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Recent EntriesROR Bail What is Institutional Sexual Assault and its Punishments? Teen Sexting & Child Pornography Charges
Articles Posted in Criminal Defense Blog
February 20, 2019ROR Bail
By Brian Manchester
One of the most common types of bail is ROR Bail, or “released on own recognizance.”
What Is ROR Bail?
What it actually is, is a promise to appear at all future court proceedings, not requiring any form of cash or property collateral like other forms of bail. There are often conditions imposed by the court that you will read about soon.
Can You Get ROR Bail?
All charges except for homicide are eligible for bail.
Whether or not you can get ROR bail from a court depends on a list of factors such as:
- The severity of the offense.
- Your history of prior offenses and whether you’ve made your past court hearings.
- If you are considered a flight risk.
- Your background check.
- Family and ties to the community.
- Your employment status.
Examples of criminal offenses that are commonly approved for ROR bail are:
- Drug Crimes
- Other non-violent offenses.
Overall, you must not be seen as a threat to the community and the judge is sure you will appear for court. You also must not be seen as a flight risk.
What Happens If ROR Is Granted or Denied?
If ROR is denied then you will need to post bail whether it is with cash or property as collateral.
If it is granted, you may face many stipulations such as:
- Travel restrictions.
- Stay-away orders.
- Rehab classes.
- Check in with a supervising officer.
What Happens If I Violate My ROR Bail Conditions?
Your bail will be revoked and you will be brought back to jail.
Unlike unsecured bail, there’s no monetary penalty set for a bail violation. However, by violating your bail conditions whether it is court-imposed restrictions or not appearing for a court date, you may face steeper legal penalties if convicted of what you were charged with.
What Is Next After ROR Bail?
Generally if you are granted ROR bail, the crime you are charged with is eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition (ARD) program. The ARD program is often where a lawyer comes in.
An experienced lawyer can successfully help you apply for ARD and have your charges dismissed or expunged after completion of the program.
Those who don’t qualify for ARD often are eligible for probation rather than jail time.
Why Bail Type ROR May Be Denied
Why ROR may be denied is for similar reasons it is granted, but with a few differences:
- The nature of the offense.
- Lack of ties to the community.
- A prior criminal record.
- Past instances of non-compliance with bail.
- Past attempts to flee prosecution.
- Your character.
- Any known addictions to alcohol or drugs.
- All other relevant factors.
What Do I Do If I Need Help With Bail?
Throughout the years, Brian Manchester and his associates have helped their clients be released on ROR bail whether it’s by getting them in touch with the best bondsman serving Pennsylvania or guiding them through the process themselves.
January 21, 2019What is Institutional Sexual Assault and its Punishments?
By Brian Manchester
18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3124.2§ defines Institutional sexual assault.
Institutional sexual assault specifically applies to sexual contact between two individuals who have a specific relationship. The law includes out many individuals who may be charged with this offense, including employees of the following:
- Department of Corrections or another correctional authority.
- Juvenile detention facilities run by the state or county
- Youth forestry camps, Youth development centers.
- Groups homes or other residential facilities that serve youth.
- Mental health facilities. Employees of any of these institutions may be charged with institutional sexual assault if they have sexual contact with a resident, patient, or inmate of the facility in which they work.
Employees of these institution may be charged with ISA if they’ve had sexual contact contact with a resident, patient, or inmate of the facility where they work.
Punishments for Institutional Sexual Assault
Punishments for Pennsylvania institutional Sexual Assault can include:
- Jail or prison up to 7 years.
- Fine from $2,500 to $15,000.
The punishments for ISA are rather severe. This is because the employees are responsible for the safety and welfare of those they deal with. In most cases, the person who is sexually assaulted is unable to leave the facility, adding to the severity of the chargers.
