Is Theft by Deception a Misdemeanor or Felony in Pennsylvania?

While most people in Pennsylvania understand what the general crime of theft is, they might be less aware of theft by deception. This offense is a type of theft that is committed by deceptive means. If you are charged with theft by deception, you should talk to an attorney at DiCindio Law to learn about your rights and the defenses that might be available to you.

What is theft by deception?

The crime of theft by deception is defined under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3922. This statute defines theft by deception as occurring when someone intentionally takes or withholds the property of someone else by the use of deception. People can be charged with this offense under any of the following three circumstances:

  • When the defendant reinforces or creates a false impression about his or her intention, the law, or his or her state of mind
  • When the defendant conceals information that would affect the victim’s judgment about engaging in a transaction
  • When the defendant fails to correct a mistaken or false impression that the defendant had created and that they knew would influence the victim with whom the defendant has a fiduciary relationship

Some types of deception will not be considered to be criminal. For example, if the person simply exaggerated about something or engaged in puffery, that is not considered to be theft by deception as long as a reasonable person would not believe the statements. Theft by deception also does not occur when a person’s falsehoods are not financially related.

Examples of theft by deception

Some examples of theft by deception could include the following:

  • Lying about having a serious medical condition to induce people to contribute money to a GoFundMe account
  • Altering the odometer reading on a vehicle to induce someone to buy it
  • Engaging in a phishing scheme while pretending to be a company to steal the victim’s confidential financial data
  • Selling stolen items to a pawn shop while signing an attestation of ownership form

What are the penalties for theft by deception in Pennsylvania?

The penalties and offense grading for theft by deception in Pennsylvania depend on the value of the property or money that is stolen as follows:

  • Value of less than $50 – Third-degree misdemeanor with up to 12 months in jail and fines of up to $2,500
  • Value from $50 to less than $200 – Second-degree misdemeanor carrying up to 24 months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines
  • Value of $200 to less than $2,000 – Misdemeanor of the first degree carrying up to five years of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Value of $2,000+ – Felony of the third degree carrying up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000

If you are convicted of theft by deception, you will have a theft on your record that can follow you throughout your life. Many employers are hesitant to hire people who have theft convictions. This means it may be harder for you to find a job. You might also have trouble in your relationships and have trouble finding housing or obtaining credit.

Theft by deception defenses

When you are charged with theft by deception, it will be important for you to present a strong defense. You do not want to have a theft conviction on your record. The prosecutor will be required to prove all of the elements of the offense against you beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney will carefully review the evidence against you and investigate your case to build a vigorous defense. The defenses that might be available to you will depend on the facts of your case. Some of the potential defenses to a theft by deception charge include the following:

  • You did not obtain the property. Instead, the property’s owner lost or misplaced it.
  • The property’s owner freely and willingly gave you the property without inducement.
  • You had the clear intention to return the property.
  • The property owner misunderstood your conversation, and you did not engage in deception.
  • You had no intention to deceive the victim.

Hiring a criminal defense lawyer

Retaining an experienced criminal defense lawyer to defend you against a charge of theft by deception can potentially make a difference in the outcome of your case. When you are facing this type of charge, you must ensure that your rights are protected and that you fight against it with as much evidence as possible.

At DiCindio Law, Michael DiCindio is a former prosecutor and experienced defense lawyer. He understands how the police and prosecutors build their cases and can work to present a strong defense for you. We can analyze your case and explain the legal options that you have. Mr. DiCindio can try to secure the most favorable plea possible for you or fight against the charges through trial. Schedule a consultation to learn about your rights by calling us at 610.430.3535 or by filling out our contact form.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Theft by Deception?

In every state, there are statutes of limitations that establish the time within which the state has to bring charges against people for committing crimes. If the state fails to file charges within the limitations period, the statute of limitations can serve as a complete defense to the charges. This means that a defendant can secure dismissal of any charges that are filed outside of the statute of limitations for the offense with which he or she is charged. Like other criminal offenses, theft by deception has a statute of limitations that prescribes the time within which the police and prosecutor must bring charges. DiCindio Law can help you to determine whether your charges were filed within the required period.

Understanding the statute of limitations

Statutes of limitations are meant to protect people who are charged with crimes. When too much time has passed from the date when an offense was originally committed, it can be more difficult to build a defense. This is because evidence and witnesses may be lost over time. It is unfair to punish people for alleged behavior that occurred years ago.

