Types of field sobriety tests and their admissibility in court

Types of field sobriety tests and their admissibility in court

When people in Pennsylvania are pulled over by officers who suspect that they might be under the influence of alcohol, they may be asked to perform several tests at the roadside. There are types of field sobriety tests and their admissibility in court or known as SFSTs. There are three tests that officers might conduct to try to develop probable cause for a DUI arrest. These tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn. Unlike chemical tests after an arrest, people are not legally required to submit to SFSTs. However, if they do, they may wonder whether the tests are admissible in court. Here is what the legal team at DiCindio Law thinks that you should know about SFSTs and their admissibility.

What are the standardized field sobriety tests?

The standardized field sobriety tests are a battery of tests that were created and standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the 1970s and 1980s. When these tests are properly administered, the NHTSA claims that they are effective in helping to determine whether a motorist is under the influence of alcohol. However, the tests are subjective and are frequently not administered according to the standards. They also do not work for all people because of medical conditions and other issues that might impact motor control and eye movements. The three standardized tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand. Officers might also ask people to submit to other field sobriety tests that are not standardized.

Horizontal gaze nystagmus test

The HGN test looks for an involuntary jerking movement of the eyes when they move to look to the side. Normally, nystagmus happens when people’s eyes are rotated at high side angles. In people who are under the influence of alcohol, the jerking motions are exaggerated and may be seen at smaller angles. People who are impaired by alcohol also have trouble tracking a moving object with their eyes. In this test, the police officer uses a pen and asks the person to track it with his or her eyes as the officer slowly moves it to the side. The officer observes the person’s eyes to watch for three things. The officer will look to see if the person’s eyes are unable to smoothly track the object. He or she will also look for distinct and sustained jerking motions when the eyes reach the maximum deviation and if the jerking is observed before the eyes reach a 45-degree angle from the center.

Walk-and-turn test

The walk-and-turn test is the second of the three SFSTs. In this test, the officer asks the person to take nine heel-to-toe steps on a straight line. Once the person takes the steps, he or she is asked to turn around on one foot and return in the same way back to the starting point. The officer will watch to see if the person exhibits any of the eight following signs that might indicate that he or she is impaired:

  • Inability to maintain balance while being told the instructions
  • Starting to walk before the officer has finished giving the instructions
  • Stopping during the walk to regain balance
  • Not touching heel-to-toe
  • Extending arms out for balance
  • Stepping off of the line
  • Taking the wrong number of steps
  • Turning improperly

One-leg stand test

The one-leg stand test involves the officer asking the person to stand while having one foot extended in front of him or her around six inches off of the ground. While maintaining the foot off of the ground, the person is told to count by one thousand and one, one thousand and two, etc. until he or she is told to return his or her foot to the ground. The officer will time the person for 30 seconds. The signs that the officer will look for include swaying, extending the arms for balance, hopping, or putting the foot down early.

Problems with the tests

Multiple problems can make someone unable to complete the tests successfully. For example, some medical conditions or eye diseases cause nystagmus. Many people suffer from health conditions that affect their balance and their ability to complete the walk-and-turn and the one-leg stand. Generally, police officers should ask people whether they have any medical conditions or reasons that make them unable to complete the tests. If a person tells the officer that he or she does, the officer should write the condition down in the report.

Are the results of SFSTs admissible?

The NHTSA created a standard for the procedures for administering SFSTs in 1981. However, it is a federal standard that states are not required to follow. Out of the three SFSTs, the one-legged stand and the walk-and-turn are generally considered to be admissible at trial. The third test, the HGN test, is not admissible at trial in Pennsylvania. However, it is admissible for use in a probable cause hearing. For the one-legged stand and the walk-and-turn tests, a lawyer can review the administration of the tests and challenge the officer about any deviations from the standard established by the NHTSA. Since the HGN is based on the person’s eye movements that cannot be seen, it is more difficult to challenge how it was administered.

Your attorney may request copies of the video of your SFSTs during the discovery process. He or she can then review how the tests were administered and your performance on the tests. If the officer administered the tests incorrectly, your lawyer may file a motion to challenge their admissibility at trial in your DUI case. If the motion is granted, the prosecutor will not be able to present them as evidence against you at trial.

Contact DiCindio Law

Getting pulled over for a suspected DUI can be scary. If you were arrested after an officer performed standardized field sobriety tests, it is important to review the video carefully. Michael DiCindio at DiCindio Law understands how these tests should be administered and can challenge any errors that he observes. Contact us today to schedule an appointment by calling us at 610.430.3535.

Understanding the Preservation of Evidence in Criminal Cases

Understanding the Preservation of Evidence in Criminal Cases

Today we’re talking about understanding the preservation of evidence in criminal cases. When people are criminally prosecuted in Pennsylvania, the government must preserve the evidence that it gathers during criminal investigations to protect the due process rights of defendants. The duty to preserve evidence also includes a mandate for the government to disclose the evidence that it plans to use against defendants at trial. It must also disclose any mitigating evidence that it uncovers that could help the defense. This duty begins when any state agency has collected evidence during a criminal investigation. A criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law understands how to secure the required disclosures to help to build defense cases for defendants.

Types of evidence that must be preserved

The duty for preservation of evidence in criminal cases does not mean that police officers must preserve all of the information and evidence that they collect. Instead, the duty applies only to the evidence that is exculpatory and material. Exculpatory evidence includes evidence that tends to clear the defendant of guilt. Material evidence includes any relevant evidence that directly relates to the issues in a criminal case.

One type of evidence that is nearly always both exculpatory and material is alibi evidence. This type of evidence includes things like forensic evidence that demonstrates that the defendant could not have committed the offense and witness statements that the defendant was located somewhere else at the time the crime was committed.