Examples of Institutional Sexual Assault Charges
In 2018, Lackawanna County Prison recently had a high profile case where 7 current and former Correctional Officers were charged with Institutional Sexual Assault (among other crimes) of inmates occurring over a period of several years. The guards allegedly used their positions of authority to coerce the women into performing sex acts on them in multiple locations including cells and utility closets. The guards promised the women things like extra phone time, food and cigarettes.
In 2017, a female prison guard was also charged with, and convicted of, institutional sexual assault. A 42 year old Chambersburg woman pled guilty and stated that she touched a male inmate’s in his 20’s genitals. She was sentenced to 2 months of incarceration and 4 months of electronic monitoring.
If Charged, Call an Experienced Lawyer
If you find yourself, or a loved one finds themselves accused of Institutional Sexual Assault, it is crucial to call a Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. For a Free Strategy Session, contact Manchester & Associates immediately to begin building the defense against these charges. We want to help.
December 27, 2018Teen Sexting & Child Pornography Charges
By Brian Manchester
Sexting is the sending of pornographic photos or videos through electronic forms of communication, such as text message or Snapchat. Some states have passed laws specifically to target the issue of teens sexting other teens. However, Pennsylvania has not done so. Therefore existing child pornography laws are applied to teen sexting cases.
This means that harsh punishments meant for adults who possess or exchange child pornography, are applied to teens who send or receive nude photographs to and from other teens. 1 in 5 teens admits to sending or receiving nude photographs, meaning that they could face these harsh penalties.
What Child Pornography Laws Cover
- Possessing a sexually explicit photo or video of a person under the age of 18.
- Distributing a sexually explicit photo or video of a person under the age of 18.
- Enticing or coercing a person under the age of 18 to take suggestive photos or videos.
- Production of sexually explicit photos or videos of someone under 18.
Teen Sexting Qualifies as Child Pornography
Under these definitions, teen sexting would qualify as child pornography in the state of Pennsylvania, no matter the age of the recipient as long as the photo shows a person under the age of 18.
This is because a minor is considered to be legally unable to give consent for these photographs. If the minor willingly sent the photographs to the recipient, it does not affect a child pornography case. To be charged with child pornography related to sexting, it must be proven that the person was acting with lascivious intent.
Lascivious intent means that the defendant was receiving sexual gratification from the photographs or video, or sending the material to others for their sexual gratification.
It is important to note that the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act states that minors that are involved in crimes are to be prosecuted in state, rather than federal, courts, causing minor to minor sexting to be a state issue. If a minor sends a sexually explicit photo of his or herself to another minor, under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act, they will not face federal charges.
Punishments for Teen Sexting
Pennsylvania no longer has mandatory minimum sentences for child pornography due to a recent decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. However, due to the stigma of child pornography and out of concern for the victims depicted in the material, state judges are particularly reluctant to show leniency or mercy towards a defendant who is convicted of these charges.
This means that a state court conviction may result in lengthy sentences of incarceration and court supervision. Even though mandatory minimums do not currently apply, the legislature often seems poised to reinstate mandatory minimums for a wide variety of offenses.
Further, the suggested sentences called for by the Pennsylvania sentencing guidelines are usually state prison sentences because there are enhancements to the guidelines for child abuse cases. The enhancements result in higher recommended sentences under the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines based on the number of images and the nature of the material.
Posted in: Child Pornography ,
December 27, 2018Distribution of Child Pornography | Case Study
By Brian Manchester
Distribution of Child Pornography
Child Pornography charges have tremendous consequences for those convicted in the State of Pennsylvania. In “Child Pornography Charges in Pennsylvania”, we discussed how these charges can effectively result in a ‘life sentence’.
Now we will examine US v Scott, a child pornography case that shows how possession of child pornography can lead to distribution charges, and how those distribution charges can be fought against.
US v Scott
Jason Scott pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography and was sentenced to 108 months in prison and a lifetime term of supervised release. He appealed the district court’s calculation of his Sentencing Guidelines range as well as the length and conditions of his supervised release.