In general, statutes of limitations assign longer periods for felonies and shorter periods for misdemeanors. Some crimes, including murder, do not have a statute of limitations. For these types of offenses, the state can charge a defendant with the crime regardless of how long ago it occurred.

When the limitations period begins to run

Typically, the statute of limitations begins to run as soon as the criminal offense is completed. For example, if a crime has a statute of limitations of two years, the prosecutor would have from the time that the crime was committed until two years later to file the charge.

Trying to figure out when the limitations period begins for an offense that continues over days or weeks can be more difficult. However, the general rule is that the clock does not begin to run until the crime has finished. For example, if you set up a GoFundMe account after lying about having cancer and collected funds over a period of weeks, the limitations period would not start to run until the criminal offense ended. In that scenario, the limitations period would begin to run after you secured the last donation based on your deception.

Once the limitations period ends, it generally means that you will not be charged. However, some events toll the limitations period, which gives the prosecution additional time to file charges. For example, if you fled Pennsylvania and were gone for a couple of years before being discovered, the prosecutor may have more time to prosecute you.

The statutes of limitations in Pennsylvania

Statutes of limitations can be difficult to understand. For example, if you are charged with more than one offense, the limitations period could expire for a lesser offense but still allow you to be prosecuted for a major crime. Other timing problems can also be at issue. For example, depending on the circumstances of your case, your right to a speedy trial could be affected.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law can help you to understand the statute of limitations and other timing problems that might apply to your case. If it applies, a lawyer can help you to raise a defense based on an expired statute of limitations.

In Pennsylvania, the general statute of limitations for most crimes is two years from the date that they are completed. However, Pennsylvania has a five-year statute of limitations for major crimes. Under 42 Pa. C.S. § 5552(b)(1), theft by deception is listed as a major offense. This means that the statute of limitations that applies is five years instead of two.

Get help from an experienced defense lawyer at DiCindio Law

If you are charged with theft by deception, the penalties that you might face will depend on the value of the property you are alleged to have obtained through deception. Getting experienced legal help to defend against this type of offense is important. Whether you are convicted of theft by deception as a misdemeanor or felony, a theft conviction can cause collateral consequences in your life long after you have completed your sentence and paid any fines. Many employers complete criminal background checks and will not hire people with theft convictions. Having a criminal record can also cause problems with finding housing and obtaining credit, and a conviction could also cause harm to your personal relationships. Contact DiCindio Law today to learn about the statute of limitations and how it might apply in your case. We can be reached by telephone at 610.430.3535 or through our online contact form.

Common ways to fight a DUI or DWI charge

If you are charged with a DUI involving alcohol or drugs in Pennsylvania, you will face multiple penalties. You might face a suspension of your driving privileges, stiff fines, jail time, and other penalties. You should get help from an experienced DUI defense lawyer at DiCindio Law for help with defending against the charges against you. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, it may be possible to defend against the allegations and to win a dismissal of the charges against you. Your lawyer will analyze everything to decide whether you should fight your case through trial or should try to negotiate a plea to settle the charges against you. Some of the most common defenses to DUI charges in Pennsylvania are detailed below.

Lack of reasonable suspicion for your stop

In Pennsylvania, police officers must have a reasonable and articulable suspicion that a violation has been committed by a driver before they can stop them. Reasonable suspicion is not simply a hunch but instead must be based on objective facts. If an officer stopped you because he or she thought that you looked suspicious, but you had not committed any traffic offense, your attorney might be able to get the charges against you dismissed because of the unconstitutional stop.

Lack of probable cause for your arrest

After an officer stops you, he or she will investigate to determine whether there is probable cause to place you under arrest. Probable cause is more than reasonable suspicion but is less than the burden of proof that the prosecutor will have in proving your guilt at trial. The officer might try to build probable cause through his or her observations of your appearance, speech, and motor control. He or she might ask you to submit to standardized field sobriety tests and ask you to submit a preliminary breath test. All of these activities are geared toward building probable cause to support your arrest. If the officer did not have probable cause, your attorney may file a motion challenging the arrest and the admissibility of any chemical tests that were performed afterward. If your lawyer wins, the prosecutor will not be able to use the evidence against you. This could result in a plea offer to lesser charges or a dismissal of the case against you.

