One Way to Determine Who Is the Best Attorney For You

The legal realm is not a single entity. There is criminal law, civil law, family law, bankruptcy, tax, etc. Today’s legal market leads new attorneys to specialize in a specific area of law in an effort to call themselves an “expert.” It is because of this narrow minded view that individuals do not understand the full legal consequences of a single circumstance.

Nowhere is this seen more than in criminal law. A good number of criminal charges come with civil and family issues. Usually, the facts that lead to certain criminal charges also open the door to other legal problems. For example, if a nurse is charged with drug violations, and pleads guilty, the federal government is able to revoke her license to practice in any medical facility that accepts government funding. The drug charges are a criminal matter, but the license suspension is a civil matter.

Another extensive example of this interplay between areas of the law are simple assault and aggravated assault charges. When the assault is between two individuals who get in a fight at a bar, it is not that relevant. However, when the assault is part of domestic violence, the alleged criminal must be prepared to face multiple consequences. Let’s assume these facts: married couple get in a fight, man strikes woman multiple times and threatens to kill her. During the fight, woman calls the police.

When the police arrive, they may charge the man with simple assault. In Pennsylvania, this is a second degree misdemeanor and carries the potential for lengthy jail time and a large fine. That charge will have to be resolved through the criminal process. So, he will need an attorney who practices criminal law.

Next, because the man threatened the woman, she will likely file for a Protection from Abuse Order (if in Pennsylvania) to protect herself and any children. This Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) will prevent any contact between the parties and will last for approximately 10 days. Within those 10 days, the woman should be granted a hearing in family court to determine whether the PFA must become a permanent restraining order. For this, the man will need a family law attorney.

Finally, assuming the parties do not work out their differences, a divorce is likely to follow. This will likely be an uncontested divorce, but may raise issues of spousal support, child support/custody, and property distribution. For this, the man will need a family law attorney or a specialized divorce attorney.

The key point to this illustration is that the man will call my office looking for a criminal attorney. Because he is not educated in the law, he will not realize the non-criminal consequences of his actions. If he contacts an attorney who specializes in only criminal law, that attorney may also not know the full picture of the legal system. Therefore, it is important for individuals to understand that the legal system is not a single entity. It is extensive. The interplay between the areas of the law are complicated. While it is necessary to find an attorney who is experienced in the type of law you need, it is also important that the attorney understand other areas of law as well.

When you are looking for an attorney, be sure to ask whether there are other legal issues that may arise out of your original legal problem. The attorney who knows and understands your question is the attorney you want to hire.

Important Protections for Homeowners

Everyone knows a horror story about a home repair gone bad; where a trusting homeowner believes he has been taken advantage of by an unscrupulous contractor. To protect homeowners in such cases the Pennsylvania legislature enacted The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act. This Act, which came into full force on July 1, 2009, requires that contractors who offer or perform home improvement in Pennsylvania register with the Office of the Attorney General. The Act also sets minimum insurance requirements, establishes required terms for home improvement contracts, prohibits unfair business practices, and creates a criminal penalty for home improvement fraud.

The Act applies only to home improvements to private residences, not to new construction. Home improvements covered by the Act include repair, replacement, remodeling demolition, and installation of items in the home as well as work on driveways, swimming pools, porches, garages, fences, and sheds; as long as the total cash price is more than $500. Landscaping services such as placement of retaining walls, fountains or drainage systems, fencing and lighting systems are included within the act as well.

The Act provides several safeguards. It requires that all contracts for home improvements of more than $500 must be in writing and signed by the consumer and the contractor, and that the consumer be given a copy of the contract. The contract must include important provisions such as a description of the work to be performed, approximate start and completion dates, the total price of the contract, identification of all known subcontractors, and notice of the consumer’s right to cancel the contract. The contract will be voidable by the consumer if the contract contains certain clauses such as a hold harmless clause, a waiver of safety or building code requirements, a confession of judgment clause, a waiver of any right to a jury trial, a provision by which the owner agrees not to assert any claim or defense arising out of the contract, or a provision that the contractor will be awarded attorney’s fees and costs. The consumer is permitted to rescind the contract, without penalty, within three business days of the date of signing. The Act requires that each contractor have liability insurance covering personal injury and property damage in an amount not less than $50,000. It also prohibits unfair business practices such as abandoning a home improvement project or otherwise failing to complete the work.

