What is the legal definition of murder?

In Pennsylvania, murder charges are the most serious types of charges that people might face. If you are accused of murder, you could face up to life in prison or capital punishment, depending on the type of murder you are accused of committing. Because of the serious nature of murder charges, it is crucial for you to retain an experienced and skilled criminal defense lawyer.

What is the legal definition of murder?

In the U.S., our laws arise from both the statutory law and the common law. The common law is made up of laws that originate from court decisions and customs instead of statutes. The common law definition of murder is an intentional and unlawful killing that is perpetrated with “malice aforethought.”

Malice aforethought refers to the defendant’s intent to kill someone else without a legally justifiable reason. Malice aforethought can also exist when the defendant intentionally causes serious bodily harm that leads to the death of the victim or when the defendant acts with an extreme and reckless disregard as to whether his or her actions could result in the death of the victim, and the victim dies as a result.

In Pennsylvania, murder is now defined in the statutory law instead of the common law. While Pennsylvania’s murder laws originally were derived from the common law, you must look at the murder statute to understand different types of murder offenses, including first-, second-, and third-degree murder.

Under 18 Pa.C.S. § 2502, there are three different types of murder. First-degree murder is a criminal homicide that is committed intentionally. Second-degree murder is a criminal homicide that is committed while the defendant was committing a different felony either as the principal or as an accomplice. Third-degree murder includes all other types of murder and is a first-degree felony.

The second-degree murder definition is Pennsylvania’s felony murder law. Under this law, you can be charged with second-degree murder even if you are not the person who committed the killing. This law simply requires you to have been engaged in committing a felony as an accomplice when the killing occurs to be charged with this murder offense.

Manslaughter vs. murder charges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania recognizes two other types of homicide offenses, including voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. While manslaughter offenses are related to murder charges, there are some distinct differences. While manslaughter charges also deal with the death of someone else, they generally do not include the same type of malice that is found in murder cases.

Voluntary manslaughter is codified at 18 Pa.C.S. § 2503. Under this statute, voluntary manslaughter can be committed in the following two ways:

  • When the defendant kills the victim out of a sudden and intense heat of passion caused by provocation by the victim or by provocation of a third party that the defendant attempts to kill but accidentally kills the victim instead; or
  • When the defendant intentionally kills the victim under an unreasonable belief that the killing is justified.

Voluntary manslaughter is a felony. Prosecutors will sometimes charge defendants with first-degree murder and with voluntary manslaughter to try to ensure a conviction. Juries may find someone guilty of voluntary manslaughter while also finding that he or she is not guilty of first-degree murder. Whether a jury returns a guilty verdict for murder or manslaughter sometimes depends on the degree of culpability that the jury believes the defendant has.

Involuntary manslaughter is found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2504. This offense is committed when a defendant acts with gross negligence or reckless disregard about whether his or her actions could result in the death of the victim, and the victim is killed. Involuntary manslaughter is a first-degree misdemeanor offense in most cases. However, if the victim was younger than 12 and was in the custody, control, and care of the defendant at the time of his or her death, involuntary manslaughter is a second-degree felony.

First-degree murder vs. second-degree murder

Some defendants who commit intentional killings are considered to have greater culpability and to be more dangerous than others under the law. These defendants are charged with first-degree murder, which carries life in prison or capital punishment under Pennsylvania law. A killing that occurs with malice but that does not rise to the level of first-degree murder may be charged as second- or third-degree murder in Pennsylvania, depending on the circumstances.

To determine whether a murder offense is intentional and constitutes first-degree murder, the jury will consider whether there is evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the killing was premeditated and deliberate. This means that the defendant had the intent to kill the victim and had time to think about it. An example of premeditation and intention includes an estranged husband purchasing a gun and then lying in wait for his estranged wife to shoot her multiple times.

While some states have felony murder rules that make the killing of a person during the commission of a different felony a first-degree felony murder, Pennsylvania’s felony murder rule classifies this type of murder as a second-degree murder offense. An example of this type of murder includes two accomplices who commit a home-invasion burglary and are surprised by the homeowner. If one of the accomplices shoots and kills the homeowner, he or she may be charged with first-degree murder while the other accomplice may be charged with second-degree murder for the homeowner’s death.

Penalties for murder convictions in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, a conviction of first-degree murder can result in either life imprisonment or capital punishment. Second-degree murder convictions carry up to life in prison. Third-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter offenses each carry up to 20 years in prison. Finally, an involuntary manslaughter conviction can carry up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Get help from DiCindio Law

If you have been charged with murder or manslaughter, or your loved one is facing such charges, you should contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a free consultation by calling 610-430-3535.