Improperly conducted roadblocks and checkpoints

The police are allowed to conduct DUI roadblocks and checkpoints. However, there are specific rules for how they may be conducted. Any checkpoint or roadblock must be announced in advance through the media and signs. It must be stationary, and the administration must decide to conduct the checkpoint rather than the police officers deciding to do it themselves. The decision about who to stop must be objectively based rather than based on an officer’s decision. For example, a roadblock might be used to stop every sixth car that passes through but not to stop someone that an officer simply wants to check out. Finally, the stop must be brief, and the officers are not allowed to search the vehicle. If you were stopped and arrested at a DUI checkpoint or roadblock, your lawyer will review how the DUI checkpoint was planned and conducted to see if it complied with the rules.

Problems with the breath test

Breath tests are the most frequently used type of chemical testing in DUI cases. However, breath tests may have several problems, including the following:

  • Tests conducted improperly
  • Gastric reflux within a 20-minute window
  • Instrument problems
  • Failing to observe the person before the test

If the machine is not calibrated correctly, the results may be inaccurate. Other problems can also happen. Your lawyer can request records from the police department to check its calibration and certification. He or she might also ask for information about the officer’s certifications and investigate any problems that occurred. If there were problems, your lawyer might challenge the breath test results to try to get them suppressed.

Residual alcohol in your mouth

A breathalyzer tests the contents of your breath from the deep lung tissue. However, you can have residual alcohol in your mouth that can distort the results. For example, if you suffer from acid reflux, have burped or vomited, or have alcohol-soaked particles trapped in your teeth, your breath test results can be falsely high.

Following a ketogenic or Atkins diet

Many people follow low-carb diets to try to lose weight. Diets such as Atkins or the ketogenic diet try to get people to enter a state called ketosis so that their bodies will burn fat. Ketosis causes your body to produce excess ketones, which can cause you to fail a blood-alcohol breath test even if you have not been drinking. When ketones are eliminated in your breath, they are converted to isopropyl alcohol. Breath tests cannot distinguish between ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol. If you are on a ketogenic diet, tell your attorney.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions, including hypoglycemia and diabetes, can also cause your body to produce isopropyl alcohol similar to a ketogenic or Atkins diet. When fat stores in your body are burned for energy, ketones are produced and can cause falsely high BAC results on breath tests.

Problems with blood testing

Like breath tests, blood tests are not infallible. Several factors can taint your blood test results, including the following:

  • Improper storage of your sample
  • Blood contamination
  • Blood fermentation
  • Improper analysis
  • Technicians without the proper training or certification

Your attorney might request that your second vial of blood is submitted to a test to determine the accuracy of your test results. He or she might also look at records of how your blood sample was stored and request information about the chain of custody. Finally, he or she might look at how your blood was drawn and the certifications and training of the technician who performed the analysis. If there were problems, your blood test may be suppressed.

Problems with the field sobriety tests

While the standardized field sobriety tests are supposed to show indicators of impairment, they are not completely accurate. Only three of the tests have data to support them. Another problem is that the SFSTs must also be administered precisely and scored correctly. Many law enforcement officers make mistakes in administering the field sobriety tests. People also mess up on these tests because of such things as a lack of coordination, footwear problems, uneven surfaces, poor lighting, bad weather, and intimidation. Some people have medical conditions that cause nystagmus to naturally occur in their eyes. Your attorney might carefully review any video of your SFSTs and your medical records if you have a medical condition that affects your eyes.

Lack of impairment

In some cases, a person will show little or no impairment yet have a BAC that is high and should cause impairment. This type of case might indicate that something is wrong with your test, and the evidence should not be trusted. If there is a disconnect between your observed level of impairment and your BAC level, your attorney will investigate to figure out what went wrong with the test process.

You were not driving, operating a vehicle, or in actual physical control

To convict you of a DUI, the prosecutor will be required to prove that you were driving or operating a vehicle or that you were in actual physical control of it at the time of your stop. If an officer did not see you driving or found you sleeping in the backseat of your car when it is off without access to the keys, the prosecutor will have a difficult time proving that you were driving under the influence of alcohol.