The Act requires anyone who owns or operates a home improvement business to register with the Office of the Attorney General unless they perform less than $5,000 of work in a year or is a large retailer with a net worth of more than $50 million. Retail businesses are not required to register unless the retailer also offers or performs home improvements. The registration application requires the contractor to provide personal information as well as information about his business. Among the information the contractor must provide is whether he has ever been convicted of a criminal offense related to a home improvement transaction, fraud, theft, a crime of deception or a crime involving fraudulent business practices, as well as information about whether the applicant has ever filed for bankruptcy or within the last ten years received a final civil judgment entered against him that was related to a home improvement transaction. The contractor also must disclose whether he has ever had a license revoked or suspended. The Attorney General will keep some contractor information such as social security number, driver’s license number and the contractor’s home address confidential.

Beginning July 1, 2009, by calling 1-888-520-6680, consumers will be able to learn whether a contractor is registered. Contractors who are not registered by July 1, 2009, will be prohibited from offering or performing home improvements until they become registered. A contractor does not need to show the consumer a copy of his registration but must include his registration number in all contracts, estimates and advertisements used after July 1, 2009. If a contractor advertises his business on his vehicle, the registration number must be on the vehicle.

This article addresses a limited issue concerning some of the protections provided by The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act. The facts and circumstances of each situation differ and the outcome of each case may be different. Anyone with questions regarding the Act should contact an appropriate professional for advice.

Mr. Galati’s practice primarily concerns admiralty and maritime related matters. This enables him to utilize both the technical training he obtained at the Merchant Marine Academy, and the knowledge of maritime law that he developed at Tulane Law School, where he was an Articles Editor for the Tulane Maritime Lawyer.

Ahead of the Game: Ways to Aid Your Case Before Court

When you are facing criminal DUI (driving under the influence) charges, you already understand what a conviction could mean to your life. You are facing steep fines, possible incarceration, loss of your driving privileges, and increased insurance rates. Of course, the stress in your life will also be increased, and you may even find yourself facing family and relationship problems.

So the best thing you can do is try your hardest to avoid conviction. The following five steps will help you with your DUI case. Use the following steps for the best possible outcome to your trial.

1. Hire A DUI Defense Attorney

Your best chance for success will come from hiring a DUI attorney. Your attorney will be familiar with how DUI cases are handled in your area, as well as legal information that can be used to have your case dismissed or the charges lessened. Defending yourself in Court will take away these many advantages. And considering that a first time offense can cost you up to $5000 and your license for a year, any advantage is not something you want to loose.

2. Listen To Your Chosen Legal Counsel

You will want to make sure that you follow all of the instructions that your attorney gives you about your case and what you should do before the hearing. Following their advice will give you a better chance at winning your case as they will be familiar with current Philadelphia policy such as Act 24. This legislation, passed in 2003, introduced alcohol treatment into DUI sentences and lowered the blood alcohol content limit to 0.08% in Pennsylvania.

3. Avoid Any Other Traffic Issues

Including Additional DUI Charges. You want to make sure that you are on our best behavior between our DUI arrest and your Court date. Avoid receiving any other traffic violations, including non-moving violations, and make sure that you are not stopped again for driving under the influence. The fines and penalties for second and third time violators is even more severe in Pennsylvania and could include jail, treatment, and an ignition interlock device. It is also in your best interest to avoid any situation where you may be considered violating the law in any manner.

4. Limit Postings On Social Media

Everything that you post on social media is considered public domain. This means that what you post can be read by anybody and that anything you say is not protected from being used against you in Court. Post as little information as possible on your site about being arrested, about your lawyer’s plans to defend the case, or about your Court appearance. This also applies to after you have won the case. If you must post something, keep it very basic and post nothing that can be seen as admission of guilt.

5. Take Driving School Online

You can take a driving refresher course online for very little cost. Completion of this course provides you with a certificate, and this is something that can be presented to the Court as evidence of your good intention not to be placed in this type of scenario again. In many cases, the Court orders the defendant to take this course as part of their punishment. If this is the case for you, you will already be one step ahead of the process.

