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Philadelphia Criminal Defense Law Blog

What is a 'firearm' under the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act?

One may think that a person has the unequivocal right to carry a firearm. However, this is not always the case. In fact, there are instances in which the possession of a firearm, even if it is not used while committing of a crime, is illegal.

Under the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act of 1995, there are certain instances in which a person who has been convicted of certain criminal offenses is not allowed to possess, carry or use a firearm. The violation of this law can result in serious penalties. Therefore, it is important to understand how Pennsylvania law defines the term "firearm."

Pa. state senator wants to boost repeat drunk driving penalties

Whether it is a beer at a ballgame, a round of drinks with your co-workers during happy hour, or simply relaxing at home with a glass of wine, many people in Pennsylvania are responsible drinkers. However, it is entirely possible that a person could get pulled over after even having one mere drink and accused of drunk driving. Current penalties associated with drunk driving already can result in serious consequences. However, one senator in the commonwealth wants to see an increase in the penalties a person accused of repeat drunk driving could face.

A bill has been introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate by Senator Scott Martin that would alter the penalties associated with repeat drunk driving. Currently, a person who is convicted of drunk driving twice or more in a row will serve, at a minimum, a 10-day jail sentence. Under the proposed legislation, however, a person who is convicted of drunk driving twice or more in a row will serve a prison sentence of two to seven years. In addition, this bill would make it so that if a person commits homicide while driving while intoxicated for a second time or more, that crime would be considered murder in the third degree, resulting in incarceration for 10 to 20 years.

Philadelphia attorneys fight for clients facing weapons charges

The Second Amendment right to bear arms is very important to many in Philadelphia. A person may want to keep a weapon in their home for security purposes. Others use weapons for recreational purposes, such as hunting or skeet shooting. However, there are situations in which it is illegal for a person to have a weapon. For example, if a person is a convicted felon, in general they are not allowed to have a weapon. A person may also not carry a firearm on Philadelphia public property unless he or she has the proper permit or license. Similarly, a person may not carry a concealed firearm unless he or she has the proper permit or license.

If a person is convicted of weapon charges, it could seriously impact every aspect of their life. For example, most weapons crimes are felonies and therefore usually result in incarceration even if a person does not have any previous criminal record. Judges will apply applicable mandatory minimum sentences upon a defendant's conviction of a felony weapons charge, especially if a weapon is allegedly used when the accused was committing another crime.

What are some crimes associated with underage drinking?

Many adults in Pennsylvania enjoy having a drink or two, whether it is at a party or simply at the end of a long workday. Teenagers too may be curious about alcohol, and it is not unusual for teens in Pennsylvania to dabble in underage drinking. However, police in Pennsylvania will not go easy on teens caught breaking any one of a number of crimes associated with underage drinking.

For example, some teens use a fake I.D. to obtain alcohol. However, this is illegal. Even carrying a fake I.D. is a crime. A person under age 21 cannot possess an I.D. that falsely uses another person's name, birthday or photo. This could result in a fine of up to $300, a jail sentence of up to 90 days and a driver's license suspension of up to 90 days.

Springfield Twp. police say they won't tolerate juvenile crimes

When groups of teens get together, sometimes peer pressure can get the best of them. Moreover, a young person's mind is still developing, and they may be unable to understand the long-term consequences of their actions. This may cause a teen to inadvertently commit an illegal act, even if they never meant to do anything harmful to another. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean police in Pennsylvania will be lenient with them.

Police in Springfield Township are doubling down on their efforts to fully prosecute teens who break the law. As the police chief put it in a Facebook message, illegal behavior on the part of minors will not be tolerated.

District judge accused of drunk driving in Reading

When a person is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, they may face more than just fines and the suspension of their driver's license. They could also face public scrutiny that could affect their reputation and livelihood.

A 29-year-old Pennsylvania district judge may be facing such scrutiny after being charged with drunk driving. The woman's father is the mayor of the city in which the alleged incident took place, Reading, Pennsylvania. The mayor retired from his position as a district judge in 2015, and the woman succeeded him in that position after he ran for mayor.

When is an ignition interlock device required in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, a law known as the Ignition Interlock Law was enacted in hopes of reducing the number of repeat drunk driving offenses. An ignition interlock device is a machine that can be mounted on an automobile's steering column. The machine is designed to stop a person from being able to operate the automobile if they are drunk. The driver is required to blow into the ignition interlock device to start the car. If the device picks up the presence of alcohol, the automobile will not start.

Per the Ignition Interlock Law, if it is a person's second or subsequent DUI conviction, that person may be ordered to install an ignition interlock system of every vehicle they lease, operate or own. The ignition interlock period will begin only after their license to drive has been suspended for a minimum of 12 months.

Teenager accused of breaking synagogue window

Most children don't have the maturity to anticipate how seemingly innocent acts could actually constitute illegal activities. For example, understanding the difference between curiosity and criminal acts can be a blurred line for many Philadelphia teenagers. Take into account the following incident.

A 13-year-old boy is facing charges of institutional vandalism after allegedly throwing a stone through a Philadelphia synagogue's stained glass window. The incident allegedly occurred sometime between 9:30 in the evening and 9:30 the following morning. The window at issue was on the side of the synagogue, and was made of yellow glass. Found inside the synagogue was a stone about the size of a baseball. There were no injuries reported. The boy was reportedly accompanied by a friend when the incident occurred. This synagogue was reportedly the subject of vandalism in the past, having windows broken in December 2016 and January 2017.

An interesting exception to Pennsylvania underage drinking laws

It is all too tempting for teenagers in Pennsylvania to experiment with alcohol, whether it is due to peer pressure or mere curiosity. However, when such experimentation goes too far, leading to a crisis situation, teenagers need to be able to seek the help they or others need to rescue them from what may be a dangerous situation without fear of punishment. Pennsylvania law recognizes this, and provides an interesting exception to underage drinking for those seeking medical aid for another.

Under Pennsylvania law, a person will not be prosecuted for underage drinking if the sole reason police learned of the person had illegally consumed alcohol was because the person in good faith phoned 911, campus safety, police or emergency medical technicians, on the reasonable belief that another individual required immediate medical attention, without which the other individual would die or be seriously injured.

What are Pennsylvania's laws regarding gun ownership?

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution gives citizens the right to bear arms, a right that is very important to many in Pennsylvania. However, this right is subject to certain restrictions, the violation of which could lead to weapons charges.

Under Pennsylvania law, there are certain types of firearms that, in general, are illegal. These include machine guns, firearms specifically manufactured in a way that would keep them concealed or allow them to discharge silently, sawed-off shotguns and firearms in which the manufacturer's number has been altered.