Radio or electric interference

Electromagnetic and radio frequency interference can cause DUI chemical tests to provide falsely high BAC results. This is because electronic devices can interfere with the tests. While the prosecutor might argue that the breathalyzer machine has an RFI or EFI detector, the detectors on the machines are not reliable. This type of defense might be difficult to prove, but your attorney might consider it if a potential source of interference emits electromagnetic or radio waves in a specific frequency band that the detectors can’t detect.

Challenges based on the BAC error rate

Even if the police officer did not make mistakes when he or she administered your BAC test, the BAC tests that are used in Pennsylvania still have error rates. The error rates of Pennsylvania DUI tests range from 0.005% to 0.02%. If your BAC tested from 0.08% to 0.099%, your attorney might challenge the results based on the error rates. This is because your BAC might have been lower at the time than the minimum of 0.08% under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802(b).

Misconduct by the police

If you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your charges might still be dismissed if the police officers engaged in misconduct. Police officers must follow proper procedures and must write accurate reports, comply with the rules that govern investigations, and testify truthfully. If the police officer ignores the procedures or fabricates evidence, the evidence that was unlawfully obtained or fabricated might be tossed out of court. If the misconduct was severe, the prosecutor might dismiss the charges against you.

Auto-brewery syndrome

A rare condition called auto-brewery syndrome has made the headlines across the U.S. in DUI cases. People might develop this condition as a side effect of diseases, including Crohn’s disease, short bowel syndrome, and diabetes. People who eat a diet that is high in carbohydrates and who also overuse antibiotics might develop this syndrome.

If you have auto-brewery syndrome, your gut can produce alcohol by fermenting carbohydrates that you have ingested. This is because of the presence of yeast in your small intestine. If you had a very high BAC and had not consumed any alcohol, your lawyer might ask for you to be tested for this condition. If you have it, your lawyer might get the court and the prosecutor to agree to dismiss your charges. Fortunately, this condition can be treated so that it will not cause further problems in the future.

Get help from DiCindio Law

Being charged with a DUI in Pennsylvania can be scary. However, you might have one of these or other defenses available to you. An experienced DUI defense lawyer at DiCindio Law can review all of the evidence in your case to identify the defenses that might be raised. Contact us to schedule a consultation by filling out our contact form or by calling us at 610.430.3535.

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.

What Is Unlawful Contact with a Minor?

Technological advances over the past couple of decades have allowed federal and Pennsylvania authorities to expand the techniques that they can use to catch people who participate in sex crimes on the internet involving children. As these sting operations are depicted on television shows such as “To Catch a Predator,” it is clear to see that the police investigate potential offenses such as unlawful contact with a minor. If you are charged and convicted of this offense, you will face harsh penalties whether you were ensnared by a police sting operation or were caught by a parent. This conviction can expose you to incarceration, fines, sex offender registration requirements, and public stigma. You may lose your coworkers, neighbors, family, and friends and could also lose your job and your marriage. If you have been charged with unlawful contact with a minor in West Chester, contact DiCindio Law to schedule a free consultation so you can learn more about your rights.

What is unlawful contact with a minor in Pennsylvania?

Unlawful contact with a minor is defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 6318. Under this statute, unlawful contact with a minor occurs when a person who intentionally contacts a minor or a purported minor who is an undercover police officer to try to engage in the following types of sexual acts:

  • Any sex offense found in Chapter 31 of title 18
  • Prostitution
  • Open lewdness
  • Sexual exploitation of children
  • Sexual abuse of children
  • Sexual or obscene materials and performances

You can be charged with sexual contact with a minor even if you never meet the minor or purported minor in person. For example, if you ask for the minor to send an explicit picture and suggest that you meet to engage in a specific sexual act, you can be charged even if you do not meet. It also does not matter if the person with whom you are communicating is a police officer instead of a minor.

Online solicitation of minors

Online solicitation of minors occurs when adults communicate with minors online in chat rooms, by text messages, or by email for the purpose of meeting them for sex. Police agencies conduct sting operations to try to catch adults who attempt to entice teens online for sex. In these types of operations, an undercover police officer will pose as a minor online and try to engage adults in conversation. The conversations may quickly become suggestive and lead to charges.

Penalties for a conviction of unlawful contact with a minor

In many cases, people are charged with unlawful contact with a minor in addition to the applicable underlying offenses. People who are arrested for this charge are also commonly arrested for other crimes like statutory sexual assault, indecent assault, or other offenses. This crime is charged in the same degree and classification as the most serious offense for which you are accused of contacting a minor. For example, if you are accused of contacting a minor for the purposes of engaging in involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, you could be charged with attempted IDSI even if you did not meet the purported minor. A conviction for this crime is also considered to be a sex offense, which means that you will be required to register as a sex offender.

