Archive for the ‘Criminal Defense’ Category

Can You be Charged With Assault While Defending Yourself?

Pennsylvania’s laws define assault as inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm on another person. Though that seems fairly straightforward, what happens if you have purposely inflicted harm on somebody else while defending yourself?

Though the state of Pennsylvania once had a law known as the Duty to Retreat, which meant that you had to take “reasonable steps” to avoid conflict instead of using force. Those laws were eliminated when it became clear that it put the victim in an untenable situation and unable to defend themselves. Now an individual can use self-defense as justification for inflicting bodily harm, but in using that justification you are pleading guilty to inflicting harm. It then becomes the state’s responsibility to prove that you were not, in fact, fearful but instead caused harm as the aggressor.

This change eliminates the fear of prosecution for those being attacked, but it does not automatically give you the right to use deadly force. Pennsylvania’s laws require that the force you use to defend yourself needs to be equal to what you are protecting yourself against. A bar fight using fists should not be defended against with a knife or a gun, and an individual who has used what later turns out to be a disproportionate force to defend themselves against an attack because they believed their aggressor was armed will need to establish their sense of what was happening in that moment in order to justify their actions.

In addition to the self-defense law, the state of Pennsylvania also has a law that specifically addresses the use of deadly force involving aggression against you in your home, work or occupied vehicle. Known as the Castle Doctrine, these laws make three different situational uses of deadly force legal. They are:

  • When someone is unlawfully entering your home, work or occupied vehicle
  • When someone already has unlawfully entered your home, work or occupied vehicle
  • When someone tries to unlawfully remove you from your home, work or occupied vehicle

In any of these situations, Pennsylvania law places the burden on the prosecution to prove that your use of deadly force was unreasonable.

If you’ve been accused of assault for actions you took in self-defense, you need an experienced defense attorney’s guidance and assistance. Contact us today to set up a time to discuss your situation.

 

 

Can You and Should You Appeal A Speeding Ticket?

There are some people who have never gotten pulled over for speeding in their lives, and if you are one of them, then you’ve also never felt the unique jolt you get when you know the blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror are there because of you. If, however, you have been pulled over and you are debating whether to simply pay the speeding ticket or fight it, there are a few things for you to consider.

The first is that when you pay a speeding ticket, you are doing more than making an involuntary contribution into the local economy: you are also pleading guilty to going whatever speed you were cited for. Depending upon how many tickets you have gotten in the past and how fast you were going, as well as whether there were any additional charges, this could have a significant impact on how much you have to pay for insurance. If you have previously gotten tickets and have been accumulating points, it could also put your ability to drive in jeopardy.

If you are in a situation where pleading guilty is going to have this type of negative effect – or if you are not guilty – then it makes sense for you to appeal. It may also make sense for you to hire an attorney to take care of the appeal for you. Here’s why:

  • First, it takes time to appeal a ticket. You need to take time away from work or school to attend court, and the proceedings generally take hours. A speeding ticket attorney can handle the case for you, usually at less expense than it would take to both pay the ticket and lose time at work.
  • A speeding ticket lawyer is experienced at addressing the particulars of traffic violations. They know the court officers and the police, and if they are unable to eliminate the ticket entirely they will likely be able to negotiate the ticket down in a way that will eliminate or lower your points and the impact that the ticket will have on your driving record and insurance.
  • Though most people think that hiring an attorney costs a lot of money, speeding ticket attorneys generally charge less than it costs to pay a ticket, and certainly less than it will cost you to pay increased insurance premiums. Even if your rates go up just $25 per month, those increased fees will remain in place for years, making it well worth it to pay a few hundred dollars to an attorney.

If you are unsure whether to pay a speeding ticket or appeal it, call our office today to set up a consultation with our experienced speeding ticket attorneys.

