Are The Penalties The Same For DUIs Involving Prescription Medication?

According to the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University, 131 million adults in the U.S. take prescription medications. As people grow older, they take more prescription drugs to treat a variety of health conditions. With so many adults taking legally prescribed drugs in the nation, you might be surprised to learn that you can be charged with a DUI for driving while impaired by your prescription medications in Pennsylvania. In fact, the penalties you might face for driving under the influence of prescription medications could be worse than the penalties you might face for having a few drinks before driving.

If you are facing drugged DUI charges for driving with prescription drugs in your system, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney in West Chester, PA at DiCindio Law as soon as possible. An attorney can help you to fight the charges against you and potentially minimize the penalties. Police officers frequently make mistakes when they stop people and conduct investigations, and identifying and challenging these errors could result in a dismissal or reduction of your charges. Here is some information about DUIs on prescription drugs in Pennsylvania.

Driving under the influence of prescription drugs

Pennsylvania’s drugged driving laws are found in 75 P.S.CS 3802(d). Under this statute, you can be charged with a DUI when you drive, operate, or have actual physical control of a vehicle while you are impaired by a drug or a combination of drugs and alcohol. This prohibition includes many different substances, including some prescribed medications.

If you take a Schedule II or Schedule III prescription medication without a valid prescription, you can also be charged under Pennsylvania’s zero-tolerance law in 75 Pa.C.S. 3802(d)(1). Under this section, you can be charged with a drugged DUI if you have any amount of a non-prescribed Schedule I, Schedule II, or Schedule III drug in your system or a metabolite regardless of whether or not you are impaired.
If you do have a valid prescription for a drug found in your system, it is not a defense to an impairment drugged DUI. Instead, the prosecutor will only be required to prove that you were impaired while you drove, operated, or had actual physical control over your vehicle. The prosecutor may introduce testimony from a drug recognition expert to try to secure a conviction.

What are the penalties for a prescription drug DUI?

While Pennsylvania has three penalty tiers for alcohol DUIs based on the BAC of the drivers within two hours of driving, all people who are charged with drugged driving will automatically face the harshest penalties for the highest BAC DUI offense.

For a first offense, you will face the following penalties:

  • Misdemeanor on your record
  • Jail from three days up to six months
  • Fine from $1,000 to $5,000
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Substance abuse screening and treatment if ordered
  • 12-month suspension of your driving privileges

For alcohol, these penalties are reserved for people whose BAC tests at 0.16% or higher. This means that you could face the same charges for driving while impaired by your prescription medications as someone who drank large quantities of alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

What is a controlled substance

Defenses to a prescription drug DUI

If you are facing a prescription drug DUI, your criminal defense lawyer will review the evidence to identify the defenses that might be available to you.

Some of the potential defenses might include the following:

  • There was no reasonable suspicion for the officer to stop your car.
  • A DUI checkpoint was set up and run incorrectly.
  • The roadside tests were administered improperly.
  • The officer did not have probable cause to support your arrest.
  • The officer did not obtain your consent or a warrant to seize your blood.
  • Your blood was drawn, stored, handled, or transported improperly.
  • The lab tests were not conducted properly.
  • Metabolites in your system did not indicate impairment.
  • Your driving was not impaired.

Your attorney will also look for inaccuracies in the police report, review any video evidence of the roadside tests, and review the chain of custody information for your blood sample. He or she might also talk to an expert to review the analysis of your blood sample and file evidentiary motions to challenge any evidence that was gathered illegally.

If you do not have a strong defense available, your attorney might still be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to secure a favorable plea offer to a lesser charge or sentence.

Get help from a DUI attorney near me

One of the first things you should do after being charged with a DUI for prescription drugs is to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney in West Chester, PA. Your lawyer can help you to understand the options that might be available to you and prepare defenses against your charges. Many people are able to safely drive their vehicles even though they take prescription medications by being careful with the timing. Your attorney can work to secure the most favorable outcome possible for your case. Contact DiCindio Law today at (610) 430-3535.

 

What You Need To Know About Drugged Driving in PA

In Pennsylvania, you can be charged with a DUI involving drugs. A DUI drug offense can be charged when you drive while impaired to the slightest degree by any type of drug, including prescription medications. You can also face a charge of driving under the influence of drugs if you drive with any measurable amount of a controlled I or controlled II substance in your body that is illegal or for which you do not have a valid prescription. If you are facing drugged DUI charges, you should seek immediate legal help from an experienced attorney at DiCindio Law.

What are Pennsylvania’s Drugged Driving Laws?

Drugged driving is prohibited under 75 Pa.CS § 3802(d).

