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ENM Law News: RCC cases dismissed

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

If you don’t know what RCC is, read our blog explaining it here.

As mentioned in the blog, if you’ve been charged with a crime within the City of Reading, your preliminary hearing will be held in Reading Central Court (RCC). RCC can be an overwhelming place and it is important to have an attorney who knows the ins and outs of the RCC system.

Our criminal law attorneys have spent many years representing clients in RCC. Here are some details about two recent cases handled by Attorney Nevins.

Attorney Nevins recently represented a client in RCC who was charged with discharge of a firearm into an occupied structure and simple assault. The client admitted that he was holding a gun that discharged, but said that it happened accidentally. The client said that he was surprised in the stairwell of his home by his estranged wife with whom he shared the house and inadvertently fired the gun. Attorney Nevins argued to the assigned Assistant District Attorney that the statute only criminalizes shots into a building from outside that building. The ADA agreed and withdrew the felony firearm charge. The client’s estranged wife who was listed as the victim in the simple assault charge indicated that she did not want to be involved with the case so Attorney Nevins asked for the assault charge to be withdrawn as well. At the end of the day, Attorney Nevins’ client walked away with no criminal charges after facing a felony of the third degree and a misdemeanor of the 2nd degree. Between the two charges he was looking at a possible 9 years of incarceration and a $20,000 fine.

Attorney Nevins also represented a client in RCC who was charged with resisting arrest. Resisting arrest is graded as a misdemeanor of the second degree and is punishable by a maximum sentence of 2 years of incarceration and a $5,000 fine. This client was sitting on the stairs next to a barbershop that had a “no trespassing” sign. A police officer approached the client and asked for his name. The client refused to give his name so the officer told him that he was being arrested. While the officer was trying to place him in handcuffs, the client stiffened his arms and the officer said that he was resisting the arrest. Unfortunately, the client was on probation at the time of his arrest so a detainer was lodged against him to keep him in jail. The client was in custody for 2 weeks waiting for his preliminary hearing in RCC. Attorney Nevins pointed out the problems in the Commonwealth’s resisting case and the Assistant District Attorney agreed to withdraw the resisting arrest charge in exchange for the client pleading guilty to a summary charge of trespass. The client agreed and was quickly released from jail.

Your preliminary hearing in RCC is your first chance to have the charges against you dismissed. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. If you’ve been charged with a crime in Reading, PA, contact our knowledgeable attorneys at 610-372-5128 or email us at info@enmlaw.com.

Spotlight Issue: What is Reading Central Court (RCC)?

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

You’ve been charged with a crime and now you’re scheduled for something called Reading Central Court (more commonly referred to as “RCC”). Are you wondering what that means? We can help!

In Pennsylvania, the first stop for misdemeanor and felony cases is the preliminary hearing. This hearing is held in front of a magisterial district judge. At a preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth must establish a prima facie case that a crime was committed and that the defendant was the one who committed it. This hearing is the first chance for the defendant to test the evidence offered by the Commonwealth by cross-examining the witnesses put forward. It is important for you to have an attorney present to represent you at your preliminary hearing. It is in your best interest to have a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side to evaluate the evidence and make the best arguments to the judge in support of your case.

After listening to the testimony and the arguments from the attorneys, the magisterial district judge will determine whether the Commonwealth has met their burden of proof for each charge. If the burden has not been met then the charge will be dismissed. If the burden has been met then the charges will be “bound over” to the Berks County Court of Common Pleas.

In Berks County, the location for your preliminary hearing is determined by where the alleged crime was committed. Each part of the County is divided into districts and a magisterial district judge is elected to hear cases in each area. However, all of the preliminary hearings for crimes allegedly committed within the City of Reading are held in RCC. These hearings are always held on Fridays at the Berks County Courthouse. RCC can be an overwhelming place and it is helpful to have an attorney who understands how the court operates.Our criminal law attorneys have many years of experience with navigating the RCC system and their experience can only benefit you.

If you’ve been charged with a crime in the City of Reading and have been scheduled for a preliminary hearing in RCC, contact our experienced criminal law attorneys today at 610-372-5128 or email us at info@enmlaw.com.

ENM Law News: Indecent Exposure charge dismissed following bench trial

Monday, July 10th, 2017

What do you do if you’ve been charged with a sex offense in Reading, PA that you didn’t commit? You need to hire an experienced criminal law attorney as quickly as possible. That’s exactly what a recent client did when he hired Attorney Nevins to represent him for an indecent exposure charge in Berks County.