Other consequences for a conviction of unlawful contact with a minor

Unlawful contact with a minor is a felony offense. If you did follow through and had sexual contact with a minor, you can also be charged with additional crimes. If you are convicted of this offense, you might have to register as a sex offender and to live somewhere that is not close to schools. This type of offense carries a substantial public stigma, making it difficult for you at your job and with your friends, coworkers, employer, and spouse when they learn about your charges.

If you are convicted of this offense, you may suffer ongoing collateral consequences past the completion of your sentence. You might struggle to find a job or to find a home to live in. You might also lose any professional license that you have or be unable to obtain one that you want. Your applications to colleges and universities may also be turned down. If you have been charged with unlawful contact with a minor, it is important for you to work with an experienced sex crimes lawyer so you can mount a vigorous defense.

What to do if you have been charged

If you are facing charges of unlawful contact with a minor, you should get help from an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer. An experienced West Chester sex offense lawyer can review the evidence in your case and provide you with an explanation of your options. Contact DiCindio Law to schedule a free and confidential consultation by calling 610-430-3535.

What is manslaughter

What is manslaughter?

 

In Pennsylvania, two types of manslaughter are recognized in the law, including voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. While these crimes are criminal homicides, they are less serious than murder charges. If you have been charged with voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, you should talk to Michael DiCindio at DiCindio Law to learn about your rights and the defenses that might be raised.

Definition of voluntary manslaughter in Pennsylvania

Voluntary manslaughter is defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2503. According to this statute, a defendant is guilty of voluntary manslaughter when he or she kills someone else without legal justification and he or she was acting under the heat of passion that results from serious provocation by the following people:

  • the victim who is killed; or
  • A third person that the defendant tries to kill but accidentally kills the victim instead

A second way in which voluntary manslaughter can be committed is when the defendant kills someone when he or she has an unreasonable belief that the killing is legally justified. To determine whether a killing happened in the heat of passion because of provocation by the victim or a third person, the provoking circumstances will be reviewed objectively. The provoking act must be of such a nature that it would have caused an emotional or passionate reaction in a reasonable person.

If you had time to cool down after the provocation and when you committed the killing, you will not be eligible for a voluntary manslaughter charge and will likely be charged with murder instead. To determine whether you had enough time to calm down between the provoking act and the killing, the state will look at all of the events leading up to the homicide. If enough time passed, the prosecutor may charge the defendant with murder instead.

The unreasonable belief form of voluntary manslaughter refers to a mistaken belief that you needed to use deadly force to protect yourself or someone else from the victim. If the prosecutor can prove that you escalated or created a dangerous situation, the prosecutor may charge you with murder.

Defenses to voluntary manslaughter charges

The defenses that might be raised to voluntary manslaughter charges will depend on the facts and circumstances of how the killing occurred. Some of the defenses might include the following:

  • Self-defense
  • Defense of others
  • Battered women’s syndrome
  • Accidental death with no criminal intent when you were engaged in a lawful action

Penalties for voluntary manslaughter in Pennsylvania

Voluntary manslaughter is a felony in Pennsylvania. If you are convicted of this offense, you can face up to 20 years in prison.

Involuntary manslaughter in Pennsylvania

Involuntary manslaughter is codified at 18 Pa.C.S. § 2504. Unlike other types of criminal homicide in Pennsylvania, involuntary manslaughter does not require that you had an intent to kill the victim. Instead, involuntary manslaughter is reserved for situations in which the killings were unintentional. Involuntary manslaughter is punished by the state to try to prevent activities that are performed with gross negligence or in reckless disregard for human life.

Prosecutors are required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendants who are charged with involuntary manslaughter caused the deaths by engaging in grossly negligent or reckless conduct while they were engaging in unlawful or lawful activity. For example, a person may be charged with involuntary manslaughter if he or she recklessly drove a car and caused the death of the victim. The prosecutor must be able to show the link between the defendant’s negligent or reckless conduct and the death of the victim. If the defendant’s conduct cannot be directly or substantially linked to the victim’s death, the prosecutor may not be able to prove a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Gross negligence or reckless disregard can be proven by the prosecutor by using a reasonable person standard. This involves a comparison between the defendant’s actions to the standard of care that would be expected of a reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances. The prosecutor may also analyze whether the defendant ignored an existing danger or continued with his or her activity after substantial risks were obvious.