Sentencing and Penalties Voluntary Manslaughter

All homicide offenses in Pennsylvania are serious crimes, including voluntary manslaughter. If you are convicted of voluntary manslaughter, you may face severe consequences. While all homicides are serious, they are not all treated the same. Voluntary manslaughter is a lesser offense than a murder charge, but it still requires you to mount a vigorous defense. At DiCindio Law, we represent people who have been accused of committing all types of crimes, including homicide offenses. Here is what you need to understand about voluntary manslaughter, the penalties, and the possible defenses.

Criminal homicide and voluntary manslaughter

Criminal homicide is defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2501 as being the intentional, reckless, knowing, or negligent killing of another person. Multiple crimes are considered to be criminal homicide offenses, including the following:

  • First-degree murder
  • Second-degree murder
  • Third-degree murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Causing or assisting suicide
  • Delivering drugs that cause death
  • Criminal homicide of a law enforcement officer

First-degree murder is the most serious type of criminal homicide and can result in capital punishment or life in prison without parole. Voluntary and involuntary manslaughter are criminal homicide offenses for cases in which the facts do not quite rise to the level of a murder charge. In some cases, however, a prosecutor may charge a defendant with murder as well as voluntary manslaughter when the prosecutor is unsure that he or she will be able to prove the elements of murder beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors do this to try to ensure that they can secure convictions against defendants whom they believe killed people.

The main difference between manslaughter and murder is the degree of culpability. Murder charges require that the killers acted with malice. Manslaughter is an unjustified killing that does not include malice. The penalties for manslaughter are much less severe than they are for murder. Voluntary manslaughter is more serious than involuntary manslaughter, however.

Voluntary vs. involuntary manslaughter

In Pennsylvania, manslaughter is classified into two types, including voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. These two different types of manslaughter are distinguished by the intent and the circumstances. Involuntary manslaughter is found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2504 and is less serious than voluntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a defendant kills another person while he or she is acting recklessly or with gross negligence while performing a lawful or unlawful act. Involuntary manslaughter is a first-degree misdemeanor carrying the potential of up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Voluntary manslaughter is more serious than involuntary manslaughter and carries harsher penalties. Voluntary manslaughter is found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2503 and occurs when a defendant kills another person in a heat of passion because of provocation by the victim. It also includes a killing when the defendant is in a heat of passion after being provoked by a third party who the defendant attempts to kill but accidentally kills the victim instead. Finally, it also includes scenarios in which the defendant intentionally killed another person under an unreasonable belief that the killing is justified such as in a case of imperfect self-defense or defense of others.

The provocation for voluntary manslaughter has to be severe enough that any reasonable person would have a passionate reaction. For the killing to be considered to have happened in the heat of passion, the killing must follow the provocation without sufficient time passing for the defendant to calm down. If you are convicted of voluntary manslaughter, it is a first-degree felony that carries up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $25,000.

Potential defenses to voluntary manslaughter charges

The defenses that your attorney might raise to defend you against voluntary manslaughter charges will depend on the circumstances and facts of what occurred. Your lawyer might examine the evidence and investigate the case to determine whether it might have been a negligent or accidental killing instead of an intentional act. He or she might also look to determine whether you might have been acting in self-defense instead of reacting to provocation and if your beliefs were reasonable.

Your attorney will carefully review the facts to identify all of the defenses that you might be able to raise in your case. If you have been charged with voluntary manslaughter, contact DiCindio Law in West Chester to start building your defense. Fill out our online contact form to request a free consultation.

What Is a Motion to Dismiss?

In a personal injury case, either party may file a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. In general, the party that most often files a motion to dismiss is the defendant to the lawsuit. Commonly, defendants will file motions to dismiss in the early stages of a case. Plaintiffs may file a motion to dismiss when they have reached a settlement, when there is a procedural defect, or when they want to voluntarily withdraw their claims. If you have filed a personal injury claim, the defendant may file a motion to dismiss called a motion for summary judgment. At DiCindio Law, we can explain how these types of motions are handled so that you can understand what to expect.

Applicable rules of procedure

Under USCS Fed Rules Civ. Proc. R. 41, a plaintiff in a federal case is allowed to voluntarily dismiss his or her own case. To do this, a plaintiff can file a notice of dismissal with the court before the defendant has filed his or her response. Alternatively, a plaintiff can file a stipulation of the dismissal that is signed by all of the parties that have appeared in the case. Unless it is included in the stipulation, the dismissal will be without prejudice, which means that the plaintiff could refile the claim at a later date.