Other types of material and exculpatory evidence

Many cases don’t have alibi evidence. However, they may have other types of material and exculpatory evidence that tends to weaken the state’s case against a defendant. Some examples of other types of material and exculpatory evidence include the following:

  • Evidence from the crime scene, including photographs, murder weapons, blood samples, and measurements
  • Video and audio recordings
  • Investigative notes made while interrogating a defendant
  • 911 call recordings

Who must preserve evidence?

Several parties must preserve evidence that is collected in a criminal case, including the following:

  • Detectives, investigators, forensic staff, clerical staff, and administrative staff of investigative agencies
  • Prosecutors, prosecution experts, and prosecution investigators
  • Attorney general for appeals and post-conviction matters

Private agencies and individuals do not have a duty to preserve evidence unless they have formal relationships with law enforcement agencies. If a prosecutor hires a private lab to perform DNA analysis, the lab will have to preserve the evidence and the results of the tests that it performs because of the relationship it has with the prosecutor’s office.

Evidence that is destroyed or lost

The burden of proving that the state violated the duty to preserve evidence lies with the defendant. A defendant will have to show that the state’s violation of its duty interfered with his or her right to a fair trial and due process. To get the court to take action, a defendant will need to show that the evidence that was lost or destroyed was material and exculpatory. The defendant will also have to prove that the state acted in bad faith in destroying or losing the evidence in question.

To prove that lost or destroyed evidence was material, a defendant will need to be able to show that the police officers knew or should have known that the evidence was exculpatory before it was destroyed. The defendant will also need to show that the evidence cannot be replaced by other available evidence.

The materiality of the evidence can sometimes be inferred from the actions of the officers. For example, if the officers destroyed evidence that was a type that is normally preserved in similar cases, the materiality of the evidence might be inferred by the court. The court might also infer that the evidence was material if the state tested, used, or intended to test the evidence that was lost or destroyed.

It is difficult to prove that the state acted in bad faith in losing or destroying evidence. Simply showing that the officers were negligent or careless is not enough. Instead, the defendant must demonstrate that the officers acted willfully, maliciously, or deceitfully. Bad faith can be inferred when the state failed to follow standard procedures. An example of an investigator’s bad faith might include destroying DNA samples that tend to show that someone else committed the crime.

Remedies when the state destroys or loses material and exculpatory evidence

The prosecution will not be sanctioned by the court if it loses or destroys material or exculpatory evidence unless the defendant raises the issue. Normally, a defendant will file a motion with the court to notify it, and the court will schedule a motion hearing. At the hearing, the defendant will have to present evidence showing that the government has violated its duty to preserve evidence and acted in bad faith. The defendant will also need to present evidence showing that the destroyed or lost evidence was material and exculpatory to the extent that his or her constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process were violated.

If the defendant is successful, the court may limit testimony about related evidence or suppress it. In extreme situations, the court may dismiss the charges against the defendant. When the destruction of evidence is not discovered until after a conviction, the conviction may be overturned by an appeals court.

When the defendant discovers during his or her trial that the prosecution violated the duty to preserve and disclose evidence, there are a couple of remedies. The defendant can ask the court to exclude or restrict testimony about the destroyed or lost evidence, suppress related evidence, or dismiss the charges.

Contact DiCindio Law

The preservation of evidence in all criminal cases are critical for ensuring that people receive fair trials. People who are charged with crimes might want to retain experienced criminal defense lawyers for help with ensuring that all of the relevant evidence is disclosed to them. Contact a criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law today by calling us at 610.430.3535.

What Is The Difference Between Contributory Negligence and Comparative Negligence

What Is The Difference Between Contributory Negligence and Comparative Negligence

In personal injury cases, determining who was at fault for an accident is a key issue. An injured victim cannot sue someone else and recover damages without showing that the person was at fault for causing the accident and injuries. In some situations, an injured victim will be partly to blame for causing the accident. When the parties share fault, the courts will determine fault based on either comparative or contributory negligence, depending on the state. Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence rule. Understanding the differences between contributory and comparative negligence is important for people who have been injured in accidents. Here is what the legal team at DiCindio Law thinks that you should know about comparative negligence and contributory negligence.

Contributory vs. comparative negligence

Contributory and comparative negligence are legal doctrines that affect the ability of a plaintiff to recover damages after he or she has been injured in an accident in which he or she was partially at fault. The doctrine that will apply depends on the state’s laws. Pennsylvania follows a doctrine called modified comparative fault, which will be explained more below. Before discussing the doctrine of modified comparative fault, it is first important to define contributory negligence and comparative negligence to understand how they differ from each other.

Contributory negligence

Historically, injured plaintiffs could not recover damages if they contributed any portion of the fault to an accident. This meant that if a jury determined that a plaintiff was 1% at fault, he or she would be unable to recover damages for his or her losses. This doctrine is called contributory negligence. Because it is now considered to be too harsh, most states now follow some type of comparative negligence rule.

Comparative negligence

A majority of states, including Pennsylvania, now use comparative negligence instead of contributory negligence when determining the ability of a plaintiff to recover damages. Under comparative negligence rules, plaintiffs can recover damages for their injuries. However, their ability to recover compensation will depend on their percentages of fault. For example, if a jury finds that a defendant is 70% at fault and the plaintiff is 30% at fault, the plaintiff’s award will be reduced by 30%. The states that have adopted the comparative negligence doctrine either follow pure comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence.

Pure comparative negligence

Approximately 25% of the states follow the pure comparative negligence rule. People in these states can recover compensation for their losses to the extent that they were not at fault. For example, if someone is found to be 25% at fault in a pure comparative negligence state, his or her damages would be reduced by 25%. However, pure comparative negligence states allow plaintiffs to recover compensation even when they were largely to blame for causing their accidents. For example, if a person is 90% at fault for an accident, he or she could still recover 10% of the damages awarded by a jury. Because of situations like that, Pennsylvania and the majority of states have modified comparative negligence rules.

