2015 Archives | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC
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Moratorium on the Death Penalty in Pennsylvania

The debate over the death penalty in Pennsylvania continues to grow after the House’s divided vote on a resolution coming out against Governor Tom Wolf’s moratorium on the death penalty in the state. While the House ultimately voted to issue the resolution chastising the governor for his decision to unilaterally give reprieves to criminals on death row, the vote count was close, and support (but also opposition) existed in both parties for the governor’s choice to effectively end the practice of the death penalty in Pennsylvania.

Over the next year, as we await the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision on whether or not the governor has the power to grant such reprieves under his ability to give pardons, people on both side of the debate are likely to continue to passionately defend and oppose the total abolition of the death penalty in our state. Without outside intervention, the governor intends to continue handing out reprieves until at least the results of a 2011 bipartisan commission reviewing the effectiveness of capital punishment are finalized and can be analyzed. In the meantime, support is growing to make the practice illegal here, as well as across the nation.

Death to the Ineffective Death Penalty?

According to Governor Wolf, the reprieves are not issued as an expression of empathy for the prisoners, but rather in response to the reality that the system is flawed. Policies eliminating the death penalty in practice help bring attention to the growing opposition to the death penalty for reasons ranging from moral conviction to simple financial cost.

His assertion that the death penalty is “ineffective, unjust and expensive” has been echoed in many places over the past few years. Many states, including the very conservative legislature in Nebraska, have begun to question the practice and deem it illegal. In fact, there are strong movements against the death penalty in almost every state that still has the practice, leading Time to question whether or not the death penalty would be eliminated across the board very soon.

Still, such movements are not unopposed. Many vocal supporters of the death penalty, including Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, believe that it is an important tool for justice. Since it will probably be at least a year before the issue is decided by the state Supreme Court and the policy could simply be undone by the next governor, the death penalty is still alive in Pennsylvania for the foreseeable future, albeit less practiced. Defendants here still face a death penalty sentence for some of the most heinous crimes.

For people accused of serious crimes, a strong defense is still needed to avoid the death penalty. If you are arrested for any crime in Pennsylvania, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney right away to defend your rights and develop a strong defense. Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC for a free consultation on your case 24/7 at (412) 281-2146 to find out how we may be able to help. Every person has a right to a strong defense, no matter what the accusation or financial situation.

Out-of-State DUI Issues

If you have ever gotten a speeding ticket in another state, you have an idea of how inconvenient it can be to deal with or fight charges outside of your home state. This is exponentially worse, though, if you are given a DUI out of state.

In Pennsylvania, your out-of-state license cannot legally be revoked in Pennsylvania courts for a DUI, but that doesn’t mean you don’t face serious consequences if you are convicted. First of all, any probation, jail time, or fines ordered by the Pennsylvania courts will still be applicable to you, even if you do not live here. Furthermore, your driving privileges within the state of Pennsylvania can be revoked, so if you are a common commuter, your life will get much more complicated.

Even worse, a conviction will follow you home. Pennsylvania is a member of the Driver License Compact (DLC), along with 46 other states. That means that your Pennsylvania offense will be treated (and punished) the same as if it occurred in their state, which means that a license suspension can be reciprocal. Unless you are from Georgia, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Michigan, or Tennessee, Pennsylvania is required to report the DUI conviction to its department of motor vehicles under the DLC.

You will then be punished for the DUI as if it happened in your state. In other words, if your state suspends your license, adds points to your license, or requires ignition interlock after a DUI, you will still face the same consequences—even though the DUI technically happened somewhere else. Even if your state isn’t a DLC member, it is likely to have some agreement with Pennsylvania through which the violation is reported, so the same home consequences may apply.

Fighting an Out of State DUI Can Be a Challenge

As you can see, the consequences of a conviction for an out-of-state DUI can sometimes be even more severe than if you were arrested for a DUI at home. Because of this, it is so important to fight the charges and try to get your name—and record—cleared.

Still, this is a challenge for many people. Important court deadlines and notices are often missed by people who return to their state without hiring a local attorney to take care of the legal issues on their behalf. This can lead to serious consequences or even an automatic conviction. Plus, even if you have legal knowledge of how a DUI works in your own state, as well as how to enter a defense, each local jurisdiction is different. An effective Pittsburgh DUI defense is going to look much different than one in Richmond or Columbus. When the stakes are as great as they are for a DUI, it becomes a huge risk not to ensure that someone within Pennsylvania is responsible for keeping on top of your DUI case.

If you have been accused of a DUI in Pennsylvania, you need to take it seriously, especially if you are from out of state. Start building the ideal Pittsburgh DUI defense for your unique situation with the help of an experienced DUI lawyer today. Call us at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC for a free consultation at right away. Find out how we can help minimize the consequences to you here, as well as those that follow you home.

The Privacy Issues of License Plate Recognition Data

You may have noticed cameras on the roadways of Pennsylvania collecting license plate numbers. As you drive along the roadway, your license plate number and your presence will be recorded whether you are involved in a high-speed police chase or dutifully stopping at every red light. Most people don’t think twice about these cameras, but what is all this data really used for?

The purpose of the cameras is to feed the numbers into license plate recognition software and flag any plates associated with criminal activity. This could be as minor as recording you running a red light, but the majority of the software focuses on identifying the plates of stolen cars or those associated with fugitives. While catching these criminals may be great, for every criminal recorded by the cameras for the license plate recognition software, there are hundreds of thousands of innocent people recorded.

This data is kept for about five years until it is recorded over, raising some real privacy concerns. The proliferation of these cameras throughout Pittsburgh and other cities allow most cars to be followed through any path they may choose. According to the ACLU, this data collection essentially allows law enforcement to track where you are at all times. These sentiments are even echoed by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. According to Zappala, “If you come into the city and commit a crime, they will find you.” Although this may be a comforting thought if you are concerned about major crimes, it can be chilling if you consider that any person could eventually be under suspicion and tracked easily with this software.

What The Privacy Issues of License Plate Cameras Mean for Pittsburgh

The license plate cameras may be well-intended, but they are ripe for abuse without proper legislation. The ACLU recommends that at the very least, the data on innocent be held for fewer than 30 days. This would allow policing of roadways to continue, but minimize the impact on those not flagged by the license plate recognition software.

The enormous (and growing) database of motorists’ movements within Pennsylvania already has sparked concerns about privacy within organizations across the state. A real discussion needs to be had weighing privacy concerns with policing needs. Proper Pittsburgh legislation will be necessary, as well.

In the meantime, Pittsburgh citizens should be aware of the cameras and make their concerns public. If you have been caught and arrested due to this kind of software, you need to be aware of all your rights. Call the Pittsburgh defense lawyers Michael Worgul and Samir Sarna today at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, we will aggressively defend your rights and your privacy.

House Arrest for Second DUI Charge

Our client found herself charged with her second DUI, which is a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. If convicted, she faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days in jail. Our client was worried because she lived in Ohio and would lose her job if she had to spend time in jail in Allegheny County. She turned to our Pittsburgh DUI defense lawyers for help.

We reviewed her case and approached the district attorney to negotiate an outcome that would allow our client to keep her job. We were able to get the district attorney to agree that our client could serve her sentence as a house arrest instead of in an Allegheny County jail. Her sentence was transferred to her home county in Ohio so that wouldn’t lose her employment.

The outcome of an individual case depends on a variety of factors unique to that case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any similar or future case.

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