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Central Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Legal Blog

Understanding the severity of the opioid epidemic

Some Pennsylvania residents may wonder if the opioid epidemic is really as severe as they hear it is. It is important to understand what opioids are and why the epidemic is serious. 

In order for people to understand the opioid epidemic, they first need to understand what opioids are. MedlinePlus says that these are a particular kind of drug that is most often used to alleviate pain. If people undergo surgery or incur a severe injury, doctors sometimes prescribe this medication. While opioids can help people manage their pain, some people may become dependent on these medications if they use them for too long, and this dependence may lead to an addiction.

Is a breath analyzer a foolproof test?

Pennsylvanian residents may believe that blowing over a 0.08 percent on a breath analyzer is the end of the road for them. Fortunately, Marros Law Office is here to help you through your difficult DUI-related charge and show you that things aren't as simple as that.

Breath analyzer tests are used in the field because they're considered relatively reliable. However, this has led to the overwhelming assumption that a breath test is the only thing needed to determine whether or not you're guilty of a DUI. This is why some people refuse to take a breath test, even though you could actually get in more trouble for doing that than you could if you blew over a 0.08 percent when taking the test.

Will possessing a firearm add to your sentence?

In Pennsylvania, there are laws that make it possible to face additional charges if a weapon is on site while a crime is being committed, even if that weapon is not used. But how does this affect your possible sentence?

The United States Department of Justice states that carrying, possessing, or using any firearm while carrying out a drug felony or federal crime is a punishable offense. These penalties may be surprisingly harsh to some, and can include:

  • 5 years minimum in prison
  • A potential life sentence
  • A potential death sentence

Understanding Pennsylvania knife laws

When people consider weapons crimes, they may initially think of offenses with a firearm. Knives may also be involved in a weapons crime, though, and it is important to understand what Pennsylvania laws say about knives.

Knives are included under a Pennsylvania law discussing prohibited offensive weapons. According to KnifeUp.com, knives and other cutting tools that can possibly cause harm to another person are considered offensive weapons. Possessing, using or selling this kind of weapon is typically considered a first degree misdemeanor. Pennsylvania law also includes restrictions on when someone may carry a knife. Daggers and hunting knives usually cannot be carried and they also may not be opened or concealed in public.

The tools used to determine if you are DUI

Pennsylvania residents who are under suspicion of drinking while driving will usually be subjected to two different types of tests: field sobriety tests and breathalyzer tests. These tests are crucial to law enforcement officers, who use them to determine what a person's charges should be.

Field sobriety tests are often the first step. If an officer has reason to believe that a person is driving under the influence, they can administer this kind of test. The National Traffic Highway and Safety Administration states that there's a very high chance of accurately determining if someone's blood alcohol content (BAC) level is over .08 using a standardized field sobriety test. The standardized tests include standing on one leg, walking and turning, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test which measures the movement of a person's eyes. Non-standardized tests exist as well, but are not used as often as they are easier to dismiss in court.

How much trouble can I get into if I smoke a joint?

If you are a Pennsylvania resident who enjoys the occasional use of recreational marijuana, you undoubtedly are aware that recreational marijuana possession is a crime in our state. While Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana usage in April 2016, its recreational use is still prohibited.

As FindLaw explains, Title 35, Section 780 of the Pennsylvania Code makes it illegal to possess, sell or grow recreational marijuana. Although it is highly unlikely that smoking a joint in the privacy of your own home will get you into trouble, doing so anywhere else could result in your arrest and conviction of a misdemeanor.

“Swatting” crime may be more common than people think

It can be frustrating when someone messes up in an online game and causes the team to lose. The same can be said when people get into an Internet argument or when real-life bullying crosses over onto social media. For whatever reason, the Internet is not always a peaceful place. There are some people in Pennsylvania and elsewhere who might be tempted to take a dispute a step further and play a seemingly harmless prank on someone they do not like.

One of these is something called “swatting.” The New York Times defines swatting as a prank in which someone calls authorities to report a crime or other false information, for the purpose of luring police or swat teams to an unsuspecting person’s residence or workplace. There can be some confusion and fear while the target, who is innocent of the alleged wrongdoing, finds himself or herself surrounded by armed law enforcement. The incident is usually cleared up quickly once law enforcement realizes the swatting target has done nothing wrong, which may be why many pranksters believe they are committing a harmless ruse.

What you need to know about Pennsylvania firearm laws

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees all citizens, including those living in Pennsylvania, the right to bear arms. However, each state is allowed to regulate under what circumstances and conditions a citizen is allowed to carry a gun, particularly one that is concealed.

Per the Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association, gun owners do not need a license to openly carry their gun(s), assuming they are not openly carrying them in a motor vehicle. Nor do they need to register their guns. Surprisingly enough, Section 6111.4 of the Pennsylvania Statutes prohibits any governmental or police agency from keeping a firearms registry. Should a gun owner wish to sell or otherwise transfer his or her guns to someone else, however, he or she must go through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System to do so. The Pennsylvania State Police keep a registry, called a “sales database,” of all such sales within the state.

Understanding distracted driving

Drivers on Pennsylvania’s streets, roads and highways see evidence of distracted driving all around them on a daily basis. The main problem is people using cellphones while driving. The Morning Call, a leading Lehigh Valley news source, reports that whether used for talking or texting, cellphone usage is a leading cause of fatal accidents according to the National Safety Council, along with speeding and drunk driving.

Pennsylvania banned texting while driving in 2012. However, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation admits that conviction of violating this state law carries only a $50 fine in addition to court costs and fees. No points are assessed against the offender’s driving record if he or she is a noncommercial driver.

How does Pennsylvania define theft?

If you are a Pennsylvania resident who has been arrested and charged with theft, you may be confused about exactly what is that you are accused of having done. That is not surprising given that the Pennsylvania Legislature has defined no less than 17 types of theft that can occur in this state.

All thefts are property crimes and Pennsylvania defines property as “anything of value,” including such things as the following:

  • Personal items
  • Real estate
  • Animals
  • Food and/or drinks
  • Rights and/or claims
  • Electric and other types of power

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