Modified comparative negligence

A majority of the states have modified comparative negligence laws. In these states, a plaintiff can only recover damages for the percentage of fault that is attributed to the defendant. However, a plaintiff cannot recover damages if his or her negligence exceeded a threshold. Typically, the threshold beyond which damages will not be recoverable is 50% or 51%.

For example, if a plaintiff files a lawsuit after being injured in an accident and is found to be 40% at fault, he or she will be able to recover 60% of the damages. By contrast, if the plaintiff is found to be 55% at fault, he or she will not be able to recover compensation for his or her losses. This is because the plaintiff’s percentage of fault exceeded the state’s threshold.

What are Pennsylvania’s laws about negligence?

Under this law, a plaintiff will not be barred from recovering damages simply because he or she contributed fault for his or her accident. However, the plaintiff will not be able to recover damages if his or her negligence exceeds the negligence of the defendant. This means that plaintiffs in the state cannot recover damages if their percentages of fault exceed 50%. Plaintiffs can only recover damages if their percentages of fault are 50% or less.

In the second section of the statute, the courts are told to reduce the damages that plaintiffs are awarded proportionately to their fault. For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 10% at fault, his or her gross damages award will be reduced by 10%. The percentage of fault that is attributed to the defendant and the plaintiff will be determined based on the evidence presented at the trial.

How is the percentage of fault of each party determined?

In many personal injury cases, the defendants will try to argue that the plaintiffs were partially at fault for their accidents and injuries. They may argue that the plaintiffs were at least partially to blame to reduce the amount of damages that they might be forced to pay. Plaintiffs build their cases in such a way to minimize any negligence that they might have contributed to their accidents so that they can try to maximize their compensation. An attorney at DiCindio Law understands how the courts allocate negligence and can gather evidence to show that the defendant was primarily at fault for causing an accident. The evidence that might be gathered and presented can include photographs, eyewitness testimony, expert testimony, and documents.

Once the evidence has been presented, the court assigns the percentages of fault to the parties. As long as your attorney can prove that the defendant had a greater degree of fault than you, you will recover compensation.

Get help from DiCindio Law

Determining fault and gathering evidence to prove that the defendant was more at fault than you for your accident’s cause is important. An attorney at DiCindio Law can evaluate your potential claim and explain whether you are likely to recover damages. Contact us today to schedule a consultation so that you can learn about the legal remedies that might be available to you. We can be reached by telephone at 610.430.3535 or through our online contact form.

Consequences of a Hit-and-Run Accident in Pennsylvania

Consequences of a Hit-and-Run Accident in Pennsylvania

Consequences of a Hit-and-Run Accident in Pennsylvania is our topic for today. If you are involved in an accident in Pennsylvania in which property is damaged or someone is injured or killed, you must exchange information with the other driver and remain at the scene. Should you fail to stay at the scene, you can be criminally charged with a hit-and-run accident even if the accident was not your fault. If you fail to remain at the scene of an accident, you can face stiff penalties, including jail or prison, substantial fines, and the loss of your driving privileges. Leaving the scene of an accident is treated seriously, and you should get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law if you are facing this type of charge.

Duty to stay at the scene in an accident involving injuries or fatalities

If you are involved in an accident in which someone is injured or killed, you are required to stay at the scene of the accident. This is true even if someone only suffers minor injuries. The law requires you to park your vehicle somewhere nearby that is safe and to exchange information with the other involved driver, including your address, insurance company, and name. You must also call the police to summon emergency responders.

You must also help anyone who is injured in your accident. If someone is injured and asks for help or obviously needs it, you must provide first aid and call an ambulance. If you fail to remain at the accident scene when someone has been injured or killed and fail to provide help, exchange your information, and call the police, you could be charged with a felony or misdemeanor which is the consequences of a hit-and-run accident in Pennsylvania. The penalties for failing to remain at the scene of an injury or fatality accident can include a prison sentence, substantial fines, points on your driving record, and a criminal record.

Penalties for a fatal hit-and-run accident in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania law, motorists who are involved in accidents that cause injuries or fatalities must stop their vehicles and remain at the scene until help arrives. Even in situations in which no one is injured, drivers must still provide their identifying and contact information and their license and registration to the other drivers. The consequences of a hit-and-run accident in Pennsylvania

Under 75 Pa.C.S. § 3742(b)(3), leaving the scene of an accident or failing to render assistance is a second-degree felony. If you are convicted of this offense, you will face from one up to 10 years in prions and a fine of up to $25,000.

Penalties for leaving the scene of an accident causing injuries

If you leave the scene of an accident that caused someone to be injured, you are also required to remain at the scene, summon help, and render aid. This includes situations in which someone suffers minor injuries. The penalties that you will face if you are convicted of leaving the scene of an accident with injuries will depend on whether the injuries are minor or constitute serious bodily injuries.

Leaving the scene of an accident with property damage

If you are involved in an accident that only results in property damage in Pennsylvania, you are still required to stop your vehicle and park it in a safe location near to the accident scene. You should call the police to report the accident. Should the owner of the property not be present, you should try to find them to explain what happened. Even if you cannot find the property owner, you should leave a note where the owner can easily find it that includes information about your accident and how you can be contacted.

If the property owner is present, you are required to give him or her your name, address, insurance information, registration information, and license plate information. If you fail to provide the required information and to stop at the scene, you can face up to 90 days of jail, $200 or more in fines, four points on your driver’s license, and a potential suspension of your driving privileges for up to six months.