A grand jury indicted Scott on one count of possessing child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B) and three counts of receiving child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(2)(A). He originally pleaded guilty to one count of receiving child pornography and was sentenced to 235 months in prison and a ten-year term of supervised release. However, this conviction was vacated after Scott filed a motion alleging that he pleaded guilty because his lawyer assured him that the district judge had told a mutual friend that Scott would get “hammered” if he went to trial, but that the judge would “take it easy on him” by sentencing him to only five years if Scott pleaded guilty.
The second time around Scott pleaded guilty again to a single count of possessing child pornography. This plea’s stipulated factual basis agents conducting an investigation into the use of a computer program called LimeWire determined that Scott’s computer “was actively downloading and possessing child pornography.” Law enforcement was able to download three illicit videos from the “shared” Limewire file folder on Scott’s computer. Through a forensic examination of Scott’s computer they confirmed that those videos were downloaded from the internet. The placement of files in the shared folder is part of Limewire’s default (but optional) settings.
Scott’s Presentencing Report (PSR) stated that he had used LimeWire to traffic in child pornography. The PSR recommended a five-level enhancement under U.S. Sentencing Guideline § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B) for “distribution [of child pornography] for the receipt, or expectation of a thing of value, but not for pecuniary gain.” Scott objected to this enhancement, arguing that a two-level enhancement under § 2G2.2(b)(3)(F) for “distribution other than distribution described in subdivisions (A) through (E)” should be applied instead. The PSR disagreed with this position, telling the court that Scott “had the file sharing function of [LimeWire] turned on … allowing him to not only receive … but to ‘distribute’ child pornography.” The PSR added that § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B) applies when a defendant trades in child pornography in exchange for child pornography.
Scott disagreed and argued to the court that he had been convicted of possession, not distribution, of child pornography. He stated that Government had not presented any “evidence that he knew he was making child pornography available to others or that he was a sophisticated computer user who might be presumed cognizant of the sharing.”
- 2G2.2(b)(3)(B); Receipt, or Expectation of a Thing of Value
The issue in Scott’s case was whether he distributed child pornography “for the receipt, or expectation of receipt, of a thing of value” so as to warrant a five-level enhancement. The Fifth Circuit stated that a sentencing court must make a “requisite finding” that a defendant used LimeWire to “download and distribute child pornography” within the meaning of § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B). The sentencing court had concluded that Scott “by using LimeWire and other peer-to-peer file sharing programs, agreed to share the child pornography he gathered.” The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals remanded Scott’s case back to the sentencing court with instructions that the court must determine “whether the Government has met its burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that Scott knowingly used LimeWire in ‘the kind of exchange contemplated by § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B).’”
In short, the sentencing court did not make an “express finding” that Scott “knowingly used LimeWire to exchange child pornography” sufficient to create an “agreement” to distribute child pornography stored on his computer in exchange for “additional child pornography.”
Because of this the Fifth Circuit remanded Scott’s case back to the sentencing court with instructions that the court determine “whether the Government has met its burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that Scott knowingly used LimeWire in ‘the kind of exchange contemplated by § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B).’”
Posted in: Child Pornography ,
December 4, 2018Child Pornography Charges in Pennsylvania
By Brian Manchester
Photographing, filming and possessing child pornography are prohibited by Pennsylvania state law, as well as federal law. Pennsylvania prohibits the photographing, videotaping, depicting on a computer or filming of children under the age of 18 engaging in a sexual act or simulating such an act. Conviction for this offense constitutes a second degree felony and may carry a sentence of imprisonment for up to ten years.
The dissemination of photographs, videotapes, computer depictions and films depicting children under the age of 18 engaging in a sexual act or the simulation of such an act is also prohibited under Pennsylvania statute. Those convicted for this offense will be punished for a felony of the third degree and will face up to five years’ imprisonment.
