Archive for January, 2011

Incarcerated in Berks County Prison?

Friday, January 28th, 2011

The phone rings and the person on the other end is informing you that your son, daughter, friend or loved one has been locked up in Berks County prison. You don’t know if they’ve been charged with a Criminal Offense or what that offense may be. You are scared and concerned for their welfare. You don’t know what to do or where to turn.

The best possible thing you can do for your loved at that point is to retain an attorney as soon as possible.

Our law office regularly receives calls from family members of individuals who have been locked up in Berks County Prison. It is crucial that we get involved right away. We routinely visit our clients in prison, advise them of their rights and begin to devise a defense if they are facing criminal charges. The first couple of days a person is locked up are critically important to a case. Often, a police officer or detective may attempt to elicit a statement or confession from an incarcerated defendant. Without counsel, many defendants will make statements against their interests and damage their cases. At other times, an uncounseled defendant may make incriminating statements to other inmates. Those statements, too, can be used against him.

By retaining our firm to represent your friend or loved one you will ensure that their rights and interests are well protected. We will guide them through the criminal justice process and zealously advocate for the most favorable result. Call our offices to arrange for a no-cost consultation. After speaking with you we may make arrangements to visit your loved in Berks County Prison to begin their defense.

Client’s Driver’s License Restored After Appeal

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

This morning I represented a client at a summary appeal hearing in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas.  A summary appeal is an appeal of a conviction in a summary case, which takes place at a magisterial district court.  Typically, these cases are traffic related and found under Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, although there are many other non-traffic summary citations that exist.

My client was pulled over back in March of 2010 and charged with driving on a suspended license under 75 Pa.C.S.A. 1543(a).  My client was very surprised to find out that her license was suspended.  As it turned out, her license was suspended due to a paperwork error, and she immediately took action to have her license restored the very next day.    However, the 1543(a) citation was already issued, and, after appearing in district court unrepresented, she plead guilty to the 1543(a) citation.  After speaking with the officer, my client was under the mistaken belief that the guilty plea to the 1543(a) citation would result only in fines and costs.  Shortly after pleading guilty, however, she received notice from PennDOT that her license would be suspended for one (1) full year.  This scenario underscores the importance of being represented by a skilled and experienced attorney, even in seemingly simple matters involving traffic citations.

My client works full-time and has a fairly long commute to work.  Therefore, she absolutely could not afford to lose her license for one (1) year.  A summary appeal was filed, which stayed (delayed) the start of my client’s license suspension for a period of six (6) months.  Therefore, at least my client was able to continue to drive while the summary appeal was pending.

At the court hearing this morning, I was prepared to make an argument to the Judge that my client should not be found guilty of the 1543(a) citation.  However, prior to the start of the summary trial, I was approached by the officer and the assistant district attorney working the case.  After explaining my arguments and my client’s predicament to them,  I was offered a plea “deal”.  My client could plead guilty to 75 Pa.C.S.A. 1501(a), Driver’s Required To Be Licensed, instead of the 1543(a) citation.  This would result in no license suspension for my client, and the only penalty would be a moderate fine.  After discussing the pros and cons of the deal with my client, she decided to accept the offer.  Although we had some valid arguments to make at the summary trial, no outcome is guaranteed once the case is in the Judge’s hands.  The “guarantee” of no license suspension was very important to my client, and she was very happy with the outcome of the case.

If you have been charged with a traffic offense or are having difficulty getting your driver’s license restored, please contact my office to schedule a no-cost consultation.  I would be happy to meet to discuss the specific details of your case.

