July 2011 Archives

July 19, 2011

Felony Criminal Trespass Charges and Corruption of a Minor Charges Reduced in Darby, Pennsylvania District Court

1267275_boonstoppel.jpgI wanted to write about this case I had a few weeks back wherein my client was a young kid approximately 19 years old. He was watching his 9 year old cousin with a few of his friends. My client and his friends decided to go into an abandon building and his 9 year old cousin, along with a friend, decided to go into the building as well. Both minors followed my client to the abandoned building's basement and were messing around. Apparently this house is quite popular for kids to go in, steal stuff and mess around. To make a long story short, the 9 year old friend of my client's 9 year old cousin told his mother who in turn called the Police. She flipped her lid and even accused my client of molesting her son. These accusations are false because the child said my client did not molest him. Nonetheless, the police charged my client with felony trespass and corrupting the morals of a minor.

In every case, my goal is to have the charges either dropped completely or reduced down to what is fair. Really the only thing my client was guilty of was simple trespass, which is a summary offense that carries a fine. In order to get this disposition to preliminary hearing it is important to be reasonable with the prosecutors and have a good working relationship with them. I always treat police and prosecutors with respect and establish that relationship. You see these people day in and day out and sometimes it pays to be nice. Everyone thinks the role of a defense attorney is to be nasty all the time and I always tell my clients, I am like Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse when he said something to the effect to his fellow bouncers, "I want you to be nice until its time not to be nice." That is the same thing I tell my clients, "I am nice until it is time not to be nice"; until it is time to get nasty. Like in this case I had a good working relationship with the prosecutor and was easily able to drop this down to a summary trespass. My client had to pay a $200.00 fine plus court costs. The corrupting of morals of a minor was dropped and the felony trespass was dropped immediately.

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July 15, 2011

Case Result: Driving While DUI Suspended License Charge Reduced in the City of Chester While Client had 3 Prior DUI Convictions

Today I was in Chester District Court before Judge Robert J. Blythe. My client was charged with driving on a DUI suspended license. In attorney talk, we call these 1543B's in Pennsylvania. That refers to the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code 75 Pa. C.S.A. Sec. 1543B. The conviction of Section 1543B carries with it a mandatory jail sentence between 60 and 90 days. My goal in this case going into Court was to have it dropped down to Section 1543A. Section 1543A refers to Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code 75 Pa. C.S.A. Sec. 1543A. A guilty plea or conviction of 1543A is better because there is no mandatory jail time. The consequences is a $200.00 fine and an additional suspension.

My mindset going into Court was to have this case plead down to a 1543A. However, I knew this was going to be an uphill battle since my client had 3 prior DUI convictions. In addition, my client had already caught a break because he admitted to the Officer that he had been drinking that night. The Officer could have brought my client up on DUI charges however he chose to cut him a break. With all this going against us, I knew I was going to try for a 1543A but thought it was unlikely. My second strategy was going to be for my client to go into the intermediate punishment and serve his jail time on several weekends. I went into Court, shook the Officer's hand and tried to be as respectful as I could and negotiate with him. I explained my client is an upstanding citizen, has his own business, goes to work regularly and that the blood alcohol content in all his DUI's were low. The Officer laughed at me and said "have you seen how many DUI's your client has had", I answered "yes, but he is cooperative and we'd appreciate anything you can do for us." To my surprise, the Officer dropped us down to a 1543A. I told my client this was the "deal of the Century" because of all the factors going against him in this case.

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July 5, 2011

Sneaking Prescription Drugs into Delaware County Prison: Case Dismissed in Glenn Mills District Court

Last week I represented a client charged with contraband, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. She decided to gamble and exercise her right to a preliminary hearing. She took the stand before the Honorable Richard Cappelli in the Delaware County Magisterial District Court. Defendants often waive their right to preliminary because the Commonwealth's burden is low. The burden on the Commonwealth at the preliminary hearing is not beyond a reasonable doubt. The Commonwealth must merely establish prima facia evidence. An easy way to understand prima facia evidence is that the Commonwealth must have some evidence on each element of the crime no matter how good the evidence is. Even if the evidence is false. This is not the legal definition but it is the way that I explain the term "prima facia" to clients. As you can imagine, this is a very low burden for the Commonwealth. The traditional thought pattern of many defense attorneys is to NEVER have your client take the stand at the prelim. No defenses are allowed and in Delaware County everything is recorded. Therefore, your client runs the possibility of incriminating themselves or saying something that will be used against them at trial. However, I have had a lot of success having client's take the stand at prelims. This year, I have had two cases dismissed this way. District judges have been receptive to defendant testimony. In this case, it paid off for my client to roll the dice. All of the drug charges were dismissed.

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