Defenses to involuntary manslaughter charges

Some of the possible defenses to charges of involuntary manslaughter include the following:

  • The defendant’s actions were not a direct or substantial cause of the death of the victim
  • The killing was accidental and occurred while the defendant was engaged in lawful activity and was not acting with criminal intent, gross negligence, or reckless disregard

It is important to note that Pennsylvania does not allow defendants to raise a defense of voluntary intoxication to involuntary manslaughter charges.

Penalties for involuntary manslaughter

Pennsylvania classifies involuntary manslaughter as a first-degree misdemeanor offense in most cases. A conviction for this offense carries a potential penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

However, if you committed involuntary manslaughter of a child who was younger than age 12 while serving as the child’s custodian, caregiver, or parent, the offense is charged as a second-degree felony. A conviction for felony involuntary manslaughter can include from five to 10 years in prison.

Some examples of activities that can lead to a charge of involuntary manslaughter include the following:

  • Reckless driving
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Speeding or other traffic offenses
  • Child neglect
  • The improper withholding of medical care from a person who dies

Get help from DiCindio Law

If you are facing voluntary or involuntary manslaughter charges, contact DiCindio Law to schedule a free consultation. We can be reached at 610-430-3535 24 hours per day and seven days per week.

Sentencing and Penalties For First Degree Murder

Criminal homicides in Pennsylvania involve the unlawful deaths of people and are divided into three murder offenses and two manslaughter crimes. Murder charges are found in 18 Pa.C.S. § 2502 and include first-, second-, and third-degree murder. First-degree murder is the most serious murder offense. If you are facing first-degree murder charges or your loved one has been charged with this offense, talk to DiCindio Law for help in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Proving first-degree murder

To be charged and convicted of a murder offense, the prosecutor must be able to prove that you acted with actual malice. Malice is proven by showing that you intended to commit the victim’s killing or that you intended to cause harm. First-degree murder requires an intentional killing, meaning that you intended to kill the victim. First-degree murder charges require the prosecutor to show that you acted with express malice.

The prosecutor must prove that you had a specific intent to cause the victim’s death. Your specific intent to murder may be shown by the state by evaluating your actions, the circumstances, and whether you used a deadly weapon.

First-degree murder vs. other homicide offenses

First-degree murder is an intentional killing that involves planning, premeditation, and deliberate acts. Second-degree murder is charged when a killing happens while the defendant is committing a different felony as a principal or an accomplice. Third-degree murder offenses include all other types of murder and involve malice.

Voluntary manslaughter is a heat of passion killing following provocation by the victim or by a third party or when a person has an unreasonable and mistaken belief that the killing is justified. Finally, involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional homicide that results from grossly negligent or reckless conduct regarding the life of the victim.

Penalties for first-degree murder in Pennsylvania

First-degree murder is the most serious murder crime in Pennsylvania. This means that it may be punished by the most severe possible punishments under the law. Prosecutors have the burden of proving the elements of first-degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt before the defendants can be convicted of this offense. To do this, the prosecutors must prove that the defendant committed an unlawful, intentional, and premeditated killing of another person.

First-degree murder is set apart from other homicide and murder offenses by the planning, deliberate acts, and premeditation by the defendant. If the killing was spontaneous or occurred after provocation during a heat of passion, it will likely be charged as a different homicide offense in Pennsylvania.

Under 18 Pa.C.S. § 1102, a person who is convicted of first-degree murder in Pennsylvania may face either life imprisonment or a death sentence. However, if the person is convicted for the first-degree murder of an unborn child, he or she will not face the death penalty but will face life in prison.

Defenses to first-degree murder charges in Pennsylvania

First-degree murder cases are complex and carry extremely high stakes. Your attorney will carefully review and analyze all of the evidence that is being held in your case to identify the best defense strategies to follow. Some of the potential defenses that might be raised include the following:

  • You did not have the required mental capacity to have a specific intent to kill;
  • You were voluntarily intoxicated at the time of the offense;
  • You were insane at the time of the offense and could not distinguish between right and wrong;
  • You were acting in self-defense;
  • You had battered women’s syndrome, which caused you to kill your spouse or partner;
  • The killing was accidental and you did not have criminal intent and were engaging in a lawful activity;
  • You were misidentified as the killer;
  • You have an alibi for the time and date of the killing; or
  • You committed the killing while you were under duress.