Possession of Child Pornography in Pennsylvania
Possession of child pornography is also illegal in Pennsylvania. Intentionally viewing or knowingly possessing child pornography violates state law and anyone found to do so will be guilty of a third-degree felony. Pennsylvania has increased the punishment for the possession and dissemination of child pornography. The offense gravity scores have increased and there are now enhancement added to the base offense gravity score after so many images are possessed. What is worse is each single picture or video can be sentenced separately. Unlike the federal system where sentence is determined in part by the quantity of pictures possessed, Pennsylvania can charge for each individual picture. Someone possessing dozens of pictures in theory could receive a de facto life sentence.
Collateral Consequences of a Conviction
An accusation alone related to child pornography can severely damage one’s life due to the stigma surrounding these crimes. Other than the possibility of significant state or federal sentences, Pennsylvania also has mandatory sex offender registration for child pornography charges under Meghan’s Law. Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law, 42 Pa.C.S § 9799.32(1) and § 9799.67(1), requires the State Police to create and maintain a registry of persons who reside, or is transient, work/carry on a vocation, or attend school in the state and who have either been convicted of, entered a plea of guilty to, or have been adjudicated delinquent of Certain Sexual Offenses in Pennsylvania or another jurisdiction.
Pursuant 42 to Pa.C.S. § 9799.28 and § 9799.63, the State Police established a website to provide information to the public on registered sexual offenders who reside, or are transient, attend school, or are employed/carry on a vocation, within the state of Pennsylvania. This means that a child pornography conviction will follow you for the rest of your life, as the information about your case, as well as where you live at any given time, is easily accessible to the public.
What Can You Do If Charged with Child Pornography Charges in Pennsylvania?
If you or a loved one are facing Child Pornography charges in Pennsylvania, it is important to contact an criminal defense lawyer for legal counsel as soon as possible. For a Free Strategy Session to begin building a defense against these charges, call Manchester & Associates at (888) 994-7616. We want to help you.
November 12, 2018Drug use in College | How it can Affect One’s Life
By Brian Manchester
Statistics show that drug use in college is very common, with over 50% of college students having tried marijuana, over 30% have abused Adderall and 10% have used Ecstasy or Molly. However, few college students understand the consequences of their actions. The punishments associated with drug use will have a lasting effect on a student’s life.
- Fines and/or jail time
If you are a student convicted of drug possession in Pennsylvania, you will have to spend a lot of money on fines, and possibly spend some time in jail. It’s true that marijuana laws have become more relaxed as of late, but it’s still possible to be sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined up to $500 for possession of marijuana, even with a small amount. Medical marijuana patients will be considered exempt, but anyone with an expired prescription, or without any prescription, will still be charged and sentenced for marijuana possession.
Possession of other illegal drugs will result in much more serious charges. Getting caught with controlled substances such as Heroin, Cocaine, and prescription drugs can result in:
- Up to one year in prison and up to a $5,000 fine
- Up to two years in prison for a second offense
- Up to three years for a third offense
Unfortunately, consequences for students go beyond legal repercussions.
The effects of having a charge on your record can overflow into school and future employment.
- Student aid can be revoked
Your federal student aid may also be revoked if convicted of a drug charge, yet few students realize this. This can be potentially devastating for students, especially because more are depending on their own financing for their education, rather than on their parent’s.
- Academic probation or suspension
Policies for drug use vary for every educational institution and the situations are evaluated on a case by case basis. Students very commonly are placed on academic probation or sometimes suspended for getting caught with drugs. For example, the University of Pennsylvania prohibits any drug use. Drug use on this campus can result in a wide range of disciplinary actions, ranging from a mere warning to expulsion. The results will depend upon the type of drug, the amount, and if you have repeat offenses.
- Delayed graduation
If a student misses too many classes because of jail time, probation, or suspension from school, the student might not be able to graduate on time. If your charges are severe enough, your college might decide to withhold graduation until you have complied with rules and penalties.