Defending against hit-and-run charges

When you are charged with a hit-and-run accident, your lawyer at DiCindio Law will build defenses based on the circumstances of what happened. The prosecutor will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you left the accident scene. If you remained at the scene, your lawyer will collect evidence to show that you did so.

Some other potential defenses to a hit-and-run accident charge include the following:

  • Someone else drove your vehicle away from the accident scene.
  • Your vehicle is not the one that was involved in the accident.
  • You were involved in a different type of emergency and were on your way to the hospital.
  • You did not realize that you struck another object, person, or car.

It can be difficult to fight charges of leaving the scene of an accident. Having help from a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can help you to build a strong defense to protect your interests. Your attorney at DiCindio Law will thoroughly investigate what happened and analyze the evidence to identify the defense strategies to implement.

Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious criminal traffic violation. Because of the penalties that you might face, you need to retain an experienced defense lawyer. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535.

Timeline for a slip-and-fall lawsuit in Pennsylvania

Timeline for a slip-and-fall lawsuit in Pennsylvania

Each year, many people are injured after slipping or tripping and falling in Pennsylvania. When an accident happens on someone else’s property and is caused by the property owner’s negligence, the injured victim may be entitled to recover damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit. If you have suffered injuries in a slip-and-fall accident on the property of another person or entity, you might wonder about filing a claim. It is common for people who have been injured in these types of accidents to wonder about the process and how long it might take to resolve their claims. The experienced slip-and-fall accident lawyer at DiCindio Law believes that it is important for you to understand what the process entails so that you will have a better understanding of what to expect.

Getting medical care

You should seek medical care immediately after you have been injured in a slip-and-fall accident. Getting treated immediately after your fall can help to prevent your injuries from becoming worse. Early medical care can also help you to start on the path to recovery. If you later decide to file a lawsuit against the property owner or operator, early medical care is critical for demonstrating a link between your accident and injuries. Your medical records after your slip-and-fall accident are crucial pieces of evidence. They help to document the treatment that you have received, the extent and severity of your injuries, and the noneconomic and economic losses that you have suffered.

Getting help to determine liability

Some slip-and-fall accidents are not caused by the negligence of others. Simply falling while you are visiting the property of someone else is not enough to provide a valid basis for a claim. Instead, you will need to show that your accident was caused by the negligent actions of the property’s owner to win a personal injury lawsuit.

Property owners and operators must maintain their property in a relatively safe and hazard-free condition. They must fix or remove hazards that they know about and that could foreseeably cause injuries to customers, guests, or residents. When a hazardous condition causes someone to be injured in a slip-and-fall accident that the property owner either knew existed or reasonably should have known about, the victim might have valid grounds to file a lawsuit against the property owner or operator. An experienced premises liability lawyer at DiCindio Law can help you to determine whether your slip-and-fall accident was caused by negligence.

Consulting with an attorney and drafting a complaint

Once you consult with a lawyer about your potential claim, he or she may agree to accept the case if your claim has legal merit. After exhausting all settlement options, your attorney will then draft a civil complaint that includes the details of your claim. The complaint contains a summary of what happened and includes factual information about the identities of the plaintiff and the property owner, how the accident happened, who is allegedly liable, and the damages that are being sought.

The complaint is the formal legal document that must be filed to initiate your lawsuit. It should be filed in the court that has jurisdiction to hear the case. Once your complaint and summons are filed with the appropriate court, you must serve the documents on the defendant or defendants. The summons will tell the defendants to file their responses to your complaint within 20 days.

The answer

Once your complaint and summons have been properly served on the defendants, they will then file their responses. The responses are called answers and will either admit or deny each of the allegations that you have made in your civil complaint. The answers will also list the potential legal defenses that might limit the liability of the defendants.

Discovery

The discovery phase is the part of a lawsuit that begins after the complaint and answer have been filed. During this part of your lawsuit, you and the defendants will be required to exchange information and evidence with each other. Discovery can include written discovery, interrogatories, and depositions. Your attorney might send requests for the production of certain types of evidence that are relevant to your case. Interrogatories are written lists of questions that you or the defendant may be required to answer under oath. Depositions held outside of court. During a deposition, you, the defendants, and other relevant witnesses may testify under oath and be questioned by the attorneys for both sides. A court reporter will be present, but a judge will not. Transcripts from depositions can be used at trial. Depositions can also provide the lawyers with an idea of how each person might testify and whether they are believable. Discovery can last anywhere from a few months up to several years, depending on the complexity of your case, the court’s schedule, and the length of your medical treatment.

Pre-trial motions

If your case does not settle, both you and the defendants might file pre-trial motions to try to resolve specific issues before you go to trial. The defendant might file a motion for summary judgment if the defense believes that your lawsuit does not have any material facts in dispute to be heard by a jury. If the court grants a motion for summary judgment, your case can be dismissed.

A motion to compel is a motion that can be filed by either the plaintiff or the defendant to ask for a court order to force the other party to do something. This can be used to ask for a court order for the other party to appear for a deposition or produce specific documents.

Motions in limine are motions that can be filed by either party. These motions contain arguments about why the court should keep certain types of evidence out of the trial because of the danger of prejudice. For example, a defendant might file a motion in limine to keep the fact that the liability insurance is sufficient to cover all of the claimed damages because a jury might be likelier to return a judgment in the plaintiff’s favor.

Mediation and settlement conferences

The majority of slip-and-fall lawsuits are settled before trial. In many cases, the parties might try to resolve the cases by going through mediation or holding settlement conferences. The parties typically arrange mediation and choose the mediator who will handle the negotiations. Settlement conferences are typically court-ordered.