Imposing the death penalty

If you are convicted of first-degree murder, your case will enter into the sentencing phase. During this phase, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will present arguments about the punishment that you should face. The prosecutor may present evidence of aggravating factors that support a death sentence. The defense attorney may present evidence of mitigating factors to argue against the death penalty.

Talk to DiCindio Law

Facing murder charges can be devastating and could potentially lead to a life behind bars or a death sentence. Getting help from an experienced attorney is crucial for these types of charges. Contact DiCindio Law to learn about your case at 610-430-3535.

Get The Facts About Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse (IDSI)

A charge of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse or IDSI is a serious felony offense. If you are facing this type of charge, you are likely feeling scared about your future. It is important for you to understand this offense and to get help from an experienced Pennsylvania sex crimes attorney. A lawyer at DiCindio Law can review the evidence in your case to determine the best defense strategies to raise in your case. Here is what you need to know about involuntary deviate sexual intercourse charges in Pennsylvania.

What is involuntary deviate sexual intercourse in Pennsylvania?

Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse is an extremely serious offense. It is codified at Pa. Stat. Ann. § 3123. Under this statute, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse is a felony of the first degree offense. It can be committed when a defendant engages in deviate sexual intercourse in one of the following ways:

  • Using force to compel sexual intercourse
  • Threatening forcible compulsion
  • When the person is unconscious or unaware that sexual intercourse is happening
  • When the defendant administers intoxicants or substances without the knowledge of the alleged victim so that he or she is unable to consent or resist
  • When the alleged victim has a mental disability that prevents him or her from consenting
  • When the alleged victim is younger than 16 and the defendant is more than four years older, and they are not married

This is a very serious offense. However, being charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse is not a conviction. The prosecutor will have the burden of proof to prove the elements of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be convicted of IDSI and sentenced. When facing this type of charge, you will need to find an aggressive and experienced sex crimes attorney who will fight to protect your freedom and rights. Attorney Michael DiCindio has experience working as a prosecutor and as a criminal defense lawyer. He has handled criminal matters of all levels, including serious sex crimes. He is dedicated to defending his clients against serious felony offenses, including charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse vs. rape

Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse has some similarities to rape but includes more types of sexual acts. Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse can include the following types of acts:

  • Penetration with objects
  • Anal sex
  • Oral sex
  • Sex acts with animals
  • Sexual intercourse with one of the previously described victims or circumstances

What are the penalties for a conviction of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse?

Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse is a felony of the first degree in Pennsylvania. If you are convicted of this offense, you will face very stiff penalties. This offense carries the potential prison sentence of up to 20 years. You will also face fines of up to $25,000 and be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of your life.

If you are required to register as a sex offender, you will have to comply with the registration and notification mandates and reveal information about yourself and where you live. Being on the sex offender registry can cause ongoing collateral consequences such as trouble finding a job and somewhere to live. The Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act or SORNA requires sex offenders to register in every jurisdiction in which they live, go to school, and work.
If you fail to comply with the registration requirements, it is a felony offense that can result in time in prison and substantial fines.

Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child

If you are facing charges of IDSI with a child, you will face even more severe penalties upon a conviction. This offense is also a felony of the first degree that is punishable by up to decades in prison. One important thing to note is that it is not a defense to an IDSI with a child charge that you did not know the child was under the age of 13 or that he or she consented to the act.

Defending against involuntary deviate sexual intercourse charges

You should not take a charge of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse lightly because of the high stakes involved. You should seek a highly skilled criminal defense and sex crimes attorney. A lawyer at DiCindio Law can thoroughly investigate what occurred and evaluate the credibility of the alleged victim’s claim. Your attorney may also work closely with experts to analyze and challenge forensic evidence.

Simply facing a charge of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse does not mean that you will be found guilty or that you are guilty. You need to talk to an experienced sex offense lawyer to gain a clear understanding of your rights and the defenses that might be available to you.

