by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

A False Conviction Is Overturned, but the System That Allowed It Remains

Here is the case of a missing paragraph that turned into a trap door that dropped a man into prison.

The paragraph vanished from a police report in a Brooklyn criminal case, but essential information has been hidden from people accused of crimes in courthouses across the country. Even though failing to share exculpatory information is among the most serious breaches of ethics and law for the police and prosecutors, there is little personal or institutional accountability for such tactics.

In 2010, to convict a man named Wayne Martin of killing two people during a stickup of a Brooklyn tire repair shop, someone in law enforcement went to the trouble of blanking out a paragraph in a homicide report.

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

Mandatory interlock law signed by governor

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.

Read more

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

The difference that “mens rea” can make

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.

Read more

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

Child porn investigation in Pennsylvania leads to three arrests

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

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

Pennsylvania lawmakers discuss marijuana law modifications

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.

Read more

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

Payroll processing company ADP targeted by alleged scam

Some Pennsylvania residents may have been victims of identity theft in the weeks leading up to the 2015 tax return deadline. Stealing a taxpayer’s personal information in order to collect a refund in their name has become a popular scam. Scammers looking for tax refund money have now targeted payroll information belonging to companies like Seagate and Snapchat.

White-collar crimes involving tax refunds usually require payroll data, and scammers have now found a way to access an immense collection of payroll data. A payroll processing company called ADP has been targeted, and an unknown number of false tax returns may have already been filed using some of the company’s payroll data. ADP prints paychecks for 610,000 companies.

One of the companies that hires ADP to print its payroll checks is U.S. Bancorp, which has about 64,000 employees. Some of the employees at U.S. Bancorp were victims of security breaches when scammers set up fake accounts through an ADP portal. To create a false tax return, the scammers would have to have a U.S. Bancorp employee’s personal information including their birth date, full name and Social Security number.

Much of the fraud that goes on today happens over the Internet, and it can be difficult for investigators to identify the person responsible for a specific alleged scam. A criminal defense attorney representing a person who has been accused of stealing personal identifying information to commit acts of fraud may choose to combat the charges by challenging the way that the prosecution obtained its alleged evidence.

Source: Consumerist, “New Payroll Fraud Variation: Scammers Gain Access To Corporate ADP Accounts,” Laura Northrup, May 3, 2016

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

First-time offenders may have to use interlock devices

On May 16, legislators in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 193 to 2 to expand the ignition interlock device from repeat DUI offenders to include most first-time DUI offenders as well. The measure will now be returned to the state Senate for its vote. It is likely that it will pass since the Senate voted for a similar measure 47 to 0 last fall. The governor is expected to sign the new bill into law when he receives it.

The new law would allow first-time DUI offenders who had blood alcohol concentrations of between .10 and .15 to receive restricted licenses with ignition interlock installations instead of having their licenses suspended for one year. This would allow them to drive to school, work or the store as long as they were able to provide alcohol-free breath samples.

The bill would expand the use of ignition-interlock devices to around 30,000 Pennsylvanians every year. It would not be available for drivers of commercial vehicles or those who caused DUI fatalities. Proponents of the measure point out that giving the ignition interlock licenses would allow first-time offenders to continue leading productive lives after they are arrested for DUI. Critics point out that ignition-interlock devices simply stop behavior rather than positively changing it for the long term, according to research.

The mandatory installation and use of ignition interlock devices is just one of many serious consequences people who are convicted of drunk driving may face. People may also be sentenced to terms of incarceration, face substantial fines, be ordered to attend mandatory alcohol treatment and be placed on probation. A criminal defense attorney might choose to combat the charge by challenging the manner in which the test was conducted.

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

Drug warrants issued in joint task force operation

A drug sweep took place in Pennsylvania on April 28 through a combined law enforcement effort. The Darby Borough police chief said that it sent a message of zero tolerance for future drug sales in his area.

Teams of 20 investigators and officers were dispatched to Chester, West Philadelphia and Darby Borough as part of a joint effort composed of local police, the district attorney’s office in Delaware County, as well as Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration investigators. In total, 180 investigators and officers were involved. The sweep started at daybreak as teams, armed with 110 arrest warrants, went to homes in the area. By mid-morning, 79 of the warrants were served. The subjects of the remaining 31 warrants were at large.

Darby Borough is a poor community with an average median income less than $35,000. Vacant residences number about 20 percent. A state representative who appeared at thenews conference announcing the sweep said that the area has long had a reputation of being a hotbed of drug activity. Not all Darby residents were pleased with the recent activity. Some said this sort of thing happens when elections are upcoming. Others said the raids were done in such a way as to prove frightening to family members including children.

A person who has been taken into custody for drug trafficking will want to have legal representation as soon as possible thereafter, because the penalties resulting from a conviction can be extremely severe. A criminal defense attorney might find it advisable after a review of the evidence to attempt to negotiate an agreement with the prosecutor to reduce the charge to possession in exchange for a guilty plea.

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

Mayors throw support behind underage drinking initiative

On April 21, it was announced that 18 mayors across the state of Pennsylvania added their support to efforts that were being made by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to prevent drinking by underage individuals in the state. It was declared to be PowerTalk 21 Day, which is the organization’s national day for talking discussing underage drinking with kids.

The mayor of West Newton stated that the dangers surrounding alcohol was a discussion that needed to start at home. Parents should be having these discussions with their kids before they start high school, as they are more likely to face situations where underage drinking will occur. The mayor of Monessen noted that the area was known for drug distribution. Alcohol use was also an issue that must be dealt with. The mayor also mentioned that many kids faced peer pressure to abuse alcohol.

MADD offered free short online workshops for parents who had children in middle school and high school. These workshops were offered after 75 percent of children stated that their parents were their biggest influences when it came to underage alcohol use.

Underage alcohol use can lead to severe punishments, especially if the underage person is charged with drunk driving. Most states have zero tolerance laws in place for underage drivers, and the penalties for a conviction could have an impact on a defendant’s job opportunities or college plans. As a result, obtaining the services of a criminal defense attorney can be an advisable first step for the parents of a person who has been issued these charges to take.

Source: Herald Standard, “Local mayors declare support for anti-drunk driving initiative“, Mike Tony, April 21, 2016

by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

Money laundering charges

Pennsylvania residents or companies may be charged with the federal crime of money laundering if they conceal or disguise funds that were obtained through criminal activities. It is rarely the only charge, as money laundering accompanies other crimes. Without financial proceeds from criminal activities, there can’t be money laundering.

Because it involves hidden or disguised money, the crimes that are combined with money laundering are typically financial crimes. Bank fraud, health care fraud and Ponzi schemes are some of the crimes that often accompany money laundering. A person who is accused of trafficking drugs or participating in organized crime may also be accused of money laundering. Some of the federal statutes that address money laundering concern international bulk cash smuggling, financing of terrorism and unlicensed money transmitting businesses.

There are many different ways that a person or organization could launder money. An individual may conceal funds that were obtained through criminal activities by hiding cash or purchasing a lot of valuable goods. A company could use fraud to disguise funds that were obtained through criminal activities to look like profits earned from a legitimate business. International bank accounts or international transfers are sometimes used to hide money that was obtained through criminal activities.

A person charged with money laundering could argue for dismissal if there is little proof that the money in question was obtained illegally. White collar crimes typically require an extensive investigation that may begin before charges can be filed. People who are being investigated for these types of financial crimes may want to have representation from a criminal defense attorney as soon as they are made aware that they are a target.