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May 2011 Archives

Retired Supreme Court Justice criticizes misconduct by prosecutors

People who have been accused of a crime in Pennsylvania have rights. Some politicians, who would like to have you believe that they are "tough on crime," often complain about defendants' rights. However, the reason our system of justice recognizes the rights of defendants is that it is far worse for an innocent person to be convicted of a crime than it is for a guilty person to be set free. Unfortunately, innocent people are accused of crimes, including serious felony charges, every day.

Pennsylvania tax preparers face fraud charges

A fraud investigation has led to state charges and the possibility of federal charges being filed against a Pennsylvania couple. The 36-year-old husband and his 35-year-old wife ran a tax preparation service and they now stand accused of pocketing a portion of their client's tax refunds.

Pennsylvania man accused of Internet sex crimes

Pennsylvania prosecutors are pressing charges against a 58-year-old Windber man who allegedly sent sexually graphic messages to online personalities he believed to be 13-year-old girls. Charges, which are being filed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, include unlawful contact with a minor, attempted unlawful contact, and criminal use of communication facility. These types of Internet sex crime charges carry serious penalties in the State of Pennsylvania.

Supreme Court expands exigent circumstances rule

When the people of Pennsylvania ratified the Bill of Rights in 1790, they approved the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects people suspected of crimes in Pennsylvania and the other 49 states from unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally, this means that law enforcement officers need a search warrant to enter a suspect's home and evidence that is gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment is thrown out of court. However, there is an exception to the requirement for a warrant known as exigent circumstances.

Endangerment charges stem from alleged 'bath salt madness'

Previously, we have discussed legal developments surrounding the use of bath salts that are designed to mimic the intoxicating effects of illegal drugs. Some jurisdictions have already banned these substances and Pennsylvania state authorities are considering a similar ban. Recently, using these bath salts led to criminal charges being filed against a Pennsylvania couple.

Racketeering guilty pleas for alleged Pittsburgh gang members

A U.S. District judge in Pittsburgh will sentence four men this summer for crimes associated with racketeering. The men, alleged members of the Crips street gang, each pleaded guilty to federal charges - one count each of conspiracy to conduct racketeering activities. Two of the men also pleaded guilty to individual carjacking and attempted murder charges.

Pittsburgh employee indicted on federal fraud charges

Many white collar crimes are federal felony offenses that can result in lengthy prison sentences. In criminal cases involving financial crimes, evidence plays a crucial role. Evidence in financial crimes cases, including cases alleging fraud, is usually based on paper trail evidence that follows the flow of money.

Pennsylvania man faces weapons charges for firing rifle

Pennsylvania has very strict and often confusing laws regulating the possession and use of firearms. While the law recognizes the rights of homeowners to defend themselves and their property, there are limits to this right. When a homeowner uses force or the threat of force on his own property, he can face criminal charges if authorities view his actions to be excessive.

Pittsburgh heroin trial proceeds with evidence up in smoke

A U.S. court has ruled that the trial of a Pittsburgh-area woman accused of drug trafficking charges will move forward, even though attorneys will have to do without some of the evidence. Allegedly, police had confiscated heroin and the suspect's purse at the time of the 32-year-old woman's arrest and placed the items in the city's drug evidence room, where they were burned and destroyed during a recent housecleaning.

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