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March 2015 Archives

Pennsylvania Superior Court Holds Drug Free School Zone Mandatory Sentence Unconstitutional

Many of the drug-related mandatory minimum sentences are being challenged across the state and across the country following the Alleyne decision that was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Pennsylvania Superior Court had issued opinions that drug-related mandatory sentencing laws were unconstitutional, but because the court did not expressly rule on the drug-free school zone mandatory, Centre County prosecutors continued to seek imposition of the mandatory sentences. As Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys had expected, the Superior Court put the constitutionality of the school zone issue to rest in Commonwealth v. Bizzel and held that the law could not be used by Pennsylvania prosecutors. The issue is currently being considered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and I am hopeful that the highest Pennsylvania court will affirm the decision of the Superior Court and thereby finally put the nail on the coffin for mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenders.

Suspect Lists Drug Dealer as Occupation on Arrest Report

I do believe that honesty is the best policy, but there are often situations in the criminal process in which it is better for a person to remain silent, or forgo answering questions, instead of being honest.  A man was recently stopped in Florida after he allegedly cut off an unmarked police car. The man and his vehicle were searched, and the police found 22 grams of heroin, 5.3 grams of cocaine, and $2,316 in cash. The man was arrested, charged with drug possession, and bail was set at $242,000.00. The online article did not specifically state the charges that were filed, but I am sure that they would have been felony offenses of possession with intent to distribute. Aside from the relatively large quantities of drugs, how did the police know, or at least have  reason to suspect, that the man intended to sell the drugs? He listed his occupation on the arrest report as "drug dealer." An admission is pretty damning.

Thin Ice - Burglars of Ice Fishing Shacks Caught After Falling Through Ice

Some Wisconsin men made the very bad decision to break into and steal from numerous ice fishing shacks on the frozen Upper St. Croix Lake. Of course, when you are stealing heavy things like a television and an auger, you need to park your getaway vehicle close by to limit the physical strain. The problem is that the ice was able to support the shack and its contents and it was able to support the car, but the ice could not support both the car and the stolen goods. As the thieves attempted to make their escape in the 2014 Ford Focus, the ice  gave way, and the vehicle sunk into the icy waters.

Underage Drinking Party Results in Death, Furnisher of Alcohol Sentenced to Probation

A Pennsylvania judge in Washington County recently imposed a sentence in a case involving allegations that a 25-year-old woman provided alcohol to minors. Some of the minors left the party, got into an accident, and the accident resulted in the death of one minor and injured another two. The woman pleaded guilty to four counts of Furnishing Alcohol to Minors under ยง 6310.1 of the Crimes Code, and a charge of Involuntary Manslaughter was dismissed.

Toilet Paper Links Man to Pennsylvania Robbery

The police often investigate and solve offenses like robbery, assault, and burglary by using scientific evidence such as DNA and fingerprint analysis, video surveillance, and even monitoring of social media sites. In other situations, cases are solved through good old fashioned detective work. In a recent Pittsburgh area robbery attempt, a man handed a Pizza shop employee the typical demand document that said "I have a gun, Give me $300.00." The note  was written on a piece of toilet paper. The would-be robber did throw a curve ball into the typical robbery situation by claiming that he was being forced to commit the theft by another unknown man who had threatened the robber with the gun. Basically, the robber was claiming that he was being forced to commit the criminal act because he was being threatened by an unknown man with a gun.