This client was falsely accused of exposing himself to a 15-year-old girl when she was walking to school. The victim gave a physical description of the culprit which included that he had a beard. Cases like this result in great public outcry and the police are under pressure to arrest the culprit immediately even when there is questionable evidence. In this case, there was surveillance footage of the victim and the culprit prior to actual exposure, but the footage was not clear and made identification difficult. Police then looked at local Megan’s Law registrants (prior sex offenders) and found our client. No other suspects were considered. Police placed our client’s picture in a photo lineup and the victim identified him during her follow-up interview. Our client was arrested and was unable to pay bond to be released from custody because of a parole detainer lodged against him for a prior conviction.

Our client needed Attorney Nevins to quickly prove to the Court that he had been falsely accused. Attorney Nevins requested an expedited bench trial (trial heard by a judge rather than a jury) and the Court complied. Attorney Nevins presented an alibi defense which relied on the testimony of our client’s cousin. The cousin testified that she and our client were texting each other about transportation to work at the same time that the victim said the crime occurred. Further, the cousin testified about the clothes that our client was wearing when she picked him up that morning and testified that our client was clean-shaven. This physical description did not match the description given by the victim.

After hearing all of the evidence, the Judge found our client “not guilty.” This case shows the importance of investigations as well as the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. Thanks to the hard work of Attorney Nevins, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in Reading, PA, this client is no longer facing charges for a crime that he did not commit.

If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense in Berks County, contact our criminal defense attorneys today at 610-372-5128 or email us at info@enmlaw.com.

Read an article about this case in the Reading Eagle by clicking here.

Spotlight Issue: What is the difference between a 1543(a) and a 1543(b) violation?

Friday, June 30th, 2017

What is the difference between a 1543(a) and a 1543(b) violation? Both violations are traffic offenses, but the consequences for each are vastly different. We’ll point out some of the most important differences here.

1) Both 1543(a) and 1543(b) violations relate to driving with a suspended license, BUT the reason for the original license suspension determines which section applies.

- 1543(a): any type of license suspension not related to a DUI

- 1543(b): license suspension related to a DUI – ex. DUI conviction or ARD disposition or refusal to submit to chemical testing

2) Both 1543(a) and 1543(b) convictions result in fines and additional license suspensions, BUT there are drastic differences in the amount of jail time involved (if any)

- 1543(a): the beginning penalty is a $200 fine and an additional license suspension – repeat violations result in an increased penalty of up to $1,000 fine and a jail sentence of up to 6 months – a 6th or subsequent conviction results in a mandatory $1,000 fine and a mandatory jail sentence of 30 days – 6 months

- 1543(b): penalty of $500 fine and immediately includes a mandatory jail sentence of 60 to 90 days

3) 1543(b) has increased penalties if the driver has drugs or alcohol above .02% in his blood OR refuses to submit to chemical testing, 1543(a) does not
– 1st conviction with enhanced penalty – mandatory $1,000 fine and 90 day jail sentence
– 2nd conviction with enhanced penalty – mandatory $2,500 fine and a jail sentence not to exceed 6 months
– 3rd conviction with enhanced penalty – mandatory $5,000 fine and a jail sentence not to exceed 2 years

As you can tell from this summary, there are much stricter penalties for driving with a DUI-suspended license under 1543(b); however, a 1543(a) violation should not be taken lightly, either. If you’ve been charged with either of these traffic offenses in Berks County, the stakes are too high for you to try to handle your case on your own. Our attorneys will investigate your case to see whether you have been properly charged and discuss your options with you, including the possibility of negotiating a reduced sentence. Contact our knowledgeable criminal law attorneys today at 610-372-5128 or email us at info@ennlaw.com.

ENM Law News: No jail time for 1543(a) violator

Friday, June 30th, 2017

Traffic tickets can often have relatively minor consequences, but in certain cases those same traffic tickets can have major consequences involving mandatory jail sentences. One such ticket is a violation of 1543(a) for driving with a suspended license. A first conviction usually results in a fine and an additional license suspension. But subsequent convictions can lead to jail sentences and a sixth or subsequent convictions leads to a mandatory sentence of 30 days to 6 months of incarceration.

A recent client came to Attorney McAllister facing the most serious sentence for a 1543(a) charge: a mandatory jail sentence of 30 days to 6 months. Attorney McAllister took the case and worked hard to negotiate a deal for this client that did not include ANY jail time. Attorney McAllister’s representation made a huge difference in this client’s case. If you’re facing a mandatory jail sentence for a 1543(a) violation in Berks County, you need an attorney who knows how to get you the best results. Contact our Reading, PA criminal law attorneys at 610-372-5128 or email us at info@enmlaw.com.