No Jail Time For Second Offense DUI In Berks County

Monday, January 24th, 2011

My client was arrested and charged with a second (2nd) offense DUI that was alleged to have taken place on March 2, 2010, in Berks County, Pennsylvania.  Unfortunately, at the time of the new charges, my client was also in the process of finishing up the DUI ARD Program for a first (1st) offense DUI that was alleged to have taken placed in June of 2009.  As a result, my client had two (2) issues to deal with.  First, the Berks County Adult Probation Department, based on the new DUI case, was asking the Court to terminate my client’s ARD, which would result another 12 month license suspension and a mandatory three (3) days in Berks County Prison.  Second, our client was facing a mandatory 90 days in Berks County Prison on the second (2nd) DUI case.Adrenaline Rush Ii hinderløype

Initially, my goal was to prevent my client from being removed from the DUI ARD Program in his first case from 2009.  Luckily, my client had performed well while on the DUI ARD Program, including completing all of his community service and attending all required classes.  Therefore, at the “termination hearing”, the Judge was willing to allow my client to complete the DUI ARD Program, so long as all of his fines and costs to the Court were paid in full, which, of course, my client was more than happy to do.  This saved my client from an additional 12 month license suspension and a mandatory three (3) days in Berks County Prison.

The focus subsequently shifted to my client’s most recent DUI case.  After reviewing the discovery in the case, including all of the police reports, the decision was made to apply my client to the Second Time Offender Program, commonly known as “STOP”, which is run by the Berks County Adult Probation Department.  STOP allows a defendant charged with a second (2nd) offense DUI to participate in inpatient treatment at the Reading YMCA for a period of 85 days instead of jail time.  Following the stay at the YMCA, the defendant is usually required to do five (5) days in jail at Berks County Prison.  Prior to entering the YMCA for 85 days, however, my client sought out treatment on his own, spending one (1) month in intensive inpatient treatment at CARON, followed by several additional months at a sober living facility in Berks County.

Based on the fact that our client went significantly above and beyond what is typically required under STOP, I was able to successfully argue to the Judge that our client should get “credit” for the five (5) days that he would typically be required to spend in Berks County Prison.  In other words, I was asking the Judge not to send my client to jail for the standard five (5) days.  Although the District Attorney’s Office argued against my request, after explaining all of the programs that my client successfully completed, the Judge agreed to give my client “credit” for the time he spent in inpatient treatment.  The end result was that my client did not have to spend any time in jail, although he did spend a very significant amount of time at several treatment facilities.

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or DUI in the Reading or Berks County area, please contact my office at 610-372-5128 to set-up a no cost consultation.  I would be happy to discuss what I can do to get the best possible outcome in your case.

Client Released from Prison on Unsecured Bail

Friday, January 14th, 2011

This afternoon, I represented a client at a preliminary hearing who is charged with misdemeanor receiving stolen property, which is a theft offense.  My client was being held in Berks County Prison on $20,000.00 secured bail, which means she would have had to pay a bail bond agency anywhere from $1,000.00 to $2,000.00 to be released from jail.

At the preliminary hearing, however, I was able to convince the Judge to lower my client’s bail to $20,000.00 unsecured, which means that my client will be released from jail without paying any money.  In the event my client would fail to show up for future court dates, she would be obligated to the court for up to $20,000.00.  I made sure to point out to the Judge that my client had only a very minor prior record, had no history of violent behavior, was not a threat to the community, and had a stable residence located in the City of Reading.  Based on these factors and my arguments, the Judge was willing to release my client from jail.  This is, of course, a great benefit to my client since the typical criminal case takes at least several months to resolve.

In the past, I have also represented clients at emergency bail hearings in front of a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County.  In one particular case, my client was given a high bail at the preliminary hearing for a minor marijuana possession offense.  Despite my pleas for a reduced bail, the Judge decided to keep my client locked up.  No more than a few hours later, I was arguing an emergency bail hearing for my client in front of a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, which has a higher authority than the district courts of Pennsylvania.    The higher court Judge agreed with my arguments, and my client was released from jail the very same day.

If someone you know is in Berks County Prison, please call our office to speak with one of our three experienced criminal defense attorneys at no cost.  We can discuss the details of the bail process in Berks County, and we can discuss options for getting a bail reduction, either at the preliminary hearing level or on an emergency basis in the Court of Common Pleas.  Many times, we can save our clients a significant amount of money by alleviating the necessity of paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars to a bail bond agency.