 

Avoiding Traffic Violations During the Back-To-School Season

back-to-schoolSummer is over – at least as far as your local school district is concerned. Whether your own children are back to hitting the books or you’re just seeing the steady stream of school buses that have returned to the roadway, you need to take a moment to assess whether you’ve gotten lazy in your safe driving habits. Not only do you want to make sure you play no part in any type of tragic accident you also want to avoid traffic violations during the back-to-school season. There are certain driving rules that are essentially tied to the school season, and by reviewing the list below, you’ll help yourself avoid the need for our traffic services.

School Zone Speed Limits

You know you’ve noticed the speed limit signs that are posted on all approaches to a school. They demark the school zone and are often supplemented by blinking lights. School zone speed limits are far lower than that of the roads that surround them, and this is true whether the school is on a busy road or hidden in the quiet streets of a neighborhood. Speeding within a school zone carries extra fines and extra points, so pay attention and take your foot off the gas until you’ve passed the sign that tells you that you’ve cleared the area.

Crosswalks

Areas in which children walk to school tend to have painted crosswalks, and many of them also have crossing guards to direct traffic. Whether the guard is present or not, you need to be aware of the possibility that children are in the area. Be cautious and ready to stop for pedestrians at a crosswalk. Failure to obey a crossing guard carries extra penalties.

School Buses

All school buses are equipped with blinking lights that notify drivers of the bus’ status. When the lights flash yellow, drivers are permitted to keep driving but to do so slowly and use caution. Once the lights blink red, all traffic is expected to stop, and drivers who fail to do so run a very real risk of being reported to the police, and facing steep fines and penalties.

Generally speaking, back to school means more traffic, more pedestrians and more cyclists. Make sure that you are using caution when on the road: dropping your speed and paying attention to the rules may not only save a young life but also save you from having to pay steep fines or incurring traffic violation penalties. If you need our traffic services, contact us today.

Why Date Rape Cases are Difficult to Prosecute

With the recent headlines of sexual assault allegations, many are asking why these cases are so difficult to prosecute. Compared to other criminal cases, date rape charges are among the hardest to prosecute, and not for lack of caring by the legal industry. Instead, there are challenges inherent to such a claim that makes proving the cases in court all the more difficult, particularly when the victim had known the perpetrator prior to the incident.

Sadly, this type of sexual assault or rape is by far the most common. It is reported that 84% of women who were raped or assaulted knew their assailants and 5% of all college women are victimized each year. However, many assaults and rapes go unreported, meaning the figure could be much more staggering in reality. With a public outcry for better reporting and more of these cases seeing the light of publicity, there are practical reasons as to why these are so difficult to get the result victims need in a court of law.

Skepticism by Jurors

A jury of peers is imperative to a proper justice system, but it is an inherently flawed system due to personal bias and skepticism by jurors. When these cases are presented to jurors, it is not presented in a void. Jurors come into court with strong ideas about sexual interactions between the sexes and view even the most factual evidence with the bias of their own experience.

Despite statistical evidence that nearly a quarter of all college aged women being assaulted, man are skeptical of the validity of uncorroborated sexual assault claims due to a societal bias against the victims. While no one asks if a victim of burglary was asking to be robbed, many jurors have unsubstantiated beliefs that many women invite their assaults.

Reasonable Doubt

Even jurors that don’t have a bias against sexual assault victims have issue with the he said, she said nature of such claims. Most often, there are only two witnesses to the crime: the victim and the assailant. Rape victims are often seen as unconvincing witnesses with far too many myths surrounding what a rape victim looks like or how they react. When a rape victim doesn’t look broken down like the Hollywood representation of women who have been victimized, jurors often find their strength as proof of fabrication.

Delayed Reporting

It takes a lot of courage to come forward with such an allegation and these cases are most often delayed in reporting. While there are many reasons for a victim not to immediately report their assault, such as feeling ashamed or scared or as though it was their fault, jurors still view the delayed reporting critically. In fact, often victims don’t realize they were victim to a crime at all. Nonetheless, judges and jurors see the delay as refining a motive or an attempt to fabricate a story.