A defendant may raise preliminary objections to a complaint by filing a motion to dismiss in which one of the defenses that are found in USCS Fed Rules Civ. Proc. R. 12(b) applies. These defenses include the following:

  • No personal jurisdiction
  • No subject-matter jurisdiction
  • Insufficient service of process
  • Insufficient process
  • Improper venue
  • The plaintiff failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted
  • The plaintiff failed to join an indispensable party

It is common for defendants to file motions to dismiss for the plaintiff’s failure to state a claim. When this type of motion to dismiss is filed, the defendant claims that even if everything that the plaintiff has alleged is true, it does not amount to something that supports the legal grounds for a claim for which relief can be granted.

In personal injury cases that are filed in the Court of Common Pleas, defendants can file motions to dismiss based on preliminary objections under 231 Pa. Code R. 1028. Under this rule, the preliminary objections that can be raised are limited to the following defenses:

  • Lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter or over the person
  • Improper venue
  • Improper service
  • Failure of the pleading to conform to the law or the inclusion of impertinent or scandalous material
  • Insufficient specificity
  • Demurrer
  • Nonjoinder of an essential party or a lack of capacity to sue
  • Agreement for an alternative dispute resolution procedure or the pendency of a prior action

Similar to federal court, a plaintiff can also file a motion to dismiss a case at any time.

When a motion to dismiss is filed

Defendants normally file motions to dismiss based on the preliminary objections at the start of a lawsuit. These are commonly filed as a demurrer, which is a motion to dismiss based on the legal insufficiency of a claim. The motion may focus on the allegations that are contained in the complaint together with any exhibits that have been submitted in support of it.

A party may file a motion to dismiss when he or she believes the complaint is not legally valid. One famous example of this occurred when Bill Cosby’s defense lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him before his retrial because they believed that the criminal conduct occurred outside of the limitations period. The judge ruled against the motion because the date of the assault was a matter to be decided at the trial and not at the time of the motion.

Understanding the grounds for filing a motion to dismiss

The grounds for a motion to dismiss are claims of legal deficiencies. Here is a brief description of each of the previously listed grounds.

A motion to dismiss for insufficient or improper service of process claims that the complaint and summons were not properly served. A motion to dismiss based on the expiration of the statute of limitations is filed when a complaint is filed outside of the limitations period. A motion to dismiss based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be filed when a court does not have the jurisdiction to hear a particular type of case. A similar motion to dismiss for a lack of personal jurisdiction may be filed when the court does not have personal or in personam jurisdiction over the defendant. For a Pennsylvania court to have personal jurisdiction over a party, the party must be a resident of the jurisdiction or must have a sufficient number of contacts with it.

Even in cases in which a court may have personal jurisdiction, it might not be the proper venue. This can form the basis for a motion to dismiss based on an improper venue. There are a number of different requirements that a complaint must follow when it is filed. The court may grant a motion to dismiss for the plaintiff’s failure to state a claim when the complaint does not allege all of the required elements of a legal claim or if it does not allege an injury that is measurable.

Motion for summary judgment

Another type of motion that may be filed is called a motion for summary judgment. This type of motion may be filed by any party, but it is commonly filed by defendants. Summary judgment motions are filed after the pleadings are closed. Under 231 Pa. Code R. 1035.2, this motion may be filed when there is no triable issue of material fact for a specific element. It might also be filed after discovery as been completed when the plaintiff has failed to produce any evidence of an essential fact.

How a motion to dismiss is filed

Defendants normally file motions to dismiss based on preliminary objections after the complaint has been filed but before they have responded to it with their answers. If the court denies a motion to dismiss based on preliminary objections, the defendant will still be required to file an answer within a specific time period. If the reasons for the dismissal are not included in the first filing, they will be considered to be waived.

Like other pleadings and motions, a motion to dismiss has to be filed with the court, and the other party must be properly served. If you are a plaintiff and you receive a motion to dismiss based on preliminary objections, you will be given a chance to respond to it. The court will review the competing motions and will make a ruling at a hearing.

How courts rule on motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment

In general, judges view the facts and allegations as true and view them in a light that is most favorable to the plaintiffs. This makes it hard for defendants to win motions to dismiss or summary judgment motions. If a court rules in favor of the defendant on a motion to dismiss, the case may be dismissed with or without prejudice. If the court dismisses it with prejudice, the plaintiff will not be allowed to refile the case.

If the court grants a defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff can file an appeal of the decision. If the Court of Appeals reverses the ruling, the case will be returned to the Court of Common Pleas for further proceedings.

The court is allowed to issue a sua sponte dismissal on its own without either party asking it to do so. The court can dismiss a case on its own when there are grounds to dismiss the case. For example, if the parties did not raise an objection to the venue at the time the case was filed, the court can still dismiss it if the venue is improper.

