cases.

This special program is called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, known as ARD.  The ARD Program allows an eligible defendant to avoid any mandatory jail time associated with his case.  Furthermore, the ARD Program reduces the amount of license suspension that a defendant is facing.  Another great benefit of the ARD Program is that an eligible defendant who successfully completes the program will have no record of a conviction.  All in all, the ARD Program results in a very good outcome for a defendant in a first offense DUI case.

Why, though, do you need a lawyer for this program?

First, if you are going through the ARD DUI Program, it is highly unlikely that you have any prior involvement with the criminal justice system.  You are probably scared, nervous, and have no idea of what’s in store.  You will have to appear before at least two (2) different Judges, deal with at least two (2) different assistant district attorneys, and fill out a significant amount of paperwork.  If you retain an attorney, you will have someone with you every step of the way to answer your questions and make sure the process is moving along as planned.  If you are going through the process alone, you will, in fact, be alone.  For the most part, the Judges and and the assistant district attorneys will not be able to help you or answer your questions.  They have distinct and specialized roles in the criminal justice system, and those roles do not include representing and advising defendants.

Second, not every first offense DUI should automatically be considered for the ARD Program.  There are numerous ways to fight a DUI case, such as having a preliminary hearing, filing an Omnibus Pre-Trial Motion, and taking the case to trial.  As I said, the ARD Program is a good outcome for a defendant.  An outright dismissal of the case, however, is even better.  In my career, I have had cases that were eligible for the ARD Program dismissed by contesting the charges.  If any of those clients were representing themselves, there is no way that such an outcome could have been achieved.

Third, a lawyer can help you with strategic decisions about certain aspects of the ARD Program.  Defendants in a DUI / ARD case typically will lose their driver’s license for a period of 30 days or 60 days, depending on the blood alcohol content (BAC) reading.  Although the length of the license suspension is set by statute, there is some flexibility in precisely when that license suspension will commence.  I have represented both adults with full-time jobs and college students who sought to accelerate or delay the start of their license suspension.  Although it is never a good time to suffer a license suspension, I was able to “lessen the blow”, so to speak, in these cases.

As I said at the beginning, there is no definitive need to have a lawyer for a first offense DUI / ARD in Berks County.  The overwhelming majority of defendants, however, do end up retaining the services of an attorney.  If you are facing a first offense driving under the influence (DUI) case in Reading or Berks County, Pennsylvania, and are considering the ARD Program, please contact my office to set up a free consultation.

Juvenile Law in Berks County (Reading, PA)

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Juvenile Delinquency law in Pennsylvania is governed by the Juvenile Act which can be found 42 Pa.C.S.A. Chapter 63.   A child under 18 who is charged with an act that would constitute a criminal offense if he was an adult is said to have committed a ”delinquent act.”  It is an important distinction since the Juvenile Justice System is specially designed to provide for the supervision, care and rehabilitation of a delinquent youth while providing protection for the public interest.

That being said, accused Juveniles are afforded almost all of the same rights afforded to an accused Adult.  A Juvenile should have an Attorney representing him at all critical stages of the legal process.   A Juvenile has the right against Self-Incrimination, the right against unreasonable Search and Siezure and the Expectation of Privacy in his person and property.  A Juvenile accused of a delinquent act may inspect the evidence against him, cross-examine witnesses against him and testify on his own behalf.  One significant difference, however, is that there is no Right to a Jury Trial in Juvenile Court. 

In Berks County, PA the community is lucky to have a Juvenile Justice System that is among the best in the state, if not the nation.  The lives of wayward youths are regularly turned around through the efforts of the Judiciary, the Juvenile Probation Office and Attorneys.  As a young attorney in the Public Defender’s Office I was assigned to Juvenile Court for about a year.  During that time I represented hundreds of young people accused of delinquent acts.  The types of allegations ran the gamut from Rapes, Robberies and Drug Delivery to schoolyard fights and DUI.  In private practice I have continued to zealously advocate for the rights of children.   As the former President Judge of Berks County once told me – a Juvenile Defense Attorney must wear many hats.   Advocate, Counselor, Social Worker among them.  I relish the oppurtunity to continue to work in the Juvenile Justice System.  Please call our office for a free consultation if your child is charged with a delinquent act.

Second (2nd) Offense DUI – Reduced Sentence

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Recently, I represented a client who was charged with a second (2nd) offense DUI in the Berks County Courts.  My client’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was in the so-called “middle range” (75 Pa.C.S.A. 3802(b)), and he was looking at a mandatory 30 days in jail if he was convicted.  At the start of the case, I applied my client to the Berks County ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) Program, which is typically reserved for a first (1st) offense DUI.  However, since my client’s prior DUI offense occurred nearly ten (10) years ago, and because it took place in another state, I thought it wise to at least make an application to the ARD Program.

As the case progressed, my client was, in fact, denied entry to the ARD Program based on his prior DUI offense.  My next step, however, was to file an Omnibus Pre-Trial Motion in an attempt to get some of the evidence in the case suppressed.  On the date of the Pre-Trial Hearing, I was approached by the Assistant District Attorney assigned to the case regarding a possible deal.  In exchange for my client’s guilty plea, the charged would be reduced to a “general impairment” DUI (75 Pa.C.S.A. 3802(a)), which carries a mandatory 5 days in jail.  Although my client was not excited about the prospect of going to jail, 5 days in Berks County Prison is a huge difference compared to 30 days in Berks County Prison.

In the end, my client decided to take the deal.  Based on the research and effort that went in to the Omnibus Pre-Trial Motion that I filed, I was able to save my client 25 days in jail.

If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Berks County, Pennsylvania, or Reading, Pennsylvania, and would like to discuss your case in more detail, please contact my office.  There is no charge for your initial consultation.