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January 2013 Archives

Inside the secret world of federal grand juries

Are you being investigated for possible federal felonies? You might not know it until charges land at your door. That is due to the secretive nature of grand juries, the method prosecutors with which U.S. attorney's offices in Western Pennsylvania and across the U.S. obtain indictments against citizens they wish to prosecute on federal charges.

Workers at Air Force Reserve base arrested on drug charges

Getting hired to perform work on a military base may be a good opportunity for residents of the Pittsburgh area, but readers should be aware that the normal rules of police procedure and privacy rights may change once they get there. That may have come into play in the arrest of two men at the Air Force Reserve base near Pittsburgh on suspicion of drug possession. The men's vehicle was searched after a guard at the base claimed that he smelled marijuana in their vehicle.

Father won't be charged in accidental shooting of son

No weapons charges will be filed against a western Pennsylvania man whose son was killed in a gun accident in December, the Mercer County District Attorney said on Jan. 16. The chief prosecutor concluded that the father did not knowingly violate state weapons laws when a handgun he was trying to sell went off unexpectedly, fatally wounding his 7-year-old son.

Ex-police officer charged with hit and run in fatal accident

A former police officer for the Pittsburgh area says he did not know that he had struck a person in a car accident until investigators told him. The man, a retired member of the Allegheny County police, is facing serious criminal charges in connection with the accident, which fatally injured a 56-year-old woman early on Jan. 16.

Fraud, incompetence in criminal labs may lead to wrongful charges

In many felony cases that are tried in Pittsburgh courts, prosecutors present DNA evidence to the jury. Due to the popularity of television shows that feature forensic scientists, people often are impressed by such evidence because it appears to narrow down the number of people who could have committed the crime to the defendant.

Police search of vehicle leads to drug charges

In criminal cases involving drug charges in the Pittsburgh area, one thing that most defense attorneys look for is whether the evidence being used against their client was legally obtained by the police. Most people know that officers generally need a search warrant to enter their homes, but people in motor vehicles also have some protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. If those rights are violated, under the exclusionary rule any evidence gathered against a suspect during an illegal search may be suppressed in court.

2nd Pittsburgh man charged over YouTube video

Back on Dec. 17, we discussed the arrest of a 21-year-old Pittsburgh man in connection with an online video in which two men appear to threaten police officers. The man was accused of being one of the people in the video and was facing possible federal charges, perhaps including terrorism charges. In an update to that story, an 18-year-old man was arrested on Jan. 8, apparently on suspicion of being the other performer in the video, which the older man's defense attorney said contained free speech protected by the First Amendment.

Sexting charges against Pittsburgh teens spark outcry

A 14-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, both from the Pittsburgh area, are facing adult charges of transmission of sexually explicit images after the girl's mother found a topless self-portrait on the girl's cellphone. The criminal charges against the young teens are being criticized by some observers as a misuse of Pennsylvania law, and could trigger a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

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