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

SCOTUS ruling could impact breath test administration

While it is not the case in Pennsylvania, in 13 states it is possible for a driver who is suspected of being impaired to be charged with a separate crime for refusing to consent to a breath or blood test without a warrant having been issued. However, those laws may be in jeopardy after arguments on a case was heard by the Supreme Court. This was even after the court acknowledged that states already have the right to fine drivers or suspend their licenses for failure to submit to testing.

In all 50 states, people have given implied consent to such a test when they apply for a driver’s license. What made the justices skeptical about the legality of the laws making refusal a separate criminal offense was the ease in which a warrant could theoretically be obtained. Some of them also seemed to be surprised to hear that most Breathalyzer tests take place at police stations as opposed to the site of the traffic stop.

As part of their line of questioning to lawyers for the states of Minnesota and North Dakota, they asked why making an extra phone call would be so hard. They also noted that magistrates were available 24 hours a day, so timing was not likely to hinder an ability to get a warrant.

A driver’s license suspension often results after drunk driving charges have been issued, but this is deemed an administrative sanction rather than a criminal penalty. This can be appealed at a subsequent DMV hearing, which often takes place well before the criminal charge is heard. As a conviction on DUI charges can have serious ramifications, people who are facing them may want to have legal assistance in constructing a defense strategy. One line of challenge could be to the way that the sobriety tests were administered.

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

Man claiming to be a checkpoint trooper faces DUI charges

Pennsylvania State Police detained a man after they said he pretended to be trooper and was stopping vehicles to check for drunken drivers. The incident occurred in Somerset.

According to the report, at approximately 4 a.m., the 20-year-old man created a sobriety checkpoint on Route 601, diagonally parking his vehicle across the road and using a flashing blue light bar and safety flares to make motorists think he was a trooper. When law enforcement officials appeared at the scene, they alleged that the man was in the process of requesting identification from a female motorist. However, when he saw the police, he reportedly passed his weapon, a BB pistol, to a passenger in the vehicle. The motorist later told police that the man called himself a trooper from the division of narcotics and alcohol. The man was charged with impersonating a public servant, drunken driving and possessing instruments of crime.

Under Pennsylvania’s strict DUI laws, motorists who are charged with drunk driving may be penalized with jail time, probation, heavy fines and a suspension of their driver’s license. When other crimes are involved, the penalties may be even more severe. A DUI conviction can also have a negative impact on a defendant’s record, which may deter future employers from hiring the person and lead to increased auto insurance premiums.

Therefore, those facing such charges may wish to contact an attorney who could provide a strong defense that might result in the defendant’s charges being lowered or completely dismissed. For instance, the attorney could question the validity of toxicology tests, for an improperly administered test could render the evidence inadmissible. If challenging the charges is not a viable defense strategy, the attorney may decide to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutors in an effort to secure a reduced penalty.

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

Sex offender registration as a collateral consequence

Pennsylvanians who are charged with state or federal sex offenses face the possibility of many different types of serious consequences. Even if they are convicted and complets any prison sentence they are given, the collateral damage associated with a sex offense conviction may continue long afterward.

One consequence a person may face is the requirement to register as a sex offender on the state’s sex offender registry. Currently, more than 19,000 people in Pennsylvania are on the list. The length of the required registration depends upon the level of the offense of conviction. Tier 1 offenders are those who have the most minor of the convictions requiring registration. They must go to the state police closest to them annually to have their photographs taken and provide updated registration information for 15 years.

Tier 2 offenders must go twice each year for 25 years after they are convicted. People in this category include those who have been convicted of such offenses as prostitution or unlawful sexual contact of minors or indecent assaults. Tier 3 offenders are people who have been convicted of offenses that are considered to be the most serious, including such as rapes, aggravated indecent assaults and other similar convictions. Tier 3 registrants must register for the remainder of their lives, reporting in every 90 days.

Both state and federal charges for sex offenses may expose a person to sex offender registration if a conviction is obtained, in addition to more immediate consequences such as incarceration and fines. As a result, those who are facing these types of charges may find it advisable to retain defense counsel as quickly as possible so that a strategy can be developed to combat the accusations.

Source: The Sentinel, “A closer look at Pennsylvania’s sex offender registry,” Joshua Vaughn, March 25, 2016

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

Defense against federal charges of tax evasion

Trying to pay as little in the way of federal income taxes is usually not a crime. Federal charges could result when someone goes beyond legitimate methods to minimize taxes and attempts to hide income. The long-term consequences of a conviction in federal court can affect a Pennsylvania resident’s personal life and financial well-being if tax avoidance turns into tax evasion.

When the government files federal charges following an investigation of someone based upon allegations of tax evasion, the person’s intent is a key element of the crime for both the investigators and defense counsel. Tax returns and the tax laws are complicated, so people can, and frequently do, make mistakes. An honest mistake that reduces a person’s tax liability is usually not enough to warrant charging someone with committing a federal crime. Tax fraud occurs when an individual or business intentionally understated income or deliberately and knowingly took some unlawful action to underpay taxes.

Examples of fraudulent tax practices might include failing to file a tax return, concealing income or claiming unauthorized credits and deductions. A business owner who fails to report cash transactions as income might be targeted for investigation by the Internal Revenue Service. Taxpayers who make unintentional mistakes would probably have to pay interest and penalties in addition to the unpaid taxes, but a person who deliberately engages in fraudulent conduct could end up in prison.

An investigation by the IRS might lead to a taxpayer’s arrest, but federal charges are allegations that must be proven by prosecutors. Individuals or businesses confronted by allegations of wrongdoing in federal court have the right and opportunity to be assisted by counsel in mounting a defense in order to avoid the penalties and long-term consequences associated with a criminal conviction.