- You might get turned down for grad school
Grad school applications ask whether the applicant has been charged or convicted with a criminal offense. Additionally, graduate schools will also run background checks in order to scan for offenses. While graduate schools might not turn down students outright, a mark on your record could give someone else a better chance over you for admission.
The side effects of an arrest and spending time in jail for a drug possession conviction can be upsetting. Many students feel like their future is jeopardized.
If you or a loved one was charged with possession of drugs, contact Brian Manchester today for help with your case. Brian Manchester will fight for you every step of the way and ensure you receive aggressive representation.
He has extensive training in alcohol and drug defense and is even a member of the National College for DUI Defense, the American Chemical Society, and the Society of Forensic Toxicologists. Brian Manchester also regularly attends seminars that specifically focus on DUI defenses, and he was also the Educational Chairman for the Pennsylvania Association of Drunk Driving Defense Attorneys. For a free consultation, we can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.
October 30, 2018Adderall Drug Charges
By Brian Manchester
Adderall is a drug routinely prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Due to the fact that it is fairly inexpensive and easy to obtain, many individuals use the drug recreationally or outside of its intended medical purpose, which is especially common in colleges and universities, where students use the medication to study because it can improve stamina, increase concentration, and stave off fatigue.
The consequences of using unprescribed Adderall are severe, which comes to the surprise to many people. Since Adderall has addictive qualities and carries a potential for abuse, the medication is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that a person found in possession of Adderall without a valid prescription may face prosecution.
In some scenarios, Adderall possession can lead to criminal charges and penalties in Pennsylvania.
Can You Be Arrested for Having Adderall in Pennsylvania?
Although Adderall is legal to possess with a valid prescription, there are a few situations where the possession of Adderall can lead to an arrest and severe drug charges. Some of these situations could include:
- The police search your car during a routine traffic stop and an officer finds a pill bottle with someone else’s name on it.
- You are found in possession of medication that you were holding for another person.
- You are discovered to have sold pills to another person. Selling Adderall can lead to more severe penalties than possessing unprescribed Adderall for personal use.
- You are found in possession of a large amount of Adderall without any valid medical prescription.
Regardless of the situation, Adderall possession is a serious criminal charge with the potential to carry grave penalties, including fines and prison time.
Is it Illegal to Give Someone Adderall?
In essence, yes, it is illegal to give your prescription Adderall to another person. Regardless of whether an actual sale occurred or whether you profited from the exchange, in Pennsylvania, it is a criminal offense to share any kind of prescription medication with another person.
What is the Penalty for Possession of Adderall in Pennsylvania?
The penalty for possession of Adderall depends on factors like:
- The amount of Adderall involved.
- Whether or not it is your first drug offense.
- Whether or no you had intend to sell or distribute the Adderall.
In Pennsylvania, first-offense Adderall possession is a misdemeanor.
Consquences of Adderall-related Charges
Overall, the consequences for a first-time Adderall possession can include up to one year in jail, plus a fine as much as $5,000, and your driver’s license will be suspended for six months. If it’s your second offense, you may be sentenced to up to two years in prison, while a third offense can result in a prison sentence as long as three years.
The penalties for possession with intent to distribute the Adderall are significantly more severe than the consequences for mere possession of Adderall. While simple possession of Adderall is a misdemeanor when at the first offense, a first-time possession with intent to distribute offense involving Adderall – or other Schedule II drugs – is a felony in Pennsylvania. The maximum fine is $15,000 and the prison sentence can be up to five years.
The same penalties apply to other Schedule II prescription drugs and medications, for example, include Dilaudid (hydromorphone), Demerol (meperidine), Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), fentanyl, and OxyContin (oxycodone).
If you or a loved one was charged with Adderall possession, contact Brian Manchester today for help with your case. He will fight for you every step of the way and ensure you receive aggressive representation. Drug crimes carry grave legal consequences, including potential jail or prison time, expensive fines, and a permanent criminal record.
