Pennsylvania’s Senate Bill 290 has become law as it was signed by the governor on May 25. This legislation, slated to go into effect in 2017, requires that first-time DUI offenders with blood alcohol levels of .10 or higher have their vehicles outfitted with ignition interlock units. This type of system prevents the starting of a vehicle if, when it is blown into, it indicates that the prospective driver has a BAC in excess of a programmed level.
Some readers from Pennsylvania may wish to know more about how “mens rea” is handled in law. The term, which is Latin for “guilty mind,” has a number of applications that can play a vital role in the prosecution of a criminal case.
Mens rea is essentially the state of mind a person had at the time a crime was committed. In terms of sentencing, someone who did not intend a crime may be viewed to be less culpable than someone who acted maliciously, and this could lead to a more lenient punishment upon conviction. This is known as determining the motive of a defendant. Knowing a defendant’s motivation for the crime in question can also aid criminal defense attorneys during the mitigation process as a whole.
Investigators with the child predator section of the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office recently charged three men with various child pornography offenses. The charges came following an undercover investigation by authorities from the office.
Those charged include a 44-year-old man from Lower Paxton Township, a 34-year-old man from Philadelphia and a 25-year-old man from Allentown. The 44-year-old man is facing 14 charges, including four for distribution, nine for possession and one for criminal communication. The 34-year-old was charged with 20 separate counts of possession of child pornography, one of distribution and one of criminal communication. The 25-year-old man was charged with five counts of distribution, 20 counts of possession and one of criminal communication. Read more
Local lawmakers in Pennsylvania’s capital city discovered on May 18 that reducing the penalties for possessing small quantities of marijuana can be a delicate and complex process. Members of the Harrisburg City Council had hoped to implement a law that would see marijuana possession classified as a summary offense rather than a misdemeanor, but questions about how the measure would be applied to juvenile offenders led to the discussion being tabled.
The proposed measure was drafted to reduce the burden placed on law enforcement and to favor treatment and counseling over punishment for juveniles caught with marijuana. However, council members were unable to reach an agreement over matters such as fine schedules and the number of repeat offenses that would trigger a misdemeanor charge. The mayor had advocated a beginning fine of $100, but several council members felt that this figure was too high and pointed to similar laws passed recently in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that feature fines beginning at $25.