These tips are very crucial to the success of your case. You want to make sure that when you appear in Court with your attorney that the prosecutor or the judge does not have any reason to doubt your innocence.

The Discoverability of Psychiatric Records

The issue of the discover ability of one’s health records took center stage in the matter of Gormley v. Edgar, 2010 PA Super 71, a recent case heard by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The discovery process is designed to facilitate the exchange of information between the parties to litigation. Generally speaking, the standard of what can be requested and required to be revealed in discovery by a party is rather liberal. However, when psychiatric records are the subject of the discovery requests, there are significant limitations as to what a party can request.

There are two competing interests at work when requesting psychiatric records. The first interest is the party’s interest in the privacy of his psychiatric records. The second interest is the ability for an adverse party to adequately defend himself and, in the interest of fairness and equity, be able to secure sufficient documentation for that defense. These two interests come into conflict, obviously, when the documentation sought by one party consists of the documents the other believes to contain private information that he has a right to protect.

The right to the privacy of one’s psychological records has been codified as 42 Pa.C.S.A. Section 5944. The text of Section 5944 is as follows: “No psychiatrist or person who has been licensed under the act of March 23, 1972 (P.L. 136, No. 52), to practice psychology shall be, without the written consent of his client, examined in any civil or criminal matter as to any information acquired in the course of his professional services on behalf of such client. The confidential relations and communications between a psychologist or psychiatrist and his client shall be on the same basis as those provided or prescribed by law between an attorney and client.”

It is interesting to note that when 42 Pa.C.S.A. Section 5944 was passed in 1976, it only made reference to psychologists and their records, and not psychiatrists and their records. Therefore, perhaps counter-intuitively, the Court drew a distinction between psychological records and psychiatric records. The Court has ruled that as the statute specifically refers to psychologists, and could have easily included psychiatrists, the legislature clearly intended to exclude psychiatrists and other sorts of mental health counselors from the privacy guaranteed by Section 5944 (see Miller v. Colonial Refrigerated Transportation Incorporated, 81 F.R.D. 741 (1979). However, in 1989 42 Pa.C.S.A. Section 5944 was revised to include psychiatric records.

The privacy guaranteed by Section 5944 is reinforced by the discovery standards set by Pa.R.C.P. 4003.6 which follows: “[i]nformation may be obtained from the treating physician of a party only upon written consent of that party or through a method of discovery authorized by this chapter. This rule shall not prevent an attorney from obtaining information from: (1) the attorney’s client; (2) an employee of the attorney’s client, or (3) an ostensible employee of the attorney’s client.” Therefore, on the strength of these two statutes and the cases decided thereunder, there is, at least in general, a guarantee of privacy for one’s own psychological and medical records. Obviously, one could argue that the treatment provided by a psychiatrist or other mental health professional is, at least in spirit, “medical” treatment inasmuch as someone seeks the help for healing of some sort.

Despite the guarantees above, and unfortunately for a party attempting to suppress the records describe above, the Court has made it clear that the privacy of such records is not absolute in certain circumstances. One of those circumstances is when a party raises psychological injuries as damages in a case. If a party raises psychological issues, the Court has effectively ruled that doing so functions as a waiver of the party’s privacy over one’s psychological records. To put it simply, a party “waive[s] her statutory privilege by filing [a] lawsuit and claiming psychological damages.” Helper v. Alvis, 63 Pa.D.&C.4th 129 (2003) and Premack v. J.C.J. Ogar, Inc., 148 F.R.D. 140 (E.D.Pa. 1993). Therefore, “in order to pursue psychological damages, the plaintiff must accede to discovery with respect to mental-health care providers with whom he or she has consulted.” Loftus v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 12 Pa.D.&C.4th 357 (1991). If the party continues to refuse to produce the records, it will be at the pain of dismissal of any and all claims for psychological injuries. Id.