Under this law, you can be charged with a drugged driving offense if you drove, had actual physical control, or operated a motor vehicle when any of the following situations applies:

  • You have a Schedule I controlled substance in your blood.
  • You have a Schedule II controlled substance in your blood that is not legally prescribed to you.
  • You have a Schedule III controlled substance in your blood that is not legally prescribed to you.
  • You have a metabolite of a Schedule I, II, or III controlled substance in your blood without a prescription.
  • Your ability to drive a vehicle is impaired by drugs in your system or a combination of drugs and alcohol.
  • You are under the influence of a solvent or noxious substance prohibited under 18 Pa.CS § 7303.

The zero-tolerance law in Pennsylvania

Under 75 Pa.CS 3802(d)(1), Pennsylvania has a zero-tolerance law for drugged driving. You can be charged with this offense if you are driving, operating, or have actual physical control of a car when you have a Schedule I, II, or III controlled substance for which you do not have a valid prescription. This law means that you can be charged with a DUI even if you are not impaired by trace amounts of drugs or their metabolites in your system at the time of your stop and arrest.

How Is a DUI Blood Test Conducted in Pennsylvania_

Zero-tolerance drugged DUI vs. impaired driving drugged DUI

You can also be charged with a drugged driving DUI if you are under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol and are impaired from the ability to safely drive, operate, or

physically control your vehicle. For this section, the prosecutor is not required to prove that you had drugs present in your system to win a conviction. Instead, the prosecutor could rely on the officer’s observations of you to argue that you were impaired by drugs, solvents, or noxious substances.

Police agencies and prosecutors rely on drug recognition experts to secure convictions in drugged driving impairment DUIs. These are officers who have undergone training classes put on by their departments in how to recognize the signs of drug-related impairment. Unlike the standardized field sobriety tests that have been promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the tests administered by DREs are not standardized. They do not have outside scientific studies to back them up beyond biased studies completed by law enforcement agencies. However, courts still allow DREs to testify in drugged driving cases about their identification of drugged drivers and the types of drugs that allegedly caused the driver’s impairment.

When a DRE administers tests, he or she will look for signs of impairment. If he or she determines the driver is impaired, the DRE will then determine whether the impairment is related to a medical condition or drugs. If the DRE believes that the driver is impaired by drugs, he or she will then determine the type or types of drugs that are causing the driver to be impaired.

Patrol officers will often call DREs to traffic stops when they suspect impairment by a substance other than alcohol. DREs nearly always determine that the drivers are impaired by drugs and are normally unwilling to back down from their assessments even when confronted by contradictory evidence in court.

In a zero-tolerance drugged DUI case, the prosecutor is not required to prove impairment. Instead, the only thing the prosecutor will be required to prove is that the driver had a minimal level of a scheduled controlled substance or its metabolite in his or her blood without a valid prescription within two hours of his or her arrest.

What are the penalties for drugged driving?

The penalties for drugged DUI offenses are the same as for alcohol-related DUIs at the highest BAC tier level. While alcohol DUIs are divided into tiers based on a driver’s BAC, people who are charged with drugged driving automatically face the penalties for the highest BAC DUI tier.

For a first offense drugged DUI conviction, you will face the following penalties:

  • Misdemeanor
  • From 72 hours to six months in jail
  • Fine up to $5,000
  • 12-month suspension of your driver’s license
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Drug assessment and treatment if ordered

If you are convicted of a second offense within the past 10 years, you will face the following penalties:

  • First-degree misdemeanor
  • From 90 days up to five years in prison
  • Fine up to $10,000
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for 18 months
  • Alcohol highway safety school
  • Drug assessment and treatment if ordered

For a third DUI conviction within 10 years, you will face the following penalties:

  • Third-degree felony
  • From one to five years in prison
  • Fine up to $10,000
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for 18 months
  • Drug assessment and treatment if ordered

Potential defenses to drugged driving charges

The defenses that your attorney might be able to assert will depend on the facts of your case. Some of the types of defenses that might be available include the following:

  • Officer did not have reasonable suspicion to support a stop
  • Officer did not have probable cause to support your arrest
  • Officer did not have a search warrant to seize your blood
  • There were problems with the chain of custody for your blood sample
  • Your blood test results were inaccurate
  • The tests performed at the roadside were conducted improperly
  • You had a valid prescription for a Schedule II or III substance detected for a zero-tolerance DUI

What if you are sleeping it off in your car?

If you get into an argument with your spouse while drinking and decide to go sleep it off in your vehicle, you can be charged with a DUI. The officer may decide that you are in actual physical control of your car even though you are asleep. The prosecutor might look for evidence that you were operating your car before you fell asleep. For example, if you drove away from your house to the corner store before returning to your driveway, the prosecutor might find witnesses who saw you driving.

Get help from a DUI attorney near me

If you are facing drugged DUI charges, it is important for you to speak to a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact DiCindio Law today by calling us at (610) 430-3535.

 

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 West Chester DUI 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.