Mediation or settlement conferences normally occur near the end of discovery. If you can negotiate a settlement through mediation or a settlement conference, you will receive the amount that is agreed to through your settlement negotiations.

Jury trial

If you cannot reach a settlement agreement, your case will go to trial. At your trial, your attorney and the defense lawyer will present evidence and call witnesses. Your attorney will present evidence and witnesses to prove the elements of negligence. The defense lawyer will present evidence and witnesses to refute your claims. Both lawyers will be able to cross-examine the witnesses called by the opposite party.

Once both sides have rested, the case will be given to the jury. The jury will then meet in private to discuss the evidence and reach a decision based on the testimony and evidence. If the jury returns a verdict in your favor, you will receive an award of damages based on the economic and noneconomic losses that you have suffered.

Receiving financial compensation

If the jury returns a verdict in your favor, the defendant will have to pay you the amount that is awarded. However, if the defendant files an appeal, your case can take much longer before you receive what you have been awarded. If an appeal is successful, you might be forced to go through another trial.

Get help from DiCindio Law

Recovering damages following a slip-and-fall accident can take some time. If you believe that your accident was caused by the negligence of the property owner or operator, you should consult with an experienced lawyer at DiCindio Law. Contact us today to schedule an appointment by calling us at 610.430.3535 or by filling out our online contact form.

Understanding Pennsylvania Embezzlement Laws

Understanding Pennsylvania Embezzlement Laws

When you think about embezzlement in Pennsylvania, you might imagine someone who works for a large company funneling away substantial sums from their employer to their personal accounts. While some embezzlement cases fit this scenario, this offense does not need to involve huge sums or working for a big corporation. Embezzlement in Pennsylvania is a type of theft crime that is considered to be a white-collar criminal offense. If you are convicted of embezzlement, you can expect to face harsh penalties that will depend on the value of the property or the money that you stole. If you are convicted of embezzling a substantial amount of money or property, you can expect to receive a harsher penalty if you are convicted. At DiCindio Law, we understand how to defend against embezzlement charges and will work to build the strongest possible defense for you.

What is embezzlement?

Embezzlement is a type of theft that can be charged in Pennsylvania. The theft offenses can be found at 18 § 3921 and other related statutes. Theft occurs when you take someone else’s property without their consent and with the intent to permanently deprive him or her of the property. Embezzlement is a specific kind of theft. To be convicted of this offense, the prosecutor will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you got possession of the property or money through an agreement or a fiduciary duty and then used it for your financial gain.

Embezzlement involves a person who is entrusted with property or money by the rightful owner. When you have a legal obligation to protect another person’s or entity’s money or property, you owe the owner a fiduciary duty. This makes embezzlement a theft that is committed when you breach your fiduciary duty.

You can breach your fiduciary duty in a few different ways. For example, you might use deception or fraud to embezzle the funds. Regardless of the tactics that you used, using your position to steal property or money from the owner for your personal financial gain is a crime.

Some of the types of people who have fiduciary duties include the following:

  • Trustees
  • Investment portfolio managers
  • Bank tellers
  • Corporate executives
  • Bookkeepers

All of these types of people have duties to protect the assets of others. When they instead take the assets to benefit themselves, they have committed embezzlement.

Potential for other charges

Since Pennsylvania doesn’t include a single statute for embezzlement, prosecutors frequently add other charges against defendants who are accused of this offense. For example, if you engaged in fraud to obtain the property or money, you may be charged with fraud as well as a theft offense.

There are different types of fraud, and each of them involves intentionally engaging in an act of deception. For example, a fraud offense might be charged if you created fake documents or engaged in identity theft to access the funds that you are accused of embezzling.

To be charged with embezzlement, you must have had a position of responsibility for the property or money that was allegedly stolen. You might have been granted access to the funds by your employer and used them instead of protecting them.

Under federal law, embezzlement is one of the offenses that are listed in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or RICO Act. Depending on the circumstances of your alleged offense, you could be charged federally under the RICO Act. Federal charges carry even stiffer penalties than state convictions.

What are the penalties for embezzlement in Pennsylvania?

The penalties that you might face if you are convicted of embezzlement under Pennsylvania’s state laws will depend on the value of the property or money that you stole. In many cases, the penalties will include fines, incarceration, and restitution.

If you are convicted of embezzlement, the penalties that you will face will depend on the value of the property or money that was stolen as follows:

  • Under $50 – Fine up to $2,500 and jail up to one year
  • $50 to $199 – Fine up to $5,000 and jail up to two years
  • $200 to $1,999 – Fine up to $10,000 and jail up to five years
  • $2,000 or more – Fine up to $15,000 and prison up to seven years
  • $500,000 or more – First-degree felony with a fine up to $25,000 and up to 20 years in prison

If you are convicted of embezzling property or money valued at $2,000 or more, you will have a felony on your record. Having any type of theft conviction on your record can have an ongoing impact on your life even after you have completed your sentence. People who are convicted of embezzlement may have trouble finding jobs and housing. However, it is important to understand that being charged with a crime does not mean that you will be convicted. If you work with an experienced attorney who understands how to defend against embezzlement charges, you might avoid a conviction.

Get help from DiCindio Law

If you have been charged with embezzlement in Pennsylvania, you should talk to an experienced defense lawyer at DiCindio Law. As a former prosecutor, Michael DiCindio knows how the state builds its cases against people who are charged with all types of criminal offenses, including white-collar crimes. This helps him to anticipate the arguments that might be made so that he can counter them. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535.