The raising of a mental health condition as damages flowing from an accident was the issue raised in Gormley v. Edgar. The Plaintiff in the aforesaid matter alleged she suffered from anxiety as a result of an accident she claimed was caused by the Defendant. The Court ruled that by so doing she placed her mental health condition directly at issue, rendering her mental health records, at least in part, discoverable. The Court also ruled that if one alleges the aggravation of a pre-existing mental health condition, records of prior treatment for the same are also discoverable. Similarly, the Court finally ruled that mental health records predating the accident at issue are also potentially discoverable as a defendant may wish to prove that the mental health condition alleged pre-existed whatever a plaintiff alleges is its cause. Again, as stated above, these records only become discoverable when a party raises his mental health as an issue in the case.

Although, in general, a party must reveal his psychological records if one raises psychological injuries, the waiver described above is not completely unfettered. The Court recognizes that psychological records are extremely sensitive and the discovery process could inappropriately reveal irrelevant psychological issues of some sort. The Court has made at least three different options available in an effort to adequately, though perhaps imperfectly, balance the two conflicting interests at work in given a matter. The three options are as follows: (1) have formal discovery in the presence of counsel which would afford counsel the opportunity to object on the basis of relevance and other appropriate reasons. Marek et al. v. Keyer, M.D., et al., 733 A.2d 1268 (Pa.Super.1999). Presumably, a deposition of the psychologist(s) would be scheduled, who would be instructed to bring his file regarding a client with him to the deposition. Over the course of the questioning, the records would be produced as appropriate and the attorney would object as appropriate; (2) request the Court to conduct an in camera inspection of the records and if the records do not reveal the information one believes it does, the records will remain protected by Section 5944. Commonwealth v. Kyle, 367 Pa.Super. 4848 (1987); and (3) request the Court to order its own psychological evaluation under Pa.R.C.P. 4010(a)(3). Of course, this remedy would implicitly require the client to permit his records to be reviewed by the independent psychologist and would, presumably, have to respect the conclusions reached in the Court ordered psychological report. Obviously, more than either of the above options, this option carries with it the greatest risk of any undesirable information being revealed and used against the client.

In the final analysis, it appears that a party cannot be forced to reveal his psychological records to an opposing party. However, if he wishes to proceed with claims alleging psychological damages, that party may not attempt to suppress them. Instead, the opposing party has a right to see those records so that he may have a fair and equitable opportunity to raise a proper defense the claims leveled against him. The client has the options of withdrawing the psychological claims or moving forward and allowing the records to be revealed to the opposing party. If the client elects to move forward, he may have one or more of the three options above to mitigate the loss of privacy and successfully suppress, at least in part, his psychological records.

Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Neglect

According to Wikipedia, elder abuse is a general term used to describe certain types of harm to older adults. Other terms commonly used include: “elder mistreatment”, “senior abuse”, “abuse in later life”, “abuse of older adults”, “abuse of older women”, and “abuse of older men”.

One of the more commonly accepted definitions of elder abuse is “a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.”[1] This definition has been adopted by the World Health Organization from a definition put forward by Action on Elder Abuse in the UK.

The core feature of this definition is that it focuses on harms where there is “expectation of trust” of the older person toward their abuser. Thus it includes harms by people the older person knows or with whom they have a relationship, such as a spouse, partner or family member, a friend or neighbor, or people that the older person relies on for services. Many forms of elder abuse are recognized as types of domestic violence or family violence.

The term elder abuse does not include general criminal activity against older persons, such as home break ins, “muggings” in the street or “distraction burglary”, where a stranger distracts an older person at the doorstep while another person enters the property to steal.

In 2006 the [International Network for Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA)] designated June 15 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) and an increasing number of events are held across the globe on this day to raise awareness of elder abuse, and highlight ways to challenge such abuse.

Symptoms of Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Neglect

NOTE: Although only one of these indicators may be sufficient to indicate abuse, neglect or exploitation, the presence of only one, or even a few of the indicators, do not necessarily determine such. However, the larger the number of indicators present, the more likelihood there is of abuse, neglect or exploitation. Clergy are, of course, encouraged to be alert for indicators in the elderly with whom they come in contact, and to report same to jurisdictional protective service.