ENM Law News: Indirect Criminal Contempt win

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

A client came to our office looking for assistance with an Indirect Criminal Contempt (ICC) charge for violating a Protection from Abuse order (PFA). Attorney McAllister found out that the offer from the District Attorney’s office was for a jail sentence of 3-6 months. Attorney McAllister and the client decided to proceed with a hearing. An ICC hearing is essentially a small trial in front of a judge. The District Attorney has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated the PFA by proving 4 elements:

- that the PFA was sufficiently definite, clear and specific to properly notify the defendant about what conduct was prohibited
- that the defendant knew about the PFA
- that the alleged act was volitional
- that the defendant acted with wrongful intent

The PFA plaintiff and our client both testified at the hearing and Attorney McAllister argued that the District Attorney did not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. He specifically argued that his client did not act with wrongful intent. The judge agreed with Attorney McAllister’s argument and dismissed the charge against our client.

If you’ve been charged with violating a PFA in Berks County, do not attend the hearing on your own. Contact our experienced criminal law attorneys in Reading, PA at 610-372-5128 or info@enmlaw.com.

ENM Law News: Armed robbery charge dismissed at preliminary hearing

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Attorney Nevins recently represented a client who was incarcerated for an armed robbery charge. Armed robbery is a felony of the first degree and is punishable by a maximum of 20 years of incarceration and a $25,000 fine. Our client denied the allegations and said that he was trying to help the alleged victim, not rob him. Attorney Nevins made plans to fight the charges at the preliminary hearing. Disinterested witnesses were found who supported our client’s version of events and Attorney Nevins made sure that they were in court for the hearing. He presented the witnesses to the police officer and Assistant District Attorney who agreed to withdraw the charges after hearing the witnesses’ credible stories. It turns out the the alleged victim had overdosed on heroin and concocted this story blaming our client in order to avoid getting in trouble with his probation officer. Our client was released from custody the same day as the hearing and faces no criminal charges as a result of this incident.

If you’ve been falsely accused of criminal charges in Reading, PA, contact our experienced and knowledgeable Berks County criminal attorneys to see what can be done to help you. Call us at 610-372-5128 or email at info@enmlaw.com.

Spotlight Issue: Update on DUI license suspensions in Pennsylvania

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

In 2016, the US Supreme Court issued a decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota which changed the way that DUI cases are handled in Pennsylvania. Read more about that decision here. One issue that the Birchfield Court seemed to leave alone was civil penalties for a driver refusing to submit to chemical testing (blood or breath test). But, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has now addressed the issue directly following the Birchfield decision.

In Boseman v. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing, the defendant was arrested for suspicion of DUI and was asked to submit to a blood test. The police said that she refused to submit to the test and her driver’s license was suspended for 1 year as a result of that refusal. In her appeal, the defendant argued two issues. First, that she should have been given a second chance to submit to the blood test before the police decided that she had refused. Second, because of the new requirements under Birchfield, the defendant argued that the police should have obtained a search warrant before requesting that she submit to the blood test.

In its decision, the Commonwealth Court said that the police were not required to give the defendant a second chance to take the blood test. The Court said that the police are not required to try to convince drivers to try to take the test or wait for them to make a decision. Further, once a driver has refused, he cannot later change his mind and agree to take the test.

The Commonwealth Court in Boseman also declined to overturn the defendant’s license suspension in light of the Birchfield decision. The Commonwealth Court essentially said that the Birchfield decision did not apply to the defendant’s case because her license was suspended in an administrative proceeding under the civil Implied Consent statute rather than as a result of a criminal penalty in a criminal statute. The Commonwealth Court further said that the Implied Consent warnings that were read to the defendant made it clear that it was not a crime to refuse to submit to the blood test, but that there would be a license suspension as a result of the refusal. Therefore, the Commonwealth Court said that the license suspension was appropriate.

What does this mean for Berks County drivers? At this time, the new DUI requirements under Birchfield do not apply to license suspensions for refusal to submit to chemical testing. The license suspension process will continue to be handled by PennDot as it was prior to the Birchfield decision. But, there is a lot of change on the criminal side of things and we’ll give you some updates on that soon.

If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Reading, PA and your license has been suspended because the police said you refused to submit to chemical testing, you may be able to fight your license suspension with PennDot. Contact our experienced Berks County DUI lawyers before you miss any deadlines. Call us at 610-372-5128 or email at info@enmlaw.com.