Why getting help from an experienced personal injury attorney is important

In Pennsylvania, you are allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit on your own without the help of an attorney. However, it is a better idea for you to seek help from an experienced lawyer instead of filing a lawsuit on your own. People who file lawsuits on their own are called pro se plaintiffs. Even if you do not have a legal background, you will be expected to know and to follow the same procedural rules as attorneys do. You will also need to understand the different types of pleadings, the various filing deadlines, and how to properly state a legal claim. If you file a legally insufficient complaint, you run the risk of the case being dismissed.

An attorney can review what happened in your case and explain whether or not you have a winnable claim. If legal grounds do not exist, an attorney will explain that to you. If an attorney agrees to accept representation, he or she can draft the complaint for you in a manner that complies with the legal requirements and to make certain that it is properly served on the defendant. A lawyer may be better able to identify all of the potential defendants who should be named in the case as well as all of the parties that are indispensable.

Getting help from an experienced personal injury litigator can help you to avoid making potentially costly errors. It can also help you to make certain that you meet all of the required deadlines and follow the rules. An attorney can also help to preserve your rights by making timely objections so that the record will be preserved if you need to file an appeal at a later date.

Contact the DiCindio Law office for help

If you have been injured because of the actions or omissions of another person or entity. you may have legal rights to recover compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit against those who are responsible. However, it is important for you to make certain that your pleadings are drafted correctly and that they present valid legal grounds to state a claim for which relief can be granted under the law. Michael DiCindio is an experienced litigator, former prosecutor, personal injury lawyer, and criminal defense attorney who has a deep understanding of the law and the rules of procedure. To learn more about your potential claim, contact DiCindio Law today by calling us at 610.430.3535 to schedule a free consultation.

Why Are Criminal Charges Dropped or Dismissed?

Some people who are charged with crimes do not ever enter a plea or go to trial. Instead, the charges against them are dismissed by the judge or the prosecutor. One of the first things that a criminal defense lawyer will do is to evaluate whether there might be grounds for a case to be dismissed. Some of these grounds include the following:

  • Improper charging document or criminal complaint
  • No probable cause for the arrest
  • An unconstitutional stop or search
  • Insufficient evidence that a crime was committed by the defendant
  • Unavailability of an indispensable witness for the prosecution
  • Evidence needed to prove that the defendant committed a crime has been lost

In some instances, cases will be dismissed following a loss at trial when a defendant wins on appeal. In others, the charges are dismissed long before a trial. At DiCindio Law, we evaluate clients’ criminal cases carefully to determine whether there might be grounds for their charges to be dismissed.

Lack of probable cause for an arrest

Police officers must have probable cause that people have committed crimes before the officers can arrest them. Police officers are not allowed to arrest people because they have inarticulable hunches that they may have committed crimes. The belief that an officer has must be reasonable and based on facts. For example, if an officer sees a person pulling a gun from his or her waistband, he or she would likely have probable cause for an arrest. By contrast, if an officer sees someone who the officer thinks looks shifty but who is not doing anything that amounts to a crime, he or she would not have probable cause to arrest that person. If the officer still arrested the shifty person and subsequently charged him or her with a crime, the charges would likely be dismissed because of the lack of probable cause. However, if the prosecutor later found other evidence that shows that the person committed the crime, the charges could be re-filed.

Improper charging document

Officers must sign charging documents under oath. State laws dictate the types of information that must be contained in a charging document. If a complaint does not comply with the legal requirements because of a substantial omission or error, the prosecutor is not allowed to fix it to give to the court. If an officer writes an improper charging document and subsequently becomes unavailable, the charges against the defendant may have to be dismissed.

Unconstitutional stop or search

Police officers are only allowed to stop vehicles or people when they have reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime or traffic violation is being committed. For example, an officer can stop a car if a person is speeding but cannot just randomly stop a car because of a person’s race. If an officer stops a vehicle or a person when the officer does not have a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed, the stop is unconstitutional.

Police officers are only allowed to search houses, cars, and people when they have search warrants unless an exception applies. Police can search people without search warrants when the searches are incident to their arrests. They can also search homes in exigent circumstances such as when they hear screams and violent sounds coming from inside. Officers can also search people when they have reasonable beliefs that the people are carrying deadly weapons. Finally, police can search homes, cars, or people when they are given consent to do so.

If an officer conducts a warrantless search when none of the exceptions apply, any evidence that the officer uncovers during the search cannot be used against the person who is charged. If the court rules that a search or stop was illegal and that the evidence is inadmissible, the defense attorney can ask the court to dismiss the case because the prosecution does not have evidence to prove that the defendant committed the crime.