Frequent or multiple decubiti
Poor personal hygiene
Unclean clothes or bedding
Withholding drugs by caretaker
Over medicating of client by caretaker
Untreated physical or mental health problems
Inadequate heating or cooling
Multiple injuries, burns or bruises
Vague explanation or denial in view of obvious injury
Conflicting or illogical explanations of injury
Exaggerated defensiveness exhibited by caretaker
Over hostility towards client exhibited by caretaker
Has “imprint injuries” (i.e., bruises that retain the shape of traumatizing object). Note shapes of bruises similar to objects or hand/thumb/finger marks. Inner arm or thigh bruise are especially suspect as are injuries to the head, scalp or face.
Unwillingness to discuss problems or injuries with caretaker or in caretaker’s presence
Fearful of caretaker, but anxious to please
Failure to meet basic subsistence needs despite adequate income
Reliance on client’s income by caretaker for personal needs
Legal documents signed when caretaker is incapable of understanding

Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyer

Need a Pennsylvania Criminal defense lawyer? Being charged with any kind of criminal offense can result in very serious consequences, and that’s why it is vital that you have the best possible legal advice and defense attorney. When it comes to finding a criminal defense lawyer Pennsylvania residents can enjoy a choice of lawyers with experience and expertise in criminal law. With an experienced criminal defense lawyer Pennsylvania residents that have been charged with a crime can maximize their chances of proving their innocence or getting a lenient sentence.

Whatever sorts of charges have been brought against you, getting an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Pennsylvania can make a big difference to the outcome. Depending on the charges, you could be facing hefty fines and even a stretch in prison, but an experienced defense lawyer will use his or her skills, knowledge, and expertise to help you. With the right legal counsel you could end up with a far lighter sentence or even an acquittal, so the importance of getting a lawyer to fight your corner in these circumstances cannot be underestimated.

Although it is important to get the advice and expertise of a lawyer, hiring the services of a criminal defense lawyer in Pennsylvania could prove costly. This is where you could find yourself in a sticky situation, where you are in need of the advice and assistance of a criminal defense lawyer but don’t have the financial ability to pay for these services. Pure lack of money could make a big difference to the outcome of the charged brought against you, and for many people this can change their lives completely.

These days there is no need to leave things to chance and risk being without the invaluable assistance of a criminal defense attorney. A prepaid legal services plan means that should you find yourself in this kind of situation you will have immediate and easy access to a fully experienced and skilled legal expert who can determine the best course of action based upon the crime with which you have been charged.

Find the right Pennsylvania Criminal defense lawyer []

PA Criminal Background Check Online – Discover How to Access Pennsylvania Criminal Records Easily

If you are looking for an accurate and reliable PA criminal background checks service online then you have come to the right place. Pennsylvania is the only state in USA which makes public criminal records openly available to the people who seriously want to perform background checks on other people.

You may find it difficult in the beginning on how to go about making a basic record search. But believe me it is a very simple process. You will find that there are various sources where you can access many Pennsylvania criminal records easily and quickly. Read further to discover the different sources to obtain PA criminal information.

1.PATCH search system: PATCH (Pennsylvania Access To Criminal History) is a background information research service available online which runs by the Pennsylvania State police. This service provides different types of records to the public. But the major disadvantages of this service is the complications involved in the system for searching any type of data and a non-refundable fee of $10 which is charged for every name you want to search in the system. If you make any typing mistakes or punctuation mistakes then your money is gone and you will have to make a new search by paying another $10 per new record.

If you find any incorrect information in their database then you can make a request to challenge the data. There are detailed instructions on the website on how to place your request for an information change. The response time is usually 30 days or more in this process.

2. Using premium criminal background check services: If you really don’t want to spend $10 for every search you make in the PATCH system then your best source of finding the most legitimate, reliable and accurate criminal records is a premium criminal records service. These services usually keeps their database updated all the time with their latest Internet search technology.

The additional advantage of using these services is that you can get extra information about any person you’re searching for. You will get unlimited access to their database for a minimal one-time fee which is nothing compared to the information they make available for you. You will get extra information like complete residential address, social networks details, contact numbers, work details, etc..

Don’t you want to perform accurate and reliable PA criminal background [] check online?

Now you don’t want to spend unnecessary money for every search with PATCH system. Click the following link to find the best and the most reliable criminal background records service available on the Internet. []

How to Get Pennsylvania Criminal Records Quickly

Employers, do you have the perfect candidate for the job, but you want to know if he or she has been convicted of a crime?