Types of Slip-and-Fall Injuries in Pennsylvania

Types of Slip-and-Fall Injuries in Pennsylvania

Many people face long periods of recovery and serious injuries when they slip or trip and fall. Slip-and-fall accidents are among the leading causes of visits to the emergency department in Pennsylvania. These types of accidents are common and elderly adults are especially at risk. Millions of Americans suffer severe injuries or fatalities after slipping and falling. By understanding the types of slip-and-fall injuries that commonly occur, you can more easily discuss them with your doctor and your lawyer at DiCindio Law. This can help your doctor as he or she creates your treatment plan and your lawyer as he works to build your legal claim for compensation.

Types of injuries in slip-and-fall accidents

Slipping or tripping and falling can lead to many different types of injuries, including the following:

  • Fractures
  • Sprained wrists or ankles
  • Damage to the knee
  • Muscle strains or shoulder dislocations
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Hip and pelvic fractures
  • Spinal cord injuries and nerve damage
  • Back injuries
  • Bruises and cuts

Fractures

Among elderly adults, falls are the leading cause of hip fractures. Many older adults who suffer hip fractures never fully recover and many are unable to return to their homes after their accidents. Older adults are likelier to suffer fractures in slip-and-fall accidents because their bones are more fragile. From a legal standpoint, however, it does not matter how old you are at the time of your accident. People who are more fragile than others have a right to recover compensation for their injuries when their accidents are caused by the negligence of others.

Fractures happen when too much pressure is placed on the bones. When you fall, the bones throughout your body can experience substantial pressure. Slip-and-fall accidents commonly result in fractures to the ankles, wrists, and hips.

The older you are, the more likely you are to break a bone as a result of a slip and fall. However, your age or health at the time of the injury doesn’t matter from a legal standpoint. Even if you’re more fragile than someone else, you still have a right to recover financially for your unique injuries whatever they are.

Strains or sprains of the wrists or ankles

When people fall, they often take uneven steps and extend their arms out to brace themselves as they fall down. The ligaments in their ankles and wrists can tear during their falls. This causes strains or sprains. Since there isn’t a lot of blood flow to the ligaments, strains and sprains can take a long time to recover.

Wrist and ankle injuries can interfere with your ability to complete the normal activities of everyday life. You might be unable to cook, clean, button your clothes or work until your injuries heal. If your ankles are sprained, you might have trouble walking without crutches or a walker. Sprains and strains are very common after slip-and-fall accidents and can present significant problems for the victims.

Damage to the knees

Knee damage is another common type of injury in a slip-and-fall accident because of twisting when you fall. Your knees are complex structures containing multiple moving pieces that work together to provide your joint with function and mobility. When you hurt or tear your ACL or MCL, it can take a long time for the injury to heal. You can also suffer dislocation of your patella bone in a fall. Knee damage can require you to undergo reconstructive surgery immediately after your accident or sometime in the future.

Muscle strains and shoulder dislocations

Many people hit their shoulders when they fall. Your shoulder can be strained or dislocated if you reach out while falling and jar it. A dislocated shoulder and muscular strains can require surgery. Your doctor may write a treatment plan to determine your prognosis and guide your recovery.

Spinal cord injuries and nerve damage

Your spinal cord and nerves are quite fragile. When you suffer a slip-and-fall accident, you can damage your nerves and your spinal cord from direct trauma, from cuts, or from overstretching. Nerve and spinal cord injuries can be permanent, or people might recover from them with treatment and rehabilitation.

Traumatic brain injuries

You can suffer a traumatic brain injury in a slip-and-fall accident whether or not your head strikes the ground. If your brain is jolted during a fall, you can suffer a TBI. Traumatic brain injuries can pose special dangers because the victims might not recognize the severity of their injuries right after their falls.

If a TBI is not immediately recognized and treated, secondary injuries can happen that might be more serious than the initial brain injury. An untreated TBI can lead to pain and other problems for months. Secondary problems such as brain swelling and the build-up of cerebrospinal fluid can cause long-lasting, permanent damage.

Bruises and cuts

Bruises and cuts can happen whenever you fall because of other objects. While you might not think that a cut is especially serious, serious cuts can leave you with permanent scarring and can be disfiguring. You should make sure to photograph your bruises, cuts, and other visible injuries to document them right after your fall.

Why you have to be injured to recover compensation

To recover in a slip-and-fall accident, you must be able to prove all of the elements of negligence. One of the elements of a negligence claim is suffering harm and injuries. If you are uninjured, it will not matter if the property owner failed to take proper care to prevent the accident. Without injuries, you will not have met your burden to prove each of the elements of negligence to support a claim.

What to do if you have been injured in a slip-and-fall accident

If you slip or trip and fall while you are legally present on the property of a business or another person, you should begin by carefully documenting your injuries and the accident scene. Take photographs if you can or ask someone else to take them for you. Get the names and contact information of each witness, and ask the property owner or operator to make an accident report. Make sure to seek medical attention as soon as you can. Take pictures of your injuries and keep track of your daily levels of pain in a diary.

Make sure to keep all of your medical appointments, and follow your doctor’s recommendations. You should seek immediate medical attention to receive the best treatment outcomes and to show that your injuries were caused by your slip-and-fall accident.

How a personal injury lawyer at DiCindio Law can help

An experienced personal injury lawyer at DiCindio Law can evaluate your potential claim and explain whether you have valid grounds to file a lawsuit. Working with an attorney can help you to avoid making critical errors that could harm your ability to recover compensation for your losses. A lawyer can guide you through the claim process and handle the negotiations with the insurance company for you while you concentrate on getting better. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a free consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535.

How to Value a Slip and Fall Injury Claim

How to Value a Slip and Fall Injury Claim

Being injured in a slip-and-fall accident on the property of someone else might leave you with injuries. You might wonder whether you should file a lawsuit against the owner of the property and how much your claim might be worth. The value of your slip-and-fall claim will depend on several different factors. An experienced premises liability lawyer at DiCindio Law can assess your claim’s legal merits and provide you with a range of values within which you might expect a reasonable offer of settlement to fall. Here are some of the factors that might influence the value of your slip-and-fall accident claim.