Lack of evidence

To prove a case against a defendant, the prosecutor must be able to present sufficient evidence to the judge or a grand jury to establish probable cause that the defendant committed a crime. There must be enough evidence to demonstrate a factual and objective basis for believing that a crime was committed by the defendant. If the judge or a grand jury fail to find probable cause, the charges will be dismissed. Prosecutors may also dismiss cases in which they have very limited evidence on their own.

Unavailable witnesses and lost evidence

Charges may be dismissed when key witnesses are unavailable to testify or when some important physical evidence is lost. This may happen because the prosecutor may be unable to prove that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If a witness asserts his or her Fifth Amendment rights because testifying might incriminate him or her or if a witness dies or disappears, the prosecutor might not have enough evidence to prove the charges against the defendant.

In some cases, the identification of the defendant as the person who committed the criminal offense is key to the case. When the key witness is unable to identify the defendant, the prosecutor may not have enough remaining evidence to secure a conviction. When a witness says that he or she is uncertain that the defendant is the person who committed the crime, the prosecutor might decide to dismiss the charges.

Defense attorneys sometimes challenge the method the police used to obtain a witness’s identification of a defendant. For example, if the police used a photo lineup with six people, and the defendant was the only person depicted who was the race of the person who committed the crime, the judge may find that the lineup was improper and exclude the identification testimony.

Prosecutorial discretion

Prosecutors occasionally agree to dismiss criminal charges when extenuating circumstances exist. For example, a prosecutor might dismiss minor charges when questions exist about the facts of what occurred. The charges can be dismissed without prejudice, which would allow the prosecutors to refile the charges later within a specific period if new evidence of the defendant’s guilt is discovered.

In rare cases, a prosecutor might agree to dismiss the charges against a defendant when the victim asks him or her to do so. However, victims do not have the power to determine whether a case should move forward. The state is responsible for pressing charges. However, a prosecutor does have the discretion to determine what a just outcome would be. For example, if a sexual assault victim would undergo severe emotional harm by testifying about what happened to him or her and asks the prosecutor to dismiss the charges against the person who was responsible for the assault, the prosecutor might agree to do so.

Dismissals after successful appeals

When a person loses his or her criminal case at trial, he or she can appeal the verdict. If the appellate court finds that prejudicial error happened in the trial, the verdict may be vacated and the case may then be sent back to the lower court for a new trial. If the prosecutor believes that he or she will not succeed in a new trial, he or she may dismiss the case rather than trying it again.

Appeals court finds insufficient evidence to support the verdict

In some cases, the appellate court will reverse a jury verdict because the jury did not have sufficient evidence to support the finding of guilt. In most cases, the defense attorney will file a motion asking the judge to enter a judgment of acquittal that the judge denies. The defense attorney can make this argument again on appeal and may be successful. When that occurs, the appellate court will direct the trial court to enter a judgment of acquittal.

Lack of jurisdiction

Courts must have jurisdiction to hear the cases that are before them. If a court learns that it does not have jurisdiction to hear a particular case, it will dismiss it.

Contact DiCindio Law

If you have been charged with a crime, getting help from an experienced criminal defense attorney is important. A knowledgeable lawyer from DiCindio Law can review your case and determine whether there might be grounds for the charges to be dismissed. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610-430-3535.

DUI with Blood Alcohol Over .16

In West Chester and throughout Pennsylvania, driving under the influence is treated seriously by law enforcement officers and the courts. If you are stopped by the police on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, you may face even more serious penalties if your blood alcohol concentration tests at 0.16 percent or higher. This is considered to be the highest BAC level under Pennsylvania law, and it can bring a harsher punishment than if your BAC tests lower.

The impact of getting charged and arrested for a DUI with a BAC of 0.16% or higher can be damaging. Your license may be suspended for a year or more, making it difficult for you to get to where you need to go. You might also face several months to years of jail, substantial fines, and other penalties. If you have been charged with a high-BAC DUI offense, it is important for you to retain a criminal defense lawyer from DiCindio Law who is experienced in handling DUI cases as soon as possible.

What is a BAC level?

When the police stop people and suspect that they are under the influence of alcohol, the officers may ask them to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test. These tests are different than the preliminary breath tests that may be administered at the side of the road and are instead performed at the police station with a breathalyzer machine or by medical personnel who use blood draws to draw samples for laboratory analysis.

Your blood alcohol concentration refers to the percentage of alcohol that you have in your breath or blood at the time of your testing. Police ask motorists that they suspect of drunk driving to submit to one of these tests to determine the level of alcohol that they have in their blood.

In Pennsylvania, anyone who is found to have a BAC of 0.08% or greater will be charged with a DUI. If your BAC is 0.16 or higher, the potential penalties will be more severe.