How do you get Pennsylvania criminal records?

In Pennsylvania, state adult criminal history information is kept in two places.

At the county level, the records are kept by the main county courthouse in the county seat (the main city or town for that county). For example, criminal history information would be kept for Montgomery County in that county’s Courthouse, located in Norristown, PA. The records will be located in the Office of the Clerk of Quarter Sessions. A manual search of the written files, or electronic files, whether computer or microfiche, can be time-consuming but is possible.

At the state level, these records are kept by the State Police’s Central Repository in Harrisburg, PA. Access to these records is limited to the individual subject of the records, or his or her legal representative, to potential employers in certain situations or some noncriminal agencies. To obtain the records, a written form must be submitted accompanied by a fee and can take up to six weeks to the forwarded to the requestor.

In today’s electronic age, however, much legal information can be found online. Many counties maintain their own websites through which county records can be accessed. Who can obtain the information through these websites may be limited to certain individuals and/ or agencies. To find out more, you can contact the local county courthouse or bar association. The Pennsylvania State Police maintains a website through which the information can be requested, but any particulars of the records would be sent in hard copy form by US mail.

Finally, there are online websites that are fee-based but will gather the information and send it to you. Search results may include the individual’s name, date of birth, conviction date, offenses charged, disposition and risk level.

Rosanne O’Malley is a former legal professional currently exploring different avenues of opportunity on the Internet. Visit her site at []

Have a Child Attending Penn State? You Need to Check Pennsylvania Criminal Records

Is your child headed off to college in the fall? Maybe he or she plans to attend Penn State University? If so, you may need to check Pennsylvania criminal records. If you live out of state, you should do some research on the crime rates in the area in which your child will be living and attending college. Even if you live in Pennsylvania, with nineteen branch campuses in addition to the main campus, your child may not be attending classes or sleeping in a dorm room close to home. Therefore, you may want to research the crime rates in the area in which that particular campus is located.

When researching Pennsylvania criminal records, you should search by county rather than city. Aside from Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh, which are the major cities in Pennsylvania, most cities are small, with some being referred to rather as towns or villages. While a specific city may have a low crime rate, the county as a whole may have a much higher crime rate. Pennsylvania has an area of nearly 45,000 square miles, and the state contains sixty-seven counties. While some are, of course, larger than others, if divided equally, each county would have an area of less than seven hundred square miles. Therefore, it may be wise to research the county in which your child’s college is located and surrounding counties as well.

If your son or daughter is attending the main campus at University Park, you will want to check Centre County’s crime rates. When you do, you will find that they are much lower than the national average, with thefts and burglaries being the crimes that are committed the most. Both Penn State Hazleton and Penn State Wilkes-Barre are located in Luzerne County. While Hazelton and Wilkes-Barre do not have high crime rates, the county as a whole does. The city of Berwick is located in both Luzerne and Columbia counties, and the forcible rapes rate in Berwick is much higher than the national average. It is also higher than that of Philadelphia, one of Pennsylvania’s largest and most criminal cities. Of course, Philadelphia has a much higher population than Berwick, but that is taken into consideration when crime rates are calculated. Harrisburg is Pennsylvania’s capital city, and it is also a city in which a great deal of crime, such as murder, rape, and assault, is committed. The city’s crime rates are double and triple that of the national average. While Middletown’s crime rates are generally at or below the national average, Harrisburg is located only minutes away. Therefore, Dauphin County’s crime rates better reflect the risks of studying so close to a high crime area than Middletown crime rates do. When you send your child off to college, you want to be sure that he or she is going to be safe. When examining Pennsylvania criminal records, you need to be sure to look into the surrounding areas as well as the city that the campus is located in.

Simon Harris shows you how to search Pennsylvania Criminal Records at

College Students and Pennsylvania Criminal Charges

Whether this is their first year or their last, all students need to be aware of the serious consequences they could face if a night of seemingly innocent fun ends in an arrest. Criminal charges for using a fake ID, underage drinking or marijuana possession can follow students around long after they have received their degrees.