The medical expenses that you have incurred now and in the future

The medical bills that you have already incurred as well as your expected future medical expenses related to treating your slip-and-fall accident injuries are among the most important factors influencing the value of your claim. Your attorney can help you figure out how much your medical expenses are and what you might expect to pay for your care in the future.

Normally, a slip-and-fall case will be worth at least the total of your medical expenses. You will likely be entitled to recover other damages beyond your medical bills, however.

Past lost wages

If your injuries from your slip-and-fall accident were serious, you may have been forced to miss work. If you missed work and lost pay, you will likely be entitled to recover the amount of the wages that you would have earned if you had not been injured in your accident. You will need to provide documentation of the time that you missed and the normal amount that you earn. Normally, this documentation might include your pay stubs and tax returns. You can also ask your employer to verify the amount of time that you missed from your job because of your injury along with your regular hourly rate.

Lost capacity to earn an income

If you suffered extensive injuries that prevent you from returning to the job that you had before your accident and are no longer able to earn the same amount of money that you previously did, you might be entitled to recover compensation for your lost capacity to earn an income. Your attorney might retain a vocational rehabilitation expert to testify about your reduced earnings capacity to support your claim. The expert might complete an evaluation of your injuries, your future job prospects, and your occupation to provide evidence for your claim.

If you and your lawyer can establish that your earning capacity has been reduced because of your accident injuries, the court might require the property owner to compensate you by paying a lump sum for your reduced capacity to earn an income or by paying for you to receive education or training in a new field.

Your incidental expenses

If you have incurred incidental expenses because of your injuries, you may be able to recover compensation to pay for them. For example, if your gas bill went up because of traveling to medical appointments by $100 per month, you might be compensated for those expenses. You will need to be able to show a connection between your injury and the incidental expenses, however.

Pain and suffering damages in slip-and-fall claims

Calculating the value of your pain and suffering damages can be difficult. While there isn’t a strict rule about how to calculate these types of damages, your medical bills are typically used as a measuring stick.

Some injuries from slip-and-fall accidents do not show symptoms until weeks after your accident. You should keep this in mind when you are negotiating your claim amount with the insurance company. If you hire an experienced attorney at DiCindio Law, your lawyer can handle the negotiations for you while you work on your recovery.

Value of slip-and-fall settlements versus trial verdicts

The vast majority of slip-and-fall claims settle outside of court. In some cases, a settlement agreement might be reached before a formal lawsuit is filed. Reaching a settlement agreement is normally mutually beneficial to both the injured victims and the insurance companies. While a reasonable settlement offer might be slightly less than what your case might be worth at trial, you will not have to risk a trial and the possibility of losing. The insurance company might pay more than it might want when it settles a claim. However, the company might also want to avoid a trial because of the possibility of losing and being forced to pay more. Settlements benefit both sides because juries are unpredictable, and it is never possible to figure out exactly what a jury might decide.

If your case does go to trial and you receive a verdict award in your favor, the insurance company can also file an appeal. If it does, your case may take a substantially longer time to complete before you receive your compensation.

Normally, your lawyer will only file a lawsuit if you and the insurance company cannot reach a fair settlement agreement. In some cases, the insurance company will refuse to make a reasonable offer. After a formal lawsuit is filed, most cases will eventually reach a resolution before trial, however.

Get help from DiCindio Law

Suffering serious injuries in a slip-and-fall accident because of the negligence of the property owner can be devastating. Michael DiCindio at DiCindio Law can help you to figure out your legal options and the potential value of your claim. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535.

Proving Fault in Slip-and-Fall Accidents in Pennsylvania

Proving Fault in Slip-and-Fall Accidents in Pennsylvania

Proving fault in a slip-and-fall accident claim can be difficult. Each year, thousands of people are seriously injured after slipping and falling on surfaces that have become dangerous. However, proving the liability of the property owner or manager can be hard in many cases. Getting help from an attorney at DiCindio Law might allow you to gather enough evidence to prove your case. Here are some things that you should consider.

Could your accident have been prevented by the property owner?

After being injured in a fall accident, you might think that you should immediately file a lawsuit. However, not every slip-and-fall accident provides a valid basis for a legal claim. To evaluate your claim, start by asking yourself if the accident could have been avoided if the property owner had exercised more care. For example, if another customer spilled milk directly in front of you, causing you to slip and fall within a few seconds, you will not be likely to have grounds to file a claim. The property owner would need to have enough time to discover the spill and to clean it. Similarly, a property owner will not be liable if you slipped and fell because of an obvious danger that a reasonable person would have avoided. Everyone has to remain aware of their surroundings and to take steps to avoid open and obvious hazards.

What is the duty to maintain the premises?

Property owners must maintain their properties in reasonably safe and hazard-free conditions. This does not mean that they will be liable for every accident that happens. However, it also does not mean that they will never be responsible for injuries that occur. Property owners are required to take steps to keep their premises free of dangers that could foreseeably cause slip-and-fall accidents and injuries. The reasonableness of the property owner’s actions will be balanced against the care that you should have exercised to avoid your accident.

Determining liability in a slip-and-fall accident

To win a slip-and-fall accident claim, you will need to be able to prove the owner’s liability. To do this, you will have to prove one of the following scenarios occurred:

  • The property owner or an employee should have reasonably known about the dangerous condition and repaired it.
  • The property owner or an employee had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition but did nothing.
  • The property owner or an employee caused the hazardous condition.

