Archive for October, 2017

Spotlight Issue: Civil lawsuits

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

What are your options if someone in Berks County owes you money? If you are owed money because of damages done to you or your property or because of a breach of contract (just to name a few causes of action), you have the option of filing a civil lawsuit. In this lawsuit you will file a complaint which tells the court why you are owed money how much money you are owed. The amount of money owed is particularly important because that determines where you can file your civil lawsuit in Berks County. Civil lawsuits requesting $12,000 or less can be filed in front of a Magisterial District Judge (MDJ). Claims over $12,000 must be filed in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas.

Most people know that an attorney is necessary when a lawsuit involves a sum of money above $12,000. But what about lawsuits for smaller amounts filed in front of a MDJ? Is an attorney necessary for those cases? The short answer is “no,” but the smart answer is usually “yes.”

In order to present the most persuasive case and convince the MDJ that he is owed a certain amount of money, a Plaintiff (person who files the lawsuit) is best served by having an attorney argue the case. A Plaintiff must also make sure to follow the rules when filing the complaint because failure to do so can result in dismissal of his complaint. Similarly, a Defendant may need to present evidence to contradict the Plaintiff’s case and argue to the MDJ why he should not have to pay the amount requested by the Plaintiff – these arguments are best made by someone who understands the law. Defendants are also able to counterclaim against the Plaintiff, but there is a time limit in which that complaint must be filed. Even the question of which Berks County MDJ should hear the case (this is called venue) can be a difficult one for a person who doesn’t understand the law. The stakes can be high for both parties and the Defendant can be on the hook for the court costs if the MDJ decides in favor of the Plaintiff. Hiring an attorney may save you money in the end.

Take, for example, a recent client of Attorney McAllister’s who was sued by a bank for credit collection. The bank said that he owed them $1,500 and filed a civil suit in front of a MDJ. This client could have represented himself, but he made the smart decision to hire Attorney McAllister instead. During the hearing, Attorney McAllister pointed out to the MDJ that the attorney for the bank had not presented any evidence linking his client to the debt (i.e., no signatures on documents). The MDJ was persuaded by Attorney McAllister’s argument and dismissed the civil suit. Our client walked away without having to pay anything to the bank or the court.

If you think that you have a case for a civil suit in Berks County, contact our knowledgeable Reading, PA civil attorneys before you file a complaint. If you are the defendant in a civil suit, don’t go to court alone: we can help. Contact our office at 610-372-5128 or email us info@enmlaw.com.

ENM Law News: Terorristic Threats charge dismissed at preliminary hearing

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

A client recently came to Attorney McAllister looking for help after a fight with a roommate. Our client had been charged with Terroristic Threats and his preliminary hearing was scheduled to be heard in Reading Central Court (read more about RCC here). The roommate testified that our client threatened to shoot him. The roommate admitted that he had never seen our client with a gun. While not denying the statement, Attorney McAllister argued to the magisterial district judge that it didn’t constitute a Terroristic Threat. Confused by how that can be true? Luckily, Attorney McAllister isn’t!

Pennsylvania law requires that in order for a threat to constitute a Terroristic Threat, it must be made with the intent to terrorize, or with reckless disregard that it will cause terror. Pennsylvania courts have decided that this definition does not include statements made with transitory anger (i.e., speaker didn’t intend to carry out the threat and didn’t have reason to believe that the statement would make you believe that he was going to).

In our case, Attorney McAllister argued that because our client didn’t have a gun and his roommate knew that he didn’t have a gun, there was never an intent to terrorize with the statement and no reason for the roommate to believe that he was going to follow through on the threat. The magisterial district judge dismissed the Terroristic Threats charge against our client and he was no longer facing 5 years incarceration and a $10,000 fine. If you’ve been charged with a Terroristic Threats case in Berks County, contact our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys at 610-372-5128 or info@enmlaw.com.

ENM Law News: 2008 ICC charge dismissed for lack of service

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

What happens when there is an alleged violation of a civil Protection from Abuse order (PFA)? The alleged violation results in an Indirect Criminal Contempt charge (ICC). This is a criminal charge which can result in a jail sentence of up to 6 months and a $1,000 fine.

A client recently came to us because of a 2008 warrant for Simple Assault and ICC charges in Berks County. Back in 2008 this client was charged with Simple Assault and Terroristic Threats against his girlfriend and violating a PFA which was granted on the girlfriend’s behalf. The client left town without dealing with the charges and warrants were issued for his failure to appear. The client had no dealings with police or issues with the warrants until a couple of months ago when he attempted to update his immigration status and learned about the warrants. He was ineligible for a change in his immigration status while the criminal cases remained on his record so the client hired Berks County criminal law attorney Attorney Nevins to help him.

Attorney Nevins first brought the client into court to address the outstanding warrants. Once that was done, the preliminary hearing for the Simple Assault and Terroristic Threats charges was rescheduled. Attorney Nevins appeared on the client’s behalf and the charges were dismissed because the alleged victim from 2008 did not want to testify. Attorney Nevins then appeared in PFA court to represent the client for the ICC. Attorney Nevins was told that the alleged victim did want to testify for the ICC hearing. Upon reviewing the evidence against his client, Attorney Nevins noted that the client had not been properly served with the PFA back in 2008. Service of the PFA is a necessary element that the Commonwealth must prove before a defendant can be convicted of ICC. Attorney Nevins took this discovery to the Assistant District Attorney assigned to the case and convinced him to withdraw the charge.

Thanks to the hard work and attentiveness of Attorney Nevings, this client was able to leave Reading with no criminal convictions. Attorney Nevins has filed to expunge the criminal charges so that his client can move forward with his attempts to change his immigration status.

If you have a warrant for an old criminal case in Berks County or if you’ve been charged with an ICC charge for violating a PFA, contact our knowledgeable criminal law attorneys at 610-372-5128 or email us at info@enmlaw.com.