Convictions for certain types of crimes, like marijuana possession, may result in the creation of a criminal record. Other charges, like underage drinking, may come up on a vehicle background check. A criminal record can make it difficult for students to secure employment in a highly competitive job market and may limit their options for entering graduate programs, like law school and medical school. Moreover, drug related convictions (including simple possession) can prevent students from receiving various types of student aid and student loans.

Pennsylvania Fake ID Laws

Minors under 21 years old who are caught with a fake identification card, use a fake ID to buy or attempt to buy alcohol or verbally communicate to someone that they are 21 or older to buy alcohol may be charged with one of these crimes:

* Misrepresentation of age to secure liquor or malt or brewed beverages (18 PA CSA 6307)

* Carrying a false identification card (18 PA CSA 6310.3)

False identification includes using or possessing another person’s id who is of legal age or using or possessing an id with false age, name and/or birth date information, regardless of whether it has the student’s own photograph on it.

First offenses for violating the state’s fake id laws are summary offenses and generally are punishable only by a fine. Subsequent offenses, however, are third degree misdemeanors and carry increased penalties. Penalties for violating these laws can include:

* $300 fine for a first offense

* $500 fine for a second or subsequent offense

* Up to 90 days in jail

* Loss of driving privileges for 90 days for a first offense, one year for a second offense and two years for a third offense

If a student is charged under one of the state’s fake ID laws, the police will notify their parents.
Underage Drinking (UAD)

College students under the legal drinking age who are caught buying or attempting to buy alcohol, drinking, in possession of alcohol or transporting alcohol in their vehicles may be charged under 18 PA CSA 6308 with an underage drinking offense. A first time UAD offense is treated as a summary offense, while subsequent offenses are treated as third degree misdemeanors.

The penalties for underage drinking in Pennsylvania include:

* $300 fine for first offense

* $500 fine for the second and each subsequent offense

* Up to 90 days in jail

* Loss of driving privileges for 90 days for a first offense, one year for a second offense and two years for a third offense

Marijuana Possession

The penalties for marijuana possession are more serious than those for underage drinking. The severity of the penalty depends on how much marijuana was in the student’s possession at the time of the arrest.

* If the amount was 30 grams or less, then the student may be charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and sentenced to 30 days in jail and have to pay a maximum $500 fine

* If the amount was more than 30 grams, the student may be charged with possession of marijuana and sentenced up to one year in jail and have to pay a maximum $5000 fine

A student convicted of marijuana possession also will lose his or her driving privileges for 6 months for the first conviction, one year for a second conviction and two years for a third or subsequent conviction.

Students caught with drug paraphernalia in their possession? like a pot pipe? can be charged with an additional crime, which carries up to 1 year in jail and a maximum $2500 fine. The penalties for marijuana possession increase for any subsequent violations.
Effect of Drug Offenses on Student Aid

Aside from monetary fines and potential jail time, college students who are convicted under federal or state drug laws also face the potential of losing their rights to certain forms of student aid. Under the Higher Education Act of 1998, students convicted of any crime involving the possession or sale of a controlled substance are not eligible to receive any federal grant, loan or work assistance for a specified period of time, depending on the offense.

For example, if a college student is convicted of a drug possession crime, he or she is ineligible for student aid for a year following the conviction. The ineligibility period is extended to two years for a second offense, and a third or subsequent offense renders the student ineligible indefinitely.

The penalties for conviction of a crime involving the sale of a controlled substance are tougher: A first offense results in two years of financial aid ineligibility, while a second or subsequent offense means that the student is ineligible for an indefinite time.

If you have been charged with a crime, even a misdemeanor, it is important to begin working with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to minimize the consequences of the charges. In some cases, you may be able to complete a community service program or other type of accelerated rehabilitative diversionary (ARD) program to reduce or eliminate the penalties against you.

Do not underestimate the amount of trouble you may be in. A conviction for any crime can have devastating consequences for your college career and impact your ability to find employment after graduation.

Randolph L. Goldman has over thirty years of experience as Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney in the Pennsylvania courts. He is respected by prosecutors for his skill and determination, and when he comes to trial, he comes well-prepared and determined to get justice. His criminal defense law firm defends clients against all types of criminal charges, including drug possession, underage drinking, domestic violence [], theft and embezzlement.