In many slip-and-fall cases, the first scenario is what is litigated. It can be tricky to prove that the owner or employee had constructive notice of the dangerous condition, however. Once you present your arguments and evidence, the jury or judge will determine whether the owner or the employee should have discovered the condition and corrected it. This will require you to show evidence that the condition existed for a long enough time that it should have been discovered. Your lawyer might secure video footage, witness statements, and maintenance and repair records to help to prove that this occurred.

What is reasonableness?

The reasonableness of the property owner’s conduct will likely be at issue at some point in your case. Before you file a claim, your attorney will likely discuss several factors with you. One of these factors will be the length of time that the condition had existed before your accident. If the condition occurred immediately before your fall, you will have a difficult time arguing that the property owner’s failure to correct it was unreasonable.

Your lawyer might also investigate the cleaning and inspection activities that are implemented by the property owner each day. If the owner claims that the property is inspected at a regular interval, your lawyer will want to see the evidence to support the claim.

If you tripped over something that had been left on the floor, your attorney will want to investigate whether the object was there for a legitimate purpose and whether that reason still existed when you fell.

Comparative negligence and carelessness

Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence rule. Under this law, your damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault that you contributed to your accident as long as your negligence was equal to or less than that of the property owner. If your negligence was responsible for more than half of the cause of your accident, you will not be able to recover damages. Defendants frequently try to argue that the victims caused their falls to reduce or avoid liability.

Your attorney will likely talk to you to figure out whether you might be found to have been negligent in your accident. For example, your lawyer might question whether you had a legitimate purpose for being on the premises when your accident happened. He or she might also ask whether a reasonably prudent person in the same situation would have avoided the condition or handled it in a way that would have reduced the chances of falling. Your lawyer might ask whether there was a barrier or a warning sign alerting you to the presence of the dangerous condition and if you were engaging in any type of actions that contributed to your fall. For example, if you were texting on the phone without looking where you were going and tripped and fell over a barrier, you will not be likely to recover damages.

Talk to the legal team at DiCindio Law

You should talk to an experienced premises liability lawyer at DiCindio Law as soon as possible after your slip-and-fall accident. An attorney can review the facts and circumstances of your case and explain whether you have valid grounds to file a claim. Getting help quickly can also help your lawyer to preserve evidence that could otherwise be lost as time passes. Slip-and-fall claims also have a statute of limitations that limits the time within which you can file a lawsuit. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 610.430.3535.

Can a Domestic Violence Charge Be Dropped?

Can a Domestic Violence Charge Be Dropped?

It can be stressful to be charged with domestic violence. In some cases, domestic violence charges arise out of misunderstandings, and the alleged victims might want the charges to be dropped. Even if the alleged victim in your case doesn’t want to press charges or wants the charges to be dismissed, the decision about how to handle your charges in Pennsylvania is the prosecutor’s decision to make and does not depend on the wishes of the alleged victim. When someone reports an act of domestic violence to the police, the accuser does not decide whether to press charges. Instead, the accuser is a witness to the alleged crime. After an accuser calls the police and makes a report, the officers can arrest the defendant. The prosecutor is who will decide whether sufficient evidence exists to charge the accused person with a crime or whether the charges should be dismissed. If the prosecutor believes that a crime has occurred, he or she is likely to continue prosecuting the defendant regardless of whether the alleged victim asks for the charges to be dropped. If you have been charged with an act of domestic violence, DiCindio Law can talk to you about your legal options and your defense.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence includes acts that are attempted, threatened, or committed by a defendant against people with whom he or she has close personal relationships. This can include spouses, ex-spouses, sexual partners, and others. Physical contact does not have to occur for an act to be considered to be domestic violence. Threats and intimidation can result in charges.

Situations that can lead to domestic violence charges

Domestic violence charges are commonly filed after a power struggle or an argument has occurred. Some of the most common situations that can lead to domestic violence charges include alcohol and drug use, child custody and divorce proceedings, and misunderstandings.

People who drink alcohol or use drugs may act in ways that they normally wouldn’t because of their impairment. When drugs or alcohol are involved in domestic violence charges, drug and alcohol treatment and counseling might be more effective than jail.

When people are involved in child custody disputes and divorces, the situations can become very emotional. Unfortunately, some people will make false domestic violence claims to try to gain an upper hand in their family court proceedings. In these situations, the false claims can backfire on them.

In some cases, misunderstandings can result in the misinterpretation of actions or behaviors as threatening even if they were not.

The victim’s testimony

Some domestic violence cases largely rest on the testimony of the victim and have little other evidence to support the charges. In these types of cases, the prosecutors might have to drop the charges when the victims refuse to help the prosecution or to testify. If the victim instead decides to testify for the defendant, the prosecutor is likely to lose his or her case. In that situation, the prosecutor might dismiss the charges because of a lack of evidence. However, a prosecutor can compel a victim to testify under subpoena and use his or her previous statements to show that the victim’s story has changed.

Trying to refute the evidence

In some cases, domestic violence charges might result after third parties call the police after witnessing arguments, outbursts, or loud fights.. The alleged victims might have to explain what happened during and leading up to the argument or outburst. If physical injuries were involved, explanations about how those happened other than the incidents might be necessary.

Other defenses

Some of the other defenses to domestic violence charges that might be available include the following:

  • Lack of witnesses or evidence
  • Self-defense
  • Mistaken identity
  • Inconsistent victim statements
  • Unlawfully obtained evidence

Your attorney at DiCindio Law can analyze what happened and explain the defenses that might be available to you.

Get help from DiCindio Law

While the alleged victim in your case does not have the power to drop the charges against you, the prosecutor might decide to dismiss the charges if he or she believes that the case is unlikely to result in a conviction. Building a strong defense case provides you with the best chance of receiving a more favorable outcome for your case. Contact DiCindio Law to schedule a consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535.