If you have been arrested for an IDSI offense, contact DiCindio Law to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Attorney Michael DiCindio will evaluate your case and work to identify every defense that might be raised to fight the charges against you. You need to retain a skilled and dedicated attorney who is willing to fight for your rights when you are facing IDSI charges. Call DiCindio Law today to schedule your consultation at 610-430-3535.

What Is The Difference Between Acquittal and Dismissal?

Criminal charges can be resolved in a defendant’s favor in a few different ways. Two common ways that defendants can receive favorable outcomes are by being acquitted or by having the charges dismissed. While these both involve the charges ending, they may have different results. If you are facing criminal charges in West Chester, DiCindio Law can explain what you might expect to happen in your case and work to secure the best outcome for you.

Understanding acquittals

Acquittals are when a defendant who has been accused of a crime is found not guilty at a trial. A defendant may be acquitted by a judge following a bench trial or by a jury following a jury trial. To secure a conviction of a defendant, the prosecutor is required to prove every element of the crime to the judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt. A person is acquitted when the prosecution is unable to meet its burden of proof for one or more of the required elements of the crime.

It is common for prosecutors to charge criminal defendants with several offenses. If you have been charged with multiple offenses and receive a not guilty verdict for each of them, you will have been fully acquitted. If you receive a guilty verdict for one offense and a not guilty verdict for another, you will have received a partial acquittal.

Can you be charged again for the same offense after an acquittal?

The Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy clause prohibits the state from retrying you twice for a crime when you have been acquitted. This means that the same court will not be able to try you again for that offense after you have won at a trial.

For example, if you were charged with possession of heroin on a specific date and the jury finds you not guilty of the offense, the prosecutor will not be able to file new charges for possession of heroin on that date again. However, if you are caught with possessing heroin on a different date, the prosecutor could file new charges for the new offense.

When does the double jeopardy clause not apply?

If you are charged for the same offense in both federal and state court, the double jeopardy clause will not apply. This is because these two courts are considered to be separate sovereigns. If you are acquitted in state court of possessing heroin, you can still be tried in federal court for the same offense if the heroin was brought into the state in interstate commerce.

Similarly, if you are convicted in state court for possessing heroin on a specific date, nothing prevents you from being charged and convicted for the same offense in federal court. Some states do not allow defendants who were charged in federal court from later also being charged in state court. However, the U.S. Constitution says nothing about dual prosecutions of defendants in both state and federal courts.

You can also face a civil lawsuit for the same offense even if you have been acquitted of the associated criminal offense. A good example of this is O.J. Simpson. While he was found not guilty of killing Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson in his criminal case, he later was found liable for killing them in civil wrongful death lawsuits that their families filed against him.

Dismissal vs. acquittal

In some cases, criminal charges will be dismissed by the court before the defendants’ guilt is adjudicated. A judge might dismiss a case for multiple reasons, including the following:

  • Lack of probable cause or insufficient evidence for the case to go to trial
  • Evidence was obtained in an unconstitutional manner such as a warrantless search or seizure or by failing to read the defendant his or her Miranda rights or to honor them during a custodial interrogation
  • When the prosecutor engages in egregious misconduct such as hiding exculpatory evidence

Under the Constitution, you have rights against illegal searches, stops, and seizures. The prosecutor is also required to share any exculpatory evidence that is uncovered during the prosecutor’s investigation. If a court finds that the prosecutor deliberately hid evidence, the charges may be dismissed. Similarly, the charges may be dismissed when the court finds that the manner in which the police officers conducted their investigation was unconstitutional.

What happens after a dismissal?

When criminal charges are dismissed, the judge or jury has not had the opportunity to determine whether you are not guilty or guilty by hearing the prosecutor’s case or your defense. Since the defendant’s guilt or innocence has not been determined, the charges can be re-filed at a later date. For example, it is still possible for a prosecutor to charge you again if your charges were dismissed for insufficient evidence. The prosecutor might investigate the case more thoroughly and find additional evidence to use against you. If that occurs within the statute of limitations, the case can be refiled against you.

Get help from a criminal defense attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will evaluate the evidence and work to identify all of the possible defenses that he or she might raise for you. At DiCindio Law, we will explore whether there might be grounds for your case to be dismissed. We can also build a strong defense case for trial or work to secure a favorable plea agreement. Contact our law firm today to schedule an appointment by calling us at 610-430-3535.

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.