You must be tested within two hours of the time of your stop. If you refuse, you may immediately lose your license for a year or longer.

What are the penalties for a high-BAC DUI of 0.16% or higher?

In Pennsylvania, people who are convicted of driving under the influence will face different penalties, depending on their BAC level and any prior offenses that they might have.

If you have never been charged with a DUI before and have a BAC that tests at more than 0.16%, you may face the following penalties:

  • From three days up to six months in jail
  • A fine of $1,000 up to $5,000
  • Mandatory attendance at alcohol safety school
  • The installation of an ignition interlock system for a year
  • Potential mandated attendance in a court-ordered alcohol treatment program

If you have a prior DUI conviction and are charged with a DUI when your BAC was higher than 0.16%, the penalties may be enhanced as follows:

  • Jail ranging from a minimum of 90 days up to five years
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for 18 months
  • Fine ranging from $1,500 to $10,000
  • Attendance at alcohol safety school
  • Ignition interlock system in your car for a year
  • Possible requirement to undergo court-ordered alcohol treatment

If you have two prior DUI convictions and are charged with a DUI when your BAC tests at more than 0.16%, you may face the following potential penalties:

  • Jail from one to five years
  • Suspension of your license for 18 months
  • Fine ranging from $2,500 to $10,000
  • Ignition interlock system installed for one year
  • You may also be ordered to undergo alcohol treatment

In addition to these penalties, there are collateral consequences that you could face. If you are convicted, you will have a permanent criminal record. A criminal record can make it harder for you to obtain employment or housing, and it may also be embarrassing for you. Your auto insurance premiums will likely increase. If you caused a death or injury when you were driving under the influence of alcohol, your sentence may be more severe. Finally, you may be sued in civil court for damages for any injury accident that you might have caused.

When your BAC tests at 0.16% or higher, you will be required to undergo an assessment for drug and alcohol addiction. If you are determined to have an addiction, you may be ordered by the court to complete a treatment program.

What to do if you are charged with a high-BAC DUI

If you are charged with a DUI with a BAC of 0.16% or higher, you should immediately retain an experienced West Chester DUI attorney at DiCindio Law. This offense is serious, if you are convicted, you could be sentenced to jail for up to several years. An experienced lawyer can start working on your case before your first hearing occurs.

You should receive a copy of the criminal complaint against you soon after your arrest. You should bring this document with you to show your lawyer so that he or she can see the specific charges that you are facing. After you have received your charges, the court will schedule a preliminary hearing. At this hearing, you will hear the options that you have. Having an attorney present to represent you can help you to secure the most favorable outcome that is possible for your case.

What defenses might be available?

If you decide to turn down a plea offer and go to trial, your lawyer will work to identify the possible defenses that are available to you. Some of the possible defenses might include the following:

  • There was no probable cause for the officer to stop you;
  • There was no probable cause for the officer to test you;
  • The results of your test were inaccurate;
  • The machines used for your test was faulty, inaccurate, or incorrectly calibrated; or
  • You were tested after the two-hour window had passed.

If the officer did not have probable cause to stop your car, your lawyer may seek to suppress the evidence against you. If your lawyer was successful, the charges would likely be dismissed. If other types of motions are successful, it could lead to a reduction in your charges. Getting help from an experienced DUI lawyer in West Chester can help you to determine whether any of these types of errors might have happened in your case. To learn more about your rights, contact DiCindio Law today by calling 610.430.3535.


DISCLAIMER
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale

Can I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test?

Drunk driving stops, arrests, and convictions occur frequently in Pennsylvania. Most people are acquainted with someone who has been stopped, arrested, or convicted for drunk driving. Because of how common these types of cases are, many people think that they know what you should do when you are asked to submit to a Breathalyzer test, and they might freely give you their advice even though they are not attorneys. Before you listen to someone else’s opinion about whether you should submit to or refuse a Breathalyzer test, it is important that you understand the consequences of refusing to submit to it when a police officer asks you to do so. At DiCindio Law, we regularly represent people who are facing DUI charges even after they have refused a Breathalyzer test, and we may work to secure the best possible outcome to any charges that you might face.

What happens if you refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer test?

When you drive on the roads in Pennsylvania, you give your implied consent to submit to a Breathalyzer test. If you refuse to take a test when you are asked to do so by a police offer, you could face serious consequences. If you are pulled over by an officer who believes that you might be under the influence of alcohol, you may have your license suspended or possibly face jail time if you refuse to submit to a test.

If you do refuse a Breathalyzer test, the prosecutors can still charge you with a DUI or DWI based on other evidence that the officer collects, including his or her observations, the results of a field sobriety test, or witness statements. Under Pennsylvania’s implied consent laws, prosecutors may be permitted to use your refusal to take a Breathalyzer test as evidence against you in a trial.