By working with a qualified and experienced attorney, it may be possible to qualify for a drug diversion program that can keep you out of jail. Because each case is different, consulting with an attorney about your specific situation is essential. For a free consultation, we can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.
October 18, 2018Drug Crimes In Pennsylvania and How We Know Defend Them the Right Way
By Brian Manchester
Types of Drug Cases We Defend
For 18 years I have been representing people accused of various drug crimes in Pennsylvania to include the following:
- Drug Possession/Possession of Controlled Substances (Actual Possession, Constructive Possession)
- Drug Production
- Drug Trafficking/Operating as a Drug Trafficker
- Marijuana Cultivation/Growing Marijuana
- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (Bongs, Pipes, Drug Equipment)
- Possession with Intent to Distribute/Deliver (PWID)
- Prescription Fraud
- Selling Drugs to Minors
- Synthetic Opioids (Alph-PVP, Bath salts, cathinones)
- Synthetic Marijuana (K2, Spice)
- Methamphetamine Manufacturing
My firm has experience investigating alleged crimes involving many types of narcotics and controlled substances, ranging from commonly charged substances like cocaine and marijuana (pot, weed, cannabis) to less frequently prosecuted substances such as peyote, DMT, khat, ecstacy.
We understand the unique sentencing laws and drug diversion programs that apply to each substance and use our nuanced understanding of Pennsylvania’s drug laws to fight for outcomes that are favorable to our clients.
In Pennsylvania controlled substances are categorized by schedules. Below is a list of the five different schedules and some of the drugs listed under those schedules that our clients frequently are charges with:
Schedule Controlled Substances 1 through 5
Schedule I Controlled Substances
- Ecstasy (MDMA)
- LSD (Acid)
- Psilocybin Mushrooms
- Schedule II Controlled Substances
- PCP Charges (Angel Dust)
- Schedule III Controlled Substances
- Schedule IV Controlled Substances
- Schedule V Controlled Substances
- Cough Syrup
Penalties for Drug Offenses
The penalties for drug charges depend on factors like what type of substance is involved, the quantity of the substance involved, and the nature of the alleged offense. Some drug crimes are graded as misdemeanors, while others are prosecuted as high-level felonies carrying years or decades of prison time.
Other penalties that can result from a drug-related conviction include probation, loss of your driver’s license, and the creation of a criminal record, which can cause problems when you are applying for jobs, loans, student programs, training programs, or housing.
Most Lawyers Focus on Entrapment – But We Focus on Test Results
Most lawyers focus on how the government came into possession of the drug evidence (search and seizure) or if the defendant was entrapped. Often times the evidence can’t be suppressed, so generally that leaves only plea negotiations and no ability to fight the charges. However, there is another defense that few lawyers ever explore let alone know how to do and that is to attack the test results.
The testing of drugs is a complex affair and there are many different methods of doing so. Some of the methods are gas chromatography, mass spectroscopy, thin-layer chromatography, and many more.
These methods generate a lot of data, in which you can find many ways to challenge the test results.
Because Manchester & Associates regularly obtains this data and looks into the test results, we’ve obtained many favorable results for our clients when all other defenses were not even available to them.
Free Strategy Session Available
If you or are a loved one are facing drug related charges, it’s important to call Manchester & Associates immediately for a Free Strategy Session.
October 3, 2018How Criminal Convictions Affect Social Security Benefits
By Brian Manchester
Can Felons Receive Social Security? Yes, But With Exceptions
The general rule is that a person who is convicted of a felony can still receive Social Security benefits once they are released. However, like every rule, there are exceptions. A felony conviction will deem you ineligible to receive Social Security Disability Benefits if:
- Your disability was caused by your felonious act
- Your disability was made worse by your felonious act
- Your disability arose while you were imprisoned for committing a felony
- You were convicted of treason, sabotage, or a similar crime
You Can’t Receive Survivors’ Benefits by Killing a Spouse or Parent
In addition, if you became a widow or orphan by killing your spouse or parent, you are ineligible to receive Social Security survivors’ benefits. In sum, just because you were convicted of a felony in the past, does not mean that you are ineligible to receive Social Security benefits. Rather, you simply must meet the general criterion for qualifying. For social security, this means you are either 65 or older, or blind, or have a qualifying disability, or have little to no income or financial resources.