Alibi Defense In PFA: Case Dismissed

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Attorney Dan Nevins secured a dismissal of a PFA (Protection From Abuse) for a client last week in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas. The client’s daughter brought allegations of abuse that she said occurred on a certain date and time earlier this month. Attorney Nevins worked with the client to interview several witnesses who were with the client at the time of the alleged abuse. Two of the witnesses testified at the time of the hearing that they were present at client’s home helping his perform repairs to a water line. The young lady making the allegations was not even present when she said the abuse occurred, the witnesses said. The Judge immediately dismissed the PFA.

Spotlight Issue: Landlord / Tenant disputes

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

What are you rights as a tenant in Pennsylvania? Most of us have been tenants at one point in our lives and disputes with your landlord can be confusing. You may not have understood your lease when you signed it and now that a problem has come up, you’re wondering what you can do about it. Consulting an attorney who is experienced in dealing with these matters can be helpful and can ultimately save you money. In this blog we’ll discuss some of the common issues that arise between landlords and tenants in Berks County. Remember, you should always insist in a written lease.

Security Deposit

A landlord can ask for a security deposit equal to up to 2 months’ rent. The landlord must keep your security deposit in a separate account (escrow account). Disagreements often arise when a landlord wants to keep all or part of a security deposit. The terms of your security deposit return should be discussed in your lease. Once you have moved out and given your forwarding address to your landlord, he has 30 days to return your deposit. If he does not intend to return your entire deposit, then he has 30 days to send you an itemized list of damages with costs of repair. As a tenant, you can sue your landlord if he improperly refuses to return your security deposit. You can ask for double the amount of your deposit if the landlord does not send the itemized list or return your full deposit within 30 days. If you have questions about the return of your security deposit, contact our experienced Reading, PA landlord/tenant attorneys today.

Eviction

Eviction is the only way that a landlord can make you vacate a rented property. Landlords cannot simply lock you out of the property or turn off utilities. The eviction process starts with a written eviction notice called a “Notice to Quit.” This gives the tenant a set amount of time to leave the property. The landlord must give the tenant 10 days to leave (or pay) for nonpayment of rent and 15 days to leave for any other type of breach of lease. If the tenant refuses to leave then the landlord will file an eviction case in front of a Magisterial District Judge. The MDJ will schedule the case for an eviction hearing to determine who should have possession of the property – the tenant or the landlord. This decision is called a Notice of Judgment. The MDJ’s decision can be appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. If the MDJ grants a Notice of Judgment in favor of the landlord then once the appeal period has passed, the landlord will file for an Order of Possession. This orders the tenant to vacate the property within 10 days. If the tenant does not vacate in the appropriate time then a constable can forcibly remove the tenant. While you don’t have to have an attorney for the eviction hearing, your landlord may have an attorney and you will need to present your case to the MDJ. It is in your best interest to consult with an experienced landlord/tenant attorney prior to the eviction hearing.

Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment

This is a tenant right that is not usually written in any lease, but rather is implied or understood to be a part of every lease in Pennsylvania and protects your ability to use the rental property as intended. This issue could come up if a landlord is entering your rental property frequently and without sufficient notice because such action would impact your right to privacy in your home. You should notify your landlord in writing of the problem. If your landlord fails to fix the problem, and you move out, then the covenant of quiet enjoyment will be your defense to your landlord’s lawsuit for your breach of the lease. If this is a situation that you are currently encountering in Reading, PA or Berks County, you should consult with our experienced landlord/tenant attorneys to ensure that you have protected yourself against a breach of lease lawsuit or judgment.

Implied Warranty of Habitability

Again, this is probably not a right that is contained in your lease, but your landlord must still abide by it. It means that you have the right to live in a property that is free from serious defects. Serious defects may include faulty wiring or a leaky roof. This does not cover cosmetic defects. If your rental property has a defect that makes it uninhabitable, you should notify your landlord in writing. If, after a reasonable time has passed, the problem has not been fixed, you can repair it yourself and deduct the repair costs from your rent. The repair costs must also be reasonable. You may also be able to withhold rent until the repairs are made. If you withhold rent, you need to place the unpaid rent in an escrow account and inform the landlord that you are doing so. Make sure you keep copies of all documentation so you can show your landlord or present it to the judge if your landlord sues you for failure to pay rent. If the defect is too costly for you to repair, you may be able to move out of the property and use the implied warranty of habitability as a defense to your landlord’s claim for breach of the lease. If this is a situation that you are currently encountering in Reading, PA or Berks County, you should consult with our experienced landlord/tenant attorneys to ensure that you have protected yourself against a breach of lease lawsuit or judgment.

Our experienced Berks County landlord/tenant attorneys are here to answer your questions. Contact us at 610-372-5128 or info@enmlaw.com.