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This case was a major victory for the Antoine firm in 2011. Donna Crowe's case was a TV movie in the making, full of drama, anger, and heartache, local news coverage on 6abc.com and even the arrest and removal of the Assistant District Attorney on this case, Mike Donahue, on unrelated charges, see my blog dated November 16, 2011.
When this firm began its representation of Ms. Crowe in early February 2010, she was incarcerated at George W. Hill Correctional Facility and held on $25,000.00 cash bail. Ms. Crowe was arrested on charges of Identity Theft, Theft by Unlawful Taking, Receiving Stolen Property by Upper Providence Police Department. She was released from prison on 10% of the $25,000 cash bail. I then started the process of filing various motions on her behalf to which the Commonwealth kept requesting continuances and delaying the case. After almost a year of continuances and motions, I was able to plead Ms. Crowe out to a Disorderly Conduct citation with a $100.00 fine.
According to the police criminal complaint filed by Upper Providence Police Department, Donna Crowe was hired as a nanny by the Aitken family to care for their younger daughter, in October of 2009. Ms. Crowe had answered an ad posted on the website, Sittercity.com by Michelle Aitken. The two met for an interview where a background check was performed and subsequently Ms. Crowe was hired. By mid-November, Ms. Aitken noticed the memory card was missed from the family camera that was kept in her daughter's stroller. Ms. Aitken questioned Ms. Crowe about the missing camera card, to which Ms. Crowe told her she "had no idea." In the next couple weeks, Ms. Aitken noticed a change in Ms. Crowe's mood. When Ms. Crowe did not show for work one day, Ms. Aitken called to ask why and received different answers to the question. It was then the Aitken's family decided to end their working relationship with Ms. Crowe.
Reported by: Christiana Martin, Drexel University College of Law
Legal Intern for Jason R. Antoine, Attorney at Law PLLC, Pennsylvania Drug Charge Lawyer
I arrived at Marple Township District Court shadowing Jason for the first time. His client was on probation in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and faced new charges of possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and public drunkenness. Typically, if a probationer is found guilty of new charges, he or she will be violated by the adult probation department and incarcerated. However, if the attorney can have your case plead down to a summary offense, typically, the probation department will not violate. Pleading this case down to a summary seemed like a monumental task at the beginning. The client had a rap sheet of drug offenses a mile long. He was on probation for drugs and got caught passed out in his front yard with PCP laced cigarettes in his pocket. The client could have faced jail time for violating the terms of his probation -- particularly with lab tests in evidence that showed that the client possessed a controlled substance at the time he was arrested by a Marple Township police officer. It seemed the chances of reducing the sentencing grade were slim, and the client's record and conduct seemed to point towards an unfavorable outcome, but drawing from his experience defending clients for years in Delaware County courts, Jason Antoine negotiated with the Delaware County District Attorney's Office to make an amazing deal that kept his client out of jail. He had all of the drug charges dropped and the defendant plead guilty to two summary offenses: Disorderly Conduct and Public Drunkenness. All the defendant had to do was pay a fine and he didn't have to go to jail. How did Mr. Antoine get this deal? Answer = oral hygiene. No one expected the client's oral hygiene to come up in these discussions. Yet, a letter from the client's dentist saying he was a nice guy was among the materials introduced into evidence, prompting the District Attorney to jokingly ask if the defendant had good teeth. Though Mr. Antoine could not speak to the dental health of his client, he used the letter attesting to the client's great disposition.
Today, my client, a 20 year old man from Darby, Pennsylvania, pled guilty to one count Possession With Intent to Deliver Cocaine before the Honorable Gregory M. Mallon in the Media courthouse. My client faced a mandatory sentence of two (2) years incarceration for this charge. He recieved an intermediate punishment sentence of three (3) months incarceration to be served on 45 consecutive weekends and 3 months of electronic home monitoring followed by 17 months probation. The original offer from the Delaware County District Attorney's Office in this case was 6-23 months incarceration. However, once my office filed a suppression motion, this opened up negotiations with the district attorney's office for a more lenient sentence.
This case arose when the Yeadon Police Department initiated a pedestrian stop on my client. My client fled police officers and entered a Darby residence. The police surrounded the home and requested consent from the owner to search the premises. The owner allegedly allowed the police to search the residence. Police found my client baracaded in the basement bathroom with 9.9 grams of cocaine, along with hundreds of baggies, $82.00 cash and two (2) cell phones.
Anyone who is familiar with recent advertising campaigns against drunk driving has heard the phrase, "impairment begins with the first drink." However, impairment doesn't necessarily have to involve the consumption of alcohol. Section 3802 (d)(2) of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code deals specifically with individuals who are under the influence of a controlled substance. It states, "Individuals may not operate a vehicle if they are under the influence of a drug or combination of drugs that impairs their ability to safely drive."
Controlled substances can range from illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine to prescribed narcotic pain medication such as Codeine, Percocet and Vicodine. The side effects of these pain medications when taken at high dosage combined with operating a vehicle can some times result in DUI charges. A recent case originating in Delaware County resulted in a DUI conviction when the defendant operated a vehicle over three hours after taking prescription Valium and Percocet with codeine. The Court said evidence that the defendant was driving erratically, had constricted pupils, was unsteady on their feet after the traffic stop and had the appearance of confusion was enough to show that the drugs impaired his ability to safely operate his vehicle.
One of the many reasons people who are charged with a DUI are pulled over in the first place is because of some sort of erratic driving. This can be the casual "roll through a stop sign" or crossing over a double yellow line a few times over the course of a mile. This sort of erratic driving is one of the principal indications that police look for when making a DUI traffic stop. This sort of driving however doesn't necessarily need to be witnessed by a police officer in order for you to be arrested for DUI. In Pennsylvania a fellow driver who identifies themselves to police may report the kind of erratic driving normally associated with those who are operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Their report to police will provide sufficient probable cause for the police to make a traffic stop which may then lead to a DUI.
In a recent case out of Butler County Pennsylvania, police officers received a 911 dispatch call advising them that a named motorist had observed a driver almost hit a wall of a bridge, run a stop sign and drive onto a sidewalk. Officers received the driver's registration number and location from the motorist, caught up to the driver and while they did not observe any bad driving still had a reasonable suspicion to pull the driver over. The Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld the legality of the traffic stop, saying that the police acting on a tip from a named motorist was Constitutional.