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Central Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Legal Blog

Report questions the validity of breath test evidence

Motorists in Pennsylvania and around the country who are charged with driving under the influence are usually taken into custody after breath tests reveal their blood alcohol concentrations to be .08% or higher, but questions have been raised about the reliability of toxicology evidence in drunk driving cases for years. A team of reporters from the New York Times recently investigated the way police departments in the United States conduct breath tests, and they found that most of the equipment used is extremely unreliable.

The results of the investigation were released on Nov. 3, and they reveal that virtually all law enforcement agencies use breath-testing equipment that has been poorly maintained. Accurate results are only produced when these devices are regularly recalibrated and filled with the correct chemical solutions. The report suggests that these requirements are widely overlooked. Reporters discovered one machine that was being used as a nesting site by rats and another that had been drilled by police officers to influence the results it produced.

Can you rebuild your reputation after a criminal conviction?

Once you have been convicted of committing a crime in Pennsylvania, you could be facing consequences that vary in the way they impact your life. Some of the negative effects of having participated in criminal behavior could be legal fees, time spent behind bars and the requirement to complete various community service projects to return to good standing with the law. Your effort to take responsibility for your actions and promptly pay the consequences that have been recommended for you can be instrumental in helping you rebuild your life successfully. 

One area of your life that will require time and dedication to fixing is the process of repairing your reputation. Depending on the severity of the crime you committed and who was affected by your actions, chances are you have lost the trust of many important people in your life. These people could include family members, friends, coworkers and even law enforcement. Demonstrating your commitment to change is going to require that you make sustainable changes in your lifestyle. 

What should parents know about juvenile offenses?

When your child gets in trouble with the law in Pennsylvania, you may wonder what is going to happen next. Juvenile law is sometimes different from adult law and it is important to understand these differences and how they might affect your son or daughter. 

When your child commits a crime, you might wonder if the public will learn about this offense. According to the Pennsylvania Juvenile Indigent Defense Action Network, juvenile offenses are typically only part of the public record if they meet certain criteria. One of the criteria is the type of offense. If a minor commits arson, rape or aggravated assault, for example, then the offense may become part of the public record. Additionally, if your teenager is at least 14 years old and commits an offense that a court considers a felony, then the offense may become public knowledge. If your son or daughter's offense does not meet these criteria, then members of the public generally cannot access these records.

The dangers of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome

Despite the willingness of officials in state government to take a look at recreational marijuana use in Pennsylvania, as of now it remains illegal. However, long-term marijuana use could involve more than mere legal consequences. It could cause a medical condition called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome which, according to USA Today, could prove fatal

CHS is a relatively recent medical discovery, not yet fully understood. The primary known cause is prolonged use of products containing THC. However, not everyone who uses marijuana heavily will develop the syndrome, and scientists are not entirely sure why.

First prosecution under bump stock ban reportedly takes place

A bump stock is a device that allows a semiautomatic rifle in Pennsylvania to mimic the firing capability of a machine gun. Over a year ago, the government issued a new regulation banning ownership, possession or use of bump stocks following several high-profile mass shooting incidents.

The bump stock ban went into effect in March of this year following an unsuccessful attempt to challenge it in the Supreme Court. Approximately six months later, authorities in Texas have brought the first charges in the country related to bump stock possession since the ban went into effect. 

Are designated drivers a safe option?

If you are headed out for a night on the town, you may have designated a driver who will sustain from drinking and ensure everyone in your group gets home safely. While this may seem like a good game plan and a safe option to keep drivers you from drinking and driving, it is not always fool-proof. In fact, studies show that even designated drivers are not completely sober and may put others at risk of becoming involved in a drunk driving accident

A study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that as many as 40% of designated drivers are not sober when they get behind the wheel to drive their friends home. Of those intoxicated designated drivers, approximately 18% had a blood alcohol content level of at least 0.05 or higher. 

Possible psychological explanation for hot car deaths

Every year, about three dozen children in the United States, including Pennsylvania, die because their parents left them behind in a hot car. The children in these cases are often less than two years old, too young to understand what is going on or to alert parents to their presence in the vehicle. 

According to the New York Times, approximately 43% of parents whose children die in hot cars face criminal charges. Once charged, a parent's chances of conviction are approximately three to one. Depending on the jurisdiction and the facts of the case, the charges can range from misdemeanor charges like child endangerment to felony charges of involuntary manslaughter. 

Fatal overdose charges most prevalent in 2 Pennsylvania counties

When someone dies as a result of a drug overdose, the individual(s) who supplied the drugs can face felony charges. The names of the charges and the consequences vary by jurisdiction. In Pennsylvania, the term for the charge is "drug delivery resulting in death." According to a Florida-based analytics company, two counties in Pennsylvania have the highest number of drug delivery resulting in death charges in the entire nation. 

In 2018, authorities in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, charged 75 people with drug delivery resulting in death. This was the highest incidence of such charges in the country according to a study conducted in partnership with the Health in Justice Action Lab at Northeastern University and the Florida-based Lumina Analytics company. York County, also in Pennsylvania, came in second place with 45 charges of drug delivery resulting in death. Of the top 10 counties nationwide charging people with drug-induced homicide offenses, Pennsylvania counties make up seven altogether. 

What is the walk and turn test?

If you are like most people in Pennsylvania, you have seen plenty of movies or television shows in which a person is asked to perform different tests by a police officer in order to determine if the person was drunk while driving. Commonly referred to as field sobriety tests, there are three different tests that are standardized for use by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, it is important to note that these tests do not and cannot prove that a driver is intoxicated. They can only indicate that a driver might be intoxicated.

One of the tests is called the walk and turn test. As explained by FieldSobrietyTests.org, it requires the driver to take nine steps forward along a straight line, turn around and take nine steps back along the same line to the original starting position. A person may be deemed to have failed this test if they step off the line at any time, use their arms to help them maintain their balance or even pause momentarily. Steps must be taken in a heel-to-toe fashion.

How can I approach job hunting with a criminal record?

If you are like a lot of people in Pennsylvania who have had some type of brush with the law, one of the concerns on your mind is how you can get your life back on a more positive track. Finding a good job is one part of doing this. In today's world, it is very common for companies to run pre-employment background checks on job candidates before they finalize a job offer and hire a person. This means your criminal record is likely to be discovered by a potential employer. However, this does not mean you cannot still get a job.

Glassdoor recommends that one thing you should do is to run your own background check. This will give you insight into what level of detail a company might actually receive when they run a background check. Armed with this information, you can prepare how to discuss the information with them. It is important that you have this conversation proactively before they discover anything on their own, yet you do not want to offer details too soon in the process.

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