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Starting tomorrow, the rules for who must register as a Megan’s Law sex offender in Pennsylvania will change.  Under the new law, sex offenders are classified by three tiers.  Tier I offenders will have to register for 15 years.  Tier II offenders will have to register for 25 years.  Tier III offenders will have to register for life.  If you are currently serving a period of incarceration for a sexual offense, are currently on parole or probation for a sexual offense, or are currently a Megan’s Law registrant, the new law will affect you.

 Please note that, if you are currently incarcerated or on parole or probation for a sexual offense, you will be forced to register under the new law even if your offense was not a Megan’s Law offense before. 

 If the terms of your registration have changed because of the modification to Megan’s Law or if you were previously not required to register but now have to register because of the change in the law, contact the Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) practice of Bickerton & Bickerton at 412-398-5507 or 412-596-8124 for a consultation.

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The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports that the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts is reviewing an incident where an Allegheny County court employee reassigned a case after a relative, who happened to be a public official at the time, requested that the case be moved.

George Matta, then the Clerk of Courts of Allegheny County, sent an email requesting that the criminal court administrator move a case where his relative was the victim of a rape from the court of the Honorable Kevin Sasinoski to the court of the Honorable Donna Jo McDaniel.

For more information, go to:

“State to review county rape case’s transfer to tougher judge” http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_690441.html

“Official got judge switched for man who raped relative”  http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10192/1072047-455.stm

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The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that Pennsylvania State Senator Kim Ward has preposed a law that would make the failure to report a violent crime a criminal offense.  The bill is named “Jennifer’s Law” in honor of “a Westmoreland County woman who was tortured and murdered.”

For more information, go to:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10172/1067209-100.stm?cmpid=latest.xml

http://senatorward.com/press/2010/0610/061810.htm

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The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has replaced the majority of the city’s Citizen Police Review Board.  The new appointments would replace five out of seven members of the board.  Ravenstahl’s announcement happened to coincide with a contempt of court proceeding the Citizen Review Board filed against Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper.  The Review Board has accused Chief Harper of intentionally withholding documents requested in conjunction with a G-20 investigation.

For more information, go to:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10169/1066592-100.stm

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Bickerton and Bickerton attorney Lea T. Bickerton has been named a Rising Star in the 2010 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers magazine.  According to SuperLawyers.com, “no more than 2.5 percent [of Pennsylvania attorneys] are named to the Rising Stars list.”

For more information, go to:

http://www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.html

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Although many assume that arson investigations are based on hard science, the May 7, 2010 episode of 20/20 pointed out numerous flaws with arson science.  The investigation revealed that many assumptions made by arson investigators are based on word of mouth rather than scientific analysis.  Examples included conclusions of points of origin, the use of accelerants, the effect of man-made fires on glass, and the typical behavior of fire.  The investigation brought to light several cases where the defendant was convicted based on faulty arson evidence.

For more information, go to:

http://abcnews.go.com/2020/arson-case-bad-science-leads-dealth-penalty-charges/story?id=10573263

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In the News: ACLU opposes PA sexting law

Published on 04 February 2010 by in Blog

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the ACLU and the Juvenile Law Center are opposing a Pennsylvania bill that is intended to make sexting a lesser offense for minors.  The ACLU argues that by criminalizing sexting, juveniles are left with a permanent mark that would harm their ability to get a job, be admitted to certain colleges, and join the military.

For more information, go to:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10035/1033478-100.stm?cmpid=latest.xml

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The Pennsylvania General Assembly House of Representatives has passed a bill prohibiting drivers from operating a handheld cell phone or wireless device while operating a motor vehicle.  Before the bill becomes law, it must be passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and signed by Governor Ed Rendell.

For more information go to:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10026/1031203-100.stm

http://bickerton-law.com/2010/01/25/in-the-news-pa-house-consides-bill-banning-handheld-cellphone-while-driving/

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After several cases where district attorneys have pursued felony charges against teens accused of sending sexually explicit photos of themselves, the Pennsylvania General Assembly House of Representatives is proposing a bill that would make “sexting” by teens a second-degree misdemeanor.   The statute would amend the criminal code by adding 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6321.

The new statute would prohibit any minor over the age of 13 from sending any nude photos of him or herself electronically.  The statute adopts the definition of nudity set out it 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 5903.  In that section, nudity is defined as showing the “human male or female genitals, pubic area, or buttocks with less than a fully opaque covering, or the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any portion thereof below the top of the nipple, or the depiction of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state.”

For more information, go to:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10025/1030881-454.stm

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=HTM&sessYr=2009&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=2189&pn=3051

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pennsylvania General Assembly House of Representatives will be taking a final vote on a bill that would ban the use of handheld cellular phones and other wireless devices while operating a motor vehicle.  The bill amends a proposed statute that would prohibit drivers from sending text messages while driving.  The proposed statute would add a new section to the motor vehicle code.  Under the proposed 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3316 statute, drivers would be prohibited from using any “interactive wireless device” while operating a motor vehicle.  An interactive wireless device is defined as “[a] wireless telephone, personal digital assistant, smart phone, portable or mobile computer, or similar device which can be used for texting, e-mailing, browsing the Internet or instant messaging, but does not include a device being used exclusively as a global positioning or navigation system, or a system or device that is physically or electronically integrated into the vehicle.”  The statute would permit a driver to use a hands-free device and to use the wireless device as a navigation system.  Anyone convicted of violating the statute would be subject to a $50 fine.

For more information, go to:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10025/1031007-100.stm?cmpid=latest.xml

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2009&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=2070&pn=3134

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