If you have been the victim of sexual assault or rape, you are not alone. Contact our team today for a sympathetic ear and solid legal advice to help get justice for the crime you have become victim to.

Criminal Charges to Avoid

The justice system can be intimidating. Whether you are innocent or are facing large charges for something you did, finding the right legal representation is the first step. But how do you know they are on the right track once they have been hired? You have hired them for their expertise but it is important to understand whether you are getting to the best defense for your case or have hired the wrong lawyer. Even further, understanding what makes a good defense can aid your criminal defense lawyer in their specific strategy since you will know your own case better than anyone else.

However, there are some charges that should be avoided at all costs. A good legal strategy will look at the charges and attempt to lower or get rid of the following:

  • Fraud/Economic: White collar crimes account for much of criminal charges. They include money laundering along with federal and bankruptcy fraud, and identity theft. Unsurprisingly, these crimes often have heavy consequences attached to them.
  • Substance Abuse: Alcohol and drug crimes are typically classified as felonies and misdemeanors, which can impact the course of your life including finding work and places to live. Even a favorable outcome to a drug-related crime can have major impacts.
  • Property: Assault, including domestic, along with burglary, arson and larceny, along with other infractions committed on public or private property have major implications for the defendant. This is because other laws involving the location also arise, leading to further charges.

If you have already committed one of these crimes, be sure to talk with your lawyer about lower the charges. The main component of the criminal defense strategy for these crimes should focus on ridding your criminal history of these charges. In a lot of cases, you can take a plea bargain that will put lesser charges on your record. This can lead to bigger financial consequences but will have less of an impact on your future.

Finding the right lawyer is always the best defense. At Reinherz Law, we have experience with criminal defense strategies that consider the future of our clients. Our team looks past the immediate goals of legal defense and considers how each of our clients can benefit from specific strategies. Contact us today to find out more.

Insanity as a Legal Defense Rather than a Medical Term

Pleading insanity in court has become a trope in movies and television but the application of such a defense is much more complicated than advertised. For starters, insanity in a criminal case is treated as a legal term rather than a medical one. Understanding this distinction is important when considering your legal defense in a criminal case, as the nuance in definition can impact its success.

Due to being utilized as a legal defense, the definition and application changes and, in many cases, makes people uncomfortable. In fact, that legal definition could change depending on the state. For instance, someone who is found insane in New Jersey may receive a different verdict in New Hampshire or Pennsylvania, even though the states are not located too far away. The legal definitions can overlap with medical diagnoses of mental illnesses but they are not interchangeable.

In some cases, a person may be considered psychologically insane but it cannot be used as a defense. In other cases, the reverse can be true. While each state has their own definitions for insanity, there are three rules lawyers look at to determine if such a defense should be used.

M’Naghten Rule

Under this rule, the defendant can plead not guilty with insanity as a defense only if at the time of the alleged act, the defendant was unable to understand the nature of their actions due to being disturbed. Additionally, this defense can work if they did know the nature and quality of said actions but could not understand that it was wrong to act in such a way. This is the oldest rule for claims of insanity but still applies in over 20 states in the country.

Durham Rule

Under this rule, the defendant can be considered not guilty if their actions were the product of their mental illness. In other words, the crime would not have been committed if it had not been for their mental illness. This gives better coverage than the M’Naghten Rule since those with mental illness can understand they are wrong and still commit the crime purely because of their mental illness, such as an inability to control impulses.

Model Penal Code Rule

If, at the time of the crime, the behavior came as a result of a mental disease or the person was not able to understand the criminal intent or why it was wrong because of their state of mind, they can plead not guilty by reason of insanity. The American Law Institute wrote this rule to bridge the gap between the narrow M’Naghten Rule and the broad Durham Rule.

Unlike in Hollywood, someone cannot simply claim they are insane and get an evaluation. If you or a loved one committed a crime due to a mental illness, contact us today. We understand how criminal defense works in every situation and can tailor your defense to your specific circumstances.

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