Not Guilty Verdict for Trucker in Weight Restriction Case

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Yesterday, I represented a tractor trailer driver in a summary appeal case of a citation for violation of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code at 75 PaCSA 4902, Restrictions on use of highways and bridges. This section of the vehicle code makes it illegal to operate a motor vehicle on roads or bridges with a posted weight restriction. Most often this is meant to prevent truck drivers from operating on minor roads or bridges that have not been constructed to bear significant weight.

In this particular case my client had been fined over $3,200 for inadvertantly making a wrong turn. The fine was so large because the weight restriction on this road was 10 tons and his unladen tractor trailer weighed over 33,160 pounds. The law calls for graduated fines depending on how far the vehicle was over the limit.

Our position was that my client did not intend to operate his truck on this road. Instead, he testified that he had made a wrong turn, saw the posted weight restriction and began to make efforts to turn around when the officer stopped him. Fortunately for my client, common sense carried the day and the Judge found him not guilty.

Our firm continues to grow its practice in Traffic and Motor Vehicle Law and Licensing issues. Many clients are CDL Drivers whose livelihood depends on their license. If you are facing a loss of license or heavy fines as a result of a motor vehicle citation please contact our office for a free consultation. For the convenience of non-Berks County or non-Pennsylvania residents we offer no cost, confidential telephone consultations as well.

Fast Track ARD for DUI in Berks County, PA

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

The ARD program in Berks County is a way for an eligible candidate to avoid the mandatory jail time associated with a first time DUI. As we’ve previously posted, you can earn a dismissal of your DUI case by participation in this special first-time offenders program. Your participation will include community service, safe driving classes and court fines and costs. Our firm prides itself on making the entire process as simple as possible for our clients. One way we do this is by taking advantage of the so-called “Fast Track ARD” process.

When facing any criminal or DUI case an individual can expect to go to as many 4 or 5 court hearings. To many people appearing in front of a Judge and other courtroom personnel can be a stressful situation, not to mention time consuming. During an initial case evaluation we are usually able to determine pretty quickly if we can reduce the number of court appearances down to two. In addition, with our knowledge of Berks County Courts we can very often have our clients in and out of court in under half an hour. By ensuring that our clients are informed and engaged in the process we make certain that they are as prepared for court as we are. This fact is as important with a First Time DUI case as it is with a serious felony.

If you are facing a DUI charge in Berks County please contact our office for a no-cost consultation to see if you may qualify for the ARD program.

Defending PFA Cases in Berks County, PA (Reading, PA)

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

At its best the Protection From Abuse Act in Pennsylvania can help save victims of abuse from those who wish to do them harm. At it’s worst, a PFA can be used as a weapon by a vindictive husband or wife, or boyfriend or girlfriend. Unfortunately, on many occasions the filing of a PFA will be the first volley by one side in anticipation of a divorce or custody case. Often the person who finds themselves defending themselves in a PFA case is already placed at a disadvantage when it comes to child custody proceedings by virtue of the fact that there are allegations of abuse or other wrongdoing.

That said, it is extremely important to engage the services of an attorney if you are hit with a Protection from Abuse petition. You will receive a Notice of Hearing along with your order listing a date which you and the PFA Plaintiff are to appear in front of as a Judge. At the hearing the plaintiff is required to show by a preponderance of the evidence that abuse occurred and that the Plaintiff fears harm at the hands of the Defendant. Each party would be permitted to testify and the Judge would ultimately decide if there was enough evidence to enter a permanent Protection Order.

A PFA can take many things away from a Defendant. If you shared a residence with the Plaintiff you can be evicted from that residence. If you have children with the Plaintiff, you can be prohibited from contact with your children. If you are a hunter or gun owner, you can have your weapon taken from you. The order can remain in effect for up to three years.

Make no mistake, a PFA Defendant is not a Criminal Defendant. You do not get convicted, you do not go to jail, you are not on probation (unless you subsequently violate the PFA, of course). On the other hand, you can have many important things taken away from you.

If you are facing a PFA petition in Berks County, PA you should contact our office immediately for a no cost consultation. We consistently obtain favorable resolutions for our clients in these cases. And, if your PFA case is the beginning of a long child custody or divorce battle, you will have comfort in knowing that we can continue to counsel and serve you in those matters as well.