What is Pennsylvania’s implied consent law?

In Pennsylvania, your ability to drive is considered to be a privilege rather than a right. This means that your driver’s license can be suspended if you do not submit to a breathalyzer test when you are suspected of drunk driving. When you drive, you are considered to have implicitly consented to a Breathalyzer test in exchange for your driving privileges.

In Pennsylvania, if you refuse testing when you are suspected of driving under the influence, your license can be suspended for 12 months if you have no prior suspensions or 18 months if you do. In order to restore your driving privileges, you will also have to pay a fee once your period of suspension is over.

Despite the penalties for refusing a Breathalyzer, some people refuse because they think that the penalties are less than what they might expect if they submitted to the test. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 20% of drivers who are suspected of drunk driving refuse to test. It is important for you to understand that you will still face the penalties for refusing to submit to a test even if you are successful in your DUI case because it is considered to be a separate offense and handled by PennDot, not the criminal system. Officers can also use other evidence to prove that you were driving under the influence. For example, they can testify that your speech was slurred, that your eyes were red and watery, and that they could smell the scent of alcohol on your breath. If you submit to the roadside tests, they can also testify about your performance on them.

If you submit to a Breathalyzer test and receive results showing that your BAC was 0.08% or higher, that does not automatically mean that you will be convicted of a DUI. It is possible that your attorney may be able to challenge the results to show that they were inaccurate.

How the validity of a Breathalyzer test might be challenged

When the police administer a Breathalyzer test, they are required to follow specific guidelines. If they fail to do so, the test results may be challenged. Some of these challenges might include the following:

  • The Breathalyzer machine was not properly calibrated;
  • The officer did not observe you for 20 minutes before giving you the test;
  • The Breathalyzer was administered more than two hours after your stop;
  • The officer who tested you did not have the required certification;
  • The officer who tested you did not do so properly; or
  • You were not tested two consecutive times.

If one of these challenges is successful, your test results may be inadmissible at any trial. This means that the jury would not hear evidence about your Breathalyzer test. If the results are found to be valid, there are still certain medical conditions that can result in a false positive.

You can have a false positive on a breath test due to some medical conditions and some medications can also give you false positive results because they have alcohol in them.  Smoking, vomiting, or drinking alcohol during the 20 minutes before the test will also invalidate the results.

Get help from an experienced DUI defense lawyer at DiCindio Law

When you refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer test, you can face serious penalties such as a long suspension of your license followed by substantial restoration fees. An attorney can help to defend you and to determine whether your stop was lawful. If you refused a Breathalyzer test and have questions about your case, call DiCindio Law at 610.430.3535. We can help you to understand the options that you might have and the possible defenses that you might have available to you in your DUI case.


DISCLAIMER
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale

How to beat a DUI

How to Beat a Driving Under the Influence (DUI)  Case

     DUI/driving under the influence offenses are some of the most frequently charged criminal offenses in the Pennsylvania. When someone is charged with a driving under the influence (DUI) offense they may immediately feel a sense of hopelessness because their liberty, driving privileges and reputation may be impacted.  This article is not meant to highlight some of the main ways someone can challenge a DUI case.

     There are programs that may permit you to avoid conviction if you are a first offender. For second or third (plus) offenders there may be treatment court options or intermediate punishment programs. This article is solely meant as an overview of the  litigation points of attack that need to be evaluated in every DUI case. Also, this is not to say that there will ALWAYS be legitimate issues in the following categories – these are the issues that a defense attorney (any worth his/her fee) MUST evaluate before making a recommendation to his client in any DUI case.

     First – the legality of the of the stop: Before any law-enforcement officer may stop a motor vehicle in Pennsylvania they must possess either reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Therefore, the first battle ground in any DUI case is whether or not the arresting officer possessed the needed legal justification to pull over and/or come into contact with the driver of the vehicle.  In these situations if the stop is found to be illegal/unconstitutional then all of the evidence that flows from it will be suppressed. If the stop is suppressed than the case must be dismissed.

West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyer

West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyer

     Second –  whether the officer possessed the requisite legal justification to take the driver individual for a chemical test of their breath or blood: Observations, field sobriety tests, defendant admissions, portable breath tests and more play into this evaluation. There are times where there is not the requisite legal justification to take an individual for further/formal chemical test of their breath or blood.  When that is the case the results of the chemical test are suppressed and not permitted into evidence.

     Finally – issues that may present themselves at trial: These issues typically involve two main categories outside of what has already been addressed.  One of the main issues at trial is the factual argument that an individual was not driving. That is not always a defense that is available to him/her for obvious reasons.  Another argument is based upon the scientific accuracy of the chemical tests of the breath/ blood.