Social Security Unavailable for Felons Currently in Prison
As for felons who are currently imprisoned, Social Security benefits are not available. The rationale behind this rule is while imprisoned, the person’s food, shelter, and medicine are being paid for already.
Those that received Social Security Disability benefits prior to becoming imprisoned will have their benefits suspended during imprisonment, but benefits will be reinstated 30 days after they are released. Please note if you are in jail for part of a month you lose that month’s benefits.
Say you were sentenced to 45 days and the sentence starts on June 29. You lose benefits for June, July, and August. So, the sentence and timing are very important.
No Need To Re-File for Disability Benefits if Suspended for Less than a Year
A person does not need to file a new disability application if their benefits have been suspended for less than one year. However, if they were imprisoned for more than one year, a new disability application is required.
You Can Apply While In Prison
A convicted felon serving time is prison may be able to apply for benefits while still imprisoned if the penal institution has a pre-release application procedure. If not, they must wait until they are released to apply for Social Security benefits.
If you or someone you know has questions about how criminal convictions may affect one’s ability to receive Social Security benefits, Brian Manchester has been practicing criminal law for 18 years, and can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.
October 2, 2018Pennsylvania is Fighting to Change Statute of Limitations Laws
By Brian Manchester
Sex Crimes Statue of Limitations – You Only Have So Much Time To Report It
The purpose of a statute of limitations is to ensure claims are brought within a certain time period. It does not matter how legitimate the charge is, or how clear the evidence is…if the statute of limitations has expired, the claim cannot be brought.
For example, Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations for trespass is 2 years. If you filmed your neighbor trespassing on your property, made a DVD of the video, but waited 2 years and 1 day to bring the claim, the claim will be barred by the statute of limitations even though you have caught your neighbor red-handed.
The current issue in Pennsylvania right now pertains to sex crimes. Right now, the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania permits victims of child sex abuse to come forward with criminal allegations until they are 50 years old. As for civil claims, the alleged victim must bring the claim before they are 30 years old.
PA State Politicians Proposing New Laws For Victims of Sex Abuse
In lieu of a report published by Attorney General Josh Shapiro, which found 301 priests committed sexual abuse against children in the past, politicians in Pennsylvania are proposing to add a two-year window for victims of previous sex abuse. This window would allow alleged victims to file claims retroactively, regardless of their current age, or how long ago the sexual abuse occurred.
Right now, only 2 of the 301 priests identified have been charged, given the current statute of limitations has expired in all other cases.
Opposition to New Laws
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference opposes any attempt to modify the current laws regarding the current statute of limitations. The reason being is thousands of Pennsylvania residents have claimed they were sexually assaulted by Catholic priests while they were children.
Thus, if Pennsylvania modified the current law to allow those alleged victims to come forward with sexual assault allegations, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference would be forced to defend themselves against countless sexual assault allegations.
Some politicians that agree the current statute of limitations should not be modified reason that most of the sex crimes were committed several years ago, and the Catholic Church has since instituted reforms to prevent any further sexual abuse.
New Laws May Allow Frivolous Sex Abuse Accusations
In addition, the window would allow claims to be brought regardless of when they were committed. Those who oppose the window say this is problematic, given it is very difficult to defend claims from the 1940s or 50s, and the majority of priests who committed the crimes are dead. Nevertheless, the modern trend seen in other States is to abolish statutes of limitations for the criminal prosecution of crimes related to child sex abuse.
If you or someone you know has questions about statutes of limitations in Pennsylvania, Brian Manchester has extensive training in criminal defense and has been practicing criminal law for 18 years, and can be contacted at 1-800-243-4878.