     There are many other arguments and defenses that may present themselves in DUI case.  Each and every factual scenario is unique and this is not an exhaustive list by any means.  Before making any decision in any criminal DUI / driving under the influence case – at a very minimum, these issues should be examined, evaluated and understood before deciding on a strategy.


The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes to the law that may be relevant. The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments or the most complete legal issues for all cases These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended solely for informational purposes.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County.

DiCindio Law, LLC opens newly renovated West Chester Office

DiCindio Law, LLC opens newly renovated West Chester Office building.

Located in downtown West Chester, Chester County, Pennsylvania and built in 1900 – the firm’s building has undergone a top to bottom renovation/restoration with the idea of preserving and repairing the building to the beauty it once was and providing Mike’s client’s with a comfortable and accessible office location and atmosphere.

Mike DiCindio looks forward to continuing to serve his current and future client’s for years to come at this new location.

West Chester Criminal Lawyer and West Chester Personal Injury Lawyer

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What do I do when I am charged with a DUI

One of the first things that people call and ask is, “What do I do when I am charged  with a DUI”

The crime of Driving Under the Influence or “DUI” is likely the most commonly charged crime in Pennsylvania. With law enforcement targeting DUI offenders – people from all walks of life are being arrested and prosecuted.

Anyone who is arrested and charged with a DUI is going to have concerns about what they will be facing moving forward. Will I go to jail? How much is this going to cost? Will my employer find out? How long will I lose my license for? All of these are normal concerns of a first offender or of someone who has prior driving under the influence convictions or arrest. Further, not only are these normal . . . they are questions that are important for you to have answers to. Some things you can do.

1. Write down as much as you can about what you remember from the evening of the arrest. When determining what the best course of action or litigation strategy is for your case every detail may matter and may impact your case or the way in which your criminal defense lawyer proceeds. Nothing is insignificant.

2. Contact and hire an attorney. DUI cases may be common but they still impact your livelihood, reputation, finances and liberty. Now is the time to find an attorney who you trust to protect your interests and defend you in your case. There are no guarantees in criminal law.  Now is the time that you need to have your questions answered and understand what the different potential outcomes may be. While a strategy should be put in place quickly it is important to still understand that we as criminal defense lawyers do not always have all the information needed immeidately in order to properly decide how is best to proceed this early on.

West Chester Pennsylvania Criminal Defense - Conspiracy Cases

West Chester Pennsylvania Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Attorney

3. Ask questions. There is no question that you have that shouldn’t be asked. This is a significant event for you and the outcome very well may impact you in some manner for the remainder of your life. You do not want to look back in a few years and question what you did and/or why you didn’t do something with your case. No attorney worth hiring will make you uncomfortable or be bothered by your questions. Some things to think about:

a. Cost
b. Punishment
c. Trial issues
d. Time Frames/Length of the case
e. Pre-Trial Motions
f. Diversionary Courts/First Offender Programs and options
g. Things you can begin to do to help your case

These are just a few of the many things that you should be thinking about and doing when you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with a DUI. If you have any questions or are facing DUI charges call Mike DiCindio directly today.

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The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes to the law that may be relevant. The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments or the most complete legal issues for all cases These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended solely for informational purposes.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester

When Someone is Charged with Possession of Child Pornography

Criminal Defense Chester County

West Chester Child Pornography Attorney

A large amount of law enforcement resources and efforts are spent on investigating and prosecuting those who make, possess or view child pornography.  Child pornography cases are intensely involved criminal matters where not only are the criminal penalties severe but the damage to personal reputation and career are potentially irreversible – even when one is charged unjustly.  Beyond the severe criminal punishment lies the potential of long-term or life registration as a sex offender.  Further, in many cases there is a potential that the federal government will adopt the case and prosecute it in Federal Court – leading to potentially even more serious punishment.

When someone is charged with a child pornography crime there are many investigative avenues that need to be explored.  Most of the time these charges involve computers / the internet – meaning an expert in computer forensics may provide a potential defense.  Mental health and the potential of reoffending is also a concern in many of these cases meaning that mental health professionals may be employed to help mitigate cases / sentences.  It is also important to understand that the age of the children depicted in the child pornography will potentially enhance the punishment one is facing which may become an issue that will be litigated.

Child pornography cases are involved and emotional.  Despite the fear one may feel after being charged it is crucial to hire an attorney experienced in these matters and one who is able to evaluate all potential options to provide the best defense strategy before moving forward.


The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes to the law that may be relevant. The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments or the most complete legal issues for all cases These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended solely for informational purposes.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester